On 5 November Parts & Power, along with their co-sponsors Northern Lights, Volvo Penta and Marine Maintenance Service sponsored the 14th Annual Charter Yacht Society (CYS) AGM and Crew party.  Parts & Power have been sponsoring this event from its inception.  As this is the only time of the year that the CYS membership are all gathered together, Executive Director Janet Oliver approached Tom Gerker of Parts & Power in 2004 and suggested that they make a party out of it in hopes of getting a better turnout for the AGM.  Considering it a great idea, Parts & Power approached Northern Lights who came on board and has been a co-sponsor ever since.

The BVI Charter Yacht Society is a vital part of the Marine Industries in the BVI.  They lobby on behalf of the Crewed Charter Industry with Government.  The Crewed Yacht Industry is a large part of the BVI economy, supporting nearly every business segment of the community: Transport (airlines, ferries & taxis), hotels, restaurants, food purveyors, Wine, Beer & Spirits sales, marinas, chandleries, rigging services, engine & generator repair services, painters & varnishing services, laundries & dry cleaners and just about every other service business in the BVI.  As their livelihood depends upon a pristine environment, the Crewed Yacht Operators are very strong advocates for keeping the Territory “Clean and Green”.  They do everything in their power to protect the fragile marine infrastructure and assist in keeping it clean and beautiful.

But, as independent owner/operators, the BVI Government often does not always hear or know about what they are contributing.  Likewise, Government does not know or understand what impediments stand in the way of this vital Industry continuing to contribute to the economy.  This is where Janet Oliver and the volunteer Board of Directors of the Charter Yacht Society come in.  They not only lobby on behalf of the CYS membership, but they advocate for the many support Industries who are important to their member yachts, promote Ecological initiatives and donate money to various NGOs in the BVI such as the Family Support Network and the Kids And The Sea program.

Parts & Power has always appreciated the contributions of the Crewed Yacht Industry, and the great efforts of the Charter Yacht Society.  So, they were happy to sponsor this important event for the CYS. They approached Northern Lights Inc (NLI), manufacturers of the most popular Marine Generators in the Caribbean, and widely used by the Crewed Yacht Industry.  NLI recognize the importance of the Owner/Operators, and support organizations like the CYS.  They are a unique business in that they pay attention to the “little guy”, listen to their needs and react in any way they can.  This may be a change in the design of what they manufacture, customizing a product for one customer or, in the case of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, dropping prices on their products to aid in the rebuilding and recovery.

Volvo Penta, likewise recognizing the value of this Industry, joined as a new co-sponsor in 2014.  This was part of Volvo’s revised strategy to offer unparalleled support to customers in the Caribbean.

The Charter Industry was devastated by the Hurricanes in 2017 but, with the help and assistance of organizations like the CYS, they started to claw their way back right away.  The Charter Yacht Society managed to get 20 boats together for their Show in November 2017, from a previous high of 90 yachts in 2016.  This year they had 45.  Many new faces, and a number of veteran crew, were present at the Crew Party.  They were focused on supporting the CYS, participating in initiatives to protect and improve the Environment, and learning about what their Organization is doing and plans to do for the BVI Community.  And, of course, they came to have fun, enjoy the fellowship and consume the food and drink provided by hosts Nanny Cay.  A feast was served, and the libations flowed freely from the well-tended bar.

Fun was had by all as Tim Dabbs, of Marine Maintenance Service, and Tony Tuckett, of Parts & Power, held a Trivia Quiz and gave out prizes donated by Northern Lights and Volvo.


In July 2017, Parts & Power continued their 25+ year old Apprenticeship Program by partnering with the Ministry of Education and Culture’s Youth Empowerment Service.  Hassard Edwards and Omari Martin joined them as an Apprentice Service Engineer and Warehouse Apprentice respectively.

It was a trial by fire for the young men.

On August 7th, Tortola experienced one of the worst floods in the Territory’s history.  One month later, the Territory suffered a direct hit by a Category 5 Hurricane Irma, the worst Atlantic Hurricane in recorded history.  Irma caused another flood.  Then 2 weeks later, Cat 5 Hurricane Maria passed close to the south.  In the rains following Maria, the Port Purcell suffered its 3rd flood in less than 2 months.

In what seemed to be perpetual clean ups, it was hard for all Parts & Power’s employees.  But, as new hires, it must have been even harder on the 2 new Apprentices.  Both maintained a positive attitude and contributed to the recovery of both the Company and their Customers.  One year later, both Apprentices are still with the Company & thriving.

Parts & Power began their Apprenticeship Program in 1990.  Over the years, they have run over 30 youth through the Program.  Many stayed on to work for a number of years. Indeed 2 of our early Apprentices are still with us, over 20 years later, as key employees.

Parts & Power were happy to partner with the YES Program in 2017. The Youth Employment Service is an initiative that was launched by the Ministry of Education and Culture, under the direction of Hon. Myron V. Walwyn in December 2011. YES’ core objectives are to prepare our youth with the skills needed to perform on the job.

HassardHassard Edwards alongside a JCB 30D Teletruk he recently serviced.

OmariOmari Martin merchandising a Northern Lights sea water pump.

Photos compliments Dorian Hodge,  Video and Audio Productions



They met with the Product Support team including Michele Curtis and Mark Voorhees, the Sales team including Christopher Perez and Nick Leitze, and Parts Manager, Rob Ekenstam. They also met with Tad Petrie and Ed Renno. The latter two are now assigned to other Territories, but have been a great support in the past for Caribbean Perkins customers and their dealer network.

Tom & Barb were given a factory tour, where Perkins is now assembling the 2000 series engines in the state of the art facility. Although some sub-assemblies such as cylinder heads are made by computers, the engines are still largely assembled by hand. Because each engine is built to the customer’s order, the assembly of engines are continually changing.

Having all their factory staff trained to do multiple jobs allows them to be able to move to different areas of the plant to do different jobs, depending on demand. This not only makes the factory more efficient, changing staff assignments throughout the day keeps them from becoming bored and less prone to making mistakes due to repetitive tasks.

Engines are now tested at various stages of assembly to be sure that everything was assembled correctly and all the components are in working order before it reaches the test cell. Every engine is still hot tested, under load, in the test cell before the final components, ordered by the customer, are installed and the engine is painted. Perkins offers multiple color options to customers, depending on their requests.

The Gerkers learned that the old reliable 1000 series has been discontinued. The 1100 series has been around long enough that its reliability and reputation is well established. Demand for the 1000 series had fallen off so much that there was no reason to keep it in production. The new 1200 series is latest version of the engines that date back to the 4.236 & 6.354 engines first launched in the late 1960’s. They are still built to fit the footprint of the old engines, but are now 1.2 liters per cylinder, resulting in a 4.8 and 7.2-liter engine in the same package that was launched in the 1960’s. The 1300 series engine has now been replaced by the 1500 series engine that is being manufactured in Seguin.

The entire team that met with the Gerkers were committed to Parts & Power’s goal of making Perkins engines the best serviced engine in the Caribbean. Having dealers in every country and on most islands in the Eastern Caribbean means that an engineer is not far away. Not having unreasonable demands put on the dealers to purchase and pay annual license fees for Perkins Electronic Tools, allows them to remain Perkins dealers. Other manufacturers cannot make the same claim. They require such exorbitant costs for training, purchase and licensing of their tools that many dealers in the Caribbean cannot afford to own it. That results in having to fly in technicians from the US, at great cost, every time there is a problem with the competitor’s engines.

They also discussed the upcoming 2016 Hurricane Preparation Campaign that makes it easier and less expensive for Perkins customers to do their Annual Maintenance.




On 8 November Parts & Power and Marine Maintenance Service, in cooperation with Northern Lights Inc and Volvo Penta, sponsored the 11th Annual Charter Yacht Society Annual General Meeting and Crew Party at Peg Landing Restaurant at Nanny Cay Marina. The Annual Event kicked off the 34th Annual BVI Charter Yacht Show. Over 125 members of the Charter Yacht Society (CYS) were in attendance.

Although Parts & Power had been sponsoring the Boat Show Crew party for well over 15 years, the format changed 11 years ago when CYS Executive Director, Janet Oliver, approached them with a novel idea. The CYS is comprised of members, who by the nature of their business, are transient. It was challenging to get a majority of members together to attend an AGM. So Janet proposed combining the AGM with the Annual Crew Party. The format proved to be very successful.

4After welcoming remarks by CYS Chairperson, Ruth Ross, & Parts & Power MD, Tom Gerker, a financial appeal was made to membership by Phil Aspinall of VI Search and Rescue (VISAR). Following that, a buffet dinner was put on Peg Leg’s and the AGM was held. Among other issues discussed was the important role the CYS plays in promoting the Charter Yacht Industry with Government, and lobbying to prevent an increase in fees for their members.

The Charter Yacht Industry contributes over $50 million to the local economy. Being comprised, in large part, by small single charter boat businesses, it is difficult for the owners or crew of those Charter Yacht Businesses to have their voices heard by Government. The Charter Yacht Society does an outstanding job of representing them.

Following the AGM, Tim Dabbs of Marine Maintenance Services and Tony Tucket of Parts & Power, held an entertaining Trivia Challenge for the CYS members. Winners were awarded promotional items supplied by Northern Lights Inc and Volvo Penta. Peg Leg’s Restaurant and Manager Luis Samuel did an impressive job of providing ample hospitality and refreshments in a beautiful, nicely set, facility. A good time was had by all.

On Monday, 9 Nov, the Boat Show began. The maximum capacity of 78 yachts were in attendance. Of those, there were 5 Monohulls, 6 Motor Yachts and 67 sailing catamarans, reflecting the changing nature of the Charter Yacht Industry. There were 135 brokers which is 30% more than the previous high. With more demanding qualifications to be a broker, and a nominal charge by the CYS, this is a significant comment on how important the BVI Boat Show has become.

Parts & Power, Marine Maintenance Services, Northern Lights and Volvo Penta were proud to be able to support such an important organization as the BVI Charter Yacht Society, and such a successful event.

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On 7, 14 & 21 September, Parts & Power Ltd, of Tortola British Virgin Islands, conducted JCB Teletruk (TLT) training for JCB TLT owners in the BVI. The first day of training was on Forklift Basics, Operation and Safety.

On the 14th, Trainer and Technical Director, Dan Durbin instructed on the JCB TLT specifically. He explained the concept of the machine, how to operate and maintain the machine from an Operator’s perspective. This included both classroom and hands on training. The cab was tilted forward (a major JCB TLT beneficial feature) so the engine, hydraulics and electrical systems were exposed and easily examined and serviced.

The last day of training included, not only Dan, but Parts Manager Tony Tuckett and Service Manager Andrew Ball. They demonstrated the uses, advantages, features and benefits of the JCB TLT. The TLT owned by Road Town Wholesale, which has an extra lift attachment on it, was brought over to demonstrate the custom modifications that were made in order to make the TLT fit the specific needs of the customer. The ability to quickly (less than 60 seconds) change attachments on the JCB were also demonstrated.

The class ended with a photo of the class inside the Remotely Operated Man Basket on the JCB 540-170 Loadall above 2 JCB Teletruks. The feedback from the Operators was overwhelmingly positive.

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Noise reduction for Generators

Generator noise reductionWhen I set out to write this blog piece I thought it would be a simple matter of writing about sound enclosures, construction materials and noise reduction. However, when I started researching these areas I quickly realized there is too much material for a single blog to be meaningful. This is therefore the first in a series of blogs on the topic of noise reduction for generators.

Part 1 – Noise

With the continued and expanding use of diesel generator sets there has come an increased focus on controlling the noise these generators create. Whether generator sets are located in enclosures outside a facility or home, inside, on the roof or even on a yacht, designers are making more efforts to control generator set noise and vibration in order to reduce the effects on neighbours and building occupants alike. Whether generator sets run continuously in prime-power applications, intermittently in demand response applications, or occasionally in emergency standby situations or testing, their operating sound levels nearly always require remediation due to market requirements.

In order to understand the solutions to reducing noise from generators, it is first necessary to understand noise. Therefore this blog provides a simple summary of noise and its characteristics, and the sources of noise created by generators.

What is Noise?

Vibrating objects induce pressure waves that travel through the air, reaching our ears as sound. Noise, by definition, is simply undesirable sound. When the amplitude of the pressure waves becomes too high, the amount of sound becomes uncomfortable. In addition to being annoying, excessive sound can cause permanent hearing damage. The following diagram explains the physiology of what happens when sound reaches the human ear.

The ear

The human ear has such a wide dynamic range that the logarithmic decibel scale (dB) was devised to express sound levels in a convenient way. The ratio between the softest sound the ear can hear and the loudest sound it can experience without damage is approximately a million to one. By using a base-10 logarithmic scale, the whole range of human hearing can be described by a more convenient number that ranges from 0 dB (threshold of normal hearing) to 140 dB (the threshold of pain).

There are two dB scales used to describe sound: A and L.

  • The dB(L) scale is linear and treats all audible frequencies as having equal value. However, the human ear does not experience all frequencies the same way. Our ears are particularly sensitive to frequencies in the range of 1,000 to 4,000 Hz, and they are less sensitive to sounds in lower or higher frequencies. (This is why dogs often start barking for reasons humans don’t understand – dogs have the ability to hear sounds of a much higher frequency than humans)
  • To adjust the sound pressure levels to more accurately reflect what the human ear perceives, the frequency-weighted dB(A) scale has been adopted as the official regulated sound level unit.

It is also worth noting that the db(A) scale represents an “absolute” value. For example, stating that a generator produces 98 db(A) of noise isn’t particularly meaningful – remember by definition it can only be noise if it is undesirable to the recipient. Standing alongside a generator generating 98 db(A) of noise is completely different to standing 500 meters away (where it probably couldn’t be heard).

More useful therefore is to state at what distance from the generator the noise level is experienced. As a result most generator manufacturers state sound levels in terms of db(A) @ x meters, for example 85 db(A) at 1 meter. This in turn presents challenges in terms of measurement, but that is a topic for a later blog.

Sound produced by generator sets

The principal sources of noise from generators are described below.

1 Engine mechanical noise

With the advent of high-pressure common rail fuel injection, advanced turbocharging and better combustion control, manufacturers have significantly reduced overall mechanical noise from diesel engines. The amount of sound varies with the size of the engine and its load, and can be as high as 110 dB(A) measured at one meter. Engines with more cylinders have more power strokes per revolution and therefore deliver a smoother flow of power with less vibration. Smaller engines tend to be harsher in operation and produce more noise and vibration for their size.

2 Exhaust noise

Engine exhaust is a major contributor to overall sound levels. When measured without an exhaust silencer noise can be 120 dB(A) or more depending on the size of the engine. The sound level can be reduced by up to 40 dB(A) depending on the silencer employed.

3 Cooling fan noise

Sound emanates from turbulent air as the cooling fan moves air across the engine and through the radiator. The amount of sound varies with the speed and volume of air being moved as well as with the design and distortion of the fan blades. The amount of sound can be as high as 95 dB(A) at one meter.

4 Alternator noise

The alternator has an internal cooling fan, and the combination of cooling air movement and brush friction produces noise. However, the sound level is always small compared to the driving engine.

5 Induction noise

Current fluctuations in the alternator windings create mechanical noises that add to total noise when load demand changes.

6 Structural/mechanical noise

This is caused by mechanical vibration of various structural parts and components that is radiated as sound. Isolators between the engine, alternator, controls and other components help to reduce the amount of vibration that gets converted to noise. Anti-vibration mounts can also be employed to reduce noise propagation through the ground or hull where the generator is located.


In this first blog we have introduced the definition of noise, described its impact on human beings and highlighted the sources of noise from generators. In the next blog we will discuss methods for attenuating these noise levels.

Images courtesy of


Northern Lights M753 Generator

Northern Lights M753 GeneratorI was helping a customer the other day who requested a heat exchanger tube stack for an M753K.  This is a 10 year old generator, but I was still shocked that he needed a heat exchanger.  In our experience, the only thing that can cause a heat exchanger tube stack failure on a 5-20 kw generator is very poor maintenance.  When I looked up the part number for the tube stack I noticed that we had sold 3 in the last 12 months.

There are, conservatively 300-400 of these generators in operation in the Caribbean, so that works out to less than a 0.75% failure rate.  Most of our competitors would be envious of such a low failure rate, but we still feel that is too high.  The only reason that these tube stacks are failing is because of poor maintenance practices, or using the wrong coolant.

We wish to emphasize that the only proper coolant is Distilled Water, or a 50/50 premix ethylene glycol mix.  If operators wish to use 100% ethylene glycol, they need to dilute it with 50% Distilled Water.  Most of the water we get in the Caribbean comes from Reverse Osmosis, and that often leaves too high a mineral (including salt) content.  Even with proper coolant, sludge, scale and corrosion build up over a period of time.  So we recommend that our customers drain, flush and refill their cooling system every year as part of their annual maintenance.

If customers wish to extend the coolant change interval, we recommend purchasing a pack of coolant test strips (part number 20-00005) and testing coolant every 6 months past the 1 year anniversary of the last coolant change.

In addition to the tube stack failing, poor coolant quality can cause water pump failure, and the core plugs (water jackets) to corrode from the inside out.  Made of a thinner, less corrosion resistant material, the core plugs can often be the “canary in the coal mine”.  If they start to leak, the operator knows he has a problem.  A bigger problem is that some of these core plugs can be very hard to get to in order to change them.

In summary, it is a very good investment to change your coolant every year – your local dealer can take care of this for you.  It can save a lot of money down the road.


Northern Lights Dealer training

Dealer participants attending the Caribbean Service Training, hosted by Parts & Power and Northern Lights Inc from 14-16 July 2015 in Tortola BVI, were all positive in their reviews and comments. There were 6 ratings of “Excellent” (5 out of 5) and 6 “Good” (4 out of 5). There were the inevitable complaints about Service Trainer and Technical Director, Dan Durbin’s notoriously bad drawings. But he always managed to get his point across. The participants were unanimous in the fact that the quality of the instruction was very good to excellent.

In addition to his decades of field service experience, Dan has been doing Service Training since the 1960’s for such organizations as the Army Engineer School, several Colleges and a variety of Diesel Engine/Generator manufacturers. He still does training for Northern Lights at customer training events in FL. Northern Lights SE Regional Service Manager, James Newball who has been with the company of over 6 years, said he even learned a few new things at the Training. James attended the training to support Dan’s efforts, and to explain Service issues that the factory is seeing around the world. It was also James first visit to the Caribbean to meet the Dealer network and hear, first-hand, the challenges faced by NL Dealers and Customers in the Caribbean.

All the participants learned about changes to the website. It recently received a major face lift thanks to the efforts of Jennifer Dowling and Scott Putnicki at NL factory headquarters in Seattle, WA. Information for customers and dealers is available on the website, as well as links to NL Parts & Operators Manuals, the Dealer Secured website, “Ask a Tech” inquiry link and Service Tips. A Parts Special was revealed that is only available to customers who visit the website.

Northern Lights Dealer Service Training is challenging because of the various backgrounds of the dealers participating. Some are Mechanics looking for more information on DC and AC electric. Others are Electricians looking for more information on Diesel Engines. Dan is very good at getting the theory and hands on training across though.

Diesel engines are a continually changing product these days due to the changes required to maintain emissions compliance by the EPA, IMO and various other regulatory organizations. Although AC and DC electricity is constrained by the laws of physics, there are new products being introduced every year to meet customers increasingly sophisticated power demands, which make generators more complicated. “One of the best features of Northern Lights Generators,” commented Parts & Power MD Tom Gerker, “is that their DC logic has remained largely unchanged for over 40 years.” It worked well in the 1970’s and works well today. Despite that, NL is always striving to improve their systems, so the product continues to evolve.

That is the reason that Northern Lights and Parts & Power puts on regular Regional Training for their Caribbean Dealers.

Northern Lights Inc and Parts & Power want to extend their gratitude to the 12 participants who made the sacrifice in time and expense to attend the training, and become more knowledgeable about the product. Their Dealerships will receive a “golden wrench” next to their Dealer name on the NL Dealer Directory and on the website. We also want to extend thanks to the hard working staff at Parts & Power for making the event such a great success.

Northern Lights Service Training 14-16 July 2015

Northern Lights Generator

Northern Lights and Caribbean Distributor, Parts & Power Ltd of Tortola, will be hosting Service Training for Caribbean Dealers from 14-16 July in Road Town.  12 Caribbean dealers from 10 countries will participate in the training.

The training will be put on by Parts & Power Director of Technical Services, Dan Durbin, and Northern Lights SE Regional Service Manager, James Newball.  Dan has over 40 years’ experience in Diesel Electric Service training, having taught for such companies and Cummins Engine Co, Ford Lehman and Northern Lights.  Dan served as Northern Lights International Service Manager and Service trainer prior to joining Parts & Power in 1993.  He continues to put on factory sponsored Service and Product training in Florida 3-4 times per year.

The focus of the training will be on current Northern Lights generator production, identification and serial number understanding; Northern Lights and website navigation; Engine troubleshooting & repair; DC theory, troubleshooting & repair; AC theory, troubleshooting & repair; Stand maintenance practices; Warranty training and processing; Marine exhaust systems; and a discussion of common and recent Service Issues.

The purpose of the training is to make sure that all Caribbean Northern Lights dealer technicians have the most up to date training so they can better service Northern Light customers in the Caribbean.  To that end, all dealers participating in the training will receive the prestigious “Golden Wrench” next to their name in the Northern Lights Dealer Directory.  This indicates that dealer has undergone the most recent training procedures offered by Northern Lights.


Northern Lights Generator

Northern Lights GeneratorSummer time is the off season for many in the Caribbean, whether you are a cruiser sitting out Hurricane Season or a Charter vessel taking a well-deserved break.  Before you put the boat up on the hard, or leave it at the dock for the summer, do your diesel engines a favor.  Before you leave your hard working Northern Lights generator for the summer, be sure to change the oil.  The oil is the life blood of your engine.  It holds all the dirt, acids, soot and by products of combustion in suspension.  That contaminated oil sits on all the surfaces serviced by your oil and expedite corrosion if left for prolonged periods.  In addition, oil oxides when left exposed to the air, reducing its effectiveness at lubricating your engine and holding contaminants.

So do your engine a favor and change the oil before you put it in storage.  While you’re at it, why not do your Annual Maintenance?

Annual Maintenance?  What is Annual Maintenance?

If you look at your Operator’s Manual, you will notice a section that says “Every 12 Months”.  Everything in there is due every year.  Generally this includes: Oil Change, Valve Adjustment, Air Filter replacement, Fuel filter replacement and Injector Testing.  Check your manual to see if there is anything else included, but the above are fairly common with most diesel engines and Northern Lights generators.

We discussed the oil change.  Even if you don’t have the 200 or 250 hours dictated by the oil change interval, remember that oil oxidizes even if not being used.  So changing oil makes sense, but why check the valves?  Besides making sure that your engine is “breathing” properly in terms or air in and exhaust gases out, it also can pick up signs or engine wear.  If the valve clearances are narrow, that can mean that the valve in question is wearing the valve seat.  This may be a sign that your engine is getting ready for a top end overhaul.  If caught early, this is fairly routine.  If caught too late, the repair could be far more costly.  You could be looking at a new cylinder head, or a “dropped valve” which can be catastrophic.

You might think that, because your engine is clean, you don’t need to change your air filter.  Many Northern Lights generators have foam air filters which, not only filter the air, but aid in noise dampening.  These filters deteriorate with heat and over time.  If not changed, they will start to turn into powder and fall apart.  The foam will not hurt the engine but we have seen cases where large pieces of the air filter were sucked into the intake valves. In such a case, the engine loses compression (because the intake valve will not close completely) and will not start or run.  This is not only difficult to troubleshoot, but requires the removal of the cylinder head.  So the $20 spent on a new air filter is a very good and wise investment.

Not everyone checks injectors every year.  If you are not putting a lot of hours on the generator, it starts quickly and is running clean, you might be able to skip this.  But the service interval on injectors can be as low as every 700 hours (or once per year).  In addition, an injector nozzle that is “squirting” rather than “spraying” can melt a piston in a very short period of time.  So if you have a shop that can test the injectors, the process can offer great peace of mind.

Take the time to review your Operator’s Manual or discuss its maintenance with your local dealer.  Your generator was an expensive investment.  If given reasonable maintenance and operated properly, your Northern Lights generator should give 20,000 hours of operation or more.  But we’ve seen improperly maintained units struggle to provide half that life.  Doing your Annual Maintenance is a good way of assuring that your generator will give you the reliable life expectancy Northern Lights customers have come to expect from their product.