Sunday, July 27, 2014

How we spent our summer vacation...not!

On Thursday, we were slated to take off for our annual week at Block Island.  We've done this many times before and we went through the usual ritual of gathering up clothes, loading the cooler and fridge and checking the weather.  At about 11 a.m. on Thursday, we were set and we fired up the engines.

Thinking back, the starboard engine sounded a little different, not smooth as it usually does. But, off we went to the gas dock, the least pleasant part of any trip on our boat.

$629 later, we got ready to leave, but now, the starboard engine refused to start. Starting our engines has never been a problem but this time that one engine would only occasionally fart. We checked all the usual things and we did note that the engine was flooded. A dock mate came along and offered assistance. We checked ignition and everything seemed to be working accept that strong smell of gas. Eventually, we ran the boat on just the port engine back to our slip. Luckily, our dock mate Mike came along and with his help and with a lot of fending off and tossing lines, we got the boat back into the slip.

Scratch Block Island for today.

As we began double checking everything, others on our dock gathered around to offer help and advice. Nothing draws a crowd like an open engine hatch. Actually, we appreciate the extra help.

Another dock mate, John, who is an accomplished mechanic, got interested in our problem.  Working together, we systematically began swapping ignition parts between the two engines. That included the cap, rotor, ballast resistor and finally, even the ignition modules inside the Mallory YLM distributors.

We couldn't have swapped the ignition modules at all except for the fact that our pal John produced two beautiful sets of connectors to replace the original Mallory connectors that we had to cut off.

Did we mention that it was hot and humid?

 However, each time we swapped a part, we'd try to start the port engine and each time, it started perfectly.

It seems that our problem wasn't ignition related at all. Was this a fuel problem? Hard to believe on a four year old carb but with Ethanol, who knows?

The consensus opinion was that we should should try one more time to start the starboard engine. We held the choke open, advanced the throttle all the way and after some cranking, the engine fired and ran, but very poorly. We quickly accumulated quite a gas slick on the water. Stuck float? No amount of tapping seemed to have helped. Eventually, we shut the engine down. In five or so minutes of sputtering, the carb has accumulated about 3/4" of gas in the base. Time to have the carb rebuilt.

We got some references to local re-builders but it soon became apparent that none of them moved quickly or were even available when we called, or in one case, actually visited his shop.

With our summer quickly passing, we decided on Friday morning to see if we could buy a new Mallory 1409 carb. This is a popular 600 cfm marine carb and in an Internet search, we found that they were readily available. We zeroed in on Advance Auto Parts, whose site seemed to say that a new carb could be delivered the next day to one of their stores near us. Even better, if we purchased it through their web site, they would offer us a 15% discount.

At this point, Frances, the Master Shopper, took over. Forget the Internet.  Frances got on the phone and drilled some poor soul at Advance Auto Parts on every aspect of the transaction. Amazing to watch that woman work. Once she hung up, the carb transaction was going to be quite different from what was described on the Advance Auto Parts website.

Advance Auto Parts would move a 1409 carb from wherever they keep them to their store in Colchester, Conn., that night without us ever really ordering it. The next morning, we were to go on line and place the order, specifying their Colchester store as the pickup point. Once we placed that order, we could go to Colchester and pick up the new carb. That exactly what we did and it was there waiting for us. Frances crowning touch was to obtain a 20% discount rather than the 15% shown on their website.

Saturday afternoon, we installed the new carb and the engine started instantly and ran perfectly. We'll have the old carb rebuilt and keep it as a space but with our luck, will probably never need it.

This engine problem stole three days from our Block Island visit so we decided to try again in a week or two when we again can get away from work obligations.

Road Food
On Friday, while waiting for our Edelbrock carb to arrive, we felt the need for a good off-boat lunch. We don't eat out often when we're on the boat but today looked like a good time to take a drive and take a break from the boat. But where? 

Our dock has a special resource in that area: our friends Sue and Ron. They love boats and road trips and know their way around New England. They also know good food and where to find it (and cook it) so we asked Sue what she'd recommend.

It took Sue about five seconds to recommend the Riverview Inn in Moosup, Conn. She described their last meal there and could probably recite much of the menu. She also gave us directions that would put Google Maps to shame.

Off we went to Moosup and although we would never have noticed it otherwise, there was Riverview exactly where we were told it would be. Understand that this isn't fancy or expensive. It's really an old strip shopping center that Riverview's owners have combined the four storefronts into one restaurant. Inside, it's a little dark but immaculately clean. The menu was vast but we knew what to order and it was easily as good as Sue had described.

Later that afternoon, Ron stopped by to see if we had enjoyed Riverview. We told him that we had and he went on to tell us about other places that he and Sue enjoy.

Sometimes having fun on your boat is more than cruising away for someplace else. Sometimes, the best times are right on your dock.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Invasion of the kayaks

This weekend, we took some time to get things ready for our cruise to Block Island next week. The Saturday weather, which was predicted to be warm and sunny, was gray and cool with a sprinkling of rain. No matter, we made a few modifications to our troublesome starboard engine and finally proclaimed it ready to the cruise. We also checked the engine fluids (everything looked fine) and even played around with the shower sump pump and found that it actually still worked. We checked all the storage spaces to make sure we had enough stuff on board to survive a week on Block.

We can assure you that we definitely have enough stuff to make it through a month on Block Island!

Will the dock flowers make it through our absence? They will if someone waters them.

On Sunday, we spent a lazy morning reading the New York Times and enjoying a great breakfast, courtesy of Frances, the world's best omelet maker. We did our usual tour of the marina and sadly, found many open transient slips. We did find one major transient visitor, a boat called "XOXO." It's a Mangusto 105 (think we have that spelling right) that, while fairly unattractive,  is a welcome addition, we're sure, for the marina management.

Early in the afternoon we heard a banging on the hull and went outside to find our old friends, Stu and Lauren, in their kayaks along side. They were looking for some directions as to where to paddle in the "three rivers" area and we provided it.

Once they had paddled themselves out, they came back to our boat and came aboard for a chat.

Stu and Bill go back a long way in boating. We won't bore you with the war stories, but there were many.

No sooner had Stu and Lauren left, when dock mates John and Jodi Lynn showed up in Kayaks. They were exploring the area but wanted to pick up their dachshund "Dino" to join them. It is amazing how this little dog (we'd guess he has four-inch legs) can chase ducks off the dock and is really anxious to join his parents in an afternoon cruise.

Boat dogs and boat cats. Good stuff.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Watch Hill Weekend

We thought it was time to get out of the marina and many of our dock mates thought the same thing. The plan was to raft up at Watch Hill or more commonly, Napatree Point. The weather looked good so off we all went on Saturday morning. There were seven boats from our marina in two rafts.

We were close to the last ones to cast off and we had a wonderful ride down the Thames, east into Fisher's Island Sound as far as Stonington, Connecticut then through the very narrow channel that ends at Napatree Point or east into the Pawcatuck River and Westerly, Rhode Island. The two mile long entrance is quite shallow and there were lots of boats anchored just out of the channel on a long sandy spit of land. Frances took some pictures as we danced over the shallow spots.

Looks like deep water, but it isn't.

You can see the sandbar in this photo. When we went over it, our depth sounder indicated 2.8 feet.

But, like just about everyone else, we got into the anchoring area behind Napatree Point just fine.  After a couple of calls on the radio, we found out raft-up mates. We doubt the accuracy of that depth reading because there were boats in there a lot bigger than ours.

The weather was perfect and Frances took the opportunity to photograph one of her favorite subjects: clouds

By Saturday afternoon there were lots of boats anchored on the sandy bottom close to the beach. Here's another Silverton setting anchor near us.

It's a short ride by dingy to Watch Hill where literally thousands of people come by car to visit the beach. Watch Hill has never impressed us but the beach is great if sitting on sand is of interest. Frankly, we prefer boats.

We rafted with two couples who really know how to set an anchor and have fun.

Pooka the boat cat settled in nicely. As you can see, he was almost overcome with excitement.

We shot some video of our trip in on Saturday that shows how nice an anchorage this really is. The sunsets aren't bad either.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 4th weekend

As everyone knows, Hurricane Arthur blew through here on July 3 and left behind lots and lots of rain the next day. That cancelled the fireworks planned for the harbor in Norwich on July 4 so we were left on the boat with only a few chores to do. There's nothing less exciting than a marina in the rain so we decided to take ourselves out to lunch. 

We decided to go to Abbots in Noank, a cute little village not far away. Noank is home to a few hundred people who have very nice homes there. However, its claim to fame is Abbots "Lobster in the Rough" and each summer, tens of thousands of people find their way there to sample the seafood. On a nice day, it isn't out of the ordinary to wait 15 or 20 minutes to simply have your order taken but today, in the rain, there was no wait.

We're partial to Abbot's Hot Lobster Roll and that's what we had for an incredible $38.00. If you have a big family, save up before ordering here. It may have been extravagant but the lobster rolls were very good and it was fun on a rainy day.

If you know us, you've probably been to Abbots but here's some of what it looked like when it was too wet for tourists.

The 4th of July, one day late
The fireworks were rescheduled for Saturday and it turned out to be a beautiful day. They don't get much better than this here in Southern New England. Almost everyone just relaxed and enjoyed the warm sun, cool breeze and the beautiful deep blue sky.

Even the ducks took a little snooze on their own private dock.

Some folk selected their spot to watch the fireworks a little early and they were obviously pretty happy about it.

We walked around the marina and shot some video of what was going on. It seemed to us that the other docks were somewhat quiet, at least compared to A dock, where we are.

At one point in the afternoon, Frances convinced dockmate John that they should do up river in John's inflatable to hunt for bird's nests.  Off they went, but this time Frances took a second video camera with her to record the wonders of nature. For some reason, not all of that video survived but we've included what did. We do have almost 30 minutes of video of the inside of Frances' tote bag, if anyone can use it.

As the sun set, the food came out as is the tradition on our dock. It's always delicious and more than we could eat, although, God knows, we tried.

The little kids, many of whom are grandchildren, have all gotten bigger. No surprise there, but it is fun to see them, happy to be around a whole bunch of people who love kids, and all equally anxious to see the fireworks.