October 23

So, we are getting a lot done around here and we think we will stay here for 2 or 3 weeks, perhaps 4. We have several projects in progress using local trades people and we are optimistic we will have them all tackled within that time. First, we had a guy come and pull out our generator alternator (our set is a 6hp Kubota diesel with a belt driven Markon AC alternator – basically a huge alternator which puts out 120v/60hz AC power). The alternator stopped putting out power about a week after we left NZ last May. The engine still runs sweetly. The guy found that the shaft nut was loose and the whole thing had been vibrating like crazy until it scored the inside of the case and ripped out one of the (important) wires. He reports today that the front bearing is shot, the shaft is scored and needs replacing and the case has a groove dug in it where the stator was vibrating against it. He also reports that the windings check out and are fine. He is investigating the availability of a new case and shaft. Bearings will not be a problem assuming the rest can be dealt with. Worst case the alternator will have to be replaced. He will also investigate what the cost is to replace it and we will decide what to do when all that info is in.  

Next we had another fellow come take a look at our bow thruster which has been working intermittently of late. He immediately found the entire motor (electric) was loose and that the bolts which hold it down won’t tighten when turned. This morning he spoke with the manufacturer (in Seattle ) and the news sounds good. He was told that this problem has been seen many times before and that it is the result of improper torquing of the bolts during initial installation. He was also told that the installation instructions say that you must use Loctite to secure the bolts and that this usually happens when that instruction is ignored. Knowing the chap who put the thing in (no names, please) I can easily imagine this being the case. Apparently the bolts screw into a threaded plate which sits under the motor and it has slipped down so the bolts no longer grab the threads.  

On to the next project – yesterday we had a mechanic in here who specializes in engines and related gear and I described to him several problems we need addressed. He seemed very intelligent and quick and I have great confidence that he can do the job. First we need to replace the seals on our dripless stuffing box. When we were in Fiji this season and the transmission was removed the shaft was allowed to lie at rest dropping down. This, apparently, put great pressure on the oil seals in the stuffing box and distorted them. This stuffing box is oil-filled (made by Norscott) and has a nipple on it connected to a hose which leads to a reservoir filled with oil (transmission oil). Formerly it would drip oil out the back seal very slightly so that a pint of oil would last about a month. Since the transmission debacle in Fiji we go through a pint and a half in one day sailing or motoring. New seals are being sent from the US which fit this beast. In order to replace the seals, the shaft has to be removed from the boat which means we have to be out of the water.  

Second, we want to fit a device between the shaft and the transmission sometimes called a flexible coupling. This is a rubberized plastic donut shaped device which absorbs shock, lessens vibration and allows slight intolerances in the alignment which would otherwise cause problems with the transmission. It is highly possible that the original problem with the transmission was caused by the engine being out of alignment. This device might have prevented that damage. In order to accommodate the flexible coupling, the shaft will have to be shortened a bit (perhaps 1.5 inches or so) at the transmission end.  

Third, since we have a fixed blade prop (as opposed to a feathering blade prop) and the hydraulic transmission cannot be locked in place by putting it in gear (since there is no pressure when the engine is off, putting it in gear does nothing) the prop, shaft and gearbox freewheel when we are sailing. This is another thing which may have contributed to the demise of our transmission and stopping the shaft from spinning can only help to reduce wear and tear on the parts when sailing. To solve this problem we will install a shaft brake or shaft lock device which is essentially a disc brake on the shaft. A disc is attached around the shaft and a caliper is attached to the boat which sits over the disc. When the engine is running pressure from the transmission oil opens the caliper allowing the shaft to spin. When the engine is off the caliper closes and locks the shaft in place.  

Finally, once all of this is done and everything is back together, the engine will be re-aligned using a dial gauge to very close tolerances and we will be back in business better then ever.  

Today we ordered 4 new 8D house batteries to replace the ones we put in the boat three years ago. These batteries were supposed to give about 5 years of service but have prematurely lost their ability to maintain a charge. They are at about 50% of original capacity now and one of them has been completely bypassed as it shorted out in July while we were in Fiji – so we have been running on only 3 batteries since then. From speaking with people in the battery field I have concluded the problem is related to temperature. It seems that AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) batteries have a much lower tolerance to heat then traditional flooded or gel cells. As our batteries are mounted right next to the engine (the engine exhaust hose passes right in front of the battery stack) there is no question the 68F temp has been exceeded regularly. We are going with Gel batteries this time and I have been advised that they can handle the higher temperatures they will be exposed to. The new batteries should arrive in 3 or 4 working days. Installing them and removing the old ones will not be a simple matter however. And of course, during that time we will be completely without power. So we will probably wait till the boat is hauled out. We may have to spend a few days at a motel/hotel while we have no power. We may even stay at a hotel for the duration while the boat is out of the water.  

Last, but not least, we plan to paint the bottom with new anti-fouling paint. We are going to do this ourselves this time as it is not so hard and it wouldn’t hurt to save a few bucks.

So, everything, as I said above, is coming together nicely. Bundaberg seems like a good place to do this kind of work and it will certainly be nice to know all the hard stuff is done before we head down the coast to Mooloolaba for the rest of the season.