Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Dark Side

by Dan 


We often write about the sunny days on the beach and the fun adventure that we experience but there is also a more challenging side to this boat life - boat maintenance and repairs.  I wanted to share our most recent challenges and it is bit mechanically minded so if this isn’t your cup of tea I totally understand.

Two weeks ago, the day before my parents came to visit, we moved the boat about a mile to a mooring ball thinking it would be a bit calmer and easier to get in and out of the dinghy. 

Here is where we started and where we were going:



All was going well as we approached the entrance, which was only about 50 foot wide giving us about 10’ on either side of the boat, with Kathy up front guiding us between the reefs.  

I noticed however that as we got closer our port motor was not responding to shifting into reverse so we needed to quickly use our starboard motor to keep us on track. After tying up to the mooring ball and wiping the nervous sweat from the brow I dove on the propeller to check for possible fishing line or fouling – no such luck.  

We now had a transmission problem to deal with before leaving the mooring ball.

We knew in Tampa that our particular transmissions, called a Yanmar Saildrive or SD50 for short, had issues with their cone clutches slipping so we had them completely pulled out and serviced thinking this would be a bear of a job in the islands.  

Unfortunately, we must have worn down the clutch over the last 200 hours on the trip down from Florida - Really ?!? 

Let the repair research begin!  Through a bit of online searching we determined that there is a kit available that was built by a fellow cruiser to address this exact problem.  To my amazement after a couple emails this one came across from Gideon who built the kit.  

He was anchored about a half mile away and could come over and install it for us:

Can we get any luckier?  He is right around the corner...

Talk about good fortune – so a few days later Gideon and Brett came by to install the kit on both transmissions and tune up our sail drives.

Operation Sail Drive Repair!

Transmission Kit Install - Gideon had all the parts we needed

These guys really knew their stuff and after about 8 hours both drives were running perfectly.  

It was a huge relief to be able to have forward and reverse in full operation on both motors.  We got to know Gideon and Brett a bit more over the next couple weeks and they are really interesting people.  They used to own a game preserve in South Africa and have been sailing for years on a beautiful Voyage 50.

So now with the saildrives fixed we were on to the next couple items for the boat project list.  We are headed to the Dominican Republic in a few weeks via the Turks and Caicos islands. This is going to be a pretty long trip for us at about 400+NM with much of it possibly straight into the wind. 

We needed to get exact measurements of fuel consumption and speed now that everything is in perfect working order. On a Saturday morning we decided to motor up and down the five mile harbor here to get some data for our trip planning. 

All is going well as Kathy works the throttles and I check the transmissions, motors and speed.  As we pull into the anchorage and drop the hook I noticed smoke coming from our Starboard motor bay – oh no – not the other motor #$%^&

With the fire extinguisher in hand I jumped down into the bay to see what can be done.  After a few tense moments it is clear we burned up the alternator.  

With the testing at different speeds we ran the alternator too hot and the rectifier bridge and diodes were fried.  It took about 30 minutes to pull it out and this is what we were faced with:

This is not how it is suppose to look, or smell... 

The back side of our Balmar alternator was toast and we needed to repair it before moving on.  

Let the repair research begin again! After a bit of consultation from a fellow cruiser (thank you MV Jenny) it was clear this needed to go back to the factory. Although we had a spare rebuild kit for the Balmar onboard,  the expertise to solder and refit was likely beyond the local auto shop capabilities here in George Town.  

On Sunday, I emailed Dale English at Balmar to let him know about our issue and ask for his help.  First thing on Monday morning I get this mail back from Dale:


I was blown away!  Dale wanted to get us a new alternator asap, this is the kind of customer service you just don’t see anymore.  Yeah BALMAR!!!  

After a bit more research we found a way to get the replacement flown down from Ft Lauderdale to Staniel Cay and placed behind the bar at the local yacht club which is about 40NM north of us.  Yep you read this right – the company that will fly it over actually owns a bar in Staniel and will keep it there for us to pick up.

From there we were able to get a local tour company to pick it up on their next trip and bring it back with their guests a couple days later – welcome to the Bahamas supply chain!

Next week we are going to replace the alternator and finish up the remaining boat projects for our trip south – wish us luck and I hope nothing other than the boat heads south over the coming weeks….

1 comment:

  1. Dan, I can't recall who shared your site with me but what a great story. And I thought just living on a lake was different. This takes it to a whole different level. Please keep sharing your stories through your voyage and we'll keep reading! Best of luck! - Greg Fuller

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