We arrived at the boat the afternoon before and quickly found the keys in the starboard lazarette next to the cockpit. I was happy I just knew what this all meant when Steve, the broker, told me. I did not show my intense joy of my heightened vocabulary in a flowery ceremony, just said to Shayne ‘yeah, I know where they are’ and grabbed them.
We ran into Steve as we walked to town to get early dinner and grab food for the next day’s journey to Ballard. Had a nice early dinner and cocktail at a waterfront place that was awesome until they did my cardinal sin of hospitality. They dropped a check off while Shayne still had a freshly delivered full drink and I was nursing mine, and were thinking we’d stay a while in the sun. It was a gorgeous day. It felt very abrupt. I was annoyed. I will stop my rant here after I say – if you work in hospitality, always ask first, please, before dropping a check – and always have one on you and ready to go always. /rant.
We wandered elsewhere to another bar where we chatted with the bartender we met when we looked at the boat. I remembered her name (April) and that her birthday was coming up. Something in my brain must have switched into memory gear today.
If you are ever in La Conner, Washington – go to the Oyster & Thistle, get a drink at the bar and talk to April. She’s just as cute as can be, super engaging and fun and makes some amazing drinks.
Back at the boat, we meet with Steve for a few minutes to figure out some buttons we cannot find. We chat with him for a while about the boat while we crank the heat. I start to get a bit tired, and notice a weird haze in the boat. After I while I comment on it and it’s not tiredness, but something the heater is coughing up (I’ve since named the heater Jimi Hendrix). We weren’t certain if it would kill us, so we shut it down for the night and bundled up.
Little did we know that all we’d do would line up for a pretty amazing journey.
I awoke to ducks swimming around the boat and quacking, it was lovely. I stuck a toe out of the covers. It was not as lovely. Shayne got up and blearily turned on the heater, and well, Jimi coughed out a bit more haze.
It was 6:03am. We walked to get coffee, since we had quite a while before the captain helping train us and take the boat down wouldn’t arrive until 8am.
As luck would have it, we wandered to three different places to find coffee. We were the only ones really in the sleepy town out and about, and ended up 20 minutes later at the grocery store, the only open that wasn’t a cafe. We ended up buying a case of water and two drip coffees.
As we walked down the dock, Mark, captain arrived. I let him in the gate and started going into my whole thing about how I don’t know how to sail yet, but I’m into tiny homes and projects. Like that will keep me alive on a sailboat, but it’s all I have right now so I offer it up as the ‘I’m not completely mental, no seriously’ explanation or schpiel.
Lesson: We go through WOBBS. Water, Oil, Belts, Bilge, Sea Strainer.
Everything checks out prior to leaving the dock and I nerd about all the checklists we’ll make. Shayne does a great job of getting the boat out of the marina and re-docking so we can refuel. In a channel with a current going totally against our plans, he really kicked ass on it.
I do an abysmal job of getting diesel on the boat and myself in my job refueling one tank. I really need to figure out how to better guess when it’s about to just be full. There’s no warning, but you can kinda hear it fill…this will take some practice, as well as diapers (cloths to absorb the diesel) and dish soap. The captain needed one wee little diaper to get himself set, I needed two and a wad of paper towels, soap and rinsing. Understandably, I’m learning to crawl here. Still, I got my boat icky. 🙁
We get underway, and through the channel to Skagit Bay. I re-learn a bit about bouy markers and navigation. I use words like ‘port’ and ‘starboard’ when the Mark starts with left/right. I’m feeling ok about this. We crack jokes and talk about life all is well.
About an hour in, Mark, the captain/trainer, says “I smell something”. I offer that it might still be the heat smell and go over to sniff. Smells the same. Then I see what looks like smoke. I lift up the panel to the engine and steam pours out, if it were smoke we would have been choked out. I immediately had a rush of nervous, then the ‘ok, what do we do’. We found that the radiator cap didn’t fit, so it had no water. THANKFULLY, in Shayne’s wisdom on picking up that case of water, we had some water. We also had a little bit of the boat’s domestic water, but not much. We started with two bottles of water for containers, then started to fill up with a back and forth from galley to pilot house with filled water bottles. It was then we realized that the water tanks also needed a clean out. The water had extra friends in it that I’m not sure were healthy, but it worked for the engine.
Lesson: Always bring more water than you’ll ever need. I KNEW this, but got excited. Also, don’t get so excited you skip any steps.
We get the jib up to maintain control of the boat during this time, which is as always needed move.
Lesson: you must always have control of the boat. Of vital importance.
We get the engine started after about 45 minutes of cool down, and start going again. Clipping along at somewhere close to 8 knots, we should have known better to make jokes in the beginning about ‘making good time’ and ‘don’t make me pull this boat over’.
The engine dies again, this time with full water and us checking it every ten minutes, giving thumbs up along the way and everyone highly tuned for a sound or jarring that would be a change to the engine’s hum. We hoist the jib again, I get to crank on the winch and feel like my arms are going to fall off. I mentally note that it’s no longer time to ignore that my shoulder hurts most days and I’ll get it looked at. I will need them both.
Lesson: listen to your body and be healthy.
Jib hoisted and underway. We heel hard to port while in the cockpit. I scramble up starboard like that cat in the ‘hang in there’ poster, or that’s what it felt like. I hug a wench (all wenches need hugs, at least I can do that right now) and say after some time to Shayne “this is making me nervous”. I see our house at an angle, and myself, that I’m not entirely comfortable with. I breathe through the nervous fear as Shayne says to Mark (damn it, Shayne) “this is making Jenn nervous”. Now I get to be that person. I shouted before he could stick his head out of the door “I’m ok if you guys are”. Mark looks at me with a slight grin, hugged to the wench and gives me that look like “it’s ok, this is your day, you do you”. I nod and smile at him, release the wench slightly and try to remember basic science and the fact that there are a ton of people doing this very thing and no one is hugging a wench but me. I imagined the huge keel that I’d seen when we took her out of the water, and how it was acting as a counterpoint (I was assuming this is how it worked since we’d just fall over otherwise). Thankfully, whatever I did learn from my droning science classes applied and I calmed down.
Lesson I keep having to remember: Trust your gear. Trust Science.
We get the engine started again after some time, Mark notices that the two fuel lines are of different colors, so there’s talk of maybe the diesel just being dirty/old/bad. We consider how much old fuel is in there.
We can now see Shilshole and are going over docking procedures quite a few times. The engine dies again. Sails up, again. We start to consider what is occuring, Mark offers that it might be the shifting mechanism that is shutting down the engine. Everything he’s said so far could be it: water, oil, shifting. Well, we knew this would be a learning thing. So, ok, we’ll figure out what’s wrong.
We go to the dinghy to use that engine as a tow/back up if we must to get into dock. Realized can’t get dinghy off of davits (holders) into the water without some extra part that I don’t remember the name of. So, that’s out. Either we go under engine and hope it holds, or sail in and…really not sure how that would even work.
Where our moorage on Shilshole lies is perfect for us, we can practically just pull straight in. But, with no engine that becomes hairy. We went over contingencies – if the engine dies while we are pulling in, amongst all these boats and a huge breakwater (rock wall), where would we want the current and wind to be?
Lesson: Use the current in your favor, don’t try to work against nature.
Thankfully, the engine started up again. We went to the South end of Shilshole, engine still putting along at 2 knots. Chugging along slowly we see our dock. Shayne does a uturn (OMG does this boat turn! sexy!) and basically pulls right into the slip. The lines to the dock, however are a different story. Those are a bit hard to adjust since we have a slip for a larger boat. Some adjustment there, once again taking a minute to step back, consider all that could occur and how that would affect the movement of the boat.
Lesson: Slow down, panic and hurry breeds bad decisions
We made it from La Conner to Shilshole at about 4pm. We got off the boat and went back to Shayne’s house, ended up crashing there. After taking a shower, we both powered down so hard we lost the ability to articulate vowels. I fell asleep to the lovely feeling of dock rock, then slept like the dead and was wide awake at 6am or so ready for the next day, Sunday.
Engine hours: 7
Anxious Moments/F-Bombs in my head: 2
Rants: 1, unrelated to boats