Cruise, Interrupted!! (Part One)

We finally left Fernandina Beach, Florida in mid-December 2009.  Destination.... the Bahamas.  We had provisioned the boat with a 4 month supply of food, drinks, beer, and wine.  We received our pet import permit for LuLu and visited the vet. It was getting cold in Fernandina, and we were ready to get to warmer weather.

The day after we headed down the waterway, LA got sick with bronchitis.  The weather.... oh so cold!  It was dreary, cold and windy every day.  So, I had to pilot the boat down the waterway while LA stayed down below in bed.  He would get up when it was time to anchor the boat, then creep back to bed. 

We spent our first night in the Fort George River (just off the St. John's River). Night two.. St. Augustine.  Night three, Fort Mantanzas... started raining and wind blew like crazy all night.  Stayed an extra day.  Got up following day and left.  Still windy, no rain.. Headed to Rockhouse Creek near Daytona Beach.  Rain came back, so we stayed 2 nights.   LA was still sick.

My "Uh-Oh" Moment

The next morning, we headed down the waterway.  LA was still sick and down below in bed.   I was coming down the waterway to a big bend in the waterway at New Smyrna Beach.  I was approaching a bridge in the distance, and I was hailing them that I needed a bridge opening.  As I was rounding the bend, I noticed a small fishing boat TIED UP UNDER THE BRIDGE.  I engaged my auto-pilot and leaned over to get a better look.... certainly, that fool could not be tied to the bridge and in the way!  One moment later.... KA-BAM!!! Well, guess what.... my autopilot did not engage, and I drifted out of the channel and I knocked the crap out of "ole Mile Marker 18".  I ran smack in to it... couldn't have centered it any better if I had tried.  Needless to say, LA came barreling out of the boat to see what had happened.  I had already grabbed the wheel and saw the mile marker (which was mounted on a telephone pole) laid over in the water going right beside my boat.  The little fishing boat saw (or heard!) what happened and he got untied and out of the way... fast!!  Behind me in the waterway was a big trawler.  I turned around and looked at them, my face flaming with embarrassment, and took a bow.  They laughed and clapped for me.  I hailed the bridge tender and she said "You just keep on coming, honey.... I'm going to open this bridge for you and you just don't worry about that little old mile marker. People hit them thangs all the time!".  LA took the helm, got us through the bridge while I sat down, and tried to get over it.  I walked to the front of the boat, and the bowsprit stainless steel railing was bent down to a 45 degree angle.  I came back to the cockpit, sat down, had a little cry, took the helm back from LA and went on my merry way down the waterway.   I learned that if you engage the autopilot, you better make sure that sucker engages before you leave the helm!!! Oh well!  LA called the Coast Guard and reported the incident.  I thought I would have to pay the damage, but they were really nice about it and appreciated us reporting it.  I guess it really does happen all the time.

We made it to Cocoa, Florida after my eventful day at the helm.  It was bitterly cold and windy.  We stayed there 2 nights with the heater running night and day.  LA was still sick.  We finally made it to Vero Beach on December 22, nine days after we left Fernandina Beach.  We hooked up to a mooring ball, and were rafted next to a couple from Canada on the same mooring ball.  We celebrated Christmas in Vero.  I cooked a traditional dinner with turkey and dressing and all the trimmings.  We decided to stay in Vero until LA was feeling good again. 

January 8. 2010.... LA was starting to feel better.  Our Canadian friends left, and a new boat arrived to share our mooring ball.  We were running low on fuel, so we decided to take the boat to the fuel dock.  It was very windy, and the boat was pitching about on the mooring as we were trying to crank the engine.  We got some air in the fuel line and could not get the boat to crank.  We bled the injectors... still could not get it cranked.  We cajoled... we begged... we pleaded.... we cussed.... still could not get it to start.  We got a local shade-tree mechanic to come out and try.  We put starting fluid in the intake. It fired up for a moment, then died again.  So, we called a local Westerbeke dealer.

The dealer sent a technician out.  He tried and tried to start the engine.  No luck.  He finally took out the injectors and took them back to the shop to be bench tested.  Three out of the four injectors failed to work.  Came back and did compression testing on the engine.  More bad news.  Low compression numbers.  More bad news.... the fuel pump was not working well.  OK, time for a reality check for the Wyatts.  This is a 30 year old engine.  A Westerbeke 4-108 40 hp engine that we rebuilt 12 years ago when we bought the boat.  We had a choice to make.... throw more money at a 30 year old engine getting it rebuilt, or re-power the boat with a new engine.  We researched our choices and determined that a re-power was the best choice for us for the future.  We plan to do some long-distance cruising on the boat, and we need an engine we can depend on.  At times, we often felt that we needed more horsepower for this boat, so a new engine made sense.   We decided on a new Yanmar 54 hp engine (4JH5E).

New engine=Money, and lots of it.  Again, another decision had to be made.  Take a big chunk out of savings or go back to work.  A no-brainer, really.  I called Mary Helen, my boss at the hospital where I had retired, and asked her if she had any work available.  Four days later, I was on a plane back to Jackson, MS.  Four days after that, and I was back working as a staff pharmacist at the hospital, working 12 hour shifts.  Quite a change from retirement!  I plan to work at least until the end of May, or possibly June.

February 2010:  As for LA, he's still in Vero for now.  The engine injectors have been rebuilt.  He's still been sick and is slowly recovering.  Once he gets well and gets the engine started, he will move the boat to Fort Lauderdale (about 120 miles south of Vero Beach), go to a boatyard, and contract with someone to do the engine install.

So, that's where we are for now.  Stay tuned to hear all about our tales of engine re-powering and find out where we end up next!

Return to Travel Log

Return to Home Page