There’s no wrencher like an old wrencher; and a sea wrencher at that. There’s also no fool like an old fool! And so there I was with a dead engine in the tide slop’s rock ‘n roll off Smith Island in the Eastern end of Juan De Fuca Strait. The forecast wind had not developed. I couldn’t sail. The boat was drifting backwards toward the open ocean which is not a bad thing, but the tide would eventually turn and the wind would rise from the wrong direction. I contemplated that if all else failed, I could inflate my dinghy and use it’s outboard motor to tow mother boat toward safe haven. It was looking like a long day ahead. My fuel system was sucking air. Diesels demand an unadulterated supply of clean fully liquid fuel.
Back in February I posted a blog about my new used fuel filter brackets and how, for once, I’d beaten the system by recycling cast-off parts. I’ll never bloody learn! It turns out that those parts should probably have gone into the garbage. This old country boy has spent a lifetime trying to make silk purses out of pig ears or, put another way, spending thousands to save dimes. Another expression has to do with putting lipstick on a pig. No matter how you go about it, in the end you still have a pig. Well, all good sailors have a knife in their pocket and soon enough I swallowed my pride, cut the fuel hoses and bypassed those “free” filter assemblies. A little bleeding of the system and then a very sweet purrr! Albeit I was now running on a single set of filters, but I was under way. I glumly motor-sailed on toward Port Townsend realizing all of my efforts with the new/old filters were for nothing. Now I have to take it all apart and put it back together with new filter assemblies, probably worth about $500. plus all the repeat labour. I was proud enough to have figured out what to do out there, it’s what I’ve done for a living. Most folks would have sat there waiting for salvation. But then most folks would have had it done right the first time. (No tools were lost in the bilge during this adventure.)
There’s no point in crying over spilled diesel. I’ve run away from the accrued tedium of health issues and the long weeks of couch potatoing (So now I’ve turned potato into a verb) and immediately discoverd a new bit of hurt.
Serves me right. I was admonished not to be expecting “Bailing out” if I went to the US with only a pocketful of medications and no health insurance. Because I’ve been in the hospital recently I can’t get traveller’s medical insurance. We all know horror stories about Canadians in the US needing urgent medical attention and not having any medical insurance. They suddenly find themselves with a bill of many thousands and the shit storm is enormous. I travelled in the US for years on business with no medical insurance, which I’ll concede was bloody dangerous and stupid, but I’m following my instincts and hoping for the best. I’ll have to be sure to look both ways when crossing the street. Thank God I’m not a texter! There is, I believe, no emoticon for “I’ve just been hit by a car!”
A piece of my heart is in Port Townsend Bay and the immediate area. It is a very salty place with a long nautical history. The area is a living boat show year round. It is populated by a large number of artsy fartsy boaty nutters like myself. A centre of wooden boat building and rebuilding, sail lofts, nautical foundries and other seafaring fringe industries, it is bliss.
The Boat Haven in Port Townsend is a huge Disney-like centre of marine indulgences and you never know what delight lurks around the next corner. Gorgeous boats, old and new, in various states of financial decomposition abound. There is an energy to absorb from all those dreams in varying states of realization. Nearby Port Hadlock is the site of the slowly growing Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding where people can develop their sliversmithing skills. It is an apparent success.
Would you believe that, nestled among its wings, I found a shop selling bagpipes and harps! As it turned out I’d hit a weekend when there was sailor’s exchange on with all sorts of wonderfully priced boat bits (But no fuel filters) I did find a compatible brand-new portlight for my boat, complete with screen for $7. A few other small treasures came home with me as well.
Of tremendous delight to me was an open house to view the ‘Western Flyer.’ It is a hulk now languishing in a big boathouse in Port Townsend’s ‘Boat Haven’ Once, it was used in the 1940s voyage of John Steinbeck when he wrote ‘Log From The Sea Of Cortez.’ I had the opportunity to actually touch a sacred icon of both literary and nautical significance. I learned with some chagrin that I had repeatedly passed the boat many times in the Swinomish Canal where it languished as an abandoned hulk and then sank.
Bu odd coincidence, later that same afternoon, I found myself in the ancient basement jail cells of the old Port Townsend Courthouse. It turns out that Jack London was once incarcerated there for a night after a wild turn around the town. My imagination soon created enough horror of what it might have been like in this grim corner. So, twice in one day, a literary pilgrimage! There was a wonderful exhibit of local native art in the old court room upstairs and then a colourful little parade out on the main street of earth day folks..
Once the most likely place on earth to be shanghaied, Port Townsend retains some of its former rich colour. (Shanghaiing was the practice of drugging and/or otherwise abducting men to serve as crew on sailing ships.
Some old taverns in Port Townsend still have trapdoors in floors where victims were once slipped down to waiting rowboats. Really!)
In the surrounding countryside I was then shown organic farms producing a variety of fine goods from cider and berry wines to cheeses, baking and meats. There is a large effort afoot to return to practical organic farming methods and it seems to be working. Salmon are even returning to long-abandoned streams.
I sailed for home on Monday morning in a welter of huge steep green lumps and spray. A sou-Westerly wind was building against a large ebb tide. The seas were chaos no matter what the heading steered, ‘Seafire’ endured a long salty baptism and I was very happy to have an inside helm. It was too rough to take any good photos and too briny for the cameras so some images are recorded only in my head. Especially poignant was a beautiful offshore tug westbound while towing a stately old freighter in minimum ballast, trimmed light in the bow, probably off to a breaker’s yard. We passed too far apart for photos so that funereal procession can only be described with words. I dreamed of the sight later that night. This time the tow passed overhead in the sky. The tug and tow were joined by the drooping catenary of the towline, the forward vessel’s twin screws slowly turning. I’ll leave my readers with that fantastic image and post this blog as a photo essay about a grand little voyage which has passed too quickly.
Believing my blog was finished, I shut off this laptop and started the engine in preparation for weighing anchor in my final anchorage on Prevost Island. My beloved old Lehman died on me once
more. The injection pump is again full of air! After more tweaking, tightening, and several bleedings, it again runs sweetly. So, maybe it is not the new/used bits for which I’ve condemned myself. They’re even not in the system now. Dang! I now have new suspicions and a few possible resolutions. It will be something simple but temperamental mechanical problem is no fun. But then, what’s the meaning of life without its mysteries?
“Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.
If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or be held at standstill in mid-seas.”
…. Kahlil Gibran from ‘The Prophet’ as copied from ‘The Soul Solution,’ Bob and Linda Harrington