Shakedown Cruise: What Works, What Doesn’t

Shakedown Cruise, Fall 2011 … What Works, What Doesn’t!  Every year prior to leaving for 150+ nights at anchor, we try to leave the dock for a week or so just to see what works and what doesn’t.  Keep in mind, we’ve already checked most of the systems and they’re fine while at the dock.  But sometimes Mr Murphy has a habit of creeping in the minute we leave the dock.   This year’s shakedown cruise was a very pleasant surprise.  Of course, after we “wasted” most of last year’s cruising season upgrading and refitting systems, it’s nice to know it’s paying off!

What Didn’t Work:

Dead Autohelm ST4000+ Display :(

Dead Autohelm ST4000+ Display 🙁

1.  The Autohelm ST4000+ display unit – the screen has gone almost completely blank — and wouldn’t you know we have it set so you have to enter a code to unlock it.  I managed to look at it every which way and finally get the code to work.  Now the challenge will be to find an older Autohelm unit to replace it… or override the code so it just works without having to enter the code, the screen itself isn’t really necessary since it just displays the course heading and we have that elsewhere.

Does anyone have an old display that they’re not using that still works?  We’d be happy to buy it from you!   🙂    Or does anyone know if this one can be fixed & if so, what we need to do?

2.  The KISS Wind Generator ….  so it’s blowing 10-12 and we should be putting in amps, but no…. so frustrating.  But see below … it fixed itself. Gotta love the gremlins!  David claims he crawled out there at 2:30 am when the wind piped up and “fixed” it, but I happen to know he was asleep!  🙂

3.  Returning to the marina, after starting the diesel to take down the sails, I smelled burning rubber — uh oh.  The only thing this can be is the alternator belt and that’s NOT good.  Luckily it didn’t burn out causing the diesel to overheat before we were safely back in the slip. Ever since we added the 110 amp alternator and the installer broke the original alternator bracket, our alternator has had issues with getting out of alignment easily and causing the belts to burn up.  No problem, we have spares & we’ll change it out & check the alignment before leaving the dock again.

AB Aluminum RIB with Tohatsu 8 hp 2 stroke

AB Aluminum RIB with Tohatsu 8 hp 2 stroke

4. The 10 Year Old Tohatsu 8 Hp 2 Stroke Outboard.  After exiting the manatee zone at Cayo Costa, David opened it up for a 20 minute dinghy ride to the southern end of the island.  What’s this?  No plane, no power just putt putt.  It took us over 35 minutes AND we worried about getting back.  Luckily the wind was blowing 10-12 from the south, so we figured worst case we could drift back with some assistance from the oars & wind. Plus we always carry the VHF and a cell phone when we’re out of sight of the boat, just in case.  But when David pulled the starter cord … VOILA!  No more half power, now we’re zooming all over the place again.  Sure would be nice to know why though just for future reference.

5. The Honda Generator had a little hissy fit when I tried to make my oatmeal in the microwave with “shorepower” hooked up — we connect the generator to our shorepower outlet, turn everything on the electrical panel to a/c current long enough to make coffee in the morning – David doesn’t like using the inverter, I have no idea why.  I got the bright idea that rather than heating my apple juice on the stove to make my oatmeal, maybe I’d just put it in the microwave for a minute.  It’s a teeny tiny 900 watt microwave that should work (and most times does work) with the Honda 2000.  But not this morning.  It blew the generator causing a power spike inside. Guess what is always hooked up & charging while the coffee perks in the morning?  My LAPTOP!  When I turned it on, the screen had red & purple squares dancing over the desktop and the mouse wouldn’t let me move it to shut it down.  I waited a bit, turned the laptop back on in battery mode & backed everything up to the external hard drive first thing just in case!  OOPS, big OOPS!!!  The biggest OOPS was that I hadn’t backed up the laptop since we’ve been back aboard for two weeks.  And this laptop is over 5 years old, seems like they ought to last longer, but this one has been cruising for half of those five years.  Life aboard is difficult on electronics, especially when we have a damp foggy morning like this morning.  But it appears that it was the power spike that caused the problem and now I’m just on alert to see if I damaged anything else.   So far so good… keeping my fingers crossed.



6.  The heavy heavy fog caused water to run in our portholes once again.  We’ve been fighting this for years, even tried to fashion some porthole visors from flexible cutting boards.  It worked for a bit, but the flexible plastic just cracked and disintegrated in the tropical sun.  I may have to break down and order some of the “real” thing as a test from Seaworthy Products.

Now the exciting part ….

What DID Work!

1.  Our new cockpit enclosure aka family room.  We originally ordered the screens to help cut down on the suns rays – it can get HOT in the cockpit in the late afternoon!  But we left them in place around the sunset hour (and the rest of the evening) and lo and behold … NO BUGS!  We expect that noseeums will always penetrate the wider shade screen, but we weren’t sure what would happen with the mosquitoes & random bugs.  Several nights, there were bugs eating on us as we sat on the foredeck for sunset (blowing the conch horn, of course) but dinner afterward inside the enclosure with the sunscreens … NO BUGS!  WooHoo!

2.  The SSB/Pactor III modem & serial to USB connection to the laptop for Sailmail and Winlink e-mail.   I am SO happy this worked since we haven’t used it for two years!    And although we couldn’t hear the NW Caribbean net on 6209 at 8:30 central time, we could hear the spanish chatter that often cluttered the channel, so we figure the radio’s working fine.  🙂   The SSB/Pactor III is almost impossible to test ahead of time in the marina because of all the interference.  If it doesn’t work, we never know if it’s just because we’re in a marina or if there’s something we need to fix.

KISS Wind Generator, Pouting Until It Magically Decided to Work

KISS Wind Generator, Pouting Until It Magically Decided to Work

3.  The KISS Wind Generator — go figure.  After not working at all, just a lazy slow spin like it was in the “off” position, made us think that the problem was something to do with the braking magnets.  David just took it apart and replaced the bearings while we were in the Bay Islands two years ago, so I wouldn’t think the bearings are an issue.   When the wind cranked up to 20-ish overnight, voila, the magic KISS started working about 2:30 AM. David swears he was up working on it to make sure it worked the next day … at 2:30 AM … but I don’t believe him.  Nonetheless, IT WORKS!!   WooHoo!

4.  The Raritan PHII head (always a good thing), the propane system, the stove, the Adler Barber refrigerator/freezer/cooler, the anchor light, the grill, the Honda 2000 generator,  the duck pressure shower (although David had to give it a healthy squirt of Boeshield – when I pressed the lever for the showerhead, it wouldn’t shut OFF — not a good thing, don’t want to lose all the warm shower water!

5.  The sails, diesel and windlass …

I’d better quit, I’ll jinx us by listing everything that worked – it’ll get the idea that maybe it shouldn’t work!  Yikes!

Anyone have any ideas for our Autohelm ST4000+ display?  We’d appreciate any comments or help!  THX!  Jan


  1. Please let me know if I can help with the KISS. I’ve been inside a few. (727) 943-0424

    • HI John! Say HI to Libbie for us. As I mentioned, whatever was wrong with our KISS corrected itself overnight when the wind piped up, go figure! Our SMSB solar panels are still pumping in amps too. When the KISS was being contrary, we discussed that one advantage to being back in FL is that you’re a short drive up the west FL coast – no more need to take it apart ourselves! 🙂 BTW everyone, we HIGHLY recommend John & Libbie at – innovative ideas coupled with good customer service.

  2. Just found your website a couple days ago, and I’m loving it. I had a thought on your outboard. I’ve got an 80’s vintage mercury 7.5 that will do the same thing at times. If you’ve got the throttle just a smidge too high when you start it the mechanism that holds it in idle to shift stays engaged and you can’t open the throttle any more until you drop it back into full idle. Dunno if it’s the same with yours or not. Cheers.

Speak Your Mind