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Capsized – but still in the competition!

Leandri Language – who dreams of becoming a world champion bass fisher-lady – had a frightening incident recently whilst taking part in a bass Fishing League Worldwide event at De Hoop dam, Mpumalanga, South Africa, with her sister, Nichole.

The morning started out well with no wind, a warm day, and flat-calm water. The fishing was going quite well, too. But at about 2:30 in the afternoon, whilst Leandri was on the phone to the competition officials to clarify the position on the penalty she would incur for presenting a dead fish at the weigh-in (all fish are intended to be returned to the water alive after the event – but occasionally a fish will die from trauma), she noticed a squall of wind approaching them from the far side of the dam. She asked the official if he had noticed the approaching squall – he had …and his advice was to get off the water!

Leandri and her sister made preparations to get ashore as quickly as they could – but not soon enough. They had been fishing amongst submerged trees and when the squall hit them – broadside with winds of over 50mph – it forced them back amongst the branches. Ignoring the fact that the Trolling motor was still down she started the main engine in order to get into to deeper water – but with the wind on the beam her boat took two waves on board. It was a sign of things to come.

Not yet incapacitated she headed for the safety of the dam – but the waves continued to build reaching a height of 1.5m. Outboard engines need to be pitched to the right angle to deliver their power safely – but with the boat rising to the waves and tumbling into the troughs which followed it proved impossible to match the pitch to the conditions.

Another wave coming on board shorted out the electrics and the engine died. Now at the mercy of the waves the boat turned and began to take water over the stern – which was already low in the water owing to the loading of a full ‘live-fish tank’ weighing 100kg; a full cool box (100kg) Leandri and her sister (100kg) and the outboard …all situated near the stern of the boat.

Submerged trees …in calm conditions

It wasn’t long before the battery box was flooded – in spite of which Leandri was able to restart the engine but only motored for a few metres before it cut-out again. A further attempt to restart the engine flooded the pistons at which point the engine had to be disregarded.

By this time sitting waist deep in water Leandri decided to join her sister on the bow – the only part of the vessel still above water. From there she attempted to get out of trouble using the trolling motor – which is mounted on the bow – in order to bring the vessel head-to-wind.  But the nose of the boat was so high by now that the propellor of the trolling motor was scarcely in the water. They feared that the gale of wind would get under the boat and flip it. In the event the boat filled with water and then capsized, leaving the women swimming alongside.

Some of the lost gear was recovered later.

Leandri had managed to make some emergency calls for assistance as the severity of the incident increased. And a boat nearby seeing their distress came to their aid, but struggled to get the women out of the water in those conditions owing to the dangers of approaching a swimmer with an unguarded propellor; compounded by the difficulties of controlling a planing vessel at low speed. Taking on water themselves the vessel managed to pull the women from the water. They are both strong swimmers, and were wearing lifejackets. Nichole was quite traumatised by the incident and Leandri further damaged some chronic sports injuries.

Two more boats answering the distress call managed to get a line to Leandri’s boat and tow it to shallow water where they were able to right the vessel …and then tow it back to base.

Looking for her car key, Leandri learned that Nichole had secured all their valuables in the boat’s locker before things turned bad. In the locker she also discovered her competition ‘tag’. Someone joked that she still had time to use her tag to complete the competition weigh-in …and discovering that the fish they had caught earlier in the day were still safe in the live-well – they decided to present their fish where they learned that they had one of the best catches of the day!  In a really tight competition they gained fifth place …only a few more grams would have placed them in the top three.

Leandri says that the events of that day were a useful learning experience and she looks forward to next month’s competition.

Leandri looks for her boat’s gear lost overboard

Leandri’s IP65 battery chargers are warranted to be spray-proof but were unharmed by total immersion (this observation makes no extended claims about the product – it’s what happened in Leandri’s case) and the BMV battery monitors were drained, cleaned, and put back in service. Similarly her Mercury 150HP outboard was drained and serviced, and has since run.

On reflection Leandri notes that things could have been worse: Unlike the two other dams they regularly fish during competitions the De Hoop dam at Mpumalanga doesn’t have crocodiles!

 

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