Murphy’s Law

By: Capt. Tim Ramsey

I spoke a few months ago about Murphy’s Law as it applied to fishing. Well, it seems Murphy and I have a close, personal relationship. I don’t think he likes me. He knows I’m versed in colloquialism, you know, “A fool and his money” and “don’t count your chickens” and so on. I even made one of my own.  It’s nonsense, but somehow appropriate. “Murphy wouldn’t be Murphy if Murphy wasn’t Murphy.”

A couple months ago I took time off from trying to find a literary agent for my fourth mystery novel that won’t sell unless I kill someone (can you feel the frustration?) and went fishing. I rounded a corner into the backcountry and as I turned left, it felt like the boat wanted to go right. The wheel was fighting me a bit, so I looked behind me and to my surprise, the Power Pole was deploying all by itself. Well, Murphy was deploying it. Down it went, just about half-way. I stopped the boat, hit the button, and a nice stream of hydraulic oil shot out of the transom, but the thing didn’t budge. I wasn’t entirely surprised it broke. The Power Pole worked flawlessly for almost seven years.

Fast-forward to a couple weeks ago. I had the Power Pole fixed while I was up in Jersey fishing then came back. We got everything ready and set off on a day chasing fish around. Boat started right up, no problem. Then things got weird.

First, the front livewell pump started screeching like it was caught in a trap and trying to call its mother. I popped the canister off and believe it or not, a half-chewed Flavor-Ice wrapper was in the high-speed intake line. I snapped the thing back together and it worked. I thought, “Murphy and his frozen treats.” After once more leaving the shrimp-less bait dock (Marina will go unmentioned), I hit the button for the GPS. Then hit it again. Nothing. So, I checked around the boat, pulled the throttle back and stopped forward motion, then hit the Power Pole button. Then hit it again. Nothing.

The phrase “Murphy” rang in my head along with thoughts of money for the repair guy going over the side, and the image of the gorilla in the old samsonite commercial smashing suitcases. I gave myself a moment to regroup, and like a good Jersey transplant and army vet, I thought “if at first the button doesn’t work, mash it harder.” I did just that and voila’! The power pole goes down, but only a little. I mash it again, twice this time, and ‘Bob’s your uncle,” the thing does as advertised, setting itself automatically.

screw of motor boat on sea water background

Pleased with my mechanical acumen, I round the console and open the front hatch. Tracing the wires from the GPS to the fuse panel, a voice in my head says “red wire off, must be bad.” Shut up, Murphy, I got this. I plug it back in, go back around the console, hit the GPS button and again, voila’, it works. Will this utter display of knowledge and skill ever cease? Is it too early to celebrate with a beer? Then another voice in my head said “remember, pride really does come before the fall.”

I went back around the console and before closing the hatch, I scanned the area under the console for anything abnormal. That’s when I noticed the cable for the trim tab switch hanging freely, a smear of dried silicone on the tip, and two tiny electrodes protruding from the slots at the end. Not good. I realized that behind the switch on the console, there was nothing holding this cable on, just the silicone against the motherboard/ touch-sensitive pad/ expensive whatever you call it. Did my power pole guy “Samsonite Gorilla” do his thing when he fixed the power pole? Did I knock it off while returning the first aid kit to its spot under the console last trip (yes, on top of everything else, I’m accident prone), or was it Murphy?

I went back around the console and turned the engine off, then back on. No power went to the trim tabs. As if I really expected any. Right? I asked myself if Murphy was real or just frustration and the innate need to assign blame for such misfortune but if indeed the latter was true, the only course of action to rectify the situation was to punch myself in the face, and that was not an option. There was fishing to do. Put it behind you, go catch a snook. At least that’s what I told myself.

We pulled up to a patch of hard bottom near a small island in search of permit. Engine off, jack plate up, engine tilted out, we drifted slowly toward the target area. I hopped on the bow and deployed the trusty trolling motor. Went to the console, hit the breaker, the remote came on, I dialed-up to four on the trolling motor speed, hit the button and off we went. Something big broke water nearby. Better investigate. I hit the left turn button. Then I hit it again. Nothing. I tried right. Then tried right again. Nothing.

In that moment, if my Skeeter’s non-skid wasn’t the “skin-shredding nonskid from hell,” I might have fallen to my knees, arms outstretched, and wailed “is there anything that isn’t tainted?” After all, doing the Charleton Heston, Planet of the Apes (with a Jersey twist) “damn yous. Damn yous all to hell” would be ridiculous considering it would be cursing inanimate objects. Or does Murphy animate them? Instead of going insane, I lifted the trolling motor from the slot and steered it by hand from the top. Good to go. Mayhem averted. Fish were caught. Merriment was had. Adult beverages were consumed. Some days you’re forced to adapt.

Days later, after about ten YouTube videos, I have a new trim tab switch and new trim tab steering box on the workbench. Well, like I said before, “Murphy wouldn’t be Murphy if Murphy wasn’t Murphy.” Wish me luck. See you out there!