Early May 2005
Raven is launched in cold and windy conditions. The newly rebuilt engine runs perfectly. We power back and forth, tied to the dock everything appears a “go” for tomorrow’s departure. We go home at 3:00PM and the mechanical crew stays to run the engine for further break-in time. When we get home there is a message that at 3:30 PM, the transmission failed while the boat was being tested. Raven is pulled from the water and the transmission is removed. It cannot be fixed and must be replaced. If a new transmission is fitted, it will not be the same size and the prop shaft will have to be altered. So we try to find an old Velvet Glide transmission to rebuild.
The transmission is located, purchased, rebuilt, and reinstalled. While waiting for this to be done, we have the opportunity to take down all the varnish and apply eight coats of new varnish to the entire boat. While we had attended to the finish nearly every year, we had been unable to the past year and a half due to Mike’s back operation. As a result, the finish had become worn in some areas such as the toe rails. This was the first time we had taken the varnish all the way down since purchase of the boat.

June 15, 2005

Raven is launched from Crowley’s Yard on the south side of Chicago. We will stay at the dock for a day to test all systems. Crowley’s Yard and staff has been highly competent. Thank you Mitch, Dan, Nick, John and Sharon.
We remain at the dock for four or five days to test all systems before venturing off. Then we sail across the Lake to Michigan City. There, we will replace the dodger and bimini and provision. This will involve multiple stowing and re-stowing of inventory to make everything fit and even out the trim.

June 21, 2005

We cast off and head across the Lake to Michigan City. We are joined by crewmember and old friend Jim Sacco for the trip. We wait for barges to pass on the Calumet River and head down stream. We pass under two bridges and out through the breakwater. We carefully check all systems and all seems normal – the cooling water was gurgling out the exhaust and all gauges were optimum. Jim took the wheel while Mike started to raise the sails for the gentle 7 hour down wind sail.
Suddenly, Mike smells antifreeze. Overheated engine! He immediately checked and saw that the cooling water has stopped flowing out the exhaust and he stopped the engine. Loss of cooling water is most likely to be caused by one of two things. Either the water intake had been blocked by debris or the water pump impeller had failed.
Since the smell of antifreeze was mixed with the slight smell of burnt rubber, the diagnosis was the failure of the impeller. The impeller is the spider shaped rubber wheel at the heart of the raw water pump, which cools the engine. It is driven by a shaft, which runs directly from the engine. Sometimes debris (likely to be found in an industrial river) enters the water pump and shreds the impeller. There was a gentle offshore breeze and we were in no danger of ending on a lee shore, so we allowed Raven to drift and set about to replace the impeller.
The water pump is located at the forward end of the engine and is easy to access. Mike removed the housing assisted by Jim, and Rana maintained a watch for traffic. Water flowed freely from the raw water intake through hull fitting, so we knew that the problem was not an obstruction of the intake. When the impeller was removed, we found that it was only very slightly damaged. This was an indication that this was not the real problem. We replaced the impeller with a spare, applied water pump grease, checked to make sure that no debris or impeller parts had clogged the water line, and closed up the water pump.
However, when we started the engine, no water flowed from the water pump. The shaft which drives the impeller had snapped. We had no spare water pump. There was no question that we could not sail back to the Yard for repairs since it would mean sailing up the river, against the wind and dodging freighters and barges. So we called the Yard and requested a tow. Mitch and Jeff came to our rescue. Mitch, hoping to get us underway again, repeated our investigation but agreed that we had to return to the Yard for repairs. While being towed back in, we had a near encounter with a doublewide barge while passing under a bridge.

June 23, 2005

The water pump had been replaced and tested. We again tried to leave the dock to cross the Lake. The engine would not start. At this point, the repeated problems ceased to be funny. Our original April 5th departure date had been extended too many times. And we were sick and tired of the continual failures. Our mantra of “Well, if it had to fail, it is a good thing it happened here, rather than in Borneo”, was getting a little old.
We had loved the old engine and it had always run without fail. We only replaced it because it was leaking oil and the mounting brackets had to be replaced. Since it was nearly 30 years old, we thought that we would take advantage of the opportunity to replace it in a competent yard, rather than in some unknown future destination. The oil leaks had to be addressed and the mounting brackets would not withstand a knockdown. We decided to rebuild the Perkins 4-108 rather than replace it with a new Yanmar for three reasons: cost, Yard assurance that it would run like new and our happiness with the old engine. At this point, it seemed a very poor decision.