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Old 05-04-2013, 01:17 PM   #1
CaptTom's Avatar
City: Southern Maine
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Cygnus
Vessel Model: Prairie 36 Coastal Cruiser
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 1,024
The Adventures of Flathead

My boat came to me through a number of previous owners. Some have been very meticulous and given her great care over the years. But let's just say that not all have had the full compliment of skills needed to maintain a boat.

One, in particular, has left his (or her, but I'll use the male pronoun for simplicity) mark in some very distinctive ways.

One by one, I've come across the various Easter eggs he left for me to find; stupid little half-assed repairs that were done all wrong.

After a while I began to notice the hallmark of his handiwork: everywhere he had to replace a screw, it was replaced with a flat-head screw, not a Phillips head. Usually the wrong size, often made of aluminum or carbon steel where it should have been stainless, and never properly bedded if exposed to the weather.

So I have a name for this anonymous PO. I call him "Flathead".

I could write a book about The Adventures of Flathead. Here's the latest chapter:

The boat was almost completely re-wired in late 1999 and into 2000. And a great job, too. State-of-the-art electronics at each helm, proper gauge wires, neatly arranged everywhere. waterproof boxes under the upper helm station just in case, 2000W inverter/charger with remote display. Great stuff.

But they added one thing I didn't understand for a twin-engine boat. A battery combiner. This makes great sense on a single engine with two battery banks. The banks stay isolated until the charging voltage from the alternator on the main hits a certain point, then they're combined to allow both banks to charge.

But on twins??

I finally figured it out. The generator starting battery is combined with the starting bank when the stb engine is charging.

Or was until Flathead came along. For a number of reasons stemming from a total lack of understanding about battery management, Flathead killed both banks. Before that, each bank had consisted of one large 8D battery. When I bought the boat, the starting bank had been replaced by two 1000 CCA starting batteries, which were dead, and the old 8D house bank which only had a little life left in it.

It wasn't until I REALLY looked at the combiner that I figured out what was going on. After killing the starting bank, and probably using the jumper cables I found in the engine room to start the stb engine, Flathead had an idea. Why not re-wire the combiner so that it's ALWAYS combined? Sort of like a permanent jumper cable. Voila! The stb engine starts now.

Of course, it also killed all THREE batteries (two starting batteries on the main and one on the gen set) since these were switched in to supply power to house systems even though they aren't charged by the inverter.

How do I know it was Flathead making these brilliant decisions? As usual, he left his calling card. The post where the starting battery cable was supposed to be connected to the combiner had some washers on it, instead. This way it would still look symmetrical, and unless you traced all the wires you wouldn't notice the combiner was doing nothing and the post was unused.

Those washers were rusting. They were made of carbon steel, not stainless like they should be. The work of Flathead, for sure.

The washers went in the trash and the cable was properly re-terminated where it belongs. I installed a new house bank consisting of 4, 6V, 230AH golf cart batteries. I disconnected the house loads from the starting bank and charged up both it and the (now isolated) genset battery. We'll see how the three starting batteries hold up over the season, but I think I'm on the right path now, anyway.

Watch for future installments of The Adventures of Flathead. I got a million of 'em!

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Old 05-04-2013, 03:27 PM   #2
alormaria's Avatar
City: Trenton
Country: USA
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 673
I too have found some bone headed construction techniques that are just appalling. They were not done by the previous owner but the original boatyard in Taiwan. Then I remember that the boat is 35 years old and whatever kludge I'm looking at has lasted those 35 years too. I hope my modifications last as long.

Al Johnson
34' Marine Trader
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Old 05-05-2013, 11:42 PM   #3
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Andy G's Avatar
City: Pittwater
Country: Australia
Vessel Name: Sarawana
Vessel Model: IG 36 Quad Cabin
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 1,407
On my previous boat, a CHB 34(Clipper in our parts), the PO had an issue with rotten supports under the forward cabin, rather than replace the beams he boxed off the area and used foam from an aerosol can that sets hard,can't remember its name.

Who needs wooden cross beams when you can buy a can of foam?
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