Monday, January 3, 2011

Taming the Wild Electric Motor

Desert islands are nice . . .
but the engine room is MY
native habitat
When your desert isle has no
dock, you need a dinghy

From Tierra Verde (South of Saint Petersburg) we continued south on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. 

Along the way we ventured "outside" briefly, in the "big waters" of the Gulf, to go take a walk on a deserted beach at Egmont Key.  Now usually, the Crew is the cautious half of the expedition. But this time it was the Crew's adventurous idea to make this outside run.

Despite the non-alarming weather forecast, the waves were, um, a pretty good size, so we used our diesel engine, which has a little more "oomph," rather than our electric motor for the trip to this island wildlife refuge.

The expedition is recorded in a Facebook photo album (to see it, click here.) At the end of the day, safely back on the Intracoastal, Dragonfly nearly ran aground on some shoals (useful boating tip: "Don't drive where the birds are wading!") but at last anchored safely off Longboat Key (just north of Sarasota).   As we made our second dinghy run of the day, to the appealing little beach bar on shore, an unusual watercraft hove into sight.  It was our dinghy's sophisticated city cousin, a sleek and elegant scull.

We said hello to the guy at the oars, who said gratifyingly nice things about our oft-maligned dinghy.  A fellow rowing enthusiast! And he was headed to the same bar!

We learned that Urs Wunderli is not just a rowing enthusiast, he is a rowing ambassador. His company imports a variety of very gorgeous oared craft from France and Switzerland to the United States--AND he  spreads the gospel by teaching rowing in the Sarasota area, which is fast becoming a national rowing destination.  We knew we'd found a total kindred spirit when Urs told us he carries his 16-foot racing shell atop his Mini-Cooper--just like we carry our 20-foot Adirondack wherry on our microscopic Honda Fit. 

Back on the boat, the Cap'n donned a head lamp and headed down into the engine room. Loud noises ensued.
REAL marine diesel mechanics aren't scared of no grease!

At dawn he was back at it.  Finally he emerged, greasy and triumphant, to report that he had successfully changed out the gear that lets the electric motor interface with the propellor shaft. The original small gear had been superceded by a slightly larger gear.

Our AGNI electric motor has performed flawlessly for seven months now--a device the size of a dinner plate, propelling 14 tons of steel.  But the interface with the prop shaft hasn't been perfect.  Sometimes, when you'd shift into reverse, you'd get a dull "CLUNK," then frightening grinding sounds--metal on metal.  Same if you tried to accelerate really fast.

Cap figured out, the gear on the motor was so small, the teeth weren't getting a proper grip on the matching prop-shaft gear. He'd been carrying along a slightly larger gear, and he finally decided, "Now is the time to install it." 

The original gear was trashed in the removal process, so this new gear had better work, eh? (No pressure, Cap!)  Will report back! 

Is the Crew worried about the state of the motor?  Heck no.  She's secure in the knowledge that, in case of emergency, we can just run a line to Dragonfly from the trusty dinghy and take her in tow.

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