Boatnik 2002

Jim & Eric on the way down through Galice on Jim's first Unlimited drive. Gary Padgett sent me this- don't know who took it, but nice photo.

The Upper Rogue- Grants Pass to Alameda

The Upper Rogue race is held on Memorial Day weekend at Grants Pass in conjunction with the Boatnik. The events theme has been, and continues to be, boats and boat races. Whitewater Hydroplanes have been the big draw for about twenty years, and are probably the most popular event for spectators. The Whitewater Jetboat Circus first ran at the Boatnik in 1995 as a demonstration. From the 1996 Worlds on, the jetboat races have been points races at the Boatnik.

Other regular featured boating demo events are Drag boats and new in the last few years, sprint boats.  The Boatnik event has been running every year at the same time since 1959. I used to go watch when I was a grade schooler living in Grants Pass. Boy, was that was a long, long time agoÖ

Fast + Technical

 I donít know any racer who doesnít respect the Upper Rogue as much as they get off on racing it. The section of the Rogue we race on, Grants Pass to Alameda Park, is in my opinion the most technical piece of jetboat white water around. When the water is high, some places generate rollers that are truly astounding and tend to make the river look like an animated stadium moto-cross track. When itís low, the available lines at the fun parts are few, usually one good one down and one good one up and thatís about it. You can always tell the fun parts, there are lots of spectators. This part of the Rogue demands accuracy, you canít get away with close or almost here, close is usually too close, almost is usually almost stayed in the river. Ennis, Upper Galice and Lower Galice are three of those kinds of places.

One of the other notable features of the Upper Rogue is the rocks. These are not the sand bar and loose potato-sized garden variety rocks either, these are the pickup sized boulder Whack-Ka-thud type rocks. Thatís OK though, thatís why we have steering wheels, aluminum hulls and welders I guess. Itís required that you and your navigator pre-run this one. I like to think itís more than just a good idea, itís your civic duty to help avoid visual pollution. Nothing uglier than a bashed up race boat thatís been launched up in the bushes!

Our weekend in Grants Pass started with a medium sized excavator falling off a lowboy and tumbling across three lanes right outside our motel room. It made this huge odd sound that went on forever- lots of dust in the air. The trailer was flipped upside down and held to the dump truck pulling it only by the safety chains. The excavator went over at least once, the boom was bent and it looked like it had been air dropped without a chute. Thank goodness no one was hurt, it could have been very bad. Then we heard about the helicopter crashing on the river. We heard that the two-seater was out looking for a lost lady, hooked a wire above the river and crashed. Sheriffís Deputy Rice lost his life in the crash as did the pilot.

All day on the river

Did I mention it took us three boats and all day to get to see the whole thing? The Rogue not only eats race boats, it also eats family boats. We were on the river (or parked next to it) from about 7:30 am to 3:30 pm.

The crew for boat #1 consisted of new racers Jeff and Todd (who owned the boat), Jack Patterson, Gary Padgett, Eric, Lynn and me.

Jeff and Todd in boat #1 gave us a good ride to the top of Hellsgate. We then contacted a large solid object (rock) which caused the motor mounts to break, the motor to fall over, the driveline yoke to self destruct and the hull to begin leaking water in faster than the bilge could bail it out. It was very exciting, (read that as Oh Sh*&, Oh Sh*& Time!!). Jack Patterson, cool as a cucumber, grabbed the only oar and planted himself on the front of the boat with a leg hanging over each side of the pointy end and began paddling like he was Huck Finn going down the Mississippi. We might have been up the creek, but at least we had a paddle and Jack to run it. The rest of us searched the boat for rope, scrambled about, looked at the motor, and I am sure, prepared for the worst. The worst in this case would have been up against an un-climbable rock face with the Rogue trying to roll us under. From the top of Hellsgate, to a sand beach just below Hellsgate, we became a large, sinking and not too maneuverable, aluminum raft. Along the way we squeezed through a channel between the rock face and House Rock that you would swear a big family boat wouldnít fit through. Left just a little paint there. We banged a few more rocks on the way through for good measure. We got the boat beached just below Hellsgate and above Dunn. Jeff bailed and we pulled the leaky part of the boat up on the beach. That was boat ride #1. Jackís partner gave Jack, Eric, Lynn and me a ride back to Grants Pass in his pickup while Gary stayed with Jeff and Todd. Back we went to Baker Park to try and cadge another ride. In the meanwhile Will Chandler pulled Jeff and Toddís boat back through Hellsgate to Hog Creek boat ramp were it was rescued from the Rogue. Jeff felt bad about crashing with us in the boat and I felt bad about his boat getting bashed. Boats hit rocks, thatís just what happens sometime, I should know Iíve hit enough of them myself.

Boat #2 was Dave and Dean in Deanís outboard pump boat. On the first run they had accompanied us about five miles downriver from Grants Pass when they contacted a large solid object (rock) and cracked the suction piece on the bottom of the outboard pump. They then had to return to base. While we were floating through Hellsgate as a small craft not under power, they had pulled the suction piece and replaced it. They returned back to Baker Park and offered us a ride back down through the lower part of the run. Jack, Lynn and I climbed in for our next installment of as the impeller turns. Lynn and I had decided we would not race the next day unless we got a really good look at the lower part, Dunn and down.

Deanís boat is an open aluminum fish boat with an outboard pump. Very stable and a great view of the river! Lynn found Dave and Dean quite entertaining to listen to as we motored back down river. ďThey are so polite as they argue about which line is the best!Ē, she says. Dave pointed out several places for me NOT to go- Next day I only went through one of them (Denny went first, I was just following him!) A very good informative ride down and after refueling at Alameda, back up the river we went. Back up through both Galices just fine, no muss no fuss, then below Ennis a bit the motor went bwahhhhh and quit. Check the vent for closed, yup itís closed. Check it again, yup itís closed again. Pump the little resuscitator bulb, crank the motor and it runs. Away we go- after a little ways, bwahhhh and starts to quit- Dave pumps the resuscitator bulb and the motor perks right up and away we go. Bwahhhh- pump, pump, pump, purr for awhile then bwahhhh, pump, pump pump. Ad infiniti. Below Ennis Riffle, it was decided that maybe it wouldnít be such a great idea to go back up through Dunn with the motor on life support so we ambled to the top of Ennis and parked at the ramp. Thank goodness for cell phones. Truly they are The Boaters Friend!

We enjoyed the warm weather on the ramp at Ennis and talked boats and boating, waiting for the truck and trailer to show up. While we basked in the sun and awaited the turn of events, Jim Ely and his dad and Eric happened along in Jimís Dadís boat and offered us a ride. This was boat #3. Lynn, Jack, Dave and I piled in while Jimís Dad jumped out to wait for us to run down then come back by and pick him up. Dave Provost and Dean Saxon (boat #2) and  Jim Ely (boat #3) gave us another very good tour of the lower river and I am so glad we got to look at it twice. Jim was very obliging in running us back and forth through the tough spots several times, taking slightly different lines for comparison. He was also prepping himself for driving Ericís Kiwi Unlimited boat the next day. We only barely brushed a couple of rocks on the way back up. Mere taps they were. Dean, Dave and Jim all know this river well and gave us a very good tour. Thanks guys!

Racing the Big Black Boat

The first run down on Saturday went very smooth- Almost any kind of ride down that didnít involve hitting rocks would have been smooth compared to Fridaysís scout trip! Denny Farster and Doug Holly were having some kind of problem at the start, we saw them motoring back to the ramp as we were getting ready to leave.

The new Kiwi hull is really great. In places were I would have been hunting for just the right lump to ricochet Cavefish off of, I just blasted through or over with Raven.

The run down to Hellsgate was fun, but I wasnít pushing it at all, still not too sure of this new boat. The entrance to Hellsgate was bumpy but fast, getting through Dunn involved threading two rocks then bearing right, far right around the end of a picket fence, left back into the bank, but not too fast, over Dunn then on to the bridge. It was actually pretty smooth in the Big Black Boat.

Chuck Thompson and Jim Madden #280 going down through Dunn.
Photo from Mark Sharley!

Me Lynn and the Big Black Boat ricocheting off rollers at Dunn.
Photo from Mark Sharley!

Ennis was the next biggie, went through just where we were shown, down along the bank, over the rollers and gone! Right above Carpenter Island is where we saw Denny and Doug again, but this time they were doing way over 100mph and just flashed past us. It was quite cool. We didnít see until them just about the time they blew by us on the right and shot down the right side of Carpenter Island, the place where Dave said NEVER go, itís all rocks.

As Denny went by I thought oh-oh! I hope he wasnít stuck behind us too long, we didnít have mirrors on the boat yet and we hadnít been checking behind. Later he said he was stuck behind us for about three miles. Oops! Sorry Denny. Iíve got mirrors now.

We were at the top of Carpenter Island as Denny was clearing the bottom. Instead of going left around the island, I turned right and went down through the rock patch. Yup, I just followed the guy in front of me. Dave is right too, itís all rocks. We missed all of them but I wonít go that way again unless the water is a lot higher, itís a bit too exciting.

Mark and George in the Rapid Transit evil clown boat. Check out the deck art if you get a chance- SCARY!
This boat has a long and honorable past, it's been racing succesfully for about ten years.
Photo from Gary Padgett

Upper Galice looks terrible. You have some room for dodging though the rollers, but not much. And where itís not rollers itís big gray rhino rocks down both sides. I wasnít too sure how all that boat that now preceded me down the river would do in the rollers, I was thinking the front might be hooking all over the place, or something else weird, I just didnít know. Well, I was very surprised, it has excellent handling in the rollers, at least at the speed I was going. Went through with a minimum of fuss and stayed right where I pointed it.

At lower Galice I used the visual aids that Dean had pointed out on Friday. Line up on the brush pile on the approach, find the two big rocks and thread them then make a large easy left and end up on the right side of the river, miss the boinker at the bottom and your gone. We got through fast and without incident. On down to the island above Alameda, hop the roller into the smooth water, bear right at the bottom and bomb across the line. Thatís what I was supposed to do but I got wise and cut off the corner at the bottom and went right over the gravel bar there and ticked a couple of rocks with my left sponson. Hey! We have a sponson now, in fact we have two! CoolÖ

Along the way we saw Steve Hanlin and Bob (the green sprint boat River Raider #34) parked in a little pool.  They were just sitting there and waved, like they were having lunch or something. Those guys donít get in an uproar about anything, they are pretty cool and measured.

Wahoo! Steve Hanlin in the River Raider. Photo courtesy
of Mark Sharley.

Jack Patterson and Gary Padgett flying Bad Habit. Now how did Gary take this picture if he's riding in the boat??
Photo from Gary Padgett

Alameda back to Grants Pass

Feeling confident in the new hull, we ran back up through the whitewater quite a bit faster than we had come down. I kept getting a thumbs up from Lynn so I knew my navigator was hanging in there with me. She is my ultimate critic of how well I am or am not doing. Going up through Dunn and out the top of Hells Gate felt great, the boat is like an extension of my hands and feet, and it is so smooth- probably because it is soooo long! I was wondering what this would be like with about 650 hp instead of 355Ö

Steve Hanlin was having fuel delivery problems and that was why we had seen them parked. They got running again and had made it down and worked on the boat. They made the start but sadly we came upon them again in the same little pool, but this time tooling around in little circles.

We got out into the long smooth water and just let it roll, didnít even try and steer it until I had to, it felt too good just dancing along on airÖ After five years of racing the cutting horse that Cavefish is, we were now riding a thoroughbred that Raven is. Both are a lot of fun, but Raven is undeniably built to race.

We enjoyed this momentary hubris for about five miles. Then the motor start pulling down like I had suddenly started going up a long hill on I-5. It dropped 400 rpm over about a mile at the end of a long straight. Right at the end of the straight it popped about six times in a row, surged back to 5000 then dropped to 4400 and stayed there. I could hear what sounded like a lifter clattering, but that was through my helmet. Felt enough heat rolling forward from the back that I turned to see if we were on fire, but no fire. Lots of blow-by though! The clattering didnít get any worse and the oil pressure was good so I backed off the throttle a bit, the rpm following the throttle position down to 4200. My navigator is now making the go! go! hand signal and pointing at the tach. I reply with the thumb pointing at the engine and the two hands palm up, I donít know whatís going on back there hand signal. She is still going- GO! GO! emphatically tapping the tach now. Ok, we go!

I throttled up and it pulled back to 4800 but wouldnít go back up to 5000. Good enough, the noise is no worse. It held that way for about another mile then popped three more times. I backed way out of it this time, figuring something in a combustion chamber was white hot or else pieces of piston were hanging the intake valve open. We ran all the way back to the cement pile at 4200. As soon as I saw the bridge we went back to full throttle figuring it would make that short of a burst anyway, and it did, but only at 4800.

So what's clickin?

We unlaunched and towed to the park for the boat show. After the boat was first assembled and during testing, the motor had shut down for lack of fuel. At that time I had replaced the pickup line in the tank with a 3/8ths line. I thought probably this problem was also a fuel delivery problem so I began checking out the fuel lines and the fuel pump. After several helpful suggestions from knowledgeable racers, my best bet seemed to be upgrading the whole fuel supply to 3/8 lines and a higher flow fuel pump. Dave Provost had a better pump and took me to Bob Whiteís shop to pick it up and brought me back. We hung around the boat show for a bit longer, Lynn got me a burger and we sat and ate, then we took off for a parts house to get larger fuel line, hose clamps and a new water separator. Back to the motel for the repair job.

Also that day, Derek Elyís nozzle top pivot had let go. He was able steer right but not left. Usually that isnít enough choices and it wasn't this time either. Right was a rock patch, ahead was a rock. I cracked up when Derek told me, ď The steering was gone, I was headed for the rocks and couldnít turn away and I knew we were going to crash into them. It seemed like it took forever to finally hit them!Ē The result of the crash was moderate damage to one sponson. The repairs to the sponson and the nozzle would be done in time for them to race the next day.

The Chandler crew (Danger Zone #211) were living at the motel right above us. They were already there, taking the pump out. It appears that on the down run, 211 found the same rock above Hellís Gate that we had on the Friday tour run. It looked to me like the foot had been relocated and I think the transom was compressed so it popped out towards the back of the boat. After they got the pump out, the pounding commenced. It takes a lot of pounding to move a foot thatís welded in. It takes very large tools too, 10 pounds minimum. Big ole chunks of wood and a few beers are helpful also.

My job of R and R-ing  the old fuel pump in my boat and re-plumbing was easy, I had it done in an hour. It was helped along by the comradely sound of the Chandler crew  banging away on their boat while I worked on mine. I started the engine to see what it would do. It started up fine, but it was making a hell of a loud clatter towards the back. Sort of like a very loud lifter. With a helmet on, it would sound just like a lifter out of adjustmentÖ Oh oh, I have larger problems than I think I do.

Shut it off and started pulling sparkplugs. The electrode on  #8 was smashed sideways and there were flecks of aluminum on it and #6. The mixture was ok on all the plugs, but little bits of aluminum and loud clatters indicate big pieces of aluminum and little pieces of ring were gone out the exhaust. That's it, we were all done in Grants Pass. I really don't like not finishing a race. Really.

I went back to the room and broke the news to Lynn, then called Derekís dads to ask Derek to let them know at the drivers meeting in the morning that I wasn't making it. I got Derekís little brother on the phone and he said hang on, Iím giving Derek the phone. Then I heard this whistling sound and then the connection was cut off. He had dropped the phone to Derek, who was on the lawn, from a third floor window. The whistling sound was the air rushing by the phone and Derek had hit the hook button when he caught it. He called me back and told me what happened to the phone. His comment when I told him I was out was ďThat sucks, but it puts me right back in there.Ē I told him go get em!

Jim Ely and Eric did a great job with Eric's Unlimited boat, Jim saying he was going run it a bit faster on sunday. He was smiling a lot as was Eric!

In A-Class, Paul Bagshaw and Rob Soule were leading at this point, Chuck Thompson and Jim Madden  were in there kicking,  Denny Farster and Doug Holly also but with a late start on the first leg. Will Chandler and B.J. Wyatt were fourth due to having been trailered from Hog Creek.

Dave and Dave- These hulls look kind of Skunk Works to me.
Another photo from Gary Padgett.

Jim VanTress FX class winner at Grants Pass in the other (shorter-than-mine) Kiwi.
Photo from Gary Padgett

In B-Class, Dave Provost and Dave Wyland ran all of both legs! The little black cloud following them around had dissipated for this race, at least so far. Dean Saxon and Rich Boice also ran down and back, no problem. Rich remains fascinated with the thrust bearing in the pump, or else he doesn't trust it, seems like he's having to mess with it a lot. Mark and George were doing there consistent back-to-backs, waiting for the rest of the field to hiccup.

Jeff and Todd had made two good runs. I think they might have tagged a rock on the way back up, but that happens. Way to go guys, you survived the first day of the Upper Rogue! Jim VanTress clicked off two flawless runs, something he's pretty good at doing and Jack Patterson had also put two good runs in the bag. The rest of FX class had accumulated bent aluminum, broken motors and limited fuel problems.

The view from the beach

The next day, sunday, was the first time we've gotten to actually watch the races in awhile. We parked at a wide spot in the road just below Carpenter island and sat on the tailgate. Ernie Field's mom came by, we had never met her before. Boy, does she knows jetboat racing! Drank coffee, ate pastries and talked to Ernie's mom while waiting to hear the first boat coming..

I got a kick out of watching everyone come around Carpenter island and then line up for the chute that starts right there. Lots of different styles and approachs, it kinda surprised me that there as so many ways to set up for that chute. We saw a rock strike, saw the boat lurch then heard the thud. Ouch! I can say this, it's very impressive watching boats bomb through rough stuff like that. It looks totally crazy! It looks a lot crazier than it feels to actually do it- The sweep boat did a real great job going through there also, he wasn't dogging it at all.

We met Luke at Alameda. Luke bought the old Bad Habit, Barry and Charlie's first jet race boat. He was helping with security and offered to lead us to where we could watch everyone go back up through Galice. There were a lot of people there watching and taking pictures. Again, it was very interesting watching the runs back up through Galice, everyone had a little bit different style and approach.

The first boat through was Justin Boice and he only touched the water about three times! The first hop from a roller at the very bottom took him to the top of the roller in the middle of the riffle, the next hop took him to a good landing between the two rocks at the top and he was gone, and all done very fast.  Quite cool to watch! Justin obviously hasn't lost a bit of his formidable driving abilities, just needs to get a package that will hang together.

Derek and Toby attempting to fly away from the rocks.
Photo courtesy of Mark Sharley.

This is a cool shot! Sort the eye watching the eye kind of thing--
From Mark Sharley.

Paul and Rob cooking along- Nice rocks! From Gary Padgett.

Will and B.J. in the awfully pretty Danger Zone. Photo from Gary Padgett.

Paul, Will and Chuck also have the two hop thing down pat, the spectators were cheering as A-class roared through, it was neat to see people getting such a charge out of the racers.

Everyone else went through in a workmanlike manner, except that Steve Hanlin went through like he was riding a  motocross bike. It's the only way with his boat, I know.

Lynn and I had a good weekend, but finishing is what we do and it just doesn't feel right when we don't finish. We picked up Raven from my aunts and headed for the coast and the shop. I am very curious to see what broke.

clickety click prolog:

Pulled the top ring lands out of #6 and #8 pistons. I figure that the lean run heated the rings to point that they butted, the rings stopped in the cylinder and the pistons didn't. Next motor I put together I am going to add more end gap. The noise was caused by the piston hitting a small piece of broken piston imbedded in the quench area of #8. The departing pieces of piston and broken ring beat hell out of all the even numbered cylinders, some more than others. I dumped 1/4 inch long chunks of ring out of the headers, the perforated baffles had stopped them from blowing out the back. The block looks ok and I am reassembling it with two spare pistons. On to Gold Beach!

I would like to thank Mark Sharley and Gary Padgett for the great photos, they sure captured the Grants Pass race well. If you haven't bought one of Mark's great prints, I would encourage you to do so.