Before giving the go-ahead for an expensive realignment of Dolce Vento’s engine and drive shaft (see the previous blog, Sewing Done…Now what?), we wanted a second opinion. It wasn’t that we believed our marine contractor and his mechanic were dishonest; we just thought they might be wrong, even after they patiently walked us through their diagnosis and cure. There must be another way to align the couplings without investing a bucket of money in repairs.
We began our research with the “just in time” arrival of maintenance records from the marina that the previous owner had relied on for service. We scoured the fifty pages that listed, to varying degrees of detail, all the work done since 2000, when the boat was purchased new. We found a pattern of engine vibration that was never completely eliminated (if we had known this before the purchase, our negotiations would have gone a bit differently for sure).
We immediately shared the document with our contractor and our boat broker. After an anxious call and discussion with him, he sprang into action. He didn’t want his reputation sullied from selling us a boat that had such a serious hidden flaw. “The proposed cure is overkill,” he emphatically reassuring us, “I bet we can fix this alignment problem with changes to the engine mounts.”
With the clouds giving way to sun the next morning at 10:00 AM, he met us at the boat, “ready to rumble” so to speak. I had hope. We introduced him to our contractor and his mechanic, a skinny guy with greasy hands, beard and a Florida southern drawl (you get the picture?). Our broker skeptically shook our mechanic’s hand, then the two boarded Dolce Vento and descended through companion way to below decks. Like doctors in an operating room standing over their patient, they opened up her compartments, exposing her innards, and put their heads and hands into the spaces. The rest of us hovered around, like anxious parents, waiting expectantly for the results, while the two talked to each other in short bursts, the broker saying things like “Couldn’t you try this?” and “What about this?” “Why hadn’t the previous owner found that?” To each statement, our mechanic went into excruciating detail using language I did not understand, pointing and poking at our boat’s engine and drive shaft, shifting, shoving, lifting and banging. Sunlight poured in from above, lighting the scene. I was still hopeful.
After an hour, Dave stood up, wiping his hands on paper towels, declaring with the authority of a surgeon, “The engine compartment was built too small for a simple realignment of moving the engine to port. If Billy does that, you won’t be able to service the engine. And, from the records we have (e.g., patient charts), the previous mechanics probably didn’t have the knowledge to correct the problem from the beginning. They just kept changing bearings and parts as they rapidly wore out. So, to be able to service the engine and have an acceptable alignment of the engine and shaft, you have to either expand and rebuild the engine compartment (a major structural change) or move the shaft by rebuilding its entry point and angle into the boat. The second is less expensive and less risky than the first. In other words, the mechanic was right.
Obviously, the mechanic and his boss were relieved to have their diagnosis and cure confirmed. We were relieved to know we were not being bamboozled even though the cure was going to be costly, and our broker was pleased that he had been helpful.
Two days later I received the email from our contractor — the work could not be completed by mid-April, our original launch plan. The new date will be something toward the end of May or early June. Like This Old House, This Old Boat requires patience, something I’m not known for. Perhaps it is good for my soul — that I should work on my patience.
“OOMMM,” said the Yogi , “Remember This Old Boat will be your house for some time, very soon. Take a deep breath. Now, once again, OOMMM.”