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Well, some of you may remember a post a while back entitled Be Advised.  It’s the story of a nice cruise that went majorly south, the result of an engine that failed, a sail that blew out, and one of the busiest ship channels in the world.  The event ended well enough I suppose.  We survived the ordeal and nursed our sailing yacht back to home port.  Here’s how things have gone since.

The following week, my husband gathered quotes for new sails and that following weekend we both spent several hours on the boat making the numerous exact measurements needed to place them on order.  Sails generally take four to six weeks to make…so we waited.

The engine was perplexing, at least to me.  For the next four weekends, Captain Husband spent the better part of that time troubleshooting our most malfunctioned engine.  His efforts included replacing the fuel feed pump, replacing the two fuel filters, changing the entire fuel system’s lines, inspecting the fuel tank for debris, bleeding the fuel lines, etc.  All of this work was, in his words, dumb people stuff…in essence, eliminating the obvious.  The result of his time was that the engine still would not run.  As a diesel engine is an inherently simple machine (thus their general dependability), after spending those weekends crammed into the extremely tight, hot, and uncomfortable lazarette with no results he decided to throw in the towel and charged me with contracting a marine diesel mechanic to get the engine back in working order.

We live in an area that encompasses the third largest concentration of pleasure boats in the nation.  Finding a qualified diesel mechanic was not a problem, and last Wednesday I met the guy at our boat.  My charge to this extremely nice guy was that when he walked away from the boat we expected the engine to be reliable…he assured us it would be.  And, after checking my husband’s work and doing his own troubleshooting, he pronounced the problem as being a severely clogged mixing elbow.  The mixing elbow mixes the heated cooling water in with the exhaust and serves two basic purposes…it cools the engine exhaust and reduces the engine noise.  Over time, the cooler water temperature condenses the carbon out of the exhaust gases and will coke up and clog this part, resulting in back pressure that will cause the engine to not run.  We actually suspected this might be the problem but decided to defer to the mechanic should it be the culprit, opting to have the expert change this out rather than us.  The mechanic replaced the part and declared the engine repaired, assuring us he had test loaded the engine at the dock.

On the same day that the mechanic worked on the engine, our sails came in.  So, last Saturday, both of us were excited to put the new sails on the boat and get back on the water.  After several hours in the broiling heat rehanging our sails, my guy took a quick trip to pick up some ice, beer, wine, and cokes while I straightened below decks out, put the cockpit cushions in, and plugged in and cranked up the iPod. 

Though it was king of warm, it was a perfect day for sailing here last Saturday.  After icing down the beverages, we cranked up the boat, slipped the lines and headed out of the marina.  As usual, I was at the helm.  The engine tach showed 2000 RPMs.  Clear Lake channel was crowed as we eased out and approaching the entrance to the bay we saw it was packed with boats of every sort.  The Kemah Boardwalk was wall to wall people.  Entering the bay, I pushed the RPMs to 2500…and sensed, more than noticed, a lack of power.  At perhaps a couple of hundred yards out in the bay, I goosed the engine up to 3000 RPMs.  The engine made the revs…only to instantly lose a 1000 RPMs…and then another 500…and then another 500.  Within a couple of minutes we lost power completely and sat dead in the water…again.  Neither of us could believe it.  Here we were, maybe a quarter of a mile into the bay, right smack dab in the middle of the channel, with boats all around us, both sail and power, five thousand people on the boardwalk watching all of these boats, including us, and we’re dead as a door nail in the water…drifting. 

More fucking drama…

There was no time to dillydally.  Once again we were faced with the immediate decision of either dropping anchor and calling for a tow or sailing the boat home.  In this case, sailing the boat home meant sailing into the narrow Clear Lake Channel for a mile or so and then into the even narrower marina channel for a half mile or so and then, literally, sail right into our slip.  We chose to sail rather than call for a tow.

We hoisted our brand new genoa headsail and managed to turn the boat around.  With a diminishing and following wind, we poked into Clear Lake channel.  At the entrance to the marina, we reefed down the headsail in anticipation of having a beam wind as we made the 90 degree tack…and limped into the marina.  At the end of the marina channel we would have to gain enough headway to make a 180 degree turn into our slip…dropping the headsail completely before we commenced it.  Too much headway when we started the turn would have resulted in not being able to stop the boat in the slip…too little headway and we would have no control whatsoever.  It all came together and the dock was perfect.

After we got the boat tied up, we sat in the cockpit and consumed our beverages, cursing the mechanic.  Over the weekend, we got back in touch with the mechanic; he met me at the boat on Monday at 8:00 AM.  I wasn’t happy.

The long and short of things is that on Monday the mechanic found a crack in one of the fuel filter assemblies and, most disturbing, found that that the diesel fuel in the tank was contaminated with gasoline.  By the end of the day the mechanic once again declared that the engine had been repaired and load tested.  I told him I would go to the dock on Tuesday and load test the engine myself…and we’d see.  So, yesterday, armed with a good book, I went to the boat, cranked the engine, put it in reverse, and cranked the throttle to 2500 RPMs…and sat in the cockpit for the next hour and a half reading.  I then cranked the RPMs up to 3000 and read for another half hour.  And, then, I spent yet another half hour going from idle to max RPMs and everything in between in different random throttle ups.  The boat passed.  I paid Yacht Equipment Services, Inc. their money.

So, newly equipped with $5000 worth of new sails and engine repairs, Captain Husband and I will embark on another three day cruise this Memorial Day weekend.  I will keep you all updated.

On a different note, we have decided to accelerate our plans to buy the boat.  Our Hunter 31 was never meant to be the boat.  The Hunter 31 was always just a “fart around on” boat.  The boat, will be an entirely different endeavor. 

The boat will be a proven blue water cruiser.  It will be upwards of 50’-0 long and is budgeted to cost ten times what we spent for our current boat…with another $50,000 budgeted for upgrades.  It will be a proven design and capable of sailing anywhere on the planet, though it will in all probability spend much of its time in the Caribbean, Central America and sailing up the East coast.  It will have the very finest radar, generator, water maker, GPS, SAT weather, AIS, electric winches, etc…all of the bells and whistles required to live for weeks, months, and even years aboard her comfortably…and the best safety and lifesaving equipment money can buy.  We are already looking and expect to have made the purchase within the year…another year or so of outfitting her after that.  It’s quite an investment, but it’s definitely a buyers market.  We’re excited. 


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