Sunday, March 06, 2011

LESSON LEARNED: Fear and Panic in East Hampton

"I understand that fear is my friend, but not always. Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed."-Hunter S.Thompson

I was thinking about a situation that occurred last year after I rode out Hurricane Earl in East Hampton's Three Mile Harbor . A few days later I decided to leave and head back to BIANKA's home port before the winds shifted in a few days. Looking at the Eldridge Tide and Pilot  book I knew I would have to get an early start to make sure I would make it through Plum Gut with a favoring current. So I awoke at 3:45 am and got ready to head out.  Normally I would start my Honda 2000 generator to power the 12 volt  battery charger. This helps lighten the load on the 12 volt battery bank when using the electric windlass. But, since it was the middle of the night and I did not want to disturb the other boats around me I just used the battery bank and windlass alone to raise the anchor.  After that was done I silently used my electric propulsion system to move the boat to the channel that lead to Gardiners Bay. When I was in the channel I fired up the Honda and  plugged in the 48 volt Zivan charger for the propulsion bank. I watched as the lights  came on that told me it was putting out some amps into the bank. I then turned on my Pro Mariner 12 volt 30 amp charger to help replenish the amps lost from raising the anchor. Everything was fine for a few minutes when all of a sudden I heard the Honda sputter and then rev just a little, It was still running but, I glanced at the indicator light for the 48 volt Zivan charger and it was out. Panic spread over me. I though the charger had died or at the very least a fuse had blown inside. What should I do? Do I continue in the hope that I don't need the charger to help provide the extra power for the propulsion bank. I do have a back up charger that I can use to charge the bank but, it can't be used  to help propel the bank like the ZIVAN NG-1 can. Do I turn around and go back and anchor to work on the problem? If I do I will probably miss the favoring current at Plum Gut.  I had a few fearful moments as I pondered what I should do.  I hated the idea of missing the current at Plum Gut because it might mean I would have to wait out several days until the wind shifted again. On the other hand having a fully operational auxiliary propulsion system was important too and since I was sailing alone it would be hard to work on it while underway. It turns out that my initial fears were entirely misplaced. There was nothing wrong with the 48 volt Zivan Power supply at all. In fact all systems were working fine. It took me a few minutes after my initial panic to figure out what had happened. What had actually happened is the circuit breaker on the Honda Generator had tripped. When that happens the generator does not stop running. The breaker just trips and stops supply power to the outlets. So in my mind when I heard the generator still running and saw that the lights for the 48 volt Zivan power supply were out I assumed there was something wrong with the charger. But, why did the breaker trip? Because I only used battery power to the windlass when raising the anchor I had drawn down the 12 volt battery bank a little more than usual. So when I was using the generator to charge that bank and then also plugged in the 48 volt Zivan charger it was too much current draw for the generator so the breaker tripped. The solution was to reset the breaker and just either charge the 12 volt bank or use the 48 volt Zivan charger but, not both. Which is what I did and happily I made it through Plum Gut before the current change and learned a lesson once again about not panicking when something goes wrong because it may not be as bad as you first think it is.
 "Everthings gonna be alright."- Bob Marley

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