The Smugglers Run – Part 2 – The Incident

St Patrick’s Day 2022 didn’t exactly go as planned. We were all set to head offshore for 2 or 3 days crossing the everglades. We were well prepared, provisioned, weather window with at least 2 days with low to no winds. 

It was a little foggy when we got up but it looked like it would burn off quickly so at 8:30 we pulled the hook out of Smokehouse bay and set out toward the Gulf, planning on an 8 hour run to Little Shark River to anchor.  About 30 minutes into the gulf, we were still having breakfast on the Flybridge and when Janet checked the dashboard she said “Why are the gauges all whacky?” I looked and the tach was not reading and the temperature gauge was very high. I ran down the ladder and into the salon, when I pulled up the engine hatch I got a face full of steam.  I shut down the throttle and realized it was just overheating and not on fire. When the smoke cleared a little I noticed the alternator belt was broken and hanging loose. 

The weather was calm and we caught it fairly quickly so I should be able to let it cool a bit, put on the spare belt and carry on.  Right!

I sat and finished by breakfast and let the engine cool. When I climbed into the engine compartment I found the bracket holding the alternator had broken off and that is why the belt failed. This might take a little bit more time…

When the bolt holding the broken piece of alternator bracket broke off as soon as I put a wrench on it I said, “maybe we had better look into our Tow boat coverage”.

Turns out we have very poor Tow Boat coverage.

I was able to Jury-rig the alternator bracket by drilling a new hole and bolting it to a different bolt to get us back into Marco.

We called the Rose Marina and explained our predicament and they said they would find a slip for us so we limped back into Marco Island with Don driving from the flybridge to see the shoals and Janet watching the engine in case the rig fell apart.  It worked and we made it safely into a slip at the Marina.


They didn’t have a mechanic on duty so I was on my own to fix Nauti.  

I pulled the bike off the roof and rode to Ace hardware and then to the other side of the Island to Napa Auto parts and came back with enough parts and pieces to build a new alternator bracket.

By the end of the day I had everything apart cleaned and ready for assembly in the morning.

It was time for a wind down drink on the Flybridge and to watch all the tourists coming and going for the sunset tours.

The next morning the engine was reassembled, running and cleaned up before noon. 

Nauti was cleaned inside and out ready to try again to cross the everglades.  That evening we took the dinghy over to the Snook Inn for dinner to celebrate having a running boat again.

It was a stressful couple of days and a lot of work to get Nautoncall fixed up again quickly. We were lucky that we caught it quickly, were able to limp back in and fix it on our own. It could have been a lot worse had it happened 6 or 7 hours later when we were in the middle of nowhere.

We have upgraded our Tow Boat coverage…

Don McCulloch
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