We started this morning with a phone call to England to try to get any tricks for taking apart the propeller.... None from the guy in the office and not much more later by e-mail which we didn't even get till lunch anyway so we headed to the Mechanic/Welder at 9:45 to see what we could figure out.
Jorge, and impressively skilled and experienced mechanic, did a nice job of making a spanner using an allen key for the pins and just drilling holes in some flatbar. With the prop in a vise and a short pipe as an extension, he was able to finally break the grease caps off. Once inside we saw our primary problem...the nut that holds the propeller onto the hub has a locking screw that is left hand threaded and has tabs to lock the nut from spinning off. On the two loose blades, both of these could spin together as the blade was just not tightened down fully. As we got the nuts off and the blades off the hub we could see that the bearings were in fine shape and this whole problem appears to be due to some problem during assembly in the factory 4 years ago. My best guess is that the thrust bearings weren't fully seated in the hubs when it was assembled and the nuts were torqued and along the way it seated properly allowing some slop in the blades. We will find out more when we talk to the supplier tomorrow morning, but we have new seals that we hope will fit coming in from Pueto Ayora on Wednesday and the bearings looked great, so we are hopeful that we can just put it back together (correctly this time) and reinstall it.
This is all being recorded for a magazine article that Bill and I are going to write once we get out of here. It has been exhausting and dirty work, but we are making great headway. In the mean time, we have almost two days with little else to do so it will be a chance to return some of the favors to Dave on Soggy Paws and catch up on some other projects and hopefully a little R&R.