I don't want to write this post. It's just too much, and I'm pooped. It has been a full ten days since I last sat down to write a post here, and it feels like at least a month has passed—maybe two.
It's Wednesday, and we were supposed to be here on Saturday afternoon. As I write this, we are in South Carolina, right beside the point where the ICW and the Waccamaw River diverge. Why were we not here five days ago? There's a story, and I will tell all as soon as I catch you up on everything that happened after we left Washington, NC.
We left Washington in the morning after our last entry here and ran back down the Pamlico River and turned onto Goose Creek and the canal to its south, ultimately stopping at R.E. Mayo's Seafood Dock where we spent the night. While there I changed the oil in our main engines, and we enjoyed a quiet night. Mayo's even had a "used oil" tank where I was able to dispose of the evidence.
Early last Tuesday morning we topped off our fuel tanks while we were near Mayo's fuel dock and then continued south to the Neuse River where we bounced around on some uncomfortable seas until the Adams Creek turnoff. We continued to Bogue Sound and ran all the way to Swansboro to a wonderful anchorage just off the beaten path known as "Spoil Island."
Last Wednesday we rose with the sun and were underway soon thereafter to make a long run down the ICW to Carolina Beach State Park, a favorite stop of ours, where we spent two nights. We had mail and Amazon packages stacking up ahead of us in Southport, NC and didn't want to get there before they did!
Friday morning, October 21, 2022, we ran the 12 or so miles from Carolina Beach to Southport to visit with our friends, Ian and Jen—fellow mis-placed Mainers. They were the ones who were collecting our packages on their front stoop.
Ian is now the dockmaster at South Harbour Village Marina in Southport and he caught a glimpse of us heading toward the nearby anchorage. He immediately called us on the radio and offered us a spot in the marina for the night, which we were very happy to accept. Ian and Jen took us out to dinner at the Rusty Hook, right beside the marina. We had a great time hanging with them, and as we said goodnight, we knew it would be for a while.
Saturday morning, we were again up with the sun and shortly underway. We put about 20 miles under the keel, and then at a particular point as we were nearing the South Carolina border, we slowed down for a no-wake zone. As we exited the zone, I began to throttle the engines back up and SOMETHING was wrong. The engines did not sound right at all. I gave the helm to Stacey and ran below to check on the engines and noted that there was coolant on the floor by the starboard engine, and I ran aft and noted that the engine was belching out white smoke. That was all I needed to decide that we may have lost a head gasket in that engine, so I shut it down. Not. Good.
We began looking at local repair options and trying to decide if we should go forward on one engine or turn around and go back on one engine. Ultimately, after considering our options and calling a couple of local friends to figure out how we'd find needed support to figure this all out, we decided that heading back to Ian's marina in Southport made the most sense, so we came about and ran slowly on one engine back from whence we came, arriving around 1:00pm.
As soon as we were back in Southport, I began making calls to try to figure out next steps, but being a Saturday afternoon, most (read: all) of my calls that day achieved nothing. Sunday was similar. Monday came around, and I made a flurry of phone calls to marine mechanics and parts shops. For half of the day, all I did was talk to voice mail systems and answering machines. The first call that actually "landed" was to a parts supplier in Washington State who was able to ship me a head gasket. I placed the order and then, in a fit of frustration from not being able to speak with a mechanic, called Earl Summerville, known as the "Hino Whisperer." Our engines were made by Hino, which is a subsidiary of Toyota.
I described everything to Earl and he stopped me and said, "That doesn't sound like a head gasket to me. I think it's a bad injector. Pull your fuel injectors and get them pop-tested."
I immediately called the west-coast vendor back and asked them to "pause" the order until I knew more. They agreed. Then I climbed into the engine room and started removing fuel injectors—the very same fuel injectors we just had rebuilt in northern Maryland. The first one I pulled out seemed visually okay. The second one was coated in a weird orange slime—mind you the anti-freeze we use is made for diesel engines and it's ORANGE! It was around then that one of the extremely busy and overbooked mechanics I had called stopped by briefly to see how we were doing. I told him about my call to Earl, and he agreed that it made the most sense. I pulled the rest of the injectors and they looked just like the first. I marked the slimy one with a zip tie, and Stacey started researching how we might get up to Wilmington to the only reputable diesel machine shop she could find in the area.
After some checking around, Stacey came up with the names of a couple who frequently help boaters in need in the area—Robert and Kay. They have completed the Great Loop, just as we have, and after a short conversation with Robert, they offered to loan us a car to run to the machine shop! Robert drove to the marina, we jumped in with him and visited with them at their home for an hour or two, and then we drove back to the marina in their car to be poised to make the trip to the shop first thing in the morning. Stacey had already contacted "Diesel Parts of Carolina" and they offered to check out our injectors if we could get there shortly after they opened at 8:00am.
I rose at 6:40am, and by 7:30am or so, we were on the road. We arrived at the shop at 8:12am and by 8:20am we were asked to join Jeff, the expert technician, at his workbench to see what he'd discovered. The slimy injector was stuck in the "open" position, and was not popping, nor aerosolizing fuel at all. The other five checked out just perfectly. Jeff tinkered with it right in front of us, and had it testing out perfectly within minutes. We thanked him, paid for his time, took a wonderful tour of the shop, and then shuffled off to buy a few things at Trader Joe's (we had a car in a city, after all) and Sam's Club. We then ran back down to Southport where I reinstalled the injectors and started the boat. She purred.
Disaster averted, I called the company in Washington and canceled the order for the head gasket and thanked them. We then went and told Ian the good news and settled up with him for our 5 nights on his dock (we decided to stay one more night and celebrate, since it was already so late in the day, and we still had a car to return). Ian was exceptionally kind to us and made a very difficult situation so much less stressful than it otherwise might've been. We are eternally in his debt.
We called Robert and Kay and drove over to return their car. They gave us the tour of their home and their nearby loop yacht, and then Robert drove us back to the marina in time for our dinner and a relaxing sleep without a broken boat hanging over our heads.
Wednesday morning—this morning—we got off the dock sometime in the 8:00am hour and ran all day. We did stop in Little River (not long after sighting a manatee by Calabash Creek) at Cricket Cove Marina for fuel at the verifiably least expensive diesel stop in this area of the ICW—we paid $5.04 per gallon for about 140 gallons. This "top off" should get us most of the way to Florida. So here we are at anchor. It's pitch black out. We hear owls and crickets. This part of the ICW is completely freshwater. We are swinging at anchor by cypress trees in a little oxbow, and we are simply thrilled to be underway again. We're now on a mission to get south to our beloved Sanford, Florida, and hope to make it sooner than later. Tomorrow we will run down river through Winyah Bay past Georgetown, SC. We should be in or near Florida when next I post a blog.