Skip to content

The manifold saga, a story of strange helpful hot tub people and automotive stores

After the manifold blew I was a bit low, but at least I knew what I had to do! I headed directly to Mc Donald’s and ordered cheeseburgers.

I needed to undo the manifold parts. The manifold was merely an assemblage of galvanized pipes much like the ones you would find at an hardware store instead of a molded proprietary piece of hardware I would have had to order. I’m sure that there are pipe and pipes but I knew that high Nickel pipes or copper would cost a fortune. Fortunately the ones I held in my hands were neither, so I decided to repair with the same low quality pipes.

Before I could put new part in, I had to unscrew the rusted pieces of broken pipes. I knew I needed a vice, pipe wrenches and a torch. The sort of heavy handed approach required could not be done on a boat, so I looked for a workshop. The first I came upon was hot tub shop. There were old car parts and whatnot lying around. The place was a something between an oddity museum and a junkyard. The owner had dyed hair that looked a bit orange but when you got to talk to him you really understood how eccentric the man truly was. He was also really intelligent, a quick study, and helpful as hell. In the yard there were two guys getting hammered on light beer while working on tubs who were almost too keen to help. They had the vice, they wanted to help and they even told me where to get the parts. McDonald hardware was straight across the street and he really had everything for my project and boating in general for that matter.

It took a lot of violence to undo the parts and a lot of bleeding was involved, mostly the yard guy’s blood. Once the parts were put together I felt like a maverick mechanical genius. The high lasted until I got to the boat. Once installed, the parts worked perfectly. Maybe I am a mechanic superhero! Perhaps I’ll get a cape.


This morning I sailed out of Lake Sylvia and headed to Virginia Key. Well, I sailed out of Lake Sylvia alright. I merely entered  the chanel when I saw the smoke coming from my floor! I thought: OMG this is it! The boat is on fire or the engine bought it!

I opened the engine hatch and smoke came out. I heard vapor venting out of something. I stopped the engine and anchored outside the channel, at the intersection of the intracostal and New River.  Somehow I managed to anchor out of the way. I called SeaTow and started working on my engine.

I found the problem really fast. The nice thing about old diesel engines is that problems are often obvious. I had to take some insulation off and there it was, a disconnected pipe! The pipe corroded through it’s threads.

I was able to disassemble everything before the tow boat arrived. Somehow the fitting had not welded themselves to the engine. He got me back to Lake Sylvia and gave me a few tips. SeaTow is in my good book now.

burst pipe

burst pipe

Rene Potvin


Slowly sinking in Fort Lauderdale.

Drip drip drip, and drip again. That’s the water getting into my bilge at the rate of half a gallon per hour. It’s coming in through the drive shaft. The packing gland, it’s a fancy name for a very crude sealing system, has to be repacked. I’ve never done anything like that, who has? The nice part is that water is going to rush in while I’m going to take the packing out. Well, that’s only if I ever get the locking nut to move. The part I need to disassemble is one green block of oxidized metal. Up to now, all my efforts were vain.

I wanted to get this done since there was a window of OK weather to cross to the Bahamas on Monday. I didn’t know if it’s better to sink here or in the Bahamas but they seemed to have more boat yards in Fort Lauderdale. Since I’m living on the boat the leak is not that much of a concern. The bilge pump takes the water out every few hours and as long as I have battery power and a working pump I should stay afloat.

Anchoring in Boca Raton

If I mention Boca Raton, you may be thinking about trophy wives, prostitutes, assorted gold diggers, and of men in their 50s and 70s spending money in a last attempt to look interesting before they get sick and die. Sure you’ll see men parading in ridiculous cars and superlative boats, but for me Boca Raton is a nice little lake right next to an inlet.

In Boca Raton my schedule was dictated by the tides. I could head to sea at any time but to paddle my kayak back into the inlet, I needed the incoming tide. I learned this through experience. The first time I went Spearfishing, I came back into the inlet just as the current started flowing out. The Ocean swell transformed into rolling waves as it met the outgoing current. The rollers almost sank me, lesson learned.

The Spearfishing was not great but I could get pan fish to share with my fellow cruisers. The unrelenting east winds reduced the visibility, but even if the water had cleared up it still would not have been a spearfishing paradise since the inlet’s dirty water output had destroyed all bottom life in front and north of the entrance. The street drain in Boca Raton have signs confirming that they drain directly into the waterway.

While I was in town, I had the privilege of seeing the Intracoastal Christmas parade!

Cruisers, a bit like the motor home crowd, have strange customs. One of them is the Christmas parade on the Intracoastal.

In the morning, I had a new neighbor anchored close to the waterway. When I came back to my boat he had about 9 friends tied to him. They were so close to my boat that I worried that we may bang into each other.

In the evening, I paddled to them and they invited me onboard to watch the parade. It was only fair since they were blocking my view. I was properly fed and boozed up, merry Xmas!

Indian River fast sailing

At sunrise I looked outside and saw that Eduardo was raising his anchor. We exchanged coordinates and promised to stay in contact.

The wind was from the east, quite strong and very usable. I sailed and sailed, passing inlets and bridges, taking pictures and eating candy. I traveled 50 miles with ease. I had to reef my mainsail twice and I trimmed my genoa from time to time. The wind was strong but not gusty. It was a very good sailing day.

I made it past Jupiter inlet and anchored in what is supposed to be a primo anchorage: Pyle Lake. I got there as the night fell and I didn’t have time to do much except set my anchor amongst the dozen other boats. The beach on the other side of the dunes is what attracts boaters here.

First day, meeting the tribe

I woke up a little after the wind abated. I had only slept in spurts through the noise of rigging and the vibrations of the mast. Every few hours I had checked my position to make sure that the anchor held.

I was anxious to see if I could easily lift the plow anchor after my boat had tugged at it for so many hours. I put the engine in forward at idle speed and jumped at the bow to take the anchor line in. When I saw the chain I tied the line and went back to the wheel to steer the boat forward to dislodge the anchor. It got out of the mud easily and I was soon underway.

A young guy was sailing another 27 boat. We started chatting and sailed a few hour side by side. He had been living on his boat since April. In his eight months on his Catalina, he had gone from an absolute newbie and learned the same ropes I was learning.

We both anchored next to Pine Island at mile 947, three miles from Vero Beach. He helped me finish my beers before I ran out of ice.

Off I went

After changing climbing the mast to rewire, splice the connection and install the anchor light assembly, I was proud of myself. I had done the last repair the boat needed before leaving. In the last three days I could legally squat at the marina, I had changed the oil, siphoned the diesel tank, replaced the hand pump, spliced the anchor line to the anchor chain, and installed a deep cycle battery as well as a solar panel and its controller. I felt like I had learned a lot and ready for cruising.

Saturday, December first, I got up and immediately started to prepare for my grand departure. I loaded the bicycle and roughly sorted out the cabin. I then put started the diesel and let it idle while I got some fellow boaters to help me take all my dock lines with me as I cast off for good.

My friends were still holding my lines when the diesel died, and just wouldn’t restart. The diesel engine was the one thing on my sailboat with which I was not entirely comfortable, not that I’m comfortable with any other type of engine, who is?

The engine would not take its fuel. I knew that much. I also suspected that the bad fuel I had siphoned out was not the last of the dirt inside the diesel reservoir. I jumped down into the cabin and opened the filter valve to see what would come out of the filter. I took out about a pint of fuel and a fifth of it was a greenish liquid with stuff moving in it. Well it was not moving but it didn’t look too healthy and it was nothing like the red color diesel fuel. It sat sadly on the bottom of the water bottle I had put it into.

At least I knew what the problem was. My fuel was still full of water and other contaminants. This time I did not siphon the diesel. Instead I took it out from the engine side by taking the fuel intake off the engine. I used the little primer pump to laboriously pump out about seven gallons of fuel. It took me about an hour.

I then got my bike out of the boat and pedaled to the car part store to get a new fuel filter. I took the old filter out, screwed the new one in and put new fuel in the tank. Then I checked the ancient engine manual to learn how I was expected to bleed the fuel system. It involved starting the electric fuel pump and unscrewing two bolts at different stages of the fuel system. I did it and felt pretty good about my work. I felt even better when the engine started and, more importantly, kept running.

I fueled and got on the intracoastal as soon as I could but it was already late in the afternoon. The wind blew hard from the east, so it was a fast trip to the first good anchorage. I anchored in the dark and anxiously watched my GPS to see if the anchor had truly set. The wind was not really stiff, my rigging clacked and vibrated like crazy, the boat swung at the end of the 80 feet of line and 25 feet of chain. I was anchored in less than 10 feet of water on a mud bottom so I figured that I would hold.

Sitting in my cabin I listened to all the noises my boat made while on anchor in the wind. I was not in a slip in a safe marina anymore.

Bible Parade

As I stepped off the Eau Gallie Bridge, I passed by a sign inviting me to a Bible Parade. The women in the car next to me had a homemade sign that said “Jesus hates fags”. On the radio, a man was reading an obscure passage from the Bible’s Book of Numbers about a talking donkey.

Had I not been in Melbourne, these religiousities would have been strange coincidences, but around here all you can hear on the radio is conservative commentaries, Bible study, preachers or Top-40 music. The only radio news source is Fox. You have to drive a bit to get NPR and the local station mostly plays music.

I was tempted to attend the Bible parade. What is a Bible parade anyway? Would I have been able to score some cardigan wearing 30 year old virgins?

Strong northern winds, the video

For the past week I’ve been itching to go sailing but the northern winds have kept me in port. Here is a video of what we’ve been getting on the intracoastal for the past week. It’s been an especially long spell of high northern winds. Hopefully this sort of wind will not be the norm for this season. The open sea, with 10 to 12 foot waves, looked simply ridiculous.

Know thy sailboat

Last night I poured some water from my boat sink to make some tea. The electric pump got in gear and started pumping water. I put the water on the stove and I sat back down. I could hear that the pump was still working. There was no water to pump so the pump should have stopped pumping. I turned the water on and off to see if the water to see if I could somehow stop the whining sound. Water came out the spout, but so did some air. I had run out of water in the tank. This meant that the pump was turning dry and would burn itself out. I wondered how come the pump did not stop automatically. I flipped the electrical board to off but the pump did not relent. This meant that the previous owner had hard wired the pump directly to the battery. I had to stop the pump before it burned itself out, so I jumped outside and buried my head under the cockpit where I knew the water tank was. Besides, that’s where the pump sound originated. I found the pump but I could not find a switch, so I took the fuse out and the pump stopped. I refilled the water tank and everything worked fine.

The day before a girl had asked me if she could use the toilet. I had to tell her that I did not know how it worked and if it was setup to work. When I opened the panels to find out how the toilet system worked I knew I would have to do some reading. I now know how it works but I’m still not sure if it’s operational.

For the past week I’ve been trying to repair or replace my manual bilge pump. It’s only today that I was able to order a new pump and I had to call the manufacturer.

Let’s not talk too long about the electrical system. I was able to install a deep cycle battery and manage to buy the correct unit for a few bucks thanks to the help of the guys at the marina. I still have no idea how I’m going to maintain them charged…

The list of challenges goes on and on. I’m a handy guy. There is no technical challenge that is beyond me but the sheer amount of systems on a modern cruising sailboat makes knowing my boat a matter of weeks, not days. I still haven’t looked at the diesel. The last time I went sailing the belt whined and whined. I had to stop the engine move the belt by hand and start again. The belt was dried out. Anyway, that’s the theory I like most. The alternative diagnosis is a bad bearing… I still have to change the oil and learn about basic maintenance.

So when does the easy cruising life start? I’m putting things in order so I can head to Miami next week. I could probably use a few weeks of live aboard discovery but I don’t want to get stuck in Tamares Marina. Melbourne would be a nice place to spend a winter but the coast is no good for Spearfishing.

Who knows what those are? Dates? They are close to my boat.




Sandy selling soap at the local art market. Melbourne is interesting sometimes.

Art fair freeky thingy.




%d bloggers like this: