Four houseboats attended the November 2013 St Johns River Cruise.
Meander – Jim and Carol (Raisin)
Avitoon – Bud and Michaelle (Penny)
The Ugly Duckling – Jerry and Terry
Big Duck – Jeff & Suz (Merlin)
Jim and Carol live in FL just a short distance from the river.
Bud and Michaelle have a boating business in Georgia.
Jerry and Terry are from Pennsylvania.
Jeff & Suz are from South Carolina.
Previous to the gathering on the St Johns, only Jerry/Terry and Jeff/Suz had met face to face. Otherwise we had only known each other via an Internet group.
As mentioned, the St Johns River is Jim and Carol’s back yard. They know the river like the back of their hand and not only led the great adventure but also narrated on the VHF as they identified sights and wildlife along the way. You’ll find Carols daily blog entries below, giving me a reason not to detail one of my own, but I will fill in some technical info.
You may have read in a previous blog that I had replaced the troublesome ST (Special Trailer) tires on Big Duck’s trailer with LT (Light Truck) tires.
The new LT tires provided a comfort level I never had even with brand new ST tires. This was brought home by the fact that there were failures of ST tires on both the GA and PA trailers on the way down.
You’ll read in the account below, that Big Duck had trouble at the ramp; couldn’t get the engine running once in the water. I just barely had the engine hatch open when Jim and Bud dashed over and were climbing around in the bilge sorting things out. Jim used to race top fuel dragsters and Bud does every aspect of boating work (maintenance/repair/restoration/canvas). I decided I’d just let them have at it.
The first thought was fuel - maybe too much, as we could see raw fuel through the carb on the intake manifold. We tried waiting and ether without results – even pulled and dried the plugs. I didn’t tell the guys that I had just ‘rebuilt’ the carb for the same starting problem.
There was spark, but seemingly weak. Eventually they decided to put the points back in the distributor. A year ago I had installed an aftermarket pointless system by Pertronics, which eliminated timing and dwell adjustments. It had been working very well as far as I could tell and I couldn’t see how removing it would help, but I let them do their thing.
With the points back in, she lit up as soon as I turned the key – and we were on our way. We might have put the old coil back in, but it required a resistor and I didn’t find one in the spare parts locker so we left the Pertronics “Flamethrower” coil in. Boy was it nice to have Big Duck running again.
We ran all day, at about 1,600 RPM, but late in the day I noticed an occasional stumble. We couldn’t reset the timing when we put the points back in – didn’t have a light, so I thought that might be part of the problem and maybe I’d need to tweak the slow speed needle adjustments. Maybe I’d static time her tomorrow morning and then adjust the slow speed mixture.
The next morning she light right up and purred. What a relief. But after half a day of running (again at about 1,600) she started stumbling real bad. When it started to stumble it seemed like I could find an rpm that was good, but now she was loping like crazy. I notified the others that I was dropping the hook to investigate. This time The Ugly Duckling was close, so he rafted for support.
When I got into the engine compartment I noticed the “Flamethrower” coil was way too hot. I would have put the old coil back in, but the old one required a ballast resistor and there were no nuts on the terminals not to mention that one of the terminals on the old coil was stripped. I dug around for nuts that would fit but couldn’t find any – but I did find the ballast resistor.
Jerry, on The Ugly Duckling said, “Hand me that coil.”
He took the coil below and soon came up with a nut to fit the good threads and another nylock nut to fit the stripped side. He even handed me a set of nutdrivers for the installation.
My troubles were over for the rest of the cruise, although I did notice a drop in my mpg, probably due to timing – but at this point with a smooth running mill, I wasn’t about to mess with timing.
It turned out that our schedule for the cruise almost coincided with a Memorial Service for my Son-In-Law’s grandparents which was being held in FL, about 100 miles from the ramp. We decided that we’d overnight a couple days so we could be in the area for the service. There was a Walmart nearby where we could Wallydock -- the families were ‘motelling’ nearby.
Wishing to ‘freshen’ up before the service, and knowing we might run out of water in Big Ducks fresh water tank, I scouted out possibilities for a fill up. Low and behold, there was a faucet only yards from where we were parked in the Walmart lot. There was a fellow with a Walmart vest on nearby, so I told him I planned to ‘steal’ some water from the faucet near the auto service entrance. He said, “No problem. Help yourself.”
I pulled up next to the faucet and got the hose ready, but before I could get the water going into Big Duck’s tank I got ‘Barney Fifed’ by a security guard who drove up in his cruiser.
“I wouldn’t bother with that hose. You can’t do that!” he exclaimed in a most Barney Fife tone.
I explained I’d just talked to a fellow who said it was OK.
“He’s just a janitor!” Barney exclaimed with a puffed out chest.
Merlin and I chuckled all the way down the street where we found a faucet at a gas station. While we were filling the water tank, a fellow said he made a “U” turn to come back and see Big Duck. We were delighted and welcomed him aboard.
I almost took the 5 out of his hand.
The 500 miles home was uneventful except for a gas stop. When I got out of the van a man approached and said he needed $6 for gas to get home. I had a 20 and a 5 so I gave him the five. No thanks or anything, he stood there looking at me.
I asked, “Yes?”
He said, “I need another dollar.”
I said, “Pardon me?”
He said, “Well, I don’t want to have to ask someone else.”
Here is Carol’s account. (Thank you Carol)