Friday, August 22, 2014

R.I.P. Our Onan MDKD 8kw Generator, and It’s About Damn Time

Okay, so here’s the story about the demise of our persnickety generator. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that our relationship with our genset has been, shall I say, challenging.
We left Baltimore under great boating conditions; no winds to speak of, and the tides and currents were going in our direction. It was only a short thirty-one mile hop down to the mooring field in Annapolis. We were going to stay there two nights to let a storm system pass before we would cruise to Hampton in two long legs that each ended at anchorages. We tied up without any problems and spent the entire day onboard just lazing around. The generator performed just like it was suppose to; running smoothly and obediently. All was well.       
The next morning, as usual, I woke up around 2:00 am. The first thing I did was go down into the engine compartment and check the oil and coolant of the gen. No problems. All looked good. I climbed back up into the salon, closed the engine room hatch, preheated the generator, and pushed the start switch. She fired up. I then went down into the galley and started to make a pot of coffee.
Less than a minute later, the generator died. There is a fault switch that trips open whenever there is fault with the engine, most likely due to low oil pressure or if the engine is going to overheat. The switch tripped. I rechecked everything, closed the fault switch, and tried again. Same thing happened. After several attempts I did finally get the gen to run for two hours. At that time we went ashore. When I returned to the boat (Lisa went shopping), once again, the switch kept flipping and it would not run for more than twenty or so seconds. Uh-oh.
We moved the boat back over to Annapolis Landing Marina, our home away from home, it seems, and called Rob and Michelle of Dependable Marine Service. We had used them in the past and they have a rock-solid reputation. They came on board and Rob determined that one of two things were wrong, both having to do with oil pressure. Either the sensor was bad and needed to be replaced, which isn’t so bad, or the oil pump was failing, which is fatal to the generator. Well, at least fatal to a very old generator that had a history of unreliability. Fortunately, they had a replacement sensor (though Rob wasn’t sure it was the correct one) with them and installed it. The gen fired up and ran. Maybe we dodged a bullet.
We had every intention of leaving the next morning, thinking our generator woes were behind us. When I woke up that morning I had received an email from Rob and Michelle confirming that the sensor was indeed the correct one, and that I should run the gen for a couple of hours, just to make sure. Well, I’m glad I did. Not only did the engine not run, even for a few seconds, it wouldn’t even turn over. It’s dead. Their opinion, and an opinion we share, is that the generator is not worth repairing an further.
Back in Savannah, Georgia, a year ago, we had a certified Onan technician come on board and give the generator a look over. I asked him to state the condition of the generator in terms of an elderly person’s health. He said that he would be very old, in a nursing home, but doing sort of okay. I guess the condition of the patient has deteriorated to the point where hospice care is needed.
Our upcoming cruising plans include locales where we will not have any access to marinas, let alone electricity, so having a generator that works reliably is absolutely essential. No generator = no electricity.
 I think we have a few mixed feelings about this. Obviously, if the damn thing is broke and irreparable, it needs to be replaced. But then again, the pump, if that is the culprit, could be fixed. But then, would we only be applying a bandaid to a patient with much greater injuries? Lisa said that the generator is experiencing ‘cascading failure’. (I love it when she talks techie.) That is, when things start going wrong, everything eventually starts going wrong. I think that is certainly the case with the Onan. And, applying an adage I coined, leaks never get smaller. But, it is a hefty expense. But, if we don’t replace it, we could end up nickel and diming ourselves to death. Also, being in the Bahamas or some backwater anchorage off of the ICW in Texas is no place to have it fail. So, we’re going to suck it up and replace the generator.
Getting the gen replaced is a pretty straightforward affair. In about a week or so we will move the boat to a marina a hair south of Annapolis. According to Rob, they have all the facilities there to do the job. I spoke to the marina master and he says they will want to pull it out of the water as soon as we arrive there. So, we will be packed and ready to leave when we get there. We will then head to BWI and catch a plane back to St. Louis and Denver for our fall shore leave during September instead of October. We will then, hopefully, return to the boat in early October and start our trek south.
Now, this does kind of screw up our short term cruising plans. To what extent, we still have to determine. For instance, we have friends (Rick and Margi, I’m talking to you!) whom are at Barefoot Marina in North Myrtle Beach awaiting our arrival for a long overdue reunion. We were thinking we would see them in September. Now it looks like October some time.
But, we are in Annapolis, and if there is anyplace better to have this happen, I’d like to know where it is. After all, we love Annapolis.


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