By Lucy Chabot Reed
At least a dozen large yachts have been struggling with inconsistent electrical power while docked in the Yacht & Brokerage Show this week.
Problems have ranged from too few amps to too many hertz, to brownouts and blackouts. A few yachts have had electrical components destroyed from voltage spikes and surges, according to captains in the show.
None of the captains, crew or brokers interviewed about the power problems wanted to be named for fear of angering Show Management, which produces the show and provides power to the yachts.
But several yachts between ramps 17 and 18 have been dealing with the issues since they moved in a week ago, having as many as five brownouts a day. At least two were on generators at midday yesterday to preserve their equipment.
On docks around ramp 11, a handful of yachts were having similar problems and had turned on their generators until the problem gets resolved.
“We have power, but too much; another boat had too little and had to turn the A/C off to turn the lights on,” said a mate, whose yacht was on generator power. “It’s always something.”
“We need 100 amps, and we got two 50-amp cords with a Y-box to plug into,” an engineer said, adding that the breakers in the transformer pedestal were hot to the touch. “We just lost power.”
One broker said Show Management has upgraded some generators and transformer pedestals, and expected that the problems were related to that.
“It’s been horrible the whole show,” he said of the power. “But electricity is always a problem at boat shows.”
Show Management officials authorized to comment to the media were unavailable yesterday so it was unclear what was causing the problems.
According to Mike Prado, director of sales for Atlas Marine Supply in Ft. Lauderdale, a couple things could be causing the power fluctuations. The generators, which Show Management rents for the show, could have dirty filters or other signs of poor maintenance, or the diesel fuel that feeds them is bad or lacking.
With the transformers, the cables carrying electricity from the shoreside generators might not be strong enough to handle the distance, causing a voltage drop, or the transformers simply aren’t big enough to handle the load.
“There’s always a problem at all shows where power is inadequate at peak times,” Prado said, noting that issues seem to have lessened at the Ft. Lauderdale show recently. “We run into it every year.”
Several captains acknowledged that power problems are nothing new, but something’s different this year.
“We get blackouts at other shows, but this is completely off the charts,” a captain said.
According to several yacht captains and crew, electrical crew have been trying to fix the problems since last weekend, but have not been successful.
“Although they are pleasant and responsive, the issue has not been resolved and it’s causing damage to our boat,” one captain said. “Their response has been inadequate.”
The power fluctuations have caused one yacht to lose its radar and another to lose a component in its Headhunter system.
By yesterday morning, more than a few yachts had chosen to unplug from shorepower altogether and use their own generators full-time, creating noise and exhaust on the docks around them.
And those captains acknowledged that it’s not ideal when trying to sell a yacht.