I know what you’re thinking, and you’re probably right, but be patient. We’ll get there.
April 29, 2014:
While the run-aground in the ICW was certainly not fun (and quite embarrassing on my part) it, thankfully, was a very minor graze with a soft bottom and one that we were able to ease off of fairly quickly. And, while I know I deserved some of the scoldings and finger-shaking I received as a result, I’m not sure I agree that it rose to the level of demotion from my position as First Mate as one of our followers opted for (you know who you are!). But, I tell these tales so that hopefully some of you fellow cruisers can learn from our mistakes and, on the rare occasion, brilliant discoveries! It’s all about getting out there and doing it – mistakes included. But, assuming the demotion was in order, we’ll see if this little diddy can salvage me. I call it – Redemption of the Selfie!
So, still maintaining our slight trickle from the stuffing box around the propeller shaft, we motored our way into the Gasparilla Marina so we could have our leak inspected. And, you would think, by now, with all of the docking debacles we’ve encountered, we would be pros at docking. Well, we are better, but I’ll tell you, I’m just not sure anyone can actually call themselves a “pro.” You just never know what kind of conditions you’re going to face with the wind, current, pilings, finger docks, etc. There’s always some element to contend with that can turn your perfect entry into a … well, a cluster. As we made our way into the marina and found the slip they had assigned us to, we knew we were going to be contending with some pilings.
I even called the dockmaster to see if he could send some guys over to help catch some lines (Captain decided not to be too embarrassed about it, knowing my knee was not 100%) but, unfortunately, they were all on the other side of the slips at the fuel dock (a good 10-minute walk from our slip on the other side). So, it was the Captain and I, easing in … While we would have loved for it to have played out something like this.
Sadly, that’s NOT what happened. After debating it a few times and exchanging a couple of confirmations (“midship first? stern second? then bow?”), we went for it. The wind was coming across our starboard deck, so we had decided, as we were easing in, to put a loose midship line around the second piling to keep us from hitting the dock on the port side. A grand idea at first …
But how loose is is too loose? Or, more importantly, not loose enough? You’ve got to cleat to the boat it at some point or it has no purpose, so I lassoed the pole, pulled out about 8-10 feet, cleated it and hobbled back to the stern to try and catch the piling on the starboard stern. Unfortunately, though, it seems my “8-10 feet” was not enough and as Phillip eased forward, the midship line pulled taut, causing the boat to … well …
Like I said, a total cluster. Thankfully, we were able to push off the port piling, back out and try again. This time we decided to forego the midship line, catch the stern on the way in and then run up and tie off the bow. Well, run, hobble, crawl – however I could make it happen. So, we tried again.
This time we caught the stern fine and start to ease forward. But, do recall that other element I mentioned. Ahhh, yes, a sailor’s best friend (or worst enemy at times). THE WIND!
The wind was pushing our boat over to the dock on the port side and we had yet to tie a line to hold the bow off. Without a friendly set of hands on the dock to catch a line, I tossed a pile of the starboard bowline onto the deck hoping it would stay put until I could get off to tie it.
Thankfully, the pile landed solidly on the dock, and I took off to catch it!
“Here I come to save the DAAAYYY!” Yes, that is what I sang to myself as I leaped.
Luckily the pile remained, I was able to grab it, tie it off and keep our boat off of the dock on the port side.
Whew! Have I mentioned before how much I hate docking – period – but particularly at new places??
With the boat secure, the Captain set to contacting the guys at the marina to have them come out and look at our leaking stuffing box. A young guy came out pretty quickly, jumped down beneath the engine and started pulling and wiggling the stuffing box, as Phillip and I kind of stood there, hovering, exchanging worried looks.
“You see something?”
He came up slowly, with a sullen look on his face, wiping the oil from his hands tediously, without saying a word. I took this as a bad sign. Like a doctor who’s about to dish out some really bad news. He told us he tried to tighten the hose clamps but he thought the seals were going to have to be replaced. Which meant … a haul-out. A haul-out?? Mid-TRIP?!? And, they’re so freaking expensive, too. The haul-out alone can sometimes cost 3/4 of a grand, not to mention the labor and expenses that will follow repairing the seals. And, anytime you haul-out, you always want to try and get as many “haul-out” requisite projects taken care of then to get the most of the hard-earned dollars you paid just to see your dripping keel, but that means more repairs, more time, more labor, MO MONEY. That was some pretty bad news. But, Guy No. 1 did say he wasn’t 100% sure and he was going to have his supervisor come out – the head mechanic at the marina – to have a look as well. A second opinion? Uhhh, yes please! Send in Guy No. 2!
It was nearing the end of the day, so we decided to get cleaned up while we waited for the head honcho, John, to come out and check out our stuffing box. The shower facilities at the marina were really nice, and they had a great Captain’s Lounge with TV, AC, books, wifi, coffee, etc. We also saw they had a little restaurant, the Waterside Grill, which we decided would suit us fine for dinner. After a long day-and-a-half of passage, we were ready to shell out a few dollars to kick back and let the friendly folks of Gasparilla bring us platters of fish & shrimp! When I hit the showers, a ‘body check’ confirmed that, a day-and-a-half since “the fall,” and the arm and knee were still showing signs of a collision.
I know, pretty right? The knee still had a little pain when bending and a funny ‘pop’ upon extension but, otherwise, was functioning reasonably well. The arm was functioning fine but was swollen to about twice its normal size and pretty hard to the touch. Just weird … No broken bones, though, so no complaints here. I’ll take functioning-but-weird any day.
When I got back to the boat, the head mechanic, John, was just leaving. Thankfully, he left us with better news than Guy No. 1. John said he thought it might could be adjusted, maneuvered somehow to sufficiently slow the leak to allow us to get home. It would just depend on what kind of stuffing box it was. So, THAT was our homework assignment. We had to find out what kind of stuffing box we had on there. Guy No. 1 had told us previously he could barely see the label on it from underneath the propeller shaft, but he couldn’t get a good enough angle to read the whole name. We searched our bag of instruction manuals to see if there was one for the stuffing box. (As I have advised before – always keep every instruction manual for every piece of equipment you install on the boat – you never know when they might come in handy). Unfortunately, no dice. We couldn’t find any paperwork on our stuffing box. We had to lay eyes on the label. But, the label was on the bottom of the stuffing box, facing down and there was only about a 2-3 inch gap between the label and the hull.
We broke out the little mirror that we keep on the boat.
I call this a mechanic’s mirror. We use it to look underneath things we can’t get under, much like a mirror under a car.
Super handy piece of equipment to have on a boat. But, the problem was, this label was too far underneath the stuffing box for the mirror to allow a reflection. The last thing you could see before the face of the mirror was lost under the transmission was just the tip of the label. We needed a new plan, so I got to thinking … I don’t know if you did this as a kid, but we used to make and buy those little boxed-mirror gadgets that allowed you to look around corners or over walls?
Nifty! Thankfully, though, my brother’s hair didn’t look like that. Or this …
But, we were HUGE Inspector Gadget fans!
(Doo-bee-doo-bee-doop. Inspector Gadget! Doo-bee-doo-bee-doop. Bum, bum. Whoo hoo! I know you’re singing along! Click HERE to reminisce further).
And we all know Penny secretly rocked that show.
“I’ve got it Uncle Gadget!”
Okay, so I digress. But, I did get a little Gagety with it. I started thinking about those around-the-corner mirror devices and started looking around for another mirror. While two mirrors would have worked fine, the first thing that caught my eye was my phone and that’s when it came to me. The selfie app! Now, not only could I view the image via the mirror function on the phone (a.k.a., the “selfie app”) but this way I could capture it via photo to confirm, show to Phillip and keep for our records. I positioned the phone under the stuffing box, tilted just enough to provide a reflection on the mechanic’s mirror so I could see what the screen on the phone was capturing.
I took a few (dozen) missed and blurred shots, but I was getting closer.
There! See? You can almost see it there. A few minor adjustments, taps on the cell phone screen to auto-adjust and BAM!
I got it. Good to the … LASDROP! It was a Lasdrop stuffing box. Now that we had a name, we could get some dinner at the Waterside Grill, relax and check back in with John in the morning to see about a solution for our leak. See? Good selfie training CAN be an important skill to have on the boat! I know my fellow blogger Dani would agree. Redemption of the Selfie!!
On that note, let’s end on a selfie montage, shall we? Let this play in the background and enjoy … All Byyyyy Myyy-seee–heee-eelllf: