A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Freedom at last

Yesterday our son emailed us from New Zealand worried that we had been kidnapped by pirates as he had not heard from us other than via this blog. We responded that we had, indeed, been held hostage by pirates, but in Kenosha they are called electricians.

In my last blog I said, just before the pie recipe, that things had to get better after the two friday 13ths. Well folks, they don't and they didn't. The "unresolved issue with the wiring" that I spoke about was that the wiring was all completed but the transfer switch had been taped in the "off" position. The scarey thing was that everything on the boat was working, which most people (including myself) would consider unusual. To make matters worse, I was told that when the switch was turned to shore power, all the main circuit breakers tripped.

I thought a lot about all this that night - my chief concern being that I had designed the whole system from 7500 miles away with information gleaned from the internet, photos of Berts panel wiring and some able assistance from an email correspondent in North Carolina who happened to be an electrician and was experienced in "off the grid" wiring. What if I had got it wrong and the design was absolutely incorrect? How can  you get power through a switch to an electrical panel when it is switched off? I wracked my brain until 2 in the morning and then woke again at 4am with a flash of insight. I reviewed my drawings and found that with a small error, you could  wire the switch in a manner that this would happen. It would effectively bypass the switch and put power to the AC panel all the time, regardless of switch position. The real problem was that, if this was the case, mains power would be fed into the output of the inverter when the transfer switch was in the inverter position. This is instantaneous and irreversible death to any inverter. But that can't have happened - after all, these guys are professional tradesmen and must deal with this kind of thing all the time!

No......they hadn't made THAT error, but what they had done was significantly worse and achieved the same result. It is too complicated to go into and resulted in an unsavoury yelling match at 2pm on saturday afternoon (100 degrees F -38C -, no A/C, no fridge, freezer or icemaker) before they finally listened and understood (?) how it was all supposed to work. So they set about undoing all the wiring they had done for the previous 2 days and settled in to wire it as per the drawings. I figured it was a good time for me to go and get the Key Lime Pie and a few other bits and pieces and cool down a little.

Remember the pie?....we ordered and paid for it the day before and it was going to be ready at 10am so we would have it for our midday departure from Kenosha after the inverter was "fixed". When we turned up at 2.30pm I said (jokingly) to Charlie "wouldn't it be funny if they sold it because we turned up late". But it was better than that. After the girl at Paellis disappeared out back she came back to us looking very sad and pieless. She then admitted that she had forgotten to put the order in yesterday and there was no pie for us. She offered altenatives but we just got back our $6.25 and left laughing.....you've got to, eh?

When we got back to the boat, the wiring was done to the drawing and the switch was doing its job. Before they plugged in the outputs to the inverter, I got them to check that there was no mains power on the plugs (there was not) and before we switched it on, we disconnected all shore power. The inverter was duly switched on and..........nothing, zilch, nada! At this time I figured I should take the overdue rental car back to Hertz as it was going to be a small wiring glitch or a dead inverter, which would be determined best in my absence (for me, anyway).

You all can guess what the result was!!!!!!!

When I got back, the sparkies were gone and we were stranded in Kenosha until a replacement inverter could be sourced. Fortunately I had selected a US manufactured unit, so replacement from Amazon.com was a matter of one working day only.

The next day (sunday), after a meaningful discussion with Scott - Southport's extremely supportive Service manager - we decided to have a day off electrical things. Being carless, we took Kenoshas famous electric streetcar ride and visited the museums in the downtown area. It was still over 100F and no change expected for the next few days.

Monday was spent ensconced in the boat with the A/C on full bore and Tuesday dawned the same and we waited for the inverter to arrive. And waited.....and waited... and finally at 3pm it arrived. Chris brought it down and in 45 minutes, swapped it out and turned it on (after a series on stringent steps to ensure that there was NO chance of it meeting its predecessors fate). It worked...........precisely as it is supposed to and as it was designed!!!!! We celebrated by going to a pizza joint for a last Kenosha dinner.

Wednesday morning was spent negotiating the ransom and by midday we came to an amical compromise with Scott, and we were free!! We decided on a pump out before departing and the attendant told us that there was a severe thunderstorm warning out. The wind was up to about 15kts from the NE so it was going to be a lumpy ride to wherever we went.
We got away at 1.20pm and found out what Lake Michigan was like in a moderate blow. Waves about 2 - 4ft, but very short and steep and confused. It was quite remininscent of our own Colville or Motuihe Channel with wind against tide, but there is hundreds of miles of it. We started off at 18 knots but the seas got bigger as we got further out and the crew started complaining so, at the Racine reef, we pulled back to 13-14kts and maintained that speed most of the way to Milwaukee. We pulled into McKinley marina at 3.20pm and were tied up at our slip by 4.00pm.

Note to skipper: -Prepping for sea.
Ensure coffee pot is empty (otherwise it splashes out and runs down the bench to the floor in heavy seas). n this case it was right where the printer was sitting so we now have coffee coloured paper.
Ensure pilothouse door is LATCHED closed (otherwise it slides open - and does that make a mess!)

Charlie and I took a walk around while the rest of the crew slept off their ordeal. There's nowhere to get beer around here - the Milwaukee Yacht Club (est 1871) wouldn't let us in despite our best yarn-spinning, so we returned to the boat. Which was just as well because about  half an hour later the Thunderstorms arrived with a vengeance
We closed up the boat and sat on the sundeck to watch a pyrotechnics display that rivalled anything we saw on July 4th, along with some pretty hefty rain. Just before it happened, a 45ft motor yacht (launch in NZ) came racing by at around 9kts, obviously the skipper being so admonished by his admiral for ovestaying their time out of the marina that he didn't care about the "no wake" rule. He actually deserved to get a drenching when he finally got to his slip from his inconsideration  to all the other vessels in the marina. The display was still on, albeit a lot less frenetic, when we all went to bed around 10.30.

The adventure continues - wait for the next installment

PS The inverter worked perfectly all the way up from Kenosha. The fridge and freezer remained cold and the icemaker produced a bucketful of ice cubes. Ain't it cool to be right.

No comments:

Post a Comment