05/13/2012, Castleton on the Hudson River
In my last blog post I wrote that we were still waiting for the locks to open up, but it didn't take that long, after all. I did call the Troy Lock mid April to find out if they were by chance opening before May 1st, but the guy answering said no, only as per schedule on May 1st. On Friday, April 27th we looked at the New York State Canal, Notice to Mariner's website and it said May 1st. On Saturday, Benno and I were sitting in the Castleton Clubhouse at noon, waiting for our serving of Philly Cheese Steak and discussing that we had enough time to clean our dinghy the next day at the dock before taking our mast down on Monday. Benno started to read the Albany Newspaper from the previous day and in it there was an article that 3 airplanes (Royal Navy donated airplane, a MIG airplane and some previous secret airplane) would be transported by barge from New York's Pier 93 through the Troy and Erie Canal locks to the museum further up on SATURDAY and that the locks would be open.
Boy, did we wolf down our lunch and the dessert of chocolate cheesecake. Then we hurried to the dinghy, gunning the outboard to get back to Diesel Duck. Back onboard I called up the lock at Troy, the same number as before, and yes, they were open until 10 p.m. However, the other locks, starting with no. 2, would close at 5 p.m. Benno checked the Canal website and yes, the show was on the road, an early opening beginning 10.00 a.m. on Saturday morning. In no time was our dinghy on the aft deck and the mooring line let go. We moved over to the club to start taking our mast, boom and rigging down. We finished at 3:30 p.m. and were underway for Troy.
A couple hours later Diesel Duck went through the Troy lock and the lock keeper said he already locked 13 boats through that day. We then tied up to the long wall before lock #2 in Waterford for the night. This wall is equipped with hydro posts and water outlets for transient boats. There were two sailboats and two trawlers tied up to the wall with their masts down. But the sailboats were going to Lake Champlain (Champlain had an opening scheduled for the 29th of Apr.) and the trawler owner said he wanted to wait a couple more days for warmer and calmer weather to start locking through.
On Sunday, shortly after 7 a.m., right after getting our canal pass, ($50.00 for a ten day pass for vessels over 39ft) we entered the Lock No. 2 and hurray, we were the first pleasure boat locking through the Erie Canal.
04/23/2012, Castleton on the Hudson, NY
It seems to me a whole lot of time I am waiting for something. Presently, I am waiting for the 1st of May, when the season starts at the New York Canal System and the locks open up so that we can start transiting the 35 locks of the canal system which takes us to Lake Erie. We have traveled as far north as we could for the time being. Last Wednesday we took one of the eight mooring balls belonging to the Castleton Boat Club on the Hudson River. This is the place where we are going to lower our mast by using their mast crane. This little club is a great place for transiting boats and I'll tell you why.
The use of the do it yourself mast crane, which is operated with a remote control right from the deck of your boat or from the floating dock to step or un-step your mast, cost only $50.00. Down the river in Catskill you dish out a minimum of $125 for a mast up to 40ft and plus, plus for all the extras like removal of furling, or disconnecting of the wiring, which can jack up the price quickly to $250 and more by having it done by them. Over 40ft mast height the price goes up and up! Here the charge is the same for a large or a small mast. Benno and I can do the un-stepping ourselves and have raised our mast here in this club when we were coming down from Canada in 2005 with Diesel Duck. Also many years ago, we stepped and un-stepped the 50' mast of our sailboat "Najade" here. If you think you need help with this task, consider buddy boating to help each other, as we have assisted a large ketch with his masts.
The club offers the moorings for $5/a day. This includes free Wifi (strong signal, five bars to the mooring field) and the use of their very clean washrooms with hot showers. There is a large bin for your trash on the property. The clubhouse/bar and restaurant welcomes you to visit. Guys, tap beer cost only $1.00! On weekends they have lunch specials. On Sunday we had tasty open faced roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and corn. Included was coffee and blueberry or cherry cheesecake for $4.00/per person. Eat your heart out, this meal will cost you more than 12 bucks down the river for sure. Saturday's lunch of half a roasted chicken with various side dishes for $6.50 we missed, because we'd been offered a ride into town to do a little shopping from one of the members. The club also sells diesel and gasoline at market price.
Directly behind the clubhouse on Main Street, there is a Laundromat with modern front and double loaders ($2.25/load) and large dryers ($0.25), or, if you prefer the top load washers, there is another Laundromat five houses down, west on the same road. At the end of the block there is Stewart's, a large deli type variety store with snack bar and ATM. In the opposite direction, east on Main Street, there is a post office and a library.
04/18/2012, Hudson River, NY
Heading north to Canada I do not really define as cruising, not at this time of year, anyway. It is an enjoyable motor trip nevertheless with lots to see. We are now traveling on the Hudson River. It is 300+ miles long and flows from north to south through eastern New York. There are many historical sights on both sides of the river. Some of the landmarks might be worthwhile to visit and I can imagine that in the summertime, this waterway will be very busy with recreational vessels. For the time being, most of those crafts are on shore, shrink wrapped or covered up and the marinas and yacht clubs are still closed this far up.
After leaving New York City we anchored for the night on the Hudson River, at the town of Ossining, within sight of "Sing Sing" the famous correctional facility you have probably heard of before. The town Ossining was called previously Sing Sing and had been derived from the name of the Native American tribe, "Sinck Sinck" or "Sint Sinck" from whom the land had been purchased in 1685. The prison complex is massive if you view it from the water and the many guard towers and shiny barbed wire around the compound really earn your respect. I'm glad we were staying on the outside of it.
The next day we passed the United States Military Academy at West Point. The academy sits high on scenic ground overlooking the Hudson River. I believe most buildings are constructed from gray granite and they looked most impressive from our viewpoint.
Was this plane parked for the winter or had barnstorming gone wrong?
What happened to this vessel? We speculated if the repairs of this commercial ship at the shipyard weren't completed before launching, the yard manager now might have terrible nightmares. It sat right in front of the slipway.
This paddlewheel ship we passed seemed to be authentic, using it's paddle wheel for propulsion and not just looks.
Leaving the Hudson river, we proceeded west up the Catskill Creek all the way upstream, where we dropped the hook for a week in front of the fixed low bridge. By the way, the chart we purchased for this trip which had been updated 2010, only two years ago, still lists this bridge as a bascule bridge, although locals told us that the bascule bridge was replaced with this fixed bridge 20 years ago!! This was a dead end for us but no problem to pass under for the many small fishing boats that have homes at the many small marinas lining the creek. A 15 min. walk up on Bridge Street West were a Walmart Super Center, a large Lowe's building supply store, plus other stores and a large Price Chopper supermarket. It was a convenient place for us to head into town for food and supplies. We will be taking our mast down at the Castleton Boat Club further up the Hudson, but that place was not open yet, so we had lots of time to start preparations and for Benno to fabricate a wooden mast support and a fender board to protect our fenders from the rough walls of the locks.
In all the seven years that we have been cruising, this was a first for us. This happened on the hottest day of this spring. The temperature was predicted to be 92˚F, although on the water I think it was probably more like 87˚F, but the wind blew very hot air for sure and it gusted a good 20+ knots from the south. We had left the Catskill anchorage and we were only going to be moving about 15 miles further on the Hudson to an anchorage in a little side arm called Stockport Middle Ground. Following the description of the latest edition of "Skipper Bob" and exactly the markings and drawings of the "previously mentioned chart" we got stuck in the channel at an outgoing tide. Yikes! Our guess is that last year's hurricane "Irene" which had destroyed most marinas on the Hudson River and surrounding creeks and which had caused extensive flooding to buildings on the river, must have caused severe mud slides as it tore through the area.
As the water rapidly vanished under us, Diesel Duck gracefully settled into the mud, making herself comfortable, but NOT US! I know all you sailors are used to be heeled over, but I bet Diesel Duck cranked over even further than what you deem to be comfortable. Let me tell you, walking around the deck or inside the cabin took an acrobatic effort. How long did it last? Well, we got stuck at around 5 p.m. and started working on wiggling free at 11 p.m.
04/04/2012, New York, N.Y.
We must be way ahead of everyone else. It is a crushing truth, that the cruising folks that migrate back north after wintering in the Bahamas or Caribbean are not here yet. But the Canada geese and the migrating duckies are moving, including us, let me tell you!!! It is the week before Easter and our anchorage here in Liberty State Park, New York City, is deserted. No wonder, the nighttime temperature last night moving along the New Jersey Coast in glassy atlantic water was a chilling 3˚ Celsius. I don't know how we could have existed without our two Webasto diesel heaters, which are working overtime. So, life is good on Diesel Duck, although it's cold outside.
This picture of the Webasto Air Top 2000ST forced air diesel heater is mounted forward in Diesel Duck's utility room, next to the anchor locker with the heating outlet in the saloon. It has given us flawless service for seven years. An identical unit is in the aft cabin.
As we travelled up the coast, stopping in some familiar spots and several previously unexplored ones, I was thrilled by the kind gestures of strangers and friendliness of the American people bestowed on us. Ashley Erwin, SSCA Cruising Station in Oriental, NC, personally delivered charts to our boat at the town dock, which we had sent to his address. He even took me on a little sightseeing tour of the area and to the grocery store to buy some essentials.
In Solomon Island, Andrew and Digna passed us in their sailboat and spontaneously invited us to their condo the next day. Not only did they treat us to coffee and doughnuts at their beautiful place, we were to bring our dirty laundry to wash in their apartment while Andrew took us grocery shopping. What a Royal treatment. Thank you!
For a few days we were back in Weems Creek, Annapolis, swinging on the same mooring ball we had occupied in the summer months. Several people stopped by in their water crafts to say, "Welcome back." David Skolnick, director of the SSCA, sent us a nice email with tons of information and even inviting us to use his slip during his absence. Lauren Anthone drove all the way from Kensington, MD, to Annapolis to bring us a package with a much needed fitting for our furling, which had been ordered by mail.
While tied up to the 200' floating free town dock of the Chesapeake City, at the C&D Canal (stands for Chesapeake and Delaware Bays Canal) we took a stroll of the area. At a bench Benno found a nice looking smart Casio cell phone but no one was around. Sometime later, when we were back at the boat, three young people from a small motor vessel walked by and Benno asked them if they were missing a phone. All three checked and yes, one guy was missing his Casio phone, the make we had not revealed. He was relieved that we had found it. We got talking and inquired if they were from the area and knew if we could purchase milk somewhere close by. But unfortunately, it required a car. The reunited cell phone owner said that after motoring back his boat to the launching ramp down river and putting it on the trailer; he would then return by car and bring us a gallon of milk. And you know what, he did!
03/21/2012, Norfolk, Virginia
When you don't have the foggiest idea...
I said that sometimes, but for the last two days the conditions we were in came pretty close to that statement. We were in the Intracoastal Waterway in North Carolina traveling on the Alligator River, when heavy fog set in. With enough water around us and on a course with the autopilot steering, it's not so much of a problem,although the channel markers would not be visible until we were right beside them. When we approached the Alligator River Bridge and I called the bridge tender to request an opening, we weren't surprised when he told us that he would not open up until he could see the traffic lights. I said we'd be standing by on VHF radio for him to announce when he would open up and that we would drop the hook to wait for better conditions. A sailboat arrived shortly after and anchored next to us. We settled in the wheel house with a cup of coffee, but the conditions didn't seem to improve. All of a sudden I noticed that the swing bridge started to open up. Benno scrambled to get the anchor up quickly while the bridge tender called: "Let's go skippers!"
Off we went into the fog. Some miles further I was standing up on the bow, enshrouded in mist, trying to spot channel markers and buoys, because we had to make a sharp turn around some shoals. Visibility was next to nothing. We slowed down and the sailboat which had been traveling behind us overtook us. I heard some yelling as the sailboat suddenly made a quick turn to starboard. There was the red buoy I was looking for. The excitement went on for some time, luckily without incident. Finally at 13:30 hrs the fog lifted and it turned out to be a nice, hot day. Next morning, fog again!
Today it's raining and misty. A week ago we were still in Bimini, the Bahamas, and now we are in Willoughby Bay, Norfolk, Virginia, and staying put.
03/17/2012, Oriental, North Carolina, USA
And you think since my last blog entry we've been enjoying the tranquil waters of the Bahamas, lazing around in the sunshine. Not. It wasn't in our plan to spend two full weeks rolling around in the swell of the anchorages in Chub and Frazer Hog Cays while the wind blew a good 20 - 30 knots. In fact, all over the Caribbean the wind whistled, stalling traveling plans for most cruisers. A boat in the Abacos reported winds up to 52 knots. Wow. At least we had internet access which we wouldn't have had in some of the more remote places we were going to visit for the next few weeks. Meanwhile the northern parts of the USA enjoyed perfectly calm and warm weather. So, the obvious choice? Head north. We are on a mission to be in Canada in early spring anyway. Change of plan, once again.
Traveling with the wind from behind presented us with a good run over the Great Bahama Bank back to North Bimini. It looked like there would be a good weather window coming up to ride the Gulf Stream toward the Carolinas. Last Tuesday morning we checked out with Immigration of the Bahamas and motored into the Atlantic. A favorable wind report of 17 kn NE, diminishing to variable winds of less than 5 knots further down the stretch sounded good. Benno had worked out waypoints for our autopilot to make use of the extra knots the Gulf Stream could push us along for the approximately 610 nautical miles into Beaufort, North Carolina. In the first 10 hours of the journey we motor sailed with the jib and main up in 17-20 knots of wind, throwing plenty of salt spray onto Diesel Duck caking up the pilot house windows and port lights. But that is nothing new to us and we would wash down the boat with fresh water upon arrival, thanks to the water maker on board.
The trip was mostly uneventful except on Tuesday at 17:00 hrs, a Coastguard plane flew overhead, calling us on the VHF radio if we had overheard a mayday call at 14:00 hrs they were investigating. But we had not. On day one, calculating 24 hour periods, we traveled: 228 NM, day two: 200 and day three: 162 NM with another 20 NM to Beaufort harbor. Speeds varied and during one of my night watches I monitored 10 knots. As we slowly lost the benefit of the Gulf Stream on Thursday and slowed to about 6 knots during tide changes, our fishing lure came alive, landing a nice Mahi Mahi (dolphin fish) to supplement our diet.
As we entered the channel into Beaufort, NC, I called the Customs/Immigration office on our cell phone to report our arrival. The lady on the phone asked me which state Bimini belonged to in the Bahamas and whether we had any meats, eggs, milk, or produce on board. Yes, we have and I said they were all bought in the USA. But if they have been to the Bahamas they could now be all contaminated I was told. We need to come to the town dock for inspection!
Two officials arrived shortly after we were tied to the dock. While one of the officers checked us in, the other one went with me into my galley, armed with two huge red plastic bags to check out Diesel Duck's provisions. There were nice potatoes that caught his eyes, which I had been nursing along. The eggs were in their original containers and had USA stamps on them. But my 8 cubic foot freezer was of real interest to him. I now learned that if meats are not in their original packaging, bought out of the country, or the origin is uncertain, they are not allowed. I use a vacuum sealer to prevent freezer burn, so many of our meats are repackaged. Out came the lomito (beef tenderloins) pork tenderloins and roasts, all into the red bag.
When the gentleman was satisfied with his selection after rummaging around the freezer, he jokingly said that (they) would have a BBQ.
I'd like to mention, that we usually arrive back in Ft. Lauderdale or Miami coming from the Bahamas and there we were given an arrival number over the phone, told to visit the Immigration/Custom offices within 24 hrs and have never before encountered this practice.
For anyone wanting to use our waypoints for a Gulf Stream ride from Bimini or Miami to Beaufort, NC:
Gulf 1: Lat- 26˚ 00.0' N - Long- 79˚45.0' W
Gulf 2: Lat- 28˚ 30.0' N - Long- 79˚38.0' W
Gulf 3: Lat- 31˚ 00.0' N - Long- 79˚32.0' W
Gulf 4: Lat- 32˚ 45.0' N - Long- 77˚00.0' W
Beaufort: Lat- 34˚ 35.8' N - Long- 76˚41.3' W
03/02/2012, The Bahamas
Lately my blog entries have been sporadic, but that doesn't mean I've become lazy. Boat chores keep recurring on a regular basis I do not want to bore you with, but there were interesting developments I'd like to share with you. To start off, Benno and I are known for changing our travel plans frequently like monthly, weekly, daily, and yes, sometimes every two hours! So if we are being asked: "Where are you headed next to?" Our answer might not be the same a week later. Two weeks ago, I thought we'd spend the next hurricane season again in Curacao, the Caribbean.
Last week, Benno and I went for a few days up to Canada, via Detroit, visiting family. February is not our favorite month in this country notorious for its arctic temperatures, although the weather was not too bad. It only snowed a little the night before our departure with slippery and icy roads the next morning. We were glad to board the plane for our trip back to Miami and as I am writing this, we are under anchor in the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. Aah!!
So the big news is, while we were in Canada, we signed an agreement to purchase a little house in the rural area of Leamington, close to Wheatley and only a minute or two from the shores of lake Erie. This will be a summer retreat for us in Canada's 2nd warmest area with Vancouver in British Columbia being the warmest. Leamington is half an hour's drive from Windsor Ontario and another hour to Detroit, Michigan's International Airport. As per Wikipedia, Leamington lays claim to being the "Sun Parlour" of Canada due to its southern location. Point Peele is the southernmost point of mainland Canada, and the Point Pelee National Park is nearby. Leamington has a large H. J. Heinz Company factory and is known as the "Tomato Capital of Canada", with 4 km² of this crop in the vicinity
In May of this year Diesel Duck will be arriving at the Leamington Municipal Marina where she will be docked while her crew will be busy with renovation and beautification projects on the house all summer long. I am sure that by October we will be more than ready to head back south for more cruising and relaxation in warm waters.
02/20/2012, Miami Beach, Florida
Benno and I wanted to take in the Miami International Boat Show which ran from last Thursday through this Monday while we were here with our Diesel Duck. The advertisement claims it to be "The greatest Boat Show in the world" and with so many vendors in the Convention Halls alone for us to talk to, that by late afternoon we were totally exhausted, but loaded down with freebies like T-shirts, hats, mouse pad, pins, beverage holders, pens, eye glasses straps, sample products, neat shopping bags filled with brochures and catalogues to keep us busy for some time. In addition to the exhibition grounds around the Miami Beach Convention Center, courtesy shuttle buses would take you to other sites. At the Miamarina at Bayside, where the "Strictly Sail" boat show had the newest sailboats on display plus tents with related gear, Benno and I volunteered there for a couple of hours on Sunday at the SSCA booth to help promote this great association. At the Sea Isle Marina and Yachting Center all the power boats were lined up and waiting for new owners and the Yacht and Brokerage Show had a huge fleet of the multimillion dollar super yachts on display that had most folks say: "Wow!"
Now, the picture above makes you ask: "Hmm, Highway Patrol on a SPEED BOAT in Texas, which highway?" Well, after talking to one of the Sheriffs, Benno found out that they take this heavily cal. 7.62 machine gunned and kevlar bullet proofed boat to patrol a part of the Mexican border and to take care of the heavy armed "banditos".
On this picture Benno is admiring impressive artwork at a booth at the show.
02/20/2012, Miami Boatshow
Right here in Miami Beach, Coral and Tom Graham live in a great house on Palm Island. They own a 44 foot Diesel Duck called Gaijin, which was built at Seahorse Marine in China. Gaijin could be kept at the dock in front of the house, but Tommy and Coral have cruised with her up to the Great Lakes where she is at present and are planning to continue to explore Canada and the St. Lawrence River this coming spring. Perhaps we will get to see her one of these days. Tommy barbecued some fabulous, mouth watering, back ribs and Coral created a delicious Greek salad they invited us to share with them. Thank you for your hospitality and thanks, Coral, for the trip to Sam's Club!
This is a big sister ship, a 44 foot Diesel Duck called: Gaijin.
02/11/2012, Miami Beach, Florida
Battery chargers galore
Any device which recharges your in-use or discharged battery bank is a battery charger. A battery charger can have different faces. For instant, your engine alternator is a kind of battery charger. The alternator's job is to recharge your battery up to maximum. The standard alternator is good enough to do the job. A standard alternator has a built-in regulator which controls the flow of electricity to the battery without harming the battery. But is the regulator efficient? No! It will waste a lot of charging time to bring the battery up to snuff. It does fine in a car where your motor runs for hours on a highway. We may include a speed boat which does the same, but a cruising boat, trawler, sailboat or motorhome running on fuel efficient low RPMs, the built-in regulator will slave, waste time and have a hard time to fully charge up your starter or house bank. Here it would be advisable to replace the built-in regulator with an aftermarket smart regulator. These smart regulators can be easily fitted. (look at the last picture of this write up)
These smart regulators for alternators are a real blessing for boat owners. They incorporate very smart thinking into the charging technique. It begins with ramping up the belt load on the drive belt to prevent belt slipping and belt wear. Which is, it starts with hardly any load on the alternator pulley and then gradually increases the load to the alternator's rotor pulley as your diesel engine warms up. You don't have the sudden jerk on the alternator belt with the momentary wear and tear you would get on a fully loaded alternator start-up. The regulator provides multi stage charging and some of them have temp sensors to sense the temperature of the alternator itself to reduce the workload of the alternator when it gets too hot. By doing this it permits the pulley's fan blade to cool down the copper windings to prevent a burnout of the alternator. Another temp sensor will sense the battery temperature on some top model smart regulator. In my opinion, a smart regulator for an alternator is the only way to go these days for a boat owner. It lets you charge your batteries with the main engine fast and efficiently. The charging power of an alternator with a smart regulator should not exceed 25% of the battery's bank capacity.
The other way to get good charging power is to replace the standard alternator with a high performance alternator which incorporates already a smart regulator or, fit a high performance alternator as a second mounted alternator. It can be done. On Diesel Duck, I mounted a BALMAR 100 amp alternator piggyback on top of the diesel engine. See the picture above.
Another kind of charger is a solar panel mounted onto a boat. The panel or panels could be fitted to the guard rails or on top of a pilot house, or on a stern mounted arch. Solar panels are very efficient during daylight hours. Especially in sunlight they are true performers and cost efficient. Most cruising boats have them and could not do without them. They harness more electricity than wind generators and doing this quietly without noise. A solar controller is the smart regulator for solar panels and should give you the choice of selecting the battery type: Wet cell; Gel or AGM. On Diesel Duck we have a 300 Watt array consisting of 4 panels mounted on top of the pilot house. Let me tell you, these solar panels provide us during daylight with enough electricity to run all the 12 volt stuff, like: electric toilet, water pump, sump pump, lights, ventilators, 9 cubic ft. freezer, under counter fridge and the 120 volt inverter for laptop computer etc.
Wind generators are chargers too, many boats have them. You see them mounted onto stub masts on the stern or on tripods on top of the wheelhouse. Sometimes they are fastened to the rigging. Some wind generators produce a remarkable amount of electricity in a strong wind of more than 18 knots. But you will hear the noise. It can only be a woosh, woosh, or some produce a disturbing noise, which sounds like the devil is loose in the rigging, very annoying to the neighborhood. The high end wind generators come with a built-in regulator or external regulator. These wind generators will safely charge the battery bank. Other wind generators have no regulator and their manufacturers preach you could charge your battery bank up to 2-1/2% of the bank's capacity unregulated. But some wind generators pump out 25 amps in peak times and when you are in a windy area where it blows 25 knots or more for a day, I would say: "Ho, ho, hold it there!" When 25 amps equal 2-1/2% unregulated, this means my battery bank must be of 1000 amp capacity to eat this kind of power without being cooked. Which boat has that kind of 1000 amp battery bank? It must be a big boat. Diesel Duck's battery bank capacity is 950 amp on the house bank. The average cruising boat's house bank capacity lies by 500-600 amp. The 2-1/2% bracket is by far too much, 1% is more realistic. A wind generator without regulator should be treated with caution. They are being sold, so please watch out!
I talked about alternators, solar panels and wind generators. These are the faces of battery chargers. The only one which is left out is the unit you know as a battery charger. The actual battery charger you plug into an AC outlet to charge the batteries. They come as the "el cheapo" 6 amp unregulated charger. Next, the "off the mill" automotive charger with built-in amp meter. To top it up then, there is the real McCoy the famous smart battery charger, like the charger in the picture above.
The "el cheapo" unregulated charger is a no good choice at all. Most of them pump out up to 6 amp. Unregulated charging of a battery bank should not exceed 1% of the bank's capacity. In this case you should have a 600 amp battery bank capacity, otherwise, it will be cooked when you don't watch it. Stay away from these chargers.
The "off the mill" automotive charger with built-in amp meter is regulated and can be used. Some even have a battery type selector switch which lets you switch between flooded or sealed batteries. Flooded is wet cell and sealed, is AGM batteries. The charger's power should not exceed 10% of the battery bank's capacity. For gel batteries, this charger is not designed to charge these. These types of chargers charging voltage will exceed 14.1 volt and this is too much for gel batteries. To use this charger, you hook up the charging leads to the battery. The black lead to the minus pole and the red lead to the plus pole, then plug the AC cord into a 120 volt outlet. Now you watch the amp meter and when the amps go down, the battery is charged and you unplug the AC cord. In case you forget to do this, you got yourself a problem. It will slowly cook your battery. So this type of charger cannot be left unsupervised. I recommend using a smart charger for a marine battery bank.
The smart battery charger is the best way to charge a battery bank when tied to a dock or under anchor. Tied to a dock, you use the shore power and under anchor, you fire up the Honda generator or your built-in diesel generator. Smart battery chargers are multi stage chargers, most of them are 3. stage chargers. Some top of the line smart battery chargers have even a 4. stage and a 5. stage. The 1. stage is the bulk stage, which does the main job in charging with a constant current. The 2. stage is the absorption stage with a reduced current charge. The 3. stage is the float stage, with an even more reduced current charge to maintain a small charge without damage to the battery for the period of time it takes you to get around to switch the charger off. The 4. stage is the equalizing stage to equalize wet cell battery banks once or twice a year. The 5. stage is the maintenance stage to leave your batteries plugged in when the boat is in storage.
These smart chargers can charge wet cell, gel or AGM batteries. The battery type is selected via soft switching, dip switches or slide switches. The top of the line smart chargers have provisions to connect battery temp sensors and can charge more than one battery bank at the same time. There is a domestic series of smart battery chargers which accept only the 120 VAC 60 cycle input on the AC side and there is the international series of smart battery chargers which accept any voltage from 80 - 260 V AC and any cycle from 40-80 cycle on the AC side input. These specs vary from brand to brand. With the international series you cover every different country's voltage and cycle (Hertz). A smart way to go. When selecting the size of the smart battery charger, the size should not exceed 25% of the battery bank capacity by wet cell batteries. Example: 100 amp battery bank = 25 amp smart charger. By gel batteries it could be high as 30% and by AGM batteries up to 40% of the battery bank capacity. It can be less, but never more.
How long does it take to charge a battery? It depends on the age of the battery and the size of the charging equipment. But one thing is for sure, a flooded wet cell battery is quicker charged because the fluid electrolyte which consists of 35% sulfuric acid and 65% of distilled water and with the lead antimony plates is more conductive than the lead calcium plates with the absorbed glass mat electrolyte of the AGM batteries. It takes longer to charge AGM batteries, but on the other hand you could use a bigger smart charger on AGM batteries and this will speed up the charging process, right!(thank you Cosmos of "Koukla" for pointing this out).
How do we charge our batteries on Diesel Duck? In the morning hour we start the 120 V AC diesel generator and switch on the 4. stage battery charger, which is part of our 2500 watt sine wave inverter/ charger from Trace (model: SW 2512). The charger part pumps out 150 amp. Part of the 120 volt AC from the diesel generator will go toward toaster and coffeemaker. After an hour of charging the house bank, we shut the diesel generator down. Now our solar panel array of four mounted solar panels on top of the pilot house roof takes over and supplies enough 12 VDC for the day up to 19:30 hour. At that time we start the diesel generator (5 KW Northern Lights) up and switch the battery charger on until 21:00 hrs or about 1-1/2 hrs. There is plenty of 120 volts available to use electrical kitchen tools while preparing dinner and to watch a movie with the surround sound Bose system going. At 21:00 hrs we shut the diesel generator down. In the morning when we get up the built-in panel voltmeter still reads 12.5 volts.
Diesel Duck used to have an "Air-X Marine" wind generator mounted on top of the pilot house roof, but it blew the brake circuit of the built-in regulator during a strong gust in Venezuela in July 06. Had it fixed by the manufacturer, but the Air-X Marine is designed to shut down at 28 knots of wind. Down in Patagonia by Cape Horn we had to tie the blades always up. The wind blows generally between 25 - 50 knots down there. Too much wind for this brand of wind generator and we did not want to risk blowing the brake circuit again. The bugger was noisy as hell too. We sold the unit in Grenada and at this moment we are not sprouting a wind generator on Diesel Duck. The recuperated dollars found a new good use when we purchased an international 4. stage Sterling 20 amp battery charger with auto ranging AC input at Island Water World in Grenada, which could eat the worldwide different voltages. I wired a short pigtail extension cord with a 120 volt plug to it. The Sterling battery charger has its own built-in muffin fan for cooling and has thus far worked well without any hiccup!
This concludes the 4 part battery and 12 VDC power talk write-up.
02/03/2012, Miami Beach, Florida
Our stay and all the hustle and bustle in Ft. Lauderdale came to an end this week. My parents had just left to return home, when Benno removed a couple of mast brackets and the antenna arch from the pilothouse roof. Then he worked on the logistics of taking our pilothouse door off. The powder coating was flaking off from seven years of exposure to the weather, dunking with saltwater on the way to Cape Horn and being baked in the strong Caribbean sun. Thanks to the Internet, we had dug up a suitable powder coating company here in Ft. Lauderdale. This company had in-house sand blasting and would do the blasting and powder coating on the same day, keeping in mind that we only have one entrance door. But, for goodness sake, they wanted the stuff at their shop at 6:30 a.m. Man, this disturbed our routine, being on a leisure cruising boat, when you have to get out of the sack at 4:00 a.m., dismantle the door, take off all the hardware, hustle the stuff into the dinghy, drop the skipper off to get the already rented rental car, then get to a dock where you could load the car with the stuff, and it's low tide, which makes it more difficult. But hey, we managed. JAS Powder Coating did a good job. By nightfall we had the door back in place while the other items could wait for reinstallation.
The picture above is of the wheelhouse arch after the powder coating and before we mounted it back onto the roof with the Furuno GP-37 GPS antenna to the left,
the Wheeler award winning police speaker in the middle, and
on top of it the amber strobe light which we can exchange for a blue bezel (as a pirate deterrent)
behind the strobe light: the Wirie wifi antenna for Internet access, and
to the right: the JRC-NCR 330 Navtex Receiver antenna.
Not always having a car at our disposal, we make good use of it when we do rent one. So the day after, we thought we do a little shopping at Wal-Mart Super Center. It's not a good thing to do that on an empty stomach, so we stopped at Lester's Diner, where we enjoyed a good solid brunch. We had never eaten there before and as it seems to be a landmark here in Ft. Lauderdale, we thought we'd give it a try. The place was packed while we were there, which is always a good sign for a restaurant.
At the Wal-Mart Super Center we couldn't help it, but had to take a picture of the guard tower of Broward Sheriff Dept. at the Wal-Mart parking lot. This is something we Canadians do not see back in Canada. After doing our "little" shopping, I sure was glad that our car was equipped with a large trunk to hold our purchases. Just imagine if we'd gone shopping on an empty stomach!
A couple of days ago, Benno started to reassemble the antenna arch while I stayed in bed with some kind of stomach flu. My mind was not focused on writing a blog while I was unable to keep any food down and my tummy sounding like the Howler Monkeys back in Panama. I concentrated mainly on negotiating the quickest way to the bathroom.
Now that I am feeling better, the captain has got some of that what ailed me for a couple of days and is eying the Imodium. Oh well, the mounting of the arch and wire reconnection can wait until Benno is well again.
01/24/2012, Ft. Lauderdale/Miami
Two weeks with Mom and Dad went by in a flash. Yesterday we said goodbye at the airport as they flew off to a cold, wet and foggy Hamburg, Germany. Yes, Florida with a temperature of 79F was a nice vacation for them. They got to experience a trip with Diesel Duck on the ICW from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami with all these irksome opening bridges to manage. On the return trip we motor sailed on the Atlantic in perfect, sunny, no wave weather with a fantastic view of the famous Miami beach which they had visited a couple of days before when the wind was up. Of course they went shopping at Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road in Miami, where they marveled at the hundreds of antique sewing machines that were on display at the "All Saints "store. My dad was working in a US Army POW camp as a sewing machine mechanic after WWII, had repaired many of these Singer machines for them back then. He always says he got more and better food to eat in the US Army POW camp, than as a soldier in the Wehrmacht. We all went on dinghy excursions and Benno and Dad sometimes on their own to explore the many canals, while Mom relaxed with a book. A day trip to the Everglades and along Alligator Alley gave my parents an opportunity to look at the wild Alligators and an understanding of the vast area of the swamplands. This was a nice visit with our family that ended too quickly.
01/19/2012, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
The House Bank
The house bank is the heart of your boat's 12 volt system. It makes your life pleasant on board. It powers your cabin lights, feeds your sailing instruments, autopilot, anchor alarm with electricity, drives your entertainment center for music or movies, etc. It makes it possible to have a freezer and fridge on board. A cold beer tastes better than warm beer. To size a house bank, you add all the amps your 12 volt consumer will use in 24 hours together. They add up to a surprising number. Then add another 20% (for added future 12 VDC toys) and this total number multiply by two. This magnificent number should be the size in amps of your house bank.
You might ask: "Why multiply it by two?" Well, you don't want to discharge your house bank no more than 50% before recharging it, otherwise your charging equipment has to work overtime and this could mean generator noise for many hours on some boats. I'd say, using AGM style batteries to build a house bank on boats or RV's is today's the best choice. AGM batteries can be discharged down to 20% of their capacity without recharge them, but I don't recommend that. They are truly maintenance free and don't vent out hydrogen gas while being charged. They are considered to be extremely safe batteries. Wet cell deep cycle batteries are still common in house bank application, like on "Diesel Duck", but giving more and more way to AGMs.
On Diesel Duck the house bank, like I mentioned in a previous write-up, is a wet cell 950 amp deep cycle battery bank consisting of 2 pairs of Trojan L16H-AC batteries each 435 amp and one Trojan 24 TMX 80 amp battery. The L16H are 6 volt batteries and two in series become 12 volt. The L16H are floor sweeper batteries and are designed for deep discharge. To counteract the hydrogen gas release during the charging process, I fitted or replaced the original vent caps with Hydrocaps Catalyst battery caps from the Hydrocap Corp in Miami, Florida. Tel. 305 696-2504. These caps turn the hydrogen gas into water. Recently, we noticed that the L16H size batteries are now starting to being manufactured as AGM type batteries. So the next time, when we have to exchange the L16H batteries, we will replace the deep cycle wet batteries with AGM batteries. I met a boat owner with a Manta Cat in Santa Martha, Colombia who told me that his house bank of AGM batteries was 13 years old and still fine without giving him a battery trouble headache.
As indicated in the previous #2 write-up, a boat with fully charged AGM batteries on bord can be left in storage for quite a time. The AGM batteries lose only 2 - 3% of the charge in a month. This means you can leave your boat in Trinidad on the hard during the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Once you get back to the boat in December, the batteries still have an almost full charge. You don't have to worry if the charging cord is still plugged into your boat or some bozo has unplugged it down in Trinidad while you are home in Canada or the USA. Even if he did it, the charge level is still in a okay bracket when you return to your boat to resume cruising in the lovely Caribbean islands. For wet cell deep cycle batteries this could mean a death sentence!
The future house bank in a few years to come will be built out of lithium ion Batteries. They are already very common in consumer electronics, but for now, a 12 VDC marine lithium ion 330 amp battery from Mastervolt costs as little as $ 8360.10 incl. free shipping in continental USA. Cheers!
In the next write-up I'll talk about battery chargers and charging.
01/16/2012, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami
Last week my parents arrived for a visit onboard Diesel Duck in Ft. Lauderdale. Mom, 84 years young and Dad, 87 are enthusiastic company we try to keep up with. On an excursion on the Jungle Queen, Mom took to the wheel on the upper deck, but to actually steer a ship, we let her steer Diesel Duck along the Intracoastal Water Way, where Steven Spielberg's yacht the "Seven Seas" was moored.
The "Seven Seas" ship is 282 feet long, keeps a crew of 26, accommodates 12 guests, has a heli-pad, gym, spa, massage room, cinema, an infinity pool with a 15 foot glass wall that also becomes a cinema screen. She was built for $200 million, but you could rent her for only 1.3 million a week.
01/05/2012, Bimini, Bahamas
Picture: a Wet Cell deep cycle Trojan L16H battery of Diesel Duck's house bank. Please notice the Hydrocaps.
In the previous write-up, I wrote about the 12 volt stuff in general and left off with an explanation of the 12 VDC starter bank. Before I write about the house bank, I'd like to touch first the different battery types used on a boat for the house and the starter bank: a.) Wet Cell battery - b.) Gel battery - c.) AGM battery - d.) Lithium Ion battery!
1. Wet Cell battery 12 volt DC (VDC) for short time power burst in starter application
2. Wet Cell deep cycle battery 12 VDC for a long time storage of 12 volt DC power to run all day as a house bank on a boat or RV, maybe on a forklift truck or a floor sweeper in commercial application.
1. and 2. are the second oldest type of batteries in use, invented 1859 by a French physicist Gaston Planté and consist at the present time of lead antimony plates submerged in sulfuric acid electrolyte contained in a strong plastic housing with 6 cells (each providing 2 VDC) and vent caps on the top to let the generated gas escape when they are being charged and these caps permit the service expert during maintenance to add or replace the electrolyte or for you to water the battery.
A wet cell starter battery has no place on a boat (explained in the first write-up). The use of a wet cell starter battery should be left to the automotive and heavy equipment market where this type of battery still serves a purpose. A wet cell deep cycle storage battery still has its use in a house bank battery on many boats or RVs. Our "Diesel Duck", as an example, has a 950 amp wet cell deep cycle house bank. Today there are better batteries on the market and I would go now a different route when buying batteries for a house bank (more about that further down on this write-up) Wet cell batteries, starter or deep cycled are high maintenance batteries. They need to be watered frequently and at least need to be equalized twice a year. I will explain watering and equalizing further down. These batteries must be mounted well aired. One of the biggest handicaps is the problem of slow discharging to nil, which occurs when you store the boat for a longer period of time. Wet cell batteries will discharge even if every power consumer is switched off incl. the parasitic load like some hardwired inverters, where the display is alive (these buggers can be a 1 amp parasitic load an hour). Wet cell batteries can discharge up to 20% a month (depending on their age), when no charge is applied. There is no guaranty from the boatyard where your boat is stored on the hard, that the power cord to your boat will not be disconnected and your plugged in charger can keep your batteries charged up. A tropical downpour can shorten out the power cord or the other friendly guy is using it for a drill or grinder with the good intension to plug it back into your boat, but he forgets.
You get back to the boat and discover that your house bank is totally discharged and toast. You need new batteries then. Total discharged wet well batteries cannot be recharged. Gel and AGM batteries can be recharged with no problem by a smart charger.
The lead plates in each wet cell are submerged in electrolyte up to the top of the plates and then are being topped up with distilled or ionized water just to 1/8 inch underneath the filler neck of the vent cap opening. This water mixes itself with the electrolyte and evaporates during the charging process by turning into hydrogen gas. There is a device on the market and it is called Hydrocap. These Hydrocaps are filled with a mineral and this mineral will convert the hydrogen gas back into water and this water drips back down into the battery cell. But still in a certain time period the battery will lose some water and you have to replace it. A very important point is, you first recharge the wet cell batteries to a full charge between 12.6 VDC and 12.8 VDC before you remove the vent caps and do the maintenance watering. This is extremely important, so please remember this. Also, please never use ordinary tap water for watering batteries. You have to purchase distilled or ionized water. Both are widely available at supermarkets or at gas stations. To water the battery, remove the vent caps or Hydrocaps, look at the water level. The water level should be up to 1/8 inch below the filler neck. If it is below this level add more water with a measuring cup to bring the water up to the 1/8 inch level below the filler neck. Do not overfill, the mixed water and electrolyte will spill when the boat is healing over by wave or wind action. That stuff is very corrosive. Fit the vent caps back!
During the slow discharging process while the batteries are working in providing you with power to run your 12 VDC equipments like fridge and freezer, watching TV and having the inverter running for 120 volt etc, the batteries will sulfate a little and build crystals on the lead plates. This process is a normal occurrence and over a certain time period, these plates will pack up with crystals resulting that the batteries get handicapped and the charge holding capacity is reduced. To counteract this, there is a process and this is called equalizing.
Equalizing a battery is the controlled boiling of the electrolyte with a high voltage charge to remove lead sulfate crystals which have collected on the lead plates inside of the battery. You may do this every 6 months, but your battery charger must have a setting for equalization. The best time for equalization is when your batteries are discharged and you have access to shore power or a generator. Removed the vent caps or Hydrocaps. During the equalization the batteries get hot, produce a lot of hydrogen gas and acid mist, this mist damage surrounding surfaces. This means you have to keep all doors, hatches and ports wide open for a good breeze inside your boat. Hydrogen gas is explosive, so don't smoke, shut the galley down and give the chef a few hours off. No flames! Shut every 12 volt system down and start your charger, select the equalization program and equalize for not more than 2 hours. After 2 hours switch the charger off and let the batteries rest for at least a 1/2 hour. (Now you could use a hydrometer and test each battery cell and check the specific gravity of the electrolyte, knowing then the condition of your battery or even find out that you have a bad cell and have to replace the battery. This will add more misery to your daily financial burden) Your batteries are now fully charged and you have to check the water level. During the equalizing process their was some loss of water, which you have to replace now. After done this, close the cell openings with the vent or Hydrocaps. Turn your battery switch back on!
Picture is: Diesel Duck's old Gel starter bank battery.
These batteries are a good choice for a boat owner. They don't gas and they are totally maintenance free. This type of battery was pioneered by the Sonnenschein Company in Berlin, Germany at the end of the seventies, which is now owned by Exide, USA. Gel batteries can serve as a starter battery and limited as a house bank battery. Even when completely discharged (this would kill wet cell batteries), Gel batteries can be recharged without damage to the batteries. One thing, which would kill Gel batteries and could make them dangerous, is a higher than 14.1 VDC charger voltage, it will build up a gas pressure, pop the safety valve, release the gas and that gas can explode. An off the mill automotive battery charger should not be used. Any smart charger where you can select the battery type is the one and only choice of charger to charge Gel batteries. Why called Gel batteries? The electrolyte is gelled with silica dust into a paste and in addition lead - calcium plates replacing the in a wet cell battery used lead-antimony plates. Diesel Duck has used Gel starter batteries for 12 years without any problem. They got fully discharged during a storage time and after recharging in 2005, they served us well. The Gel technology is over 30 years old and like everything else, this technology is replaced by a newer and better one as time moves on.
Picture is: Diesel Duck's new AGM starter bank battery
Now this is an even better choice for the boat owner. Maybe at the present time the best choice. AGM stands for absorbed glass mat battery and they are different to Gel batteries. The electrolyte is not gelled, instead absorbed into boron silica fiberglass mats which are wrapped around specially ratio lead-calcium plates and hermetically sealed into the celled plastic housing. The technology was developed 1985 for military aircraft, but the first AGM cell was patented by the Gates Rubber Corp. in 1972. AGM batteries can have flat or spiral form rolled lead-calcium plates. They are totally maintenance free, can be mounted in any position and charged by any off the mill automotive charger. Of course this is not recommended. AGMs are dual purpose batteries and can serve as starter and storage batteries. Good as starter bank or house bank so to speak. To charge this type of battery I would use a smart charger, an alternator with a smart regulator, or, if you have a large solar panel array, a smart solar controller. AGM batteries don't like being overcharged, which is similar to gel batteries. During longtime storage, AGM batteries loose only 2 - 3% a month of their charge, a very important factor for the seasonal boater.
12 VDC Lithium Ion battery. Picture by Mastervolt. NE
Lithium Ion battery:
This is the new kid on the block. I have seen only one Polish built Catamaran in Panama with these batteries. Like in laptops, iPhones and cameras, this technology is creeping into the marine market. These batteries weight a lot less than their lead cousins and present a weight saving for the racing sailor. Most of these new technology marine batteries need a special lithium ion smart charger to charge them up. The Dutch company Mastervolt has pioneered a special 320 amp 12 VDC lithium ion battery for the marine market. These batteries have built-in pc-boards which enables the boat owner to use a normal smart charger to charge the lithium ion batteries. You have to keep an eye on this new marine technology, but for now hold on to your wallet.
In the next write-up is the House Bank on the plate.
01/03/2012, Bimini, Bahamas
The New Year is coming in like a lion. Diesel Duck sits snug under anchor in Bimini waiting for the blustery weather to subside to make her trip across the Gulf Stream to Ft. Lauderdale. Now is a good time to post the first write-up (of 4) of the promised 12 Volt stuff from Benno.
01/03/2012, Bimini, Bahamas
For some weeks I've been harboring in my mind to write up something about batteries and charging. This theme is quite complex, it forced me to turn it into a four part small series of write-ups. Here is the first part:
On a boat you have a lot of equipment which runs off your onboard 12 Volt battery system and some equipment which run on 120 Volt, like a laptop computer, TV, power or kitchen tools such as perhaps a toaster, mixer or even microwave oven. To get 120 Volts to run the equipment you may have a portable gasoline driven Honda generator on board, or even a built-in 120 VAC diesel generator. When no generator is on board, another way to get 120 Volt is to have an inverter. An inverter is a unit which converts direct current into alternating current, in plain English it changes 12 Volt DC into conventional 120 Volt AC and allows you to use your favorite 120 Volt device when no AC outlet otherwise is available.
To your information, 120 Volt is called AC and 12 Volt is called DC. AC stands for alternating current and DC stands for direct current. The AC and DC explanation is beyond the scope of this write-up. You may read up about this topic in electrical engineering books. Never touch a live wire of 120 VAC, it could kill. On the other hand, you could touch a 12 VDC wire and not feel a thing. Power voltage up to 40 Volts is in most cases not life threatening. But if you have to work in your boat on a live 12 VDC system, it is common sense to remove all jewelry like rings, bracelets and wristwatch from your hands or wrists just to be safe and not to shorten out any blank wires or terminal screws accidentally. This is really very important, when you work with live battery cable. These heavy gauge cables could hold a lot of current (amps) and when shorted out by jewelry, it could melt the jewelry gold or silver metal and burn the wrist, finger or hand severely. So please remember this precaution!
The 12 VDC power is generally stored in one or more batteries and this is called a 12 VDC battery bank. This battery bank provides you with 12 VDC power to run your equipment like: lights, radios, depth sounder, radar, GPS and all the 12 Volt things you have on board, even the inverter, which makes the 120 Volt AC. This kind of 12 VDC battery bank is called normally a house bank. The other kind of 12 VDC bank you probably have on board is for starting your diesel engine or the diesel generator and consists of one or two batteries, is called a starter bank. Talking about batteries, the first electro chemical battery was invented 1800 by the Italian physicist Alessandra Volta, hence since the name Volt.
The Starter Bank
The starter batteries are engineered differently to batteries you would use for a house bank. Starter batteries have thinner and more plates, they can deliver a power burst to your engine starter, but do not like to be deep discharged from a night long of watching movies on your TV, while fridge + freezer all is hooked up to your 12 VDC system, it cuts down their lifespan. This is the job of a house bank. The starter bank provides quick enough power to the engine starter to start the diesel engine. The starter on the diesel is a very powerful electric 12 VDC motor which turns the engine's flywheel and this fires up the engine. This starter motor draws for a very short time an incredible amount of power out of the starter battery bank. Once the diesel is started and running, then the engine's alternator which really is a small generator that generates 12 VDC while running, will pump quickly enough 12 VDC power back into the starter battery bank to fill it back up with sufficient power to run your instruments and other things. It also provides enough standby power to start the diesel engine the next time you have to use it. On "Diesel Duck" the starter battery bank consists of two DEKA Group 27 AGM 12 VDC batteries which are installed in the engine room and they are charged by the original 14 VDC 70 amp PERKINS diesel engine mounted alternator, which is made by Lucas in the U.K.
This alternator is an of the mill alternator with a standard built-in regulator. This alternator was built to EC standards and the charging voltage does not exceed 14 VDC and this is within the compliant spec in charging GEL batteries, where the charging voltage should not exceed 14.1 VDC.
A battery starter bank's location is best close to the diesel engine to avoid long battery cable runs. Taking in consideration that the diesel engine generates high temperatures in the engine room or compartment, it is advisable to mount the starter battery very low toward the fiberglass hull or hull plating of a metal boat to benefit from the water cooled hull's skin temperature. If the engine compartment is very small, the starter battery might be mounted next to the engine outside of the compartment or engine box. This will keep the battery temperature down. During a charging process the battery generates its own temperature additionally to the ambient temperature.
As for the battery, please shy away from using a flooded wet cell as a starting battery in a boat. This type of battery will produce a gas when being charged. This gas is hydrogen gas and explosive. A flooded wet cell battery being confined to a not well aired engine room or compartment could present a danger of explosion in contrast to an automobile, where the engine battery is well aired underneath the hood. It makes more sense to use a GEL or AGM battery for a starting bank, they are virtually maintenance free, don't gas and will not require to be topped with water (eliminating to check the water level periodically and adding water when necessary).
On our Diesel Duck, the starter bank is mounted just above the keel, close to the aluminum hull plates underneath the diesel generator's mounting platform. Originally in 1999 we started out with two DEKA made Group 27 GEL batteries and they lasted up to April of this year. That is 12 years! From these 12 years, the batteries were stored after a short 120 nm trial run of the under construction Diesel Duck in Aug. 1999 for 6 years and since the launching of our boat in 2005, these batteries were in normal service. In April of this year these batteries showed signs of not holding a charge anymore and the time had come to replace them. We exchanged them with two DEKA made AGM batteries in Colon, Panama in April of this year!
In the next write-up, I will talk about the different battery types and battery maintenance.
12/31/2011, Bimini, Bahamas
We are in Bimini now after leaving Chub Cay on Friday morning. OK, we don't have to be back in Ft. Lauderdale for another ten days, but knowing the weather forecast and acting on it is the key to happiness or the difference between a cake run and perhaps a miserable trip. Being a motor vessel not needing a lot of wind to propel us forward, how could we not take this opportunity and cross the approximately 75 miles across the shallow banks? A cold front is predicted with strong winds and afterward again calmer seas but it looks like only a small weather window which would not be long enough for us to move from Cub Cay all the way to Ft. Lauderdale. Therefore we'll be spending New Year's Eve and a few days here in a lovely spot next to the Bimini Bay Resort in North Bimini.
Last night we stopped in front of Cat Cay where we anchored for the night in absolutely flat, calm conditions. This morning Benno tried very hard to con a fish to bite the hook on the fishing line we were trolling for the 5 miles to Bimini. No luck. No wonder, because we were competing with a fleet of sport fisher boats crisscrossing our wake at high speed and all the fish must have been scared with such a noise and turbulence. We probably will have better luck to find the fountain of youth, which is apparently somewhere in the area. Actually, there are large stone steps underwater just off Bimini which go into nowhere. Is here "Atlantis" the sunken ancient city with the fountain of youth? It doesn't matter, because we are both 39 years old and holding!!
Benno and I wish you a prosperous New Year. Look for some interesting write-up about 12 volt stuff on this blog in the next few days. Benno is putting together a series about batteries, chargers and charging. So stay tuned.
12/30/2011, Frazer Hog Cay, Bahamas
If we are staying in one spot for too long, we feel like we are growing roots there. This is now a reality with Diesel Duck, because her antifouling paint has pretty much stopped working what little there is left of it. So when the wind changed direction in Chub Cay and the weather forecast predicted southwest and then west winds with accompanying swell, we were motivated to revisit Frazer Hog Cay. That was a good choice for the clocking wind and once again we were sitting pretty snug. So given this opportunity, we took some more pictures of the presently closed Berry Island Club. There is a rumor that it will open again in 2012. Hopefully this will materialize as the following pictures show that the setting is really nice. But we would advise caution if you decide to take a mooring, especially if it appears to be an older one.
12/23/2011, Chub Cay, Bahamas
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!
Instead of doing a mass mailing to our ever growing address book, we'd like to share our Christmas letter with you through our blog and hope everyone will be able to have access to internet service.
Benno and I have had a wonderful time this past year on Diesel Duck. Twelve months ago we arrived at the San Blas Islands of Panama where we got lost for half a year among the 360 islands. Amazingly, the days, weeks and months flew by while we explored the little palm covered islets, swam, snorkeled, fished, photographed, partied with cruising friends and bought Molas from the Kuna Indians. Sheryl and Paul Shard, Canadian friends of ours, visited us to film another episode for "Distant Shores" which is available on DVD and being aired on National Television. In the spring, I made a trip home to Canada to see our family and since the flight was from Panama City, it gave us another opportunity for some shopping in this great city. Because the San Blas Islands have very little to offer in terms of groceries, "stocking up" really meant if you didn't have it onboard, you had to do without it. At the end of May Diesel Duck spent a month at the Shelter Bay Marina in Panama, where we took delivery of a new diesel generator which Benno installed and hooked up while we were at the dock.
On June 6th, the great news reached us that we had become grandparents for the second time. Annaliese Lili joined her sister Heidi Elise and we are thrilled to have two cute, beautiful, healthy and smart granddaughters.
Summertime meant hurricane season and both of us longed to be in some cooler and drier climate for a while, out of the hurricane area. In no time at all, (you readers of our blog know that when Diesel Duck is on the move, she moves!) we were up in the Chesapeake Bay where we found a great, free of charge, mooring at the Weems Creek in Annapolis. Although by being there we had traded the great clean waters of the Atlantic for the brownish rivers, the charming town, great shopping opportunities for all our hearts desires and nice summer temperatures made up for it. And of course the fine people we met there and became friends with were all worth it. However, being all the way up north didn't get us away from the hurricanes after all. "Irene" made it up to where we were, but thank God, we only had some strong gusts during the night and only suffered "No Internet Connection" for a week afterwards because of downed power lines.
After the Annapolis boat show in October, Diesel Duck headed south again, taking advantage of all the good weather windows, which afforded us to hang around some anchorages ahead of schedule. We participated in the annual get together of the Seven Seas Cruising Association in Melbourne, Fl and afterwards headed for Ft. Lauderdale, one of our favorite cities, because so many marine oriented companies are located there and as all boaters know, there is always a need to buy more stuff!
For the last month of this year we decided to head over to the Bahamas to enjoy the clear water, do more swimming and snorkeling and spending Christmas and New Year here. My parents will be visiting us in January in Ft. Lauderdale, so Diesel Duck will be heading back to host them. Our cruising destinations for next year will include again the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
Have a great holiday and please keep the emails coming!
Marlene and Benno
P.S. Santa had to hold on tight because it's windy here in the Bahamas.
Our two lovely granddaughters
Memories of our snorkel adventures
12/20/2011, Berrie Islands, Bahamas
Hardly awake yet at 6:30 a. m. on Monday morning, we listened to Chris Parker's broadcast on SSB radio from his Marine Weather Center, where he provides a detailed weather report for the Bahamas and Florida Straits. He started his weather report by asking for any emergency or priority traffic. Usually there aren't any, but right then a station came in to ask Chris to make a phone call on behalf of Ken from the Canadian sailboat "Sail Away" to his family and report that the mooring he had been on had broken loose in the Frazer Hog Channel and the crew was unharmed, but the vessel was in trouble and aground on shore.
We were wide awake now. A few days ago we wrote about the uncomfortable chop we had experienced at that place and it was still blowing a good 20+ knots with higher gusts. There is no Sea Tow or Tow Boat US here on the island. There were three US flagged sailboats at the site swinging on mooring balls and that was it. We made the decision to lift our anchor right away and see if we could be of assistance. The going was wet and slow for the 5 nautical miles with the current against us. We registered 30 knots of wind at times. Finally we anchored right in front of the stricken vessel.
Ken, the owner, came over in his inflatable dinghy and we asked what we could do to help. He told us that sometime during the night at high tide; the mooring had broken loose and started drifting. Although he had deployed his Bruce anchor, with the strong gusts the boat grounded on its starboard side just a few feet from the rocky shoreline. He was lucky in a way that the boat was laying on a sandy bottom.
Benno offered to dive and snorkel around the boat to see if he could find a possible path to pull her off. The captains of the three other boats "Mutual Fun", "Kismet" and "It's About Time" were already in their dinghies and had helped to set additional anchors to stabilize the boat. Benno found that to starboard and port was sandy bottom and shallow, but straight ahead some 35 ft. the bottom deepened to 6 ft. and more. The "Rescue Team" as I call the four captains, did excellent teamwork and labored hard for the next 6 (SIX) hours it took to get "Sail Away" floating again. The two anchors were reset far ahead forward port + starboard in the deep water channel with Nylon lines which would act like rubber springs, when under tension to propel the boat forward once she got unstuck. Another anchor was set 45 degrees to port to steady the boat and another anchor was set far away to the starboard side and the line was tied to the jib and main halyard to crank the boat over.
Howard, the manager/caretaker of the closed Berry Island Club, who had just the day before collected the mooring fee from the four cruisers, had offered to try and pull the "Sail Away" off with his 225 hp driven "Mako" at the next high tide at 14:00 hours, but there was only going to be two feet of it. The tow line, 200 ft of yellow Polyethylene was provided from the people of "Our Way" who live on shore right at the mooring field. The originally plan to pull her straight out from the bow did not work, but when Howard pulled with the 225 hp on her halyards and cranked her way over to the starboard side, "Sail Away" came free while her skipper gunned her engine. At 15:00 hrs "Sail Away" floated on her own which put a big smile to the face of Ken, a fellow Canadian from Windsor, Ontario!
12/14/2011, Chub Cay, Bahamas
At midnight, on Tuesday a week ago, we left Miami and headed the 42 nm (nautical miles) over to Bimini in the Bahamas, where we arrived at 8 a.m. Check-in with Customs and Immigration was quick and easy and by 9:30 a.m. Diesel Duck started her 80 nm run toward Chub Cay in the Berry Islands over the Great Bahama Bank.
Starting Tuesday evening the wind blew from the NE at about 5 to 8 knots or less, which lasted throughout all day Wednesday into early Thursday morning. This was a so called weather window! So the trip was very pleasant with almost flat waves over the banks. Although the almost full moon helped, there was not much light coming from the Chub Cay Marina at 21:30 hr when we eased Diesel Duck toward shore where we dropped the hook in front of the cell tower at the S/W side of the island. After breakfast the next morning we relocated from the island, to the marked channel of Frazer's Hog Cay. We have been here before and like this place. Frazer is located on the southern tip of the Berry Islands and adjacent to Chub Cay. Frazer's has the natural advantage of a yacht harbor along its entire three mile S.E. shoreline, formed by Bird and Whale Cays with their inshore sand banks sheltering Frazer's from the prevailing easterly winds.
At Frazer's Hog Cay there is The Berry Island Club which is privately owned. The club/marina has 23 mooring balls and dockage plus lodging rooms with private baths for rent, a bar and restaurant, wifi, plus all the usual amenities. Except, the Club is presently closed and their webpage states that the Club is now under renovations (more info further down the story). A little past the mooring field we dropped the anchor but decided after a few minutes to move back down the channel and to anchor at a spot for more protection from the waves. We were the only boat there. Late in the evening Diesel Duck turned around with the tide and now sat broadside to the wind which started to blow at 20 kt from the N.E. with a swell coming in from the south. This made for a noisy, slapping, rolling motion which we escaped by lifting our anchor early the next morning and moving back down the island to the bay at Chub Cay in front of the marina and resort where it was totally calm.
Chub Cay Marina and resort is also privately owned, but the developers of this $250 million Bahamian based resort development are in receivership and Scotiabank (Bahamas) is holding it now. It is a pity, because when we came through here in 2005 and 2006, the marina was under construction and closed, we were not able to see it. Now there is an unfinished development, half finished 20,000 sq ft manor style club house with an infinity pool and Tiki bar next to a marina village resembling a loyalist Bahamian settlement with about 30 partially finished beachfront homes. The marina has 110 floating docks in size from 40 to 70 feet and is open for business at a reduced rate of $2.75/ft. Visiting yachts can clear customs here if they agree to purchase fuel for a minimum of $100 at a rate of $6.05/gal. or pay a $100 fee in addition to the Customs fee. However, the place looks deserted and abandoned except for the skeleton crew of employees.
The bay here in Chub Cay is nicely sheltered and is being enjoyed also by a few other cruisers. So over drinks, André, the skipper of "Images 1" a C&C Landfall sailboat from Quebec, Canada, filled us in on the story what happened at "The Berry Island Club" at Frazer Hog Cay. At the last week in May of this year he stopped at the Berry Island Club while on his way up to the States. He took a mooring and headed to shore in his dinghy to pay the fee. But he was told to keep his money because the club would be closed and the manager was gone and in the previous week the club had been raided by the Nassau Police, apparently the cook had been fishing square groupers and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) got wind about it and notified Nassau Police. A couple of days later, two guys were standing on the fuel dock waving their arms off, trying to get the attention of the crews on the moored boats. Finally, when the first dinghy got there, these two guys introduced themselves as U.S. Marshalls. "We are here to close the place down, but the problem is, the bar is still fully stocked and we cannot take the booze on the plane and we cannot leave the booze here for the Bahamians." They said. "The solution is to poor the stuff into the ocean or you guys from the boats come this evening and we all have a big f..king party." The boaters didn't have to be told twice and the news spread like wildfire to the American and Canadian moored yachts, with everyone showing up for the "Get rid of the booze party!" Putting plenty effort in reducing the inventory, they emptied the bottles into a big bowl and it became the ultimate punch. By late evening while the wind was blowing strongly, the Marshalls wouldn't let the boaters get into their dinghies for fear that they would not make it back to their boats in their present state, so everyone stayed over at the lodging and slept at the guest rooms. This was another fine example of Canadian and American boaters working together to solve difficult problems!!!
This is André from "Images 1" who even now cannot quite remember how many bottles of booze where consumed that night in May at the Berry Island Club and he is still working on the hangover!
a view of the docks from the Berry Island Club
12/06/2011, Miami Beach, Florida
We are using Miami Beach as a jump off point this time to head over to the Bahamas. Miami Beach is also a delightful place. So for the cruisers, who have not had a chance to come down here for a visit, following is a little description. We are anchored southeast of the Venetian Causeway Bridge, opposite Monument Island. There is lots of swinging room for many boats with excellent holding ground.
Just a short dinghy ride underneath the bridge past the Collins Canal is a launching ramp and a free dinghy dock with a tap and water hose from the city. The Miami Beach Marine Police Station is overlooking the dinghy dock and a Police powerboat is stored in the lifts. The City of Miami Beach supplies Wifi free of charge everywhere with a strong signal in the anchorage.
About 100 yards east of the dinghy dock in walking distance is the recently opened "The Fresh Market", which is an upscale deli/supermarket chain that is a delight for the gourmet. Also a Publix Supermarket is located just on the next street over which can also be reached directly by dinghy up Collins Canal. However, there is no dinghy dock at the canal and a drop off/pick up might be a better solution. Beside the lovely eateries in this area, there is a Chevron gas station to fill your jerry cans with dinghy gas, an Office Depot and a hardware store.
You can rent canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and sea doos. Right across from the dinghy dock you might rent a bicycle from the city if you are too tired to walk, but there is also an excellent city bus transit system to take you into town.
11/30/2011, Miami Beach, Florida
Actually there is nothing wrong with this picture. This is just a true expert, a real pro on a jet ski doing his workout and getting rid of some steam, performing side flips and even double saltos. Diesel Duck relocated today from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami Beach. Looks like people on the water are just as crazy here as they were in Ft. Lauderdale.
11/18/2011, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Wow, we are sitting here in the anchorage of Lake Sylvia in Ft. Lauderdale. It is a little windy, about 15 - 20 knots and as I am looking out of the window I can't believe what I am seeing:
There is a guy flying around the anchored boats on a water-pressure-powered "JetLev-flyer R200" It is a new water toy that lets you go up to an altitude of 50 feet at 40 mph and you can fly as far as 128 miles. The flyer is powered by a 4 stroke power plant which trails behind.
You got to check out the You Tube for a demonstration. A fantastic toy you can have for only $128,000.
11/18/2011, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
If you've ever traveled on the ICW, you can relate to the nuisance of the draw bridges. Of course that's also true for the road traffic which is being interrupted by the opening schedules of the bridges on busy waterways, which they might see this as a nuisance. Yesterday, we woke to thick fog in the Lake Worth anchorage of West Palm Beach, but since we were going to clean our dinghy's bottom before leaving, the fog didn't bother us. By the time we were done with our chores, the fog had lifted and we decided to move on with no plans of where we would stop for the night. Kind of ad lib.
Had we both paid any attention to the charts and guide books that provide details of the fixed and the draw bridges, we probably would have gone out through the inlet to do a run outside on the Atlantic. As it was, the first bridge, "Flagler Memorial Bridge" after leaving our Lake Worth anchorage, opens only quarter to and quarter after the hour and we got there just as the bridge closed. Bad timing on our part and there was a strong tidal current, making the waiting for the next opening difficult.
The bridge tenders like to be called ahead of time by VHF radio of your intention to pass. But they do not like to be called too soon, just about 5 min. before, and they also like to have a visual on you. From the time the bridge stops traffic until the spans are fully open it usually takes 3 to 5 min. So if the next bridge, which might be two miles further ahead, is scheduled to open on the hour and half hour, you can guess that for most cruising boats it's a mad dash to try and make the opening. A call to the bridge tender to hold the bridge if you trail other, faster boats, will seldom be met with kindness.
To make a long, busy, and demanding day into a short posting, we managed 20!! bridges by gunning our engine numerous times, sometimes up to 8 ½ knots and giving her a hell of a workout she had not seen in years, until we dropped the hook in Fort Lauderdale. But the scenery was beautiful in-between bridges with super yachts and mansions lining the ICW and their perfectly maintained properties.
20 years ago a big boat on the ICW was a 50 foot Hatteras. Nowadays the boats you see look like mini cruise ships just like this yacht tied up on the ICW.
11/17/2011, West Palm Beach
Has the owner of this catamaran picked the right name for her, we wondered?
On Wednesday morning we woke up in the anchorage of West Palm Beach to discover that the catamaran anchored in front of us seemed to be sinking. The starboard hull was much lower than the port side hull and there were no signs of anyone on board. Benno called the Coast Guard on VHF channel 16. Their response was immediately and after shifting to a working channel, Benno explained the situation and gave them our telephone number. The duty officer called back from a landline for some more details and the exact GPS position.
It took the Coast Guard "Small Boat" only about five minutes to arrive at the catamaran and we heard them giving a report that the vessel was indeed going down. But also, that the officer had been in contact with the owner just the previous day by phone and apparently this catamaran seemed to have been in trouble before as the citation fastened to the bimini top suggested.
So the contacted (stressed) owner, with his two dogs, who lived in Hollywood, Florida, which is south of Ft. Lauderdale, had to fight rush hour traffic and rush with a gasoline driven pump to the rescue of his "Stress Relief" boat!
11/17/2011, Melbourne, Florida
Last weekend the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) Gam in Melbourne, Florida was in full swing. We've been members for a long time and are now holding the status of Lifetime Commodores (25+ years). It's a great cruising club of likeminded boaters. (click here for SSCA website) This year, while we traveled from our way back from the northern part of the USA, we timed it so that we would be passing through at the time of the annual general meeting and social activities. It started on Friday and ran until mid day Sunday at the Eau Gallie Civic Center. In the gymnasium there were tables for vendors of nautical stuff, just like a boat show and two large conference rooms were set aside for seminars.
What a surprise to find Jesse James, the Maxi Taxi driver, who we knew from our visit to Trinidad behind the table of the Chaguaramas Development Authority, promoting tourism for Trinidad.
Benno is hosting the "Round Table Discussion" for the areas of Venezuela and Panama.
11/11/2011, Melbourne, Florida
Meet David and Georgia Katz. David took "Seaducktress" a 44' Diesel Duck, from East Asia all the way to Australia and then from Australia, via Hawaii to continental USA and up to Alaska and down. As you can read, Diesel Duck trollers do get around! We met up with the Katz's here in Melbourne, Florida, where they live and where David attends to his antique car collection which includes a Ford Model T Fire Engine among many other beauties. He could start an automobile museum, in fact, the place is already a showcase.
Picture of Seaducktress courtesy of George Buehler
Of course we talked about boats, especially Diesel Ducks, while the Katz's treated us to a fabulous curry shrimp dinner at their spacious home, which overlooks the ICW with our DD anchored right in front. Thank you both, we've had a great time with you and hope to meet up again.