Tumultuous Uproar

A cruising boat with a racing problem...

Is Cruising Hard?

06 March 2022
Russ Whitford
Lisa and I walked a few miles from our Little Harbor anchorage into Black Point Settlement, Exumas, a few days ago. It was a dusty, deserted road with the remnants of a stalled marina project along the way.

We stopped into Loraine's for a few Kalik beers and some cracked conch. After a long wait, they told us they were out of conch. We ordered chicken tenders and had another long wait. No problem, Bahama time.

At the restaurant, there were a few kids and I went into airplane making mode. We carry small, foam model airplanes to give out to kids. Years ago, Lisa came up with the great idea, “Don't just give them to the kids, make them and show them how to fly them.” It is so much more rewarding to get to play airplanes with kids we meet.

I made one for a little girl accompanied by a young lady. She explained she was an au pair from South Africa, sailing with an Israeli family for about a year. I mentioned we have been living aboard for more than six years. She asked, “Is it a hard life?” I too quickly answered, “No.”

Well, the last few days have been hard. In spite of the beautiful picture of Uproar and Whisper off a sandy beach, it has been blowing stink for the past two days. We haven't left the boat. It will continue to blow hard for a few days then let up.....a little. Wind will go south east. Whisper has to sail to Georgetown to pick up family against the SE wind. Hope it really lets up. Lisa and I have no schedule so we will hang out until weather looks more promising.

Weather can definitely make things difficult. But yesterday I encountered a problem far worse. I had defrosted the freezer and it wasn't coming down to temperature as fast as expected. I have been having trouble with losing a little refrigerant when I defrost. The low pressure side of the system is at about atmospheric pressure when running. When defrosted (not running) the pressure builds on the low pressure side. Must be a small leak somewhere. I'll keep looking for it.

I gave the system a squirt of R134a refrigerant and it didn't help much. I then gave it a healthy dose.....definitely too healthy! The compressor buzzed with the extra load, the condenser was not able to condense the hot refrigerant into liquid. The hot gas refrigerant then just circulated through the evaporator plates and the freezer became a little oven!

We have about 25 pounds of premium meat from the US in that freezer! And there are no resources for a professional to repair the system in the area. Probably very few even in the Bahamas. I was devastated with the prospect of going without refrigeration until we got to a major city in the Caribbean, probably a month away!

Pressures about keeping these fragile systems running correctly are definitely a difficult part of cruising for me. Lisa never puts this pressure on me. I put it on myself, it is my job to get these things right. I slowly bled some refrigerant from the system until the plates started to frost up. I got up several times in the middle of the night to check on things. I even ran the engine for a spell to make sure the batteries were at full voltage.

It wasn't a problem getting up in the middle of the night. The wind was raging, making it hard to sleep. Today is much brighter. The freezer is frozen hard but is running all the time. I'll have to balance the refrigerant level and monitor for a few days. I don't have gauges to do a more accurate balancing. Perhaps I can borrow some from another cruiser. But connecting gauges can cause loss of refrigerant as we learned years ago. We finally had to give up on the gauges and just watch the frost on the plates for a few days to guide us. I can certainly do that again and get it right.

While this may seem like a simple problem, I was sure kicking myself for screwing the system up. I could just picture us giving all that meat away and living out of cans for a month. Not good! Even then, the prospect of finding a “guy” who can fix it is a remote possibility. That's why no one but me touches Uproar! I just have to get it right and ease up on myself.

Meanwhile, the wind still rages. Sure makes it easy to find time to write.
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Vessel Name: Tumultuous Uproar
Vessel Make/Model: Beneteau 42s7
Hailing Port: Milwaukee, WI
Crew: Russ Whitford & Lisa Alberte plus Sophie our Jack Russell Terrier
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