A Travellerspoint blog

Oops! Back to Marathon

sunny 71 °F

Our stay in Marathon this year lasted two weeks and a day while we waited for the right weather to cross to the Bahamas. Boot Key Harbor is a good marina, good facilities and good enough proximity to essential stores. This year almost every shower was at least tepid with one that approached hot. It was a good visit: we got to see Sue and Jay a second time this past weekend, we got a lot of projects completed, we met some nice people and renewed some old acquaintances. We are probably leaving with a few more books than we had when we arrived.

The weather has been great ... warm days and comfortable nights. The only raindrops were the few that fell when that front went through; clouds were few and far between. With a steady easterly wind it's been perfect for solar and wind power. Two weeks and we never came close to having to run the engine to charge the batteries.

We solved a dinghy mystery. The things runs well but we didn't seem to have the speed that should have come from doubling the horsepower. There is an angle adjustment for the stem of the motor and I, I guess, had it in the extreme position away from vertical. This caused much of the thrust to point down and to raise the bow. Changed that; now all the thrust is forward. Big difference. It is, though, harder to start than the old one when cold. I think that it requires more zip pulling the cord than my right shoulder can deliver.

Cruisers are interesting. There were a couple of meetings of people headed to the Bahamas, to get acquainted. but mostly to try to self-arrange little flotillas of boats to travel together. There were, maybe, 15~20 boats represented, many plans, lots of talk, and finally, most folks, including us, will do their own things, traveling alone. Two ships may pass in the night but that will be a coincidence.

Tuesday was a busy day. Carol went shopping and did laundry; I schlepped jerry cans of water and scraped the water line. Warm temperatures and moderately clear water mean an efflorescence of stuff, animal and vegetable, growing on the boat which is slow enough without the added drag.

The moon has been quite spectacular the last several days, seeming to fill the entire sky. The other thing about this rare moon is the effect it has on the tides, higher highs and lower lows. There have been islands in the harbor where none existed before. This was a concern since we got underway two hours after a very low tide.

We got underway at 0720, a few minutes before sunrise. Surprising for us is that we were the 5th boat underway, not the first. Our boat neighbor, Paul, got underway at the same time. The tide was low and, since he draws 6-ft. to our 5-ft., we figured that if he was OK we would be also. In the next half hour it looked like masts on parade, the departing traffic was so heavy. The difference was that we were the only boat of 15~20 that was heading for open water; all the other boats bore east to Rodriguez Key, to anchor there on Wednesday and cross to the Bahamas on Thursday, making it a two day trip.

Most of the through sailors are getting underway at about noon, bigger boats, deeper drafts, higher tide. Most also have the ability to motor at 6 knots or above, well beyond our imagination. I think that several will leave later and still arrive well before we do.

We headed south of Sombrero light to the 100 fathom line at which point I figured that we were well into the grip of the Gulf Stream, so we headed East, making good time despite very little wind and all of that from the East and on the bow. The southerly component had not yet arrived. I had been noticing that the engine RPM's were a little bit variable, not at all the norm but not very concerning until the engine just up and died. Having noticed the engine acting up my immediate thought was FUEL SUPPLY! So I rushed down to the rear cabin, tore it apart and replaced the fuel filter, which could have caused the symptoms, and topped off the fuel level in the fuel filter. The engine started right up and in about three minutes .... nada!. So, next guess, clogged fuel line, which could have caused the symptoms. Out comes the Honda generator to power the air compressor to blow out the fuel line which I had just replaced. The engine started up and in about one minute .... zilch!. The secondary fuel filter being clogged did not support the symptoms but replacing it was worth a shot ..... zero! The engine never even caught.

So, out comes the satellite phone to call TowBoat US and let them know that we may need help, all the while getting pushed farther East by the Gulf Stream. The TowBoat US guy in Marathon must have been seeing big dollar signs .... a 25-mile open sea tow. No money out of our pocket but it would have made his numbers for the month. Carol was getting ready to cry thinking that I was getting ready to sell the boat. That probably would have crossed my mind if I hadn't been so focused on the engine and what to do.

Then I remembered that the previous owner had made some hand written notes in the Westerbeke Operator's Manual on how to prime the fuel lines, which supported the symptoms, something I had never yet had to do because someone authoritative, I forget who, had told me that the engine is self-priming, which for 3.5 years had been true. I held not great hope for this; the instructions were fairly cryptic; but, I went through the several steps and voila! The engine started and ran and ran.

The question then was East and onward or West and back to Marathon. We opted for the latter since I did not want to leave the country for two months relying on our engine based on my non-existant skills as a diesel mechanic. In the event, the engine worked perfectly for about five hours to get us back to Marathon.We have a Westerbeke diesel mechanic coming by on Thursday to take a look. Unfortunately, they don't come out to mooring balls so we are in a marina. The mechanic will, almost certainly, confirm that the problem was caused when I changed the fuel line and was solved when I got the lines re-primed. It actually was the fuel supply.

About 1300~1400 we saw about a dozen, or so, sailboats all heading East into the Gulf Stream for the Bahamas, white sails set against the deep blue of the sea and the bright blue of the horizon. Seeing them was discouraging but not nearly so much as it would have been if we were being towed back. However, I will not mind sailing alone; the VHF chatter among several of the boats was making me crazy. I suppose that there was a purpose to it but there's something semi-cosmic about being alone with the tranquility of the sea's and the wind's music, undisturbed by boats hailing each other.

Our other task for Thursday is to drain and clean the water tanks. One of the 5-gal. jerry cans that I put into the tanks on Tuesday may have been tainted, Carol saying that the water tasted bad. Not too complicated, but a lot of work. Better to do that here than in the Bahamas ... the water's free in Marathon.

So, by Friday we should be ready to go if the weather will accommodate us. Quien Sabe?

Posted by sailziveli 21:02 Archived in USA Tagged boating

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