“If I had a Shotgun…”

“If I had a shotgun, I’d shot a hole in the bottom of this boat”, Cindy, said upon our arrival in St. Augustine FL.

As we continue our trudge up the east coast, we have been plagued with problems. We sort of expected some issues as Cream Puff has not been sailed hard in quite a while. We didn’t really think it would be this bad. On our last 3 days of sailing our refrigerator door fell off (yes, you read that correctly), our bow thruster started to leak, our single sideband antenna fell off, our new tri-color LED navigation light (used at night so other ships can see us) quit working. Our control cable for the transmission gear shift broke. This means we have no gears. And, our ship’s computer will not reboot. Can you see a pattern developing here? Sail for 2-3 days and then do repairs for 2-3 weeks. Other than that, things are going well.

I am not in a mood to be messed with. I wrote to Defender Marine Supply and told them the $300 Aqua Signal Series 34 LED Tri-Color / Anchor Navigation Light they sold me quit working after only 2 months. I have nothing against Defender. They are a top notch company with truly excellent customer service. They wrote right back saying there are unable to exchange the product until I talk to Aqua Signal and did some “trouble shooting” (Aqua Signal’s policy, not Defenders). I am not an idiot. I know how to connect a light bulb.  And, this one is located at the top of the mast. What do they expect me to do? Call them once I get to the top of the mast and say, “Nope, it does’t work, duh”. Let’s just put a stop to this paragraph because I could really get on a rant. We’ll cut it short and say I reached out to Aqua Signal and told them what I thought of their garbage product and its shoddy workmanship, made in China, plastic, overpriced trash. I told them Defender should be embarrassed to represent this line and I planned to write this to Defender. Harsh? Perhaps. Like I said, I’m in a mood. They are sending me a new light.

I am not kidding when I say the refrigerator door fell off. Cindy was below. She called up and said the door came off its hinges. As usual, we are getting pounded by waves (sailing is such fun) and I thought I didn’t hear correctly due to the howling winds. I looked below. Sure enough, she has a puzzled look and is holding the door wondering where to put it. Upon inspection, we find the lower hinge has broken but can be fixed with a little work and imagination. As we think about this, this refrigerator has lasted 15 years, not bad! The expensive GE Monogram ones in our house only lasted about 7 years before starting to fall apart. So, I guess we should expect some misbehavior from a 15 year old once in a while. In all honesty, we haven’t really been very fond of this unit as we feel it opens the wrong way and the food in it never seems to stay cold. Hey, maybe it had something to do with the door. It’s cool but not cold. We started to think about replacing this unit for a unit with two pull out drawers allowing access from both sides. The new units are expensive. We decided to fix this one, for now. If it gives us anymore trouble, it’s a goner. Wait and see; because we’re both looking for an excuse to replace it, it’ll now last forever.

During the middle of the night, our “water in the boat alarm” sounded. If something is going to go horribly wrong on a boat, it’s going to happen in the middle of the night. And, nothing will make sure you are more fully awake than the alarm bell alerting the fact there is water inside the boat. We both grabbed flash-lights and began pulling up the floors to find the source of the water. It didn’t take long to find the retractable bow thruster (a forward retractable propeller that helps move the boat from side to side when docking) had a small leak. It wasn’t too much to worry about but we kept a close eye on it. About a pint of water leaked in and was splashing up against the alarm sensor. On Amel sailboats, they have a very unique bow thruster. It is the only system I know of that can be fully removed and serviced while the boat is still in the water. So on the bright side; at least we do not have to pay a boatyard $1,000 to pull us out of the water. Nope, we can use that money to buy a new refrigerator when it sasses us.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I loathe West Marine with a passion. They have given me yet another reason to gripe, and once again, I’m in a mood. Our mount for our 23’ single sideband radio antenna fell apart. The mounting bracket was a West Marine brand purchased new from West Marine less than 18 months ago.

The key bolt holding the unit together came undone causing the antenna to separate from the mount. This could have been easily prevented if the manufacturer contracted by West Marine had used 3¢ worth of loctite to ensure the security of the bolt. Or, it would have been nice if in their instructions they inform the customer of their cheapness and suggested the end user add some loctite if they wanted to keep their antennae upright. Because of this we almost lost a $600 antenna. I say almost because, and I don’t know how we managed this, we salvaged all the parts of the base and the antenna that was dragging behind the boat. This was truly amazing. I will put it all back together. Unlike West Marine, I will use loctite.

Ol' Leaky

Ol’ Leaky

While I am on a mood and on the subject of loathing West Marine, in the Dry Tortugas we found our West Marine brand dingy leaks. The dingy was included in the purchase of Cream Puff and was new. It has been used less than ten times. Com’on West Marine, do you sell anything of quality? Come to think of it, our self inflating life jackets are West Marine brand. I think we should seriously consider replacement of these.

There is a cable that goes from the throttle control unit at the helm to the transmission on the engine. This cable shifts the transmission into neutral, forward and reverse. I will refer you to my Murphy chart I published a while ago. (chart) Do we have a spare? NO. Is it in use at a critical time? YES. We were approaching the Bridge of Lions after asking it to open for us. I went to slow down the engine and discovered we had no reverse gear. We were stuck in forward. We also had no neutral. After a quick inspection of the engine, I could see the cable was broken at the transmission. We passed through the bridge okay. The marina is located right near the bridge. We had deliberately timed our arrival into St. Augustine at slack tide since I read on Active Captain, this marina can be a little tricky due to currents. I managed to get the engine in reverse and radioed the marina to alert them we had engine problems. They changed our slip assignment and assigned us to a slip easier to enter. They also sent three people to help catch lines. (The folks at the City of St Augustine Municipal Marina are awesome – more on this in a later post.) We had one shot to get this right. We circled a couple of times in reverse so I could get a feel of the current. We lined up for the slip and ran hard in reverse. As we approached the slip, I killed the engine, since I had no other way to stop. We gently wafted into the slip and ever so lightly bumped up against the dock. Cindy and the marina guys quickly tied us off and we all sighed with relief. We could not have made a better landing, even with a working transmission. Later, as we were checking in at the office, the Dock Master told us he was about to tell us we should abort our attempt to enter and call a tow boat. He said that after he saw us backing up he felt assured we had the skills to not bump into other boats and changed his mind. If only he knew.

We shut down our ship’s computer. It will not start back up. Today I mailed it in for repairs. The guy that built it for us is an ex-cruiser and will work over the weekend to fix it and return it to us prior to our departure. He is a man that stands behind his product. The computer was custom built for Cream Puff. It is all solid state and has no hard drive or moving parts. It’s nice to know there are still businesses we can count on.

City of St. Augustine Marina

City of St. Augustine Marina

So now here we are in St Augustine. We planned to stay here for a week and to see the sites. Instead, we have about a week’s worth of repairs. Damn it! We are going to stay for two weeks. We both refuse to be enslaved by repairs and not have time to enjoy the sights. At the end of the two weeks we might try this sailing thing again. We both have had a day of feeling absolutely beaten after the last trip. We’ll see how it goes. Perhaps our sun will come out tomorrow.

We Are Here

We Are Here



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