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Days 16-18: Still struggling with genset and alternator problems ... in big swe

Friday-Sunday 18th/20th June 2010 Days 16-18 N.Z. to Hawaii

I'm relaxing, treating myself to a fresh coffee, on 'Sunday' morning (NZT - I still haven't 'repeated' a day yet after crossing the dateline!).... So how have the last two days been? ..... The answer all depends on whether we're talking sailing or genset/alternator repairs!

Sailing - has been fabulous! The winds have been consistently good and strong at around SSE 5 (mainly 18-19 knots, occasionally down to 16 or up to 22) so we've been beam- to close-reaching, making excellent speeds of 6-8 knots, as shown by DMG over the days:
Friday: 136 n.ml. Saturday: 147 n.ml. Sunday: 157 n.ml.! (Just took readings for noon report) Distance to Kauai at 0000 UTC Sunday: 2238 n.ml.
Bear in mind that the actual distance covered will have been much more since these are distances measured in a dead straight line from one noon position to the next.

The swell of 3-4 m has made life a bit difficult down below, especially working on the engine or generator, with regular extra-big waves coming along, splashing some water into the cockpit as the crest breaks a bit as it hits the boat and heels us over like mad ... Reducing the genoa a little helped somewhat. The staysail has definitely helped our speed - I've never regretted adding that to the rig for one moment and it's been a blessing in really nasty conditions.

The air is very warm: 29C now, the sea even warmer: 32C! It's lovely not to be encumbered with layers of clothing!! I've had very few rain squalls so far - those joys are probably yet to come with the ITCZ, presently around 8N. It's not looking very wide so, hopefully, the region of squalls, if any, shouldn't last too long.

Last two nights have been 'storybook' tropical nights... warm but refreshing breeze, full of millions of stars, waxing moon near sunset, Southern Cross in clear view, Sagittarius overhead, a planet (Venus?? - or a geostationary satellite??) high up in the early evening sky, so very bright that a few days back I thought it was a plane or helicopter with a searchlight coming my way...!!

The generator/secondary alternator problems? Haven't gone away .... I was having to run engine regularly (& very inefficiently) to charge the domestic batteries via jump leads to the start battery - until it occurred to me that the reason for no input of power from my normally good & reliable KISS wind generator was simply a blown fuse ...Yes!...I hadn't noticed it had a 20A fuse in place, not the 30A it needed, and it must have blown in the stormy conditions leaving N.Z. Changed it Sat. a.m. & now have plenty of power going into batteries. (Solar panels have been a help in the strong sunshine, also) Haven't run engine at all since before dawn Saturday, despite radio & hydraulic autopilot use. Why A.P.? I'd been puzzled that Fred, my Hydrovane 'crew-member', had not been coping too well in gusty strong winds for several days - until I had a look at the rudder. Something weird & big seemed to be attached to its starboard side... I took the boat hook and tried to free whatever it was ... not totally successful at the speed we were making, but good enough that he's back in full control... that means even less battery power needed.

Generator: Spent quite a time Saturday carefully cutting out a replacement paper gasket for impellor cover, having finally managed to undo the last of the wing nuts holding the cover in place only to find impellor looked fine... But when I ran genset again, it had no water coming into the seawater strainer from the seacock and so no water getting into pump - so it shut itself down (as it ought to!). I checked the fresh cooling water level, & also the hull intake by opening the seacock with the strainer cover off (- it's just above water-level!). Water has come almost up to the strainer so it seems the intake up to that point is not blocked, so either the pipework from there to the pump is blocked or the leaking pump hasn't enough suction to pull the water through. I might try to fill the seawater strainer and pipe
supplying pump with water to prime it in hope it would help get the water through.. & once through, pump might keep on running... I don't fancy trying to get the pump off to replace the leaking seal (which I have in my spares). I'd started trying to do so by removing nuts on the bracket holding pump in place but soon realized not that easy to remove pump - belt needs to be removed and rubber pipes not as flexible as I'd hoped .... I'm inclined to prime the strainer and try one last time - if it won't run, then clearly water-pump is leaking too badly so seal needs replacing, impellor will definitely also need replacing, and it'll have to wait to Hawaii !

Secondary alternator: I've been chatting on & off to Allan Miell of American River Radio on Kangaroo Island, NW of Adelaide in S. Australia, since first making a chance contact as I headed S of him towards Tasmania. He runs a station that helps all boaters with regular weather info and also gives practical help to anyone in difficulties - including going out to them and towing them in, if close by. He's built many boats in his time and has been full of very practical suggestions for overcoming my present difficulties - for which I'm very grateful! It was he that suggested I check the alignment of the pulleys on my secondary alternator system after the belt had come off a second time - and sure enough, alternator pulley is forward of drive pulley by 2mm - enough to cause my present difficulty. But fixing it is another matter! Obviously, when the new engine was installed in Cape Town, not enough care was taken to check the alignment when mounting the non-standard bracket on the engine to take the second alternator - which had behaved fine on the old engine... I'm still trying to see if his latest suggestion is workable from my perspective - he's not seen my system and it's not a conventional one.... Can't say I'm too hopeful.... (LATER: It won't work - pity! In fact, will have to wait to landfall to be dealt with in a workshop.) At least now, having realized the problem, I won't be trying yet again to replace the belt only to see it shredded again shortly afterwards! So I'm "still working on that"....!

Just to add to my problems, I suddenly found my Airmail propagation window being stupid & not showing ANY values...! Drove me mad for a time, until I suddenly found it righted itself after I'd updated my position in the window.... grrr!!! No idea why that happened.

Downloading very useful weather faxes now from KVM (Honolulu), having reached limit of coverage by KZLF (Auckland). They show me where the ITCZ is. That's in addition to grib files and text 'S. Pacific north of 25S' area forecasts, using Winlink. I got very useful emails on weather info from Dave & Patricia on 'Chameleon' who came up on 'Tony's Net', based in N.Z. (he's a retired meteorologist).

Phew! .... A long one ...!!

Remainder of coffee just spilled everywhere as we lurched in a big wave! Oh well,... tea-time?? Maybe I'll read my novel - and leave deciding what job to get on with until later.. or tomorrow... It's Sunday, after all!

Still sailing beautifully - and fast!

Written by : Mike

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