Scouts' motto rings true in the outdoors
In life, things very rarely always go to plan. It's inevitable that even the best laid plans will change, go pear-shaped or even turn to custard. It's no different with fishing and hunting and you need to be able to roll with the punches, adapt, improvise, and innovate when things don't turn out as expected.
Being out fishing and hunting all the time, I have my fair share of things that don't go as planned but usually it works out OK in the end. Scout movement leader Lord Baden Powell had an especially powerful motto that has stood the test of time - "be prepared".
I've always subscribed to the view that if you venture into the outdoors you need to have the means to get home safely. Attention to detail is important in checking the conditions, having appropriate safety equipment, making wise decisions and making sure someone knows where you are.
As a commercial operator, I've found that bureaucrats are always keen to check systems and processes to ensure health and safety aspects are met but it's pretty difficult to legislate against stupidity. Most recreational accidents in the outdoors are often avoidable with some planning, forethought, and common sense and I've always believed that many of the unnecessary rescues performed by emergency services should be paid for by the individuals concerned.
Adventure is where you find it and lately we've had our fair share. Last month, a mate and I were heading back to base after scalloping at Ketu Bay in the outer Marlborough Sounds, when my outboard motor started playing up, not having full power. Being a relatively new motor, just recently serviced, this was a real worry, especially when we were so far from the boat ramp at Elaine Bay.
Luckily a big commercial vessel was also dredging Ketu, and I pulled up alongside for some advice. We talked and tried a few things but the skipper gave me good advice.
"Your motor is running OK, I don't think we should try to take it apart at sea. You've got an auxiliary motor, marine radio and satellite phone. The sea is flattening off so head back now. It'll be a long ride home."
We did as suggested and later the big boat chased us down to check on progress. With a thumbs up, a grin, and a wave, the skipper swung the big boat around and headed back out to sea. Close to three hours later we made it back to Elaine Bay, managing to catch a few barracouta trolling on the way home.
That night at Okiwi Bay Holiday Park, proprietor Ian Montgomery kindly took a look at the motor for us. Methodically working his way through the options, Monty figured out the problem. Draining the carburettor, he tasted salt crystals in the fuel. Flushing some fresh fuel through the motor and replacing the carburettor drain bung, the motor roared to life.
We appreciated all the help we'd been given and I'd learned a new trick in case it happened again. That's how you learn in the outdoors, through experience, but also with the help and advice of others.
When it comes to boating I've always believed that the most dangerous part is driving there in the vehicle and getting the boat in and out of the water.
A few weeks back I was guiding people from Taranaki and the weather report was terrible, with 30 knot norwesters forecast. With the help of brother Scott, I planned where to escape the worst of the Marlborough weather and wind and we set out with high hopes. My people had great fishing, putting plenty of blue cod, snapper, kahawai, and gurnard in the cooler.
As we headed for home, the sea conditions really deteriorated and the wind direction had changed significantly despite the forecast. Where we had launched the boat off the beach there were now big waves pounding the shore. We all had waders and lifejackets on and carefully planned how to get the boat back on the trailer.
Ruth and Dennis held the boat into the surf while I backed the trailer down the beach. Taking a side each they carefully lined the boat up while I hooked on the winch rope and manned the winch. Halfway on we were looking really good, until a really big wave came out of nowhere and slammed over the back of the boat, completely swamping it.
Everything was floating out and my first thought was that we were in trouble. Luckily we had all the angles right and the big sea kept pounding the back of the boat and pushing it up the trailer while I kept getting a few more turns of the winch handle.
The boat was too heavy to winch completely on but I was able to leap back in the truck and drive a few feet up the beach where we could drop the duckbills to drain the boat, and use a bucket to bail.
Getting the boat on the trailer wasn't the end of the adventure though as the tide was right in and we lost traction in the thick sand at the top of the beach.
With no run-up on the hard sand we got bogged, even in low four-wheel-drive. I ended up unhooking the trailer and anchoring it to the beach while we used pieces of old carpet to get traction and get the truck free, from where we could tow the trailer up the beach on a long strop.
Finally when we were all good to go we joked that our little misadventure was the best part of the day. In retrospect I should have had all my recovery straps and beach treads with us at that remote spot.
If I'd had my plastic fenders with us we could have also rolled the 4m boat up the beach out of the surf for a safer recovery. But it was a lesson well learned and you always need to carry all the gear with you at all times.
Little incidents happen in the outdoors all the time and you always need to be vigilant.
In the past week or so I had the propeller jam in a surging Lake Rotoroa when we pushed off in high waters after landing a trout, and a toi-toi bush wrapped around the blades.
Another day I was repairing waders and had leant a long wooden extension ladder against the house which I hung the waders on by their straps so I could fill them with water to locate the leaks. One minute I was on my knees marking the leaking waders, the next second the ladder slipped with me under it and I got flattened.
Luckily I took the full weight across my shoulders and back, and only came away with only a few bruises. That was pretty dumb and I definitely won't do that again. Sometimes anglers are more of a risk to themselves than the elements or their equipment.
This week got me thinking about other safety procedures like always wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes against flying projectiles. One day recently, I had a couple of poor casters ricochetting tungsten beaded flies off the aluminium boat. In the past I've even been whacked with heavily weighted flies on errant casts and it can feel like being hit with a .22 bullet.
People can even hook themselves. Some days I feel like a modern day Jack the Ripper lancing blisters and ripping out hooks. I've become a bit of an expert at removing hooks, with some strong cord around the bend of the hook and pushing the eye down to keep the barb on the correct exit level before pulling with force.
It works really well and it helps to carry all the gear you might possibly need in the truck for every occasion. During the years our equipment has mostly saved a lot of other people that we've come across, either to jumpstart their battery, tow them out of a ditch, or make an emergency call with the satellite phone.
The last people we helped were a young Israeli couple, who I gave a box of matches to when they had no means of firing up their gas cooker on a wet stormy night on the side of the road.
The storage box in the back of my truck carries a proven selection of gear that comes in handy from time to time with items like a machete, winch, heavy duty jumper cables, insulation tape, first aid kit, spare fishing gear, tyre valves, fuses, and tow rope.
You never know what you may encounter outdoors and like Lord Baden Powell said, it pays to be prepared.