Thursday, August 23, 2012

Charges - Of All Kinds


One of the tension-filled moments during the last few days was this one:

Phoenix was in the slings, being off-loaded from the freighter. Now the freighter had eased her into the water. It was time to start the engine before the crane relaxed the slings and set Phoenix free.

I turned the starter battery switch on and turned the ignition key. My heart immediately began to race. Normally I hate that high-pitched beeeeeeeeeeeep every time the key is on but the motor is not running, but this time I sorely missed its torture. It meant the starter battery was dead.

I hit the starter button. Nothing.

This was bad. Imagine the cost of being hauled back on deck, or worse: slamming up against the freighter until a tow-boat arrived.

With an extra boost of adrenaline, I turned on the house-bank of batteries and the switch which combines both house and start batteries. Still no beeping.

I hit the starter button. A heart-stopping delay, then a sputter and the engine coughed its way to life.

Never was a “whew” wiped off my brow with more relief.

We motored over to the customs dock, where Phoenix was metaphorically handcuffed to the dock until we completed paperwork the next day.

But before I left the boat, I wanted to check the batteries again. My battery meter was giving me mysterious numbers. Not good. We had ran the engine for about twenty or thirty minutes now. Perhaps not enough to charge the batteries, but surely enough to make some sort of difference?

I turned the ignition key. Nothing. No beeping of the warning systems.

The next day (yesterday or Wednesday) we went to our customs agent. We had been spending the last four days going to ATMS every day to collect enough cash to pay them. They wouldn’t accept credit cards. Nor would the port, they said. Nor the customs. Nor the third-party cargo company that did the unloading. Nor the “widows and orphans” fund to which Jennifer and I had already contributed on the day of unloading and to which we were sure we were contributing again.

Anyway, we gave them a lot of bills and then told to wait around all day while the agent went off to visit various colleagues, chat and drink chai, distribute our bills, and collect papers with stamps on them.

In an anticlimactic moment, we were invited to follow him back to the dock where we were given said stamped papers, wished good luck and allowed to take off.

It was six o’clock and we had about an hour-long ride ahead of us to get to the only marina here in this bay. A small operation with perhaps two dozen boats.

I boarded Phoenix, clicked on both battery switches and turned they key. Nothing.

I pushed the starter button. Brave Phoenix. She summoned all she had left and chugged to a start.

Once in the marina, after an hour-long drive, I shut down the engine and begged to hear the once-annoying beep. Nada.

The battery meter still displayed numbers in tongues.

We kept the apartment while we are setting up the boat. So today we will go down to the marina and try to figure out what’s what. And set up our home. And wash off the corrosive layer of salt which has encased poor Phoenix.

This is all really my own fault. Back in Baltimore, I told Jennifer that the last thing I wanted to do was disconnect the battery cables. But in the rush and commotion of the loading process, I didn’t.

However, I have left Dolphins for many weeks at a time without the batteries draining. So something else must be wrong.

Ok, now it’s time for my Council of Electrically Inclined to chime in. Do you agree that there must be some small drain on the battery, even with battery switches off? These are brand new batteries. We were charging them for about a week before departure.

By the time most of you read this, I will have:

-Measured the voltage at each battery, with engine off.
-Measured voltage with engine at 2,000 RPM idle.
-Measured voltage at back of alternator with engine at 2,000.
-Maybe measure between positive alt pole and positive battery pole, with engine at 2,000 to look for difference.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

updates ?

so after ride to boatyard.... what'd you get at the batts.... and if those readings were ok is the batt monitor reading more normally now ?

maybe drainage was due to some freighter crew members taking a little look see inside, perhaps some lounging in the new bunkie mattress, using some lights ect ? (everything look undisturbed inside, no missing food ect ?)

or maybe drainage related to the possible trans/shaft grounding issue ?(shaft zinc eaten up in just a few weeks thing back at tidewater)