Hard Lessons

Today, we nearly caught our beloved boat on fire. 

Yep, read that again … and imagine the terror coursing through our veins at seeing billowing smoke and diving to grab the fire extinguisher.

Let me back up just a bit.

We arrived in Olympia last Wednesday evening for a week at Swantown Marina. I had a work meeting on Thursday in Oly and Brenden had to make another trip to Portland for work Monday and Tuesday this week. The kids got picked up on Friday for a weekend in Vancouver with grandparents, and Brenden and I have been using the marina time to clean, organize, and purge things off the boat.

We also contacted a friend, Meredith, who is a marine diesel mechanic, engineer, and electrician in Olympia and asked her to come to take a look at our alternator which has been acting up again.

She came over on Friday evening and diagnosed the alternator as dead. Sigh.

While checking on that, she delivered the news that it seems our engine is getting pretty tired and likely will not last much longer. Big sigh.

The last thing we need right now is to need to consider $20,000 – $25,000 to put a new engine into Mosaic.

But, putting that aside, we decided to focus on one thing at a time. Brenden took off the alternator this morning to bring with us to Portland to see if we could get it rebuilt while here.

In trying to reconnect the electrical system so that we could have power on the boat even without the alternator hooked up, the wrong wires got crossed and when Brenden turned the power back on it shorted out the batteries, superheated the wiring, melted the battery switch, and who knows what else…

Smoke pouring from the engine compartment and under the navigation station prompted grabbing the fire extinguisher to douse any flames. Thankfully,  we realized the problem and got the power turned back off very quickly, before anything actually caught fire.

But now we’re stranded in Olympia until we can trace all the wiring, check the entire system, and replace everything that got ruined. Plus, we still have to get the alternator back to functional.

So much for the super-frugal August that I had planned.

Meredith is going to help us get everything sorted out but is busy with other projects until the 5th so we’ll be in the marina until likely the 7th or 9th, best case scenario, living on a boat with no functioning DC power (no fridge, no water pump, no flushing toilet, no stove, no lights, etc. etc.) …

They say that living on a  boat exposes you to higher highs and lower lows. I feel like we’re in a pretty low place right now. We could really use some encouraging words  … and, if you don’t have something nice to say right now, please just keep it to yourself. We know we screwed up here but I wanted to put this out there so that we don’t have to keep telling the story over and over.

It’s a hard lesson, this one. And it hurts. We’ll get through it and everything will be fine …. just feeling a bit defeated today.

Much love everybody. Stay safe. ~Rachel


7 thoughts on “Hard Lessons

  1. Oh no! That sounds like a terrible day. It’s so incredibly difficult to see situations like this as a learning experience, but I promise: in a year, you’ll look back and just think, Yup, that happened; and you’ll be so much calmer when the next round of random chaos strikes.

    Meanwhile, it’s great that you’re in a place to get everything sorted out, instead of in some remote Nowhere Bay. And it’s awesome you have an experienced mechanic/electrician that you trust. I’d be very, very careful about considering repowering, though. Sometimes, extremely smart and competent marine professionals have a much higher standard for minimum requirements that cruisers. Case in point: our very good friend Herb, a former sailmaker and more knowledgeable about sail shape than anyone I know, was aghast at the state of our cruising rags and counseled us to replace the lot before we left. His experience was primarily with racing sails, on the Great Lakes. Turns out, our sails were in better shape than 75% of the other cruising boats we saw; lasted us throughout our two-year trip; and were declared “in excellent condition” by our buyers’ surveyor. I’d have Meredith talk you through the problem areas with the engine, and see what can be rebuilt. Those marine diesels should be able to run just about forever.

    Meanwhile, deep breaths. You’ve got this!!


    • Thank you so much for the encouraging words and advice. We’re definitely not jumping into replacing the engine. Would love to avoid that extreme cost! We will definitely take this into consideration, and thanks for bringing it up!

      Thank you again for the support. ❤
      Much appreciated,


  2. It does get better, I promise you that! The first few weeks were tough on my husband, so much so that he thought about sinking the dang boat. I talked him down, then things improved. We were also hemorrhaging money, as you can relate to.

    It does get better! We are about to start year 5 and love the lifestyle. You have this!


    • Yes! That all sounds so familiar! HAHA. At some point, the full-blown hemorrhaging of money will stop, right? That’s all I ask. I know it will always cost money, but taking big hit after big hit is just kicking us while we’re down! lol.

      Thanks for reaching out with the words of encouragement. They really mean so much! We’ll get into working on fixing the problem this weekend. Fingers crossed!! ❤



  3. So sorry for what happened, however at least you were able to identify the problem immediately and avoid the unspeakable. Sincerely hope to be able to sort out the wiring soon without any major expense. Keep well and safe sailing!


    • Thank you so much for the support! It’s been a rough week, physically and mentally (and on the wallets) but we’re seeing some major progress. Hoping to be functional again by Saturday! Cross your fingers for us! 🙂 ~Rachel


  4. Pingback: Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Cruising | Mosaic Voyage

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