Wednesday, February 20, 2013


St. Augustine

Well, if yesterday dawned all grim, today dawned hopeful with potential for catastrophic failure at every turn. On Day Five of this two-day project, what we had, was not a windlass, but a bin of parts and a gaping hole in the bowsprit.

Team Windlass, Chip and our friend John visiting from D.C., had already worked pseudo miracles getting the thing apart (with an assist from a gear puller, our dockmaster and a machinist). Now their plan was to clean all the parts, get a new screw to replace the one we stripped, and, gasp, reassemble the whole thing. Oh, and hope it works.

There were two potential Looming Catastrophes:
  1. Could they, by hand, replace the shaft that required 6,000 pounds of pressure to remove?
  2. Would the burr on the shaft, prevent the clutch from going back on?
  3. Would we be stuck in St. Augustine forever?
Work to be done!
Okay, I know, that's three.

So, we huddled up first thing, got our assignments and went to work. Mine was the easiest. I had to clean the anchor locker around the gaping hole, clean the contacts and terminals and grease them.

With that accomplished, I spent the rest of the day zooming around with final provisioning runs. Then, filled with hope, I started stowing like mad, turning the boat into a working vessel again.

John started cleaning the windlass parts with diesel fuel. Chip took off to find the screw. It was metric. They didn't have it. He had to get a makeshift version, a bolt, actually. Would it work? We didn't know.

With all the parts clean, they started reassembly. As I occasionally passed them in the cockpit, they were most often in grim discussions, looking hopeless and defeated. Sometimes, the sense of foreboding was punctuated by shouts of joy and high fives.

The shaft went back in by hand after a good amount of consternation, because it wouldn't drop down into the worm gear. It was bumping against the oil seal on the bottom of the unit requiring a surgical, tweezer maneuver to get it to seat properly.

Looming Catastrophe #1 averted.
The makeshift bolt had to be rigged.

It worked!
Then they had to fill the oil. Doesn't that sound easy? The directions don't say how much to put in. You have to turn it horizontal to fill it and then vertical to check it. Much trouble, filling, overfilling, draining, etc.

Once that assembly and the #*&$#ing filling was finished, it had to be attached to the motor and the whole thing installed and then wired in that dastardly anchor locker. Chip pulled the shaft from above deck, John held it in place from below, Chip put in the bolts, John did the wiring, and the installation was done.

Now our first major moment of truth: We turned it on. It worked. Shouts of joy.

Then the above deck assembly began and Looming Catastrophe #2 approached. The clutch did, in fact, stick on the burr. If they couldn't get it in place, the entire Day Four torture would have to be repeated. They would have to uninstall it, disassemble it and take it to a machinist.

They put a PVC pipe over the shaft and tried tapping the clutch down, trying and trying to get it to drop, feeling more and more fatalistic about the clutch and our future in St. Augustine. If it would just drop into place, there were only three pieces remaining to be installed to complete the job.

"Just wail on it," Chip told John.

He did. It dropped. Shouts of joy. Looming Catastrophe #2 averted.

They threw the drum on, the clutch nut and had only to put in the last screw into the shaft to be done. Yes!

The screw would only go half a turn. Apparently the gear puller damaged the threads. AAAAAHHHHH!!! 

Chip came below and grimly got out his tapping set, bought years ago and never used. He measured the bolt. It was metric, but, miraculously, the set had the appropriate tap.

Major gloom hung over Cara Mia. If this didn't work, the entire Day Four torture would have to be repeated, yes, taking the shaft to a machinist to bore a new hole and tap it.

Chip inserted the tap, held his breath and turned a quarter turn. Removed the tap and tried the screw. Nope.

He reinserted the tap, held his breath and turned a half turn. He could tell it was cutting the threads, potentially destroying them. He removed the tap and tried the screw. Nope.

He reinserted the tap the third time, held his breath, cringed and turned a half turn.

"Just one more turn," John said, knowing this was the end. It would either work, or we had to start over.

Chip turned it. The tap grabbed and moved smoothly. He removed the tap and tried the screw.

It went something like this:

(In this reenactment, I am played by Sophia Loren.)


  1. Love you kids! You make us smile. -ANASTASIA

  2. And you'd make a fine Sophia! :-) Congratulations on the major accomplishment. Now, underway??

  3. I just read [and watched] this again. Tears of sorrow, tears of joy. What a great entry. A+.