Bound for Home

By John Platt Hurwitz and Irene Marie Hurwitz

As most of you know, a new boat carries with it a multitude of hidden secrets. When we tried to leave Dana Point for a temporary slip in Long Beach, California in our new (to us) boat, we encountered several humiliating false starts. Finally on our way we made it to our slip in Long Beach and then found a nearby shipyard to address some issues that needed fixing before heading north.

With our boat in the shipyard, and no place to sleep, we headed home for a few days. Once things were wrapped up at the yard, we’d take the boat north to our homeport in Half Moon Bay. By then we’d be hitting it just right for the start of salmon season in May.

A few days at home stretched into a few more days. Progress on the boat was slow. Each call from the shipyard contained the dreaded two words: change order. With every call we saw a river of greenbacks flowing from our pockets all the way down to Long Beach. Our budget was blown and we hadn’t even gotten it rigged for salmon yet. When the boat was finally ready, my friend Bill agreed to accompany me on the trip north as Irene would be driving the car to Half Moon Bay.

The boat had a 3208 Caterpillar and could make more than 20 knots full power. Of course, the fuel bill goes way up the higher you push that throttle. Not knowing what the fuel usage would be, we filled up a couple of oil drums with extra fuel for the trip.

There were the usual last minute items to load, so by the time we got started, we were caught in rush hour traffic. If you want to be reminded of how small your fishing boat is, get sandwiched between two cruise ships exiting port, both of them blowing their horns.

We departed Long Beach Harbor about an hour before dark and turned north toward Point Conception. The weather was a light northwest with a 2- to 3-foot swell well-spaced. Still the going was not real comfortable. We were running a bit over half speed and not making great time, maybe ten knots.

We ran all night and by the first graying in the eastern sky, we were somewhere north of Los Angeles and making for Conception. We passed Santa Barbara and were almost at Conception when suddenly the Cat died. This we had not anticipated, and were both surprised.

We threw off the half-ton engine cover, cracked an injector, and realized we had run out of fuel. We uncorked one of the lashed barrels on deck and put 50 gallons in the tank. When I tried to restart her, the starter just clicked. We checked the batteries, they were good. We tried to arc the starter, got nothing but a bunch of sparks. We called Vessel Assist in Santa Barbara and were towed in.

The problem was the starter; I had it rebuilt by a local shop in a couple of days. Again we were on our way toward Conception when I noticed that the heat was rising a little on the gauge. We slowed and once again threw off the half-ton engine cover and discovered a fresh water leak coming from underneath the exhaust manifold. Bill couldn’t get his hand in there to feel where it was coming from, so we placed a bucket under the leak. Every now and then he poured the contents back into the expansion tank. We did that all the way to Avila Beach just north of Conception and south of Morro Bay.

There were no harbor facilities per se at Avila so we called the harbormaster for permission and moved to a floating work dock.

Investigating the source of the leak, we discovered it was a very small corkscrew-shaped hose way up under the exhaust manifold. Bill was finally able to remove the little hose and find the leak. It wasn’t repairable. We checked around and found a Cat dealer located in a town called Santa Maria, maybe 30 miles south of us. We contacted Enterprise Rental Car in Paso Robles twelve miles away, arranged for someone to pick us up, take us to their office to rent a pickup. Then we drove down to Quinn Caterpillar in Santa Maria, and bought two of those little corkscrew hoses.

Back at the work dock, Bill worked most of the rest of the day trying to reconnect this little hose up underneath everything. No luck, finally a blue water sailor tied up on the other side of the dock offered to help. Generally speaking these real “blue water” sailors are plenty resourceful and can fix most anything since they’re seldom near land. He tried for at least an hour before admitting defeat. The jig was up; we called Cat for help.

The following morning about 7:30am a short stout guy with big arms showed up in the water taxi. The location of this screwy little hose not 6 inches overall belonged somewhere between the manifold and the engine, no way was this guy going to do it. We talked for a minute and then he disappeared into the engine room. About five minutes later he reemerged and proclaimed, “Ok, she’s in!” Bill and I were dubious. I asked, “How did you do that?” He shrugged and said, “I just fiddled with it a little.”

How much was I into on this trip? This time about $300 for the mechanic, another $125 for the pickup, meals out, that screwy hose, no more than ten bucks. Oh shucks, just add it to the bill.

We ran the engine for a while to make sure it didn’t leak and then headed out. Glad to say, the rest of the trip up past Monterey, Santa Cruz, Pigeon Pt. was smooth, and trouble free. A costly and nerve racking trip from stepping onto the boat in Dana Point to tying it up on G dock in Half Moon Bay, but we were home. No time to rest though, it was almost salmon season.