February 12, 2016 - The generator konked out

Photo: Engineer Justin, assisted by Alex, fixing a leaking head.

Although we spend half our time on watch, half off watch, I'm learning that long distance ocean racing is more about managing living on board than about managing the sailing. They say that if you look after the boat, the boat with will look after you. There is a lot of looking after the boat to do. The heavy lifting seems to fall to the worlders, since they have developed more detailed knowledge of the inner workings of the boat, and have been assigned roles with lots of responsibility, such as "boat engineer" and "bossun" and "rigger".

Hardly a day goes by when engineer Justin isn't addressing some mechanical problem arising. Water maker is malfunctioning. Head (toilet) is blocked. Sink is clogged. "Black water" (sewage) tank isn't clearing (plug your nose!). Bilges inexplicably overly full. On and on. I want to learn more about boat systems since I want to do lots of cruising in the future and want to be able to address mechanical issues as they arise. So, the other day I offered to play the role of assistant engineer. The problem was that the generator water intake wasn't flowing and the generator kept shutting itself off. Usually this is a sign that the impeller needed replacing. So, out came the manuals and the box with replacement parts. Indeed, once we managed to get at the compartment with the impeller, we saw that most of the phalanges had become worn or had broken off. So we picked out a few bits of the impeller and then replaced the impeller and put it all back together again. After about 2 hours, fingers crossed, we restarted the generator. Moments later it shut off again. Despite multiple attempts, it was no go. By the way, there were no actual instructions about how to replace an impeller in the manual, as this is a job for a trained professional. Having each seen the job done before, we were fairly certain we had done it correctly. Hmmm...  What else could be the problem? Eventually we found a giant air bubble in the water intake system, but we didn't know how to address it. Besides, our watch was off and Justin needed a much deserved break. The problem was passed along to the support engineer on the other watch, Sean. Eventually, after about 2 1/2 days, between Skipper Matt, Justin and Sean, and the Clipper Race maintenance team (via email), every approach was attempted that could be thought of. Still no success. The problem seems to be with the water pump and we do not have the resources on board to fix that. It will have to wait until we get back to port.

Meanwhile, how to keep the batteries charged? We have to run the engine in neutral at 1200 RPMs 6 hours on 6 hours off. As compared to about 16 hours per day in total for the generator. The engine approach to battery charging uses about 5 times as much fuel than using the generator. Justin is monitoring fuel consumption carefully to ensure we will have enough fuel to maneuver into port. Hopefully the wind won't shut off requiring us to motor a great distance at the end of this race as has happened in the past.

Thank you, Justin, for your commitment and extra efforts to make the boat run smoothly!