Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Tubed !

In what the statistics confirm has been the rainiest June / July since 1959, we FINALLY had a weekend with no rain and a friend of the former owner came to help us install a new propeller shaft tube.  (Confession: he did the work and we fed him sandwiches and beer.)  It looks great and the polyester tube is more marine-friendly than the stainless steel mix that was rusted and pitted.  If you're wondering why we changed the tube, see The Naked Truth Parts I and II.

Prop shaft tube: before and after.
Of course, if everything went smoothly, this would all cease to be fun, right?  Luckily for us, there are a couple of glitches to keep things interesting.  When he took the rubber stuffing box (in French “joint Volvo”) off the shaft, he saw that it was quite worn and suggested that we change it.  He didn’t have a spare one with him so we now have to scout around to find one (early attempts this morning suggest this will not be so straightforward, either).  He also had to cut away the rusted bolts on the gear box to liberate the shaft, and didn’t have spare bolts of the right size to replace them. 

Needed: bolts for gearbox (left) and a volvo joint (right).
Once we have located all the missing parts, we can put everything together and write a big DONE next to this job in the maintenance log.  But neither of us feels confident enough to install the Volvo joint ourselves since this is a critical element that keeps water from gushing into the boat through the propeller shaft tube.  The instructions sound simple enough but we’ve never seen it done before, so we’ll call in reinforcements for this one.

We also learned a valuable lesson, one which you may very well find bleeding obvious, but as the saying goes, “one experiment is worth a thousand expert opinions.”  When you take a circular saw to the hull of a boat, fine dust goes everywhere.  We had been warned and put plastic covering in the work area.  This is useful for catching about 50% of what flies, and the rest you just have to vacuum up afterwards.  Here’s what we learned:  a vacuum cleaner intended for regular home use just isn’t up to this kind of task.  After about 45 minutes of vacuuming with my hot pink Electrolux home-edition, it began making an angry, high-pitched whine, became very hot, and gave up the ghost with a big dusty belch.

So before making the rounds of the ship chandler’s to look for missing parts, we went to the hardware store and bought a manly man’s wet-dry shop vac for the boat (it’s yellow and black) and took my little pink machine to be repaired.  Now, we may have our dim moments, but we knew that we shouldn’t admit that we were using it to suck up polyester resin fiberglass boat hull dust.  In the parking lot of the repair shop, we prepared our story.  We would simply tell them that it was plaster dust from a small home repair job. 

“Plaster dust ?!  It says clearly in your instructions that the machine isn’t to be used with ash or fine dust. I’m afraid your warranty won’t cover this.”  At that moment, my American instincts kicked in and I began planning how I could fight them on this by pointing out that their instructions said nothing about polyester resin fiberglass boat hull dust.  But while I was scheming, I also heard something in the background that sounded like “…it will cost more to repair than to buy a new one” and saw the flash of defeat and resignation already on Patrick’s face.

My hot pink electrolux (R.I.P.) and the new shop vac.
Reviewing the day’s events over beer later in the evening, my assessment was that the day had been a rather poopey one.  Patrick, a born optimist, just announced with a smile, “we’re less stupid now than when we woke up this morning.” 

Addendum:  A few days after this post, Patrick took our little pink Electrolux back to the appliance store to ask them how to get into the motor compartment so he could try cleaning it himself.  A different guy was at the help desk and suggested sending it to the shop and asking them for an estimate of how much it would cost to clean and repair.  A couple of days later, we get a call to come and pick it up.  Twenty-eight euros, thoroughly cleaned and with a new filter.  What do you get when you combine a ruthlessly positive attitude with tenacity and luck?  Patrick, that’s what !  Drives me banoonoos sometimes, but gotta love him !