This is the last in a series of posts about our charter in Southwest Florida. You can find the first post in the series here.
After a few rather hair-raising experiences the previous day, we were looking forward to a leisurely day on Gasparilla Island. Jeff woke up early to re-thread the anchor (see why this was necessary here) and to do some general clean up on deck. As he did this, I packed up the salon a bit, hoping to free us from worrying about cleaning up on our way back to Sojo’s home slip.
We settled up with the marina and walked over to the nearby convenience store to rent a golf cart. (Side note: we are slightly addicted to golf carts after spending time with Jeff’s folks in North Port. Many a day we would enjoy a few cocktails and gator sighting from the safety of their cart!) For $35 we could take the cart for 3 hours, which we figured was the perfect amount of time to drive the length of Gasparilla, check out Boca Grande, and grab a quick breakfast. It was a very chilly day, so we put up the windshield on the cart and took off in search of coffee and tea!
The island has a golf cart path running the length of it making it easy to get around. It was pretty quiet on the north end of the island. Few pedestrians crossed our paths until we got into town. Even then, the place had the off-season vacation feel. We parked the cart under a large banyan tree and walked around the downtown, exploring the boutiques and restaurants. Water and food bowls resided outside of many shops, cueing us into the dog-friendly atmosphere of the town. It is quiet possible that canine friends are treated better than spouses here – after all, where else can you take Spot to a doggie bakery and spa?
After our brief golf cart tour, we headed back to Sojo to finish packing up for the 3.5 hour motor back to Burnt Store Marina. We planned to leave Uncle Henry’s around 11 a.m., giving ourselves plenty of time to make our 4 p.m. deadline. But as we learned, nothing ever goes quite as planned on a boat. When we started the engine, we realized that it was not “pissing” – dumping water out the back of the boat. This is bad, as it means the engine is not circulating water for cooling. We cut the power and started to brainstorm the problem. We checked the water lines and the oil. Then we put in a call to Mark. He directed us to check the impeller.
This is a plastic fan-shaped part that regulates the water flow through the engine. We first checked to see if the impeller was missing any vanes. This could mean that a vane was lodged somewhere in the engine cooling system, causing major damage. Imagining this must be the culprit, we searched the yacht for a replacement part, but came up empty. Luckily, upon inspection we found a perfectly intact impeller, with no signs of damage. Jeff reinstalled it and we started the engine. Still no sign of pissing. We called Mark back and he said we had gone above and beyond with all of the boat repairs and said we could leave her at Uncle Henry’s and call it a day. But we saw this as another important, albeit frustrating, learning experience. So we continued to discuss the problem, digging out the engine manual and considering the possibilities. Jeff noticed that the impeller was not spinning when he was on the phone with Mark. Thinking that a little lubrication might be useful, he grabbed the trusty Joy soap, and gave the impeller a squirt. It worked like a charm! The engine pissed bubbles for a few minutes and then ran like a champ.
As we crossed the harbor on our return, we discussed the merits and shortcomings of Sojo and what elements we will want on our sailboat. While she was much more spacious than Helbent, she lacked the storage necessary for serious ocean sailing. She was a full keel boat, which kept her fairly steady even during the storm, and made sailing less rocky (all good things for a lady prone to motion sickness!). And while she was wide-bodied and a comfortable size for the two of us, I imagine a slightly large boat will make living aboard more commodious and visitors more likely to join us. Check out the dream boat posts for some contenders: Baba and Islander 36.
Back at the dock we were greeted by Loretta, who asked us about our adventure and helped us check in. She guided us through a brief survey of the boat and our experiences (where we owned up to running aground) and took a few photographs. As we packed up the car, we discussed how bittersweet it was to be heading back to his folks house where we would enjoy hot showers and then dinner at the club with Christmas carolers. Though I was sad our first charter together was over, I also had many reasons to feel happy about my first week on a boat. First, I had a great time exploring new places and working through the mechanical issues necessary to do so. Second, I didn’t get too seasick. Third, and most importantly, I enjoyed it so much that I could see myself living on a boat – a long-term goal for Jeff, and one that I wasn’t sure before this trip if I could share. So now the questions isn’t if we will go cruising, but instead, when.