The Umpqua – “Race over the Rapids”
Photo courtesy of Mark Sharley
We watched the weather forecast for a week prior to the race, and the closer it got the worse the forecast got. We were hoping maybe the weather folks were having a bad week, but no they were hitting 100 percent, it was raining when we got there, it rained while we were scouting and it rained while we raced. We (as in Lynn and me) just figured what the heck, we’ve been wet before, and we’ve driven the boat in the rain before (as well as hail and snow) and we weren’t going to Roseburg to work on our tans, we were going there to race! Isn’t obsession a wonderful thing! Shared obsession is just that much more, well, obsessive.
The boat show was at Horizon Nissan in Roseburg. There were lots of race boats, a barbecue going, out of the rain dining, boat race and F-16 fighter videos playing in the back of the Air Force SUV. All in all it was a typical boat racer kind of event. Oh yeah, and more rain.
Got a good look at Robert White’s new boat. It is another wing-in-ground-effect design, of the same basic design as Derek Ely and Dave Provost’s boats, but with improvements. I saw a few obvious ones to the hull and I am sure there are more I couldn’t see. I was also intrigued by there being a full heat exchanger cooling system complete with a stock water pump on the rat motor in this A-class boat. It also has a beefy roll cage, similar to a dragster cage except built wide enough for two people. Altogether a very interesting boat, very clean in design and setup. I intend to look at it closer next chance I get.
I was pleased to see Mark and George there with the trusty yellow boat “Rapid Transit” # 115. I had heard it was sold, but due to a hiccup in the deal, they still had the boat. Unfortunately by the end of the weekend I am sure they wished that they had just stayed home.
Saw and talked to Del Ramsdell who is crew chiefing for Justin Boice. I meant to ask Del if they were going to Riggins, but forgot of course. Every time I talk to Del, he’ll mention some little thing that won’t register right away but that I think about hours later. Del is the first person I remember talking to a few years ago about the idea of FX class, another of those little tidbits he drops that I think about later.
Mike Zoller and family was there with fuel and a flat on the fuel trailer. I now know my set of big sockets is missing the 13/16ths, which was the only thing he needed to change the flat and that I didn’t have. Their son is a beefy little guy at a year and a month. He already looked like Mike anyway, he does even more so now, muscles and all.
The course had been increased to fifteen-miles over last year’s six-mile run, and was the course we were to have run last year if there had been more water. We (as in Lynn and I) were anticipating nine extra miles of serious rock dodging. Added to the course was the section of the Umpqua you can see from I-5 on your way into Roseburg from the south plus a really cool little section that just happens to be right in downtown Roseburg. Funny thing was, on the scouting trip we (as in, well I guess you get it by now) discovered that because of the last week of rain, all those really nasty boulders and ledges were now comfortingly submerged by a couple of feet of water! True, the rocks were now rollers, and the rollers were now bigger, but a good trade off if you ask me. I am speaking about the section we ran last year. The new section was an unknown and in a lot of ways is a completely different river from the previous section. Derek Ely summed it up well, he told me before we went scouting that this run has everything in it: islands, chutes, big rollers, roller only sections, gaps to shoot and runs through the bushes.
My friends, Bob McKeller, his wife Alicia, his soon-to-be son-in-law and future racer Morgan and his daughter Jackie came to crew for us and brought along their sixteen foot Wooldridge outboard jet to scout with. This is the first time in seven years of scout trips were I drove the scout boat on a new river and it is quite amazing to me how much difference that made in my ‘mind picture’ of the river. We were considering trying a video camera to video the scout trips for review later at the motel, but driving has to be the ultimate way to do it. I would still like to try a video some day.
Bob, Lynn, Morgan and I waited as long as was practical hoping it would warm up a little or at least stop looking like it was going to rain some more, to no avail, so we bundled up and took off. The first part was still pretty much etched in my mind from last year except all the scary stuff was missing. I still ran mostly what I did last year except were it was possible to improve a line because of the extra water. The first section got a good look, and was actually pretty tame now. It rained just a little and the Wooldridge’s windshield kept most of it off of us. One nice thing about a short run is that looking at it at 35 mph doesn’t take all day AND you get to see it pretty well at the same time! I got a good look and picked the obvious lines, including a nifty chute right before the finish line. On the way down it just cut loose, hail falling in pickup truck loads, rain, cold blasts of air, pretty much refrigerator hell. Bob pointed towards a doubtful looking little tree along the bank that hadn’t regained any leaves since last fall, just a bunch of gnarled fingers of limbs and yelled over the wind, “Let’s tie up under that tree and keep this &^%$ off us.” What the heck, it’s better than getting sandblasted by little bits of frozen rain.
We pulled in and Bob tied us up, then started up the bank towards the real tree he was pointing at (one with leaves and stuff) but was having a tough time getting up the muddy brushy bank. Morgan said let’s just get down river, maybe the weather will improve. It didn’t, it got a lot worse. We ended up hiding under the first bridge we came to. Lynn didn’t talk much, just shivered and continued to look the river over good, she just endured. She’s a truly great navigator. She was cold though, and looked kinda like a puppy stuck out on the porch overnight. Morgan was just smiling and enjoying it all, he’s gonna be a great racer.
We had been there for five minutes waiting for the rain and hail to slack off, jockeying the boat around to avoid the drains off the bridge, when up the river comes three boats, every single one with a full top, wipers, heaters, and probably also fully equipped with coffee makers and full wet bars. Each boat contained happy dry people, some laughing, some drinking that nice warm coffee, I am sure. Probably laughing at the California yahoos, ripping around in their open boat in a hailstorm. Paul was in the first boat, he was kind though and didn’t actually ask us if we were goofy or just stupid. I saw him smiling though. It’s all good, we were having fun, an adventure I guess, in a cold, wet, miserable sort of way. The usual kind we have. Every time I have ever gotten in a boat with my friend Bob, it always seems that something unusual happens, this time being no exception. Did I ever tell you about the time that we took a wooden outboard prop boat all the way to Coon Creek in August? One of us drove while the other filed props and bailed.
Saturday - Racing
Photo Courtesy of Mark Sharley (man I love his photos- excellent for no light!)
The new section, starting with the riffle right around the corner from the top end of last year’s section, was not tame. Sort of a mini-Salmon river. With a tree in it. A couple of good riffles, with bushes to aim at in the middle, the kind were you jump from slick to slick, hitting the tops of the waves. Right in downtown Roseburg is a nifty little right hand turn run around an island, right by a decent sized tree (read that as big enough rearrange the front of the boat if you hit it) growing twelve feet from the bank out in the river. The soft way through for me was to stay between the tree and the standing rollers just out in the river from it. It looked like you could go inside the tree but outside worked so well why bother turning in towards a rock then out again? I suspect the tree is growing on a big, square, flat topped boulder, but couldn’t see down in the water that far. Just past the tree are about three more standing rollers. I tried to jump from the first one over the center one and land on the last one. Only managed to do it twice, plowed all of them the other times. A good hop here off the last one for all the folks watching on the left bank. Then a hard accelerating right, straighten it up and let it start accelerating more and start flying and right under the far left spans of two bridges.
Photo courtesy of Mark Sharley
After that is good long run, flat out, except for aiming for a notch in what looked like the roots of a dismantled dam, missing the concrete just below which had been buoyed (Thank You!). The first time through I got back on the throttle way to soon, flew way high and came down nose first, water spraying out sideways from about ten inches back from the pointy end. Not good, a little more rotation and we would have dove into the bottom of the river.
By the fourth leg on Saturday, I had made a bunch of changes to my lines and entry speeds, this due mostly to getting to know the abilities of, and placing more faith in, the big black boat better. Over the first two legs I had discovered that the BBB would turn big corners as hard as my sprint boat would, but only when going fast. I am still nervous about it spinning out, so I am probably not getting the most out of it. Going slow, it’s docile to the point of being dead feeling. I also discovered it absolutely eats up rough water, fast or slow, and isn’t nearly as twitchy in rough stuff as I thought it would be.
We had the opportunity to add fuel during the break between the fourth leg and the last two legs. I used our red flag stick and measured how much fuel we had left. It looked like a good third of a tank plus. And I measured at the front of the tank with the boat sitting butt down, parked on the bank. Assuming we had already run two thirds of the required distance, one third of a fuel load plus was enough. Wrong, Einstein, you should have added fuel.
So anyway we are sailing along on the very last leg, getting close to the finish line, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. I had noticed the boat starting to ride quite a bit harder than in the morning, due to 210 pounds of fuel being blown out the exhaust. We are about three turns from the finish line on a big long flat when it does that wahhhh, putt-putt sound followed by only the sound of water rushing by the hull. I look back at the fuel pressure gauge and it’s just climbing back to seven pounds. I know what that means. It means I just ran out of gas. Insert your favorite cuss words here => <=
I got it running again and tried to just cruise. It would run at half throttle for a ways, then the fuel pressure would go to zero and shortly thereafter the carb would go dry and the motor would shut down. We did about ten of these. Each cruise got shorter and shorter and finally it couldn’t pick up enough gas to get on step. Out come the paddles.
Ah, life’s great moments are truly short-lived. One minute you’re flying along, everything’s perfect, everything works, life is great, and ten minutes later you are trying to keep your boat out of the bushes with paddles designed to power a rubber raft. Your navigator is really starting to sound like a sailor and you are glad you are wearing a helmet and a big fluffy lifejacket: that oar looks like it would hurt if swung hard enough.
We paddled like maniacs at first. Lynn, being somewhat vertically challenged, practically had to stand up in her seat to reach over the side with her toy paddle. That was a good thing, I think, it put her off balance and would have made it harder for her to get a good swing at me when she finally got mad enough. I was able to reach the water with my toy paddle while sitting down.
So we paddled and cussed and paddled and cussed. I cussed my stupidity and Lynn vigorously helped me. After a while here came Jeff, cruising, trying to take it easy on his driveline and finish. We waved and they waved and shook their heads.
A short while later we could hear a big boat a long ways away and it was moving. I told Lynn we needed to try and get to the outside of the corner we were in so then we really started paddling then. Slowly we got the boat moved over and when the boat sounded close, we held up our paddles so whoever was coming could see us. It was Robert White and Jerry Peckham, we had seen them parked back up river but obviously they had got it going again. Here they came and they were flying! I saw him turn in harder almost as soon as he came around the corner way back up from where we were, he saw us right away. Robert’s boat,(# 295 The Fish), is really a fast boat and it looks so damn sharp at speed. I am not too good at guessing speeds but looked like high 80’s even as he went around the corner. In the straight getting to the corner it looked like right at 100 mph.
Photo courtesy of Mark Sharley
We kept paddling. It was very quiet, just the sounds of rain hitting our face shields and water lapping against the side of the boat along with the thrashing sound of our ridiculous paddles. We paddled through a bush, couldn’t move the boat over enough to miss it.
Finally, the sweep boat arrived. They courteously hung back, and Lynn began actually beating the water into froth trying to get to the finish line before being overtaken by the sweep boat. I didn’t even look at the clock but I figured they would have to pass us in just a few minutes anyway. I tried to tell her to give it up, let’s get a tow, but that idea was not accepted with any kind of graciousness at all. Down right rudeness, actually. Watch that paddle, there are witnesses! Jim Ely and Larry Darneille were cracking up watching us figure out what we were going to do and the discussion. I am sure they knew exactly what we were talking about. I offered Lynn the gem that we had third for sure in fact there was no way we could affect the outcome, let’s just get a tow. At this point Lynn threw down her paddle and expounded “The Stick Theorem”.
It’s an interesting idea and it goes like this: “This is not the 12th century, it is the 21st century, do you think you might be able to figure out a better way to tell how much gas we have than a &^%$& stick! We’ve been paddling this &#$%*^* boat for a half hour and now we are going to get passed by the @#!! sweep boat! Get a gas gauge!”
Not having any answer to either statement, and not even trying because I didn’t want to get whacked with an oar, even a toy one, I kept silent and began to coil the rope to throw it to Jim. They towed us in, and they were chuckling, if not down right guffawing.
As we crept up to the ramp, Bob made the sign of pouring gas and I answered yes with a headshake.
All I can say is that I just plain blew it. I mean, if you have to run out of gas, you should do it with a little panache like Will and BJ did (211 Danger Zone), run out just short of the finish line and paddle across. Or do it like Gary and Bill did (114 Hot Pursuit II), run out just as you cross the finish line and float off down the river. Next time I will endeavor to run out of gas with style. Or maybe even better I will try not to run out of gas at all!
Along the way on Saturday, Dave’s (#182 Risky Business) motor had eaten a valve and broken not only the valve but a valve guide too. He was done, no handy parts available to get it going again. We were sad to see this, Dave has been trying damn hard over the last couple of years, but has not kicked the black cloud syndrome yet. Believe me, we know exactly what this feels like. It feels like s#!+, Dave has our sincerest wishes that he beats it into shape for Riggins. He had a brand new from scratch motor, had cured his gearbox troubles and by all reports had the fasted B-boat out there.
Jeff Bradley in #42 had a vibration that was getting worse and worse, they were responding by going slower, trying to just finish and at the same trying to diagnose the problem. That’s the way you do it! Don Chandler commented to me that in his experience you are almost guaranteed to place if you just finish. He’s darn right!
Justin Boice and Jim Fosback in the Boice Jet # 221 were running, then not running then running again. And trying.
Paul Bagshaw and Rob Soule’s (#277 Unpredictable) totally predictable two season A-class motor lunched a valve also. They were on the trailer and not sure if they could get it fixed overnight. I heard that the parts they needed were in Coos Bay! The good news was Dan and crew had it fixed and back together by 8:30 PM, ready for the next day, however….
Then there’s Danger Zone, #211. Not a happy boat, not fast as it should be because of “out-of-tolerance” aluminum bottom but still running and finishing.
Derek Ely, #11 dropped out, his boat being too squirrelly to go anything resembling fast. Even I managed to catch and pass them and this is only a fifteen mile run! Truly not running like it is supposed to.
Seth Bogner and Mitch Gomes (#177 Exhibitionist) just kept going and going. They were thrashing away at something but I never heard what.
Mark Conklin and George Dorius (#115 Rapid Transit) were doing there usual competent job, no muss no fuss, just clicking off the runs.
Todd Christner #150, also lost a motor and was done with the maiden race of his new boat.
Gary Padgett and Bill Padgett (#114 Hot Pursuit II) had six great runs, ran out of gas crossing the line on the last leg and drifted off down the river. Will Chandler attempted to tow them back, but it’s about impossible to tow anything with a race boat so they floated until they could get it to the beach and someone went and got them. This is Gary’s first year driving but not racing and Bill’s first year navigating. They’re doing good!
Steve Hanlin and his son in #45 Cat’s Sass (say that fast three times) ran six flawless (as far as I know) runs, and fast ones too. Nice new, clean well setup Eagle step-tech. Absolutely beautiful FX boat. What I want my boats to look like but they never do. Nice boat. Damn.
Sunday - Racing
Sunday’s weather started out rainy and did not improve. On one down leg it rained so hard we had to come to a crawl, couldn’t see, couldn’t make out where we were for sure. Almost drove through a rock pile.
Jeff Bradley kept limping and finishing. Jeff and Dustin told me the whole pump and foot were loose, you could grab the end of the pump and torque it up and down in relation to the hull. I think they were turning about thirty minute legs by then, BUT still finishing each leg in front of the sweep boat.
Justin Boice and Jim Fosback had gotten running and started, they only made it a little over half way and pulled over again. The safety boat had the red flag out when Mark Conklin and George Dorius got there, so they came down to idle and stopped. This had them sitting at the bottom of a long set of rollers. When they were waved on, things got weird, and their boat launched high then came down on the right side and plowed under. George got hammered by a huge pile of water, and lost his helmet, got a nasty cut on his nose, bloodied his eye and likely broke his left wrist. The boat filled with water from the dunking and shortly thereafter sank. When we came by, Mark and George were in the safety boat, water streaming off of them, and all that was showing of Rapid Transit was the front five feet sticking straight up out of the river. The back end was likely on the bottom. Ouch!
Photos courtesy of Mark Sharley
Paul Bagshaw and Rob Soule made the start, but ended up parked a short ways up river, the motor again. Time for a new two-year motor Rob. Build it exactly like the last one, that one was a goodie!
Will and BJ, Danger Zone, just kept starting and kept finishing. I can’t remember if it was Sunday or Saturday, but one of those days they were having a hell of time getting on top. At first they thought it was a stick in the pump so BJ went diving, but no stick. Turns out the damn gasket in the handhole cover had squirted out. They had to pull the boat to find it and made a late start, but they started in front of us slower boats thank goodness.
Seth Bogner and Mitch Gomes were out on Sunday, motor I think??
Gary and Bill Padgett had been trying to get their headers sealed between legs, and kept running, but finally retiring after the steering started to go south and was only giving them 60% authority over the boat direction. Yikes!
Steve Hanlin, Cats Sass, continued to click of flawless and fast runs.
Lynn, Me and Raven #16, kept cranking although we were having a weird oil pressure problem that was cured by making jumps or hard right turns. (Post-mortem: motor too cold, oil too cold, too much oil = aeration)
Robert White and Jerry Peckham (#295, The Fish) laid down some quick legs but failed to turn up on the last run down. They had lost the steering nozzle and run up into the bushes.
The steering nozzle had burst and was laid open, the result being Robert could turn left sort of, and right not at all. At the time it happened they were starting a long right hander and probably at about 90 mph. Jerry recalled the conversation for us in the pits:
“I asked Bob about three times ‘What are you doing?’ and he finally answered ‘We have no steering and things are NOT all good.’ Right after that we went flying up into the brush, mowed down a few small trees. There was a couple of Sheriff’s boats there right away and they helped get us back in the river.”
The final result was four finishers. One a-boat (Will Chandler and B.J. Wyatt in #211 Danger Zone) and three FX boats, Steve Hanlin #45, Me and Lynn #16 and Jeff Bradley and Dustin #42. The field started with thirteen boats, the carnage at Roseburg was fierce this year.
Photos courtesy of Mark Sharley
Will Chandler and B.J. Wyatt #211 Danger Zone
Robert White and Jerry Peckham #295 The Fish
Paul Bagshaw and Rob Soule #277 Unpredictable
Justin Boice and Jim Fosback #221 Boice Jet
Gary and Bill Padgett #115 Hot Pursuit II
Mark Conklin and George Dorius #115 Rapid Transit (they earned this the hard way)
Seth Bogner and Mitch Gomes #177 Exhibitionist
Todd and Brian #150 Domino's Pizza
Dave Provost and Toby #182 Risky Business
Steve Hanlin and son #45 Cats Sass
Jesse LaForest and Lynn Mouser #16 Raven
Jeff Bradley and Dustin #42 Morning Wood
Derek Ely and Doug #11 Ely Racing
In times, Will and B.J. were fastest followed by Steve Hanlin, me and Lynn , Jeff Bradley and Dustin. Pretty amazing and a good indicator of how tough this years Roseburg race was when the second fastest boat is an FX boat!
We had an absolutely great time, even with the lousy weather. Lots of spectators downtown, lots of spectators out by the freeway. This race appears to be going places. The local clubs are doing a great job on this race, keep up the good work!
Judy looks good but is obviously tired of being pregnant. Soon girl, soon.
As a side note, I got to meet someone I have been talking to on the Internet about race boats and motors for about four years. Scott made the trip all the way from southern California and we were glad to finally meet him!
A huge big thank you to our excellent flaggers and score keepers, Jim Ely, Michelle Ely, Larry Darnielle and others. Thank You! Can you imagine what it would be like if we kept our own scores etc.?
On to Idaho!