Monthly Archives: July 2016

More summer cruising: Exploring Beaver Island

When my wife, boys, and I departed St. Joseph back in June, we were hoping to make Beaver Island within about 10 days or so. I had talked up the beauty and solitude of the harbor quite a bit, and both of my boys, I’m pretty sure, had some wild imaginings of a place along the lines of Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island. We’ve spent cold winter evenings tracing our fingers over chart book pages of the Beaver Island archipelago, dreaming of dropping anchor in remote harbors and going ashore to explore uninhabited islands, so it’s easy to imagine my family’s disappointment when our trip was interrupted by mechanical issues.

Two weeks later my youngest could barely contain his excitement as we departed Charlevoix and headed for Beaver Island. Ever cheerful, Josh did his best to contain his anxiety about wind and waves during our passage and toughed it out by focusing on the expectation of a sweet anchorage in Beaver Island’s St. James Harbor later that day. As we motored into the harbor, he chatted away excitedly and couldn’t wait to go ashore to explore. What a joy to see through the enthusiastic and unfettered eyes of a child.

With evening upon us, however, we enjoyed the island from Ariel’s deck, watched the sun set, ate a good supper, and went to bed.


Josh awoke the next morning ready to explore, so we pumped up the dinghy and headed ashore. Prior to this leg of the trip we’d been rowing our Trinka dinghy ashore, so Josh was jazzed to try something new: the inflatable and a 4hp outboard. Not quite as classy or clean as a rowing dink, the inflatable certainly stows (and travels) much better when not in use, so we put up with its gasoline, heavy outboard, and unattractive appearance. But Josh loves it.


Josh wanted to get the lay of the land, so we beached the dinghy at the north end of the harbor and walked south through town, stopping along the way to read historical markers and peek into a few shops (there aren’t many). Again, Josh was chattering with questions and excitement, and I loved every minute of it.


Like most sailors, I suspect, we had to walk the docks at the municipal marina, a prospect Josh approached with a hint of trepidation due to my story from several years ago about a run-in with the harbormaster. If he’s still there, we didn’t run into him this time.

At the south end of town we visited the historical society and read all about the Irish and Mormon history on the island before heading back to the north end. Although I’ve been to Beaver Island a few times, I was surprised to discover at the northeast end of the harbor the Beaver Island Marine Museum. And imagine my joy when Josh begged to stop in. A kind lady greeted us and handed Josh a scavenger hunt sheet, telling him that he could win a prize if he found all of the artifacts listed therein. Away he went!

The museum preserves the island’s fishing heritage with numerous artifacts and pictures. Perhaps the coolest exhibit is the Bob S., an historic fishing tug.


Captain Josh at the wheel of the Bob S. fishing tug.

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Josh’s scavenger hunt diligence earned him a free postcard, while I had the joy of watching this kid’s enthusiasm and wonder.

We left the museum and walked south along the east side of the harbor to check out the entrance light and the view out over the north end of Lake Michigan.


After exploring the island, we ate lunch at Dalwhinnie’s and stocked up on groceries at McDonough’s before heading back to Ariel, our bellies full and our wonder satisfied.

We (or rather Josh) hauled anchor the next morning and set a course through Gray’s Reef Passage and on to the Mackinac Bridge, another landmark Josh was eager to see – this time from below. (I greased the bow roller after this, by the way. She’s quiet now!). Josh had hauled anchor in Charlevoix as well, so with this haul we decided to promote him from “barnacle” to “swab.” He was thrilled.

Summer cruising Part II (or fixing things)

With a new ZF Marine 12M gear from Trans Atlantic Diesels, Inc., my boys and I made the 5-hour drive back to Northport and Ariel on a Sunday. Installation was simple and the transmission slid right into place as it should. I knew that was the easy part. After all the jockeying/shifting of the engine to get the TMC gear to “fit,” I figured I was in for a tough time of aligning the engine and prop shaft. As it turned out, it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. A few shifts and tweaks of the motor mounts had alignment looking good, and I had the transmission in and the shaft aligned within .004″ in three hours.

Really, the only major frustration was the original shift cable bracket – mounted on the back of the transmission – which was too short to position the shift cable properly so that the shift lever could travel equal distances forward and aft. I set the cable to ensure positive engagement in forward and reverse, and the next morning we hauled anchor and sea-trialed the new gear. With the transmission running smoothly – no vibrations or shifting issues – we motored into Northport marina and picked up a slip for the night to charge batteries, fill water tanks, and otherwise ready Ariel for cruising again. The plan was for the boys to sail together, but Jake was running a fever and feeling lousy, so he headed back home with my mom, leaving Josh and me to sail with grandpa. I was bummed to “lose” one of my boys, but being sick is never fun, especially on a boat away from home.


Hurth HBW 10 2 R in blue. ZF Marine 12M in the raw. For those wondering, a new ZF 12M from TAD runs $1700.


ZF 12M


Clearance was so tight I had to use the shift lever from the old Hurth. Ridiculous.


Gear in, aligned, filled with oil, and ready for action. Let’s hear it for another 37 years of service. (Fingers crossed).

We departed Northport Tuesday morning bound for Charlevoix and quickly found a nice breeze that allowed us the sail the entire way. We arrived in Charlevoix in a squall and just in time to catch the bridge opening into Round Lake.


Emerald Isle ferry departing Charlevoix for Beaver Island.


Channel from Round Lake into Lake Charlevoix.


Up North cruising is beautiful, and this little cut into Lake Charlevoix is no exception.


Lake Charlevoix ahead.

During the trip from Northport to Charlevoix a familiar creak from the steering system was noticeably worse. After losing a transmission this summer, I wasn’t about to risk another interruption, so once into Charlevoix we headed to Irish Boat Works and tied up at their courtesy dock. Cramming myself into the engine compartment once again, I loosened the steering cable and removed the suspect sheave pin.


Clearly the bronze pin had been rotating in the SS sheave mount. All of the other pins have anti-rotation locks to keep the sheave spinning on the pin, not the pin spinning on the mounting flanges. I talked with Edson, the maker of our steering system, and they said that replacement pins are now SS and $23.00 a pop. I sourced a SS clevis pin of the appropriate size for $5.00 and the system is silent and silky smooth once again. If you have an Edson system, ensure that your pins aren’t rotating. If they are, pull and inspect them.

We spent a couple nights anchored in Oyster Bay, one of our favorite spots, swimming and relaxing. It was nice to be cruising again and to have the transmission issue behind us. Sort of.

During our passage from Northport, I was troubled by a slight thrumming coming from the prop shaft as it freewheeled, so…once again I squeezed myself behind the engine, undid the coupling (and Drive Saver), and checked alignment, figuring that maybe the engine bouncing around on its mounts might have shifted alignment ever so slightly. At the end of this round of alignment, I couldn’t fit the .003″ feeler gauge between the output flange and the coupling. The pilot on the coupling slid smoothly into the output flange and the faces mated up about as perfectly as one could hope. I put everything back together and was immensely pleased to hear…nothing…during our boisterous passage from Charlevoix to Beaver Island.

We made a fast trip to Beaver Island under double-reefed main and staysail on a WSW wind blowing 25 kts and gusting to 30. Sailors unfamiliar with Lake Michigan sailing might be surprised by the waves the wind kicks up when it has sufficient fetch. Unlike the ocean, with a steady swell, Lake Michigan kicks up steep waves that are packed together, making the experience much like sailing an inlet or channel. Multiple wave patterns make things even more boisterous. I was glad I’d replaced the sheave pin. Pictures rarely convey wave height, but the pics below are of about 6′ waves.

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Even though we’d had a beautiful, clear day, a storm hit us just as we were approaching Beaver Island’s St. James Harbor. We anchored in a rain and enjoyed a beautiful sunset as the storm cleared – even witnessing a spectacular full rainbow.

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Beaver Island has long been a favorite anchorage – we even hosted a Cape Dory Rendezvous there in 2010. It was nice to be back.

Gotta pay if you’re gonna play

Just over a week into our summer cruise from St. Joseph to points north (we were hoping to make Mackinaw City) the transmission packed it in during our departure from Leland. With a dinghy in tow and a forecast for increasing winds and waves, I was motorsailing in the early-morning light winds when my wife and I heard a noise from below the cockpit that sounded a bit like cavitation. As the boat speed suddenly dropped off significantly, I began going through a mental checklist of possibilities. After confirming that the shaft and propeller were still where they should be, that the prop wasn’t fouled, and that the shift cable and lever were moving/engaging, I concluded that we’d “lost” the transmission.


Transmission packed it in just after leaving Leland. Fortunately, it didn’t quit a couple days before as we were entering in moderate seas, or the day of our departure. All in all, a good time for a transmission failure.

Although it clouded up as the day wore on, we had a beautiful sail up and over the Leelanau Peninsula and dropped anchor in Northport, a familiar harbor where we’ve spent some time on the hook. I immediately began making calls to figure out which was the better option: replace or rebuild. With a new transmission running about $1700 and a rebuild close to the same, the decision was obvious.


We enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and a pleasant sail north.


Preparing to round Cathead Point.

After a little sleuthing online, I came across the TMC60, a better, more reliable gear that should fit. I had several conversations with a very helpful and knowledgeable gentleman from BetaMarine USA and decided to order the trans, which I received two days later. In the meantime, I pulled the old Hurth HBW 10 2 R and made way for the new trans. Unfortunately, these things never go as smoothly as they should; one of the five cap head screws that secure the damper plate to the flywheel stripped. Rather than make things worse while working upside-down and on my head, I reinstalled the other fasteners and planned to continue running the original damper, which appears to be in decent shape.

Incidentally, the fact that it was even possible to pull the old transmission without heroics was due to our stuffing box arrangement. Ariel’s stuffing box screws onto her stern tube, as opposed to other CD’s with a stuffing box that is connected to the stern tube via a short length of hose. Thanks to our shorter, simpler stuffing box, I was able to unbolt the coupler and slide the prop shaft aft until the coupling met the stuffing box. It did take a little maneuvering to get the transmission and adapter plate out, but it wasn’t difficult.


Removing the transmission required unbolting the coupling from the DriveSaver, sliding the shaft aft to the stuffing box, and removing the water lift muffler and bracket.


Cramped quarters, but thank goodness I fit!


Stubborn cap screw in the damper plate. (And a leaky, oily Perkins).


The culprit. Hurth HBW 10 2 R. Pretty decent service for being 37 years old.

Sunday, July 3, with the new transmission – and after driving 5 hours back to Northport – I spent hours jockeying the heavy Perkins 4.108 around, trying to get enough room for the new trans. Cape Dory shoehorned the engine and trans so far aft that there was no way I could get the new trans shift lever – which exits the case on the port side of the box – to clear the hull without raising the rear of the engine 5/8″ and sliding the whole engine forward over an inch. It was clear that I would have to re-engineer the engine foundations in order to accommodate the required position. Summer is just too short for that so, admitting defeat, I pulled the gear out and moved the engine back to its original location (not an easy task, especially in such a confined space).

Back home in St. Joseph, I reluctantly returned the TMC60 and ordered a ZF 12M, which has the same dimensions as the old Hurth and should be a direct fit. Why didn’t I just go with the Hurth in the first place? Two reasons: First, the TMC is a better (less expensive) gear and I was confident it would fit; Second, ZF transmissions have a less-than-stellar reliability record. If you’re interested in researching issues with the ZF, simply Google “Hurth/ZF transmission thrust washer” or “Hurth/ZF transmission slipping” or “Hurth Transmission Problem.” Perhaps the post of most interest is this one on the Cape Dory Board: Hurth Failure

At any rate, the new ZF will be here Friday, and I’ll head back to Northport to install it and get Ariel back to cruising.

Eventually I’ll open the case on the old Hurth and look into the possibility of rebuilding it to keep as a spare. I did drain the ATF and it has a metallic sheen/glitter to it. Word is it’s probably a failed thrust washer, but perhaps more is going on. I can spin the input shaft with one hand and prevent the output flange from spinning with the other, so clearly something is slipping.

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