Ah, the ignominy of it all

Opus has had her share, or even more than her share, of mechanical problems. And, while I’m willing to get my hands dirty and pitch in, there are only so many things I can do alone. For instance, I won’t climb the rig solo – I want someone there to help. That means not being able to replace the wind instruments.

Opus and I were planning to do a long trip this past summer up to Alaska and back. We actually did make it to Alaska, but just barely. She broke on the way north, shearing the bolts that connect the engine to the prop shaft. On the way south again, she broke her vee drive. We did make it home, eventually, after a bit of an adventure.

Last month she did the bolt-shearing thing again, despite having been certified as Ok by 2 different mechanics. Enough is enough, and I set out to find a shop to fix this problem once and for all. We settled on a boatyard but then came the problem of how to get her down there. It broke down into three stages:

  1. Get Opus out of the marina she’s in and into open waters.
  2. Get Opus from there to the vicinity of the boat yard.
  3. Get Opus into the boatyard.

The second stage was the easy one – sail her. We’re now in late October, the winter sailing season is setting in, and there’s plenty of wind to work with.

First stage was also, seemingly, doable. Jury rig a repair that would let the engine work for about 15-20 minutes to clear out of the marina.

Third stage would have to be handled by a tow since the approach to the Marina we convoluted and narrow, but that’s doable.

Unfortunately, things are not going to plan. The flange from the vee drive still had parts of the sheared bolts in it, so they had to be removed. In order to do that, the vee drive had to be removed to gain access to the bolts. And then it had to be re-installed, and therein begins the tale of woe. It simply would not go back on. After two days of fighting with it, the decision was made that Opus would have to be towed all the way to the boat yard. Unfortunately, the wind was not feeling at all cooperative.

Wind conditions that would have been fun and exciting to sail in are not good for towing. So Opus sat at the dock for day after day, hoping for the wind to abate. We finally got a weather window open on a Friday, plans were made on Thursday night, the tow boat showed up at 10am and we were quickly on our way. The weather gods took pity and the crossing was completed in about 7 1/2 hours, arriving at _a_ marina, but not _the_ marina, at 17:30, friday evening. Arrangements had been made to stay until Monday, and we’ll get another two for the approximately 2 miles to the repair boatyard.

The last part of the first tow took us into the northern entrance of the Swinomish Channel, through a railroad swing bridge, and under some power lines that took a bit of close examination of the air clearance. We figured that at the high tide, I would still, barely, fit under them. We weren’t quite at high tide when we arrived there, so we had a little bit extra margin. After that it was under some more, higher, power lines and then an uneventful cruise down the channel. Coming into the dock without power and no real way to stop had my heart rate up a bit, but the tow captain managed the energy perfectly and Opus glided up to the dock, where I jumped off and only had to do the tiniest pull on the lines to get her completely stopped, then walk her along the dock to tuck in tight against the line of boats and leaving room for another boat behind me.

Now we sit at the dock for the next few days until she can be lifted out on Monday and they do a thorough going over on the engine to get it to stop doing this bad stuff. They’ll also be doing some electrical work because the charging system for the batteries does not seem to be working properly (noted on the way down here to the intermediate marina), and a few other oddments.

By the time this is done, Opus is going to feel like a new boat. I hope.