Today started out fine, with a clear sky, moderate winds and cool (not cold) temperature. I should have sensed that things would change when Steve said he’d had to add almost two gallons of coolant to the starboard engine, but he didn’t see any sign of a leak, so maybe the yard just never filled it properly in Portsmouth.
Using that self-imposed fantasy, we pulled out of the marina soon after it was light enough to see where we were going, and headed south.
We’d been underway for about an hour, when Steve went below for an engine room check. He came back up a few minutes later, and said the words all boaters love to hear… “I think we have a leak.”
After my stomach and heart traded places, we discussed the situation in a bit more detail, and I realized that we didn’t have the “you’re going to sink” kind of leak. We had the “engine fluids are coming out” kind of leak.
I went below and sure enough, we had a steady stream of coolant dripping from the starboard engine. Enough to make a real mess, and cause us to discuss shutting the engine down. The place we stayed last night was pretty small, and we didn’t know if there would be any mechanics available if we turned around, so we started checking the charts to see what was coming up before our planned destination of Charleston, which at that point, was nearly six hours away.
Georgetown, South Carolina was the next large city we would come to, and at about an hour away, we decided that was the plan.
I called three marinas to try to get a slip, and all were full. Not good. The fourth though, had a slip available so I reserved it and told the nice lady we’d be there in about an hour and could she recommend a diesel mechanic. She gave me the names of two, and in a burst of unwarranted enthusiasm, I called the first one. He answered quickly enough, but when I described what was happening and asked if we would burn the starboard transmission if we shut the engine down and let that prop freewheel, his response was “Weeelll, I don’t think so”
You don’t THINK so?
So, out goes a call to mechanic number two. No answer. Leave a message. No response, even up to now, almost eight hours later. I guess diesel mechanics are a pretty independent bunch.
So Steve and I put our Tom Terrific thinking caps on (you know, the little upside-down funnel thingies) and we commence to cogitating. Pretty soon, we realize that the leak isn’t from down low where we were seeing it drip. It was from up high, right at the radiator cap. (Actually it’s an expansion tank pressure cap, not a radiator cap, but that’s picking nits for the purpose of this tale.)
By now we were close to the marina, and decided to go ahead, call it quits for the day (at 10:00 AM) and try to get the beast tamed.
We pulled in and got tied up, and I went to the office to see if there was a place nearby where we could buy a radiator cap and some anti-freeze.
But…there’s a NAPA store across town that will deliver to the marina. Thank you Neptune. A call to the marina: “I need two 7 pound caps, two 15 pound caps and six gallons of anti-freeze.”
Radiator caps are rated by the pressure they hold – 7 pounds per square inch, 15, etc. I wanted to have as many options as I could have. They only had four gallons, but that was fine…”Bring it on”, says I.
About thirty minutes later, I was going back up to the office to meet the NAPA guy, when this very attractive NAPA girl comes down the dock with a two-wheel cart and a box full of my stuff. Not only do they deliver to the marina, but they have a cute chick deliver it TO YOUR BOAT!! Whoever runs that NAPA store should be writing customer service manuals.
I was taken down a peg when the aforesaid cute chick simply said “Thank you sir” when I signed the credit card slip. I mean, come on, she could have said “Thanks studly, whatcha doin’ later?” Oh wait, that was last night’s dream.
So, back to reality, Steve and I take a close look at things and find that not only do we have a cap problem, but there’s a tube that comes out of the port side expansion tank that has worked loose, and now THAT side is leaking too.
Geeez, will this day never end? And it’s only noon. I go back up and get some epoxy at the marina office, but we need some lacquer thinner and steel wool to clean things up enough to apply the epoxy to fix the tube, and the marina has neither.
Plus, Steve is complaining about the mystery-meat microwave meals I brought with us, so we decide to hunt up a hardware store and a grocery. Nearest Ace Hardware is about ten miles away. There’s a paint store about two miles away, so we head off in search of lacquer thinner and steel wool. We ran across a trendy little deli where you can buy lunchmeat for about the same price per pound as gold is currently trading, so I bought a couple pounds of this and that and headed back to the boat.
It’s 5:00 as I write this, and we finished the epoxy job about thirty minutes ago. Won’t really know until tomorrow when we start running again, whether or not the problem is fixed.
Trust me, you don’t want to be around if it turns out it ain’t fixed.
I’m going to go take a shower and run my clothes through an industrial-wash cycle if there is such a thing. Between the diesel fuel, anti-freeze and general boat-related smells, I think a buzzard would hold its nose.
This place does have wi-fi, so after we eat, I may try to upload some pics.
Anyway, if as many of you as are so inclined would cross your fingers that my epoxying works, I’d certainly appreciate it.