I was excited to launch my brand-new 15-foot MFG Skiff at our local lake back in 1984. I thought I had taken every precaution to ensure a safe maiden launch that sunny July morning. My wife had packed a picnic lunch, and both my daughter Deb, age 9, and son Rich, age 5, were thrilled at the thought of catching a few sand bass. I brought life jackets for everyone, fishing licenses for the wife and me, fishing rods, minnows for bait, plenty of fuel for the Mercury 25XD outboard, a weather radio, and an ice chest for the catch.
I thought it would be best to load the wife, kids and fishing gear in the boat, and back the trailer down the ramp to make it easier to get us on the water fast. Everything went smoothly, and the boat slipped off the trailer with no effort. I attached a line to the front cleat and gently pulled the boat onto a sandy spot adjacent to the ramp so that I could park the van and trailer. Then I returned to the boat, and as I pushed us off and jumped onto the bow, my wife inquired about water in the bilge.
In my rush to get us out on the lake, I had neglected to put the transom drain plug in. At this point, we had drifted several yards offshore. I grabbed the paddle and got us back to the ramp, got everyone off the boat, and ran to get the trailer. The boat was so heavy, I could not crank it onto the trailer. Thankfully, several other boaters came to my rescue and pushed the boat back onto the trailer.
Since that fateful day, we have enjoyed many outings on that boat, and the first thing I do is install the transom plug.
Rich Pilone Sr.
[In addition to keeping a cool head, Mr. Pilone equipped his boat with a paddle, an often- overlooked safety item. Though he was just a few yards from shore, his outcome would likely have been much different without that paddle. Think about it. —Ed.]