The End of the Beginning of the Voyage

Ketchikan heritage sculpture at the cruise ship docks


June 13 - 14, 2015

John and Derek arrive at the boat in the early evening, and after introductions, we review the symptoms. Is the propeller OK?, Derek asked.  I assure him it has to be... my images are ambiguous*, but the evidence is unequivocal: no THUNK! no vibration!

We run the engine so Derek can hear it for himself, and engage the gearbox... forward, reverse, no bad noises, no untoward vibration. Diminished thrust is the primary symptom.

The prospect of pulling the engine out, removing the gearbox, rebuilding it at his shop, and re-installing it is straightforward to Derek. It is the smallest diesel that Derek has ever worked on (because it is basically the smallest diesel engine... period). The big unknown is whether parts will be available for an engine out of production for more than a decade. For myself, I am simply grateful to be in the hands of a good mechanic who is as comfortable at rebuilding the diesel engines of 56 foot purse seiners as working on my little lawn-tractor engine.

Truth be known, a problem as small as mine would not normally surface in his domain, except that John wants my problem to be fixed, and because they work together closely, Derek wants what John wants. They both inspire confidence.  As I learn over the coming week, these folks work very hard at challenging, difficult problems that are time sensitive. Breakdowns in the canning plant or on the boats that feed their stock to the cannery mean lost revenue for everyone. Lots of revenue. They make sure that interruptions in that flow are as few and short as possible.

This means that during the peak fishing months, they work 12 hours a day.  So, whatever Derek will do in the way of mechanicing for me is on top of a long work day.  I'm not only small potatoes, I'm a nuisance to these folks.  I'm cutting into their small slice of discretionary time after a hard day of work. In spite of this, both are solicitous and generous with their time.

Derek's plan is to talk to his supplier down in Everett, WA, first thing monday morning.  If they have the parts he'll have them shipped up by express air.  He'll pull the engine Monday when we know the parts are on the way, and disconnect the gearbox and take it to the shop. With any luck, Derek can rebuild the gearbox the following day or so. We could be running by Wednesday or Thursday.  In the meantime... nothing to do but take a deep breath and explore Ketchikan.

It is Saturday evening, we have a plan, expertise, and a schedule. Sunday, Mathias and I will relax, do a few errands, re-provision, and go out to dinner to close out our 5 week sojourn together.

I've enjoyed one of the greatest privileges a parent can have - 35 uninterrupted days of close cooperation and mutual learning with an adult son.  There are many lessons yet to learn on this trip, but I'm convinced the trip would have been stillborn had Mathias not been my first crew member. Both of us learned a great deal.  I know what to expect from myself, from the waters of the Inside Passage, and from Ripple.  We have checklists in place, our logging is sound and useful, my skills are stronger, and I am confident of myself and my boat, problems notwithstanding.

Whatever happens for the rest of the voyage, we have had an epic adventure an enduring memory for us both.

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* of course, my images are not ambiguous at all, but (1) the lcd screen on the little camera is small and dim, and (2) the openness of my diagnostic brain is small and dim.



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