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.

BACKGROUND:

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).

NOW BACK TO THE ORIGINAL STORY

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

On the Hard Again: Getting It Straight - Background

This is going to be a long story.

The story starts in May of 2016 while en-route run from Sarasota to Hingham. During a routine engine check, I discovered black dust on the absorbent pad underneath the port side transmission coupling The pad was absolutely clean when we departed Sarasota.  This condition manifested itself after 1,421 NM and 200 hours of running since leaving Sarasota. My engines had just reached the 1,000 hour mark.

Port Coupling - Rubber dust on absorbent pad after 200 hours
 
Starboard coupling - no dust
Explanatory Note #1: My practice is to maintain clean absorbent pads underneath the engines and transmissions. This makes it very easy to spot a problem with the running gear, such as a fluid leak

According to Randy Ives, Outer Reef's Warranty Manager, the black rubber dust was coming from a bearing in the coupling and that eventually the coupling would need repair. He took the position that failure was not imminent and that I should address the problem when I came south in November.

Explanatory Note #2: According to Evolution Marine, the Evolution Flexible Shaft Coupling (EFSC) solves misalignment, absorbs and dampens shock loads and shaft vibrations, prolongs the life of machinery, and isolates metal-to-metal for quietness.

The EFSC is comprised of four major components: 1) a spool flange machined to bolt directly to the reduction flange; 2) a large circular rubber flex joint that's replaceable; 3) a split flange coupling for the shaft with pinch bolts, set bolts, and key-way; 4) a retainer cover that serves to protect the rubber flex joint, capture all bolts, and improve overall strength of the unit.

Meanwhile, at the completion of the May 2016 trip north, the Caterpillar C9 engines were ready for their 1,000 hour maintenance service. So, upon arrival in Hingham I put out quote requests to Milton Caterpillar and three other Cat AMDs (Authorized Marine Dealers). The 1,000 hour service involves, in addition to a normal oil/filter change, cleaning of the aftercoolers, heat exchangers, turbo chargers and a valve adjustment. This is a big deal (read as expensive - easily $10,000). Months go by an I get no response.

So I follow-up with the four perspective servicers. Milton Cat, the "big regional" Cat dealer was not interested in my project (and they will only work on engines - I have transmissions and generators that also need service - so I was really not interested in them). Two of the other Cat AMDs were too busy.  The third, Hansen Marine, took an interest in the project but they needed three tries to produce an estimate that closely reflected the 1,000 hour service tasks and required parts. They finally produced the "almost satisfactory" quote after I detailed the labor tasks and parts for them (using my Wheelhouse Technology Application).

Explanatory Note: Why, you ask, am I adamant that the servicer give me an estimate that lists all maintenance tasks and required parts? Simple. I want to ensure that the servicer can complete the job in one visit. I also want to shop for the best price. I do not think that is unreasonable.

Side Story: My son-in-law, Scott McBeth, runs a jet ski rental business at the Lighthouse Inn in West Dennis on Cape Cod. During his visit, which was just before my departure to Marblehead, he told me a story about getting ripped off on both parts and labor for a jet ski repair. Just for grins I decided to check Hansen's pricing on parts using my Wheelhouse Technology Maintenance Application. Oops. Hansen had overpriced about 15 parts to the tune of $600 as compared to Wheelhouse prices (which, by their own admission, are already marked up 10% over retail). So I bring the boat to Marblehead and the morning before starting the job, I bring the pricing "error" to Hansen's Service Manager's attention. Bad result. Tom calls back and says the owner, Bob Hansen, wont change the pricing. I get Bob on the phone and he gets defensive and belligerent (not to mention illogical about the reason for the overcharge). I don't like getting ripped off and Diana is shocked by Bob's reaction. We cancel the project.

Oops its September and I'm headed back to Florida on November 1 and I have no one to perform the 1,000 hour service. Back to the drawing boards. With a little help from Caterpillar I locate Guy Crudele, a Cat AMD located in Gloucester. Guy gets the parts and labor tasks right on the first quote and prices the parts at retail. Hallalujah!!!! Not only that, he completes the project on time and on budget. Hallalujah, Hallalujah!!!!

Meanwhile back to the Evolution Coupling Story. I made contact early on with Chris Murray at Soundown, the company that had acquired the Evolution Coupling business. After lengthy discussion, I decided to buy a new coupling ($2,700 - thank you) and have it installed when I returned to Florida. My logic for the new coupling was to swap out the "bad" one, have it rebuilt and keep it as a spare

So, upon arrival in Sarasota in November 2016, I immediately made arrangements to haul the boat and swap out the coupling. I chose Bayfront Yacht Yard, a division of Marina Jack, to address the coupling swap-out and bottom painting, which was definitely needed after three years.

Days before the scheduled haul-out a powerful northeast storm literally pushed the the water out of the ICW. Bayfront is located on Siesta Key and is accessed only from the ICW.  Bayfront, under normal circumstances, could only haul our boat at high tide and even then we would have only 6" of bottom clearance. Following the storm and for weeks thereafter (and in fact for the rest of the winter), Bayfront never saw even 5 feet at high tide (and even with a full moon). Good news, bad news. In this case they are both the same, We were unable to haul the boat, which turns out to be VERY GOOD NEWS as we would never have been able to launch it. In other words, Diana, Kodi and I would have been homeless for the winter.

Another Side Story: In anticipation of the haul-out, we rented a lovely 3 bedroom two bath home close to Siesta Key (and the boat) for 10 days using the HomeAway website. Unfortunately, we could not use it due to the water depths. So we lost $2,000. Again, good news. If the boat had stayed on the hard the financial loss would have been a $12,000 - $16,000 to rent a place for 4 months.

Back to the drawing boards. It took another two months to arrange a haul-out to address the coupling, bottom paint and other projects. This time I selected Embree Marine Services, a boat yard in St. Petersburg with a great reputation.


On Sunday, March 12, I cruised to the Harboridge Marina in St. Pertersburg with Phil Fuoco (a two time crew member - 2014) along with his wife Carol and two of their friends. It was a beautiful day for a cruise and we ended it with dinner at the St Petersburg Yacht Club.  The goal was to position the boat for an early Monday morning high tide haul out at Embree. After dinner, I drove my friends back to Sarasota and then drove back to St. Petersburg.

Approaching the channel that ends at Embree Marine Services
Early Monday morning, I pulled out of Harboridge and proceeded down a narrow channel to Embree. You can see by the photo of the Travelift that I arrived at high tide. Glitch. Due to the positioning of the boat on the Travelift (she was stern heavy), they needed to off load 300 gallons of fuel from the aft auxiliary tanks to enable them to lift the boat.


Arriving at Embree

The 63 was still in the water by the time we departed for Fort Lauderdale
Diana and I then took off for a two week "vacation" in Fort Lauderdale Florida. Our friends, Sophocles and Elena, generously gave us the use of their beautiful condominium with a spectacular 230 degree views that encompassed the city, the Atlantic and the ICW.

Jackson Towers, our home for two weeks
Houston, we have a problem. Ok, I admit that may be a bit more dramatic than necessary. On Friday morning, four days into the project I get a call from Chad Shakespeare, the Service Manager at Embree, informing me of a serious problem with the new coupling. It had a flange capable of receiving a 2.75 inch shaft. The shaft on the 63 is 2.5 inches. Oops.

I immediately informed Chris Murray at Soundown of the flange problem. Chris said "no problem," just have the yard remove the flange from the old coupling and install it on the new one. We did this and the project proceeded. Turns out it was not that simple.

Embree finished the projects on Thursday, March 22. Early Friday morning Diana and I drove 5 hours from Fort Lauderdale, stopped in Sarasota to pick up my friend, Jim Lampl, and drove to St. Petersburg arriving at around 12:00 PM. Jim and I departed at 2:00 PM after dealing with a few last minute issues. Our goal was to get back to Sarasota for a 7:00 PM dinner party with the Singers. We actually got there at 7;30 PM - lovely dinner party. OK, some days are a bit hectic.

Unfortunately, all was not well with the port engine running gear. Upon arrival at Sarasota I discovered that there was a leak at the shaft seal, which manifested itself on the clean absorbent pad that I had installed before leaving Embree.

I informed Chad that the shaft seal was leaking along with a couple of other minor issue. No problem says he and several days later, on April 10, his top technician, Randy Cornett, arrived at Marina Jack to address the issues. Randy had me "sea trial" the boat at the dock by putting the port engine in gear at idle speed. Sure enough, we saw water leaking at the seal and more importantly, perceptible motion at the power takeoff and shaft seal. Randy declared that the alignment was not successful. Randy and I contacted, discussed Randy's findings with Chad and we agreed on a date to haul the boat. BOY, DO I LIKE DEALING WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE INTEGRITY!!

Now the project get's more complicated. Chris Murray from Soundown was not happy with the flange swap-out and felt it may be contributing to the misalignment. So, he had Embree ship the old coupler back to Soundown so it could be rebuilt and have a 2.5 inch flange installed. Due to the fact that I was departing on May 1 for Hingham, Soundown expedited the rebuild and shipped the coupling to Embree overnight (read as very expensive). Just for the record, the new coupling, the rebuild and the shipping came to $5,181. Ouch!

Note: Chris also agreed, as part of the deal, to rebuild the new (now old) coupling once it was removed. The plan was tag it and store is as a "spare."

Guided Discovery "On The Hard Again"
On Tuesday, April 25, accompanied by Phil Fuco, I cruised to St. Petersburg to haul the boat at Embree. Upon arrival, Embree off loaded 300 gallons of fuel from the auxiliary tanks to facilitate the lift. Chad's team went to work, hauled the boat, swapped out the coupling, installed a new lip seal and, working in conjunction with Chris Murray, re-did the alignment. I returned on Thursday, April 28th to take possession of the boat.

Reader's Note: The following paragraph appears in the article "Decisions, Decisions and Still More Decisions."

"The boat was hauled on Tuesday, April 25, at Embree Marine Services to correct an alignment problem on the port engine. On that haul, Embree had removed 300 gallons of fuel from the auxiliary tanks to facilitate the lift. On my instructions, they returned all 300 gallons to the main tanks, which topped them off, and put the excess (31 gallons) in the auxiliary tanks. Therefore, I left St Petersburg Florida on Thursday, April 28 with 1,000 gallons in the main tanks. Upon arrival in Sarasota I noted a fuel burn of 39 gallons. At departure on Monday morning I had 960 gallons in the mains (and 31 gallons in the auxiliaries)."

After the off-loaded fuel was pumped back into the tanks (see above), Chad, Randy and I took the 63 for a sea trial off the local waters. This version included running the boat through the full power curve to check for any vibration and to exert maximum stress on the running gear. Chad came up to the bridge with the bad news. The shaft seal was leaking and they could see perceptible motion at the power takeoff and seal. Chad took the helm and I went to see for myself.

As we headed for the city dock the three of us discussed the situation in relation to the upcoming 1500 NM cruise to Hingham. Chad explained that he had done his best and was now out of options (even if I agreed to delay the trip north). He agreed to refund the cost of the alignment $1,080. He did not think that the misaligned running gear posed a safety problem that would cause me not to make the trip north. That said, the 200 hour run north would probably damage the coupling. So the consequence was strictly financial.

Did I mention that I like doing business with people of integrity? Chad Shakespeare and Embree Marine are good people who stand behind their work. Most of their work was successful and where they failed they corrected the problem or refunded the charge. Hard to argue.

So, you ask, where is the pony in this pile of manure? By heading north back to Massachusetts I have the opportunity to work directly with Soundown, the manufacturer of the coupling and their engineer, Chris Murray. Soundown's headquarters is located in Salem Mass which is close to Gloucester where there are marinas with the ability to haul the 63.

Stay tuned for part two of the story.

Written by Les.