We decided to get our engine looked at in Tin Can Bay, which is a little harbour town at the south of the Sandy Straits. What we thought would take a day or two, ended up taking 5 days. Luckily Tin Can Bay is a quaint place with a laid-back holiday vibe, but choosing to stay somewhere is very different to feeling “stuck” somewhere.
The engine … what a drama, and what a learning curve (for Marco)! The main irritation is their position. They are built into a compartment at the bottom of each hull, and to get to them you have to descend 2m via a ladder/built in steps. Working on them is even worse – there is very little space around them, and it seems you have to perch on top of the engine (which isn’t very comfortable) and try and wedge your arm/hand between the side of the engine and the hull (a space of about 15cm). Marco is pretty agile and active – but maintaining this position for hours at a time tested his patience and self-control to the limit. To make matters worse, you can’t really see what you’re doing – so he had a mirror precariously balanced on the bottom to help give him some idea, and a headlight on his head (which had the irritating habit of popping off at the most inopportune moments). You also don’t want to drop any bolts/nuts/tools, as they end up sloshing around in the puddle of yucky bilge water right at the bottom of the hull.
Now if he just had to fit one part to the engine, he probably would’ve been fine. Unfortunately, the same part (water pump) had to be dismantled and reattached 3 times (firstly to have the water seal replaced, and then because the pulley had bent, and then because the mechanic had reassembled it incorrectly). I’m not sure how many hours he spent in this kneeling/bum-in-the-air position, but I’m guessing about 8-10. Let’s just say that there was a definite sense of humour failure, and strong statements made about selling the boat.
While he was at it, he decided to replace the water pump and alternator belts on both engines as they looked a little worn – unfortunately the wrong size belts arrived, adding more frustration to the whole debacle.
The boys and I were trying to get some schooling/work done whilst all this was happening – and I was trying to cope with living in a boat that looked like a workshop. We took turns at being “summoned” to bring various spanners, screwdrivers, sprays, the crowbar, paper towel, etc etc. We also tried to ignore the shouts of frustration and banging that echoed out of those engine rooms.
Our friends aboard Molly were anchored near us at the same time, so it was great for the boys to be able to spend afternoons together. They swam in the public pool, played soccer in the park – and tried to avoid being eaten alive by sandflies and mosquitoes.
I really enjoyed the harbour-feel of the place. The houses are ramshackled Queenslander-style, and the fishing culture is evident everywhere. One of the attractions is the feeding of the wild dolphins every morning at the public jetty. Apparently a fisherman accidentally injured a dolphin in the 70s, and took it upon himself to nurse it back to recovery by hand-feeding it each morning. The trend must have caught on, as there are apparently quite a few that now come for their breakfast each morning. We didn’t make it for the feeding, but Marco and the boys were visited by a huge scarred dolphin whilst on the tender. It came right up to them and lifted its head out of the water, as if to say hi. I’m guessing that it was the same dolphin.
Josh was thrilled to be able to play some tennis at the Tin Can Bay tennis club. It was apparently very hot, but Marco and the boys lasted a couple hours on the artificial grass courts. Noah worked on his recycled trimaran pretty often – I think he’s used a whole roll of duct tape to hold it all together!
Eventually the engine problems were sorted. The final tinkering was finished just as the sun was setting, and what a beautiful sunset it was! We celebrated with a well-deserved glass (or 2) of Baileys – and vowed “not another day in Tin Can Bay”.
Cruising isn’t for sissies … as experienced cruisers say, the definition of cruising is “fixing your boat in beautiful places”. I think we can completely relate to that now. We always have a chuckle when people say “you’re so lucky to be cruising on your boat” – there are obviously some wonderful times, but there is a lot of frustration and effort involved too.