WHO YOU GONNA CALL...SLUDGE SUCKERS!
28 April 2017 | Caloosahatchee River near Ft Mayers
Wednesday April 26 to Friday April 28
Following an anxious and exhausting day, we were safely moored on the outside breakwater of the City of Ft. Myers Yacht Basin since disabled vessels are not allowed inside. Apparently protections provided to disabled people are not extended to vessels in need. New laws should be forthcoming. Anyhow, we needed an attitude adjustment so we spliced the mainbrace...again. During our postmortem of the days events Sara mentioned the strong smell of diesel fuel in her cabin. We explained this was due to the engine compartment being awash probably because of a break in a return line. At this point, we had not had time to check out the systems but had talked to our son Brian whose friend Rob was well versed in diesel problems and had been very helpful in the past. Rob had speculated that our trouble was due to a malfunction in the fuel return loop and caused the engine to quit. This guess ultimately proved to be right on target. At any rate, Sara's concern was thought to be consistent with what we had found at the moment so we proceeded to supper in old downtown Ft. Myers with reasonable confidence that we were facing no serious safety issues.
On the way to the restaurant area we encountered two local men who recommended we try Ford's Garage if we were interested in gourmet burgers. We were so that is where we went. The place was a tribute to Henry Ford who had a summer residence nearby, which we had toured earlier, replete with a model T with wheels rotating near the bar and gas nozzle water faucets in the lavatory. The burgers were as good as the atmosphere and we returned to the boat ready for a good night's sleep. Nay, Nay, Nay. Gerry decided to check the fuel tanks and, as expected the starboard tank was empty and the port tank was full which indicated we had about 12 gallons of fuel somewhere in the boat.
Obviously there was not that much fuel in the engine compartment so Gerry checked the bilges to make sure they were clear, found them full of diesel fuel and declared abandon ship.
Roger and Sara began a search for accommodations and transportation while Gerry secured the boat shutting down the propane system and any potential sparking sources. Diesel fuel is much safer than gasoline but there was a lot of surface area in the bilges and the fumes were now overpowering. We all quickly packed for at least an overnight away from the boat; Roger declared Uber to be unavailable but a Taxi was on the way. By now it was after 2200 and Roger had found a Best Western across the river that would take us in.
An all-American driver arrived who was the first any of us had seen in years, but the ride to the motel was surreal. The guy could not get the numerical address straight even when shown on a slip of paper. "I can't read that. " We were barreling through old downtown at about twice the speed limit with Roger trying to show the driver the route on his gps and explaining that it was the Best Western across the river and the driver somewhat incoherent but seemingly in full position of his faculties. We were all wondering what kind of left-handed medication he was on when he suddenly barreled onto a ramp and we were on the bridge headed in the right direction. In short order he pulled into the Best Western and only charged $10.00 for the trip. In a way he seemed to be apologetic so he must have just gotten confused. Gerry tipped him generously, glad we all arrived in one piece. We were all snug in our respective beds slightly before midnight.
The next morning we had an I Hop breakfast included in the motel charge and Roger and Gerry headed for the boat leaving the gulls at the motel for a little free time. We figured it would take at least one more night in the motel if we were lucky and could get all our problems resolved.
The first order of business was to get the fuel out of the bilges and we had the Yacht Basin's list of approved service personnel to work with.
After a few calls and suggestions from various vendors we just had to contact SLUDGE SUCKERS to see if they could handle our misplaced diesel fuel. The head SLUDGE SUCKER, Russ, declared he could handle the job at our location and get to us that day maybe even that morning. Roger and Gerry got to the task of finding the problem and locating a diesel mechanic if need be. Luckily, on a concentrated inspection of the after engine compartment Roger noticed a ring shape in the fuel at the bottom of the bilge that should not have been there. This led to the discovery that the secondary fuel filter was mostly missing with the bowl and locking collar in the bilge and the filter still on the intake. So we believed the collar started backing off and leaking until the collar and bowl fell off shutting down the engine. We were happy we had found the problem and it was an easy fix. The engine pre-start checklist was growing. Our SLUDGE SUCKER crew, Russ and Bert arrived about noon and it only took about 45 minutes to complete the job. The bill seemed a little out of line but we were so happy to have the fuel gone from the bilges we didn't even question it.
Now with the boat basically devoid of errant fuel we could replace the secondary filter and start the engine. This process was successfully completed about 1430 and all was well so we contacted the gulls and returned to the motel via Uber.
Our problem with rented transportation was still in evidence as the driver made us walk about three blocks because his gps said the street was closed which the traffic count clearly contradicted. Then about one quarter mile short of our destination the driver tried to turn left into a waterfront area again because his gps said so. At this point, Roger was shouting his gps was wrong and gave him turn by turn instructions while the driver protested each one in violation of his sacred gps. In the back seat Gerry was wondering if the driver was about to be wearing his gps for a necklace as we arrived at the motel. No tip for him. Despite this distraction it was a good, fairly restful day for all.
At the witching hour we spliced the mainbrace in Roger and Sara's room and hiked next door to a tasty seafood restaurant before retiring for a restful night ashore.
The next morning we got a very pleasant Uber ride back to the boat without incident and were underway in the ICW, destination Uncle Henry's Marina in Boca Grande about 41nm down our PIM.
G L Ray,CDR ,SS , USNR-Ret