Our plan was to leave Watergate Marina in Kemah on Thursday June 18 at around noon and head up to the mouth of Galveston Bay to spend the night at Galveston Yacht Basin. This would set us up for a launch into the Gulf at 0600 the following morning. That didn’t happen.
The prepping and packing for me and the boys and the boat had been stressful. It’s A LOT to try to keep up with…and I’m a pretty good multi-tasker. But this was pushing it.
Paying out the nose. And wondering…
I picked up the rental car in Austin around noon on Wednesday June 17 and we packed it full of clothes and food and gear. We got to the marina at around 1700 and had dinner at Skipper’s…one of the best restaurants in the modern world, much less Kemah. KILLLER Greek food.
Yacht Equipment Services (Y.E.S.) had been working on Dawn Treader for the past week. It all started with one line on the work order…”Check the muffler”. I knew the muffler was dribbling water every time we motored. It was actually picked up in the survey. Someone had tried to do a repair in the boat and shanked it…so with all the ICW motoring coming up, it was time to do it right.
I had just written a $2,500 check to Y.E.S. a month earlier for great work they did running a new cable for the radar and a few other electrical things that needed tending to. And I figured this one would be another grand or so. Oh I wish…
After a lot of wrangling, they were able to eventually block up the engine and get the muffler out (it sits in the bilge beneath the engine). They first thought that we would have to start pulling the surrounding cabinetry apart, but they finally got it figured out – saving a A LOT of hours.
Of course, during this process, they found that the motor mounts were about to give up the ghost. This was another problem that I’d seen even on my initial inspection of the boat – but I’d hoped to put it off for a while. They recommended against that and showed me the issues. I approved the new mounts. With the engine up on blocks and a shaft realignment coming anyway – it made no sense not to. But that little task added another $700+ in parts alone. Ouch.
Since I was out of time, I also asked them to change out all the fuel filters. The primary at the engine fell apart when the guy was draining it – so a new Racor was added to the bill. The engine had run perfectly for the 2 years and many hours we’d put on her, but this was in spite of some minor neglect she didn’t deserve by the PO (such as poor zinc maintenance, etc.). She was showing some rust – which I never like, but her oil, coolant and fuel was clean and at good levels. So, though she was in great shape mechanically, I wanted to make sure she was rock solid since we are doing A LOT of ICW on our way to Florida. So I took their recommendations and approved the work.
So – back to the marina. The mechanic from Y.E.S. met me at the boat on Thursday morning (the day we were supposed to leave) to finish everything up. A really nice young guy, he walked me through all the work he’d done – and it definitely looked top-notch. Yet, there were three things he showed me that concerned me. First, he pointed out the shaft/tube alignment. It looked a bit crooked to me (engine to shaft to tube) as you can probably see here…
But he assured me that the alignment was correct, and that it was just the shaft tube that had been laid up a little weird. That didn’t seem right to me, but he’s the pro.
We then went to the helm and started the motor. As usual she started right up and purred perfectly. But when he put her in gear and pushed her up to around 2800 rpm, I noticed a vibration I’d not noticed before. He said that it was probably due to the new motor mounts – but not to worry. Okay.
Finally, he left the engine running in neutral and took me back down to show me that the prop shaft was still spinning slowly. He said that shouldn’t be happening, but that I didn’t need to worry about it now.
In the end, he assured me that he was very good at alignment and gave me the thumbs up for the trip. So we were set to go.
However, by this time, we were very near our departure time and I still had quite a few things to finish up before we left the slip – including settling up with Y.E.S. So I went to work on the last minute prep.
Around 1330, Jim at Y.E.S. gave me a call and told me my bill was ready. I headed over to get it squared away – then he dropped the total on me…almost $6K!!!!
I was a little dumbfounded. Over 1 solid week of labor time at $95/hr! Ouch. I wrote the check, consoling myself that at least I now had a very reliable engine, and left to get everything else finished. We really needed to go.
Going for it. And loving it. Until…
By the time I got everything done including the rental car drop-off and taxi ride back to the marina, it was around 1600. I debated on leaving anyway, hoping to make Galveston before dark, but I didn’t want to cut things that close. So we left the next morning…and this is what happened…
It was a spectacular sail. Dawn Treader is a rock-solid boat offshore – despite the chuckleheads who say Hunters shouldn’t be – with a hell of a lot of speed in her. How’s this for VMG in 20 knots of wind?
But, as you can tell at the end of the video – things went very wrong once reached Sabine Pass and struck the sails. First, we lost all engine gauges while coming in the jetties with 6′-8′ seas rolling in. I thought we’d lost the engine – which would have likely been the end of the boat – but it was still running. Things were definitely sketchy…and I was nervous. But we continued in.
Our plan had been to anchor in Sabine Lake, however I didn’t want to chance it. We needed to be somewhere I could work on the boat and the boys could be comfortable. Thanks to the Waterway Guide plugin for my chartplotter – I saw the Sabine Pass Port Authority Marina just inside the entrance.
We pulled in there late in the day to figure things out and make sure everything was solid before we headed into the ICW.
The next day, I found a couple of things that could have caused the electrical issue and fixed them – and all the gauges came back up. Everything seemed to be back to normal. Whew.
Heading to the ICW. And getting bit very hard…
The following morning, June 22, we left the marina and began motoring up this very busy ship channel toward the ICW. We pulled into the mouth of Sabine Lake and circled to allow an enormous tanker to get by as there was dredging in this spot, creating a very narrow pass (yellow circle).
As I throttled up to get back in the channel and head WNW, the motor began tearing itself apart. The clattering was unbelievably loud. I turned back toward the shallower, sheltered water we’d just been in and put Quinn on the wheel and ran down below to see if I could figure out what was going on. I tore off all the access panels – but could see nothing obvious. Just that awful clatter – getting worse.
Poor Jesse was casually heading up the companionway ladder from the galley with a can of Pringles (his task before all this happened) and I quickly and forcefully “removed him” onto the settee as I scrambled back to the helm (he thought that was pretty cool). Then the engine died. Oh crap.
Another giant ship was coming down the channel – and we were quickly heading toward the shallows pushed by the current – in very light winds. It was a very real emergency.
We scrambled to get the headsail unfurled – the boys performing flawlessly – and I called the first Sécurité of my life.
But more on that soon…