‘Short Southbound Cruise’!
By Tom and Kaye Assenmacher


Hit Counter Visits Since 1/15/2015


We left our dock at Kinsale (VA) at 08:45 on Thursday, 16 October 2014, aboard our 1975 Alberg 37 MK-II Yawl SHEARWATER on what was to be our 6th Southbound Cruise – our intended destination, the Abacos, Bahamas.  Our first day’s destination was the anchorage in Mill Creek, near Reedville, VA on the Great Wicomico River – after a somewhat ‘bouncy’ ride down the Potomac River, we arrived in Mill Creek at 14:15.


Southbound Down The
Chesapeake Bay


Additional stops included Fishing Bay near Deltaville, VA; Hampton, VA (Sunset Marina); NC Visitors’ (Dismal Swam) Center; Elizabeth City, NC (Jennett’s Free Dock); Deep Point Anchorage on the lower Alligator River; Dowry Creek Marina (Near Belhaven, NC); Adams Creek Anchorage (Across the Neuse River from Oriental, NC); and arriving at Casper’s Marina (Swansboro, NC) on Tuesday, 28 October 2014.  This is where the “Fun Begins”!!


We had noticed for the past few days, a slight ‘unusual’ intermittent vibration which sometimes was apparent and sometimes not apparent.  We decided to investigate while at Casper’s while we had the time (the Marines were having ‘live fire’ exercises between Swansboro and the Mile Hammock Anchorage, with the ICW closed to traffic, and had stopped at Casper’s for the night).  We had to ‘unload’ the starboard locker to gain access to the engine rear/transmission/prop shaft/etc., before we could investigate. (I (Tom/TJ) can still manage to get my head and shoulders into the area as I am quite experienced at this because I’ve changed 5 transmissions in prior years – but that’s another story – Kaye acts as the ‘surgeon’s assistant’, handing tools, shining lights on the victim, and assisting the ‘surgeon’). 


Yeah, I Can Still Get Into The Starboard Locker!


A thorough inspection showed that the propeller shaft was loose in the coupling.  I tightened the set screws a bit on the coupling, crawled back out of the locker, started the engine, and ran the engine a few minutes with the transmission in both forward and reverse.  Crawled back in the locker to see if ‘all was well’, but discovered that the shaft was still loose in the coupling.  One could turn the shaft a slight amount without any movement of the coupling.  Additionally, the prop shaft could be moved forward and aft a small amount in the coupling! However, we always install a 1” ‘donut’ zinc about ¼” in front of the stuffing box, and we noticed that there was no longer the ¼” gap between the stuffing box and the ‘donut zinc’.  Hmmmmm!!!


Knowing that the boat needed to be hauled in order to fully check out the prop/cutless bearing, etc., we began to look for a haul out facility in Swansboro.  Unfortunately, there is no haul out facility in or near Swansboro for a deep draft sailboat – the nearest haulout facilities are back east in the Beaufort/Morehead City, NC area, about 32 miles (statute) away. A call to TowBoat US (we never leave home without the ‘Unlimited’ Towing package), quickly arranged a tow to a haulout facility. 


We departed Casper’s Marina at 09:30 on Wednesday, 29 October, 2014 under tow to Bock’s Marine located about 8 miles north of Beaufort, NC arriving there at about 13:45.

SHEARWATER Being Hauled At Bock’s Marine


 We were immediately hauled and on the hard by 15:30.


Initial plans were to have the boat trucked back to Kinsale, but ‘sanity prevailed’, and we decided to winterize the boat, remove the sails, etc., and leave the boat at Bock’s till next spring.  The job of un-stepping/re-stepping the masts, arrange for transportation, etc. was not worth all the effort.  Therefore, SHEARWATER will stay in NC for the winter.


Since we had the boat well stocked for the planned 7 month cruise, we came home to Kinsale to get our pickup truck (fellow cruisers and friends – Kip and Linda Newbould (the owners of the 1970 MK-I Yawl MISCHIEF) who live near our home in Kinsale kindly drove down to pick us up.  Kaye and I then made a couple of trips to the boat and back unloading a lot of ‘boat stuff’ and bringing it home.


While unloading the boat, we decided to remove the prop/shaft/shaftlog/cutless bearing housing/stuffing box/coupling so that we could thoroughly inspect all these items, order new parts, and have them ready for installation next spring. 


Removing The Prop



What we found was ‘VERY INTERESTING!!!!’


When we removed the prop shaft from the coupling, we found that the prop shaft was broken inside the coupling!  The coupling is about about 3” wide and the end of the shaft (about 1.5”) was still in the coupling.  The keyway and key were quite worn on the long part of the shaft   but were still intact enough to allow the prop to remain operational.  The only thing that kept the prop from exiting the boat was the ‘donut zinc’ which limited the aft travel of the prop and shaft.  Had we not installed the zinc, we certainly could have had a 1” hole in the boat and/or a jammed rudder.


The following photos show the extent of this ‘strange’ event!


Drive Train Components


Prop Coupling Showing Damaged Keyway



‘Donut’ Zinc Showing Wear From Contact With Stuffing Box



End  Of The ‘Long Part’ Of The Shaft
(Note extreme wear in area of ‘Set Screws’)



The Short End Of the Prop Shaft
Note The ‘Intact’ Part Of The Keyway


Another View Of The ‘Long Part’ Of The Prop Shaft

(Note the extreme damage to the keyway)


View Of Prop Shaft With ‘Long’ And ‘Short’ Portions Of Shaft Placed In Relative Position As They Came From The Coupling.



’Mangled’ Coupling Key


The Stuffing Box Showed Very Minor Wear In The Area Where The ‘Donut’ Zinc Was Bearing On The Cutless Bearing, Preventing The Shaft From Moving Further Aft
(The stuffing box will receive new packing prior to re-assembly!)



The Cutless Bearing Shows Some Wear and Will Be Replaced.

(We had hauled the boat in September for bottom painting, and the cutless bearing showed a very slight amount of wear – the wear was a result of the shaft/coupler problems.)


The shaft fracture appears to have happened some time ago, as there appears to be only a very small area that looks like ‘newly’ fractured material.  We plan to have some local machinists take a look to help determine why the shaft fractured in such a strange way.  If any of our readers have any ideas, we’d appreciate hearing from you!


In the meantime, we will be refurbishing the removed components, ordering a new shaft and coupling, replacing the cutless bearing, etc.  We plan on enjoying spending the winter at home in Kinsale instead of the sunny and warm beaches of the Bahamas.


Note: When we finish 'fixing' this problem including testing of the new shaft/coupling/etc., we will update this article (we promise)!


Tom and Kaye (Assenmacher) in Kinsale, VA