Leaving Antigua, W. I.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Play Actor gets a new engine

It started with a thunderstorm in Grenada this summer.  We were anchored off the western side of the island, in the lee from the easterly trades, which kept us cool.  There was a big, Dutch-flagged catamaran anchored off our bow, not too close for comfort, but still fairly close.  When the storm blew through, the wind backed 180 degrees, and our sheltered anchorage became a lee shore in a squall, with the full fetch of the Caribbean of our bow.  We swung with the wind, and stretched out our 150 feet of anchor chain.  The catamaran, now off our stern, swung as well, but their anchor chain wrapped around a coral head, so they were only a few feet from us, and the people were ashore.  Before we hit them, we fired up the diesel and put it in forward gear, revving the engine.  The engine wound up with no load, and then the transmission engaged with a sharp clunk.  We throttled back, motored forward, and retrieved our anchor.  After we re-anchored, well away from the catamaran, and the storm passed, we made a careful survey of the behavior of our transmission.

We knew this symptom of old, unfortunately.  After owning and sailing the same boat for twenty odd years, her quirks are familiar.  We had experienced this problem some years ago, and realized that the forward clutch in the gearbox was slipping, the result of some eight years of daily use.  We also knew that we had a hundred hours or so of remaining use before the slippage progressed beyond the nuisance stage.  We started making plans for a transmission rebuild during our winter stay in St. Martin, a truly duty free port, where it's easy to get parts shipped in from all over the world.  This wasn't how we had planned to spend our winter, but there are certainly worse places to work on the boat, so we had a couple of months to think about it and get in the right frame of mind.

Just before we left Grenada at the end of hurricane season, we began shopping on line for the required parts, expecting that we might have a little trouble, as our Volvo engine and transmission were 32 years old.  We found a couple of Volvo dealers who listed the parts on line, and sent emails to begin the process of making sure we got exactly the right parts, in order to minimize our down time.  We had a nice sail north for a few days, and when we came to rest in an anchorage with internet service, we checked our email, to learn that parts were no longer available for our antique propulsion system.  One dealer offered a used gearbox with a 90 day warranty for $2500, but we already had a used gear box, and it would most likely last longer than 90 days.  That wasn't an attractive proposition when we knew that we could buy a brand new, modern, diesel, mated to a new transmission for around $9,000.  Given that the old engine had to come out either way, a total replacement didn't seem like a lot more work.

As we continued to make our way north, we shopped the internet for engines, downloading drawings and specifications from the manufacturers' web sites, and measuring and sketching all of the details of installation.  We found that a 40 horsepower Yanmar would fit our space nicely.  It was about 2/3 the size and half the weight of the old 36 horsepower Volvo.  The biggest issue would be mounting the engine, as the new engine would sit somewhat lower than the old one, and the mounts were enough closer together that they would not reach the beds laterally.  We had several weeks before we could actually order an engine and get started on the project, which we put to use designing all of the new peripheral systems, like exhaust, plumbing for the cooling system and fuel, and changes to the electrical system.

By the time we got to St. Martin, we had a well-developed project plan.  We spent a couple of weeks dealing with logistics and sourcing, acquiring some of the bits and pieces that we needed in order to work out remaining installation details.  Now we're ready to order the new engine.  It should arrive in mid-January, and we'll tie alongside a working dock in a boat yard and roll up our sleeves.

Meanwhile, we'll share the engineering work over the next few days.  Next up will be the question of the engine beds.

1 comment:

  1. I also have a Baba 35' and I'm rebuilding her from the bare hull up. I'm repowering her in January with the Yanmar 3JH5E, same one as you I assume? I would love to see how you are doing the engine beds, as I will be redoing these myself also. Can I look you up for advice when I'm doing it? Can I beg you to post some photo's of your beds, once you do them?

    I'll do the same and my blog is lyricalsailing.com

    Good luck Charles!