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Making do... oh, and a rendezvous (part 1)

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I've begun to think that a good part of "seamanship" might is based on being able to pick the least-bad option out of a spectrum of sucky choices...

I spent a lot of time on Makana in June un-doing the effects of a very wet winter. Partly because it needed doing and was normal - albeit late in the year, because it didn't stop raining until after summer started - but also because she and I were going to venture to Langley in July for our first Ericson rendezvous.

And, it being the Puget Sound debut of the-boat-formerly-known-as-Thelonious, I really wanted her to look her best

So... coachroof and cockpit coamings were cleaned and polished, stripes were compounded and waxed, wood was bleached and oiled, stainless was polished. Canvas covers were taken home for a good scrub and re-treating. New throw-pillows tucked artfully into the corners of the dinette. Artwork on the bulkhead. Books neatly sorted by height in the bookshelf. Sheesh. Pretty girls can be so high-maintenance! But I really love working on boats, so it doesn't really feel like "work".

Finally the appointed day arrived, and we got ready for the short trip across to Langley. All systems go. Food and such loaded and stowed. Sunblock and shades in place, I started the motor, untied from the dock, and headed out of the marina. 5pm departure. Right on schedule. All is good...

...until, roughly abeam of the Coast Guard dock, a horrible screeching noise erupted from below, and then the motor stopped.

If you're keeping score, that's a little less than 500 yards from my slip. Ugh.

In hindsight, I'm super-glad that my old "seamanship" instincts are back in play. I had removed the sail cover and hooked up the main halyard before leaving the dock. That was a good thing because I had a dead boat in a busy Friday-afternoon entrance channel, and only about 50 yards of room to leeward before some ugly rocks came into play. Main went up easily, got the boat moving and loafed out into the relatively open waters of Port Gardner to figure things out.

This is probably a good place to share that I'm not an engine guy. I can change oil and check coolant levels, but generally speaking if it doesn't start when I press the button, I call someone who knows what they're doing. Rigging, sails, racing rules... I got that. Engines, not so much.

Plus, the last time I heard a screeching noise like that was when the piece-of-crap Honda Civic I had in college blew an oil seal at freeway speed, and the engine siezed before the oil lamp even had time to come on. So... I didn't know what to expect in this case.

We cleared out away from traffic, picked a nice course to nowhere and set the autopilot to give me time to investigate. Oil? Yup, it has oil. Coolant? yup, it has coolant. Raw-water impeller? intact. Prop? spins freely when out of gear. No smoke. No smell. No mess in the bilge. No "obvious" problem, but the alternator belt is hot and there's a bunch of belt-dust on the engine beds. Hmmm...

Went back on deck, waited a few minutes for things (including me) to cool down, and decided to try the motor again. Pressed the button, she started right up and sounded great.... for about 10 seconds. Then it started screeching again. Ugh. Shut it down in a hurry.

At this point, I don't know what's actually wrong. I suspected the fresh-water pump - in fact, I vaguely remember seeing a screeching pump mentioned in Christian's book - but I don't know enough at this point to know what I don't know. All I *do* know is that I'm in a sailboat, and I'm going to have to sail to wherever I'm going....

Which made me wonder... does it make sense to sail back into my slip in Everett? Or does it make *more* sense to sail the boat to Langley? After all, it's a nice day, there's plenty of breeze, I'm going to have to sail in wherever I end up... and the tie-breaker is, at Langley there will be a bunch of people with exactly this kind of motor, who can hopefully help figure out what's wrong with it.

So, called The Other Half, told her what was going on and that my plan was to continue on to Langley. She didn't love the idea. Thought I should call the Coast Guard. Or something. But... hey, it's a sailboat. Right?

It's only about 9 miles as the crow flies from Everett to Langley, a probably half again that much in actual distance tacking up the lee side of Whidbey, and it was a perfect day for a sail. Really enjoyed it.

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Got off the Langley marina about 9pm, and called the harbormaster on VHF. No answer. They knew I was coming, and told me to check in on 66A when I was near, but apparently I wasn't smart enough to check their office hours. I just assumed they'd be there.

Hailed a few more times. Then switched to 16. Then called out for a radio-check on 16, just to see if I was getting out. Got a couple of nice responses from places around the Sound, but nothing from the marina. Loafed back and forth a few times, started thinking through the pros and cons of picking up a mooring in the outer harbor under sail, and then...

...somebody hailed me! "Ericson sailboat off the Langley breakwater... come in?"

Hey! Hello! "This is Makana, Whiskey-Delta-India-5442..."

"Do you know what slip you've been assigned?"

"uh.... no. But I'm going to need a spot I can sail into. I don't seem to have a motor."

"No problem, come on in. We'll make a spot for you on the long dock, and rally some help."

(Gosh I love the Ericson community!)

Went a little upwind of the marina, dropped the main, furled the jib to a fraction of its normal size, then turned downwind to scope things out. Sure enough, they'd made room on the long dock, and someone was standing there waving and pointing. All I had to do was get around the leeward end of the dock, turn in, pass two boats and then scrub off my speed. I thought through a bail-out plan in case the approach got wonky and I needed to get back out into open water, and went for it.

Well... let's call the score on this one "two out of three". A good solid C+, maybe a B-. I got around the end of the dock, made the turn, scrubbed off speed... and Makana stopped right there, alongside the first boat on the long dock. I had "planned" to coast past the first and second boats and slip into the spot they'd made in the 3rd space, but... stopped much shorter than I'd planned to. And looked up to find about 20 of my new best friends standing on that boat with lines and boat-hooks and fenders, waiting to help Makana home for the night. What a great welcome.

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Not exactly the "cool" way I had envisioned making my first entrance into the group... but a nice welcome regardless.

Ah well.

Next morning, a couple of guys came over to look at my motor. Had me start it, and then immediately told me to shut it off. "Fresh-water pump", they both said. The screeching sound was the belt torturing itself on the pulley of a fresh-water pump that wasn't turning. They said it was an easy fix, in fact someone around might even have a spare. As it turns out, no, nobody did, but they patiently walked me through the process of replacing it.

Thanks very much, Harold and Kevin... you guys ROCK!

So, nothing left to do but enjoy the rendezvous, and worry about tomorrow when it arrives. Met lots of great people, heard lots of good sea-stories, shared food and drink and even a much-needed cup of "cowboy coffee" on Sunday morning. What a fun bunch.

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Favorite (?) moment of the rendezvous was during the pot-luck. A lady came up, tapped me on the shoulder and asked "are you the owner of Makana?"

...yes (I say quite proudly)

"we heard you sailed in last night all by yourself, without using your motor. and we just think that's inspiring!".

...ummm, no, that's not "inspiring". That was unplanned. I would have used my motor if it had been working.

"you mean you came all the way here without your motor? That's really brave!"

...ummm, no. It was the least-bad option I had. I knew I'd have to sail in somewhere, figured here was as good a place as any.

Still makes me smile to think someone was "inspired" by a guy bringing a crippled sailboat in, under sail, with no other options. But... thank you! I think.


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Updated 11-11-2018 at 07:40 PM by bgary

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