When the new dinghy arrived we needed to run back to Rodney Bay to pick it up. Well, turning the ignition key and having the engine start would be really helpful. What now? After a bit of looking around I discovered the positive post on the starter solenoid just floating around in its socket; not good. I was able to start the engine by pushing the post into its welded socket, but I realized we needed to repair this problem permanently as we still had several hundred miles to cover before the end of the season. We certainly didn’t need the engine failing to start at an inopportune moment.
You can almost see the bad wire connection on the white wire with the red stripe. With the engine running, we slogged back northward to Rodney Bay where we anchored until our dinghy arrived. I made a satellite phone call to Sherry at Trans Atlantic Diesel, my Perkins dealer back in the USA, and she presented me with a disturbing set of choices: (1) Lucas solenoids were on back order with no known supply date, so I could wait forever; (2) I could buy a new starter for $1200; or (3) a rebuilt one, their last one in stock for $295. Both carried the same warranty, so I opted for the lesser expensive option 3. Plus shipping and customs, of course. Another delay, but only 2 days by FedEx Air. Hold your breath for the shipping charges – $183.00. Still, with the rebuilt starter, shipping, and Customs charges, I was way ahead of the price of a new starter – $900.00 saved
Removing the old starter and installing the new proved to be a daunting task. I needed double joints in my arms and wrists to reach all the bolts on the starter. I tried every tool in my inventory, even reaching out to the cruising community to see if anyone happened to have a “starter wrench”, a specially curved wrench that could reach around the curved body of the starter. I just happen to own one, and it was sitting snug and warm in my tool box back home in Florida. No one had the wrench, and it was not to be had in St. Lucia. I sweated, bemoaned my tight engine space once again, but eventually got the darn thing out. By scratching and gouging my arms and hands forcing them into places they were not meant to go, and turning the bolts and nuts 1/8 of a turn at a time, six hours later, out it came.
With the old starter out, I was able to clean and polish the mounting bolts and nuts to the point where I could easily turn them by hand all the way back in with the new starter. Plus I knew all the tricks now; just force my arm into place, grin and bear the pain and the blood. Joy cringed every step of the way. Let’s hope I don’t have to tackle that job again any time in the near future.