Now for the hardest part of a trip like this–leaving. I have made quite a few close friends here over the past months and it breaks my heart a little to have to let them go. I never know when I might see them again, though, so the goodbyes never seem final. I try to keep in touch with everyone, but of course some relationships will fade with time. There are equally as many that will remain bright and will continue on without skipping a beat when I meet up with the people again in some far-off time and place. I treasure those moments–the chance or planned meetings of people that I have loved and had to leave behind.
For now I have to get underway before the day fades. I want to be well offshore before I lose the light so that I can enjoy the dark and the stars rather than being nervous about unseen hazards. I will be sailing straight from here to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas–a straight-line distance of about 120 miles. The wind looks fair and light. It should be an uneventful passage.
I have no idea what adventures may await beyond the horizon and the excitement dulls the pain of leaving. What a strong mix of emotion! There is the fresh pull of leaving mixed heavily with the temptation to stay. It all leaves me feeling very alive even through the sadness.
I hope that I leave everyone’s lives a little better for having been a part of them. I know that mine is better for having shared moments with those around me.
Yesterday the Calusa Yacht Club docks were swarmed by a group of powerboats from a Fort Meyers yacht club out for their annual week-long booze cruise down the coast. This is their opportunity to get out on the water so that they can say that they do actually use their boats.
A large, fast Fountain docked next to my boat. The couple onboard immediately kicked back in the shade with cold drinks and began poking at their smart phones. The woman asked if there was a Whole Foods market nearby because I was provisioning my boat and throwing out a few old paper bags, which she had obviously spied in my cockpit. I told her that the nearest one was in Naples, and that the nearest supermarket to the marina was the Publix about four miles away. She was disappointed because they hadn’t brought their bicycles with them and weren’t willing to walk that distance. Seizing the opportunity to be helpful, I looked up local taxis in an area guide that my neighbor had laying around and discovered that there aren’t really any taxi services on Marco Island. There are limos that make airport runs, but that is about it. I let her know what I had found, and that segued into a polite introductory conversation.
This is when my opinion of them took a nosedive. It was one question in particular that really rankled me–after being asked where I am from (born in Australia, lived here for a long time though), and where I am going (sailing up the east coast from here), the next thing out of her mouth was, “What are you–some kind of spoiled rich brat out playing with your parent’s money?” Standing on my tiny boat looking up at them on their huge, fuel-guzzling speedboat I was incredulous!
I responded politely, telling them that I had saved for a long time to be able to make this trip; that I watched my pennies and that lived on a small amount of money. I was a bit upset by the thoughtless phrasing of the Fountain lady’s question, but certainly didn’t let on. I ended the conversation there. That lady had no idea whether there may have been something else that I may have done to have made her life better, like arranging a ride to the store, or not, but she removed any possibility of that happening by uttering a few callous words.
That lady shares what seems to be a common outside view of what it takes to live on a small sailboat and go cruising. However, I am here because it is one of the least expensive ways that I can think of to live–my boat cost about the same as a good used car, and my expenses are bare-bones. I usually cook onboard and do all of my own maintenance. On a good month, that keeps my expenses to around only two hundred dollars. The Fountain in the next slip over could burn more than that in fuel in an hour of running.
I have become much more sensitive to how others feel in the past few years. This has really taken the edge off of what I will let out of my mouth when around others that I don’t think that I will ever see again. Now I treat everyone like I might be their neighbor again someday. In this boating life, that may indeed be the case. I treat this as one more reminder to always be mindful of what I say and how I treat strangers, and also as a strong reminder of how others perceive my current lifestyle.
It is with surprising frequency that a chance series of events has led to an unexpectedly favorable outcome on this trip. It was on a whim that I decided to inspect my water pump last week, for instance, and that one small decision resulted in more positive developments than I ever would have guessed when I first started to loosen the screws that hold down the engine cover.
I originally intended to change the oil in the engine on that day, but after I opened the cockpit floor and peered into the oily pool of water that had accumulated beneath the engine in the drip pan I changed my mind and decided to begin the day by emptying and cleaning the drip pan. That task accomplished with the aid of a drill-powered pump I began to realize that it really was finally time to address the leaky engine cooling water pump that had caused the buildup of water in the first place. I had known about and been ignoring the leak ever since October back on Lake Sinclair. It only leaked when the engine was running, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it is a real pain to pump out and clean the engine drip pan due to the limited access. The engine also leaks oil from everywhere (I look at it as a corrosion protection “feature”), and that oil is much easier to clean up if it isn’t floating around on a pool of water.
I removed the pump from the engine, a task that necessitated the removal of the secondary fuel filter mount for access to the fasteners that hold the pump to the engine due to the tight clearance between the engine and the hull. The entire removal process took almost three hours even though detaching the pump itself really only required removal of two bolts and two hoses. Tight quarters slowed the work considerably, though now I know the process and could do it again in an hour–still longer than I would like if I ever had to repair the pump under emergency conditions.
Once the pump was out and the cover removed I could see that it was a good thing that I had finally undertaken this project because I discovered the broken vane that can be seen in the first picture in this post. The pump was very close to total failure! Luckily I caught it before it lost any pieces, as broken pieces from the failed vane would have caused quick failure of the remaining vanes as they were pushed around inside the pump. They eventually would have broken into pieces small enough to pass into the engine where they could have become lodged in the cooling passages and caused further cooling problems.
I completely cleaned and rebuilt the pump, replacing the leaky shaft seals that had been the original source of concern, and also the defective impeller. That impeller was supposed to have been new when I bought the boat. The previous owner told me that he had asked a mechanic to replace it. I find it hard to believe that a new impeller only lasted 150 hours! Anyway, now I know for sure that all of the important parts of that pump are new and I will sail from here with some additional peace of mind.
So, my impulse decision to look into something that wasn’t really on the agenda for that day possibly saved me from some future disaster. That pump could have failed while I was approaching a bridge with a strong tail current, or when I was trying to leave a harbor with the wind setting me onto a deadly breakwater… I can let my imagination run wild on that one. Maybe an even happier development was the friendly group of people that I met when I took the boat out to test the repairs, but that is a whole other story!