Friday, February 22, 2013

We Emerge Victorious-For Now

The wind and the rain has let up finally. Three days ago we pulled up anchor and tried to get into Dolphin Marina to get our water tanks topped off. I quit using the water maker because without the port wind generator working, the power drain was too much on our house bank of batteries.
  Toward the largely unmarked northern end of the channel leading to the narrow secondary channel into the marina (which is marked) we began to stir up sand, so we turned around and got away unscathed, and decided to learn more about entering Dolphin Marina before we make another attempt. We also didn't go at high tide, which would have helped.
  If you read the comments on our previous posts, you already know that we cruised over to Little Palm Island to get water. Active Captain indicates that there is a marina there, with fuel, but this is not so. I did figure that they had water and perhaps we could buy some.
  I rarely call ahead to a marina or a dock if the approach is obvious and it's not too crowded, so our approach to Little Palm Island Transient dock was no exception. Two guys from a large yacht already docked there came off their boat and gave us a hand in securing lines. By the time I stepped off of Swing Set, an employee was walking down the dock to meet us.
  I asked about getting our water tank filled up and he said he had to get on the radio and ask his boss. My optimism in regard to us getting our water sank. I had told him that we could probably use about 100 gallons, and offered to pay whatever the going rate was for it, but I'm not sure if he relayed to his boss the fact that we were willing to pay. All I heard on the radio was, "Give them 10 or 20 gallons, but not no 100 gallons. We got a boat comin' in here soon and they are in the way."
  Some water was better than none, and I also knew that there was nothing to measure how much water was going in, so we stuck the hose in and started filling 'er up. After a few minutes, the harbormaster came down to the dock with a sour look on his face. He took exception to the fact that we had tied up to his dock without asking first. He asked if it was our habit to tie up to a dock without permission. I explained to him that I initially believed that we were approaching a dock that had fuel, and no, we had never encountered an issue with tying up to a dock without permission. (OK, just that one time in Marco Island, but this guy didn't have to know it.)
  By the time we got done chatting, he softened up somewhat but reminded us to call ahead next time and as he walked away, he grumbled something about "give it no more than ten minutes, and that's it". Our tank was full in seven minutes, thank you very much. While I waited, I talked to the captain of their shuttle vessel about how to approach Dolphin Marina next time and got the scoop on that. We tipped the dock attendant and we went on our merry way.
  The day was overcast and we made our way back over to our anchorage, but decided to get closer to Picnic Island as the weather was due to change and we wanted to be closer to allow us to engage in the social activities that the small island promised. By this time we had been in Newfound Harbor for four days and we were anxious to get off of the boat and visit humanity.
  The Looe Key Resort and Dive Center is nearby on Ramrod Key. Their website advertised a tiki bar with Tuesdays being "Taco Tuesday". We also got a tip from one of our blog readers about this place, so even though rain was threatening, we dropped the dinghy in the water at about 5 P.M. and motored over to the resort to get some 75 cent tacos.
  We found a nifty spot to park the dinghy and the parking lot reflected a full house. The "tiki hut" is enormous and it was packed to full. We walked in and took the one empty chair at the bar, but a young couple was there and the guy offered his chair so we could both sit, but I declined. Nicolas and Olivia turned out to be very nice locals and we struck up a conversation with them that lasted into the evening. Nicolas used to be a Merchant Marine who now runs a small dive operation over on Big Pine. We had a lot in common; he is an amature beer brewer and has an appreciation for German motorcycles and American cars. It also turns out that he went to school with Steve, the mechanic that worked on our engines in Key West.
  We had a great time at the tiki bar. Holly didn't bite anyone, and she did her part to get us introduced to a few people that came up to meet her. We finally weaved our way back to Swing Set in the pitch darkness, only running aground once.
  With a significant hangover on Wednesday, I decided to attack our port wind generator. I unbolted the port tower and laid the generator down on top of the radar arch. At this point, I didn't want to pull the wires out of the tower and unplug them. I gave some misleading information about Primus Wind Energy in my previous post. Primus didn't purchase Southwest Windpower, but did purchase their "Air Line" of wind generators. The contact person for our Air-X unit was still in Arizona. "Bo" had told me to check the contacts for the brushes inside the housing to see if they were dirty, or pitted. This was my mission.

  That shiny brass post on the right side of the wind generator (which is actually the bottom) is called the yaw assembly. The post is really three separate brass pieces with a non-conducting buffer between them. Behind this post is the contact brushes that connect to the circuit board. The white wires go to the stator and rotor which are in the front of the unit that I have set aside to the left in the picture. With me so far?
  The yaw assembly had some light dirt on it, most likely residue from the brushes, but when I turned the yaw to see the backside, I could see some shallow grooving occurring where the brushes were meeting the yaw. (The wires that come from the generator are attached to the insides of those brass cylinders.) Then I had a revelation. The wind generators are designed to swivel on the tower to collect the wind, so they must turn around on the post to do so, and would normally wear evenly around that yaw assembly. But a boat is typically at anchor, and the boat itself will turn and face the wind on the anchor line, so that means that the wind generator won't always be spinning around on the tower, but will most likely always be facing towards the bow of the boat. This will make the brushes contacting the yaw in the same spot, most of the time anyway.
  I took some 400 grit emery cloth and shined up the yaw and evened out the grooves. I cleaned everything with trusty WD-40 and put everything back together. We had enough wind to get the blades spinning and they started up. Within a few seconds, the brakes came on and I knew my repair had failed. Depression set in.
  Bo at Primus Wind Energy had given me the phone number of E Marine, based in Ft. Lauderdale, and I called them to discuss our options. I talked to Andrew and he was very helpful. We obtained an RMA number and were instructed to send the unit to them when we got to Marathon. They were backed up due to some difficulty getting parts from Primus, but they would do everything they could to get the wind generator fixed for us. As I got off the phone with him, I began contemplating sending the unit to them, but then cruising up to Fort Lauderdale on our way to The Bahamas to retrieve the unit after the repair.
  But I couldn't get the issue off of my mind. My bosses at the beer factory use to call it "obsessing", but I'd call it being fixated on a problem. My tenacity in regard to solving a problem is vexing to Rosie, as is a problem is also vexing to me, but I usually get results.
  For no concrete reason, I decided to switch off the circuit breaker on the wind generator, and then switch it back on. I already had turned the unit off with the supplied inline power switch. Now get this: The wind generator started spinning, and stayed spinning! The power disconnect did something good to the circuit board after having it apart. Maybe it had to "reset". Hell, I don't know. We kept watch on it all day, anticipating for it to fail again. I wasn't about to start celebrating yet.

  We watched another gorgeous sunset and waited for dark. As the light faded, the little indicator light on the body of the wind generator glowed like it is supposed to when all is well. Each time I got up during the night I went out to view the light. By morning I was convinced that cleaning the yaw was the solution to our problem, and my revelation about the contact of the brushes remaining constant was an interesting concept, shared by Andrew at E Marine, when I called him to tell him I wouldn't be sending our wind generator to them for repair. This time, at least. But of course my phone call to announce our success was sure to jinx us. I plan on adjusting the yaw on the starboard generator about 1/8 of a turn in order to ward off a similar occurrence on that unit. So far, three days later, we're still making electricity with the port generator.
  We got up yesterday and left Holly to guard the boat and took the dinghy to Dolphin Marina to dump some trash and fill up our water jugs with potable water. The people there were really nice, and Jennifer at the gas dock dutifully accepted our 70 cents in payment for the seven gallons of water we took away. I offered two bucks, but she would have none of it. I did manage to leave the extra 30 cents from my dollar bill. No one can say I don't tip.
  We also got directions over to Keys Sea Center, up a canal over on Big Pine Key, where we intended on having breakfast at Big Pine Restaurant. We were directed over to a nice cozy tie up at their dock and were told that there were "no worries" about us docking there as long as we needed to, in order to visit the restaurant and get some supplies. They couldn't have been more accommodating.
  We walked just a short distance to the restaurant and had a wonderful breakfast, plus got walking directions to nearby stores. On our walk to Walgreens, we saw key deer and roosters roaming about. We turned our heads to avoid seeing an already limping key deer cross the busy U.S. 1 roadway, but luckily for it, the deer made its way into the protection of the woods along the highway.
  We loaded up our West Marine cart and pulled it back to the dinghy. Holly was glad to see us once we got back to the boat and as Rosie was stocking the larder with our new supplies, I noticed a business card on our transom door. I called the number of the person who left the card and met Linda Vanaman, a local captain who stopped by because she had noticed our boat in the harbor now for a number of days. Linda offered to drive us to the store if we needed to go, but since we had just returned from there, her and I spent about an hour talking about entry into The Bahamas, and pertinent information in that regard. She had some great insight into the matter, plus visiting with a pet, because she had done the trip nearly twenty times. I added her blog site to our list of websites that are our favorites, if you want to take a look at her blog site.

  Yesterday was a very nice day. Boaters had started coming in to Picnic Island. The dinghy was already in the water, so we put a few Bud Lights in the cooler and went to join the party. We immediately met two couples; a local couple, and their friends visiting from Springfield, Illinois. We asked the couple from Springfield if they knew Jim and Kathy Dickerson from there and the one woman had worked with Kathy years ago! We've known Jim and Kathy for over twenty years, having met them on a cruise, and then running into them everywhere else we went. The local couple, the Flattery's, promised to meet up with us again over the upcoming weekend, and also gave us their number if we needed anything while in the area. How nice is that?
  When those four left, we met another couple who were locals and they had a big Laborador retriever that Holly found a reason to bark incessantly at. They also turned out to be very nice and were going to come back for the weekend party at Picnic Island. I guess we'll stay for a few more days. The man did ask me if I was a "diver", or a "fisherman", and I replied that I was neither. Just a boater. I felt like a complete failure.

  A big sailboat came in to share our anchorage last night and helped us admire another sunset. We fired up the grill and made some chicken for dinner.
  As I was taking the last piece of chicken off of the grill, I used too much torque and the grill slid off of the cast iron skillet and right "into the drink". (My brother and his new wife will get a kick out of my use of the term "into the drink".)
  Now I have a mission for the day, which is to retrieve the grill and clean the "hair" off the sides of the hull. It's been a month since I scraped barnacles. The barnacles are being kept at bay, but the algae has taken a liking to Swing Set's bottom. A quick wipe with an abrasive pad will dispense with the algae in no time.
  Not sure what else is in store for us today, but it will probably involved a visit to the beach with the dinghy. There may be some icy cold Bud Lights in our future too, but I can't promise anything. At least we don't have snow.


  1. Good day Swing Set,
    I noticed that you tip the dock boys. Is this the normal practice? If so how much is expected? On the west coast, I have never had anyone from the marina lend a hand, except fellow boaters. When docking you are on your own.

  2. Thanks for the wind gen info. Since I’m planing to add them, and solar, to the little DeFever, I have book marked this post to my “Useful maint.things to know” file.

    If you pass by, don’t forget to stop for a night of lies, and beer factory products. No green bottles here.

    Capt. Dove - Tipping dockhands is very common here on the east coast, especially in AICW transient marinas. I give 5 bucks for average service, 10 bucks for better. I have given 20 bucks when the weather was bad, and the dockhand worked his rear end off.

    Fair winds, and following seas,

    M/V Full Step
    DeFever 40
    Palm Coast FL.

  3. Don't list me as a source of technical advice just yet. Although my theory about how the brushes contact a certain spot on the yaw is valid, I'm not sure it was the reason for our wind generator to fail. The generator worked for a couple of days and then started failing again yesterday. Looks like we'll have to send it away after all.
    As far as tipping goes, we don't know about the east coast, as we haven't traveled there yet, but in 10 months, we've only tipped a handful of times, so saying that we always tip would not be the fact.
    We have tipped for a pump out at times, as it's a nasty job. We tipped at A&B Marina a few times because docking there is nearly impossible without someone on the pier taking your lines, plus two time the weather was very bad and we did need help. One of those times, the attendant stayed past his quitting. He deserved a tip. If we got something extra, like we did getting water at Little Palms last week, we thought the kid at the dock should get a few bucks.
    I won't tip if someone is just grabbing a line and we don't need them to. Most times, the attendant does a poor job and is more of a hinderance than a help. I determine if the help we received is worthy of a tip, and I'll tip only if it is deserved, policy or not.