Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Last ocean hop, for now

We are again under way northbound in the Atlantic, having left St. Simons Sound at sunrise to catch the last of the outgoing tide. This morning found us anchored in a familiar spot, just west of the fancy fishing pier on Jekyll Island (map). With south wind, it was flat calm.


Sunrise over the Atlantic as we make our way out of St. Simons Sound.

We've been in touch with the painter in Richmond Hill, who is going to try to fit us in, so I made reservations starting tomorrow evening at the Fort McAllister Marina on the Ogeechee. That's a stone's throw from the Ford Plantation, where good friends John and Laura Lee live, and, in fact, where Vector spent her years before we bought her. Reaching Ford Plantation, and even Fort McAllister, can only be done with tidal help, and John had to make it a two-day trip, stopping at Fort McAlliser in each direction.


Our evening view. There's a little store at the pier, had we needed anything.

John was kind enough to run the route in his center console to check depths and send me a track file, so we'll have some guidance coming in. There are a few places along the route where it is just three feet deep at low tide, but with a seven foot tide swing, we'll have plenty of water as we pass that section. The water near the marina is deep.


VHF antenna mount. Some soot, and the O-ring melted through.

The remainder of yesterday's cruise was uneventful, but as we made the turn into the Brunswick ship channel, we faced the ebb full-on. At one point we were doing just 3.9 knots, while making turns for 6.8. It took two hours to get from blue water to the anchorage, by which time it was beer o'clock. We had a very nice dinner on the aft deck before turning in early, falling asleep to the sounds of snapping shrimp and drum fish.


Damage is evident in the base of the antenna itself, and the cable blow-out is obvious.

Not wanting to repeat the uphill climb, and with the turn of the tide at the sea buoy being 07:30, we were up before the dawn this morning for a 6:30 departure. I came upstairs to find the monitor for the chartplotter reporting "no input" and hung. I had to power-cycle the monitor, but in the process of fixing it I also rebooted the computer.


The antenna was 48" when installed. 15" are gone. I found one 10.5" fragment.

Of course things are never simple, and the "Windows driver legerdemain" of which I wrote two posts ago did not persist. The computer came back up with no serial ports, and device manager told me the drivers were unsigned and possibly malicious and no way, no how was it going to let me use them. I had to repeat the sleight-of-hand to get Windows to accept them again, and had the plotter back up just a minute before departure time. I will be glad to receive my new four-port adapter with current drivers, coming to Fort McAllister tomorrow.


I put it back up after zip-tying the backup to it.

Yesterday I also went up to the flybridge to bring down the remains of the toasted VHF antenna, check the mount, and see if I could find a way to rig a backup antenna. The mount was in good shape, if a little loose, and can be reused. The antenna was well-fried. With no other good way to mount the emergency backup antenna, I ended up zip-tying it to what was left of the old antenna and running the cable through a locker door.


This giant Ro-Ro was the only ship that passed while we were anchored. He rocked us pretty good, though.

Now that we have completed an overnight passage, a full-day passage, and a couple of days on the ICW, I am happy to report that the new "helm chair" is working well. It's hard to tell from just a short static test at the dock, even though I tried to sit in it for a full day in Fort Lauderdale before sending the old seat on its way. In case you missed it, I bought a take-out second-row seat from a Chrysler mini-van, removed from a brand new van by a converter.


The last of the sunset beyond the Sidney Lanier Bridge.

Tonight we'll be on the hook, somewhere along the Bear River or one of the many creeks that join it. And tomorrow we will weigh anchor with the rising tide for the run to Fort McAllister. John is meeting us at the marina restaurant for dinner, and I should already have a couple of Amazon packages waiting, including the serial adapter and a replacement VHF antenna.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Out of Florida

We are underway northbound in the Atlantic Ocean, headed for St. Simons Sound. This morning found us anchored in Sisters Creek, off the St. Johns River east of Jacksonville, Florida (map). It's a familiar stop, having first stopped here at the end of our first year afloat.

After my last post we continued to have a relatively calm passage into the evening, but overnight the seas steepened into a pitchy chop that made the boat uncomfortable. Things were not too bad at the end of my watch, but they got progressively worse overnight, and both Louise and the cat were clearly uncomfortable when I came up in the morning. We decided to cut the cruise short and angle in toward the St. Johns, knowing that would also give us an opportunity to visit with friends.


Sunset over a calm Atlantic, with the Florida coast just on the horizon.

As is our usual practice, at 8pm just as Louise was ready to turn in for the night, I went down to the engine room to transfer fuel to the day tank. After just a few seconds the transfer pump quit, turning on its high vacuum light (which is labeled "service filter"). Sure enough, when I restarted it the vacuum gauge soared to 10"Hg, well above the typical 3-5" at which it runs. I had just a few gallons left in the port wing tank, from which it was drawing.

I did not remember the gauge climbing up near that the last time it ran, so my first guess was debris in the port tank. I switched to the much fuller starboard tank to no avail, and then the main tank which feeds through a different pipe. Nothing left to try now but actually service the filter, like the light says.

When I grabbed the plastic bail bar to remove the filter element it crumbled in my hand, not a good sign, and the fuel above the filter was dark. When I finally got the element out, it was solid black. Not sure if we got some bad fuel or if we grew some biomass in the tank; the last place we fueled up was having dispenser problems when we were there and we had to wait an extra day for them to get the pumps running. Might have been some crud caught in the line. We will never know.


Just a tad dirty...

I swapped the spare filter cartridge in, then had to dig out the jerry can of diesel to reprime the filter housing, but ultimately we were able to transfer fuel. Good thing, or else we would have had to turn around and limp back to Canaveral with the last 20 gallons in the day tank. The whole process took nearly an hour, which came out of Louise's sleep period, contributing to her fatigue in the morning.

We arrived at the St Johns on a fair tide and headed straight for our normal anchorage just upriver of the ICW. Unfortunately, the anchorage was full of tugs, barges, and other equipment associated with the long-running dredging on the river. Not wanting to risk squeezing in with the heavy stuff, we proceeded the short distance up the ICW to the creek anchorage. There are free docks here, too, which we've used in the past, but they are cross-ways to the very heavy current here and we can only access them near slack. It was mid-ebb when we arrived.


Moonrise over the Atlantic.

We needed to get ashore anyway, and coming up the creek put us much closer to the other free dock, for day use, near the boat ramp. Good friends Cherie and Chis drove down from Ortega Landing, where they are docked, to meet up for dinner. It was great catching up with them since our last meetup in Eau Gallie, and they were very kind not only to drive a half hour each way to meet us, but also to drop a package for me at FedEx on their way home. We had a nice dinner at the Sandollar Restaurant right on the St. Johns, across from Mayport. Cherie posted a nice photo of the four of us on her Instagram (guy without the shades seems really squinty).

We decked the tender as soon as we got home from dinner, and then both of us crashed hard into bed. That made it easy to be up early this morning to catch the last of a fair tide on the St. Johns for departure. We'll be arriving at St. Simons sound shortly, where we plan to just drop the hook for the night off Jekyll Island.

In the morning we will head back outside and make the hop to St. Catherines Sound, the easiest inlet to our destination up the Ogeechee River. That can only be navigated at high tide, and we hope to be in quarters at Fort McAllister by Thursday afternoon.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Vector takes a lightning strike

We are offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly abreast of Melbourne, Florida. We are headed either for Port Canaveral this evening, or else somewhere between Jacksonville and Brunswick tomorrow afternoon, depending on conditions and forecast as we approach Canaveral. Or possibly depending on how well the electronics hold up after being zapped.

We left our anchorage in Fort Lauderdale Thursday morning. Conditions outside were lumpy and so we bit the bullet and slogged up the inside. That meant lots and lots of waiting for bridges, on the most bridge-intensive stretch of ICW. We got off to an inauspicious start; we started weighing anchor in time to make the 9am opening at the Sunrise bridge, but the snubber chain hook was fouled. By the time we cleared it we had missed the opening and we sat on a short hook for another twenty minutes and finished weighing for the 9:30 instead.


Top of our flybridge VHF antenna after  the lightning strike.

Even with all the bridges, we made it to our usual anchor spot in Palm Beach (map) by 3:30. It's a good thing we were not planning to go any further, because the Flagler Bridge was on a limited opening schedule for yet another presidential golf outing at Mar-a-Lago. Trump had not yet landed, so at least we did not have to run the ICW security zone gauntlet, or get caught at Southern by the motorcade.

We dropped the tender and went ashore for dinner, strolling Clematis Street to the end of the business district and back, ending up right back at Grease, which turns out to have very nice salads and tacos in addition to great burgers. A cover band was playing at the park as part of the city's very nice Clematis By Night program, and we enjoyed music of our era as we ate on the sidewalk.

Expecting a rainy and windy day on Friday and possibly just staying put for another night, we left the tender in the water overnight. But around mid-morning we got a window of nicer weather till mid-afternoon, and we decided to make headway either to North Palm Beach or maybe all the way past Jupiter Inlet to Hobe Sound before the bulk of the storm hit in the afternoon and evening. We decked the tender, weighed anchor without incident, and cleared through Flagler bridge before the daily lockdown.


Thursday night music in the park off Clematis.

Winds were high enough that we could not afford to wait too close to any bridges, and we very nearly stopped in North Lake Worth just to avoid it. But instead we timed the Parker Bridge by lying ahull in a wide section of the lake near Munyon Island for nearly 20 minutes, arriving at the bridge right on schedule. We had fair tide all the way to Jupiter and dropped the hook in Hobe Sound (map), right where we anchored on our way south, around 2:15, just as the first drops of rain were hitting. We buttoned up all the windows and hatches and settled in. Unlike last time, when we had to squeeze in among several sailboats, this time we had the anchorage all to ourselves, which would prove to be a liability.

The first wave of the storm gave the boat a nice rinse and dropped the outside temperature and humidity into a very comfortable range. We had cocktail hour in the saloon, but by chance, the rain let up and the weather cleared long enough for us to enjoy dinner in very pleasant conditions on the aft deck. I had brought the chair cushions inside earlier to keep them dry. The dry spell was short-lived, and after a few minutes of "let's watch the lightning show from the deck" the wind picked up, and driving rain, well, drove us right back into the saloon. We put a handheld VHF and a chart-equipped cell phone into the microwave oven for EMP protection during the storm.

And there we sat in our comfy chairs, working on our computers, as the thunder and lightning grew steadily closer. I had most of a glass of red wine next to me, and I was just wrapping up editing the last photos for my generator sound shield blog post when "BAM," a loud thunderclap simultaneous with a very bright flash of light, seemingly from all directions. We'd been counting seconds between flash and clap all evening; this one had no separation. Louise shrieked.


Video from inside our pilothouse as lightning strikes (18:45:54).

One of us said "that was close," and it took me a second or two before I processed that we might have been hit. It did not seem violent enough; our lights were still on, computers still working, Internet connected. We smelled no ozone, felt no hairs stand up on our bodies, and saw no immediate evidence around us in the saloon. But instinctively I got up and headed to the pilothouse to check on things.

The first thing I noticed was that the anchor watch circle on the chart plotter was gone. I thought perhaps a nearby strike might have affected the GPS "mushroom" on the mast; I restarted the plotter program and then rebooted the computer with no change. No other instruments appeared, at first glance, to be down. With no anchor alarm and 30-35kt winds, Louise brought her computer to the pilothouse and connected it to the backup GPS/AIS receiver at her station. That wasn't working either.

The chart on our stand-alone iPad showed we were not moving, and so we turned our attention to assessing other damage and figuring out why the chartplotter computer was not working. I wanted to go up on deck to look, but the wind and the rain precluded that for the short term. It only took a short while to figure out that the plotter was down because the four-port USB-to-RS232 adapter that connected all the sensors was dead. We plugged it in to two other computers, neither of which recognized it. I learned much later that the USB port on the computer where it had been connected was also fried.


As seen out the forward windows. Impressive.

I grabbed the single-port USB adapter that came with the boat for programming the sat dish and was able to get the plotter working by connecting it directly to the Garmin GPS mushroom. That, amazingly, was working fine. We now had our anchor alarm back, which was reassuring. We started powering up and testing all the other systems in the pilothouse, and everything looked like it was working fine, even the radar.

I decided to try to get AIS input to the plotter back by re-wiring the fancy AIS/GPS-equipped VHF radio to the one working serial port, instead of the Garmin. After an hour of frustration I finally realized that both NMEA (serial) outputs from the VHF were fried. The radio and it's built-in AIS display was otherwise working fine, and the Coast Guard later responded to my emergency comm check to let me know we were loud and clear.

We tested both VHF radios against one of the handhelds, since we could not raise the nearby CR-707 bridge on either. They both appeared to be working. And after we'd finished in the pilothouse, I even fired up the TV and sat dish; both the sat system and the mast-mounted amplified TV antenna appeared to be working fine. We started the generator and ran the battery charger, not wanting to find out in the morning that either was damaged just when we would need it. And Louise checked the really critical systems: the coffee maker, beer fridge, and sewing machine.

After the rain let up I went topside with the handheld spotlight. I saw no damage at all on the mast. But when I shined the light up at the separate VHF antenna clamped to the forward end of the flybridge top, it was clear we had taken a direct strike and that antenna was the entry point. The top of the antenna had exploded, sending fiberglass shards everywhere, and the lead-in cable blew out and arced right by the clamp. This is the antenna for the flybridge radio, which was powered down at the breaker when the strike occurred. Nevertheless I am amazed the radio still works and that it was even able to transmit and receive on the heavily damaged antenna (now that we know, we are not using that radio for transmit).


Fried lead-in cable.

The huge amount of current flowing through the flybridge top and down through the cabin sides and into the hull induced enough current in all the delicate NMEA-0183/RS232 serial links to blow the driver chips in all the equipment. But inside the boat we felt nothing, as the current flowed harmlessly around us and into the water through the metal hull. Lightning strikes on fiberglass boats can be much worse, because all the current flows to the water through very much small metal bits like through-hulls, which can blow right out of the boat and sink it.

After Louise retired for the night, and still amped up on residual adrenaline, I finished up my generator blog post and then went to our video camera system to see what it might have captured. The camera that faces out the forward pilothouse windows quite clearly captured the lightning bolt. Stepping through the video frame-by-frame I could see the arc moving laterally everywhere except right where it met the boat.

Video inside the pilothouse clearly shows multiple flashes. This is the only feed with audio and you can hear the bang, and the screams from the saloon. Watching the plotter screen shows the anchor circle disappear a few seconds later; the plotter has some hysteresis after loss of signal. Shortly after that we come into the pilothouse to respond. Well, some bald dude does, anyway.


As seen from the aft deck.

The aft deck camera is less interesting and only shows the flash. I also ran the video from the engine room and tiller flat cameras and was relieved to see no flashes or arcing of any kind. Our engine (and generator motor) is entirely mechanical; we know several folks who had tens of thousands in engine computer and control replacements after lightning strikes. The three cameras that caught it all told me exactly what time we were hit: 7:45:54.5 EDT (the time stamps on the video are in EST, so they are an hour off).

Yesterday was a clear sunny day and we went out on deck to inspect the damage. Bits of antenna are everywhere, and I was puzzled by the very large chunk that I found on the aft settee of the flybridge, underneath the cover. It had shot through the canvas top like a bullet, leaving an oblong "entry wound." This is the canvas that we had repaired last year in Charleston, and is due for replacement. We will probably patch the hole with tape in the interim.


"Bullet hole" in the top.

After our walk-around we fired up all the instruments to get under way, determining that we had enough items working or jury-rigged to continue to make progress until we could get somewhere to receive parts. Four-port USB converters, high-end VHF radios, and vintage Furuno gear are not things you can just pick up at the next town. We set out sights on Vero Beach, where we have friends.

Getting under way revealed more damage. When I pulled up the data display on the radar/plotter to get our starting mileage it was scrambled. I got the mileage from another screen, so the scrambling turns out to just be the display format. No heading information was getting through to the AIS. And the stabilizers would not come online for lack of a speed signal, which also comes from the radar/plotter suggesting that some of its serial ports, too, are fried. We have the speed signal bypassed to keep the stabilizers working at the moment.

Other than a windy cruise we otherwise had no issues running. on the jury-rigged plotter. With only one working serial port I had no way to let the plotter drive, so I used heading mode on the autopilot all day. When we knew we could make it to Vero I reached out to our good friends Alyse and Chris, but they turned out to be out of town. We decided to continue to Vero anyway, where there is a nice anchorage with access to shore and a couple of restaurants; I thought I might even be able to pick up a second single-port serial adapter to improve our life a bit.


A beautiful anchorage. And the tallest thing in it..

The vagaries of tide and current put us abreast the Fort Pierce Inlet twenty minutes too early for the opening of the North Causeway Bridge. Faced with station-keeping for that long, we decided to just call it a day and drop the hook in the little anchorage south of the bridge (map), where we've stayed before and where we knew there was a decent beach-bar restaurant where we could drown our troubles in draft beer.

We were just about to order a USB adapter on Amazon Prime for delivery to Titusville when it occurred to us that we were right next to an inlet, and these storm-driven westerlies would make for good ocean conditions. And so before dinner Louise pulled down the forecasts and we made a tentative decision to go outside today, possibly all the way to our next stop, in the Savannah area.

A big heavy meal and a couple of drafts does not do wonders for one's chartplotting abilities, but after dinner I was able to run numbers and conclude that we could only make Savannah in the daylight with a late departure from Fort Pierce. A late departure, however, would mean we would lose the very best part of the weather window, and also mean that a bail-out to Port Canaveral would have to be well past sunset and possibly past the time when the lock closes, leaving us fewer stopping options there.


A bit of burnt material around the antenna clamp.

We decided instead on a dawn departure, which would make a nice day to Port Canaveral if that's what we decide. That means that we can make it only as far as St. Simons Sound, where we have a familiar anchorage near Jekyll Island, by a reasonable hour tomorrow evening. And that's only if we maintain a fairly high speed made good. Quite possibly we will be stopping sooner than that, either at St. Mary's Inlet, or at the St. John's river. We won't really know until mid-day tomorrow.

As you might imagine, when not driving the boat, I have been busy every waking minute since the strike, effecting repairs. I've spent hours squeezed under the helm staring at NMEA junction blocks and re-routing signals to recover functionality. Every NMEA-0183 connection has two ends, and a non-working link could be down due to the transmitter end or the receiver end or both, and I've done a lot of parts-swapping and troubleshooting.

Yesterday I was able to get another serial port working on the chartplotter computer, which I robbed from the now-useless system that fed Louise's computer at her station. She's using a stand-alone GPS "puck" to keep her plotter running, albeit without AIS input. That required some Windows driver legerdemain, because it is an older, unsupported converter chip. The second port meant I could connect the computer to the autopilot to drive the boat, virtually a requirement for an offshore passage.


Inside the four-port USB converter. No obvious damage but the driver chip is dead. The power LED comes on, though.

I replaced the dead flybridge depth display with a spare that I bought used some time ago. And just before bedtime last night I replaced the autopilot with the fully-configured spare that I had taken out some time ago, to restore our heading information. That was a calculated risk; replacing an autopilot just before a passage can be a bad idea, but I knew we could just turn around and continue up the inside if we had problems with it.

Sure enough, as soon as I engaged the autopilot this morning, it veered off well to starboard before sounding an alarm; I ended up hand-steering out of the inlet. The last time I replaced the autopilot I had to run the calibration procedure, and you need to be in the ocean for that anyway, or at least a very large body of water with no traffic, because you have to drive the boat around in circles.

Reasoning that the problem might just be a calibration issue, I hand-steered while Louise checked or set all the autopilot configuration parameters, and we ran the calibration procedure. That didn't fix the problem and neither did changing a half dozen settings. We made a nice loop though, which added a few minutes to our trip, as did stopping the boat to run rudder calibrations.


Top view of the "bullet hole."

To make a long story shorter, after a few more tests we realized that the rudder was turning to starboard when the autopilot commanded either a starboard or a port turn. That turned out to be a wiring problem, either a loose or shorted wire where the hydraulic solenoid connects to the autopilot. Cutting the ends off and re-terminating the wires fixed it, and it turns out we probably never needed to touch the settings to begin with.

All is well now, and in the time it has taken me to type all this, we're abreast of Patrick Air Force Base and have made the decision to round Canaveral and continue north. Our immediate goal is Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River, where a painter will quote us on some touch-up work. We're also hoping to catch up with good friends John and Laura Lee; John is the former master of this ship, then called Steel Magnolia, and recommended the painter to us as someone who'd worked on this boat before to good effect. If we don't get a window for another outside hop, we will work our way up the inside.


Sunrise this morning as I hand-steered out of Fort Pierce.

While a lot of the foregoing sounds like we've had a miserable couple of days, I want to be clear that we consider ourselves very, very lucky. Not just in the "first world boat problem" sense that you've seen me write here before, but in the sense that our lightning damage is minimal. We know several folks who were dead in the water after a lightning strike and spent months in the yard and tens of thousands (or, in one case, hundreds of thousands) of dollars on repairs. We also know someone who lost their boat.

If I called a marine electronics company and asked them to fix all this, it might approach $10k, and that's far enough above our insurance deductible to file a claim. We'd also get some newer gear out of the deal. But I'll replace all this stuff from the used market and Amazon for less than $2k (plus my own sweat equity), which is under our deductible. Mostly we just need a place to receive the equipment, at this point most likely Fort McAllister.

We were also lucky to have our tall SSB antennas lowered, which we had done for the gauntlet of bridges. We have not yet raised them and tested the SSB, but for sure if lightning had hit one of those antennas it would be damaged, and that's a more expensive piece of equipment than anything that was lost.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Replacing the generator insulation

As I promised last post, I am writing up the project to re-insulate the generator enclosure here. This post will concern nothing else, so if you have no interest in such matters, feel free to skip it. I will return to the travelogue next post, including a bit of excitement we had while I was typing this. And if you arrived here from a forum link, welcome.

We have a 16kW Northern Lights generator. It came with the boat, and it is well-suited to our needs. It's based on a Shibaura four-cylinder engine, which itself is a knock-off of a Kubota design. We had a Kubota in the bus and so it's all very familiar.


Generator enclosure. The new insulation came with a sick-on nameplate which I adhered next to the Northern Lights logo.

The generator is installed in the engine room, which is itself sound (and thermally) insulated, and so the generator did not really need an enclosure to begin with. Many ER-mounted marine generators have none, and, of course, we have a much bigger, noisier, and hotter engine in that room, namely the main propulsion engine. Nevertheless it came that way, and it does help keep the boat quieter (and cooler) at anchor, and especially if you happen to be working in the engine room. Our laundry center is in there, and the generator needs to be running to use it when we are not at a dock.

Northern Lights used a high-quality dense foam insulation for their sound and thermal damping in these enclosures. It's four layers; a thin foam layer glued to the skin of the enclosure, a flexible plastic layer that makes the whole thing somewhat stiff, a thick foam layer, and finally a "skin" of black vinyl that faces the actual machinery.

Over time the foam layers and skin deteriorate, and almost everyone I know with a Northern Lights of our vintage has suffered with the skin flaking off and then the entire assembly separating from the enclosure, usually by the thin first layer of foam splitting between the enclosure and the heavy plastic layer. I meant to take a photograph of this deterioration, but I was so eager to get the old foam panels off the boat that I threw them away before I got to it.


The OEM foam on the smaller top panel. This one was still intact and I left it in place. You can see that it's proud of the lip by about half an inch, and is a gloss black finish inside.

The first panel to go, unsurprisingly, was the horizontal one above the engine. It landed on the hot engine, which cooked it past "well done", getting sticky goo on the engine and generally making a mess of things. We tried a number of products to glue it back on with no success. Finally I drilled five holes through the enclosure top and ran bolts through the foam and some large fender washers, then used metal tape, which came with the boat and is intended to repair the engine room thermal insulation, to tape the edges of the foam to the edge of the enclosure panel.

That worked, after a fashion, but the tape was constantly letting go and needing adjustment, flakes of black skin continued to rain down on the engine and the rest of the enclosure, and in the fullness of time, the three largest vertical panels also separated in the same way and had to be held in place with tape. Something needed to be done.

Over the course of two major boat shows, I stopped at the Northern Lights booth and spoke to their engineering personnel, and I've also made a couple of phone calls back to Seattle. What I was able to discern was that this was a common problem, it no longer happens because they changed to a different insulation system years ago, and that they have no factory answer for what to do about older units. The options were to purchase a whole new enclosure, or replace the foam myself; no factory replacement part available.


One of the smaller panels after scraping the loose foam with a plastic trowel. Now the real work begins.

A few folks I spoke to with this issue opted for a system that involves epoxying (or welding) what look like nails onto the insides of the enclosure and then pressing new insulation over those nails, securing it with cinch clips. This is exactly the system we have throughout our engine room, where the pointy bits are welded to the walls and ceiling. I can tell you from experience they are sharp, and we went to great lengths to cover, flatten, or dull all the exposed ones after they drew first blood. I did not want this system for the genny enclosure, because not only did I not want to get poked; I also worried that hoses and cables inside the enclosure could inadvertently get pierced, too.

I opted instead for a glue-on solution.  The premier product in the space is from a company called SoundDown, but it is very expensive. I have a suspicion that the original foam in the enclosure was actually a SoundDown product. Fearing that anything I used might well come unstuck, possibly in short order, if I did not get the old foam and adhesive completely off, I opted to find something a bit more reasonable for a first attempt.

I ended up buying a product that is sold primarily as automotive hood liner. It's a 3/4" thick foam product with an adhesive backing and metallic facing. That's only about half as thick as our original insulation, but the price was right at just $120 for the entire project on Amazon Prime, and I reasoned that in the engine room we'd hardly notice the difference.


Solvent-scraping the residue. Plastic razor-blade tool is at right. This is a small section after just the first pass; each section took 3-4 passes to clean and resulted in a mount of old foam and glue.

I knew the key to making this work would be to get all the old foam off and much of the original adhesive as well. We have Goo Gone and Goof Off on board, but my concern with those products was that they would prevent a good bond of the new adhesive. I'd have to be meticulous about the removal of the old adhesive completely, then use copious amounts of acetone to remove the residue of the remover.

After asking around on some online forums, 3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner was recommended. A quart of that was just $18 at McDonald's, the very nice local hardware store in Fort Lauderdale. I used an old pump spray bottle to apply it uniformly. I also bought a scraper that had a handle which accepted plastic blades with the same form factor as a razor blade. The blades are color-coded according to hardness, and a number of each type came in the package.

I started with the largest panel, mostly because it was the one where the foam had already completely detached, and because it made sense to cut the largest swath of material first. Before carrying it out of the engine room and onto the aft deck (I did not want to be using solvents in an enclosed space), I first used a wide plastic spackling tool to remove most of the crumbling foam from the panel, vacuuming as I went with the shop vac. That left a thin, uniform coating of foam over the original adhesive.


This was actually the first panel, shown here fully cleaned. It's lying on the roll of new material ready to be cut.

Before I figured out the spray bottle trick, I tried using the tiny pour spout that came with the cleaner to apply it in sections. That just made a mess, so I grabbed an old Simple Green bottle that I had rinsed out as a general sprayer. I resisted starting out this way because I was worried the solvent might dissolve parts of the sprayer, but that fear proved to be unfounded.

It also took me a while, and a lot of paper towels, to figure out that I did not need to wipe the scraper after each swipe, but rather just push the accumulated crud up onto a piece of heavy paper, which was actually some of the peel-away backing from the first piece of insulation. Once I dialed in the amount of solvent to apply, the area I should cover for each section, and the right blade to use with the scraper, I settled into a rhythm and it went pretty smoothly.

I had figured the harder blades (yellow) would be the right ones to use, but they broke easily. It turned out that, even though the surface was flat, the flexible blades for uneven surfaces (blue) worked best. All told I use maybe ten blades for the project. And an area about 10" by 12" was the right size to spray to avoid having the solvent dry before I could get it all.


Here's that panel with the new insulation in place. I used some blue tape before handling it, worried that the adhesive needed time to cure. That was unnecessary.

As I worked my way through the foam and adhesive, it became clear that if I used enough solvent, I could remove all the adhesive down to the metal. But I would need at least another quart, and it would triple or maybe quadruple the amount of time I would spend scraping. Instead I decided to stop when most of the foam was gone, and what adhesive remained was "tacky." I reasoned that tacky residue and fresh adhesive would make a good bond. Any place where I managed, inadvertently, to get down to the paint, I cleaned with acetone before applying the new insulation.

Once I was down to just tacky adhesive, I laid the new insulation down over the panel and used a Sharpie marker to mark off where I needed to cut. I used the edge of the panel itself as a straight-edge to mark the cut line, then used a utility knife to make the initial cut, followed by a pair of sharp scissors to finish it. The resulting edge was not perfectly clean, but acceptable for the purpose.


Here's the big panel with metal edge tape in place. This keeps the foam edge sealed and will also help keep the insulation from peeling away.

I laid the new insulation onto the panel, adhesive-side down, then pulled up one corner and worked the backing paper off. Once the insulation was completely adhered I move it into the saloon where I could finish in air conditioned comfort. Finishing involved cutting lengths of the aforementioned metal tape and taping the edges of the insulation to the gussets on the panel.

The top panel was the hardest. In addition to the glue that the factory used, there was the glue that we had used to try to put it back together. I probably scraped that panel twice as long as the others. Since I already had holes in the panel and all the hardware, I re-installed the through-bolts and fender washers, which ought to help the insulation stay adhered.


This panel, above the engine, was the hardest. The big squiggle was extra glue we had used to try to glue it back together. This is fully cleaned just before installing the new insulation.

In all, I did four panels out of the eight total. Two are on the aft side of the enclosure and I don't really have a good way to get them out, as they are very close to the aft bulkhead of the engine room. Of those, one also has baffles which would complicated the process. One is on the starboard end and is also baffled for generator head cooling vents. It has several smaller pieces of insulation and they are intact, so I left it alone. The two aft panels also have intact insulation. And the smaller top panel, over the generator head, is also still intact. Rather than pull off intact insulation, I decided to leave it be and let it fail on its own. I have enough leftover insulation to do the two smaller panels and the small pieces of the larger panels.

After getting all the panels back on the enclosure and starting up for a test, I am happy to report that neither the noise level nor the heat load is significantly different from stock. Also, the newly insulated panels are much lighter and easier to handle. Only time will tell, of course, if the adhesive will hold. The OEM insulation stayed on for a little over a decade before failing. If we get six or seven years out of this replacement I will consider it a win.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Back under way!

We are anchored in the New River Sound in Fort Lauderdale, just north of the Las Olas Marina (map). This is the same place we stopped on our way into town, and if there is room, it is a convenient staging spot to time arrival or departure in Fort Lauderdale.

This morning was something of a scramble to get ready. I ended up chipping a bunch of rust in the tiller flat bilge yesterday (more on that in a moment) and this morning, after the phosphoric acid dried overnight, I had to paint the area that I treated. After buttoning up the tiller flat, we moved the scooters across the river to the fueling dock, and then got the boat ready for departure.


I kept having to chase this guy off the dinghy when we had it in the water.

The scooter move was necessitated by the fact that there was no way to load them in our slip; we had offloaded them in a different slip when we arrived. We had to stop at the fueling dock to pump out, anyway, so that made it easy. By 10:30 we had the boat ready to go and we cruised downriver to the fueling dock to load and pump out.

Around 11:30 we dropped lines downtown for the last time on this visit and cruised here. We could have made another dozen or so miles north up the ICW if we wanted to, but we wanted one last dinner at Coconuts (which was perfect), and we still had a number of cleanup items we needed to take care of before getting too far down the road.


This ketch got wedged under the rail bridge during our stay, snapping its mizzen mast and sending a crewman aloft into the water (and the hospital).

Among those was the work in the tiller flat. One of the projects that has been languishing on my list has been to repack the rudder stuffing box, which has leaked more or less since day one, when we repacked it at Deltaville Boatyard over five years ago. It was leaking, in fact, when we bought the boat.

With a good delivery address in Fort Lauderdale I ordered new packing. Tired of the leakage, I ordered the fancy graphite-impregnated, PTFE packing that can be tightened down until there are no drips. And last week I started the messy task of re-packing, which involves removing all the old packing and thus letting a whole bunch of water into the boat.


We went out in the tender to check it out. They finally got it unstuck by partially lowering the bridge, breaking more of the (already totaled) mast.

The old packing was done. It was hard and dirty and not sealing, and the grease around the lantern ring was also hard. I pre-cut four rings of the new packing and got to work. Of course, before I even got as far as the lantern ring, the packing extractor, which resembles a miniature corkscrew on the end of a stiff wire, fell apart. I needed to use needle-nose pliers to get the broken corkscrew out of the stuffing box, and then spend an hour on a Worst Marine run to get a replacement tool.

After I got the lantern ring out and what I thought were the last two rings of packing removed, I knew I was in trouble, because I didn't think there were any more rings. The drawing I had been looking at suggested there were four rings, but, in fact, there were six. I only had enough new material for five. Drat. And here I was, down to the last ring, with water coming in at a steady pace.


This charter sailboat, Daffy, also clipped the RR bridge on its way downriver. Since they had passengers on board, they had to stop to make a report; FLPD sent a boat. This is right across from us.

I ordered enough for one more ring on Amazon Prime, with a Monday delivery, and I finished as much of the job as I could, putting one of the old rings back in on the top to get it all tightened down. My plan had been to clean the water and rust out of the bilge when I finished, but without being able to fully grease and tighten the new packing, I put that off to Monday as well.

Thus it happened that it was late in the day Monday when I finally got the packing completed and the bilge rinsed out. And that's when I found it: a very large, very thick blister in the epoxy paint in the bilge. That can mean only one thing: water under the coating. By this time it was dark and too late to start on the repair.


A serious bit of rust. This is after scraping and before sanding. You are looking down at the bottom of the hull; upper right is the rudder log. Pipe at bottom center is part of a bilge pump system.

Yesterday morning I scraped and chipped all the old paint and rust out. At one point the rust was so deep I was worried I might go right through the hull. When I was done chipping I sounded the area and it's not dire, but at next haul-out we will have to audio-gauge that part of the hull. The great thing about steel is that if there is a problem revealed by the audio-gauge, it's a simple matter of cutting out the bad spot and welding some new plating in.

While I was out doing some final provisioning, by which I mean buying a case of brown ale that's hard to find elsewhere, I picked up an abrasive brush for my drill, and by dinner time I had four separate areas cleaned, abraded, and coated with phosphoric acid. That's how I ended up applying paint first thing this morning.


I fueled my scooter at this gas dispenser, which I could barely read because there is a Windows error box on the screen. I once worked for a company that was developing this technology, and this was one of our (and our customers, the gas stations) biggest fears.

Today was our final day of our three-month contract, so even with the last-minute repairs we made it out without having to pay for any additional nights. Tonight is our last in Fort Lauderdale; tomorrow we will continue north toward Palm Beach. The seas outside are not great, so we will do the slog through the bridges and go up the inside.

It's been a productive and comfortable three months in Fort Lauderdale. In addition to the replacement of the damper plate, which I described in my last post, and the rudder packing described above, I also completed a number of boat projects, starting with updating (and upgrading) our offshore liferaft.


While Louise was out of town I took her sewing machine in for a tune-up. This was the "line." I texted her this photo and the technician's initial thoughts and she told me not to bother.

The raft has been out of date for a year, and one of the checklist items for Fort Lauderdale was to have it serviced. But shortly before arriving I saw an ad on Facebook for a brand new 8-person raft (ours was a six-person model) that someone was selling. It came pre-installed on a new boat, and they wanted a different brand. Given that our raft was a decade old and the last service set us back over a boat unit, the swap was a no-brainer. A few months had already passed on the new raft's certificate, but I got it at a good price, and was able to sell our old raft for a good price as well. When all was said and done, it cost us perhaps an extra $300 over the cost of a service to get a much newer raft with a higher capacity.

I also installed the VHF radio into the new tender, and got it hooked up to the GPS. This project necessitated buying a fuse block for the tender and installing it in the battery box, so now we have separate connections and fuses for the bilge pump, the lights and GPS, the VHF, the 12v outlet, and the solar panel. The last thing I have left to do on the tender is to get the solar panel more securely mounted.


Charter boat Anticipation 4, with a huge party under way on deck, after she lost propulsion and smacked into several boats across the river from us. If you look closely you can see a sailboat mast behind her. She had to be towed out.

I replaced a good deal of the sound insulation in the generator enclosure, which warrants a post all its own that is forthcoming.  And I knocked off numerous little repair items that have been accumulating, like replacing the soap dispensers in the galley that had become badly corroded, and re-securing loose trim in a number of places.

One of the larger fix-it items was replacing the helm chair. The very nice Todd chair that came with the boat had a good size crack in the base when we got it, and daily use made it worse. The crack was in a structural part of the base and so the chair was "loose" and rocked a bit fore-and-aft. I reinforced it a number of times, first with luan and later with HDPE, but it's time had come. A direct replacement from Todd was right around $1,000 (there's a reason that's known as a boat unit) through marine discounters. Used take-outs at marine salvage yards are not much less.


New helm seat. I have since removed the seat belt buckle.

I ended up buying an automotive seat, a second-row take-out from a Chrysler mini-van. The seat was new, taken out of a brand new vehicle by a van converter, and cost me $180, including shipping. I was able to modify it to bolt up to the old Todd seat base. It's 90% as comfortable, more adjustable, takes up less room, and folds up when not in use to make the pilothouse a bit more open. I gave the old Todd away to another boater who wanted to repair it.

I finished upgrading the exterior lights on my scooter, a project that has languished for a full year. And, of course, I also had to do a bunch of work on the Genuine Buddy that we got to replace Louise's stolen scoot, including replacing the trunk and adding some front running lights. Both bikes got new LED tail light flashers for safety.


On one of my stag evenings I visited the very nice county library. I thought this was a Calder, but it's a local artist inspired by him.

We had quite a few visits with friends during our stay. Steve and Harriett were in town twice, wrapping up the sale of their home here. Steve and Barb aboard Maerin docked next to us for a week. Louise's college chum Harris and his wife Linda came down from Boca for a visit. We met Nina and Don aboard s/v Enjoy at our first slip, and I had dinner with Karl and Natalie who sold me the life raft. We met up with Bruce and Dorsey of m/v Esmeralde for dinner at Coconuts as they stopped at Bahia Mar on their way north.  Curtis and Gill joined me for a beer after helping me move the boat to the pumpout, and Gill spent another afternoon with Louise shopping for eyeglasses online. And I caught up with fellow Stanford alum Jeff Merrill at the Miami Boat Show.

Speaking of the boat show, I ran down there on the Bright Line, making my second round trip on that train. It was smaller than last year and a number of vendors I wanted to see were missing, such as Naiad. But I did make a number of important contacts and it was a pleasant day out. I was amused to see that half the tour boats from Fort Lauderdale were down in Miami serving as water taxis for the show; the river was quiet here for a few days.


The library had an actual moon rock on display.

On the medical front there were routine visits to the dentist and the eye doctor, an annual physical, and a trip to the audiologist. We're both in excellent physical health and are good for another year now on routine visits.

When Steve and Barb were in town, Steve came over to help me diagnose a breaker-tripping problem with one of our air conditioners. (It turned out to be a bad capacitor, which I have since replaced). I was envious of his nice, soft-side tool case and how it could be carried around without fear of damaging the boat, and so I ended up ordering myself a nice tool "backpack" and replacing the Bell Telephone Lineman's Tool Case that I have been using for 35 years. I was very attached to my Western Electric case, but it was a bad fit for the boat, with lots of hard metal edges, and I am happy with my new case.


My old tool case, of which I was quite fond. It's for sale now, a collector's item.

That prompted a review of all tools and cases aboard, and I also ended up buying rolls for my wrenches and soft cases for the wrenches and sockets, as well as the oversized tools in the engine room. The tools all take up a bit more space now but they are better organized, more protected, and easier to move around the boat.

We got a huge number of things off the boat, and I sold lots of stuff on eBay, including a pair of gold cufflinks, my old lineman's "butt set," a wristwatch, and old chartplotter, two GPS antennas, two computers, three cell phones, a cordless drill, and the remainder of my collection of railroad keys. And, inexplicably, two 5/32 Allen keys that came with IBM mainframes and had the IBM logo on them, as well as three DEC PDP keys. I have no excuse for why I still had that junk. A lot of stuff, including the old hardsided tool boxes and some hand tools, went right to Goodwill.


The sightseeing boat Carrie-B is docked just a few slips down from us, and every week she gets a load of cruise ship passengers who arrive by bus. This one reminded us of the many tours we've taken on Princess cruises.

We each got smart watches while we were here; a FitBit Versa (me) and an Amazfit Bip (Louise). I tried them both; honestly the Bip is a better value and I like the always-visible display, but I went with the Versa because the screens were easier to see. I'm missing fewer messages now.

Louise went to California twice during our stay. Frankly, one of the key reasons Fort Lauderdale won out over Key West for our three-month stop was that flying anywhere when you are in KW is a colossal pain, or expensive, or both. Fort Lauderdale has a convenient airport (it's a $2, 20-minute bus ride from downtown) with several non-stops to the west coast.

When Louise was out of town I generally availed myself of happy hour fare at the numerous restaurants along Las Olas Boulevard, sitting at the bar. One of the best happy hours was also one of the closest, at the Riverside Hotel just a few blocks from the boat. We went back for that one a few times together, since it was available at the sidewalk tables as well as the bar itself.


Man spa.

I also signed up for a three-month "spa" membership at the nearby barber-shop-cum-massage-joint. The place was called Mankind, but we always called it Mansplainin, and the membership deal made the massage price competitive. I never had my hair cut there; too expensive. The only way to describe this place is as a man-cave for hire. It had a bar (complimentary with service), a billiards table, a humidor, and a Harley hanging from the ceiling, in addition to barber chairs. They did nails, too, but all services were for men only.

I/we took in a number of festivals and events, including Mardis Gras (pretty understated), Pride, St. Patricks Day, and a number of charity events in the park. The river supplied its own entertainment, with a ketch getting itself wedged under the railroad bridge, a giant tour boat having an engine failure and hitting five boats across the river from us, and a person escaping sheriff's custody jumping in the river and trying to swim away. This on top of the daily comings, goings, bridge drama, and sometimes near misses of the endless parade of tour boats, megayachts under tow, water taxis, and credit-card captains in rental boats and center consoles. And the floating tiki bar.


Escaped prisoner trying to swim away. Deputies ashore kept eyes on him until the marine patrol arrived.

The list of restaurants we visited is nearly endless, but the highlights are that we could easily walk to almost any cuisine right along Las Olas. Mostly we sat outside at sidewalk tables, with nearly perfect al fresco weather every evening. Cafe Europa, an Italian place, quickly became our favorite, but we also enjoyed the aforementioned hotel, the Red Door asian and hibachi, American Social, Luigi's Tuscan Grill, and the bar at Morton's steakhouse, among many others.


BofA lit for Pride. It was usually a solid color, but different every night.

In the morning we will weigh anchor and head north. I'm sure I have a bit more to update on our stay in Fort Lauderdale, which I will work in as we go along.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

A damper on my birthday

Continuing to catch the blog up here, going back to our arrival in Fort Lauderdale mid-January. This entire post will concern the replacement of the transmission damper plate, so if you have no interest in such matters, feel free to skip it.


Torsional Coupling (Vulkan Torflex stock photo).

At the end of January I completed another trip around the sun, and on that same day I installed my "birthday present," a shiny new transmission damper plate. It's been a while since I mentioned the damper issue here, so as a refresher, and for anyone who arrived at this post via a link in another forum, a brief recap:

In a bit of foreshadowing, we had dinner with our friends Michel and Caroline of the Nordhavn 50 Sea Turtle when we ran into them in Beaufort, NC on our way south in November. Michel and I had a long chat about maintenance, since the N50 has the exact same drive train as Vector, a Lugger 6108 coupled to a ZF280. One of the things we discussed was the damper plate, how it was generally recommended to replace it at 5,000 hours, and how we were both approaching that milestone.

And thus it was that, just two weeks later, during a passage from Charleston to Jacksonville, we noticed the tell-tale sounds of a damper plate going bad. Louise noticed it first, and by mid-passage it was loud enough that she needed earplugs to sleep. We ran through the night before stopping the boat to investigate the noise, which we quickly confirmed was transmission related.

In Jacksonville I started digging into what it would take to replace it. And the first brick wall I ran into was that we had no documentation telling us what damper plate we had in the boat. It's not in the engine parts manual, nor is it in the transmission service manual. We even called Lugger, who had sold the engine and transmission already coupled together as a completed unit, who confessed that it was not listed in our build sheet. I also contacted some Nordhavn 50 owners to see if anyone knew.

A lot of Internet sleuthing suggested that the ZF280 was normally supplied with a Vulkan Torflex coupling, but we still had no part number. In a stroke of luck, after moving the boat in Jacksonville, the coupling stopped in exactly the spot where I could see, through the ventilation slots, that there was a sticker on it. Close inspection revealed a Torflex part number, and even the date of manufacture and original invoice number. This also confirmed beyond doubt that the damper had never been changed since the power-train was assembled.


Our new damper awaiting installation atop the engine valve cover. Vinyl hose was on standby in case we needed to reroute the shaft sump during the project.

I called the ZF parts distributor for the eastern US, Transmission Marine, who happens to be in Fort Lauderdale, to ask about changing the damper and sourcing the part. They quoted me $850 for a new damper, supplied a ZF part number (3207316014), told me they could do the replacement only if I brought them the whole transmission, and referred me to an itinerant mechanic in Fort Lauderdale who works on ZF in the field. I also called Yacht Tech in Palm Beach, who services a lot of Nordhavns, who told me they contracted that kind of work out and also gave me a referral. And I called a couple of marine transmission outfits in Jacksonville, since that's where we were.

I'd heard quite a few horror stories about damper plates exploding underway, in some cases with parts jamming the flywheel and causing engine damage. So I was very relieved when further research revealed that Torflex couplings are "fail safe." When the rubber isolators disintegrate, they remain contained within the fully enclosed damper unit, and power can still be transferred to the transmission, but at reduced horsepower to minimize undamped load on the transmission and engine.

That gave us more options than replacing it right there in Jacksonville, even though we booked a month there just in case that was exactly what we needed to do. I did not want to try to do the replacement by myself alone; the transmission outweighs me at 170 lbs, and I had little experience. But the shops in Jacksonville were more expensive than Fort Lauderdale, and any parts would have to come from Lauderdale anyway. Plus any major problem would have us in JAX longer than planned. We opted to hold off and do the work here instead. Coincidentally, that had us doing the replacement at exactly 5,000 hours.


Hour meter at change-out. My own ticker rolled over 507,700 the same day.

Disturbingly, while I was calling around for help, several people thought our noises were not necessarily the damper, and at least one mechanic worriedly said it sounded more like bearings. So while in JAX I changed the oil, inspected the magnet and filter screen, and sent an oil sample to the lab. There was no indication of any abnormal wear, and we decided to stick with our plan to change the damper in Fort Lauderdale. With a little extra time on our hands, I found a distributor in the pacific northwest who was selling dampers for $650, shipping included, and ordered it for delivery here.

Once we were in quarters here, had our waste tank empty, and settled into a spot where we could stay put for the duration if anything went wrong, I scheduled the mechanic recommended by Transmission Marine, Greg. The date I scheduled just happened to be my birthday, and I was feeling somewhat old when Greg showed up and turned out to be twenty years my senior. Two old dudes wrestling with a 170-lb transmission.

When we lived in a bus with a cranky old Detroit, every mechanic who knew anything about our engine had gray hair. The great thing about gray-haired mechanics is that they've seen pretty much everything, and I was happy to have Greg's vast experience on board for the project. I had spent much of the previous day removing obstructions like the engine air cleaner, disconnecting the hydraulic PTO and the control cables, and breaking free all the bell housing mounting bolts, removing all but three. I also uncoupled the propeller shaft.

Greg recommended that we simply unbolt the transmission mounts from the stringers upon which they sat, and then slide the tranny back off the engine with it still resting on the mounts. The four bolts holding the two mounts down were rusted and hard to reach, but with two of us we could get a big wrench on each side and get the bolts free. We never even touched the adjustment bolts holding the transmission to its mounts.


Transmission separated and old damper removed. You can see the back of the flywheel. Starboard aft engine mount is at lower right, attached to the bell housing.

Making this whole process much, much easier was the fact that we have four motor mounts in addition to the two transmission mounts. Many marine installations have just two engine mounts, with the aft end of the engine being supported entirely by the transmission itself. We were able to remove the bell housing bolts and slide the transmission back off the engine. We needed a minimum of five inches or so of separation, but we were able to slide the shaft back a good eight inches and we had plenty of room between the cases.

Greg remarked that the flywheel and flywheel bolts were in great shape for 5,000 hours and 16 years. A fine coating of rust dust covered everything, and a small pile of it was at the bottom of the bell housing, which I cleaned up with a shop vac. We needed to do nothing other than slap the new plate on and align the bolts, but in the confined space with a heavy damper this was definitely a two-person job.


Input shaft of transmission showing splines in excellent condition.

ZF has very specific requirements for greasing the splines before assembly, and Greg had to run out to get the proper grease before we could slide the cases back together. The input shaft turns easily by hand and so lining up the splines was relatively straightforward, and with one of us on each side we were able to work the cases back together without mechanical assistance.

The same could not be said for the propeller shaft. We spent a lot of time, and did a lot of head-scratching, to move the shaft forward. Gravity and current had helped us move it back, but uphill was a bigger challenge. Eventually what worked was jamming progressively larger pieces of scrap wood between the coupler and a steel stringer and hammering them straight with a deadblow, while one of us rotated the shaft to break the sticktion. It took an hour.


New damper in place, before sliding cases together. You can see the paint shadow where the transmission mount sits on the stringer.

The bolts and nuts for the transmission mount were in bad shape, as were the studs and nuts for the shaft coupling, and we adjourned to the next day so Greg could pick up new ones on his way home. A combination of Fastenal and Broward Bolt yielded the needed replacements, and the next morning we got the shaft coupled and the mounts bolted back down. Greg got out his feelers and checked the alignment, which remarkably was still dead on after the project and needed no adjustment.

Before we could test we had to have a diver re-set our Spurs line cutter on the shaft; sliding the shaft back meant it would have slid back and rotated wrong-end-down. The diver reported no other issues and gave the hull a quick look-over for our $200 minimum charge. It took all of five minutes.

We did do a brief test in-place while tied to the dock, and we've been down to the pumpout dock and back three times since then and all seems working well. The rattling noise that heralded this project is gone completely, so it was definitely the damper plate and not something more insidious. Greg's invoice was less than a boat unit, and the whole project came in around $1,700. I would guesstimate the cost of having a yard do this work at around five boat units.


The old damper plate. That's rust and rubber dust on the sole which came out the vent holes. I was unable to remove the allen bolts holding the damper together even with an impact driver; I had hoped to see what the damaged rubber isolators looked like.

I had to loosen up the stuffing box to move the shaft, and that will need final adjustment once we are well under way later this month. And I expect the alignment to "settle in," and that may also need another adjustment down the line. But the new damper should carry us another 5,000 hours or thereabouts.