Smoking boat engine cuts family’s fishing trip short

Emergency crews from Coast Guard Station Grand Haven and the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety were called to the Grand River channel shortly before 6:30 this morning when a charter fishing boat was reported on fire. Nobody was injured and the customers safely evacuated when the boat pulled over at Escanaba Park near the Coast Guard station. Kathy Johnson of Whitmore Lake said it was a scary way to start her first charter fishing trip.
Becky Vargo
Aug 23, 2011


Her husband, Mark, said they were heading out to Lake Michigan and had just reached the outside of the breakwall when the charter boat Coho started smoking.

“They started giving it throttle and it started smoking, so we turned back,” Mark Johnson said. “The captain called the Coast Guard and called the other boats on the radio. Two boats followed us in.”

“It was a lot of smoke,” said Randy Carter, captain of the Coho. “There was never any flames.”

Carter said he believed one of the water pumps quit working and the motor got hot.

“Both the bellows on the exhaust are burned right off,” he said.

Carter was able to get the 30-foot boat back into the channel where he could meet up with emergency personnel at Escanaba Park.

The Johnsons — including their son, Parker, 7; and Mark’s father, Bill Johnson — evacuated the boat while firefighters checked for any possible fire. Carter then motored back to his dock at Chinook Pier.

“Hopefully, this will only take a couple of hours to fix,” Carter said.

Kathy Johnson said part of the reason for the fishing trip was for Parker to earn a Cub Scout badge.

“I think he ought to get a really special badge for this,” she said.

Carter said he was working on getting the family out on another boat.


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