Sunday, May 19, 2013

Georgia On Our Minds – Part 1

Did I Say We Were Leaving Thursday? I Meant Friday.   Friday, May 17

To blatantly rip off Mark Twain in this paraphrase, “The rumors of us leaving are greatly premature.” Phil Jones needed one more day to finish the inverter installation and rewiring. So the publicized plans of leaving Jekyll Island on Thursday changed to leaving on Friday. And this was a good thing.

We knew that several of our friends, Kermit and Katherine of Good Karma, Dick and Deanne of Sareanna and Mike and Judy of One September were behind us a few days and that if we stayed put at Jekyll Harbor Marina long enough they would catch up with us. But you gotta go when you gotta go, so we never knew when we might see them. But we were fortunate that they all pulled into the marina Thursday evening. We have travelled with Dick and Deanna, and Kermit and Katherine before, but hadn’t spent much time with Mike and Judy. They’re delightful people who further illustrate that boaters are the greatest people in the world. We hung around for a while and had dinner and talked about everything looping and cruising.

Our plans were to leave Friday morning on an outside course to an anchorage called Breakfast Creek just south of Savannah. The plan for the others was to leave also on Friday morning but stay inside on the ICW to an anchorage a bit further south of our anchorage choice. Since Jekyll Creek, just north of the marina, is a bear to pass at low-ish tide they would have to wait until mid-morning to leave. We left at 7:00 am and headed south away from Jekyll Creek to exit through Jekyll Sound from which we would head north along the coast. According to nautical charts there was plenty of water depth in the sound to do this. Everything was going swimmingly except that weather forecasts were sounding as if conditions might be a tad sloppy. But we were good to go! And then a weird thing happened. We were cruising out the inlet and according to the chartplotter we were in nineteen feet of water with plenty of water all around us. That’s when we hit bottom. It wasn’t really so much of a “hit” but more of a bounce. But we were rubbing bottom. I was able to get her turned about and as I did not have a backup plan I headed back to Jekyll Harbor Marina, thinking to myself in a bit of self-thought-reconditioning, “Ya know, going up the ICW is a better idea anyway.” And it was. We had our little four boat flotilla cruising north and it was a lot of fun. Captain Dick, who so ably led our eight boat flotilla on the Gulf Crossing led us again, followed by Mike and Judy, then Kermit and Katherine, then Lisa and I. We all stayed on radio channel 72 and there was a lot of chatter.

Let me tell you a bit about Kermit. He is a terrific person and funnier than hell. I don’t know if he is an ADD adult or not but he is a very, shall we say, lively person. I had to laugh at a tee shirt he was wearing that said something like, “I do not have ADD! Oh look, a squirrel.” Now, I am not an ADD adult myself but I am apparently a Kermit-enabler. I must admit that I goosed him along on the radio just to get a good laugh. But there were funny things that happened that he didn’t need my help at all. The flies were very bad that day and as we were the last boat behind Good Karma we could sort of see into their flybridge. At one point we saw wild gesticulations on the bridge. We didn’t quite know what was going on. Finally the view became clear. It was Kermit waving his ADD tee shirt wildly to try to get rid of all the flies. His tee shirt could have read, “I do not have ADD. DAMN FLIES!” Funny stuff.

The flotilla heading north
We pushed north to a beautiful anchorage called Wahlberg Creek, just south of St. Catherines Sound. It is a wide and deep anchorage so the decision was made for us to raft. Dick found a spot first to drop his hook and get it set well. Then One September came in on Sareanna’s starboard side and tied up. Good Karma tied up on Sareanna’s port side and we tied up on Good Karma’s port side. (For those of you who are not port/starboard oriented, left to right it was Why Knot, Good Karma, Sareanna and One September.) Dick broke out his gas barbecue grill and expertly grilled everyone’s choice of meat. Then there were other dishes made and we all met on the beautifully wide open flybridge of One September. It was a beautiful evening with good friends, good food, a bit of alcohol and lots of laughs. It was a good evening.

Judy and Mike of One September

Deanne and Dick of Sareanna, Kermit and Katherine of Good Karma
Lisa’s and my plans from this point were originally to head way up into South Carolina, past Savannah, to an anchorage called Cowen Creek. We had stopped there last year and knew that it was good place to drop a hook and get a good night’s sleep. But quite frankly, we had a lot of fun with our boating buddies. Now, I am a preplanning wonk. I usually have at least an outline of the next bunch of days cruising plans laid out, especially through this stretch of Georgia and South Carolina. But the other three boats of our flotilla did not. The decision to stop at Wahlberg Creek was made on the fly and the only other plans was that they were going to stop at a marina called Thunderbolt Marina. (There is a town named Thunderbolt. That is an awesome name.) As they were chattering about it Mike came on the radio and invited us to join them. We gladly accepted. Katherine started making phone calls and found out that Thunderbolt didn’t have the slips to take on four boats. But she did find that Isle of Hope Marina (a marina we stayed at last year) could. So off to Isle of Hope we go on Saturday.

One side benefit to this stop is that it means that we will probably be able to see the season finale of Doctor Who, our favorite TV show. I know there are a few Doctor Who fans that read this blog and if you are keeping up with this season you know that this last episode is titled “The Name of the Doctor” and it has been a huge geek-out thing. Forget who shot JR. Doctor Who fans have been waiting to see this episode for FIFTY FREAKING YEARS! Will we actually learn his real name which might unravel the mystery of his entire 940 year life as a galaxy traveling Time Lord? Or will the writers cleverly find a way for The Doctor to cleverly escape the conundrum of having to answer the question hidden in plane sight on the Fields of Trensalore? And will Darrell and Lisa be finally exposed as the mega-geeks that everyone has suspected them of being already? Stay tuned. 8:00 pm eastern time, Saturday, May 18, 2013 BBC America.

Isle of Hope and The Charger/Inverter Saga Continues   Saturday, May 18

During our anchorage we noticed that the newly installed charger/inverter was not charging the batteries while the generator was being used. This is a problem. This would mean that A) something was not right with either the charger/inverter, its installation or the generator, and B) We would not be able to proceed much further than Savannah because the next several hundred miles requires quite a few anchorages along the way.

During the early morning of our stay at the anchorage, with Verizon cell service available in the area, I sent an email to Phil Jones, the gentleman that did all of the work down in Jekyll. I told him of my observations about the whole thing of the charger not engaging while the generator was running. I was hoping I would receive a reply back with some sort of simple instruction of how to change a setting in the system or something like that.

We pulled into Isle of Hope Marina in Savannah about noon. We had been here before and knew that it was good stop. The docks are good, the staff friendly and, with using one of their two loaner cars, it was a good provisioning stop as there is a Walmart Supercenter and a Sams Club five minutes away. This was one of the first things we did. After we returned to the boat it was nap time.

At about 5:00 pm the phone rang. It was Phil Jones. He had just read the email and was eager to help us. Back in Jekyll he had told us that he had a 500 mile guarantee – He would travel up to 500 miles gratis to our location to make sure that everything was working as it is supposed to work. After a short conversation he said that he would drive the two hours from St. Marys, Georgia to Savannah to take a look at the situation. I told him that this was not necessary but he insisted. And so at 8:00 pm he showed up at the marina and got to work…on a Saturday night!

This is where it gets weird. I don’t mean to get too technical but our boat has two AC power circuit panels, one for all of the wall sockets, appliances and the like, another for the HVAC gear. During all of the tests and trials of the electrical system, generator and charger/inverter he discovered that weirdly when the generator was running the battery charger system would in fact actually start recharging the batteries as well as supply AC power to the rest of the boat but only when the air conditioner was turned on, and even after the air conditioner was turned back off. But unless the air conditioner was at least turned on no charging would take place. This is not how it is supposed to work. The charger is supposed to kick in whenever there is a draw-down of battery voltage from a set voltage level. In his words he was baffled. There was also one other thing going on, that being that there was still voltage being shown in the first AC circuitry (for the receptacles, etc.) even after the main breaker for that panel was open (turned off). The way things were left was that he would call the manufacturer of the charger/inverter on Monday to see what could be done.

Sunday, May 19 

I received another phone call from Phil. He had spent a considerable amount of time researching this situation. He has come to the conclusion that something is in fact wrong with the generator. Most likely there is some kind of problem with the neutral ground coming from the generator that would thwart the charger from receiving a qualifying current to kick on the charger without a boost to the current when the air conditioner is turned on. Now, if you remember from the previous post one of the things that was discovered back in the earliest times of the investigation into Why Knot’s electrical system problems back in Jekyll was that something odd was going on with the ground circuitry. At the time it was thought to be something in the wiring, the panel or the inverter. Could it be that the source of the ground anomalies was coming from the generator all along? It could be. Now, in fairness the decision to replace the charger/inverter is still valid. It was cooked. But what is happening is that some kind of strange electrical system vortex is opening and we are watching our money get sucked down into it.

What caused the original breakdown is up for debate. It very well could be that the entire system including the wiring, the old charger/inverter and the generator were all in some kind of ongoing faulty state but were in some kind of balance, able to continue working just good enough. Then something, maybe a spike or dip in power from the suspect shore power at Jekyll Harbor Marina, caused the charger/inverter to finally give up the ghost causing all of the other problems to come tumbling down.

Now, how do we feel about this? I guess there are two ways to look at it. It certainly does suck that we are spending so much time and money on all this. But on the other hand there were very real safety concerns as was demonstrated very graphically by all of the scorching of the electrical panel compartment and the burnt cords. There was a very real danger in all of this. Something definitely is wrong and it must be addressed. When all of this is finally behind us we will have as close to a brand spanking new electrical system as our little ol’ boat can have.

So here are the plans. We will stay at Isle of Hope Marina for now. Phil is going to contact Xantrex, the manufacturer of the charger/inverter, and work it from his end. We will contact a local  marine generator and engine service/sales company for them to do a complete analysis of the generators charging head, the part that actually makes the electricity. Perhaps it needs to be rebuilt. Dick from Sareanna says that I should look at it like our car’s alternator needing to be rebuilt… TIMES FIVE!

All this and we didn't even get to watch Doctor Who. 

The vortex is spinning faster and faster ever flowing downward into the emptiness of oblivion.

1 comment:

Bergs on Great Escape said...

Darrel sorry to hear about your continuing electrical saga. Really enjoyed hearing from you as I told JoAnn that Mike and Judy on One September were going to come close to seeing you. I vicariously follow their blog as I do yours. I also enjoyed the pictures of you all including Kermit and Katherine. The last time I saw Kermit his boat looked like a giant spider's web all tied up holding the bow rails on. Please tell everyone we said hellow and hope to see everyone again in St Louis..Dave and JoAnn on Great Escape.