Three nights ago, as we sat at anchor in San Domingo Creek shouting over the roar of the engine (our regular battery charging routine), Brian looked down at the instrument gauges and noticed that both the alternator (converts engine-generated power into battery power) and the tachometer (displays RPMs on the propeller) readings were at 0. For over an hour, we’d been running the motor, generating nothing but diesel fumes.
The battery gauge confirmed it – voltage was low. We looked at each other and made the this is bad face. No electricity means no starter – not ideal when you’re 30 miles from the nearest full-service marina.
Brian crawled into the engine room to assess the issue. Our friend Jason in New York was on speakerphone, sharing his expertise and moral support as they identified an alternator as the culprit and began thinking of possible solutions. With our power slowly bleeding away, Brian poured over hand-drawn diagrams of our boat’s electrical system by flashlight, looking for an answer.
His research revealed something unorthodox; the secondary alternator had been wired to power the old fridge, which we’d recently removed, rendering it useless. From the time we left the dock, we’d unknowingly been relying solely on the primary alternator to provide all of our voltage. That night at anchor, it finally buckled. After a mild panic, the answer was as simple as reconnecting two severed wires.
But we were not completely out of the woods.The reactivated alternator lacked a way monitor output, so we risked overloading our batteries. Assessing wind conditions for the next few days, our plans for a leisurely schedule were shot as we decided it was time to hightail it south to Deltaville, VA, where we’d already arranged to haul out and do projects at the boatyard.
Our first stop along the way was Solomons Island, MD, 36 miles away. We had an easy sail with steady wind and calm seas until the air became still with two hours left to go. It was a bummer, but running the engine to go somewhere sure beats generating electricity at a standstill. Once we anchored, we were too tired to go ashore, and got ourselves to bed early in anticipation of a very long sail to Deltaville.
The wind had teeth as we pulled up anchor at the crack of dawn. It was a long 56 mile, ten hour sail with very little sun to warm us and gusts of wind in the high 20s. We were repeatedly rounded up and knocked down by the wind; a humbling reminder that we’re still new to this sailing thing. As the sun neared the horizon, big waves sent cold spray splashing over the bow and into our faces. The experience gave us an opportunity to practice sailing our boat in roughish conditions, but we were glad to anchor safely in Deltaville and defrost with some new friends, Chrissy, Jeff, and Mangus aboard Altera, their cozy, heated Hallberg Rassy.
We’re taking it easy for a few days at anchor in Deltaville, waiting for our haul out appointment, taking advantage of unlimited hot water in the marina showers, and charging our electronics with abandon in the lounge. Once we’re on the hard we’ll be in full-on project mode, and we’re looking forward to making these final preparations for our journey south. (documenting travels for 10/17- 10/19/2015)