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Thursday, August 14, 2008
Updated: August 22, 2:32 PM ET
Backcasts archive: Through Aug. 8, 2008

By Brett Pauly
ESPNOutdoors.com blog columnist

Blog calendar: Aug. 7 | Aug. 6 | Aug. 5 | Aug. 4

posted Aug. 7, 2008

Ahoy, mateys, it's time to check the through-hulls and sterndrives

Thanks to BoatU.S. newsletter, Seaworthy, for many our lives here at Backcasts a little easier today.

The overseer of all things vessel maintenance and damage prevention for the Boat Owners Association of the United States has recently, just in time for midsummer, its midsummer maintenance tips for powerboats and sailboats

Keeping with the seasonal theme, said Seaworthy editor Bob Adriance, "A midsummer checkup will ensure you make it back to home port without a problem."

So, without further adieu, here's what you need to do, and, hey, if it's good enough for this organization's 650,000 members, it's good enough for us:

• Through-hulls: Make a thorough check around any below-the-waterline hole or opening. Check all through-hulls for leaks and cycle seacocks to ensure they close properly. If it's hard to move the handle, make a note to service it next time the boat is out of the water. Any hose clamps should be tight and hose ends secure. A bilge pump cycle counter is a simple upgrade and the best early warning system that unwanted water is coming aboard.

• Engine belts: For inboard engines, look in areas near the belts checking for evidence of black dust – a sure sign that engine pulleys need to be realigned and the belt replaced. Push on the longest run of the belt – it should not deflect more than one half-inch.

• Engine hoses: Squeeze coolant and fuel hoses with your hands, looking for softness, cracks or bulges. Replace any that are suspect. Wiggle the ends to ensure they are secure and inspect for any possible chafing issues in the engine compartment.

• Sterndrives: Inspect the folds in the bellows and replace if they show signs of cracking.

• Sacrificial zincs and anodes: A wasted zinc is a sure sign of trouble, possibly stray current at the dock. Ensure all zincs are no less than half-gone – and replace them now if they are.

• Control cables: Look for chafe, splits or swelling of the plastic jacket – an obvious indication the cable needs replacement.

• Outboard engine mounts: Smaller engines can sometimes vibrate loose, so re-tighten clamps and ensure the cutoff switch is operable.

• Hydraulic steering system and trim tabs: Ensure reservoirs are full. If you have to add fluid, there is leak that must be fixed immediately.

• Batteries and electrical system: Dead batteries are often nothing more than corroded connections; sandpaper can easily clean them up. With conventional batteries check water levels and add water if necessary. Inspect cables and wiring for chafe, especially wherever they may pass through a bulkhead.

• Shorepower cable: Look for burn marks on the plug ends and the connection to the boat. Replace both the plug and receptacle immediately if you find any.

• Head: If your boat has a flushing toilet and its handle is getting hard to operate, you've likely got calcium buildup. Pour a cup of vinegar into bowl pumping only once or twice. Let it sit for one night before flushing with one-quarter cup of mineral oil.

• On deck: Old, stiff or chafed dock lines should be replaced. Also check anchor line and chain shackles and any splices.

• Sailboats only: Look for any broken strands on standing rigging. You can find them by running a loose rag up the rigging, which will snag on any broken ends. Cracked swages are an indicator for immediate replacement. Contact a rigger if you suspect a problem. Running rigging also needs to be looked at, especially the roller furling line.

• Trailers: Inspect bearings and ensure they are well packed with grease. Hydraulic brake reservoirs should be full. Lastly, check the tires for wear and ensure lugs are tight.

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posted Aug. 6, 2008

How best to diminish the risk of hunter vs. hiker shooting accidents

We hate writing about hunting accidents. This typically is a column on the lighter side of the sporting outdoors. But the fatal shooting of a hiker by a 14-year-old bear hunter this week here in Washington is hard to ignore when it's on the front page of the Seattle Times.

Alas, hunters and hikers probably always will cross paths; that's tough to avoid. What can and must be avoided are such tragic consequences.

Licensed hunters are trained to know better (read: use binoculars to positively ID the game and only then point the muzzle). It seldom crosses the minds of hikers to take precautions to prevent getting shot, but there are safety tips for them, too, and we're hopeful they will be heeded.

Here is what the Washington Trails Association suggests for hikers to better protect themselves during hunting season, as listed out in the Seattle Times article:

• Be seen: Make yourself visible. Choose colors that stand out, like bright blue or green; avoid blacks, browns, earth tones and animal-colored clothing.
• Be heard: Whistle, sing or carry on a conversation as you walk to alert hunters of your presence.
• Be informed: Know when hunting is allowed, and where. Grouse and bear-hunting season is typically September through December, sometimes earlier. Hunting is not allowed in national parks.

Hunters here are saying the incident has given them a black eye, and, of course, it has.

What we're certain will be debated is whether there is a need for stricter state-hunting regs to diminish the risk of hunter vs. hiker shooting accidents and how wise it is for a 14-year-old hunter, albeit licensed, to be in the field without adult supervision, as was the case in this incident.

"Even a sharp and safe kid should be supervised," Scott Green, a member of the online group Hunting Washington, told the Times.

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posted Aug. 5, 2008

Guess which of our feathered friends is involved in latest predator-prey debate

You've heard us bemoan the sea lions that are getting fat on spawning salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River.

And while we've applauded the efforts to restore the numbers of gray wolves in the northern Rockies – and the recent spillover of the wild canines into Oregon and Washington – there are hunters who claim they are taking down too many elk.

Then there's the debate over whether tribal whalers in the Pacific Northwest should be able to legally hunt gray whales; we say they do. Actually, wait, that might be another story.

Well, here's another predator-prey controversy out West, and it's one you may not have heard of or suspected. Try pelicans vs. trout.

Yep, the Associated Press reports out of Henry, Idaho, that pelicans have become the bane of the angler's existence because, fishermen claim, packs of the white birds are scarfing down on hatchery-raised rainbows and native Yellowstone cutthroat like nobody's business.

Some anglers are so miffed at the roughly 5,400 pelicans that reside in two colonies on islands behind the Snake River's Minidoka Dam near Rupert and in the Blackfoot Reservoir just west of the Idaho-Wyoming border that they have illegally released pigs or even badgers on the islands to eat the eggs, Idaho officials tell the AP.

State wildlife managers are mulling over a plan to destroy some pelican egg by legal means that would need to be OK'd by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the wire service.

As we've seen with the sea lions on the Columbia, that could take a lot of political wrangling and even more time. However, as you may well have guessed, that's also nowhere near the end of the story.

Some folks maintain the federally protected pelicans (read: Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918) actually are key to the health of Idaho's fisheries because they control the numbers of non-game carp and Utah chubs. That assessment would seem to be backed up by data from the state Department of Fish and Game, which suggests up to 90 percent of the pelicans' diets is composed of trash fish.

Again, don't expect a quick resolution to this seemingly complicated issue. As Brad Bortner, the Fish and Wildlife Service's chief of the division of migratory birds and habitat, tells the AP, "These birds and these fish evolved together, but they're in a somewhat altered ecosystem. Whatever happens, we'll have to weigh all the competing interests."

And we'd think that would involve a lot of weighing.

One of the first steps is for Bortner to meet with Idaho officials to overview their pelican-management plan, which he expects to happen in the next couple of months, according to the AP.

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posted Aug. 4, 2008

Oregon man will meet the griz that attacked him and knows just what to say

We wonder how often the survivor of a grizzly attack gets to see the humpbacked assailant again?

Usually the bruin is long gone, and the media is soon taking turns at bedside interviews, with the patient thanking those lucky stars that it wasn't he or she who was eighty-sixed, right permanentlike.

But Steve Bartley later this month will see the bear that gnawed on each of his hands July 18 while he was in a nylon tent near the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park, according to the Associated Press.

Montana wildlife personnel captured the griz last week and will be shipping it to its final home at the Bear Research Center at Washington State University. Bartley says he's going to meet the beast, now tagged as Bear No. 495, this month, the AP reports.

We say it's a sight bit better than meeting your maker, and we're very glad the 59-year-old Springfield, Ore., man – a former Colorado law-enforcement officer who was on a motorcycle tour when the attack occurred – has a sense of humor about the whole ordeal.

In what is surely the quote of the week, Bartley knows exactly what he plans to say to the creature. "I'm going to tell him, 'No hard feelings," he said. "Enjoy your life, because I'm enjoying mine."

What a great attitude, Steve, and thanks for that.

It could have been far worse for Bartley, who expects to have two surgical pins in his right thumb for weeks while he's healing. His screams and the yelling of nearby campers are thought to have scared off the grizzly.

En route with a fellow biker to a motorcycle rally in Gillette, Wyo., Bartley had designs on motoring up 10,947-feet Beartooth Pass; someday we may see a picture of Bartley and his bandaged hands in Merriam-Webster's under the definition of irony.

Real jughead of a bear crashes party, with fatal consequences (for the bear)

Bear No. 495 will fare a whole lot better than his brethren from Minnesota, a black bear that we also may eventually see an image of in Merriam-Webster's, but under the slang term "jughead."

This old jughead got in a jam last month when its head become stuck inside a 2-gallon clear, plastic jar and it evaded capture by wildlife officials for six days.

At week's end the bruin was shot and killed after padding into the city of Frazee, Minn., and showing up in an alley behind a cafe during the Turkey Days festival, the Pioneer Press reports. A street dance was taking place nearby.

State wildlife officials would have preferred to have used a tranquilizer dart on the bear to remove the offending headgear, according to the Web site of the St. Paul daily newspaper. But the bear didn't stay put in one spot long enough and those officers that were on hand when the jughead made an appearance at the Frazee fair weren't equipped with tranquilizer guns.

Besides, the bear was close to death and may not have survived being tranquilized, according to one conservation officer.

Under the circumstances, with city folks at risk, officials absolutely made the right choice to use deadly force. And who could have ever guessed a bear would get into such a predicament? Jughead, indeed.

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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site. He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade, including stints at the Los Angeles Daily News and Seattle Times. The Evergreen State is where he now makes his home. Click here to email him.

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