Monday, December 18, 2006

Fate

Fort Pierce, 27.46813 -80.32398

It seems that even though Libby and I wanted to go to Marathon,
fate had a different outcome for us.

Yesterday morning we weighed the anchor and headed out to see; destination Marathon in the Florida Keys. We didn't get very far. Before we had gone a mile Libby heard a strange noise from the engine, and a few seconds later a huge cloud of steam came out of the engine room. We were directly in front of a Coast Guard station. They sent a boat to ask if we needed assistance. We declined because we were able to put up a sail and make our way back in.

We anchored just off the channel and I set out to find out what happened. I found one of the hoses to the heat exchanger had popped off. It had dumped all of our engine coolant into the pan. Apparently our mechanic hadn't pushed the hose onto the fitting completely before tightening the clamp. Grrr. We weren't happy about that after paying him $1,000. On the other hand, it wasn't so bad. In a little more than an hour I had the hose back on, and the engine refilled with fresh water. 90 minutes after stopping we were on our way again.

The 90 minute delay cost us dearly in terms of the tide. In the 90 minutes we shifted from slack tide to full ebb tide. The winds were blowing onshore. That's the classic condition once again that makes for extremely steep and dangerous waves where the ebbing tide meets the sea. We noticed many local boats,some of them big, fishing in the inlet channel rather than venturing our. They were afraid. Tarwathie is a seaworthy vessel though so we forged on.

We managed to get out, but not without being thoroughly shaken up. In the face of those steep waves Tarwathie was pitching 45 degrees forward and aft! not side-to-side. It was perhaps the most violent ride we've ever had. Fortunately we only had to go 1/4 mile past the end of the jetty, then a few hundred meters to the side, and suddenly we were in calm waters once again.

We set the sails and headed SW toward Marathon. Unfortunately, the forecasted which called for NE to E winds was wrong. The winds were from the SE. Progress was very slow. After 4 hours out, we had only progressed 5 miles. I decided to motor-sail for a while. I started the engine again. After about 15 minutes, there was a strange odor and I looked down to see the temperature gauge pegged at maximum!!! I quickly shut it down.

Darn. I thought we had lost the gamble. We paid $600 to have our damaged engine reassembled to get it to run long enough to keep the batteries charged for a month until the new engine arrives. It was a big gamble. We would have been better off if we spent $600 to buy a gasoline powered generator. I decided to turn back because I couldn't guarantee that we would have enough power for the running lights, and it was still 200 miles to Marathon.

It took us only 1 hour to return to the Fort Pierce Inlet. In that hour I determined that the cooling system had drained again, but this time there was no loose hose. I refilled it with fresh water, and I could hear a drip drip sound as it leaked from someplace, but I can't see where. The good new was that we could run the engine for short times, or for longer times as long as we continued to refill the radiator tank as we went along. The tide had also reversed, and the waters entering the inlet were placid.

This morning we made a new alternate plan. We ordered a new Beta engine from Bud Taplin, we reserved a mooring at Vero Beach for a month, and we reserved a time to haul the boat and replace the engine in Fort Pierce a month from now. We're betting that we'll be able to run the engine for an hour each day to charge the batteries. We believe that Vero Beach will be a much more pleasant place to spend the holiday season than Fort Pierce.

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