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

Ready to Go – Oh N0!

We’re ready. Well almost. We’ve loaded up on the stuff we need. We have a schedule to pick up fuel. W/ and I are going with the group to get the last of the fresh vegetables.

But for some quirk of fate I was in the engine room looking for a new sound W/ and I heard while running the generator, to check and see if there was something amiss on the alternator, HP water pump or the refrigeration compressor as well as the Kubota.  I turned over the Kubota with the hand crank.  Seems to me like there isn’t as much compression anymore. This is just not good.

But; the little Kubota has been running, it has run the water maker  and it has run the refrigeration compressor and kept the batteries charged up. Guess it’s ok.

The following day about 2 days prior to our heading S. we run the generator again. Charging the batteries; good, running the refrigeration compressor, fine. We shut down the refrigeration compressor and turn on the water maker. Check the quality of water

Kubota EA300

Kubota EA300

and begin to fill our center tank. Fantastic. Must be my imagination.

About 5 minutes into the 2nd hours run the generator stalls out. SHIT!  We turn off the HP pump and I restart the generator. She starts back up and I let it cool down properly then we shut the whole thing down again.

Now we have to go to Plan B or could it be C or G or M or P.  We decide that to head across the Pacific with this demon over our shoulder is not something we want to do. I send out queries to purchase a new motor. We’ll have to have it brought into Panama and I’ll replace the motor. I just don’t trust what we have anymore and trust is important when you are all alone on a HUGE ocean.

Thinking about the Kubota all day I figure I can’t now do any wrong. When back at the boat and the engine is cool I begin checking things. I check the oil, no water in it, I check the coolant level, no change, I take off the valve cover. Might as well check the head bolts as that would be the main place to lose compression. I didn’t believe there would be loss of air out besides the piston as we have a new piston and new rings. 5 of the 6 head bolts are fine. The 6th was suspect when we did the rebuild if one remembers my past blogs.  We had drilled it out 2 times and used Certs but even the second time it wouldn’t hold and there just isn’t enough meat on the Al block to drill it out farther.  While I have the valve cover off I check the gap in the valves. Wow!  It’s only about 3 thousands for each one. The specs say the gap should be 6-7 thousandths. So I re gap them and then close it all up. Once put back on I turn the crank over and … humph, we have much better compression!

That evening we run the generator for an hour and all appears well. Sweet. But we still choose to replace it. We could maybe nurse it and if we were in the middle of the Pacific we would. But right now, now we have the opportunity to replace it and start over with a new one, with a new warranty (for what good it will do) and then head across with everything working top notch.

A few days later I try again to run the water maker. We make about 20 gallons and then the generator begins to lug and slows down ready to stall out. Maybe I don’t have the valves exactly right. I might still be a bit tight on them. I’ll see. That evening and the following day I run the little Kubota again, charges fine, runs the compressor fine and I shut it down. Keep nursing it along till the new one arrives. An old saying in mechanical circles is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”.  We’ll it’s broke, but it’s also working. I won’t screw with it much more.

And my new saying is “If it’s broke, replace it”!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long