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Category — Musings

Haulout (The Trials and Tribulations of Hauling Your Boat Out)

Preparing for a new season of cruising is always interesting, if not expensive. We had shopped around and found that for the Santa Barbara coastline the best place to haul out was Ventura Harbor Boat Yard. Being only 5 miles from Channel Island Harbor didn’t hurt either. We had found out much earlier that no facility in our harbor could handle Red Dolphin.


We decided that it was time to repaint our exterior blue finish, paint the bottom with anti-fouling paint, and replace the zincs. We met with Mike, the yard manager, and decided on a date. We figured we could be in and out in four days flat, no big deal! So, on June 1, I sailed Red Dolphin to Ventura Harbor while Pam drove over to meet me with our car and supplies for the big painting event.


We were the first haul out of the day and the crew did an excellent job of getting us out and setting us up on the hard.  We were both very impressed at the attention to detail on positioning us in the slings by Jose, Jose (Jose and Jose explained to us that they go by the nick names: Hose A and Hose B), and Eric, the Travel Lift driver. We were ready to start and finish as soon as possible saving on lay days.


On that very morning, we met another member of the management team, Tom. Tom is an engineer and machinist. He supervises all repairs, both minor and major. There are at least 10 to 20 boats that he is supervising at a time, constantly assigning members of his team to the repairs based on their abilities. He also does the machine work saving boaters money over having to purchase obscure parts that may actually be impossible to find. Of course, we had not met him yet.

As we were sanding the bottom this large, muscular man walked by our boat and obliquely pointed to the point where the prop shaft leaves the boat, the prop log. He semi- shouted that the prop log was cracked and that the prop shaft was out of alignment. This was news to us both, as we had no real idea to what he was referring. I identified myself and Pamela as the owners and he went into some detail as to what his statement meant. Essentially, the engine was out of alignment and it needed to be realigned. He suggested that he inspect the mounts and determine the cause.

To make a long story shorter, he inspected and determined that the engine mounts for the Perkins 4-108 were shot. They had collapsed, and the lag bolts holding them to the engine bed were deformed. This meant that the engine had to be lifted and new mounts inserted and bolted down. After explaining what would happen if we did not do it, we agreed to the repair. There went the budget, but what can you do?

JT was assigned to the task and Tom told me that another helper would have to work side by side with JT. At their shop rate I quickly made the calculation to save money by volunteering to be that helper. Once Tom learned of my mechanical experience he agreed, saving us a bit of cash. For the first few days Pamela and I were quite busy  doing all of the painting and working with JT. Once done with the painting, Pam went home and I stayed on to work with JT. While we are at it we replaced the prop shaft packing gland as well.
It turned out that the engine was just too low on the mounts. It could not be aligned as it was. Tom created four beautiful 1 – ¾ inch thick tapered aluminum shims to raise the engine. Much larger lag bolts rounded out the mounting job and after much shoving and tapping we had the engine in place, with the two plates that connect the transmission out put to the prop shaft perfectly centered. A new Cutlass bearing finished the job and we were done. The shaft was centered in the prop log and we were quite happy.
On June 10, Red Dolphin was dropped back in the water and tied up next to the haul out slip. JT and I ran the engine and inspected the packing gland to make sure it was not going to leak. We left the floor up so that I could inspect it as I single-handed it back to Channel Island Harbor.

Now this is where the story gets interesting: I motored away from Ventura Harbor and let out the jib to make the quick downwind trip to Channel Island Harbor. Things were looking up. The permanent shimmy that we had experienced for years between 2200 and 2500 RPMs was no longer there. What a smooth running engine we now had.
Of course, no sooner then did I think this that the smoke alarm went off and a sound similar to that of a 12-guage shotgun going off twice a second overwhelmed my senses. I dropped down into the salon to find it filled with sooty smoke. Of course I turned off the engine and removed the engine cover. The entire engine was a charcoal gray and covered with soot. Better still, as I walked back to the cockpit, I noticed that water was spraying into the bilge from our new packing gland. Well, first things first. I immediately put two wrenches on the adjustment ring of the packing gland and got little result. So, I tacked the boat and sailed back for Ventura Harbor. I called Mike at the boat yard and asked for Tom. He told me to get the boat back and they would be waiting. I restarted the engine and found that two of my fuel injectors were leaking exhaust gases, so I shut it off.

Once in the harbor I restarted the engine at low speed and crept back to the yard. Both Tom and Mike were waiting and I easily pulled into a slip. Both men came on board and looked the engine over, while explaining that they did not work on engines, but they would help me get a mechanic and get me on my way. JT came back on the boat and tightened the packing gland and almost instantly solved that problem and gave me a better perspective on how to adjust it.

Tom assigned on of his many team members to me and we went to work on the engine. I felt that if a mechanic was not going to come for four days then I would go ahead and see if I could figure this out on my own. Oddly, the injector leaks had nothing to do with the work done on the boat. It is just strange that they took this time to “let go.” We took out two new injectors that I carry with me and installed them. We started up and the same exact problem occurred: so badly that we thought the exhaust manifold gaskets were leaking. We removed the exhaust manifold and, with Tom’s help, created new exhaust gaskets. We sealed these in, started up and the engine still barked at the top of its voice. I decided to take a day off and think about it, as no one could determine the cause of these tremendous exhaust leaks.

Fortunately, I do much of my problem solving while asleep. Somehow it came to me that the injector bolts must be stretched. I took one of the bolts to the hardware store to find just the right bolts. I also cleaned out the bolt holes and even cleaned out the threads. I think I removed about ¼ inch of crud from each hole. When I torqued theses bolts in and started the engine, the sound was music to my ears. The engine ran perfectly, water was no longer leaking and I was easily able to sail away for Channel Island Harbor and cancel our appointment with the mechanic.

The conclusion to all of this is that stuff happens. And it really happens to boats. There is not much good that comes from sitting an object in salt water. Maintenance is supreme if you want your boat to take care of you. Our anticipated $1000 bill became $6000. While this was a real budget buster, at least we had caught this close to home and not out on the high seas. I shudder to think what could have happened if the prop log and cracked further causing an unstoppable leak. Tom, may have saved our lives, and if not, at least our boat. Boats are much like people. They have many complex interrelated systems and they all need attention. Neglecting one area may lead to the failure of many others.

December 25, 2010   No Comments