Friday, May 23, 2008

OK Boat Trip, Day 29, 05/23/2008

There’s lots of text to follow but bear with us – it is a very interesting day.

We didn’t set an alarm last night and decided to just get up when we got up. The rooster at the chicken coop would have none of that of course and we were off and cruising again by 0700. Today had all the things you’re looking for - a partial overcast and cool temperature, smooth water, current wasn’t too bad, nice scenery, no delay at the 1st lock, meeting a friend in Little Rock for dinner this evening, etc., etc. Here are some shots from early morning.
Lots of pasture land now.
Lots and lots of farmland as evidenced by the cropduster.

And we start to see a few hills as opposed to the flatlands closer to the MS River.
So anyhow, we’re cruising along about halfway between Pine Bluff and Little Rock, cycling through all the pleasantries noted above, when an unusual clicking sound came from the throttle lever. No idea why we have this new noise, everything looked normal, so we pressed ahead. Besides, what you gonna do, just stop in the middle of the river and check it out? Shortly thereafter the engine surged once, then slowed once, then abruptly quit, right in the middle of our pleasant morning on the river (see previous sentence)! In 31 years of boating, we have never run out of fuel, been stranded anywhere, never had any mechanical issues at all, and certainly never lost an engine. But you read about it because it does happen and you prepare for when it happens to you. First priority, drop an anchor and secure our safety. That went well and the anchor held the first time in 20 feet of water on the edge of the channel at mm 92.5 of the AR River. We’re good at this point knowing that we haven’t ended up on a dike somewhere with a hole in the hull or who knows what else!

We made our “Pan-Pan” call, a general broadcast to alert other boaters in the area of our situation. Let’s say the anchor had not held and we’d ended up on a dike with a hole in the hull, taking on water, etc. Then you move quickly to the “MayDay MayDay” mode. We then called Boat US just in case we are not able to get underway again on our own. Boat US has a great towing service package that provides unlimited tows and other services for our situation today. We provided them our location, GPS coordinates, souls on board, conditions, etc. Ingrid at Boat US began to work on those possibilities while we researched the problem. The 1st possibility is a fuel problem and I’m visually recalling that we refueled from on top of the hill yesterday close by the chicken coop through a water hose that occasionally dipped in the water before it got to the boat. Yesterday it was a “new experience.” Today it’s not even funny. Checked the fuel/water separator – no water in the fuel. Pumped about a pint of fuel out with our in-line 12-volt pump and all looks good. So, we try cranking again and notice a little smoke at the fuel shutoff solenoid. According to the engine manual and the old saying “where there’s smoke there’s fire,” this is probably the problem.

A few months ago while we were waiting on our son Scott to fly into the Cullman airport to join us for Christmas dinner with friends, I struck up a conversation with Robert Kaples, a local pilot, who knew Scott and is a boater. Turns out, Robert is a retired truck driver and previous mechanic specializing in the diesel we run on our boat, an 8.2 liter Detroit Diesel. He said to call him if we ever needed any help so I wrote his number on a business card and put it in my wallet. So, I called Robert, he was still at the airport watching airplanes, and he agreed with the smoke/fire theory. He said to remove the solenoid and figure out a way to close the opening that would be left. Two allen screws and two cut wires later, the solenoid was gone and we moved into the “creative MacGyver” mode. Decided to cut a section of ¼ inch “gasket” from a spare engine hose but needed some sort of firm plate to hold it in place. Rhonda found a paint stirrer stick which would work well. Fired up the generator, drilled some holes in the gasket and stick, closed up the hole where the solenoid was, fired up the engine and off we went. The only problem now is that the engine will not shut off without us reversing the above process and manually shoving the old solenoid back in the hole – a minor detail at this point. We’re just glad to have power again. And of course, we have to replace the solenoid. We then got to cancel our "Pan-Pan" and "come get us" calls.

Remember I said we were having dinner with a friend in Little Rock. About a month ago, I sent out a general email to the Amerca’s Great Loop Cruisers’ forum asking for any helpful info from those who have cruised the MS and/or AR Rivers. Gary Barger, a retired Little Rock physician, responded , having cruised both of those a lot. So I called Gary, told him of our plight and he moved into action. He tracked down the only fuel shutoff solenoid for an 8.2 Detroit Diesel in Little Rock (before the stores closed on Friday until Tuesday) and was waiting for us at Little Rock Yacht Club. Turns out that Sean, the attendant at the LRYC, is also familiar with the 8.2 diesel. So, we changed out the solenoid, fired her up, everything worked fine, and we went to dinner, also joined by some of Gary's friends of about 30 years.

So, what are the chances we would meet Robert in December and the one response I got from the Loopers' forum would be from Little Rock, 25 miles from where the engine quit? While our Christian faith certainly does not exempt us from the trials, tribulations, and solenoid failures of life, we do believe the Lord watches over us and we believe His hand was active in all the above. For that we are thankful. By the way, we did not get any pictures of all this - we were just a little busy. (The place we anchored was really neat - an arching overhead pipeline.) On to Little Rock!

Here's I-440 that loops around the south side of Little Rock. This excites us a little as this is the driving route we normally take to see our kids and grandkids in Fort Worth. We're looking forward to seeing them more often from our new location in Muskogee, not to mention the much shorter drive.

And, bringing back a few memories for me, an aircraft on final at the Little Rock airport. You can begin to see Little Rock in the distance, bottom right.

A little closer view of downtown.

About 5 bridges in a row through downtown.

The Peabody. Remember the duck walk in Memphis? Look top right.

The "rock" at the foot of the bridge from which Little Rock got its name.

And leaving Little Rock we see hills in the distance.

Then we see the fabulous red cliffs as we get closer to Little Rock Yacht Club.

Unfortunately, we were so busy upon arrival at Little Rock Yacht Club meeting Gary and his friends, installing the solenoid, dinner, etc., we failed to get any shots of the Gary and friends, Sean, and the marina. If you're interested, Gary has an excellent website,, if you want to read of their travels.

No comments: