Boat Journal

Chronicling a love affair with sailing

Month: July 2011

Aligning an Engine

OK so. I thought the simpler coupler would make it much easier to tell if my engine was aligned to the shaft. After all, the coupler wouldn’t fit together right if the engine wasn’t aligned correctly.


But it doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. The first time we took the boat out, it ran like a dream. I heard a slight knocking from the engine compartment, but that didn’t seem to be too bad. When we got back to the marina, however, and put the boat in reverse to back it into the slip, we didn’t move: the prop had slipped out of the coupler!

The engine sits on a bracket, with bolts and spacers to attach from engine to bracket. There are three different slots on the bracket to fit onto two different screw holes on the engine. You select the slots and holes that will fit your engine. Mine was an ‘in between’ issue: too low for one location, too high for another. We selected the ‘too low’ one and raised the bracket on the rail to adjust. By doing so, we put it almost to the top of the bolt on the rail.

There are two bolts on the bolt that attaches to the rail: one under the bracket, one above it. The idea is to adjust the lower bracket upward, then tighten it down with the top one. Moving the attachment to the ‘too high’ one, I had to remove the underneath bolt. I put in washers instead to try to bring it to the correct level.

Try again. Get it all attached and take it out again. Same problem. But this time I actually lost it while we were out in the water. Terrible knocking started. When we got back, we found the prop shaft had slipped out again.

I called Scott at Electric Yacht again. He said that they’d started sending another bracket along to stabilize the engine, once it had been adjusted correctly. I received the bracket after getting the boat down to Portsmouth. So I installed it before heading back up to Yorktown. It shook less, but the knocking was still there. So I made use of the outboard instead to get the boat home.

And I’ve given up. I’m turning to the professionals at the marina to get it aligned. Hopefully, they can fix what I couldn’t.

Follow up: Seems the problem wasn’t the engine. And I need stop blaming everything on it. I had a bent shaft. Once that was replaced, all the knocking stopped.

Once that was fixed, all I had to do was loosen the bolts holding it from rotating and run the engine at low speeds. I then rocked it, checked it for motion, then rocked it a bit more. When I was satisfied that it was seated properly, I tightened everything down.

Oh, by the way, I figured out the prop shaft problem myself. The marina, in this case, wasn’t much help.

Back Home

It’s that time of year again. Cock Island Race in Portsmouth, then family reunion a week later. This past weekend, I brought the boat back up to Yorktown. I had offers of help that I turned down. I had a bracket to install on the electric engine, and I had a new bilge pump to put in. So, rather than asking anyone else to get up at the crack of dawn so we could get cars transported, I decided to go it alone.

Didn’t end up leaving until noon however. Bilge pump took longer than I expected, then I didn’t have the drill bit to put a hole in the rail for the bracket, so ended up making a trip to the hardware store. Got the wrong bit and still didn’t get the bracket installed. But I said to hell with it and headed out anyway.

I ended up motoring most of the way down the Elizabeth, since the wind wasn’t going to let me get across as quickly as I wanted. As I approached the bay, the direction of the wind was such that I thought I might actually get to cross the tunnel by sail. Then the speedboats came.

Guess I should have paid attention to the notice that there was an announcement on Channel 16 for anyone in the Elizabeth River or near Craney Island. There was a speedboat race that afternoon, and I was on the wrong side of the Elizabeth when the boats started coming through. Fast ones. The kind you see the drug runners using in the movies. Every time I thought it was safe to cross in front of them, another wave came by. I finally headed up the James while I waited for them to finish. Nice sailing, but I lost a couple of hours of time doing so.

Heading towards the Hampton Roads tunnel, I lost speed. Not wanting to push the electric, I started the outboard. About then, I saw Excelsior and slowed down, hoping to say ‘hello’ as they passed. They didn’t stop, so I tried starting the engine again, figuring by this time I needed to hurry to get to Salt Ponds before they closed. The outboard wouldn’t start. The electric wouldn’t give me more than about ½ a knot, and I was pushing it. The wind was coming from the wrong direction to sail across, so I turned around, and called Hampton Public Piers for a slot for the night. Turning around also gave me 3-1/2 knots, so there must have been some current there at the time.

Hampton Public Piers meant losing another couple of hours getting home. So the next day, I filled up the gas can, rather than mess with the bracket on the electric engine, and figured to motor unless the winds were really good. They weren’t, and I motored most of the way. On the good side, I saw plenty of dolphins, the breeze was strong enough to keep me from getting too hot on the trip, and the nasty spot near the mouth off of the Poquoson Flats and the mouth of the York, where the waves and wind usually kick up, was perfect sailing.

I’m very tanned now. And the boat is back where it belongs.