August 29. In order to hit Barnegat Inlet on an incoming tide we have to arrive before 1300 hours. It’s a little more than an 8 hour trip so as a result we were up and underway at 0345.
It was actually kind of pleasant out with a full moon and virtually unlimited visibility. It was so clear that we didn’t even have to turn on the radar as the moonlight was exceptionally bright.
Another advantage to our early departure was the complete absence of fishermen on the water. Usually the area inside Sandy Hook is very crowded with clammers and small fishing boats, this morning we were alone.
The only boat traffic of any concern was a large ocean going tug that was pushing a crane barge into Raritan Bay as we were making the turn at the Hook to head out. After determining which way he was headed and exactly what we were looking at we stayed just outside the channel and our passing went perfectly.
Christy enjoys a sunrise at sea.
The wind was virtually non- existent so we were forced to motor all the way to Barnegat on the glassy seas. As part of our pre-trip checklist we check all the fluid levels. I was surprised to find out that the fuel tank we have been running on was still about half full (not half empty). I figured that we’ve had so many pure sailing days lately that this must account for our miserly fuel consumption. This will allow us to arrive in Forked River with one tank full and the other with more than a quarter full.
About 3 miles from Barnegat Inlet Christy said that she just heard the motor slow down. I checked the tachometer and our boat speed and find nothing different than it had been all morning. I dismiss it as Christy having gone deaf from the 0345 start.
Two minutes later the engine died. We quickly turned ninety degrees to port and unrolled the genoa. There was about 3 knots of wind and Veranda slowly started to head offshore to get us some sea room as I started to diagnose the problem. I was in the engine room and Christy yelled down that we’re probably just out of fuel. I know we can’t be as I checked the levels last night but it would be the easiest problem for us to overcome so I recheck the tank mounted gauge. Empty. Dead empty. The needle must have been stuck at half full the night before, I knew that our fuel consumption had been a little to good to be true.
It was a simple matter to switch over to the other tank which was full and bleed the air out of the fuel delivery system. About 8 minutes after the engine quit we were back up and underway headed for the Inlet.
I was practically sick to my stomach thinking about the tough place we would have been in if we had run out of fuel a half hour later. We would have been in the inlet with not enough wind to maneuver in the current. We would have had to drop the hook and we would have been alright but it’s an experience I can happily live without.
On the other hand a giant positive revealed itself to me. My first thought was we had wrapped something around the propeller and I hadn’t considered fuel starvation as we “knew” we had plenty for today’s trip. Christy was as calm as Gandhi and thought of the simplest probable cause of our loss of power. She didn’t know it was coming, she didn’t have time to plan and she nailed it. Yep, I’m wearing her down.