Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The reality of cruising: When a $2 part prevents you from sailing.

When most people think of cruising their minds fill with white sand, gin colored water, cocktails and sunsets. Active cruisers know the ugly truth. Cruising is slightly more than fixing your boat in exotic locations. If you follow our blog (I'm talking to all 3 of you) you already know the boat troubles we've been experiencing.

So here we are only 3 weeks after having the transmission "fixed", the davits welded back on the boat, the mixing elbow repaired and the prop shaft issue fixed...broke down again.

Now what?

In short, we took the transmission out in Barra after it was stuck in forward and with the "help" of a local mechanic (at $80/hour), had the damaged foward clutch pack replaced. We put the thing back in and all seemed to be well for a while...

The scene from just last month
Fast forward three weeks: We miraculously made it up into the Sea of Cortez and had a friend visiting us. As we are pulling up anchor at Isla Carmen, we noticed that the transmission was, once again, stuck in forward. It seemed to even be worse this time as we could only get about 2 knots out of her at full cruise. At this point there are explatives flying everywhere and all of us wondering how the hell this could have happened again.

We limped into Puerto Escondido, picked up a mooring ball and within a couple of days, had the transmission out again. When Phil opened up the forward gear, the first thing he noticed was a snap ring falling out onto the floor. That's bad. Without getting too technical, the forward gear and clutch pack is held together by two rings that snap into place, hence the name. These rings are the same diameter, but different thickness. 

Apparently Mr. $80/hour didn't notice that part and put them in backwards. It is amazing that we got as far as we did.

So easy fix, right? Just put it all back together correctly, throw the damn thing back in the boat and be on our way, right? Nope. When the gear came loose, it smashed a two dollar piece of rubber on the piston and it would be leaky if we put it back together as is.

The preventer of cruising....a lousy $2 piece! 

After looking everywhere in Baja for the part with no avail, we found the part in the US as part of a whole gasket and seal kit for this tranny.  No one online had only the $2 part in stock and we were forced to buy the entire kit. Sweet...we're making progress till we found out that our online company could only FedEx. Unfortunately, FedEx in Mexico takes anywhere from 3 weeks to never to deliver a package.

We were desperate to get going again. Then came the idea to ask on the morning net if anyone had people coming in from the USA that would be willing to bring us our package. We FedEx'd our package to the wife of another cruiser, she packed it in her luggage, and we had it in a couple of days.

After we had the part in hand, it only took one day to put it all back together with the new gaskets and seals and reinstall with the help of our friends.

Phil in his Sundays best
Pro Tip: Use your halyard to haul the thing in and out. It will save your back and your sanity.

Who doesn't love a transmission swinging through the living area?

We left Puerto Escondido yesterday and sailed back out in the Sea of Cortez. Somedays I really wish cruising was like it appears in the fancy charter boat advertisements...nothing but playing 'Slap N Tickle' all day on powder white sand. 


  1. I noticed your blog, probably I am nr 4, and saw we share a common gearbox. Just to make you feel a bit better: on our way from Thailand to Turkey it broke just a few hundred miles into the Indian Ocean. I will spare you the details, they are ugly of course, and no spares until Cyprus we had to keep it going (also because pirates chased us) and we came to the grand total of taking it out, fixing it, and back in.... And now hold on to something..... 21 times!
    The good thing is, the first time took 3,5 hrs. In the end we managed in 40 minutes. And 5 years later I can still call all the wrench sizes I need out of my head, 24, 16, one 15, 17 for the shaft, and a 16 with long extension to loosen the bottom bolts :))) Good luck

    1. Wow! That certainly puts our problem in perspective! What was the issue exactly?

  2. So mad at that $80/hr guy! So happy that someone online was REALLY able to help you guys out! We are still in AK and many times have the same issue up here with Fed Ex. Have thought about how much harder it can be when things to awry in other countries. So awesome it was all figured out! How frustrating though!

  3. From Dead-head to motor-head in one easy cruise! Still it does suck when a fixed problem comes up again. Arrhghh!

  4. From Dead-head to motor-head in one easy cruise! Still it does suck when a fixed problem comes up again. Arrhghh!

  5. Good to hear you're back in business. Each cruising year that passes, you can't help but get to know your boat better and better--that's the silver lining, I guess. All the best.