For the first time ever I had to be towed back to the dock.
It could have been worse. It could have been a dangerous situation requiring emergency services. We could have drifted into shallow water requiring us to take action to save the boat. It could have been windy. It could have been cold and rainy. We could have run out of ice.
As it was, it could have been better, but in the end it was a BoatUS membership tow back to the dock and a pretty memorable story.
An Afternoon of Fishing
* All photos taken by Jason Brandolini
With my wife and daughter out of town, I took the opportunity to take a friend out on the water after work to do some salmon fishing. As I started up the engine, I heard a high-pitched squeal. I assumed, at the time, it was just the belt slipping a little bit, and as soon as the engine got up to speed it went away.
On the way out to the Brown’s Point area, we motored through sailboats getting ready for some Wednesday night racing.
It was a little windy, nothing to worry about, and we were soon trolling comfortably.
As the evening approached, we were enjoying our time on the water snacking and drinking iced-teas. Legitimately, neither of us had a drop of alcohol all day, which served our needs well as the night unfolded. As sunset approached, the wind died down, and it became one of those nearly perfect evenings on the water. We shut off the engine a couple hundred yards off shore, and mooched until sunset.
An Evening of… Towing
As the sun just dropped behind the Olympic Mountain Range — at approximately 9:30 pm, a call came over the VHF radio of a small power boat drifting, dead in the water, between us and our home dock.
I asked Jason if he thought we should be good Samaritans. Since it was getting dark and we weren’t catching any fish anyway, he agreed that it was time to pull up the lines, head in, and help out a fellow boater. I answered the call on the VHF that we were an estimated 10 minutes away from the disabled vessel, and would be underway in approximately 5 minutes.
As Jason started reeling in a few hundred feet of line off both rigs, I turned over the engine, whereupon a horrible noise emanated from the engine room… It sounded like a chain got caught in the belt and was flopping around! I immediately shut off the engine, and went downstairs to investigate — everything appeared to be in order. I tried to turn over the engine again, and it made a more grating metal-on-metal sound. It was clearly not right, and mechanical — exactly like this:
There were now two disabled vessels adrift in Commencement Bay.
The good news for the small boat is that another, faster, closer boat decided to help them so they weren’t waiting for us. But after our call to BoatUS, we called the Coast Guard to let them know of the situation — two uninjured adults were aboard a vessel in no distress, simply waiting for Vessel Assist… and that was going to take a while.
To pass the time Jason decided to keep fishing, and in fact caught a few dogfish:
Vessel Assist gave a 90 minute estimated time of arrival and at around 10:45 the friendly red boat was seen coming towards us.
James was great. I felt bad that I had to drag him out on the water on a random Wednesday night, but like I said before it could have been worse. For everyone.
Within a few minutes after filling out the paperwork the towing bridle was set up…
And by 11:00 we were on our way home.
I sent the all-is-well text to my wife at 11:49pm once the boat was safely tied up in her slip.
Well, all-is-well as in everyone is back ashore safely — the boat still has an issue.
To Be Continued?
At this time I believe the issue to be the starter.
I don’t believe it’s anything internal to the engine, and I really hope it’s not. There was no smoke coming out the exhaust with the noise the first time we turned the engine over. And the only thing I could think of to check the internals was to check the oil — it was normal: Not black or milky, no particles when I rubbed it between my fingers, full amount, and it smelled just fine. Your standard brownish-black diesel oil.
After investigating and researching for the past 24 hours or so, the starter seems to make the most sense. The screetch at departure could be attributed to a starter, especially since the belt seems in good shape. The knocking has been reported when the starter pinion continues to make contact with the flywheel. And combined with the fact that I found a YouTube video (posted above) of a starter making the exact same noises, I think it’s a fair assessment.
But to be safe I’m actually going to hire a mobile mechanic to come out and take a look.