Plans A, B, C, and D

John contemplating a new engine.

John and I took the week off before the 4th of July weekend. During one of the snow storms that kept me home last winter I spent enjoyable hours researching, planning and plotting on the chart towns on the Bay to visit during the week. I began with an overly aggressive series of sails that included a different town each night. By spring I came to my senses and narrowed it down to two or three towns to visit within the week ending at our home marina in Rock Hall, MD for the fireworks on the 3rd. On the drive down to the boat we once again changed our plans and decided to play it by ear by starting out exploring the bottom of the Patapsco River as we are planning our sail club’s bridge to bridge race in the fall.

We drove down to Rock Hall on Monday evening because the weekend was just too hot and there was no wind. Tuesday morning we did our pre-underway preparations which included checking the oil. All was well. We planned to sail south from our marina at the entrance to Swan Creek to green can 1 where we would turn west and head off for adventure. Normally we turn at green can 3 but a few weeks ago our slip neighbor, who draws less than our 5’3”, touched bottom after turning.

We left the slip at high tide. The wind seemed perfect to get us there (wherever there was) fast and the sky was cloudless. I was at the helm while John released the lines. It was windy and as soon as the bow cleared the slip the wind grabbed hold of it and I had a little bit of a struggle getting us in the right direction but we made it out with no damage to our boat, the pilings or anyone else’s boat. Once into the fairway everything sounded good and Halcyon smoothly glided out of the marina. As soon as I cleared the fuel dock and turned into the channel the engine started sounding off. I started losing headway into the channel, wind waves crashed into the bow adding to the drama. A few minutes later after belching out thick grey smoke the engine stopped. During that few minutes John ran down to the engine compartment and pulled out the dipstick on which he discovered runny grey oil. We drifted (quickly in that wind) towards the docks outside of the marina, set the anchor with about 20 feet to spare before crashing into the docks and called Boat US.

Before Halcyon was launched this season I upgraded our towing package to “unlimited” not realizing that our first tow would be from right outside our marina! In about 45 minutes the tow boat arrived from Baltimore, took us in a side two and guided us back into our slip. The tow boat operator was professional and gave clear instructions for tying the lines and weighing the anchor while both boats were tied together. Because of the narrow fairway to our slip trying to get back in under sail was out of the question. We are not that experienced nor are we prepared to buy any of the Island Packets and other 40 foot plus boats we pass on our way to our slip.

Once tied in our slip we made arrangements to have the engine looked at by the marina. We weren’t sailing any time soon. Later that afternoon the mechanic drained the oil. That evening John researched new engines. On Wednesday the mechanic added new oil and started the engine with the seacock closed just long enough to see if the engine would turn over. The engine started so he didn’t think it would need either a total rebuild or that we would have to buy a new engine. He told us that it could be anything but that he thought the gasket blew causing the raw water to mix with the oil so he would start there.   Since he couldn’t get to the gasket until after the holiday we re-grouped and worked out Plan D (another post).


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