I Learned About Boating From This: Almost Stranded

A real-life lesson in the importance of properly maintaining your boat's battery.

I Learned About Boating From This: Almost Stranded
I Learned About Boating From This: Almost StrandedNational Park Service

In July 2015, I purchased my first boat, a 1985 Larson Senza Cuddy, from Craigslist. I immediately took it to a mechanic for a once-over. He replaced the impeller and distributor cap, changed the oil and filters, and said it looked great and ran like a champ, which it certainly did. I took the boat out on the water, and everything worked well for a cheap starter boat.

Since the maiden voyage went so well, I invited several friends for an outing. We went to Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, a 70-mile-long reservoir with 500- to 700-foot-tall nearly vertical cliffs and unparalleled scenery, which I would recommend all Boating subscribers check out because it is a truly incredible place (shameless plug). ­Nevertheless, it was near the end of the day, and a beautiful sunset was beginning to take place over the towering canyon walls while we fished in a cove, every sound making an echo in an otherwise silent, pristine ­natural setting.

Several of us had to work the next day, as it was a Sunday, so it was decided we should begin to head back to the boat launch, which was roughly 20 miles downstream. I attempted to start the engine, and it turned over, acting like it wanted to start but couldn’t quite get going. I was puzzled because we had used little of the boat’s battery while out on the water. Before too long, we found ourselves paddling the boat out of the cove and into the main channel, hoping to run across another boat that could give us a jump-start. We waited for what felt like hours, but there were no other boats to be found that late in the day.

Just as despair was beginning to set in while the daylight faded, my good friend suggested we use my other friend’s DeWalt power-drill battery to attempt to jump-start the boat (I had jumper cables). We had brought along the power-drill battery to power the DeWalt boombox for tunes (my boat stereo was nonfunctional). Sure enough, it fired right up, and I sped back to the launch ramp, thanking my lucky stars I hadn’t stranded myself and my five friends in the middle of nowhere without food or shelter.

Feeling humbled and embarrassed, I took the boat’s batteries to NAPA Auto Parts the next day and had them tested; they merely needed to be recharged. I did that, and I didn’t have any battery problems for the remainder of the season. It was a good reminder to not overlook the simple things or the versatility of a DeWalt power-drill battery.

Brendon Smith
Billings, Montana

*[Though it worked for the author, it can be dangerous to draw engine-starting amperage from a battery that’s too small. We still applaud his resourcefulness and do recommend a proper jumper-pack battery as an excellent addition to any boater’s kit.

Also, its always a good idea to carry extra water and some provisions, like energy bars stored in zipper-lock bags. If you get stranded, staving off hunger and thirst can make the situation more bearable, if not safer.— Ed.]*

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