We had a pile of problems today. Problems stack up from small to large. A kind of inverted pyramid of trouble. This left us feeling discouraged.
Today's problem #1: it's rough. The Jensen Beach mooring field is exposed to the East and South. And the more south the wind comes from, the longer fetch to build up big waves.
Breeze is in the teens, and gusting into the mid 20's. The wind is piling up 2-3' waves. Which means climbing down into the dinghy is going to involve getting soaked as the dinghy jumps off the top of one wave and into the trough behind it. It's rough on the mooring ball.
(Side-bar. CA checked around, and we had our mooring lines rigged wrong. We've since switched them. Less chafing. Much quieter.)
We checked the water tanks. We were sure the starboard tank was below 1/2. We thought the port tank was full.
CA doesn't assume: she measures.
It turns out the port tank was low. We suspect the valves that choose between tanks were both open a crack and we've been pulling water from both.
Which brings us to problem #2 -- we're low on fresh water. We're not going to try and motor to the dock in this wind.
This means breaking out the bladder to dinghy over to the dock.
The bladder lays in the floor of the dinghy. It has a big filler hose on top. I put on a bunch of fittings to reduce it to 3/4" garden hose with a gate valve.
The bottom has a much smaller hose, also with a 3/4" garden hose fitting. Normally, it has a cap to keep the water in.
The procedure works like this.
- Dinghy to the fuel dock.
- Hook up the hose to the filler. Fill.
- Unhook the hose and dinghy back to Red Ranger.
- Connect up an electric pump. It's part of an old "pressure washdown kit" that we've never used for anything but fresh water. This keeps it pretty clean inside.
- We can then pump the bladder into our tank. It takes about an hour. The washdown pump is 100 psi, but, not quite 2 gallons per minute. If we're lucky.
The problem? Well. It's bouncy. And it started to rain. So. That was nasty and potentially hazardous to be clinging to the side of Red Ranger with 240 pounds of water in the dinghy. Plus me.
But that's not the real problem.
The real problem is our ancient 2-stroke 8-HP Nissan NS8B outboard. It dates from June, 1991. (The previous owner saved all the receipts.) It's been adequate for the our 12 years of ownership. But. It's starting to wear out.
I think the fuel pump has died. If I keep squeezing the priming bulb, she runs.
If I stop squeezing the priming bulb, she dies. This makes each dinghy outing a kind of surprise. If I forget to squeeze, the motor dies. If we're lucky, we're about to bang into a dock, and that's good. If we're not lucky, we're adrift until I get get things runnging again.
Also. she weeps fuel. Slowly, but inexorably, fuel is dripping out of the motor.
Which leads us to the biggest problem of them all.
Perceptual narrowing. When things are going badly, a narrowed view really makes finding solutions difficult.
At some point, you have to decide the motor is too unreliable, and trips ashore have to be absolutely minimal. I was upset. And I spilled my coffee, making me impossibly more upset. It's just coffee.
But it's a coffee spill on top of a serious dinghy issue. Each trip to shore could be a horrible problem if we can't get back to the boat. Each trip back to the boat might be the last.
We would like to move beyond fossil fuel. A rowable dinghy means a hard dinghy that won't easily fit on deck. An electric motor would be nice, but we don't think our solar array can charge a needy dinghy battery along with computers and boat systems. The Torqueedo looks nice, but, we worry about keeping it charged. We'd prefer not to run the engine to charge it.
That leaves us propane. Something like a Lehr, Tohatsu, or Mercury 4-stroke. These are only about 5 HP, but weigh about 50 lbs, same as the old Nissan.
We're on a mooring ball. We can get to the floating dock. But we have no other transportation.
Can we get a dinghy motor delivered here? Unlikely. We're barely able to find anyone who sells a motor this small.
There's a boat sales joint about a mile away. Could they sell us a motor and install it for us? Nope. The parts department folks don't deal in anything under about 100 HP and certainly don't want to deal with a propane outboard.
How about a dealer closer to Stuart? There's a place that sells outboards only. It's sometimes called "repowering" when you replace the outboard on a boat. We talked about it, but they kept talking about it taking a day or two. Sure. For a 100-HP outboard, it would take a day or two to install and sea-trial. For this little thing? It's a few hours. At most. My whole spring commissioning, including the lower unit oil change, takes less than an hour.
Ugh. There's no easy way to get this done.
We can order engine (and a few additional parts like a lifting harness) for delivery to a local West Marine. Indeed, a local store appears to have a Mercury in stock. We could have the engine in a few days.
Can we get it here? And what do we do with the old engine?
And we need to finish filling the water tanks.
This is all the more difficult with a howling wind and breaking waves everywhere.
(Wait for it.)
We can take a slip at a marina. It's almost like we forgot this was an alternative. Only a month ago we had a slip in the Cooper River marina. But. The intervening month seems to have erased "slip" from our thinking.
Traveling and Roughing It
We've been moving from anchorage to anchorage for about a month. Yes. We could try to be all fully-self-reliant and work out a way to do this from an anchorage or a mooring ball.
We can book a slip for a week. Laundry. Showers. Grocery Shopping. Motor Swap.
Here's how it will play out.
- Place my order early tomorrow with WM for delivery to a store. One of the local stores has it marked "in stock" so it should be quick.
- When we get to the marina, Lyft (or taxi) to a U-Haul joint and rent a truck for the day.
- Pick up motor (and stuff) at WM.
- Buy 20# propane container at a hardware store. (A bag or cover for the propane will be helpful to keep the rusty ring on the bottom from stabbing the dinghy.) Eventually, a platic box like they put on the front of a big camper might protect the delicate dinghy from propane can.
- Bring new motor and propane to Red Ranger.
- Test the new motor. I have cooling "earmuffs" to supply water in the cooling ports when testing at a dock. I think there's a fresh-water port on the lower unit that is normally closed off, but I can put a little hose fitting there, also, to force cooling water into the engine. Be sure it starts and runs. I think I'll need to add some 10W30 lube oil. Important to be sure it works while we have a truck available and can run back to WM (or some other outboard shop) for parts.
- Load the old motor into the truck. Take it to Outboards Only to dispose of the old fuel and (maybe) the old motor.
- Turn in the truck. Lyft back to the marina.
This gives us some hope. It drives away the gloom.
We have solutions to most of our problems. The rough weather is not something we're going to solve. But we can deal with it a little better if we're out of this mooring field with this huge exposure to the south.