Monday, July 17, 2023

July 15, 2023 – Wilson to Rochester, Diesel Leaks, Engine Issues, and Thunderstorms

There’s something about waking up to the smell of spilled diesel that I really hate. Fortunately, I know what the problem is. Yesterday the lads at Bootleggers Cover filled my diesel tank to the point of it shooting out of the overflow valve on the side of the boat then I think they pressure pumped a bit more in just to make sure it was full and the underwater plant life was dead. It’s really my fault as I should have been paying more attention and asking them to stop when it was getting close to full. I open the windows in the boat and put the fans on high speed which clears the air, then get settled in the cockpit for a while until Stella is up, then I roll back her mattress to expose the fuel tank beneath her bed. Last time this happened, I mopped up the diesel with a blue shop rag. This time there is at least a gallon or two so it’s a rather more involved cleanup and requires a large bucket, layers of plastic bags, a hand pump, and a large bottle of soap. While cleaning I notice the overflow tube from the tank has a valve on it so I turn the valve off fearing the overfull tank will continue sloshing around spilling more diesel and I don’t want to clean up twice. Pay attention, this detail is important and may foreshadow disaster later in the day.

I whip up eggs for breakfast and scramble them with fresh basil and cilantro which is tremendously satisfying, then we meet Lydia and Daryl and take a walk into the nearby town of Wilson. Mom decides to stay at the boat just in case her bowels explode as they are known to do after she drinks her morning so called “health” shake. I’ve seen her make it and I have my doubts on how healthy it is. She puts in peanut butter, hot dogs, collagen powder, grape Fanta, hashish, gummy worms, and chopped up bits of hallucinogenic toadstools, then mixes it all up with a high-speed hand blender as she sprinkles in pixie dust that some organic farmer sold to her back in Saskatoon claiming supernatural benefits. She says it keeps her young and springy but I think she just likes being permanently stoned and that’s why she’s in such a good mood all the time.

Daryl brings along his electric scooter which can double as a beer dolly, just in case we score some suds at the town grocery store. We have a pleasant walk into town, then visit a small bakery for cookies and cupcakes before making our way over to the grocery store. Well, the place really delivers as I find not only a case of Founders All Day IPA beer, but also a giant jar of recently expired crunchy peanut butter for 99 cents, which will provide me with a year’s worth of morning toast. Daryl gets a case of Yuengling beer hoping it’s a magic case like the one I have. Allow me to explain. Yesterday during happy hour I had pulled out two tins of Yuengling beer for Daryl and I and Lydia said, “Kris, you always seem to have a can of Yuengling in your hand during the summer months and usually during the winter months too. But you can’t buy that beer in Canada, right?”

“That’s right,” I said as I cracked open my can, enjoyed the snappy hiss then had a sip.

“And you can only bring back a case or two when you visit the States, right?

“That is correct,” I said as I pulled another deep drink from the can.

“And you guys hardly ever go the States anymore, right?”

“You got it. They’re getting too damn wacky down there,” I replied as I tipped back the rest of the beer.

“So how the hell do you always have Yuengling on hand??”

“Well, near as I can tell, it’s a magic case. Every time I go into my cold room, there’s a case of Yuengling there. I’ll bring it down to the boat, then the next time I go in the cold room, the exact same case is still there. Same sort of thing happens with the Yeti cooler. I put a few cans in, drink them, then every time I open the there’s always more there and I never have to reload it. See, magic case.”

“Hmmm,” Daryl said rubbing his chin, seeing some potential.

We loiter around Wilson for a bit longer then hit the gas station/sub shop/pizza place where Daryl and Lydia put in a sub order, then the girls take off to visit the knick knack gift shop back at the marina while Daryl and I wait for the food. The cases of Yuengling and Founders are perfectly balanced on the beer scooter and Daryl tests the integrity of the structure by jumping on top of the beer and taking the scooter for a ride as I solidify my grip on the peanut butter jar and two sandwiches.

Halfway back to the boat the threatening grey sky makes good on its promise and starts spilling rain, lightly at first, then soon a downpour. We take shelter under a tree and Daryl cracks open what he hopes is his own magic case of Yuengling. I am hopeful for him too so we have a cheers and start drinking then suddenly the two cases of beer fall off the scooter and into a gathering puddle and there are cans of Yuengling rolling all over the road of Wilson, one of which gets punctured and is spraying beer foam all over us. Daryl quickly rescues the wounded soldier and shotguns it while I hold both our original beers and balance the scooter, then he gathers up the cans and shoves them back into the box then wedges my now soggy and muddy Founders box in front of it to block the beers in. I am having my doubts that this is a magic case, but I guess time will tell.

Back at the boats we make the snap decision to pack up and head for Rochester. The original plan was to do an overnight sail but the forecast doesn’t look great and if we stay here Ana will probably just get into the booze again. Within minutes we are cast off and headed back out the channel to the lake and the ladies put out a lunch spread. Inspired by the garbage plate party I choose to make a garbage dog - three half hot dogs on a hamburger bun topped with chili and streams of ketchup and mustard. As expected, it's delicious.

The lake conditions are good but as usual the wind is directly in our face so we stay in power boat mode, set the autopilot to 80 degrees north-east and let her run. The afternoon forecast isn’t great either with some thunderstorms possible later, but in general the reliability of forecasts this season has been terrible so we instead place our faith in our infallible sailor instincts.

Five hours later a black line of vicious storms are bearing down on us and a small craft advisory is issued citing potential 45 knot gusts and torrential rainfall. We clear everything out of the cockpit and the ladies take shelter in the cabin while I stay outside. As the storm hits the rain pounds the boat, leaking through several spots in the canvas and reducing visibility to less than a hundred feet. I half the throttle and keep watch at the front of the boat, but fortunately all the rest of the smarter boaters who were on the water earlier have already taken shelter on shore so we’re probably the only boat left on the lake. There are a few cracks of thunder overhead and I hear these strange popping sound coming from shore and can’t figure out what it is, but then remember last year hearing about these sonic cannons that are used in this area to stop hail from forming in the sky. Daryl did some research on this and all evidence points to these machines have absolutely no effect on hail formation, but the locals claim they haven’t had hail in 50 years so they are sticking with it.

The winds only get up to about 16 knots and the worst of it is over within 30 minutes so we mop up the water in the cockpit, reset the cushions and pillows and pick back up where we left off - steaming towards Rochester, having great conversations, and beating all the biting flies in the cockpit to death with the Portuguese corn broom.

Shortly thereafter the engine made a cough, then slowed, then stalled. Ana and I looked at each other, mouthed the eff word, then sprang into action. She pulled open the canvas and released the jib lock as I pulled out the jib to keep us moving. I went down into the engine compartment, swung it open and was relieved to see no smoke, no shredded belts, and no strange odours so that left fuel problems as the likely culprit. Now what had changed recently with the fuel system? I know, that valve I turned off earlier in the day! I crawled under the bed, opened the valve, then had Ana turn over the engine. It fired up, ran for a minute, then stalled. I had her try it again. It started, ran a bit rough, then was soon humming and vibrating so she popped it into gear and we were back underway. Crisis averted. Now I just need to figure out how the hell that valve works.

We pull into the massive Rochester channel shortly before 10pm and it is very dark and very exciting as we pass by all the lighted structures along the way – the massive port buildings to the right, and to the left a local dive bar with a live band, some commercial buildings and finally the Rochester Yacht Club. We swing the boat into the entrance and execute a perfect docking on the channel wall and Stella and Ana have us tied up and plugged in before I even know what’s happening.

We meet our boat neighbour Doreen who is on a 32’ Beneteau with her husband Rob and their two teenage daughters. They are from Toronto and we have a nice chat and share info on our trips so far. They are headed east up the lake tomorrow so I expect we may run into them again along the way somewhere.

Cockpit drinks are poured and we relax knowing that we are safe and secure for the night and have an undoubtedly interesting couple of days ahead exploring Rochester.


  1. Wow
    Who knew you were such a great story teller Kris :)
    I’m living vicariously through you guys :)
    Safe travels xoxo

  2. Sounds like the valve is the vent for the tank. Did the tank have a good vacuum on it when you opened it up.