The Trip from Hell by John and
Becky Long (SOLSKIN II)
This was to be a long awaited six week vacation. Looking forward to our annual rendezvous at Kinsale with other members of our organization. We tried to set up a mini "feeder cruise" to this meeting. As it turned out we did meet up with TEELOK at Harness Creek, after motoring to South River from the Magothy River. After a very pleasant evening in Harness Creek we motored to Solomons Island and anchored in Mill Creek, again with TEELOK. The next day we motored, again to St. Leonard Creek and had a very lovely meal at Vera's White Sands. The next day again, we motored back to Solomon's Island and anchored near TEELOK off Zanhiser's marina. T. J. and Kaye met us by dinghy for dinner on board. A very pleasant evening was had by all. Again the next day, 8/28/97, Thur. we again, motored to the Coan River on T. J.' s recommendation. Later on the radio TEELOK reported an "INTERESTING" entrance. We anticipated an interesting entrance also...it was. About 6" under our keel. The next day, Fri. 8/29/97 TEELOK motored out of the Coan River, it was literally touch and go for TEELOK and SOLSKIN II. TEELOK motored to the Yeocomico River, we sailed, jib and jigger. We arrived at the Assenmacher's residence later that day. After a very pleasant Friday thru Monday stay, we moved on. Next stop Mill Creek, off of the Great Wicomico River. The next day, we moved on to Indian Creek. A very nice anchorage, just follow the marks, to Pitman's Cove. On leaving the next morning we came across a sailboat in some moderate distress (no engine). We attempted to help, but couldn't get their engine started. It was a Catalina 30 with an Atomic Diesel. After about an hour we moved on, wishing them good luck, since they were in no real danger. After this attempt we moved South with a destination of Norfolk. No wind, but with an early start and a good tide, this seemed reasonable. As we approached the intersection of the lower bay and the York River channels in the late afternoon the engine made some strange sounds. I thought it sounded like a fuel problem, so I went below to swap fuel tanks. As I was doing this there was more noise , a lot of smoke, and that was that. The engine never ran again. Even after pulling the injectors, the engine was seized! On the radio I called SEATOW about their availability. No engine, no wind, 1/2 tank of fuel in the dink, becalmed in a major shipping channel. After more efforts I attempted to call SEATOW, no response. The wind picked up from the southwest. We sailed up the York River with a light wind on the nose. Our combined eyesight was poor to say the least. The depth sounder was working intermittently, but the G.P.S. was on. A small fish boat approached at dusk asking directions. We wished him well. Later that night, following an outdated chart, a flakey depthsounder, and a good G.P.S. we anchored in the York River off of Perrin River. As the dawn arrived we found that we were about one mile out, last nite it seemed close. Well, now the story gets more intense. With the dink we go ashore to Cooks' Landing. Knowing the engine needs to be pulled, I asked the questions. Can you pull the engine? Yes! Do you have enough water? Yes! On and on. Talked to SEATOW from the dink. Capt. Charles Duke seemed very helpful, he even drove us to York River Yacht Haven and introduced us to one of their managers. We explained our situation. Their solution was to put us up on the hard and then pull the engine, otherwise pay transient fees. This didn't make sense. Living on a boat on the hard is very difficult. Right or wrong we decided to stay at Cooks Landing at Perrin River. We then stopped at Cooks Landing office and made arrangements to stay. The person on duty gave us some reasonable rates. This seemed ok. Then we dinghied out to Solskin II, called SEATOW for a pick-up at their convenience. After some missed communication and they missing our location we got towed in, at about 10 knots. This may have been well worth it to knock some of the growth off of the bottom. We talked to the manager of Cooks Landing about the haul out of the engine, and he said this was no problem with their open ended travel lift. I thought about this, this won't work. Solskin II is a yawl. Now the manager said they could use their gin pole, after all they had pulled masts that weighed more than our engine and transmission. I checked this out, and well maybe, looked shaky. I worked until Mon. am getting the engine reay to pull. thinking about the gin pole I decided to get the engine off the mounts and beds and into the cabin, not trusting their gin pole to do this.
During this time we were befriended by an English couple on the yacht John Martin of Rye. We borrowed a come along and a 4 X 4 from them and lifted the stricken diesel from the bed and got it into the main cabin. Monday afternoon we moved Solskin II to the pit, about 300 yards, with the dink. This is something we learned. In calm, short ranged conditions, it is easier and more controlled to tow with the dink in reverse, (nose to nose). When we, with the help of our new friends, got positioned under the gin pole, their electric winch didn't work. Confronted with this they said they would use a truck through blocks, very carefully for power. I said no! I hooked the come along to the nylon line on the gin pole and stretched their line. OK, try again. Hooked my 6 to 1 main sheet rig to their gin pole. I managed to stretch their rig about 15 feet and still never moved the engine. With this and a falling tide we called Marcus at Trans -Atlantic Diesel . He had previously offered the use of his truck with a knuckle boom to lift the engine and transport it to his business. Now all of the sudden he was uninsured for this operation but offered to call a construction Co. for a crane. They arrived within 30 min. and lifted the engine professionally, and delivered it to the shop, ($150). Tuesday , with the help of our English friends we got to meet Marcus and he said the engine was history, unless we wanted to wait for a total rebuild, or a partial which he wouldn't guarantee. we were shown a "floor model" BLUE PERKINS. We assumed this was the remanufactured engine we were going to get. stuck 150 miles from home, no transportation, and time running out, I gave him a check. Thursday we went back to Trans - Atlantic Diesels and paid the remainder. He said he would arrange for a crane to transport the remanufacture engine to us at 1600 the next day, (high tide). So , after several phone calls, the remanufactured RED ENGINE showed up on the boom of a tow truck. Now keep in mind that Becky and I again moved Solskin II from the dock to the pit with the dink. The tow truck operator was very professional and careful, but the boom, in length, was marginal. It got lowered and transferred to the come along, with some difficulty, safely (only $100) this time.Now we moved Solskin II back out of the pit, under dinghy power, to the end of the "T" again. I got the engine hooked up and aligned and ran it for about 15 Min. It sounded pretty good, but discovered a small oil leak at the bell housing. The same place I had a small oil leak on the old engine. Some coincidence? The next day, Sun. Pete, from John Martin and I planned a shake down run from Perrin River. to Sarah Cr. for fuel etc. and back, a distance of about 10 mi. During this time Becky was shopping for provisions to head north. The weather was clear and hot with a flat calm. we got as far as the main channel in the York River, off the oil refinery and it quit. Sounded like a fuel problem, I've been there before. Tried bleeding the system, repeatedly, no success. Now here comes a tug and tow, he went around us. Pete had a go at this, no good. Now I got a call from Solskin mobile. Where are you? Broke down on the York River! Silence! With the dink low on fuel, we lashed it alongside and worked our way back into Perrin River. Monday I tried everything to eliminate any possibility of this problem of being my own, Thinking fuel, I went to the extreme of hanging a jerry can of fuel from the hatch eliminating my entire fuel system. Out of frustration I called Marcus and asked for suggestions. He said there was a possibility that an injector got stuck open and the compression was blowing air back into the fuel system. I didn't think of this, I was thinking of the suction side. Trans - Atlantic Diesel said they would send a mechanic to help. he arrived at 1730. this guy (RANDY) tried very hard, but with the same results as I. He eventually replaced 3 of the 4 injectors, that evening, with the same results. The diagnosis was the injector pump. What else could it be with a remanufactured engine? The next day Randy arrived with a new injector pump, worked all day and got it running. I then asked him if he told Marcus about the oil leak? He said yes, so I called Marcus about this and he wanted to know if it was an issue. YES was the answer! Surprise surprise! The engine would have come out again, but he would pay for the crane. Well here we go again, Becky and I are getting pretty good about moving Solskin II around with a dink in reverse.
Well, the crane he paid for was the one that was not insured for this operation, and it worked very well. While removing the engine this time a rear engine mount was broken. The remanufactured Red engine was taken back to the shop. It was supposedly set at an exaggerated angle and ran for hours. No wrench was put to it and no oil leak was found, he said. Marcus' best guess that was fuel from when we had the fuel problem. I had discovered the oil leak before there was a fuel problem. The engine was delivered back to us on the uninsured crane on a falling tide. Again we moved Solskin II under dinghy power to the pit. A new engine mount was installed. The trouble with that was it was 1/2" taller than the previous one and engine alignment would be impossible. Swapping mounts around was the answer. Now the engine was lowered into the boat and transferred to the come along and the mechanic helped me hook up the controls. We tried to move from the pit but were aground, with all kinds of critters running up and down those walls.
I continued to install the engine waiting for a rising tide. Our patients were wearing thin, to say the least. The tide returned, and after dark we again moved Solskin II under dinghy power. The next day I got it running. Sounded great, no leaks, almost. After some very close scrutiny I discovered a leak in the riser where the raw water is injected into the exhaust. Not much wonder after all this thing has been through. Pulled the riser and give it to a local mechanic to take to a machine shop. Later I got a ride from a local to the machine shop, no riser. It had been picked up by the same person that had dropped it off. Great, but I needed some high temperature gasket material, the local auto parts dealer didn't have it. Back to Trans - Atlantic Diesel. Marcus gave me Gaskets just to get rid of me. Reinstalled the riser, still leaked, I' m tired of this. Time for epoxy, that seemed to work so far.
Now, two weeks later my one for one exchange diesel seems to be working ok, less the hot water heater, tachometer and galley sink. We are doing dishes in the head.
Now we headed North, licking our wounds, making cell phone calls of apologies for missed appointments etc. The "new diesel" seemed to be behaving itself.
The next stop was in Barrett Cr. off the Great Wicomico. Our objective was to meet Isabel and Ralph Rose, ex owners of BRIGHTLINGSEA. After meeting some local sailors who were good enough to take us in to use their phone. We discovered that we were anchored almost under their balcony. We ran across the creek by dink and met them at their dock. They invited us in. What wonderful and gracious people the Rose's. The next day we headed north again, under sail, hurrah, heading for the Patuxent. We called T. J. and Kaye and met for dinner. We gave some of the details, T. J. said send him a letter. (This is the letter - Ed.) Again we moved North, this time to Harness Cr. off of the South River, one of our favorite anchorages. Suspecting our friends from the sailing vessel La Esmeralda were in the area, Becky gave them a call on the radio. There was an immediate response from Spa Creek. We had not seen them for about five years, when they were recovering from a lightning strike. The next day we sailed to Annapolis and met in Spa Creek. They were again recovering from another lightning strike. La Esmeralda's dodger and sun shades had been perforated by burning metal. Now we moved on to our own dock in the Magothy under power.
Weeks later most everything was operational, except the tach. I'm back to my part time job, Becky is back to work. What a Trip! But on the upside we made some friends, hopefully long lasting.
Enough of this. Hopefully next year will be better.
Thanks for listening
Becky and John