header photo

Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Apsaras decides she likes Vancouver

June 7, 2013

When we did the boat survey, the starter motor was determined to be marginal.  With that in mind, we put two spare starters aboard.  One for Dave to replace the known bad one, and the second so that we would have a spare once the new one was installed.  Changing a starter isn't hard in theory - should only take a few minutes.  Dave had figured on doing it underway somewhere.

Yesterday morning when we headed from the hotel for the train station to go from Seattle back to Vancouver, Dave discovers his cell phone is missing.  After a few heart pounding minutes, he figures it is in the car in the hangar at Paine field where we stored the cars last night.  He calls Curtis and gets him to drive to Everett to the hangar and retrieve the cell phone from Dave's car and bring it to us at the train station.  Ok, not a good way to start the day.  But it was to get worse from there.

When we arrived back at the boat later in the day, Dave knew he needed to fix the forward macerator (pumps the waste from the forward head holding tank into the ocean when you are out at sea).  So he tore apart the forward bunk as the system is under that.  First we have to have the tank pumped out or when he disconnects the hose from the pump, well, just lets say it wouldn't be pretty.  So we go to move the boat to the pump out station - and nada - the starter is dead.  Deader than a doornail dead.

Ok, so this is not a huge deal, right?  Cuz we have not one, but two spares.  Dave has to lower the dingy to get to the back of the boat and get the spare out of the storage bay.  While lowering the dingy the combination lock goes flying into the water.  Sploosh.  This did not bode well for the entire job.

Now MacGyver never loses his cool.  But this was a bear of a job that actually involved swearing that had Melissa in tears because she felt so bad for Dave.  The bolts that held the starter motor in place were located behind the engine in such a way that each required different tools to reach them.  Dave got the first one loose with a two foot extension to a socket wrench - which only required three trips to the store to get all the right tools.  And Dave sprayed on some anti-seize as it helps to loosen tight bolts. 

The next day, the work begins on the second bolt.  It took 8 hours and required: (1) Cutting a hole in the master bathroom shower to access it.  This involved cutting a hole in the plastic liner first.  And wouldn't you know it, but the piece of plastic slid down between the shower lining and the plywood where there was no way to retrieve it.  So this will mean Dave can't just fabricate a plastic "door" to access the backside of the engine compartment from the piece he cut out.  Dang it.  (2) We needed the right size wrench.  After a search of multiple stores, we finally find one.  Alas, someone else had previously "rounded" the corners off the bolt, so the wrench won't hold on the bolt.  (3) At this point Dave calls a mechanic.  This is how Melissa knows the situation is truly desperate.  And there is mumbling about possibly having to lift the engine out.  The mechanic takes a look and says that what we need is a 17 mm 6 point box in wrench.  The mechanic heads out to the store.  Dave hands him his jacket, and balled up inside were the mechanic's keys.  The keys go splash into the water.  So he and Dave grab a cab and head to the store (where there was no 17 mm box in wrench to be had), and stop along the way at the scooter rental place (the mechanic's scooter was in the shop so he had rented one) to get the spare set of keys.  No spare keys to be had though because the rental company had put both the primary and spare on the same key ring.  So Dave goes to the marina office to get a giant magnet and manages to retrieve the keys.  Meanwhile, Dave finds his cell phone missing for the second time in as many days.  He uses the mechanic phone to call the taxi - and sure enough that is where it is.  The taxi driver brings it back.  (4) The mechanic decides the only option is to have a tool manufactured (see picture below).  He takes a 17 mm socket and has it welded to the head of a socket wrench.  However, even with this they can't get the bolt loose.  (5) The mechanic has his wife bring his welding torch.  Apparently if you heat the metal around the bolt, it will let loose of the bolt.  This doesn't work as there are wires in the way that they are afraid to melt.  At this point the can of bolt loosener oil springs a leak and sprays all over the aft cabin.  So Dave starts to clean up that mess.  (6) They take some rags and get them wet and put them over the wires so the mechanic can really go at the block with the torch and get it hot.  Finally, voila, one third turn at a time between torch heating sessions, the bolt slowly budges.  Eventually after countless sessions with the torch, the old starter motor is finally removed.  It's now 10 hours since Dave started trying to remove this one bolt earlier this morning, and almost 30 hours since he discovered the starter motor needed replacing yesterday.

  

Alas of course, this doesn't mean Dave is done.  He still has to install the new motor.  Though with new stainless steel bolts - not the old crappy ones.  Those might be destined for the deepest ocean we can find.  The installation takes only a few minutes and (finally!) the engine is running again!

This bit of craziness is really a blessing in disguise though.  Because had the starter motor died while we were underway, or even in a smaller port, it would have meant flying a mechanic in or potentially a tow into port.  As ugly as it was getting the motor replaced, it could have been an even bigger pain had we not been in Vancouver.

After Dave begins to relax, Melissa decides she will go clean the boat deck.  Its covered with bird poop, mud, and god knows what.  There are multiple shells that the birds have dropped on the deck as they chowed down on the creatures inside.  This is what we get for staying in a fishing marina.  Scrub, scrub, scrub with the deck brush.  Then Dave hooks up the hose so Melissa can rinse everything off.  This takes a good 30 minutes as the boat has not had a good bath since we bought her.  Later Dave goes to put the hose away.  And as today was "one of those days", no good deed was to go unpunished.  When Dave turned on the hose over an hour ago, unbeknownst to him it turned on our neighbor's hose as there was a weird "Y" from the valve to both boats.  Which wouldn't have been an issue, except that their hose was pointed directly into their dingy.  So the water filled and nearly sank it.  Melissa grabbed Dave a bucket to bail it out. And then a hand pump to pump the remaining water out.  All we could do at this point was laugh and shake our heads.

And just to be sure you are all following, the truly crappy job of fixing the duck bill valve on the head pump (which was the fix it job Dave was doing when he discovered the starter was inoperative) has not yet been started.  That will be tomorrow's bit of fun.

And tomorrow is sure to be better right?  Because today and yesterday we paid all our dues forward for like the whole next two years, right?  Please?

The day was not without humor though.  When Melissa went to Starbucks to buy 4 boxes of their instant coffee packets (Dave likes them in his morning shake), they told her she was entitled to 4 free coffee's as every box of coffee comes with a free coffee.  Ok, so like what am I going to do with 4 coffee's when I am carrying a load of groceries back to the boat and my arms are loaded down.  But then I think - what the heck, I will sit for a few minutes and drink a nice iced latte.  So I say I will take one grande iced latte.  Oh no, she says, the boxes only come with a tall.  Um, you were going to give me 4 free tall coffee drinks, but instead I can't have one grande?  All I could do was laugh.

We are staying at a marina right next to Granville Island.  There is a public market there that is much like Seattle's Pike Place Market.  So Melissa was able to get all the provisions for the boat there - artisan cheeses, aged meats, and fresh fruits and veggies.  Yum.  There is also a restaurant there called Bridges that has the best fish and chips we've ever eaten.  We went back two nights in a row for them.

Go Back

Sounds like a ton of fun, but at least you now have a reliable starter. Sure wish I could have been there. We only missed it by a few hours, and I am an old hand at cussing, so I could have done that for Dave.

LOL, OMG i was swearing and laughing reading this, reminded me of that stupid bell housing bolt on the Vega that always came loose. I'm afraid i would have thrown something/someone (maybe myself) overboard.

BTW check out The Sandbar on Granville, it is one of our favorite restaurants in Vancouver, if you like that check out their sister restaurant Cardero's in Coal Harbor their sister restaurant.

OMG - too funny! But what would your trip be without a little Dave humor? Hugs to you both! :)



Comment