By John Platt Hurwitz and Irene Marie Hurwitz
There comes a time in your life when your old trustworthy boat becomes just old and not so trustworthy. This happened to us early in 2006. The leaky stack pushing its way up through the floorboards at the back of the wheelhouse belched out toxic fumes from the old 371 Jimmy below. The diesel engine warmed up the wheelhouse nicely, but filled the bunk area below with choking exhaust. “Bilge pump alarms sounding with every roll of the boat,” Irene would point out. With the asbestos insulation around the stack cracked, a soft floor and a leaky roof, I had to admit that continuing with the same rig was not only injurious to our health, but grounds for divorce. So began the long tedious search for the next great fishing boat.
On a trip to Southern California we had met Steve Escobar while he was running the Newport Dory Fleet Live Market located on the beach. He fished the areas from Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands, Point Arguello up to Point Conception. Then he would truck his live catch including fish and lobster down to the market in Newport Beach.
It was Steve who called us to say he knew of a lobster boat for sale down at Dana Point, California. Steve said he used to work on this boat before he became rich and famous. The vessel, an Island Hopper (made in Florida), sounded like something we would like. It was equipped with a 3208 CAT with an appropriate marine gear ratio. We were taking all the necessary permits off the boat we were retiring. Our old vessel was three feet longer, so all the permits would be eligible to transfer per California DFG.
After looking at the boat we called the owner and arranged for a sea trial. During the sea trial, we were able to get her up to 23 knots, considerably faster than our current boat. Ours might reach 7 knots on a good day going downhill in a following sea.
What that boat had was something I’d been in search of for a long time: a large flat deck. Lots and lots of deck space. Space to load crab pots, totes, additional fuel on long trips, a bait freezer. It was all there. The next day I called the owner and we met two days later at a local bank, exchanged the money, signed papers, and closed the deal with a set of keys. That same day, we contacted the Dana Point Harbor District and got a temporary slip (no easy task in fashionable Dana Point). Soon we’d be on our way back north to Half Moon Bay.
As every fisherman knows when you buy a boat, things can go wrong. This one was no exception. We planned to take her up to a shipyard in Long Beach for a little work. The next morning we pulled out of Dana Point Harbor, turned north towards Long Beach, throttled up to half speed and promptly blew one of the main oil lines on the engine. Fortunately, I was watching the gauges when I saw the oil pressure drop by half and then continue downward. I swiftly grabbed the key and shut down the 3208. We got towed back to the harbor and regrouped. We called around and found a mechanic who replaced the large oil lines. Fixed up, we were ready to go again.
The next morning we left at daybreak. We got as far as the harbor entrance when my throttle quit. Not the best spot to stop. I ripped off the engine hatch cover, no simple endeavor, the thing weighed about a half ton. Problem exposed, we fixed it with Irene lying flat on her stomach over the engine and manually moving the throttle wire back and forth to move the boat back to our slip. Explain that to onlookers, Another day in Dana Point.
The next day we felt good about our chances so we left again at daybreak. Easing out of the harbor, I kept a keen eye on the oil pressure gauge, just in case. Next to the oil pressure gauge was the fuel pressure gauge. While watching the oil gauge, believe it or not, I noticed the fuel pressure was dropping. I throttled back and ran out to check the fuel lines on the engine. I tossed that dirty half-ton hatch cover like it was a Frisbee to find the problem. Finally I spotted it. The Racor Fuel filter/water separator! There was a crack in the bottom of the glass bowl and it was leaking. We put a 5-gallon bucket underneath it and limped back to Dana Point harbor.
Bought a new Racor, changed out all the filters and bled the air out of the injectors, good to go. By the time I was done with the repairs, virtually every repair shop, mechanic, and CAT service person within 50 miles of Dana Point knew my name. As we prepared to leave, all those we had become acquainted with were doubtful we would make it. To be honest I was doubtful myself.
It was a long trip at maybe 10 knots at best before we made it to the Cerrito Channel in Long Beach. We pulled into a waiting slip at the Lighthouse Marina, rubbing bumpers with a whole bunch of fancy sailboats and shiny yachts. The owner of the marina nearly had a stroke when she saw our “work boat” as she called it. We convinced her to let us stay was by telling her we were writers for a very influential magazine, “The Fishermen’s News”. We ended up staying there long enough to meet a lot of live aboards and to share some sea stories with them. Even the owner liked us, though not so much the boat.