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29th Feb/1Mar08 - After a lovely day of fast sailing... generator not charging.. & then engine doesn

Friday 29th February: Leap Day

I suppose I should have guessed that it was too good a day to last.... The wind was frequently up at 15-20 knots, I'd poled out the genoa early in the morning, with the wind having swung a touch more to the SSE & our speed was regularly up around 7 knots.... lovely, fast broad-reaching in sunshine with fair-sized, but not too uncomfortable, seas.

I'd been happily sorting a few things out at the chart-table - pencilling in some positions and courses on paper charts, having finalized my passage-planning to Panama on the computer, using my Nobeltec software, deleting a load of old emails on the computer, trying to see why my Inmarsat C terminal seemed to be misbehaving - turned out to be a computer problem (didn't like a bad shutdown recently) since all was working fine on the back-up laptop. Means I probably have to re-instal the software, if I can find the CD!

Having used a fair amount of power with PC, SSB radio & inverter usage, I thought I'd run the generator a bit - it started up fine but I soon realized it wasn't charging, or rather, no charge was being received ... curses - I'd thought the genset was all nicely mended & sorted in Richards Bay and then Simon's Town... So I then went to turn on the main engine ... nada!! A good thing this wasn't happening as I left Luderitz - I'd have really been in trouble close to those anchor lines!!!

This was clearly an electrical, possibly a starter motor, problem .... so down I went, resignedly, to investigate - this was all feeling way too horribly familiar...!!! There seemed to be quite a few glistening water droplets around - I dried and sprayed around the starter motor terminals & then the use of my long-suffering screw-driver across the terminals finally had the desired effect - the motor was persuaded to turn over & start... sigh of relief!... but this was only a temporary 'fix'. I still have to try to sort the problem out in daylight tomorrow. I let the motor run for a time to bring the batteries up and managed to connect with the radio to send & receive emails while it was running. I'm not looking forward to tomorrow!

Saturday 1st March - St David's Day ... but no daffodils!!

Well, it's been another lovely sailing day in the South Atlantic - and I refused to let my engine/electrical problems stop my enjoyment of that!! We've made good progress, making over 140 mls yesterday and well over 150 miles today, noon-to-noon.

I did a bit more passage-planning work, checking over several of the chart-plotter cards for content. Surprisingly, St Helena is nowhere to be found in detail on them, although the Nobeltec charts on my PC are fine - clearly the detailed British Admiralty charts for St Helena are in use there.

I eventually turned my attention to the engine. When I'd managed to start it up last night, there had been a loud squealing which lasted for some time, with minimal power input, before the noise disappeared and the power input came up dramatically - clear sign, I thought, of the alternator belt slipping. Not a job I like, since I always feel I'm not strong enough to get enough leverage to move the alternator out enough to tension the belt. Anyway, it had to be done, so I loosened the two bolts and got out the length of copper tubing I use when possible to give me a longer lever arm on the thick metal file I was using.... It didn't take long before I was able to tighten the nuts again and the belt definitely felt tighter afterwards. Then for the test, having reconnected the ignition wire back onto the clean, sprayed starter motor..... engine started at the first try - not a hint of a problem ... yippee!! (I just hope it continues to behave...)

I shall leave the generator fault-chasing for tomorrow.... I'm celebrating this small achievement with a mug of tea & a hot cross bun, relaxing in the cockpit.... 'bye for for now!!

Written by : Mike

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