Dilly & Tony Save the Day

Zero dark thirty. I'm on radar watch at the nav station. Thus far, the coast is clear. Our new crew David is on deck, fighting off the first signs of seasickness. The fog has come and gone all day. Just now its rolled in thick, visibility down to zero. The glow of the tricolor light reflecting on the heavy fog casts an eerie shadow to either side of the boat, just at that transition angle between the colored, red/green lights that shine forward, and the white light that shines astern. The wind just shut down again and we are motor-sailing on a course parallel to the coast, some twenty miles north of Cape Race, our first turning point. A small fishing boat called 'Terry & Sisters' appeared on the AIS, steaming out of Fermeuse Harbor behind us, an early start to their day.

Dan L is still with us, as he will be all the way to Annapolis, asleep on the port pilot bunk. His best friend Doug flew out to St. John's on Saturday to join us for leg 8, and he's asleep on the starboard pilot berth. Mia just came off watch and crashed out back aft. That rounds out our crew of five. I've got the 'C' watch with David this time since we're one-down from a full crew. Lately, with a full contingent of six, I've not been taking a watch at all, instead 'floating' as needed and popping up at each watch change to ensure all is well on deck. I don't get that luxury this time, and am back on schedule with the crew.

Would you guess that Seattle is on the same latitude as St. John's!? I'd have lost a bet on that one. Both David & Doug flew out from Seattle where they live (though they don't know each other), and the topic came up at breakfast this morning in town at the Rocket Bakery, surely the crown jewel of St. John's eateries. Well, we checked the Google, and sure enough, there it was. Andy's wrong again!

We had our first official crew briefing at the bakery this morning, killing some time while we waited for the larger Watt & Sea prop to arrive at FedEx. It did arrive, in fact, just as we were finishing up, so while Mia did the last provisioning and paid the Harbormaster, I taxied off to FedEx to get it while the boys scrubbed the decks and completed the last of the pre-departure checklist. We were off the dock by 1300.

That we left at all was a minor miracle. On Saturday morning, while Mia and I were enjoying a sleep-in at Greg's cabin out in Dildo ('have a ding-dong day in Dildo!'), Dan rang to inform us that the engine wouldn't start. He had been trying to charge the batteries. I told him to just plug us in to shore power instead and I'd fiddle with it on our return Sunday, thinking it was likely a loose wire or a bad solenoid I could just 'jump' with a screwdriver.

At 10pm Sunday night it became apparent that neither of my quick fixes were the key. Bad starter? It looked more and more likely. Great. Another setback on what's been a year full of them. I'm still getting over my appendectomy surgery for god's sake!

But I'm learning how to handle these things and didn't stress. David was due to join the crew on Monday afternoon, with a planned Tuesday departure to allow the full amount of time to explore the fjords and visit St. Pierre. Would we go with no engine? With the Watt & Sea (known affectionately as 'Watson'), we'd be able to make enough power. But it would change the mission from one of exploration to one of 'get home' to Halifax.

I'd long ago learned that while I can hold my own maintaining and troubleshooting a diesel, I'm no mechanic. I resolved to not waste anymore time or effort and call a proper mechanic first thing Monday morning. We had plenty more to do on the boat, things I was quite capable of doing myself and where my time would be much more valuable. Next morning, properly rested, Greg got me in touch with a guy at a local alternator repair shop. Tony, the owner, was on the boat helping me confirm my bad starter diagnosis by 0900, incredibly. Thirty minutes later, he'd rounded up 'Dilly' ('no, Dilly, not Billy', I was corrected), a real character of a guy but super friendly and a right mechanic.

'He's a bit of a wingnut,' Tony warned me, 'but a great mechanic.'

While delivering a constant stream of barely intelligible dialog - think Brad Pitt from the movie 'Snatch,' crossed with an Irishman and a Canadian fisherman and you'll get a sense of his accent - Dilly dove, literally, head first into the engine room and had the faulty starter off an hour later. He drove it back to Tony's shop for a quick rebuild, and by 1330 that same day, Dilly had it reinstalled and the engine firing. All for just a few hundred bucks. It was the quickest, smoothest marine repair I've ever been a party to in my entire sailing career. This kind of thing, especially with engines, NEVER goes so smoothly. Onward.

David arrived just as Dilly was testing his work, and I didn't even need to explain to him the contingency. Suddenly we were back in business and right on time. Hence the celebratory breakfast at the bakery this morning. Which brings us full circle.

As I type, said engine is churning in the background. Normally I'd despise the sound, but in this instance it's sweet music to my ears. The wind has been mostly non-existent today, so without it, while we would have considered going, we'd not have gotten far! We're back in exploratory mode, with new hope for scoping out some fjords.