Leaving the Irish Sea behind us, we seem to have left the bad weather also.
The last three days in Scotland have been summer-like: light breezes, blue skies and warm temperatures in the high 50’s and even low 60’s. In fact, temperatures have been so warm that in Ireland they issued a “heat warning” telling people to be careful, put on sunblock and take it easy, as temperatures were forecast to be 19 to 21C or 66 to 70 F!
I’m not making this up nor even exaggerating.
Yesterday, we even saw a whale, two seals, one dolphin and a bunch of birds. First whale I’ve seen since the mid-Atlantic two years ago with Julie.
Life goes on, whales have to eat (and avoid Japanese whalers) and Dauntless has to travel (and avoid rocks and other hard things).
My friend Brian form the USA is with me this week. He also has a Kadey Krogen, though his is new. Much like with Marinus and Marta last year, the Krogen owners in Holland and Germany, it’s hard not to gush about our boats and how they simply take us wherever we want to go.
No questions, no muss, no fuss. Seas get big, we just hunker down and keep on going.
Owner gets confused, we give him easily recognizable signals to get his act in gear and solve the problem. Thus we get to this morning’s shenanigans.
Dauntless has four large (8D) batteries. They are going on 8 or 9 years old. One already died last summer. When a battery goes bad,
it sucks energy from the good batteries it is connected to. Since its winter rest the three remaining batteries have not acted normally, thus one or more of them is also going bad. In fact, all three could be bad.
So two days ago, I isolated the primary culprit, hoping that the remaining two were good. Isolated means it’s just sitting there unconnected to anything. A dead weight, all 110 pounds of it.
This morning, I was dismayed to see the voltage of the batteries was below 12 volts. That’s bad; very bad.
When I started the engine to charge the batteries, that’s when the fun started. First the voltage went to 14 (normal), but within seconds back down to 10. That made no sense, that implies a problem with the regulator or the alternator.
I shut down the engine, not wanting to cause any damage to electrical parts and put on my thinking cap to try to figure out what was going on and how I could fix it.
In a true coincidence, I’d been recounting to Brian and incident I had had with my Alfa Romeo Montreal eons ago. I had shorted out and thus broke one of the ignition systems (it had two) and I had to limp down to Italy on only 4 of 8 cylinders.
Thus I thought the first place to look was at the battery bank, where the batteries are located and connected to each other. Sure enough, within seconds I feel the ground cable can be moved by hand. Didn’t seem like a lot, but it could explain the problem.
After tightening the cables, all happy that I found an obvious problem, I go to start the engine and for the first minute everything looked fine and normal. I’m watching the battery monitor which tells me not only voltage but also how much energy the batteries are giving or getting. With them being discharged so much, they should be getting a lot now.
So I’m watching the numbers, the number of amps, rise: 5, 10, 16, 20, 25 exactly as it should.
Then, just like that, I see minus 40! Immediately followed by a low voltage alarms from all over the place.
I kill the engine again. Boats have at least two electrical systems. Dauntless has two, the 12 volts system just like a car and a 120 volt system like your house. The engine alternator makes 12 volts, the Inverter changes it to 120.
I did the only thing I could do. I turned off the 120 system totally. I needed the engine to run obviously, but Dauntless does not need any 120-volt power.
Turning off the 120 system, solved the problem. The batteries were now charging at their normal rate and the voltage was fine.
The 120 system has every appliance on its own breaker (a combination fuse and switch). I turned off everything before I turned the 120 power back on. Now it’s just a process of elimination, turn 1 on, see what happens, turn 2 on see what happens, etc.
As I got to the water heater, all became obvious even before I hit the switch. Last year, I had changed the circuit the water heater was on so that I could have hot water via the solar panels and inverter on circuit number 2.
When I was docked in marinas, I had the water heater plugged into the shore power. But the previous night, I had run the generator and had connected the water heater to the boat system. Therefore, it now mattered that I had not turned off the switch when I turned off the generator last night.
Thus as the batteries were being charged, once the voltage got high enough after a minute or two, the Inverter decides to send power to the water heater, thus the -40 amps reading.
As stupid as I felt, the euphoria one feels by solving a problem on your own in the middle of nowhere, overwhelms any sense of guilt, remorse and even stupidity.
One thing about boating, even if you caused the problem, you get double credit for solving the problem.
Day 8 & 9 Summary, Scotland: Laphroig, Lagavullin, Ardbeg, Talisker, Loch Harport
Egads, I think there is a whiskey (Scotch) in every port. What a coincidence!
Beautiful weather, fair skies, light winds, flat seas. (I love flat seas, amoung other things, some of which are flat!) and some whiskey for medicinal purposes only.
Day 8: 74 nautical miles (nm), 9 hours, 33 min running time, average speed 7.7 knots
Day 9: 51 nm, 7:41, avg speed 6.6 knots