Monday Minute - It's Always Something

You surely remember Gilda Radnor and her famous take on reality that “It’s Always Something.”

Certainly in my boating life, there couldn’t be a more apt line to sum up the world around here. No matter how careful I prepare or maintain, there is always something unexpected that happens on and off the water.

Great morning run.JPG

Yesterday, my friend Howard and I were leaving the creek in Blue Angel, my Hunt 25 Harrier, which just had her exterior washed and waxed. Blue Angel is looking mighty fine with her new paint job from last fall.

I ran the boat up to speed, around 20 knots, just to feel some relief from the overwhelming 90+ heat and humidity that sits over our area on this July holiday week. The heat index today is going to be 107 degrees, and it will stay with us through July 4th and beyond, so any breeze on the Bay is much appreciated.

With festivities approaching, we couldn’t spend too much time, so I spun the boat around in her usual fashion, the big Volvo/GM V8 sounding strong as we headed back into Whitehall Creek. Approaching the last turn before aiming her bow on a straight shot into Ridout Creek and home, I eased back on the throttle just as the boat suddenly lifted with a loud bang! We hit something under the water with some mass.

Looking astern neither of us could see what we hit, a huge surprise as we were well off the shore and shallow water. At idle we limped home at 6 knots, thinking the worst. The boat didn't track well at all and it felt definitely wrong if I gave it any throttle. So we stayed at idle.

Dreading an expensive repair on the horizon, my mind was already coming up with a lost summer with no boat, all sorts of costly internal problems, broken shear pins and gears that needed to come from Sweden, which might take weeks, let alone in time for the 4th of July.

Back on the lift, the Ocean X sterndrive slowly came into view. Instead of the expected disaster of crumpled propeller blades and oozing fluids from the drive internals, it looked fine, perfectly normal in fact.

After looking closely at the sterndrive, I started the engine and slowly eased her into forward gear, the boat suspended high enough to be out of the water. The counter-rotating props turned as they should and we could not feel or sense any vibration from the engine through to the props. How could that be, given the force of the impact?

Then we noticed a piece of 6 by 10 lumber, about 30 inches long, broken with a diagonal break, floating slowly away. We believe we hit a long, submerged piece of this wood, often used in dock construction. It must have broken in the impact with the hull (we think), and this section of the lumber lodged between the hull and sterndrive, which explained Howard's observation that there was quite a bit of water being thrown on the port side of the transom. And the boat would not track straight at all. We truly fumbled out way into the lift bunks.

Later I restarted the engine and ran up the throttle to a much higher rpm in gear...forward and reverse. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and when I looked over the transom, the spinning propellers seemed fine even at increased speed.

 Lifting the drive a bit to ensure the trim adjustment works and to see if we missed anything.

Lifting the drive a bit to ensure the trim adjustment works and to see if we missed anything.

I still need to get her back out to really know if anything is broken, hopefully this mysterious incident solved. But it just goes to show that it’s always something on a boat. You do your best to anticipate issues and avoid problems, but there is always something out there lurking to jump in front of you. Faulty gear, crab pot, piece of wood, killer sea monster...who knows what lurks in the deep?

Another recent example of goofy improbable somethings comes to mind. Let’s talk about my wife’s Prius. It is a nice around town car, but we call it the Clown Car, not because it isn’t a good vehicle, but because whenever a BMW or whatever suddenly cuts her off, the Prius horn sounds like the silly little bike horn a circus clown squeezes. Hardly enough to register a strong sentiment or warning to the erring driver.

clown on minibike2.jpg

Her Prius is now acting up in a most unusual way. With three or four bars left on its fuel gauge of 10 bars, it should have lots of miles left in a car capable of reaching 600 miles on a single tank of fuel. But after maybe 12 miles or so more miles, these bars disappear and the dash beeps a warning and a single, flashing bar remains. Impossible that we could be on reserve already, with 168 miles shown on another display. And when I took it to the nearest gas station, the car only took 4 gallons or so to reach full. I believe a full tank is close to 11 gallons, at least when the bladder inside the tank is new.

No one has been able to explain or fix this. So when it happened again to me a couple of days ago, I resolved not to accept that it is always something. After a long session on the Internet, I found references to several Toyota Technical Service Bulletins. One included instructions on how to reset the electronic fuel gauge. Bet you won’t find this intuitive either:

Tune off the ignition. Pull the engine compartment fuse cover to expose the array of fuses. Locate the one for the Dome Light, fourth from the left. Pull the 15A fuse and wait 10 seconds. Reinstall the fuse and turn on the ignition again. The fuel gauge is reset.

Like I said, It’s Always Something. Have a safe July 4th and a great week.