Boat Journal

Chronicling a love affair with sailing

Month: September 2011

Doing it Wrong

In our family, the story of the farmer and the mule is near and dear to our hearts:

A farmer is heading out of town. While he’s gone, his neighbor is going to take care of his mule.

“He’s a good mule, ” says the owner. “Treat him well, say kind words, and he’ll not give you a lick of trouble. He works hard, that’s a fact.”

So the owner leaves and the neighbor decides to make use of the mule. So he hooks him up to a plow and tries to get him to move. The animal won’t budge. So the neighbor tries speaking kind words to him.

No good. The mule won’t move.

He tries bribing the animal with apples, with carrots, with hay. It doesn’t help. The mule won’t budge.

The next week, the owner returns. His neighbor relates his frustration.

“I tried everything, just like you said. Kind words, treats. Nothing worked. That damn mule wouldn’t budge!”

“Hmmm,” said the farmer. Then he picks up a 2×4 and smacks the mule on the side of the head. The mule looks up, startled, and slowly starts to move.

“First,” said the farmer, “you have to get his attention.”

So, in our family, we talk about 2×4 mentalities.

This brings me to my ‘engine’ problems. Because the engine was the new piece on the boat, I blamed all the problems I was having on it. Everything wobbled. It had to be the engine. The boat wouldn’t move. It had to be the engine. In each case, that 2×4 came and smacked me hard on the side of the head to make me see it wasn’t the engine; it was other problems instead.

The serious vibration problem was a bent shaft. It had been suggested to me that I have the shaft checked before I put it back on the boat. I tried rolling the thing on a flat surface. It rolled just fine. I didn’t think it was an issue. But, after exhausting all other possibilities, when I took the boat out of the water again, I disassembled everything and took the shaft into a machine shop to have it checked. It was bent – at the conical section that attaches to the prop. So roll it all I want, I wasn’t going to see the issue.

Hooray! So we put everything back together, and checked it before putting it back in the water. I was told that might not find all the problems, because most of that vibration came when trying to move the boat through the water. But I figured it would point out any serious issues as I had been seeing.

Everything looked fine, so we launched again.

And the boat wouldn’t move. I mean, if it wasn’t a calm day, I would never have made it back to my slip!

Again, I blamed it on the engine. I wasn’t getting nearly the RPMs I should have. So I figured I’d connected something up wrong on the engine to make it less efficient.

Bless his heart! Scott McMillan said I was certainly getting enough amps out; I should be getting some speed. So he mailed me a new controller.

In the meantime, Irene happened. And, since we were expecting 100 MPH gusts in the area, I had the boat pulled out of the water. Luckily, those never materialized. In fact, Williamsburg and Richmond, more inland than we are, got the brunt of the storm in this area.

But I digress.

While we had the boat out of the water, I wanted to check to make sure I’d put that Max Prop together correctly. The damn thing has a hundred pieces and, having had inexperienced help to put it together, I figured we should recheck it.

While we were pulling it apart, someone else in the boat yard came by:

“Not moving the boat, huh?”

Yes, I answered, can’t move at all.

“I had the same problem. I put the prop together wrong, and couldn’t move at all.”

He offered to help us put it back together right. So we got out the installation instructions that I pulled off the web, and, very carefully, put the thing back together.

What had happened was that the blades were spinning flat. There was not corkscrew effect. So the thing wasn’t pushing the boat through the water at all. It’s also why the thing sounded like a blender in the water, rather than making the sound I was used to hearing.

As it happens, the guy who helped us out started explaining about the wobbling he was now experiencing. I strongly suggested he check out whether his propeller shaft was straight or not. 🙂

We put the boat back in the water again. This time, it ran like a dream. It did everything I expected it to. It is the end of the summer, but I finally have a boat that is a pleasure to use again. But, as a friend pointed out, I missed the hot miserable summer and I have a boat just in time to enjoy some beautiful fall weather!