July 28 - Afternoon sail with Tim, Terri, Keenan and special guest, Grandpa. Well, got out to the boat by around 11, and prepped the boat. Terri mentioned that the bilge was full of water again, but I shrugged it off, we've had water in the bilge before, it had been raining since we were last out there, and we sometimes take on water when it rains. Drained the bilge, threw off the mooring lines and were on our way...Got to the big lake by around Noon. Did a little bit of sailing on Lake Muskegon, and it was quite pleasant sailing on Lake Michigan. Got about a mile/mile and a half north of the channel, got out the autopilot and after a little fidgeting around with it, got us settled on a course north by northwest on a comfortable beam reach.
We got out our KFC bucket and started divvying up lunch. I was about halfway through my lunch when I heard a piddling water sound from the back end of the boat, and stood up to check it out. Our automatic bilge pump was operating (it usually only will kick in on automatic when the water is right up to the top of the bilge), Terri went down below, and sure enough, the bilge was full again. The water seemed to be coming in somewhere under the engine (we were guessing the stuffing box - which is the hollow tube which holds the propeller behind the engine). Terri stuck herself down in the sail locker with a flashlight and could see water actually trickling into the boat. A frantic run for home ensued, with Keenan bailing below with a cup into a bucket all the way back to the slip. Thankfully it was a weekday, and we could go right into the repair shop to request someone take a look at it. I don't think it was quite as desperate as it seemed at the time. But Terri had the wild eyed look of an animal caught in a trap, and I wouldn't have been surpised to see her chew her own leg off, if it would've stopped the leak. Dad kept his cool throughout, sitting in his little perch on the back, finishing his lunch. I don't really know what ended up happening to my lunch, I think Terri tossed it overboard.
The 'kill switch' didn't end up costing too much as it turns out, we'll see how much this 'stuffing box' thing ends up costing us. On the plus side, we did get to sail for a bit, got to play with the autopilot for a short while. Got some adrenaline flowing. We handled the crisis fairly well. I think I can kiss that Chicago lake crossing trip goodbye for a good long time now.
July 31 - Just got a call from the marina. Sounds like they finally got around to looking at our boat on Monday. Water up to the cushions down below. We're going to have to go down there and air the boat out, dry and clean whatever got wet. Wonder what its going to do to the woodwork down there. Jeezuz.. what part of 'we're taking on water' didn't they understand when we reported this on Friday? Turns out we were right and it was the stuffing box that was leaking (the tube that the propeller sits in behind the engine), and it had to be 'repacked' whatever that means. Boat had to be taken out of the water to be worked on. I'm dreading this invoice. Crap Crap Crap Crap Crap
Ended up costing us $1100 to clean up the mess, replace the packing in the stuffing box, replaced the fuel hose & cockpit scupper pipes. We took out all the cushions, washed the covers at home and dried out the foam on the back deck, and made a few trips out to clean and de-mildew the boat, also finding standing water here and there behind the water tanks. What a godawful mess. Just felt like crying the first time I went below. But eventually we did get it all sorted out and back to almost normal.