The Rocket was my first Skin boat. I started with two boat designs and merged them to create one. It's part Sea Ranger and Sea Rider. Since it was my first attempt at a skin boat I put it together using cheap materials. The boat turned out to be above my skill level at the time and as a result I seldom paddled her. But she my first and lead me down the path of skin boats. For that I will always remember her.
The last couple of weeks I have introduced a young neighbor to kayaking and he turned out to be a natural at it. 3rd time out he was paddling the Rocket which is not a very stable boat and far from a beginners boat! Yet he paddled it with ease to my surprise. I was glad to see someone use it and amazed at how easy he took to it. He is leaving in a week going to attend college at Auburn and I had even told him if he could find a place to store it, I would let him take it down there to paddle since it was just hanging in the rafters 99% of the time. How quickly things change!
Last night we had a 'boat swap'. People were trying trying out each others boats and just paddling around and playing. There was a lot of swimming while trying out the tiny surf skis. I had the Rocket on the trailer and several people paddled it for what turned out to be the last time.
I loaded up the trailer with my boats just before dark. As always I checked the tie downs before driving off. I am almost home and crossing on of the causeway. While driving every few minutes I watch the boats in the mirrors for signs of any movement, a sure sign a strap has loosened up. Everything looked fine last time I checked.
I come to the bridge where there is small bump in the road when you transition onto the bridge. I heard something, I know the sound all to well, it was wood snapping! I heard it earlier this evening when I broke my favorite paddle. I looked in the mirror but I don't see anything and I didn't hear anything like a boat dragging on asphalt. But I just had a gut feeling something wasn't right so I kept looking. As I came into the light of the next street lamp I saw this in my mirror.
This would have been the view of the driver behind me
I really didn't believe nor comprehend what was I was seeing! After a few seconds I realized it was very real and I had a big problem. Worst part was I couldn't pull over. The shoulder is narrow, just wide enough for a car but there is a guard rail and the boat is about to hit the rail already. I didn't dare stop, someone might not realize I was wasn't moving and slam into me
I turned on my flashers and slowed way down and started looking for options. People just whizzed pass me on the left. Finally I saw there was only one car behind me and he wasn't making any effort to pass me so I quickly swung over into the left lane. Now I am taking up both lanes of the highway. I started looking for a good spot and pulled up on the grass center between the lanes. It was just wide enough for me park the truck but the Rocket is still well in the left lane. I quickly got out and shoved the boat back on the trailer out of the traffic. Now I could stand off the road and figure out what to do next. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could and I drove to the other end of the causeway where I stopped and surveyed the damage closer.
What happened? Obviously the line came loose. I know it was tight when I left but I did something wrong. Maybe I didn't notice that the line was snagged or the boat was not always against the upright. The truckers hitch was still tied but the line was just dangling in the air. I am guessing it was loose when I hit the bump going onto the bridge, the boat bounced off, the tip of the boat hit the road or the likely the concrete railing and that snapped off the end and bent the bar on the trailer.
Here is the damage to the boat.
I have decided against repairing the boat even though it salvageable. I glued this boat together with epoxy so repairs would be hard but doable. Thats one of the reasons I like lashing, repairs are easier. I used cheap materials to build this boat, just hoping to get a few years out of it and use it as a learning experience. But the main reason is my skills are much better and I know how to build a much better boat. It would need a new skin and waterproofing and that is typically the biggest expense of a skin boat. I could be a better frame for less than $100 in materials so it just make sense to put money into it. As much as I hate it the Rocket will be a parts doner for another boat.
So raise a glass of your favorite beverage to the Rocket!
She has sailed her last.