An important lesson learnt today – when a local electrician comes to help with something on the boat, say no... Ok, so obviously that can’t be a blanket statement and of course when we ask about getting shore power at the marina and a local electrician is sent, there’s an element of trust. Big mistake in this case.
Our boat, being a US boat, runs on 110 volt power when plugged in to a marina and also has an inverter that charges the batteries with the shore power rather than having to run the engine which is a noisy, smelly experience and also uses up diesel. This gives us the power for everything at sea from the water pressure and water heater to more important things such as the auto helm, chart plotter and GPS. We only had a shore power cable for US 110 volts but Samoa is 240 volts, so the electrician was going to wire us into the shore power so we could charge our batteries without having to run the engine – an acceptable solution and not uncommon. We possibly should have been alerted when the electrician zapped himself, but unfortunately we weren’t and when he said he was done our switchboard lights were flashing red and the ‘reverse polarity’ light was on. Was he sure he had done it right? Because by the looks of that we thought he had wired it up incorrectly. He didn’t know what those lights meant. Did we want him to do something else? Yes we wanted him to fix it! Did he – the electrician of the group – think that perhaps he had reversed the wires? He said he didn’t know - he doesn’t know anything much about the American system and had no idea which was the live wire. So it seems that he guessed, and guessed wrong... What did we want him to do? We suggested that it would have been a bloody good start to let us know that he didn’t know what he was doing in the first place, and that perhaps he could just disconnect the whole thing??!
It ended up that our inverter was blown which meant that the batteries would not be charged through it when we ran the engine, and our batteries went flat to the point where we couldn’t even start the engine. Not a situation we want in the middle of a passage, needing (and wanting!!) our auto helm, navigation lights and GPS system! By some stroke of luck, however, Stu and Max found a New Zealand electrician who managed to fix the system enough that we can get to Suva where we will have to buy a new inverter. Ah yes, another boat-related cost. Hooray. But I suppose at least we can get to Suva... I think next time we’ll forgo the luxury of shore power and just charge with the engine in the marina!
Quote of the day: What does ‘boat’ stand for? Break Out Another Thousand. How apt...