Category: Sailing

Outboard update, staying in the old slip, rowing my dinghy

Greg and I went down to the marina last weekend, to see what we could see. Our plan was to spin Elska around in her slip, bring her engine close to the dock, and remove the carburetor for a good cleaning. Seemed easy enough.

Years ago, probably 1996 or so, I bought my second dilapidated VW bus – my 4th Volkswagon in total (and my last). Sitting one afternoon in a Volkswagon IRC chatroom (ANYONE REMEMBER IRC?), a few of the guys inspired me to try doing a tune-up by myself. I was in the same position I am with my boat, unable to get the damn thing out of the driveway. I went to a local auto parts store and bought oil and spark plugs and a bunch of tools and other random stuff I don’t remember, and a few days later I got back in that chatroom, announced my intentions, and went to work. I alternated going out to the bus, and back in the house to my adorable orange iMac to tell them what I was doing and how it was going. They led me through an oil change and a tune-up, it was brilliant. And it worked. I drove her out of the driveway that afternoon, triumphant. I figured if I could pull that off, this little outboard wasn’t going to stymy me.

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Engine update, and the utter enticement of the Race to Alaska, and….a snail.

Last night I went to a meeting of the Puget Sound Cruising Club, a group I’ve known about for a couple of years but just never got the chance to connect with. I happened to check their event schedule a couple weeks ago, and lo and behold: they were doing a talk on the Race to Alaska. A few days ago I posted a link to the R2AK on Facebook with a message that went something like, “Who’s crazy enough to do this with me?” I deleted it seven minutes later (there were no replies). I didn’t want to hear how crazy it was, nor did I want to project onto everyone my fear that any person in their right mind who knows me and knows the state of my health would laugh out loud at such a thought. This race to Alaska involves piloting an engineless craft, all the way from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska. People go in multihulls, monohulls, kayaks, rowboats, even tiny paddleboards. It’s  750 grueling miles through freezing, moody, and treacherous water, and you have to run the whole thing entirely by sailing, or pedaling (yes, pedaling), or rowing, or paddling, or some combination of these.

Check out this video. And yeah, that’s the gorgeous sound of a Maori Haka dance, and yep, they got permission to use it.

Me? Mostly sedentary, with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, around eighty pounds overweight, can’t walk a block without giving my lungs a pep talk. Yes, I’m in a yoga teacher training program, but that’s mostly so I can learn for myself. It’s impossible right now for me to teach an entire 90-minute class, even if I wasn’t doing all the poses myself. And then beyond that, even assuming I was healthy enough, I haven’t sailed enough. I’ve never anchored my boat, I’ve never gotten caught in a storm, I’ve only ever camped overnight on board twice. I’ve never been tested. The whole idea is irrational and foolish, and even dangerous.

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Outboard engine progress, part 2. (Thanks, Elaine!) Also, engines aren't so bad.

This is a follow-up to this post about my outboard not working right.

You know, I was a little too hard on my engine. Literally and figuratively. First I didn’t take good care of it, and then I used its inevitable malfunction as a demonstration of its insolence and made it an illustration of why engines are bad on general principle. Or, as I believe I put it, sucked. Okay now, I maintain that we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and any steps I can take toward a Torqueedo are good ones, but my Honda outboard is not a bad person. It’s doing the best it can. And apparently, it was doing the best it could with old, crappy gasoline. My bad!

In the last post, in the comments, my friend Elaine said, “How old is the gas in there? If it’s been sitting for more than six months, the engine will be cranky.” This never occurred to me! Mostly because I asked someone (who shall remain nameless), whether old gas is a big deal. They said, “Nahhhhhh.” Turns out, it’s a very big deal. Elaine was right, thank you Elaine! If she hadn’t said that, then when I was calling shops this morning, I wouldn’t have thought to mention it, and so wouldn’t have heard them tell me how obviously it’s the ancient gas causing the problem.

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Tried to move Elska to her new slip, failed. See also: engines suck.

Moorage is one of the most expensive parts of owning a boat. It’s the biggest expense of owning my small boat, a Flicka 20. She’s only 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. And yet for some reason she’s been in a 30 foot slip at our marina, because I was told by someone (clearly the wrong someone) that there were no smaller slips, that 30 was as low as you can go. After mooring her there for a year and watching our rates increase, I called and asked again, are you sure you can’t shove my tiny little sailboat somewhere out of the way? Twenty feet! That’s like two kayaks and a mast! She barely draws 3 feet, that’s low tide right up against the wall.

This time, the person I talked to said, “Wait, you didn’t know about the 26 foot slips?”

“There are 26 foot slips? I had no idea! How much are they?”

“Let’s see…..they’re $100 less than you’re paying now. Would you like me to put you on the list for one?”

After I stopped banging my head against the table, I said yes, that would be great. Put me on the list! I called back a month later, which was a few days ago, to check in and see where I was on the list, and Dean, the very sweet uh….what is his job title? Let’s call him the marina god, said, “You know, I have these three slips and I keep emailing people on the list and they don’t get back to me.” I said that was ridiculous, who in their right mind wouldn’t RUN STRAIGHT DOWN THERE to pick out their slip? He agreed. And then he said, “You know what? I’m releasing these slips right now.” And he did! He sent me a map of the marina with these three spots marked, and said I could choose whichever spot I wanted. Hurrah! “I’m baking you cookies,” I told him.

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