Bimini was a 1952 Harkers Island 43, repowered with a single 3208 CAT, natural of course. She would do about 12 knots at full throttle, a typical Gulf Coast charter boat in 1978, open deckhouse (no a/c), head, and a couple bunks forward, four mounted fishing chairs in the cockpit, and a flybridge. Engine access was center of the deckhouse, with bench seating port and starboard. Bimini and I would become intimate, even unknowingly going through a name change.
Bimini was one of four charter boats in the Braden Fleet of Destin, Florida, docked side by side with the new tournament-rigged, 36 Hatteras of Capt. Braden’s friend, complete with tower and gold-anodized bling! Needless to say she was the queen on our dock, kinda like a poodle at a cattle auction.
It was a busy weekend in September and all four boats were out on trips. Captain Braden knew my affection for offshore fishing and booked me offshore for the following day. He greeted me with his cat-got-the-canary grin. I was excited, and my deckhand Ricky and I immediately went to work rigging baits and prepping the boat.
Morning came. Our charter customers, an older couple, arrived on time. Upon arrival, they explained that they were on the wrong boat. A quick glance at their booking receipt showed “Bimini with Captain Creel.” Whatever their reluctance was, it quickly diminished by the show of their crew’s enthusiasm for an offshore trip.
We headed for an old liberty ship anchored about 23 miles offshore used as an Air Force training target. Trolling around it almost always produced fish—barracuda, bonita, or jacks. From there we worked our way offshore. As we dropped lines, I noticed my engine temp starting to rise. I had Ricky go to the bridge and I went to check the engine.
“Something wrong?” the husband asked. As I lifted the engine hatch, I could smell steamy engine coolant—dammit! My closed-cooling-system pump was failing at the seal. Carefully removing the cap of the heat exchanger relieved the pressure and made the leak better, but we had no choice, we had to go home. The only fresh water we had on board was our drinking water and 150 pounds of block ice.
Positioned directly in front of the motor, I chipped block ice and mixed it with our drinking water with a funnel to try and keep our CAT alive. It would be a miserable 2 hours. Not only did I have to be a diesel medic, I had to have stressful conversation with two disappointed customers. They decided to make the best of the situation, so what the hell, let’s drink—and boy they did!
As the booze started to take effect, they became friendlier and started teasing me about the boat name. “The name of your boat is Or Equivalent,” they kept repeating.
“No, the name of the boat is Bimini,” I kept debating. They were insistent. Finally, I had to ask, “Why are you saying the name of this boat is Or Equivalent?”
“Well, yesterday when we were visiting with Capt. Braden, all the boats were out except the one at the end the dock, the Hatteras,” they explained. “We asked Captain Braden if your boat, Bimini, is as nice as the Hatteras and he said ‘Yes, or equivalent!’”