A Free Boat
by David "Shorty" Routh
I was inbetween big boats, and
was looking for a free bare hull that I could bring back from
the dead. I knew that I either wanted an ODay 19 or a Venture
21. They are both in the size range of the largest I want to
tow with my minivan, and are big enough to sleep my whole family.
Of the two, the Venture is faster because it is 300 lbs lighter,
and the hull is narrower. But I was more interested in the ODay
because it had an 8' cockpit, and an extra foot of beam with
a flatter bottom, so would have more initial stability. Ahhh....
the endless decisions on what compromises are more important
to you when you get the next boat. I searched around and found
an ODay, so brought that one home.
Soon after I got an email from
a friend that had seen a posting on CraigsList about a free
21' boat near Houston, Texas. It said something like "free
21' boat, unknown type, no sails or mast, come get it for free".
I emailed the link around and my friend Bill
Tosh was very interested in it, so I contacted
the "seller" to see more details about getting it.
Josh (the person who was giving
it away) emailed me back and said that Bill and I were welcomed
to it, but it had submerged a little bit more, so see the attached
photo (shown here). Said he honestly didn't know if it was recoverable,
but we were welcome to come try, and there was no obligation
to take it if we decided it wasn't worth it.
Wow, a sunken boat !! Little
did he know, this made it even more attractive for me to help
recover!! I have dragged home a lot of boats, but never had
the opportunity to raise a sunken boat like this.
History from Josh
Talking with him further, I learned
a little bit of the history. When Josh came to look at buying
his house, he looked in the canal and tied up to the bulkhead
was a 21' sailboat. He asked about it, and the seller (in a
joking tone), said "buy the house, and the sailboat comes
with it". Then they went to look at other parts of the
house. When buying the house, Josh asked his realtor if the
guy was serious, the realtor assured him that he was not, and
he would not be getting the boat.
day came, Josh moved in and the boat was floating around the
canal, tied up to a tree around the corner in an undeveloped
area. Asking around, Josh found out that it had previously been
owned by the couple that lived across the canal (the house shown
in this photo). They got divorced, the husband left the boat
for the wife to contend with. She was not interested in it,
so she offered it around for free, and the previous owner of
Josh's house accepted it. Then after a while, he lost interest
and in the middle of the night took it back across the canal
and tied it up to the lady's dock again. She was pissed ! She
said that he accepted it, and she didn't want it back! So she
set it free and it floated around the canal for a while, and
then it was tied to the tree in the undeveloped area.
Josh was cleared by all the neighbors
to adopt this boat, and he was elaited. He spent a month cleaning
up the boat, power washing it, cleaning out the inside etc.
Didn't have a motor or sail rig, so he paddle it around a couple
times in the canal with a paddle. Josh was ready to fix her
up the right way, and started to call around to try and figure
a way to register the boat. Without the title, or previous owner,
it is impossible to get it registered in Texas. He tried anyway,
calling the coast guard, Texas parks and wildlife, the local
sheriff, anyone that had anything to do with boats he tried
and failed miserably. Worse yet, they told him since he tied
it up to his bulkhead, it was now his responsibility and he
would be liable if it ever broke free and damaged another boat,
or became a hazzard to navigation. If that didn't destroy his
dream enough, it suddenly started to take on water. Sinking
slowly (just a little lower every day), it was a depressing
It's berth was in the canal,
and if it sunk, it would be a hazzard, so Josh went to move
it back to the undeveloped area around the side. When moving,
the knot holding it to the cleat was so tight, he had to cut
it, and just as he did a gust of wind blew on the hull and the
rope slipped from his hand. The boat was heading out into the
canal and towards the million dollar yachts just a few yards
away!! Luckily a fisherman was coming down the ways and caught
the boat, returning it to Josh.
The local housing developers
saw what was going on, and said that if it was still there when
they developed that property, they would have to haul it away
with a backhoe, definitely destroying it in the process and
possibly sticking him with the bill. So Josh was out of options
and posted it up on Craigslist, "Free 21' sailboat".
Previous Title Owner,
Currently On File
When I found out about the boat, and Bill Tosh said he wanted
it, the first thing I did was get the TX numbers from Josh and
run them at Texas Parks. They gave me the previous title owner's
name, and lucky for me it was a unique one, there were only
2 people with that same last name in all of Houston. So I called
them both, one turned out to be the last owner, his name is
Talking with Mark, I found out
a little more history. He had purchased the boat from a doctor
for $2100 back in 1991, and sailed it often. It was a great
boat for him, and was enjoyed many weekends. But work took over
Mark's life, and so the boat sat in Mark's driveway for a number
of years, it's only purpose at that point was a place for a
few of his cats to sleep. Mark and his wife like pizza, and
they would order pizza once a week. For the previous 3 years,
they had the same driver every week, and then one day the pizza
driver asked about the boat. Mark talked to him a bit, knew
he was dirt poor but a very nice guy, so he sold the boat to
him for $100. The pizza driver then sailed her every chance
he could get, right up till his work visa expired and he was
being forced to leave back to Armenia. He called up Mark and
offered to give the boat back, but Mark and his wife were used
to the boat being gone, and pleased with the idea it went to
the friendly pizza driver, so he said to just sell it to someone
and keep the money.
I explained what I knew from
Josh, and described it's current status of being sunken. Having
never raised a sunken boat, I described our plan of renting
a gasoline driven pump, and pumping out the water. Mark used
to work in the oil industry and said it would be no problem
at all, that little boat would just pop right back up to the
surface. He had previously raised barges off the bottom, they
were a little bit more work. Mark also agreed to order a new
title and send us a signed one, so that Bill would be able to
register the boat in his name, and get her back on the water.
I don't know anyone who has recovered
a sunken boat before, the only reference I have is once I saw
it done on the discovery channel. They used divers to locate
the holes in the boat, patch them up, air bags to raise the
boat to the surface, then pump the water out. The way the boat
sat, at high tide the water was over the coaming and some friends
were speculating that the water would just rush in at the same
rate the pump would lift it out. Also there was a hatch on the
bow deck, and we know for a fact that hatch will leak like a
sieve around the edges. Worst case scenario, we get down there
and try to pump it out, if it doesn't work out, we can just
leave it there and all we have lost is our time and the cost
of the pump rental.
went to Champion Equipment Rentals and picked up a gas powered
pump. They were out of the 2" pumps, but had a 3"
one that they would rent me for the same price. The 2"
was rated at 138 gallons per minute, and I thought the guy said
the 3" would do around 350 gallons per minute.
got lucky, and the intake hose was the prefect length to go
from the shore to inside the cabin, and we could run it without
a discharge hose letting the water just run down the bank and
back into the canal.
Incase the hose wouldn't reach,
or incase we had to continually run the pump while we towed
it to the boat ramp, I built a small
plywood kayak to carry the pump. I didn't use the
kayak, but wanted to build one anyway, and it only took $35
worth of materials and 2.5 hours to make.
| Josh was able to borrow his neighbors
canoe, it is floating here above the venture.
|| Bill's brother in law Jerry came to
help, but was mostly interested in getting to see Bill fall
| With the pump in the lowest part of
the hull, Bill stood on the forward hatch to keep it closed
and hopefully minimize the water flow thru it.
|| Lots of water coming out of that pump....
| I no time flat, the boat started coming
up. I looked at my watch, and only 4 minutes had lapsed,
but the boat was starting to come off the bottom.
|| The hatch is clear !!
| It keeps on coming up.
|| The water was coming in
thru the keel winch cable hole, so Bill stuffs a rag in
there to stop the water, and then hand bails the cockpit.
| Venturing inside, Bill discoveres
a new pet, or possibly lunch. When I started cleaning my
ODay, I also gained a new
Tow Down the Canal
the borrowed canoe, and my 5hp outboard, we towed the venture
down the canal and out towards the nearest public boat ramp.
I would have taken pics in the canal, but the venture didn't
really have any steerage (Bill was using a paddle), and it was
tight between some very expensive boats. One slip and we could
have done some serious damage.
This pic shows us moving
out from the canal into the channel between Clear Lake and Galveston
| Josh is holding the bow
line as we tow. We dropped off the boat at the launch ramp,
and then motored back to get the cars and the trailer.
Could write a few captions for this
"Tada, that piece
of junk is gone!"
"Hey, who stole my boat?"
"Now are you ready to start on
that sunken barge?"
You can see the sunken barge
off to the side, it had been sunk there for a longer time,
we speculated a bit on how it would be a nice floating
dock. But not today... We will leave that for someone
Onto the Trailer
| I wasn't able to find out
about the bunk height profile before we went down, so I
took a guess and the first time we pulled her up, I was
way off. Backed her down in the water, adjust bunks and
|| Next pull, the wheels started
to spin so Jerry added a little weight to the rear.
| It was sitting better, but
the the tongue weight was completely neutral, so we dropped
her in the water one more time and adjusted the axle to
bow eye distance.
|| That was about as good as
we were going to get with this trailer and the bunk supports
that we had.
| Bill's first stop on the
road was the car wash. If you get on the green stuff immediately,
it will come off a lot easier than if you wait till it dries.
|| Might sound strange, but
that was a lot of fun.