1/18/2011 – The glamour of the cruising life

One of my main jobs while Lulu is in Idaho is to get the rear oil seal in the transmission, which has been leaking since before Port San Luis, CA, fixed. And then to clean up the slick, oily mess that the engine compartment has become as a result of the leak.

Here I am modeling the latest in cruise wear. The smart ensemble (pronounced “on-som”) consists of tailored overalls designed by C. Arhart which are worn sans shirt for that rugged “it’s 80 degrees here” look. Topping everything off is a natty little ball cap made with authentic looking faux sweat stains. Footwear is optional and, in fact, was not worn during this fashion shoot.


I got started on this project yesterday. The first thing to do was to get access to the engine compartment. This is where Westsail 28s and most Westsail 32s outshine much of the competition. The engine lives under the cockpit sole (floor) and is accessible via a door behind the companionway ladder. But, it’s also accessible by removing the entire sole. Check it out:


Is that sweet access or what? The wooden thing on the right hand side of the photo is the door between the engine room and the living spaces. By being able to open up the sole this way, not only do I get unparalleled access but it also keeps the project out of the saloon. A common complaint on boats is that, when engine work is being done, it completely disrupts normal life on the boat. Not so with this set-up.

OK, you see the silver-colored shaft just left of center? And you see the ribbed housing just to the right of the shaft coupling? That’s the transmission and that’s what needs to be pulled so I can get the old seal and probably the old bearings, removed and new ones installed. The first step is to remove the 4 bolts holding the blue coupling to the red spacer between the coupling and the transmission. Can I say “tranny” instead of transmission from here on out? I’m not crazy about the word (too much like “veggies”), but it’s a lot easier to type it. Okay? Okay, thanks, I owe you one.

Anyway, once I found the right size wrench and figured out how to brace the coupler so it wouldn’t turn, I attacked. WHOA! Those babies are tight! If I’d had a cheater that would fit over my wrench, it would have helped, but I didn’t. Oh, and I had to use an open end wrench because the inboard side of the bolt head is too close to the coupler to allow the use of a socket or box-end wrench. So, finally, though I hate to do it, I finally had to resort to clamping a vise-grip plier on the bolt head and then gently putting my weight on it (I stood on the vise grip). This broke the bolts free and I was able to undo them the rest of the way with the open end wrench. All, that is, except one. There’s always one that won’t play nice. ALWAYS! Repeated attempts at using the vise-grip to bust it loose just resulted in rounding off the bolt head. Other than using heat, and I don’t have a torch, the only other old wastewater operator/VW mechanic trick I know is to take a cold chisel and use it to put a little divot in the side of the bolt head and then drive the chisel against the divot, with a large hammer, hopefully causing the bolt to turn a bit. Once it’s loose, vise-grips will finish the job.

Well, I had a large hammer, but I couldn’t find any cold chisels anywhere on the boat. Boy, did this seem like a good time to call it a day. I cleaned up my tools and switched out of my stunning mechanic garb and into shorts and a t-shirt and headed to town to get a cold chisel.

Before leaving, I consulted my copy of “Spanish For Cruisers” to find out how to say “cold chisel” in español. According to SFC, the word was “cortafrio”. Cut cold? Cold cut? Oh, well, cortafrio it is. I fired up the dinghy and headed ashore. On the way I stopped by Lee’s boat, s/v Patience to apprise him of my progress so far.


Lee had several cold chisels he offered to loan me but I needed to have one on board anyway so I continued on in.

I had checked the listings on the Club Cruceros website so I’d know where some hardware stores (ferreterias) besides Ace were. There were 2 on opposite corners of Avenida 16 de Septiembre and Serdan. Perfecto. That’s where I headed. I went into the first one and confidently asked for a cortafrio. Didn’t seem to ring any bells. How about a cold chisel? No idea what I was talking about. After a few back and forths, the young guy behind the counter decided that it must be “American” and they don’t carry any “American” tools. Suggested I go to Ace. Uh, okay…

I headed across the street to the other store. Again I asked for a cortafrio. Again, no idea what I was talking about. I said “cold chisel” and they sort of seemed to understand which meant they didn’t really understand at all. I know because I do the same thing to them. Finally, I said it was for cortando metal (cutting metal) and I pantomimed smacking a chisel with a hammer. Oh! Now they seemed to get it. One of the guys indicated I should follow him into the back room. We came to a workbench and on it was nice large cold chisel. It looked like it was one they use because it had been sharpened on a grinder and the head was beginning to mushroom from hammer blows. No matter, he offered to sell it to me. I’ll take it. It was a whole 38 pesos or just slightly over $3.00. Cool.

After all that I certainly felt I deserved a vaso sencillo (single scoop bowl) of yogurth de limon (lime frozen yogurt, but I’m guessing you already had that one figured out).

Headed back to the boat for the evening.

This morning, I got up ready to tackle the tranny again. It takes me awhile to get going in the morning, though. First I have to check e-mail and then visit a number of websites while I drink my first cup of coffee. Once that’s done, I make breakfast. Today it was egg/cheese/bacon breakfast burritos. Maybe another cuppa joe. After the dishes are done and my teeth are brushed and I can’t come up with any other good reasons to not get started, I get started. Today that happened about 10:30 even though I got up at 7:30.

I descended into the engine compartment armed with my new cold chisel and a big honkin’ hammer. But first I tried the vise-grips again. I had been soaking things in WD-40 overnight so who knows? Well, no joy. Vise-grip slipped right off. So I got down to it with the hammer and chisel. First I cut a little slot on the bolt head and then I drove the chisel against the side of the slot in such a way as to put pressure on the bolt to turn counterclockwise. I whopped it and whopped it. Finally, the chisel just broke through the slot leaving nothing to push against. Move over a few millimeters and try again. Well, I whopped it a bunch of times and was just about resigned to it not working when I thought I might have noticed an almost imperceptible movement. Had I? Whop it some more. And some more. THERE! That time it definitely moved a little. A couple more whops and it was obviously turning. I traded the chisel for the vise-grips and finished extracting the bolt. I was then able to slide the prop shaft back about two inches.

Okay, but that was just step one. I still had to remove the allen-head bolts and nuts from the other side of the red spacer. Fortunately, these gave me no trouble at all. Once the spacer was out I had about 3″ of clearance between the transmission and the prop shaft.

Now I just had to remove 8 more allen-head bolts that held the transmission to the bell housing on the engine itself. Once again, it went pretty well until I was almost done. There are 2 bolts at the top of the housing that are too close to whatever is behind the to allow even the short end of the allen wrench to get on them. No worries, I have one of those sets that have a hexagonal ball on one end so you can kind of attack allen heads from an angle. Jammed that baby in the bolt head, put the little cheater pipe on it and pulled. SNAP! The ball end was no longer attached to the wrench but instead was firmly lodged in the bolt head. Well, crappage! There was no way that there was enough room around the bolt head to put a vise-grip on it so I had to figure out how to extract the little ball. I poked at it with a tiny little punch and, miraculously, it moved. It didn’t move out, mid you, it just sort of wobbled in place, but it wasn’t tight and that was a good thing. Maybe if I had a magnet… The only magnet I could find was one that came out of an old hard disk drive. The magnets in those things are VERY strong. Unfortunately, because of it’s shape I couldn’t get it close enough to the bolt head to have any influence. I called Lee on the VHF and he said that, yeah, he had several magnets. So I headed over and borrowed a couple of likely-looking candidates. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the first one I tried actually worked. HOT DOG!

Now I needed to get another ball-end wrench because otherwise there was no way to get an allen wrench into the top two bolts. Or was there?

I have several allen wrench sets so I found another 6 mm wrench and figured maybe I could cut the end off so it’d be short enough to do the job. I pulled my handy little clamp-on vise out (first time I’ve used it) and clamped the wrench in place. Then I opened up my saw satchel and pulled out a hacksaw and started sawing. Well, I got nowhere fast. The saw blade was probably dull and the wrench was probably hardened. Whatever, I just sort of skidded over the wrench with the saw. Ok, no worries, that’s what the Dremel tool is for. I chucked up a reinforced cut-off wheel and started making sparks. In less than a minute I had a custom allen wrench.


And guess what. It did the job. Within a few more minutes, the tranny was out and sitting on deck, ready for the next chapter.


Now I need to find a machine shop or transmission shop to remove/replace the rear seal and, as long as they’re at it, the rear main bearing.

TO BE CONTINUED…


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About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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6 Responses to 1/18/2011 – The glamour of the cruising life

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dad devours your blogs. He drops whatever he is reading and comes right over to read. Heis living this trip through you. Love, Mom

  2. steve says:

    Your blog on the tranny removal reminds me of "Truck" – ever read it?

  3. 2ndreef says:

    Steve, aka STEVE THE TOOL MAN YODER. I sweat swear words when working with wrenches or when reading stories such as yours, but alas, no skinned knuckles! I'm keeping my fingers crossed as the second half of the job lies ahead. Guess rubbing a Houdini doll works too. Were you able to just lift the tranny up and out or was the weight an issue?Til next time, Bill.

  4. Steve,I don't recall ever reading that book. Maybe I'd better look for it. Maybe Amazon even has a Kindle version. Thanks.-SteveBill,The transmission only weighs maybe 40-45 lbs so it was not problem just yanking it out.-SteveMom, Glad to hear Dad's enjoying the blogs. Makes me feel good.-Steve

  5. Steve,Just got back from Amazon. Is this the book you mean: "Truck: On Rebuilding a Worn-Out Pickup and Other Post-Technological Adventures"I might have read it a long time ago. Not sure but it sounded familiar. In the reviews it was often compared to Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Did you know that Robert Pirsig either has or had (I think he still does) a Westsail 32? Pretty cool,eh?-Steve

  6. Fixed Carbon says:

    Steve: I removed and had rebuilt the rear seal on the transmission of our Yanmar 3GM, in our Catalina 38. Transmission fluid leaked owing to a long stiff wire having become wrapped around the shaft. The wrap pushed itself into the seal, which then leaked. A great jobber in Oakland CA fixed the seal. The abundance of marine engines in lower Baja suggests to me that you can find a shop to fix your seal.

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