[/quote] Also...my pre-trip counsel was to take more time to prep the boat which to my mind meant some shake down cruises as well as time at the dock to install and fix stuff. Do you think a short coastal cruise would have revealed some of the problems? What did you DO about the fridge and the alternator...since you don't mention any stops?[/quote]
Actually the only thing that we would have discovered in a pre-trip sail would have been the auto pilot that wasn't tracking properly. In reality, we left San Diego and had to turn back after two miles because the autopilot was all over the place. It turned out to be a badly located fluxgate but we elected to not only reposition but replace so I'm probably the only vessel who carries a spare fluxgate in the spares locker
The fridge? Well I've never been one to trust a fridge so when we put our supplies on board we never banked on having a fridge and thus never really missed it. Cold beer was probably the biggest loss. Interestingly, our fresh veggies lasted for nearly two weeks by being carefully placed in the coolest, darkest lockers in the boat.
The alternators were wired up in an interesting way which is probably what made the failures not too bad. The house bank is four 6v Trojans wired into two banks then brought to the 1-ALL-2 switch with one pair wired to 1 and the other wired to 2. This whole shooting match was charged by the 110amp alt. Then there is the starter battery and the windlass battery which are in their common circuit, totally independant of the aforeging system and these are charged by the other 85amp alt.
It was the smaller alt (fitted to the Yanmar) that went first so it manifested its failure in our inability to start the engine. Unfortunately we only discovered this when the house bank had gone down to a level too low to start the engine as well. On the up side, this all happened at a point where we were required to spend only two days without basic electrics, still able to run a tricolour but no autopilot and no other lights or luxuries.
When we checked into the Marquesas, we made work of connecting all the battery banks to the 110A alt and the whole system got charged so no problem. The next failure was on the last leg between Rarotonga and NZ when we had two knock-downs (more about this later) and we ended up with a bucket-full of salt water into the back of the 110A alt and the next time we started the engine the alt wasn't charging.
The bad news was actually two days later when we started the engine again to make a final dash for NZ and the alt was suddenly charging again but the regualtor had failed and the output was a constant 95 amps at 18.5 volts.
So here was a problem. We knew we had insufficient battery power left to start the engine again, we also knew we wanted very badly to cover the next 90 miles and had a 35 knot wind on the nose and we also knew that the alt was over-charging. Some choice.
We decided to run the engine for a few hours hoping it would charge the whole bank up some and then the plan was to stop the engine and remove the drive belt on the alt to stop it cooking the batteries. We waited too long. By 22:00 all the globes in the nav lights popped and the autopilot was playing tunes. At 3:00am that morning the battery bank had had enough - two of the Trojans exploded and covered the whole world in battery acid!! We spent the next 3 hours and most of our fresh water washing down the engine box and everything that may have been contaminated
Anyway, it ended OK, we managed to clean up the mess, restart the engine without the alt belt on and we ran almost all the way to Tauranga where the engine finally died. We sailed the last 10 miles to a rendesvous with the NZ Coast Guard 5 miles off the harbour mouth and they towed us into the marina (the harbour officials didn't want us sailing through their "busy harbour").
So Cam, to answer your question in short form - no I don't believe any of the problems would have shown up on a short cruise, the first of them was already several hundred miles from San Diego. I actually think that we did really well with failures on a boat new to us and I actually expected more.
The most alarming thing I reckon that we learned was how dependant the modern sailing vessel is on electricity. When we found ourselves with no power generating capacity we said "Oh, that's OK, this is a sailing boat, we'll be OK". Yes, but the GPS was going to go flat and there was a whole lot of cloud forecast so the sextant would be of little help. And the radios went down but, no problem, we had an Iridium phone on board. But the batteries could no longer be charged. Even down to cooking our meals became a problem because the gas controllers for the stove relied upon an electric solenoid valve to allow gas through.
The last 100 miles we sailed a dark ship (no nav lights) but we did advise NZ Maritime Radio who advised shipping in the area to keep a proper watch for us and of course we stepped up on our own vigilence to make sure no shipping crossed close to us. But no power is clearly no joke. We're putting a lot of thought into the rebuild of our electrics which is happening at the moment.