June 8

Today is Saturday and I am sick as a dog. We all seem to have the same upper respiratory problems, Jonah having begun the symptoms first of course, several weeks ago in fact: coughing, sore throat, stuffed head, achy feeling in general, etc. Basic flu like symptoms. Yesterday the engineer from Suva (who worked on our transmission last week when we were in Suva) came and removed the transmission. Nalin is a very nice guy, of Indian heritage, and educated in Vancouver since he was 17. As such he speaks not only excellent English, but American/Canadian English not Aussie/Kiwi English which is the dominant variety around here.

Anyway, he arrived at 7am yesterday which itself was a shock since Suva is a 3 hour drive. He says he left at 4am. I was impressed. We discussed the situation and he got to work removing the transmission. He removed the reduction housing first, which is the only part he removed in Suva to change the oil seals and bearings. Another thing they did in Suva last week was to build up the shaft in the reduction housing which holds the shaft coupling to the reduction housing. The threads had stripped and they re-cut it with new threads after building it up and replaced the nut, which had been worn and distended.

But he didn't remove the entire transmission because it is very very difficult and I was told by several people that if the problem was simply he oil seal (at the aft end of the reduction housing) then it could be fixed without removing the transmission. I asked Nalin about this and he said yes, it would be easier and did not really try to dissuade me from that approach. Now his boss is telling me this was a bad decision on my part and that whatever caused the coupling shaft to come loose it was certainly NOT the way it was reassembled or reinstalled. He says the problem is probably either in the main part of the transmission (which we never removed) or is a slightly bent prop shaft.

Now the thing is when I ask Nalin about this he cannot seem to give any THEORY or potential explanation of what type of damage in the main gearbox could have caused this problem, TWICE now. He thinks it is the shaft of course. Neither Nalin nor his boss were willing to allow, even slightly, that it MIGHT be that the unit was not re-assembled properly. This caused the boss and I to exchange some less then friendly words on the phone, but Nalin keeps his cool and I believe he will not B.S. me. The thing is I have no way of knowing what really caused it. One possible salient fact I have not mentioned so far is that we found one of the four coupling bolts in the bilge after the noise started. There are supposed to be four bolts holding the prop shaft to the transmission. Why one of them fell off I cannot say, but the man who attached those bolts, and his boss, don't seem to think the loss of one of them could be a contributing factor. I just don't know, but it seems an odd coincidence.

The way it stands now is that the transmission is back in Suva now and they will take it apart, examine it carefully, try to determine if there is any possible way that some parts (which are presumably out of tolerance or in some other way damaged or deformed) in the gearbox have managed to cause the shaft coupling to come loose from the reduction housing. Like I said, I don't see how this is possible as the two sections of the transmission are totally separate - I just don't see how it can happen. But as the boss pointed out to me I have already admitted I don't know anything about transmissions!

I have agreed to wait for their analysis on Monday and if they cannot explain the damage after examining the transmission I will have the boat hauled out of the water so we can remove the prop shaft and have it checked out. If it is not straight they should be able to fix it on a lathe. If it IS straight, I don't know what to do because then we have no clear explanation of why the coupling failed. But as I said, certainly an obvious possibility is that it was simply not re-assembled properly, a supposition the engineers will not even acknowledge as a possibility. Of course, if it is straight then we will have wasted a nice sum of money, perhaps about US$1,500. Not to mention we have to empty out our freezer full of meat because once the boat is out of the water the freezer will not operate (we have a space in a shore-based freezer lined up already). Next we have to check into the hotel next door as the other thing which won't work when the boat is on the water are the toilets, and I simply cannot sleep somewhere without a toilet, especially when that toilet is at the bottom of a rickety ladder and it is 3am! Anyway, we should know more on Monday afternoon.