C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Solo at sea, part 2

The day passed blissfully.  As promised the winds slowly backed around to the south and began to increase.  My 15:46 log book entry notes a speed over ground as 6.3 knots, 50.1 miles made good, 1 hour and 57 minutes out from the Masonboro Inlet outer buoy, and 280 pages completed in my novel.   The wind, too close on the bow to permit a headsail was beginning to look more favorable.   Perhaps I will get to run out the genny today?  For now I choose to continue on under the main and the motor.  Otto is steadily holding course.    Back to reading and watching the winds.

The stuttering of the diesel motor resonated through the hull and shattered my bliss.  Never has our 34 horse power Beta Marine engine given us a second’s hesitation.  Now it was convulsing like a neophyte swimmer after inhaling a slug of water.   A quick “why now” flashed across my brain, and then onto problem solving mode.  I snapped the throttle back to idle, and the motor calmed.  Fuel and air, fuel and air all a diesel needs to run fuel and air.  I leaped up on deck and grabbed the 5G can of spare fuel.  Opening the fill cap, I peer into the dark void of the tank.  I’ve never seen it so empty.  No time to wait on the funnel.  I thumb the spout to prevent spilling and aim for the tank opening… direct hit.   The can disgorges its combustible contents.  Once the can is emptied I sit in rapt silence listening to the purring engine.  That is better, but I still wonder why? 

Hull speed is down below 3 knots, but that can wait.  I scan the horizon for hazards.  Finding none, I head below to investigate further.  Accessing the engine compartment consumes a few moments.  In this time the engine continues to purr.  I run down a list of probable issues…
Fuel valves – all open
Fuel filter – bowl has some sediment, but things look good
Fuel line vacuum gauge – high, but in the green
Air – I cup my hand over the intake and feel a healthy suction

What else? 

Well if I did run out of fuel how did this happen?  C’est la Vie does not have a fuel gauge so we meticulously long the run time.  Based on the log book I had 16 hours and 58 minutes of run time when I started this morning.  I’ve run a bit over 10 hours today.  Thus I should have at least 13 more hours of run time, or approximately 7 gallons of fuel.   I’m confident that there was little fuel left in the tank, certainly not 7 gallons.

Fuel leak!?  I return to the engine compartment and literally sniff around.   I peer into the bilge.  I wipe my hands over the tank and fuel lines.  No signs of leaking.

Math error?  I scan through the log book.  No obvious errors.

A new hypothesis leaps into my conscious… someone siphoned fuel from our tank while we were anchored in Beaufort? 

As I ponder this possibility I head back above decks, scan the horizon, and then throttle back up.  As C’est la Vie again hits her stride at 6 knots, I listen intently to the engine’s hum. 

I complete my book, by my assessment Bob Morris’ best work to date.   C’est la Vie carries me into Wrightsville Beach motoring under the main. 

 At 18:26 I silenced the motor.  The Beta Marine had completed the day without another hic-up.  I am confident that we ran low on fuel.  I’m leaning towards theft, but plan to fill the tank tomorrow and continue to monitor for leaks.

By all accounts my first solo, offshore day was a success with a daily run of 69NM in 12 hours.  Now it is time for a swim, dinner, and a new book. 

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