I have been contemplating whether anyone would be interested in reading about our little situation that developed when we were out on Soul Balladeer in early Sept. After considerable thought, I believe that this little gem is worth sharing and hopefully at the very least, it might provide insight for others whom are faced with an unfortunate situation.
Soul Balladeer has a new engine (23 hours) and transmission (23 hours) and no shortcuts were taken during the installation…or so we thought. Out of respect for the yard I will not mention their name, however, their negligent workmanship during the re-power of Soul Balladeer could have easily ended in tragedy by either the loss of the vessel or injury to those onboard.
As we were in reverse to set the anchor in Bute inlet, the anchor grabbed and swung the bow. Denise said that she heard a bang as the bow swung and I didn’t hear anything inside so I dismissed it as noise from the anchor roller as the bow swung. The next morning we lifted the anchor and motored approximately 100 yards when all hell broke loose. We heard a huge bang from the engine room and immediately the vibration could be felt throughout the boat. I threw it into neutral and the vibration ceased so I knew the engine was ok and went down below to check the driveshaft/ transmission. From what I could see everything appeared normal so I put S/B in forward again and inspected the shaft as she turned. The shaft was jumping like a jackrabbit so I immediately put her into neutral and turned off the engine.
Could I have thrown a blade on the prop? Did one of the blades hit some submerged floating piece of wood? I was in 500 ft of water. Hmmmmmmm… I looked at the plotter and our drift plot showed us 45 mins from being on the rocks. We had a 2 knot current in dead calm water and one thing was very clear…..we had a situation developing quickly.. As a last resort I planned to deploy the anchor and I was hopeful that she would grab the steep sides of the inlet before S/B ran aground.
I called Comox Coast Guard Radio and no joy….Hmmmmmmm…..Bute inlet is a very desolate place with very little traffic that time of the year. I did see a crew boat racing up the opposite side of the inlet and tried to raise them on the radio…no joy. Hmmmmmm….okay, time to get busy.
I grabbed the flare gun and shot off a couple flares to get their attention and sure enough they came about and made their way to us. The gentleman onboard relayed to Comox for us and we soon had a tow enroute to our position. Another vessel was responding now so the first gentleman carried on with his grizzly bear tour up the inlet. As luck would have it, a gust front from a cell suddenly came up so I threw up the mizzen and caught just enough wind to move us clear of the shore on the drift plot. Time for a coffee. A second vessel arrived and was big enough to tow us so they threw us a line, we tied off and made our way to rendezvous with the dispatched tow vessel.
So…what happened? Well, the engine was installed incorrectly (too low by 3/4 inch) for the driveshaft coupling. Rather than do the job properly, the yard that did the work decided to use 1/2 inch bolts because the misalignment of the driveshaft/ transmission coupling prevented the correct size bolts (5/8 inch shouldered bolts) from being inserted in the holes. They cranked it together and it lasted for 23 hours before coming apart. 5 of the 6 bolts sheared from the force, the driveshaft coupling was damaged as was the transmission coupling face. The Twin disc transmission is one tough cookie. We pulled the transmission and split it to reface the coupling and there was absolutely no damage to the transmission. A lighter grade transmission would have been a casualty I’m sure.
The guys at Altech diesel and Ocean Pacific( Campbell River, BC)were professional during the repair and as we worked our way through the problem we found negligent work in many aspects of the initial engine re-power by the other yard. The other yard has been put on notice that they are 100% responsible and I am confident that they will come to the table to set things right. Looking back at this it was of course sad that it disrupted our cruise vacation but I was home with Denise and that is what is important. Were we adequately prepared for an event like this? Yes we were ,and because of that, we dealt with it and no one was hurt.
I am now bringing my aviation background to Soul Balladeer. I am drafting checklists for all systems aboard Soul Balladeer as well as operational checklists that will ensure that we will further minimize any possibility of something like this happening again.