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  1. #1
    Offshore OceanRider
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    San Pedro, CA (LA Harbor area)

    Almost sunk my '08 Kawasaki 250X - September 14, 2008

    On the return trip via Vessel Assist from Avalon, Catalina Island Q: What’s the most common statement you hear Captain Nathan? A: Well, when their either on the tow boat or the receiving end of that long yellow one inch poly pro line, I usually hear, “I just had the boat in for service”. Some of the other common problems heard are – (enter any one of the following): this or those break/broke, boat won’t start, boat is taking on water, or how could I run out of gas.

    And so the story goes about how my new ‘08 Kawasaki 250X almost ended up at the bottom of the San Pedro Channel (roughly 3000’ deep). Yes, modern well built PWC’s may have positive flotation but, have you seen the cavernous bowels of that Kawasaki beast or have you personally tested it, like I tried Sunday? That pint size looking sport fisherman of a boat (Ultra 250X) certainly looks like it can take on some water and mine sure did. Start off with a 900 pound ski; add to it when full (22 gallons) fuel tank; a near 200# rider and about 30 pounds of safety/survival gear and that weight adds up. At some point the roughly 5.1 pounds of seawater per gallon with all that weight would certainly test any positive flotation system. To give you an indication of just how low in the water I was – the ocean was up to my knees before the rescue.

    Really, I just had her in for service! She just had her ten hour service. You’ll need to read the follow up story to find out what happened.

    First, let me thank Lee Phan for the rescue, Young and Brian for the tow in to Avalon and Captain Nathan for the official tow back to the mainland. Paul Pham #99 for the great riding; up until him and I parted ways – four miles short of Avalon, Catalina Island. That’s where I almost sank! I was about the same distance that Craig Warner #1 was when I first caught sight of him on his return ride of the LB2CAT race. I of course was still heading towards the only turn around point in the opposite direction.

    Sunday morning two other riders started with us but must’ve had one of those rare “self preservation moments” (SPM) for short, deciding it was in their best interest to turn around and head back to the mainland while the heading back was good. And today was a calm day but, the marine layer was everywhere. It made for a Halloween, eerie ride to our island which failed to show itself, until about seven miles out. The 8:00 a.m. ride time became 9:30 a.m or so mostly due to fog.

    Our ride originated from the Long Beach Launch Ramp and sometime around ten a.m. I knew something was wrong when my speed dropped from the low sixties to the high twenties in just a few seconds. The engine kept running but, I could tell that she was getting heavier and heavier and tipsy; at one point she almost went turtle and turned over. Had it not been for the calm flat sea conditions today she most certainly would’ve turned over and I would’ve resembled a paddle boarder on his way to the island while wearing a helmet.

    I wish I had that bilge pump like the one I have installed in my GTX. When something like this happens you almost certainly always know how to avoid it the next time. I remember doing a quick mental check while I was still moving. In my opinion my options were: keep riding her till she stops (four year warranty check; Sea Tow check; VHF check; those fins floating by, not shark but dolphins; double check). Those that know me know that when it comes to off shore preparedness there are usually only two things that I don’t carry. One is an EPIRB (emergency positioning device) and the other is an inflatable life raft outside of that I carry more than the above average boater. Spare spark plugs/tools. YES. Mask/Fins/Snorkel. YES. However, today no cell phone. If you recall this beast’ glove compartment (it leaked) ate my last one and I’m still waiting for a replacement.

    After a quick hook up by Lee Pham we proceed to tow her but she was just too full of seawater to move. I jump off into the abyss to undo the drain plugs and that’s when I felt this tow rope rub against my leg. Just kidding. No fear of sharks here but I would not want to chance swimming to shore. Best bet is to always stay with your boat until you are rescued.

    This time she starts moving and in a short while we can tell that the water was slowly beginning to drain. Other riders soon arrive and Young takes over the tow duty and I jump on Brians ski.

    Lessons Learned: Install that bilge pump. Carry two ropes. Use one for towing and one for anchoring. Tow rope should be a minimum length of 35 feet with the necessary snaps in place; you may not have much time so make sure your line is not tangled. West Marine or BoatUS sells throw lines that pay out as you throw the bag and hold on to one end of the rope. This would also make a good tow line as it releases quickly. Keep in mind that our first tow rope broke due to the combined weight of the ski and water. Purchase the Vessel Assist card for $115 per year – its cheap insurance if you are planning on visiting the island with or without your riding friends. I don’t encourage anyone to ride alone but I still do.

    When you arrive at Avalon requesting a tow - here are your options. If you have Vessel Assist - no problem – they have three boats available to tow you back to the mainland that is, if you have the right card. If you don’t, they don’t even want you on their dock and will likely tow you off if anyone other than Vessel Assist is doing the towing. We quickly found that out.

    My card is a SeaTow card purchased at the Long Beach Seafest event. My previous card was Vessel Assist. Lee’s card was a $150 Vessel Assist card which he thought was a full service Vessel Assist card. If you paid $115.00 for the card then you have the right card. Lee’s card was worth a tow back to as far as where I was just towed from. Average tow is $700.00 and with a partial tow card you pay the difference. Option 2: If you have SeaTow, Vessel Assist can tow you back; you pay the $700, and then make a claim to Corporate SeaTow Offices in New York City for a refund. Option 3: Wait the two hours SeaTow time that it would take them (SeaTow) to get from the mainland to Avalon. In two hours I thought that my ski would’ve sunk and that’s how I ended up on the Vessel Assist boat.

    Let’s run this scenario through if you were solo riding. You are halfway between the mainland and Catalina Island and you get that sinking feeling or your PWC engine suddenly quits and won’t restart. Is this an emergency YES/NO? Can I talk to anyone via cell or VHF, but preferably the USCG or a tow company preprogrammed on the cell phone YES/NO?
    GPS on board to give them your position coordinates YES/NO? Throw out the drift anchor to keep you in the approximate location and hurry up and wait. Now how is this any different than what the skipper on a 40’ BlueFin Sport fisherman would do? You tell me?

    If you’re planning on riding offshore then you need to build what we call seamanship. Seamanship is simply the art of managing a boat. It is what gives me the confidence to ride offshore. Seamanship involves knowledge of a variety of topics and specialized skills such as navigation, rules of the road, weather, communications, execution of evolutions such as towing; dealing with emergencies; and survival at sea. It also starts with knowing everything there is to know about your boat. You should know what it is capable and not capable of doing. Also where you store safety and other equipment and how to deal with common problems. Some of the limitations that you should know about your ski are its maximum range and range at various speeds; maximum fuel range; economical cruising speed.
    You always wear a full wet suit, boot and gloves for thermal protection from the elements YES/NO? VHF securely mounted on your vest YES/NO? Spare GPS YES/NO and the list may or may not go on depending on the trip you are taking.

    The Ride back on the tow boat was certainly a slow one but not as slow as my sailboat racing friends. Average speed that you will be towed may only be about 14 knots. During that two hour tow I heard constant chatter. These guys are busy. One large power boat was taking on water just outside of the Palos Verde’s peninsula; one was near the breakwater with a broken engine and a few more that I can’t recall as far down as San Diego.

    To top it all off, the salt water finally stopped draining out of my Ultra’s drain plugs around the time that CHP (California Highway Patrol) pulled me over. Yes, I was in a hurry to get her home to get working on her so I was moving a little faster than usual. No I did not get a ticket, yes you probably would have. No, the tow back did not cost me any $$. Yes, I bought a four year warranty with the new ski. Yes, I now have Vessel Assist. And yes, did I tell you she just had her ten hour service.

  2. #2
    ou812's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Damn ralph! sorry to hear about the trouble.
    When will she be back in action?

  3. #3
    RXT-X 4 Me's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Lomita, Ca
    Wow thats what I call a bad day, although it couldve been alot worse. Glad your ok.....I've been wanting to hit Cat up and do some offshore fishing on my skis. Now I know what to take along. I dont know anyone else local that rides so I'll be out by myself ...

  4. #4
    Offshore OceanRider
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    San Pedro, CA (LA Harbor area)
    Thanks but I'm back riding.

    I'll post todays ride on GreenHulk so you can read it - Two Harbors, BeerFest ride - Sept 20th. Did the ride on the '07 GTX. Get the 250X back next week; this time with a bilge pump. Problem turned out to be a cooling line that came off however, as you know its below the intercooler and entirely unaccessible without removing the intercooler to get to.

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