Trepassy & Engine Problems

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 30 Jul 2007 00:07

Position:  46 43.81 N  053 22.77 W  At anchor Trepassy Harbor


adventure n. a risky undertaking with an uncertain outcome.


Yesterday afternoon, drifting to the south of Cape Pine, we were waiting for some wind which was then zero.  Looking at the chart there to the north of us not 15 miles away lay an appealing looking inlet named Trepassy Harbor.  It seemed to me that we may as well wait for our wind comfortably at anchor as out at sea in the fog.  At 3 p.m. the fateful decision was made, we started the engine and turned to the north.  All was going well, we had just passed the fairway buoy leading us into the harbour, a reassuring sight in the very thick fog, when I heard a horrendous noise, it sounded like we were passing over steel chains, I immediately put the engine into neutral, the noise stopped.  I listened, nothing.  I put the engine into gear again and the noise of a gravel truck emanated from below.  The gear box!  I checked the engine compartment which revealed a lot of hydraulic fluid at the top of the gear box.  I topped the gear box up, not holding out much hope that it would make a difference but thought it worth a try, and put the engine into gear again.  Regrettably I was right, it made no difference, from the sounds I could hear I had the strong suspicion that the inside of my gearbox contained little more than metal filings.   According to my GPS we were quite close to some rocks, though we certainly couldn’t see them.  Concerned that we might drift into danger I called for assistance on the radio, hoping maybe a fishing vessel was in the area that might be able to tow us the two miles we had to go to get to anchor out of harm’s way.  Placentia Coast Guard responded and said they would see if there was anyone in the vicinity who could help.  Its time like these that the wise words of an 18th century shipmaster come to mind, “Praying aboard ship is all well and good, but only after the crew has done everything humanly possible to save the ship and themselves.”  So rather than await uncertain assistance I thought about what we could do.  There was no wind and little current, we were in no immediate danger of going aground, our first objective was to move the boat clear of the rocks, second was to get Sylph safely to anchor.  Paul and I put the dinghy in the water, attached the two horse power engine, and started motoring.  It took a while but the little engine gradually got over ten tons of boat moving through the water at just under two knots.  I advised Placentia Coast Guard that for now we were OK, which was just as well because it seemed the nearest assistance was a Navy frigate two hours away – perhaps just a smidgeon of overkill.  I cautiously regarded my little outboard expecting it at any moment to issue forth noises of a similar nature but on a smaller scale as had its bigger cousin.  An hour later the little motor sputtered to a stop, empty of fuel, fortunately close to where I had wanted to anchor, so rather than mess around any further we dropped the anchor where we were, the fog still thick around us, once again the only indication of where we were on this earth’s surface a series of tiny black numbers illuminated on a small 2 inch square screen courtesy of satellites orbiting goodness knows where many thousands of miles above us. 

We actually managed to make it ashore last night, again finding our way to the town’s public wharf with the assistance of modern magic, a small handheld GPS unit into which I had punched some numbers extracted from the electronic charts on my laptop.  We motored ashore in the little dinghy peering intently through the murk and after what seemed forever there appeared before us the wharf.  I continue to wonder at our technology, how it has transformed our world.  Not so many years ago we would still have been all at sea, literally.  So it was that we managed to enjoy a hot take away meal and a couple of cold ales.  Humans are capable of such wonders, surely a little global warming is not beyond our abilities to solve.

This morning the first order of the day was to establish the nature and extent of the engine problem.  While Paul went ashore to research some logistic and communications issues I would work on the engine.  I lifted up the engine box and immediately the evidence before hinted at a serious engine alignment problem, the coupling between the gearbox and the propeller shaft was torn apart, the engine was no longer connected to the propeller!  On closer inspection it seems an engine mount had failed causing a misalignment which in turn caused the coupling to fail.  At this stage it appears the gearbox is OK, but this we will not know for sure until the coupling is replaced and the engine realigned.  The question is now where to find a new coupling and engine mounts.  Trepassy is certainly not going to be the place to find them.  It is Sunday, this problem will have to wait until tomorrow.