Friday, March 11, 2011

Engine Alignment and Spinal Recovery

This week my dream, six years in the making, quietly emerged; I now call s/v Dervish my home. In truth, I will be spending most of March and April away as I work a temporary job to feed the cruising kitty. For now, this week, I am aboard and surrounded with all the stuff I couldn't bear to part with. I have been paring my life down with each move (6 moves in 8 years) and still I find incredible redundancy. I own so many objects in duplicate or even triplicate. I never realized this before. Look around, I bet you do too--unless you live on  a boat, in a bus or on a bike.

The actual move was brutal due to a late February blizzard that left the docks iced over and treacherous. This, combined with steep low-tide ramps, made transporting my carloads of small boxes (small because I can't carry more than 25 lbs) nearly impossible. But tell me, what is the use of realizing a dream if you don't have some adversity to overcome? Just like a good movie plot, I had many obstacles between me and my aim. 

My spine is still healing; I am now in the fifth month since the big crash. I am pretty much out of alignment from occiput to sacrum, however, each week is a little better than the last.  I can feel my core muscle strength developing. Carefully shoveling snow with a small dustpan served as a meditation in conscious movement. I worked for over two hours clearing the deck and chipping the ice from the cockpit so the scuppers would be clear when it finally started to thaw. In addition to my boat work reconditioning regime, I continue physical therapy and weekly massages. I am determined to return to my pre-accident condition or better. I fully intend to sail my little ship north this summer.

Meantime, I plod along with the boat projects. Dervish was in desperate need of her own alignment; the 12hp Farymann A30 single cylinder diesel engine was as out of whack as my back.  I always thought the motor seemed to jump around a lot and was terribly noisy, but since I had zero experience with one cylinder engines, I accepted it as normal. Wrong.

It was nearly a quarter inch off (no kidding), which was likely the cause of my dripping "dripless" shaft seal. That seal has been leaking since the day I launched Dervish. First time out I noticed water spraying from it and running into the bilge. It wasn't much, not enough to trigger the bilge pump's float switch, but enough to coat everything with sea water. I soon tracked down the shop that installed it in Coos Bay, Oregon and eventually got the technician on the phone who did the work. He remembered the boat and assured me it would improve with time, which it did. Evidently the interfaces need a little run time to mate up properly. It did improve after a few hours of use, but all last year, the seal continued to spray a little when motoring.

Shawn and I took a look the motor mounts, and he pointed out that they weren't easily adjustable with a simple turn of a nut like some are. I noticed the port side had a shim between the mount and the stringer that the starboard side did not have. My engine was actually laying on the starboard stringer as a result of the sheared bolt, and missing second mounting boltCorrecting this would bring everything much closer to proper alignment. Shawn was able to jack up the motor and add the missing shim to the starboard side, replace the bolts, and align the engine coupler with the shaft coupler. Below is the starboard mount after the fix.

Like me, it isn't in perfect alignment, but it's much closer to the specified gap allowance. I haven't had a chance to take her out for a test yet to see if it solved the spraying shaft seal issue, but I do know that there is a significant reduction in vibration and noise. And I can rest assured that my little one-lunger isn't going to rattle completely loose!

While we were in there, we took the raw water and exhaust hoses off. I was amazed to see how much crud had encrusted the engine water intake. Unbelievable! The diameter of the pipe was probably reduced by about 25% due to the build-up. Shawn scraped it out with a screwdriver. Eww...

The water hose had chafed pretty badly in a couple places, so it was prudent to replace it. We looked everywhere for a decent one and ended up buying some West Marine hose which, although it had the same inner diameter, was much thinner walled than the original. Seems most things are poorer quality anymore. Shawn zip tied a little extra chafe protection on just to be on the safe side. (I like the safe side!) The picture is at a poor angle which makes the bend look much sharper than it really is. The new exhaust hose is also visible in the lower right.

As I type this from aboard Dervish, my neck grinds a little with each turn and my back has "adjusted" more than once already today. I may not yet be completely straightened out, but at least my motor aligns and my hoses are new! It will officially be spring in less than two weeks, (lovers awake!) the daystar burns through now and then, and I continue to meet interesting new friends who want to sail. The adventure is beginning, and this time around there is nobody but myself to hold me back. Watch out! 


Steve Roberts said...
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Steve Roberts said...

Dervish has a most worthy skipper... and a fine scribe as well! I look forward to reading your tales of adventure, and am already savoring the trajectory.