We all stood helpless, watching the boat inch closer and closer to the Catamaran. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth (the only thing I knew to do at the moment) while my mind conjured horrific images of boat crashes:
Okay, not deadly, fatal crashes, but pricey ones all the same. I was sure the boat was going to come out of it looking something like this:
If not worse:
But, just as I was bracing for the worst, I felt a tug on the anchor line. It had caught. Finally. I gripped hard and shouted to Phillip. We didn’t want to yank it up so he said it was best to let some line out and let it dig in a bit. A dicey proposition when your boat is headed straight for one three times the price, but it wouldn’t help anything if the anchor slipped. I let some more line inch through my hands as the boat slowed. Finally. We eased up to the Catamaran with just enough room for the guy to push us off of his glistening gem. We handed him a line and he helped us walk our boat over to an empty spot at the dock and tie up. The relief of having the boat stopped and secured made us forget momentarily about the engine. At least she was tied up and not going anywhere. (Ted Bundy would be so proud!).
The Catamaran guy was a big help, though, and quite understanding. Turns out he had also had a boat that was broke down on the other side of the river. It seems engine problems are common in the boating community.
Boat humor with a legal spin … man I’m on fire today!
We joked that there must be something in the water, but that was actually a legitimate concern. We checked the fuel pump to see if it was clogged and preventing fuel intake or wasn’t separating the water from the fuel, but it seemed fine. We checked the impeller (where the boat pulls in sea water as a coolant for the engine) to make sure it wasn’t clogged, which could have caused the engine to overheat. But, no dice there either. We simply had no answers. We had checked and filled the oil that morning, checked the coolant, gassed up, and she had cranked fine. She was running fine, up until the moment she wasn’t. We felt like the guys on King of the Hill, just standing around scratching, and drinking, and wiggling a wire here and there, with no real progress.
A lawn mower focus group if you will.
We tried to crank her a couple more times at the dock but she wouldn’t even turn over. It was almost like she had a dead battery, but we knew that wasn’t the case because the house batteries were full and running fine. We were at a loss.
So, Phillip had me get on the phone and try to find a mechanic that could come out and take a look at the engine. The bad news was most of them were located in Apalachicola – a good 30 minutes away – without the resources or time to make a special, emergency trip to the Carrabelle River to check us out. But, thankfully, after a handful of calls and some groveling and pleading, we were lucky enough to find a willing victim. Turns out he worked out of a marina just around the bend in the river from where we had docked, which he had been operating out of for over twenty years, and his family owned a local restaurant on the Carrabelle River. In those parts, he was the diesel engine guy.
Coincidence? I think not!
The mechanic’s name wasn’t Bailey, though, it was Eric. And he looked nothing like Will Ferrell, in case you were wondering. He had a big job on a barge to get to that day so he told us he’d stop by on his way out to see if our problem could be fixed quickly and he could get us back on our way that day. Eric arrived within the hour, and he was super sharp. He immediately began tinkering and turning bolts and troubleshooting and crossing items off of his differential diagnosis. We were glad to see him roll up his sleeves and go to work so quickly, but not pleased with the fact that he, like us, kept coming up empty-handed. We continued our super-helpful practice of standing there, watching, scratching … and drinking, but apparently it wasn’t enough. Eric came up greasy, sweaty and shaking his head in defeat. He was going to have to take the engine apart to figure it out, but he had to get out to that barge. He said he would send his guys back out in a couple of hours to get to work on it.
Unfortunately, we were approaching high noon, a very hot high noon, and we were tired and drained and just … weary from the passage. Phillip and I sat on the dock, baking in the heat, frustrated with the situation, waiting for the engine boys to come back, both of us thinking of any place we’d rather be than stranded there on a hot dock with a broke-down boat.
Perhaps lounging in soft hammocks on the beach:
Enjoying cocktails at sunset:
Or back at the helm of that beautiful boat, a gentle breeze blowing over us:
Anywhere but there. But we had a tough decision to make. It was already noon, on Tuesday, and we had at least another 48 hour passage ahead of us, assuming the engine could be fixed on the spot. The possibility of even making it back to Pensacola by the end of the week looked grim. We talked it through and decided we had to call it. We were going to have to leave the boat at the marina in Carrabelle and make the four-hour drive home by car. We were truly disheartened. Phillip and I wanted to make this passage, to bring our boat back to its home-port, once and for all. Make the dream a reality. But we just didn’t have the time to spare, especially with the status of the engine currently a complete unknown, and any solution hours, days, maybe even weeks away. We hated the thought of leaving her there, alone, miles away from home, without any answers, and we hated the thought of coming back to Pensacola in some crappy rental car, when we were supposed to sail in on crystal green waters, in our shiny new boat. Phillip and I sat somberly on the dock, one apologetic hand on the boat.
Unfortunately Mitch, however, wasn’t sharing in our mood. He bounded up to us like Tigger at the circus, all giddy and goofy, and said, “You know this restaurant here opens at noon. Do you think they’ll have curly fries? I could really go for some curly fries.”
Phillip and I exchanged a pointed look: Did he really just say curly fries?
I swear, if we didn’t get that rental car soon, I was going to shoot him.