From the Helm of Adamant 1 – Blog 26: E$cape from Fort Pierce


Apr 25, 2019

After a delightful winter in the Bahamas, we decided at the end of March to head for the US. The weather continued to get hotter and the humidity was climbing daily. It was tough to drop the mooring ball, but we were suddenly excited about starting the trek home. We left Man-O-War on Saturday, spent one night in Treasure Cay, soaking up the rays on the beach, then four nights in Green Turtle. It was in Green Turtle that we realized we had spun the hub in the propeller of our dependable dinghy engine, a 9.9 Mercury. More on that later.  We met Janice and Harley on Folly and another Canadian boat called Mariposa, and together we sailed to Great Sale Cay, 50 miles away.

The hibiscus flowers were right at their peak when we left.

Saturday morning, early, we all left Great Sale and motored west on flat calm waters. Within an hour, Pat noticed black discharge water and the engine would not throttle up. Great Sale Cay is the middle of nowhere…50 miles west of Green Turtle Cay, 45 miles north east of Freeport and 130 miles from the Florida coast. Not a good place to break down. Yikes!

Adamant’s engine sits below the cabin sole, amidships. Pat flew down below and removed the engine covers.  What initially looked like clouds of smoke was actually steam (after a few missed heartbeats!) and the engine compartment was filling up with water (a few more missed heartbeats!). He yelled up to me to stop the engine; water was spraying all over the cabin.  We used the whale gusher pump, the bilge pump and the dinghy pump and got most of the water out. Then Pat shut off the water supply to the engine and disconnected the electrical because the solenoid was arcing. Eventually he discovered one missing screw on the impeller plate and two other screws had the heads stripped off. That was where the water was coming in…salt water! Folly had come alongside to help if needed and when we were sure we weren’t going to sink, we set sail, but just drifted sideways…there wasn’t any wind.  

Beautiful GardenFolly had left, but when he checked on us after an hour and heard we hadn’t moved, he returned and took us in tow. Mariposa offered to share the tow, but we told him to keep going. By 4pm, the wind was freshening, so we opted to sail and sent Folly on his way. It took four more frustrating hours before there was enough wind to sail, but sail we did….after three or four sail changes and a lot of aggravation! Earlier I mentioned the dinghy motor was out of commission. We would have been able to at least make a few miles if we had been able to tie the dinghy alongside and use that to get us moving, but that wasn’t an option. Remember from my previous blogs when I mentioned the way dolphins came and kept us company is close quarters? Well these weren’t close quarters, but a pod of eight dolphins stayed beside us for those four hours. They only left when the wind piped up and we were able to sail. Amazing!

Harbourtown Marina has beautiful gardens.

Folly and Mariposa kept checking on us, but at one point they were too far away for us to hear them. They didn’t realize that in those four hours we had only moved about two miles, so we were well out of range of their VHFs. They tried calling numerous times, other boats closer to us tried calling….we never heard them. On the AIS we weren’t moving….no surprise there if you had been on our boat at that point! The US Coast Guard was contacted, they were given the whole story and Folly turned around. Eventually he was close enough for us to hear him and he did a broadcast on 16, relaying that we were fine. Hopefully the Coast Guard stood down. We never were contacted by them.

At The DockCrossing the Gulf Stream at night is unnerving enough never mind doing it alone with no engine. I contacted one ship to advise we were going  to cross their bow and we didn’t have a motor to get out of their way. They altered course for us as did five other ships in the next couple of hours….they must have passed along the notice. Or they heard a woman’s voice on the radio at 1am saying we had an issue! They did call me captain! We turned off the fridge, all unnecessary equipment and extra lights to conserve battery power for our navigation equipment and lights. Eventually the wind picked up and we headed for Fort Pierce. When daylight arrived the sun worked its magic on the solar panels to recharge the batteries.

TowAt daybreak the wind piped up and we had a terrific sail. We arrived near the inlet to Fort Pierce at 4:30 pm Sunday and TowBoat US was there to take us under tow. But as soon as he got the tow line in place, he got called to rescue capsized boat so we dropped the towline and kept sailing. Finally after an hour and another call to BoatUS, they sent a tow from Vero Beach for us. He towed us to Harbourtown Marina and nudged us into a slip. We had been underway for 37 hours and were exhausted. We still needed to check in with Customs but that is done online now. I am surprised I had enough energy left to go through that procedure!  A quick bite to eat in the restaurant at the marina and we went to bed.

Adamant 1 under tow…again!

Shallow WatersWe spent two days waiting for the mechanic. We have friends that live in Fort Pierce, so they came by, took us to lunch, then took us to get groceries.  Our appointment with the mechanic was for Wednesday, and after Pat told our story, he removed the water pump, along with the starter and solenoid. Apparently the impeller Pat had put in was the wrong one for this engine. The Yanmar ones fit in a different way, so the wrong one pushed its way out! And he showed us where the pump was corroding, so it would have self-destructed eventually.  Friday afternoon our parts arrived, but they didn’t get installed until Tuesday afternoon. The service department at Harbourtown Marina is great to deal with, were very professional and the prices quoted were the prices on the invoice. The marina office gave us a break on dockage, so we only dropped a few thousand! [Remember the 35% exchange rate!] It could have been worse.

Calm enough to see our shadow below us!

Big ShipsWe left Fort Pierce on Wednesday morning and headed for Vero Beach, where our friends Jon and Marilyn live. They had taken us off the boat for a couple of days during our stay in Fort Pierce and we stayed at their house overnight….an escape from reality for a bit. It was only 12 miles to the new harbour and all was well in the engine room. We seem to have developed a small oil leak, only a few drops, but we can live with that until we get home. The weather is closing in for a couple of days, so we won’t head out until Saturday. That’s okay because we have a couple from BC rafted on our port side. They just arrived from Mexico via Cuba. On our starboard we have a boat from Sweden. So we have lots of stories between us!

The Nina and the Pinta on display in Vero Beach.

Until next time…….

Lynn– Longtime CY staffer Lynn Lortie and her husband Pat left Midland the summer of 2016 to make their way into the Great Loop and head out on a three year sailing odyssey. Follow their progress right here in CYOB.

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