On April 22nd while traveling with the WWS rendezvous from San Everisto to Calita Partida we ran into a problem. The trip began with a lovely morning of sailing with full main, jib and staysail, clipping along at 3 ½ knots. After four hours we realized that we would not get to our destination before sundown at our current rate of speed, so we started the engine and “The Drama” began.
About 5 nm from our destination Steve realized that our bilge pump was going off rather frequently, like every 16-20 seconds. We took a quick look into the bilge and saw that we had a waterfall coming in from behind the engine near the prop shaft, but we could not get close enough to identify the cause. We measured the quantity of water being pumped out of the bilge and after a quick calculation realized that we were taking on approximately 30 gallons an hour. YIKES! We then spent about 30 minutes accessing our alternatives. It was late in the day, La Paz (the only place to get pulled out of the water) was another 25-30 nm away and it was Saturday. The likelihood of getting a haul out on Sunday was pretty slim. Our electric bilge pump was keeping up with the input, and we had a spare electric bilge pump that we could rig up easily in case the current unit failed. We could go straight into anchorage and seek the help and advice of others from the WWS rally. We had two manual bilge pumps and we were surrounded by lots of friends who would help us keep the manual ones going if necessary. So we decided the anchorage was our best bet, figuring that we could get into the engine compartment after letting the engine cool and find out what the problem was. At minimum we could keep the bilge pumps going until we could limp to La Paz and get Pablo out of the water.
Once we got our anchor down we had a quick consult with our friend Holly who gave us great advice. She said we should just tear into the problem that night as we were not going to really sleep anyway. And of course she was right, she usually is. So I put some chicken in a covered pot to slow cook as we were starving and Steve and I got busy tearing the boat apart. First we had to remove the cockpit floor which requires me to crawl on my back into the engine compartment to remove the nuts off of the 32 bolts which hold down the floor (we will be changing this fastening method shortly as that is ridiculous). Then we had to remove hoses, bins, and crates of spares from the shelf we built in the back part of the engine compartment behind the engine. And then remove the shelf itself. Once everything was out we could clearly see that water was pouring in around the shaft log. The bellows on our dripless shaft seal was not clamped on and had slipped off the shaft log. The daily anchoring we had been doing recently requires shifting gears forward and back multiple times per anchoring event. This constant gear shifting pulled everything apart. So we did a quick fix clamp job for short term which stopped the leak, ate our chicken and fell into bed. Unfortunately, we still did not sleep well because of the high wind and swell conditions which had us hobby horsing and checking our anchor holding all night.
When morning finally came we did a proper job of putting the bellows back onto the shaft log and clamping it into place. We moved to the other side of the bay where we would be out of the coromuels nightly wind and swell. A relocation that had us sleeping soundly for several nights to come. We remained in Calita Partida for several glorious days relaxing, recovering, and exploring.
At the end of it all we learned a little more about our boat, ourselves, and our limits. As Steve likes to say, “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” Boy did we get some experience.