Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More from Chaguaramas

November 26th 2013

Position 10° 40.733’ N
              61° 37.937’ W

Chaguaramas, Trinidad

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Victron 3000

Hello again from Chaguaramas, yes we are still here! Although impalpable it looks like our upgrades to the electrical system on board ‘Partners’ is again going to eat into our cruising time. Let me explain the techno here. After arriving last Tuesday Nov. 19th from Charlotteville, Tobago I consulted Dennis Moseley from Goodwood Marine here at Crews Inn Marina, Dennis in turn seconded Brian Sellers from Caribbean Marine to consult with me as to the solutions for my electrical problems. It came as no surprise to us that the problem was not, as usual, simple. Problem number one was the inverter, our Freedom 20 Xantrex, which was getting old and had been repaired once before while we were at Sopers Hole on Tortola, BVI. Problem number two we knew from a year ago, the Delta gel filled batteries we had on board ‘Partners’ when we bought her, where at the end of their lives. A combination of these two things was causing the Xantrex Inverter/Charger to work too hard for too long and had overheated the charger and ‘cooked’ the fan.
Inverter/Charger control panel

The engine room is a very hot environment with an average temperature of 110°F/43°C and the inverter requires a fan, which is temperature controlled, to keep it at a temperature where it can function. Due to the battery condition they were taking three times as long as they should to charge and obviously were putting way too much work load on the charger. It didn’t take long for Dennis to give us his diagnosis…”the batteries are shot”. The five 8D batteries we have provide two banks of batteries, one bank, with two batteries, for main engine starting and to provide power for the bow thruster, another bank with three batteries supplies power for the house services. Our house bank provides 600 amp hours of which a maximum of 300 (50%) are usable. Our boat is an amp hog and consumes 20 amps per hour. All these factors considered one needs enough amp capacity and enough charging power to avoid having to be tethered to the boat for hours at a time while the generator replenishes the negative amp drain. In our case initially we were tethered to the boat, as I put it, for 8 hours a day, four in the early morning after the night’s amp usage and again in the evening to replenish the day’s amp drain and prepare for getting through the night again. Some of you readers are probably saying what draws all the amps at night? Well, the refrigerator and freezer, as on most boats, are the big amp hogs and they run 24/7 so day or night they don’t discriminate! For the first partial solution we installed 430 watts of solar panels which have really help us and freed up 2 – 3 hours of generator time per day, this too even with the batteries being at the end of their lives. What we plan now is 5 new Lifeline 8D batteries of 255 amp hours each. What we will do is also eliminate the two banks of batteries and combine them. This will give us a total of 1,275 amps (each of the Lifelines is 255 amps) and with the help of a Victron Cyrix Battery Combiner,

which isolates one of them when the voltage has reduced to 12.7 volts, resulting in always giving us enough power to start the main engine. Brian from Caribbean thinks that we can install all 5 8D’s on the port side of ‘Partners’ which is fine and will help with our listing tendency to starboard. It will also free up some space on the starboard side for storage. The Victron inverter/charger will be give us the opportunity in the future to ‘stack’ another Victron inverter thus increasing our inverting capabilities and the battery charging. Another feature of the Victron is that it can assist either the shore power or the generator with excessive start-up loads by using inverted power from the batteries.  

I have just heard some bad news; the shipment of the batteries from Miami, FL is delayed due to the ship leaving later than originally thought, the culprit the Thanksgiving Day holiday, all this means that the batteries will unlikely be available before the 18th or 19th of December. The two firms I am involved with here both close down for the Christmas Holidays on the 20th December and don’t re-open until the 6th January! I spoke to them to see what they could do to help me. Brian and his crew are going to prepare ‘Partners’ engine room to receive the batteries and inverter/charger ahead of time and they promise to try and get the installation complete by the 20th! This is the islands Mon and Trini in particular so I am not holding my breath. This morning I walked up to the Marina office to see if they could extend my stay through to the middle of January just in case, we are currently booked through Dec. 15th, the answer was NO! Trinidad is a really popular place and marina space is always hard to find. Charmaine, the lady who is trying to help me here at Crews Inn, is going to work on my request and “see what can be done”. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. 

Barb and Chuck Shipley from ‘Tusen Takk II’, a 48’ Kadey Krogen North Sea, have been here in Chaguaramas and along with Bill and Ann Miller on ‘Ann Louise’ another 48’ have been able to get together for a mini Krogen convention. During the get-togethers we talk, guess what? Yep, boats and boating of course! During one of these conversations we were talking about solar panels and I re-told our story of fitting the two 215 watt Kyoceras on top of our pilot house roof. Barb and Chuck wanted to do a similar installation and were considering doing it while they were in Trinidad this year. I mentioned Alan Reynolds who is now a friend and had done our installation up in Carriacou. Alan is now back in Grenada working full time for a while for one of the local firms. I suggested that if Chuck and Barb could cruise up to Grenada they may be able to enlist Alan’s help with their project. Chuck and Barb inspected our installation and liked what they saw so a few emails and phone calls later Chuck and Barb had decided to employ Alan to do their installation. 
Tusen Takk II's solar panels
Today is Nov 25th and I have just heard from Barb that they are now in Tyrrel Bay, one of our favourite places, with their three 145 Watt panel successfully installed and working! The news was accompanied by a glowing report of satisfaction for Alan. Bravo Alan and thank you for taking such good care of our friends! I love it when a referral works out for everyone.

Ann Louise coming into Crews Inn
Ann Louise, Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Nov. 26th Bill and Ann arrived in the marina today back from Tobago with ‘Ann Louise’. We have made a plan to spend Thanksgiving together on board ‘Partners’ which will be wonderful, Lavinia couldn’t imagine not cooking a turkey with all the trimmings to share! Ann is making the pumpkin pie and Bill is bringing some champagne! We will have a feast and as usual eat and drink too much, watch the football game and fall asleep I expect! We’re looking forward to a super day. HAPPY THANKSGIVING everyone!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chaguaramas, Trinidad & Tobago

November 21th 2013

 Position 10° 40.737’ N
              61° 37.939’ W

 Chaguaramas, Trinidad

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Our good friends, John & Carol
Well, hello everyone, we are back...Our trip to Florida was terrific and enabled us to see so many people. John & Carol, thank you, your hospitality was so generous and without you opening up you home to us the trip would not have been as comfortable or affordable, we are in your debt. When we arrived in Miami we immediately drove to Georgina’s apartment in the heart of downtown Miami and a big hug ensued. As I have said before cruising is the best but I still miss being able to see my children. 

Georgina & David
We spent a couple of days in Miami and had a fun day visiting the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show on opening day; we spent all the time there with the Krogen brigade talking about our trip and plans for the future. We spoke too with a couple just about to close on a 39’; their enthusiasm to ‘get started’ reminded HT and me of when we began, they have no idea of the wonders they have in store! The feeling of getting ready to cruise is so exciting, they, like us when we bought ‘Partners’, are still working and will cruise locally getting some miles under their keel and getting their feet wet, not literally I hope! If you are a cruising boat owner candidate talk to Kadey Krogen you will find them understanding helpful people, the ones you will need as support when it is your time to venture out into the unknown. The boats too are the most seaworthy and liveable trawlers.

Sunset shortly after leaving Trini
This was a 'green flash'
Once in Sarasota and having settled in at Carol and FOJ’s we made several phone calls to arrange to see friends and family, so many people to see in such a short time. The main purpose of the visit was to attend to annual medical check-ups and obtain a clean bill of health for the coming year all of which we actually accomplished, yes! 

Our nomadic free lives as cruisers is just the best, having become used to all the rules and regulations which one is exposed to as a member of society on land it could be hard for some to adjust to having to run their own lives and make all their own decisions. This thought crossed my mind whilst visiting Florida. We have truly become our own ‘men’, we run our own lives, make all our own decisions and have minimal rules and regulations to abide by...could you handle that? Seriously though, it is a question which someone dreaming about adopting this lifestyle has to address. The thought even worried me as my thoughts turned to when our cruising days are over and I have to re-adjust to a ‘dirt’ based life I might actually find it difficult...I know I won’t like it! Just sitting in a marina here in Chaguaramas waiting out the hurricane season for a couple of months, with TV, air-conditioning and no worry of dragging the anchor, even a daily newspaper, is scary as it has reminded us of all the things a lifestyle on land can provide and force one to ‘drift’ into. Such a waste of time! Could you cope with freedom and self sufficiency? Oh! By the way you won’t miss a single one of those treasures you think is so hard to part with, and all that ‘stuff’ you accumulated over a lifetime won’t be missed either. We went nearly nine months without TV, can you imagine that? It was wonderful…we missed so much crappy, depressing useless ‘news’, thank goodness, which otherwise interferes with and messes up a perfectly good day! You will really feel free! Another tip to those seriously thinking of taking up the cruising lifestyle, get a decent camera and learn how to use it because the memories the pictures will provide are going to be your most treasured possessions!

We enjoyed seeing some of our friends, unfortunately we didn’t manage to see everyone we wanted to but enjoyed the time with the ones we did manage to see. We saw four of our children Jennifer, Lavinia III, Christopher and Georgina, Bryony in Norway we hope to see next year when she comes to Florida for a visit with our three grandchildren; we plan to celebrate the Easter Holiday together in Miami, we hope? We didn’t see Anthony, my eldest son but as you all know he has just returned from Trinidad to his home in Jacksonville after a vacation with us onboard ‘Partners’. 

Palm Trees at the base of the rain forest
Our new Splendide/Ariston
Washer and Dryer
Our new washing machine and dryer are now installed and fully operational, Lavinia seems very pleased with them and as you can see from the picture they look good too! A new heat exchanger, which we brought back with us from Florida, is fitted to ‘Stonewall Jackson’, so we are ready to cruise! All the jobs for this year are complete, the machinery is serviced and we have taken on fuel. The question now is where to go! We have discussed going to Tobago for many months now but there have been some developments: - a boat in Bloody Bay, a remote anchorage on the north coast of Tobago, was boarded and robbed; the incident involved shooting although no one was shot. These types of violent crime are, unfortunately, part of life anywhere and we as cruisers do see our share occasionally. The incident has made us rethink our desire to visit the island as, with the exception of Store Bay, most of the anchorages are remote which makes it easier for perpetrators’ to operate. Also the trade winds have returned and are building slowly towards their ‘Christmas Wind’ strength; most of the Tobago anchorages are known to be rolly and the later in the year one goes the more roll one has to endure. Sooo, all things considered and after hearing from our friends Bill and Ann on ‘Ann Louise’ we have decided to go! They are in Charlotteville and tell us how beautiful it is and have endorsed that it really is like the Caribbean was 20 years ago. Passing on a visit to Tobago while we are so close has turned out to be impossible. Jan and Steve on board Sealacious have sailed to Tobago just a few days ago. Judy from ‘Fairwinds’ also encouraged us to go, in fact she insisted on it! Thanksgiving, this year, will be spent in Tobago! Our friends Bill and Ann plan on being there until Dec 5th when they are then returning to Trini to be hauled out while they return to the US for Christmas. Thanksgiving should be fun and with quite a crowd! We will then cruise to Grenada and begin to plan for a destination where we can spend Christmas with friends here in the islands, our first on ‘Partners’. 
Looking back at Chaguaramas
North Coast of Trini just before sunset

Nov. 21st. We left Chaguaramas, Trinidad last Sunday afternoon and had a wonderful full moon overnight cruise in benign weather – directly to Charlotteville, Tobago. Upon arrival after ‘checking in’ with customs and immigration, we went for a short walk around the tiny town during the walk we met 'Squeezy', the local musician who also is a good salesman! He sold us far too many lemons and Grapefruits, we then went back to Partners for breakfast. Unfortunately we quickly discovered that our inverter/charger was not working, a repeat of a problem we had back in May in Culebra! For us to be at anchor we must have means to charge our ships batteries. Charlotteville is remote, with no yacht services, so quickly I decided we must return to Chaguaramas! So, back to Customs and Immigration to ‘check out’ then off we sailed at 4 pm. Again, fortunately, the passage was relatively calm…so, in total we traveled 160nm in 2 days with very little sleep and are stuck back where we started from, awaiting more repairs! We have talked with Dennis at Goodwood Marine and he is advising us of the options. I will report on the repairs later on. 

North Tobago
Charlotteville, Tobago

Arriving at Charlotteville, Tobago
The anchorage in Charlotteville
 Due to this turn of events we will spend Thanksgiving in Chaguaramas and hope to cruise north into the Grenadines for Christmas. We wish everyone ashore and afloat a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving.

A blow hole that facinated us - Tobago

The Sisters, Tobago - nothing east of these until Africa! 2,550 NM