Thursday, July 12, 2012

Slide Hammer To Go

Tenacity charges into Three Mile Harbor
on our first visit in 09.
We made a paltry entrance to Three Mile Harbor today, no wind, no other boats to speak of and a mere half knot of current. I can never come in here without remembering looking back and seeing our friends, Ron and Jayne aboard their Valiant 42,Tenacity charging in full speed against the ebb with several sail chasing her. They had first introduced us to Long Island Sound three years before when our planned trip on the Erie Canal was stymied by floods. 

Tenacity had radar and we didn't yet have the luxury of being able to see in the fog. Sweet Pea stuck to her like a burr on a saddle blanket. They got to worry about all those blips converging on Block Island's Salt Pond, not to mention being rammed from behind. I listened with casual interest to the security calls and thought how handy to have friends with such good eyes. Ah those were the times. Now we study the screen, plot likely collisions, and wail out our presence to others charging about in the soup.
Back then our radome
was mounted well forward of the bowsprit.

After a quick stop by the town dock to water up and trash down, we anchored among the moorings, as near to the south shore as possible. We often choose our anchorage based on the delights of having a rowing dinghy. Being in the lee takes a lot of the sport out of using a two-arm power motor. That and carefully timing our trips for a favorable current coming and going. But, we do get excellent gas mileage.

 As we dawdled over dinner I read aloud the relevant chapter in Anthony Bailey's book about cruising these waters, The Shores of Summer.  We are anchored in exactly the spot he describes. Well yes. He had a pulling dinghy too and who would anchor further away from the landing than necessary. So we probably stroked the same path that he describes so lyrically, but almost twenty years later. What fun to see the cruise through his eyes and realize how lucky we are to have this time. 

Today was quintessential Long Island Sound cruising. I was up at first light. The fog tiptoeing into Coecles Harbor might have been the cause. Well, that and my going to bed at seven the night before may have contributed. Even so, that fog was rowdy as it drifted across that glassy harbor.

Fog Steals into Coecles Harbor
Our intent was to leave quite early and motor to Three Mile Harbor, giving us hot water and amps, the cruiser's nirvana. Pouring buckets of cold water over Anita would leave her less than satisfied -- mad as hell might be more accurate -- whereas warm water gushing out a shower head meets her expecations. So I'm convinced that a bit of motoring in a sailor's life isn't all bad. 

When all was ready, I stood purposefully at the bow with the anchor on short scope and ready to go, master of my ship. I signaled to Anita with a thumb-up. We never speak when working the anchor. Instead we yell at each other with hand signals. Thumbs up means put her in forward. After studying the unvarying angle of the chain for a while I signaled palm-up for a bit more speed. Nothing happened. 

Ah well. A couple of days ago we had reviewed the purpose of the black knob on the throttle lever: pull it out to advance the throttle in neutral, push it in to engage forward or reverse. Dumb bunny. Perhaps a little hand yelling would remind her that she had to push in the damn knob. 

When my thumb got tired, I walked aft to give her the benefit of a little coaching. "You have to engage it," I explained, patience personified. In turn she tartly pointed out that the knob was snugly pushed in against the throttle lever and if I wanted to drive I was more than welcome to give it a try.

What the hell? That all purpose question first came to mind, quickly followed by recollecting who last touched the various things that make Sweet Pea go.

Giving Sweet Pea the shaft.
Our most recent maintenance visit had resulted in some unintended consequences. I knew that removing the cutlass bearing had been a real nightmare. Three hours after the mechanic started on the job, there were three green golf carts clustered at Sweet Pea's stern, looking like code blue at the dock yard, while several people twisted the rudder back into its hole. Fortunately I discovered the well hidden but thoroughly broken autopilot transducer that resulted from yanking the rudder out like a rotten tooth. What I didn't suspect was that that somewhere along the maintenance curve (which I suspect involved a slide hammer) stress must have sheared the bolt that prevents the propeller shaft from easing out of the coupling. 

Days of backing down in crowded harbors like Cape May, Atlantic Highlands, Oyster Bay, Northport, Eatons Neck and Port Jefferson had demonstrated why the builders went to the trouble of drilling a hole through the coupling and shaft and then filling it with a sturdy stainless steel bolt, held in place by a nylock nut. Once both ends of the bolt drop out of that hole, mere friction resists uncoupling the shaft.

I keep seeing a docking along the way in which I threw it in reverse (with the knob in of course) and the total disbelief of continuing to make way. I can just imagine the outcome. Crunch.. "Oh dear. Was that a  reproduction Concordia? Original? How about that. She certainly was lovely. So sorry."
Somewhat the worse for wear.

I found the poor bolt in the sump, battered and broken, looking like a poster child for mechanical misfortune. The propeller shaft was way down the stuffing tube, searching for a way out. Yikes, I hear a one inch hole through the hull looks like a gushing fountain, but only for a short while. I was really glad they had reinstalled the rudder since it was the only thing between the prop and its exit via the deep blue sea. 

Making do on a slippery shaft.
By lunch time I had pounded the shaft back into its coupling. Where's that slide hammer when I need it? Who would have thought it an essential part of the ship's kit? I used a jury rigged contraption that involved a rubber coaster, a hose clamp, vice-grip pliers, a ball peen hammer, and plenty of muttered swear words to provide lubrication. It actually worked pretty well, especially the lubrication. I had a few anxious moments in which I anticipated that I might pound just a hair too much and permanently weld the shaft to the coupling. But eventually the holes aligned.

Oh, yeah, I didn't have the right size bolt on board. You know what is said about bolts: you can never be too long or too skinny. T'aint true. So now I have to crawl back there again and replace it with a recent purchase that is satisfyingly shorter and thicker. 
Ask for Grace. She's wonderful.

In the past I had noticed a run-down marine store where we landed the dinghy. It looked as if it might have bombed in the blitz. Other than borrowing its dinghy dock and stopping in for ice cream we'd not sampled its true pleasures. It turns out to be a treasure trove of stuff, presided over by Grace, who knows the exact contents of every dusty bin. Bless her heart. She unerringly plucked a brand new shiny replacement out of a drawer and handed it over for less than a five dollar bill. That's a marine bargain. I'll bet I could have gotten a slide hammer for only a couple dollars more.

Even with maintenance delays, things are looking up. When we anchored here at Three Mile, I was pleased that Anita had learned how to make Sweet Pea respond to thumbs up. Now if I can just train her to salute and say, "Aye, aye, sir," rather than her usual rude eyebrow-gesture followed by, "You want to try?". Doesn't sound likely though.

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