Splashdown Blues


We have been out of dry dock for 3 weeks and I have yet to mention anything about our haul-out. It’s been difficult to write about.

Our week on blocks went smoothly enough until the last few hours of the last day. New zincs, 3 through-holes sealed up, and 3 coats of fresh paint. All was going incredibly well.

Our last day rain poured out of the sky non-stop. Our feet were wet, the last bit of paint going on the areas where it had been sitting on blocks was difficult to apply and dry before splashdown but… splashdown happened. Wednesday May 13th we were back in the water. From there, a tough day  got worse. Three weeks later, in the warm sunshine, we can look back relieved it is over.

The rain began to fall the day before around the time we heard the news, Kevin’s high school friend, Glen Fauble drew his last breath. He hadn’t known him well in school but became acquainted a few years back at their 35th class reunion, when the reunion committee met monthly over drinks at a local hangout. Glen and Denise, his wife along with a few others drew in together and had awesome evenings getting to know each other over the good times and not-so-good. Glen’s doctor gave him news in January or February of cancer and on top of his struggle with MS and it was all too much. God took him home May 12th as we cried. Then May 13th, our splashdown day, was the 1 year anniversary of my mom’s passing.

Needless to say, there was mourning involved with our splashdown. Trying to keep a good face on it all, after we were back in the water and all was good to head back, we fired up the engine and Kevin headed back down Hylebos waterway to our Marina. Once he was off, I headed to a local diner for take-out dinners & wait for him to arrive which should have been 45 minutes later. An hour passed, then a bit more. When he didn’t arrive, my worrier kicked in and I went in search. Pretty soon I found him pulled over, still in Hylebos waterway at a abandoned marina. It was all we could do to yell at the top of our voices to be heard but he managed to convey… “overheated”. Distressed but unable to do anything, I went back to the marina to wait for him.

In this day and age of electronics, one would think we had the ability to communicate but he had the cell phone (we only have 1), the Verizon WiFi, and his laptop while I had all the charging cords. All of his electronics were dead and I had my laptop, but no WiFi!

Sometime around 9:30pm as the sun was disappearing and dusk setting in,  here comes our boat through the breakwater. Running down to our dock, we arrived at the slip just about the same time. Kevin was dripping wet, freezing cold, hungry and exhausted!


There were several reasons for the rush in getting Wings of the Morning back in the water. None of them good enough in retrospect. The yard we were in did not allow us to live aboard while we were “on the hard”, so we were sleeping in our van. We were comfortable enough, but we wanted our home back. We were paying for a slip we weren’t using, and we were paying a daily fee to sit on blocks at the haul out yard. Given all of that, I felt driven to work from “can see to can’t see”, and I was exhausted. Next time, we will get a motel room for at least a couple days, and I will take some breaks.

Splashing felt good. I was happy with everything we had  done, and I was ready to get back to our normal life. I started the engine, and Sherlene asked: Do you see water? (Being a seawater cooled engine, there should be water coming out of the exhaust) I looked. There was so I cast off.

In no hurry, I kept the engine at around 1200 rpm, good for maybe 3 MPH. Soon, I could see the Hylebos Bridge ahead and called to have them open the draw bridge. Going under, I ran the engine up to around 2500 rpm to get under as quickly as possible. Passing under, the sound of the engine changed pitch, but I could not identify why. Slowing down again, I motored on. About a quarter mile later, smoke began rolling up from the engine room. Disaster!

Shutting down the engine I steered my way to a perfect single-handed landing! I got the boat tied off, and went below to check the engine. The first thing I saw was the engine cooling water sea-cock was closed. This is why it had overheated. After opening the sea-cock and started the engine again, I went out to look for water coming out the exhaust. Nothing. Mystified, I shut the engine off and thought.

Something came to me… while we were painting the bottom, I remembered we stuffed rags in some of the holes to keep water from dripping out. Worried that I hadn’t gotten them all out, I decided to get in the water to check them. Tired and cold as I was already, that was not an easy decision! Satisfied then that the intakes were clear, I ran the engine one more time, but no joy, and no water from the exhaust. I tried everything, and checked everything. Nothing.

While I was in the water checking through hulls a second time, I remembered that the engine cooling intake had a screen over it, and could not be plugged. (Easily)

Finally, I decided it was time to move no matter what. I ran the engine long enough to pull away from the pier, and after several failed attempts to sail, I motored along watching my temp gauge. After getting out of the confined waterway, I got some wind, and sailed back to our marina where I motored gingerly into our slip, and shut down.

For several days I didn’t even look at the engine. Sherlene was out of town, and I was physically and mentally exhausted. Eventually, after talking to a friend on the dock, I learned a little more about my engine. Using that little bit of info, I discovered my melted water muffler.

The first time I ever saw that muffler, the thought crossed my mind: “I would hate to have to replace that thing!”  But it was a relief to find something to fix, and within a couple days, I had it replaced. I fired up the engine, but.. still.. no water from the exhaust. This was time for the experts to come in and help so I made an appointment with Tacoma Diesel.

One of the things I tried while sitting at the abandoned marina at whits end, was replacing the water pump impeller. It is a rubber wheel that spins and pulls water through the sea-cock, and pushes it through the engine, muffler, and out through the exhaust. When I did that, I put an “O” ring in that wasn’t supposed to be there. That created a gap that kept the pump from developing suction. We took out the O ring, and I had my exhaust water at last!

Looking back, I would really like to know how I saw water come from the exhaust with the valve closed. I don’t know the answer to that.

Back in the water as Wings of the Morning



2 thoughts on “Splashdown Blues

  1. Being non-boaters (we do own a rowboat) one doesn’t even begin to comprehend the importance of understanding every minute detail of how a boat works until an event such as this happens. Tenacity wins the day! You are both brave and inspiring….


  2. Ahoy friends! We wish to share a similarly trying experience that, like you, happened when we splashed The Red Thread after her first haulout after she became ours. We, too, had bottom paint done, in addition to a barrier coat and some work on the gudgeon. After we splashed her, Neil set off to single hand her home, while I drove our car from Shilshole to meet him at Elliott Bay. We, too, had left late in the day, not wanting to foot the bill for more nights in the yard, knowing she’d be stuck there for a few more days due to our work schedules. It was dark out. Halfway back to the marina, I received a call from him. He was on the verge of panic, as the engine was beginning to overheat. I was helpless sitting in traffic. It was maddening. The culprit was a closed seacock. Neil opened it and made his way back safely. It decimated our impeller, throwing the spokes throughout our heat exchanger. Fun times. We hadn’t started our blog at that point, so we’ve not shared the story online. Good for you for sharing the glory and the gory! Tough moments survived become teachable experiences. Glad you, your boat, and your engine are all on the mend! ~Jessie

    Liked by 1 person

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