“If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen out there!” That is what Kurt Russell’s character in the movie, “Captain Ron”, had said before taking a family of four out to sea. Those words are truer than true!
It’s been 3 years since the boat has moved through the water, so we were fully aware of the importance of a shakedown cruise in order to work out the kinks. We didn’t think we were aiming big. The plan was to start with a one-hour trip from Jarrett Bay down to the Beaufort waterfront. We’d anchor out in Beaufort for a day or two and then sail over to Cape Lookout. At Cape Lookout, we’d finish sorting through all deeds left undone. Once we were ready, we would look for a weather window that would allow for an offshore trip to Cape Cod. We knew that it was impossible to stick to a schedule. We also knew things would go wrong. What we didn’t know was that most of them would happen at the exact same moment in time!
Departure from the Dock:
At approximately 10:30 a.m. we tossed off the dock lines in order to move across the basin to top off our fuel tanks. Wil and I had a plan. The 15-20 knot wind was in our favor. It would keep us off the dock as we uncleated the lines, backed out of the basin, and then backed in along side the fuel dock. The moment we tossed the lines and gave the engines throttle, the starboard bow ran smack into one large, metal i-beam of the wall where we had been docked. Time for more gel coat repair! It only took seconds for Wil to realize that when the port throttle was pushed to reverse, the engine propelled us forewards. Forward was reverse, and reverse was forward! Once that detail was figured out, we managed to make it to the fuel dock.
Once at the fuel dock, we topped off two of the four fuel tanks and fixed the reversed wires on the throttle cable. After filling the tanks, I went below and discovered a strong diesel smell in the port hull. I lifted the floorboard to find that diesel was leaking from around the fuel-sending unit. Upon closer inspection, the unit had not been properly tightened after the fuel cleaning crew had been onboard. I tightened the unit and the leaking stopped. Just to be safe, we switched the starboard engine to draw from the leaking tank. Also, while we were still at the dock, the battery alarm started sounding. Wil managed to find what he thought was the cable leading from the port engine alternator. The new lithium batteries were not supposed to be receiving power from the alternator, so the cable needed to be disconnected. As an extra precaution, the dinghy was also inflated and lowered to the water, so we could test the dinghy motor. Finally, all was well, and we departed Jarrett Bay Boatworks around 1:15 p.m. Our friends, who were there to see us off, came aboard for a ride.
Motoring down the Waterway:
As we got underway, all seemed to be going well, except that I noticed the depth and speed wouldn’t come on. I also noticed the VHF seemed pretty quiet. We were discovering that we didn’t have any DC power. We had made it about a mile down the waterway when suddenly the starboard engine sputtered, quit, and became stuck in gear. Then, the batteries started alarming again. Wil went into the starboard engine room to figure out the battery situation. While he was in the starboard engine room, the port engine alarm started sounding. When the port engine room was opened, smoke poured out. We were in the middle of the channel with shoals on either side, a stiff wind, and no engines or DC power. The emergency anchoring drill went well considering there was no power to operate the windlass. Now, we were anchored right smack dab in the middle of the channel on the afternoon of 4th of July with no way to communicate to anyone. (Yes, we have a VHF handheld, but I had forgotten to charge it until just right before we left).
The engines were the first order of business. After switching the starboard engine back to the original fuel tank from earlier in the day, and tightening a loose Racor filter, it was able to restart without a problem. There had been air in the fuel line. The port engine was low on anti-freeze. However, even after adding what should have been enough anti-freeze, it still continued to overheat. Since we needed to get out of the channel and relocate to a safer area, we motored the rest of the way to Beaufort using just the starboard engine. Without the port engine running, the battery alarm remained silent. Without DC power, it was a bit nerve-wracking to navigate the entrance to Gallant’s Channel without a depth sounder.
We dropped anchor on the north side of the Beaufort drawbridge in order to assess the DC power problem. That was when Wil found that he had disconnected a DC power cable to the rest of the boat, and not the cable from the port engine alternator. Once power was restored, we hauled up the anchor (with the windlass this time), and completed the trip to the Beaufort waterfront without incidence. The relief we felt upon our arrival was huge!
Now, we will continue to be anchored in Beaufort until some important issues can be corrected. The port engine continues to overheat, and Wil can’t figure out where the anti-freeze is going. He has a few more ideas in his mind, but had to walk away from it for the time being. When we were without power, the fridge and freezer thawed, and water ran down onto the control board. The fridge is currently non-functional, so we have transferred all of our food to the freezer and turned up the temperature. We have thrown up our arms and will be calling in the professionals on Monday.
In the meantime, Wil spent 4 1/2 hours at the top of the mast. He installed the wind indicator, the wifi antenna, fixed the tricolor and anchor light, and put in the new main halyard. I have been on the ham radio with my dad and friends. The new Raymarine chartplotter and radar are now functional. Progress is being made.
At the end of the day, when we’re hot and tired, we are able to jump in for a swim to cool off. It is so relaxing to be on the hook and hear the water lapping at the hull. There are worse places to be stuck.