Friday, November 25, 2016

Sailing on borrowed time

The world unfolds in uncharted and unpredictable ways, making for good luck, bad luck, and (for those born under a bad sign) no luck at all. Unpredictable as luck may be, it also seems to be a bit malleable. Confucius, some 2000 years ago, said, “The more you know the more luck you will have.” Various golfers apparently took up that theme with variations of, “The more I practice the luckier I get”. One of my most used quips is, “It's better to be lucky than good” but, in all honesty, I don't really believe in luck at all. Nor am I a big fan of fate though, like most of the pilots I know, I regard “Fate is the Hunter” as a pretty good description of a professional pilot's life. Not being of the religious frame of mind the idea of “everything happening for a reason” seems a bit unfair to refugees and people dying of cancer. Such people also make Henley's “I am the captain of my fate: I am the master of my soul” little more than a poetic expression of pure hubris.

Still, the world unfolds in uncharted and unpredictable ways, sometimes holding us up, sometimes landing on our heads, and most times doing a little bit of both at the same time. The only thing we get to “captain” and “master” is how we fit what happens into our tiny corner of the world, how we let events shape the kind of people we become.

The reason the stuffing box was leaking and the
Three Bolts to Go that started this whole process.
Work on Kintala continues. Much to my surprise, I have done mostly support tasks; pulling the broken parts off, grinding the outside of the hull, bolting a few of the new parts back in. Much of the hard work has been picked up by the Yard Gurus. The Engine Guru was particularly aghast at his findings, having to crank the WesterBeast over nearly and inch and a half to get the new drive shaft centered in the middle of the stern tube. The old one was basically riding hard against the edge, with the dripless seal running way out of center. (Which actually says a lot about the seal since it didn't leak a drop in all the miles we have covered.) It seems pretty obvious: whoever did the last repair remounted the strut “close” then lined the engine up as best they could. Why the boat wasn't shaking itself apart is anyone's guess.

The Glass Guru wasn't impressed with his findings either. He discovered that strut was being supported by about 1/4 of an inch of glass, and that, not fully wetted out when it was laid down. I'm not exactly sure how Tartan mounted the strut in the first place, but I am sure they should have talked to our Glass Guru before they built the boat.

The boat has also seen a small parade of the experts who work here drop by to take a look, including a boss or two. The consensus is unanimous; one good line snag wrapped hard around our drive shaft would likely have pulled the strut clean out of the hull. Kintala would have sunk within minutes.

Clearly we have been sailing on borrowed time, three years worth in fact. Parts of those years were spent sailing around the crab pots of the ICW, the Chesapeake Bay, and the western coast of Florida. More than once we brushed past a pot not seen until the last moment and, last year, made the night motor up the Chesapeake strewn with pots and drift nets. A mistake on deck could have put a line in the water while in the middle of the Gulf Stream or in the Atlantic between the Abaco Islands and Egg Key. It isn't hard to image how disastrous it could have been.

Were we lucky? Was that not our fate? Or did we just make the best decisions we could along the way, based on what we knew at the time, and working with the resources we had available? Things unfolded the way they did, uncharted and unpredictable. We ended up here, surrounded by people who have the knowledge and resources to get us up and going again, safer and better than we were. Things don't always work out that way, and then we make different decisions and use different resources. All of which turns us into the people that we are.

Which, in our case, is grateful members of the cruising tribe, hoping to be back “out there” soon.

1/3 of the flax seal was missing, turned to mush in the grease. It had also not been placed in the trough correctly so it had
merely squished between the plates and wasn't against the rudder post.


Greg Martin said...

Wow! Amazing story. Since I own T42 #29, I am curious to learn more about your strut situation. Just to be clear, this is the P-strut that holds up the prop shaft? Mine is bolted through the hull and I have always assumed that there was sufficient hull thickness to keep this in place. Do you think this is not the case?

Best regards,

Greg Martin
Serenity, T42 #29

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

What a great way for the system to fail: just enough to make you take notice, and right by the best help possible!