Fort Lauderdale, Part 1
(Andy) We limped into Harbour Towne Marina in Dania beach on one engine to have some repairs and upgrades made to Gratitude. There were quite a few small repairs we were having done by the qualified team at Just Catamarans under Laurent’s supervision. We wanted to upgrade our house batteries and add a dive compressor so we could fill our own scuba tanks. We also wanted to re-provision now that we were near a Costco!
One of the relatively small repairs that meant a lot to me was getting the lap sensor working on the windlass. If you’ve never dealt with an anchor, let me explain. The windlass is a powerful winch at the bow that does the heavy (and messy) lifting to raise and lower the anchor and chain. When we “pay out rode” (i.e. lower the anchor and chain), Karen stands at the bow and controls the windlass with a hand-held remote, while I stay at the helm and keep the boat under control. Most times we simply communicate via hand signals (not that kind… okay… not usually). The sensor that indicates how much chain is out had failed earlier in the year, and corrosion had prevented me from disassembling it to replace it, so getting help with that was high on my list.
But for me, the big item was to have a qualified mechanic look at the starboard engine. Here’s a very quick recap of what had been going on for the past several months. After having some work done on that engine in the Caribbean just before Christmas, we developed an oil leak that eventually got quite severe. I made sure to keep oil in the starboard engine, but on our recent passage home, it started spewing oil so liberally (picture Linda Blaire in the Exorcist) that it seemed like a bad idea to run that engine at all. Then, when we tried to start it up toward the end of the trip, it wouldn’t even crank. Joy.
Fast forward: due to the pandemic, we had been down to just our port engine for about five months, so when we pulled into Harbour Towne Marina, getting a factory-trained diesel mechanic to address this was my top priority.
This is where it gets funny… sort of. (Karen’s note: and by “funny”, Andy means “maybe we’ll laugh about this one day.”)
Kellen, from SunPower Diesel, came aboard and asked me to start the starboard Yanmar 4JH57 engine. I tried, and it would not crank. Things were not looking good. Then he pulled off the valve cover… and the engine started and ran just fine. He carried the valve cover back to the shop and came back the next morning with the answer. Wait for it…
Someone had left a cotton rag stuffed up in the breather hose. Best I can figure, it happened back in St. Lucia when I had the lifter rod tolerances checked. I was stunned. Kellen explained that putting a rag in that hose helps keep oil from spilling everywhere when you pull the valve cover. Someone (who will remain nameless since I’m 90% but not 100% sure it was him) just stuffed it too far up there and forgot about it – sort of like a surgeon leaving a sponge inside you once they are done with the surgery. Oopsie! Sew the patient back up, and let’s go get some pizza!
Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Kennesaw, GA
(Karen) All these upgrades and repairs took some time, so while we were waiting on parts to be shipped and work to be completed, we rented a car and made a quick trip home. (After a 9-day sail, a 10-hour drive seemed like nuthin’.)
Ft. Lauderdale to West Palm Beach
(Andy) After we returned to the boat and the work was complete, we decided to sail north to West Palm Beach for a sort of “shakedown cruise“ where we could test everything out.
Now, West Palm Beach is a very cool place. You sail from the Atlantic Ocean through an inlet into Lake Worth on the Intracoastal Waterway. After anchoring in the lake you can take your dinghy to the municipal dock; when you step off, you are in downtown West Palm with its broad sidewalks that parallel the water, shops, restaurants, and office buildings all right there.
But South Florida, apparently, was not quite ready to give us up. On our first night at anchor in West Palm, our battery system gave out of juice way too quickly, interrupting a peaceful night’s sleep with alarms and bells. I’m very thankful we have a good generator to bail us out, although fumbling with all the switches and breakers in the pitch dark at 2:00 a.m. with dire-sounding warning chimes and buzzers blaring at you is no fun.
(Karen) Even worse, THE TOILET IN OUR MASTER CABIN STOPPED WORKING! This was a day I’d been dreading. Marine toilets are not like land toilets. You must baby them. Coddle them. Treat them right, so they will be there for you in the middle of the night when you really need them. Never flush anything that didn’t come out of your body, or a few squares of toilet paper. And we were religious about those rules, believe you me!
Because when a marine head won’t flush, it likely means one of two things: either your macerator (picture a garbage disposal) has stopped working, or your waste line is clogged. And either way, the only solution is to take the toilet apart. This day comes for every cruiser, sooner or later.
Taking your marine head apart is every bit as bad as it sounds.
I will spare you most of the awful details but share our horrifyingly funny new inside joke. Picture me and Andy bravely donning latex gloves and using old pickle jars and a bucket to empty the toilet bowl. (Because you never discover that the toilet won’t flush BEFORE you need to flush it!) And trying not to gag. Then disconnecting the pipeline, flooding the bathroom floor with waste water, and furiously mopping it up with paper towels to slow the flow. We fill a garbage bag with these used towels as we work.
But now we’re in possession of a really nasty bag of trash. So we double bag this thing, haul out our trusty grocery/laundry/all-purpose cart that looks like a stroller, and dub this package “The $%!t Baby!” We lovingly dinghy our $%!t Baby to shore, place it gently in its stroller, and merrily walk it along the tony West Palm Beach shoreline, causing residents of South Florida to crane their necks in the hopes of getting a glimpse of our little wonder. Let’s just say we’re very grateful that West Palm Beach has lots of collection points for dog poop. We gave the $%!t Baby up for adoption!
AAAAND…. Back to Ft. Lauderdale
(Andy) So, we headed back south to Harbour Towne to get more help from Just Catamarans. Our friend Randy, aboard Happy Together, laughed and said, “That is classic boat ownership. You’re going south when your plan was to go north.” I suppose that pretty much sums it up. Hurricane season is bearing down on us, and we need to make our way to the Chesapeake, but we’re headed the exact opposite direction.
While we were at dock (again), we decided to take on a few more projects, and most importantly, to take a deep breath and remember to take all of this in stride. As Mr. Incredible said…
Now things are in good working order: starboard engine, house batteries, wind instrument, master-side toilet, dive compressor, anchor windlass/chain counter, and a dozen more little things. We are ready to head north to seek shelter from the coming hurricane season.