Wednesday, August 8, 2012

#19 Expect the Unexpected

We had planned to leave Waterford on Sunday morning, but a glimpse at the radar showed that a strong front with heavy winds and rain would pass through in a few hours. So, we decided to delay the departure. It was a good thing. Waterford was holding their 
Cultural Heritage Festival.

Meanwhile, back in Vermont, our daughter decided it was high time for her son to witness another of the many diverse cultural forms that makes our country great!


 We started south on the Hudson River the next morning, and locked through the Federal Lock in Troy, our final lock on this voyage. The protocol here called for a single line looped around a fat pole.
 It demonstrated to us how our tug's walk-around deck is so well-suited for locking maneuvers.

  Without this design, some boats require a person to squat on a slippery cabin top. Victory in design for the Victory Tug!

Troy Waterfront
 We admit that we were somewhat deflated to be heading down the Hudson, retracing our steps. The excitement of discovery was gone. But experience had taught us that encounters with people are the reality of adventure.

 Below Albany we spotted a familiar figure. It was Chase, our paddleboarder. Once again, a reunion. He too had waited out the dicey weather and enjoyed a steak and soft bed at a friend's home in Albany. Back on the water today, he was elated, paddling with the current with the wind to his back.
 He and Allan discussed tides and currents through an app on Allan's iPhone.

We were anxious to learn how he managed on the Champlain Canal. He did not have to portage around the eleven locks. The lock tenders allowed him into the chamber. And when he shared a lock with a barge, he hopped aboard.

 He said he felt great and was looking forward to experiencing the historical aspects of the Hudson. Once again, we wondered if we would ever see him again.

The rest of the day was pleasant, logging 60 nautical miles, and we spent the night in Kingston.


After four years of boating on Sally W, it finally happened. Preparing to leave the dock the next morning, the trusty Cummins 4BT engine would not start. We were dead in the water. After an hour of troubleshooting, Allan concluded that the starter motor was dead. This was not surprising, after 27 years, including 101 locks just this year, each requiring engine start up. He called the nearest Cummins service company 60 miles to the north in Albany. Fortunately, we were already customers and “in the system.” Unfortunately, it would be two days before they could send a mechanic, charging mileage, driving time, and of course, service time. To add to the misery, they didn't stock a starting motor for our 27 year old engine. But … they would hunt one down.

Okay. What to do? Start looking for a local mechanic to verify, at the least, Allan's diagnosis. On the second call, he reached Certified Marine Service, a local outfit. They agreed to come over and take a look.

By now it was lunch time. So to mollify our severely defated balloons, Sally cooked up our favorite comfort food lunch fare – BLTs. As we were finishing, Allan spied two guys at the gate to the dock. “Well, there's some local riff-raff,” he chuckled. Sure enough, it was the mechanics, coming straight to our boat, all lathered up with tattoos. What next?! Allan poked his head out to confirm his suspicions and said, “Certified?” “Certified,” they chimed in. “We just look like riff-raff.” How did they know?

They came aboard. The younger one put out his hand. “I'm Dustin.” The other guy followed suit. “I'm Dave. We're certified riff-raff.” Dustin was all business and went right to the engine, while Dave stood by and chatted. He wore a bandanna on his head and an alligator T-shirt bearing Florida's underground marketing slogan: Send us more tourists. The last ones were delicious. Beyond his mechanical skills, actually electrical, Dave was also a certified paramedic. He added that Dustin ran the marina with his mother, and was really sharp. He had his 100-ton captain's license at 19. He's now 30, and doesn't look a day over 22.

It didn't take long for Dustin to diagnose our problem: a frozen starter. He asked for a hammer. What?!?! “Don't worry,” he said to Sally, and proceeded to tap tap tap. “Now, try to start it up, Cap.” Allan obeyed and the engine turned over as usual.

Dustin said, “Yup. This motor's been in a lot of salt water, right? Those brushes get sticky and develop a dead spot. You gotta know where to tap it. But I recommend it needs replacing. You can go on, but sooner or later ...”

Yes, we agreed. We weighed the wheels already set in motion with the Cummins folks versus “the certified dynamic duo.” They had proven their worth. Dustin quickly picked up his tools. “I gotta get back; lotta things to do, but I'm including you. I'll make some calls and see if I can find a motor.”

Later that afternoon, he called to say that he had located one and that it would be there by mid-afternoon the next day. And so we wait.

          To be continued in the next post. Don't miss the trip to the Riff Raff Boatyard.

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