Friday, July 17, 2009

Sound and vibrations.  That's what I am in tune with.  After being around engines and mechanical equipment for so many years,  you develop an awareness to changes in pitch and sound long before they might show up on the instruments you use to monitor the motors.  You just seem get a feel for when things aren't running right.

I know that some mothers can tell when their child is sick by the way they look, often before a fever sets in.  Its almost like they have a sixth sense.

Well we haven't been on Maya that long but the other day I knew something wasn't right with one of the engines.  The instrument panel didn't show anything abnormal, but something wasn't right.  There was this subtle vibration that I could feel.  It wasn't there all the time but there was definitely something going on.  At first I wanted to ignore it because after all, any problems we uncover eventually translates into boat units.  In some irrational part of my brain, I must have thought that by not investigating the problem, I could save some dough.  You know, out of sight out of mind.  Well its been said that most men lead lives of quiet desperation and I was quietly desperate that the slight vibration would resolve on its own and I could keep my wallet closed.

But it didn't.  As a matter of fact, after playing around with different power settings, I could pretty much make the vibration better or worse. The more power I added, the greater the shudder.  This was not good.  My experience over the years is that when an engine vibrates as thrust is added, it usually means that internally something is going bad.  It is the precursor to the mother of all boat unit expenditures.  The engine overhaul.  I couldn't even think about it.

Well, we motored down the intercoastal waterway for the rest of the day with the engines happy as clams at low power settings.  In the back of my mind though, I knew something was wrong.  Higher power settings produced that ominous vibration and eventually we were going to have to address the situation.

Later that afternoon when we had set the 'hook' (that's a synonym for the anchor... I hope you are making wallet cards) and were done for the day, I went down into the engine room to have a look around.  I couldn't find any leaks, the engine mounts were all tight and there were no broken lines or hoses lying around.  Of course, finding a bad bearing inside one of the engines would take the expertise of a diesel mechanic and we weren't near anyone like that.  But that would explain the vibrations.  It wasn't looking good.

Well, by now I had recovered from my jellyfish experience and I thought I would jump in the water and cool off for a bit. I could finish scrubbing the boat's water line from the last time when I was so rudely interrupted.  The waters where we were anchored were crystal clear as you could see the bottom 25 feet below the surface.  It was plain to see that there were no 'critters' floating around that might cause a swimmer pain, so in I went.  I was about a quarter of the way around the port side when I noticed a piece of rope (or "line") hanging down from one of the propellers.  That was odd.  I wondered where it had come from.

I dove down under the boat to get a closer look.  Sure enough, there was some nylon line wrapped around the starboard prop and shaft... about 15 feet worth.  Well, that would have to come off.  As luck would have it, I had just bought this groovy knife that was made especially for cutting lines.  Why it was special, I'm not sure.  All I know was that it cost a lot more than the steak knife I probably would have used and it looked cool.  Besides that, I am not sure future guests would enjoy hearing how their eating utensils were being used to perform minor mechanical chores.  

You might remember this show that was on TV back in the sixties called Flipper.  I don't remember much about the plots but it seems that the characters on the show were always going underwater to help Flipper save the day.  Every week in the climatic scene, they would dive from their boat with a knife in their mouth and swim great distances (behind Flipper) to cut free the endangered fish/child/boat... whatever.  The mental image of me swimming with a knife in my mouth was something that I considered to be totally insane.  If I didn't drop it or cut myself, I am quite sure that I would look like a total moron coming up for air with this knife between my teeth.  You know, that David Hasselhoff  Baywatch look?  So I decided to do the smart thing with the knife (or so it seemed at the time) and put it in my front pant's pocket.  

Now listen carefully here.  If you don't learn anything from my blog musings, know that it is not a good idea to dive off the boat and into the water with a sharp knife in your front pant's pocket.  Nuff' said.

I am happy to report that I was able to free the entangled line from our prop and shaft and that the heretofore vibrations were most certainly caused by its presence.  This was confirmed the next day when at high RPM's, the engines ran like butter.  The vibrations were gone.  I am also happy to report that the only thing that was cut that afternoon was the fouled line and that all body parts were later accounted for.

*Note to self:  Buy sheaf for knife.