The boat sails great, but about this motor...
11/26, 1072.1, WNW15-20, 63/38, mostly cloudy - In the morning I walked to the Piggly Wiggly, only 1 mile round-trip, for groceries. Dobbs topped up diesel fuel, filled water, and did some more inspecting of the engine noise - checking coupling bolts, engine mounts, and exhaust connections. Everything checked out. We bought 20lbs. of ice for the ice box and took showers. The staff and the marina are top notch and resources are within easy walking distance (West Marine, Auto Zone, CVS, Piggly Wiggly) - we’ll make this our Beaufort stop from now on.
We left the marina at 11am, looking only to get 20 miles south to Skull Creek. There’s a strong cold front blowing in late this afternoon which is forecast to last through Wednesday morning, and Skull Creek Marina’s daily dockage is .25/foot less than Port Royal, though Port Royal gave us a $1.75/foot rate for coming in late and quietly taking care of ourselves. We were no more than 1/4 mile from Port Royal, just south of the bridge, when the drive train again began to make noise. Dobbs noted a loss of thrust in forward - we were definitely losing gusto. We turned back to Port Royal, seeking advice on where we could get Grace hauled (we thought it was a damaged shaft key). Michelle’s recommendation was Marsh Harbor Boat Works - she even called ahead to make contact for us. When I called, however, I learned that they’re tide-dependent for hauling, have no overnight dockage, and don’t allow owners to do their own work. The person I spoke with at Marsh Harbor recommended another marina, Dataw Marina, but their situation was much the same. We know Grace better than anyone and I’m not willing to stand idly by while someone we don’t even know works on our boat.
Up to this point we’d been limping north back up toward Lady’s Island. I kept looking for yards with hauling capabilities and found Sail Harbor in Georgia, 50 miles away. They have an excellent website and a reputation for allowing do-it-yourself work. I called them, got no answer, and left a message. We decided they were our best option and turned around. Dobbs got in touch with our mechanic Brad B, seeking advice. It was becoming obvious that our problem was likely the transmission. Brad gave Dobbs some troubleshooting suggestions. While I sailed us down the Beaufort River and out into Port Royal Sound, Dobbs checked the shifting action (fine) and the transmission fluid (low and a metallic gray…woops.)
We’re pretty sure the hard-working after running aground after 11 hours of motoring with low transmission fluid was just the last nail in the coffin lid. We’ll admit, we’re pretty bad at engine maintenance - we love to sail and easily forget the motor once it’s off - but we’ve tried to be good to this one. It is at least 30 and quite possibly 52 years old, and it had water in the fluid when we got it. It owes us nothing. Brad suggested adding fluid immediately and then flushing it several times once we got to where we were going.
We took in sail at the mouth of Skull Creek and motored in against the tide, making about 4 knots at 2/3 throttle. When Dobbs throttled back to let two powerboats pass and then throttled back up, Grace barely moved. We were losing forward fast. We called Skull Creek Marina to arrange transient dockage; unfortunately one of the boats that passed us was docking too so we had to stand by awaiting a slip assignment, with forward having less and less grip. We had reverse fine, but Grace will only back up into the wind, which happened to be from the west, away from the marina. I admire Dobbs’ courage to understand that it could well get messy going in and yet he did his very best, knowing it was our best option. We lost forward completely just outside the slip and clipped the starboard piling on the way in. I got to the finger pier as soon as I could with spring lines. We glanced the port bow on the dock bumper, but Dobbs hopped off with the stern line and hauled it in to snap the bow away while I snubbed the springs to fix her in the slip. Two dock attendants wanted to help, but we requested that they stand by - Grace is unique to handle and we had it in hand.
Thanks to her sturdy teak and stainless steel rub strakes, Grace was none the worse for wear from the piling. I walked up to check in and pay for dockage for the evening. Tomorrow, Dobbs will borrow the courtesy car and drive to NAPA for transmission fluid and then flush the transmission several times. Our hope is to buy the transmission enough time to get us to Titusville, but 300 miles is a long way. We shall see…
I made roasted pepper curry for dinner.