Wednesday, November 30, 2016
That's Boating (they tell me)
Five days into our trip to Charleston, we're enjoying a spate of gorgeous weather - sunny skies, flat water, variable light winds, current going our way for the most part, when an engine room check comes back with less than stellar reviews. The starboard engine had been running about 7 degrees warmer than the port engine at 2000 revs. The coolant in the expansion tank appeared to be disappearing steadily, despite a refill before leaving Morehead City. Our captain (Mike Warren) and my Mike could find no source of the problem despite repeated visits to the engine room. We backed off on the revs for a bit and were relieved to see the temperature level out to within 2 degrees of the port engine.
The next visit to the engine room revealed a trickle of coolant coming from the top of the reservoir tank which then wound up in the bilge we work so hard to keep immaculate. Since we were only underway to Wrightsville Beach for 2 hours, we decided to stop at Casper's in Swansboro, NC (where the hell is Swansboro was my first question). The folks at Casper's were delightful and tried very hard to help us. They even called John Deere who strongly stated that since the engines are still under warranty, that no one other than a JD mechanic could work on the engines. That's where the "adventure" began....
It is Friday morning. The only JD tech for miles around is sick and can't get to the boat until Tuesday. It is Thanksgiving on Thursday and we can't stay at Casper's for more than a few hours. I could feel the panic slowly rising in my throat and fought to stay calm (or at least appear to seem calm). We tried a few other locations, but no one was able to help us in the time frame (that day?) I had in mind. So, the 3 of us hatched a plan that soon had all 3 of us leaping to our phones to begin making calls. Mike Warren found a spot for us at the Town Dock (visible from Casper's) that could accommodate us on the T head. Wrinkle - we can only leave the boat unattended for 5 consecutive days. So, we sent Mike Warren home for the duration of our Swansboro soujourn and decided to visit Mike's aunt in Elizabeth City, NC for the long weekend. We arranged for 2 rental cars and booked a hotel near his aunt's assisted living facility. That done, we decided to spend Thanksgiving with my sister in Wake Forest, NC after returning to the boat for the mechanic and to end and re-start the 5 day rule. On Monday while still in Elizabeth City, JD calls to say the tech is still sick and won't get to the boat until Wednesday. Now I'm starting to feel trapped in Swansboro - at the Town Dock no less where we are the only boat in sight. Since I swore I was an adventure-seeker, Mike and I found a local spot for breakfast - Yanna's where the special is fruit fritters made me forget our situation for a bit. We toured Swansboro for a bit, then got in the car to head for Wake Forest. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and weekend with my sister and family, got to see many things and met some wonderful people.
Fast forward to Tuesday, November 29th. Now that the saga is concluded for the time being, I can calmly recount what transpired up to now. The JD tech showed up as promised on Wednesday and diagnosed the problem as one that would require a bit more than a wrench and a promise. Now that I was resolved to the fact that OLYMPIA would reside in North Carolina for the foreseeable future, I went to work organizing the work effort. We decided to move her to Jarrett Bay in Beaufort, about 3 hours away - in the direction we had recently come from. This facility is a true boatyard, staffed by knowledgeable people, many of which are authorized to perform the warranty work required. Not only are these people skilled marine technicians, but they are compassionate and willing to do what it takes to get this problem fixed and get us on our way. We hired a captain who happily agreed to take us from the Swansboro Town Dock to a very nice face dock at Jarrett Bay. There was a moment of levity in the pilot house shortly after departing the Town Dock. The woman in charge called me on my cell and quietly asked, "Rosemarie it is you who took the boat away, isn't it"? We exchanged amused glances, but I could hear the relief in the poor woman's voice when I assured her it was me at the helm. The trip needed to be taken using only our port engine so as not to exacerbate the issue with our starboard engine. As we released the last line, the stern promptly leaped away from the dock in a strong current we estimated to be running at about 5 knots. Since it was me on the dock releasing that last line, I had visions of driving to Jarrett Bay to meet the boat. The captain and Mike made one more attempt to get the boat near the dock and I leaped off an icy dock into the boat. What a great beginning to the day! We settled OLYMPIA in her new home and accepted a ride back to Swansboro to get the rental car. After some more exploring, we decided to spend the afternoon touring Beaufort, which we promptly fell in love with.
The next day was Monday, so finally we could get things in gear to get OLYMPIA fixed. We met with the operations manager of the facility who would not only get the engine issue resolved, but who also agreed to coordinate the work on some other issues we decided to have addressed since we were there. We left feeling relieved and optimistic for the first time in 11 days. Now that we realized we would not be going to Charleston on this trip, we hit the streets of Beaufort and had a wonderful day.
Tuesday morning, we headed to the airport in Raleigh, about 4 hours away to catch a flight to NY via Chicago's Midway Airport. It was an excruciating day, but a productive one in that OLYMPIA will stay in Jarrett Bay through the Christmas holiday until we come back to get her after Christmas. Though we were disappointed, we made the most out of a situation out of our control. We put over 1000 miles on the rental car and got to see parts of North Carolina we would have missed. As the saying goes, we made lemonade (spiked with vodka) out of lemons!
Still working on the pictures and waiting for an update from Jarrett Bay. Will be back - and not next year!