Cyclogenesis on da Boat

Cyclogenesis is a weather term describing a small insignificant Low Pressure system that spins up creating high winds and a great deal of trouble. Not a perfect definition of cyclogenesis but generally correct.

In November of last year we lost a brand new alternator. Here’s a link for the complete debacle. Luckily; last month I found it. It was well stored under a zip lock bag of 1,000 teak plugs. The low has began to spin up. Veteran cruisers say, when you get a new item put it on and use the old as the spare. Only then will you be 100% confident the spare works. Our old alternator worked. I had taken it to Snow Brothers Electrical; one of the most respected shops in Whangarei. Alternator was in fine shape. So I figured; ok… I’ll follow advice of those before me. I stored the old working alternator and began to install the new one.

My first discovery was that the old broken; modified alternator was in fact; broken. And as luck would have it, there is a metal fabricator on site. However I was remiss in not earlier deciding to use them. After a couple of hours and a great deal of verbal abuse directed towards our generator attempting to make it work. Finally I came to a rational decision and paid the price. I had them design and make two new brackets. Two! You bet. The surest way to guarantee that there is no problem with the first is to have a spare.

But; let me step back a bit. When I dug out the new alternator it didn’t have a pulley on it. I had neglected to order one thinking I would use the pulley on the original alternator. The down side is I have tried before to remove a pulley from an alternator without success. Without a serious impact wrench it is impossible, at least for wimpy moi! Into town we go… in search of a serpentine pulley. First place I check … nope. Second place bingo. They didn’t have one in stock but could order one. I left the alternator and would pick it up the following day. Shipping in New Zealand is awesome. Most shops that need to order anything for you will have it the following day.

Back to the boat with the new alternator, new pulley and new bracket. This time I didn’t need to talk to the generator… as much. I mounted it, installed the new bracket and needed to re- install the belt. Attempting to install the old belt let loose a new verbal dialog not fit for print!

Considering all possible avenues of problems I have several belts for this system. If the belt I had been using didn’t fit… try out the others. Now; please keep in mind, installing the belt is no easy task. I put a breaker bar ( a long ridged wrench) on the idler, pull so the idler provides some slack, reach over the engine and attempt to slide the belt on the pulleys. I make at a minimum two attempts for each belt. My arms receive numerous scratches and

Changing a belt on my Aquamarine Generator

blood appears where none ought to be. I am lucky, the engine is NOT hot. After trying each belt once; some twice I am convinced we don’t have the correct size. I am guessing the pulley on the alternator is not exactly the same size as the last one. One issue of cruising the world is that there is not near as much consistency, metric vs imperial ! (A pet peeve of mine is that the politicians a few decades ago had no spine and the US tried to remain an anachronistic island in the world continuing to use an outdated, difficult to learn system of measurement. Oddly enough; politically, not much has changed in the last few decades. End of rant.) While the pulley measures out to almost identical, in this case almost isn’t good enough. I take the belt that fits closest and head to the auto stores.

At the first one I ask for the next three sizes larger than what I have. The employee measures it and indicates it’s 1060. Actually on the belt the number is a 1065. However; they didn’t have any of the step up sizes but could order them. They would have them…. tomorrow. I know there are other establishments in Whangarei that have belts. I WANT IT NOW. 🙂 I am directed to two other places. I cross my fingers.

The next place I run to is PartMasters. The counter guy checked the belt size; 1065. Ok, I want one each of the next three sizes up. He has a 1075 and a 1080. I believe they are too big but I take them anyway. Just to have the right size on our run back to the boat we try a third place looking for a 1070. No luck. At the boat I perform my engine yoga. You guessed it. More talking to the generator. Neither fit. Head down, shoulders slumped I head back to PartMasters, returning those that didn’t fit and getting even larger sizes.

Our savior heads back to the stock to grab the next two sizes. I’m now close. Yet, not close enough. They don’t have them. Damn! The closest size he has is an 1100. That is 35 mm longer than the original one but hey; if it doesn’t fit I can bring it back. At least I’m narrowing the size down.

I return to the boat, perform my yoga, I chant…. and …. bingo. It fits. Hallelujah ! Another day I’ll return and get two more for spares. One can’t have too many spares.

Earlier in the week we were getting our refrigeration up and running. We had upsized one of the holding plates, replaced a compressor, and I was checking and reconnecting all the fittings. When I removed the old; 10 year old compressor I needed to remove the High Pressure (HP) and Low Pressure (LP) lines. The LP line came off fine, but the HP fitting tore out all the threads on the pump. I didn’t care about the pump, but I needed the HP hose with the fittings. No problem. Yeah was I wrong.

I took the hose to an hydraulic shop for new fittings. The first shop didn’t have the refrigeration fittings. It was at this point I realized the place where I was getting the new pulley from; Auto Tech, they most likely had the hose fittings. I am like a chicken with my head removed; running in circles! So back I went and indeed they could make a new hose. Or so they said and so …. I …. thought. The following day I returned to pick it up. They had examined it closer and discovered that on the other end, the Swedge Loc fitting they couldn’t replace. They didn’t have any and they didn’t know of any place in NZ that did. They could cut the hose and install a new end for the compressor. There weren’t many options at this point and worrying about the domino effect of micro changes I acquiesced and said …. “ok”. Cyclogensis must be winding down. Back at the boat with the old hose and new fitting everything went back together without any further need for modification. Now all that’s left is to leak check and charge the system. Oh happy day!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Lost

In academia 97% is a great score. On a boat, sometimes it’s not good enough. We keep quite a few spares aboard. You never know what you will need and where. Since we have over XYZ of spares we keep an inventory of them. The inventory is; I would guess 95-99% accurate.

Preparing to leave Denarau from Musket for our prep to NZ W/ noticed our house batteries were low. I didn’t understand how that could be since we run the generator twice / day. We use it to primarily to keep the refrigeration / freezer at the proper temperature. The by product of this procedure is the batteries stay close to fully charged.

In the am I checked the battery charge as the generator was running. Oh-oh! There was no charge! Damn!

No big deal just a PITA. I’ll pull out the spare and put it on, then get the older one rebuilt in NZ. We check the inventory. We carry over 1,000 different items on our boat spares inventory. This does not count tools, or fasteners. Nor does it count daily supplies for living such as food, clothing, books, etc. I ought to have two spare alternators listed (the 200 amp for the generator and the 100 amp for the Perkins. Neither are in the inventory! Damn! Now it is time to hunt through the spares in our lockers. We locate the smaller alternator we purchased in American Samoa. I have included an example of inventory one-locker in that locker in this post. We correct the inventory by adding the alternator and keep looking for the larger one. We have not yet found the alternator. I remember ordering it and paying for it. I can not for the life of me remember putting it on the boat and storing it. Oddly, I have believed for the last three years we had it as a spare. But I (we) can’t find the alternator. We pulled out, cleaned and replaced gear from most every locker in the next two days. and we still can’t find it. Plan B.

So… fortunately we are where there ought to be a place to repair and rebuild them. I took it to a shop in Lautoka recommended by another cruiser. The windings needed replacing, it needed new brushes, and a couple of other little things. Cost is about $200 ish US. Well, At least we will have it working for our trip to NZ! Once there I will get another replacement and make sure it ends up in my dirty little hands and stored on the boat.

Monday I take the alternator to Lautoka for repair. By Wednesday I have it back on the boat. Thursday it is on the generator and working…. not as it should. The shop indicated that the alternator needed to be rewound. Ok, rewind it. They had a machine to rewind it. Great. When I went to the shop I had him show connect the alternator up to make sure it worked. I didn’t want to make the trip for nothing! But the shop is not what I am use to. The employees were pleasant. The equipment was marginal. They didn’t have a dummy load to dump the current into. All they could do was connect it to a battery with a small light to act as regulator and a battery to read the voltage. The shop didn’t have the equipment to tell me if the alternator could put out it’s full amperage. There was charge and the battery voltage rose to 14 v. It took me a 1/2 day to get to the shop and return to the boat. In the end I have paid for an alternator that isn’t 100%. But, it is easy to reinstall and will keep the batteries up as we make our way to NZ. Hopefully soon. We are getting itchy feet.

And yeah, the database has been updated. Now it might be 99% accurate. What is missing? I don’t know. An old friend liked to say “You don’t know what you don’t know”! I believe the same applies here.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long