We have made our way to the lower end of the Chesapeake Bay and sit here in Hampton VA in frustration. To explain why, I need to back up just a bit. Since entering the Chesapeake Bay in July, we have had a bit of an engine issue. Our faithful Yanmar overheats when running above 2200 RPM. This hasn’t been much of an issue since we rarely run the engine much over 1600 RPM. At 1600 RPM, we can do between 5-6 knots and only burn a gallon of diesel an hour. Thus we get about 6 miles to the gallon. Anything above this yields diminishing returns for speed gained verses fuel burned. We are quite capable of traveling at 8-9 knots with the engine but it costs us twice as much in fuel. We are happy to putt along. We have time.
The most obvious solution to this issue is to not run the engine above 2200 RPM. But, there is an underlying mechanical problem somewhere. We need to locate the problem. If we don’t, we could find ourselves in an awkward predicament. We have already used our get out jail free card with the U. S. Coast Guard once this trip and feel we shouldn’t push our luck. Besides, our next leg south is about 900 miles and takes us considerably offshore and once again around Cape Hatteras. We need to have everything on Cream Puff in top notch working condition.
The problem with an overheat dilemma like this is it is difficult to pin down the exact cause. I have already undertaken the obvious potential causes. At every stop we have made while here, I have spent some time in the engine room working on the next logical point of failure. I put the engine back together and when we move to the next cove or marina, we push the engine a little harder to see if my latest fix has worked. Lately, this has been followed by a few choice cuss words. And then, the nose goes back into the diesel repair books.
We are not going to exit the bay until we are certain the engine is repaired. At the rate we are going, this might be a while. I am about the reach the end of my competence. I have only one more fix left in my bag of tricks. Knowing this, I thought I might line up a mechanic. I contacted three local marine diesel repair businesses. I left emails and multiple voice messages. None have called back. This is a huge pet peeve with me. Both Cindy and I have experience running businesses. Calling back a potential customer in a timely manner is a fundamental business basic. And besides, it is just plain rude to ignore a phone call. Even if these folks have more businesses than they can handle, at the very least have the common decency to take one minute of the day to explain they are booked, out of town or just lazing on the sofa for a few weeks.
The weather has been crappy lately. We had the threat of Joaquin followed by a nor’easter. I am sure you have seen pictures of east coast coastal flooding on news. We tucked up safely in a hurricane hole at the first mention of Joaquin and haven’t moved since. Once it was determined Joaquin was going to stay off shore, the rain started. It rained and rained and rained. It was a good time to own a boat. We had very high tides and the docks at our location were underwater. Some of the downtown streets flooded but luckily the area didn’t suffer any substantial or long-term damage. We became a little cabin feverish being stuck at the dock and inside the boat. I have come to realize the weather affects my daily mood. I like sunshine!
We rented a car and have used the down time to replenish some of our supplies much to the detriment of our bank account. Once we reach the Bahamas, we will lack the ability to make a quick run to the box store. Planning now is key. Cindy has taken the responsibility to top off our provisions. Costco, Amazon Prime and Wal-Mart are our main supply houses. Our freezers are loaded. Our pantry is stocked. Our fuel tank is full. We have updated and stocked our spare parts inventory for our mechanical systems. Our credit card has melted. We just need a working engine and a good weather window.
Update: Since writing this, I have repaired the engine. It is now running at an optimum temperature. The diesel mechanic schooling in Annapolis has already paid off. I managed to do this without professional help. The mechanics I contacted never did call us back.
We are looking at a weather window this week to leave the Chesapeake Bay area. I’m in a better mood and the sun is out again.