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.

4 Responses to Summer cruising Part II (or fixing things)

  1. Chris says:

    Good to see you up and running again.

  2. Rick says:

    That’s a great example of staying in front of running gear problems, and staying in tune with how the boat feels and sounds. Losing your steering in that chop would have been really hard to fix as you bounced and wallowed in the seas.

    I call that the “Chesapeake Chop” because that’s the same conditions we face here on the bay with the prevailing southerlies blowing up the length of the bay. One shouldn’t underestimate the importance of seaworthiness and seamanship simply because we’re not sailing in open ocean. The chop is a real test of the boat and crew.

    • David says:

      It’s easy with a short season and a busy schedule to let maintenance items get away from you. This was a good reminder of our philosophy to stay ahead of potential issues.

  3. Skeep says:

    Very enjoyable read and good photography!

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