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Date: 25 June 2014. Expert Advice versus Intuition (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 the expert.

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 myself.

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 issues.

I anchored off HORSESHOE BEACH that night.  (Now, I am back up at ↓ STEINHATCHEE.)

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...

For the curious, I was reading Seashore Life. This is one of the Golden Field Guides and is fabulous. Quite frankly I like all the Golden Guides, and recommend them regularly to friends.

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Seashore Life (Golden Field Guide Series)

The trip back to Steinhatchee (there is wifi there) was uneventful and now I am waiting for delivery of four fan belts.

Side note: 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 pleased.

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 Time Stopped 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 adventure with.


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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Categories: Anchorages, Boat Talk, Boats, Books, Characters, Gear, In the Bilges, Locations, Money, Relationships

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