About Pete McDonald

Pete McDonald is a contributing editor to Power & Motoryacht. Previously, he spent 11 years on the editorial staff of Boating. He has won multiple writing awards and holds a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Blue Marlin Rams Boat, Photog Benefits

©John Schwartz, A Kona Blue.

Professional photographer Jon Schwartz was biding his time on the press boat during the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, when something wild happened. The crew of the 36 Hatteras Chiripa, the designated press boat, set out two lines hoping to catch a tuna or mahi while waiting for the tournament boats to hook up. Then a blue marlin hit one of their lines, and charged the boat.

“I was totally stoked,” said Schwartz, “this is what I’m always thinking about.” He grabbed his camera and started shooting as the fish went ballistic. Ironically, he’d rented a high powered fixed lens to shoot boat-to-boat, leaving him scrambling to take close-ups. “This fish was coming right at us,” said Schwartz, “and I was bummed I would lose the shot.” He didn’t.

The picture above is just a sample of some of the marlin shots he got before the fish rammed the boat and swam underneath. Schwartz said he got lucky, but it’s the byproduct of putting hundreds of hours on the water. “This can be stultifyingly boring,” he said, of the time outdoor photographers put in.

Getting blue marlin shots are always difficult because they usually hit far behind the boat and do their dance from afar. “It’s like watching a bullfight from a mile away,” said Schwartz. This time it unfolded up close, and though they took a shot to the hullsides and eventually lost the fish, from a photographer’s point of view it’s a once-in-a-lifetime catch.

You can read Jon Schwartz’s account on his personal blog, Bluewater Jon.

Coffee Alternatives For Tired Boaters

Man on Rear Deck of Cruise Ship

The dude posing in the picture above doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into. I try to avoid drinking coffee before heading out, for obvious reasons. Particularly when I’m on small, open boats. Problem: Being on the water on the margins of the day, especially over consecutive days, can make a person bone tired. Something’s got to give.

I’ve tried Vivarin. It’s like mainlining espresso straight into your veins. You’re uber-edgy and the same issues with coffee arise. An anecdotal aside: I tried a few to stay up on New Year’s one time. It worked but the next day I temporarily lost the ability to sweat. Verdict: Avoid on boats.

I’ve tried Mountain Dew. It has less caffeine than coffee, but the pure sugar content usually provides a quick boost, without the edginess. But, for me anyhow, the weaker caffeine crash is partially offset by the sugar crash. Plus, a 12-ounce can has 170 empty calories. The 20-ounce diet Code Red is pretty awesome, but I found it only once in a gas station mini-mart in South Carolina. Verdict: Maybe.

I bring energy bars. I eat them and like them and want them aboard, but that early in the morning I’m trying to stave off delirium, not run an exercise circuit. Not enough juice. Verdict: Maybe.

Lately, Five-hour Energy’s have been getting it done. I’ve taken them on fishing trips and felt alert and sharp, but usually for only around three hours. For me, at least, it starts to fade at that point but there’s no crash as with coffee, and none of coffee’s unwanted side effects, even though it contains caffeine. I’m not convinced taking 8,000 percent of your recommended B12 is a healthy thing in the long haul, but until someone tells me otherwise, I’m sticking with it. Just not every day.

BOOK REVIEW: Deadliest Sea

From Noah to the sinking of the whaleship Essex to The Perfect Storm, maritime disaster stories have kept audiences riveted in accounts recorded on the written page. But in the Youtube and reality TV era, and particularly with the immense popularity of Deadliest Catch, the written word has some stiff competition. It is against these outlets that Kalee Thompson’s new book Deadliest Sea must hold up. And it does. In a fast-paced 289 pages, Deadliest Sea delivers the goods its readers will crave.

Thompson originally wrote about the Coast Guard rescue operation launched for the crew of the fishing boat  Alaska Ranger for an article in Popular Mechanics. From there she had the foundations for this book. Thanks to Thompson’s heavy-duty reporting, Deadliest Sea offers a depth of background and information that would be impossible to reproduce in a video or television format. The book brings together the backgrounds of both the Alaska Ranger crew and their rescuers, and how they all intersect in a singular dire situation.

With all the reportorial detail, the book also has the requisite riveting moments that captivate even despite knowing the eventual outcome. A favorite passage:

Ryan’s mind was racing. He was pretty sure he’d heard the ship’s officers talking to the Warrior. The other FCA boat would be on its way, but would they have relayed the message to the Coast Guard? If they did, the Coasties would be coming all the way from Kodiak, Ryan thought. That was so far, hundreds of miles away. It was still dark. Would it be easier to spot him at night, or during the day? he wondered. Maybe at night. His strobe light was still flashing. He thought about how he’d look from the sky. Would they see the suit, the light? Jesus Christ, how long could he stay like this?

The waves were huge: twenty-footers, Ryan guessed. From the deck of the ship, seas this size wouldn’t be any sort of spectacle. It was a different story when you were submerged in the goddamn things. He couldn’t keep the freezing spray out of his nose and eyes, the only parts of his body that weren’t protected by the suit. What if no one was coming?”

It’s a scenario anyone who has taken even a day trip out of sight of land has contemplated, and all the details, and the ensuing Coast Guard rescue, come to life in this book.

Find Deadliest Sea at Amazon.com or at other locations listed on Thompson’s website.

Drag Boat Crash Video

Video still from the crash.

Someone captured on film an insane drag boat crash at the 2010 Augusta Southern Nationals drag boat event over the weekend.  A local news station posted the video on its website. The driver was taken to the hospital for a possible broken leg. According to this news report, he was doing about 167 mph when he lost control.

The fastest I’ve ever gone in a boat is 116 mph in a 46′ Cigarette named American Muscle a few years back, and that was a trip. Going 50 miles faster than that on a boat the size of a doormat? Insane.