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  #1  
Old 07-25-2014
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What doesn't kill you....

My wife and I had been looking forward all year to our planned 3-4 week cruise SW out of Seward, AK. Our departure was delayed a week waiting on weather to improve but once out we enjoyed awesome scenery and wx for the first week. As we got into the Nuka Bay area (N59 31 W150 35) the forecast was for W to SW winds to 35 knots for the coastal area we were in. Our two crusing guides for the area list Pilot Harbor (N59 34 W150 30) as "the most secure anchorage in Nuka Bay". Hmmm, it has west exposure but a few years of cruising here has taught me that the wx can be completely different only a few miles inland and with the cruising guides liking Pilot Harbor we decided to hole up there for the two days the wind was supposed to blow.

Pilot Harbor is beautiful, the preferred anchorage is between a couple of islets along the north side, mud bottom and we anchoraged in 60-70'. I have a 45 pound Delta with 230' of 5/16 chain. Winds remained from the west 12-15 with the occasional gust to 20ish. The second day (forecast to be the worst day) winds were 15-20 sustained but we were holding well. Early our third day the winds were gustier with puffs to 25 or so. About mid morning I noticed the east islet was closer. Hmmmm. I got the chain for the #2 anchor (25 pound QCR) out of the bilge and rigged shackles so I could use it if needed. Another big gust came along and we drug a bit more. Grrrr. Forecast for that day was SW 35 subsiding in the PM to 25 then SW 15 for the night. We decided to leave Pilot Harbor to do a bit of sightseeing and check Quartz Bay (N59 30 W150 32) which our friends who have cruised this area for 35 years consider a "hurricane hole". If Quartz didn't look good we'd go on around to Surprise Bay (N59 30 W150 29).

As we motored along the winds were gusty and variable in direction, veering as much as 45 degrees at times with gusts into the low 30s. As we crossed from Beauty Bay to Quartz I noticed the volts were showing 15+ (hmmmm). Just a moment later the Admiral reported smelling smoke/something hot. A quick check in the engine compartment indicated a very hot alternator (I could smell hot wood). Decided to anchor in Quartz to sort things out, I was very concerned about fire. About that same time we were hit with a gust to 46knots followed by sustaing 30+ knots of wind from WNW. Admiral stood by with a fire extinguisher until we got into the head of Quartz where we anchored. Winds were very gusty and variable, williwaw like. Anchor was holding but we were not in a good position. Dropped the hook in 80', ended up with visible bottom only 50 yards or so behind the boat, tide was low at the time. Obvious I had an overcharge issue, electrical system is my weakest subject.

Winds picked up and we got some gusts estimated at over 40, one of which caused us to drag. I was worried that continuing running the engine would cause a risk of fire (sailing out of the bay wasn't a choice, I single hand for the most part, these conditions were beyond what I wanted to attempt) but decided we had no choice since we were dragging onto the beach.

We retrieved the Delta and I quickly prepped the QCR for use. The admiral manned the helm as we moved slightly upwind of the original anchoring point (limited in how far we could move due to depth) and first let the QCR go, had the Admiral steer to the right for lateral separation and let go the Delta with all of its chain as we started drifting back That little QCR was taking the entire load. It has about 50' of 1/4 chain with 5/8 rope but it stuck well and held. I eased the QCR rode until strain was being taken by the chain rode of the Delta.

We held. About then a very nice gentlemen in a Folkboat came into the bay and called on the VHF asking if we were okay, he had noticed the "anchoring drill". I explained our predicament and he offered to standby a while which I thanked him for.

We experienced some very strong winds/gusts over the next hour or so. Some gusts probably 50knots or better. Little "dust devils" of spray marching across the bay, wave tops being blown off by the wind, lost my favorite hat...but the anchors held.

I figured out that pulling the field wire "shut off" the alternator which allowed us to run the engine without overheating the alternator or frying batteries. When conditions calmed we moved to Surprise for the night then headed back to Seward over the next two days with absolutely awesome weather and forecast for more good wx to come. Grrrrr

Not so thrilled with my Delta anchor. This is 3 times now that I have dragged. The first set in Quartz may have been on some kelp since a lot came up when we retrieved it. Very impressed with the QCR. Will probably get a Mantus to replace the Delta.

In harbor now waiting on my new Balmar alternator, regulator and Serpentine belt kit to arrive then we're going to get back out there.
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  #2  
Old 07-25-2014
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Re: What doesn't kill you....

Interesting story. Sounds like some nautical conditions to be sure. If I read correctly, and my math is right, you don't have enough rode to anchor in 60-70' of water. For a 5:1 you would need 300-350' and that scope is sort of a minimum for normal conditions at least in my sailing area. For frequent gusts I would have 7:1 or more. The gusts are almost worse than a sustained wind since your boat can actually gain momentum and jerk at the end of the swing rather than a steady pull. What were you using as a snubber?

I believe more rode may have helped your anchor hold. Glad to hear you handled it well and had no major issues.
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Old 07-25-2014
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Re: What doesn't kill you....

You are correct re scope/rode/depth.

I think the shallowest I've been able to anchor in here is 40-50', waters here are deep eith steep bottoms near shore. If I'm able to get 4 to 1 I'm giddy..

Snubber is 5/8 nylon 3 strand with a Mantus hook.

When the gust would ease the boat would surge forward and get a little sideways, next gust would hit us broadside and shove the boat sideways thru the water, I was impressed. It never really jerked up hard on the anchor, perhaps the nylon rode on the QCR was helping with that.
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Old 07-25-2014
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Re: What doesn't kill you....

Dale,
Your story illustrates what I've always said about Alaskan water. "If you don't like sailing in small craft warnings or worse, don't even think about sailing in Alaska." Many a day I have spent on Alaskan waters, on days when, in the lower 48, my insurance company wouldn't insure us if we went out with paying passengers. Not at all a place for the "fair weather sailor" to venture off the dock.
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Old 07-29-2014
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Re: What doesn't kill you....

Thanks for the write up. Sounds scary and hairy, but you got through it and that's what counts!

I agree about your thoughts on getting a larger anchor, better anchor, and/or more rode. FWIW Maine_Sail and I have had really good results on short scope with our Mantus anchors. That might be relevant to your deep water anchoring situation. (I know of what you speak!)

What do you plan to do differently to avoid the alternator/fire issues in the future? Put a kill switch in the field line? Smoke detector? Fuse?

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Old 07-29-2014
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Re: What doesn't kill you....

Quote:
Originally Posted by MedSailor View Post

What do you plan to do differently to avoid the alternator/fire issues in the future? Put a kill switch in the field line? Smoke detector? Fuse?

MedSailor
We are going to install smoke and CO detectors in the boat….had planned that before this happened with the alternator.

I am installing a completely new charging system -- 150amp Balmar, Balmar Regulator and serpentine drive belt. When I removed the alternator I found the ground wire was a bit undersized (IMO) and will have new cables made up for the new installation -- not sure if the cables had anything to do with what happened.

I don't know if the alternator failed or the regulator failed causing the over voltage which is why I'm replacing both of them -- fresh start, I'll know the history on the system now.

I don't plan on putting in any special switches or fuses, I just don't know enough about electrical systems to start making things up on my own.

Good to know about the Mantus performance with short scope.
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Old 07-29-2014
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Re: What doesn't kill you....

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailak View Post

Good to know about the Mantus performance with short scope.
Here's a link to the epic Mantus thread with sub-links to mine and Maine_Sail's reviews. Another "Next Generation" anchor enters the market...

Sounds like you have a solid plan for avoiding the alternator issue in the future.

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Old 07-29-2014
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Re: What doesn't kill you....

This is a picture of the bow of my boat on the day that I first saw her;

That's a 25lb Delta on the bow of an O'day 35.

After I purchased the boat I read in the PO's log several stories of him dragging anchor. The FIRST thing that I did was to give the Delta to a friend with a Sabre 28 (it is too small for that boat too IMHO), and I upgraded to a Rocna 33lb.

Regarding the alternator issue, I would have first switched off all of the circuit breakers, but left the battery switch on, in the hope that something was causing the VR to ask for more juice (doubtful, but worth a try). If that didn't work, as you did, I would pull the field wire. Was it a stock VR / Alternator - or a Balmar or other exotic voltage regulator? I suspect that the VR was causing the issue.
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Old 07-29-2014
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Re: What doesn't kill you....

I've printed the Mantus template and cut it from cardboard to test fit. Eyeball says it won't fit my roller, will know this week.

Alternator was Hehr Powerline 100amp with Balmar ARS5 regulator. I intend to send the regulator back to Balmar for servicing/testing then will carry as a spare.
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Old 07-29-2014
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Re: What doesn't kill you....

Glad you all made it back safely. That sounds like a great trip and we would love to head down there sometime next summer. Hope you get back out soon with the new alternator.

Things do come up quick around here don't they? I was out solo on Saturday in Port Wells in light wind sailing as pretty as you please and within 10 minutes I was in steep wave against the current, 20+ and gusting, and full sails so nearly outta control. Surfed into a cove which turned out to be full of seiners. Oh boy. Drop sails in the most undignified way possible and skip into the next cove.
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