Smack, Crack, Fall. Alternator Down

This post is a long time in the making so bear with me.  It all started back in mid-February 2020 when we were trying to leave the Marquesas.  One alternator decided it did not want to be attached to the engine…

We rose early on the morning that we planned to leave for the Gambiers.  Not because we wanted to leave early, but because we anchored on top of another boat’s anchor.  We had to start the engines and move our boat forward so they could safely retrieve their anchor.  Not a big deal, but an early morning.

The Bay of Virgins (in the Marquesas) is a gusty little devil, with katabatic winds coming down the valley.  All good, took a while but we were able to maneuver out of the other boat’s way without dislodging our anchor.

While Matt waited for the other boat to sort out their anchor, he heard a loud clunk.  Sort of a smack, crack, clunk.  He figured I had opened or closed a bilge or something.  But, no, not me.  He did not mention it to me right away so I was clueless.

A few hours of going over the forecast and future forecast, we finally decided to get going.  As usual the “pre-flight engine checks” were in-order.  This time a surprise of all surprises. 

Surprise Surprise

When Matt opened the port hatch to the engine room, he saw the auxiliary alternator that charges the house batteries, was missing in action.  WTF?  This is a 50lb, white alternator.  It’s a hard thing to miss. 

The belts were not on the front of the engine.  Turns out the engine mount that holds the heavy alternator gave out, ¼ steel plate broke right off.  The plate that holds the alternator is also part of the engine mount.  So, when we go to fix it we will have no use of the port engine. 

Pretty sure that was the smack, crack, clunk, sound he heard earlier.  Guess we will be looking for a welder in the Gambiers.

Project on Hold

A week after we arrived in the Gambiers, we attended a Sunday Funday BBQ in Taravai where Matt was able to ask several people about local welders.  It appears there are two people who have the tools and capabilities.  One cruiser had something welded by the main group of welders and he was not impressed with their work.  The other is a friend of a friend that we would have to hunt down.

Looks like we will put this project on the back burner for a few weeks.  This is a secondary alternator that is used to charge the house batteries.  So, without it we just have to use the Starboard secondary alternator to charge the batteries.  We have 4 alternators (two for the engines and two for the house batteries).

Lucky Break

Fast forward past some down time, then the corona virus 45-day quarantine, and we are at 3 months later.  Our friends on Storm Along have a metal boat and Niels is a welder with all the welding equipment. He has agreed to help us out if we can get some extra steel for the support brackets.

We come up with a game plan.  Matt and I need to find some steel to reinforce the plate in three sections.  Then we will meet Nils on the beach to weld the plate back together.  Now, to find some steel.

Stefan to the Rescue

Fast forward a few more weeks and we are back in the anchorage of Rikitea in Mangareva.  We asked our local friend Stefan if he knows anyone who can do some welding for us.  He works at the school which has professional technical training and we heard they teach welding.  He asked what we needed and to our great surprise he had all of the tools, equipment, steel, and supplies.

Stefan cut three pieces of steel to Matt’s specifications.  The triangle will be welded to the vertical and horizontal pieces.  The long flat bar will be welded between the alternator plate and the engine plate on the bottom. The short flat bar will be welded between the same two plates but on top.

Welding Begins 

We met Niels at the beach with all of equipment.  We used our 220v Honda Generator for power.  It worked great for the grinding and for short welds.  Niels was able to make the initial weld holding the two pieces together.  Then Niels and Matt started off by grinding the pieces for a better weld.

Then the boys attach the first support bracket across the bottom of the two plates.  The image below shows them testing placement, then grinding the bar, then Matt holds it in place for initial small welds and then Niels tries to do a long weld.

Unfortunately, the Honda generator was not strong enough to power the welding equipment which required a 100 amps (at 220volts).  Looks like we need a Plan B.

Plan B

We visit the local “Commune” where the islands has most of its machinery and a welding shop (the place mentioned above that did not do such a good job for another sailor).  They graciously allowed us to use their power to complete our job.

Commune Building in Rikitea

Commune Building in Rikitea

Matt got to grinding the remaining parts while Niels welded.  Perfect set up to complete our project.

The welding was complete about 90 minutes later.  The big ugly weld was not Neils but the previous weld we had done in St. Lucia.

Next, Matt sprayed a anti-corrosion paint and two coats of Volvo green paint to match the engine.

Project done!

2 thoughts on “Smack, Crack, Fall. Alternator Down

  1. Chip and Brenda

    Way to go, Sugar Shack crew. Persistence always pays off. Having friends with the proper equipment and know how is the perfect blend. Sail safe.

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