My Blog

Acquiring Serenity Now…

or how to buy a boat the hard way.

Ian, the hurricane in late September 2022, tore up the port side of our sailboat. Although I had intended to repair the damage, it turned out to be too expensive and time-consuming. I loved that sailboat – it was the perfect size and I understood the little ship pretty well. If I could only find another one just like it……

Feb 4, 2023

I drove to Satellite Beach with Monica and Lollo on Feb 4 to see an advertised Hunter 28.5. It’s the exact same model as my broken one. It’s named Serenity Now. I think I’ll keep that name. Met the owner and decided to buy it. Lunch at Sandbar Sports Grill in Cocoa Beach.

Bought some repair parts (shaft seal was leaking) online and made arrangements for a haulout to do some necessary repairs and paint the bottom. No boat yards were available on the west coast of Florida where we live, but I was able to schedule a haulout at Cracker Boy Boat Works in Ft. Pierce, Fl on the 17th. It’s on the way home, maybe a day from where I’m picking the boat up.

Arranged an AirBnb stay in Ft.Pierce and bought a used folding bicycle on Craigslist for $45 in order to have transportation while working on the boat. Plan was to work all weekend and splash the boat on Monday.

Feb 15, 2023

Rented a car and drove to Satellite beach to pick up the boat. Left on the low tide, due to a 42 foot bridge that I needed to clear. Noticed an awful banging noise after shifting the transmission into forward that wasn’t there before. It didn’t happen all of the time, but it concerned me. Traveled south down Indian River all day Wednesday and found an anchorage near Wabasso Island, spending a quiet and peaceful night on the boat.

Feb 16, 2023

Left with the sun and continued down the river on the diesel – the occasional banging sound when shifting into gear was still there. Nuts.

About two o’clock, I decided to add some fuel to my tank. I was given a full 5 gallon jug of diesel fuel by the previous owner and added about three gallons from that in order to top off the tank while underway. Maybe that was a mistake – more about that later. Continued down the Indian River – looking like I was going to get to Ft. Pierce, early.

Whoops!! Spoke too soon. Diesel starts losing RPM. It’s windy and a tad unpleasant, with the 20 mph gusts right on the bow, and the engine is now being funky. We’re still doing 2500 rpm with the wide-open throttle, so I’m making progress, but I’m not feeling good about the engine at all. About an hour later, the engine stalls. I’m in a channel and the wind wants to blow me out, so I toss out the anchor and go below to look at the engine.

Not knowing what else to do, I bleed from the top of the fuel filter, and get some vapor out. Maybe that’s it! The diesel starts up and runs, but only to 2500 RPM, not the normal 3500. Anyway, I pull up the anchor and get the boat moving south again, headed for Ft. Pierce. Ten minutes later, we stall again. Out goes the anchor, and I call TowBoat US, who shows up in about twenty minutes and hauls me a short distance into the dock at Cracker Boy Boat Works, where I start calling around to find diesel mechanics. Most people are too busy to look at it before the weekend, but I find someone who promises to have a tech out sometime Friday afternoon, the next day.

The boat yard staff there were very helpful and pulled the boat out of the water a day before my scheduled arrival, power-washing the bottom and leaving the boat on the travel-lift for the night, as it was quitting time.

I hung out on the boat, sleeping there, as my AirBnB wasn’t scheduled ‘til the next day.

February 17, 2023

The guys blocked up my boat first thing in the morning and I went to work. I had to pull the shaft seal from the propeller shaft, which requires removing a pressed-on coupling. It’s a laborious procedure, performed in a tiny space in an awkward position using only hand tools. I needed some parts to complete the job, and found an ACE Hardware store was only 1.5 miles away. That cheap folding bike came in very handy, as I made multiple trips there. Shoutout to East Coast Lumber in Ft. Pierce. You guys are awesome, and opening at 7am made things easy.

About 2 pm, the diesel mechanic shows up and says that it looks like a fuel problem. He ends up running the motor on a separate plastic jug, bypassing my fuel system entirely, and everything’s good. Using a vacuum pump and some clear hose, he sucks some black stuff out of my tank through the fuel line, which he said was likely restricting flow. He pronounces the problem solved. Yay!!

So….. back at work on the boat… I get the seal off and look at installing the new one. Problem arises. The cast bronze part of the boat that the seal attaches to is damaged to the point that I can’t install the new one. There’s not enough material to connect the hose. This part is thirty years old and has likely spent all of that time immersed in salt water. Crap. How do I find something like this? Started calling around to propeller shops in the area. I talked to a very helpful guy who tried to find me the part, but couldn’t locate anyone with one in stock. He did offer to have one fabricated for me in stainless by someone in his shop, and promised to get back to me on Monday as he hadn’t heard back from a couple of places that might have had that part on their shelves. Todd, I’m still waiting…..

Yeah, that’s ugly. Doesn’t look like bronze, does it?

February 18, 2023

I’m there, and I need to do the bottom job anyway, so I prepare and paint the keel with 3 coats of Rustlok and paint the bottom with copper-bearing paint (you have to buy it from Cracker Boy – it’s part of the deal).

Once I finish that, I spend hours inside the boat on the laptop, searching for a replacement bronze shaft log or a stainless equivalent. I find something that looks like it will work at an online shop called Great Lakes Skipper. The measurements are exactly the same as the one that I have. It’s a shaft log for a power boat called a Malibu. It’s in stainless, it’s $79 and they have exactly one. I order it and arrange for overnight shipping to our home address. If it goes out on Monday (President’s Day), I should receive it on Tuesday.

I try hard to find a rental car to go home. There aren’t any available. None. I can get a car from Cape Coral to Ft. Pierce, but can’t go the other way. So I buy a ticket for a 12 hour Greyhound trip, which would have taken all night, but would have got me to Ft. Myers at 7am on Monday as a last resort.

February 19, 2023

Sunday morning, I decide to call my brother, who drives three hours to pick me up. Thanks, Jeff.

I have a great Monday and Tuesday at home, making arrangements to return to Ft. Pierce on Wednesday to install the part, assemble the new shaft seal and start on my way home. Before I leave, I pick up a new depth instrument at West Marine to replace the one that I think is lying to me. The transducer needs to be installed while the boat is out of the water. Now is the time.

February 21, 2023

I rent a Kia Soul from Thrifty at the Fort Myers airport. Problem is, I have to return it at Vero Beach, about 15 miles away from where I’m working. It was my only choice, so I went with it, planning on using an Uber ride to get back to Cracker Boy. I also rented the car for two days, just in case. This turned out to be a very good thing.

Isn’t that pretty?

February 22, 2023

I drive back to Ft.Pierce early Wednesday am with my new stainless shaft log and depth instrument. The new shaft log was just a tad too wide for the hole in the boat, so it’s off to the hardware store for a rattail file. Took about ten minutes of work to enlarge the hole, then I attached it with some 3M 4200 and the two bolts. Hope it lasts thirty years like the last one did.

On the morning drive to Ft. Pierce, I started feeling really bad about that transmission and its banging noise. I check to see if I can replace it. Turns out, it’s held on by eight bolts and weighs about 20 lbs. I find one on CL, and call the guy. He’s a boat mechanic who recently replaced a customer’s bad diesel and had the good transmission left over after the job. He wants $750 for it, and he’ll be working on a boat in Miami Beach that afternoon. I can have it that day, if I can come and get it. Instead of working on the boat – plan was to wax the hull, I spend most of the day driving to Miami Beach, where this guy’s Boat Doctor van is parked on a sidewalk, next to some yachts. There’s no place anywhere around there to stop, much less park, so I pull up on the sidewalk next to his van, do the transaction, and head north back to Ft. Pierce with my new (to me) transmission. I get there and work until about eleven pm putting things back together. Everything’s good, except that the transmission linkage pin broke when I took it apart. I think I can make a new one with parts from the hardware store, but that’ll have to wait until seven, when they open.

February 23, 2023

The next morning, I’m at the store when it opens, and I’m able to find parts to make a new linkage. I put it together and then pack up the boat. I let the boat yard staff know that I’d like to leave that day when I get back from Vero Beach, where I need to return my car. They say that they can do it, and start working on my bill.

I drive the rental car to Vero Beach from Ft. Pierce and take an Uber back to the boat yard. The boat’s in the water at 11am and I’m on my way once again. New shaft seal looks good!! New transmission working well. However, the diesel starts acting up about a half-hour into the trip. Same thing. Losing RPMs – sometimes I can bleed it to get it back, sometimes I can’t. After an hour of messing with it, I toss in the towel and call Tow Boat again. They tow me to Port Salerno, in Manatee Pocket, which took almost four hours. I was able to get someone on the phone (you rock, Bev) at Hinckley Yacht Services, who got in touch with their service manager. He said that I could stay at their dock overnight and promised that a tech could look at my sick diesel on Friday. The tow boat gets us there just as its getting dark. Hinckley Yacht’s service manager texted me the wifi and bathroom codes (how cool is that?) and it’s an uneventful night.

This guy towed me for almost four hours….

February 24, 2023

Friday, there’s nothing much for me to do in the morning, so I decide to wire up the new transducer to the depth instrument head. I leave enough wire so that it sits in the starboard locker and I can sit it on the seat to use it while underway – it’s a temporary thing, of course, but it seems a shame to have that instrument on the boat and not be using it. It’s working well and proves out that the one that came with the boat lies, big time. No surprise there. On the port seat, I have my Axiom chartplotter, plugged into a 12v outlet and now I have a depth instrument on the starboard side seat.

The diesel tech arrives about 1pm and after some messing around, determines that the fuel is bad. Crap. The free jug of fuel turns out to be pretty costly after all. The diesel tech, whose name I sadly forgot, was very friendly and taught me a bunch of stuff about my engine. He also loaned me a pump that I was able to use to totally empty my eleven gallon tank. I also emptied the lines and the fuel separator. That evening (night, really) I made two trips to a gas station and bought ten gallons of diesel, toting that 5 gallon can on the back of my folding bike. Got the diesel running after bleeding the crap out of the fuel system – also had to bleed the injector lines – something I had just learned about. I ended up going to sleep knowing that I was good to go in the morning. Lots of live music from the waterfront bars in Manatee Pocket to cheer me up.

February 25, 2023

Got up with the sun, hit the bathroom for a shower, and realized that I left the towel in the boat. Walked back to get it and found the bathroom locked when I returned. Nuts. I took a shower last night, so I’ll be fine, but it would have been nice to take another one. Fired up the diesel for another try and left Manatee Pocket, shooting right back into the Intracoastal waterway and turning left to enter the Okeechobee Waterway, which would take me past the big lake and down the Caloosahatchee into Ft Myers.

Hit two locks before the lake without a problem. Locks close at 5, so I know that there’s no way that I can get any farther than Moore Haven, whose lock will be closed by the time I get there. I was able to put up the sails and sail for about a half hour on the lake before the winds, which had been blowing continuously all the time I was on the water, inexplicably stopped. I made it across the lake into Clewiston just as it was getting dark. That lake channel into Clewiston seems endless. Turning to the north towards Moore Haven, I saw that the canal was clear, wide and that there wasn’t any other traffic on it. I decided to make for Moore Haven in the dark. Had no problems (except for the skeeters) and arrived at the Moore Haven lock dolphins about 9:30pm. I tied up to those dolphins and spent an uneventful night listening to the songs of the wildlife.

February 26, 2023

Moore Haven lock opens at 7am. I had time for breakfast. At 0701, my radio mike was keyed up, asking for a lock opening. By 0730, we had cleared that lock and were on our way. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I made good time, passing through the Ortona and Franklin locks before arriving at a good friend’s (thanks, Nelson!) dock just before 7 pm. I had made arrangements to stay there temporarily until I could get my old sailboat sold.

I made multiple trips between the two boats, putting the stuff that I wanted from my old boat onto the new boat. That new autopilot that I just installed? I want that back. Monica liked our cushions better, so they got swapped, etc. I tried to swap the motor controls, but there was no way that I could do that and end up with two functioning boats, so I had to abandon that idea. I did swap that fabricated shift linkage from Ft. Pierce for the original, though. I was also able to install the traveler back to its normal location in front of the companionway and put in a pedestal guard for a table and stuff.

March 2, 2023

I put an ad on Craigslist offering to sell my boat for $500. You could still drive it, the diesel worked just fine and if you weren’t too picky, it was repairable. The parts were worth ten times that, but I just wanted it gone and I needed the slip for my new boat. I had a lot of interest, and ended up selling it the next day.

March 3, 2023

Damaged sailboat was sold for the asking price. New owner to take it up the ICW to Port Charlotte tomorrow, freeing up the slip for my new boat. Yay!!

March 5, 2023

Left my friend’s dock and headed to my slip in St. James City. What a beautiful day. Saw loads of dolphins. I noticed a lot of damaged boats still out along the shore in the mangroves and the vegetation (like Picnic Island) seems to have taken a beating. Still, it was nice to be out on the water and not worrying about getting someplace or having a breakdown.

Thus ends the saga. There’s still a bit of work to do on the engine controls, and I have to install the instruments properly, but the new boat’s where it needs to be and this story is done.






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