There we were, with fluid dripping out of our brand new transmission like a leaky faucet and we were two hours from Carrabelle, two hours from Apalachicola, at least two hours from any port. It was like a geographical oddity.
We were two hours from anywhere!
And with only a half-quart of transmission fluid to go on. Having run her completely out of transmission fluid the last time, did we think to pick up more to have on board in case we needed to add more to the new transmission. Of course not! That would be way too effin smart. Nope, this was the same half-quart the infamous Mitch tried to hand us when we were topping off the fluids the morning she locked up in the Carrabelle River (You remember the Irony! https://havewindwilltravel.com/2013/07/29/april-29-2013-oh-the-irony/). I’ll bet his greasy fingerprints were still on it. I can just see Mitch now, leaned back, fingers steepled, his body racked with the bellowing “Muuuu-ha-haaaa” laugh of an evil villain.
Okay, so I couldn’t find a picture of Mitch arched back in “villain mode.” Every picture I have of him he looks so sweet and blue-eyed. Mr. Innocent. But I know better. That Mitch is an evil, dynamite-laying, mustache-twirling villain. Deep down. A real Boris, that man.
And I just have to point out the “irony” of this Boris-comparison because Mitch’s real-life “Natasha” is not nearly as … vertically inclined.
You see. Gorgeous? Yes! Tall? … not so much. But, we love Michelle. You’ll see more of her soon, I can assure you.
But, Mitch and “Natasha” and all other evil transmission villains aside, we had really found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. Every drop of fluid that splashed to the bilge put us one drop further from home, and we had a long way to go. Let me put things in perspective for you. Here’s the trip we had yet to make to get our boat from Carrabelle to Pensacola:
Yeah, that’s right. Quite a ways to go. And, the first leg of the passage, from Carrabelle to Panama City:
is about 90 nautical miles, roughly a 22 to 24-hour trip.
Then the last leg, from Panama City to Pensacola:
is another 24 hours, easy. Like I said. Quite. A ways. To go. Hence, the pickle. The transmission drip was kind of a big dill. (Mmm-hmmmm … that’s right. Pickle jokes. Man I’m on fire today!)
Remember, we had very little wind that morning. It might have been blowing 3 mph. Maybe. But it was blowing out of the southwest, right on our nose, so it certainly wasn’t working with us. We weren’t going to get anywhere sailing even if I jumped up on the deck myself and blew into the sails.
And I’ve got a mighty set of lungs!!
Chill folks … That’s just me blowing up a rockin’ marshmallow number for Halloween last year. You remember ole’ Stay Puft??
Damn that was a great costume!
Okay, back to the tranny. Fortunately we still had cell reception so we called Mechan-Eric to see if he had any brilliant ideas. UN-fortunately, he didn’t answer his phone and we had to leave a message. You can just imagine the agony of the next few minutes while we watched little tiny pink drops fall to an untimely death in the bilge, one after the other, while I constantly checked my phone.
Slide to unlock. Click. No messages.
Click. No messages.
Then. Finally! My phone shimmied and vibrated on the nav station, like a happy little bee. Such a glorious sound. I clawed and clamored and clicked that thing open faster than I ever have before. It was Eric calling back with what he said was “good news.” If you recall, the guy we bought the new transmission from had bought it brand new for his own project boat, that he, as many men often do, couldn’t seem to find the time for. So, the transmission sat on a shelf for over a year. Eric said he had seen that happen before, when a new engine component sits for a while the little rubber gaskets inside dry-rot and have to be replaced. Eric was sure that was it, just a simple little 97-cent gasket. An easy fix. “Just keep pouring more fluid in and you can replace the gasket when you get home,” he said. “Good news, right?”
Wrong Eric. Very wrong. As you know, we didn’t have that much “more” to pour in. (Cue the evil Mitch laugh again).
I explained our half-quart dilemma and Eric must have been on fire that day, too, because he did have a brilliant idea. Catch it. Capture it. Find a way to save those little pink drops of gold and pour them back into the transmission. Reduce, reuse, right? I nodded slowly and gave Eric the old “mmm-huh” as my inner gears started spinning. I relayed the news to Phillip, who responded with a blank, mind-boggling stare. “Do what??”
Thankfully, for Phillip, for the boat and for that damn transmission, I grew up country.
That’s right. Country. As a child, I “summered” on my Grandma (aka “Big Mom’s”) farm. In Alabama.
And a four-wheeler!
Man, farming’s exhausting …
But, if there’s one thing I learned on the farm, if you can’t get there in mud boots or fix it with duct tape, it’s probably not worth it.
So, my country instincts kicked in.
“Phillip, I’m going to need that Dasani bottle.”
“And some duct tape.”
I cut the top off of the Dasani bottle and flipped it over to make a funnel into the bottle and taped it on.
Real high-quality engineering. Then I taped her up under the shifter arm of the transmission where the drip was coming from.
The drip was coming from the base of this bolt here and would then fall into the Dasani funnel:
The fluid would then pool in the bottle and voila!
We’ve now successfully “captured” the transmission fluid and can pour it back into the transmission as needed. See? Nothing to it. Just takes a little country ingenuity is all. … And some duct tape.
With the ability to recycle the fluid, we were then able to keep on trucking across the Gulf. We set our sights on Panama City and never looked back.