July 19

Today is Friday the 19th (in Fiji - it may be Thursday the 18th as I write this for many of you) and we are anchored at Mana Island in the Mamanuthas, Fiji. Mana is a lovely island with great beaches and a fully enclosing reef, though it is not an atoll in the true sense from what I can see. The anchorage therefore is flat calm and thus is very comfortable.

The island is inhabited by a village which occupies one part of the Southern shore and a resort called, appropriately, Mana Island Resort. The Resort is small but spread out and occupies is made up of about 75 two and three bedroom cottages (with decent spacing between them) a dozen luxury cottages (Bures) on the water at the far end of the beach and two restaurants, a pool and a pier where the ferry docks. The ferry is a high speed catamaran and shuttles workers, guests, and day trippers between the different Mamanuthas. Many of the islands in this group are either completely dominated by one or more resort or are exclusively owned by one resort. The Beachcomber (Elevuka Island) and Treasure Island Resort (Etai Island) each occupy their own islands as do several others.

Some islands are home to two resorts - Malololailai is home to Musket Cove Resort and Yacht Club and the Plantation Island Resort (which is not on an island called "Plantation") Musket Cove is one of the favorite spots for cruising yachts in Fiji, and it is indeed a friendly place with a nice little store, and fast ferry service to the mainland (Port Denerau - a complex of several hotels and a marina just South of Nandi). And both resorts (Musket and Plantation) welcome yachties to use the pool, facilities, etc. Musket cove even has a "Yacht Club" which issues memberships for $1to any foreign flagged yacht (which arrived in the country under its own locomotion - vessels arriving in container ships do not qualify!).

Meanwhile, the transmission saga continues, yes, we had hoped it was finished, but alas... However, I can report that we are finally convinced it is fixed and are confident our tranny troubles will be behind us (ahem). The thing is, when we left the marina on Monday I had a serious doubt building in my mind about the alignment (the engine and gearbox have to be properly aligned with the prop shaft). When we got to Navadra, after about five hours motoring, I had by then developed serious concerns and I had several points of evidence to support my suspicion.

First, the engine sound was different, though I knew what caused the change. Second, the installer radically changed the position of the engine by jacking up the front about 2 inches more then it used to be. I didn't question it at the time because had little confidence that I knew what I was doing and assumed the bozo I was paying knew more. Always a big mistake, but a pit I fall for every time. The change in sound was caused by the port side alternator (which is bolted to the engine of course) having been moved too high so that it no longer rubbed against the engine box wall the same way as before (we had to cut a section of insulation out when we first installed the alternator to make room for it in the very tight space of the engine box - when he jacked up the engine the alternator was no longer centered in this "hole" but instead was pushing at the top of it). This caused the change in sound, and I can report now that having re-aligned the engine today it is back to making the same sound as before (which is a slight squeaky, hissing noise coming from the spinning alternator being pressed up close to the insulation).

The final and most damning clue was the missing fluid from the reservoir for our shaft seal (stuffing box). The shaft seal on our boat is an oil filled tube with lip seals at each end (the stuffing box is used to prevent water leaking into the boat where the prop shaft exits through a big hole in the boat - the seal keeps water from entering around the edges of the shaft where it fits in the hole). Anyway, the seal is oil filled, like I said, and has a nipple on top to which a rubber hose connects it to a reservoir (app. 1 pint) which sits above it where we can easily see it and re-fill it. The reservoir normally seeps a small bit of oil (into the sea) over time and we normally have to refill it every 2 months or so. When we arrived at Navadra I noticed it was (almost) empty. This can be caused by the shaft not going down the middle of the seal in a straight line.

The problem, by the way, of having a misaligned shaft are serious. Damage to the stuffing box, cutlass bearing (a bearing on the end of the prop shaft just behind the stuffing box) and the transmission itself will all occur sooner or later if an engine is allowed to turn while not aligned. So I knew it was not aligned properly and decided that I had no choice but to try to fix it myself. But first we had to leave Navadra as the anchorage was getting more and more roly that the idea of working on the engine - especially of something as tricky as this was unthinkable.

So, we get to Mana yesterday afternoon (and scraped the keel on a nice big coral head, another story) and we find our friends Brian and June on "Daruma". Brian works at the Tauranga Bridge Marina where we stayed last summer in New Zealand. Brian is also the fellow who flew up to meet us with our friend Anders (S/V Scafhogg) after our collision near Great Barrier Island (see Dec. 3rd-5th 2001) even though we had never met. Fortunately Brian has a lot of experience with boats including experience aligning engines. He spent about 4 hours with me this morning and we completely got it nailed now.

And, of course, it was a damn good thing I addressed the issue because it was so bad that damage would have begun to occur within ours if we had continued to use it the way it was. First off, it was WAY out of alignment. The back of the engine seemed to have shifted to one side and you could see a huge gap in the coupling on one side while the other side was so tight there was no gap at all.

Then we discovered the bozo had not even tightened the mounting bolts. No joke - the aft mounting bolts were completely loose, both the vertical and the horizontal adjustments (allen set screws) were loose. So of course the engine had been sliding about back there probably since we left Vunda Pt. Amazing. We had to put a block and tackle on the back of the engine and haul it over to starboard to get it lined up properly, after we lowered the fwd, port corner of course back its normal height. We then bolted everything down tight and checked it again and it is spot on!

We bought June and Brian lunch with plenty of drinks and have been relaxing for the rest of the afternoon. Kate and I are still discussing what we will do next, we will probably leave tomorrow and head back North to the Yasawas. There is reported to be a lovely spot where Manta Rays congregate, I think off Naviti, and then there is the "Blue Lagoon" at Nanuya-I-Sawa where both the original (Gene Simmons) and the remake (Brooke Shields) movies of the same name were filmed. By tomorrow, after we have motored a few hours, we will know for sure if everything is kosher with the tranny.