At first light on June 20, 2015, we started the motor, and crept out of tiny Westport Marina in LaSalle, Ontario, Canada to begin our journey to Racine, WI. We motored up the Detroit River full of excitement as we looked at the Detroit skyline. We were planning to cruise through Lake Huron’s North Channel, so we stayed on the Canadian side of the river. Although chilly, it was a gorgeous day for a beginning.
Eventually the river opened into Lake St. Clair. A couple freighters were coming into the river as we were exiting, so we gave them plenty of room. We were starting to be troubled by Perky’s hiccups. “Perky” is our Perkins diesel, and as she rumbled along she would occasionally miss a beat, just for a fraction of a second. She kept going though, so we vowed to have a look when we stopped for the night.
The weather was fine and we were motoring, so we made a bee line to the St. Clair River. Perky kept up her hiccups, and we kept going. Well, that is until Perky had a bigger than usual hiccup and died. We tried to restart, but the starter was dead. Suddenly we were adrift on the St. Clair River with freighter traffic coming up behind us. We managed to drift to the edge of the channel, and dropped anchor. Tom scrambled below to find the problem while Kristi radioed the approaching freighter so he’d know we were disabled. The freighter captain said he plenty of room and even throttled back a bit as he passed.
We found that in our panic at the engine stopping we had left the transmission in gear, so the starter didn’t engage. Once we shifted to neutral, Perky started right up. Yea! Time to haul up 120 feet of chain and a 45 lb. anchor. This is not a good time to find out that while your windlass (a winch for anchors) “works” it has no power. Kristi tried to pull it up manually, but after a near mishap we traded places and Tom pulled the chain while Kristi manned the helm. It’s tricky getting the throttle setting just right to counteract the river current, but no overrun the anchor.
A little shaken, and tired, but we were on our way again. We reached Sarnia Bay Marina a little later than intended, but with our first day behind us we felt good.
Over a well deserved dinner we decided to stay an extra day for boat work. In addition to Perky’s ailments, and the powerless windlass, we found that Otto, our autopilot, occasionally turned randomly, which required that one of us be at the wheel at all times. So, we had our “day off” well planned for us.
The next day we checked fuel filters, bled injectors and tested Perky under power at the dock. We found that the previous owner had wired the windlass to 6 volts instead of the 12 volts it required. At least that was an easy fix. Otto, however, remained mystery as we prepared to clear the Blue Water Bridge and head into Lake Huron.