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Things started to shut down with the fears of the Coronavirus in late March.

They put a roadblock at the top of the Keys to prevent non-residents from coming in. I understand that we are lucky that we can isolate geographically. I’m still not sure I believe the Roadblock was or is constitutional. I guess the lawsuits will settle that later. I took another quick trip to the Hunting camp, got some projects done there, and killed 3 nice hogs. When I got back, I figured as long as none of my customers could get here, I might as well put the Southbound in the yard. I had a slight vibration on the Starboard side for the last few months. I didn’t think it was anything too serious. Normally I haul out in September. It is generally the slowest month. But there are still a few trips around in September and “a few”in September is better than what we have right now, which is “none”.  I figured I’d be “on the hard” for a week and back in the water.

I was wrong

The boatyard turned out to be a major ordeal. IF I had known what I was getting into, I may not have pulled the boat out. We pulled the rudder and it was bent, Got a new shaft for it and got it repaired. Not a big deal and about what I expected. We also noticed all 4 cutlass bearings were bad. The rubber was separating from the Bronze tube. Not a wear issue, a manufacturing issue. They were only 11 months old. Dan from the Prop Doc replaced them all free of charge.  As long as we had the prop off and the rudder out, we figured it would be a good idea to check the shaft. Denny Madden, who was doing the work for me, said he felt more vibration at the back of the engine than the back of the boat. We pulled the shaft and it was out 12/1000 at the coupling end. Impressive the could tell that from just walking around the boat.  It doesn’t sound like much but it is. That shaft was 40 yrs old and they might have been able to straighten it out, but there were some other wear issues and I really didn’t want to put it back together “good enough” so I bit the bullet and bought a new shaft and coupling. The Prop Doc ordered it from a place in Bradenton and I didn’t want to wait 4 days for it to come so Craig Jiovani and I took his big truck and made a 15 hr power run to pick it up. I was trying to make it in the water for a Saturday charter. We got it back and all back together, including realigning the engine,  and were set to splash on Friday so it looked like I was going to make my Saturday charter, (keyword: looked), but when they put us in the wet slip and we went to tighten up the stuffing box, the nut that compresses the packing kept jumping the threads and it wouldn’t seal. As it would cause the boat to sink, I had no choice but to have them pick the boat back up and block it up again. I had to give the charter away, but KW marine Hardware did have a stuffing box in stock, so I got it and we installed it on Saturday. Once we put the new stuffing box in, we noticed the intermediate strut was now out of alignment. Upon examining the old stuffing box, we could see it was worn on one side. SO we had to drop the intermediate strut, center the shaft in the stuffing box and rear strut and then reset the intermediate. All good and we splashed on Monday. The boat ran smoothly…….at first. But by the time we got back to the dock, it was vibrating worse than when I went in the yard. I had just spent $6K to make it worse. WONDERFUL. We rotated the shaft at the dock and put a needle indicator on it and it was out 15/1000. we could not do anything in the water so on Wednesday we went back to the yard. Because everything was new, the shaft, the cutlasses, the stuffing box, and the coupling and we had checked the prop and realigned the engine, we were thinking it was the output shaft on the transmission. THAT was going to be a nightmare. Besides being very difficult to remove from the boat, it would cost $5,600 for a new one and the cost of repairing an old one can quickly exceed the cost of a new one. I was not looking forward to it. I think I woke up at 2-3 am every night worrying.

We pulled everything apart again. Dropped the rudder, and Pulled the prop and removed the coupling, and pulled the shaft. We put a needle gauge on the flange of the Transmission and it was not out even 1/1000 which is great news but left us baffled as the propeller and transmission were good and everything else between them was new. The Prop Doc thought that maybe that the shop had not “faced” the coupling with the shaft so he took both the shaft and coupling and did that. He said he had some difficulty so before we started to put everything back together he checked the shaft, It was out 1/1000, (withing tolerances) and then we started looking closely at the coupling. After measuring the distances between the holes and looking closely at the keyway, it looks like they fu@ked up when they machined it. Naturally, nobody could ever remember seeing a coupling machined wrong…..until now. Prop Doc got another coupling overnighted, faced it to the shaft, and carefully checked it out. We put it on and put everything back together and realigned the engine again and splashed on Friday. Everything ran smoothly all the way to the dock so I think we finally got it. It was a royal pain in the ass, but barring me doing something stupid like getting too shallow looking for bait, that side should be good for quite a while. The haulout and extra week in the yard were a little over $500, but to his credit, Dan from Prop Doc reimbursed me without hesitation.
I did get all my annual “maintenance” done while I was there. 2 coats of bottom paint and all new zincs. I should not have to haul out again until the Fall of 2021.

Capt. Craig Jiovani lends a hand in the Boatyard

After over 3 weeks in the boatyard and lots of hard work, the Southbound is getting launched again