Can we catch a break?

Actually, yes. Lots of things break aboard a boat! Let’s back up a bit to where we left our last post…

We got the new transmission in, control cables run and were ready to head off cruising again. We left there on Tuesday, May 6th on the afternoon high tide. After a harrowing experience where the new throttle cable got stuck in full, whiles till in the canal. We had a nice motor sail South along the coast of Islamorada and back under the Channel 5 bridge to anchor in Matacumbe Bight, with protection from the building easterly winds. We spent three nights there just getting back into the swing of living on the hook (pun intended). We enjoyed exploring the Bight and all it’s mangrove creeks, sand bars, and nice waterfront homes.

On Friday, May 9th we set our course SW as the east winds had stayed up close to 20 knots and we were ready for a change of scenery. ‘Wanderer’ did great broad reaching with a reefed main and genoa, we even sailed wing-on-wing for a time; some of our best sailing yet! Grassy Key, north of Marathon ended up being our destination, which was more protected than Matacumbe Bight and very isolated from other boats. We spent two nights there enjoying a swim in the calmer water and a deck dance party to celebrate the wonderful spot and the sunset view it provided!

Grassy Key Sunset


We hemmed and hawed a bit about where to go next, but a favorable weather window for crossing to the Bahamas looked like it was opening up towards the end of the week so the decision was made to head back north. So back up the bayside of the Keys we went to prep for the crossing. There was more good sailing heading back into the wind on Monday but Tuesday turned into a motor day as the wind was on the nose with choppy seas. That’s what I suspect finally did the fuel tank in.

About an hour into our motor, Trisha noticed a strong diesel odor and found what first appeared to be water in the engine bilge. Upon further investigation I determined it was fuel under the engine and tracing it’s path led me to the fuel tank under the cockpit. The forward part of the wood frame was saturated with oily diesel residue and there was a steady drip going down into to the bilge.

Our plan had been to get to our old stomping grounds in Blackwater Sound by Key Largo to have a friend take us to pick up some groceries and supplies. It was a slow leak, and we were able to motor to Blackwater and drop anchor. The wind was to die down the next day and we planned to motor into our old dock then. The wind never did die down but the smell of desiel for a now more than 48 hours was enough to make us decideto go for our old dock anyway. Our canal is poorly dreged and we knew there was a good chance the boat would kiss the bottom on the way in. So Trisha had an idea to hoist dink up with the main halyard and shifted a bunch of weight to starboard to induce some heel in the boat (making it tip to raise the keel higher so we can get over the shallow spot). Trisha even climbed out into the dinghy to get more leverage outboard. And what do you know, it worked! I saw .1 feet on the depth sounder at the lowest point!

The old aluminum diesel tank came out pretty easily once everything was disconnected. It had a few small pin hole leaks in its front edge, 35 years of sailing and banging around can definitely do that to a tank. A new plastic tank is waiting to go in, but we are giving it a day or two to clean out the bilge and remove the odor (fingers crossed).

Some days it has seemed like we not meant to be out here/there, but both the transmission and fuel tank were due to age. The boats an antique by FL registration standards, and antiques take maintanence. This has been just another challenge to overcome. Luckily for us we are still in Key Largo, with access to our old dock, great friends, our car, and stores that have what we need.

There are positives to every negative if you look closely.

Diesel soaked wood & the old tank

Good size locker for Trish


Down in my hole

Baking soda to absorb the diesel odor



4 responses to “Can we catch a break?

  1. Great post.It sounds like a lot of challenges have been thrown at you and you rose to the occasion each time. Now you should have even more peace of mind to enjoy the adventure knowing that your willing to try to deal with the challenges as they occur.

  2. Looking good guys! Definitely a blessing in disguise to get this stuff sorted out stateside. I replaced my aluminum tank with a plastic one as well, should last quite a while!

  3. Wow, things are going a little better for you two! Glad! At least your at dockside now to work out things… Nice job both of you! and riley too! 🙂

  4. Good job guys & nice blog. Also, good pics. Live aboard means u r landlord & tenant. Hopefully no more major repairs for a while. You’re getting a good education though. Wishing you smooth sailing!!

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