Swing Set

Feb 22, 201308:00 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

We Emerge Victorious, For Now

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The wind and rain has let up finally. Three days ago, we pulled up anchor and tried to get into Dolphin Marina to get our water tanks topped off. I quit using the water maker because, without the port wind generator working, the power drain was too much on our house bank of batteries.

Toward the largely unmarked northern end of the channel leading to the narrow secondary channel into the marina (which is marked) we began to stir up sand, so we turned around and got away unscathed, and decided to learn more about entering Dolphin Marina before we make another attempt. We also didn't go at high tide, which would have helped.

If you read the comments on our previous posts, you already know that we cruised over to Little Palm Island to get water. Active Captain indicates there is a marina there, with fuel, but this is not so. I did figure they had water, and perhaps we could buy some. I rarely call ahead to a marina or a dock if the approach is obvious and it's not too crowded, so our approach to Little Palm Island Transient dock was no exception. Two guys from a large yacht already docked there came off their boat and gave us a hand in securing lines. By the time I stepped off of Swing Set, an employee was walking down the dock to meet us.

I asked about getting our water tank filled up, and he said he had to get on the radio and ask his boss. My optimism in regard to us getting our water sank. I had told him we could probably use about 100 gallons and offered to pay whatever the going rate was for it, but I'm not sure if he relayed to his boss the fact that we were willing to pay. All I heard on the radio was, "Give them 10 or 20 gallons, but not no 100 gallons. We got a boat comin' in here soon, and they are in the way."

Some water was better than none, and I also knew there was nothing to measure how much water was going in, so we stuck the hose in and started filling 'er up. After a few minutes, the harbormaster came down to the dock with a sour look on his face. He took exception to the fact that we had tied up to his dock without asking first. He asked if it was our habit to tie up to a dock without permission. I explained to him that I initially believed we were approaching a dock that had fuel, and no, we had never encountered an issue with tying up to a dock without permission. (OK, just that one time in Marco Island, but this guy didn't have to know it.)

By the time we got done chatting, he softened up somewhat but reminded us to call ahead next time, and as he walked away, he grumbled something about "give it no more than ten minutes, and that's it." Our tank was full in seven minutes, thank you very much. While I waited, I talked to the captain of their shuttle vessel about how to approach Dolphin Marina and got the scoop on that for next time. We tipped the dock attendant and went on our merry way.

The day was overcast, and we made our way back over to our anchorage, but decided to get closer to Picnic Island as the weather was due to change and we wanted to be closer to allow us to engage in the social activities that the small island promised. By this time we had been in Newfound Harbor for four days, and we were anxious to get off of the boat and visit humanity.

The Looe Key Resort and Dive Center is nearby on Ramrod Key. Its website advertised a tiki bar with Tuesdays being "Taco Tuesday." We also got a tip from one of our blog readers about this place, so even though rain was threatening, we dropped the dinghy in the water at about 5 p.m. and motored over to the resort to get some 75-cent tacos.

We found a nifty spot to park the dinghy, and the parking lot reflected a full house. The "tiki hut" is enormous, and it was packed. We walked in and took the one empty chair at the bar, but a young couple was there and the guy offered his chair so we could both sit, but I declined. Nicolas and Olivia turned out to be very nice locals, and we struck up a conversation with them that lasted into the evening. Nicolas used to be a Merchant Marine who now runs a small dive operation over on Big Pine. We had a lot in common; he is an amature beer brewer and has an appreciation for German motorcycles and American cars. It also turns out that he went to school with Steve, the mechanic that worked on our engines in Key West.

We had a great time at the tiki bar. Holly didn't bite anyone, and she did her part to get us introduced to a few people that came up to meet her. We finally weaved our way back to Swing Set in the pitch darkness, only running aground once.

With a significant hangover on Wednesday, I decided to attack our port wind generator. I unbolted the port tower and laid the generator down on top of the radar arch. At this point, I didn't want to pull the wires out of the tower and unplug them. I gave some misleading information about Primus Wind Energy in my previous post. Primus didn't purchase Southwest Windpower, but did purchase their Air Line of wind generators. The contact person for our Air-X unit was still in Arizona. "Bo" had told me to check the contacts for the brushes inside the housing to see if they were dirty, or pitted. This was my mission.

That shiny brass post on the right side of the wind generator (which is actually the bottom) is called the yaw assembly. The post is really three separate brass pieces with a non-conducting buffer between them. Behind this post are the contact brushes that connect to the circuit board. The white wires go to the stator and rotor, which are in the front of the unit that I have set aside to the left in the picture. With me so far?

The yaw assembly had some light dirt on it, most likely residue from the brushes, but when I turned the yaw to see the backside, I could see some shallow grooving occurring where the brushes were meeting the yaw. (The wires that come from the generator are attached to the insides of those brass cylinders.) Then, I had a revelation. The wind generators are designed to swivel on the tower to collect the wind, so they must turn around on the post to do so, and would normally wear evenly around that yaw assembly. But a boat is typically at anchor, and the boat itself will turn and face the wind on the anchor line, so that means that the wind generator won't always be spinning around on the tower, but will most likely always be facing towards the bow of the boat. This will make the brushes contacting the yaw in the same spot, most of the time anyway.

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