Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Uh Oh, Big Problems

Whitehall, NY
43 33.27 N 073 24.13 W

The day started out OK.  We hauled anchor below the cannons at Fort Ticonderoga and motored down to Chipmans Point Marina.  By Noon the mast was down and secure.  No problems.  We set out for Whitehall.  We were in a bit of a hurry because there is bad weather on the way with strong gusty winds.   One weather report said that it would start Monday night, although on Tuesday they are saying Tuesday afternoon.

Things went fine for a few hours, I was thinking of a blog post saying Motor Vessel Tarwathie here.  Suddenly, the engine stopped suddenly.   Cranking dis not start it, but it made a strange noise.  It felt hot.  I checked the oil, the coolant, the raw water pump impeller, the fuel filter, and I verified that fuel was getting at least to the primary fuel filter.  I couldn't find the source of the problem.

What to do then?  The southernmost stretch of the lake is very desolate.  Almost no houses or roads.  No VHF radio reception, no cell phone reception, and narrow channels not conducive to secure anchoring.  I didn't want us to be there when the storm came.  I decided to launch the dinghy, mount the outboard,and tow Tarwathie to Whitehall.

I'll elaborate more another day.

After 1/2 hour towing, we were making 2.5 knots. Estimated time to Whitehall, 4.5 hours.  The time was OK but I was worried about two things.  If strong south winds came along, our 2.5 HP outboard could not tow us.  Second, I only had two gallons of gasoline for the outboard, and I wasn't sure that was enough to get us there.

 Then along came a big cruising sailboat.  Good I thought, they can give us a tow.  It was the Sailing Vessel Valkyrie from Montreal.   I was stunned when he refused.  He told Libby that he would tow us back to Chipmans, but not to Whitehall.  That made no sense.  I think he just cobbled up an excuse for not helping.   Such behavior is absolutely verboten in cruiser culture.  I couldn't believe that we had the misfortune to encounter such a bad apple.

Another half hour and another sailboat came along.  It was the Sailing Vessel Nyx from Montreal.  It too refused to help, this time offering no excuse at all.  I couldn't believe it.

We pressed on.  The built-in tank on the 2.5 HP Yamaha outboard holds 2-3 quarts of gas.  It ran out of gas every 45 minutes or so.  I refilled it and kept going.   On one of the occasions I was slow in refilling and Tarwathie drifted backward and ran aground in the mud.  Ay ay ay! What a day.  Anyhow, in less than 1/2 hour we had kedged ourselves off and were moving again.

I tried to think of contingency plans for running out of gasoline.  I hoped to get close enough to Whitehall to where we could anchor Tarwathie, and I could row the dinghy to Whitehall to buy more gas.  An alternate plan was to anchor preemptively and motor the dingy to Whitehall to get gas.  I was determined to get us there one way or the other before the storm.

I spotted a fishing boat with two men.  I asked if we could buy some gas.  They said, "our gas tank is built in, we have no way to get the gas out."   We forged on.

Well, we made it there with 2 quarts of gasoline to spare.   We called lock 12 to explain the situation.  He said that they close at 7 and it was now 7:20 and completely dark.   I asked Libby to explain that we might not be able to tow at all on Tuesday because of the strong winds and a small engine.  He relented and granted permission for a special locking to let us through.  (Because of some bizarre complaints from a local businessman, Lock 12 is not supposed to let boats through after 7, even though the lock is manned 24 hours per day. That's hard to understand.)

We got through the lock and tied up on the wall at Whitehall about 8:30.  Ironically, those two Canadian boats that refused help were right in front of us.

Next, I have to get the motor running myself, or find a mechanic who can help me.  I won't speculate on the cause of the problem just yet.  It will become clear in the next few days.  Not much work today though, they're saying wind gust up to 55 mph.

They are also predicting7 foot waves on Lake Champlain.  Boy are we glad to be secure here rather than out there.    We owe a great thank you to the lock master Bill who made a special exception to let us through.  Also to Yamaha for making great small outboard engines.  We owe **** to those two Canadian boats that refused help.

It was one hell of a day.


  1. I think, as a fellow cruiser, you should go and talk to those Canadians. It is unacceptable to refuse to help a fellow man. We are a trawler and have 'rescued' sailors. In fact we've rescued one sailor twice who was having engine problems. They say things come in circles. The other day a sailor came to our rescue during a medical emergency at a restaurant. We rely on one another to keep each other safe. Shame on them!

  2. Totally unacceptable! Valkyrie and Nyx. I'll make a mental note of those names. That's a narrow place to break down, and just a bit of breeze would have blown you into the toolies.

    You engine problem sounds like it could be serious, Dick. Have you checked the engine filters?

  3. Well I won't comment on French Canadians. Hope all works out ok for you tomorrow. And I think you outboard may be a Yamaha. Look forward to sailing with you and Libby in NC in a few weeks and reliving our summer experiences


  4. Looks like you're not the only Dick on the waterway Haha

  5. Big Problems in port beat big problems on the blue.
    Karma will deal with those other boaters, and Karma can be a real, well, you know...

  6. A little update on Valkyrie the boat that refused to tow you, he just returned to Rouses Point winter vacation over medical problems not nice to say but what goes around comes around


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