Well. It's been a while again. But boy do I have a good story for you.
So this past spring, my friends Mark and Christine and I decided to take a trip. We'd been discussing a nice sail to Chestertown for more than a year and we decided it was time. Christine was early in a pregnancy and once the baby was born, who knew how long we'd have to wait to cruise? Spring was the perfect time -- the only time -- for our long-awaited cruise.
Also, Mark and Christine being a pastor and student pastor respectively, we couldn't go over a weekend. No problem! I work a lot of weekends... why not take four days off?
We decided to take Mark and Christine's newly acquired boat, Dreamscape, a 30-foot Catalina. It was only fair. They'd both been aboard for parts of the trip to Washington, D.C.
It all seemed good the day we left. Preparation was a little involved as it was the boat's first trip of the season. And, of course, they don't live aboard, so they wouldn't have as much stuff aboard to start out as I did.
All in all, the Catalina 30 is a solid boat. She's fast, and with a wing keel she can go where my boat cannot. After a few hours dockside, we were able to take off with a favorable wind direction and head to the Chester River.
Relaxation at last!
No sooner had we decided to turn the engine on a second time (the wind died midday) than it started to overheat and, finally, it shut off. After anchoring in the middle of the Chester, I set about to take a look-see.
You know it's not a good day when I am the most-knowledgeable "mechanic" aboard.
I gamely cracked the engine ports -- all four of them, easy access be damned -- and set out to check out with a flashlight why we were in such trouble.
It was easy enough to find. Two jets of brilliant neon green fluid were leaking out at an astounding rate. Yup. That was the coolant. Now we knew why the engine was overheating at least.
No problem, thought I. I'll patch it up, add more antifreeze, and we can limp into Chestertown and buy more. That'll get us home. After all, this was a sailboat! Motors are for people who don't know what they're doing.
Well, first off, there was no antifreeze aboard at all. And few tools. And still fewer things to patch holes with.
Duct tape. It was all we had. And it can solve any problem, right?
Sure it can. So laying on my stomach with the side door to the engine propped open with my head and a flashlight between my teeth, I set about patching the leak with Christin handing me duct tape to my exact size specifications. I wrapped that heat exchanger (the source of the leak) like a Christmas present. I wrapped it with layers and layers of tape.
There was still a little fluid left in the resevoir. We'd sail into Chestertown the next day and buy more.
We sailed all day and came to anchor under sail in Chestertown around 2 p.m. the next day. We'd hit a patch of dead air and lost some time, but we got there.
Mark and Christine inflated the dignhy and Mark rowed us ashore. Yes. Rowed. They have no outboard. Miraculously, we got there. The Chester has a little current the way the North Atlantic has little waves.
And then we found a shop with antifreeze! Pay dirt! And they had a gallon of distilled water! We carried our booty to the dinghy and proceeded to have a lovely evening of walking around town and having a nice seafood dinner.
When we got back, we went to bed to tackle the heat exchanger in the morning.
See the lovely green liquid on the galley table? That's what antifreeze looks like. I wish I could tell you what burning antifreeze smells like.
We filled it up and ran it... and it worked. For a time. We hit Queenstown that night in need of still more antifreeze -- and we ran aground a few times by losing power in the tiny chanel that marks the entrace to Queenstown -- a one-horse town in posession of a post office and a pizzeria. No gas station. No marine supply store. The kind harbormaster offered to drive us for some in the morning, but being intrepid walkers, we asked directions to a gas station. Five miles away. Some nice people in the pizzeria gave us some antifreeze.
It took three gallons of antifreeze and half a roll of duct tape and some JB weld the dockmaster gave us, but we made it back. We sailed the entire trip. Sailed to anchor four times. I sailed into the dock in Queenstown without the motor once. And we made it.
It's all about resourcefulness, people.
But I think my hands still smell of burnt antifreeze...