Do you smell smoke?

A couple weeks ago me and Tawn were gonna sail north to Port Ludlow, which is a small town in a well protected harbor about 25 miles north of us. We took off on a Sunday morning with a little wind directly out of the direction we needed to go, but no matter, we had plenty of time. I did want to get there before 6pm due to tide. Anytime after 6 and we would not have been able to get in the the inner harbor and anchor, the tide would have been to low to get in there.

We tacked back and forth for a few hours until we reached Apple Tree Cove, where the wind died completely. No bother, we just turned on the engine and started motoring there, with the intension to sail if the wind decided to pickup again.

Click here for a map if you care to follow along

About an hour later, just as we were approaching Point No Point, Tawn ducked down below to check on the battery charger gauge, (We had been having some trouble with the charger lately). When she got down there, she yelled back up that the gauge was reading 17+ volts!!! AcK! Not good. She quickly started shutting things down, so the batteries did not get ruined by overcharging them. As I was shutting down the engine, she yelled back up again that she smelled smoke and saw some coming from the engine compartment. Second only to a hole in your boat, a fire is the worst thing.

After getting everything shut down and the boat pointed and drifting in a safe direction. We started checking systems. The smoke turned out to not be a “real” fire, but an electrical wire that burnt up. Which is what that particular wire is designed to do in certain situations to prevent the altenator from burning up. But why did this happen?

We were a little over halfway to where we were going and did not exactly know what the issue was, so we decided to turn around and head home. We did not know the problem, so we could only sail home without the engine. Luckily for us, the wind pickedup and we had an awesome spinnacker run home. Along the way we called some other boating friends and they helped me diagnos the issue. And come up with a work around so we could use the engine to get back into the dock.

The next day, we figured out that our regulator had died on us, which resulted in the altenator overcharging the batteries. The ‘fire’ was a result of the batteries being shut off before the engine was. But that was why that wire burnt up, it is there to handle accidents like that. So there was no damage done and all is fixed and working now. Granted, fixed and working means $500 less in the bank account for a new regulator and other misc. parts, but that is just the way it is.

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