Unsettling developments

First of All –

  • First car ferry encountered
  • First whitecaps while cruising on a river
  • First serious equipment concern
  • First miles cruised on the Mississippi

Namely Speaking-

  • Florence
  • Kampsville Hollow
  • Dark Chute
  • Hurricane Island

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 64; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 504
  • Hours Underway: 11
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.10
  • Wind Speed: up to 15mph; Wind Direction: S
  • Daily High Temperature: 82
  • Water Temperature: 80

DSCF7795DSCF7797We rise at dawn, looking forward to the promised break in hot weather. The cockpit is dripping with dew, and dozens of mayflies are plastered to the deck. I pick one up and give it a toss. Surprisingly, it flies off. I proceed to remove as many as I can find, and also toss overboard the little green frog who has crawled onto the boat. Before we raise anchor, I check the house battery and am surprised at how low it is. I start the engine, expecting to see the voltage rise, but get no such result. Both the house batteries and the ignition battery are low, and I’m not certain if it’s a problem with the engine’s charging system, or simply a bogus reading from my aging digital voltmeter. We must get underway, though, and I’ll learn what I can in the course of the day.DSCF7802

We’re planning on stopping at Illinois Riverdock Restaurant, which gets rave reviews in my Waterways Guide. Along the way, however, the skies darken, and by the time we reach Hurricane Island, we’re hit with a deluge. With the mast down, I can only open the bimini part way. The mast support crutch prevents a full opening. Consequently, the driving rain slants in and soaks me thoroughly. Nothing to do but motor on, through the rain. Periodically I check the voltmeter. The readings are consistently low, but occasionally the ignition battery reading jumps up to a charging level. This doesn’t last however, and soon it falls back to the level of the house batteries. During a brief sun break I check once again, and see both batteries receiving charge, so long as the sun shines. Unfortunately, the sun break is brief, and the rains soon return. At around 2:30pm we dock at the Riverdock Restaurant dock, in a steady rain. I walk up to DSCF7800the restaurant to let them know I’m at their dock. I find the windows boarded up, and the char of smoke above a locked door. A sign says “Restaurant closed”. Our plans for a nice dinner are on hold. On the way back to the boat I talk with a guy who says the place burned on June 6, and it will be another month before they can reopen. I climb back onto the boat, still hoping that the problem is with the meter and not the charging system. I get out my low tech battery tester (the kind with the squeeze bulb) and I check a couple cells in one of the house batteries. They all read very low, confirming the reading on the digital voltmeter. Now I’m certain the problem is with the charging system. I give my boat dealer Todd at Blue Water Yachts a call, and discuss the problem with him. He concurs that the problem is most likely with the charging system, and agrees with my plan to make a 24 mile run down to the MississippiDSCF7813 and upriver to St. Charles, where there are marinas with repair capabilities. I have an engine manual, and with Todd’s input over the phone, we figure the mechanic can solve the problem. Todd assures me he can get any needed parts shipped very quickly. I next call Polestar Marina and confirm that they have repair expertise on hand, although it might take a day or two for the mechanic to get to our boat. I run down the final miles of the Illinois River and make the turn up the Mississippi. We only have to go 4 miles up the Mississippi, but the great river’s strong current slows us considerable. We finally tie up at the Polestar Marina guest dock a little after 7pm. I plug in to shore power, and the ignition battery reading quickly climbs back to the normal range. The house battery begins its recovery as well, although it rises at a slower rate. This is to be expected, and I now know that both the shore power charger and digital voltmeter are working properly. The finger points squarely at the engine’s charging system. Hopefully, with Todd’s help, we can quickly identify the source of the trouble and get necessary repairs expeditiously completed.

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2 thoughts on “Unsettling developments

  1. Hopefully the problem will not be the motor alternator, but something simpler. We are enjoying your trip report. If all goes well, 12 months from now, we will be on the Mississippi.

  2. I hope you can quickly resolve your charging system problems. That can be perplexing. I am enjoying your account of the trip. This weekend my friends and I will purchase a 26s in which we hope to duplicate your trip this time next year. You are an inspiration. You have our gratitude for the effort you have made to document your trip.

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