Slowly East

Day 107

Noon Position: 42 56S. 90 35E Course/Speed: E5 Wind: WSW10-15 Bar: 1027 Sea: W4 Sky: Overcast

Cabin Temp: 57 Sea Temp: 54

Miles last 24 hours: 120 Longitude Made Good: 113 Total Miles: 14,580

Wind trailed off overnight, seeming simply to evaporate. When I came on deck at 6am, the sails were complaining at having so  little to do. Actually, they had not been set well for 15 knots dead aft and the lingering swell from yesterday’s blow did not help matters, so after coffee, I lowered the main and put both headsails out on poles.

All day we have been making our slow miles east as the wind eases, fills in, eases, and the sea continues to diminish such that now one would have to press his imagination  into action in order to believe that a gale here was even possible. I am lonely up here—because our way making is so slow;  Because winds are too light even to make the twins happy; because those birds that have surrounded Mo like an entourage are elsewhere. It feels we have left the south. None too soon, says a part of me; prematurely, says another. But truth is we are still in the 40s; this is but a lull, and there is yet a long way to go.

Today’s project was to get the alternator to charge batteries, a thing it has failed to do since the blow and more important now that winds are light and the hydro generator less effective. Actually, this has been the project for a week and has involved my friend Matt on DRINA, a yacht a thousand miles astern of us and making way toward the Crozets, my friend Kelton in California, and Gerd, a friend in Florida. At issue is the loss of the key, which hung on a hook right behind me and went missing in the deluge that wiped out Mo’s electronics. On the same hook was a small thermometer, which I found wedged between the chart plotter and the, then, broken window; i.e on the opposite side of the boat and higher up than the hook. But hours of searching every available corner of the boat have never turned up the key. This is the spare. I broke the original when a surly wave tossed me into the ignition panel some months ago.

So, how to start the engine? I am familiar with the screwdriver-across-starter-terminals method but getting such an implement to Mo’s starter and then surviving the sparks… I wanted other options. So, the first few days of messaging taught me how to start the engine at the solenoid an then later how to hot wire the ignition switch. Excellent.

Engine fired right up. But the alternator did not. Since much below in the engine room had been inundated with water, I assumed  the alternator was blown. Gerd, however, convinced me it was simply not being activated via my various hot-wiring methods.

He taught me three different ways to connect the alternator’s field wire. None were successful. We were all mystified.  “I don’t understand why you won’t simply drill out the ignition switch and start her up with a screwdriver.” Because the moment I do this, I’ll find the key, was my response. But this morning there seemed no other options. The ignition switch ate the first drill bit. Broke it off right at the key hole.

The second managed to twist the body of the switch such that all the wires on the backside were stripped off. At least I now knew where they all belonged. Job done, insert screw driver and turn. Nothing happened. Drill out a bit more. Insert screw driver. Lights come on but the starter motor does not engage. Hmmph. Was afraid of this: operation unsuccessful and now finding the key is meaningless. One last try. Start the engine via the hot wire method , and THEN turn the ignition switch with the screw driver. And that worked. What’s the lesson here? No idea. But the alternator is now charging the batteries, and that’s all that counts.

7 Comments on “Slowly East

  1. Who knew that electrocution was a potential hazard on this journey? Glad you got your engine started without injuring yourself.

  2. Now someone could steel your boat. Make sure companionway is locked if Mo is left unattended.
    My wife and I are new to sailing, live in Utah and now own two sailboats and dream of sailing away. Love your posts. We hope and pray for your safe travels.

  3. Having spent more hours than I care to admit troubleshooting and repairing diesel engines on supposed “sail” boats, this post felt all too familiar. The way you write brings be right there and memories flood back. I applaud you persistence and congratulate you on the success. These small victories mean a great deal… And put together are really what it’s all about.

  4. Have to tested the rectifier diode pack on your alternator? likely it fried when the engine ran with no ignition circuit voltage power.

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