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Invaded by the …Wasps

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Hidden up on our dinnette post.

And I am talking of the insect kind, not protestants. I guess we’ve been sitting in one place too long. I can hear our friends Dirk (in Mexico now) and  Lewis (in NZ)  saying “you figure”! 🙂 Yep! In the cyclone season and with a couple of good size projects we’ve been circumnavigating the same mooring for about 3 months now.

 
First; W/ and I are below reading and we keep seeing a wasp buzzing in and out of the boat. Once in awhile; oh well, several times in a day oh-oh! I pause to watch it and SHIT! up above on our dinette post she / he / it has built a nest. We wait for the I am now guessing; her, to disappear foraging for more mud or food, we jump up to remove the nest. Carefully we extract it and feed the nest to those in Neptune’s world. We clean up the area. These wasps build nest of mud and they are often referred to as Mud Daubers. Water cleans it up and we watch the rest of the day for any other fly bys and what they might be doing. She returns several times looking for her brood. Luckily she didn’t know it was us that removed / destroyed her nest so she never threatened us. After not finding her nest, shy she moved on.
 

Behind the dodger under the mainsheet was this nest.

A couple of days later I am lounging in the cockpit…. again. Yes, sometimes we cruisers just sit and think or even just sit. I see another wasp disappear behind our dodger. She crawls under a part of the main sheet we had cast there. I slowly moved the line and she decided it was time to split. Once she left, I looked a little closer. Wow! A much larger nest was being built. Again that nest went to Neptune. Water and a little elbow grease cleaned up the mess. This time she was persistent and all day I watched her return looking for her Larvae. Once I was able to discern her carrying some food. Wasps stuff the nest with anesthetized spiders. When the eggs hatch the larvae have something to eat. The young eat the spiders and grow to adulthood before exiting.

 
Later that day while waiting for my (not) friend to return I saw another wasp heading under the stay sail cover. I shook the cover and examined where she had been. A third nest was there! It too went overboard. I looked closer at the sail looking for more and found nothing. Whew.
 
Not to fear the following day I was again lounging. That isn’t all I do. 🙂 I noticed some Wasp activity again in the stay

These built under the staysail cover in Fiji

sail cover. They were further up the sail where the sheet runs to the boom. I shook the sail motivating a couple to leave. Once I felt safe from them I pealed the cover back to find yet a larger nest! This one not on the sail but built on the underside of the cover. Hopefully Neptune has need of a few more little buggers. Over the side it went and the cover snapped shut.

 
Everything I read indicates the Mud Daubers are not really harmful; unless provoked. And we didn’t want to accidentally provoke any. Neither W/ nor I however wanted to provide a residential area for them. Two days later, most of them seem to have moved on. Maybe it’s time for us to do the same.
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Ouch!

Sunday, March 3rd, 2019

In NZ, at most every marina entrance ramp they have this poster with this comment: “Nothing is faster than Disaster!” In Panama when we were moving from Linton to Colon I was removing the main sail cover. I stepped on the corner of the aft cabin and slipped. Usually when I fall I’m aware of what’s happening and what I need to do. I fell about 2 meters off a sea wall in Sanabel Florida. I saw exactly what I needed to do, where I needed to land and roll and I did. No injuries not even a bruise. In Linton before I even realized I was falling i was already on my butt. No warning, no time. Luckily then too, the only injury was my pride.

Last week W/ was not so lucky. We were finishing up the windlass project. When we refurbished the boat I had installed a high density, high strength plastic base for the windlass. Over the years I watched the windlass move and stretch the 1/2” stainless steel bolts as we pulled in anchor and chain. In the Pacific the anchor is often stuck 20 meters below the surface. The pull on the windlass from the anchor and chain was minimal. When you add in an 18 ton boat jerking on the end of a stuck anchor. Wow! . Over time I worried about the windlass flying off the boat as the bolts pealed away like a zipper.

In NZ we had a new- strong stainless steel base made. In Fiji we pulled off the old base and installed the new. The windlass fits on top. The last step was to install the windlass motor inside the boat. The motor is a big heavy honker. It needed to be aligned with the gear teeth in the windlass and then secured to the tube extending down from the windlass. To align it I put the winch handle in the windlass so W/ could slowly turn it until the teeth from the motor aligned and I could lift it up into place. The Windlass is a Lighthouse and has a kedging fitting on top so I can use the windlass handle to slowly crank the boat off of any obstruction. Luckily we’ve never needed to use the kedge function. I am wedged in the anchor locker. The locker is furthest forward in the boat; on the other side of the sail locker/ garage. I had crawled in there so I could lift the motor into place. Crawling and worming forward is the how I was able to get in and under the motor. For the most part I was in a rather precarious position. Getting in wasn’t easy; getting out would be even more difficult. I thought I had the windlass motor in place and asked W/ to turn the breaker on to power it up. W/ switched on the windlass breaker.

Back top side we started to check the motor connection to the windlass. I had already loosened the gypsies so the anchors wouldn’t move. (Does anyone see what I missed?) Wendy activated the switch that feeds pays out the chain. Perfect. All seems to work! I then asked her to check the retrieve chain foot switch. She did. Immediately I heard a double clunk and everything went quiet.

Thinking something might have happened I hollered up and asked if she was ok! No reply would have been bad, swearing would have been better but hearing a “No” was scary. Like lightening I wormed my way out of the chain locker then the sail locker. I ran out of the cabin and up on deck. It was NOT pretty. My heart sank.

W/ was laying on the side deck with her hand to her head, blood all around and in tears. How do you comfort someone in this situation? I reached her as fast as possible and began to check out the source of blood. I held her. She cried, my heart was in my stomach.

Left Ear Damage Inside

Her ear was bleeding inside and outside. Blood was on the deck. Between sobs she could talk. She could move slowly. I helped her to the cockpit. She laid down. I got some sterile wipes to clean her up as best I could. It was a slow process. W/ can tolerate a great deal of pain anywhere – except on her head. There was a gash behind the ear and there was a 10 mm split inside in the middle of the ear. A few days later a bruise appear on her check. Luckily we have a freezer aboard and we put an ice wrap on the area hoping to slow the blooding and ease the pain. I cleaned her ear some more. Trying not to make anymore pain for her it was slow going. I cleaned what I could and what she could tolerate with Peroxide. There was no way to micro bandage any of the cuts. There were a couple of extra indents / cuts / openings in the ear lobe where her earring is. As gently as possible we / she removed the earring. We cleaned more and iced more. We talked about what the hospital might do. It was Sunday; the Dr’s office is closed.

The damage behind the ear

I didn’t think they could stitch any of the areas up. The one cut on the cartilaginous portion of the ear and the other in the fold behind the ear. While the hospital here was an option it wan’t high on our list. At this point it doesn’t appear life threatening. Luckily. There is a vet at the marina and if need be we could consult with him. After all we all are animals anyway. W/ decided and I supported her that we didn’t need to do that yet. We iced. we cleaned what pain would allow. She laid down with that side of her head up. I ran blue tape (almost as good as Duct Tape) around her head holding some cotton swabs to the effected area. The rest of the day she couldn’t lay on the effected ear. Way to much pain. As it slowly stopped bleeding and we cleaned carefully I painted Second Skin on the wounds. Unfortunately Second skin stings so it was slow going. As we covered the wounds with second skin and they were protected I could paint more on area. It is only the first layer of second skin that stings. The entire time she is completely lucid. It alleviates one worry but doesn’t make any of her pain or my anxiety go away.

Showering would be a problem but the ear simply wouldn’t get washed. By the end of the first day she the bleeding is minimal. Touching the ear was not as painful. I took photos every day so we could look at the healing and she could see exactly what I was describing.

Trigger and Weapon

When W/ pushed the retrieve chain foot switch she was down on her hands and knees activating it with one hand. The winch handle which I had forgotten about and W/ wasn’t ever much aware of swung around striking her upside the head. The blow upside the head knocked her off her knees onto her side. The handle hit with such force it flew out of the windlass with the adapter fitting. Had she been standing it may well have struck one of her legs and broke it. While the foot switch is well away from the swing of the handle the other leg could be in range. Had her head been in a different position she could have broken a jaw, knocked some teeth out, broken her nose or damaged an eye. Worse case she might be dead if it struck her in the temple! As unlucky as she was, she and I were lucky. By day four she was able to sleep on that side of her head for a bit. From the cleaning we did and the second skin she had no infection. By the end of the week she could shower and get the ear wet. Now about two weeks later only an ENT might notice that there was some trauma to the ear. No one can look at it and see any damage. Her hearing is fine ( sometimes when I’m mumbling something her hearing is too good!). This time she and by extension we were lucky. Out here cruising we try to think of everything. We try to run scenarios through our head and think of what might go wrong. At anchor, in a beautiful place I may have become a bit too complacent. In 10 years we’ve never needed to use a winch handle in the windlass. I don’t think I would ever have thought the motor running would turn the handle too. I wasn’t aware if it was a direct drive or racheted. When the motor pays out chain the kedge winch handle doesn’t move. It only moves while retrieving the chain.

With the new base installed, W/ healed we’re on to the next project, a stack pack. The only physical damage I can do here is sew a finger. Let’s hope I can avoid those stitches. Nothing … is faster than disaster.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

ROI !

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

One piece of advice cruiser often give is: Cruising will cost you what ever you have. Cruising; this lifestyle cost money. What doesn’t? Living in the states and not working also cost money. What is important is mitigating those expenses as much as possible. If we can save on one area it allows us to spend on another.

One item that has been well worth the intiial expense is a hair clippers. W/ won’t let me cut her hair. We tried once years ago and while the results were fine she felt it was a disaster. I’ve never cut her hair since. But….

She cuts mine. Hell; if anything goes wrong I know it will grow back. We bought a Wahl clipper set in the states before we left. My barberess recommended that company. Cost approx $50. And Lisa (my barbaress), while cutting my hair showed W/ a few tips.

We’ve been gone 10 years now. We can almost set the calendar by when W/ say’s I am starting to look like a bear and need to be “cleaned up”! Assuming a monthly cut of $10 that is $120 / year saved. For ten years that’s over a grand. Granted some shops are more expensive then others but 10 bucks is just a rough average. That money can well go towards entertainment, boat maintenance, or just stay in the bank. Not a bad investment!

Go slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Todays Job

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Dirt dwellers often have an image of cruisers as hanging out on a beach with a good book and a cool drink. After being locked in the boat with 20 straight hours of rain we finally saw the Sun … and began a new project.

 

The foward galley sink drained awfully slow. Thinking I only needed to remove one hose, clean, and re-install it I set about doing just that. However; few jobs on a boat are exactly as foreseen.

 

I began to remove just the hose I wanted and it wouldn’t budge. I had already flushed with fresh water and closed the hose drain. Salt water in the boat is not what any cruiser wants. I ended up removing the entire drain plumbing, forward and aft sink drain, and the “T”. I jump in the dinghy to clean the hoses. W/ is the goffer making the job run as smoothly as possible. Once clean I begin to reinstall, after W/ cleaned the locker and the small spillage we had.

 

W/ poured fresh water in the sinks while I checked for leaks. Nada. While in the locker we picked up that the main galley filter was changed 10 months ago. Saving the locker empty refill routine I changed that filter too. Pumped and no leaks. All the supplies that live in that locker are put back and we’re both ready for that good book, beautify beach and cool drink. I think we’ll settle for lunch ashore.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Sail

Buca Bay

Monday, December 17th, 2018
We sailed around to Buca Bay where our friends have some “sfuff” stored. There we hoped to finish the installation of the humidifier we gave them. It was not to be. Lewis had purchased a used container that was owned by a jeweler. I tried to drill a hole in the floor. No good. Not even with a carbide bit. I needed a hammer drill and we don’t carry that on the boat. Then I tried to drill from the inside out. All I did was make a hole in the inner wall. Oh well. Nothing more to do here.
 

Buca Bay Ferry Dock; Fiji

Buca Bay Ferry Dock; Fiji

Buca Bay is a major jump off point of the ferry to Taveauni; the Third largest island in the Fiji group. Twice a day a car / people ferry arrives and departs. Two times a day a people / supplies only ferry stops. Additionally; there are smaller panga’s that transport up to a dozen people with limited supplies from various villages nearby. Considering we’re 2 hours by car from Savusavu and a days sail by boat, this was a hopping place.

 
And some days it would be more so. A place called the Mission has been build here by some quite successful US physicians and several times / year various physician groups do outreach. Our cruising friend John had considered having his cataract replaced here but the need was so great he choose to wait. Dentist; oral surgeons, Optomitrist, Opthamologists and many other specialties use the world class facility here. Tomorrow; we head back to Viani Bay.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
 

Out and About: Fiji

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

I’m getting so long in the tooth with my blog I’m not sure where to start anymore. I would like to just write short ones but once I get chattering away it seems to go on, and. on…. and on. It’s been 10 years now and truth be told I’m getting a bit tired. To make a normal full length one takes about 5 hours; editing my writing takes a lot of time as well as the thought i put into . Choosing, timing and optimizing pictures so the load fast on the web adds to it to.
In an effort to keep things shorter I’ll begin today.

We spent a week out and about in Fiji. Sailing Fiji seems to be an oxymoronic description. Day one, we headed NE towards Buca Bay. We hoped to get as far a Vianie Bay and we did. But; while I tried on three separate times to put out any sails, not one of those times was a sail out for more than 5 minutes. We motored for almost 10 hours. Yuck.

 

Photo by W Kall. Viani Bay, Fiji.

In the North finger of the bay we found a tolerable place to anchor in 60’ of water. It is quite a pretty bay but very, very deep. As the evening wore on Semele; the care taker of the place kayaked out to chat. We noticed some vegetable aboard and as we were finishing our “chat” he offered them to us. We of course want to be as fair as possible and asked him how much he wished for them. There were a dozen bananas, 4-5 Limes and 4 Papaya. He refused any pay. That is what the Fijians are like.

 


Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

 

 

Living Well with Pharmaceuticals !

Friday, October 5th, 2018
Dirt dwellers often wonder what we do about health care and how we manage it on the boat. For the most part, living on a boat is healthier than on land. We come in contact with few sick people. The demands of the boating life; unlike those of work, does not force us being ill on anyone else nor them upon us.
 
On the rare occasion one of us becomes ill we do have a full medical kit aboard. In the remotest of places we can use the SSB / Ham setup to contact shore side medical personnel on the maritime frequencies. We also carry two excellent medical texts aboard: Your Offshore Doctor by Beilan, and Medicine for Mountaineering by Wilkerson. However, it is quite rare to get anything other than seasick offshore. Injuries can occur, yes, but general sickness not so much.
 
The other factor involved is time. We spend less than 10% of our cruising time actually offshore sailing. Mostly we’re at anchor in some of the world’s most beautiful places. And quite often where those places are there are villages, towns, people, and medical care. There is an excellent Dr. In Savusavu.
 
There maybe more than one Dr. in Savusavu but there is one in the private sector that cruisers use. He is a US certified physician who was the head of medical care at one of the hospitals in Fiji. He’s now eased up his work load and does private care in paradise; oops…. Savusavu.
 
It had been rainy all week and we’ve been cooped up aboard. In general that doesn’t help my mood. I like to get out and about. So for whatever reason, not feeling good about the weather my body decided to mimic that feeling.
 
It started out with a little fever one evening and I started treating it. The following day I noticed a mild soreness in my throat. I was treating the fever and sore throat with over the counter remedies. But; I was having difficulty. I ran out of Aspirin and my throat lozenges were getting low. I was using Saline mist like crazy so I never had a sour drip (sorry if it’s Too Much Info). Day one a temp of 102º F. Yuck. Day two I went in with W/ to town but I hung at a picnic bench and waited for her to complete some shopping. When we returned to the boat my temp was 104º F. Oh-Oh. W/ wet me down good- wet back, cool cloth on forehead, I added another aspirin especially since I had run out. 30 minutes later my temp had dropped 1/2 a degree. I forgot I could have slowly immersed myself into the water around the boat and that would have cooled me down. I don’t know how smart that would have been but it was an option. In Medicine for Mountaineering they suggest sitting in a stream if the body temperature gets too high.
 
We decided the following day to visit the clinic. From our readings of the above books a temperature this high and a sore throat could easily be Strep throat. Streptococcus is not a friendly bacteria to deal with. Even if I made it past this stage the following stages might also be problematic. As instructed in the books we should look for white spots on the back of my throat. W/ didn’t see any. We went to the clinic anyway.
 
There the Dr. found the white spots and showed W/ what to look for. He wrote out a script for the medicines I would need and off we went. Cost of the office visit: $20 Fijian. I waited at Snowy House and had a thick chocolate shake to soothe my sore throat (Cost $9 Fijian) Now I had some more energy. W/ walked to the pharmacy for the drugs and for $45 Fijian we had the weeks worth of antibiotics, Advil, and Sudafed. I was good to go.
 
Back at the boat I started my regime. My throat wasn’t too bad yet but I could tell it would take some time for improvement. That night swallowing was painful. I sipped Sprite, ate salted popcorn and laid around.
 
Day two was a little better body temperature wise, I was down around a 100º F now but my throat was still afire. As the day wore on my throat improved hourly. I’m still laying low. Reading books, playing games, and keeping up with friends on the internet all helped pass the time. And; a few extra naps never hurt. All in all, in 10 years of cruising I think this is my first time I’ve needed to see a physician and only my third time being visibly ill. Life is good!
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
 

Project: Boat Power -Results

Friday, September 14th, 2018
While in NZ we made a few changes to Elysium. One significant change was in our electrical power system. When we arrived in NZ we needed new batteries. We had been nursing our House and Starter bank for the last year or so. There had not been any place to get high quality batteries while in the Pacific; at a reasonable price. We could have shiped them in to an island but the cost of shipping would far out weigh the cost of the batteries. In NZ the equation would change.
But; and this is rather significant; while in NZ we ran into Phil on Silhouette. He was an electrical engineer in his pre cruising life and had run Lithiums on his boat for the last 2-3 years. He talked about how wonderful they were – all – the – time. And while we were in NZ other cruisers I know; Mark on Reach, Martin on Katie M II, BJ on Evenstar, and Paul on Anticipation  (all knowledgable sailors I respect) had either installed or were installing them. Not that we follow the crowd. 🙂
However; I do love using others as our “guinea pigs”. For the most part they too understand this lifestyle. They have the same experiences managing their electrical needs. On yachts we must blance charging, using, maintaining a battery bank, and the equipment while we keep it all working smoothly. With the guidance of those wiser than I, Elysium set about upgrading her electrical system… to Lithiums.
First was selecting and purchasing the batteries. I could have paid extra and had a local installer do all the work. The cost would almost double what I had hoped to pay. Instead; considering how cheap I am (and a bit concerned that I don’t want anyone else to blame but myself), I planned on doing the work myself.
I ordered them, as per Phil, from the Chinese shop in Taiwan. According to his information; China has spent billions of dollars in making this storage device perfect. The Chinese see the future. For the most part this technology is driving the new generation of electric vehicles. When on a yacht, in the middle of no where I want something that is not on the cutting edge. I learned in the working world that being on the cutting edge one quite often bleeds. Thus, I followed Phil’s advice and went with the China batteries.
The one real issue was that the supplier didn’t take any credit cards. There was no website and once they quoted you the amount; to buy the batteries you needed to make a bank transfer; roughly $3,500 US. After that I held my breath. They provided us confirmation of the receipt of funds but then there was a black hole in communication for a few weeks. Finally, I received a bill of lading for the batteries. And about 2 months later they said the batteries were shipped. I still worried. Four weeks later I received a note that we had some merchandise in Auckland. One would think that because we are a boat in transit this would be easy. In some respects it was; in others not so much. Of course the shipper could take care of everything and ship the batteries to Whangarei. The cost; another $500 NZ or so. With a car we opted to make a day trip to Auckland and run the paper work down ourselves. . We had left Whangarei in the a.m. timing our Auckland arrival to be immediately after rush hour. We arrived at the shipping agent by 11 am and found customs around noon. After completing the paperwork we began looking for the shipping warehouse and by 2 ish had located it. Thirty minutes later we had two boxes of Lithium batteries loaded in the trunk of the car and were heading home. I, was much relieved.
Phil on Silhouette was advising me. He said I didn’t need all the “rig a ma role” to use the Lithiums. And I wanted to follow the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. Once we had the batteries on the boat I removed the older gel batteries and we took them to a recycle depot. There we received almost $100 NZ for the batteries I didn’t want and wouldn’t hold a charge. Sweet! I kept one 12 v battery to run the boat with the battery charger.
First order of business was to “Balance” the batteries. Some “experts” say to balance them at the bottom of their charge and others say to balance them at the top. Phil indicated that one really didn’t need to do either as they would balance out anyway once connected. So, in lieu of buying a constant voltage charger or draining them to near the bottom and recharging them I simply connected them in parallel and let them self balance. Before any of you get up in arms about that, since I’ve installed and had them in operation over 6 months no pack voltage has been off by more than 0.01 V. I would say the avg difference is 0.006 V but my instruments don’t read to that minuscule amount and I’m having to interpolate.
Once balanced Phil said I needed two latching relays. We spent a good hour on the internet looking for exactly what he suggested. We needed relays that would handle high amps. What we found was going to cost me close to $500.00. Ouch! There goes simple!
Traveling back in time W/ and I had done a house sit for Scott. who owns EMPower Electrical. He is the “go to guy” for Lithium installs in Northland NZ. While at his office he was telling me / showing me about how their company sets up Lithium installs, the BMS they use and the switches. The cost of the hardware was close to a grand NZ! Ouch. Often during this process I was wondering if we had made the right choice. I had already crossed this bridge and to turn back would not save us any $$$’s. All I could do was barrel on ahead. The question was do we install all the bells and whistles for $1000.00 or do I have a minimal system with hope, a prayer, and $500.00 extra in my pocket. I decided to bite the bullet and get the complete Battery Management System (BMS). I bought the hardware from EMPower and Scott would advise me on what to do. Once I had the work completed he would check it all and bring everything up online. Of course that was more money but I’ve already taken hold of the hook.
A couple of days later he brought me the Orion BMS, wiring harness’, automatic battery switches and some extra battery cable. If I ever thought this was going to be easy; boy was I mistaken. During our first consult he drew a new wiring

Out with the old...

Out with the Old…..

diagram. Our boat is / was mostly old school. All charging and load sources were brought to individual power posts. Whichever battery bank I wanted to use were switched at the panel and run to the power post. That was NOT what I needed to do with the lithiums. ( Side note on Orion:  I’ve needed to communicate with the company via email a couple of times and they have been excellent in responding in a timely manner and answering my questions completely)

Lithiums needed to have the load and charge separately controlled. They die one of two ways: Over charging and being discharged flat. What this process entailed was installing some new wire runs. We have two alternators, one on each engine and an 80 amp battery charger. I needed to run new cables from the alternators to the lithium compartment and from the battery charger to the compartment. I was also going to add some solar panels. (Another blog entry will cover that). Solar too will need another cable feed into the charging post / switch. The Battery Monitoring System will shut off the charging of the batteries when they reach whatever setup point is entered-preventing them from overcharging. From my research Lithiums are 100% charged when they reach 14.4 volts. I set the BMS to shut down the charging a 14.3 volts. Lithiums have no need like other batteries to ever be at 100 % during any part of their life. On our regulator the max charge point is set to 14.2 volts. This ought to keep everything healthy, never really charging the batteries over 95%.
After a brief interlude of cursing from having to re route wiring W/ and I set about completing this job. Any yacht owners having read this far might well listen to the following advice. Anytime you run a water line or power cable through any bulkhead on the boat, double the size of the hole you believe you will need. DOUBLE IT! It NEVER fails that you will need to run more wires or more hose through that same hole. And as any woodworker understands: You can NOT enlarge a hole with an electrical cable or water line running through it. You either need to remove the cable / hose and recut the hole or add another next to it. At times there are several cables passing through the same hole. It would be quite problematic to remove them, enlarge the opening, then reinstall them. I opted to add more holes.
A couple of days later and a 100 wire ties fewer I had the change cables run. The next step was to remove the load from the power post at the panel and move it back to the lithium compartment. Again with a colorful language and W/’s support I set about pulling the load wiring and re routing it to the lithium bank. The idea here is that with an extreme discharge of the bank I could kill the batteries. Near future replacement is not in our budget. I have the minimum capacity of the bank set at 20%. All of this work including the language lapses took a couple of weeks to complete. (I’m retired and don’t work 8 hour days anymore! 🙂 ) I would run out of wire, need another power post, or simply run out of patience and need a break.

Lithium yacht power installation; overwhelmed.

Once completed I called Scott and scheduled a time that we could actually bring the system online. One item I was missing was a cable that connected the Orion BMS to my computer. Well, that and the BMS configuration file. Scott had both. I had ordered the cable from TradeMe; the eBay of NZ and was waiting for it’s arrival. But I still needed / wanted Scott to check everything and have the system functioning right the first time. He checked the wiring, checked that all the connections to the Lithium cells were correct, checked that the load and charge switches worked and then made the final connection. After that we checked to make sure my Ample Power EMON read the same voltage that the battery pack indicated, ran the charger and bingo… we were up and running. He advised us to run the charger up to where we had set the batteries for full and then I would be all good to go.

There was however one other concern I had. While discussing this setup earlier at Scott’s home he said that when running correctly the system will shut down the alternators before it disconnects the charge source. If one shuts down the charge source while running the alternators then you blow the diodes in the alternator. When off shore or in remote locations- that is not good. I was not interested in blowing out any diodes. He has another (yes I know) switch that I could wire into my regulator. Thus when the BMS tells the battery switches they will be shut down in 5 seconds, the system immediately disconnects the power to the regulator thereby shutting off the alternators. As that is a latching relay it will not repower the regulator until the BMS indicates that the batteries can now take more power.
For the most part; this setup is for safety. That and saving me from needing to purchase more batteries in the near future. Safety on a cruising boat is the first priority. And while I am by no means a conservative individual, sailing, when W/ and my life depend on everything working well: I am quite conservative.
As a rough total we have about $6,000.00 US invested in this battery setup. That includes a spare BMS ( I picked it up off of eBay), two new CAN regulators (they will actually talk to the BMS and are not yet installed- maybe this year), the extra cables and switches and the consulting bill from EMPower. In a worse case scenerio this battery bank will reach 2,000 cycles before degrading enough that I will need to replace anything again. Elysium is using about 10 cycles / month which would give us close to 200 months of full time cruising use. That comes out to about $1.00 / day for storage and use of our batteries. Not bad.
Remember I said whilst in the middle of this install I was wondering if I was doing the right thing. No longer. In our old system we had an effective amp hour usage of a maximum 200 amp hours between charging. In a typical lead acid battery for deep cycle use you only get 50% of the rated amp hours. In this current setup we have almost double that. To top it off, the charging of this bank is more efficient. A lead acid charge cycle voltage will taper off the closer you get to a full charge. For lithiums, I am charging at my full capacity for the majority of my cycle. I am getting the full benefit from my solar panels or my alternators all day long. Lithiums have been a good choice for Elysium. W/ and I no longer worry about using too much power. We no longer worry if our battery bank is below 50%. It is all taken care of . Hell, we even bought a Toaster and run it off our Inverter! W/’s happy, I’m happy, life is good…
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

North to the Warmth

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Now I’m depressed. Keeping this blog going is not an easy task. Not easy for a cruiser that has no job and no desire to acquire a job. Keeping the boat functional is work enough. I had written this blog only to have somehow deleted it, or saved an empty file or restarted the computer. So… here I go again.

We were tired of waiting. Minerva isn’t our cup of tea. Maybe if we had planned on hanging there for a month and had everything functioning on the boat it may well have been better. Six to ten hours a day of bouncing around was not our concept of comfort. Not having the dinghy inflated and powered up limited our mobility; not that there were many places to go. Thus, daily we were watching the weather.

We download GRIB files twice a day hoping for that magic forecast. We listen to Gulf Harbor Radio (GHR) every am. David is a retired meteorologist that is also a sailor. He broadcasts his take on the sailing conditions in this area of the world from NZ 6 days a week . To date he has not indicated a perfect window for heading where we wanted to go. We wait.

With no great sailing window we began looking for a motoring window. Neither of us love motoring. However we both prefer motoring to sailing in storm conditions. The sky didn’t look great this am. There was a rain mass west of us and a little to the north. The winds were….. ZERO. We knew we would have to motor to Fiji if we left today. Fiji was not where we had intended to go but we loved Fiji, the people, the anchorages, the food, all were to our liking. So we would change plans and head there; then on to Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

We pulled anchor and motored out of Minerva. Exiting was a non event. The eddies and currents generally in the pass were not there today. We kept motoring.

We pointed the bow north right into the dark mass of clouds. While dark it wasn’t worrisome. Ahead the rain appeared to come straight down indicating either wind against us, with us, or non existent. It rained some. The wind was nothing. The autopilot that we connect to the wind vane worked flawlessly. Heading north we listened to the iron gennie (diesel) pound away at the break neck speed of 6 kts.

An Unusual Look at the South Pacific

For three days and nights we expected this. Sailboats are not motor boats. We don’t do well when motoring because we roll across the vertical. We lean 5 degrees one way and 3 degrees the other as the waves roll by. Sailing, we heal but the angle stays quite consistent so our bodies adapt quite well. Power boats and especially large powerboats have stabilizers that work to keep the boat from rolling one way and then the other. Our stabilizers are the wind and sails. No wind, no sails, we roll.

It was uncomfortable enough I didn’t drag a fishing line. We motored along, reading, sleeping, keeping the boat on course. All was well in our micro world. Everything worked as it should. Close to Fiji things started to change. The water became bluer, there was more life in the sea and the air. We saw birds and of course every once in awhile trash. Two nights before we arrived in Fiji one large storm cell loomed off to the west. W/ was off watch – asleep. I watched as lightening struck everywhere in the Western sky. For the most part we’ve been lucky or I’ve wired the boat correctly. We’ve not yet been struck but with lightening it is always a gamble. I knew strikes have occurred as far away as 60 miles from the storm center. Even when we are a good bit away from the storm the strikes cause concern. I timed the difference between he lightening strike on the ground and the thunder clap. The nearest strike was 10 miles away. Not a comfortable distance but not the worst. After that close strike the storm moved off behind us and we kept getting further and further away. W/’s off watch was over and I updated her on the situation. I went below to sleep.

The following day we spoke with sv Second Wind. They left a couple hours after we did and were not as lucky. The storm moved right over them. Yet as most often the case they had no damage. Both of us were heading to Fiji. The following day we hoped for a good night’s rest; one without the constant boom, boom, boom of a diesel running. And as in Minerva, offshore I check the wx every day. There was to be a glob of 35 kts of wind between Fiji and Tonga that we wished to avoid. While we had 3 potential landfalls; Denerau, Suva, and Savusavu the nearest safe harbor from this “crap” was Suva. We choose the nearest option.

The day dragged on as we were closing in on Fiji. We could now hear VHF communications and we were too fast. I know that is an oxymoron considering we travel about the speed of an average jogger. But at the speed we were going we would be arriving at Suva in the dark. While Suva is a commercial harbor we don’t want to enter a developing nation’s harbor at night – the first time. Any navigational marker broken would be a problem for us. The smaller fishing boats used by individuals in Fiji often don’t run or even have lights. Given the possibiliity of arriving earlier then we want we try to slow down. When I feel a little puff of air on my face I said “Let’s sail”.

What a joy it is to turn off the engine and let mother nature move our boat. The calm serenity of Elysium moving through the water under the power of the wind is what our soul desires. We weren’t going fast, 3- 4 kts but we were moving. And move we did for about 3 hours. Then the breeze died and the sails hung like the dead. The sails furled we start the engine. We motored slowly towards Fiji but we would still be too early. As night descended and as we closed on Fiji we decided to lay ahull. We shut the engine off and floated for a few hours. I calculated the time we would need to arrive in Suva in light and we waited. We still keep watch even though we are not moving. You never know what can happen out here. I am always amazed at how many times on the open ocean we’ve had to change course to avoid another ship. In many cases we would have the right of way. But, we never play chicken with ships. NEVER. Late night we start up the diesel; again, and motor into Suva Harbor. We arrive at dawn.

Anchored; we call the Suva Yacht club. They provide the service for the officials to come to the boat. They then inspect the boat, check us over (visually), and provide the paperwork for us. We are now legal to be here. Before noon we are legal. Oh do we look forward to a good night’s sleep. Little did we know.

 

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

 

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Some old enough may remember Gomer from the Andy Griffith show spouting that line. Because I made a mistake – those words are my thoughts.

When we travel we often close off the forward head. Any beating of the waves against the boat spurts water into our forward head (cabin) area via the sink. To be safe I also close off the head (toilet) too. If this is too much info skip to the next paragraph. I used the head and without thinking grabbed pump handle. I began pumping the toilet (there is no handle to flush as in home toilets). Pumping required more effort than I expected. On the second pump I remembered; opps, open the seacock.

On the second stroke I also heard a little squish. I opened the seacock and completed the task of flushing the head. Sadly I still heard a little “squish”. Some water passing back and forth. The squish ought not to be there. There is a small hole at the bottom of the Henderson / Lavac pump to let any fluids out.

I checked and it is a little wet there. Damn! Added to my never ending list is to now replace the head pump. Oh well….. I have another pump all ready made up. We are after all a cruising boat and carry an enormous amount of spares. I have a spare pump, as well as spare rebuild kits. Tomorrow I’ll pull the pump and replace it, then rebuild it in the afternoon at my leisure.

After breakfast we begin. While I could do this on my own having a partner assist will reduce the work time considerably. W/ looks up where the spare is, I dig it out of the locker. I check the pump bolts and tighten just a little; after all it has sat in the locker for about 2 years and I don’t want any leaks.

We begin by clearing out the lockers on both sides of the pump. In one locker there are a couple of soaked items. Those go in the wash. The rest is strategically placed about the boat to create the biggest mess possible. I now begin to remove the pump.

Four hose clamps and four nuts later I have it out. I install the new pump and we’re close to finished. Once installed we get a bucket of fresh water for testing. We don’t love having to clean salt water up. W/ fills the toilet with fresh water and begins to pump. Water is coming out of the screws holding one of the gaskets in

Cracked Henderson Pump body

Cracked Henderson Pump Body

place. This gasket stops water from flowing backwards into the pump. I HATE this design! Three out of four times I have trouble with this part. I tighten up the screws. It still leaks. I get some Butyl out and we put some in the holes and around the screw heads. I tighten down and get a better seal; not perfect, just better. We pump and I’m still getting water around that area. DAMN! I wedge my head in the locker with a headlamp and W/ pumps some more. Double DAMN! There is a crack in the plastic molding in the pumping chamber. Surprise! Guess what we get to do.

A bronze underwater fitting with a hole eaten in it.

A bronze fitting with a hole eaten in it!

Remove the pump, clean the old one, transfer the new rebuild kit to the old pump, put back together and reinstall. An hour or so later we’re ready to put the old rebuilt pump back in service. While I was taking this pump apart W was removing more stuff from the hanging locker where half the pump is. With her eagle eye she sees a drip area that ought not be there and as usual she wants me to be worried too. I check it out. Again I stick my head in the locker with a head lamp and Surprise ! I discover a hole in the bronze elbow where effluent leaves the sewage treatment unit and exits the boat.

In many respects this was discovery is lucky. I don’t know exactly when this hole opened all the way up. Had we not noticed and continued to use the system we would have had quite a few items as well as the floor of the locker covered in ground up, fully treated, excrement. A real PITA and real lucky; all at the same time.

Even luckier still, I have a plastic 45 degree elbow that I can replace the bronze one with a hole with. I remove the bronze fitting; without breaking anything. I seal the threads on the new elbow with silicone tape and add thread sealant to be sure all goes well. I crawl into the locker and install the new elbow. We also have some new hose we picked up in Whangarei so we decide now is the time to replace that section too. I heat the hose end, install the hose, cut it to length and then install the other end on the seacock. I let the hose cool down prior to adding hose clamps. I remind myself to remember to tighten them before testing the system. I also let W/ know to remind me. We can’t be too careful when it comes to keeping water on the outside of the boat.

Back to the pump. I get it installed and the hoses clamped on. W/ adds fresh water to the bowl and we pump. Bingo. No leaks on the pump, a small leak on a joint connecting two hose sections and no leaks at the elbow install. And this time I remembered to check all hose clamps and open the thru hull. I snug down the union and all is right with the world. W/ vacuums out the lockers and then wipes them down removing any salt residue she can. Everything is now cleaned and put back into the lockers.

We started this process at roughly 9 am and without any breaks we finished at about 3 pm. All told, in the end, a good day. We discovered a problem after I created a problem. We addressed it, solved it and everything is now ship shape. And what did I learn? Oh…. when we shut down the forward head I will move the pump handle to the aft head. That ought to remind me before I try pumping with a closed seacock again!

On to dunch. (W/ likes to combine the two into one meal- works for me!)

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long