Marking time…

Friday 8/8

It’s been a few day’s since the last post and to be honest not a great deal of anything important has happened. The saga surrounding the replacement bank of house batteries continues – yes indeed, we still don’t have them (this is Spain after all, and as I have said before in a previous life; beware the manana factor, it is a sovereign force…) but I received an email late yesterday afternoon from the supplier who confirmed that they had finally been delivered to him and that he would be here around mid day in person to deliver them. We wait with bated breath…

In the interim we got the rest of the rigging done and whoopee, the mast is still standing… mind you we still have to put the sails up. Young Hugh spent so much time up the mast that he is now quite fluent in seagull and seems to know all the local birds on a first name basis. He has done really well – it was only after he had been up to the top of the mast for the first time that he quietly confessed to me that he suffered from acrophobia (fear of heights). From the alacrity of his subsequent ascents it would appear that he has conquered that fear – but it took a real pair of cojones to do what he did, he gets 11/10 for his efforts. Not that there were not any interesting moments – and remember folks, when the word ‘interesting’ is used on a boat it has a completely different connotation to that when it is used on land… nothing gives me a premature relaxation of the sphincter muscle quicker than some crewman looking into an engine room muttering “well that’s interesting..”

In this particular case it was the youngster telling me the Bosun’s chair was coming apart at the seams – literally. This is the reason why I insist that anyone going up the mast wears an independent safety harness; there have been too many tragic accidents where some or other person has tried to defy the law of gravity with a spectacular lack of success. Fortunately one of the crew had seen an advert for a Bosun chair in the local swop shop. I sent the kid off to go and see if he could track it down and half an hour later he was back with a much better version of the one we had been using. The rest of the trips up the mast were stress free after that.

Wednesday was spent mostly at the mall doing the bulk grocery buy. The bill at the end of the day was a pleasant surprise – quite a bit less than what I was expecting. The prices of foodstuff – and other goods – here is essentially on par with those in Cape Town for the same goods, and in some cases actually cheaper. The local shops here also run numerous specials, a lot of the shelves have a 3 for 2 stickers on them – basically buy two get one free – which makes a big difference when you are stocking up in bulk.

The cheese section is seriously good with an absolute amazing variety on offer – and let’s not even begin to discuss the meat department… there are displays of smoked hams at prices that you can only shake your head at in comparison to those you occasionally see at some speciality outlet in Cape Town.

With the bulk of the dry goods done all that remains is to get the fresh stuff, fruit and vegetables etc which we will do on the day before we leave to get the best out of them time wise. That’s another thing, the vegetables and fruit available here are of a very high quality. All told, Spain looks like an attractive place to come and live in.

During the course of last week we had a go at trying to get the satellite phone working without success and we also discovered that the battery on the EPIRB had expired some five years ago. A new replacement battery costs around 350 Euro’s and then there is still the hassle of getting the unit re registered as the vessel has now changed ownership since it was first registered. We looked at a number of other options and somewhere along the line Jean Yves came across a relatively new piece of kit that is being marketed by Delorme, a subsidiary of Garmin.

Called In Reach it is a very impressive piece of electronic wizardry. It is a GPS unit that piggy backs onto the Iridium satellite network that enables you to communicate via SMS from anywhere in the world to any cellular network. It has a weather forecast function whereby you can request a forecast for any given area based on GPS co ordinates, can be linked into social media and to cap it all it serves as an EPIRB via a SOS button that when triggered will alert the rescue co ordination stations. This function differs from the traditional EPIRB in one very specific detail which is when the SOS is sent the rescue centre gets straight back to you via SMS and will stay in contact until such time as a rescue has been effected. It would be really comforting in times of trouble to actually have confirmation that help is on its way – which until it does arrive you never really know with an EPIRB…

Another neat feature is that when you send a SMS to someone a code is included in the message you send, when the recipient clicks on that code (if they have a smart phone) it takes them to Google earth and an Icon pinpoints the location of where the message was sent from. To cap it all the unit has a tracking function that when enabled will ping a satellite every ten minutes and those friends and family who have loaded the app that works in conjunction with the service can follow your trail of breadcrumbs at their leisure. It’s well worth the purchase price.

Saturday 9/9

As promised the supplier did arrive with the batteries just before mid day yesterday and in short time we had the old ones out and the new ones in. The terminal posts on the new lot were completely different to the old ones so I had them make up a batch of cables for me. Only when it came to connect the last one did we discover that he had miscalculated by one… fortunately we were able to scavenge a piece of the old harness and managed to get the local boat works to crimp a lug on the one end for us. Once that was fitted we were able to connect the whole lot into the system and there was a most satisfying lack of sparks or rude noises.

We reconnected shore power and watched with interest to see what would happen… nothing much actually, the charger simply did its job and started to top the new batteries up as they generally are supplied new at only around 60% of their full charge capacity. Once satisfied that the whole lot was not going to pull a Chernobyl on us we thought it would be a good idea to start running through the various systems we still had not tested. We decided on the anchor winch first and that’s when we ran into a small problem.

Generally speaking you run at least one motor to put a bulk charge into the batteries when you use the anchor winch as it draws a wicked amount of amps. As I went below to switch on the breaker I happened to check to see just how many amps were being pumped in… it was a bit disconcerting to see zero, nothing, nada, zip.. no charge whatsoever from two seriously big ass alternators. Oops.

Now I might or might not have mentioned this before but I am a man of many talents… I am pretty good at navigating, cooking, singing (shut up boet), photography and so on – I am a classic Neanderthal idiot when it comes to electrics or electronics – sure I can use a multi-meter to check for voltage or continuity but anything beyond that is on a par with my grasp of quantum physics or how the female mind actually operates. However, I do have one ace up my sleeve and that is I know someone who is VERY good at this stuff.

Despite me having interrupted Lord alone knows how many of his bar sessions, candle lit dinners or other romantic liaisons over the years with idiotic questions, big Jem and I are still very much on speaking terms and he has always given me enough advice (a good deal of it somewhat pungently punctuated with quaint nautical terms) to resolve whatever problem I had at the time. So once again I gave him a call and explained what was going on, a short while later I got a message from him telling me what to do. As by that time it was getting dark and stomachs were beginning to rumble we decided to shut down for the day and we would carry on today.

After breakfast this morning Avi ventured into the port engine room and it took him less than five seconds to realize that the fact that the alternator was not connected to any of the systems probably had a lot to do with the lack of charge… A quick check in the starboard engine room revealed that although that one was connected one of the field wires was on the wrong terminal. We ran the two motors separately and both appear to be charging properly. We have disconnected the shore power and are trying to run the batteries down to a point where we can run the motors for an hour to see if the system is working properly.

Once we were happy that we had proper battery power we did give the anchor windlass a workout and that works well. All that remains now is to run the desalination plant which I will do tomorrow after I have had a chance to familiarize myself with the operation manual. Thereafter we are waiting for some spares we ordered last week to arrive – Monday we hope – and then it’s a case of picking a weather window – at the moment there is a strong south/south easterly wind blowing but it is forecast to back to the north east on Tuesday/Wednesday next week. As of now I am eyeing that out as our departure date. Que sera sera.

Y’all take care and stay safe.

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