Hello from Florida, the Bath Salts State! At the end of our last post, we were bidding a reluctant farewell to St. Thomas while waiting for our delivery captain and crew to arrive and shuttle S/V Delancey back to the US east coast. A couple days later, Captain Chris Anderson and his wife Tracey Ray stepped aboard and, after an afternoon reviewing boat systems and protocols, Deb, Lucy, and I boarded a plane to Fort Lauderdale.
Upon arrival in Florida, we motored our rental car up to Stuart, where we settled into Deb’s folks’ vacant winter house and waited for Delancey to arrive. We spent the first couple days lazing about, watching cable TV from powered barcaloungers (complete with cup holders!) and indulging in unlimited running water (showers! laundry!).
This novelty shortly wore off (the cable TV fairly horrified us) and we soon shifted our focus to the healthier pursuits. Even when not sailing, boatlife is pretty physical; maintaining systems, accessing stowage, and just climbing in and out of the dinghy a couple times a day can twist bodies and strain muscles. While physical, boatlife is not is in any way aerobic. Life aboard offers little opportunity to raise the heart rate (except in occasional terror) or burn calories. This, combined with some sustained overindulgence (every day is Saturday!), prompted us to take advantage of this interlude to move our bodies.
Fortunately, Deb’s folks’ development includes a gym, pool, and tennis courts. Deb found cheap racquets on Craiglist and we spent an hour each morning trying to get a volley going. I fixed up a couple old bikes in the garage and went for 20-30 mile rides every afternoon. Deb did a daily circuit of the gym machines and started training for a 5k run. We began to feel healthy and virtuous.
As we did back in December 2015 when we passed through here on the way south, we wandered around the picturesque St. Lucie River waterfront, including a pilgrimage to the Stuart farmers’ market.
Ever since departing St. Thomas, we’d been receiving regular updates from Captain Chris: short text messages with a map of their location sent via satellite. Their passage began without incident; with no wind and a glass sea, most updates documented stops for fuel. At some point in the Bahamas Out Islands, a problem started to develop: when throttling down after a long period motoring (say to approach a fuel dock), the engine would stall out. This is not a problem we’d ever experienced in ten years of ownership and we weren’t sure what advice to offer. Perhaps they picked up some bad fuel on one of the remote islands? They changed the filters, but the problem persisted.
After a couple final days of literal smooth sailing, Delancey reached the St. Lucie inlet. Deb and I waited at the marina as Captain Chris made his way up the river channel toward Stuart. About half a mile before the marina the channel is crossed by a highway bascule bridge. When the captain slowed the boat to radio a request to open the bridge, the engine stalled again. Although the crew quickly deployed the anchor and dropped the dinghy, they could not stop the boat from drifting and run aground at the side of the muddy channel. Deb and I immediately contacted Sea Tow, and within minutes they were on the scene, towing S/V Delancey into the marina. (Sea Tow and their competitor Tow Boat US are like AAA for boaters. We’ve been members of both for years. Although this is only the second time we’ve ever needed to take advantage of them, they’ve been worth every penny.)
Deb and I are grateful to the Sunset Bay Marina for letting us bring a non-functioning boat into their facility, even providing an easily-accessed slip to park Delancey.
Engine trouble aside, we were happy to have Delancey and her delivery crew home safe. After showers and a waterside restaurant lunch, we packed Captain Chris and crew off in their rental car for their next job.
The next morning found me and a local mechanic trying, without success, to recreate the stalling issue that plagued the delivery. While securely tied up in the slip, we drove the boat hard, threw her in and out of gear, and throttled up and down faster than we would in practice, but couldn’t make her stall. With a collective shrug of the shoulders, Deb and I turned our focus to cleaning and reprovisioning the boat. Two days later we set out, fingers crossed, for the trip north. We motored into the Inracoastal Waterway for the 8-hour drive to Vero Beach. We slowed for two bridge openings without a hiccup and were starting to feel pretty confident in the engine operation. We told ourselves that the problems the delivery captain experienced must have been related to his handling of an unfamiliar engine (as opposed to our deep, nuanced understanding of her little ways). This happy conclusion buoyed us until, powering down as we approached our Vero Beach mooring, the engine stalled and died. With only 10 feet to go, the boat lost momentum and drifted into the mangrove shoreline. With a surprising minimum of drama, we dropped the dink and towed the boat out of the mud and onto her mooring.
A mechanic arrives tomorrow. We’ll put less faith in crossed fingers this time.