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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1/25/2011 - Catching up

It's been 4 days since I updated this blog. So, what's been going on that's kept me so busy? Actually, most time that I don't update the blog it has less to do with being busy than it has to do with not having anything blog-worthy to write about. However, if I wait few days, while I still may not have anything particularly interesting to say, at least I'll have more of it

Restaurant customer #1: "Geez! The food here is just awful!"
Restaurant customer #2: "Yeah, and such small servings."

So, last time I wrote I was suspended between a mooring ball and my secondary anchor, and my transmission, although back on board with a new seal, had not yet been installed. That was early in the morning on Friday, January 21st.

Friday, January 21st: It took me the better part of the middle of the day but I eventually got the transmission reinstalled and tested. The only place I feared a leak, did, indeed, leak. The transmission bolts directly to the bell housing on the engine. There is no gasket between these surfaces. They are machined faces that, I guess, are just supposed to mate together seamlessly. Well, okay, but...
Against my better judgement, I put the transmission back together without making any kind of gasket. If that's the way Westerbeke thinks it should be done, who am I to question it? I was having a bit of a time trying to get the driven shaft in the transmission mated up with the engine so that the whole thing would slide together. I had the two faces close enough to get the 10 bolts started so I figured I'd just use those to pull the two together. Things were going okay until I was almost done and then the gears bound up so that I couldn't turn the shaft in neutral, nor could I operate the Fwd-N-Rev lever. So, I backed the bolts out and decided to try again. At this point I'm thinking, "y'know, if I have to remove the transmission again anyway, why don't I just put a bead of Permatex Form-A-Gasket on the face? Just in case". I even happened to actually have some Permatex on board. But, as I was pulling the transmission back, something kind of clicked into place. I then tried sliding it forward towards the engine and it slid all the way home slicker'n snot. If you've ever installed an air-cooled VW engine onto it's transaxle, you know the feeling. You fight with it and fight with it and then suddenly, for no really apparent reason, it just slides home with barely a push. Such a nice feeling. And, if you think that I'm going to take the transmission back off after that, just to put some goop on that is, after all, optional, think again, mister.

So, I got her back together and all bolted up. Before connecting the prop shaft back up, I fired up the engine and let her run awhile. Tried shifting from neutral to forward to neutral to reverse to neutral, etc. Everything was going fine. Didn't see any oil getting past the new seal, either. Shut her down and reconnected the prop shaft. Now I know I'm supposed to go through a whole alignment procedure when I do this but I didn't. The first reason was that I hadn't moved the engine a single micron and, since things seemed to be aligned just fine before (I assumed), they're probably equally well-aligned now. I know it's not great reasoning but still, that's what I told myself. The second reason I didn't do the alignment is that I have what's called a "shaft saver" between my transmission flange and my propshaft flange. This is simply a non-metallic (rubber or something very much like it) donut that's designed to a.) reduce some of the vibration, and b.) shear apart in case something stops the prop. In this capacity it's kind of like a fuse. It sacrifices it's life to save your engine and transmission. The reason this makes it hard to do an alignment is that, during the alignment you have to remove the shaft saver. If I do that, I can't bring my propshaft forward far enough to meet the transmission so that I can check the alignment of the flanges. What you're supposed to do in this case is have a special metal insert that replaces the shaft saver during alignments. I don't have one. How about just doing the alignment with the shaft saver in place? Well, first, that would be wrong. But wrongness aside, since the first step in the alignment is to lay a straight edge across the edges of the transmission flange and the propshaft flange to check for bore alignment, both flanges must be exactly the same diameter. Unfortunately for me, my shaft saver is bigger around than either of them and sits smack dab between 'em. So, can you see why I skipped the alignment step and banked on "everything being OK now because it was before"?

After I shut the engine down, I felt under the transmission to see if the seam between the tranny and the bell housing was leaking. Yes, it was definitely oily down there. Crappage!

Although I need to get over to town and find some new fine-threaded coupling bolts, for now I just reattached the shaft coupling flange using the old bolts, including the one I boogered up with the chisel. By now it was getting on towards evening so I knocked off.

Oh, and by the way, while running the engine I found that my raw water pump is leaking. It has 2 seals, one to keep the sea water from leaking out of the volute and another to keep lube oil from leaking out past the shaft. There's an air gap between so that, should the water seal leak, the water will just drain into the bilge rather than possibly getting past the oil seal and, thence, into the engine. I plan to buy a replacement water pump and then rebuild this one as a spare. Any guesses what the water pump is going to run? Anyone? How about in excess of US$525.00. And that's in the States and w/o shipping. No telling what it's going to set us back here. But, replacing the engine would be in excess of US$8000.00, so I guess this has to be looked at as insurance. Not cheap insurance, but insurance nevertheless.

Saturday, January 22: First item of business today was to move the boat off the mooring ball and get her back on the Rocna anchor again. I must say that the Bruce anchor with it's 50' of 3/8" chain and 40' of 5/8" nylon rode held the boat in position tenaciously. But, I'll still feel better back on the Rocna with all chain.

While warming up the engine, I stowed all the various crap I have on deck so I'd have an unobstructed path to the foredeck. Then I got down in the dingy and untied both my lines from the mooring ball. I was just emerging from the cabin with my lifejacket (just in case) when Lee stopped by. He was kayaking over to El Mogote to see what was going on and stopped by to see how I was doing. He offered to help with my reanchoring and I said, "you bet I'd like a hand." Wasn't much to it. Just motor slowly forward while retrieving the Bruce anchor, then move to the chosen spot, drop the Rocna and start backing up. Once the Rocna bites into the bottom, increase the reverse RPMs a bit to see if it's truly dug in. If we're not going anywhere, increase the revs some more. Repeat until you're dead sure that the anchor is holding you tightly in place. Once it was, I thanked Lee for his help and he paddled off to El Mogote.

So, I'm sitting there, looking around and pondering the situation. I finally decided that I really didn't like my new spot very well. While I don't think I was actually in the main channel, I was pretty darn close to it. And while I was far enough away from the municipal pier for boats docking there to maneuver, I could definitely stand to be a little further away. I knew these things would work to keep me awake at night so I moved the boat again. Not far, but far enough to give me a little peace of mind.

Once things were secured again, I stuck my head in the engine compartment to turn the raw water off (don't need the leaky pump seal filling the bilge) and noticed an unwelcome pair of streaks on the deck aft of the transmission. The seal had failed. We have had some vibration when the engine is put in gear and the RPMs are low. This has been going on for quite awhile. I had attributed it to the idle speed on the engine being too low, and, indeed it is lower now than it was when I set it in Newport several eons ago. Now, though, I'm putting 2 and 2 together and thinking that maybe, the vibration and the leaking seal are connected. Let's see now, how many years did I work with motors and pumps that were connected together via shafts, gearboxes, etc.? What a dope! So the question now is, what's causing the vibration? Misalignment? Maybe although it started long before the transmission was ever removed. Bent shaft? Geez! I hope not. Can't think of anything that's happened since we've owned the boat that would have bent the shaft. Some unbalanced component? Unlikely since everything's the same as it always was and I don't see any chunks of metal missing from anything. Bad transmission output bearings? Now that's a possibility. There might have been a teeny little bit of play in the output shaft when I took the transmission out. But it wasn't enough to amount to anything, right?

You say you worked with pumps and motors for how long again?

When Kenny returned my transmission the other day after replacing the seal, he pointed out how the shaft didn't wiggle anymore and he was right, it didn't wiggle. But that means that he noted that it had wiggled before. So, even he noticed it. Oh well, of the various things that could cause the vibration, bad bearings in the tranny is the easiest to fix.

But here's the weird part (although it probably won't seem weird at all once the cause is figured out). Check out this photo:

Let's get oriented. At the bottom of the photo is the back end of the transmission case. Then you can see a tiny little length of output shaft and then the flange (shiny piece with 3 hex head nuts showing). The red circular thing is the shaft saver and then the "once was blue" piece is the propshaft flange and then the propshaft itself. The seal that was replaced is in the transmission. Any oil leaking past it should be flung out between the transmission case and the output shaft flange. But it's not. The streaks show that the leaking oil is surfacing between the aft side of the shaft saver and the face of the propshaft flange. And, indeed, I found oil dripping off the end of the transmission output shaft when I removed the shaft saver. I'm not even sure how that's possible.

Anyway, after I closed the engine compartment up so I wouldn't have to tax my brain thinking about this mystery, I headed ashore to get a few supplies, fill my gas cans, and take a much-needed shower.

Sunday, January 23rd: A guy can only do mechanic work for just so long before he needs a break. So I declared today "Ropeyarn Sunday". This is an old Navy term. I'm not sure Ropeyarn Sunday necessarily happened on Sunday but I think it mostly did. This was a day when sailors weren't required to do "real" work but weren't supposed to just sit idle either. This was the day that one would do his laundry and mend his clothes. I took the meaning a little further and made this the day to clean up all the untidy rope ends that I saw all over the boat. The worst was the 3-strand nylon line I used as an anchor snubber. I had never seized the end of that one at all, not even with electrician's tape. And it was downright "embaraskin" to have on board. So I gathered up all the lines I could find on deck that had untidy ends, put some music on, and sat down in the cockpit with my needle, palm, thread and knife. Within a couple hours things were looking much tidier.

There are probably still plenty of lines hanging in the lazarette that need tending to but I'll save them for another ropeyarn Sunday someday.

Monday, January 24th: Today I didn't do jack as I woke up feeling crappy and pretty much felt crappy all day. Finally started feeling a little better by evening. I basically spent the whole day in bed reading.

Tuesday (today), January 25th: Woke up feeling much better. After breakfast I decided to see if I could narrow down what the likely cause of the driveline vibration is. The final verdict is that, while not completely sure, I'm pretty sure it's a bad bearing(s) in the transmission. The little bit of play is definitely there. Now I have to decide how I want to handle it. I could remove the tranny again and take it in to get fixed. That would, once again, leave me at anchor without a motor. I also need to get and install the new water pump which will also put the engine out of commission for a short time. A short time, that is, if nothing goes wrong. Right now, I'm thinking that the best move would be to order and get the water pump and then have the boat hauled while I install the water pump and have the transmission rebuilt. In the meantime, we can put together a list of various other projects that are more easily accomplished in the yard so we can make the best use of our time. Probably wouldn't hurt to put on some new bottom paint. And I have a couple of thru-hulls in the head that are no longer in use and I'd like to have removed and the holes glassed over. This could probably take us through February and then we could splash back down in March, enjoy (or at least experience) Carneval, and then start island-hopping our way north into the Sea. Yeah, that sounds like a good plan. Wonder what's wrong with it.


Beverly said...

I sure am glad you know your motors and stuff. I would be panicking!!! Listen...at the home show last weekend, I got a roll of fix-it tape..can't remember what it's called, but it has been advertised on tv and it is for repairing stuff that needs to be wrapped. It is waterproof, not bothered by oil and dirt and fuses to itself as you stretch and wrap it. I got 3 for 2 so thought you might like a roll. What address would I use to send to you? Email me, ok? You have your choice of black, clear or red. Dad and I will use whatever color you don't want.

WOA said...

Are you sure the new engine wouldn't be cheaper in the long run?

Steve and Lulu said...


Thanks but you can hang on to the tape. We have several rolls we bought at a boat show. It's great stuff.


Bite your tongue! Other than the price of many of the parts, we love our little Westerbeke 30B-Three. And I think we're just going to rebuild the water pump to the tune of around $145.00. The kit includes everything except the pump casing itself. Decided that this carrying spares obsession can get a little out of hand and WAY too expensive. After all, the pump's 20 years old and the only thing it does wrong is leak a little water. As far as the transmission seal, that could happen on a new engine just as easily.

Let's see, "WOA", hmmm... this wouldn't be someone who makes part of his living installing new Beta engines in Westsails would it?


James said...

Hey Guys, been catching up on your blog and loving it. I relate to (and hate) that feeling of sitting up in the dark and wondering if your anchor is sliding along the bottom. My crazy mind in the middle of the night seeing things closer and farther away and wondering if it is just me or the anchor. I can never really relax while at anchor but that's not totally true as the boat I've always been on has belonged to someone other than me!! The idea of being down in the bilge working on a transmission all day kinda sounds horrible but sounds like you have a great attitude about it all. I remember working on my broken down bike all day once in Bangkok and actually really enjoyed the relaxation of not being able to go anywhere at that time...but I wasn't in a bilge either! My last comment has to do with your bragging...and I quote..."my shaft saver is bigger around than either of them"...are you trying to make the rest of us feel bad?

Steve and Lulu said...

-Working on the transmission "in the bilge" is something of a misrepresentation on this boat since the entire cockpit floor is open while I'm working, making it a very open-air bilge. Could be much, much worse.
-Usually we are both quite relaxed at anchor, but, as you say, in the middle of the night sometimes the mind goes crazy imagining the worst.
-Regarding the size of my shaft saver: keep telling yourself "size doesn't matter, size doesn't matter, size doesn't matter...." It's probably not true but it might make you feel better to think it is.