At the end of our last episode, we left you thinking we ran aground. Yeah, we did. Though in all fairness, it was more of a “nudge the bottom” situation. The question was, how did we manage to run aground in 8 feet of water, when we only draft 4?
Turns out we were drafting much more. Unbeknownst to us, the line we had strung under the hull between the midship cleats had slipped off turning our several mile journey from the yard to our first marina. Believing our board was still up (we draft 4’ 2” with it up), we thought we’d just squeak into a slip with 5 feet of depth.
Nope. We hit bottom about ten feet before reaching the dock.
Now what? This turned into quite the drama for our first days on the river. We started with staying overnight at a lock, which you generally aren’t supposed to do — especially without permission; fortunately the lock operator on duty was sympathetic to our situation, as the lock itself was the only area in this part of the river with enough depth for our boat in its current state.
The next morning, we backtracked six miles, first to Crowley’s Yacht Yard to procure some hardware for a new mast plug. The plug needed to bear the weight of the 200 lb. centerboard (via the pennant running from the board up through the partners and to the rope clutch on deck). This was our other problem: The first version of the mast plug we had fabricated didn’t work; we needed to make a new one.
The rigging master at Crowley’s was incredibly helpful, and even gave us a couple blocks for free. We headed back to Skyway where they had dock space for us to start building the new mast plug. We were hoping that with a new plug we’d be able to pull the board up. Alas, no dice… We had to haul out.
Three hundred and seventy-five dollars later, our board was back in its trunk, and our boat was again drafting 4’ 2”. We found out the centerboard had swung forward of 90 degrees, and the pennant had become jammed between the board and the trunk. Once we had the boat out of the water, we were easily able to free the pennant, and winch the board back up.
Hope you enjoy,
Lauren & Kirk
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Okay, so we need to set the scene for you guys for this episode.
[Kirk] We just spent three days in the boat yard working underneath the Skyway Bridge. It was hot, we were sweaty. We finally got away from the boat yard and then we had to turn around and go right back there ’cause we ran aground and had to spend another day there. Well needless to say, when we got to the marina that night…
We were in dire need of a shower.
And it turns out that where we’re at had nothing. There were Port-o-potty’s.
So we had plans to meet Jeff and Linda, the previous owners of our boat, for dinner in Ottawa which was two days down the river.
[Lauren] But you know how plans go on boats.
After the fourth day of no showers, we filled up that morning and rushed off down the river. And forgot to put the fuel cap back on.
So it was only a couple of miles to the next marina we were gonna get our shower and fill up our water tanks.
And I decided that I was going to clean all the grime and dirt and dust off the deck of the boat. So I proceeded to wash down the decks right into the fuel tank. Luckily we had just filled up literally 20 minutes before and there was no room for water to get into the fuel tank without first displacing the diesel. But… The prospect of having water in the fuel tank was very bad, so our short stop quickly became a much longer stop.
Are you… you see this?
Do you see this piece right here?
Are you able to get into a spot where you can hold that on?
[Lauren] Yeah. What’s the size… oh wow, alright. Can I get a smaller one?
No, it won’t open right now.
So we had never changed our Racor fuel filter before. Hmm…
Yeah, I mean it’s easiest from where I’m at right here.
Can you unscrew the bottom part?
I think so.
I did not grow up around engines.
Righty tighty, lefty loosey?
Yeah, so you need to go, it’s reverse ’cause it’s upside down.
So you need to go towards you.
To the left, right?
I’ve changed the oil in my car for many years, but brakes are kinda beyond my comfort zone. I’ve replaced an electric motor in a washing machine once, but engine maintenance and repair is all new territory.
Should it be this hard?
No. Just unscrew that and they’ll both come together and we’ll figure out how it goes back together after that.
Is this whole thing just gonna fall down into the top? Possibly…
It’s possible, okay… alright leave it like that.
Can you hold the bolt?
Wow, look at that.
So now what I don’t know is how you clean the inside of this bowl out. Can we unscrew it?
I didn’t get that far.
Alright, well let’s figure that out.
[Lauren] And man there is some gunk in there.
[Kirk] It has some gunk build-up on it.
[Kirk] Alright, I think we’re clean.
Yeah, looks pretty good. So we need to put the filter in there, right?
First we need to put the thing on the bottom. Right?
[Kirk] Yeah. that works really well, that works way better than I thought it would. Scrape out and then flush out. After cleaning everything up it was time to start up the engine and make sure everything was working.
[Lauren] I’m on both.
We’d read that the biggest issue people have is getting air in the fuel lines. But, that if the engine restarted, you shouldn’t have to bleed that everything should be good.
Ha, we have successfully cleaned the fuel filter.
Oh, there was a bubble, did you see that?
[Kirk] See that?
[Kirk] Oh, there’s a lot of air. Where’s all that coming from? The fuel filter tee on top is tight. It might’ve been trapped in underneath that.
[Lauren] See anymore?
[Kirk] No. We let the engine run for a good 15 minutes. Just looking around at the engine trying to hear if anything sounded weird or started leaking.
[Lauren] The sun had already gone down, we weren’t leaving the dock that night.
We decided it was as good a time as any to install the sound deadening stuff we had purchased that was just taking up space.
Because it was a project we didn’t get to before we left Wisconsin.
We’re motoring now, we’re a motor boat and we didn’t motor for a full day. But already an hour and a half of motoring and I was sick of hearing the engine.
[Lauren] Oh, I see.
So our companion right stairs have a little bit of sound deadening behind them. But there’s this gap at the top. So I cut a piece of Teak trim before we left to cover that, which should do wonders. For killing sound you need to prevent it from escaping first and foremost into the places you don’t want it. Then you need to try and stop vibrations and stop the sound from traveling through other things which creates more noise. And then the last thing you can do is to reflect sound back into areas that you don’t care if it’s loud… which is the engine room. So the first thing is we’re gonna try and block up a couple of holes. Then I bought this stuff, which accomplishes the last two tasks. It’s very heavy, so it prevents things from vibrating and it traps the sound inside of it. And then it’s also a reflective. It come in 12 inch by 12 inch squares. It’s got a sticky back, a reflective front and this foam sound deadening stuff with a thin layer of a heavy like rubberized… I don’t know what type of material it is.
[Lauren] Oh, it’s pretty squishy.
[Kirk] It is a little squishy. So that’s what makes it pretty heavy. I mean this box probably weighs 15 pounds.
[Lauren] Yeah, I was gonna say 20.
These are basically just gonna stick up under our cockpit floor and on the side of our cockpit locker. And we’re gonna hope it does something for us. Let’s dead some sound. This is my sound deadening smusher.
[Lauren] What we got here… darkness … yeah complete darkness.
[Lauren] Look at that.
[Kirk] I don’t know if this is a good idea or not.
[Kirk] Me being in here.
[Kirk] It’s like a millimeter to tall on this left side.
[Lauren] Aww, seriously… you won’t push in?
That’s what I was wondering if, even though you drew that line like…
[Kirk] I know, but I went over the lines.
[Lauren] Without a tape right?
[Kirk] No its…I went over the line like an idiot.
[Lauren] What, what…why…why did you do that?
[Kirk] Why did I do that?
[Lauren] Why did you go over the line? You drew a line, I thought…
[Kirk] I wasn’t paying attention. I had two gin and tonics.
[Lauren] Awww, shoot.
[Kirk] Right side fits perfect.
[Kirk] Aw man.
[Lauren] Good morning.
[Lauren] The next morning we were so excited to get on the river.
But only after we did a little bit of yoga on the dock.
[Kirk] So we fired up the engine. It started right up again.
We motored out of the marina and onto the river.
And we were off, we were elated.
Yeah, a beautiful morning to finally start putting some miles underneath the keel. We made it about a quarter of a mile.
I was at the helm and Kirk was up on the bow. And all of a sudden a little bit of a different sound came from the engine. And we both looked at each other immediately.
So I yelled back to Lauren, I think the engine’s about to cut out, be prepared to restart it. And pretty much as soon as I finished that sentence, the engine stopped.
We’re floating down the river and we have no engine.
The entire time I was just thinking, as long as there is no towboat that makes its way around that corner we’re gonna be okay. Eventually, Lauren lost all steerage.
[Lauren] The engine has stopped. We think we have water or air bubbles in the line. Kirk is currently rowing us to that dock, hopefully. Right there.
You made sure the rudder is straight?
Alright, we’re straight.
[Kirk] And before I could get there, we ran aground for the second time in 24 hours. But this time we were pretty excited about it. Because at least it meant that we were no longer drifting aimlessly down the river.
We were stuck and we were a good stuck. Our nerves were completely on end. And once we stopped and Kirk was back aboard, we kinda just had to take a moment and think. Actually, we’re okay, we’re totally fine. The boat is not moving, we are physically okay. We weren’t in any immediate danger of any other boats hitting us. Now we just need to figure out
how to start the engine.
How to solve the problem.
And with my limited knowledge of diesel engines, I knew that you need three things. Compression, fuel and oxygen. The only thing that I could keep thinking that changed was, we weren’t getting fuel. Somehow we had air trapped in the line. Somehow we must have messed up the Racor fuel filter swap because the other two things wouldn’t have suddenly just changed. In my mind 30 minutes of the engine running fine, that just didn’t make sense.
But, as we were stuck on the ground on a river I wasn’t thinking all that clearly. So I went through kind of a rush job of trying to bleed the engine. We have a Westerbeke 40, which is notoriously difficult to bleed. There’s four manual bleeding points and I made it through the first one.
While we were doing this, I think we were like… we’re really on our own, like we need to figure out how to start this engine, or else we are SOL. And then I thought, hey Kirk, we have Boat US Insurance, maybe we should call them. Now is as good a time as any.
We had completely forgotten that it came with our insurance, the unlimited towing.
Yeah, and we knew we were only a mile down river so it couldn’t have been that big of a deal. And it wasn’t, I called up the dispatcher and said yeah sure it’ll probably be about an hour.
So, I made breakfast.
Lauren made breakfast.
He’s just getting us unstuck right now.
What was the whole, I’m gonna put you on the cleat thing?
Oh, I don’t know.
Okay, go ahead and take it off.
You want me to complete…
Just drop it.
Can you get that front line on a cleat?
Yeah, this one right Kirk?
[Towboat Capt.] Thanks.
[Kirk] You want the whole line or…
We’re not going very far down the river. If that line starts to get short, let me know okay.
You wanna be towards the back or…
[Towboat Captain] How long is this boat?
Yeah, so I’m gonna go right about here, I think.
It’s a little different.
[Lauren] Okay, time to celebrate.
[Lauren] How fun.
How fun, ha.
[Towboat Captain] It’s pretty shallow off to the port. We’re gonna favor the starboard side of the river, alright.
[Towboat Captain] Yeah, you want to work the stern
Even if you have to take it off the winch for now.
I can always put another line on there.
Alright now that should behave a lot better.
Where are you guys from?
[Kirk] We started in Racine.
I’m actually from Michigan, she’s from Wisconsin.
[Towboat Captain] Yeah, you never really know until you start to drive and the water pressure separates you.
Can you just drape this over that winch.
[Lauren] Got it.
I have to say, you’ve been a really nice guy. But I really hope we don’t see you again.
Yeah, I don’t blame you. I’m a boater person foremost.
This river trip was off to a rough start.
Heading back north up the river in the wrong direction for the second time in two days.
The bummer about going back this time was we had no idea what was going on.
[Kirk] So we called up our friend Bruce from Racine and a cousin of mine who is a helicopter diesel mechanic.
Both of them shared some words of wisdom and encouragement but we still couldn’t get it figured out.
We spent a couple of hours repeatedly trying to bleed the lines and swearing profusely.
But then, we got a call back from Bruce.
Hey Kirk, I know you just replaced your fuel filter. Did you happen to turn the fuel off before doing that? As soon as he started that sentence, I knew exactly what we had done wrong.
We deprived our own engine of fuel.
We got a engine that works, we got a engine that works.
[Lauren] Oh yeah!
There’s a theory called the Occam’s razor where you start with the easiest, dumbest solution first. Like is the computer plugged into the wall. I think we learned a lot in this whole episode in this first week on the river. One is that trouble often comes in groups of three.
Hmm… We ran aground and we had problems with our centerboard. Number two was…
We flushed water into our fuel tank.
And number three was we didn’t turn back on our fuel before trying to start the engine again.
The other thing we learned was that we created most of our own problems.
So with a little more thought and planning… Or a little more thought and a little less planning. And to just go with the flow, slow down, and step back, and try to think things through. It really helps out with problem solving on a boat. It was good to learn all of these lessons early on in our trip in a relatively safe environment. We’re extremely fortunate and lucky to have incredibly helpful and kind individuals who stepped in to help us deal with our own self made problems.
Yeah, well and the other thing is, just everything was new, Every single thing was new. So, yeah, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
We are dumb idiots and we bring it all on ourselves. But our engine’s working now…Yeah self.
[Kirk] Oh my God.