The One Where Mountains Moved

When we left Fort Myers in June we knew we’d be boating TO the mountains. We just didn’t know we’d have to make the MOUNTAINS MOVE to get there!

Lock Master: “Light & Salty, if you can turn it up, I’ll hold the lock for you.”

That simple sentence led to the discovery of a major maintenance issue. As Brent increased the throttle, one of our engines seemed to slip out of gear. Brent did a little trouble shooting and eventually got it up to the speed he wanted. We made the lock and prayed the prior 10 minutes had been a fluke.

Unfortunately, over the next several days we would discover that it wasn’t a fluke. In what should have been some of the most terrible days of boat ownership, we got to watch mountains move.

I’m a firm believer that you can find joy and positivity in any circumstance. While my bank account might object, I really can find so much good in our nightmare. I can’t say that I’m thrilled this happened; However, I have so much gratefulness that it *almost* makes up for it.

Here’s a little recap of our misadventures this summer. Watch those mountains move…

First, let me set the stage a little better for my non-boat friends. Our boat can travel at 25mph. But maybe you’ve heard, diesel prices are kind of high. So, for the most part, we’ve been traveling at the more fuel-efficient speed of 10mph. (That’s really the “typical” Loop speed, so it hasn’t been a major adjustment.)

Leaving Fort Myers, Brent put Light & Salty through a series of speeds and tests to make sure everything was running properly. We crossed Tampa Bay on plane (about 20mph) because we were outrunning a storm. And then we crossed the Gulf of Mexico on plane because it’s a long distance and we prefer not to travel in the dark.

Everything was running perfectly. (Famous last words?)

Until, of course, we discovered it wasn’t. But here’s where a long series of blessings began…

  • We just happened to be close to a marina known for their boat service department. In fact, we already had a 2 week stay booked. And, best of all, we have really close friends in the area (Charlie and Robin.)
  • Charlie met us down river to attempt to diagnose the problem. And when he couldn’t, he immediately jumped on the phone and called for backup. The mechanics were literally waiting at our slip when we arrived.
  • It was quickly discovered that we had a major issue with one of our transmissions. It needed to come out and be repaired.

While this might sound like a fairly simple project, I can assure you- it’s not! The transmission weighs about 170lbs, and it’s located behind and under almost everything in our engine room. Beyond that, there’s not a transmission specialist on every corner.

The most devastating part of our problem was the reality that our boat would likely be out of commission for several months. SEVERAL MONTHS. It would mean an end to our summer adventure. It was almost too much disappointment to comprehend. But then…

God worked a few miracles and those mountains moved!

  • The best, most well-known diesel mechanic (Diesel Don) just happens to live close to where our transmission broke. Through a series of connections, he agreed to handle the project.
  • Another friend connected us to a transmission specialist capable of fixing everything to better than new. The only hitch was that this person had an extremely full plate and there was just 1 day coming up that he could do the work.
  • In light of the timeframe, Charlie cooked up a plan to hand deliver our transmission to Michigan. He and Brent did a whirlwind trip where they drove through the night and got to watch the repair. They both thought this was the coolest experience! And it sped up the repair by weeks, if not months!
  • Diesel Don stays booked for months. But somehow between major projects, he managed to find time to reinstall our transmission and sea trial our boat.

For my non-boating friends this might sound really confusing and it might be hard to understand what a big deal this whole thing was for us. But let me just simply state that we had our transmission repaired in the quickest time that’s ever been recorded. And by the best people in the business.

While mountains moved on the repair, good things happened for our family too.

As I mentioned, our boat was out of commission down the street from our good friend’s, Charlie and Robin’s, house. They welcomed us with open arms and shared so much with us- from meals, to church, to laundry. And even their pontoon boat!

The kids learned to kneeboard. We had time to really explore the area- even more so than when we came through on our Loop. The area is rich with history and includes a few national parks. And our marina had a gorgeous pool. We also found a local Drive-in and both kids thought that was a major highlight of the month.

Some of our other close friends had a family vacation booked for a lake just a few hours north of us. They decided to leave a few days early for their trip and spend those days with us. The kids were so thrilled to have their friends, Molly and Maddy, come visit! We had the best few days that included lots of laughter, swimming, and boating on the pontoon. Best of all, they introduced us to a new favorite restaurant, Abe’s Diner (it’s been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.)

The bottom line is our transmission failure could have ruined our summer. Instead, it made it even better than we could have imagined!

A short 4 weeks after pulling into AquaYacht Marina, we were back on the water. Over the next few weeks we traveled the Tennessee River through places like Florence, Huntsville, and Chattanooga on our way to Knoxville. I’ll save that adventure for our next post!

Incidentally, I’ve been sharing tons of pictures from this summer’s adventure on my Instagram and Facebook. If you aren’t already following Mom With A Map, you can click either icon to join us:

As always, thanks for following along! You may enjoy reading:

Montana Misadventures: Mistakes We Won’t Make Again

Everyone Said We Were Crazy

The One Where I Admit I Was Wrong

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