Quick recap: since leaving the Bahamas we had heard a knocking in the prop shaft at certain engine RPMs – between 2300 and 2500 We were OK to run the engine above and below that. Since our preferred boat speed is 2200 RPM, or 2600 RPM in ‘turbo’ mode, we had continued with our northerly cruising schedule, but arranged to stop in St. Augustine at Camachee Cove Yacht Services to have the issue addressed. They diagnosed the problem as stemming from a badly aligned engine. So they ordered a new engine mount for the one that had worn out, installed it, and aligned the engine to the prop shaft – to the tune of nearly $1000 and five days delay. Sadly that did not fix the problem. In fact, after that a rattle was evident at most speeds, and a louder knocking sound more evident at some speeds and on starboard turns. Darn!
We had no recourse nor desire to return South to hold Camachee accountable. But we realized that we had to get the issue fixed before proceeding much further. We called ahead to Hinckley Boat Yard in Thunderbolt, but they were too busy to schedule us in – for at least a week. We could not delay that long. They recommended Ross Marine, a family owned boat yard, on the ICW about 15 miles south of Charleston. We called, liked the sound of them, and they agreed to try to get our issue resolved as quickly as possible.
As arranged we made Ross Marine by early afternoon on Sunday April 7th, and called the security guy who helped us tie up at the fuel dock. The good news about Ross Marine is that they just focus on boat repairs and are not distracted by other side of the business – being a marina or chandlery or broker. Also there was no charge for us to stay on their dock in the water – there was power and water available so Steve got busy washing down the boat. The bad news is that, if Tai Chi needed to be hauled out of the water as we suspected, we could not stay on the boat on the hard. They had no showers or facilities being just a boat yard, not a marina. BUT we were just 15 minutes drive from Charleston, so we decided that we would make the most of it and use the time to stay in downtown Charleston and do some sightseeing in that grand city.
As promised, Paul Senior (father) and Paul Jnr (son) came down to assess the problem first thing on Monday morning, confirmed our suspicion of a cutlass bearing issue, and also suggested replacing the worn dripless shaft seal. They were able to haul the boat that afternoon at slack low tide. By the end of the day they had made the necessary measurements and ordered the parts to be sent by overnight courier. Very efficient. Meanwhile, I was able to get wifi if I sat in their office, so I went onto Hotwire and got a great deal on a hotel right downtown in Charleston. At 5 pm on Monday April 8 we took a taxi into Charleston for a mini-break! (see Charming Charleston blog)
The next day at 2 pm, Paul Jnr called to say that they had completed most of the repairs and were going to be splashing the boat that afternoon, so we could return to stay on the dock. We returned late afternoon on Tuesday, stopping the taxi en route to run in for a few groceries. We watched them put Tai Chi back in the water, and spent a pleasant evening back on the boat, unpacking and tidying her up again.
They completed the repairs the next morning and we sea-trialed her with Paul Senior. We worked the throttle up and down several times – no rattle or knocking at all. Music to our ears! Although it cost a lot more money this time around, we were delighted with the service at Ross Marine. They had treated us with a sense of urgency, knowing that we were live-aboards on a tight schedule to get back to Canada. They were friendly, efficient and proficient. And most of all, the prop shaft was fixed, as well as the stuck through-hull fitting, which we had taken the opportunity of a haul-out to attend to, and they had replaced.
We had always planned to stop in Charleston anyway, and I had enjoyed our overnight hotel stay. I actually had a bath – you have no idea what a BIG deal that is! As a live aboard, I have grown accustomed to only showering – on the boat or in marinas – making a virtue out of necessity. But there are often times when, wet and numb from a cold day on the water, I long for a hot bath. It is probably the thing I miss most – next to my family and close friends, that is!
So thank you, Ross Marine, for repairing our boat quickly and efficiently, for being conveniently close to Charleston, and for my BATH!
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