Monday, December 10, 2018

Repower Project Part Two

Well, it's been a full week of work in the engine room. I've reinsulated all four walls, tidied up a lot of wiring and plumbing, cleaned the far reaches of the bilge, repainted the whole thing with several coats of bilge paint, and am now in the process of replacing fuel and water hoses and reinsulating the access doors. The result is a much improved engine room that will look quite nice with a shiny new Yanmar 4JH57 engine and ZF 15-MIV transmission sitting in it.

Oh, and a new driveshaft. The original configuration of the drive train, as Mark and Judy and Dave Laux installed it in 2005, was a drive shaft passing through a pillow block under the engine, attached to the prop shaft via a coupling just forward of the stuffing box. When I replaced the transmission last September, Dave Laux said the pillow block was unnecessary, so I eliminated it - and we've had no unusual vibration since. However, the drive shaft did have a narrow wear spot where it used to ride in the pillow block.

Fast forward to this week: our engine installer, Kevin of Mi'kmaq Marine didn't like the worn shaft or especially the split shaft with a coupler between the transmission and the stuffing box. He felt it would be much more difficult to get a satisfactory alignment on the new engine, especially without a pillow block. So we decided to replace it with a one-piece shaft. This necessitated removing the current prop shaft. Unfortunately neither the coupler nor the prop would come off despite a lot of coaxing on Saturday (the diver ended up spending well over an hour in the water), so Kevin ended up cutting the shaft just behind the coupler.

You can probably imagine what happened next. Having made such an irrevocable move, we soon found out that the local machine shop couldn't make a one-piece prop shaft as long as we needed it because there is no 1 1/4" stainless shaft stock that long (84") on the island. So instead it is being machined in Miami and will have to be shipped down here...5-10 days according to the machine shop. Ugh. We really wanted to be done by this coming weekend. There's a possible weather window to Sint Maarten next week and we'd like to be able to get there for the holidays. It'd be a good place to leave the boat while I fly out to work and Dawn flies out to see family, and we have friends who are planning to fly down into SXM to join us on Windbird Dec 25 - Jan 3. If the boat is in St Thomas or the BVI, I'm not sure how easy it will be for them to change their tickets. We're just taking it one day at a time, I guess.

The engine didn't ship until Friday, it's supposedly on the island but needs to clear customs so we won't have it until Wednesday at the earliest. The transmission arrived via FedEx on Friday but is still in customs, I'm not entirely sure what the holdup is. FedEx had some note about awaiting duty payment. It's supposed to be duty-free as it's part of the propulsion system for a vessel in transit, but the challenge is locating a human to whom I can make that argument. I may have to take a taxi over to FedEx tomorrow or Wednesday. I'd probably be more apprehensive about it, except that now the prop shaft is the limiting factor.

We're actually awaiting several shipments from our last Amazon order, which were quite delayed. Shipping is much slower and more of a pain in the ass here than Puerto Rico, which is a bit of a surprise. Other things are easier here.

I mentioned a work trip above. I actually was able to bid Christmas off and was planning to fly up north with Dawn to visit family, but due to all the expense of the repower (and insurance's slow response), I decided to pick up a 9-day, 51-hour trip with two Rio do Janeiro layovers from Dec 20th - 28th. Merry Christmas to the lucky FO who had the improbable luck of somebody picking up a 9-day trip over Christmas! Christmas Day will be spent in New York City, but before and after you'll be able to find me on Copacabana Beach. I get done early on the 28th; depending on how the next week plays out, I'll then fly down to either SXM or STT. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Repower Project Part One Complete

On Saturday after we docked at AYH we mostly took it easy, checking out the local shops and hitting up Tap & Still for Happy Hour. We'd been to the Tap & Still in Charlotte Amalie with Mak, Dane and Isla from Sea Otter back in May, good spot. We returned there Sunday night to watch the Vikings lose in fairly predictable fashion to the Patriots.

Before that, though, our Sunday was spent preparing for the engine removal. We started by taking apart our engine room, which was an amazingly easy process involving ten screws and maybe 30 minutes. Suddenly we had fantastic access to our engine...I'd be tempted to do this for more routine projects, except you have to find a place to store everything. For now that's the V-berth, and once that filled up then parts and tools started occupying the forward head and the port side of the salon. It's a cramped boat for the duration.

After one final ceremonial startup and short run, I removed our big Balmar alternator, bracket and belts, the voltage regulator and harness, and the stock alternator along with engine battery cables to starter and ground. I took off the airbox, drained the oil and coolant, and disconnected raw water hoses. I disconnected fuel lines and let them drain into my used diesel jug overnight, and also left the oil filter off overnight to drain into a baggie as I suspected we'd need the filter off to fit the engine through our cabin door. I disconnected the throttle link mechanism. Finally, I took the bolts out of the drive shaft-prop shaft coupling, as I figured we'd leave the transmission and drive shaft in place while picking the engine and then take off the tranny once we had better access.

On Monday morning Kevin from Mi'kmaq Marine showed up right on time and got straight to work. Basically the only prep work that was left was the transmission shift linkage and the four engine mount bolts. After that he got out his gear. Kevin has a really impressive and slick system for engine removal and installation. Usually he does this himself, so having two extra people just made it easier. Basically, he uses two jack stands to support an eight-foot I-beam, on which runs a little trolley. He hangs a chain hoist from the trolley and can then crank up the engine and move it up to eight feet. Then he puts the engine down, moves the jackstands and I-beam, and repeats the process.

It took four of these moves to get our engine off the boat. For the first move, the I-beam was suspended diagonally across the (former) engine room, with one jack stand in our cabin and the other in the passageway to the salon. This got the engine to the passageway, where Kevin removed the transmission & driveshaft, as well as the oil filter and fuel distributor to get it through our cabin door. After we pushed it through the cabin door, Keven used the trolley to get the engine up and over an awkward corner of the nav station seat into the salon. Then he repositioned the jackstands and I-beam up topside, over the cockpit (we had removed the dodger and folded the Bimini back that morning), and I cranked the engine up through the companionway hatch. Talk about a tight fit! Finally, he put one jack stand in the cockpit and the other on the dock, and he was able to slide the engine right through the lifeline gate to his engine cart on the dock. The whole process, from Kevin showing up to the engine sitting in his shop, took only about two hours.

That made us really optimistic about the while process going that smoothly, but of course it hasn't. We left the transmission on a piece of cardboard in the port half of the salon, and the next morning it was soaked with oil. It was leaking from the shaft seal. I brought the transmission to Kevin's shop and in short order got some very bad news. There was water in the transmission oil, and Kevin had talked to ZF and they said it would need new bearings, seals and races. Add in Kevin's labor, and it was just cheaper to get a new transmission. I had previously checked the oil after the transmission got dunked, and it seemed clean, but I apparently didn't get my tube quite deep enough into the transmission's innards. This really sucks, because as you may recall I just replaced the transmission in Cape May in September 2017. The good news was that ZF was able to rush a replacement from Florida to St. Thomas and it should arrive tomorrow or the next day, beating the engine here and probably not slowing down our timeline. It'll set us back an extra $2800 for now, but we added it to the insurance claim. We'll see how that shakes out, our insurance company has been pretty unresponsive but seems to finally have kicked things into high gear today. I'll be calling them daily to keep them on point.

Other than that, I've been busy in the engine room. The ultimate goal for the next week is to clean and repaint the bilge, get new bilge pumps secured in place, clean up the wiring and plumbing, and add new insulation to all the walls we didn't do last year. To just get started on that required removing quite a few hoses, engine mounts, and miscellaneous items. Cleaning has proven a pretty huge and disgusting chore, made worse by the flooding that spread the accumulated sludge to every corner of the bilge. I spent much of today literally head down in the bilge. I looked like Swamp Thing by the end. But it's finally clean, I started standing today and will start painting tomorrow, the bilge pumps are done, much of the wiring and plumbing cleanup is done, and we're ready to start prettying up the engine room with new insulation. They don't give that stuff away, by the way. The local Budget Marine charged $120 for a 3x4 sheet. Fortunately I also had about that much left over from our previous engine room project. Hopefully we'll have enough.

Meanwhile the engine supposedly made it on the boat today, should get here Friday, and will be available for pickup Monday. We're planning on Tuesday and Wednesday for installation, and weather permitting we're hoping to head to St. Maarten ASAP, skipping the BVI altogether this time. We're eager to get this big project behind us and get on with our cruising season. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Season Opener

Oh, how good it felt to get off the dock! With all the frustration over the engine and the rolling delays at our hot, airless slip in Puerto del Rey, we’d almost forgotten the point of living on a boat. And then we got to Culebra and enjoyed a starfilled night at anchor in the beautiful, breezy Dakity anchorage, and everything made sense again. We enjoyed a 4-day, 3-night minicruise to start our season before taking a dock again in St. Thomas to begin our repower project, and it was just what we needed before taking on this challenge.

We left Puerto del Rey on the morning of Weds, Nov 28th, after saying our goodbyes to various friends there and relieving Stephen & Luiza of S/V Carpe Ventum (buddy boat from last year) of their Sailrite LSZ-1, as they’re headed back to the states to sell the boat, get hitched, and begin land life together. We were off the dock about an hour later than intended, at 10:15am, and no sooner had we cleared the breakwater than the engine overheat alarm went off. I glanced at the water temp gauge; it was pegged. There was just enough wind to sail, about 8-10 knots from the SSE, so I cut the engine to idle and headed upwind, Dawn heaved up the mainsail, and I killed the engine as we slowly drifted away from the reef at 2 knots. Once she got the boat cleaned up we put out the Yankee and the staysail, and then enjoyed a calm, beautiful 4-5-knot close-to-beam reach. I put both rods out and caught two fish, a barracuda and an edible-size bar jack. I kept the latter and we grilled it up Friday night. I also lost a lure to a hard strike.

Later the winds became more SE and we had to tack once to clear Cayo Luis Pena; then they veered back S but died to 7-8 knots, and we drifted the rest of the way to Culebra. We actually sailed all the way in the reef enterance and only started the engine to grab a mooring ball at Dakity, but later discovered we might as well have started the engine earlier, for our little 4-cum-3-cylinder Yanmar was more resilient than we thought.

After arriving at Dakity around 4pm we launched the dinghy to make the mile-long run into Dewey to take Piper ashore and do happy hour at the newly reopened Dinghy Dock bar & restaurant. No sooner had we tied up there than we saw two very familiar faces, Mike and Martha from S/V Laila, our dock neighbors at Puerto del Rey! The weather forecast for the next day hadn’t changed - light and flaky winds straight from the E - so we decided to stay another day.

Thursday was a delightfully lazy day. I soaked in the bathtub warm water for a while, Dawn and Piper took the paddleboard for a cruise around the anchorage, and then in mid-afternoon our other PdR dockmates, John and Barbara of S/V Mojo, cruised into the anchorage. And then we discovered via Facebook that Hayward, Ainsley & family of S/V Pura Vida were arriving from St. Croix! They spent the summer with other kid boats in Grenada and are now on their way back home to South Carolina. We took the dinghy over to the west side of Culebra via the canal through Dewey, and spent a nice hour aboard Pura Vida catching up. We couldn’t stay long, as we had an early wake up planned for Friday.

The alarm went off at 3:30am, and by 4am we were off the mooring and steaming out of the channel. The forecast had changed several times, becoming progressively lighter, and indeed the wind turned out to be even lighter than the revised forecast: 7-10 knots and variable from NE to SE. This made for challenging sailing as Windbird doesn’t really like to move in less than 10 knots true wind, especially upwind into chop, and so we ended up running the engine at reduced power for 6 of the nearly 10 hours enroute. She really ran pretty smoothly for only running on three cylinders. The best sailing of the day was when we ran along the edge of a 15-18 knot squall in late morning. When we were two miles from Christmas Cove we finally cried uncle, furled the Yankee, and motored lickety-damn straight to the anchorage. All the mooring balls were taken so we anchored in 26 feet of water over thin grass and sand just north of Fish Cay. We ordered late lunch from Pizza Pi, and had the leftovers for dinner.

The next morning was leisurely; I paddle boarded around the anchorage and visited with a couple kids who just sailed a Tayana 42 aft-cockpit, S/V Eclipse, offshore from Boston. After waiting out a brief but intense squall, we hauled anchor and motored through Current Cut and into Red Hook bay. Our reserved slip at American Yacht Harbor was still occupied so we took a vacant mooring ball for a couple hours until the dockmaster cleared us in. And that was the last time our faithful little Yanmar ever ran, for over the weekend we began the process of getting her ready to be removed from the boat. But that’s a story for another post.

First impressions of Red Hook: it’s a little surgey on the dock here, but far less than I expected considering that the bay is open to the eastern prevailing trades. I guess St. John and the offlying cays to the NE break up the swell before it gets in here. The marina here is small, decently nice, and rebuilding after Irma; it’s pretty expensive and some of their policies rub us the wrong way. We probably wouldn’t stay here except that it’s a convenient place to do the repower. The good news is that we’re parked facing west and there’s a nice cooling breeze right down our hatch in the aft cabin. And there are lots of stores and bars around to tempt our rapidly dwindling dollars. Anyways, I’m really eager for this repower to be done so we can get back out there on the hook. Our season opener minicruise was a taste of the good stuff, and I’m looking forward to more.