Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Don’t Do What I Did

October 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Don't Do What I Did

Like a host preparing for company, I gave my 23-foot Sea Ox cuddy with a Mercruiser 250 horsepower engine inboard a quick wash down before my friends arrived at the dock.  She was a thing of beauty in my eyes.

I had bought the boat in late November from a guy in my marina who had pressured me to close the deal before he had the boat hauled.  In my haste to close the deal I skimped a bit on checking the boat out fully — I gave the engine a quick once over and found the maintenance log produced by the owner satisfactory. Keep in mind clichés such as haste makes waste and let the buyer beware as you read on.

My friends Rob and Ed, both experienced boaters, arrived and gave me a big thumbs up as they examined the boat. They proclaimed it beautifully laid-out and well-built. At the price I paid, they said I had “stolen it.”

As we ran out of East Rockaway Inlet Rob pointed that water running out of the bilge fitting “looks a little greenish.”  I ignored his comment, believing it to be dirty bilge water which had accumulated during the wash down. As we motored out to an inshore reef I noticed the engine was running a little warm, but thought nothing of it as it seemed to be running smoothly.

After a day at anchor, we decided to head in as the sea began to build. I cranked the engine and sat at idle as Rob hauled in the hook. Just then the overheat alarm sounded; I was shocked to see the temperature gauge reading in the red! We opened the engine hatch and, to our horror, saw coolant pouring from the bottom of a split hose and pooling in the bilge.

Unable to effect a repair on the hose, and having no spare parts aboard, we radioed the Jones Inlet station of the U.S. Coast Guard and informed them of our plight. After determining that we were not in immediate danger they said they were dispatching a vessel to tow us. It should reach us in 90 minutes, so we donned life jackets and waited.

As promised, a Coast Guard “double ender” of about 30 feet arrived and advised that a crew member would board our boat. By now the seas were starting to heave and the two boats seesawed up and down as the very skilled Coast Guard pilot maneuvered close enough to allow a seaman named Matt to jump into our cockpit. Once aboard he retrieved a messenger line tossed by his crewmate and secured a tow line.

Matt did a safety check and found a small leak on the transom where a bolt from the trim tab had pulled through. A tapered wooden dowel coated with Life Caulk and hammered into place solved the problem. We were now safe to tow.

Matt radioed the tow boat often to advise them of our status and in between he regaled us with “dicey” rescue stories. Once we neared a marina we were transitioned into a side saddle tow by crewmen lashing the boats gunwale to gunwale and setting fenders over the sides. The pilot was able to maneuver both vessels as one and gently placed us against the dock to tie off.

While we hadn’t been in extreme danger when we called for help, who knows what could have happened as the seas built, the skies darkened, and the temperature dropped. (I know the Coast Guard crew would have responded with the same calm and professional demeanor had it been a more treacherous situation.) I sent a letter of thanks to the station commander and always give Coast Guard vessels running past a wave and a thumbs up in acknowledgement.

Back to what I should have done prior to the purchase of the boat. Instead of a quick look at the engine, a thorough inspection was required, including a pressure check of the cooling system. Better yet, while I am capable of doing fundamental checks, an assessment by a qualified mechanic would have paid for itself, with a replacement hose averting a near disaster.

By Paul Knieste

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