A $1,000 day…

If there was ever a day I longed for Dorothy’s ruby slippers, to click my heels together and suddenly be transported home, yesterday was the day.

The great thing about this simple lifestyle, living aboard a sailboat in a small space and always having a water view, is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. We live a very frugal lifestyle which suits both of us just fine.

After a blissfully calm evening anchored off Don Pedro Island (a barrier island along the west Florida’s ICW near Gasparillo Sound), we woke feeling the slap of the occasional wavelet on our port side. Hmmmm. This isn’t right. Ron went forward to the anchor, I was at the engine; we couldn’t budge the boat. We were hard aground, sitting on our keel. We moved the anchor line to our stern and were able to pivot the boat a bit, but no go. I tried to “hang over” the side, to heel the boat. That was a joke. We weren’t going anywhere soon!

With low tide less than 4 hours away, our one option (unless we stayed put for the day and waited for high tide, which would occur near sunset, then try to find some deeper water to re-anchor) was to contact TowBoatUS.

Those of you who know Ron Dwelle know that this is a very hard thing for him to do, to request help. In fact, I am the one who made the call. We are so thankful for the advice we received from friends to get BoatUS towing insurance when we decided to begin doing this southern boating thing. It’s not expensive and our friend reported that it would more than pay for itself with one call. He was right. Our towboat guy, Nick, knew what he was doing and was a most comforting and calm soul–very good for Ron’s nerves that morning. It took some doing but Nick got us off and over the “hump” we must have drifted over during high tide when the wind switched in the night. The tow bill was $432 of which we owed $0, thanks to our insurance.

And so we moved on to Lemon Bay. There were dolphins playing around the marker just before our one bridge. Life was good.

We anchored off Indian Mound Park at Englewood, a nice open anchorage in Lemon Bay that is easy to get off and back on the ICW. We were very cautious of our anchoring this time, doing a full circle and checking the even bottom. Ron, low on beer, was anxious to launch the dinghy and motor to the park, where he could walk to the nearby store.

I need to stop here and tell you about our outboard motor. Ron bought it used 3 years ago. It’s a small Mercury: 2.5 hp. The first season, it worked great. No problems. Last season, our second, Ron had it tuned up at Indiantown, before we began using it for the season ($150). When we got to Stuart (our first stop), it wouldn’t start. He had it serviced again by an outboard guy there. Problem was a clogged filter and dirty fuel ($90). The outboard worked great for about a month, until the day after friends arrived to stay with us a few nights at Boot Key Harbor in the Keys. Engine absolutely would not start and we were about a half mile row to the dinghy dock (impossible to do with 4 people in our 8.5 foot dinghy). Another service job ($100) showed that we had water in our fuel. We learned whatever you do, you never ever ever buy fuel for your outboard unless you are absolutely certain it contains no ethanol. Outboard worked okay the rest of the season, though by now it’s difficult to trust.

This season Ron took the outboard to a service guy in the Port Charlotte area to have it tuned for this season. The guy ended up having it for 3 weeks–carburetor was completely gunked up, the guy replaced lots of parts… $408.

So, yesterday afternoon, with outboard on our dinghy for the first time this season, Ron goes to start it and it will not start. Some not-very-kind language was spoken in exclamation. Finally, after fiddling around with it, he did get it to fire–it ran about 2 minutes, then died. Water in the fuel, again? After changing out fuel, it ran nearly a half hour, then died again. And would not start. What to do?

By now it is late afternoon. Ron has no beer. I am in sore need of some heavy-duty knit therapy (it is a great stress reliever… Ron should learn how to knit!), but have had no opportunity to do anything but hand Ron the tools he needs. He asked for suggestions. My suggestion was to screw this engine and go buy a new one. We’ve already spent more on this used engine than we would have spent had we purchased it new. Ron finally heard. This morning Ron drove to Fort Myers (thank you Casey and Edyth for coming to our rescue!) and came back this afternoon with a new Suzuki outboard, just like the perfect little outboard we use up north. It started on the second pull and ran like a top the half mile back out to our anchored boat. We can only hope that saltwater doesn’t destroy it in a season!

As for boat dollars vs. yarn dollars? That’s a blog subject for another time!


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