Whilst manoeuvring out of the harbour in La Gomera the bow-thruster started making an unusual and somewhat worrying noise.

The first thought was a rope or plastic bag was caught in the small propellers in there. A quick “in the water” inspection in Marina del Sur (Tenerife) revealed something more sinister – the propeller(s) would turn, but felt “notchy” as though something was blocking them.

My immediate thought was that the bow-thruster gearbox was damaged, and it transpired that indeed it was.

After being stuck in Marina del Sur for two days we departed for Santa Cruz and I gingerly used the bow-thruster leaving Marina del Sur and then again entering Marina Santa Cruz. The second time the thing failed completely with an unearthly shriek that signified the end of it.

After a discussion over the best way to proceed we opted to have the boat lifted out “Varaderos Anaga” to the north of Marina Santa Cruz. The manager there was very helpful and promised that they could do everything we wanted.

A bow-thruster gearbox (or “leg”) was ordered from the Balearic islands as nowhere in the Canaries had one, but that ended up being a bigger problem than we imagined as the Canaries are not part of the Spanish Customs system (it seemed).

Anyway, after talking with the ever helpful manager it eventually arrived:

You can clearly see the cracks in the old one (ignore the crustaceans – they had nothing to do with the failure). The new one was quickly fitted – job done!

Now the main gearbox problem. Occasionally, but with increasing regularity, the gearbox would not engage forwards gear and instead would make a dreadful banging noise under the boat. We’d had this problem before in Turkey and it had been fixed. The engineer had said at the time that the gearbox (Yanmar KMH4A) was a bad design and we should expect it to fail again. It had…

Lucky for me right next to the boatyard was the main dealer for (amongst others) Yanmar. I went to ask them if they could fix this. They said no problem – drop the gearbox off and they could do it in a couple of days. Perfect!

Now the only problem was to get the gearbox out of the boat and to the engineers, bearing in mind the boat was sitting on the land and it was at least 3m to the deck of the boat.

Taking the gearbox off the engine and out of the engine room was relatively straightforwards, but I did end up putting an nasty dent in the woodwork around the engine room door 🙁

Getting the gearbox down to the ground and subsequently back up onto the boat when it was fixed involved some ingenuity, several pulley blocks, the boom and long rope (actually an old halyard).

I put the gearbox into our long suffering shopping trolley (it was completely overloaded but somehow survived) and wheeled it to the Yanmar dealer.

As promised it was repaired within a few days. The engineer said that it was the last time it could be repaired without buying a new (and expensive!) part.

I have decided we need to take more care of the gearbox to make it last longer. However now it was time to put it back in. Out came the blocks and rope again and I rigged up the “tackle”.

It wasn’t quite as easy as it looked. I had hurt my back lifting the gearbox out and there was no way I could lift it back into place.

Luckily one of my Spanish “neighbours” in the boatyard helped me. Together we got the gearbox back into the engine room and then he managed to get the gearbox back in position in one go. I was very grateful for his help…

The boatyard finished off some other work (polishing the coachroof, painting the keel and servicing the propeller) and we were ready to go.

The next day Angelika returned from having fun on Lanzarote with some kind of health week, the boat was launched. We returned to Marina Santa Cruz with a working bow-thruster and repaired gearbox.

Yes, Angelika had been away the whole time and I had been left to deal with all this on my own… 🙁

Categories: Maintenance