Cindy Ann (Red Ranger), Jen (Red Ranger), Sue (Liquid Therapy), Steve (Red Ranger), Stanley (Green Eyes) and George (Grace). Yes, it was rainy. We're all boaters, we all have pretty good foulies. In a variety of colors, it appears.
The crabs were delightful. There were lessons learned on the sudden death of the house batteries, also. It was a "this is the way it's supposed to work" weekend.
We had our first ever overnight guest on Red Ranger. We had a number of problems. One problem is that it rained constantly, making sailing an unappealing prospect. Another problem is that Red Ranger is noisy at night when the wind is up. We don't notice it anymore. But guests… The docklines creak, the mizzen halyard clangs, rain patters on the hatches. Relaxing? Maybe not.
Even though we didn't sail, there was some dock-side pre-gaming with the marina tribe. Plus the official crab-fest socializing. Plus the post-crab-fest hanging out on various boats. And the post-crab-fest attempt at draining the beer truck (Mark, Grayson and I tried. Really. Jen and CA plugged in the cabin heater and made tea. Out of the rain.)
If we can't sail, we like to potter around in Urbanna. So we took Jen to breakfast at Cross Street Coffee. Picked up a few geocaches (http://coord.info/GC2F41Y and http://coord.info/GC2YMHY ). Generally had a lazy marina weekend.
Power Tales—The Denouement
The battery death is the "page 60" turning point of a more complex screenplay. Fade In. On a hot July weekend, I replaced the useless (but not broken) analog voltmeter with a nice Blue Sea digital voltmeter. Easy. Pleasant. Successful.
This is Act One of a personal quest for meaning. The old meters provided no data at all. The new meters should provide accurate data. But is it meaningful? Will they help us understand power?
Cut To: September. I started to replace the useless analog ammeter with a Blue Sea digital unit. This was a two-step job. On Labor Day, I put in the new shunt. The next weekend, I was going to put in the new ammeter. We have 450 amp-hours of battery. When installed, the ammeter should help us see how much we're using.
Cut To: Voltmeter reading 10.5V. Almost all 450 amp-hours gone. The entire house bank of 4 Trojan T-105's. Dead.
Did I do that? What did I screw up? Oh My God. I Killed My Boat!
Well… Not really. Montage: tediously careful measurements. It wasn't anything wrong with installation, shunt, meter or boat. All that detailed measurement did not provide a positive diagnosis; just a lot of negatives. While we can find comfort in knowing what it isn't; we're much happier when we know what it is.
The new digital meters, of course, provide some numbers. But it's hard to know what the numbers mean. The batteries appeared to be "recovering" from being discharged down to nothing. Right? The battery charger was humming away to beat the band. The ammeter showed 8 or 9 amps of charging current. That's good right? Or is it bad? What does it all mean?
While CA and Jen were at yoga-Pilates, I disconnected and measured voltage on the four house batteries. One of the "front" (most easily accessible) was reading just over 4V (instead of the expected 6.37V). That's a dead cell, which means a dead battery. [Each time I checked it, BTW, the voltage continued to fall. It was that dead.]
Most importantly, everyone (everyone!) told me that 11 years of service from Trojan T-105's is an insane expectation. The guy at Battery Outlet Inc. said "That's the benefit Trojans. More than five years." He did not ask what kind of fool leaves a battery in a boat for eleven years. Brooke (Liquid Therapy) and Mike (Miss Ingy II) also pointed out the same basic truth: 11 years is way too long. They did not ask what kind of fool waits until his batteries are stone dead to replace them.
Page 90. Lesson Learned: don't wait for death. Cull the herd. Replace batteries early and often. Five years.
The batteries weigh 62 pounds. Each. That's 248 pounds of—mostly—lead that has to be wrestled up from under the fridge compressor, over Mr. Lehman, out into the walkway, up the companion ladder, through the cockpit, over the lifelines and onto the dock.
Keep them as low as possible. Slide them just a hair above the cabin sole. If they drop, the damage to the teak-and-holly will be horrifying. The first scary part is getting the damn things over the engine. The second scary part is getting them up the companionway ladder. That's a long drop: a lot of damage.
Who needs yoga when you can give yourself back injuries trying to lift very heavy things from very awkward positions?
Mike pointed out that a high-quality, reliable deep-cycle battery is mostly lead. "If it ain't heavy, it ain't no good." 62 pounds each is a good thing. [The engine starting battery is 56 pounds. And there's only one of them.]
The best result of this is the quest for meaning: I now understand the meter readings. Last weekend, with a dead battery still in the circuit, the fancy new ammeter showed us a steady 8 amps of charging current. The voltmeter barely broke 12V. Every time we used something (like the fresh water pump) voltage fell to 11. We were seeing the battery charger struggling to put energy into a dead house bank.
This weekend—with the house bank pruned down to two working batteries—the meters finally made sense. Voltage slowly climbed to well over 13V. Charging amps steadily dropped from 4 to 1A. This showed us how the charging current tapers off as the voltage increases.
Yay! That's how it's supposed to work.
And the Whitby interior layout—the forward cabin with it's own head—that really does work as we had hoped. The guest(s) have their own space to spread out in. Want to take a nap? Shower? Unpack your clothes? Leave your toothbrush laying around? That space is all yours. That's how it's supposed to work.
And Jen wasn't crabby after being stuck on Red Ranger for a rainy weekend; nor was she sickened by seeing our "morning glow".