KATHY C-J AND I WERE SPEEDING EAST on the Yellowhead Highway along the wide Skeena River, about 42 miles from Prince Rupert, heading for Seattle 1,000 miles away. We had pulled Osprey out of the salt water the day before, after spending a final night aboard, tied up at the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club. Kathy was reading The Milepost, looking for a good place to pull the boaterhome over for the night. Terrace, B.C. looked like a likely spot. Maybe Smithers.
In the side mirror, I thought I saw a little smoke coming out of the tailpipe, and started looking for a place to pull over. But the busy highway was long and winding, with cars and trucks zipping by in either direction and only soft, skinny shoulders on each side. By the time I spotted a narrow strip with safe room to park, dense black smoke was pouring out of the engine. It looked like it was on fire. A message on the instrument panel said something was wrong with the transmission.
There was a trail of black, shiny transmission fluid on the pavement for some distance behind the Explorer; and although I have never personally experienced a blown tranny, there wasn’t much doubt that our forward progress was at an end for a while. A long while, as it turned out.
Fortunately, we had just enough cellphone bars to reach Marla, in Seattle—who was able to send Marty from Wayne’s Towing out the highway to rescue us. But there’s a labor shortage up here, and it will be close to a month before any Prince Rupert auto shop will be able to repair the Explorer; and—after a week of involuntary tourism in Prince Rupert—Kathy and I will be flying back to Seattle in the morning.
But I need to say this: I can’t think of a better place to be delayed by a blown tranny than beautiful Prince Rupert, with its kind, friendly, helpful folks. This is my fourth time here; I love this place.
Marty Johnson, who grabbed a friend, dropped everything and brought two trucks to rescue us (one for the Explorer, one for the boat) is a great example of the decent, generous people who inhabit this region. He even offered to let Kathy and me use his house while we arranged repairs for the Explorer. Thanks Marty.
With luck—and my luck has been mostly good on this fantastic two-month voyage—I’ll be back up here in mid-September, to pick up my repaired SUV, hook up the trailer and bring Osprey home.