I found Bella too soon in my plan. Without the help of my friend Nancy I wouldn't have been able to do the deal. Nancy is one of my oldest and dearest friends, so I was happy when we hatched a plan for her to give me a ride over to Milwaukee. She is important to the whole project and I wanted her there for the launch and to give her a ride on Bella. More on the lack of sailing later.
Back in April I ran over to Milwaukee to spend a long morning poking around Bella and doing some measurements. Mostly, I just wanted to spend some time with her again, but I did use the measurements to order a stove and some graphics for the stern. The logistics were easy when I was driving over and then back home again. It was more complicated when I needed to get to Milwaukee but then sail back to Michigan. Getting a ride solved that problem.
The rest of the plan got a little sideways. I planned spend a couple weeks in Milwaukee prior to Bella's launch. The first two weeks of June were to be dedicated to getting the mast up, prepping the standing and running rigging, checking things over, and learning about the boat from the previous owner (PO) and then waiting for good weather to sail her home. However, the PO's plans changed as work and life got complicated for him. He was not going to be available after June 1st. The great little company that I drive for gave me two weeks off to move my boat. Then when I had to go back and ask if I could move my schedule up a week – to the day after Memorial Day – they happily obliged.
Nancy had all kinds of touristy things planned to occupy herself in Milwaukee while the PO and I got Bella ready. As it turned out I needed a lot of help. She regularly ran me to the hardware store or to West Marine for parts and supplies. I also borrowed her car to run across town and have a crown glued back in my head by a Milwaukee dentist. She even helped put a fresh layer of bottom paint on Bella, and took a lot of pictures and some video for which I'm grateful.
It wasn't all work. We had some great ethnic food while we were there. If anyone needs a Milwaukee recommendation for Mexican, Vietnamese, Indian or Thai, let me know. A couple of those places I would sail all night to eat there again, but that's getting ahead of the story.
I had a huge list of things to accomplish on the boat before the launch and the trip across the lake. There were safety items, comfort things and stuff just for show – like
The PO was chagrined as the engine had just brought him all the way up the river last fall. Before I bought the boat, we talked about the fact that every spring turning the ignition key was a crap shoot because of the engine's age. It wasn't that I expected everything to work the first time. Dead stopped, however, was not in my plan. Especially since the boat was at Pier Milwaukee waaayyyy up the Kinnickinnick River from Lake Michigan. The three miles downstream would be near impossible without an engine, but add in three drawbridges, one that required an appointment, and doing it without an engine was out of the question.
I went to work diagnosing the engine. There was a little bit of movement in the flywheel. Three crucial days were spent – grease covered – coaxing the flywheel, removing the belts, checking the starter and the alternator, scratching my head, replacing the belts, trying again, and over and over. The engine got to feeling a little better and the ignition would spin the engine, but when I dropped the decompression lever it bogged down and just couldn't turn over. The PO and I decided that it must be that the starter was bad.
I had to start thinking about the overall schedule. If I spent the time to pull the 40 year old starter and have it tested, I could find out if the starter was good or bad, but I could not get it fixed in the time I had before we wanted to cross the lake. I decided to stop spending time on my knees with my head in the engine compartment. I had to get back to my list and get the boat safe and ready. Especially now that we were going to sail her across the lake without an engine.