Part Two – “Residual Blessing” – the next morning…

This post is this about the rest of our Gulf of Mexico crossing on the Great Loop. See the previous post before this one.

Four hours later, I got up around the 7:00 am sunrise. Started the coffee. Soon the rest of the boat was up with me.

Shelly started the generator so the toaster would work for the breakfast sandwiches; the genset would also bring the batteries up to charge after a night on the hook.

One thing I do not like on this boat is that the largest DC load (the fridge) is on the same battery bank as the main bank which also, (by default) starts the engine.

It is far better design to have a separate bank for “house” and “start”. We anchor out more than most, and the boat has been tolerant of me not making this improvement just yet.

We had great breakfast egg sandwiches on toasted sourdough bread, (my favorite.)

Weather and sea state: mostly calm and clear. We marveled at how great this weather window has been. No sign, yet, of any weather nasties coming across the Gulf.

We were about 25 miles from TS (Tarpon Springs), no Internet, no phone service. On my suped-up boat network, my router was actually showing multiple bars for both VZW and T-Mobile networks, but both were also stuck, “Obtaining IP Address.”

It was mostly clear out, only some fog remained.

Time to start the engine and finish this trip!

Unfortunately, the engine would not start. The symptoms were of a battery too weak to turn her over. It would start to turn over, but not make a complete a cycle.

This had never happened on this boat before, (since we owned it.) This main battery bank consisted of 3 new batteries, Interstate Group 31 (last spring) replacing the 8D on our starboard side. This bank has performed great all along this Loop so far.

On the other side, this is season 2 on Bank #2, an 8D that came with the boat on our port side.

All banks have SmartShunts by Victron Energy; and I monitor them.

We tried all combinations of both battery banks, even after letting the generator bring them back up to 100%.

Everything else worked on the boat: electronics, fridge, genset, etc.

We tried wrapping the starter and solenoid with a hammer. We cleaned all terminals with a wire “toothbrush” which I keep handy. Nothing worked.

Our diagnosis: starter failure or solenoid, or slave solenoid if there is one.

Last night, we stopped before being back within cell phone / Internet range. That early stop reduced our options. “We might be out of VHF range too.”

We are safe and secure, we have been anchored for 5 or six hours or so, weather is cooperating nicely. There is a pelican sitting, eating, and sh-ting on the fore deck keeping Shelly negatively entertained. Attempts to “shoo” him away failed as he wanted to stay nearby to see how we were going to get underway again.

We know the USCG has mega-stations on VHF that go further than any others. We also have the ham radio that can get me in touch with hams in most of North America (and beyond). We can relay our Lat-Long to TowBoatUS who can get us help.

Russ suggests we try for TowBoatUS first, direct on VHF. “No need to get the Coast Guard involved yet.” I agreed.

That worked! After a few calls on VHF-16, TowBoatUS came back to us with an impressive VHF signal! The dispatcher was well-trained. We had our “double-checked” position written down and ready to give her. We exchanged all the particulars. By noon, “Captain Damon” out of TS (Tarpon Springs) was on the scene and he towed us in. On the way in, once we were close enough to TS to get cell service, I started calling the boat yards in TS for service. “Dave” of Pitman Yacht Services said this WAS something they could help me with on Monday, when they open.

I then asked if he had room for us at his dock, he said, “Yes, bring it in. We’ll put you up front. The BoatUS guys know where to put you.”

Captain Damon did a great job on a long 4+ hour tow, we tipped him well, and he offered to drop the three of us off on the “party side” of the river with all the shops and restaurants, after we secured.

So, to summarize:

1) we saved on fuel for the final 25 miles of our crossing.

2) we got dockage in downtown Tarpon Springs, without reservations on a weekend night (during the annual seafood festival) when every marina in town was filled to capacity,

3) we got shuttled across to where the action is, and we had a great dinner at the esteemed Hellas Bakery and Restaurant.

Above, the shared Flaming Saganaki appetizer was the best!

While this is not how I would recommend you “plan” things, it serendipitously worked out great for us on this passage!

The adventure continued today as we rented an Enterprise RAC; Shelly spent a few hours at a nearby spa getting her hair colored and cut. Lashes done too. Plus we are all re-provisioned.

This evening, a presentation ceremony aboard Shellerina of Russell’s 2021 Fleet – Looper Shirt was performed.

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