Sunday, November 12, 2017

Southbound 2017: We Set Another Record

A normal trip takes 9 days, weather permitting. The plan is to depart Hingham at 7:00 AM, cruise non-stop for three and a half days to Morehead City where we refuel, hopefully in two hours or less. Then it's back on the road for three more days with a goal to reach Clewiston Florida at the south end of Lake Okeechobee at sunset on the evening of the seventh day. From there we cruise to Fort Myers where we again stay over night. The following morning we head for Sarasota where we arrive at mid-afternoon.

The total mileage is 1,430 nautical miles.

This plan is rather aggressive as you must hit certain time deadlines to make it work. The most critical is run on day seven to Clewiston. In order to make Clewiston, I have to reach the Stuart Inlet before 7:30 AM and then cover 77 nautical miles of the Okeechobee Waterway, including two locks, to reach the goal just after sunset.

The 77 NM route from Stuart to Clewiston
That said, the record breaking Hingham to Jacksonville leg dramatically altered our schedule as we were now running 12 hours ahead of schedule. The key consideration for the remainder of the voyage is the Okeechobee Waterway where two factors, the inability to run at night and locks that close at 5:00 PM, impose severe limitations on making distance.

So, as soon as we departed Morningstar Marina (5:48 PM on Day 5) we began to consider our options. The principal consideration was the 200 nautical mile distance to the Stuart inlet. With our cruising speed of 8.4 knots we cover 200 miles every 24 hours. This would put us at the Stuart Inlet at 6:00 PM and require that we stop at Stuart for the night.

That stop would also dictate the runs for the remainder of the trip. On Tuesday we would leave Stuart at 6:30 AM to arrive at the St Lucie Lock at 7:30 AM, and then run for 8 hours to reach the Moore Haven lock, which we would reach around 3:30 PM. Then we would tie up along the wall at Moore Haven for the evening. There's nothing in Moore Haven except for a good deal on dockage ($63 for the night). The following day, Wednesday, we would run to Fort Myers or Captiva where we would spend another night. Finally, on Thursday, we would reach Sarasota at three in the afternoon.

Okeechobee Waterway showing the route ffrom Stuart to Sarasota
As readers know, I hate sitting at the dock overnight when the forecast is for favorable weather, which on Sunday evening was the case. We had a four day weather window that predicted low winds and seas under 2 feet all the way to Sarasota.

Sirius Sea Conditions shows favorable wind and seas all the way to Sarasota
So now the question was whether to go around the Florida Keys, cut north just west of Marathon at the Seven Mile Bridge and head north to Sarasota. Measuring from Stuart, that adds 160 nautical miles to the trip for a total distance of 360 nautical miles. The extra 160 nautical miles adds approximately 20 hours of running time and $450 of fuel costs. On the other hand, running the Okeechobee Waterway route comes with between $420 to $640 of dockage expense depending on where you stop. Hence there is no cost differential.

Running in the Hawk Channel
Screen left to right: Chartplotter, Radar, Sonar, Night Vision
Sonar shows us with 6.7 feet of water under the keel
The primary consideration is navigation around the keys. Here there are three options, run outside the reef and buck the Gulf Stream, run the Hawk Channel between the Keys and the deep water outside the reef, or run the shallow intracoastal waterway north of the Keys. Needless to say the choice is obvious. The Hawk Channel from Miami to Marathon provides depth of 12 to 20 plus feet and a wide very well marked channel totally suited for night running, especially for a yacht equipped with night vision.

We passed the Stuart Inlet at 5:41 PM on Monday and headed south reaching:
  • Miami on Tuesday at 3:09 AM
  • Marathon Seven Mile Bridge on Tuesday at 2:10 PM
  • Marco Island on Wednesday at 12:46 AM
  • Boca Grande Inlet on Wednesday at 7:11 AM
  • Venice Inlet on Wednesday at 10:31 AM
  • Marina Jack on Wednesday at 12:50 PM
The run from Jacksonville to Sarasota
The final consideration was the approach to Sarasota. Here too there are three options. Big Pass, New Pass and the ICW from Venice north to Sarasota. A call to Sea Tow for some local knowledge was in order, especially since Sarasota Yacht Club had ceased publishing waypoint data for the approach to Big Pass. Sea Tow informed me that New Pass was closed, which was not surprising, and the advice, well founded, to traverse Big Pass at high tide. Since we would arrive at dead low tide the decision was easy. We arrived at the Venice Inlet at 10:31 AM and headed north on the ICW. The only challenge on this leg is four bridges, two of which open on command, and two at fixed times. 

The run from the Venice Inlet to Marina Jack took 2 hours and 20 minutes. We arrived at Marina Jack at 12:50 PM ending a 580 nautical mile run. The average speed from the dock at Morningstar Star Marina in Jacksonville to Sarasota was 8.7 knots. The total time on leg 2 was 55 hours and 9 minutes. Another record.

Entering the Venice Inlet

Passing the Crows Nest Restaurant at the Venice Inlet
Siesta Key Bridge - Welcome to Sarasota

Approaching Marina Jack
Total miles upon arrival at Marina Jack was 1,517 nautical miles. Even though the run around Florida added 160 nautical miles to the trip, the saving achieved by straight line runs on leg one resulted in an increase distance of only 67 miles.

Bottom Line: This years' trip south was accomplished in 7 days and 7 hours, an ALL TIME RECORD and one not likely to be repeated. The average speed was 8.8 knots. This represents a 0.4 knot increase over the 63's optimum cruise speed of 8.4 knots. While that may not sound like much, it is when the gain is multiplied by 174 hours of running time.

Jim, Les and Guy on arrival at Marina Jack
Notice the shirt embroidered with an image of the 63
Now we begin the winter season at one of the finest marinas in the US (winner of the Dockage Magazine Best Marina 2015).

Ariel view of Marina Jack
Segment Statistics: Jacksonville to Sarasota
  • Total Segment Distance: 580 NMs
  • Average Speed: 8.8 Knots
  • Top Speed: 11.8 Knots        
  • Engine Hours: 67
  • Engine Fuel Consumed: 618 gallons (estimated)
  • Fuel Efficiency: .95 GPNM (not including generator)
  • Generator Fuel Consumed: 67 Gallons
  • Total Fuel Consumed: 685 Gallons
  • Fuel Remaining: 615 Gallons
Trip Totals: Hingham to Sarasota
  • Total Distance: 1,517 NMs     
  • Engine Hours: 174
  • Engine Fuel Consumed: 1,581 Gallons
  • Overall Engine Fuel Efficiency: .96 GPNM
  • Generator Fuel Consumed: 174 Gallons
  • Total Fuel Consumed: 1,755 Gallons
  • Total Fuel Cost: $4,914
Written by Les

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Southbound 2017: What a Difference a Day Makes

This is the first in a series of articles chronicling our annual trip south to our Sarasota winter haven. It starts with weather, most important consideration.

A little background. The United States Weather Service ( only provides weather forecasts for 6 days out.  Hence, a week before our official November 1 departure, I start to focus intently on conditions. At that point, the only useful data is for October 31, and that data is highly subject to change. NOAA does a great job and over the years their forecasts have become more and more reliable. The science seems to be improving.

This year, the forecast did not look good. There was a tropical depression in Central America that was predicted to become a tropical storm and perhaps a hurricane. The predicted track, after the storm moved offshore, took it over Cuba and then south Florida. That track increased the potential that the storm might follow the coast to New England, and at one point, NOAA had the storm pointed directly at Massachusetts. Not good.

NOAA overview page showing dismal East Coast weather
From there the weather story gets worse. As the week leading to departure progressed, NOAA was predicting a very deep (i.e., tropical storm deep) low forming southeast of New York. That low was predicted to track north slowly into northern New England and then into Canada. Powerful 25 to 30 knot southeast winds with gusts to 60 were forecasted for Sunday at Hingham. 

Monday’s forecast called for a frontal passage in the morning with strong sustained winds out of the west, with again, 60 knot gusts. Forecast for the coastal waters south of Buzzards Bay along the south shore of Long Island were for 15 to 20 foot seas. Additionally, high winds were predicted for Tuesday with high seas along our route diminishing toward evening. This did not bode well for a Wednesday 6:00 AM departure even though NOAA was predicting calm winds.

NOAA got it right, literally to the hour. Sunday we saw sustained southeast winds as predicted and gusts to 40 knots. Monday saw the frontal passage at 10:00 AM with 50 knot gusts and a 12 degree temperature drop.  Tuesday was breezy. Then we woke up Wednesday to calm winds and flat seas.

Now to the tropical depression lingering on the east coast of Central America. It freed itself from the mountains, accelerated to 40 knots and became tropical Phillipe. It then tracked north to Cuba and then out to the Bahamas and finally out to sea just south of Florida, where it died. Threat eliminated.

With the deep low far north and Tropical Storm Phillipe no longer a factor, a weather window opened up along the entire east coast. We departed Hingham at 5:42 AM on Wednesday, hit the Cape Cod Canal at 11:09 AM with a favorable 4 knot current, and then reached Wings Neck at the west end of Buzzards Bay at 2:40 PM. A glorious cruise on flat water.

Decision time. Should we proceed south along the coast to our Morehead City destination, some 643 nautical miles south, or take a straight shot from Wings Neck to Cape Hatteras’ Diamond Shoal, a distance of 431 nautical miles and then another straight shot to Cape Lookout and then on into Morehead City? Drawing the straight lines knocks approximately 6 hours off the trip. That represents approximately 50 nautical miles and 54 gallons of fuel saved.

The direct line option takes us over 100 miles off the coast for over two days. This option requires a favorable offshore forecast, the right equipment, a well maintained boat and a crew comfortable with an element of calculated risk. Those of you who follow this blog know that equipment and maintenance are not an issue. So now it come down to weather and crew.

This year’s crew consists of Captain Guy Aries and my friend Jim Eisenhauer. Guy has made three trips with me (Nov 2015, Nov 2016 and May 2017). He’s experienced the full range of cruising situations from calm seas to raging storms. Jim is new to the experience but a fast learner. Again, as readers know, I fully discuss weather considerations and associated risks and make go/no-go decisions democratically.

Jim grabbing a sunrise photo
One of 5 spectacular sunrises
The weather forecast for the offshore waters between Montauk Point (Long Island New York) and Cape Hatteras showed 2 to 4 foot seas with a worst case of 3 to 5 footers and winds from a low to 5 knots to a high of 20 knots. Most important, no storms were in the forecast through Monday. Given that we would reach Morehead City on Saturday morning we had a two day margin of error. Our decision. Let’s go for it.

Again NOAA’s forecast was dead-on accurate.  On Wednesday night we saw seas reach four feet and then subside on Thursday afternoon.  The result was smoothest ride I’ve ever experienced in the four years and seven runs up and down the east coast.  We witnessed beautiful sunsets and sunrises and mostly smooth seas.  What a pleasure.

Before Sunrise on Wednesday morning
We pass Minot's Light, Cohasset, Massachusetts.
Minot's sits in open water
Speeding through the Cape Cod Canal on a favorable current (4 knots at times) 

We arrived at Cape Hatteras’ Diamond Shoal on flat water at 4:56 PM on Friday. That is a rare occurrence.

Direct Cape Hatteras
Notice that we are off the continental shelf (deep water)
All is not gold that glitters. The time savings had a consequence. It resulted in our arriving into Morehead City at 3:00 AM. Fuel docks usually open at 8:00 AM. Hence, we would have “blown” our entire time savings sitting on their dock. Not efficient.

Decision time again. Do we sit at the Morehead City dock or continue further south? For me this is always an easy decision. Why waste good weather sitting at a dock? You know that eventually it will change for the worst.

This time the decision was easy. We already had a forecasted two day favorable weather margin and that situation had not changed. NOAA was now predicting northeast winds with 3 to 5 foot seas all the way to Florida. That that translated for us into a following sea with a tail wind.

We also had more than enough fuel. On Friday afternoon I had transferred 248 gallons to the main tanks. Adding that to the fuel remaining resulted in 735 gallons of fuel on board, with better than 95% usable (based on actual experience during the record 2017 run north in May) we easily had 695 gallons of usable fuel.

Next concern. Where to get fuel? This is actually a tricky question. Yes, there are plenty of fuel stops on the way to Florida but some, like Georgetown, where fuel is incredibly cheap, are way off the beaten path (i.e., add 2 hours of travel time to reach the marina, 2 hours to fuel and 2 hours to return to our course). Others are eliminated by time. We have to arrive during business hours if we want fuel. And, finally, there is the fuel cost consideration. Some marinas think their fuel is very valuable and charge accordingly. For example, I saved over $1,300 this June between the price at Rose Marine and the local marinas in Hingham ($2.00 versus $3.29 per gallon).

Fernandina Beach Florida to the rescue. Its 400 nautical miles from Cape Hatteras, well within our remaining usable fuel range (including generator use), easy in and easy out, and its fuel is reasonably priced.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The weather window to the north had already closed when we reached Cape Hatteras.

Before I continue, let me briefly highlight our incredible 5.5 day journey (using military time):
  • Wednesday 05:41 depart Hingham
  • Wednesday 11:09 arrive at the Cape Cod Canal - zip through canal at 12 knots
  • Wednesday 14:40 arrive west end of Buzzards Bay - straight line to Cape Hatteras
  • Friday 16:56 arrive at Cape Hatteras's diamond Shoal - straight line to Cape Lookout
  • Saturday 00:36 arrive at Cape Lookout - straight line to Cape Fear
  • Saturday 09:49 arrive at Cape fear - straight line to Fernandina Beach
  • Sunday 12:46 arrive at Fernandina Beach Inlet - straight line to St John's River Inlet
We make a straight line down the coast. A first
Approaching St Mary's Inlet and the Fernandina Beach Municipal Marina
At 12:46 PM we turned southwest into the St Mary’s River and called the Fernandina Beach Municipal Marina to alert them of our intention to take on fuel and our arrival time. Oops. Big Surprise! The dockmaster informed me that they had “still” no fuel thanks to Hurricane Matthew (September 2016).   The dockmaster stated that Port Consolidated had fuel but they were closed on Sunday. When I asked if we could stay the night he informed me the Matthew had destroyed their face dock and that besides being “no room at the inn” there was not enough depth for the 63’s five foot draft.

This posed a bit of a problem. A quick check of the site glass on our tanks showed fuel remaining of 290 gallons, with 250 usable based on experience. That translates into an absolute range of 250 nautical miles. So while the situation is not desperate, it did suggest that we find fuel close by or anchor out at Fernandina.

Fortunately, the St John’s river approach to Jacksonville was 20 nautical miles south and there are several marina’s just west of the inlet (read as easy in easy out) and, most important, Morningstar Marina, the first one we called, had fuel and dock space. Time for a course change.
We pulled into Morningstar Marina – Mayport at 3:46 PM, took on 1,105 gallons of fuel at $2.79 per gallon ($3097.71), and in two hours we were back on the road.

This trip set new records:

Longest distance: 936 nautical miles (previous 766 NM – Spring 2017)
Fastest average speed: 8.8 knots
Longest passage: 5.5 days and 4 nights (previous 4 days and 3 nights – Spring 2017)
Longest passage without rough weather
Longest running time: 107 continuous hours
Distance from shore: Over 100 miles
Time without phone or internet connectivity (Wednesday evening to Sunday afternoon)
Factors that contributed to the unusually fast average speed of 8.8 knots
1) The Labrador Current (track from Buzzards Bay to Cape Hatteras
2) We close to the coast and west of the Gulf Stream'
3) A low pressure trough east of Florida and parallel to the coast set up the northeast winds
All trips should be so easy.

Stay tuned. We’re about to break another record.

PS. Yes, we had some adventures and those will be the subject of the next few articles.

Written by Les.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Randy Boatshu: The Story Continues

This is a story that is actually hard to write. Why you ask? Well, it's long and complicated and to fully appreciate it you have to have read several articles that were written at different times. Below are the articles for those of you who want the full story:
  • Cruising to the 63 - A Boating History 10/20/14
  • More about Magnificent Wheeler Yachts 8/17/14
  • Unbelievable coincidence - Days 189 to 191 - Stuart, FL 4/9/11
  • Nantucket Adventures: Exploring Nantucket & Wheeler History 7/20/14
This story starts with an email from a gentleman named Steve Deane. Steve explained that a friend of his had ran across my blog and had discovered my interest in Wheeler motor yachts. Attached was a photo of the throw-able marine life ring from the Randy Boatshu.  Steve wrote "a picture says a thousand words I guess."

I guess!!!

Marine throw ring from the 65 foot Wheeler yacht the Randy Boatshu
But his next two statements blew my mind. 

Statement #1: "I think from when I owned her." 

Statement #2: "One of my high school friends was Jimmy Pompeo and it was his grandfather (Pompeo Motors) who had her built in 56 and did her haul-outs at Quincy Adams Yacht Yard in Town River"

You will appreciate the significance of these statements after I provide the background below.


In the late 50s, I became involved with Lester Glawson, the captain of a 52 foot Wheeler motor yacht named the Randy Boatshu. Lester was friends with my uncle, Louis Schlager, the owner of an Old Town Lapstrake 20 runabout with a 75 HP outboard that I "captained."   

Explanatory Note: I took Louis and his friends fishing on weekends during the summer, which involved driving the boat and cleaning up the fishing mess. In exchange for my "services," Louis allowed me to use the boat during the week and paid for my gas. This was quite a deal for me at age 16. I had the free use of a brand new lovely little "speedboat" (it could do 25 MPH). Today, having passed the exams for the 100 ton captains license, I now know that what I was doing was, technically, illegal according to USCG regulations (i.e., Louis' paying for my gas was compensation). Oh well at least the statue of limitations has run-out.

This is the only artifact I have ever found for the Lapstrake 20
I was fascinated with Lester's knowledge of the sea and eventually I became the "unofficial" first mate on the 52. The 52 was owned by the Randolph Manufacturing Company, the maker of a boat shoe from which the yacht derived its name (and, which, at the time, competed with the Sperry Topsider). Bobby Cohen was the president of the company and he used the yacht to entertain clients, most of whom were shoe buyers. It was great fun. I got to go on evening cruises to local restaurants, like Hugo's Lighthouse in Cohasset, and weekend trips to to places like Nantucket, Martha's Vinyard and Falmouth on Cape Cod.

I actually rode out Hurricane Donna with Captain Lester, a category 1 storm, in September of 1960 on the 52 footer. But that's another story.

The following year, Bobby Cohen replaced the 52 with a 65 foot Wheeler "Promenade Deck Motor Yacht with Cockpit" (see advertisement below). It was 1961 and I just graduated from Newton High School. That summer I worked as "official" first mate on the 65 - a heady experience for an 18 year old. However, when the summer ended, Bobby invited me to help Lester take the boat to Florida as first mate on a full time basis. I declined and went back to School (which in retrospect turned out to be a very good move - as I would not be living on a 63 foot motor yacht).

1956 Advertisement for Wheeler 42 and 65 foot Promenade Deck Motor Yachts
I lost track of Lester, his lovely wife Annie, and the Randy Boatshu after the summer of 1961, which also marks a long time hiatus of my boating adventures.

Fast forward to 1984 in Chicago. I sold my airplane (a 1969 V35A Beechcraft Bonanza) and bought a 1977 38 Hatteras Flybridge Double Cabin which I cruised on Lake Michigan for two summers. A divorce in 1986 brought that boating saga to an end.

My boating adventure resumed in 1999 with the purchase of 1993 Sea Ray 440 Sundancer in partnership with my good friend Jim Kargman. It continued with the solo purchase of a new 48 Sea Ray Sundancer in 2006. On October 3, 2010, six months after retiring from The Warranty Group (after a 38 year career), Diana and I departed on the 48 for the 6,150 mile Great Loop adventure (See over 100 blog articles).

The Great Loop adventure concluded on September 12, 2012 when we "crossed our wake" at Chicago's Belmont Harbor. Within two months we sold the 48 and contracted to build the 63 Outer Reef.

The construction of the 63 was completed in December of 2013 and she arrived in Fort Lauderdale on February 3, 2014. Seven days later, Diana and I signed papers and moved aboard. Construction of the 63 added over 100 articles to the blog.

In May of 2014 we arrived at Hingham Shipyard Marina for our first New England summer. In July of that year a serendipitous meeting took place with Jane Wheeler at the laundromat across the highway from the shipyard. Jane was the ex wife of Eugene Wheeler whose father had owned the Wheeler Shipyard that build the 52 and the 65. Serendipitous you ask? First, we did not frequent laundromats as we had a washer and dryer on board. The exception, that day, was to wash some small area rugs in their machines rather than ours. Second, there would have been no meeting if Kodi had not been there. Diana and Jane started their conversation when Kodi, our Social Director, greeted Jane. That led several weeks later to a telephone discussion with Eugene Wheeler where I learned that he had worked on the Randy while she was under construction. The meeting with Jane and the conversation with Gene led to the blog articles referenced above (which include photos and plans generously supplied by Gene Wheeler).


Steve invited me to call him and I did. That's when I discovered that she had been built for Jimmy Pompeo's grandfather who at the time was the owner of Pompeo Motors. So it appears that Bobby Cohen bought the boat, used, from Pompeo. I thought Cohen had contracted with Wheeler to build her. Definitely new information.

I also discovered that Steve had followed Lester to Florida on a Chris Craft Constellation during a yacht delivery. I further learned that he came into possession of the yacht circa 1964 in conjunction with the unfortunate demise of the Randolph Manufacturing Company. The following year she was restored in Onset Massachusetts and then used by Steve in the charter trade. Steve sold her in 1968.

Steve's next recollections involve an incident in 1972 off the Outer Banks, perhaps Cape Hatteras, where the 65 encountered gale force winds and high seas. According to Steve, the yacht experienced warping of the hull and started taking on water. The Coast Guard dropped pumps and the boat was towed to safety into Morehead City. 

Explanatory Note: The 65 Wheeler was a wooden hulled unstabilized semi-displacement motor yacht. According to Steve, she was not built for open ocean conditions. In fact, Steve was clear that the bi-annual north south transit was always made on inland waters. That means that Lester would have followed a route that included Long Island Sound, The Delaware River, The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the Chesapeake Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway to Miami. Lester would have also carefully picked his weather for the transit off the New Jersey Shore. Apparently the subsequent owners were more aggressive and made runs on the open ocean. This is not a problem except if you encounter high winds and big seas which can happen when storms suddenly occur. 

Apparently she was successfully repaired after the 1972 incident. Steve said she participated in the 1976 NYC tall ships festival. His last contact with her was sometime in the 80s when he thought he saw her in a Miami Vice TV episode.

I asked Steve for any memorabilia he might spare and he supplied the Wheeler flyer above and Randolph Manufacturing post card that you see below with Captain Lester Glawson standing on the aft deck. I've been searching for a photo of the Randy Boatshu for years, Getting one with Captain Lester was a bonus.

Captain Lester Glawson in full regalia on the Wheeler 65 Promenade Deck Motor Yacht with Cockpit
from the photo of image of a post card supplied by Steve Deane

He also supplied the photo below of the Randy Boatshu in Florida fully decorated for Christmas. According to Steve, this photo appeared on the Christmas edition of a yachting magazine.

So, a VERY BIG THANK YOU to Steve Deane. Steve, I hope you enjoy this article and that it motivates you to search out additional memorabilia and, should the spirit move you, to write me about your ownership of this magnificent vessel and your friendship with Lester.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: A coincidence is "a remarkable concurrence of events and circumstances without apparent cause or connection." On Friday July 21, 2017 at around 1:00 PM, Diana announced that the rug in the master head was again in need of cleaning and I volunteered to take it to the laundromat across from Hingham Shipyard. I arrived at the laundromat and moments later, at 2:17, Steve Deane called. Another fact.  I was sitting in the same chair that Diana sat in when she met Jane Wheeler, the ex-wife of Gene Wheeler, whose father owned the Wheeler Shipyard in New York. What are the odds of two conversations about a yacht from a by-gone era occurring in the exact same place. I plan to visit the laundromat every day from now on. Who knows who else will try to communicate with me (e.g., Bobby Cohen, Lester Glawson, Louis Schlager, or Mr. Wheeler himself)? I'd love to chat with any of them.

Written by Les.

Friday, June 23, 2017

On The Hard Again: Getting it Straight - The Fix

Reader Note: This article deals with the resolution of the port running gear alignment problem. To fully appreciate the story you should read "Getting It Straight - Background" to understand the scope and complexity of resolving this problem.

The project's objectives:
  • To achieve running gear alignment within 3,000th of an inch (.003")
  • To determine, with certainty, the root cause of the coupling failure
Without finding the smoking gun that caused the coupling failure, the alignment problem is not likely to be solved. This was the case with the two haul-outs in March and April.

In order to achieve this objective, it was necessary to examine every component starting from the front of the engine and work backwards to the nut the secures the propeller to the shaft. This includes:
  • The engine mounts
  • The Evolution Marine Coupling
  • The shaft
  • The Tides Marine Shaft Seal
  • The hull cutlass bearing
  • The strut cutlass bearing
  • The propeller
Along with that, I needed significant technical expertise. These are the key players: 
  • Engineer Chris Murray from Soundown, the company that built the coupling
  • Top flight Cat technician, Guy Crudele, from Guy Crudele Repairs, a Caterpillar Authorized Marine Dealer
  • Rose Marine, a commercial boat yard capable of hauling the boat and supporting the project. 
Now to the story,

On Monday, June 12, I cruised the boat from Hingham to Gloucester arriving at Rose Marine's haul-out bay at 12:30 PM. The boat was immediately lifted, power washed and by 3:00 PM was blocked and sitting on the hard.

Guided Discovery on the Travel Lift ready for transport into the yard

Rose Marine Hardware and Office
Work began promptly on Tuesday morning. By the time I arrived on the scene the port propeller and shaft had been removed. The project was off to a good start. The shaft was on its way to the machine shop.  The propeller was awaiting transport to the prop shop. Guy was in the process of disconnecting the coupling while Jeff, his assistant, was starting the routine maintenance projects on the engines transmissions and generators.

Guided Discovery blocked on the hard early on Tuesday morning
Guy Crudele's truck is pulled alongside
Notice the port shaft is missing
Notice the white spaces along the waterline where the lifting straps prevented power washing
Removal of the shaft was necessary to determine whether it was "true." This crucial step was not done during the haul-outs in March and April. We assumed that if the propellers were not damaged, then the shaft should be OK.  In fact, Bob, at Admiral C&B Propeller, stated that upon arrival at his shop, "the props had no signs of a hard grounding." Admiral did perform edge work to remove minor imperfections and tuned the props to make them, to quote Bob, "better than new out of box props."

Explanatory NoteWe had a VERY soft grounding in November 2015 at the Big Pass sandbar. I was able to easily back the boat into deep water. Because the props are positioned well above the keel it is unlikely that they touched the bottom. My divers at Sarasota, and next year in Hingham, reported no damage to either prop. They did report missing paint on the bottom of the keel but, fortunately, no damage.

63 profile showing propellers positioned well above the keel
If the props were not damaged by the grounding, then the question arises as to whether the engines were properly aligned during the build and whether the shaft itself was true at the time of its instillation. The Evolution Coupling started shredding rubber at approximately 1,000 hours. If the engines were slightly out of alignment or the shaft was not true, then the failure of the coupling was attributable to misalignment. 

Port propeller removed awaiting transport to the prop shop
Wednesday, a Rose Marine technician removed the cutlass bearings from the hull and strut. The bearings show a pattern of elliptical wear.  The elliptical wear confirms the motion Chad, Randy and I observed at the power takeoff and shaft seal along with the leak at the lip seal during the sea trial in April. This motion and the leak prompted Chad to declare failure with regard to the alignment.

Port strut and cutlass bearing prior to removal

Hull cutlass bearing prior to removal

Close up of the strut cutlass bearing
The wear pattern indicates a bent shaft causing an elliptical motion

View of the port transmission flange (just below the power take-off that runs the hydraulic system)
It's Tuesday morning. The coupling has been removed and delivered to Soundown for inspection

For comparison. View of the starboard side coupling, lip seal carriers and shaft seal

Coupling bolts, shaft seals and shaft seal carriers

View of the port shaft seal. Notice the brown trail caused by water leaking
The leak at the shaft seal was the tell-tale sign that Embree Marine Services' alignment in April was unsuccessful
Tool used to remove the strut cutlass bearing

The hull cutlass bearing cut out

New hull cutlass bearing installed

New strut cutlass bearing installed

Jeff from Guy Crudele Repairs working on the concurrent maintenance projects

Photo of a shaft being worked on at the Rose Marine machine shop

Dummy coupling fabricated by Soundown
This "tool" is the key to the alignment project

The propeller was sent to the shop for computer scanning
Guy Crudele was making sure that every component was machined to exact tolerances 
The port propeller was returned on Friday. The prop shop reports showed that the propeller met ISO 484 Accuracy Class of S - Very High Accuracy. ISO 484 defines the manufacturing tolerances for marine propellers. Both the "Initial" and "Final" Reports met the ISO "S" standard. The tolerances for the four blades were essentially unchanged from the prop work performed by Admiral in March. Bottom line. Damage to the propeller or torque distortion caused by blade misalignment ruled out the propeller as the cause of the misalignment or the damage to the coupling.

Frank Rose using a fork lift to assist Guy in positioning the shaft for installation
The 2.5 inch 15 foot stainless steel shaft weighs in excess of 300 pounds
Now, we come to the shaft. The machine shop reported that the shaft was bent 10,000th of an inch and that the bend was forward of the strut bearing. Since contact with the bottom or a foreign object was ruled out, the distortion in the shaft was the result of misalignment. Something caused the shaft to bend and the most likely cause is misalignment of the engine.

Guy Crudele installing the shaft

Frank and Guy pushing the shaft into position
This was the first big test of the alignment of the cutlass bearings
The shaft slid into place smoothly.  First test passed

Friday afternoon. Soundown has delivered the re-manufactured coupling
Chris Murray turned this project around in three days
Now let's talk about the coupling. Keep in mind the history here.
  • October 2016. New coupling purchased from Soundown (Cost $2,760)
  • March 2017: New coupling installed after the 2.75" flange is replaced with the 2.5" flange from the original coupling
  • March: The original coupling sent back to Soundown for re-manufacture
  • April: The re-manufactured original coupling is shipped to Embree for installation 
  • April: The new coupling is removed and shipped back to Soundown
  • April: The new coupling is checked for damage and a 2.5" flange is installed. Unit is tagged and stored atr Soundown for my eventual use on the starboard side.
  • June 13: The original coupling shipped to Maine for examination.
  • June 13-16: The original coupling is re-manufactured due to extensive damage sustained on the 200 hour run from Sarasota to Hingham
Recall that the coupling was removed on Tuesday morning and delivered to Soundown's manufacturing facility in Maine. Recall also that part of the coupling's job is to compensate for minor miss-alignment. The technician at Soundown reported that the coupling had been subjected to radical forces. A steel shaft within the unit that measures 2 inches in diameter by 4 inches long was bent 45,000 ths of an inch. Soundown had never seen such severe damage.

Special aluminum tool fabricated to lock the shaft in place when it is slid back
  in the water to swap out the Dummy Flange for the coupling

The shaft connected to the Dummy Coupling
The Tides Marine Shaft Seal is in the lower right hand corner of the photo
The Dummy Coupling facilitated a precise alignment.
The process of aligning the running gear involves physically moving the engine

The "shaft lock tool" is put in place
The shaft has to be moved backward in the water to remove the Dummy Coupling
The tool prevents the 300+ pound shaft from slipping backward and damaging the rudder

Jeff spray painting the port running gear on Friday afternoon

Remember the white patches along the hull where the slings prevented power washing
I had Rose Marine repaint the waterline and chines to get rid of the white patches (not yacht)
Guided Discovery being launched at 7:45 AM on a foggy Saturday morning
Guided Discovery operating on the starboard engine is en-route from Rose Marine to Pier 7 Marina
The aluminum  Dummy Coupling on the port side cannot deal with the torque needed to turn the shaft
Heading to Pier 7 Marina on a foggy Saturday morning on one engine

I pass the fishing trawler that was blocking the travel lift of Monday. Notice that it is listing to starboard.
Story I heard was that an engine had been removed. That would easily account for the starboard list

Jeff waiting on the dock at Pier 7 Marina
The final stage of the alignment occurs in the water

Guided Discovery at the dock at Pier 7 Marina
Guy Crudele is already hard at work completing the alignment
I spend 7 hours washing the boat
The last stage of the alignment occurs in the water. Once the Dummy Coupling, propeller, shaft and cutlass bearings are installed, the boat is launched and given time to "settle out." While on the hard, the hull is subject to forces from the blocking and jack-stands the substantively effect the alignment.

Now that we were in the water and tied to a dock the final phase of the alignment began. This involves performing the alignment with the shaft married to the Dummy Coupling. The initial reading according to Guy was that the alignment was out of tolerance by 27,000 ths of an inch. Time to move the engine.

All the facts thus far point to the alignment of the engine as the cause of the misalignment and the damage to the coupling, shaft and shaft seal. Remember, the engine is aligned to the shaft rather than the shaft being aligned to the engine. The Cat C9 engine weighs 1,500 pounds and is physically attached to other systems like exhaust and fuel (not easy to move). The process involves loosening the engine mounts, moving the engine with a pry bar and constantly checking tolerances with a feeler gauge as the mounts are locked down. 3,000 ths of an inch (.003") is within tolerance.

Guy achieved 2,000 ths on an inch (.002"). At that point, the Dummy Coupling was removed and replaced with the re-manufactured Evolution Coupling. We did a brief sea trial while tied to the dock. Essentially, the boat is put in gear and strains against the lines holding it fast to the dock. Believe it or not this actually works. Randy Cornett and I did this at Marina Jack. We could see the water leaking and the perceptible motion at the power take-off even with the engine at idle. Guy observed no motion or leaking. The final proof was the 4 hour run from Gloucester to Hingham. Upon arrival I checked the absorbent pad under the lip seal. It was bone dry. SUCCESS!

Illustration showing a rear engine mount in relation to the shaft and coupling

Rose Marine fuel barge approaching

Rose Marine fuel barge tied alongside after pumping 930 gallons into my tanks
Rose charged me $1,87 per gallon. The lowest price I've ever paid for diesel

Completed project after running 4 hours on Sunday back to Hingham. Notice that there is no water leak

The port engine starboard aft engine mount
Alignment required physically moving the engine
Notice that Guy has painted the engine mounts
Guy left the engine room spotless
Outside of some monumental expense, this has proven to be a very satisfying exercise. I worked with some phenomenal people, Chris Murray, Guy Crudele and Frank Rose who worked together to make this repair happen successfully. In total the boat was on the hard for 5 days. The entire project was completed in six.

Thank you to all!

Written by Les