Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sometimes it's just Mud in the Hose

Our second head is working now.

Not that we ever admitted it wasn't, but, well, it wasn't. Back when we finally retrieved Meridian from Chicago Yacht Yard, the aft head decided it didn't want to flush. Apparently Meridian got a little upset with us for leaving her alone so long.

But we weren't about to let something like that delay us any further. After all, we have two heads. And, really now, who ever wants to deal with this kind of thing?

But finally, in Northport, Phil accepted that Bernie wasn't gonna suddenly grab a wrench and a set of nose plugs and tackle the job. He was overcome with a rare fit of motivation (hope that doesn't happen too often) and tackled it himself.

Actually, it wasn't that bad once he got started. We already knew the problem was on the intake side which, as you can imagine, would be much less unpleasant than a problem on the other side (where stuff is expelled).

And, as it turned out, it was pretty simple. There was quite a collection of black mud and gunk in the hose and check valve immediately before the impeller (which was still in good shape). It completely clogged the intake line so only a tiny trickle of water was reaching the impeller. It took less than half an hour to locate and clear the obstruction.

Ok, so far there's nothing inept here to report! And Phil was really proud of that.

But this posting isn't really about the head. It's about the generator.

You see, when we anchored off of South Manitou Island, we couldn't use the generator. It started and ran just fine for about three or four minutes, and then abruptly shut off. It then wouldn't start, after trying to crank it for several minutes.

That put a pall on the whole anchoring thing because it meant we had to be really stingy with electricity. The inverter could handle the refrigerator just fine, but we couldn't cook or heat water. The nagging worry about the generator lessened the whole experience.

The next morning, after verifying that the engines would crank (and then running them for a while just to ensure a more fully charged battery bank) Phil tried to crank the generator. It started just fine, but again shut off after a couple of minutes.

We motored on to Northport just a little less excited about things.

So yesterday at Beaver Island, Phil changed the oil in the engines. And while down in the engine room, he started thinking about the generator. When looking at the strainer, he noticed a lot of black mud. And then, he realized "Hey, wait a minute, when we were running the generator, I never checked to see if water was being expelled out the thru-hull."

Now that's one of those basic things that you're supposed to check every time you crank the generator. Apparently the excitement of doing something for the first time (anchoring overnight) caused us to deviate from those operational procedures that Bernie claims Phil is so annoyingly fastidious about.

So he did a quick check by cranking the generator again and, sure enough, no water out the side.

Once again, it was the black mud. It had completely clogged the strainer reducing the flow of water to the impeller, which then broke into a bunch of pieces. The high-temperature shutoff was kicking in.

Phil cleaned the strainer, installed a new impeller (after finding and removing all old impeller pieces), cranked the generator and - voila! - all is working now.

Had we checked for water the first time on South Manitou, we likely wouldn't have needed to change the impeller. And now we need to find another spare impeller for the ye olde generator. And, most importantly, we'd have avoided all that consternation about not having a working generator.

My, how Meridian disliked sitting on the Chicago River!!!

Looks like it's time to check the intake lines for the AC/Heater. We haven't needed to use them on the trip yet, but the nights are starting to get cool. And the water in the strainer looks kind of black!

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