We needed to pick up another person in Western San Blas. We decided to sail halfway there, then the remainder of the way the following morning. I wanted to see some old friends – Mike and Laura on Gilana. They were in their usual spot – Yansaladup. It’s a tricky anchorage to get into, but it’s good practice for the girls – they need to be able to spot reef and direct me around it from the front of the boat. Here’s some more geo-reference.
As we entered the West Lemmons we were hailed by Sundowner (their website here: Sundowner Sails Again) who had been chatting with me online for a couple months. It was a half-surprise to bump into them. I got distracted chatting with them on the radio and nosed up very close to a reef, but I recovered without incident.
We found a great spot to drop the anchor. As we were letting out our anchor and chain I noticed that my starboard engine had died. I tried to put the engine back into neutral and the throttle lever was stuck. It wouldn’t budge. Problem.
I didn’t have time to mess with it then. But when we got anchored and secured, I nervously checked the Teleflex cables. The cables were fine. It was the damned saildrive. Big problem. It was seized and when I checked for oil (the same check I’d done just a few hours before) I found none on the dipstick. Major problem. Blown seal. F*&$k.
I immediately started pulling the sail drive apart. When I did I found bronze shavings. Lots of shavings and no oil. Major bummer. This was going to be expensive. This was going to take time. This was not cool. This is boat life.
The point of going to this anchorage was to visit a friend and have a happy reunion before leaving to pick up Teena the following morning. All of that shattered by this most recent discovery. When I did finally see Mike and Laura I was sweating profusely, covered in grime, and a little worried. Mike noticed quickly and after the “Hello, it’s been so long” ’s were exchanged we quickly got down to troubleshooting. Mike told me he’d come and have a look, but to keep taking it apart.
Back onboard the girls were a little bummed to hear of our latest mechanical failure, but their feeling of “that’s inconvenient” pales in comparison to the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. This wasn’t going to be an easy fix. And I had a guest coming. And I was stuck without any Internet access (to do research). Water was being used at an alarming rate. We did, though, have booze and good cheese. If nothing else, we could attempt to drown our sorrows and eat away any lingering depression.
That is a bit dramatic.
The truth is that our passage was a success, we were anchored in a beautiful place near close friends and anything on this boat I was confident I could find a way to fix. Almost anything. Especially with Mike’s help (he’s a fix-stuff God). Add to that the fact that I was being treated like a king by my new crew – and – well… It can always be worse. Always.
After a few hours of sweating and bleeding in the engine rooms Mike and I came to the conclusion this was a big project. Nothing as simple as replacing a bolt. We did find oil at the bottom of the drive, but it was clear that much had leaked out. That means that my oil-seal in the lower drive had blown out underway as no oil was in the engine rooms.
I’ll post a picture of the offending part when I’m able – but it’s a sleeve that sits over the gears and serves to help select gears (Reverse – Neutral – Forward). It’s toast. Chewed up. Destroyed. We had no internet, but Mike found it was about $600 for the part – plus shipping. And getting it out of the sail drive with the boat in the water wasn’t going to be easy. We did find, though, that we could repair it without hauling the boat, a massive relief. As long as this turns out to be the problem, I could be back in business within a month. Until then, I’m a little crippled.
When all of this is over I will be well-versed in maneuvering tight (and reef-strewn) anchorages with a single engine.
Because Mike and Laura are somewhat of a family, they helped organize getting Teena out to me in Yansaladup. We had Mahi sushi and wine for dinner and slept well.
We would work things out mañana.