Atlantic Crossing – Improvisation at sea

Like cars and trucks, most boats run off 12 or 24v electricity. Ocean Blue runs mainly off 24v so we have several large heavy batteries which require regular charging. We have 4 methods of charging them:

1. The main engine. If there is no wind and we are motoring, or just going in and out of harbour the batteries are automatically charged since the engine is on, but otherwise we don’t really want to run the engine just to charge batteries – it burns too much fuel and is a bit noisy.

2. The generator. Effectively a smaller engine dedicated to producing 240v mains power electricity which has big battery chargers connected. This has the added advantage of also directly powering the few normal mains sockets we have around the boat. We like our generator for different reasons: Lesley because it can run the aircon and heating, so if the generator is on she can always be at just the right temperature, Derek because he can use his angle grinder and welder, and our crew for this trip, brother in law Pete, can dry his hair with the hairdryer after a shower (! jest)! However the generator is a bit noisy and burns diesel.

3. Solar panels. we have many and they are fantastic… When the sun shines. Luckily on this trip, when strategically placed they can double as very effective umbrellas! However I should add that yesterday was very hot and sunny for once.

4. The Duogen. This is a great bit of kit, that hangs on the back of the boat and either stick up with windmill like blades which catch the air and drive an alternator, when at anchor, or hinges down with more like a small propellor shaped impellor blade that is dragged through the water when sailing. Its brilliant, especially in water mode, when it works… The problem with making equipment for the leisure marine market is that the market is small. Unlike manufacturing bits for cars or houses, the volumes are so small many marine businesses are small cottage industries and hence equipment tends to be a bit more ‘home built’. Our Duogen stopped charging a few days ago so the two engineers on board woke up and started dismantling it, hanging over the back of the boat avoiding the approaching waves! It transpires that it has a very high tech (carbon fibre) drive shaft connected to the alternator with a very low tech plastic spigot. The spigot had broken. Maybe its meant to be sacrificial to save damage to the shaft? If so one would expect to find a replacement in the spares pack, but alas no. Anyway a small amount of butchering (or re-manufacturing as us engineers prefer to refer to it as) and the Duogen was back working. The next day it stopped again. Engineers returned and the re-manufactured spigot was now two pieces of shattered plastic and too short to work with. Conditions were right for thinking about a solution but not really doing anything about one and anyway we needed something to fabricate a new spigot from. All the spares boxes were raided and there was nothing appropriate so we had to think laterally. Now the two most well stocked areas of the boat are Lesley’s wardrobe and the galley, so they had to be the first two places to look. Would there be something that could be ‘borrowed’ to affect a repair? Alas the day came to the end with both sources intact as nothing was the right material and right diameter. But then on turning in after a late evening watch the solution was literally staring me in the face as I had a pee! The toilet brush had a metal handle that looked about the right size. Pee aborted the calipers were found and it was confirmed – this might work, it was the right diameter. One small issue remained – would Lesley notice if the toilet brush was a couple of inches shorter?

So yesterday the hacksaws, drills and other tools emerged and we now have a fully functioning Duogen, albeit connected via a toilet brush handle! Lets hope it lasts this time.

All is going well, the sun is shining and the batteries are charged. Derek, Lesley and Pete.

2 thoughts on “Atlantic Crossing – Improvisation at sea”

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