The Little Engine That Couldn't (but finally did.)
We had discussed taking a cruise as our family vacation this year. After discovering that Little Danger would be full price on any cruise line we wanted to take, we decided a collective and mighty “fuck that” was in order. We decided instead to take the houseboat out for a week long cruise on the Lake, something bandied about but never attempted.
The casa on the agua
The downside: no waiters, no bartenders, no show, no ocean, smaller boat.
The upside: 2-5% of the cost, no other passengers, no abandon ship drill, no itinerary.
The pros and cons kind of even out. Especially on the money front.
When packing and road tripping for a full week on a lake with a 1 year old, it is inevitable that one will take too much shit. We arrived earlier than we thought we would, enabling us to dine on board instead of al Wendy’s-o; loading in and stowing was a major project, however. There’s not a lot of extra space on a boat, even a houseboat, and every nook and cranny was used in short order.
Of course, tradition must be observed, so as soon as we had settled in we poured shots. It is a moral imperative for us to take one shot as soon as possible in honor of a great man taken too early, and it was made no easier this time looking at the empty slip where late his boat had been. But since he’d jackslap us if he saw us being morose, we enjoyed the shot and decided to have fun. Even Little Danger joined in, though his tiny paper cup contained pure H20.
After a repast of seafood on the grill, I crashed early and hard, owing to a long and hot day behind the wheel. I took Little Danger below to our “room” to let him crash as well, since his travel “crib” was in the dining room/living room/kitchen. I doubt a herd of dancing hippopotami would have been able to wake me.
To that end, I am told that Little Danger crying loudly not 12 inches from my face failed to do so, but since Wifefish is a goddamn saint, she took care of his anguished demands for a sippy cup as I slept like a narcoleptic sloth on Lunesta and a NyQuil chaser.
Saturday dawned bright, early, and hot. This time I did hear Little Danger’s morning “hey you parent-type people” cries, and greeted him with his morning milk at “are you fucking kidding me”:thirty. The rest of the family rose soon after, as we were prepping to take the houseboat out for our first day of Houseboat cruise 2011.
We cast off lines, pulled gently and masterfully out of our slip, and started to the main dock to top off the tanks. After a mere 5 minutes, the port side engine revved up suddenly and then died. My brother-in-law and I looked at each other, then to the RPM gauge mockingly displaying “ZERO”, then back to each other. Attempts to start the engine back up were fruitless, and we less gently and less masterfully docked to fuel up.
One of the marina mechanics crawled into the port engine hold, and made an attempt to swap out the fuel filter, in case it was clogged. That wasn’t the issue, so we decided to have a technician come out and give it a once over. We pulled back into our slip on starboard screw only and decided the day would be spent in laziness and goofing off, even if the technician fixed it. We’d start the cruise the next day, and just take the little pontoon boat out to have fun instead.
In the early afternoon, the expert arrived. He jumped into the hold, took a look around, and said those words we all hate to hear, “I think I see your problem right there.” He turned the portside fuel valve on, and said “Try it now.”
The port engine started right up, giving us the metaphorical finger. The fuel valve had been shut off due to some recent generator work. A simple twist of the wrist had it back in working order.
Rather than be annoyed, we all laughed it off, jumped in the pontoon boat, and headed out to float, giggle, and drink beer. The phrase “12 ounces in, 12 ounces out” became the mantra.
This is a sunset from the top deck, at the marina. Not a big loss to stay in harbor.
Sunday saw us make a second try at getting out onto the lake, our intrepid family/crew prepared to enjoy our cruise. We made it nearly to the breakwall this time, almost out of the marina, when the portside engine revved again, this time sputtering and coughing as the temperature gauge climbed like a deranged sherpa. As a cloud of smoke worthy of a college dorm room at 4:21 rose from the exhaust, we shut the port side engine down.
As it happens, Lake people are a friendly lot, and before we could turn the boat to head back in, we were met by two pontoon boats: the woman who had sold Pop-Pop the boat, and a mechanic who had seen the smoke and knew exactly what it meant. He said he had the part on board, and would be over to help once we got docked again. (For those curious, the water impeller had failed. Spectacularly. More than 100 pieces.)
We went back to Pier 2, to a bit of jeering from our boat neighbors, a second time. The port engine received the loving ministrations of the mechanic, and in just an hour and a couple hundred dollars, we were on our way out of the marina a third time.
It proved to be the charm, and we finally ventured forth to enjoy LakeCruise 2011.
More to come...there were several stories that arose from this vacation.