One of the fun things I get to do is work with people who are new to Amels. Sometimes it is their first “big” boat. I have been there, and I know the complexities can seem overwhelming. I try hard to break it down into digestible pieces. Watching new owners fully realize the robust, safe nature of these boats, that frequently sail way better than they might expect, is a pleasure. Frequently, my introduction to new Amel owners comes when they need a Delivery Captain to help them move their boat.
When you are contracted to do a delivery, it is always a crapshoot. You are taking a boat you have no personal knowledge of on a long trip, maybe over a thousand miles. Sometimes things go very well, sometimes they can go very badly. Every delivery skipper has horror stories about the boat that wasn’t ready, and/or the owner who was a jerk. This delivery was neither of these. The owners were delightful people. The boat wasn’t perfect (none ever are) but well within the range of control of the people involved. It was as good as can be expected.
With “typical” weather, a trip from Panama to Corpus Christi, Texas should take about 14 days. We finished this one in 10. If I was to sit down and write a weather forecast that was as perfect for this trip as possible, what we experienced was quite close to that. The only drama was around the charging of the batteries.
Everything was nominal–until we were about 30 hours away from Corpus Christi. At that point the belt that drives the 24 Volt alternator on the main drive engine had a “spontaneous disassembly event”. Not a big deal, we have spare belts. The owner digs them up from his parts bin, and says, “It’s one of these.” Except it is not. A bit of checking, and it turns out he did a very reasonable thing: He asked a parts supplier for all of the belts used on this model of Volvo engine. He didn’t realize that the 24 Volt alternator was an add-on by Amel, and doesn’t show up on any of the Volvo parts lists. Oh well, this isn’t a huge problem, we can still charge the batteries with the generator–as we have for the past 9 days.
HA! King Neptune decided to have a bit of fun at our expense, and sent his boat gremlins our way. The next morning, we started the generator (which is brand new, and has less than 10 hours on it) starts, and runs for a few seconds, and then shuts down. Another try, and the same thing. A bit of diagnosis, and the issue is clear. The brand new generator has a problem with its speed control. If the speed is not within fairly narrow parameters, the controller shuts the engine down. This is a problem with a solution beyond the means of a boat out on the ocean, so we switch to “low power mode” for the boat, shutting down everything not essential for navigation. With only a day’s sailing left, it doesn’t really matter if the food in the freezer thaws. The instrumentation suggests that we have enough residual energy in the batteries to get to our destination, and we do. We even have enough battery juice to use the bow thruster to get into the slip.
In some ways, we were lucky. If this had happened at the halfway point of the trip, we would have had a much more complicated situation. As it is, the owner has a warrantee claim with the generator manufacturer.
I am now back on Harmonie in Martinique. In a few days, we will be untying dock lines here, and sailing north. Our exact itinerary is still being worked on. Stay tuned.