This morning (Sunday 27 May) we had planned to lift our anchor and be swept north by the ebbing tide though the Great Sandy Straits. But it was not to be. To tell this story, we need to rewind a few days … back to the day after we arrived at Gary's.
As the sun rose at Gary's on 25 May I was grateful and happy to be safe and sound and now, well rested, after our crossing of the Wide Bay Bar. There still lies some 600 nM ahead of us to reach our destination of Townsville, but that can wait for another day or two. I dropped our dinghy off its storage mounts into the water and attach the outboard. A few other boats are in the anchorage with us, and they have gone ashore. I think it's a great idea and intend to follow. Which in time, after a coffee, I do. And on the shore I meet Bob and Lynne off Woosh!
They, like us, are headed north. And they, like us, are "Shaggers" - a cruising club made up of people who live this floating lifestyle - whether seasonally or full time. Their boat is a good looking yacht and they clearly care about their home. Our first meeting is the usual banter. Where are you headed? Have you been here before? What was your crossing of the bar like? We exchanged the pleasantries and eventually went our own separate ways back to our boats. The next morning they continued their journey north leaving Gary's for Yankee Jacks. We decided to stay, so waved farewell as they past First Contact.
Fast forward 48 hours and we were leaving Gary's for Yankee Jacks ourselves. When we arrived Woosh! was lying at anchor with about 4 other boats. Bob came up on deck to welcome us, saying "I'm replacing the leaking raw water pump for our engine this morning and will head up to Kingfisher Resort for a greasy hamburger later."
"Good idea" I replied as I entered the anchorage wet from the rainstorm that hit us only 10 minutes earlier.
We proceeded into the bay and dropped anchor, dried off, and had breakfast. As the day (uneventfully) progressed, the wind got stronger and the rain got more frequent and heavier. It was a good day for a book.
Woosh! went nowhere and by late afternoon we figured they'd given up on the hamburger lunch and as the weather and tide were now against them, they'd stay until morning.
As I cooked dinner that night, I decided to radio Woosh! and check in on their day. As it turned out Bob and Lynne had been working most of the day on the engine pump but to no avail. No water to cool their engine - they were "disabled" at anchor. I gleefully let them know that Colin is both a marine electrician and diesel engine mechanic and that we'd be happy to come over in the morning and see if there is anything we could do to assist. With the arrangements organised for 0730 the next morning, we said our good nights.
On time the next morning, Bob arrived in his dinghy to take us to Woosh! He'd replaced the impeller, pump and so forth the day before. We started there. No problems with the install and fit. It just didn't pump. We pulled pipes off various bits of the engine, ran it to see if water was being pumped - no it wasn't. We pulled pipes off the raw water intake valve to check for blockages, no, it was fine. As the hours wore on, and more tests were run, it was becoming evident the pump housing itself had outlived its usefulness and small deviations and distortions were not allowing suction to form around the impeller, so, it just didn't pump water anymore. At 1300 hours it was clear no-one was going to be able to fix the issue without new parts.
It's a horrible feeling to be stuck on a boat that can't move. It's not about inconvenience - it's about being safe. What happens if the anchorage becomes bad due to weather? How do I get this big boat into a marina where we can fix our problems without an engine? These are stressful questions and really impact the enjoyment of the day (until they are resolved.)
So today we were supposed to leave Yankee Jack's at 0800. Instead we stayed and helped a fellow cruiser troubleshoot and attempt to solve a problem. Although we were unsuccessful, I think the attempt at helping is far more important than keeping to a schedule. First Contact is bound for Bundaberg with her own engine concerns. We are not disabled, just merely showing warning signs.
There by the grace of God go we.
One day, we will need help. It happens to all of us. On that day, I hope someone will stop and be there. Being there, and taking the time to be there is the greatest gift you can give someone in need.