Monday, July 21, 2014

Tender tribulatons

Just a quick update here to say that we are still in Absecon Inlet, off Atlantic City.  When we awoke this morning, the ocean forecast for today had improved only slightly, with the wave period increasing to nine seconds.  While four foot seas with that period in ten knots or so of wind is really no problem for us, tomorrows forecast remains even better, with seas of just two to three feet on a period of seven seconds.

We had little time to decide -- if we wanted to make the run today, we needed to have the anchor up and be under way no later than 8am in order to have a favorable tide at the other end.  Even at that, I'd have to run at a higher RPM than typical.  We decided to play it safe and spend another day here, and have a more comfortable ride tomorrow.

Today's drama was all about our tender.  After deciding to spend the extra day, we opted to run out for brunch at locally famous Gilchrist's, at Gardner Basin.  Even on a Monday mid-morning there was a wait, but it was not too bad, and the food was very good.  We left here at 10:30, since Louise had booked a hair appointment at the salon in the Golden Nugget for noon.

On our way from Gardner's to the Nugget, I managed to strike a piece of uncharted underwater Sandy-related debris with the prop.  In hindsight, it was a stupid mistake, since the condition there is flagged in Active Captain, and I can see that on the main chartplotter aboard Vector.  The little plotter on the tender, though, does not have that information.  We passed very close to that same spot last night (admittedly, at a higher tide) after fueling the tender at Kamerman's before heading around the corner to Garnder's for dinner, and saw nothing amiss on the depth sounder.

The prop is aluminum, and, as marine items go, not all that expensive at around $65 for a brand new one, so I was not too worried.  The prop came with the motor, which is ten years old, and was not in perfect condition when we got it, either, so I figured to just put a new one on and clean this one up as an emergency spare.  It was a bit chewed up on two of the three blades, with the worst damage being about a 1/4" nibble.

On our way back from the Nugget I could not get the tender up on plane -- untreated prop damage like this can exact a significant penalty on performance.  So I decided to haul the tender up on deck, bass-ackwards for easy access to the prop, and clean up the blades to see if we could get at least some of the performance back while I wait on a new prop.

As we started to hoist the tender out of the water, one of the three legs of the nylon-web lifting bridle parted with a loud noise, and the forward end of the tender fell back into the water.  We were very lucky -- it was only a foot or two off the water when the strap parted, and none of the rigging whipped back to injure us or damage the boat.

I jury-rigged a new forward leg for the bridle using one of the commercial lifting slings and a pair of 450-lb carabiners that we normally use for the scooters.  That let us get the tender up on deck and I was able to clean up the prop in short order -- aluminum responds well to a set of files and some emery cloth.

I'd love to say all's well that ends well, but while I was working on the prop, I discovered the shaft is bent.  Spinning the prop by hand there is a barely noticeable wobble.  The allowable run-out on these would be imperceptible by eye, so the wobble is significant.  Unchecked, it can lead to premature bearing and/or seal failure or other more serious problems.

Based on the minimal damage to the prop, it's hard to believe the shaft bent during this incident.  Honestly, though, I can't say one way or another if it was bent when we got the motor, or perhaps it bent somewhere else during our year of ownership.  Whatever the genesis, now that I am aware of it I need to find a shop that can straighten it out.  I've been told many prop shops can straighten it still on the motor.  I've also learned that if it needs to come out for service or replacement, I'm better off buying a whole rebuilt lower unit.  If that's the case, we'll run this one till it quits, first.

I got a little of the performance back with my minimal prop repair, but planing is still more difficult than before.  We'll get a new prop at our earliest opportunity, likely well before we can get the shaft addressed.  Before any of that, I need to turn my attention to the lifting tackle.

I'm a bit surprised at the way this strap failed.  The harness was made by Wichard, a respected manufacturer of marine rigging.  It, too, came with the boat, though, and I suspect eleven years of use and storage just weakened the fibers.  Certainly it has seen some sun and plenty of salt water.

Marine items like this are outrageously expensive.  I will likely replace it with a trio of commercial slings and various fittings available from more conventional rigging suppliers, just as we did for the scooters.  In the meantime, we're still using the two undamaged legs, although I am affixing an extra safety line as well, just in case.

After dinner tonight, we'll load the tender back aboard for an early departure tomorrow,  Slack tide in Manasquan is around 5:30, and we have a nine hour cruise.

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