Join Date: Aug 2014
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Am I an SOB?
We are currently cruising in some very remote places with a small, informal 'fleet' of similar boats. One boat, on their way to join our fleet, was struck by lightning at 0500 four days ago. Their engine died and could not be restarted, their genset wouldn't charge, all of their instruments were dead but their cell phone, handheld VHF and their computer still worked. The wind had died to calm and a strong current was carrying them away from where we were anchored. We pulled up our anchor and went to give them any help we could, even tow them if that was required. However, when we arrived on the scene, the wind had picked up and they were able to make it to the anchorage under sail. Another boat used their dinghy as a yaw boat to get them to a good spot to drop their anchor. They were not hurt but they were exhausted and emotionally drained - they needed rest so we suggest they not try to fix anything right then but rather take the rest of the day off, sleep, get a good meal (one of the other cruisers in our fleet brought over to them a large dish of hot pasta and sauce) and we'd help them evaluate everything the following morning.
A small army of us guys showed up the next morning to try to assess the damage. We were able to get the main engine running but neither alternator (the main engine has two alternators) would charge. We also worked on getting the instruments working but to no avail - even though all the masthead components appeared to not have been damaged. We spent most of the day working on it but didn't really make much progress.
The following day, the boat owner told us of a new spare alternator that he had. I went over, picked up both alternators and took them back to my boat, where I was able to take the pulley off the old alternator (I also had to take the pulley off the new alternator as the one that was on it was incorrect) and put it on the new one. I then returned with the new alternator, the boat owner installed it and I wired it up. It still wouldn't charge - voltage at the battery post but no current coming from the alternator. Now, I'm not much of a marine electrician but I can usually find my way around an alternator. I worked on it for a while but still couldn't get it to charge. Their solar panels were still working, though.
In the mean time, the boat owner was becoming increasingly concerned that his batteries were going dead and he still had to traverse about 85 miles of reef-strewn waters to the next port. Granted, he did have his computer with good charts and plenty of Google Earth shots to get them there safely but he had no depth sounder.
I had worked on his boat for almost three days and I didn't feel like I was responsible to guide him into the next port. We had plans to head off in a different direction and wished them the best of luck. Some of the other boats in our 'fleet' apparently did feel responsible and changed their plans so they could act as guide boats.
Was I cold-hearted? My wife and I talked about it amongst ourselves and decided that if we had been the ones who had been hit, we wouldn't have expected anyone to change their plans for us. After all, their boat wasn't disabled, just many of their systems weren't working. Granted, some of those systems were important but they had a reasonable level of sophistication that should have allowed them to navigate to almost anywhere in the world.
What would have you done?