Bristol Channel Cutter "Angelsea"

2 dimples and $8000

This is about a sojourn of simple but poor maintenance and the associated costs. The moral of the story is all about paying attention to details.

This all started when I purchased Shanti in SoCal. During haul out and survey the cutlass bearing was found to be missing! Well what had happened was the bearing had come lose and traveled up inside the shaft log and was nowhere to be seen. This was noted by the surveyor. Since I was shipping her overland to Florida for her eventual home in St. Thomas, I planned to have that attended to in the yard before re-launching her. It was surmised that dimples had not been drilled into the cutlass for the set screws to reside in.

Now fast forward 3 weeks later. I am on the phone with the yard in South Florida. “Yes, would you please install a new cutlass bearing in Shanti for me, and don’t forget to put dimples in the cutlass bearing for the set screws”. I was having the yard do normal haul out projects before my arrival to help speed the re-launch.

Three days after re-launching Shanti and ready to jump off for the Virgin Islands, we did an alignment. We were good to go and off for southern latitudes. But this was only the beginning of the story. ( To read about the delivery refer to this post )

During the delivery we had to motor a few times. The last a longest was when we arrived off Puerto Rico and were becalmed with 60 miles left to reach St. Thomas. We ended up motoring those last 60 miles. By this time we had done 2 more alignments during the trip because of increased vibration each time. I passed it off as not getting the alignment right to begin with, But now I know I was mistaken.

The next 2 years saw me move aboard to live, anchored in Long Bay, St. Thomas. ( .I went sailing a lot, but never used the engine much, basically to navigate the sometimes crowded anchorage to return to my mooring. Finally about 8 months ago returning from Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands we (my fiancé and myself, I had just asked her to marry me!) experienced some heavy vibration on the motor back during the dead calm of the trip.

The next day I started looking around for the problem. I found 2 things.  First and what this story is based on, were the dimples in the cutlass bearing. I went over the side to look at the prop etc. What I found was the cutlass bearing was loose and turned/moved freely in the stern tube. I was actually able to slide the cutlass bearing far enough out to see that the yard had NOT drilled dimples for the set screws (the set screws were gone also). Next I checked the alignment and found that I had busted 3 of the 4 engine mounts. This was the reason I started feeling the heavy vibration…talk about being out of alignment at this point!

This is my take on what had happened, if you not already guessed yourself. The first cutlass bearing that had disappeared inside the stern tube had allowed the shaft to wear the stern tube so the cutlass no longer had a good interference fit. The second cutlass bearing may have done alright but without the dimples for the set screws it allowed the cutlass to spin inside the stern tube and wear the stern tube even further. With the added play in the stern tube, it set up even more vibration which in turn caused the engine to slowly go out of alignment. Finally reaching a point of no return, the out of aligned drive train busted the engine mounts.

So now it is hurricane season. As hurricanes approach they can suck out all the wind right before they hit. So I didn’t want to be stuck with a hurricane bearing down on us and not be able to run for cover. So the next weekend with a nice 12-14 knot breeze we sailed up the island a ways and into the mangroves at Benners Bay, St. Thomas. Sure enough 2 weeks later Hurricane Earl came through with no wind preceding his arrival. We weathered the storm with no problems. The other reason we sailed up to the mangroves and Benners Bay was to haul out at Independent Boat Yard and overhaul the drive train after hurricane season was over.


Since we were going to be doing a lot of work on the drive train I decided to completely remove the engine. This would also allow for me to easily service through hulls and doing a general cleaning of the engine room. Also while having the engine out I decided to have the rear seal on the transmission replaced. I had read in a few articles that this seal is usually damaged from misalignment. Also, my front seal on the engine had a small leak. Not enough of a leak to add oil, but it was making a mess. So I asked the mechanic at the yard to perform these tasks for me. I did not have the necessary tools for those jobs.

For the drive train I decided on a complete rebuild of the stuffing box to get an interference fit with the cutlass bearing. My thanks to Rod Bruckdofer on BCC Iduna for his post regarding repair on my shaft log/cutlass. I followed all his recommendations (you can see the post here,9546,9559#msg-9559 ). To summarize, we removed the cutlass bearing, shaft and stuffing box. At this point I was able to remove the first cutlass bearing that was up inside the shaft log (it’s a long shaft log). Now the two cutlass bearings were out of the boat. Neither had dimples for the set screws drilled in them. I coated a cutlass bearing with mold release wax. Next, epoxy was forced into and around the shaft log and cutlass bearing. When the epoxy kicked off the cutlass bearing was removed. This gave me a snug interference fit that is required for the cutlass bearing. Next I filled the old holes for the set screws and drilled new holes 120 degrees apart. This was recommended by Rod as a better procedure than 180 degrees apart. Then I ordered some stainless steel threaded inserts and expoxied them in the new holes. I followed this up with a checkup of the shaft in the local machine shop. The shaft checked out fine. Next I installed a flexible coupling by Federal. I also installed a new stuffing box.

So now we have the engine back in the boat. I hook everything up and tried to start the engine. I am just estimating at this time, but I believe I tried to start the engine about 20 times, All the time bleeding the engine and checking for leaks. I could not understand why the engine would not start. I went down to the bar and found the mechanic and he suggested that I use CRC to start the engine. After spraying CRC in the intake, the engine started. First thing I checked was water out of the exhaust. No water. Engine was shut down, as I did not want to damage my impeller. So the hunt for the cooling water problem started. The engine was probably started and run for 10-30 seconds for maybe 7-10 times during the process of finding the cooling water problem. Basically we started the engine, and if water was not pumping or leaking out of a pipe below, the engine was immediately shut down. I had a broken pipe on the cooling system. This pipe was probably broken when the mechanic put the engine on a trolley to move it over to the boat. But there is no way to be sure of that. But it wasn’t broken when the engine was last in the boat.

An important point needs to be made at this point:

The engine was running perfectly when it was removed from the boat. The only problems I had were engine mounts and alignment. This engine had only 500+ hours on a fresh rebuild.

I tried fixing the pipes with epoxy. I started the engine and the mechanic came by the boat as his was tied up right next to me. I told him I got the engine started with his suggestion of CRC, I then went below to see if the epoxy was holding and it wasn’t. So I shut the engine down again. At this point I decided to just wait until I could get the proper part as any temporary fix did not seem reliable enough to run with.

So we left the boat yard dock with the dingy alongside and sailed out of the lagoon back to Long Bay. The boat sat for another week before the new parts arrived and because of my work schedule I did not do the repair until the next weekend. Finally it seemed we were all set and we started the engine. I checked the water and it was fine, then I checked my gauges including oil pressure. No oil pressure….we shut her down.

Ok, so now what is wrong? So I did an oil change and replaced the filter as it was due. Filled the engine up with 15-40 and started her again….no oil pressure, shut her down. Checked the wiring to the oil sender, they looked ok, but I took them off and cleaned the contacts anyway. Started her up again…no oil pressure, shut her down. Now I was really scratching my head….why no oil pressure? So I went online and found a shop manual for the engine and saw that the oil pump was part of the front housing that contained the seal the mechanic had replaced. I was wondering if he had used more gasket seal on that and had plugged up an oil way. So the boat sat for a couple of weeks until I could find a wheel puller to take off the front pulley. After removing the pulley I went to remove the cover over the oil pump. The wrench would not ratchet as there was no pressure on the bolt. I reached down and unscrewed the bolt and the remaining 4 or 5 with just my fingers. The cover had never been tightened down. The pump was sucking air instead of pumping oil.

At this point I tightened all the bolts and put everything back together. We fired her up and had oil pressure. But I was worried obviously about how much damage had been done with all the starting and running, even for only very short intervals. Fortunately I had saved the oil. I then sent a sample off to the states for an oil analysis. Click here to see report.

So now I am facing replacement or rebuild of the engine. I don’t have all the figures yet, but I estimate with the costs to date for rebuilding the drive train and now the cost of rebuilding or replacing the engine I will have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $8000. All of this because of a simple and well known procedure of drilling dimples in the cutlass bearing for the set screws to grip.

Of course this is a continuing story. I will post Part III once I have Shanti running again.

Cheers, Gary

One thought on “2 dimples and $8000

  1. Allan Smith

    Good morning Gary, this post is what I scour the internet for. It is full of facts and excellent hints and pointers that I will use. One thing about your oil change; you used a 15-40 oil right? Well, the viscosity (thickness) is 40, but with the additives the viscosity becomes 15. But as the additives wear down the oil returns to its natural viscosity…40. You can buy a straight 40 oil with no additives, just make sure the temperature range is good for the area you sail in, it should be cheaper. Also refurbished oil is as good as new oil…..Allan