The past two weeks we’ve been tied to the town dock in Whittier completing projects necessary for us to be able to haul salmon. There are numerous systems aboard the Aquanator from large scale refrigerated fish holds to small bilge pumps to a fish pump.All of these systems needed to be tested and if needed serviced before departing. The first order of business was getting the newly installed John Deere 40kW generator wired to the electrical panel and hooked up to cooling water. The “JD” will be running almost constantly from the time we pull away from Whittier in a few days to until we tie to a dock in Seward sometime in mid September. It provides all the power for everything on the boat, the Aquanator is a power hungry machine. After a three days, two trips to Anchorage and a few minor hiccups we had the generator up and running which also resulted in coating our newly painted decks with soot and cinder during the first 10 hours of operation. The generator is by no means a quite running piece of equipment, ear plugs are the norm when working nearby.
With the generator running the next order of business was to test the fish holds sea water circulation and refrigeration systems. There are two fish holds aboard the Aquanator and each can hold around 75 to 80 thousand pounds of fish. To keep the fish as fresh as possible the water circulating in the hold should be between 32 and 38 degrees F. To achieve this sea water is pumped by a circulation pump thru two large cooling tubes which are cooled by a condenser. There are two separate pumps feeding the system; one for the circulation and one for the condenser. When these pumps and the condenser are working together they pretty much use all the available power from the generator, in fact they need to be turned on in a particular order to decrease the load so as not to flip breakers.
The order to firing up the system is to partially flood the fish holds with sea water. Then the circulation pump is turned to circulate the sea water thru the cooling tubes. Next the condenser pump is turned on which circulates sea water thru the condenser keeping it from overheating. Once water is flowing thru both those systems the condenser is turned on which cools the circulating water.
So with the generator providing the power last Monday we flooded the fish holds to test the circulation and refrigeration. Everything was working fantastic for the first ten minutes and then not so much. As I was adjusting the valves on the circulation water to discharge overboard I heard a “crack”. Which in itself was amazing as the noise of the generator, compressor, circulation and compressor pumps can best be described as standing behind an F-14 jet engine during takeoff. I immediately ran over and turned off all the systems and was left with a trickling water noise indicating we had “a problem”. The problem turned out to be several cracked elbows in the circulation plumbing. Due to the location of the cracked fittings, the age and type of PVC used the entire circulation system would have to be rebuilt. I should mention that this project would need to be finished and tested in 5 days which is when we are scheduled to begin hauling fish, onward!