23 September 2011 | St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL
Our second sea trial was set for 9 AM. We set my phone alarm for 6:30 to make sure we and the boat would be ready. I imagined that the sea trial would take about an hour and we would have the rest of the day to ourselves. Our friends Ed and Karin from Passages (now docked in St. Mary’s, GA) were coming down for lunch, if I was lucky I could squeeze a shower in before they got here. In the afternoon I hoped to pick up some AAA batteries for our new alarm clock so I wouldn’t need to use my phone again. Here’s what really happened.
Bob, from Yanmar called to say he’d be a bit late. Pete, from the marina, came down to tell us the same thing. By the time Bob arrived, we had everything ready to go. We fired up the engine, and it hardly ran. Turns out our little transfer fuel pump won’t prime the new Racor filter. The whole top half of the Racor was filled with air, which was now going to the engine. I’m still not sure why we weren’t getting air through the pump when we circulated the fuel. Anyway, Bob showed Bud how to top off that filter. Meanwhile, Danny tried to fix the throttle, which needs some tension put on it because the Yanmar has a return spring which the old Lehman-Peugeot didn’t have. Danny still has to do some work on that, but he put it back together for the sea trial. He got us some diesel to top of the Racor and we were off. However, it was now almost 10:30 so I called Ed and Karin and told them they should probably plan on 1:00, rather than 12.
The sky was now looking rather ominous. There have been storms rolling around us for days, but only a few sprinkles right in St. Augustine. As we were going down the Intracoastal Waterway, I heard thunder all around. The engine was running very smoothly and there was no black smoke, but Bud still couldn’t get it above about 3100 RPM. So Bob said to turn back, the prop was wrong and needed to be reset. But, Bob wanted to have the boat hauled immediately; get the prop pitch altered and take it right back out for another trial. It was now about 11:30. I called Ed and Karin and they were already in St. Augustine, so they agreed to come on over, and we’d grab a bite to eat while the prop was being done and then play it by ear. We stopped at the floating dock by the haul slip and got off until the arrangements were made. Then Bud and I got back on and Bud took it into the slip. I tossed lines to the guys and fended off the wall. We got the boat tied off and they brought the travel lift out and in position. Just after they got the straps in place they were all looking off to the west. There, west and a bit north was a funnel cloud trying to form. It looked like it was only a couple of miles away and headed for us. I saw it start to rotate, but then it seemed to loose energy and just went away. They lifted us up and forward until the bow pulpit was almost touching the inside wall of the slip and we climbed out. Since we have Fuzzy, we have to pass him out, too. I took off my boat shoes and had to walk back along the edge to our old dock to get my Crocs. When I came back I took this photo. That’s Bob looking at the prop. When I turned around from taking the photo, I saw that Ed and Karin were there. I’d missed their call in all the noise of the travel lift and the excitement of the funnel cloud, but the secretary let them in the gate.
We quickly formed a plan and Karin and I dashed off to go get Chinese, while Ed and Bud stayed to mind the boat. Fuzzy came with Karin and me. We just made it into their car when rain came down. We saw it coming as a wall of white. When we got back after picking up the food, the streets were flooded and a lot of the yard was about a foot deep in water. We ate and visited inside the building where the marina guys take their breaks. We couldn’t even invite Ed and Karin on board because the boat was still hanging in the sling. They left soon after, the rain eased off and Danny changed the prop. I walked over and Bob and Danny were having a discussion about the settings. Bob didn’t think it looked right. Danny set it back to where he said it was when he started and then reset it to the new setting. Bob even climbed up and started the engine and put it in gear for a second while we checked which way it turned. It turns counterclockwise in forward, so it is a left-hand prop. That’s how they had it set.
When Danny was ready to put the zinc back on the prop he asked me if I wanted that one put on. I told him it should be OK, it was brand new. He handed it to me. It was about half eaten away. Sacrificial zincs are put on boats because often there is stray current around a boat that could corrode a boat’s metal parts. The zinc is what corrodes first, and in theory keeps the other metals from corroding. But that zinc had only been on the boat two weeks and was more corroded than the zinc we took off after being in the water a year!
The boat was taken back out and lowered, Bud, Fuzzy, Bob and I climbed back aboard (Danny didn’t come this trip) and we went out for sea trial number 3. As soon as Bud backed out of the slip he could tell something was wrong. The boat had no power at all. He started down the channel and had the engine at over 3000 RPM and we were going less than 5 knots. Bob had him open it up, the engine went to 3600 RPM, and the boat didn’t reach 6 knots. The prop was way off, now! So we turned around. Bob was talking to someone on the phone. We didn’t know if we should take it back to the travel lift or back to our slip. No one was around by the travel lift and it was already 3 PM so we decided to just go back to our slip. It took Bud three approaches to get docked because he was coming in with the current and he had almost no power to maneuver, but he go it in OK.
Bob went off and said he’d be back in a bit. I talked to our dock mate and he said he’d had his zinc changed but there was no unusual wear on it. That made me convinced there was something wrong on our boat. I still had the old zinc so I set off to show it to Pete, the customer relation’s guy. On the way I met Dave, the yard manager, so I showed it to him. He agreed that it was a problem and said he’d get the electrician on it and we’d get it squared away and get the prop fixed, too. I went back to the boat. A few minutes later Bob came back. He’d gone and gotten the prop manual from Danny and sat and read it. He and Danny looked again and figured that Danny had gotten the columns switched. The prop had been at 22 degrees and was supposed to be adjusted to 20 degrees. Instead, Danny thought it had been at 12 degrees and switched it to 10 degrees. With that small an angle from the vertical, the blades just spun, but pushed almost no water to move the boat.
So our day was gone, we had a very short visit with Ed and Karin, I didn’t get any batteries, and I didn’t get my shower until this evening. The plan now is to have the electrician on the boat at 7:30 AM Monday, and then to move the boat to the lift, pull it and reset the prop, and to do a final sea trial. I also have to pack and get to the airport in Orlando late Monday afternoon because I’m flying to Detroit! I'm mentally exhausted.