After the bad news from Kevin about the batteries, we tried to call the marina in Carrabelle several times to get Mechan-Eric or a technician, anyone, on the phone to make sure our boat was plugged in and getting a charge. I finally got a woman on the line who said she’d “look into it” but I got the impression she was less than enthused and not nearly as concerned about our boat as we were. Or, scratch that, not nearly as concerned I felt she needed to be.
It sounded like she was writing my name and number down while painting her nails and twirling her hair, planning to leave them on a flimsy post-it note on the desk of someone who was already gone for the day. I was less than pleased with her response.
But it was Thursday. And, whether I went postal on her or not (which I didn’t – thinking she could light a match to the boat if she wanted to – best not to piss off the caretakers), we were not going to feel comfortable about the batteries until we went down there ourselves to see what kind of charge they would hold, if any. When we got back to the boat on Friday night, she was plugged in but only had about three (out of four) bars. That meant she was not yet fully charged but she was taking a charge, which was a good sign. When we had left her the weekend before she had NO bars – nothing, zilch, nada. So, some bars were good.
Now, I think it’s time for a fun little battery tutorial, don’t you? Because I now know way more than I ever want to about marine batteries and if I had to suffer through it, alas, so do you! So, shall we?
This is our E-Meter which shows four different readings for the batteries (these are the four circles under the “18.3” reading) from left to right:
1. “V” for Volts: Our battery bank is wired for 12 volt output. Meaning, the volts reading should ideally show around 12.5 – 12.6 volts (at max charge – a little over 12).
2. “A” for Amps: This reading (which is lit) is showing 18.3 amps are going into the battery because it’s plugged in and receiving a charge. This reading indicates the flow of amps either in (a positive number when the battery is receiving more charge than it is discharging) or out (a negative number when there is more discharge, like when we use it to run the fridge, lights, etc. while not simultaneously charging it). Much like a tank of gas, the batteries have a capacity to hold only a certain number of amps (i.e., gallons of fuel). Ours holds 450, so when we’ve burned 50 amps off and don’t re-charge it, we’ve only got 400 left, no more.
Knowing this, you start to get real familiar with just how many amps certain appliances are going to “cost” you. For instance, the fridge pulls about 4-5 amps/hour, the lights and fans another 1-2/hour, and these are purely luxuries (you can always bring ice and use flashlights). As you can imagine, it’s easy to start getting real “Scrooge-ey” with use of electronics on the boat.
Turn that light off would ya? It ain’t Christmas!
But, Scrooge or not, there are some things you simply HAVE to run whether you like it or not: a mast headlight so other boats can see you when you’re at anchor (1-2 amps/hour), navigation lights (bow, stern and mast) so other boats can see you when you’re under way at night (2-3 amps/hour), etc. Hence the all important “Ah” amp hour reading.
3. “Ah” for Amp Hours: This reading shows you how many “amp hours” you have pulled off of the battery, much like the needle on your fuel gauge. If the amp hours are showing roughly half of your 450 amps (around 225) remain, you’ve used about half of your tank of gas. Which begs the question: how long can I go on a half tank? That’s where the time reading comes in.
4. “t” for Time: This is the total time you have left on the batteries based on your usage and is akin to the number of miles you can go on the remaining gas in your tank. As you know, the faster you go, the less miles you can travel on that tank. Similarly, the more appliances you use, the less “time” you have left on the batteries. And, just as you don’t want to suck up all the rusty junk floating around in the bottom of your fuel tank, you don’t want to let your batteries get down below 50% because it’s not good for them. So, when you near the half-way mark, you should really try to give the batteries a charge (either by running the engine or plugging in if you have access to shore power).
See? All very interesting stuff that you can impress your friends with at cocktail parties.
Oh Bob … Your amp hour calculations are so exciting they make my head spin. Ha, ha ha!
Trust me, everyone is dying to know about marine batteries. I promise, just ask them. If they say they’re not, I would just walk away. They’re clearly boring people.
So, we let ours charge up fully and then unplugged her and kept the fridge and some lights running to see if she would actually “hold” a charge. It wouldn’t help anyone if she showed four bright shiny bars when we set off into the Carrabelle River only to drop down to nothing the minute we got back in the Gulf. This is what Kevin told us can happen when batteries are completely drained and re-charged. But, we were apparently lucky – this time. We watched her for two hours and she held a steady charge, which gave us hope.
With the battery situation now put to rest, we set our sights on the Genny and getting her raised back up on the forestay. (Recall that’s the wire that runs from the mast to the front of the boat that the Genny furls around).
Well, I’ll tell you we learned a very valuable lesson that day. “Don’t let go of the halyard!” That may mean nothing to you, but you’re about to see why it’s so darn important. It’s something terribly basic but easy to forget. Like the sailing equivalent to “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!” Such brilliant advice.
So, the halyard. On a boat, that’s any line (which, remember, is a rope) that is used to raise a sail. On our boat, there is a clamp on the end of the halyard that pulls the Genny sail back up the forestay. After we had dropped the Genny halyard from the top of the mast down to the bow of the boat to lower and take off the Genny, we promptly pulled the halyard right back up to the top of the mast, thinking “What a nice, safe place for it. I’m sure it’ll drop right back down when we need it to … ”
We were dumb. So dumb. Julia herself should’ve slapped us.
Because I’ll tell you what didn’t happen. That halyard didn’t drop. Wouldn’t drop. We shook and banged the line, hoping the clamp on the end of the halyard would vibrate and wiggle down, but it wouldn’t budge. So, I remind you again, “Don’t let go of the halyard!” Now, how does this all translate to entertainment for you? Trust me, it does. Because guess whose happy little ass had to climb that 50 foot mast to get the halyard down. Uh-huh … That’s right. Yours truly. Albeit a bonehead move and not one I think we will make again anytime soon (let’s hope), that little mistake of ours took me to such great heights:
And there she goes …
Annie are you okay? Would you tell us? That you’re okay?
That is one tall mast let me assure you. And, you may be wondering how the heck you climb a thing like that. Years of training with Tibetan ninjas, that’s how.
But I think I’ve enlightened you enough for one day. I’ll save that post for another. I’ll tell you, though, it really did feel incredible up there. Every tiny little rock of the boat is magnified and it feels like you’re swaying from side to side like blowing with the wind in the top of a tall pine (when the boat below appears to be standing perfectly still). Funny thing about climbing a mast, though. It seems to attract a crowd. A bunch of old salts, who clearly had nothing better to do, started to gather around as I ascended, telling Phillip “Woman like that oughta have a sister!”
I do. She just didn’t get the looks in the family so we don’t really like to acknowledge her.
Poor thing. I don’t know what she’s made of herself. Probably nothing nearly as cool as a sailor-slash-blogger. Not nearly.
The good news is I made it down safe and sound and the boat was looking ready to go. We emptied out the fridge and turned off all the electronics so she would stay juiced up no matter the “plug” situation. Mechan-Eric told us they were expecting the new transmission to arrive the next week and then they would drop it in there. All seemed right with the world, so Phillip and I headed home to start planning the last leg of The Crossing – over drinks and dinner of course! Phillip made us his famous pan-seared grouper and mushroom risotto with sauteed spinach to celebrate the big climb:
Because he’s just kind of amazing that way.