Ft. Pierce & Haulout

Our great time in Vero came to a close and we headed to Ft. Pierce on 21 Jan. Our destination was Cracker Boy Boat Works, where we were scheduled for a haulout at 10 AM. Our trip was uneventful, and the lift operator had the travel lift sitting on the lift well waiting for us, so we pulled right in and Maerin came out of the water. Yes, she was out of the water last winter, new bottom paint, some maintenance on the rudder, new zincs, stabilizers serviced, all the periodic maintenance that was due. Uh, with the exception of the main shaft seal. Oops, that one simply fell through the cracks.

The PSS dripless shaft seal on Maerin provides the seal between the main propulsion shaft and the water where the shaft penetrates the hull. It’s “dripless” because of its design; a conventional shaft seal has “shaft log” that consists of a bronze housing that receives flax packing and a large nut that threads onto the log and compresses the packing, providing a seal for the rotating shaft. It’s just like a valve packing you’d see on a shutoff valve common on water piping, with the exception of the size- the propulsion shaft is two inches in diameter! The packing nut compresses the packing around the shaft, providing the seal, but it must be left loose enough to allow a drip of water to come in past the seal every few seconds to keep the shaft lubricated and cooled. The “dripless” shaft seal uses a different design; a carbon collar attaches to the stationary shaft log with a flexible neoprene boot, and a mating stainless collar that attaches to the rotating shaft. The two surfaces are polished and provide the seal, the boot compresses to keep the mating surfaces under tension to insure a tight seal. It is by design, indeed dripless. The neoprene boot is a maintenance item, with the manufacturer recommending replacement every 6 years. Maerin was built in ’99, and the shaft seal boot is original, replacement was long overdue. Spontaneous failure of the boot can sink the boat, and it’s not something that can be repaired without hauling. Rather than risk catastrophe, we decided to haul and complete the service, spurred by our plans to be in the Bahamas for 3 months or so where service facilities are few and far between!

Most Florida yards prohibit DIY work, but Cracker Boy allows it, they also allow staying aboard while blocked. Imagine you have to have a repair done on your home, but you (and your dogs) must leave while the repairs are completed, and you have no transportation. Get the idea?

The repair was fairly straightforward; I had ordered the replacement parts in November, so no waiting for parts to come, but I did not have the correct size socket to remove the 1-7/8″ nut that holds the shaft coupler to the shaft, so a few phone calls and a cab ride took care of that! I completed the repair work late in the day. While out of the water, we also replaced some zincs, cleaned the keel cooler, and decided not to pass up the opportunity to polish and wax the hull since it was last done in April of 2014. We borrowed some scaffolding from a contractor in the yard and completed polishing and waxing the hull on Thursday. One day to completely polish and wax the entire hull- quite an effort for just the two of us! When we started, we were relocating the scaffolding without much effort; by the end of the day, we had difficulty just picking it up! Before we started, we had to schlepp the scaffold from halfway across the yard. When we completed the polishing, we started to return it to where we found it; mercifully, the fellow we borrowed it from spotted us heading back with the 1st plank and shouted to us just to stack it against the fence in back of the boat. What a relief! We were beat!

We scheduled the re-launch for 11 AM Friday morning; we had enough time to wash up the decks and fill the water tanks and we were back in the water, all shined up!

We made the short run south to the Ft. Pierce City Marina, and took a slip to insure we’d have a good hot shower to soothe our achy shoulders. The marina is in the process of a major renovation, they’re installing new Bellingham floating piers and they’ve already completed significant channel dredging, changing the entrance to the marina. The floating piers are quite nice, although there is still much to be done before it’s complete.

Ft. Pierce is renown for its farmer’s market, part of our purpose in taking a slip was to go to the market on Saturday. We took Molly along, we enjoyed a walking breakfast, very yummy! Molly enjoyed picking up what folks dropped! We planned to take a stroll through the entire market to scope out the goodies, then make a return pass to buy. The weather had other plans for us, for about the time we completed our initial pass, the heavens opened and we had quite a downpour. Rather than risk getting soaked, we took advantage of a break in the clouds to make our way back aboard, so we never did score anything in the way of goodies, but we enjoyed the experience just the same!

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