30 June 2014

Adventure on the High Seas

Ian and I towed our boat up to Orcas Island last Friday to moor it at West Sound Marina for the summer (note: the cost of the ferry for us and boat and trailer was about $240, or $50 more than the last time.).

The boat had been stored at Mom and Marsh's in the barn, where Marsh carefully packs it away in a corner so it's not in danger of being sideswiped by his gentleman farmer's activities. He has been known to scrape the rust off the brakes on the trailer, and always brings the boat out of storage when I ask for it, and then spends time helping me get it ready to go. I found a small hole in the fiberglass of the boat keel a week ago, and Marsh bought a fiberglass repair kit and fixed the hole to professional standards. This is a particularly fine storage facility.

This year, we were not putting our boat back into the water in Seattle, and it didn't occur to me we would have to have it de-winterized, as it hadn't needed that before. Ever (well, maybe the first year, but that's ancient history by now).

When we bought the boat, we knew that we were going to be using it in salt water, and so we had an after-market radiator system installed that would keep us from running the corrosive waters of Puget Sound through the delicate interstices of our old-timey carburetor engine to cool it down.

Because of that, we've always had the boat returned to a drive-ready state after the winterization and service, and have not really had to de-winterize, meaning, put all sorts of drain plugs back in the engine, as well as the plug for the boat itself.

When I went out to clean the bottom of the boat from last year's lake sludge (rolling around under it on a dolly Marsh made, covered with Simple Green suds, cold water, and reconstituted lake slime, the keel inches from my nose) and take stock of things, I found the main plug, as well as two shiny-new blue wingbolts, in a Ziploc baggy tied to the steering wheel.

I screwed in the main plug, looked bemusedly at the others, came back into town. Last Thursday, 26 June, Mom's birthday, Ian and I went out in early afternoon planning to take Mom out for a birthday spin on Lake Sammammish in Issaquah, just to make sure everything was ready for launching off Orcas the next day.

In the interests of leaving no question unasked, I spent some time talking on the phone to Julia in the service department at Sea Ray, because one doesn't want open holes into the water when one launches a boat. At first it seemed that those two new plugs must go in the engine somewhere, but we couldn't see where, even hanging upside down into the engine compartment, even just feeling around. I brought a mirror from the house and Ian managed to locate three holes in the engine that already had blue plugs in them, and could not find any empty holes anywhere. There were suggestions from Julia for how to set up a bucket and turn on the boat with the outdrive in the bucket, to see where water came out of the engine. We didn't have anything immediately to hand out at the farm, though, and I said "Do you have a record of who did the winterization? Maybe that person could help."

"Of course, just a moment," said Julia. "OH! You had an antifreeze winterization! You're all set to go! Those must just be extra plugs! You're sure there's no rust or anything on them?"

Nope, they looked brand new.

"Well, at least you got to know your engine a little!" I laughed too--but I now know that I need to get to know my engine a lot more.

Friday we had a lovely drive up, not too long a wait at the ferry terminal in Anacortes, an easy drive to our land, and quite the breathtaking view of the huge hole our basement has made in our hillside. Saturday evening we launched the boat on the flood tide and it started easily and ran smoothly. I putzed around in West Sound while Ian drove the trailer back to the land and then walked down to the county dock to meet me. It was, of course, a glorious evening of gold-rimmed clouds and blue skies, sparkling rippled water and a fresh breeze. About 20 minutes in, I saw that Ian had finally arrived at the Orcas Island County Dock (No Overnight Moorage) and headed in toward shore.

As I got within earshot, close to the dock, Ian called out "Is your bilge pump on?" A thin blade of terror pierced my heart, and I snapped the switch on.

"Why? Am I low? What's going on?!?" I jumped up, trying to look at the water, keeping my hand on the wheel.

"Just dock," said Ian calmly.

"But do we need to get the trailer?" I cried "What are we going to do?"

"No trailer," said Ian, more calmly still. "Just dock, and we'll figure it out."

I came in carefully and we tied up the boat, and then I leaped onto the dock all flustered and ruffled like a startled hen. Ian opened the engine cover--engine still running--and we looked into to see our engine compartment sloshing with gallons and gallons of water. Our stern was riding low, and a solid stream of water was shooting out the bilge hole as the pump worked its continuing magic. "Looks like we need those plugs, after all," said Ian, quiet, measured. "There, and there," he added, pointing to where he could see water shooting in.

"Where are they? Do we still have them???" I squawked.

"They're right here," said Ian. "I'm just a little worried because the engine is so hot right now."

I leapt, a mess of flapping feathers, over to the ignition and turned it off, willing the bilge pump to stay on. It did. Ian, standing in, I believe, the engine compartment, stuck his hand in the water, commented that it was very cold and so obviously had not been running through the hot part of the engine, and screwed in the plugs. "What about the other one?" I asked anxiously, having only seen him do one.

"It's already in," he said. "Everything's okay."

A wave of relief--not West Sound salt water--washed over me, and I leapt back into the boat, laughing a trifle hysterically, and flung myself at my (yet again) savior. We tooled around the bay for a short additional time until my feathers and my bokking had returned to normal, and then I brought us into the dock all by myself, and so perfectly at my first try that Ian laughed out loud.

You're really at sea with boats, you know?

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