Boating Horror Story 4

Is This Normal?

As the summer of 2002 came to an end, we parked the boat for what we thought was the last time for the season. A few weeks went by and just before I planned on winterizing the boat, I received military orders to move to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. With all the excitement of my family and moving, I asked if one of them wouldn't mind keeping track of the boat while we were over seas for the next 4 years. My older brother in Washington state who is in the Navy said he would love to keep the boat and maybe take it for a cruise once in a while up there.

So the game plan was to meet for Thanksgiving in Cody, Wyoming, where our folks live since it was about halfway for both of us. My older brother was new to boating, so I told him that since I hadn't winterized it yet, I could take him out on the reservoir and show him how to operate everything. Before heading to Wyoming we were having good luck with the weather in Nebraska staying in the 50's and 60's, so we didn't worry about it getting too cold for the boat. And of course for some reason we didn't even give Wyoming weather a second thought, even though the previous year we went there to visit in June and it snowed 13". So the time comes and we packed up and headed out.

It was a long trip this time with all the head winds up to 50 MPH, driving through the mountains, and towing the 1987, 22' tank of a boat. We finally arrived in Cody, and immediately went to sleep.

The next day my brother and I went outside to hook the boat up to his Suburban, but came right back in because it was so COLD. We put our coats on and headed back out so he can get a feel for towing and launching the boat.

We got to the ramp and he took a few tries at backing into the water with success. As he parked the truck I started the engine and let it warm up a bit. Everything was going great. Cold, but great, so we leave the dock and get a few hundred yards out. Just as I started to show him how to operate everything he said "Hey, ahhh, is this normal?". I looked back towards the engine compartment and saw a little steam coming out of the back of the boat. I had him take the wheel so I could open the engine cover, and when I did a huge cloud of steam came billowing out! I said "Ahhh, no, that's not normal". We're both pretty handy guys, so he shut off the engine for us to take a closer look.

When the steam cleared, our jaws dropped. Half of the engine was under water. Bilge pump wouldn't turn on. I ever so calmly, scream like a little girl "WE HAVE TO GET BACK TO THE DOCK NOW!" So I started the newly retro-fitted steam engine and race back to the dock. After some investigation(on dry land of course) it looked like the power steering heat exchanger busted and was pouring out water like a garden hose. We took the boat back into town to have the part fixed.

The next day we installed the part and head back to the reservoir for round two. This time we leave the boat on the trailer...just in case.

After we let the engine run for a bit, we thought we had dodged a bullet because there wasn't any water or steam. My brother parked the truck and we left the dock, again. This time we get out to roughly the same spot and the steam came barrelling out so we turn the engine off, the steam cleared, and once again the engine was half under water. So we started to race for the dock only this time the engine was bogging down and making all sorts of crazy noises. 20 feet from the dock the steam engine stops and we were dead in the water. At that point the engine wouldn't even turn over.

I got out the one paddle we had on the boat, to get us back.

When we returned to the folks house we started to really look at everything. Being in Aircraft Maintainance for the Airforce I always have tools, flashlights, and inspection mirrors in my truck. After an hour or so we discovered a few cracks. 4 total. There were 2 cracks on each side just below the exhaust manifolds. One crack on each head and 2 on the block. The water that was left in the engine from the summer had froze on the drive up to Wyoming, and running down the road for 15 hours gave it plenty of reason to shake and rattle and ultimately crack.

My brother (bless his heart) still took the boat and was going to try to find another engine for it. The next year he got orders for Sea Duty and never had a chance to tinker with it. Moral of this story...ALWAYS WINTERIZE, even if you are traveling across the country to use it again.

In 2006 when we returned from over seas, I traveled to Washington to get the boat back and found a used engine to replace the steam engine.

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A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature.  It is Earth's eye; looking into which, the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.

-Henry David Thoreau

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