For fellow Woody Boater’s Phil Jones and Tony Gowen, Thursday started out as a normal day of classic boating, cruising around on Lake Hartwell, SC prior to the start of the 2011 Lake Hartwell Antique Boat Festival. They were aboard “Impossible Dream” a 1948 22′ Shepherd Runabout. Robert Miracle and Chris Smith were aboard “Odeyssea”, Chris’s 27′ Chris-Craft Sea Skiff shooting some photographs for Woody Boater. Al and Bonne Olsen, and friends, were also there with “Norweigan Son” their 1950 Chris-Craft 23′ Holiday.
Phil noticed that the big Shepherd suddenly changed attitude and knew something wasn’t right. Five minutes later, in the middle of Lake Hartwell, the boat began to loose power. Then the engine shut down. The spray rails were a foot below the water with only another foot of free board remaining. When they signed in for the boat show, the ACBS Blue Ridge Chapter provided all the boat owner’s with a plastic 5 gallon Ace Hardware bucket which included the exhibitor’s information, documents, etc for the weekend.
Phil grabbed the bucket and began to bail water from in front of the rear seat section. The water was leaking in so fast that the bilge pump wasn’t able to keep up.
Fortunately Al Olsen and Chris Smith noticed that Phil and Tony were in trouble, and immediately went over to help. Al Olsen hooked up a line to the disabled Shepherd and began to tow it towards the nearest land they could see. Phil continuously bailed water with the 5 gallon bucket for about 35 or 40 minutes as they were being towed to shore.
Phil said that the boat was taking on water so fast that it began listing badly, and if Tony let go of the steering wheel to help Phil bail water, it just became worse as the boat was being towed. So Tony continued steering and Phil continued to bail water. For anyone who has ever looked at one of these big Shepherd’s, due to the deep hull design, there’s a lot of hull side to bail water over.
While Al Olsen was towing the boat, Chris Smith was has communicating with Al via cell phone as they found a nearby public boat ramp, discussing the best way to get the Shepherd as close to the boat ramp as possible without doing any further damage to the Shepherd or to Al’s 23′ Holiday. Phil continued to bail water with the plastic bucket…
At this point, Phil determined that the only possible way he was going to get the boat closer to shore and prevent it from sinking was to attempt to pull it with the rope towards shore, which meant jumping into the cold water and trying to get his footing on the lake bottom. Phil struggled to find his footing in the deep water.
Although the water was still deep, Phil finally managed to pull the stranded boat closer towards the ramp into shallow water. As the spring water tempeature was so cold, hyperthermia became a concern, but Phil continued to inch the boat closer to the boat ramp.
Phil then managed to swing the bow of the Shepherd towards the boat ramp. While he pulled the boat towards shallow water, Chris Smith contacted US Boat to come over to the ramp and assist Phil with the wounded boat, and the subsequent retrieval effort.
Once on the trailer, they discovered a grapefruit size hole in one of the midship planks.
Phil Jones and Tony Gowen credit the successful rescue effort to two things… The quick thinking of Al Olsen and Chris Smith who realized that the Shepherd was in trouble and quickly reacted to the situation… And the plastic Ace Hardware 5 gallon bucket that was given to them by the ACBS Blue Ridge Chapter organizers.
When I spoke to Phil on Friday, he said “This is a perfect example of why these old wooden boats should have new bottoms installed, for the safety of family and friends… That’s as close as I want to get… The plastic bucket saved it.”
Thanks Phil, and we are glad to see that you and Tony are safe and dry. Good work! And thanks goes out as well to Al Olsen and crew, Chris Smith and crew, and Robert Miracle for the great images.
For their bravery and for saving the Shepherd from sinking in 80 feet of water in Lake Hartwell, Phil and Tony have been named Woody Boater’s of the month!
I’m sure there is more to the story that we have not touched on, and we hope that Phil chimes in to Woody Boater with the rest of the details so we can all learn from this experience – Texx