Felix at Spanish Wells – Day 4

S/V Felix @ Tarpum Settlement Bay (24º58’4 N, 76º11’3 W) December 1, 2014 2300 Hrs

These past days have been a bit rough and busy so couldn’t take the time to write. A lot has been done but one thing is for sure: Felix will be delivered better than it was before. Here’s a report on November 29, which was WAY LESS fun n’ games than November 28. Well, at least for Capt. Kevin and Gesa.

Mission: Saildrive Seal Replacement!!!!!!!

This was the largest work we’ve done on Felix so far, and probably the one anyone has ever done on this boat while on anchor. The seal came in from Nassau (12 dollar seal dragged over a 60-dollar cab ride and then a 7-dollar ferry ride). Capt Kevin was stoked to have it!

happy camper

First thing we did was clean out the engine room for the big operation. It was… gnarly in there. Thankfully I became skilled in cleaning out engine rooms (and bilges, and heads) during my time on FatBoy under Captain Nuno. Thanks dad!

all you see in this bucket came from behind those seemingly harmless hoses

While I was cleaning, Gesa and Capt. went to shore to get some stuff that we needed for the operation. All of it was borrowed / taken from R&B’s:

– A come-a-long (a power/cable puller tool) to lift up the engine – Yes, we lifted that baby up!
– A big wooden bar to tie up the come-a-long to. That would be the base to sustain all the engine weight
– Wooden Planks and wedges to make sure there would be no wobbling and damaging of the engine (we were doing all this while anchored after all)
– Cardboard to serve as gel coat protection, carpet for all the tools, as well as cushion our knees and feet while down in the engine room

We are not using the outboard engine, only the oars on the dinghy. The current and wind are strong but the way to shore is short, so it’s usually not a problem to row. But as they were returning to the boat, with all the above-mentioned stuff loaded onto the dinghy, Gesa decided to do the rowing. Wrong timing!

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the boat is over here gesita!!

(I also have a 2 minute video starting on this moment until she made it to the boat but it’s too large to send)

Once they finally made it to the boat, we protected the critical areas and started setting up the come-a-long structure that would life up our engine

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Tying the come-a-long to the wooden plank

The line used to lift up the dinghy turned out to be quite useful in lifting up the engine

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Meanwhile, Gesa prepared a killer brunch
After eating, we finally got down to it: an hour of unscrewing engine mounts, unhooking the exhaust, taking away other hoses, etc.

Gesa drew and took some artistic-looking photos
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I was keeping screws and washers inside this beautiful afro mane I’m growing:




After a little tugging, we got the engine separated from the saildrive. We tried to pry off the center housing of the SD seal without having to touch the bell housing (upper gear housing), but it was impossible in that cramped space. We ended up having to take both the bell housing and the center unit off. This took a bit longer than it should have, because the bell housing just wouldn’t budge and the capt. was concerned there was a hidden bolt we hadn’t taken off. Turned out it was just prying at the right spot first (under it) then taking it out altogether. It was NOT easy, and involved a bit of back-and-forth action between tugging on the engine and googling / messaging friends.

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Used two wooden wedges to separate the two units

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the two center pieces finally out


and there was much rejoicing

We got the old seal out of the center unit with some good prying, and it was time to put on the new seal. Unfortunately the shims that stay in the center unit to prevent play between the moving parts were slightly bent with our efforts to pry the unit off. Capt. Kevin decided to go shore to see if we could fix them up / get some new ones from and old SD-40 unit they had there.

We got there but the SD-40 shims were noticeably thicker than the ones we had, so we decided to stick to the original ones. R&B’s was well equipped of mechanical aids to our quest:

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An anvil + hammer to get those shims back in shape

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A big press to get the new seal in perfectly. We had some trouble at first but Capt. rubbed some oil on the seal and that made it pluck into place nicely. They even had a socket with the exact measure of the seal, which helped a lot.

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done and done

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Old seal didn’t look too bad, but was definitely unusable after we took it off

all this work to replace this tiny little %§@#∞¶¢

Rowed back to the boat, and it was time to reassemble the whole engine together, now with the new seal.

We had used some lines to lift up the saildrive to make it match the engine. First, the center piece:

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Then the bell housing

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and then came the worst / hardest / longest part… pushing the engine and the saildrive back together. Holy COW did that take long.

The objective was to fit this piece inside the central opening of the saildrive. All of the “teeth” had to be matching, otherwise we’d have to turn this piece until it could “slide right in” as the captain put it. Trust me the last thing this bastard did was “slide right in.”

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First try: turning it by hand while lifting the SD by hand:

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Then we used a wrench to rotate the piece from the back of the engine, while trying to “wiggle” both of them together. They laughed at our foolish attempt.

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We tried different elevations on both parts, and were did not get too lucky. At some point I was tucked inside the aft section of the engine room (where we put the oil bottles) with both feet and hands sticking out and pushing, while captain wiggled the saildrive up and down. That didn’t work either.

how’s YOUR Saturday night?

Bit of a frustrating moment indeed. In the midst of fighting against the engine/saildrive, we decided to take a break and share the last beer in the fridge. That Presidente was good but we were both still tense trying to get that thing done…

Last try had captain down in the engine adjusting height and rotation while I lifted up the saildrive and wiggled it carefully to get the right angle.

It looked kind of like this, although this is an earlier photo of us trying that same maneuver unsuccessfully. By the time we got it right, I had already forgotten I had a phone, we were grunting and roaring like neanderthals, and there was a handle made out of cardboard and tape around the rope that I’m holding on the pic.

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When it did work, the thing actually “slid in.” But that was an hour and a half of budging, so I don’t count it as slid “RIGHT” in.

Half an hour more of cleaning up and putting the rest of the engine back together, clamping hoses, screwing exhausts, etc., and we prevailed. When putting the oil back in the saildrive, I made sure to stick to what Kevin’s friend said about these stupid dipsticksL have it TOUCHING the end of the dipstick (we have the short one, which Yanmar released first and did NOT recall), while it’s screwed ALL THE WAY IN. One of my dad’s best friends (and a good friend of mine) Brent “Red Baron” Grimbeek had advised me on the dangers of overfilling that SD before I left on Felix, but we still ended up blowing the seal, as I didn’t realize the oil had to be only touching the very END. This is how much I filled it up afterwards, and have kept it (without leaks!) ever since:

Lighting is bad on the photo but notice the green oil is only reaching the low marking on the stick. This was with the dipstick screwed all the way in. If you just rest it on top, it shouldn’t even touch the oil. Unfortunately MarineTech did not give us that detail in the email they sent – it’s very possible that the mechanic that did the work was not the one answering…

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Anyways, after we cleaned up we had a lovely pasta dinner with some gin & tonic made by Gesa.

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Well earned!

The day ended, and as the crew went to bed, I decided to take the dinghy and go out to check how O.C.C. / On the Beach looks at night… I was tired from all the work but I figured I wouldn’t get another chance as having fixed up Felix 100% meant that we were ready to continue the trip and leave Spanish wells the next morning…. but that’s another story!

Felix out!

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