On came the red light and off came the generator covers again. We discovered a steady stream of water coming out of a hole in an aluminum block on the back side of the generator. That isn’t normal… More investigation told us that the block was actually acting as a sacrificial anode and had sprung a leak after who knows how many years of active service. We spent some time figuring out how to replace that as the four bolts holding it on had corroded and the holes would no longer engage the bolts. We learned about placing helicoils inside the holes to create fresh threads. We made an executive decision not to use 5200 (recommended by Fischer Panda) as a gasket in replacing the plate and opted for a less permanent solution… and voila! Um, it’s not fixed…
|The other end leads to this regulator
|Our corroded Wiring Harness
|A wiring harness
Lee was really nice and seemed to be very knowledgeable. We were relieved when he went right to work. We had the wiring harness and the new regulator already and he enlisted Bruce to be his assistant. This is a very good thing as Bruce was able to ask questions as they went and gained valuable knowledge about our previously mysterious generator. I waited patiently in the cockpit while the guys worked. All. Day. Long. My job was to feed the parking meter every two hours as Lee’s work truck was parked in downtown West Palm Beach.
|See the hole? And the broken mount?
During all of this time we had to use our diesel engine to charge our batteries. We had some days of sunshine, but equal numbers of cloudy days during which we reduced our power usage as much as possible. We were almost prisoners on the boat as we scrimped on lights and anything else that would reduce the stored amps that we would have to replace the next day. Our attitudes suffered as the wait for parts continued on. It is difficult to remain optimistic when weather windows one after another passed us by while we sat here… waiting. I tried improving my state of mind by reminding myself of our many blessings: We have balmy temperatures while literally the rest of the country is in a deep freeze. We are in a really convenient place with a free dock to use while repairs were under way. We have a free trolley for getting to the grocery store. We have internet. And several of our Cruiser friends have far more to complain about than we do, namely Our Way Too… still dealing with a lighting strike after six months… and more recently, Firefly, lost on a reef in the San Blas islands… Clearly we have little about which to complain in comparison.
WTF!!!? Long story short, several hours of poking around and testing continuity left us with the realization that the wiring harness, although the “correct” one for our generator… was not the same. In the fifteen years since our engine was made, Fischer Panda has made multiple changes to their generators. Unfortunately for us, they don’t send along any kind of crosswalk that tells where things go and what the changes are. Not loving Fischer Panda right now as I can literally hear the sound of my savings account dwindling to nothing… or maybe that’s the train running through West Palm… Anyway, I was reeling with the unfairness of a life in which the company created parts for our engine that weren’t really for our engine… and didn’t see fit to educate their “Authorized Servicemen” as to their proper installation. So essentially, we are paying for Lee’s “education”. Coincidentally, he had an identical service call to make on his next job… so to the unknown sailboat owner after us… you’re WELCOME!
So in defeat, Lee left our generator in a state of utter disrepair and went off to discuss possible plans of action with the head technician for the entire USA over at Fischer Panda. Hopefully by the time he returned… he would have a plan. Hopefully he WOULD return… Oh and to make matters worse, not one but TWO parking tickets were left on Lee’s vehicle, which WE would be paying for… I rationalized this by counting it as less than spending one day in a marina so thank you West Palm Beach for the (almost) free dock! Are we on candid camera???
The next two days were dark ones. Our spirits were about as low as they’ve ever been in our Cruising career. I heard Bruce mumble things like “I just don’t know if it’s worth it”… We took turns being despondent about our situation, luckily we alternated wallowing so that one of us could talk the other back from the ledge at all times. Now in hind sight, I realize that this whole thing, while costly, wasn’t really that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. But in the midst of it, realize this. We had the fear of the unknown potential cost, without any certainty of success. This cost coming on the heels of recently replaced mainsail track and roller furling parts, combined with the replacement of our windlass… was rapidly leaving our financial situation in dangerous condition. Where would it end???
There was also a simultaneous side trip down memory lane with the Bahamas Department of Agriculture going on… If we didn’t get to the Bahamas by the 30th of January, we would need new pet permits for our cats. It was looking more and more like that was going to be the case. So… we bit the bullet and sent off new permit requests along with the associated fees, via DHL which cost more than the permits themselves… Two days later I learned via Facebook, that the address and fees listed on the official DOA website were inaccurate. Not only was there a new address… but a new VAT was now required but not mentioned on the website. So basically I just sent my money out into oblivion with no hope of getting permits. A phone call did not remedy the situation as they said I could send the additional $1.50 (yes, that’s a stinkin, dollar and a half standing between me and success) via Fed-Ex… cha CHING!!! Fortunately for my tender sanity… the permits magically appeared by fax a week later. Well that’s ONE good thing that happened this week! I immediately relaxed as it no longer matters how long it takes us to get there…
So, back to the generator saga… Lee called us a couple of days later and said he was coming back. Yay! That must mean he has a plan, right? He arrived mid morning. He and Bruce worked all day long, removing all they had previously done and re-installing it all again. Finally as evening approached, Lee popped his head up and they started the generator. It ran! Yay! Lee packed up and left with a big check in hand while Bruce and I finished up. We still had to get a sensor from Panda, which Bruce could install. We still needed to change the fuel filter and re-prime the fuel lines. Bruce started the engine twice after Lee left, and on the third try… dead. Out of gas. There was no fuel getting to the engine and it had been running on residual.
|We found this bag at a yard sale for $2.50. The wheels gave out on us!
Once again, Lee comes back mumbling something about how we broke the generator again… WHAT!!!! Danger! Overload!!!
Another hundred bucks and half a day later (that’s all he could bring himself to ask of us…) the generator is finally fixed and running. It seems that there was a built in safeguard that shut the fuel sensor down if not properly grounded… the new wiring harness provided for no such proper grounding of said wire… So Lee built a jumper wire for it and now it works. Two days have now passed and the generator continues to function properly so we are optimistic. Our power-miserly ways have relaxed and we are back to waiting for a weather window to leave for the Bahamas.
|One of these can make everything better...