Mike Wolfe Chapter Seven "The River Queen Refit" 2005
Blood & Swash
A lusty tale
of a maiden voyage
As told by David Cairns
This is my account of our first excursion aboard the Wolfegang, a stalwart vessel recently restored and refurbished by Capt. Michael Wolfe and his fine crew Deborah, Max, & Sam. Their warm hospitality and able seamanship provided a cruise we won't soon forget...
The weather was fine the morning we set out, clear skies and a forecast of 90 degrees - a beautiful summer day. We were planning to explore the mysterious Stockton River Delta, a vast (or at least half-vast) system of islands and waterways. The supplies were loaded aboard, the crew took their stations and after a flurry of commands and precise action, we were underway! As Capt. Mike ably piloted his vessel through forboding bridge trestles and narrow waterways, we were reassured by his calm, competent demeanor. Soon were were making wake up the main channel, nimbly avoiding the massive tankers making their slow, laborious journey to the Port of Stockton. Smaller boats waved to us as we cruised past, trying unsuccessfully to mask their obvious envy.
We spent the next several hours exploring the maze of narrow channels and hidden passages that make up the Delta. The Wolfegang performed quite well, navigating the treacherous waters with ease. A 50' steel-hulled riverboat, the Wolfegang was originally launched in 1969. Rescued from disrepair two years ago, she has seen a re-birth at the able hands of her Master. Mike has given the old girl new life, and in return, she should serve captain and crew well for many years to come.
With the coming of dusk, we dropped anchor off Venise Cut Island. We could see nothing of the isle from the ship, but local natives tell of the strange rituals and dark secrets the island holds. Capt. Wolfe and his two strong sons Max and Sam made a brief trip ashore to reconnoiter, accompanied by their faithful hound Speck. The dog cast widely, but finding no immediate danger, deemed the area to be safe for the night. Upon their return to the Wolfegang, we all set poles to water, hoping to catch some of the abundant gamefish in the area. Alas, this was not to be... No matter, for First Mate Debbie and my lovely bride Tami had prepared a wonderful supper for us all. As the sky darkened, and the stars came out in their brilliance, all was well aboard the ship. Although a fierce Nor'easter wind howled all night long, madly swinging us to and fro on our hook, the anchor stayed firmly embedded all the while.
The dawn came and we arose to another windy yet beautiful day...once again the galley wenches fed us a sumptious meal and we prepared, reluctantly, to sail for our home base. Safer, calmer waters were desired so we departed these troubled waters after breakfast. As Capt. Wolfe weighed anchor, he honored me by allowing me to take the helm. I could feel the power of this mighty vessel surge through me as I brought her about - a heady feeling, indeed. After winding our way back through the Delta maze, we once again found ourselves in the deepwater channel. Nearing our home port, we congratulated ourselves on a successful maiden voyage, free from any unfortunate incidents.
We spoke too soon...
As we steamed for home, Capt. Wolfe looked aft only to discover we were, indeed, steaming! Clouds of water vapor spewed from #2 engine bay! Leaping into action, Wolfe dove for the ladder while barking out "Hard to starboard - make for that island dock!" Luckily, chance had provided us with an open dock along the waterway just 100 yards off our starboard bow. Re-taking the helm, Wolfe feathered his engines and brought us in expertly. Once the ship was secured, we opened the aft engine hatch to assess the problem. Our #2 engine's water pump had lost it's pulley retention clip, and so the belt had slipped off of it. We tried to find the clip, but it was lost in the bowels of the ship. Never one to give in to adversity, Capt. Wolfe used his natural resourcefulness to improvise another clip! Repairs complete, we once again cast off and soon were tying up at our home base.
The one small incident notwithstanding, I felt the voyage to be a tremendous success - the good crew of the Wolfegang ensured that everyone was well-cared for and that a good time was had by all. I heartily recommend the Capt., the fine crew, and the good ship Wolfegang to any who long for adventure....
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