Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho, to the Engine Room We Go

Florida is the only state in the nation with no snow today.  Good thing, because SlowBoat is still in Fort Myers. And the Captain is still in the engine room.

One of today's projects--new stuffing for the stuffing box.
That keeps the prop from leaking water into the bilges
The issue is engine mounts--the four little devices that keep the diesel engine (a honkin' big heavy chunk of iron) firmly in place.   

Last week, Cap noticed the gears which form the interface between electric motor and prop shaft were out of alignment. 

He also noticed the prop shaft  leaking more water than usual. (It's normal for a little water to come in when the prop turns. But not a lot).  

Cap finally diagnosed the problem as a broken engine mount. Once a mount breaks, the big ol' engine shifts its position, which pulls the prop out of position, and, well, everything's connected!

Safe at the dock in Fort Myers, Cap dropped down into the engine compartment and discovered that two of the flexible engine mounts (not just one) were broken. And a third looked pretty tired.   Apparently, once one engine mount breaks, it doesn’t take long for the others to die.  Kind of like driving on one bad tire--the others also start to wear.

Many phone calls later, Cap had the parts on order, and--anticipating their delivery--was horsing out the many, many large-ish bits of mechanical stuff that must be removed to install new engine mounts (including the electric motor, muffler, and bilge pump).
Close-up.  That little corkscrew tool is for pulling out
the stuffing around the prop. Yup, that's water
rushing in underneath!

Two of the new mounts came yesterday, and Cap put 'em in.  Again it's like tires.  You COULD put the car up on a hoist.  And you COULD hoist the entire engine out.  

BUT, you can also simply jack up the side you are working on.  

Cap used the existing mounts like jacks to lift the engine, and he also got the crew to stand on one corner of the engine to help lever the other side up. (Women don't usually wish they weighed MORE, but in case of field engine repair, a hefty bow bunny is a good thing). 

The UPS man should bring the other two engine mounts today.  Meantime Cap is repacking the stuffing box (on the prop shaft) with new "stuffing," to prevent excess water leaking in.  

Once all four mounts are installed, the real fun begins: The engine has to be aligned with the prop shaft.  A fellow Looper, Mitch from the boat Serenity, dropped by yesterday and said, with wince, "Oh yeah, I've done THAT job.  Took me all day."  

At the marine parts store yesterday, Cap scored the essential tool for engine alignment, something called a "feeler gauge."  It sounds kind of sexy, but actually it's just a set of really, really thin strips of metal--each of a known thickness.  You want the engine plate and coupler to be just close enough that this particular thin strip of metal slides right between them, with no clearance.

If you are wondering why the Cap didn't just let a boat repair shop do this work? well, 1) Having work done on your boat is really, REALLY expensive (why do you think  the crew is encouraging the Cap to pursue a career in marine diesel mechanics? The pay must be great!);  2) One goal of this trip is to learn "How things work," and what better way than doing it yourself?;  3) ignore the cursing you hear down in the engine room. Cap genuinely LIKES this kind of stuff; and 4)  According to the Real Guy Handbook, if yuh let another man work on your boat, he gits to take yer woman.

P.S. If you have been trying to reach the crew by phone, the reason your call is unanswered is that Droid Doesn't.  

The 10 or 12 Verizon tech support folk I have talked to assure me, "It's incredible" that my "Incredible" is on the fritz. Fact:  The darn thing won't stop randomly turning itself on and off . . .  when it is not busy telling me I have No Service.  

A new (genuine used "reconditioned") phone is on its way, and we can only hope it is more functional than the new (genuine used "reconditioned") replacement broadband card supplied last month when our Verizon phone card died.  (Said "new" card was also deader'n a doornail.)  Stay tuned!

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