Who needs a transmission when you’ve got sails

Sitting to leeward of Yahtzee’s helm, I could see the dark gust coming from way across the bay. Counting down until it hit, I turned up slightly, let the boat heel hard, and then watched the starboard rail bury deep into blue water. Frothing whitecaps whipped by, yet from the high side our two deck monkeys held their faces to the strong wind and laughed in unison. “We love this!” they shouted. Clearly, the moment was no bother to them.

I was in it, though, trying to get us safely into the harbor after a great weekend but with little help from a finicky transmission. After tacking back-and-forth as comfortably close to Seward Harbor’s breakwater as possible, we struck the sails, started the engine and limped our way into the marina with the troublesome tranny.

Since heading out on our cruising weekends this month, Yahtzee’s transmission has been acting a bit cheeky. Sometimes it runs fine. Other times, well, it doesn’t. What happens is that when we power up in forward past about 1,000 RPMs, the normal amount of thrust that should occur never follows. That’s an issue. In low revs and reverse, though, everything is fine. Ho hum, boat problems happen. And in our minds, if there’s wind, we’re sailing!

But we’re not naive. Boat problems don’t just fix themselves. Accordingly, I’ve taken the wayward transmission apart to inspect the gears inside and from what I can see, and from the confirmation of a competent mechanic, nothing seems to be amiss. So, needless to say, we’re still sorting through various options on that.

In the mean time, this past weekend was another one of those magical moments on the water that only makes us want to stay out cruising forever … and ever. Though this one was a bit more drippy than the last, our crew did what we usually do and made the best of each special moment. We sailed to Thumb Cove and back, hiked beaches, played with friends, messed about in boats, ate well, and laughed long into the night. It truly doesn’t get much better.

Besides the transmission part, pictures probably do it the most justice…

Porter steers Yahtzee into Thumb Cove.
Jill takes a leisurely spin on Hornpipe.
Beach treasures always find their way aboard.
As always, Porter heads out when the anchor is down.
Be free!
Magnus and Porter chase Jill back to Yahtzee.
Our buddy Devon spins around the cove on Hornpipe.

8 thoughts on “Who needs a transmission when you’ve got sails

  1. Transmission problems are awful. We had a similar issue in 2016. Details in the post on our blog. It sounds like your clutch pack is worn / slipping (I could be wrong though). That was our issue, except the symptom manifested as forward not engaging at all, until it clunked into gear after a random amount of time (5-60 minutes) in fwd selector position.

    1. Awful is certainly a good way to put it. I actually went back to read your blog on that to see if we have similar trannys — we don’t. My initial thought was that it’s worn and slipping, too. I’m meeting with the mechanic again this week so we’ll see what comes of it.

  2. I’ve only had transmission troubles when I’ve circumnavigated Vancouver Island and I’m pleased to say I’ve done it six and a half times and feel every time a wonderful experience. The tranny was rebuilt twice and after that I had it replaced in Port Hardy and just wish I had the right winds so I didn’t need to use the tranny.

  3. I had a similar experience last year with my Catalina 34. Reverse worked fine and I could get the boat up to 4.5 knots. In forward, I could only get the boat going a knot. The issue ended up being the clutch plates. After rebuiling the transmission with new parts it worked like new. My boat has a hurth transmission and Mer equipment in Seattle had all the parts in stock to get me going again. There are several great videos on YouTube that guided me through the rebuild process. The only major tool needed for the project is a hydraulic press.

  4. Andy,
    Am sure you will have the transmission issue resolved soon. The plus side of the problem is that it prompted you to write about it and sharing your “deck hands” concerns… ‘ “We love this” ‘. I have really enjoyed following your articles and observing through them (and photos) the growth of your family. The life lessons and confidence you and Jill instill in the boys through your adventures and lifestyle is commendable. Having raised 2 amazing girls in Alaska and now being a grandparent, I can see that you and Jill will be rewarded (as I have) at the end of your parenting days with the success and future accomplishments of your boys, whatever they may be. Thanks so much for sharing.

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