Our sail from Vanimo towards Biak is almost perfect – flat seas and 12 kts of wind from the right direction for almost two days. Wow, that’s got to be a personal best for this trip! Our calculations see us arriving late on Friday afternoon, so we decide to hang out in the nearby Padaido Islands for the weekend before checking into Biak on Monday morning.
Fifty miles from the islands a squall comes through and the wind shifts onto the nose. And then dies. We furl the jib and start the starboard motor but forward gear won’t engage. We check the gear selector mechanism, it seems fine. Bruce tries to get some underwater footage of the prop (propeller) but it’s inconclusive so we’ll have to wait until we can get in the water to inspect it.
Luckily we have two engines, so the trusty port engine goes on. Unlike the starboard motor (which apart from it’s current problem also has a significant oil leak from the gearbox), the port motor has been trouble-free since leaving Sydney.
But…. after a few hours of motoring Bruce decides to check the oil levels in the gearbox and discovers most of the oil has disappeared – it’s seeping out between the flange that bolts the saildrive (gearbox) to the hull. WTF? So now we have a serious problem – both gearboxes are leaking oil like there’s no tomorrow, and we can’t get the starboard motor into gear.
Every two hours Bruce tops up the gearbox oil on the port motor and we finally limp into the lagoon and drop anchor off picturesque Palau Nusi. I hop in the water straight away to inspect the prop.
Except I can’t – where the prop should be is an empty shaft. No prop…no prop assembly, nothing, the whole kit and caboodle has fallen off somewhere between here and Vanimo, most likely now at the bottom of Vanimo Harbour. This was the new Gori 2-blade folding prop that was fitted in Baltimore prior to us picking up the boat in 2014. At our last haul-out on the Gold Coast in May this year both props were checked and seemed fine.
We now discover there’s no hole drilled in the spindle, so it’s been fitted without using a split pin to secure it, probably just lock-tight adhesive to keep it on. Damn, Damn and Double Damn (and a few more choice words from the skipper). An expensive loss and a sure-fire guaranteed way to put a dampener on the weekend.
Luckily Bruce had the foresight to keep the old fixed-blade prop but it seems to be missing a spacer and washers. No problem for Captain Macgyver – we have some leftover polyurethane pieces from our pantry doors so he manufactures some plastic washers with the hole saw. He dons his scuba gear and after several trial fits he reckons it’s going to work, at least as a temporary ‘get out of jail’ card. Fitting it in the water means we can’t use lock-tight adhesive so our best solution is some sikaflex and plenty of torque using a piece of stainless pipe for leverage. With his head and knees wedged against the hull Bruce puts his back into it (no wonder he has a bad back!) and we hope and pray it’s enough. Did I mention what a marvel he is??
Apparently there’s great diving and snorkelling around these islands but we’re too consumed by our current problems to take advantage of the location, lovely as it is.
The prop issue is fixed for now, but we’ll need to get a new prop shipped and then haul out to fix the gearbox issues and fit the new prop. We’re pretty sure there’s zero chance of that in Biak, 20NM away. Our next option will be Sorong, more than 300NM away, but the wind in this area is notoriously fickle and motoring 300NM seems an impossible task with two leaking gearboxes. There are beautiful sunsets here but not much restful sleep to be had aboard Toucan right now….