05 April 2016
During our transit from San Juan to Fajardo we suddenly heard a rattling noise that caused some concern. After listening to the familiar sounds of the engine, rigging, and other equipment onboard for hours on end, a different noise becomes very noticeable, and we immediately tried to track down the source. Checking the engine compartment first I tried to follow the noise, and traced it under the deck in the aft cabin. There wasn’t any vibration in the wheel or other change in the normal operating stuff we’ve experienced, but we still couldn’t come up with anything.
Our toughest decision was whether to continue on or stop and determine the cause before proceeding. Since there wasn’t any vibration evident, and I couldn’t feasibly dive under the boat to check out the cause, we continued on to the marina in Fajardo where, after tying up to the dock and getting settled, I dove under the boat to see hopefully see what was going on.
Besides some string (don’t think it was fishing line) wrapped around the propeller nothing appeared to look out of place; nothing to be causing a sound like the one we were hearing. After removing the string we started the engine and, with sufficient lines to hold Brilliant in place, we put the transmission in forward; the noise was still there.
So, the next day we paid a visit to the boatyard adjacent to the marina to talk about hauling the boat out of the water to have a look. They hooked us up with their contractor for propeller and shaft work. After they visited us onboard and listened to the sound, our best guess was to replace the bearing that supports the section of shaft that lives outside of the hull and holds the propeller, called the Cutlass Bearing. In preparation for our Haulout scheduled for the following day we ordered a new bearing in case that turned out to be the problem. It seemed unlikely, but we didn’t have any other solution.
When we hauled out the following afternoon the technician zeroed in on the most likely culprit for the noise. Forward of the propeller we have a device known as a line cutter, which does just that: when a line gets caught around the shaft the blades will cut that line, and part of the device was loose and clicking against the shaft.
We decided to remove the line cutter for now as trap lines have never been a real concern for us in the Caribbean. We still inspected the cutlass bearing again and didn’t really think it needed replacing yet, so we decided to keep the bearing as a spare for future use. As a courtesy the contractor cleaned our propeller in his shop, and we were back in the water in a little over an hour. That’s my kind of Haulout: short and fruitful. But since the Haulout was held in the afternoon we didn’t have enough time to make it to our next destination, so we returned to the dock for one more night’s stay at the marina.