Zeus POD owners beware of potential prop issue

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by JamesT, Sep 11, 2017.

  1. JamesT

    JamesT Member

    194
    Oct 7, 2013
    Longport, NJ
    2011 470 Sundancer
    Cummins 480s w/ Zeus PODs
    It's the Friday of Labor Day weekend as I blast out of work early, pick up the family, and load up the boat to go on a long cruise for the weekend. I have everything planned months in advance. I have boat slips reserved at my primary destination and of course at a contingency destination a little closer in case the ocean is unhappy. As I pull out of the slip, I'm pondering that this is probably the last real weekend the family has left before school starts and sports begin to take over. My wife starts talking about going to the restaurant we love and can't believe we're finally going!

    As I clear the last buoy of the GEH inlet to the ocean and turn south, I marvel at how calm the conditions are for this late in the afternoon. My friend is a few hours ahead of me as I push down the hammers to climb to 27 knots. Life is good! That is until the boat shutters, then begins to vibrate severely. I back off the throttles and know that something serious just happened, I just don't know what. My pent up excitement for this weekend turned 180 degrees to expletives and despair. Everything normal in the engine room and we're not sinking. I do not believe I hit anything as I was in 25 feet of water and there was nothing floating in front of me. We always travel with 2 x 2 eyes facing forward. I call the service manager at CJam Yacht Sales in Somers Point, NJ (forgive the plug but he and they were wonderful and unlike Marine Max, they were still OPEN). Don is about to close for the day but tells me he'll wait for me to limp back in, as long as it takes. He hauls me out and on my starboard side, I'm missing a prop blade from my 4 blade Z13 forward left rotating prop. The Z12 that sits behind it and spins right has all of its 3 blades but two of them are chewed up pretty good.

    The skeg below the props was missing. The skeg on a Zeus pod is held in place by two pins, so that the skeg can break away if you hit something. The skegs are also known to fall off on their own because the pins fall out. What I suspect happened is that this skeg broke away on its own and then got lodged in between the counter rotation of Z13 and Z12. In looking at my (good) port skeg, it was still there but loose. One of those two pins was about to come out and when we removed the skeg, the hole in the skeg that the pin goes through was cracked such that only a semi circle was holding skeg to drive. It was only a matter of time before that one fell off too. So I've decided to run without skegs for the time being. Cummins/Zeus told me they have absolutely zero benefit to the operation of the boat and their sole purpose is to help "protect" the props. That kind of protection I don't need. Note that my Cummins pod rep told me he's never heard of that happening; they do fall off but he's never heard of it getting sucked upward into the prop. He did say that Mercury who produces the props has had props fail but that's a defect in the prop, not due to skeg failure. The skeg fail is a hard thing to prove because the evidence always sinks. I do have the bad prop and intend to do some investigating. Incidentally, when the blade broke off it hit the hull and took out a chunk of fiberglass. Not all the way through the hull, thankfully. It was an easy repair.

    Many will think I'm crazy for running without skegs, but I remind myself that Volvo IPS props are forward facing, open to everything and anything. Also, the company that helped Cummins and Mercury design the Zeus POD is the famed and well respected ZF Transmissions. ZF has since been producing their own pod under their name which competes with Cummins/Mercruiser and Volvo IPS. Their newest 4000 model DOES NOT come with any skeg. So I think I'm on solid ground, no pun intended. The boat ran great this past weekend over 60 miles of rough ocean.

    So word to the wise, had I been carrying spare props with me that Friday, this would have been a 60 minute delay in my weekend plans. I sourced new props from Buster's in NYC ($1,525 each by the way), plus two more to carry as spares. I'm sure something else some other day will ruin best laid boating plans, but it won't be due to not carrying spare props. In my defense I've boated 2,500 hours the last 10 years and this was my first prop fail and certainly not my last.
     
  2. Strecker25

    Strecker25 Well-Known Member

    Nov 20, 2014
    Rochester, NY
    1998 290 Sundancer
    Twin 5.7EFI/Alphas, Kohler 4kw
    Damn sorry to hear that. Nothing worse than being geared up to go on a trip (especially one you've planned for a long time) for it to go sideways.

    We had a weekend trip planned in July that I was very excited for and the night before on the way over to the gas dock I sheared the vertical driveshaft in our port alpha. Like you, I went from excited to absolutely furious. The silver lining is it happened 500 yards from our home dock and not in the middle of the lake.

    At least the hull wasn't severely damaged, I'm guessing you cancelled the weekend trip once this all happened?
     
  3. JamesT

    JamesT Member

    194
    Oct 7, 2013
    Longport, NJ
    2011 470 Sundancer
    Cummins 480s w/ Zeus PODs
    Strecker, yes we cancelled. Like you, it happened so close to home port that I was able to limp to a trusted service yard. They hauled me out to diagnose, did a quick field repair on the hull, then dropped me back in so I could limp back to my home marina where we just hung out in the slip all weekend. It was a silver lining that it happened so close to port. The next week while I was at work, the service team picked my boat up from my slip, replaced the props, fixed the hull ding and drove my boat right back to my slip! The weekend turned out to be a nice one in that we met new friends at our marina and had a couple great nights.

    Sorry about your problem. That's a pretty rare one I would guess, which makes you wonder all the more when something like that happens....why ME? Why NOW? Sometimes I wonder why we put ourselves through all the ups and downs of boating.
     
  4. Strecker25

    Strecker25 Well-Known Member

    Nov 20, 2014
    Rochester, NY
    1998 290 Sundancer
    Twin 5.7EFI/Alphas, Kohler 4kw
    You got that right. Just had the conversation with someone who's getting out of boating and we were talking about the ups and downs of boat trips. Wondering what the weather will do, getting anxious if the boat will perform the whole time, etc. Once you're out there it's worth it, but it can be nerve racking for sure.
     
  5. sandydlc

    sandydlc Active Member PLATINUM Sponsor

    565
    Feb 24, 2016
    Seattle, WA
    450 Sundancer 2010
    Cummins 480 HP w/Zeus pod drives
    Wow - you were very lucky to get service on the eve of a holiday weekend and including a haul-out too! We have all new gear below the waterline as of January of this year so I'm hoping that ours is the new design without those issues. Pods are definitely a love/hate relationship but I guess if it's not pod-related issues, you're dealing with shafts leaking or thrusters going out. Damned boats!!
     
  6. Swimmer

    Swimmer Member

    31
    Aug 5, 2017
    San Diego
    Looking. Previously had a Sea Ray 340 with 8.1's.
    Boatless
    Yes, but a computer controllled pod has a lot more to go wrong than a shaft seal or a bow thruster.
     

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