8/12/2010 – It happens every time

You work and work, fuss and fume, and finally fix something. Just when you’re feeling pretty good about yourself, something comes along and smacks you down.

Like, for instance, as I wrote in yesterday’s blog, I finally tracked down the electrical gremlin that was causing my engine’s oil pressure alarm to act the fool. I fixed the fault, tested it, and everything was good. I felt so good about it that I blogged. Of course, longtime readers know by now that I’ll blog about pretty much anything. Or nothing for that matter. But still….

So, here I am struttin’ around with my multimeter and my sidecutters feeling like Reddy Kilowatt. Today’s job was to run a heavier power wire to the new VHF radio/AIS that I installed some time ago. The reason for the power upgrade was that the radio kept giving me a “Lo Battery” alarm. And, by the way, I do know how to spell “Ready” and “Low”, but the way I spelled them above is how they were actually spelled in situ. Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, the “Lo Battery” alarm. Well, since the radio is running off the house bank which is on the charger, how could there be low voltage? When I checked the terminals with the radio off, I had a good steady 13.4 (or so) volts. But as soon as I turned the radio on, the voltage dropped to between 7 and 10 volts. Sounds like a classic case of voltage drop to me. Seemed weird though, since the power wires that came with the radio were maybe 18 ga. and the line that fed them from the circuit breaker was 14 ga. But, there was no denying that the voltage was dropping. So, after procrastinating awhile I finally did the job. After all, how big a job would this be for Reddy Kilowatt?

So I ran a 12 ga. wire from the distribution panel to the radio. Did a very clean job of it (if I do say so myself), even installing a small terminal block instead of just tying the wires together. Sat back and admired my work and turned the radio on. Almost immediately it showed a “Lo Battery” alarm and began turning on and off as it does when it’s in alarm. WTF??? I checked the voltage at the terminal and, sure enough, it was 7.7 volts. I repeat, WTF???

With very little else that I could do, I decided to try connecting to a different breaker. Fortunately I had one marked “Spare”. I connected to it and voila, the radio worked and I measured 13.4 volts at the terminals with the radio on. So I relabeled the wires and called it good. I guess the next test will be to hook the wire that used to serve the VHF radio to something else and see if we still have the drop. If so, I guess it could be in the breaker. Is that possible? I have spare breakers but they are a royal PITA to change. Maybe not for Reddy Kilowatt, but certainly for me.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, that’s weird but it’s hardly enough to make a big deal about.” And you’d be right, if that’s all there was. But, in what can only be described as ‘cussedness’, the Big Kahuna decided to thumb his nose at me just a wee bit more.

I got a chance to move the boat to a better berth this afternoon. So, although nervous since Lulu wasn’t here to help me, I fired up the engine to make the move.

What’s supposed to happen:
-Turn the key on
-The Low Oil Pressure alarm sounds
-Press the button to silence the alarm
-The alarm silences
-Press the “Preheat” button
-Turn the key to the “Start” position
-Engine starts
-Oil pressure builds up
-Oil pressure alarm silences

You already know what’s coming, don’t you?

Here’s what really happened:
-Turn the key on
-The Low Oil Pressure alarm sounds
-Press the button to silence the alarm
-The alarm DOESN’T silence
-Press the “Preheat” button
-Turn the key to the “Start” position
-Engine starts
-Oil pressure builds up
-Oil pressure alarm silences
-And then, the alarm COMES BACK ON
-Alarm CONTINUES TO SOUND for the full 5 minutes or so that I was in transit
-But miraculously silences a little before I’m ready to dock

Mind you, the oil pressure gauge showed ample pressure throughout.

Okay, so tomorrow my list includes actually installing a new oil pressure switch. If that solves the problem, I’ll report it but in a small modest voice.

In other boat news:

We’re paid up here through August 28th. But of course we won’t be back until a day or two after that. Then we need to watch for our weather window again. Hopefully they’ll be more plentiful than they’ve been in August (although that wouldn’t be too tough), but you never know. So I thought about paying for 2 weeks (at the daily rate) but 14 days is the break even point. That is, it costs as much for 14 days at the daily rate as it does for a month at the monthly rate. So I paid for a month. Now we’re good until almost the end of September. I really hope we’re not here that long but anything after the 11th is essentially free so we don’t lose any money unless we leave before the 11th. And, if that’s the case, it’d be money we’d happily forfeit.

While paying my moorage I asked if there might be another slip we could use, especially since we’ll be away from the boat for the next couple of weeks. Didn’t like the loss of privacy that side-tying causes; didn’t like being moored between HUGE steel fishing boats; and the water and the dock were both really cruddy. We have a big black smudge on the starboard side I guess from the fender transferring dock crud from the dock to the boat as it rolled around. And the swell was terrible as boats came in and went out. Fortunately the staff took pity on me and gave me a regular slip but advised that I needed to move the boat right away because a bunch of sports fishermen were coming in for the Oregon Tuna Classic this weekend and would tie up wherever they found a spot. So, even though Lulu wasn’t here to help, I went ahead and sucked it up and moved the boat solo. I did get help from a person on the dock at each end of the trip but all in all, I think I did pretty well (careful, Yoder!). I really hate docking and undocking but I have to get over it. Today helped a little.

Oh, yeah, and just so you won’t think we’re just a couple of big pansies when we complain about the weather, even the commercial fishermen are griping. They go out because they have to to make a living but they’re saying that they’re getting their butts handed to them every time they go. So far they all have mentioned what a weird summer this has been for ocean conditions. I just finished listening to the Coast Guard’s bar report for the Coos Bay Bar and right now, the conditions are so bad that the bar is closed to all recreational craft under FIFTY FEET! So there.

Okay, enough.


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About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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