Captain Vic
helps deliver a trawler

   It all started with a simple phone call from Captain Paul: "Hey Vic ... got to take a boat down to Annapolis this weekend for the power boat show ... you available?" So bright and early ... after lunch on Thursday ... the two of us set out from Newport on a 36 ton, 50 ft, 16 ft beam Durbeck trawler running one monster 25-year-old 250 hp Cummins diesel.

   Our first leg ... to Cape May, NJ, about 240 miles and a schedule of 30 straight hours on one course. The fact that we had a storm off coast didn't stop us at all ... we had "stabilizers."

   Deliveries are always fun with Captain Paul as anything can happen ...and usually does. This time it started with Captain Paul's simple request just off Block Island for a cup of tea. I couldn't get the gas stove to light ... it had electronic ignition ... so I started the 15 kW Westerbeke generator to get 110V and after 20 minutes of turning tanks and switches and safety valves on without a hint of flame ... I decided to use the microwave ... one minute into the cycle the genset cut out from overheating ... which the remote heat gauge in the wheel house hadn't registered.

   We were facing nearly 30 hours of no hot coffee or tea, but frozen Lite Cuisine entrees (one every four hours keeps you from getting hungry). Sure a simple impeller was all that was needed ... but where to find it on a 50 ft trawler ... definitely not in the engine room. Phoned the owner ... "settee main saloon starboard under the cushions." Sounded great ... even though we were trashing through some heavy waves and had to use two hands to keep from banging into everything.

   Found the wrong impeller ... then the right impeller ... no gasket ... no Formagasket ... just two dozen other gaskets that didn't even look close but with which we probably could have rebuilt the engine (if we had a real mechanic aboard). Back into the engine room with the nice clean workbench and a vice and a roaring diesel at cruising speed.

   Clamped the wrong gasket in the vice and used a gourmet kitchen knife to slice the right size hole ... quarter inch at a time. Genset started right up and ran cool which solved our microwave problems. We arrived at Cape May after dark. All the marinas were closed but the bright Texaco Star at the fuel dock beckoned. We coasted in touching bottom mud lightly only once and tied up for the night ... naturally, no one was there.

   Nearly light enough to see and very early Saturday ... this time about 5 a.m. ... we cast off for the inland waterway ... heading up the Delaware to go through the canal to the upper Chesapeake. Just one hour out of Ft. May engine revs started to drop and we switched to the port fuel tank. About an hour later engine revs started to drop again.

   A quick check of the chart showed us plenty of space down wind and east of the busy channel, and I started a quick course out of the channel. The engine died nicely about 100 yards out of the channel ... just as some wise ass giant tanker decided to hug the channel edge and blast past us. I waved a special salute, both hands. We drifted a nice safe half mile and put the anchor down in 22 ft. Captain Paul was muttering something about all he ever got to do was change dirty filters on deliveries.

   We had spotted fuel filters under the salon settees in our search for the impeller. Only one problem ... the Racor filters turned out to be the wrong size ... they were for the "Fuel Polishing System." So we try to clean the dirty engine filer ... put it back ... motor runs for 2 minutes and dies. Do that twice. Captain Paul tries to call Sea Tow (owner has contract) on channel 16. No answer.

   We call the Coast Guard ... say where we are and ask them to call Sea Tow. They tell us to put life jackets on and want to come out to assist us. We are in inland waters, out of the channel, and well anchored. Captain Paul says "Negative, Negative ... just please call Sea Tow for us." Meantime, we see this tremendous "water spout" up north and looking like it is headed directly for us. By the time Sea Tow brings us the filter (two hours) the "water spout" is gone ... and we are feeling good. New filter in and primed ... runs two minutes and dies. Do that twice. So OK, Sea Tow gets to earn its bread and tow us in. (We get to see the "water spout" up close later.)

   One problem ... the electric anchor winch won't work. Plenty of heavy chain and anchor down and no manual override with about 20 kts of wind digging us in (36 ton trawler with lots of windage if you will remember). We are going to have to pull the anchor in by hand. Sea Tow sets up a bridle and starts to tow us forward just enough to take the tension off the chain ... and the two of us on the bow manage to start pulling chain in about 6 in. at a time and in synch with the wave action.

    Just over 30 minutes later the anchor and chain are secured and we are on our way. We arrive at a little marina in a one marina town at 4 p.m. Saturday. The mechanic is there waiting for us (called in at time and a half) ... another new filter, primed, runs two minutes, dies. We try that twice. Captain Paul is now getting a little steamed. It looks like we have a real blockage in the port tank so he decides to pump the fuel from the port tank to the starboard tank. That doesn't work either.

   The port fuel tank has a plastic sight tube running vertically along side the tank that indicates the tank is nearly full! But wait ... at the bottom and top of the tube are Shut Offs! And someone has closed the shut off at the bottom of the tube leaving fuel in the tube but not in the tank. We are completely out of diesel!!! Even though the owner carefully explained how full the tank was and showed us the great sight tube full of fuel!!! 400 gallons of diesel, the anchor winch reconnected to a spare switch, and a bill to kill a horse later ... it was too dark to continue. So we stayed overnight.

The water spout close up turned out to be an atomic energy plant using its cooling towers.

   The mechanic felt so bad for us he drove us into a nearby town to have a great prime rib dinner with us at our expense. Needless to say the rest of the trip was uneventful. As Captain Paul said it, "just another simple delivery!"

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