I’ve bought a boat! (and broken it)….

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So, I’ve bought a boat! I found a Halcyon 23 in Plymouth that was advertised on BoatsAndOutboards.com. It’s a 37 year old GRP boat, with an old Yanmar 1 GM 7HP diesel in it. It also has a Tohatsu 5hp outboard for back up. I has 4 births, a sea toilet, a grill/hob, a sink with pumped cold water and mast and sails.

I spend three days in Plymouth with the boat. On Thursday 27th of October I met with Dennis the owner. He’s a really nice bloke and I liked him immediately. We went out for a sail together in Plymouth Sound before I bought her. It was a bit breezy out, maybe a force 4 to 5, and we had a couple of turns on the roller main reefing, and another couple of turns on the genoa. We had a fun sail in the breeze and wind chop and swell.

My initial feeling was that the boat was sound and in good order, although a couple of times we struggled to tack. We were towing a dingy and the transom mounted outboard was down and dragging. There seems to be quite a bit of weed on the bottom too, which probably wasn’t helping. Halcyon’s have a weird triple keel set up. Here’s Floresca’s keels some time ago;


Here’s the starboard bilge plate as it is now, submerged and weedy…

Dirty Keels...
Mucky bottom…

Boat’s can be stubborn sometimes though. My first boat, a plywood 20ft ketch with a scaffold poll mizzen mast, was impossible to tack through the wind initially. However, a bit of experimentation and learning the boat’s feel got me to a point where I could tack it out of Porthleven harbour with no engine on. So, I’m trusting that I will learn this yacht’s foibles and overcome them in the same way.

Anyway, after a nice sail, and a good chat (Dennis and I have some history in common) I bought the boat.

The Boat Piskies 

Piskies are a part of Cornish folklore. They are said to be mischievous but ultimately helpful. I spent the late afternoon and evening buying provisions for the boat, and toing and froing in the dingy brining stuff from shore to the boat, and settled down to a cosy evening with a lovely meal of kippered mackerel and salad washed down with some Thatcher’s Haze. All was well with the world in my cozy boat…

I had a pretty good night’s sleep and awoke about 8am. I had breakfast and other morning necessities while I pondered how best to spend my Friday; go sailing or see if I can get some weed off the bottom? There really wasn’t much wind, and it was an hour before high tides, so I thought maybe I could get aground and scrub for a while.

So I turned on the engine inlet seacock, put the key in the ignition and turned. Whistle… click. Nothing. Engine wouldn’t turn over. The battery was flat. Damn! “The day needn’t be wasted though”, I thought. The boat is registered with Sea Start. I gave them a ring, thinking I must have discharged the engine battery over night and probably just needed a jump start. The engineer arrived really quickly, came out and gave it a jump start and it went.

However, he had concerns over the alternator and charging circuits. The Yanmar charging buzzer and lights didn’t go out, and he was confused by the wiring on the alternator. He found a connection that was hanging loose from the back of the alternator and thought that the alternator had probably not been charging the battery for a while, and that the rectifier on the alternator had probably fried. Reconnecting the loose wiring caused the engine to labour and the revs to drop. He didn’t think the battery was charging though.

So, off I went to get a new alternator. Dennis the previous owner felt awful, and was really helpful all day, messaging me to see how things were going and paying for the replacement alternator. He’s a genuinely nice guy.

The Starter Motor and Alternator Company in Exeter St, Plymouth was an amazing place. Full of stuff. Well, of starter motors and alternators anyway…

The chap had a replacement, but needed to make a couple of changes to the connectors for me so I had an hour to wait before picking up the alternator.

Old (top) and New (bottom).

I popped over the Queen Anne’s Battery and bought some charts from a lovely lady in Sea Chest. By mid afternoon I was back at the boat with the new alternator. However, there was a problem. It would seem that the ‘lug’ connector on the old alternator (bottom left terminal withe the red wire connected on the new alternator) had been connected to a negative, and the ‘phase’ terminal (top of both alternators as shown in the photo above) had been connected to a positive feed. Weird. How had that been working? Had it ever been working? Who knows!

I rang Gary at Starters and Alternators to make sure that the BATT terminal should have a live on it, and used a multi meter to make sure that all the cables were what their colour indicated, i.e. red – live, black – neutral and they were. So I can only assume that this has always been wired wrongly. The upshot of this was that I needed another trip into town, at rush hour, to go to Halfords for a wire stripping an crimping tool and some crimps so that I could put lugs on the positive wires and a spade connector on the neutral.

Finally I got all the wiring sorted and the alternator re-connected. However, the main engine battery was dead, so I took the terminals off that battery and put them on the leisure batter and the engine started. I think the battery was charging too although the Yanmar panel red light was still on, and the engine charge warning buzzer. I left it all running for about 20 mins and then the engine died. IDIOT. I’d forgotten to open the diesel tap, so the engine needed diesel bleeding through! A really nice chap on the boat behind mine came over and helped me bleed it through, however my leisure battery is too dead to turn it over quick enough to get it running.

And that’s where I was on Friday evening. No sailing, but learning lots about my inboard engine.

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