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May 14, 2005

Stuck in St. Augustine

Well, it’s clear that I spoke too soon thinking that the transmission problems were behind us! After getting to St. Augustine on May 1st, I decided that it would be prudent to jump overboard and look at the propeller and shaft to see if there was anything visible that could explain the vibration. When I did this, I saw a broken shaft strut. The strut is the cast bronze piece that holds the propeller shaft and cutlass bearing right before the propeller. BIG problem and no wonder there was vibration. After calling around to local boatyard, we decided to move the boat (very slowly) to St. Augustine Marine where we have been “on the hard” since Wednesday May 4th.
To replace the strut, it was necessary to pull the propeller off the shaft and cut the coupling off the engine end of the shaft since it was corroded so badly it couldn’t be removed. The broken strut could then be removed. The first attempt was to weld the two pieces back together but this didn’t work so a new strut was ordered along with a new coupling. When there were reassembled, they didn’t align with the transmission and the yard thought the shaft (which had been sent out to a machines shop to have a new end machined and the shaft checked for straightness) was bent but they couldn’t get it off the coupling! So yesterday the shaft was cut again - making it scrap – and then checked for straightness. It checked OK so that was wasted labor and now I get to pay for a new shaft! They also think the transmission coupling is bent and want to remove it and check it out. No wonder after the pounded o it with a sledgehammer to get the shaft forced into the coupling. All in all, it ain’t going well and Friday the 13th was certainly not a good day aboard Omega.
It will be at least the end of next week now before we get out of the yard and I have real doubts about the competence of this yard in spite of its reputation!
While all this was going on, we had dinner last Friday night with Rich and Joanne Laird who live nearby and it was a pleasant evening. Sue also spent a day and a half with Joanne doing girl stuff while I put bottom paint on the boat and kept an eye on the yard workers. I also had a local contractor polish the hull and it is now nice and shiny and clean. The boat looks good – just won’t run!
Our plans to be north to Beauford, NC by this Friday the 20th are of course now completely out the window and we are not sure how or if Sue will get back to NJ for her May 24th doctor’s appointment. We are also running out of time to get Omega north of Morehead City NC before June 1st as required by our insurance company. I must admit a certain level of frustration and discouragement with the cruising life right about now. Hopefully we will get the boat back together correctly and soon and this series of problems will be truly behind us.

Posted by Dick at 04:54 AM

May 02, 2005

Back to the US and headed North

Once again I have let a moth slip by without a new entry into the log. Shame on me!
We arrived in the Abacos on April 9th after a very nice sail from Eleuthera. We were with several other boats for the crossing and that always makes it fun. The nest day we were motoring north towards Marsh Harbor when the transmission started to make horrible “rattling” noises – like someone shaking a tin can full of nuts and bolts! We stopped the engine and sailed the rest of the way to the local boat yard and anchored off their dock. The thought was to wait until Monday morning when they open and then get some help with the problem. I decided that the noise was something loose in the transmission – apparently from my installation of the new transmission last November – so decided to pull the transmission off the engine myself and see if I could find and fix the problem. With Sue’s help, we got it off and found two “pins” rolling around inside the bell housing – apparently they had worked loose over the 500+ hours since the new transmission was installed. Once they were removed, the engine ran without the noise so I put it back together and we continued on our way! Another miracle cure – or so I thought!
Chuck Ellenwood and his lady-friend Kathy Schultz arrived in Marsh Harbor the next day and we set off to enjoy the Abacos.
As we were dropping the hook at Treasure Cay, the noise started again and this time the engine locked up and wouldn’t run at all! We used the dinghy as a tugboat and pushed Omega into a slip at the Treasure Cay Marina and contacted a local diesel mechanic who was available that afternoon. In the mean time, we pulled the transmission off again and found more loose bolts in the bell housing! Even after removing them, the engine wouldn’t turn. When Anthony the mechanic arrived, he was able to remove the flywheel (special puller tool required) and we found another bolt jammed between the front face of the flywheel and the engine block. This explained the frozen engine – and when it was removed the engine ran fine once again! I let Anthony reassemble and torque down the bolts (fortunately I had bought extras!) and then I reassembled the transmission onto the engine and we were underway again. Dodged another bullet!
The rest of our visit with Chuck and Kathy went well and we enjoyed their company. Chuck has a 100-ton commercial ship’s captain’s license and has been around boats all his life so it was a real help having him aboard through all the problems.
After Chuck and Kathy left on the 16th, we did some last minute provisioning and got fuel and water for the trip across to the US. We worked our way east through the Abacos to Great Sale (yes, this is the correct spelling) Cay and left from there on the 25th for Daytona.
There was almost now wind and the water was almost flat calm so we were motoring along over the Little Bahama Bank when – lo and behold – the rattling noise in the transmission again! While were drifting along with no land is sight, I once again pull the transmission off the engine and discover three more loose bolts – this time from the plate that holds the transmission to the bell housing.
So, in retrospect, none of the bolts I installed when I put the new transmission in last November were tightened down enough and all worked loose over the next 500+ hours. Again I had spare bolts and after installing them and really tightening them down, was able to reassemble everything and be underway again in less than a hour. I am getting really good at pulling the transmission off the engine – not a skill I particularly wanted to develop.
The rest of the crossing to Daytona Beach went smoothly and we had beautiful sailing conditions once the wind picked up from the southwest about midnight Monday. We arrived in Daytona Beach about 2 PM Tuesday and anchored in front of Chuck’s home. Kathy’s brother Kenton and his wife Ramona were visiting so we all got together for dinner that night. Sue and I were not the most alert company since we had been two days with almost no sleep but it was a nice evening. We spent the next three days with them and took them for a day trip in Omega down to Ponce Inlet and back and had dinner aboard Omega that night. It was a nice sunny day and the trip was fun.
On the way back, Chuck played a joke on me and scarred the hell out of me by getting a tin can and filling it with nuts and bolts. He came up behind me when I was at the helm and shook it so it sounded just like the transmission problem! Everyone else was in on the joke so they got to see the expression on my face! Talk about heart seizure! We all laughed about it afterwards.
Yesterday we left Daytona about 8:30 AM and made the trip to St. Augustine. The wind was from the north so we motored the whole 50 miles and got here about 4:30 PM. Other that a small vibration in the drive shaft that I don’t like, all went well and there were no loose bolts!
Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? The answer is that in spite of these problems with Omega, we still like the cruising life.

Posted by Dick at 08:09 AM