Monday, July 29, 2019

Thruster Chautauqua

I am beginning this post underway westbound in Lake Erie. Our original plan wast to make Erie, Pennsylvania this afternoon, but we have steep waves and lots of pitching, and we are diverting to Barcelona, New York instead. It's a tiny small craft harbor, so we have our fingers crossed that we can either make it alongside the city pier, or drop the hook inside the breakwaters. We won't make it out of New York, or even Chautauqua County.

We had a nice stay in Dunkirk, and it was productive, but the weeds in the harbor proved to be a challenge. It took us two hours or so to free ourselves; first by dragging as many weeds away from the chain as possible using the tender, and then by hacking away at the giant ball that came up with the anchor as we were tied alongside the Yacht Club to pump out.

Dunkirk harbor at sunset. That's Vector's silhouette; next to the sun are some bushes on the breakwater.

We splashed the tender just before dinner time Saturday evening, and went ashore at the city pier, which is in the middle of renovations. We strolled the town a bit before landing at Demetri's for dinner. We had the prime rib special, which was fine, but apparently the place is not highly thought of around town. After dinner we walked over to the Sav-a-Lot to reprovision, since we had pared down before crossing the border. They had the least expensive groceries we've seen in a long time.

Yesterday was devoted to repairing the bow thruster. Louise cleared a path through her quilt studio, AKA the forward stateroom, and we flipped the mattress off the berth and out of the way. I prepped as many tools as I could think of, and descended into the carbon-infused thruster bay. As I removed the relay pack from the motor terminals, I could feel one of the terminals was physically loose inside the motor housing.

Louise snapped this photo mid-project. That's the bad motor on the drop cloth.

Fortunately, nothing was seized or corroded, and the motor came out without issue. Squat-lifting the 82-pound motor while standing precariously on a graphite-covered cylinder was a bit nerve-wracking, as was doing a standing shoulder-press from the same perch to get it up on the berth, at chest height.

The thing I had been most worried about came next, to wit: removing the drive spline from the motor shaft. The mating spline on the drive leg once seized on so badly that we had to drill out the set-screw and then tap it for a larger one. This time we got lucky; the set-screw came out easily and the spline slid off after application of some WD-40 and coaxing from my thin pry bar.

Gratuitous shot of the relay pack.

Inspection of the Gates coupler revealed no abnormal wear, and the new motor slid right into place. The spline on the drive leg was a bit loose, so I cinched down the set-screw as much as I could in the restricted space. Once the relay pack was back in place the motor fired right up and the thruster again emits the normal cavitation noise and is moving the bow around.

The new motor is 16 horsepower and rated for 350 pounds of thrust. The original motor is 20 horse and rated for 430 pounds. We bagged it up and I strapped it down in the engine room; whenever we stop in a large city for a week or so I will take it to a motor shop to see if it can be refurbished. In the meantime, this one will get us by, and turns out to be producing more thrust than the old one had in quite some time.

We had both girded ourselves for things to go sideways, as they so often do in such projects. This one went by the book, with the lone exception of me dropping one of the brass terminal nuts into the very deep, very pointy bilge. I was able to fish it out with the grabber we keep just for this type of problem.

Nut on the end of a gripper. I think Louise really just wanted to capture the carbon dust on my head.

In the afternoon I tendered ashore to ask the yacht club, another on our reciprocal list, about using their pumpout. A very friendly bunch. Later we returned ashore for some very good pizza and a pitcher of Labatts at Pizza Village.

This morning, after getting as many weeds off the chain as we could, we hip-tied the tender and weighed anchor, which came up with a couple hundred pounds of weeds still attached. We plowed our way through yet more weeds to the pumpout dock, and after pumping out we brought the tender around to the anchor to dislodge the rest of the weeds. One of the members came over to take a photo of the impressive vegetation; I forgot to snap one myself in the heat of battle.

We dock port-side-to for pumping out, which meant we could not hoist the tender until back out in the harbor. Once the tender was on deck we motored out into the lake. We did not encounter the full force of the lake conditions until we rounded Dunkirk Light; once out in them, we decided to press ahead to Barcelona.

Closer view of Vector and the sunset.

Update: we are on a "lunch hook" east of the Barcelona breakwaters (map). The harbor quickly became too shallow after we entered, and we came back here to anchor. The bottom here is rock, unsuitable for anchoring overnight, so we splashed the tender and I sounded out the harbor, the pier, and the breakwater itself, which has some cleats. We're still noodling through our options, but in the meantime, Louise is taking a rest after a poor night of sleep and an exhausting day.

Update 2: OK, while I was still organizing photos, we made the decision to come around inside the mouth of the harbor, and tie up to the inside of the east breakwater (map - select satellite view to see the breakwater). We're using one of the cleats and a couple of "pins" consisting of 2" pipe with caps. We'll likely tender in to the pier later and walk to one of the two joints in town for dinner.

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