Our Riser/Elbow Saga (Part 2): A New One Out of Thin Air, and a Yacht-Delivered Spare!

Every bone and organ in my body slid downward.  Phillip and I couldn’t quite wrap our heads around it at first.  UPS had lost our package.  The big, 15-pound box that contained both the old and new riser/elbow we’d had fabricated for the Yanmar engine on our new Outbound.  It didn’t seem entirely possible.  Lost?  Like forever?  Lost?  While that news was bad enough, the reality of the situation sent an even colder realization up my spine. 

It was later September in Annapolis.  That meant two things.  The boat show was coming.  And winter was coming.  That also meant every marine vendor within a 50-mile radius was booked for months trying to get boats ready for the show and ready to go.  If our engine didn’t get up and running soon, Phillip and I wouldn’t be going anywhere, much less south, for the winter.  All this work and effort and money and hours we put into getting our new Outbound and planning our getaway to the islands for the 2021 cruising season was about to be shot.  Like a flailing duck in the sky.  Boom.  Done.  Although Phillip and I had jokingly said our loose plan for the season had been to simply “not winterize the boat,” that off-hand remark was quickly morphing from a joke into our new reality.  Phillip and I could not ignore the very real prospect that if we didn’t find someone to magically concoct a new riser/elbow out of thin air for us and get our engine running, our new beautiful offshore, island-bound boat was about to be hauled back out at Jabin’s yard and wrapped for the winter.  Wrapped?  Nuh-uh.  Nope.  The answer was no.  There was only one solution to this problem. 

I got desperate.  I got dressed.  I got cookies. 

Late September, 2021: Running Out of Time; Running Out of Options

As I mentioned, we had tried our previous fabricator to see if he could re-create another new riser/elbow one from scratch (i.e., without the old one to use as a template).  He was having cataract surgery.  One eye, then the other, over a three-week period.  So, nope.  We tried Collection Yachts, the outfit that had purchased Outbound Yachts.  The Chinese yard in Xiamen, where Outbounds are built, was on holiday.  *sigh*  But, Ryan Dunham with Collection, was surprisingly sympathetic.  He offered to search the Collection warehouse and then contact other owners to see if he could find us one.  While it was certainly a generous offer (he didn’t owe us anything).  That wasn’t a guarantee or a quick, immediate answer, both of which we needed.  I knew it was time to break out the big guns. 

Cookies. 

I’ve often found these work wonders when you’re headed to a shipyard to ask a marine vendor for a favor.  Never underestimate the value of a cookie.  Or some humility.  I was well-stocked on both that day.  I whipped up a batch of home-made cookies (insert, I picked up a box at Publix), donned a spandex workout number (don’t judge), and headed to Jabin’s to beg any vendor who would listen and who might have a sliver of time to help us.  I spoke to several vendors who were super nice (and enjoyed their cookie!) but who simply didn’t have the time—with all the immense demands the boat show brings—to squeeze an entirely new fabrication job in.  I am sad to say I left the yard with an empty Tupperware, some cookie crumbs, and no hope.  Until …

September 23, 2021: A New Fabricator Is Available

Around 4:00 pm that day my phone dinged with an email.  It was from Steve Madden with M Yachts at Jabin’s.  His primary fabricator, Don, had unexpectedly had another project fall through which left him with a 5-7 day opening that he could fill with our project … “if we wanted,” Steve wrote.  Oh … we wanted!  My fingers fumbled typing him back.  Of course we wanted!  Thank you, Steve!  And, thank goodness I’d stopped by that day with cookies.

Don showed up at our boat the next morning, full of stories about how he got into fabricating (by making potato guns that he and his cousins would fire across the creek in Annapolis).  He took a long look at the empty gap between our heat exchanger and exhaust tube (that needed to be filled with a custom, stainless riser and elbow) and he set to work, taking measurements and photos. 

Don, accessing the engine from our port aft berth

Don was at our boat for about an hour, full of three piping hot cups of coffee I’d fed him, when he said he had everything he needed.  I didn’t want to push Don, but I really wanted a rough ETA.  “It can be super rough,” I told him.  “I just want an idea.” 

It starts to get cold in Annapolis (like freezing cold) in late October, early November.  For this reason, Phillip and I had been planning to leave Annapolis immediately after the boat show, the week of October 18th to stick with our plan for the winter to “not winterize the boat.”  We had friends coming to Annapolis to stay aboard UbiQ and visit during the show Oct. 14th – 18th.  (You might remember the amazing Megan and Chris who purchased our Niagara 35!).  They were scheduled to come into town on Oct. 11th. 

While having a working engine so we could take Megan and Chris out sailing on the Chesapeake would be nice, we knew they would understand if the boat was immovable while they were in town.  They’re boat people; they get it.  But, we hoped beyond hope it could all come together before they arrived.  However, the after was the most important part.  While we were super excited to host Megan and Chris and share the new joys of life aboard UbiQ with them, immediately after sending them off, our goal was to start provisioning, weather routing, and planning our passage south down the Chesapeake, around Cape Hatteras, and on down the coast eventually to a jumping off point for the Bahamas.  One critical component to that plan was … a running engine. 

“About a week,” Don told me, jerking me out of my mental math.  I blinked.  Swallowed.  Blinked again.  “Like, one week?” I asked, stupidly.  “You’re sure?” even stupider.  “Yeah, a week to ten days.”  Don assured me he could do it, would do it. 

September 24, 2021: New Fabrication Promised in 7-10 Days

I wanted to believe Don.  I really did.  But, from our experience when you dig into any complicated fabrication, or other big structural, project on a boat, it’s like having work done on your house.  Whatever time frame the contractor gives you, multiply it (both the timeframe and the price – ha!) by three.  That way you set your expectations realistically and avoid surprise or disappointment.  But, it was September 24th.  A week to ten days would have us turning the engine over around Oct. 5th … ish.  Little gears in my brain that had been cloaked with disappointment and my new-found hatred for UPS started to shake themselves off and turn.  For the first time since our “sortation delay” I began to think things might still work out according to plan.  Up and running by the show; headed down south the week after.  Could it …  Don didn’t know it was coming, but I hugged him.  Full on.  Big, Annie bear hug.

September 28, 2021: The Boat Show Outbound Offers to Bring a Spare

It seemed perhaps some tectonic plate shifted that day.  Our boat karma was bubbling up from under murky oil slick UPS had caused.  A few days after Don stopped by and claimed to be started on a 7-10 day timeframe in fabricating a brand new riser/elbow for us, Ryan with Collection Yachts gave us a call.  Turns out they did not have a spare riser/elbow in the warehouse for our boat, but the new Outbound 46, Hull No. 74, s/v Orion, which was going to be the Outbound 46 in the Annapolis Boat Show was carrying a spare aboard that fit our engine, and the owner, Leo (bless his soul), was willing to sell it to us.  Phillip and I joked that we would never trust UPS to send an important boat part again.  “No, Sir!” we shouted in jest.  We trust a hand-delivery via an Outbound over UPS any day of the week. Orion was set to arrive at Jabin’s on Oct. 6th … with a spare riser/elbow in tow.  Could it …

Phillip and I were trying not to get too excited.  We hadn’t seen Don since he first stopped by, now, four days prior.  I had no idea if he was actually working on our riser/elbow or not.  I wanted to believe he was.  He seemed super nice.  Honest.  But, you can’t get to know a guy over a few cups of coffee and some potato gun stories.  We also were not 100% sure the spare riser/elbow that was coming via s/v Orion would fit.  Ryan with Collection said the engine room layouts on our 2015 model, Hull 58, and the 2021, Hull 74, were the same but until you actually bolt it on … you never know.  We floated our own hopes, however.  Until this guy showed up. 

October 4, 2021: The Newly Fabricated Riser/Elbow is Coming Along

My God, she was beautiful.  Shiny stainless.  Custom weld joints.  An impressive new height, which meant a safer design.  Don was really proving himself.  Day 9 of his “7-10” day timeframe and he had a piece that was damn-near done.  Don did some last-minute measuring at the boat to make some final tweaks on the new piece, and he promised to be back in a couple of days with our completed 316 stainless steel riser/elbow, custom-fabricated for our engine space. 

It couldn’t be stopped.  Even if I wanted to.  I hugged Don again. 

October 6, 2021: The Newly Fabricated Riser/Elbow is Complete!

Don and I were getting used to this coffee-cup routine.  He showed up again on the morning of October 6th to ensure the final fit of his newly-fabricated riser/elbow.  It was a thing of beauty.  Don’s unique design, beginning with a sharp bend of the riser moving it immediately aft out of the heat exchanger and up high in a tight 180-degree turn (the elbow) back down to the “water jacket” (that was a new term for me) where Don would add a raw water intake tube for the salt water and hot air exhaust to mix (hence the term, “mixing elbow”) and then exit the boat as hot raw water exhaust.  Everything bolted on beautifully.  It was a bit hard to believe Don had conjured this glorious piece out of thin air.  He took it off one last time to take it back to his shop to spray an anti-corrosive coating on it and wrap it for the install.  He kind of had to pry it out of my hands.  Having lost one already, I didn’t want to let it go.

Phillip was back in Pensacola during this time trying a case in Bay County.  It was a big moment for him, but that left me by myself on the boat to handle all this riser/elbow drama.  While we were confident I could install the riser/elbow myself and turn the engine over, we were new to the Yanmar 4JH80.  I’d never worked on an engine with a turbo charger and an air cooler, and I’m still not 100% sure exactly what those things are and do.  The guilt would totally consume me if I didn’t connect one hose the right way and I blew up the engine (yes, that’s what I imagined could happen).  So, we scheduled a mechanic, Dave from Bay Shore Marine who had helped us remove the old riser/elbow back in the yard at Jabin’s (the one that UPS lost!), to come back on October 8th to help with the install and first turn-over of the engine since August 2nd. 

It was perfect timing, too, as the new Outbound, Hull 74, Orion, was making his way to the dock at Jabin’s that evening and I was set to meet Marcello with Collection Yachts at the dock the following morning, October 7th, to pick up the riser/elbow spare that Leo had graciously brought us as well as a tour!  This called for one thing:

An invite to our former owners, Jim and Ann, to join me so they could tour the newest Outbound 46, too!

October 7, 2021: Outbound 46, Hull 74, s/v Orion, Brings a Spare

She had a deep blue hull.  A wooden bulwark.  All things I wouldn’t want to maintain, but boy did I love to ogle them. 

Our former owners, Jim and Ann, joined me that morning on the short trek over to Jabin’s yard to pick up the spare riser/elbow that Orion’s owner, Leo, had offered to sell us and that Collection Yachts had coordinated for us.  Of course, any time you step up to a brand-new boat, there’s one thing you must get.  A tour! 

Marcello with Collection devoted an entire hour to us that morning offering us an in-depth tour of the newest Outbound 46.  I will say it was quite comforting to see not much had changed in the design of the Outbound from Hull 58 (ours, built in 2015) to Hull 74 (Orion, built in 2021).  That told us they did it right the first time.  The primary differences we saw were owner-elected: a hard versus soft dodger, an AC versus DC generator, the electronics, an in-boom furling mast, the blue hull and wooden bulwark, etc.  All of which I think would make for an excellent comparison article (Hull 58 versus 74) in a future blog post. 

The Collection Yachts team had also brought the newest build out of Elan Yachts, the GT6, to Annapolis for the boat show and Marcello was generous enough to offer Jim and Ann and I a private tour of that boat as well, which was docked alongside Orion at Jabin’s yard.  Talk about a streamlined racing beast.  Not a boat I would choose to cruise, but a boat I’m confident would win in an offshore race.  She was sleek.  I hated to tell Phillip, who was back in Florida wrapping his jury trial but—that day—he definitely missed out! 

I hugged it like a child. I couldn’t believe our good fortune when Marcello handed over the spare riser/elbow that Leo brought us on Orion.

A side-by-side comparison once I was back aboard Ubiquitous showed two very similar, but in many ways very different design approaches to reach the same end goal. In analyzing the two we decided to go with our newly-fabricated piece as we preferred the higher-rise design and we knew it was constructed out of 316 stainless steel. With the Outbound 46, we were not entirely sure what type of stainless had been used.

October 8, 2021: Our Yanmar Finally Roars to Life!

It was Annie on deck.  I met with Dave from Bay Shore Marine early in the morning, who quickly became our “go to” mechanic that summer, to help install the newly-fabricated riser/elbow and turn our engine over for the first time since August 2nd.  That was two months too long ago!  Although our fabricator, Don, had mocked up the install during his fabrication process, having had a newly-fabricated piece not fit (by centimeters only!) last time, I was a bit nervous about the install and anxious to see everything bolted and clamped back tightly.  Thankfully, it was a perfect fit.  I can’t thank Don and his potato-gun skills enough.  Our new riser/elbow is a thing of meticulous beauty. 

Once all the hoses were wedged on, all the clamps tightened, the sea cock open (I will never forget that again), and the oil checked, it was time.  Time to turn our badass 80-hp engine over.  This was it.  Go, Engine Annie Go! 

I can’t tell you what a relief that was.  Was it just an engine part?  Maybe.  Or was it our cruising plans for the season, on our new boat that we’d spent all year planning, saving, and prepping for?  More likely.  Just a few short weeks prior we had lost both the old and (first) newly-fabricated riser/elbow to a UPS “sortation delay.”  Now, after some cursing, crying, and cookies, we ended up with a newly-fabricated, better-than-before riser/elbow, a running engine, and a spare!?  While I never cease to forget in the moment—when it seems all signs are telling you your luck surely has turned south—with hindsight I’m always reminded that maybe it was just rearing back for a massive turn in the right direction.  Like a crow-hop before landing that nice big punch.  Oftentimes when things seem to not be working out at all the way you planned, they may just be gearing up to work out even better in a new direction.  Never forget that.  Keep the faith! 

Next up, we’ve got the new Niagara owners coming for a visit, all the Annapolis boat show fun, and prep for our voyage south down the Chesapeake, out at Norfolk, and around Cape Hatteras—all new terrain for us on our new Outbound 46.  Now that we were … you know … able to get outbound.  Boats.  Always an adventure.  Stay tuned. 

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