October 19, 2004

The Tale of the 10 Cent Lock Washer

Hi Everyone!

It's been a few days since you last heard from us, but that's because we've been really busy.

On Sunday, we had a really lumpy motor from the Isthmus at Catalina to Dana Point, intending to layover for the evening before heading on to San Diego Monday morning.

After entering the harbor, we throttled back, lowered the mainsail and were proceeding slowly up the channel to the Western Anchorage at Dana Point (no slips were available) when the engine just QUIT! No noises, no alarms, normal engine temperature and oil pressure.... nothing out of the ordinary.... it just stopped! --Diesels aren't supposed to do that! Also, the engine would not restart or even turn over.

We did manage, with a little tow help from another boat (a little 22 footer with a 9 horse outboard - how embarrassing) to get to the anchorage and safely drop anchor.

Those of you who have seen Raptor Dance in person, may have noticed that we have a "BIG HONKING ANCHOR" with all an all chain anchor rode (that's the line between the boat and the anchor for you non-sailors)- so we're safely at anchor in a very nice place.

I went through the list of all the possible things I could think of Sunday night and did lots of diagnosis - to no avail. I new it was something "major".

Fortunately, the anchorage is just off Dana Point Yacht club and called around and got the reference for a really great mechanic who specializes in the type of engine we have (Westerbeke). He was on the spot at 1045 Monday morning and we spent all day Monday taking the engine apart to diagnose the problem.

Something was binding inside the engine that prevented the engine from starting, running, or even to rotate freely (big scraping noise) when turned manually.

Much to everyone's surprise, when we took off the transmission, there were two bolts rattling around inside the flywheel housing (called a bell housing since it's in the shape of a bell). One of the bolts had it's lock washer in place. We didn't know where the other one got to.

At the end of Monday, it looked really bad! We might need a new engine - which would take 7 to 10 days just to get here and then 1 or 2 days to swap (not to mention the $$$$). We resigned ourselves to having to delay the San Diego family activities and probably missing the Baja-Haha, something we've been looking forward to for years ;-(

Only one more thing to take apart and check out - but that had to wait until this morning as we needed to jack up the engine and remove the back to check why the flywheel was binding. The only other time the mechanics (we had a consult going on by this time) had seen something like this before, the crankshaft was cracked and the most reasonable solution was to replace the whole engine!!!!

Well, Tuesday morning dawns and the mechanic is back on the job, using a chain lift with a 2 x 4 across the companionway to lift the engine off it's rear mounts so the bell housing could be removed. An all morning job.

Off it came and guess what - there was the missing lock washer, wedged in between the bell housing and the flywheel. The source of the problem!!!!

Hooray!

Reassembling the engine - and she started right up!

We're not quite back together yet, one part was worn enough to warrant replacement (the damping plate which couples the engine to the transmission). A new part should be here by 10 AM tomorrow and then the transmission will get put back on and we'll be ready to continue down to San Diego on Thursday.... If no other unforeseen circumstances arise.

That's the news from Dana Point! We're off to the yacht club next for Taco Tuesday! ;-}
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Let me just put this another way.... We had a bumpy ride between Catalina and Dana Point - the least comfortable segment of the trip so far. But we were looking forward to getting in at 230 to kick back and relax the rest of the day.

Oh well!!!!!!

Then the adrenaline rush, the fire drill, watching the swing around the anchor all night in shifting winds (one boat was a bit too close for our taste) and a lot of attempted diagnosis.

By the next day we had resigned ourselves to the major change of plans, were very disappointed but were OK.

This really made us realize how much we really were looking forward doing the HaHa.

Something could still come up, but it's looking like we'll be back on track by Thursday night, in time for the family and the Haha.

Some seasoned cruising friends gave us a bottle of Champaign for when we have a really "OH S#$%" experience. It's still unopened :-}
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Best wishes,

Bill and Mary
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