Filed Under (Boat/Trailer Maintenance) by Debbie on 15-08-2007

We were excited!  This was the best wind we’ve seen since buying our sailboat and we were getting ready to take her out on the Columbia River.  We never thought about the marine transmission or the cable that give us forward and reverse.  We only thought about getting out on the water to enjoy the great wind.

I was at the helm and my hubby cast off the last line.  The westbound current slipped past our bow with ease but my concern was the wind blowing over our port side and our neighbors boat to starboard.  I remembered the sage words of seasoned sailor; he’d said, “…You have to have way…”

With those words in my head I gunned the engine in reverse and came out smartly.  I shifted back to neutral, thought I’d heard something funny (Neptune laughing?) and then pushed into forward and gunned the engine.  Nothing happened and I frowned and went back to neutral then forcefully went back into forward and gunned the engine, still nothing….  I suddenly realized I had no transmission! 

The dock behind us came up quickly and with sinking heart, I shouted a warning to brace for the impending impact.  It was a solid hit.  Thankfully we swung around to the walk and tied her up on the starboard side.  She’s bruised but I’m grateful she’s not broken.

Here’s a picture of our transmission cable along with a bilge that needs cleaning!

Transmission Cables

My hubby shinnied down into the lazarett to look at the transmission cables.  Sure enough they’d come out of the connection.  While he’s doing that I’m dragging out our ever-present toolbox while reminding myself that I had no control over the cables.  Yes, it would have been nice to drop our anchor quickly and not hit the dock.  However, by the time he could hear me and could have gotten it out of the locker and over the side, we’d have hit anyways.

Fixing this problem was a two person job.  I held the screwdriver to keep things from moving around and my hubby used the wrench to tighten the nuts.  It was an easy fix because we knew what the cable looked like.  So one screwdriver and one wrench later the cables are back in the connection and I’ve got forward and reverse again.  Yippee!

The problem now is the Columbia River is behind us, the brisk wind is coming astern and the current is against the port side of the keel.  My hubby wants to walk down the dock holding the lifelines while I back out.  If you haven’t done so yet, this is the part where you want to cue up the circus music!  I think it took me three or four minutes to back down a dock that I can walk in under a minute.  I succeeded in scuffing the starboard side without too much effort.  As I began to clear the end of the dock I started yelling at my hubby to get on the boat.  He finally climbed over the bow rail at the last possible moment; thank heavens he didn’t fall into the water.

At this point I now felt as if I needed a big red nose, brightly colored wig and a water-squirting flower.

While the club has a breakwater, once you’re past all the dock the current picks up.  So wind astern, current on the portside of the keel, I’m trying to swing the bow around without ramming the dock in front and the breakwater behind me.  I was so entertaining that two of the residents pulled up a chair to watch….

After a couple of very intense minutes of back and forth I finally managed to swing her around enough to head out of the club.  I looked at the two residents and drug my hand over my forehead and flung the sweat away.  After all, they were too far off to squirt with my flower.

The rest of the day was fun and exciting sailing.  We flew along at 7-8 knots and at one point had the port rail wet.  It was great sailing!  By the time we came back in the wind had died down a bit and I brought her into the slip without preamble.

 If you haven’t already done so, you need to stick your head into the engine compartment and have someone shift the control into forward and reverse so you can locate the cables.  In the past this was a problem we’d had on a power boat, two boats ago.  Take a few minutes to find the connections and check to be sure they are tight.  Had we done that simple little bit of tightening we’d have never hit the dock.  Although the cables can and on occasion do break our problem was a lack of maintenance and our ignorance that it needed to be done.  Yep, Neptune has a way of getting our attention!

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