Marcie unexpectedly had to go back to the U.S. for a couple of weeks. While she is gone, I will try my hand at writing the majority of our blogs instead of my usual once weekly contribution. I'll do my best to keep them interesting for everyone, but for those of you who could not care less about the technical side of our lifestyle – we apologize. -David When we first starting equipping Nine of Cups for extended cruising, a high priority was adding a wind generator or two. There were several on the market in 2000-2001, and we wanted to make the right choice. Some of them didn't put out much power, and some of them sounded like banshees when the wind picked up. Some looked very aerodynamic and high tech, while some looked... well, like I might have made them myself out of spare parts lying around.
We went to the Annapolis boat show that year, and while we were anchored off the town jetty, we realized there must have been close to a hundred other cruising boats anchored in the vicinity – most of which had windgens. On one particularly windy day, we took the dinghy around the anchorage and listened to each of them. We were going to have to live with our decision for a long time, and we would much prefer having one that didn't keep us and half the anchorage awake at night with a noise not unlike a jet taking off. It wasn't hard to eliminate quite a few of the candidates, and we narrowed the choices down to just a few.
We talked to a few of the owners, looked at specs, visited each of the booths at the boat show, and finally decided on the Fourwinds windgen. It was one of the quietest and had the highest power output of any of the candidates. It also had a very clever centrifugal brake that kept the blades from rotating too fast and self-destructing in high winds. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of the high tech, streamlined models out there, but we could live with its lack of aesthetic appeal.
We talked at length with the owner. By the end of the day, we had taken advantage of his show specials and ordered two windgens and all the associated accessories. These arrived a few days later, and I spent a week or so installing everything.
Now it is 13 years later. The original owner of the company sold it and went cruising, and the business is now either very low profile or out of business entirely, because we can't find them online for parts anymore. Our two windgens are now down to one, as the one on the port side was used for spare parts to keep the starboard one running. The remaining one is doing great – we still get comments about how quiet it is – and it still puts out a steady flow of amps. But all the decals have long since faded out and while I have repainted various parts of it numerous times over the years, it definitely looks its age now.
Over the years, we found them to be quite high maintenance items. The internal magnets have a tendency to come lose, and it is an all day process to tear the windgen down, epoxy the magnets back in place and reassemble everything. The brushes were rather short-lived as well, and had to be replaced about once a year. On the other hand, they have survived quite a bit of abuse. On more than one occasion we've wrapped several hundred feet of fishing line up in them, they've survived more than one kamikaze attack by birds, and have weathered numerous storms and gales. Despite all that we've put them through over all those years, however, they did keep on working and have certainly earned their keep. Overall, I'd have to say we have been quite happy with them.
I suppose it's time to start looking at the latest and greatest in windgen technology and start planning for the day when our remaining Fourwinds gives it up for good. Maybe we can find one that is quiet, has a high output and is beautiful to look at as well. In the meantime, the answer to the very frequently asked question - “Did you make that windgen yourself?” is “Nope – it just LOOKS like I did?!”