It took a few years but I slowly came to the realisation that the adverse affects of a back injury in my ‘bulletproof’ years was forcing me to the dark side. I could no longer sail my beautiful Tasmanian built timber yacht on my own. Rather than give up the ocean altogether, I purchased a fibreglass displacement cruiser in Kettering and was planning to sail – well motor – it home to Pittwater, just north of Sydney.
The hull and Cummins engine were surveyed and all was found to be in good condition so my brother and I set out on a sea trial to make our way anti-clockwise around the Bruny Islands back to Kettering.
We motored down the D’Entrecasteaux channel past Partridge Island and around Cape Bruny towards Tasman Head. The swell was rising and my brother was staring to look a pale shade of green so I decided to turn around and anchor for the night in Great Taylor Bay.
All was going well until we heard a loud bang followed by frequent banging noises as the cabin filled with acrid smoke.
The engine was shut down and I grabbed a fire extinguisher and carefully opened the engine hatch. I could not see any flames but I could hear running water. The smoke was choking so we moved outside to fresh air until the smoke cleared. When the cabin was clear of smoke I opened the engine hatch and was again forced back for fresh air. Subsequent inspection revealed that the propellor tube had fractured and the forward section of the tube, gland and cooling hose had rotated with bits hitting the side of the keel. The rotating mess had tangled both the manual and electric bilge pump hoses and electric wiring and the rotating shaft had set the plastic and rubber hoses on fire. Luckily, the water rushing in through the broken propellor shaft had extinguished the flames!
I sent out a ‘securete’ call on channel 16 and waited for a response. With nothing heard, I phoned my insurance company’s “Assist” number only to find that they did not provide assistance in Tasmania. This was not what I was informed of when I took out the policy only weeks prior!
I sent out a second securete call on channel 16 with a few more details and got a response from a fishing vessel “Far Mor”, who, far an appropriate fee, would stop fishing and give me a tow. I gladly accepted their kind offer and exchanged details and waited for their help to arrive. The more the water level increased in the bilges, the less the towing fee looked and, in any case, we were short of alternatives. In a short time, an old sea dog from Old Sea Dogs edition 1, Kevin Hursey, arrived and threw us a line. Once under tow from his beautiful vessel Far Mor, the water level in the bilge began dropping. The remaining propellor tube was acting as a self bailer in a sailing dinghy! Back at Kettering, the vessel was put on the travel lift and the keel cut open.
At some time a shaft bearing had required replacement. Rather than removing the bearing, the old bearing had been hammered up the propellor tube and a new bearing was fitted behind. The shaft had a forward bearing at the bulkhead just aft of the gland, an old bearing behind, then a bearing at the end of the propellor tube and a skeg bearing – four in all and impossible to align.
The new propellor shaft has on one bulkhead mounted bearing with a second bearing at the skeg and it works perfectly – another example of the KISS principal.
I want to thank the Kevin for his help. Kevin, I hope he catches lots fo fish without further interruption. It was a pleasure being rescued by a famous “old sea dog”.

Keith Woodward