Date: 25 June 2014. Expert Advice versus
(spare parts inventory)
A friend asked "Where you bound
for, Janice?" I was taking advantage of a weather window. For twelve days we have been blessed with
one to two foot waves in the Gulf of Mexico. Truly, seas do not get much
smaller. However prior to departure I
took the advice of an expert, and that bit me on the transom.
When we ordered the two fan belts
for Seaweed (she's got a starter/generator and requires dual belts) I asked about ordering a
second pair "just in case" and was assured that these belts do not
break. I knew better. However, I set
aside my intuition that said "that's wrong" and took the advice of
And, alas, I was right.
For the record: I do not always want to be right.
At least not about stuff like this!
The front fan
belt that broke is just below the green arrow.
It goes around the starter/generator and the
very large fly wheel.
This engine install has been a
bear of the highest magnitude. What I bought was an MD11C, and what
arrived was an MD2. Everything was different than described. Putting a fifty-plus year old diesel back together and getting her
running was a miracle in and of itself. I am grateful.
Well, as you can see (isn't hindsight always 20/20?) the bracket
is slightly cocked and that torque caused the front belt to become
loose. I have a turnbuckle aboard and was able to tighten the belt
at the end of each day's run. This is Normal Policy when your belts
are new and to be expected.
In Calder's tome
Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual fan belts stretch
for the first 100 hours of use. From personal experience by hour 120
the dang belt breaks so there is that too. The solution is to move
to a serpentine belt. I have considered that course of action
however it is not a top priority. Plus I am reasonably good at
tightening the belts albeit because I have to be.
Side Note regarding Turnbuckles:
Though turnbuckles are common on sailboats, I found mine was very useful for
tightening the alternator belt on the old gasoline beast. And now it
works well for my starter/generator belt on this Volvo diesel.
A friend, Doc on Safira, is the
first person who showed
me how to use the turnbuckle -- and it's pure genius.
The bow of Seaweed is on the left.
The turnbuckle is placed on a block of wood so it
will wedge properly. The wood will prevent distortion of the metal
when I turn the center part of the turnbuckle. The forked end fits
snuggly on the bracket that holds the bolt.
The moving-gear-out-with-a-pry-bar-process is all well and good if you
are strong. It helps to be
ambidextrous too, and that is not me. I cannot hold the bar and
tighten the bolts so Doc figured out a way for me to do it by
The stainless steel turnbuckle will hold my
starter/generator in place while I snug down the bolt at the top of
the bracket. Thanks to Doc I can do it without help -- and out
here, three miles from shore there is a derth of help to be found.
I tightened her fan belt each day.
Then, on Thursday evening while cruising along nicely the engine
bogged for a moment. I turned on the auxiliary fuel pump and she
again ran smoothly. A look in the bilge and all seemed well.
My black auxiliary fuel pump is located next to my
Racor fuel filter.
Side Note on my Auxiliary Fuel
Pump: In addition to the mechanical one that is on the engine, I
still have the 12-volt pressure pump from the previous engine. The
mechanics installed it so I can bleed the BOB Volvo with ease. It will
force fuel through the lines and providing a boost if there are fuel
I anchored off
HORSESHOE BEACH ↓ that night.
(Now, I am back up at
That night I anchored early
because of those doggone crab pots. See
Some Crabbers are Perverse article
for why I chose to stop on a beautiful night with almost flat calm
water. My Verizon cell phone showed limited connectivity but I was
hoping to make calls and relax at anchor. Alas that was was not to
be -- no phone, nor wifi.
Horseshoe Cove has great holding,
but no Verizon cell coverage. It's beautiful, remote and very
peaceful, at least when seas are calm.
All seemed normal. In the morning there
was oil in the bilge -- none the night before -- so I cleaned out
about a quart and then looked to the engine again. That is when I
spotted the fan belt, broken.
Miles and miles of nature at her best:
This motor requires both belts to start, so I radioed TowBoatUS. No
answer. None, on all three radios. (I knew I was broadcasting
because I could hear on the others.) Still, I did what I have never
done before and made a "Radio Check on Channel 16" which was
promptly answered by SeaTow.
The SeaTow fellow did a phone relay to the Steinhatchee TowBoatUS
captain who came for me. I provided coordinates from my log book.
TowBoatUS was to arrive by 10 a.m. but his starboard motor quit on
the way so actually arrival time was after 11.
Waiting for a tow is not
inconvenient for me. I was safe at anchor and life is the same
rather I am tied to a dock or at anchor -- at least when the sun is
shining. I was sipping cold tea and relaxing with a book...
The trip back to
Steinhatchee (there is wifi there) was uneventful
and now I am waiting for delivery of four fan belts.
I called a car place in St Pete and was quoted $40-$45
each though he had just one in stock. Next tried Grainger
[727-573-1777] in St
Pete. Four available for $12 each. Including shipping: $62. Ordered
at 2:30 and shipped by 4:30 with arrival scheduled for Monday. I am
Currently I am at a dock just past the bridge
in Steinhatchee. This pier belongs to
a friend of TowBoatUS Captain Dave. Mark, the dock owner even ran
an extension cord for me. I have not been ashore yet. I am tired.
I will confess to missing my
friend Bob [see
article] more each day. He was my phone buddy -- even though
I have no one to cruise in tandem with, he became my surrogate
cruising friend. We spoke on the phone at least once each day while
I was underway, and most nights too.
Out here, alone, it
is different. I
confess to missing the conversations. That is not a horrible thing,
but I will say that I have been desiring someone to share the
Cell phones in this section of the
Gulf of Mexico simply do not work. Though just three to six miles
offshore, I am out of the range of the cell towers which are of
course land based.
Yesterday I regrouped. Today I am almost feeling human. And
hopefully tomorrow all can be fixed so I can be on my way again.
From the picture below it seems possible the bracket needs to come
out 1/4" on the engine part -- some washers should handle that.
Anyway, that is tomorrow. Today I
am relaxing. And when I get done,
I shall rest.
Looking up the Steinhatchee River from inside my
pilothouse after a bit of rain.
Although it looks like my forward
hatch and the pilothouse window are touching, there is plenty of
clearance. Having an opening window facing the bow makes a world of
difference in keeping the boat cool in even slight breezes.
Lesson Learned: The next time an
expert tells me something that seems wrong I am going to go with my
gut instinct. I knew having spare belts was smart and let myself be
dissuaded. I will not make that mistake again -- not on purpose anyway.
I'd love to know I'm not the only person who has taken
advice that turned out to be malarkey.
And, would you mind sharing your tale of woe? I'm curious.
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In the Bilges,
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