Gene Gene Gene

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June 26, 2019 posted by Diane

June 26, 2019

This morning I’m reminded of a song from the 80s Should I Stay Or Should I go.  The Clash held a lot of meaning for some of us back then and ironically the song still rings true today for our morning breakfast and crew brief.

Yesterday was a pivotal day for our boat Eleanor being ready to go across the ocean.  The technicians were fully engaged in testing this exciting new Victron lithium battery system.


The new lithium system truly is state of the art.  It will afford us an incredible level of conveniences and safety in depleting the batteries without catastrophic battery failure while maintaining an incredible long life for the batteries.


There are colour digital panels that tell us exactly what is happening at any given moment and we could even download the computer’s historical data to do analysis remotely with a technician!  In my usual world I think I’m lucky when I have a little digital battery meter gauge showing me the amps draining the system or replenishing the system.  Not only is this lithium system clever with depletion and monitoring, but when the boat gets to the UK, the Skylla chargers which accompany the multiplex charger will manage the step down from 60hz to 50hz to charge the system.  The boat won’t even skip a beat when we plug in to shore power in the UK.


Really a great system to meet the needs of the cruising that the boat will do, but let’s look at what this battery power can really do.  On Eleanor we have 600 amp hours of house service for the system.  My math shows that if we turn on the fridge/freezer, use the shower once a day, plug in our gadgets and yes watch a movie or two, that we will deplete the battery power somewhere between 200-300 amp hours a day.  We then would charge the batteries off of the generator for 2 -3 hours a day to keep the system topped up.  If it is breezy, the wind generator will supply a few amps of power and if it’s sunny, the solar panel will also provide a couple amps but really these two items act as a battery tender for when the boat is on a mooring ball or on the hard.  This whole idea of managing our power expenditures and intake is not unusual to us human beings.  Anyone who carries a cell phone knows how long they can go before their battery will die.  They know how to go into conservation mode and when they can charge again.  But what if you couldn’t recharge?   How would you reorganize your world to still meet your operating needs?  Would you be ok with just shutting the phone off?  Could you shut down the battery consumers and all the crazy apps and stretch your power out over a longer period of time?  Or would you just reorganize your world so that you didn’t ever need a phone again?  Imagine how you would restructure your world to functionally live without a phone.

Yesterday while the technicians on Eleanor were testing the new system they discovered that our generator was not delivering any output of power to charge the batteries.


Capacitors were replaced and “Gene” was still dead.  Bench testing the alternator….pretty much requires pulling the engine out to get at it as she is installed aft of the main engine in a tight little locker surrounded by the steering quadrant cables.  “Gene” is our primary method of supplying power to charge the batteries.  Without Gene, ie without our main power source, can Eleanor complete her mission and what reduced parameters are we happy to live within for the crossing?  Some of you may be thinking wait a minute….you have a perfectly good generator with the main engine….why not just use that?

This generates (hahahahahah) the argument of why boats have both a generator and a main engine.  The basic theory a generator runs at a high enough RPM at idle that it doesn’t cause long term damage to its rings and cylinders.   A main engine idles at a lower RPM and is designed for low end torque working the pistons harder when the prop turns and load is created.  Running the main engine at idle without any load on it uses low compression.  This low compression doesn’t always completely burn the fuel in the cylinder.  The leftover fuel creates a buildup of carbon and starts to burn on its own.  There are others that say “define low compression”.  The low compression theory used to be a valid argument in “one or double lung” diesel engines.  These were the old single or two cylinder engines.  In Toronto sometimes if it is really cold in the spring, the compression is so low in these old cold engines that to start them I have to run a blow torch in the air intake to warm up the cylinder… glow plug is warm enough!  Running these engines at low idle really causes them to “belch and fart” as I say.

Our engine on Eleanor however idles at 1000 RPm.  In my humble opinion this is sufficient RPM to keep the engine running efficiently.  It generates about 130 amps of power out of the 160 amp alternator.  Plenty of power to charge the batteries!  Now the great debate continues.  How much fuel would it take to use the main engine as our power source?  Generators typically use about half the diesel as a main engine.  However, this is a hard equation to answer mathematically and accurately.  Between my experience and my research my math gives us about .3 gallons per hour of consumption at idle on the main engine.  If we were to function in conservation mode aka no movies, bucket showers, careful management of the fridge/freezer and foot pump only, we could easily manage all the way across with our 140 gallons of diesel.  But here’s the other part of the “mathematical” equation.  This trip is not just about getting the boat there.  I have to remember that after I get off the boat there are future adventures in her travels and our fantastic boat owner needs to be able to function without a generator.  The great question remains… we go without a generator.  Do we take the boat to Scotland where we don’t have the resources of the technicians that have spent countless hours with this new hi tech system and where the boat and her owner needs to function without the luxury of charging gene?  Here comes the song again

Should I stay or should I go now…..indecision’s buggin me!

Stay tuned for the final decision!


Tracker Updates

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June 23, 2019 posted by Diane

June 23, 2019

The yellow brick tracker for Eleanor seems to be working!  Follow the journey across the Atlantic with us here

Looks like we might have a departure date of Wednesday.  However, we need confirmation from the yard tomorrow.  Stand by as the weather is also looking a little drippy and blustery for Wednesday…however, we only need to get 30 Miles out to get to open water and then awayyyyy weeee gooooo!


Road Trip Planning

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June 21, 2019 posted by Diane

June 20, 2019

Adventures always come with big decisions and preparation.  The better prepared you are the better set you are to deal with any troubles along the way and also to simply enjoy the trip.  Just like a family road trip you consider what you want with you in the car to make the experience more enjoyable.  Cold drinks, books, games, the route and a pillow may be all the things you want to consider.  But will it all fit?  Can you stretch out your legs with all that stuff?  Will there be enough bathroom breaks along the way?  And then there is the infamous “take the car in for service before you go”.  The mechanic does an oil change, rotates the tires and then sais…..”did you know your exhaust has a hole in it” and you start to weigh the need to replace the exhaust or not.

Eleanor is our fantastic Valiant 42 that we are taking across the ocean.  Her owner is meticulous at making sure things are done correctly, which of course includes the proverbial “take her in for service”.  As such, the yard has been hard at work installing new antennas, fixing switches and countless other “little things” on the list, however the big decisions are always of great discussion.  This little road trip is more than just a family vacation in the car.  Taking a sailboat across the ocean and onward to other adventures after that requires establishing a significant level of sustainability onboard.  Until the invention of the perpetual machine, we need to generate power to keep our batteries up.  This has invoked the age old argument of swapping the battery banks out for new.  In this case the batteries were due to be replaced, but should the traditional lead acid batteries/AGM be put back in or should the boat go with lithium batteries.  I think I just heard Tesla’s ears perk up.  There is always a risk with adding something new onboard without sufficient sea trials and in this case the new is a massive part of our sustainability.  On the one hand, the new battery system will mean significantly less charging to be done and less consuming of diesel.  The new lithium batteries can run lower and not suffer damage.  They are also more stable in a crisis when lead acid can become a toxic gas when mixed with salt water.  On the flip side, a new battery installation means new variables not yet tested and a time line that no longer meets our casting off criteria.  The yard is working 12 hours a day to install the system.  It’s not as simple as a couple of 2 gauge black and red wires cranked onto posts.  The entire system starting at the shore power, wind generator, solar panel and engine needs to be converted as the power supply comes through to the charger and into the batteries.

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Ultimately this has all lead back to that discussion of “planning the road trip”.  Our plan manages a bunch of variables : food to keep us warm and properly caloried,


icebergs through the Labrador Current, Oil Rigs off of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the long stretch up to 54° north to Scotland and then the infamous currents in the Great Race coming in to our final port in Kilmelford Scotland.  How do you pick and plan your road trips and keep your calorie count up?  What are the variables you take into account and where do you make compromises you are happy to live with and others that you just say no to? We cast off Monday early morning!  woohoo!  Bring on the adventure!!!


Iceberg Alley And Helly Hansen

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May 31, 2019 posted by Diane

May 31, 2019
What’s your next adventure? Planning adventures is always a journey on its own. My next trip is Maine to Scotland. Helly Hansen toques, t-shirts and fuzzy fleeces for all that mother nature has to offer us! Then there is food planning, route planning and oh yeah… a little sea survival and safety equipment to pack on the boat. Our route takes us right through the iceberg pack. Fortunately it is a bit smaller and closer to Newfoundland than it was a month ago! Radar will be on and eyeballs will be peeled!

IMG_20190531_081057_resized_20190531_081130441 St John's iceberg 1

Next Adventure

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May 3, 2019 posted by Diane

May 3, 2019


My next adventure is a nice northerly route from Maine to Scotland.  Planning is key to being prepared for any adventure.  This particular one will take us from Maine up past Nova Scotia and Newfoundland through the icebergs of the cold Labradore Current and onwards for 2,900 Miles to Scotland.  We’ve picked the best time of the year to go, end of June.  However….don’t kid yourself….sea temperature will be 10° or less and the air temperature not much more than that.  The trip is on a Valiant 42.  A sturdy well built cutter rigged cruiser well kitted out for the trip.  Next week myself and my crew will do a sea trial and make sure all boxes are ticked!  What’s your next adventure?  Are you prepared?  Food, clothing, routing…. all part of the fun game of having adventures.

Scotland run low res

Instructors Learning

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March 7, 2019 posted by Diane

March 7, 2019

Up next we have a fantastic bunch of Instructor candidates keen to become OPSC Instructors.  Next week I will join the instructor team in Montreal to facilitate the Instructor Development Program for the Offshore Personal Survival Course here in Canada.  I’m particularly looking forward to facilitating some of this in French.  Its not often I get to teach in French 🙂  Awesome way to ssssttttrreeetttccchhhh my skills!



A Blustery Month

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February 25, 2019 posted by Diane

Feb 25, 2019

Back in January if you were chatting with me at the Toronto Boat Show, I told you how much I was looking forward to a month of teaching in the British Virgin Islands.  The lineup was to be an Intermediate/ICC course first and then three Basic Cruising courses to follow.  All of this in the beautiful BVIs on a Beneteau 41 called Jinty Binty.

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Well the BVIs and my students from Advantage Boating really lived up to my expectations!  We had four weeks of tacking, gybing, crew overboard drills, tests, turtles, snorkeling at the Indians, wandering through the Baths and fantastic dinners with wonderful people.  The BVIs may have been devastated by hurricane Irma and Maria, but they are really starting to thrive again!

Not only did the teaching live up to my hopes and dreams, but the winds were outstanding!  The BVIs are famous for consistent Easterly tradewinds of 15-20 knots at this time of the year.  The first week was perfect, just as the brochure promised.  The second week was a little light in the winds but we did all the training and still got to our anchorages on time each night to have some fun.  The last two weeks however really packed a punch!  The average winds were 20 knots.  For most, this is the limit for a Basic Cruising course.  We managed with a reefed main just fine.  Then the last week was full of 20-25 knots and gushy punches of rain really living up to the tradewind daytime squalls.  All managed with 2 reefs in the main and a partially furled jib.

Thanks to all my wonderful students for such a great experience and thanks to Advantage Boating in Ottawa for giving me the opportunity!

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Splicing Seminar Saturday Dec 1, 2018

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November 26, 2018 posted by Diane

November 26, 2018

Splicing Seminar this Saturday December 1, 2018 at the Rigging Shoppe, instructed by yours truly! Come join us and have some fun learning some handy skills! Sign up here

A New Instructor Evaluator

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November 6, 2018 posted by Diane

November 6, 2018

Watch out sailing world, here we come!  This past weekend, three of us in Ontario participated in an Instructor Evaluator training weekend.  Two of us are looking to become evaluators of instructors and one is moving up to a Senior Instructor Evaluator.   The rest of the motley crew in the picture were the facilitators.  I am very much looking forward to this new role of nurturing in new sailing Instructors and guiding them to a level of professionalism that we are all aspiring to.  I will still be out there teaching all the usual lessons and sailing the high seas on crazy adventures…..this is just one more facet of my professional sailor life.

IE Clinic


Women’s Day at the Boat Show

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October 24, 2018 posted by Diane

October 24, 2018

Here it comes! The Toronto International Boat Show and International Women’s Day. Proud to have been asked to speak at the event. Check out the schedule, pick your activities you would like to learn more about and maybe I will see you in my safety seminars!

Diane in Gijón, Spain

Diane in Gijón, Spain