Blue Turtle Cruising

Taking up summer residence in Delaware City

When we left Annapolis on July 5th, we were hopeful that our engine issues were behind us. After spending 6 long, unplanned weeks (plus a lot of money) in Annapolis, we were looking forward to our summer cruising plans. My sister and her friend were planning to fly to Boston and meet us somewhere where we could pick them up and cruise over to Martha’s Vineyard. Randy and I hadn’t been north of Middle River or Still Pond on the Chesapeake, so cruising further north and exploring new territory for us was exciting.

Once we fueled up in Annapolis, we cruised under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and headed north, we anchored that evening in the Bohemia River, just south of the entrance to the C&D Canal. Randy went into the engine room to double check all fluids, etc. The next morning, we pulled anchor and headed into the canal. It was very foggy and we heard over the radio that the canal was closed until the fog lifted. We motored very slowly (along with a couple other boats) as we bided our time until the fog lifted. Once we got through the canal and under the last bridge, we headed into the Delaware River.

Randy and I had already decided that once we got through Delaware Bay, we’d head out onto the Atlantic if conditions were good. We’d cruise all night and arrive in New York in the morning. I was below making pasta salad for our passage when I heard knocking coming from the engine. Uh oh, that’s not good! Randy shut the engine off immediately since he heard it too. He went below to see what the issue was, and he said that an oil cooler hose was gushing out oil. For some reason, an alarm never sounded. He quickly refilled the oil and went about trying to patch the hose enough so we could limp our way to a marina where we could get a replacement. We started up the engine again and everything sounded fine but when we put it into gear, it basically coughed, sputtered and seized. We were dead in the water.

After calling Tow Boat US to come get us, we put out a sail to keep us on course. We were told that they would tow us to the nearest marina, Delaware City Marina. Between the sail and the current, we were able to sail most of the way toward the marina to meet up with the tow boat. After everything we went through in Annapolis, we wanted to cry, we just felt sick. We knew that our summer cruising plans were over.

After talking with the marina manager, and letting the whole situation sink in (i.e. crying in our beers that evening), we discussed options. With the help of the mechanic, Randy double checked a few more things to be completely sure that a rebuild was needed. After determining that the engine needed to rebuilt, we called Transatlantic Diesel for a cost and time estimate. We’d used Transatlantic Diesel a month ago for our transmission rebuild. They are excellent to work with and very knowledgeable. We were told the rebuild would take 6-8 weeks. The plan was to pull the engine from Blue Turtle and we would drive it from Delaware City to Virginia. Randy had already decided that he would pull apart the engine to prep it for being hauled out. We went to work renting a cargo van, scheduling the engine haul out with the marina and disassembling the engine so it would fit through the hatch in the cockpit floor.

During that weekend, before having the engine hauled out, we experienced our first real weather up north. A large storm system came through bringing torrential rain and lightening. We had the boat all buttoned up and I had just poured a beer into a pint glass and set it on the table. Randy was in the aft cabin and we were talking (loudly over the rain) across the cockpit. Suddenly, our boat heeled to one side from the wind and I heard my glass slide off the table and onto the floor. Before I could pick it up, the boat heeled completely the opposite direction! We’d heeled to one side before with high wind gusts, but never back and forth. It could mean only one thing: a tornado. Thankfully, it wasn’t a large one and we had no damage (just a spilled beer) but when we went outside afterward, we saw it’s path. It had removed the roof to the fuel dock shed and dropped it into the street and on a parked car. Pieces of the shed were all over as well as broken tree limbs and lifejackets and kayak paddles. We couldn’t believe we were so lucky!

The day came for the engine haul out. After discussing various ways to get the engine out with our cockpit cover configuration, we decided it was best to untie the bimini on one side and peel it back. The guys would then pull the engine up and use a chain pulley system to step the engine through the stainless structure and out of the boat. We were very impressed with the crew at Delaware City Marina. They somehow got the entire engine out of the boat within 3 hours and before lunch! It took a full day in Annapolis to get just the transmission out. Once the engine was pulled out by the crane, it was strapped onto a palette and loaded into our rental van. The next morning, we were on our way to Transatlantic Diesel in Virginia to drop it off.

Since we had to drive to Virginia, we decided we needed a few days to decompress away from the boat. We used some Marriott points to stay in a hotel suite for the weekend. It was nice to get away from the boat a few days and away from the stress with it. On our way back to the boat, we decided to stop by Rehoboth Beach to visit with Randy’s high school and college buddy. It was great for me to meet Tom and Natalie and spend the evening with them as Randy and Tom caught up. The next morning, we stopped at Dover, which is about an hour from Delaware City, to see friends Jason and Amber. Jason and Amber were so kind to offer us their slip in a marina in Kent Narrows last summer while Randy had to travel for work. After our weekend getaway and visits with friends, it was time to get back to the boat.

Once we were back in Delaware City, we decided we needed to rent a car since it was looking like we’d be there a couple of months. We also decided that for sanity’s sake, we needed to find a gym to workout at to get out of the summer heat. We found an OrangeTheory in nearby Bear, DE. We both worked out at OrangeTheory for years when we lived in Fort Myers, so we decided to join for a couple of months. We settled into a routine of working out in the morning and tackling boat projects in the afternoon. Randy had a lot to do before getting the rebuilt engine back. He cleaned up all the oil in the engine room and painted the bilge. He also installed a new hot water heater since our old one had stopped working. I stayed busy with my usual knitting and sewing. I even bought a lightweight compact sewing machine for smaller projects since the Sailrite doesn’t work to well with lighter weight materials.

Transatlantic Diesel finished rebuilding our engine in less than 4 weeks! We are amazed at how efficient and professional they are. Once again, we rented a cargo van so we could drive to Virginia to pick up our engine. Once we got back to the marina, the next day, the marina crew got to work putting our newly rebuilt engine back into Blue Turtle. Getting the engine back in took a little longer than removing it, but once the crew got it back into the compartment, Randy went to work reassembling it. He had a bit of trouble getting it aligned, but persevered. We also had Transatlantic Diesel include a new control panel which houses the gauges and start key. It also includes the oil pressure and temperature alarm that we were missing and that caused us to not shut down the engine fast enough. After rewiring everything and wiring up the new control panel, Randy got the engine started and it was GLORIOUS! It was so nice hearing the purr of our engine again. He ran it for a while while checking everything out and then decided it was time for a sea trial.

We took Blue Turtle out on the Delaware River and ran her at different speeds and in reverse. We cruised for about a good hour before heading back to the marina. The captain was happy with how she ran, so we celebrated with beers at Crabby Dicks.

It took about a month for Randy to put the engine back together. Because the weather was so hot, he was taking his time. We weren’t in a hurry to cruise anywhere because temps were in the 90’s. It was early September when we did our sea trial. After that, we began making a plan to leave Delaware City.

While we weren’t happy with our luck on blowing the engine, we were happy about being stuck in Delaware City. We love the small town feel, friendly people and quietness. We also loved the marina and crew who were so helpful to us during our stay. They made a bad situation much better by their kindness, knowledge and friendly attitude.

Annapolis to Bohemia River (anchorage) = 44 nm
Bohemia River to Delaware River = 30 nm

TOTAL miles to date: = 3,574 nm

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