It seems like we are always writing about how great it is living on the boat, cruising to exotic places and running our charter business.  Well…  It’s time for a reality check.

First and foremost, yesterday (Monday) afternoon our dear friend Hank passed away after a thankfully short battle with pancreatic cancer.  We will think of him often and miss his dry British wit, great stories from sailing the Caribbean and south Pacific for the past 35 years (even though we had to prod them out of him with lots of alcohol), warm and loving friendship built upon two winters spent together in Marathon, and, most of all, his easy laughter.  I give a toast to a man who I am proud to call my friend.

Secondly, after a great August for our charter business, it seemed like October was going to be even better.  We had 3 big dinner charters booked along with a 3-day Hudson cruise with a couple from Miami to enjoy the fall colors and celebrate their anniversary.  Our first 6-person dinner charter last Wednesday was nice and everyone had a great time.  On Saturday, we had our first charter cancellation due to weather FOR THE WHOLE SUMMER!  Unbelievable as it sounds (with all the crappy weather we’ve had this summer), we hadn’t had to cancel a charter before this.  As we give a fair-weather guarantee for day charters, all their money was refunded. 

That wasn’t so bad as we were picking up our 3-day cruise guests on Sunday morning so running a big dinner charter the night before would have been quite a rush for us (but we didn’t want to turn down the business).  So, we spent the extra time making sure the boat was spotless inside and out.  On Sunday morning our guests arrived and we left the dock at 7:30 am to catch the morning tide south.  Before we were even out of Catskill Creek I noticed a problem with the boat.  It wasn’t performing as well as normal and seemed to be slowing down occasionally.  I thought that maybe I had picked up something in the prop so stopped, ran in reverse for awhile to try and clear anything that was around the prop, then went back to motoring forward.  Everything seemed fine so we watched the sun rise on the Catskill Mountains as we slowly cruised south toward Kingston .  Not ½ hour later the boat just stopped moving forward even though the engine never missed a beat and we were on calm water.  I went downstairs to investigate and found that the transmission wouldn’t turn the propeller shaft in forward gear – reverse was fine.  After an hour or so of troubleshooting, I decided we had to get back to the marina for more detailed work.  Up to this point, our guests were taking everything in stride – they were boaters and knew that sometime things just go wrong.

I ran the boat slowly in reverse for the 3-miles back to Catskill Creek then dropped the dinghy and tied it along side as our emergency engine.  We had never tried this before but I figured the 15 horsepower outboard would push the big boat at 3-4 knots in a calm sea with no wind.  It worked fine and we were tied up back at our slip by 11:00 am. 

Our guests decided to sightsee in the area so Laura took them in the car to visit Olana while I pulled the boat apart.  It took me about an hour to remove the transmission and take it down to a local boatyard.  When we drained the oil we saw it was full of little metal flakes that used to be the clutches inside the transmission.  Oh boy…   As this was Sunday I couldn’t even call anyone for parts or a new transmission until the next day.

Our guests returned and we cooked them a great dinner along with Laura’s special apple pastry for dessert.  After dinner I drove them to a resort in New Paltz where they decided to spend the next 3-days.  I gave them a full refund of their charter fee which only seemed fair since they had flown up here from Florida to cruise with us on the river.

Now that I’ve owned a 30 year old sailboat for several years, I kinda know how to find parts.  Monday morning I spent several hours on the phone calling marine supply and engineering businesses in the northeast.  After much thought, we decided to purchase a rebuilt transmission from a company in Marblehead Massachusetts .  By 1 pm we were in the Explorer and on our way.  We arrived in Marblehead just before they closed and swapped our non-working transmission for a local rebuilt (plus a few dollars….).  We were back at the boat around 10 pm and hit the sack.

Tuesday morning I started work on installing the “new” transmission.  It wasn’t exactly the same so I had a few modifications to make along with a couple trips to Lowes.  By 6 pm we were testing it and everything seems to work fine.

We now have a good working boat but no charters until Oct 17th.  Not only that but we spent a lot of money preparing for our NYC charter in premium food, beverages, upgrades to some electronics and LOTS of time spent working on and cleaning the boat.  All told, we “lost” about 1/3 of our summer charter income in the past 4-days because of refunds and boat repairs.  YUCK!

Lastly, Laura received an email yesterday from a friend on Facebook saying they had this great video.  She didn’t notice that the link wasn’t from Facebook and when she clicked on it our computer was infected by a virus.  That wasn’t bad enough but for some reason, it sent the virus to my Facebook friend’s list – I wasn’t even logged into Facebook at the time!  Geez!  I spent a couple hours cleaning our computer and installing updated anti-virus software but it’s still there, lurking in the background and popping up ads every once in awhile.  Now that I have finished with the transmission, I’ll spend more time trying to clean our computer of this stinking virus.

So…  How are you doing?  Please don’t take this as complaining or wining (I suppose there is some of that in there…) but I mostly wanted everyone to know that this life isn’t all a bed of roses.  But!  It doesn’t suck!  We’ll deal with the problems and keep pushing forward until we run our of money (or credit J) . 

We’ll be leaving Catskill and heading south around Oct 20th.  Our plan is to be in the Florida Keys around Thanksgiving (or a little later), then try to setup our charter business again down there and bring in a few dollars to pay the bills.

So, please join us in toasting to Hank with a glass of vino.  We will miss him dearly.  Good-bye my friend….

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