With the weather turning colder, the past few weeks have been a flurry of activity aboard in preparation for departure. Several projects are completed, some stragglers are nearing completion, and some new ones have been added to the list. Doctor and vet visits are behind us, and some maintenance chores at the house are completed. Departure is days away as we load up on provisions for the winter. Our preferred departure time has passed with Maerin still tied to the pier.

Barb spent 7-1/2 weeks in San Francisco with daughter Andrea as she recovered from her injuries to her right ankle. She is not back on her feet, but is free of the external fixator and much of the pain that debilitated her, so now is able to manage on her own and with some help from friends. She has had 4 surgeries, and now will be embarking on physical therapy to work her way back up to weight bearing in about 6 weeks.

Sunday we completed a major provisioning. Our freezer capacity is improved with the completion of the conversion of the Grunert holding plate freezer to an evaporator coil and standard compressor with a high-efficiency keel cooled condenser. A significant improvement over the old holding plate technology, the almost 3 cu. ft. box now maintains a consistent 12°F and now has the capability of freezing provisions, where the Grunert could only keep already frozen things frozen. The system also has the advantage of being able to alternately function as a refrigerator as well by simply changing the setpoint on the digital thermostat. This project has been in the works since July when I confirmed that the Grunert was leaking eutectic solution. Repair was neither practical nor cost-effective, so replacement was the choice. The project took over a week to complete, and required a “short haul” in order to install the keel cooler in the hull. The compressor runs on 24 volts, and has an integral power supply that converts the on board 12VDC to 24VDC.

Another major maintenance project was the main house battery bank. The 3-1/2 year old batteries were beginning to heat during charge, an early warning sign of impending failure. When we acquired the boat, the 3kw inverter was powered by its own battery bank, but had no means to recharge other than shore power or the generator. I made extensive changes to the 12V charging system to add the capability to charge all the systems from the main engine.  I was advised at that time to combine the battery banks into as large a bank as I could configure. For various reasons, at the time it just didn’t work out. 3 years of full time cruising has driven that advice home. I’ve now eliminated the inverter bank, consolidating the inverter and all other “house” 12V into a single bank. The change required removal of the existing battery box and fabrication of an enclosure to secure the larger batteries. The new bank consists of 6 Lifeline® L-16 2 volt deep cycle AGM batteries, connected in series to provide 12 volts. The series connection insures each cell will charge evenly, and improves longevity. The AGM technology enables the batteries to accept a charge rate up to 5 times the amp hour rating of the bank. With 1200 amp hours of capacity, we now have 600 amp hours of usable capacity. The bank will accept the full output of any or all of the 3 charging sources aboard, reducing our recharge time while increasing the time between charges. It’s simpler and more efficient.

One last maintenance problem showed up in the course of the battery install, the generator seawater pump is again a problem, with the shaft seal leaking for a third time. Considering the frequency of trouble with this vital piece of gear, I wanted to find a solution rather than another repair. The manufacturer has replaced the OEM pump part with a different  part, but another option is also available. I decided to eliminate the engine-driven pump altogether, and install an electric pump. The electric pump will start when the generator begins producing current, and because it is a centrifugal pump, it has no impeller. Since the generator seawater pump has the distinction of having the highest failure rate of all the mechanical gear on board, eliminating the pump should significantly reduce the frequency of repairs. The electric pump is additionally about 25% less costly than the engine driven pump.  It appears our departure will be governed by UPS and the arrival of the pump! As cold as the weather has become, we will undoubtedly be relying on our heretofore untrustworthy generator to keep us warm at nights!

One interesting item in the keeping warm vein is the discovery of an electric blanket that will function on the power from the inverter. Most electric blankets use an electronic control that simply refuses to operate on power provided by a MSW, or modified sine wave inverter like ours. Some research revealed that one type electric blanket that operates on low voltage will tolerate the MSW output. Perfect Fit is the manufacturer, and it just happens that the Admiral, excellent shopper that she is, found a buy at the local Macy’s in a Perfect-Fit  for half price. Our cold weather trek south will now be improved by climbing into a warm bed at the end of a long day of cruising! We’ve yet to learn if we’ll be able to run the blanket all night, but for those chilly nights, it beats running the generator all night long to keep warm. Once the temperatures dip into the freezing range, running the heat overnight is more of a priority!

So we’re looking forward to being on the water in the next few days as we begin our belated trek southward! Stay tuned!

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