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 tomorrows 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
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 Mikes 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
June 15, 2005
Raven is launched from Crowleys Yard on the south side of Chicago.
We will stay at the dock for a day to test all systems. Crowleys Yard
and staff has been highly competent. Thank you Mitch, Dan, Nick, John and
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
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.