Electronics Armageddon!

Its been a long time since my last post. Don’t fret, I have a few posts coming. Some with pics, some with technical stuff, some just bullshitting.. Hopefully something for everyone.

However, this post, is more of a rant for me. Its often said that cruising is a series of “super highs” and “super lows”.  I generally agree with that statement. Its actually the reason why many people don’t make it past the 1 year mark. Sure the super highs are nice, but there is a point where you are tired of taking it in the gonads every second day. It can be hard, but you just have to “suck it up” and know that eventually those “highs” will return.

Alright so back to the saga on Party of Five these last few weeks. Major mechanical items on the boat have been working well enough that we decided to take on some “cosmetic jobs”. Interior stuff like painting, woodwork, doors that actually close and new windows. As you can imagine, those jobs take tools, power tools. Well in the course of starting those jobs, pretty much %100 of my power tools died (tools I had bought brand new in Key West 3 years ago). I spent valuable days taking things apart and determining what I could repair, and what I couldn’t. After tearing everything down, I was only able to save about 1/2 the tools (the Mastercraft angle grinder gearbox was seized so bad that nothing I tried could free it. Eventually, I just plugged it in and danced gleefully, while laughing manically as the stator burned up trying to rotate. It sure made some stinky smoke. In fact, all the “mains” 110V tools didn’t survive and I was left with just my Ryobi battery operated tools. That’s “OK”, I thought, it will just be slower as I wait for things to charge.

Well, battery charger #1 died within the first day. That was quickly followed by battery charger #2 like 2 hours later. I did my damndest to try and repair them, but they were well beyond fixing (no magic smoke left). Both of those were the high speed 30 minute chargers and I was now left with the slow 8 hour charger. Sigh, no way I could finish my jobs with that so I proceeded to borrow a charger (thanks Valhalla). That was fine until we needed to head to St. Lucia and I had to give that charger back. Once arriving in St. Lucia I quickly got on the net and asked to borrow a charger. Again, an awesome cruiser stepped up and lent me a 12V and 110V 30 minute versions of the chargers.  Sigh, after reading that last sentence you might have had some foreshadowing. Yup, both those chargers failed while in my care. The worst part, I kept throwing things out in anger as the failures occurred. Broken chargers that had good parts I could have used to fix other broken chargers. SONOFABITCH.. Anyway, after an exhaustive search with some super helpful locals I found some new parts to repair the loaner chargers. Thankfully they only needed new capacitors to chooch again (as my Chinese friend Nathan would say Belgium Campancitors).

Now with the chargers repaired, I was able to finish my jobs. The newly painted interior and repaired doors were helping me get back to one of those highs. Nope apparently my gonads were not bruised enough and the boat gods needed more. Shortly after completing the painting, our trusty Italian built battery charger decided it no longer wanted to charge our nice new LiFePO4 battery bank (yes, the 2 boat buck item I mentioned in a previous post). Queue a huge job to just get the goddamn thing out so I could take it apart. Unfortunately there are no “shit stains” and it appears to operate correctly but just immediately goes to float and puts no current into the batteries. I spent 6 hours probing, checking, reflowing to no avail. The damn thing is a complex power factor corrected design with multiple switching steps. At one point it steps up the input voltage to 400V DC before then stepping it back down to the appropriate charging voltage (a little intimidating sticking pokey bits in there). There is voltage everywhere and I just can’t see anything failed. Sigh, I know it can be repaired, but the problem is beyond “a dude with a multimeter bouncing around in boat wakes”.

Sometimes you just have to laugh and look at the irony of the situation. That charger was bought by the original owner of our boat upon completing the ARC in 2006. He bought it right here in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. So it was taken from here then back to Italy, then back across the Atlantic to Cuba, over to Mexico, up to the USA, then back down the chain, surviving a lightening strike. Then only to die in the exact location it was purchased. All that and 12 years of service.. I’m going to miss you old friend. Lets hope you are the last gonad kick I will receive as that one really hurt!

P.S. Yes I know what some of you are thinking. How can there be so many failures, they have to be related in some way. I wished they were as at least I could fix the problem. Unfortunately they are not related (dissimilar systems, connected to different things). Sigh, just the sacrifices required by the boat gods.

The sad carcass of a once proud stallion discarded in the rain. Notice what is missing. Yup, all the electronical guts are tucked safely away in a hold. See, even old fellas can learn from their mistakes (even if it takes 5 times).


Ha.. The original purchase receipt (they call it a ticket down here) from December of 2006. “Priska Vera” had just completed the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) with her original owner and family. I have blacked out the name, but this piece of paper led me to that person on Facebook. Although he has very limited English, he was delighted to get pictures of his old boat.


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