Monday, November 21, 2016

Three bolts to go

For the first time in months, the WesterBeast rumbled to life with a purpose, dock lines were tossed, and Kintala eased her way back out of the slip where she has rested for all these long months. It was kind of exciting even if we were only headed to the haulout pit. We weren't really planning on being lifted out, but the rudder stuffing box had started leaking on the way up the west coast of FL, and it lies well below the water line. Lifting the boat just high enough to pull the three bolts that hold the stuff in the stuffing box, without having water flood into the boat, was among the very last things needing to be done in this summer of work.

It has been a while since I drove a boat in the tight confines of a marina, but there was zero wind, shift and throttle worked silky smooth, and we ghosted into the lift straps like we knew what we were doing. Half an hour, hour at most, and we would be back in the slip with the boat closer to 100% than she has ever been.

A few hours later Kintala was sitting on the hard.

I have always been a bit shy about the parts of our drive train that didn't get attention back when the v-drive exploded. I should have been even more concerned after learning of the water spout hit that had done so much damage to the boat including (apparently) shoving it backwards into some shallows that damaged the rudder. With the boat nearly out of the water we could see the shaft and prop, and decided to take a closer look. After careful consideration, a new prop shaft, dripless seal and cutlass bearing will be installed (long overdue and recommended last summer by the folks at Oak Harbor)

Another issue is the shaft support strut mounting itself. Once we really started to look at the shaft / strut /  bearing combo that hangs under the bottom of the boat, I grew convinced that the strut support had, at some time in the past, been repaired; a repair that left much to be desired in such a critical area of the hull. Where the shaft exits the hull also appears to be more than just a bit of a hack job. I just couldn't convince myself that it was going to be okay to keep going with things as they were.

It would be easy to get discouraged. We thought we were so close to being on our way once again, with a fat and happy cruising kitty and a solid boat. There were plans to visit family and have family visit us, travels that are due to start in less than two weeks. The Islands were calling for the winter. All such plans seemed to be at risk with the cruising kitty cringing in fear of the costs heading its way.

But it may not be as bad as we thought for those first hours of Saturday morning. The Snead Island crew is a crew of experts and we are (junior) members of the family. If there is anyplace in the world to get critical glass work done in a high stress area of the hull well below the water line, this is the place. What seems like a Major Big Deal of a boat repair is often, to them, a minor glitch handled as a matter of routine. Chop out, glass, re-align, and remount the shaft support? Sure, no problem. (We just did that exact same thing for the two big engines just installed in the project boat I've been working on all summer.) Source custom bits and parts? The number is in the shop's speed dial list. A new shaft, coupling, seal and bearing will be on the way before the week is out.

Since I like to imagine myself as one of the experts around here, much of the work will fall to me. But our glass slinger has been slinging structure glass for decades. The engine guy has aligned as many marine engines as I have done hot sections on aircraft turbines, or flown instrument approaches right down to minimums. I will not mind having them looking over my shoulders and offering suggestions.

So I am going to put off being discouraged until we see how it goes. A broken boat, even if it is pretty much all one owns in the world, is still just a broken boat. And it may well be that we (once again) uncovered a potential major problem the easy way, in the perfect place to address it with a minimum of fuss and risk. However bad (or not) this hit turns out to be, when done, Kintala will be a better, safer boat, than she was yesterday morning when we eased out of the slip...

...and thought there was only three bolts to go.


Keith Wolfe said...

Kintala is a beautiful boat, even if she's sitting on the hard for a few days.

Surrounded by a family of skilled tradesmen who will offer assistance when needed, a quality boat yard with ample parts and tool access... You may not see it right now but you are blessed.

Keith Wolfe

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

Here's hoping the "family" treats you right, and the cruising kitty isn't dented too badly!