Sunday 25th August 2013 - Dithering in Denarau

Jon & Carol Dutton
Sun 25 Aug 2013 03:41
Sunday 25th August 2013 – Dithering in Denarau

We’ve been in Port Denarau for 9 days now and things are progressing slowly.  Oddly enough, we’ve encountered one or two obstacles.  The reason for coming to Port Denarau was because Baobab Marine (Super Yacht Services – Refit, Repair and Maintenance, blah, blah) were there.  A quick call to the boss of the organisation in Vuda Point had established that it made no difference whether we went to Vuda Point or Port Denarau – both provided the same comprehensive level of support.  Moreover, they are agents for Raymarine, Spectra Watermakers, various makes of auxiliary generator and so on.  So, no problem in sorting out our Raymarine VHF radio reception, the auxiliary generator, the engine-driven domestic battery alternator or our Spectra Watermaker.  Bingo!  Or not.  We cannot vouch for the equivalence of support between the two locations but can say that that provided at Port Denarau falls well short of being comprehensive. 

The auxiliary generator still appears to be producing a charge at a lower voltage than it ought to its internal battery.  Baobab don’t rewind these things and so we’ll have to live with it.  We did discover that the generator engine mounts were pretty well shot so we await the delivery of replacements from Holland before re-fitting the generator into the boat.

We were pretty sure that we knew that the cause of the random reception on the VHF radio was caused by a duff antenna splitter in the brand new Garmin 600 active AIS transceiver.  But we needed a VHF engineer to pop along with a standing wave ratio (SWR) meter to do a few minutes’ worth of tests to rule everything else out and establish that if we re-inserted the old Raymarine 250 passive AIS all would be well.  It is unclear how anyone claiming to be able to support Raymarine VHF radios on yachts can hope to do so without such a meter.  However, nobody in Port Denarau possesses one and it took quite a lot of determined digging to discover Tecair in Lautoka (perhaps an hour away by road) who did possess one and on turning up seemed to know what they were talking about.  They confirmed our original diagnosis.  Thank you, Mr Garmin, we will be returning your quality marine product anon and well before its warranty runs out.  Not much of a consolation but some at least.

On arrival in Port Denarau it took no time at all to establish that when Baobab Marine said they were agents for Spectra Watermakers they meant that the could sell you as many filters as you liked but hadn’t got the first idea how to diagnose or fix problems with them.  This was something of a surprise to Spectra’s Technical Support in California, when Jon spoke to them, but there you go.  However, Baobab did recommend a chap (Neil Towner - 7743126) who was out of the country until mid-week but who knew what he was on about.  Once he had arrived he rapidly diagnosed the problem (another bl**dy PCB, naturally) and following a confirmatory consultation with our original suppliers we now have a £400 or so replacement on its way from California.  The only issue with Neil (lovely chap, by the way) is that he is not officially permitted to do work on yachts in the marina – not having recently paid the reputedly appreciable amount for the privilege of so doing.  However, there appeared to be nobody else capable of doing the work, so, there seemed to be little option but to sneak him in.  Since the only route to the security gate leading to our berth passes directly outside the ground floor plate glass window by the marina office manager’s desk – and said official had made Neil’s PNG status quite clear to Jon – that part of the exercise much resembled somewhat earlier sneakings past the house master’s study whilst breaking out from school.  And, indeed, similar manoeuvres in the early 70’s at the, then, all-male St John’s Cambridge, aimed at infiltrating one’s girlfriend into college, bypassing the need to sign her in at the porters’ lodge; failure here necessitated signing her out again at an hour inconveniently in advance of dawn.

Baobab Marine were unable to help with the burnt-out main engine 24V domestic battery alternator beyond confirming that is was, indeed, burnt out.  They do not re-wind these things and have no recommendations as to who might in these parts.  They were also unable to source a replacement but knew someone who might.  This proved a fruitless distraction which delayed the placing of an order for a direct replacement with Golden Arrow in Southampton.  The recommended chap did indeed have some attractive suggestions which revolved around having one shipped in from Australia (moreover it could be a 110A alternator as opposed to the original 70A one and our domestic battery maximum charge acceptance rate is 110A).  It would cost less and be here in a couple of days.  He confirmed that he was talking about a marine alternator.  However, once he’d triumphantly announced that he’d tracked one down, it was clear from the specifications that it was a truck alternator.  Despite his assurances that he’d fitted these to very many boats, we were not tempted.  Nigel Calder’s excellent ‘Boatowner’s (sic) Mechanical and Electrical Manual’ makes it quite clear what the differences are in terms of workload and electrical robustness of construction.  Caveat emptor.  Unfortunately Golden Arrow was not able to recommend any alternator except the precise model fitted at build (notwithstanding the fact that there is no reason why a rather larger capacity one should not be fitted) and so that is what is now on its way from the UK.  Fingers crossed that it actually fits.  Last time we played this game the replacement arrived and didn’t fit – they’d changed the style of engine mount but the configuration management and documentation of the engine manufacturers was not up to scratch.

Given the very attractive prices of large capacity solar panels here we did toy with the idea of having a couple mounted on a gantry at the stern – above the bimini.  Certainly the installation costs and those of fabricating the stainless steel gantry would be much cheaper here than in NZ.  Once again, having received assurances from the suppliers of these panels that they were eminently suitable for marine use and absolutely everyone fitted them hereabouts, a quick call to the manufacturers in Germany established that they were not constructed for such use and their warranty would be invalid in those circumstances.  So, we will have to wait until we get back to NZ before we can free ourselves of the tyranny of a battery charging regime reliant upon diesel generators and alternators.

So, it’s been a week of some progress at least.  With luck, this week will see the arrival of some of the bits and pieces being shipped from various parts of the world and we can get a bit closer to returning to doing what we came to do.