Sunday, 12 April 2015

Notes From Down Under...

And I don't mean Australia!

On the 14th of March my brother Les arrived for the final step in preparing for our departure of the 15th - loading the truck and hooking up the trailer. It didn't work out quite like that however - the boat engine still wasn't running properly. The team were there trying to solve the problem. It would start, run for a few seconds then quit. Eventually we removed the carbs and discovered that the throttle diaphragms were in backwards. Corrected that and then...

I was reinstalling the middle fuel banjo bolt and cross-threaded the middle carb fitting - screwed! That was it for Sunday, we couldn't leave until a set of used carbs were found.

Monday AM I was on the computer searching for a set of triple Solex carbs from about 1968 and finally found some - in Calgary and Californina. More searching until I found a set in Maryland! By 10 AM we had a deal and it was time to hit the road only 4 hours late.

As we were about to pull out of the driveway Gretchen came out to bid us goodby and says "should the truck be making that noise?" I opened my door and said "actually - no". So off down the raod intending to drop into Halton Tire and my chum John to see what was going on. I found out at the first stop sign. Power booster for brakes and steering is not working.

Wrestling that truck into town with no power assist is a full body workout! But they pulled a miracle and had the power booster, tensioner and belt all replaced by 6 PM! We were on our way.

Now you may be wondering why there are no pictures of all this. Stay tuned.

By 3 PM Tuesday we were in Annapolis MD picking up the Solex carb set from "Jimmy" and carrying on down the road in 20C weather! However, late afternoon on I 95 South out of DC is pretty much like the 401 at the same time so we got off at Fredricksburg for a lovely dinner - after listening to a pipe band IN a pub! After all it was St Patrick's Day...

I had contacted Guy Marvin III in Florida to advise him of our setbacks and ask if he could point us to a good ole marine mechanic there who could sort out the triple carb setup. He put us on to Lamb's Yacht Centre in Jacksonville not far from the hotel the River Cruise members would be staying in. 7:30 Thursday morning we were on the spot and Richard put us in the care of  Curtis who had her running like a top in less than three hours.

Next move was into the water at the Florida Yacht Club - one of the oldest in North America. We decided to let her soak up a bit before going for a run and just keep an eye on the pumps etc while enjoying the Club which overlooks Jacksonville Harbour - beautiful view! Later in the afternoon some buddies from previous cruises showed up (Mike and Ralph) and party time ensued! By 9:30 PM it was time to head to the hotel but we thought we'd better check the pumps again. Oops - boat's a bit low in the water.

I had already changed the float switch on the bilge pump and it seemed to be OK but now I found that the pump was running but not pumping. Soooo out of the water for the night and back to the hotel. Next morning I ran up to Lamb's again and bought a new pump, two check valves and a "Y" fitting. By noon I had the new pump in and both pumps plumbed into one outlet and we were ready for the water again.

This time everything worked perfectly and the boat had pretty well "took up" so the pumps didn't have much to do any longer. Off to Doctor's Lake and at the top end to Whitey's Fish Camp Restaurant a really cool and hopping joint with mostly outside but under cover eating. Following this we ran to Jacksonville and tooled under some of the many bridges including having a train go right over our heads!

Monday is departure day for the St John River Cruise event and it was overcast and a bit windy. The little Greavette just loves the rough water, it's bottom design is almost a deep vee and unlike the Shepherds and Hunter - it comes down soft and dry in rough water.

Lunch was up a creek to the Outback Crab Shack where the plates are trays loaded with seafood! An amazing if somewhat Medieval dining experience! After lunch it was back tothe river, through a downpour that left the shoreline a faint outline, back into the sun and on to Palatka where we stay for the first two nights. More good food and good company!

Day 2 is a side trip up Dunn's Creek to Crescent Lake and Crescent City where a fabulous BBQ lunch is ready. Dunn's Creek is pretty cool for boater's as much of it can be run at speed even though it winds around like a snake. We slowed for fishermen and enjoyed the novel communities along the first part of the creek. Only bad news was - no alligators (too chilly).

Day 3 we are back on the river heading to Welaka after a scenic slow run through the Seven Sisters Islands in company with several other Canadian boats (Rich and Chris). Lunch at Shrimp R Us is always a wonderful buffet and this year was no exception. The town of Welaka is one of those Live Oak/Spanish Moss filled scenes that could happen nowhere else. Following lunch we followed another group who intended to visit Silver Glen Spring off Lake George. This looks like a river but only goes a few hundred yards off the lake to a pool with a 10' hole in the bottom where 40 million gallons of spring-water a day come up out of the ground - you can see it welling up at the surface.

At least 6 of our boats rafted up in the waterway next to the spring and all the Canadians jumped into the 72 degree water! Sun was out, it was very warm and we swam right across the spring outlet - not easy against the current! Eventually we all piled back int the boats and headed across the Lake toward Astor.

We were bringing up the rear of a group of 5 or 6 boats when we go to the mouth of the St John. Once past the idle speed zone at the mouth the group picked up to 25 mph or so through the twisty channel. About a mile or so from Astor, our last night stop on the river, we crossed a wake and came down with a "bang!". At the time it was just like crossing a wake at the wrong angle but in a few seconds my brother pointed out that water was coming in over the forward cockpit floor and was that normal? Umm - no.

In that moment I began blowing the horn to get the attention of the boats just in front of us. One of the passengers (Helen) on Royce's Riva recognized that something was not right and had the boats turn to render assistance. Once this was happening Les handed me a jacket out of the new bag of life jackets and we got them on. Once this was done we began packing everything loose into the bags we had on board so by the time our rescuers arrived we could ass this tuff up out of our boat which was quickly filling by the stern.

As the last gear was passed off we were hanging from the coamings of the Riva as our boat went out from under us. I was hauled into the Riva and Les was hauled into Rich's Greavette. Next up popped the seats and the few things we hadn't got that float - unfortunately my phone didn't float - which is why there are no pictures!

It is a bizzare sensation to realize the boat you are in is sinking. And even more so when it actually makes good on the threat.

I would like to thank Royce and his crew, Rich & Linda, Paul and Chris in their boats who came to the rescue. Plan B in this case involved running on alligators heads to an uncertain shore so we were really very relived that it was Plan A that worked!

We had the boat salvaged including the rescue of the engine and were able to pick it up on the way home the following Sunday. There is a 4" x 10" hole punched in the bottom of the boat at the first frame with clear evidence that we landed on something that was unseen in the black water - in the channel! Kathy R suggested we should claim it was an alligator to improve the story - but - not likely!

The rest of our trip was really great - the boating part courtesy of friends in the hobby so thanks to them!

For me there were a few discoveries which were interesting because no-one was hurt.

1. A lifetime of incident free boating is not a prediction of the future.

2. I had removed the 20 year old life-jackets and put in a bag of new horseshoe type life-preservers. Perfect! Except for the small details. When Led handed me the preserver we both stood there wasting time undoing the knot that held the straps "tidy", undoing the strap, sliding the buckle out to the end BEFORE we could put them on and do them up!

3. the boat horn had been tested before we left along with every other system on the boat but we were following a fleet of high powered inboards and they couldn't hear the horn. It was a visual crew sighting that saved our (Canadian?) bacon! Had I taken along one of the portable air horns we have for boats without horns - they would have heard that!

So that's my tale for today! Les and I had a great time, met great people and had interesting conversations!

Who's up for the ACBS St John River Cruise 2016? I've got room - Les's not allowed to go!

Oh, and while my pictures are at the bottom of the St John River, Chris and Julie Bullen created this wonderful slide show of the cruise! Load this link:

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