Removing the Transmission, Act 1

11/28, NW20-25>10-15, 51/36, sunny - After breakfast, I bundled up in winter clothes and took Murphy for his morning walk. Other dogs and their owners were out too - I had a pleasant time waving to some from a distance and meeting two: Ray with his Yorkshire terrier Quincy and Suzanne with her collie Sheldon. The community is Hilton Head Plantation. The roads are curving and lined with grass, perennial gardens, and live oaks, loblolly pines, and palmettos. Landscapers have planted snapdragons, pansies, and ornamental kale as accents for the cooler season. There are fine homes and condo-style apartments, sectioned off in groves. There’s a country club that’s pretty to look at from the road, which is as close as we’ll likely ever get to it! Everyone we’ve met has been friendly.

When I returned from walking, we decided to wait until 10am to start on the engine. With the wind, the temperature in the 40’s was too biting cold for handling engine parts. I worked on our travelogue and Dobbs pulled the engine’s raw water thermostat for servicing (he can do that from inside the boat). The thermostat we use opens and closes to recirculate raw water in the engine and maintain an operating temperature of 135-150 degrees. As we run more in salt water, corrosion can cause it to stick open and then the engine runs at 100 degrees or less. This is okay, but we run less efficiently and burn more fuel. It was actually stuck open when we got Grace and we didn’t know it was, or that it should be different, and we made the whole trip to FL and back in 2015/16 that way. When it’s stuck open, water pumps out our exhaust, like every other “normal” engine. When it’s working, it looks like there’s something wrong because water doesn’t flow continuously from our exhaust (remember, the water gets held in the engine until it reaches 135-150 degrees) and a lot of steam is produced. The steam can be mistaken for white smoke. If you’ve ever seen an early 70’s C&C or Catalina 30 with a billowing cloud at the stern, that’s what I’m talking about. It’s unnerving, but it works. We regularly get told by folks at the dock, and even hailed on the radio once, that we’re not pumping water or that we’re making white smoke (which in our case is steam) and I do my best to explain. I remember watching a Catalina come in to Bay Boat Works, before I knew this type of system existed, and thinking, “Boy, that guy’s in trouble.” Now I know. The thermostat can also get stuck closed and that’s a problem - we have to shut down before the engine overheats and then stop to clear it. We keep a couple spares and new gaskets handy.

At 10am we dove into the transmission project. First, I unloaded the starboard quarterberth into the V-berth so I could work from the access panel back in there.

I haven’t gotten around to painting the quarterberths yet. Please pardon the peeling paint and raw wood - Grace is a work in progress!

I haven’t gotten around to painting the quarterberths yet. Please pardon the peeling paint and raw wood - Grace is a work in progress!

Dobbs reaches in, upside down, through the access in the cockpit.


Working this way, with his two hands and one of mine, we unbolted the shaft coupling from the drive saver and then unbolted the drive saver from the transmission.


There is exactly no additional room at all for anything to be even one iota longer than it is. In order to get the allen wrench on the drive saver bolts, Dobbs has to thread the wrench in through the holes in the shaft coupling, because there’s not enough room between the two for the wrench to fit. Actually, the first thing we had to do was go out and buy some tools.

We borrowed the marina’s courtesy car to go shopping. It’s a white Chevy Malibu that we can use two hours each day. The stores are 15 minutes distant by car, so it’s handy to have access to a vehicle. We’re so used to having the rigging trailer around that we didn’t have a 5/16” allen wrench or a breaker bar socket handle on board. We needed to restock oilsorbs too.

With the prop shaft disconnected from the transmission, the next step was to find some scrap wood to brace the back half of the engine on the centerboard trunk. The transmission bolts to the bell housing from the inside of the bell housing, so the bell housing has to come off, and the rear engine mounts are on the bell housing. As we recall from doing this last year to replace the freeze plugs, we’ll need to unbolt the rear engine mounts in order to get the clearance aft to disengage the transmission spline from the back of the engine. A fellow named Scott, here working on his Beneteau 50, pointed us to the boating community scrap wood pile, where we found workable pieces. Walking back, we spied a dock hand with a circular saw and asked him to cut two pieces for us, which he did.

By this time, it was getting later in the day and chilly again, so we test fit the wood support (thumbs-up) and called it quits. Murphy was ready for his afternoon walk. Later, I made penne pasta with kale, dried tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, and parmesan for dinner.