Our First Tow

Towboat US

Written by The Crew

Rev writes all the posts as "The Crew" at What Yacht To Do. It's just part of the First Mate duties. That list just keeps growing...

May 20, 2019

I always knew I would write this post.

I just had NO idea it would be so soon.

Learn Your Boat

I can’t tell you how many people told us to “learn your boat” when I asked what advice would you give a newbie.

I didn’t even know what that meant.

I know where all the nooks and crannies are.

We built storage where there was none.

Sam studied the systems.

When he wasn’t satisfied with the info he read, he hired experts to teach him or got advice directly from Carver, who has been magnificent.

The most meaningful part of that advice is knowing what your boat needs to run and what happens when it is underway.

We have learned about our boat the hard way.

The only way we could.

A Beautiful Morning

Sunday was a beautiful morning and we left Utsch’s Marina about 7:30 a.m.

We were heading north to Hoffman’s Marina in the Manasquan Inlet.

We traveled down the Cape May Inlet heading out to the Atlantic and then made a sharp left turn.

I’ll admit that we were a little nervous because it would be the first time for us traveling on our own in the big, blue ocean.

Our boat has a 4 1/2 foot draft (the part of the boat that is below the water) so we have to watch the water depth all the time.

If we had less of a draft we could use the Intracoastal Waterway.

Going out to the ocean was our only option.

Out There

So there we were.

Out in the ocean.

It started raining. Was this a sign?

Almost immediately, we had engine power issues.

Sam had the throttles up to 2100 RPM for cruise and was only getting about 10 knots of speed. We expected 18-20 knots.

Then, the steering wheel became so hard to turn that it almost felt like we had picked up a crab pot.

All of a sudden, the starboard (right) engine quit.

Even though both starboard tanks indicated that each had fuel, Sam went below and switched tanks and then tried to restart.

Nothing happened.

We could see the Wildwood Amusement Park on land and decided to turn back to Cape May since we were having trouble steering and were down to one engine.

Due to our steering issues and coming close to a sailboat, we knew we needed help.

Sam called “Pan Pan Pan” on Channel 16 (VHF radio) and the Coast Guard responded. He let them know about our situation.

One thing I have learned about Sam is that he LOVES talking on the radio!

It must be an airline pilot thing.

I have rolled my eyes when he has used it because it really didn’t seem necessary to me but this time I was glad that he was prepared and comfortable.

Sam then called Bruce Miller, our Harbor Host connection through America’s Great Loop Cruiser’s Association.

What a tremendous help he was and offered great advice.

Towboat US to the Rescue

The Coast Guard was incredibly helpful and when we decided to call a tow, we gave them an update.

Now, I can’t tell you how many people advised us to get Towboat US or some sort of service that will tow when needed.

So we did.

Sam used the BoatUS app and called for a tow.

Vinny showed up a half hour later.

He talked me through putting the bridle on the front of our boat around the anchor.

The instructions were easy enough but the rolling waves and chilly wind made the task a little tricky.

Vinny towed us to Canyon Club Resort Marina with only one dicey incident where he truly did cuss like a sailor.

The marina welcomed us with open arms but mechanics don’t work on Sunday so we settled into our new slip.

We watched Netflix and drank champagne.

Our Route That Day

Nebo Route

Pretty crazy trip, huh?

If you use the NEBO app, look us up – Here’s To Us!!

You can follow us and we will follow you.

Monday Morning

We were at the marina service counter soon after they opened.

They were so kind and sent a mechanic out to our boat sooner than we expected.

Glen did some troubleshooting with Sam and found that the starboard engine had not received fuel. The fuel gauge feeding the starboard engine said it was 3/4 full when really it was empty.


Are you kidding me?

As a result, there was air in the lines which is never a good thing.

We also have to replace filters with a less restrictive kind (allowing more particles in) so the engines won’t get clogged. They can take it.

The steering problem has corrected itself.

We know the problems but we don’t have the parts.


Cape May is Beautiful

So, it seems like we will be staying in Cape May, NJ a little while longer.

If you pass this way, do stop in and say hello!

We are the Carver 504 at the end of the C dock.

Not going anywhere.

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  1. Can’t believe one of the fuel tanks was empty after the recent huge gas fill!! Love the map you made of yesterday’s excursion!! Had me in tears. I believe it is Memorial Day weekend there so happy Memorial Day to both of you

    • Hi Wolf! We only filled up the front two tanks. We thought (thanks a lot bad fuel gauges!) that the back tanks were almost full! By the way, that map was the actual route that we took. We use an app called Nebo and yes, that really was our route!
      Memorial Weekend is coming up next weekend and we thank you for remembering. 🙂

  2. You are safe and drinking cocktails on the Lido deck. Smile life is good ?. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

    • Thanks so much, Keith! We needed to be reminded of that. Hope you are having an awesome day. 🙂

  3. We live 20 minutes from Cape May. Let us know if you need anything. Would be happy to help!!

    • You are so sweet! I will. Thank you.

  4. Aren’t there any sight guages along the side of the tank to visually check the fuel levels? You will quickly learn to never rely on electronic guages for fuel, water, or whatever. They are most unreliable.

    • No sight gauges at all. Now those would be very helpful! We learned a hard lesson not being able to count on the fuel gauges and our water gauge isn’t working either. It always says full! In a perfect world, all gauges work. On a 20-year-old boat, reality is harsh!

  5. We didn’t have sight gauges, nor did our fuel gauge read accurately, so we created a spreadsheet with the following:

    Tachometer hour readings (port & starboard)
    Odometer reading (we used the trip log in the Garmin GPS chart plotter)
    Miles per hour (calculated using tach and odometer)
    Generator Hour reading
    Gen Fuel Usage in gallons
    Estimated fuel burn based on Gallons per Tach Hour using a long term average*
    Estimated fuel burn based on Miles per gallon using a long term average*

    We filled out our spreadsheet every single day. After a while (meaning many feelings), we’d developed averages for “gallons used per tach hour” and “nautical miles run per gallon”. The two were different: Over five years we averaged 2.3 gallons per tach hour, and 3.3 nautical miles per gallon. We used those two figures to calculate estimated fuel usage each day – and it would give us a range of fuel burned. By watching these figures every day, we could estimate how much fuel we had on board within 5-8 gallons.

    (In case you’re wondering what boat got these rather amazing fuel usage figures, we had a 34 foot PDQ power catamaran with twin 75 horse Yanmars).

    I’d be happy to send along a copy of the spreadsheet if you’re interested.

    • That’s awesome, Mike! Yes, we definitely want your spreadsheet. Please send it to crew@WhatYachtToDo.com and we will be eternally grateful. Thanks so much.

  6. I had a twin engine Sea Ray and had issues with the port engine. When one engine loses power the boat becomes very difficult to steer. I believe that your steering issue was a side effect of losing power in one engine. The good thing about twin engines is you have a way to keep moving if you lose one engine. The bad thing is it is really difficult to control the boat on just one engine.
    My retirement dream is to do the Great Loop so I am enjoying your blog. Thanks for allowing us to follow along.

    • Hey Joe! Thanks for sharing your experience. We are glad you are coming along with us on this journey!

  7. that terrible, I am sure Sam, you must have felt some pangs for anxiety, Glad it was a relatively easy fix. Twin engines, the only way to go!

    • Oh yes! It was more than pangs. We almost quit the loop that day!


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