Monday, May 27, 2013

Bad Juju

S/V Gail Force is sitting up on the hard, a bulkhead half chopped away to allow access to a leaking fuel tank. S/Vs Miss My Money and Paradise both suffered meltdowns in the electrical systems at, it is assumed, roughly the same time. Friend Steve was seen walking up the dock toting the alternator from Island Time, hoping he had found the source of the short that is killing his batteries. There is some bad juju haunting our dock.

And Kintala? Well, it was a fantastic weekend on Kintala. We left the dock Friday afternoon to spend the night in our favorite cove. A full moon rose off the bow just as a fire red sun set off the stern. A perfect night on the hook. Saturday we had a great sail back to the dock to wait and see what the Midwest weather had in mind. While there we reinstalled the wayward staysail winch. When the weather concerns abated we sailed away again, back to our favorite spot to raft up for the night with Paradise and Quicksilver. Come Sunday we decided to just stay put and do some work on the hook. A few hours later we had fixed a minor glitch with the roller furler on Paradise and re-bedded the port with the worst leak on Kintala. Miss My Money dropped by for a visit, and a good time was had by all. Come night we had the cove to ourselves once again. Rain was expected at some point but the storms went a different way. Perfect night #3, the longest we have ever stayed out on Kintala.

This morning we sailed back to the dock on perfect winds, 10 to 15 with an occasional puff to 20. Kintala was dancing downwind on just her head sail at 6 knots, steady in the following swell. All told we sailed 20 plus miles and spent more than 4 hours under sail. Along the way we discovered that Kintala really sails well on just a head sail. We flew the main only once all weekend. And so for nearly 4 days we pretended like we had made it, working on the hook, coving out, sailing off the anchor, almost like our land lines had really been tossed. It was grand.

But then it came time to roll up the sail and head for the marina. We motored in, figuring to pull head first into the dock, hook a bow line on a cleat and use reverse to pull us back up against the pier. It is a technique taught us by Friend Joel (boat handler extraordinaire even if he is younger than some of my socks) when the wind is from the wrong direction to back in. And it worked perfectly right up until the last gentle nudge of reverse to see us home.

Line handlers all claimed I hit something with the prop. But what I heard at the helm was the sickening clatter of heavy metal battering other heavy metal. A quick shift to neutral quieted the din but clearly Kintala had come up with some new way to abuse my good intentions. Nearly half a century of bending wrenches ... I know the sound of "broke" when I hear it.

Truth to tell I just couldn't bring myself to look at the carnage right away. Instead we straightened up the deck, washed down the anchor chain (marking it with zip ties - like we should have done a year ago) and cleaned the caked mud off the foredeck. (Those who set the hook in sand should count their blessings every day!) Eventually though, I had to take a deep breath and go see how badly we were injured ... this time. Lying in the engine pan, under the V-drive, that's where the bolts and washers were found. The prop shaft
had torqued itself right off the V-drive. Resigned to disaster I donned mask and fins, jumped in the water, and felt my way to the prop fearing the worst. But from what I could feel there was nothing fouled on the shaft and the wheel itself is unbent, unbroken, and unbashed. It even turned freely in its bearings. (Carlyle water is opaque on the best of days and under the boat it was black as night. Cold too, nothing like free diving in water too dark to see and too cold to hold one's breath for long. Never let it be said my boat will pass on any chance to make me miserable.)

Best guess is that two of the bolts rattled their way free, leaving the last to be guillotined when I shifted into reverse. Why such a thing would happen is yet to be determined. The coupling was secured with the hardware provided by Walter machine, properly torqued with steel lock washers installed. The shaft was lined up and there hasn't been a hint of vibration right up until the thing let go. At this point I'm thinking bad juju makes about as much sense as anything else.

So, though skeptic I might be of all things even remotely related to spook-ism, I am starting to wonder if we should hire some voodoo doctor to dance up and down the dock, shake some beads, whisp some incense, and mutter a few incantations to drive the evil gremlin spirits away.

Wrenching, sweating, and swearing don't seem to be working.


Latitude 43 said...

Ugh, that sucks. Sounds like no serious damage, right? Who really knows why this crap happens on a boat. Some days I long for our old 25 footer for it's simplicity.
I would avoid any kind of ceremonial dance on the dock. One year we had a drought and the lake was really low, so Deb and I jokingly did a rain dance. It rained for a month after that, and our sailing season was a washout. We were not very popular that year.


Deb said...

Too funny. I think your rain dance ended our drought as well!

S/V Veranda said...

We've had our coupling let go while underway 3 times. It about drove me crazy as I even did research and bought the bestest, hardest bolts ever only to have them fail as well. Mine aren't through bolted, the flange on the v-drive was the receiver.

It turned out that the threaded holes were not truly round anymore allowing properly torqued bolts to back out. Separate the flanges and put a new bolt into the v-drive flange only and see if it wobbles.

Mine moved side to side a bunch and we haven't had an issue since I put a new flange on the V-drive.

Now I've got to go and find some wood to knock on....

Deb said...

Thanks for the tip Bill. Tim was thinking about getting aircraft bolts and safety wiring them together.

TJ said...

Thanks Bill, good info. The coupler on the V-drive is/was brand new, but I didn't replace the shaft side since the catastrophic failure of last year ripped the V-drive / tranny coupler apart. That’s what got the focus of my attention and, since the shaft / V-drive bolts were tight when I pulled the V-drive, it didn’t occur to me there might be damage there as well. It should have (hanging my head in embarrassment) and will be the focus of my attention next week. Hopefully the total damage is slight and we haven’t been hurt too bad this time. A catastrophic failure right now would be, well … more catastrophic than I want to imagine.