The Tipping Boat

During the purchasing process for our boat, we had a survey performed, which included hauling it out of the water for a bottom inspection. The previous owner had to move the boat from where it had been stored in Marco Island, up to Naples for the haul out. Afterward, he knew we were going to be moving the boat farther north, so instead of returning it south to Marco Island, he found an anchorage for the boat until we could take possession, just a couple of days later.

We both got there, and the boat was not where he’d left it. Let me tell you, my heart just sank, fearing that the boat had too. Unfortunately, the anchor wasn’t set very well, so the boat had started drifting. Fortunately a couple of people saw the boat drifting toward some million dollar motor yachts, and moved the boat for us to a safer place. I am immensely thankful to them for acting in time to save our boat as well as the expensive yachts. We actually found our boat around the corner and all was well, or so we thought.

I am embarrassed to admit that I made a major rookie mistake, although the previous owner did as well. It really is on me though, since I was officially the owner at this point (Sam was not with me at the time, since our RV has been having issues, he was working on that project). We found the boat safely anchored, so we decided that we’d just leave it there. Our big mistake, sorry, MY big mistake, was not checking the depth in that location. About two days later, early in the morning, I got a call from Captain Carl (our surveyor and our captain for the trip to St. Petersburg), asking if we had taken possession of the boat, and if so, were we aware that it was grounded, and tipping at about a 15 degree angle. He had happened to be in that area, and saw our boat in that sorry state, so fortunately called us to let us know.

I was horrified and knew immediately I had screwed up. It was something so simple and so obvious that I had missed. The funny thing was that we had actually spent the previous two days on the boat, cleaning, bringing things on board, and doing a couple minor repairs before our trip to St. Pete. It just so happened that low tide was at approximately 6am and 6pm, and both days we had gotten there just before high tide, and we’d left before dark, and therefore missed the times that the water was low.

We planned on moving it that night to deeper water, but one of our maintenance items was cleaning out the raw water strainer that filters out seaweed, etc. from the raw sea water used to cool the engine. When we put it back together, it leaked. And I don’t mean a little leak of water, but rather a spray of water came out when we reopened the seacock. There was a bunch of gunk around where it needed to seal, so we tried to clean that up, which only made it worse. We needed to move the boat to deeper water (only about 40-50 feet away from where we were), but we can’t run the engine without the sea water cooling it, and we can’t spray the engine compartment with water by running it. So we missed high tide and we were onto the next day.

The next day, we figured out the model of the sea water strainer so we could get a gasket, and realized that the all that gunk around the seal was actually a cork gasket that had long ago disintegrated. We found a new cork gasket for it. We couldn’t find one that fit perfectly, so we found one that almost fit, and cut it down to size. That wasn’t perfect, but it was much better. So we started the engine and started moving the boat to get the anchor up. We got it up, started moving, and then…the engine died. There was a pretty strong wind blowing, which within a few minutes had us stuck in the mud, approximately 15 feet from the coast guard auxiliary. We were in a complete mess. Seriously. This was so much worse than our previous situation, but at least we didn’t get close enough to hit anything, and the bottom was soft sand.

We called SeaTow, and they saved our butts. They arrived within 15 minutes and towed us over to where we were at an appropriate depth, and we anchored there. We also called Captain Carl for advice, and also to let him know about the situation since we were to leave for St. Pete the next morning. He came over on his boat and got us running pretty quickly.

One of the repairs we had made was cleaning the diesel water separator filter. This filter separates water that might get into the system (as can happen on a boat), and also removes sediment from the diesel fuel. It is contained in a clear glass jar, so it is easy to see if you need to clean it out. During our survey, there was obvious water in there and quite a bit of sentiment, so before our trip, we cleaned that out, at the suggestion of Captain Carl. It really was relatively easy to do. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that when we disconnected this filter, it lowered the diesel level in another part of the engine. There was air in the system which diesel engines definitely do not like. Carl helped us get the air out of the system and we were up and running again. It was a pretty easy fix overall. Stay tuned for the shakedown cruise to St. Petersburg.

(This was the diesel water separator filter before it was cleaned. All that brown stuff at the bottom is sediment. Normally, you should barely see any brown in there.)

diesel water separator

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