Well, our first Caribbean / Grenada boating day started out great but then presented new challenges. While warming up the engine at 0900, to check all systems, we noticed that the charging system was at 12.5 volts. That is odd. That means that the alternator is not putting out the normal power, which should be 14.4 to 13.3 volts. This is usually a very simple solution with Balmar gear. Usually 99% of the time, it is simple power to the Balmar 614 regulator is off. A wire came off, a fuse burned out, there is a short somewhere. So, after running for 15 minutes, we concluded that the alternator was not working and we needed to look into this. We alerted IP38 DreamCatcher that we would remain in dock and solve this problem. Well…..from 0900 to 1500 we did. OMG.
We are ready to go
We had just spend 5 days in the boat yard preparing the boat for launch. We launched it yesterday and finished the sails and dinghy late last night. Today we were planning on departing and moving over to town where we could have access to groceries and marine supplies plus water and power on the dock. This dock is the service dock and water and power are not easily delivered. So we planned to launch the boat and move. Well, not today.
We start with the Balmar 614
Like most alternator problems, it is the 12 volt power not getting to the regulator. So we first start there and check all the fuses with our volt meter. Sure enough we find a blown fuse on the red line powering the regulator. So, we replace this and POOF, it blows again along with smoke and sparks. NOT GOOD on a plastic boat. NOW it is serious, any time we have electrical problems, we take them very seriously because they can start a boat fire and that is not good. So, we now need to find out why the fuse keeps blowing and where the short is located.
Balmar to the Rescue plus Google Fi phone
Balmar has always provided the best support over the many years we have used them. So, I called Washington State from Grenada and spoke with support. I explained the issue and they pointed me to testing the alternator for a short. I said, it was fine when I put it always, and now it was stored for 6 months and POOF, it is not working. Very odd. I wanted to Full Field the alternator and jump it, but they explained that this could be a serious problem if there is a short. So they had me check the ohm reading on the blue field wire to the ground. If it was 7 – 8 ohms then that would be OK. If not, we have a short. Well the ohms were .007 which means going to ground, a serious short inside the alternator. So they directed me to pull it and replace it.
OH, sure, this alternator cost about $650 dollars, I will just go get another one!
Off with the old. which is new
So, we pulled the old, 3 year old $650 Balmar 100 amp alternator and we checked all the wiring. We could not see anything wrong with our ships wiring, so it had to be in the alternator.
Pick an alternator, we have 3
We have full spare parts on Island Spirit just in case we need to make repairs at sea or in remote locations like this. So, In our bow locker under the bed we pull out two spare alternators and one spare Balmar 614 regulator. So, we have the parts to fix this. The problem with alternators is that they all fit the saddle differently and their wiring connections are in different location. Add to this, their field wire and stater plugs are different. They all should be universal but they are not.
The oldest alt seemed to be my best fit. The saddle was right, and the field wire plug was the same as the Balmar, so it was plug and pray.
Of course we do it twice
We always do things twice it seems with 12 volt power as this is our weakest skill set. Here I installed the alternator with positive, negative and temperature prob, leaving the field wire til after installed. Once fully set up and bet tension done, I go to the back to plug in the field wire and it is behind the heat exchanger, so I have to remove it all and start over. Round two, I connected all wires and THEN mounted and installed the alternator. Rookie mechanic mistake.
We did it
A required selfie with our success. We are happy and all is back up and running. This has been the most challenging launch in 18 years. The heat, and humidity is high. The boat is in the worst shape in 18 years. We are having breakdowns on new systems that we put in to come down here. And to top it off we are rusty and not even close to up to speed. Toughest start ever and we think it is just the remoteness of the start. It sure is 10 times easier in Stuart, Fl or Miami, Fl. WOW.
Next up, hanging with the big boys
This is where we are gong, over to the main marina in town, Port Louis where we will hang out with the big players. Check out these buddy boats!
Our LIVE tracking MAP is here
We run the Garmin InReach and when the boat moves it places a pin on this map often. Please look at out map here, and if you want to see all our pins, click the VIEW ALL TRACKS and then zoom back.