A Mini Tour of the Bahamas – Leg 4

March 10, 2011 posted by admin

posted on March 10, 2011

Log date Feb 25, 2011
N24d15’ W73d 39’ – Ocean waypoint to Great Inagua
0110 UTC 2010 (the night before)
Log Reading
Full main and genoa
Wind E 10-15 knots

This is the turn at the ocean waypoint, and it really is a turning point in this marathon run through the Bahamas.  With a little luck the breeze will hold from the East and I’ll be able to get my kite up.  The turn takes us due south to Great Inagua.  As nice as it is to have passed a major milestone, I have greater issues at hand.  The battery doesn’t seem to be charging, and thus the trouble shooting starts.  Connections are checked for corrosion; solar panel controllers are checked for their charging status with their blinking lights.  The controllers are all flashing a solid green which means they think the batteries are fully charged, but the volt meter sais otherwise…12.25 volts….not good.  These are acid glass matt batteries.  They operate a little differently than a traditional wet cell 12 volt battery.  Generally speaking, a wet cell battery is completely useless once it reaches about 12.6 volts.  I don’t know how long my batteries will continue to run the autopilot, but the chart sais 12.5volts takes me to 50% battery power.  Let the trouble shooting continue!  In the meantime, I’ll physically swap battery one with battery two and start using that one.  Up until now I have been running only one battery and saving the other for “just in case”.  Well I guess this is my “just in case”!  

 I saw my first sailboat today.  Melika.  We had a great chat on the VHF.  Melika and crew were heading south to great adventures and not sure where or when they would end up somewhere. I told them about my campaign and the owner of Melika told me about his first Atlantic crossing and how he’ll never forget what an exhilarating ride it was.  We wished each other luck and carried on with our journeys.  He also wished me luck with my batteries!

Feb 26, 2011
N21d21’ W73d40’’ – Ocean waypoint to Great Inagua
1003 UTC 0503 EST
Log Reading
2 reefs in the main and two in the genoa
Wind E 15-20 knots

Last night the batteries got dangerously low….down to about 40%.  I was hand steering to save using the autopilot until the morning when the sun came out, but I was falling asleep at the helm.  One minute I was on course, the next I was 100 degrees in the wrong direction and didn’t know how long I had been going that way.  This was definitely falling into a risky situation, so I deployed the drogue to somewhat park the boat.  A drogue is not the traditional method for stopping the boat.  You can heave to or you can deploy a sea anchor.  I don’t have the space to keep a sea anchor on the mini, and the flogging of the sails is expensive, so the drogue provided a nice controlled drift.  Plus there is very little traffic this far out.  It’s probably the safest place to “pull over” for the night.  Still, I kept the 20 minute alarm going and kept a vigilante watch for ships in between naps.  When the sun came up the trouble shooting continued.  If I didn’t get this figured out it was going to be absolute hell to finish the run.  The irony is that there was no turning back.  I was as far east as I was going and it was actually a shorter run to finish than to turn around.  Plus the resources available to me this far out were pretty much non existent.  If I needed to organize a new solar panel this was one of the most expensive places I could imagine to do so.  I would be home before a new panel arrived!  So I was trapped.  The sun came up and the trouble shooting began.  Over the past year I have always run the batteries on “All”.  Typically in a 12volt DC system you have heavy gauge wires running from your batteries to a “Perko” switch.  Perko is a brand name, but the switch is your main on off switch.  You can select between battery 1, battery 2, all batteries or have the switch in the off position.  This switch isolates the batteries as you need.  After the Perko switch, wires run to your panel with all the different switches to turn on the toys.  This is all normal operation stuff.  My solar panels are wired through the Perko switch and then are dedicated to a battery rather than having an electronic gadget to manage the recharging.  Each solar panel has it’s own controller which manages the flow into the batteries.  Try to imagine the sea of wires going into and out of the Perko switch and onto the batteries.  Note to self….need a bus bar.  It turns out that through this wiring set up I need to have the switch always on “All”.  As soon as I switched over to “All”, the controller lights started blinking and both batteries started drinking up the power generated by the solar panels.  Within 4 hours, the batteries were back up to 85%.  Holly cow….lesson learned for sure.  But it’s important to know that I don’t have an option of depleting only one battery at a time.  Potential tragedy resolved!

 At 1507 UTC and bucking in deep seas to get there, with fully charged batteries, we arrived at Great Inagua.  Of course the depth meter still wasn’t working.  It was a building sea.  We made our way east to the longitude of the lighthouse and within sight of the lighthouse and I took my picture of it and the GPS.

This was certainly a momentous moment.  Granted it was the second one of the trip, but this was the biggy!   This is where we stopped heading east and south and made the big turn west.  This is where the wind moves behind us and the sleigh ride home starts.  This should have been a kite ride all the way home at blinding speeds.  Did I mention at this point the wind was up to a solid 20 knots gusting up to 23 and the seas were a steady five to eight feet and climbing? Once we turned west, we started to scream along.  With two reefs in the main and a reef in the genoa, we started our sleigh ride home.  The waves were close enough together that we were catching the trough ahead of us and the bow was burying in it.  At some points we screamed down the face of a wave at 18 knots!  No need to deploy the kite and have it blow up or trip over the bowsprit.  I don’t need to break anything way out here!  Home James!!! 

One Response to “A Mini Tour of the Bahamas – Leg 4”

  1. john globemasterone Says:

    I wasn’t an apprentice electrician when I started to read this but now I think I can right the test for my ticket! Well done Diane. 18 knots…love it. Thanks.

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