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Monday, December 31, 2012

Reverse Returns, Triumphantly

In between our rudder and our keel, is the Kiwi Prop that
came on our boat.  This photo was taken while our boat
was hauled out into Rodney Bay’s yard so we could
sand, strip and refinish our hull.

It looked identical to a mooring ball.  Instead, it was a swim area marker, something we did not discover until the line from the marker wrapped itself tightly around our prop.  Not good.

The place was Soufriere’s Anse Chastenet, a lovely snorkeling spot.  Normally I would’ve donned my snorkel gear and untangled the line.  That is a pink job in our boat.  I offered not to do it when I saw the thousands of tiny jellyfish in the water around our boat.  The day before, in Marigot Bay, I was stung in several places when I snorkeled through a cloud of them, which fellow cruiser Kim Dickensen called “sea wasps.”  I was not interested to repeating the experience.

When the local marine park motored up with an assistant, we reluctantly paid his assistant to untangle the line from our prop.  Getting a lecture about mistaking a swim area marker for a mooring ball added insult to injury, but not as much as paying $20 US when we assumed the $20 was EC – US dollars are worth significantly more --2.67 per EC dollar.  Lesson: repeated many unfortunate times:  always clarify up front if EC or US dollars, despite what seems logical or even reasonable.

Note the crack on the plastic prop collar?  This is why we have
a warranty replacement part waiting for our Kiwi prop in the States.  It is not the prop currently in use on our boat.
  
Much more than the $20 US; that close encounter cost us reverse gear on the boat. For non-boaties, reverse is particularly important when checking to make sure your anchor, once you’ve dropped it, is holding.  In “The Saintes,” a set of islands in the Southernmost part of and our entry to Guadaloupe, when snorkeling I disconcertingly noticed every single one of the boats “anchored” in Pain De Sucre bay’s anchor was loosely lying atop the bay’s bottom, not really holding any of the boats there in place. Reverse is also helpful when moving in tight spots, which often happens in docking areas, especially when crossing under bridges.

We knew we could replace the part of prop that was broken under warranty.  It’s a known manufacturing defect; a part to be replaced.  Wayne’s Dad has it, waiting for us in the U.S.  We preferred to not pay international shipping and customs charges for it

Replacement prop and parts lined up and ready.
Fortunately, the prior owner left a spare bronze prop for us.  All we had to do is replace our old irreversible prop with the bronze backup, which isn’t as hydrodynamic as our current prop, but adequate in a pinch.  The tricky part was how to make the change.
Option 1:  Haul out (for non boaties, that’s lift the boat out of the water with a big, specially-made crane) our boat, a quickly replace it ourselves.
Option 2:  Make the replacement underwater, and hope nothing was lost underwater in the process.
Extra challenge:  We needed the use of a puller, to gently yet effectively remove our original prop without damaging it, as later, we plan to reinstall it.

Wayne, hooka (underwater breathing apparatus) on
as he heads down the ladder into the water replace the propeller.
Point a Pitre divers, working with Wayne, in the process of
replacing our propeller underwater.
We checked or at least tried to check both options in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, in Le Martin, Martinique.  Unresponsiveness, inferior equipment, unavailability and language barriers conspired.  It was not until we reached Pointe a Pitre, Guadaloupe, limping in with broken mizzen mast standing rigging (click here to read more about that – for non-boaties – it’s a rope / cable set that together keep the masts stably attached to the boat) we were connected with sufficiently competent divers to make the prop exchange happen.  Other than (our) dropping an ideal and relatively expensive prop nuts underwater in a too mucky-to-find-bottom (fortunately, Wayne had an alternate workable part), the replacement went off without a hitch. 

We were happy reverse was an option the very
 next day, when we passed through the
especially narrow bridge to the River Sallee

(click here for more about that – exquisite sunrise!).
Again recently, it was comforting to 
know we
had reverse if we needed it exiting past the
raised drawbridge from Simpson Lagoon to
Marigot Bay, St. Martin.  See how little room
there is on the sides of this catamaran sailboat
passing through in front of us?
It only took us 3 countries, ~$175 USD and a month and a half to fix it.  Sure, we found a way to get by without reverse for a while, but it is nice to have it fixed, and anchor and navigate tight spots with confidence.