Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gear Box Repairs

"Jolly" Harbour, Antigua
17 04.5N 61 53.8W

To Cruise: v.i. To sail about without precise destination or making repairs at a series of places, often exotic.

Boats are under an awful lot of stress caused by salt water, harsh sunshine, bashing waves, etc. People say that the more use a boat gets, the better it is for its various systems but I personally think boats are in better shape simply because you have no choice but spending so much time maintaining and fixing them. This is not a complaint, just a foot note to the Christmas video!

So, after a wonderful Christmas and a fabulous week –at anchor- with The Wilsons to start the new year we decided to tackle the issue on hand, the gear box. To make a long and painful story short, the dip stick supposedly firmly attached to the fill nut had fallen into the gear box and, depending on the point of sail, the moon quarter and/or any other completely esoteric reason we did or didn’t have reverse gear. We lived with this gremlin for while, making sure we could entertain friends joining us for a sailing holiday. A very special thanks to Dave from s/v Magic who helped us anchoring at times when all the above mentioned factors were aligned and the engine was refusing to go into reverse.

So there we were, in beautiful Antigua, taking the engine apart. To do so, the entire engine had to be parted from its mounts and lifted in the air. It’s been firmly attached for 20 years so to undo the 12 reliable bolts took a hard day of work.

The second day the engine was lifted and held in place with a hydraulic jack and another fight with bolts attaching the gear box to the engine started. Let me explain how this work would be better performed by a mix between a yogi, a contortionist, and an arm wrestler. First it needs to be done in an upside down position, requires 2 elbow flexes and 3 wrist ones to get a tool on the one bolt and then, the easy part, you must apply incredible force in order to loosen it. A few “mantras”, 12 repetitions and voila! I did hold the light and pass the tools remarkably well but all merit goes to Tim alias Captain, Chief Engineer, Mechanic, Yogi, Contortionist, Arm Wrestler and amazing husband. Once out the gear box had to be opened up the offending and by now very badly mangled dip stick removed and then reassembled trying not to get it sealed so it won't leak oil!

It cost us all of $40 to get it fixed, an improvement from the initial fear that the gear box would need to be replaced entirely and, on an engine that old, it might not worth it, replacing the entire engine being a wiser, but very expensive and time consuming, decision.

To put it back together was not an easy task but it was somehow easier and done with a lot more enthusiasm. We tested the engine by moving anchorage in 25 knots of wind and a head sea and it all worked well. I must (reluctantly) say that we had a scary moment during the test when a very loud BANG was heard. We both thought the engine mounts had given way in the rough seas but, “fortunately” it was the anchor falling off the bow roller. I had forgotten to tie it down when leaving the anchorage. Major Oops! But luckily no damage, just very wet people.

So with the gear box now back working it is off to Barbuda for some R&R on the white sands there.

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