By Jim and Lisa Favors
There is nothing quite as exciting as heading off to explore cruising areas unfamiliar to us. The trip planning, research, boat preparation, and provisioning are all essential parts of the process. When properly followed this process helps to ensure a new boating adventure is just about boating and exploring, not about unexpected surprises such as maintenance issues or scheduling difficulties.
To get to the impeller the top pulley and belt had to come off, Mike worked at it from the boat’s cabin and I accessed it from the cockpit.
During Kismet’s six-month hibernation this past winter we laid out plans to head west this summer. The first leg of our journey will bring us to the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, on the Green River in southern Wyoming/Northeast Utah. After exploring the mountain canyons by boat for a few days we’ll retrailer Kismet and head further west for this trip’s major launch in Anacortes, Washington. Although we’ve cruised Washington’s Puget Sound and San Juan Islands before, Annacortes will act as our launching point for exploring areas further north up into Canada’s Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound and if time permits, as far North as the Broughtons. When we finish our time in the PNW, we’ll head to Portland, Oregon, drop the boat in the water on the Columbia River and wait for our first grandchild to be born. This trip will be a four-month excursion, we want to make sure we get the most out of our travel plans and cruising time by having a schedule and a plan.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about planning every hour of every day in the form of a rigid itinerary. Lisa and I are too free spirited for this kind of structure. I’m referring to the type of planning that we think is necessary to make our cruising experience come off with as few hiccups as possible. The kind of surprises that make you say to yourself, “I sure wish I would have known about this or done this or that before hand,” are the types of surprises we’re trying to avoid. Consequently, since I don’t like flying by the seat of my pants, I spent considerable time during this last winter in the preparation and planning mode. I staged what I thought needed to be accomplished into two categories, boat/trailer prep and destination orientation.
Although I found the impeller to be in good shape we replaced it with a new one.
With our Kismet out of storage and conveniently parked in our driveway, I started my typical pre-season launch list. (In some cases this is a reversal of our end of season storage tasks.) While reinstalling the boat’s battery bank I scuffed up all the cable terminals and applied dielectric grease to each cable end in order to prevent corrosion and provide better connectivity for all the reassembled parts. With the boat powered up I checked to make sure everything electrical was operational. If I were going to have a surprise I’d rather have it in our driveway, not out on the open water.
Hard to believe all this stuff was on Kismet last cruising season, the sad news is that this is only about 60% of everything, but it’s all essential to our livability onboard.
With 250 hours on our engine it was time to replace the impeller, a job I knew needed to be done, but one I was not looking forward to. An engine impeller (used to pull water through a marine engines chambers for cooling) is relatively straightforward to change, if easy to get at. The reason I was not looking forward to changing ours was because of the impellers hard to get at location. My friend Mike and I worked for 2.75 hours laying on our backs or bellies, often in contorted positions, one blinded from the sight of the project and taking visual instructions from other as we dismantled a pulley belt and pulley so we could gain access to the area for the impeller swap.
With impeller changed and buttoned back up, I kept my fingers crossed for good luck and headed out for the launch ramp. My objective was to submerge the boat far enough into the water so I could safely fire up the engine. I wanted to make sure the boat started, along with wanting to inspect the impeller housing to make sure I had no leaks, then I’d know we were good to go for the season. While at the launch ramp I also fired up the generator, tested the air/heat, ran the GPS and radar and made sure I had power to the solar panel. All systems were a go and my pre-season list was getting shorter. I like to do everything possible beforehand to ensure pleasurable and safe cruising; I don’t like surprises out on the open water.
It’s a lot of work to first clean the fiberglass before waxing but the final product makes it all worth it.
On the way home I stopped by a local tire shop (prearranged) to have all of the wheels taken off of the trailer to have them balanced and rotated. We found out that each wheel was out of balance and that one even needed 13 oz. of weight to bring it into balance. I’m not sure if it was just me trying to justify the expensive or not, but the ride home from the tire shop seemed quite a bit smoother, which should translate into longer trailer tire life.
After my other boat chores were finished I proceeded to clean and wax the hull. Lisa says I’m a little anal about this and that I look at the finished result as if it’s a little bit sensual in nature, but who can resist touching a freshly waxed shiny surface? My first step was to clean off the old wax and/or hard water spots by washing the boat with a mixture of white vinegar and dish soap. Next I applied Collinite 920 fiberglass cleaner with an orbital buffer in preparation for a final coat of Collinite 925 Wax, which is applied by hand and taken off by orbital. With a slick, shiny, Bristol finish sitting in front of me, I started to imagine how beautiful Kismet’s shiny red hull will look sitting pretty in the Pacific Northwest.
Here you’ll see one of the rusted caliper slide pins that needed to be cleaned to help keep the brakes functioning properly.
Towing a boat, or anything for that matter, any distance requires proper weight distribution, there are limits that must be adhered to. In light of this, I took everything out of the boat and added it to the pile of things already stored in our basement from last fall, the necessities we typically carry in the bed of the truck during trips. I did this so Lisa and I could sort through it and re-evaluate what was absolutely essential to put back on the boat for our trip west. My strategy was to weed out duplicates (like the three cutting boards I found), and eliminate things not needed such as my oil extracting pump (our engine has fresh oil now). In doing this, our main objective was to pair down the weight carried on the boat and in the bed of the truck. The secondary benefit is that we get a better feel for what we’ll be carrying, why and whether it’s on the boat or in the truck bed.
Wheel bearings are a critical safety factor on a boat trailer. Although we only have 8,000 miles on our trailer I made an appointment to have the wheel bearings inspected and adjusted. While this was being done I also had the technician inspect the brake pads. The brake pads and rotors were in excellent condition and the wheel bearings only needed to be adjusted along with changing the oil in them. The caliper slide pins on each caliper also needed to be cleaned for easier operation. So, with everything in good working order and reassembled our trailer should be trouble free for the entire trip.
After the wheels were taken off to be balanced, I asked the service man to please rotate the tires on the trailer when they went back on.
I felt good about the preparation phase of our trip planning. I felt confident we had minimized chances for unpleasant mechanical surprises both on our cross-country trailering trip and while cruising during our time out west. Finally, turning to my destination orientation category, I began my research during the long, cold Michigan winter; it seemed to help spring arrive sooner. Previously, we’d only read articles about the Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming/Utah, so my first project was to acquire a map that covered the waterway and surrounding territory. With map in hand I was able to better ascertain and gather information, such as where launch sites, marinas and waterway campsites were. At the same time I was reading online blogs, websites and, magazines articles about the area.
While doing research I learned that any boat being launched into the Flaming Gorge has to go through a decontamination process. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) does not want any invasive species, such as zebra mussels, getting into the Reservoir. Because of this they provide a free decontamination of a boat’s engines, boat wells, anchor lockers, etc. with 180° water, which is meant to kill any living organism. I found that the DWR has an inspection station at Lucerne Valley Marina, where we’ll launch Kismet, but they don’t inspect on Tuesdays. This was helpful information, by doing a little forward planning I’ll make sure I don’t show up on Tuesday, thereby not being unpleasantly surprised wasting a full day in the process.
Because we’ll be cruising for a little over two months in PNW, once we arrive in Washington, I needed to decide where to launch the boat when we do arrive. My criterion was based on finding a suitable ramp, a place to park our truck and/or store the trailer. I was able to locate everything we needed in Anacortes, Washington. The additional benefit is that Anacortes is also a convenient jumping off point to start our PNW cruise into the San Juan Islands, Canada’s Gulf Islands, Desolation Sound and hopefully destinations further north.
Our trailer has an oil-bath bearing system with sealed bearings, shown here on the backside of the brake rotor assembly.
Passports, charts, and cruising guides, customs, and GPS charting were all on my destination orientation list. I purchased a 2013 Waggoner Cruising Guide (covers Puget Sound to Ketchikan, Alaska) to help me orientate myself with unfamiliar territory. While reading the guide, I highlighted areas of interest, ones we might like to visit, in addition to marking pertinent information on safety concerns or navigation aids. We already owned a Canadian Garmin chip for our chart plotter and the passports are already packed. We sure wouldn’t want to tow our boat 2,200 miles only to find we’d left any of these items at home. When we arrive in Seattle I’ll pick up whatever charts we still need and with that I think we’re good to go and ready to head out for another excellent adventure.