Winter Projects – 2019

Although I haven’t posted in a while, I thought some of you would like an update, and a current-status report.

My last sail of the year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I was sailing alone. 5 miles out into the bay I came about for the return leg, and apparently snagged a crab pot warp with my rudder.  After sailing slowly for a while, I attempted to clear the line from my rudder, but instead managed to foul the prop with a “thunk.”  After that I had no drive to the prop. Later inspection revealed that I had lost the prop and shaft when the coupling/shaft key sheared.  Although there are many more details to relate (things I’d be happier to forget), I got towed into my boat yard travel lift slip by TowBoatUS and I was very fortunate that my friend the manager was still there. He lifted the boat out immediately so there was no more danger of sinking through an empty shaft log (I had stuffed a rag into the hole), and there she sat for the Thanksgiving weekend. I had to have her moved on Monday to a boatyard next door (the yard I’ve been using for 12 years has changed their haul-out policy as a result of a change in ownership). There was no problem though, and the move was made smoothly.

Now I’m in the position of again replacing the prop shaft – the one I lost was only two years old.  In addition, I need to find a prop that will work – easier said than done, if you don’t want to also pledge you first-born as part of the purchase price. Sailboat props are absurdly expensive if you buy them new. I’ll be looking for used.  Fortunately, I still have the old shaft which I can use as a template for the machinist.

I’ve also been leaking oil – not much, but enough to make a mess. This started before I lost the prop shaft.  I haven’t found the leak, but think it could be the rear main seal.  It’s hard to tell because there is no leak while the engine isn’t running. On the other hand, I discovered the dip stick partially out of the hole when I was looking for the problem – oil could have easily been splashed past the place where the stick normally seals against the block. Just not sure. . .  Wish I could find out, because now would be the perfect time to replace that seal, but it’s not something I want to do unless I’m reasonably sure that it’s the source of the leak.

I also need to replace both cooling pumps – raw water and circulator – I know for sure they are leaking – have been for years. Now’s the time.

So I’m looking forward to some quality time crouched in front of my engine this winter-spring. Nobody ever said owning a sailboat was cheap, and I’m here to verify that fact. More posts and photos to come.


  1. okcpicker said:

    Thanks for posting this. No crab pots here in Oklahoma but hearing how others address challenges is very interesting!

    • Crab pots are a plague for Chesapeake boaters – but we like eating the crabs the watermen catch!

      • Johadel said:

        You are absolutely correct on both counts!

  2. What rotten luck. It sounds like Murphy’s Law is in full play here – what with so many things going wrong at one and the same time :-(

    • Well, you just gotta laugh about it. It’s the nature of life, I think. If this is all I have to complain about, my life is blessed indeed.

  3. Oh my gosh Rick! What a scary near-miss! I have so many questions… Did the shaft come out of the coupling? Did it jam the rudder on the way out? How did it get past the rudder? The shaft log is a really big hole below the waterline – that’s a lot of water coming in! Did your bilge pump keep up?


    • Bob, it was an exciting couple of hours. I didn’t lose the shaft immediately. The first problem was the sheared key and set screw in the coupling. There was still enough friction in the coupling, stuffing box and cutlass bearing to hold the shaft in the boat. Waiting for the tow, I slowly sailed towards the breakwater – probably about three miles – dragging the crab pot. Couldn’t go above about 3 kts, and pointing poorly, as you can imagine.

      When boatus took me under tow, he pulled me at 6 kts. That’s when the shaft came out – with another big thunk. The resistance of the dragging crab pot over-came the residual friction of the shaft elements. The prop barely fits past the rudder if the angles are correct. I didn’t notice the leak for 3/4 of a mile. At the breakwater, I became aware that the bilge pump was running continuously. No, the pump didn’t keep up. The leak was gaining on the pump’s capacity. By the time I was in the travel lift slip, there was two inches of water on the sole. I pulled open the engine compartment, reached over the engine and stuffed the 1-inch hole with a rag. With an extra pump from the tow Skipper, we cleared the bilge in about 5 minutes. So, it could have been much, much worse. As it turns out, the only damage I sustained is a couple of gouges on the rudder, and of course replacing the shaft and prop. Actually, this could wind up costing me nearly nothing except for an extra haul-out, because I still have the old shaft and prop. The prop isn’t pitched correctly – not quite enough pitch – but it will work. And the shaft is pitted, but was serviceable when I removed it a couple of years back. The prop can’t be re-pitched because it’s lost too much zinc in it’s life, and it’s too brittle.

      • How ;lucky you are! Are you now considering a rope cutter for your shaft?

      • I have looked at them recently, yes. Do you have one?

  4. Johadel said:

    On the positive side: At least the last sail of the season was memorable! Did you get any great fall photos before things started going south?

    • Actually, yes! In fact, I sent a few via txt – which may be why I had problems. I was gloating over what a glorious day it was – that I was on the water, and the addressees weren’t!

      Had to pay for that gloating :-0

      • Johadel said:

        Hmmm! You could say that it was some mighty pricey gloating, but I doubt that your joy for the day had any real affect on the security of your shaft! Glad to see that the repair/replacement process is underway.

  5. No, Eolian has no rope cutter, tho your experience gives me pause. We have a lot fewer pots in our cruising waters tho – too deep…

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