Shearwater to Campbell River

Or at least that was the plan…

Having done some simple preventative maintenance (oil, belts, filters) while waiting for Patrick, and then boarding him, we were ready to be on our way from Shearwater to Campbell River, our next marina stop, with a few anchoring stops before we reached there.

First night was slated to be at the end of Fitzhgh sound, either Fury Cove or one of the other safe harbours while we waited for good conditions to round Cape Caution. Note, however, that weather reports were good for the next few days. This will be important as our tale unfolds.

About 5 or 10 miles north of Fury Cove, which is at the mouth of the Fitzhugh Sound, the engine suddenly stopped. As long as it was out of gear, it ran fine. Put it into gear and it would stop immediately. Upon investigation, the engine room was filled with smoke, with no fire, and we eventually traced it down to the V-drive. Yes, the same V-drive that had caused the problem going from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan. Yes, the same V-drive that had been rebuilt in December. We were to find that the problem this time was far more serious, but that is getting ahead of ourselves.

With no other real recourse, we hoisted sails and continued onwards out into Queen Charlotte Sound. At first it was exhilarating, topping 7 knots. But, as predicted, the winds soon died down to a whisper. We continued on into the night, three hours on duty, 6 hours off, trying to make some way in the light winds, with me sleeping bundled up in the cockpit in case something else went wrong. I wanted to be right there…

My logbook shows speeds like 2.8 knots, 3.3 knots, 2.26 knots. Then, around 03:00, the wind pretty much dropped to nothing and we were posting speeds like 0.74 knots, 0.21 knots, before jumping up to around 2 knots for a couple of hours and then subsiding to 0.9 knots, 0.2 knots, etc. That was to be our fate throughout the day, posting speeds of of less than a knot for hours on end. Around 18:00 we finally climbed up over 1 knot again. However, with winds forecast to drop to nothing once more, the channel narrowing, and night drawing close, we once again called for a tow and were towed into Port McNeil, arriving at 03:30.

When a mechanic was finally able to come out and look at the system, we found that there were angle grinder cuts into the casing, and that the casing had worn through in one spot, letting out the lubricating oil. This hole was in a place that was, basically, impossible to see unless the drive was removed for inspection, and certainly was not there when we performed the earlier fix to the flanges. Further, it appears that it was worn from inside the case as nothing on the outside of the case has any scarring from rubbing.

So Opus is sitting in Port McNeil now. We contacted the V-drive manufacturer (Walter Machine Company in New Jersey) and they are sending out a factory refurbished unit for us to install. They’ve been delightful to work with.

Frustration, depression, anger, all emotions that are coursing through me at the moment. The mechanicals on Opus have let me down so many times and each time that we think it’s fixed, it finds a new way to screw me over.

Lest you think that it’s a maintenance issue, I’ll say that I’ve been religious about oil changes in both the engine and the v-drive. The V-drive was removed from Opus and serviced in December.

Patrick elected to return to his business, understandably, since we had no ETA on repairs. Hubert is able to remain for a few days, but he also has a deadline. Hopefully the repairs will be effected before he has to leave and he can at least make the trip to Campbell River, if not all the way home with me. Otherwise, I’ll be single-handing Opus home from Port McNeil.

Both Patrick and Hubert have been great throughout, shouldering their share of the trip and keeping a good attitude throughout. They’re welcome back any time!

Port McNeil to Campbell River would be the first long leap. It’s shorter than the Ketchikan to Prince Rupert leg I single handed by about 3 hours. After that, though, things become a lot easier, especially since I’ll be in my “home waters”. The legs are shorter and the navigation familiar to me. In fact, I probably don’t even need a chart plotter or charts from there on, though I am certainly not going to do without their aid! Still, I’ll hope that Hubert can finish this trip with me. It all depends on how fast the replacement v-drive gets here!

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