Usually passages are 90% boring, 5% frustrating and sometimes 5% unpleasantly exciting. The passage from Marathon to Hollywood was 60% boring, 39% frustrating and 1% unpleasantly exciting.
We got up a little earlier than normal and packed up the last of our stuff. The canal was super calm with no current so we glided out of the slip easily. We motored out of Boot Key Harbour and into Hawks Channel which is a channel that runs between the outer reefs and the keys.
Winds were light and mostly on the nose so we put out a bit of jib, sheeted tight and ran under power at about 7 knots. The motion of the boat was comfortable and we motored along gradually shifting to motor sailing as our course shifted from east to northeast and increasing our speed to 7.5 knots. We had lunch in the cockpit, the boys played and watched a movie – typical passage activities. Normally I would read while we travelled but due to the return of the much hated crab pots I had to actively man the wheel which sucks because I am almost done my second reading of a Game of Thrones book 1 through 5.
Our initial plan was to go from Marathon to Key Largo and anchor behind a small island called Rodiguez Key, which is the only real anchorage with any protection south of Miami for boats with more than 4 feet of draft.
We got to Key Largo at 4:30 and we heard a funny sound. I jumped in the water with a snorkel on but saw nothing so we fired back up and were soon running 7.5 knots again. We decided to keep going and enter Biscayne Bay at night using the well marked and lit Biscayne Channel because the trip was going so well. The boys went to sleep around 8:00, Ethan in his room and James and Matthew forward in our bed, as it was a little quieter farther away from the engine. At around 10:30 we were approaching the channel and were joined by James. He was a great help spotting the unlit buoys and helping us get through the channel. Once in the Bay, he headed to bed and we crossed the bay toward Dinney Key to anchor. As we were putting the anchor down the overheat alarm on the engine went off and Leah shut it down.
End boring time and start frustrating time.
Finished dropping the anchor and extra chain because we couldn’t set the anchor (pull it to test its holding power) and went to bed. We were both tired but I initially had a hard time sleeping as my mind wanted to start troubleshooting the engine. At 3:00, I woke up and went outside to check our position and make everything was okay. The Bay was glass and the buildings of Miami were reflecting of the water beautifully. Snapped some pictures and headed back to bed.
The next morning I woke up at 6:30 and started working. Most marine diesel engines circulate fresh water (mixed with antifreeze) through the engine block to keep it cool and then use sea water to cool the fresh water with a heat exchanger. From the heat exchanger the sea water then runs to the exhaust elbow were it mixes with the exhaust from the engine and heads overboard. The raw water system is usually the first place to look for problems when having heat issues. The engine had a reasonable raw water flow but I decided to follow conventional wisdom.
First I checked the strainer which is intended to prevent large debris from entering the engine. A few weeks ago I had been working on the heat exchanger and found a bit of grass in the heat exchanger so I thought that Beneteau had cheaped out and not put a strainer in. I had never seen the strainer before either because it was behind the exhaust line and one would need to contort themselves partially into the engine compartment just to see it, let alone work on it. Contort I did and found that the strainer was clean with only a few small pieces of grass inside.
Second thing to check was the raw water pump. I pulled the cover off to discover that the 6 bladed rubber impeller was missing one blade. BINGO!! I thought. I knew that these are a wear part and had several spares on board just in case. I changed the impeller and started to hunt for the missing blade as quite often the blade will travel through the system before getting stuck and preventing flow causing overheating. The first place it normally goes is the heat exchanger which I opened up and found not one impeller blade but two of them. There was also a “salt ball” and some grass in there which I removed.
Satisfied that I had solved everything and put the engine back together and fed the kids breakfast after which I started the engine. Leah came on deck to drive while I went forward to pull anchor. I got the anchor on board and then the engine overheated again. The Bay was super calm and the wind light so we sat and had coffee while I pondered what to do next. We also called our broker James who gave us a contact for a great mechanic that we could talk to for help.
While waiting for the mechanic to call us back I traced the lines on the engine for the raw water and the coolant. I ran the engine again and measured temperatures around the engine water systems until the alarm went off again. When the mechanic called, I explained to him the problem and what I had measured and he suggested that the thermostat which maintains a minimum fresh water temperature of 70C was not working. He also thought maybe there was an air lock in the lines running from the hot water tank to the engine.
I opened up the thermostat housing and found it completely dry when it should be full of water (I didn’t know this at the time). Careful not to be too optimistic I pulled the thermostat and started the engine again but it was still too hot so Leah shut it down. Looking at the hot water tank lines I realized that the high point for the whole fresh water system was not the air bleed on the top of the engine but those lines which are looped up over the engine access door. I lowered the hoses and pored coolant into the thermostat housing. It took about half a litre before the air bubbles stopped coming out of the hose.
Started the engine, opened the air bleed and waited until a steady stream of fresh water came out. SUCCESS!! It was about 2:30 before we got moving again and now we would have no real assistance when we got to the dock as the marina employees would have gone home.
End frustrating time and start boring time
Shift to boring again as we motored up the ICW for 4 hours, the highlight of which was passing under a bridge with only about 1 foot to spare. This is the lowest bridge on the ICW on the entire east coast of the US. The story is that the engineer who designed the bridge misread the specifications and designed a 56ft tall bridge instead of a 65ft tall one. It wasn’t realized until it was too late so some boats must leave the ICW for a 20 mile detour if they are taller than 56ft. Oops. The bridge is named the Julia Tuttle Causeway Bridge which I think would be funny if that is the name of the person who screwed up the measurement – I sure it is named for some one important though.
End boring time and start unpleasantly exciting time
The Hollywood Beach Marina was insanely tight and we were almost successful in docking on the first try but an ill-timed gust of wind, combined with the fact the we still had the dinghy on the back of the boat resulted with Viatori getting stuck between two piles while snagging the anchor of the boat beside us in our life lines. Once clear of all of that, we handed the dinghy off to someone on the dock and tried again, but were unsuccessful but didn’t hit anything this time. Third time was a charm with getting Viatori into the slip without getting blown off course. A helpful couple Byron and Kim from Southern Star, one of the boats in the marina, helped us tie up and we were settled. That is until the dock security guard came up and told us we were in the wrong slip, D3 not D5! Not that any slip is marked in the whole marina but it should be fine until tomorrow (one last bit of frustration for the day). Hopefully we won’t have to move after all.