We know you’ve been dying to find out how the engine performed on our trip; how that exhaust elbow stood up. Did Mike and Melissa do boat work in exotic places in British Columbia? Did the Little Cunning Plan team have to use their new unlimited towing through Boat U.S.? Did Mike perseverate on the exhaust system? The answers are yes, no, and yes. Two yesses and a no, because we are resourceful and do our best to be prepared.
In this case, I was dead anxious about taking this boat very far from home with an exhaust system that was sure to fail…sometime. On the other hand, we had been taking the boat out in our local waters as much as we could, and thus far the stupid exhaust had held its ground. Which means it wasn’t broke, so why would we fix it? Still, even as we wanted to believe that it would hold for a long time, we weren’t convinced.
“What’s our Plan B?” , I asked Mike before we left. So he made a plan. He’s cunning like that.
Before we left for the trip he stocked a repair kit of sorts consisting of supplies he got at the auto parts store. He bought a fiberglass/epoxy and wire muffler repair kit. To this he added a steel collar that could be bolted onto the pipe to hold pieces together should things go south. My contribution was a magnifying glass and a lot of praying. Our goal: have as much fun as possible before the shit hits the fan and also keep Hiram safe.
Don’t think that my light tone implies that we didn’t take the risks seriously. We certainly did. But if you are going to have a boat and do the things we like to do with a boat, calculated risks are part of that equation. We figured we would be pushing the engine and the exhaust system pretty hard on that trip. If it failed, we’d just get it repaired wherever we were. If it didn’t fail, then we would stop worrying about it.
I had my little magnifying glass out each day, examining the weld all the way around. Days went by and I saw nothing. Then one day I thought I saw what looked like a fine pencil marking, so faint I couldn’t tell if I was actually seeing it. I talked myself out of telling Mike, thinking that it was nothing, truly not even sure it was there. That’s how faint it was, and how bad my eyes are, I guess. Mike checked with his bare eyeballs every day, or every few hours actually. We were both attentive to engine noise, always waiting for something to change. It sounds worse than it was. We just kept part of our brains in that ‘awareness’ mode you all know and love. Kind of like when you first bring a baby home and every time you walk by the crib you make sure the kid is breathing. That kind of thing.
It happened when we were anchored at that lovely little beach on Kuper Island, about two days after I thought I saw what I thought wasn’t actually there. It was a Sunday. Mike went below and this time his silence just sounded different. You know, no cursing or anything like we’d had before. Just this silence that was deafening in its own way. I don’t know how I knew. I just knew.
It was cracked in the same place. Not completely broken yet, but soon it would be. Of course, we were pretty close to services where we were. There would be Ladysmith just across the water, Sidney wasn’t very far, and Maple Bay has services a well. We were not exactly in the middle of nowhere. There was a couple on a Cal 29 anchored close by who offered us the use of their car on Salt Spring Island if we needed it. We probably could have just had it fixed there. But we didn’t.
Mike whipped out the epoxy/fiberglass tape bandage and wrapped the thing carefully. I put on the receiving wire, which was kind of like jewelry wire only heavier so my hands knew what to do. When the epoxy cured, Mike put on the steel collar for extra holding power.
Our original travel itinerary had us going north of Gabriola Island and sailing down the Strait of Georgia. I felt strongly that karma would not deal kindly with us if we threw fortune in her face like that. It just felt like pushing our luck. So I kind of sort of insisted that we go south and start back home. We wouldn’t go home early, but we would stay close to services should we need them. Poor Mike. I felt as though I had rained on his very parade. We would have actually made it to someplace we hadn’t been before. We so want to go further north. But it was not to be.
We sailed down to Portland Island, using the engine as little as possible. Hey, babying your engine is a great way to practice your sailing skills. When we had the engine on we kept him at just the right RPM to minimize vibration. I love Portland Island, and we had a great day of sailing. So that was okay by us. We had the perfect anchorage there and settled in for a couple of days.
After our Portland Island stay, we had just enough time for a stop in Sidney to restock, then it was time to get home. We check in to Roche Harbor and began the trip back to Tacoma, again, sailing as much as possible. But damn that thing called a ‘job’, we did have a deadline for making it back. So Hiram was fired up much of the way. Mike tested the integrity of the exhaust elbow constantly. If it was cool enough to the touch, he was testing it. It held and held and held.
We arrived in Tacoma on Sunday afternoon after a wonderful, fulfilling trip to the islands. We docked that boat perfectly. We got her tied up and situated while the engine cooled off. Mike went below to check on Hiram. And the elbow broke. It broke all the way, as in ‘two pieces’. I am not making this up. That boat got us home with a cracked exhaust all the way from Kuper Island. It didn’t actually break in two until we were snugly, safely in our slip in the marina. Hiram was safe.
Good boat. Really good boat.