Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rube Goldberg Prop Puller Version 2.1 a Success!

Isabella - Galapagos - Ecuador

Yesterday Bill and I hit the water early with version 1.0 that had been fabricated Friday afternoon. We were just loading things up when our first breakage occurred. We had borrowed a 3/4" drive breaker bar, 3/4" to 1/2" adapter, and 15/16" socket with 1/2" drive from Dave on Soggy Paws as the adjustable wrench was going to strip the head of our jacking bolt. Unfortunately, the 1/2" nipple of the adapter broke clean off. It looks like it may have had some cracks before as there was some corrosion in there, but it still gives you an idea of the load we are creating with our 5' long lever arm. We got out of the water and headed ashore to look for alternatives at the hardware store.

We bought ourselves a 1/2" drive breaker bar and got back to the boat and into the water (this time donning wetsuits as we were getting pretty chilled after 30 minutes or so). The new breaker bar held fine, but I noticed some weird popping coming from the bolt. It turned out we were galling the threads. Galling is basically caused when two hard metals have too much friction between them and you end up rolling up little bits of metal in the thread. To say the least it ruins the thread of at lease one part and made getting the damaged bolt out quite difficul. We did have a spare bolt, but the nutthread was too damaged to reuse...back to shore for another late afternoon welder run.

By 5:30 we had our Rube Goldberg Propeller Puller V 2.0 in hand with a larger diameter nut and bolt welded to the plate. We found a 1-1/4" socket to fit the new 3/4" bolt and we were ready to go for this morning. We got started at about 9:30 this morning having used High Molybdenum Grease (used in rigging terminals to prevent galling due to its very high bearing strength). About 30 minutes later we had sheared the 3/4" diameter jacking bolt. We realized that the bolt may have been slightly annealed, weakening it as it was used to align the bolt during welding of the nut, so we headed back ashore to get the broken bolt removed so we could try our spare. While there we also picked up a similar propeller puller that the welder's partner had in his tool bin. It had a slightly larger diameter jacking bolt, but otherwise was fairly similar. Still, we wanted to give our unit a try as we will have it in our tool kit in the future, so we hooked up version 2.1 with a new, non-annealed jacking screw and about 10 minutes later we heard a large pop as the prop finally broke free of the tapered shaft.

We screwed in the jacking screw as far as we could to start to pull the prop off the rest of the way which could now be done with just the short breaker bar. A future revision to the tool will be to thread the remainder of the jacking screw to make removal a bit easier. To get the prop the rest of the way off, I pulled tugged and tapped with a hammer to work it off the shaft while Bill made sure we didn't loose the key. We had tied it to the boat, but I didn't want it to hit the bottom, or swing wildly, so I held onto the prop and sank like a stone with the 40ish lb prop in my hands. I waited on the bottom while Bill pulled off his gear and climbed aboard to pull the prop up onto the transom. We then took a break for lunch and a bit of celebration.

After lunch we started the process of trying to dismantle the propeller to inspect the bearings. This unfortunately hasn't progressed well. There are grease caps that screw into the blades and cover the nut and locking screw that hold the blades to the hub. These are proving VERY difficult to remove so after trying some more Rube Goldberg contraptions we called it a day and plan to call Brunton in England in the morning (Monday) to get some advise. Then we will likely head back to Pachi's (welder) to borrow a large vise and make up a better spanner for the the cap pin holes.

So we are not out of the woods yet, but we still accomplished something few cruisers ever will, which is removing your propeller in the water on a VERY remote island.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Urgent Prop Inspection

Isabella - Galapagos

The short story is we are not leaving tomorrow as planned. When we cleaned the bottom and prop this week in prep for departure I noticed that one of the blades on our Brunton Autoprop had a bit of play in the attachment to the hub. We contacted the supplier and finally got through to the engineers in England today. They don't know what might be wrong, but suspect it may be one of the bearings and suggested we pull the prop and inspect the bearings before heading off on a 2000+ mile at 11:00 we decided it was time for some quick engineering.

We had to build a prop puller as we don't have one onboard. Luckily the autoprop makes this fairly easy and the engineer gave me a hint. There is a zinc that is attached to the back end of the hub that acts as a cover for the propeller nut. This means you can use those threaded holes to pull the propeller off the tapered shaft. Some quick drawings and Dave's translations at the welder and we were on our way with a 1/2" steel plate with 3 holes for the zinc bolts and then a nut welded in the middle to allow a center jacking screw to pull the prop off. We got the screws and nuts to the welder after lunch and headed back to the boat to take the nut off the prop.

Bill and I struggled for a while, needing more leverage so Dave again came to the rescue with a socket and breaker bar which we could fit inside our emergency tiller to create a 6' lever arm. This made fairly quick work of the nut, but was a lot of work to swim a 6' wrench through the water. At 4:30 I headed back into town to pick up the welded parts (look rustic but should work fine) and 3 longer screws from Lincoln (he even has metric bolts in stock...amazing). Hopefully the prop will come off without too much more work and then we can get to tearing it down and inspecting the bearings.

This may all be unnecessary, but better safe than sorry. If there are bigger problems with the prop we can always put our spare fixed pitch propeller on and get parts down the road. More news and hopefully some pictures in the near future.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

We Will Now Return You to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

Puerto Villamil - Isabella - Galapagos - Ecuador
00 57.3 S 90 57.7 W

I swear, we are not all lazy bums, but apologies for letting minimal internet and too many other things to do, keep us from posting for so long.

Since the last time we wrote anything we have mostly been hanging out here in Isabella. On the 10th, the bi-monthly supply ship came in so we headed to shore to buy up what we could. What a difference. Much more food and better selection as well. Word is that this comes every 15 days, so we expect the ship again today or Monday. On the 12th we went up to volcano Sierra Negra. The horse ride up got a little messy because there was a TON of mud and the trail is being destroyed by the horses with VERY deep ruts that collect water. Don't think my feet would have been muddier if I had hiked. We then hiked over to the last eruption site for a neat view and lunch. The ride back down was quite hairy with the horses having real trouble. My horse fell all the way onto her chest, forcing me to roll off into the mud. Not hurt at all, but VERY muddy.

On the 14th we headed back east to Puerto Ayora to meet Soggy Paws and provision. We got there by 2:00 and had a fruitful afternoon, getting the Fortress Anchor shank bent back straight. It had gotten bent when we left Puerto Ayora as it was burried about 5' deep in the sand.
I spent 45 minutes digging it out with scuba gear and had dug a hole 3' deep by 6' diameter, but had only gotten to the head of the anchor and when we tried to pull it out, it bent pretty badly as you can see. The good news is that Fortress has an excellent waranty and will ship new parts no questions asked (just pay for shipping) so Sierra will get to carry two new anchor parts for us in May (don't worry, they aren't that heavy). Saturday we did our major shopping, including buying lots of good cheese from the shop that I heard about from former client Greg Carol (more on all this in an update to the Galapagos Cruising Guide that we are working with Shery on Soggy Paws to update).

On the 17th we sailed back to Isabella, happy to leave the rolly and crowded anchorage on Santa Cruz and get back to our idyllic little spot here. Since then we have been trying to knock off our to-do list, but it is getting complicated by a series of breakages. We did manage to sell our extra bike here to the owner of the hardware store, so we are psyched for the bit of cash and the extra space. This seemed to make much more sense than trying to ship Zak's bike back from Tahiti. On the 22nd we went for two nice dives at Isla Tortuga with Dave and Shery (Soggy Paws). The current was pretty strong and at times the water was downright frigid, but it was a nice dive with more rays than you could count. That evening we got to refilling the 10 tanks we had used when the drive belt on the compressor broke. I went into shore and got 3 replacement belts and then went about trying to fit one. 3 hours in the VERY hot laz later I gave up and went back to shore for a bigger belt. Bill took over and managed to fit the 31" belt (original said it was 30" but apparently the belt sizes very by batch and the compressor supplier says he regularly uses both sizes). The next morning I finished putting the compressor back in place and we were back business. I got on with some of my other chores including fixing the outboard motor bracket in the focs'l.

Then when we were leaving to go ashore for dinner last night, Bill broke the outboard starting line (probably not his fault), so this morning I get to start my day by fixing that before I can go up the rig to replace the AIS antenna that seems to have crapped out on us. We plan to leave in about 1 week, so hopefully the list will start to get shorter instead of longer. Our Propane solenoid has arrived in the Galapagos, so now we are just waiting for the watermaker parts that are still stick in customs.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Puerto Villamil, Isabella - Galapagos

Here we sit on Isabella Island in the Galapagos and it definitely feels like paradise.  It's a sleepy little beach town with a number of nice hotels, cute outdoor restaurants and lots of wonderful beaches.  We are now secure in a very calm anchorage which is a wonderful change from the ones we have been in since we got to Ecuador in mid Oct.  No swells so we are having quiet nights and don't feel like we are out to sea even when we sit on anchor. We put Zak on a ferry at 6am Thursday morning along with Bill's brother Matt, wife Dawn and their kids who met us on Santa Cruz island and spent 3 days there with us before we all came here to Isabella for the remainder of their week visit. They take the ferry back to S.Cruz and catch a plane to Quito.  From there Matt & Dawn go to the jungle Friday morning and Zak will fly to Miami to visit Grandma and Grandpa for a couple of days before flying back to Maine. He has worked out an internship at Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor from now till May which should be great experience for him.  The rest of us are just very sad that he never could wrap his arms around this cruising lifestyle and was unhappy enough to want to get off the boat and do something else.  We are very lucky that Sierra and Rob will be nearby and hope that with his parents half way around the world he can manage on his own...for me it's a harsh reality that even my baby is grown up!

The animal life here is quite phenomenal...we see sea lions, blue footed boobies, penguins, and iguanas on a daily basis and have had the luck while snorkeling to swim with sea turtles, sharks, rays, lobsters, and tons of colorful fish. Did you know that boobies always pair up and that they dance with each their blue shoes!   We pretty much have to do all our activities on guided boats but have been able to find some great guides and take some really cool trips (it's just been outrageously expensive).  Feels mostly OK though as it will in the end protect the nature of these islands and keep them alive and endemic instead of overrun with tourists and the likes. Two days ago we went to these lava tubes that were the most beautiful and weird landscape you could imagine. Also with Matt and Dawn (from Santa Cruz) we went to Seymour Island for a birding and snorkeling expedition and did another trip to Santa Fe island for a snorkel trip that included lots of swimming with sea lions and some crystal clear waters.  Before we met up with them we had spent a few days on Floreana (very small island with only a few hundred inhabitants).  There we went on a dive at Champion Rock although it was only the boys as I had a bad cold and cough but I did snorkel with them at Devil's Crown, another outcropping of volcanic remnants.  That day on the way back our guide Max made sure we stopped at a place we could see hundreds of flamingos and a beach full of sea turtles. 

I am now realizing that I am describing this part of our travels backwards but oh well.  On our way to Floreana from the first island we anchored at in the Galapagos (SanCristobal) we were up on the bow fascinated by 6-8 dolphins swimming with us...they love to catch the wake of the bow and just play along with the boat for a long time...Well all of a sudden we heard the fishing reel spinning so dashed back to the cockpit and started reeling her in...Both Bill and Gram had a very hard time and we realized we had a very large fish on the line.  After quite a struggle we pulled up a 60-70 lb. yellow fin tuna.  The biggest other tunas we have been catching were more like 15-20 lbs. max.  After it was dressed and cleaned we are betting we have 40 lbs of primo sushi meat...not as good as the one in the news that was caught in Japan and fetched $178,000 or something like that but we think ours would probably fetch $500 or so in the US and at least paid back all the money spent on fishing gear as well as providing us with some remarkable all you can eat sushi dinners.

First point of entry in the Galapagos was San Cristobal, which we reached after a  560 mile sail from mainland Ecuador.  We had one day and one night that was kind of uncomfortable but all in all it was our best sailing yet. We made it in just 3 1/2days which is great time  and we were so excited to be in the Galapagos. Our first impression on San Cristobal was how incredibly odd it was to land on the wharf and walk up onto the malecon and have sea lions lying around all over the place...Gram thought they looked like the drunks in NYC after midnight. We liked San Cristobal and stayed there 10 days.  Quiet town, nice people, and a good place to try to get a sense of what we could do in the Galapagos.  Went to a tortoise breeding center where the park is trying to preserve this nearly extinct species.  Very well done and overall our feeling is that even tho'  they are charging a lot to be in the Galapagos they are doing a great job of putting money back into the infrastructure and really improving the park and trying very hard to preserve the natural beauty and specialness of this place. We did some biking on San Cristobal...tried to make it up to a crater lake but the 2000m climb was too much and we had to bail after a couple of hours of uphill pedaling(amazingly enough it only took 15 min to get down what we spent over 2 hrs going up...and it was easy!).  We did get to visit the crater a few days later when we hired a taxi and went there and to a beach on the opposite side of the island.  That beach with it's fine white sand was a definite 10.  While on San Cristobal we did go out one day on a snorkel trip to a place called Kicker Rock.  Snorkeling between the two steep pinnacles of this formation was awesome as was a drift snorkel on the other side.  A few days later we lucked out and arranged for a dive.  It was just the 4 of us and 2 divemasters which was a total luxury...they point out so many things we might miss and of course provided for me this extra level of comfort. That trip included a boat ride about 20-25 miles to Espanola and two dives.  They were both great and Zak did really well on his first post certification trip.  He's kind of a natural- with those big feet of his he barely needs flippers.  And me, because I get so cold had on two wet suits so needed a ridiculous amount of weight to be able to get down (like more than any of the boys). Spent a quiet Christmas Day on San Cristobal.  Surprisingly enough the Ecuadorians do not make a big deal over Christmas...surprising for a country that is 95% Catholic.  It was my first year in a decade and second year in my Grasshopper life (34 yrs) that I was not doing a retail Christmas.  Sierra said the store did well and that perhaps we are seeing an end to the recession.  I think we even ended the year a little bit up!

We are planning on staying in the Galapagos until the end of the month...prepping for the big push to Easter Island..the 2000 mile passage that I am a bit apprehensive about. Internet is not reliable here so we are headed to town to see if we can do better there than our wifi on the boat.  If anyone wants to respond please use as we will be pulling those down off the satellite phone.  Hope this new year and new decade brings good stuff to all.  We send our warmest (literally) wishes your way.