…without a paddle. Or an engine. The creek is Cheesequake Creek in New Jersey. How and why we got here is a tale of woe. When you last heard from us we were at Great Kills Harbour in Staten Island, NY. We were planning a 24 hour jump to Cape May, NJ, last Monday, when the weather was favourable. In preparation for the jump, Steve decided to lavish tender loving care on Frankie, our engine. He changed the primary (Racor) and secondary fuel filters, the oil and oil filter, and the transmission fluid. For some reason, Frankie did not love the TLC nor the new diet. Despite careful bleeding of air out of the injectors, Frankie was ornery…sometimes starting and stopping, and sometimes just not starting.

Swans in Great Kills mooring field

On Monday last week we called in the local marine diesel mechanic to help resolve the situation. He was a well-intended but relatively inexperienced young guy. He tried everything we did, and a few more things, but failed to get it going. On Tuesday we called our mechanic in Toronto. He immediately pointed out that since we had been cranking her several times, there was probably water built up in the exhaust, causing back pressure. Under his direction, we drained the exhaust system and Frankie started like a dream. We rejoiced. We ran the engine to recharge the batteries for an hour or so. Suddenly Frankie died, and would not restart.

We then called the local Yanmar dealer, Mack Boring. They were unable to come due to schedules, but sent out a local certified mechanic the next day. He worked on Frankie for 3 hours or so and got her going – a timing issue and a plugged tank vent were the problem, he said. We rejoiced again, drove Tai Chi to the fuel dock and filled the tanks with fuel. By this time we had met three other cruising sailing couples who were at Great Kills waiting to travel to the Chesapeake as we were. We planned to travel in convoy with them the next day. Safety in numbers, and one couple had done the trip several times. Besides, they were great company. But on the way back to our mooring, Frankie died again. We got it started again and it seemed to run well for a while.

Fixing Frankie

The next morning (last Thursday, we were up early, coffee brewed and sandwiches made for our convoy trip to Barnegat Inlet. Frankie started, but then stopped. And refused to go again. “#$^&&*” was Skipper Steve’s commentary on the situation. Further discussions with Mack Boring ensued. They put us in touch with Lockwood Boatworks, who helped organize a tow for us through Towboat US (thank goodness for this essential and good value insurance) to their marina in New Jersey. Yes, up the creek. We had to wait for high tide as the creek is too shallow for a sailboat any other time. And the tow-boat had to time things right for the two lift bridges (road and rail) which we needed to go under – one which opens on the hour, the other on demand, but high tide coincided with busy commuter transit train traffic.

Being towed across Raritan Bay

Tommy the tow-boat driver was experienced and proficient. The side-by-side tow under the skinny lift bridges was daunting to say the least, but he managed it without incident. Phew!

A tight squeeze through two lift bridges

Lockwood Boatworks is where we are now. Sans working engine. The people here are really nice, and we are on a dock with wi-fi, power and clean showers and toilets as well as a marine supplies store nearby. They spent Friday trying to determine the problem, and concluded that it is an issue with the fuel injector pump. Ouch! expensive and timing consuming work. The earliest we will be out of here is Wednesday next week. It is highly unlikely  that we will be able to make the Annapolis boat show, for which we have tickets and a number of arrangements to meet up with friends and suppliers. And that is IF the said part WAS the problem and IS fixed in short order.

Peaceful creek – Lockwood Boatworks

Looking on the positive side:

  • RCYC at Great Kills was a great place to be. Everyone was friendly and helpful and we could walk to most amenities. The launch towed our boat to the dock. And it was a calm and peaceful mooring – I watched an osprey dive and grab a fish next to the boat – in the middle of New York!
  • We are comfortable here at Lockwood Boatworks and have met another boat here on their way to join the Caribbean 1500.
  • We have been able to put the time here to good use – successful repairs and crew selection, ordering and preparation for our offshore trip.
  • We are glad this happened now and not on our offshore leg or in the Bahamas.
  • We took a “day off” yesterday – our very kind and generous friend Mat picked us up and took us to Manhattan and Brooklyn – we saw a Broadway show, had a personal tour, dinner out etc….more on that later.

    Egret on the next dock over

Just call me PollyAnna!


View our photo journal for September 27-30.

Day 107: September 27;
Distance travelled 7 NM – under tow;
Current Position: 45° 27.72 N; 74° 16.13 W;
Left mooring in 
Great Kills, Staten Island at 25:50;
Dockedt at Lockwood Boatworks, South Amboy, NJ at 17:20;
Weather: Sunny and warm, 22° C; Seas calm.