C.J. Geotis Columns
Sunday, March 11, 2012
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Intellect finally overcomes emotions on the high seas

I grew a beard and thought I would not have to shave anymore. That didn't work. I still have to shave, but just a trim. The problem is that it takes longer to trim carefully and not make my face look like a circus clown's with crooked lines and bare patches here and there.

One day, I decided to leave home and move out on my own. I was hoping to find independence. That didn't work; I found responsibility instead. Eight years ago, I bought a house with no lawn. I thought that our pea-rock landscaping would be "maintenance free." That didn't work. The palm trees drop berries and seeds, the weeds grow up through the rocks and I have to pick up...rake up...sweep up...Round Up.

So, you can imagine my disappointment when I installed an electric windlass on my boat, so I wouldn't have to pull the anchor anymore, and that didn't work either. I've owned my boat since it was new. I bought it in 1995 and I love that boat. I know love is a strong word for it, but you know what I mean. I have never in 17 years seriously thought about giving this boat up and buying another.

The beauty of keeping a boat this long is never having to pay for another boat. This has a hidden reward in that there is money to spend on adding things and updating equipment on the boat without "breaking the bank." In fact, every couple of years, I have purchased something for this boat that I might not have, if I had spent the money to get another, probably bigger, boat.

By now, you get the idea, right? One year, my wife, Loretta, helped with the cost of a terrific GPS/Fish finder system. Another year, after fishing with two guys who both had autopilots on their boats, I bit the bullet and bought my own autopilot. People who own autopilots know that this is one of my, and their, favorite things. People who don't own autopilots think they are an unnecessary expense. I'm not judging either group, I'm just saying -- I love my autopilot.

Recently, an experienced angler was on my boat and marveled at how well it tracked for a 23-foot outboard vessel. We had hooked up three tunas at one time. I brought the boat to an idle and hit the autopilot button. The three of us took one rod each and starting easing the feisty tunas to the fish box. Several times he commented, "Man, I can't believe how well this boat is tracking. We are keeping a perfectly straight line." He was even more impressed when a quartering sea did not affect the motion of the boat one iota.

He was probably not expecting a boat of this size to be equipped with an autopilot and it did not dawn on me for a while that he was unaware of this. When I finally figured it out and told him, he was embarrassed for not figuring it out himself.

Four years ago, I repowered the boat with a brand-new outboard motor. I've installed a fresh water wash down system, outriggers, downrigger, and through-hull transducer, rebuilt and rewired the helm station, redesigned some of the cuddy-cabin storage and changed all the chocks and cleats for nice shiny new ones. See what I'm saying? I did all these things and was happy with every one of them.

As usual, I digress. The windlass was a perfect project. I was tired of sore backs and muscles after pulling that stupid anchor three or four times during a fishing trip. It wasn't so bad when there was a young guy onboard, because I could tell him the rules of the boat required the youngest guy to pull the anchor. But, I fish alone frequently. So, I decided to buy the windlass. I researched online, discussed it with several marine equipment dealers, called every one of my friends and finally made my choice. I bought it locally and installed it myself. It's beautiful. It sits regally on the pulpit, shiny and perfectly proportioned to the boat. I couldn't wait to hit the water, find a spot for yellowtail snapper and hit the button.

It was wonderful. I was in very shallow water for the initial test and could not have been more impressed. I smiled from ear to ear, enjoying every second of the high-powered motor sound and then the rhythmic clinking and clanking of the anchor chain as it passed over the spring-loaded gypsy and positioned the once-considered-heavy anchor firmly in place on the pulpit roller. It sounded and felt like a big boat. The windlass lifted the anchor up and out of the water without even a whimper.

On the third drop in deeper water, the anchor rode got stuck and the windlass bogged. It turns out, I do not have a large enough anchor locker for the line to drop straight down and it jams. I was upset. I tried for several years to make it work, it never worked. I straightened the rope, I opened the hole the rope went down, I adjusted the line to the sides of the locker, I repositioned things and it would still jam. My wife thought I was crazy. "Why are you still pulling the anchor yourself? I thought that big expensive thing was supposed to do that?" She would innocently and caringly ask.

I've never been able to let go of the dream that my windlass would one day work on my boat. It is not the windlass's fault, it performs flawlessly. I have since met others with the same problem. There is no good cure for it. I was crestfallen, angry and embarrassed. Friends told me to sell the windlass and buy an anchor ball. For years I refused; assured that I would redesign the boat someday and make the windlass work. I don't want to believe that it was ego keeping me from accepting defeat. I surely hope I am above all that.

Three weeks ago, a friend and I were fishing on my boat and the windlass discussion raised its ugly head once again. He had recently purchased an anchor ball and could not be happier with it. Another friend bought a piece of equipment I was no longer using and, all of a sudden, I had the exact amount it would cost to buy a new anchor-ball retrieval system at West Marine burning a hole in my pocket.

We ran the boat the next day, and the anchor ball is marvelous. I would still like to have the windlass do the job. But, ego aside, I can now pull the anchor several times in one day and not need to have a young person onboard. Not, of course, that I have anything against young people, except maybe their age.

Oh, by the way, if anyone would like to buy a perfectly good, very seldom used, windlass please email me. And, as always, life is good in the Florida Keys; life is very good in the Florida Keys.

C.J. Geotis is a life-long fisherman who followed his dream to live in the Florida Keys 11 years ago. His newly published book, Florida Keys Fish Stories, is available at Amazon.com. He lives in Marathon with his wife, Loretta. His email is fishstoriescj@comcast.net.