Purpose Built Tournament Boats and Safety
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in the Elite Redfish Series with one of our disabled veteran members. This particular member suffered the loss of one of a leg due to combat injuries sustained in Iraq. Watching him walk amongst the general public, you would never know that he wears a prosthetic limb. However, during our week together, I was able to see some of his limitations as he negotiated stairs and moved around the boat. The time spent together was a learning experience for both of us, but I must say that his determination and will to overcome adversity has put me in awe of his abilities. We encountered a number of issues that would ultimately cost us much more than we ever expected to spend during the trip and has also driven us to take another look at not only what tournaments we compete in, but also a much closer look at boat and individual safety. As you will see in this blog, although we both felt we were prepared for anything we might encounter, we quickly discovered life can throw you a curve ball that you may never anticipate.
In order to keep this blog to a reasonable length, I'll forego the description of failed equipment and acclimate weather that we dealt with throughout the week while pre-fishing. Instead, I will jump straight into our tournament experience. It started with the Captain's Meeting that was held by event coordinator and producer, Pat Malone. We had the privilege of honoring SGT Joe Fox from the 118th Field Artillery and his brother Thomas. As you may have seen in other blogs or posts we have made, these two young men were tragically lost during a recent boating accident in Savannah Georgia. We honor one of our fallen veterans at each tournament that we participate in by carrying their photo on our boat and providing a brief overview of not only their dedication to service, but also their impact on both their community and family. When requested, we also add a dog tag to the console of our boat in memory of each of these fallen veterans. Many of the dog tags represent a veteran that has succumbed to the impact of combat related PTSD on their lives. Prevention of veteran suicide is our primary goal as we seek to provide a recreational outlet through fishing.
On Day 1 of the tournament, we arrived early at the launch to find the outside temperature below freezing and the water temperature at 44°. Needless to say, it was cold. Winds were expected to be about 15 mph gusting to 20 from the north, so we decided to take the longer inner-coastal waterway to our fishing area approximately 60 miles away. We would still have to cross a large inshore lake to get to our destination, so we expected a bit of chop. The top speed for the tournament was limit