Day 8 at Sea
02 April 2011
Today begins the 8th day at sea, we are about 800 some miles off shore. The day started out overcast, and as the day went on it became clear and sunny.
I have been struggling to understand our charging system. When we start the engine, it starts pumping 40 amps into the batteries. But this amerage drops withing 10 minutes to less than 10 amps. And the battery voltage, instead of increasing, declines. This is very worrisome since we need DC poer to run our instruments, watermaker, radio, etc.
Fortunately we have alternate sources of power. There are the solar panels, and the wind generator. But the solar panels do no good at night and the wind generator doesn't do anything when the wind is light. Then we have our Honda generator. This little gem produces 120V AC and sends it directly to our shore power inlet to charge our batteries and provide power to our appliances when needed.
To make a long story short, the DC charging system (alternator and regulator) are behaving mysteriously and basically not working. We have to rely on the Honda generator now to keep the batteries charged. At least until I figure out what's wrong with the alternator/regulator system.
Oh, we are carrying a backup alternator, and a backup regulator.
But tests I have done this far indicate normal alternator unregulated output. And I have already tried out the spare regulator (same result). There is something going on here that I don't understand. I think I'll have to call Balmar on the Sat Phone when they open on Monday to get their input.
Then there was the trouble with the holding tank. This 30 gallon tank holds our sewage, need I say more! We need to empty the tank when at sea, but it would not empty. This meant that the sewage was backing up into our head.
I had to go into the sail locker where the tank is located, disconnect it (very carefully because it was filled with 30 gallons of sewage) and clear the blockage which turned out to be due to mineral deposits using a wire "snake". All while we were under sail doing 8 knots with the spinnaker.
The hardest part was hoisting the full holding tank back into position (by my estimate it weighed 240 lbs). With myself hoisting it from below, we tied two ropes and had John and Francois hoist it from above. The three of us were just barely able to get it back into position.
Fortunately after this ordeal the holding tank is now working normally. I would recommend any boat owner to install a "cleanout" by their holding tank output drain so that this critical juncture can be cleared without disconnecting the holding tank. This is the second time we've had to do this unsavory operation so it's not an uncommon chore.
Besides the usual travails we saw a school of dolphins today. Antoine and John are pictured on the bow of Calou observing them.
Today is Saturday and we all previously agreed Saturday would be Pizza Day. We brought 3 frozen pizzas for the passage and cooked the second one today. It was just an appetizer but quite a treat. We also had apple slices served with blue cheese, and some nice red wine to go with it. Then the main course was arrachera steak cooked with garlic and onions, and steamed potatoes, carrots, and leeks.