Wednesday, March 01, 2017

On To Aqua Verde - problems!

[Kyle]As soon as the anchor was up, I put the port engine in reverse and the starboard in forward to pivot us around in place until we were facing out. When I then went to put the port engine into forward to leave, it wouldn’t go into gear. We didn’t have enough speed to have any rudder authority, so Begonia started turning left and headed for the wall. Yikes!

I took the engine out of gear and let the wind blow us sideways into deep water, alternating forward and reverse on the starboard engine to keep us centered between the cliffs. Once we had some manoeuvring room, we got Begonia on course and headed out on one engine. Maryanne took over the sailing and navigation and I went down to see what was wrong.

My initial theory was that our shifter cable or possibly some component on either end had worked its way out of adjustment. I spent the whole sail going back and forth between the engine compartment and the throttle quadrant disconnecting, adjusting and then reconnecting things. Each time, the problem reoccurred. Maryanne tells me it was a lovely sail, but I didn’t see any of it. I was frantically trying to get the thing fixed before we got to our next anchorage so that we could manoeuvre normally.

It didn’t work. By comparing it with the other transmission, I eventually figured out that the shifter arm had too much play in it because of something inside the transmission. I could shift into forward, neutral and reverse by moving the lever on the actual transmission, but no amount of cable adjustment was going to give us enough throw to control it from the helm.

Transmission fun?

{Maryanne: Kyle loves sailing so much and he looks quite forlorn if I sit at the helm for too long. For day sailing, we can both be awake and enjoy the day of sailing and views together. He’s happy to let me be in charge if he nips to the bathroom, or goes to check on something, but within a couple of minutes of returning to the cockpit, he can hardly disguise his yearning to be back at the wheel. It was quite the thing that I was left to manage the boat for so long as he was stuck with his head in various compartments trying to resolve our issue}

We came up with a plan for anchoring: We would take the port engine out of gear before entering the anchorage, come in slowly on one engine, pick a spot far enough away from everybody to allow for our limited maneuverability and drop the anchor there. We would let the wind back us down and when all of the rode was out, we’d go down and shift the engine into reverse so that we could pull straight back to set the anchor with both. If the anchorage wasn’t big enough or was full, we’d go somewhere else.

On passage and finally at Aqua Verde

Our anchorage at Agua Verde had four boats in it, but there was enough space for us, so we set the anchor in the deep water behind them. There was a cross swell coming around the point, which we were exposed to, so we were destined to roll around all night. I was coveting the shallow spot ahead of everyone in the flat water, but I wasn’t comfortable that we’d be able to maneuver precisely enough to get to it, so we resigned ourselves to the motion. To add insult to injury, another catamaran came in after us and set their anchor in that very spot. They looked so comfortable…

With the anchor down, I set to climbing the learning curve of a new skill: transmission repair. I was more than a little nervous. I once knew a brilliant machinist and mechanic who wouldn’t touch transmissions because, as he said, “There’s so many little parts in those things that you can never put ‘em back together right.”

Great! I figured I’d start small. I removed the bolts on the cover. It didn’t come off. I hit the cover with a rubber mallet. It budged, but didn’t come off. I worked it back and forth, hit it with the mallet and worked it some more and, finally, it came off. To my immense relief, no little springs or gears came zinging out at supersonic speed to ricochet off the ceiling and walls before disappearing into some impenetrable crevice under the engine. Actually, these transmissions are pretty simple. There is one forward and one reverse gear. The whole thing looked straightforward and manageable. After a few minutes of peering into the thing, I felt like I had a pretty good idea how it worked.

I moved the shift lever back and forth and was able to see the problem: A taper pin that connected the lever to the rest of the shift mechanism had worked its way loose and elongated its hole. I removed it and was able to replace it with a stainless machine screw that tightened things up considerably, but still didn’t remove all of the play. After a few cycles of taking the whole thing apart, adjusting everything, putting it all back together and then running the engine to test the repair, we finally had to come to the conclusion that we were in the same position: We would not be able to shift the port transmission from the helm until we got new parts, which I feel comfortable installing. That would likely not be until we get to La Paz. We would have to use our new anchoring procedure for the dozen or so anchorages between Agua Verde and there.

At the end of the long day, I wearily sat down to dinner and realized that I’d had exactly zero fun. At least we knew what we were dealing with now, so I could stop spending brain power worrying about it.


Chris French said...

Surprising timing but we had the exact same problem in February. I ended up replacing a number of parts for our repair but the taper pin was the only actual failure.

SV-Footprint said...

Chris - YES - it turned out our diagnosis was a little early - all done by feel. Once we had the parts and removed the relevant bits of the transmission - it WAS only the taper pin (which we swapped out for a screw/bolt - so now all is fixed.. All those parts purchased were for zip! Glad to hear you are all fixed too.