Silence

Our plan was to leave Great Harbour Cay Marina and anchor just outside the entrance allowing an early departure the next morning. We back out of the slip towing the tender and motor down the fairway, out into “Five Pirates Cove”, through the narrow entrance channel and out onto the shallow banks to the west. We drop the hook beside 6-7 other boats in 9 feet of water; no more than a mile from the marina. We are the only trawler, the rest are sailboats. The wind is still blowing 15 knots with gusts to 20. The Rocna anchor and 120 feet of chain are holding strong.

We double-check our waypoints for our early morning departure. We will round Great Harbour Cay to the north, then southeast to the island of New Providence, home of Nassau. We aren’t particularly keen on stopping in the heart of Nassau; too much crime, even the churches have bars on the windows. So we made reservations at a private club with a marina on the northwest coast called Lyford Cay Club Marina. It’s a bit pricey but we plan on staying only 2 nights. We want a day to provision the boat then plan heading through Nassau harbor and south across Yellow Banks to HighBorne Cay, near the top of the Exuma chain.

We hoist anchor at 7 AM; it is so nice to anchor in sand and clear water. The anchor comes up clean. We motor over to the channel leading out to sea and activate our route on our chartplotters. We are finally on our way again after a two-week delay to attend to some business back in Florida. Seas are boisterous and we take spray over the bow frequently. We must round two anchored cruise ships off Stirrup Cay; both are taking on provisions and have tenders alongside; they aren’t moving anytime soon. So we pass close and are reminded of the cruises we have enjoyed in the past. So much simpler than managing your own little ship! Our course takes us east across the top of GHC and directly into head seas; the boat pounds a bit but the ride is OK. Each waypoint turns us further south and with each turn the ride improves. We are nearly to Petit Cay when I do my routine engine room check. What I find is shocking.

Mr Lugger, our main engine and lifeline, is losing blood or, rather, antifreeze. The white absorbent pads I keep under the engine are soaked with pink Fleetguard Charge. I quickly see that one of our new water pump mounting bolts is a bit loose and antifreeze is dribbling out the bolt hole. I race up to the pilothouse and shut down the engine; an uncomfortable silence ensues. This is not what you want to hear aboard a single-engine trawler 10 miles off shore (or 1000 for that matter). I start the wing engine, throw it in gear and we start moving. We turn the boat around and head back to our anchorage; it is 15 miles away while Lyford Cay is another 50. The wing is relatively small; only 27 HP compared to the Lugger’s 300 HP. As a result we creep along at 4 knots. But, it works beautifully,. I am thankful we have steerage and we are making good progress toward a safe port. We are also now running with the waves and current and aren’t pounding into head seas; the ride is much smoother. The wing is giving us time to think and the opportunity to address the problem at hand without wallowing around in 3-5 foot seas.

I run back down to the engine room to revive the main if possible. I grab my toolkit and quickly tighten up the water pump bolt; unfortunately that doesn’t seem to completely stop the flow. So, I dig out a tube of silicon caulk, wipe the long bolt hole as dry as I can, and pump it full of caulk. I then insert and tighten the bolt. I then cover the expansion tank cap with rags and slowly release the pressure and remove the cap. Surprisingly, the amount of antifreeze in the tank is nearly normal, good news! At most a couple quarts have escaped. Much like blood, a little antifreeze goes a long way. I top up the tank with spare antifreeze.

We restart the Lugger; what a lovely sound she makes! I put her into gear and increase the RPMs while watching the engine temp. After a few minutes I head back to the engine room to check the gauge temp against the temp taken directly on the expansion tank with an IR gun. The gauge has been reading high and that remains the case. Fortunately, the engine is running at a cool 174F. Most importantly there isn’t a drop of antifreeze leaking from the mount bolt. Still, we are a bit shaken by the experience and continue back to the anchorage. I want some time to reflect on the situation; run the engine some more, etc. We are back on the hook by noon; 6 hours at 7 knots only to end up anchored 100 feet from where we left. The afternoon is spent cleaning up; putting down clean absorbent pads, running the engine up to temp, checking the weather, and considering options.

The proper fix is to remove the pump and replace and reseal the gasket; a 3-4 hour job. Unfortunately, I do not have a spare pump gasket aboard. One would have to be flown in. We ran the engine over 3 hours after my repair with no leak so our fix seems to be working.

We ultimately decide that a short run down to Chub Cay should be sufficient to test the Lugger. We opt for a run down the west side of the Berrys on the Banks; though shallower it should be an easier ride and the weather looks much calmer tomorrow. If the leak should reappear we can once again return to GHC or into Chub; if it doesn’t reappear, we will continue on to New Providence.

Sadly, a stop at Lyford Cay Club shall have to wait for another time. We canceled our reservation.

It is rare on these boats to ever require the wing or “get home” engine. Unfortunately, we are now among the few that have had to use one. Thankfully, it was for a small water pump leak and not something major.

 
 

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