Back in the 90’s, before the low railroad bridge across Highlands Bayou was raised, Bayou Vista’s outlet to Jones Lake and Galveston Bay had probably only 5 feet of clearance above low tide.  This prevented large boats from passing under it, so by necessity, I became a two boat fisherman.  Owning a 20, foot boat that wouldn’t make it under the bridge, it was trailered and used for offshore fishing and fishing around the Galveston Jetties, but I needed something that would make it under the low bridge.

That something turned out to be a 13, foot Boston Whaler.  This particular boat had no motor, no steering controls and was on a worn out trailer.  A new galvanized, trailer fixed one of the problems and the other was fixed with a new 20 horsepower, manual steering, motor, I even added a trolling motor.  My steering position was near the transom, on a small cooler, that also served as a bait bucket.  Maybe this was a little light on safety issues, but with me alone, the boat would run over thirty and it would be great for fishing in Jones Lake.

Here I am, perched on the bait box/cooler, scanning for birds working.

So what was one of the first things I did with my Whaler?   Roy Collins a former Galveston Bay fishing guide, and I trailered it to the base of the Texas City Dike, put in there and went screaming of to the northeast to drift around Dollar Point in Galveston Bay.  Definitely this was big water, not the best place for a 13, footer, even a Whaler!

There were probably a dozen other large boats drifting in the Dollar Reef area.  Never having drifted in the Whaler before, I mistimed and misdirected my first drift and before I knew it was drifting into a 23 footer.  Yanking the starter cord, nothing happened.  Yank, yank, yank, still nothing.  Roy grabbed the side of the big boat to hold us off, while the  owner was giving me some very clear instructions, “Keep that, blankety, blank little thing away from my boat.  Watch it, don’t drift into my engine, blankety, blank, blank!”

Clearing the 23 footer, I saw we were about to drift into some fishing lines from another big boat, 21 footer!  Yank, yank, yank, the motor still wouldn’t start.  More instructions from the other boat owner, “Blankety, blank, blank, keep out of our lines. Blankety , blank, don’t you know what you are doing, blankety, blank!”  This was very embarrassing!  Yank, yank and then I remembered, Viola, turn on the motor’s on/off switch, which I did, yank, put, put, put, put, put, it started and, feeling very embarrassed, we eased away from the fishing lines!

Getting control of our drifts, we began catching some real nice speckled trout, when a small rainsquall popped up south of us and was heading our way. We really didn’t pay much attention to the squall and kept on fishing and catching fish. Then it started to rain, better said, “Then the bottom fell out!”

Blinding rain and the next thing I knew, water was up around my ankles, the gas tank was afloat and the rain was still pouring down!  At the time I didn’t have a two-way drain plug that would have let the water drain out, so the water kept rising and we both started bailing.  Pouring the shrimp out of the 33, quart cooler, also my seat, we finally made headway in our foundering boat.

Ankle deep, the rain stopped.  Starting the engine, I pulled the drain plug and gunned the engine.  We jumped up on a plane and the boat drained.  Whew, that was close!  Reinserting the plug and we went screaming back to our trailer, and thinking to myself, No more big water for this little boat, but I will say one thing about the little Whaler, it didn’t sink.  Whalers are made with positive flotation and as their advertisement shows, you can cut one in half and it won’t sink!

That afternoon, I bought and installed a two-way drain plug!