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Madcap Sailing
Regaining Perspective, and Some Details
Beth / 85, cloudy, humid
17/04/2010/3:45 pm, Shroud Cay

We've had a run of bad luck the last week or so, and it has taken both Jim and me a few days to put it in perspective. My friend Marilyn asked me the other day how I keep smiling, and my answer was that I am pretty up-beat in the day time and I mope at night. Jim is doing much the same, although he doesn't smile much! We take turns cheering each other up - this is too small a living space for us to go off into our own caves and cope in our own ways as we might do at home.

It is true that I'm managing (mostly) to remain cheerful in spite of everything, because I subscribe to the theory that, for the most part, like attracts like. Sure, I moan and groan and sigh, but I direct most of my energy to the good things. Jim tends to worry more - if this goes wrong, what else can? And of course it is his credit card that is getting loaded up! We both seem to have a lingering feeling of being beaten up by all this, but we find that if we concentrate on the good, we can handle the bad a little better. Everything is not rosy all the time - sometimes things are just rotten. That's life. However, there are still so many good things that they far outweigh the bad, and here are some of them:

Glenn wrote from Halifax to say that on April 14 and 15, (the days of our Troubles) the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank. We are still afloat! When we needed a diagnosis of why the alternator was not charging the batteries, Bruce introduced us to Rich. When we needed new parts, Bruce connected us with Dave at East Coast Battery. When the parts needed to be flown in from Ft. Lauderdale, Watermakers Air flew them the very next day to Staniel Cay Yacht Club. The waves were not as big as they could have been between Big Major's Spot and Staniel Cay and Jim made the trip to pick them up (with our new outboard) without getting soaked! When we needed help to install the new parts, Rich and Bruce were there. When the Troubles got worse, Stephen was next door. The weather has been lovely. The Happy Hours have been friendly. And, to paraphrase an old saying, we still have a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and each other! (for the moment at least, and we live in the moments :-)

Now to some details which will cause eyes to glaze over on non sailors, and heads to shake on precise technical folks! Something went wrong somewhere!

In the process of installing the alternator and regulator, something happened that resulted in the failure of several systems. Our Single Side Band radio (SSB - where we get Chris Parker's weather report and check in with Cruisehimers to let folks know where we are and find out where our friends are), VHF (the radio that's like our telephone for boat to boat traffic), stereo/radio, inverter (where we plug in things that need to be charged up) and anchor/navigation lights at the top of the mast didn't work any more. We're still not sure quite what happened, although there are a couple of best guesses. It seems to have had something to do with shutting off the switch for DC power. This is something we never do ordinarily, but did of course, turn off when the guys were playing around with the alternator. We first noticed the problem the night after we installed the alternator and Jim and I did enough investigation to find that even when the battery selector switch was turned off, the boat's electrical system was still live.

The next morning, as Jim and Rich were searching for the problem, they turned off the DC supply switch, turned on the inverter and started getting high voltage readings - up to 35 volts (in a 12 volt system) and the invertor started popping and smoking. Jim grabbed the fire extinguisher but as soon as they turned the house bank battery switch back on, everything settled down. Our friend Stephen (Katmandu) thinks it may have had something to do with the fact that the wind generator was wired into the system in such a way that when the battery selector switch was turned off, the wind generator was still pumping power into the electrical system. Or - that our linksys system that is supposed to combine and isolate battery banks automatically was malfunctioning.

Jim was concerned that when we shut down the house battery bank, we still had a charge showing up at the electrical panel, meaning that we could not shut all power down in the case of an emergency. Stephen and Jim rewired a few things, labeled everything and drew diagrams of it all. They've made the system as simple as it can be, with manual switches from house battery to starting battery, and from wind generator to alternator. We can shut off all DC power, we can efficiently create power when the engine is on, and we now turn the wind generator off when the engine is on or there is no wind.

We dug out the back-up VHF radio, and the back-up inverter (that plugs into the cigarette lighter) and a battery operated lantern that will work as an anchor light. Our old deck-level nav lights still work so we can travel at night. We talk with fellow boaters to get Chris Parker's weather info, and we make do without radio and music.

These guys spent hours and hours with us, and their sailing partners put up with their absence and kept sending words of encouragement. We have enough sorted out to keep moving, and when we get back to the US, we'll get a thorough diagnosis and a fix.

The pic above shows Rich, Bruce and Jim relaxing after a hard day's work at happy hour on New Horizons. Their smiles reflect the happy camaraderie of guys messing about with boats!

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26/04/2010/8:50 am | Pat
I haven't kept up lately but Holy smokes Beth! I hope that you find out the cause of the problems! You're spirit (as usual) remains elevated. Sending you both hugs and hoping you figure out what went wrong where... Can't believe the wind generator could reeeeek such havoc!
26/04/2010/8:50 am | Pat
I haven't kept up lately but Holy smokes Beth! I hope that you find out the cause of the problems! You're spirit (as usual) remains elevated. Sending you both hugs and hoping you figure out what went wrong where... Can't believe the wind generator could reeeeek such havoc!
Some Bad News Among the Good!!
Beth / 85 and up, E 10-15
15/04/2010/11:20 am, Big Major's Spot, Exumas

Another short posting - I'll try to get more written if I stay here in the Yacht Club long enough!

The short story is:
Our new alternator and regulator and heavier wiring came in on the 3pm Watermaker flight on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Rich and Jim and Bruce put their heads and skills together and installed them.
On Wednesday night, we noticed that our anchor light wasn't on, and after checking out all the systems, we discovered that neither were our inverter, nav lights (at the top of the mast and part of the same unit as the anchor light), SSB (single side band), radio/stereo, and VHF. This is big trouble.
On Thursday, Rich and Jim checked everything out and sure enough, the inverter is toast, the other units are not working and may or may not be repairable. There must be a connection between the work on Tuesday but it has not as yet been discovered.
We reinstalled an old VHF that we carried as a backup so we have that working. By travelling with friends who will share the SSB data they get, and hanging other lights from the rails to act as anchor lights, and travelling in daytime when we don't need the nav lights, we will be able to proceed.

As of tonight, we just want to get back to the US, put the boat where it can have some work done and go home. I'm sure this despondent state will pass - we never stay in the dumps for long. But as the children's book says, it's been "A Terrible Horrible NoGood Very Bad Day"!!

More updates as I can get them to you, but as we travel north from here, it may be quite a while before we have internet access. So - consider that no news is good news!!

In the meantime, the water is still clear aqua-blue, the temperature is lovely, our fellow cruisers are fabulous, the wind is blowing 20 or so but not from the West. We are topped up with diesel and gas and water. The mailboat came and we'll get groceries on Friday. The cruising life is still good - just expensive and with a big learning curve at the moment!



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17/04/2010/7:09 am | Estelle
Oh my, what a bummer!! Don'tworry it has happened to many of us, things not working. I will cheer you up with the local forecast by looking out my window- wet snow flurries!!! Take care and think positive thoughts.
18/04/2010/6:50 am | Linda
Perhaps you could take some solace in the fact that it's the ship and not the aging crew that is breaking down!
Some good news among the bad
Beth / about 80 NE 15 and rising
12/04/2010/2:14 pm, Staniel Cay, Exumas

Just a quick update -

Rich (New Horizons) and Bruce (Reflections) helped Jim - or should I say Bruce and Jim helped Rich - do some diagnostics on our alternator. The situation is not good. We need a new regulator and maybe an alternator.

The good news is that Bruce had a contact - East Coast Battery in Fort Lauderdale - and when Jim called them, they said yes - they can supply them and yes they will get them on a Watermakers Flight to Staniel Cay - hopefully tomorrow - if not, on Wed.

The other good news is that the wind that holds us here over the next few days also keeps the wind generator spinning so we are not in trouble energy-wise.

The bad news is that Staniel Cay has no diesel or gas at the moment so we can't buy more for the Honda generator, or replenish the fuel we used up on the Long Slog. (Could this situation have anything to do with the dozen gas guzzling mega yachts in the area right now??) Good news is that both are available at Sampson Cay - a few miles north.

With luck we will still have mechanical/electrical friends in the area when the part comes in.

We think it is time to head home - before anything else happens!

We'll be spending the next few days in Big Majors Spot or else back in Little Bay (Black Point) while we wait for the expected 30 knot NE winds to pass through. Then we'll be moving north to the Abacos and back to the US. More details on the timing and destination as they become clear to us!

This pic is of Stephen and Jim operating on the SSB!

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12/04/2010/2:53 pm | Rob Wells
I figured the Fuel issue was caused by you tripling the size of your outboard.
13/04/2010/9:42 pm | S &S
Last year we were told that Sampson was very nice, reachable by dingy from BMS if needed, but a great place to go on its own, with good shelter. So why not check it out?

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