Fish Tales – Yankee Ingenuity

No good fish tale is without peril, and this is a good tale. We were retrieving our crab pots across the channel from Ketchikan. There was a gale bearing down with those terrible words coming from the Coast Guard on marine radio “Small Craft Advisory, repeat Small Craft Advisory”.

Repairing an alternator belt on the Amber Dawn
No problem. Just get our pots and scoot back to harbor. A couple of hours tops! It is a beautiful Ketchikan day in advance of the storm. Beautiful for Ketchikan, which as any local knows means pouring rain. It had been pouring all week, more rain than I had seen in a long time. The rain had not stopped the fishing and we had done quite well. It had been a trouble free fishing trip, ’til now.

This is when our alternator belt broke.

We were in trouble.

Well, maybe not that much trouble. We were in a nice safe anchorage and the worst probable fate was that we would be anchored ten miles from civilization eating crab for two days… In the rain.

Dan, as always was prepared for anything and had spare belts on board. With a little digging under the seats and other odd compartments we locate the tools and spares needed. An hour of breaking knuckles on pulleys should have us heading home. Of course the Amber Dawn’s engine is just under a cover in the middle of the open rear deck. We just have to do this job… In the rain.

A kludged alternator allowing a belt of the wrong size to work
Not quite so easy… Of course the belt that broke is the rear-most of the three, so two others must come off, to get at those the heat exchanger must be lifted out of the way. We get the new belt in place and tighten it up… and find it is the wrong size belt, too long by a couple inches. Again we are left floating… In the rain.

A little yankee ingenuity was needed, this consists of about twenty minutes of four men chewing ideas and telling each other what won’t work. Eventually I have an idea that does not get an immediate negative from the assembled wisdom. We look at each other… “That might work”.

The parts to make it work are found; a bolt, a nut, and a three-eights open end wrench. A bracket is fashioned, using the wrench as a spacer to hold the alternator away from its mount. Start the engine… The belt holds, the alternator turns and we are under way home… In the rain.