Melbourne Florida (Port #67) – Melbourne Harbor Marina

Mar 29 – Wed
It was again moving day, only a short 32 miles from Suntex Marina at Vero Beach to The Melbourne Harbor in Melbourne Florida.

Melbourne turned out to be a work task & problem solving city for us.
We were only there for 2 days.
We saw very little of the city, and barely left the marina.
We worked on the boat for 2 days.
If you are not excited by problem solving boat issues, stop reading now !

I don’t know if you remember from the last post, but one of our tasks during the ride from Vero Beach to Melbourne was to confirm if the stuffing box packing change (which fixed the leaks at the shafts when not moving) would run without getting hot while underway. The goal was to make sure that the now dripless nuts at idle would drip a little underway, and more importantly, would remain cool during operation. We were cruising at only 9-10mph at 1600 rpm. After 30 minutes both port & starboard nuts were warm but nothing alarming. After 1 hour the port nut remained slightly warm, but the starboard nut was very hot to the touch. I attempted to back off the packing nut compression as Jonell piloted the boat. Initially attempting very small nut rotations, then much larger rotations. All the attempts did not work, the nut remained very hot at 1600rpm with little water coming out of the stuffing box. We had to slow the boat speed to 1200 rpm/7mph to allow the nut to run at only a warm condition. The system also had a strange new clunking noise which occurred below 1000 rpm. So above 1200 rpm the nut was too hot, and below 1000 rpm we had a new abnormal clunking noise.
So we limped to Melbourne at 1200rpm/7mph, 5 hours to cruise 32 miles.

What could the clunking noise be;
> Is there now a problem with the transmission ?
> Is the shaft now bent and contacting the stuffing box ?
> Is the cutlass bearing shot ?
And why is the nut running so hot with the new packing ?

After a lot of conversations with Miller Marine’s rep Kenny Reid, owner Mike Miller, and Diver Jay LaShure, the theories, end root causes, and actions taken were as follows ;

The starboard shaft had moved rearward from the trans coupling & the key-way that indexes the shaft to the transmission was exposed from the transmission on the starboard shaft, and was not exposed on the port shaft.
A question was- why did the shaft move now, after 4 years of acceptable operation since the new engines/transmissions were installed in 2013 ?
The set screw which locks the shaft to coupler was not fully tight & may not been in the shaft divot, leaving coupling compression bolts to control f/a movement. We also have had a lot of high rev reverse operation recently while docking, which tends to pull the shaft rearward. The previous owner Dave Sylver, did much more high speed forward operation than us, tending to push the shaft into the coupling. We have done mostly slow speed 10mph forward operation.
Action = We used Kenny’s impact wrench to loosen the coupler bolts & set screw, had the diver Jay knock the shaft forward into the transmission coupling, and tightened the set screw & clamp bolts with Kenny’s impact wrench.
After the change, the clunking still existed, and we were not sure at the time if the change helped the stuffing box nut temps or not (needed to re-evaluate while under load)

The blue piece is the trans coupling, the gold piece is the key-way extending out of the coupling, the stainless steel part is the propeller shaft. The key-way, visible here on the starboard shaft was not visible on the port side. Notice the blue paint witness marks on the shaft

Clunking Noise from the Transmission
The clunking noise in the transmission was found due to cylinder to cylinder combustion pressure variation. Essentially a cylinder #7 misfire, causing the trans to rotate in a pulsed fashion, not smooth rotation. The issue was solved with a new spark plug !
This discovery was incredible for me. I was familiar with this condition from the auto industry. But had I not heard it with my own ears, I would never have believed that 1 spark plug could create so much havoc. Prior to the new plug, the trans had a pretty bad clunking/knocking noise below 1000 rpm sounding like the trans was shot (Oh-No). After some trial & error with plugs, we replaced the plug in cylinder #7 (furthest rear, port side), and THE NOISE WAS COMPLETELY ELIMINATED.
I have now swapped all the plugs , after getting a lot of hazing from Kenny about not servicing my plugs (long story that I don’t care to go into on the blog).

Packing nut running hot
The nut temps were hot to the touch, but probably nothing abnormal per Mike Miller. The “Duramax Ultra-X” packing material I am using , is supposed to transfer more heat to the stuffing box than a normal flax packing, thus using the stuffing box steel as a heat sink, helping to keep the shaft running cooler. With a ride to Harbor Freight from mechanic Kenny, I have purchased an Infrared Temp Gun to now measure the packing nut temps, and confirm the temps are ok (below 160f) without touching them.
Action = We reset/adjusted the stuffing box nuts in gear at idle, after moving the shaft forward, and after fixing the clunking issue.
It was not known at the time if the shaft move or the packing nut re-adjustment would work, fingers were crossed for the trip from Melbourne to Cocoa Village on Saturday.

Mar 31 – Sat
The 22 mile run from Melbourne to Cocoa Village confirmed = All systems are now functioning normally, all speeds had smooth operation, there was no knocking noise, and the packing nut was only warm to the touch and read only 80F with the infrared gun on both starboard & port !

The diagnosis/repair experience was ;
1. The most expensive spark plug change I have ever had.
2. The cheapest trans fix I have ever heard of.
3. A great experience meeting some of the locals, problem solving, and making new friends.

Kenny is a great fun guy, and a pretty good diagnostic service technician !

Mechanic Kenny Reid

During the 2 days that all of the above was going on, while waiting for mechanics & divers to arrive, I decided to finally re-finish the bow pulpit wood. I did the rear swim step in Detroit before we left, did the rear stairs in Key West (made Ron Kline happy), but had not yet gotten to the bow pulpit wood.
The hard part of the job, the sanding, is now complete.
We are expecting rain during the next few days, so applying the Sikkens Teak Finish will have to wait a few days.

1/2 Done, almost forgot to take a “Before” photo !
Sanding Complete, next step = apply Sikkens Teak Finish

The Fun
Even though we never left the harbor, we did catch up with some old friends, and made some new Looper friends.

We had dinner at the On-Site restaurant Icabod’s, with old Looper Pals Craic (Tim & Patti Gareau), and met another new wonderful couple Chad & Michelle Warden, on sailing vessel Certain Way, out of Holland Michigan.

Tim & Patti from M/V – Craic (Gaelic for fun or enjoyment)


20180329_213520_001 (2)
Left to Right = Chad, Tim, Mike, Patti, Michelle, Nellie


It was an interesting 2 days in Melbourne Florida !

Next stop = Cocoa Village Marina, in Cocoa Village Florida
We will welcome for 2 nights, our Royal Oak neighbors Al & Roberta.

Al & Roberta will be on their way back to Royal Oak, after their annual 3 month winter retreat in Bradenton Florida (can you say snow-birds).

We look forward to the visit , and also look forward to a special treat – The Space X Falcon 9 launch on Monday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, about 10 miles from the marina.

Congrat’s to The University of Michigan Basketball Team, on their victory over Loyola-Chicago in the Final Four, pushing them to their 2nd trip to the Finals in the last 6 years.
Go Blue

Happy Easter to all of our Family, Friends, and Blog Followers !


13 thoughts on “Melbourne Florida (Port #67) – Melbourne Harbor Marina

  1. Hi Mike & Jonell,
    Great job with the Blog Postings, Chris and I have enjoyed you sharing your journey. You have now entered my second home Cocoa Beach. I have been going there all my life and attend elementary school during the winter months back in the early 1970’s at the Freedom Elementary School, were we walked to the beach to watch the Apollo rocket launches and ran an obstacle course during gym class for are juror astronaut training.
    My favorite place to watch the space launches is Fishlips in Port Canaveral on the deck on the second floor. They also have the best fried Grouper sandwich on the Atlantic. Enjoy the area and safe travels,



  2. Happy Easter Captain Mike & First Mate Jonell,
    Nothing like a head scratching problem to raise your stress level. Glad problem is solved.
    Enjoy your holiday and thanks for keeping us posted. We look forward to each blog. G&D


  3. Wow, what an interesting chain of events. Experienced boat mechanics are worth their weight in gold and deserve the big bucks they charge. And you deserve kudos on keeping your cool. Travel safely.


    1. Thx Joe
      We never really get too emotional with boat issues, it’s part of the Looping game.
      If we had been delayed with serious issues, we would get a hotel with pool, enjoy the city, and make up time lost with shorter stays in the upcoming cities, several other Loopers we know have done that.
      Hopefully we make it home without any of that.
      Thx for the comments Joe


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