We had our first failure with the O38 a few days ago in the middle of our 10-day long spring break vacation
sail. we pulled into Avalon
harbor and onto a mooring
Sunday evening, had zero issues with anything, and once on the mooring
I shut off the engine
as per usual, although I did stop the engine
but leave the system powered a little longer than usual (maybe a minute) because I had to deal with the stern hawser suddenly.
In any case, I powered off the engine controller at the helm
and we got on to other tasks. We slept overnight on the mooring, spent the next day in Avalon
, and slept aboard again that night. The next morning we were a bit late off the mooring and looking at a harbor patrol boat who was eyeballing us to ask for another day's mooring fee as I powered up. Usual alarms, started the motor
, dropped the mooring lines, and moved forward off the mooring.
That's when I realized the alarm
was still sounding. I have strong tinnitus from my time in the Navy
so I don't always notice high pitched constant tones. Anyway, as we were hightailing it out of the harbor, I checked the panel and saw that the battery
light was the cause of the alarm
No worries I thought, we drew the batteries down pretty good over two nights and I figured it was just a low battery
alarm. I figured I'd motor
for a while to charge them and get the alarm off, and then we'd sail. We were only two to three hours from our next stop, so no biggie.
Nope. By half-way to Two Harbors, it was obvious that nothing was charging
. I got a bit panicky, worrying about our vacation
being over because of a fault. Then I thought "Hey, this is a sailboat, so we sail." That helped a lot.
We shut off the fridge and all the accessory circuits, and motored into two harbors because I was afraid to shut the engine off. After fueling and motoring there, I read through the engine manual and did some googling, contacted South Coast Yachts (our dealer) and they decided I was looking at either a bad alternator
or a bad isolator. I didn't have any testing tools aboard, but I jury-rigged a voltage tester out of a USB car charger
with an "ON" light and connected the alternator
output to ground through it and determined that the alternator was dead. Very odd.
Two Harbors had some very helpful boat mechanics, but they are remote
are basically not available. We decided that instead of going out to the uninhabited Channel Islands (our original vacation plan) that we should instead head
back to civilization on the California
coast and Harbor hop from Long Beach back down to San Diego
, because we could pull into slips and recharge on shore power
Long story short the boat performed like a champ even with this failure. The start battery seems to have hundreds of starts in it and the Yanmar
30 doesn't seem to use power at all when running. My first experience with a marine diesel
, but its made me a believer. In any case, it didn't drop even a 1/10th of voltage for the rest of the trip even without charging
By day 3 without the alternator, it was clear that our concerns about power were mostly unfounded. We put a bag of ice in a box in the fridge and kept it off, but I was able to use the navigation equipment
and the autopilot
consistently the remainder of the trip. We were drawing 4 to 5 amps underway using the autopilot
, and 2-3 amps in port on cabin lights and phone/ipad rechargers and incidental flushing
, etc. We went about 60 hours this way before plugging into shore power
, and that topped us up for the remainder of our trip.
Pretty stoked about this kind of capacity. I thought it was overkill coming from a 26' sailboat with a single
battery, but it's another form of fault tolerance that saved our vacation.
Also, the good people at South Coast Yachts, where we bought our boat, were fantastic through this. They arranged wharfage for us in Newport
as we were coming across the channel and their tech support guy went back and forth with me troubleshooting for hours texting me pictures of everything and providing expert assistance in figuring out exactly what was wrong. While I couldn't fix it, knowing exactly what was wrong was a big relief and allowed me to make the decision to continue our vacation safely.
experience has been very different compared to what FDM unfortunately had to report about his. It might be worth traveling to make a purchase
this big from people who know what they're doing, provide great value, and stick with you after the purchase