Tales from Geezer Boatworks

  • Sea Monsters and Other Modern Maritime Dangers

Ahoy there Shipmates,

A while back I got inventive, and I made a hookah rig for cleaning my hull. The rig includes a snorkel, a garden hose, and a shop vac. I got one of those snorkels with a drainage check valve close to the top. It's the kind with the drain valve part way down the tube. I guess it’s intended to let water out before it gets to the mouthpiece. I stick one end of the garden hose into the top of the snorkel and tape it in place. Then I attach the other end to the blow port of the shop vac. The check valve relieves excess air pressure at the snorkel, without admitting water when I suck on it. Anyway, I have used the thing down to 4 or 5 feet, which is about all the pressure the vacuum cleaner will put out. When I'm shallower, I can hear the check valve bubbling continuously. And when I get deep enough, it only bubbles when I exhale. Another foot or so and it's too hard to suck air out of the thing, but 4 or 5 feet is deep enough to let me do the hull and running gear. The price is right for sure.

So the other day I was describing this breathing rig to Gentleman Frank and Big John You Don’t Give Him No Lip. The two of them were aboard the Icebreaker Danielle for a coke. Frank’s got his boat three slips over, and Big John lives on his boat next to mine. And as I’m going through the machinations of the thing, explaining how it works, Big John gets this puzzled look on his face. “But Paul,” he says with a wink towards Frank, “When Danielle is out on ice-breaking patrols, how do you keep the ice-floes and ice-burgs from cutting or crushing the hose?” “Quite right John, I answered, “That’s just one of several reasons that I can't recommend anyone make such a rig. You know, when it comes to ice breaking, Danielle does pretty well around marinas and the like, where folks are mostly friendly. Haven't tried her much around yacht clubs yet. I hear the ice surrounding those is pretty thick. Might need to reinforce the hull a bit.”

Frank decided to get his oar in. “But those alligators, Paul. What about them? Aren’t they kind of dangerous?” “Yeah, I guess you’re right Frank,” I admitted, “But it’s not the alligators that really bother me. There are other beasts lurking about these waters that worry me more.” I shivered with the thought of them. “As a matter of fact fellas, I had a spot of bother with a manatee just the other day.” “A manatee!” John guffawed, “Come on Browne. You don’t expect us to believe…” “It’s true, John” I said, “ Everybody thinks they’re gentle, but the beasts are dangerously sneaky. I know.” “That’s a pile of #@%&” claimed John, and Frank covered up a smile with his hand. “Look John,” I said, “I got first hand experience. You know how some folks will dangle a dribbling water hose off their docks for the manatees? Cause they need to drink fresh water?” “Hey, I saw a hose like that on the river the other day!” interrupted Frank. “Well that’s what it was for,” I explained. “Well anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was down scraping a crop of barnacles off my prop when I felt a tug on my air line, just a little tug. I had just started to turn around to see what was the matter, when the snorkel ripped clean out of my mouth in mid breath! Then this massive flat tail whips out of the gloom and smacks me upside the head, knocking my dive mask loose! I struggled to the surface, my lungs bursting for air. By the time I surfaced, the hose was already stretched to the breaking point. And when I looked along it, all I saw was one grotesquely magnified and bloodshot eyeball, sighting along that hose and looking right back at me.”

“Jeepers!” gasped Frank, suitably impressed. There, I thought, a nibble. Time to set the hook and reel him in. I continued my tale. “Gave me the willies, it did. The brute had my dive mask over one eye, filled with water of course, so he could see above the surface. And he had my snorkel in his mouth and he was pulling for all he was worth. Then all of a sudden he lets the rig loose and it springs backward up against Danielle's hull and whacks it like this!” I smacked my hand down on the table as hard as I could for effect. Big John and Frank both jumped. “Holy she it, Paul! That could have done some damage!” John exclaimed, “You were right lucky. So what did you do then?” “Yeah, it was a close thing,” I agreed, “Just missed me by inches. What did I do then? Well, I clambered onto the boat and poured myself a drink of course.” “Figure that’s what’s been chewing on those dock pilings next to my boat, Paul?” Frank asked, and he glanced out the window. “Had to be,” I said, “It was a rogue manatee, for sure, and he must a mistook my breathing line for a water hose. It was lucky I wasn't killed or worse.”

Big John shuddered and kept a straight face. He’s good at that. Frank wrinkled his brow and looked worried, but he couldn’t keep his eyes from twinkling. And then the three of us fell silent and we stared out the window at the hard gray water. What was really out there on mornings when the fog smothered the truth?

Author’s note:

You know Shipmates, all kidding aside, even with a primitive rig like I’ve described above, holding your breath and ascending from as little as 4 feet is enough to hurt you. Getting tangled up down there will also do you in. So I'm just describing what I've done. I'm not suggesting or recommending in any way that you build or use one of these rigs. I'm not suggesting that if you build one like this it will be safe to use. Do not build or use a rig like I've described; it's not safe. (sigh - modern life) Get some proper dive training and proper equipment.

- Paul Browne -