Friday, April 22, 2016

Lady's Island Marina in Beaufort - at anchor

Crossing into Field's Cut we had to avoid this guy
Thunderstorms were predicted all day long but we didn't see any on radar when we set o;ut so off we were at 7:30 am. Sometimes the weatherman errs in your favor, not often but sometimes. I was thinking back on a conversation I had yesterday with the sailors at cocktail hour in our cockpit. It illustrates what a jack of all trades a boater has to be.

We love to see dredgers!
In this trip alone we had the following issues:
- The Genset: The genset wouldn't start. The control panel was blank, what to do? I called the home office of Kohler but they referred me to the dealer I bought the genset from. However, that person had left the company and the person left couldn't help. So I started calling dealers asking for advice and after about 10 calls I received a suggestion to check the starter terminal since that's where the power for the control panel comes from. Now, a genset is a compact device, everything is crammed into a small space. So I started pulling things off and found that the lug fastened to the starter terminal was bent to fit and it had failed at that bend. I replaced the lug and the genset started right up. A 10 cent piece with poor installation stopped a $16,000 genset.

- The outboard motor stopped and I took it to a repair facility and of all things, it was just a fouled spark plug which I could have fixed myself. However, he recommended I use Ring Free additive in the fuel to clean out carbon deposits. I found some in Key West and added it to the tank. Upon first attempting to start it died immediately so I took it to a dealer who had the carburetor cleaned but it still didn't work right, I ended up buying a new one and selling the old one. Upon reflection, the Ring Free may have done its job superbly. The old outboard was 10 years old with the original fuel tank and hose. Putting a carbon cleaner in such an old system probably loosened a lot of carbon and its only way out is through the needle valve in the carburetor, too much and it clogs. I probably caused my own problem. Lesson learned for the future.

- The Air Conditioner stopped working in the heat cycle. It cooled fine but wouldn't heat. So once again it was searching the internet and calling the factory. I switched out components between the aft A/C and the one that had the problem so I knew the components were fine. It seems that there's a switch on the board that was not sending 120v to the coil that magnetically pulls the internal plug that allows the system to go into heat mode. So I could buy a new board ($500) or buy a $5 switch that supplies 120v AC to the coil manually. Guess which way I went. If I now want heat, I have to flick a switch under the edge of the seat to activate the coil, it works fine that way.

- The Alternator charging system was not working right. Everything checked out but it overcharged the batteries. As a last resort I loosened all terminals and cleaned them with emery cloth. Lo and behold, the alternator charging problem was cured! I guess the terminals need a cleaning more often than once every 10 years... It also cured the over engine temperature reading on the coolant temperature readout (it's just reads resistance of a coil in the coolant stream, any resistant along the way looks just like an engine higher than normal temperature).

- Shower sump pump stopped working. It hummed away but no water was moving. So I took the pump off and disassembled it. It was nothing more than loose screws holding the pumping section together. After a few moments figuring out how to put it back together (always take a photo before taking anything apart), it now works fine.

- One 4D battery died. We smelled burning rubber and I thought it was the fan belt. After stopping the boat the fan belt looked fine but I tightened it anyway. Later on I had to run wires for the new VHF (discussed below) and had to remove the floor boards and found that the aft 4D battery had been cooked, no electrolyte left! Hummm, perhaps due to the bad charger? I looked for a dockhand to help since they weigh in at 120 lbs, a little much for me. What I paid him was much less than $100/hour and he even took me to the shop to turn in the old one and get the new one.

- Head hard to pump. You have to take it apart and inject lubricant but not just any lubricant. It must be compatible with the rubber seals. I found some and did the deed.

- VHF Radio died. We had two radios, one received on VHF and one transmitted, rather awkward. I ordered a replacement from Amazon and half arrived (the mic) but not the base unit. I found one at West Marine and the installation began. Two days later (!) I found that the wire from the base station to the mic installed on the binnacle in the cockpit was two feet too short! An aside, installation of anything electric on a boat is 5% plugging things in and 95% running wires! There's never enough room for all the wires that need to pass through bulkheads. What to do? I had the old wire with an incompatible connector. Plus, this is no ordinary wire, it has eight wires bundled in one cable and they are very fine. Forget about using crimp terminals. I wound up cutting a section out of the old cable and soldering eight wires on the new cable to eight wires of the old cable and repeated the process at the other end, 32 wires to be soldered. This stuff is about the thickness of a hair, after four hours it was done, three days in all. If I could charge by the hour I would be rich.

- The windlass jammed. Pulling up the anchor one morning the windlass jammed. I switched to down and then up again and it ran for awhile but jammed again, not good on a boat that likes to anchor a lot. The problem continued for several days and was getting worse. I pulled all the chain out and the nylon rode and looked at the hole where the chain descended. It had a plastic sleeve that over time had bulged out into the area where the chain dropped. I took my Dremel and grounded the bulge down. Now the windlass works without jamming. Seems simple when stated but the job took up an entire morning. Plus, you had better have a Dremel on board with an extension.

- Pump out deck fittings frozen. Try as I may, I could not unscrew the two deck fittings for a pump out. They were made of aluminum and the constant use had worn out the cap. I should have used more grease I suppose. I ordered new ones from Beneteau but the installation was not easy on a 12 year old boat. So you get a razor blade and hammer it in from the side to get between the fitting lip and the fiberglass. The factory had glued the fitting quite well to the fiberglass, just another four hour job.

The list above is just for this year, it is beyond the pale to try to cover such events over the life of the boat. A friend of mine has a saying, "It's a boat". After all, it's in a marine environment with salt air, high humidity and lots of shaking going on. Just be prepared to take on such tasks if you want to sail. Note that these problems are minor compared to those cruising on the high seas, after all, we're coastal sailors and don't carry spare engines or anything like the spares needed for ocean crossings.


Unknown said...

This certainly has been a year of repairs for you. We experienced similar things over the past year on our 10 year old Catalina 42. Hopefully, fingers crossed, knock on wood, we've managed to fix many of the things that could go wrong. But, heads, macerators, water pumps and bilge and sump pumps are almost a yearly thing. We always have spares, and David is very handy. Our serious engine failure last fall prompted us to replace the stuffing box and the prop shaft. We will also have to drain and strain all the fuel out of the 40 gallon tank so we don't pump contaminated fuel into the newly rebuilt engine. Reading your blog makes me feel a bit more confident about heading south next fall. Continued safe travels.

Bob423 said...

Janice, sounds like you've had similar experiences. Cruising is not all vacation time.