On our return from Hamford Water to Ipswich, we suddenly detected a change in engine noise. Actually, if I’m honest, Maria had mentioned that when the engine started, and I was on the bow, she thought she may have heard a whine from the engine that she didn’t recognise.
One thing we have learnt on a boat is that any noise you hear that is different to usual needs to be investigated. A pump going off in the night, the high pitched whine of a slightly slipping fan belt or a different tone to the pump for the toilet. All of these need to be checked out or they could be a bigger problem
We were on our way back from a nice weekend away, just approaching Felixstowe when Maria and I both heard a slightly different tone to the engine and a slight whine. I was down below immediately. Opening the engine room doors and there is a bit of heat and a distinctive smell from the fan belt. I call to Maria to reduce revs while I try to understand what is going on. Another check and I can see shiny bolts on the clean engine room floor. Hmmm.
The alternator is fixed to the engine by two bars, one at the top which holds the generator in place and one at 90 degrees at the bottom which provides the adjustment to tighten the fan belt. Initially I look at the bottom bar because of the slipping belt to find that the bolts that push the alternator out are loose and the bolts on the outside have come off the bar. We’re going to need to switch off for a little while so I can adjust that. The top bar also looks wrong….. it is out at one end and there are no bolts on it at all. That is a big issue. If the bar comes out and the alternator drops we could have some real issues. This top bar is the first one that you put on when fitting the alternator and so to adjust it I will need to take off the fan belts, the locator unit and try and locate the side of the alternator correctly to refit the bar. I can’t do that with an engine that has been running for an hour, it is just too hot. I can tighten up the adjustment bar and hopefully this will pin the generator until I can let the engine cool and fix the generator properly.
We’re all tightened up and Maria can restart the engine and we can gently get home with me rechecking the engine every thirty minutes. It’s a nervy trip back to a Ipswich and a little slower than we like but we return safely enough.
After a couple of hours, the engine is cool enough to work on and I can take the alternator off and refit it properly. I have also decided to add extra locking bolts onto the bars too, we’re not having this problem again!