Alternate Reality

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The alternator and the alternate reality story

Rule #1 

Well, so now we have learned that rule of cruising. We had an alternator failure on our arrival in the Abacos from Eleuthera a few weeks ago when the positive wire corroded off and was sparking as it grounded out. So, we pulled that wire, crimped on a new end fitting and we thought it was fixed….WRONG….The next week, lucky for us, we sailed Wendy and Craig around the Abacos for 8 days with no alternator or fire issues. The day after they left, we nearly had a FIRE on the boat as the positive post, on the alternator, was now loose and grounding out and sparking all over the engine room. We quickly removed the wiring to the alternator and sailed safely back to Marsh Harbor.

Let the Repairs Begin #1

We pulled the alternator and had Brian Symonett fix it with his spare parts taken from other alternators.  We re-installed this jury rig repair, and guess what? IT WORKED GREAT! So, we ran that repair for about a week with ZERO problems. It was all OK.

Let’s make it BETTER!

Well, that was NOT good enough, so we got the bright idea to ship in the PROPER parts from Ample Power in Washington State, for a full rebuild. This costs an extra 45% duty tax plus about $50 for the imported services. Now with the proper parts in hand, we decide to pull the alternator once again, and take it into Brian for a “PROPER” rebuild. After all, we don’t want this to break at sea when we are running for the Florida Coast next week. This seemed like a good idea.

Most of the NEW Parts are Installed

Brian rebuilds the alternator now with the new parts…EXCEPT….he can’t press the new diode into the case because he does not have the proper tool or press, so he decided to keep the original ones. OK, that is fine, “whatever you think is best.” Now with the new parts installed, we install the alternator back on Island Spirit…

POP goes the DIODE

POOF….it blows up within the first 10 minutes of running. She starts to output power at about 50 amps, all is fine, voltage is proper at 14+ volts, and then after about 10 minutes of heating up the alternator, I increased to 2,000 RPMS. That is when it blew the diode. Now she would only put out about 7-10 amps and no voltage! WHAT?

Maybe MY wiring is bad!

OK, it must be my field wire, right? Unfortunately  you can not work the field wire unless you pull the alternator, so off it comes again. I double check the field wire, it is all OK, the connections are OK, it is all fine on my side. I reinstall the alternator and run it again. NOPE, no power…

Off it comes AGAIN

So, off it comes again, now back into Brian. He takes it apart, and YUP….”you blew up a diode!” You mean the brand new diode plate I flew in for lots of money is blown? YUP! OMG….OK, then will you please rebuild it again with the car parts that you used last time? OK, I need to run home and get these parts, and I will be back to finish it by 2pm.

Brian Rebuilds it a THIRD TIME

Brian takes the alternator apart for a third time and rebuilds it BACK to the way he fixed it the first time with standard car parts. Back we run to the boat, re-install the unit and sure enough, IT WORKS JUST FINE. It works just like it worked the FIRST TIME it was fixed. So, we now have brand new parts that are blown, and worthless, and we have an alternator with a jury rig fix. Good enough, because we are taking off for FLORIDA!

The Cost to re-Learn Rule #1

1. First Rebuild: $95.00
( it worked just fine after this)
2. Buy Proper parts: $150.00 (
3. 2nd day Air: $45.00
4. Bahamas 45% Duty $87.00
(you pay duty on the shipping as well!)
5. Rebuild #2 $90
(this was with the new parts, most of them!)
6. Rebuilt it BACK to the first rebuild FREE, yahoo!

Total Spent = $467.00.
A brand new alternator is $500

OK, that was FUN….

Now it is TIME to begin the run for FLORIDA. We will be departing HOPE TOWN for points north, then around the WHALE, then into Green Turtle, Spanish Cay to Great Sale Cay, to West End to Florida. This could be a 3-4 day run….

The Hope Town Lighthouse at Daybreak….peaceful

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