I've come up with a new theory of being useful I said to Alisa in Grenada.
Do tell her eyebrows said. The shape of her mouth spoke more about reservation, about declining to commit until the joke revealed itself.
It's this I said. You know how you're useful every day all the day long? Another meal another round of laundry another homeschool lesson plan prepared delivered re-delivered as necessary until the sullen target grudgingly admits understanding?
OK, out with it said the tilt of her chin.
Me, not so much. But! I figure if I'm really really useful every now and then it might balance things out ok. Like once every month or so. Then I'll be worth keeping around.
I considered myself to be speaking from an irreproachable position of usefulness. The gearbox had to be changed. The temperature in the engine room - 50°C if an inch, my boardies soaked like a hippo's undergarments, a puddle of salty Mike sweat appearing on any surface I touched - be damned. The self-inflicted two beers after a long passage migraine - that be damned too. Any doubts about a job I'd not done before which involved pushing the propeller shaft out of the boat far enough to wriggle the old gearbox out and the new gearbox in - banish them! It was time to act. I was the man to do it.
I bravely faced the conundrum of every cotton-headed dreamer who is persistent enough in his dreams to actually buy an actual boat and cast off the lines and travel the oceans far and farther. It was time to banish dreaminess and imitate a practical sort of bloke who never let a dream occupy his skull, awake or if preferable not even asleep. It was certainly time to forget that I had a PhD, or at least take solace in the fact that it's only an Australian PhD. It was time to be Useful.
Into the breach went our Useful dreamer. Fan shifted from forward head to engine room where it might circulate enough air to make mammalian life possible for the duration. A moment taken to reflect on the days when this might count as a boat job completed in itself.
Then a deep breath and in a rush exhaust mixer off coupling between gearbox and shaft uncoupled stuffing boxed slacked propeller shaft levered outwards cable and mount removed from gearbox plate mounting the gearbox to the engine unbolted what's that called? gearbox and plate *just* squeezed out new gearbox and plate slid into the not-so-gaping hole and bolted together in situ plate bolted to engine a long search for bolts just the right length to fit into the coupler and pull the propeller shaft back into place a long moment of doubt when the proper bolts were in place was the new coupler a lightly different size? coupler tightened down stuffing box tightened cable and mount replaced new gasket for the exhaust riser fabricated who knew there was a layer of steel mesh in the middle of that stuff? riser bolted back into place fire it up.
It didn't work.
Our friend Leiv's gearbox which he had kindly given in the Falklands was the veteran of an engine room fire and looked it. Before the fire, he warned us, it had already been worn of bearing and leaky of seal.
This "new" gearbox would go into gear where our old one had not. But the screaming metal-on-metal noise that came from below decks when it was put into gear could not be stood.
A long fault-finding process followed. Luckily the sudden demise of the water pump bearings, simultaneous to the gear box problems, was ruled out before I swapped that too.
Finally after too many false leads to recount, I found the problem. Our shift lever had stopped shifting properly.
There had been nothing wrong with the gearbox at all.
I had carefully ruled out any problems with the cable when we first started having troubles with the gearbox on passage. Obviously my ruling-out skills need work.
I greased and cajoled and adjusted and got the shift lever working again. We went into gear, forward and reverse, with a minimum of squeal. The decision was made to press on for Curaçao.
Considering the fix to the shift lever to be temporary and to have only a finite number of successful shifts left in it, we sailed off the hook in Grenada with the engine running but out of gear.
And that went very well.
This post was sent via our high-frequency radio as we're far from internet range. Pictures to follow when we reach internet again. We can't respond to comments for now, though we do see them all!