Boat Maintenance Living Aboard a Boat

Filling In the Blanks (Part One)

Monday, July 10, 2017S.V. CAMBRIA


I have a little confession to make. I wrote a blog post called “Inspiration Can Be Overrated a few weeks ago which ended with a promise to write about our misadventures in Southern Puget Sound and included teasers of a singing prop, a surprise visit from David’s sons, and finally meeting Mike and Melissa from Little Cunning Plan. And then I forgot all about it . . . until now.

Be warned. It’s a long story. So long in fact, that I decided to split it in two. Here’s part one – the South Sound to Swantown Boat Works.


South Sound

David and I’d been threatening to sail down Puget Sound for months; so when the Port of Kingston needed to open up a few more spaces in guest moorage to accommodate boats over Memorial Day weekend, we finally made good on our threat. 

Things were going well. We slipped back into life at anchor easily and were enjoying all of the things we love so much about cruising – dining in the cockpit, kayaking, finding the time to play the guitar (David) and to draw (me). And then we went through Tacoma Narrows.

The current through the narrows ranges anywhere from 0 to 5 knots, depending on the tide. As we approached, it was running slightly in our favour and the water was “active”. We could see a rip line ahead of us with debris gathered in it, but we had a clear path and went through. When we did we heard a sound that made our hearts sink – bang! A direct hit on the prop.

We put the motor in neutral and looked behind us, expecting to see a log come up, but there was nothing there. Back in gear and moving forward, we felt a slight vibration from the engine but it seemed to settle down so we continued to Carr Inlet where we anchored off the home of some friends. We thought we’d dodged a bullet; but when David put the boat into reverse to set the anchor, we didn’t have any rear propulsion and there was a “ticking” sound was coming from the prop: We were going to need to haulout.

I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointing this was. Heartbreaking, really. I still haven’t blogged about it (some things are better off forgotten), but we’d just spent four weeks on the hard last October while David worked through the driveline – new engine mounts, a new flexible coupling, a new dripless shaft seal, and a new cutlass bearing. Needless to say, it was an expensive endeavour and we were looking at doing it all over again (the four weeks and the expense, that is).


Swantown Boat Works, Olympia

These things always seem to happen on a weekend and, for us, holiday ones. So, David left a message for our insurance agent and we waited until Tuesday to decide our next step.

The closest boatyard was in Tacoma but they don’t allow live-aboards, so we opted for Swantown Boat Works in Olympia. They had two openings: one on Wednesday morning and one on Friday. We weren’t sure whether we could make it under our own power or if we would end up needing a tow, so we chose Friday.

We took our time and made it to the work dock safely Thursday evening, relieved to be tied up again. And when Cambria came out of the water the next morning, this is what we found:


We were expecting to see a bent prop and were sure we were looking at a 2 or 3 week haulout while we waited for it to be serviced, so we were a little relieved. We shouldn’t have been.

We worked through the week. David removed the prop to inspect it and the shaft, while I cleaned and polished the hull. On Monday, Mike and Melissa from the blog Little Cunning Plan arrived for a scheduled for a haulout. We’d been wanting to meet them for months and were happy to finally have the chance, even if it wasn’t under the best of circumstances. 

It was really nice to have the opportunity to get to know them a little in person (rather than virtually) and exciting to watch the first steps of their new adventure begin to unfold (they’re heading down the coast to Mexico and beyond later this summer). It’s been a long time since we were in a similar position and the flashback to brighter days was a welcomed break from fixing yet another unexpected issue. If you’re not already familiar with their blog, I highly recommend having a look.

Everything checked out with the prop and shaft, so we dropped back in the water on Thursday. David engaged the engine. Rear propulsion was back and the ticking sound was gone, so we tied up to the work dock for the night with plans to leave the following morning with the tide.

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9 comments

  1. So sorry for this misadventure! It's definitely a reminder to me to be more careful with those rip/tide lines. On the plus side, you got to meet Melissa and Mike, what fun!

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    1. Every cloud has a silver lining, right? :-) But we had plans in the works to meet up with them at anchor that weekend, so we definitely could have lived without the $4,700 in damage.

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  2. Yikes! No fun at all :-( Except for meeting Melissa and Mike - that would have been fun.

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    1. It was fun. They're a really neat couple and we're so excited for them and their new adventure!

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  3. What a nightmare, especially when you're on the last chapter of cruising and ready to sell the boat and move on to other expenses - and there's so many things I'd rather spend time and money on rather than the plastic bag from hell.

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    1. You hit the nail on the head, Lucy. To be honest, the whole thing has been such a setback (both in time and money) that I feel like crying every time I think about it.

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  4. I cringe reading this... It is so interesting to meet or communicate with new cruisers. Their enthusiasm and positive attitude is heart-warming. While part of me envies that and doesn't want to ruin it (which would not easily happen, I"m sure), part of me wants to put things in perspective and wants to warn them about the challenges ahead.

    On another note - I recently saw a long house sit in Olympia, WA and it sounded totally perfect (dogs, area, house). I contemplated applying for it, but decided not to, when I saw the weather predictions for winter in that area. Cool and lots of rain. If only this sit would come up over a summer, or even a spring or fall... One day, we will meet as well, I hope.

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    1. It's been a few years since we've met a couple getting ready to head offshore for the first time. Normally I feel the pull myself whenever we do -- the call of the ocean and all that. Not this time. It doesn't appeal to me at all now. I'm just done and I'm not 100% sure how I feel about that. There's more to the story and I promise to tell you the rest over a beer if we ever do meet -- something I hope happens as well.

      I thought the same thing about Olympia, Liesbet. One one hand, it would be a great spot to spend the winter. The downtown area is right by the waterfront where there are bars, restaurants, a movie theatre, a live theatre, the library, and shops (not that we ever go out), but the weather. As bad as the rain is in Kingston, it's even worse down there.

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    2. I'm glad to hear about the weather confirmation... Now, I don't have to feel too bad not going there. The area sounds amazing, though, so we do hope to make it there one spring/summer/fall. While I really want to meet you, I do hope you will be gone by then and Cambria sold. We will have to catch up elsewhere! :-)

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