Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Dodo and the Genius

Point Cove Marina, Pablo Creek FL

This morning began as Florida mornings should. It was 70 degrees at 6 AM. We got up, raised the anchor, and set out for Saint Augustine. The wind was against us so we planned to motor the 35 miles down the ICW.

I noted that the tachometer didn't work this morning. Darn. It had stopped working just before arrival yesterday. However I wrote it off to temperature problems. Our tachometer has always been balky when it's warm. It starts jumping up and down, then stops working. When the weather and the engine cools off, it starts working again. This morning was an exception. It didn't work. Darn, I thought, add that to my list of things to do.

I was a dodo. Libby came up in the cockpit and said, "The last time this happened the alternator was broken. Look. The engine is running but not charging. The battery voltage is down to 11.5 volts." Holy mackerel! She was absolutely right. I had forgotten about the connection between the alternator and the tachometer and I hadn't noticed the low voltage.

I dashed down below and opened up the engine compartment. The last time, it was the alternator belt that jumped off. This time the belt was OK. I stopped the engine and stuck my head way in. Aha! There was a broken wire. It was the wire that connects the alternator to the intelligent battery charge control. Without it, the charger would set field voltage to zero and the alternator would not generate.

How to fix it. I was tempted to find an anchorage, but once again Libby was more alert than I. She said, "We may not be able to start the engine again if the voltage is too low." Once again she was absolutely right.

So we put in to the first available marina. Point Cove Marina was about 7 miles from where we started. It was the devil getting in here because the marina's channel is shallow and it was low tide. We ran aground three times before getting in to a slip.

The wire broke at the place where there was an in-line fuse holder. It was a poor design because the fuse holder flopped around in the air and was subject to vibration. The lead was too short to be able to tie it down with a wire tie. No wonder it broke.

The marina has a very small and poorly stocked marine supply store. But surprise, one of the few things they did have for sale was in-line fuse holders. It cost me $2.50. Within an hour, I had the broken wire repaired.

By the time that was done, I was all greasy from working on the engine. So as to not waste a big mess, we went ahead and did an oil change. Then I headed off for the marina's shower.

We're not so unlucky as the 40 foot sport fisherman at the next slip. The men on that boat ran on to the jetty coming in to the St. John's river. They ruined both propellers. Remember how I wrote just a few days ago about nervousness and caution approaching the breakwater (jetty) of a sea inlet? Those guys should have been as conservative as I. Now they have a Navy Seal diver hired to replace the propellers using SCUBA gear.

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