Departure Port: Ritchie Bay; Departure Time: 6:15am; Destination: Ucluelet; Arrival Time: 12 noon; Distance Cruised Today: 31 miles; Total Distance for the Trip: 863 miles; Conditions: foggy first thing, then clear and sunny, light SE wind, rippled to smooth seas, swell less than 2 feet; air temp: 80 degrees; water temp: 64 degrees
For more than 800 nautical miles our trusty Suzuki 60 hp outboard has faithfully started every time, and run reliably, getting us to our desired daily destinations. Today, however, things go a little differently. All starts out well, with an early 6:15am departure, and breakfast eaten on the run. Fog covers the area around Ritchie Bay when we first arise, but is already lifting by the time we raise anchor. Our course takes us down a series of ever widening channels, past islands named Vargas, Stubbs and Wickaninnish, toward the open ocean. A careful eye must be kept on the Garmin and chart, since these wide channels are quite shallow, with potentially troublesome shallows out in the middle. We’re byhpassing the bustling town of Tofino, with its heavy boat traffic, strong currents, and limited dockage. We have plenty of fuel to get to Ucluelet, and we’ll provision there.
We clear the shallows and work our way past the collection of rocks along the Esowista Peninsula shoreline, and set a course out in the open ocean. We have a light breeze on the nose, barely enough to ruffle the water surface, and that soon dies off, and we slide across glassy smooth water. About 5 miles out of Tofino and a couple miles offshore, this tranquil condition abruptly changes, not due to a weather shift but to an engine issue. We sense a drop in rpm and a slowing of speed. The engine seems labored in its running. I try increasing throtte, then decreasing throttle with no help. We confirm that tank vent is open and tank switchover is in correct position. Still laboring. We switch back to the starboard tank and the engine regains rpm, for a time, and then struggles again. Greg reaches over the transom to check the primer bulb. It’s partially deflated, so he gives it a couple of quick squeezes, and the engine recovers, running normally. After 10 minutes or so, the problem recurs, and is again remedied by squeezing the bulb. We continue in this mode, with a drop in rpm at intervals varying from 10 to 35 minutes. It’s a disturbing development, but we have no choice except to keep on going. Just before noon we enter Ucluelet Inlet, stopping for fuel before continuing on to the marina.
The afternoon is spent purchasing a new primer bulb, in case it’s the source of trouble, and checking the fittings for possible air leakage. A call to my boat dealer results in several possible explanations, and we do our best to check things out. We do find one loose fuel line fitting, but we won’t know if that fixes the problem until we take the boat out for an extended run. We plan on picking up a length of fuel line hose, so we can bypass the switchover valve, which should eliminate another potential source of trouble. Other possibilities include a weak or failing fuel pump. We’ll do our best tomorrow, but won’t know whether we’ve helped the situation until we get out onto the water. We’ll head out to the Broken Islands tomorrow, which should give us a decent test run, but still leave us close to either Ucluelet or Bamfield where we can regroup if necessary.