The Little Engine That Couldn’t

Preparations Video
June 9, 2018

(… this story is continued from part 1: A Flying Boat With No Engine)

A sailboat in a slip without masts or an engine isn’t going very far.

We had a new home waiting for us at Beacon Harborside in Jordan Station as we couldn’t afford to stay where we were, but there was no way to get there.  Our engine was AWOL and the mechanic was full of excuses.

“I’ll be there Tuesday”.  Tuesday came; Tuesday went.  “Saturday”, he said.  Nope.  Nothing on Saturday.  “Still waiting for the part, it should be here on Monday.” Nada.

The most ludicrous excuse we got was “My dog died and my wife wouldn’t let me leave the house.”  As much as I feel bad that he lost his dog (I’m trusting that he actually did lose his dog), it’s just sounded cliché.  “The dog ate my homework”, or rather, “the dead dog ate my homework”.  Okay, too much.  But the frustration levels were high.  Perhaps if there weren’t umpteen excuses before that we may have been more sympathetic but at this point it was unprofessional to say the least.

What we didn’t have was more time or money. We were still on that tight budget and we had to move out of Mimico Yacht Club, who were kind enough to take pity on us and give us a grace period… for a while.  We needed to get the masts up, and working or not, the engine had to go in.

The day was finally agreed upon, help was brought in (because we had never done anything like this ever before and I, at least, had absolutely no idea what I was doing), and on May 16th, 23 long days after launch, we were towed to the courtesy dock/crane to step the masts.  We arranged to meet James early that day so he could lower the engine back into the boat. And we waited, and waited.  And then the call came.  The back door of his van was jammed and he couldn’t get to the engine.

(enter appropriate string of curses here)

So we made it very clear that we were stepping the masts that day.  We couldn’t wait.  And he would have to find some way of getting the engine in after the masts were stepped.  Could he do that?  With a ketch?  Yes he said, no problem, he could do that.  He’d meet us the next day.

So John, myself, my brother, our friend Brad, and our boat neighbour Ron – the only guy that really had done this before – proceeded to step both masts.  But first we had to set the boat up at the proper place at dock… and to do that we needed to turn her around.  Not having an engine makes for creative solutions:


The next morning we met up with James who looked at our boat and was dismayed.  “You have two masts”.  *facepalm*  Yes, James, you knew that.  We are a ketch.  I asked you yesterday if this would be a problem.  “I can’t use the crane if you have two masts.”

I seriously wanted to smack this guy.

We had to hire in a tow truck to back up on the dock and lower the engine down in between the masts.  The non-working engine. Well, the engine “apparently” worked but now it had to be hooked up to the boat.  Which apparently wasn’t a one-day job.  It wasn’t even a that-week job.  He needed more parts.

We had worn out our welcome and Mimico had started to charge us on a weekly basis for being there.  I can’t blame them.  They had been more than fair and far more kind than they needed to be.  James still dragged his feet.  We had paid him an obnoxious sum of money and was getting no where.  It was time to cut our losses.

After one last attempt, we gave him an ultimatum.  We were leaving Mimico by engine power or by tow.  If we left by tow, he would not see us again and he wouldn’t get the money that he was still claiming we owed him.  We had yet to receive a detailed invoice for what he had done so far and I was not about to hand over more cash without it.

James never showed.  We left his tools at the front office with a note.  He knew where to find us if he wanted to, but we haven’t heard from him since.  No love lost, that’s for certain.

If memory serves me correctly, this was some time in June.  I’ve apparently blocked the trauma from my mind and all my records.

We spent more money again with C-Tow (who were amazing by the way) to tow us out to Port Credit Harbour Marina to await the services of Bristol Marine.  Another boat owner at Mimico had helped us make arrangements with a friend there (it really is who you know, not what you know), and the crew at Bristol were both accommodating and sympathetic.  They didn’t have a lot of time to work on our engine immediately but they wouldn’t charge us for docking her at the marina while we waited.  We were grateful. I kept in touch with Kelly from Beacon Harbourside – the marina that we had actually paid for – and he was also very supportive and sympathetic: “Just let us know what you need”.

I needed our engine to work.

Waiting wasn’t the option we were hoping for but we knew that this was pretty much what life would bring us as cruisers: everything would be operating on “Island Time”, and it all would cost more than expected, but there were good people to be found, and it isn’t an adventure if everything runs smoothly.  Welcome to boat life.



Michelle Kauntz
Wild Blue Yonder

Seems you've found us. I'm one half of the charming and somewhat frustrating duo that is John & Michelle. (I'm Michelle) We once had this one-day idea that we wanted to sail around the world. We made a five year plan. After ten years of talking and two years of prepping and postponing, we are finally underway. Feel free to follow us and live vicariously though our pratfalls and adventures as we take our almost-as-old-as-John Bayfield 40 Cutter Ketch out of the safety of Lake Ontario and out into the world. On a shoestring budget. With two fiercely independent people. In basically 300-ish square feet of living space and with not a heck of a lot of sailing experience (yet) ...This is going to be fun...

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