Cruisers Alzheimers

Not sure where or when it begins. While we try to follow the KISS (Keep is Simple Stupid) method but yachting still ends up complicated. We have everything we need to navigate, have a full sail setup, a main engine, a dinghy engine, an electrical system that must work in situ as well as be compatible with the idiosynchrasies of multiple countries. All of this gets complicated without even trying. We have 12 three ring binders full of information needed to repair and maintain Elysium. Our inventory of spares and where they are in the boat contains over 1,000 items. And while the inventory isn’t CPA perfect it does help. (However, we have lost one item that we now need and that can’t be found.)

On top of all this companies are not forever. Any forever warranty sailors receive can throw them out the window. Hell, for the most part, any warranty can be thrown out the window. When we first began cruising and were in Columbia our Inverter / Charger stopped working. I contacted the company and of course they’ll take care of it. Send it back, on our dime and they’ll replace it and send a repaired one out…. to a US address. It is a company that sells products world wide. But, the US bought product’s warranty was only good… in the US. Our cruising friends had a part fail on their passage to French Polynesia. They contacted the company; which was a reputable Marine company. The cruising friends nformed the company they were 500 miles away from land in the Pacific and asked for assistance. Contact was with the Ham / SSB radio. Slow and time consuming. The companies first reply; even when they said where they were was, “Where in the States are you?” I kid you not!

Well, back to my Alzheimers. There is an old saying “The more I know the more I forget”…. Most definitely true in my case. When we left Elysium we completely turned everything off. We pulled her out of the water and left her on land. We put her to sleep. Sails off, folded and stored inside. No awnings up. Everything in the boat turned off. The Lithium batteries were discharged for storage (left at 50% of capacity). Solar shut down. Except for a cataclysmic event, Elysium would be there upon our return. And she was.

First things first. We removed the tattered Sun covers that kept UV from adding to her age. We washed the boat. Checked inside. The dehumidifier worked its wonder. Inside smelled good. No animals had secured safe haven inside. I began to power her back up. First the Lithium battery bank and then the solar. Turned the battery charge and load switches to “ON”. The Solar switch was “ON” but nothing was happening. OH SHIT! Sorry, I really wasn’t that polite “No charge, no current, and the Sun was high in the sky. Something is NOT right. Did the batteries go flat? Did I screw up?

Next on the list; the battery list…. Connect the BMS (Battery Management System) and the wifi voltage battery health. In Bali I bought a new wifi hotspot so I needed to re-sync it to the Orion Connect. Something is wrong. I get an error message “Problem fetching needed data”. I try with a different browser, then another. Some developers seem to write for their preferred browser and operating system. As far as they care -the rest of us be damned. Nothing worked. Ok, next try the PC. I’m not a PC fan but if it works, great. Everything everywhere I tried, I get the same error message. I write the company which had in the past been fast in their responses. I hear nothing from them. Not even an “Out of Office” reply. The website is still active but I see the company store has a blank page. DAMN!

I’m wandering in the desert here. Looking for a water hole, looking for answers.

Orion (Ewert Energy Systems , the store comes up blank) must be out of business. To get some direction in the desert I also write Scott from EMPower in Whangarei, NZ. We hired him when installing the Lithiums and he turned us onto the Orion BMS. He should know. Further we house sat for him when we were in Whangarei. Sadly, he too never answered my emails. Strike two.

On to Midnite Solar our MMPT controller. When my battery charger is on the solar charger lights up, but I don’t get the MMPT controller actually charging the batteries. I write to Midnite Solar. Wahoo! They answer. Someone finally cares about their products and how they’re working. My first question was about the coin battery in the charger. Midnite asked about the setting as well as the battery bank. I responded. Again I asked about the coin battery. It wasn’t well covered in the manual. While waiting for a response I found a 3 volt coin battery that fit and replaced it. When I removed the one from the charger it was reading 0.6 volts. Now that the battery was good I hoped that solved the issue. NOPE! DAMN! (You know the drill).

To ensure everything was hunky dory I decided to ensure that the panels all worked ok. I disconnected them and checked voltage and power. All good.

The following day I received another email from Midnite. Kudos to them ! They wanted to know several of the charge settings and asked me to check the input power on the controller. My BMS said the battery bank was at 30 % and my VOM meter and the BMS said the batteries were at 12.8 v. Midnite said that voltage will turn on the controller. Check the input power and work back from there to the batteries to see why the voltage isn’t on the charger stud. Also they said the coin battery only keeps the date and time in the controller. Well, it was worth a try; the coin battery, and now the date and time will be correctly maintained.

We had not noticed any rodents making a new home aboard while we were away. Rodents love to chew electrical cables. Don’t ask me why? However, this cable was huge and I doubted a mouse could chew through it, a rat maybe but we didn’t have any sign of a stowaway. But, we didn’t have a voltage showing from the batteries to the charger either. Ironically we had power at the master control panel. Thus the “LOAD” side was functional, the “CHARGE” side was not. With Lithiums and a BMS those are split up giving the BMS control to limit overcharging and draining the bank to excess. So W/ and I start the long process of identifying where the break is.

We check continuity from the first stud next to the chargers to the bank. No continuity. Damn. Yeah, I’m still not happy but this one I expected. Next we follow the 2/0 wire back to the next power post. Check the continuity between the power posts and that’s good. Check from the batteries to the post. Not good. Damn!

Eventually we reach the battery compartment. I’m checking every connection I can. I trace back the charge circuit to the 3 position battery switch. The LED is on. I check from the post where the cable runs to the solar charger and it is dead. No power there. What the @#%#$%. ! The LED is on. I turn the switch one notch over and now that cable has current. I ask W/ to turn on the charger. Bingo….80 amps. The charger is now charging the battery. Hallelujah! We charge for an hour and then turn on the solar panels. They begin charging. We’re back in business.

I had checked that switch before. I even looked at the Manual for information. My cruising Bro Dirk likes to say RTFM. (Read the F-ing Manual). The switch is installed in an awkward place and I read (in the manual) that the light indicated it was active. Yes, it was active but not “ON”. That switch has 3 settings: “Off”, “ON”, and a controlled “ON”. The controlled “ON” is managed by the BMS. It stops any charge source from overcharging the batteries and destroying them. What I did early on when trying to bring the systems on line was to check the wrong stud inside the switch. I hadn’t followed the cable closely. The stud I checked was the same one connected to the house fuse. The switch was on the other side of the stud I checked. Bad news it cost us a couple days chasing a ghost and it cost me a couple sleepless nights wondering where the ghost is hiding. The good news, with the help of Midnite Solar we caught and rid ourselves of the ghost.

On to the next project; and it is a crappy one. We’re doing maintenance on the boat’s sewage system. Oh, we’re also getting all the sails back up. You know which project W/ and I prefer.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

A Shitty Job

On a yacht, being able to maintain as many systems as possible is a real advantage for cruising. We have a sewage system on the boat. It has been functioning on the edge for years. This year, when we left Elysium on the hard I figured it was time to clean and correct the LectraSan’s ills. Before we left I had flushed several times with fresh water. After which; I pulled all the plumbing apart. The pieces have been drying for 8 months. The hoses were cleaned by banging them on a solid object, a boat stand, cement, tree, etc. removing 99% of the dried sludge. The more difficult task would be cleaning and upgrading the portable sewage system. We have; a LectraSan. The new products name is ElectroSan.

The electrode had been giving us problems for years. And years ago I had ordered a replacement. The electrode in the treatment “box”, had parallel fins. The new set had fins separated much more and it looks like a wing. The most difficult part was finding where we had stored the replacement. It was in our boat, moved several times and now lost. We checked our inventory and somehow we had not entered it. We spent a good part of a day scratching our heads and searching various lockers. My description of the item was off. Oh well. Worst case, we’ll clean up the old and it will be back to a clean working system.

The following day I came down with a huge head cold. I don’t remember ever having one like this. My energy level was below half. My nose mimicked Niagraa Falls. (Sorry if TMI). My breathing at times sounded like an old smoker struggling. I was coughing enough that ground stations would show tremors in the earth. Boat work slowed. Mostly W/ clean,ed arranged and moved “stuff”. But as in some circumstances there can is a silver lining here was ours. While she was getting an item out of one locker she came across the replacement we needed for the LectroSan. I couldn’t yell and scream joy, I didn’t have the energy, but inside I was ecstatic. Still suffering, but much happier.

Daily I was working on getting my head cold under control. Antihistamines, nasal sprays, cough drops, salted snacks, and fluids. Those combined with rest kept me alive, not happy, but alive. I was hungry, never starving, I could read, play chess and watch movies. I just couldn’t make more than a trip or two to the boat. I’d do a little work and that was it. Fortunately, we’re not on any time constraints. We had figured 2-3 weeks to get the boat ready and splash. It is now looking more like 3-4 weeks. We had planned on hiring some of the tedious work. And this was a good time to hire a crew to clean and polish the hull and polish the stainless steel. So, while I was not 100% we were still making progress.

We cleaned the hoses and LectraSan to the 90-10 rule. We rebuilt the LectroSan to a “Good Used” level. Instructions tell us to use silicone on each screw hole with the gasket. Then insert and tighten 16 sets of bolts. We had already replaced the etectrode and reattached the electrical. Working with the box and silicone was worse than cleaning the sludge from the system. Once you get a dab of silicon on you it seems to grow and migrate to every thing near by. Tools, clothing, body. Nothing is immune. Clean the tools and body, throw clothes away.

With the box together we now wait for the silicon to kick off. The following day we test for leaks. And the following day we tested. We found one leak. A painful discovery. I’m still not over this damn virus. I’ve read that it might last 10 days. Yuck. I will say; thanks to modern drugs I’m getting on top of it. The waterfall that was my nose is slowing, my sleep is better, my coughing less. I had one bout where I was struggling to breathe, feeling like my air passage was collapsing. I had had a couple others where I was borderline with the passage wanting to close up. Those have passed. Having more energy now gave me time to feel the frustration. We would need to take it apart, clean the parts and reassemble it.

At least this time there would be no sludge to clean. With the help of the silicone, the gasket had slipped over and hung over the lip of the unit. Neither I nor W/ had noticed it, just happy that we had it together. Now reviewing our work we could see where it had slipped and caught leaving the bolt gasketless. The only place water could sneak through. And it did. A small seep, nonetheless, we didn’t relish the idea of sewage water dripping in the boat.

Again another day passed. W/ had her family call and I; feeling better now (but not 100%) went to the boat. I removed the bolts and nuts from the LectraSan. I was worried that the silicone would adhere to top and bottom prodigiously and I would need to use screw drivers and a putty knife to help them part ways. Luckily the engineers designed this with material, that while the box would seal it wouldn’t become permanent. I was able to part the pieces. And later that am W/ and I put it back together ensuring the gasket was in the correct position.

No more leak. Next task. Install it in the boat.

One of the biggest issues in cruising in developing countries concerns the spares you carry. We have heaps of spares. Yet it never, I mean never fails that something important is missing. I look for our pipe joint compound. Well, actually W/ looks for and finds it. What little is left of it. It is mostly dried up with very little left. Maybe in the city I can find some. There are a couple of hardware stores in walking distance that may have it. I take a chance and burn some shoe leather. Nope, Nope, and Nope. Never heard of it. It is not boding well. I can either pay a taxi to the big city and hope or be creative. I choose creative.

I open up the tube that is nearly empty. Scrap the semidried material out and mix it with the much more viscous material. W/ stirs and I get the pieces ready. I smear it well on the threads and attach the pieces tightening to an angle that aligns with the tubing. With the LectraSan installed the next step is to connect the hoses and anti siphon.

The anti siphon has a gizmo flap that lets air in and keeps water from squirting out. I’ve replaced several of these. Note: replaced. I have tried to clean and replace and never has that been successful. The O ring never fits again once cleaned. This time the same thing, the O ring does not fit; somehow the plastic ring grows. Creative me thinks I’ll just nip a bit off the O ring and then put it in place. Looks good. Looks right. It now fits. I install it. After coaxing the hose on each fitting with some colorful language I next add the hose clamps. There are 14 of them. Each connection receives a double clamp. Should one clamp fail the other will hold keeping sea water out of the boat and keeping us afloat. We too often find a hose clamp that has failed. We carry heaps of hose clamp spares.

With the clamps on. I check each one to ensure they’re adequately tightened. Ready to leak test. Whenever we leak test any of our sewage / head / toilet systems we use fresh water. No one, not even the crew of Elysium wishes to clean up saltwater or sludge in the boat. There ought not be any sludge; everything is clean and inspected. But saltwater too is not fun.

We pour fresh water into the toilet and flush. Everything looks good. It all looks good. W/ and I inspect it. Oh-Oh. I spot a trickle running down a hose. I Trace it back and it appears to be coming from the Anti-siphon. I pump and still don’t see where it originates from. The anti-siphon or the hose fittings. We pour more water into the toilet, pump and after a couple more pumps I see a small squirt out of the anti-siphon.

Again, that little piece I’ve never been able to clean and reuse failed. Time to dig out a new one. I have 2. After today I’ll have one spare. We’ll need to add more to our list. When we get to Malaysia where boat parts are plentiful, I’ll replace them. Again, I pump and all is good. No leaks means a working head; a toilet. On to the next project…. Bottom paint, dinghy repair, diesel, petrol, clean and organize the boat. There is always something… always something in paradise.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Circumnavigated (Huh?)

Well we’ve circumnavigated. Not by boat. By plane. And it was painful. We’ve been sniffed by dogs, had full body scans, sat in a seat for hours, and listened to the drone of jet engines for more than a day. Honestly, hearing the wind in the sails is much more calming. Yeah, there are times on the boat when fecal material strikes fan blades. And just as fast it doesn’t last long. On Elysium we can move around, lounge as the conditions permit. We are not seat belted in when there are a few bumps, not restricted from using the commode because someone sitting up front controlling the planes turns on a light that flashes “stay in your seat”. Even in rough conditions we can read, listen to music or daydream or count sheep. Dolphins might follow us, whales swim near, birds often circle us; life flourishes around us. 10,000 meters up, in the great blue we see…. ideally…. nothing.

We’re back in Bali which we left 9 months ago. Back getting our life in order, looking to experience, feel the world again. Three days here and then we board a fast ferry across the straits to the Elysium. Elysium has been patiently waiting for our return. We’ve had a dehumidifier running in the boat to keep mildew and pests away. So… two more days and we’ll be home. Not aboard yet, but home.

There is work yet to do in getting Elysium back in the water. Clean and paint the bottom (this keeps growth off the hull), Lubricate the seacocks (these control the flow of water in and out of the boat). Flush the water maker. Restart the solar and bring the batteries back on line. Clean inside. Move deck gear back out of the boat. Rig the sails. Check the rig. Inflate and test the dinghy and engine. Maybe do maintenance on the windlass. Launch the boat. I look forward to the work. I look forward to being afloat again.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long