I thought it was the lobster buoys you had to avoid (hauled out in Rockland, Maine)

Now that you know about my penchant for running over lobster buoys and that we’re currently hauled out, you might think you’ve got it figured out. Leah driving + many, many, many lobster buoys = Brio in the workyard 😉

If only that were true, I’d at least know what to avoid in the future.

Unfortunately, our problem was (apparently) caused by none other than SEAWEED:

The seaweed that caused our stuffing box to overheat and try to start a fire

It had started out as one of those really nice mornings… glassy seas, not a breath of wind, motoring along drinking coffee and planning our day…

Clue #1 was a sudden interesting noise, kind of like a slipping belt. This is where our personalities shine:

Jon: “What’s that noise? Do you hear a new noise?”

Leah: “Nope, I don’t hear a thing. Well, I hear it, but it’s nothing. We’re still moving forward, it’ll be fine, just ignore it.”

Jon: (tearing apart the engine cover) “I don’t see anything…”

Leah: “See, I told you, it was nothing. So when we get to Brimstone Island we’ll hike to the top and…”

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I classify problems as “the boat will not go” vs “the boat will go”. So long as the boat will go, I don’t worry about it too much. Jon (thank god) is on the other end of the spectrum… he likes to do icky things like preventative maintenance and checking the fluids. This is why we are a good team 😉


Clue #2 was a little more dramatic. A bad, bad smell, like melting fibreglass, and smoke coming from behind our engine. This time there was no talking, just Jon springing into action with fire extinguishers at the ready and an engine that clearly couldn’t be run any more. Buckets of water poured over the hot stuff seemed to be keeping the danger of a real fire at bay, and turning the engine off had helped too. Seeing as there was no wind at all, we hip-tied the dinghy and towed ourselves back to Isle au Haut, the island we’d just left.

Hip-tied dinghy tow saves the day again

I have to say, the realization that we’d come so close to having a fire on the boat was a bloody sobering one. The hour that it took to get back in to the anchorage gave me plenty of time to think about just how bad a fire could’ve been, how unprepared I would have been to deal with a serious emergency, and how ridiculous it is that you can literally sink your boat just about anywhere.


Back on the boat, we’d just successfully navigated a narrow entrance and the grabbing of a mooring under dinghy-tow, so we could finally investigate a little more calmly. At this point our stuffing box (the thing that wraps around the prop shaft and keeps the water out while keeping the prop shaft cool) was leaking a steady stream of water and refusing to budge an inch. We *assume* that it got super overheated and possibly seized? So we started planning a haul out.

We sailed to Rockland and dinghy-towed ourselves into a Travelift. As an aside, if you ever need your boat dinghy-towed anywhere, you know who to call. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many times our dinghy has saved the day for us 😉 Which pretty much brings us to today…

We’re assuming that the seaweed blocked the flow of water to the shaft, causing everything to get super hot. This seems kind of ridiculous (how do you avoid seaweed on the ocean?!?!) but also quite possible. We definitely could have cleared the seaweed in the water, but the seized stuffing box was not going to fix itself. Once we got the prop shaft out we realized that it was going to need to be replaced too. And so a small job turns into a bigger one…

The surprise boat refit of 2015

We’re calling it “Brio’s Surprise Refit of 2015” and trying to make the most of our time on the hard. Waiting for our new parts is giving us a good excuse to spend time on some other boat projects, and our 2-week vacation is turning into 3 weeks. There’s a marine store a block away (very dangerous), we’ve got Jon’s truck now (so we have wheels and a mobile tool-shop), and Brio didn’t light on fire or sink… so life’s kinda looking up these days 🙂

And I guess in the future I’ll try to avoid driving through the seaweed??




I thought it was the lobster buoys you had to avoid (hauled out in Rockland, Maine) — 8 Comments

    • Hahaha I think I wish that I DIDN’T know all this tow-boat terminology 😉 Someone told me we should just open a Sea Tow franchise!

  1. Pingback: Cruising Pen-bay (a recap) | With Brio

  2. You are a great story teller !

    Would you believe we’ve been there, done that, but not due to seaweed ?

    Happened to us in Marina Papagayo. 50 NM south of the nearest haul-out around the dreaded Punta Santa Elena and 150 NM north of the next-nearest haul-out. Ended up canceling our sail south to Panama for the season.

    Gory details start here: http://www.grenander.com/Senta_II/Blog_I/Entries/2015/11/13_The_Engine_Started_And_Wouldnt_Stop_But_We_Didnt_Sink%2C_Just_Ended_Up_Stuck_!.html

    • Sven I just read your whole story start to finish and I have to say I’ve never been so happy to see someone else’s stuffing box pictures and evolution!!! We’re kindred boat spirits 🙂

      In a “funny” turn of events, our stuffing box adventures actually didn’t end last year… We just finished round two of haul outs & stuffing box adventures, a story that required hauling the engine out and one I’ll be writing up soon!!

      Brio splashed yesterday so that means I might have enough perspective to tell the story without just swearing my way through it 😉

      What’s your guys plan for the winter? Enjoying your hooka set up still?

      • Leah, just found your reply 🙂

        We still enjoy the 12V hooka (or did until we left for the summer 🙂 ).

        We return to Senta in 3-4 weeks. After we do the needed boat projects we’ll cast off, hoping to get to Panama without any more Costa Rica check-in-outs. We’ll spend the winter in or around the islands off the west coast of Panama and then transit the canal in March-April.

        Next summer Senta will be in one of the marinas north of the canal while we go back to Sweden for 4-6 months. We are looking forward to being on the move again !

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