Rough Stuff

Rough Stuff

Sure, you can drive your high-perf hull to the limit, balancing it on only a few inches of its running pad as you eke out every last rev from your high­ winding outboard. That's great for dead-calm conditions-but can you handle those same speeds when you're facing a stiff 15 mph headwindwith gusts to 25 on the way back to the ramp? What about high-traffic weekends, when wakes from cruisers toss your boat like a rubber ducky in the tub? The skill to handle your rig in adverse conditions - and the techniques for bringing your crew and boat back in one piece - can only be learned through experience. While you don't have to beat your boat to death practicing, there's no substitute for seat time. The only way to grow familiar with your hull's characteristics, as well as your own limitations, is to go boating in the rough stuff. After riding with an offshore racer and a tournament -trail bass fisherman, I realized who the real rough-water driver was, and it wasn't the offshore racer. Pro fishermen really put their boats to the test. l was amazed at the conditions we pounded through - waves and wind that would put most others on the trailer. "Getting out there" is the only way this driver learned to handle chop and swells; for him, it was either drive through it, or go home without taking part in the tournament. He's busted up a few hulls over the years, but today he knows how to handle nasty water while inflicting minimal damage to his ride.

KEEP A CLEAR HEAD

Of course, it's best to discover your boat's eccentricities in calm conditions. By all means, learn how to keep it on pad in good water. More importantly, as you master calm-water flying, learn to read what's ahead - way ahead. At 60 mph, you're traveling 88 feet per second (fps); at 90 mph, it's 132 fps. At that speed, you have to focus at least 100 yards ahead in order to have a two-second window to react. When lake traffic is light, "upcoming conditions" usually consist of wind gusts and the occasionalroller. That's fine. Learning to read and react to these is part of the game. As you approach oncoming challenges, it's crucial to remain clear-headed. That's what takes practice. When flying high on the pad, the most common response to trouble is to im­ mediately let off on the throttle. Dead wrong. Cutting power at high speeds can cause violent reactions, such as blowing over backward or hooking and barrel rolling. The proper reac­tion is to trim down slIghtly, ease back on the throttle (500 rpm or so), brace for the wind or waves and drive through them. Trimming down and easing off the gas will smooth out your approach, and the hull will chatter right over the bumps. Of course, if huge rollers appear, you'll need to back off the throttle a bit more. Just don't do it all at once.

OUT IN THE NASTIES

The real discipline comes when trying to navigate in what I call soup-the mishmash of cross-wakes, rollers, gusts and chop you'll find on any busy waterway. You have to remain alert and intensely focused, especially if you're on a mission (like navigating back to weigh-in on time). If you're just cruising, no matter -trim down the engine, lower the jackplate and motor on. If you've got to be somewhere fast, however, buckle down. You and your partner should position your ­ selves so that you're ready for jarring bumps. Next, drop the engine an inch or so on the jack, trim it level (or under slightly), and push on the throttle as hard as you dare. With the boat flying level, you can literally skip over waves, no matter how large or what direction they're corning from. Cross-waves are the trickiest, especially in a V-bottorn hull; it's best to ap­proach them bow-onat a 30-degree angle.This minimizes the walking that results from tak­ing them from the side, yet softens the blow or taking them dead-on. You should be watching all around you for possible rogue waves, other watercraft or debris in the water. Again, smooth is the watchword. Avoid abrupt steering maneuvers or throttle chops unless absolutely necessary. Of course, those of us with 90-plus mph hulls have no business going that fast in crowded conditions. Three-quarters of your rig's potential speed should be enough to get you back in plenty or time, no matter what the emergency. Besides, if you learn to safely drive your boat at 60 or 70 mph in rough water, you'll easily outrun most other rigs when the lake kicks up -and you and your rig will arrive in one piece.

John Tiger Jr


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