Of course, something broke. In addition to the bilge pump project and the starter bendix project, the charge controller on the solar panel went out, taking our house bank of batteries with it. I guess the diode that keeps the batteries from discharging through the solar panel at night failed. It took a couple of days for me to figure out what was going on, and by the time I realized what the culprit was it had discharged the batteries down past the point of no return.
Astute followers will remember these were the batteries we just replaced in Beaufort, SC, less than 60 days ago. I never could get a very good charge on them from the beginning, and really feel they should not have failed even with the slight abuse I gave them. I bought a hydrometer (a device that measures specific gravity in the battery acid) to test them, thinking maybe a single cell had gone out in one of the batteries and we could take it out of the circuit and run on the other one. To my astonishment, all 12 cells showed absolute zero charge. I suspected my tool at first, but a check of my starting battery proved the tool was working correctly. An email to Deka, the manufacturer, goes unanswered to this day. So much for cheap batteries.
As we were out doing our morning walk, I noticed a local business that specialized in electrical and refrigeration on boats and homes. A quick discussion with the extremely knowledgeable owner of SALT (Sea Air Land Technologies) reinforced my diagnosis of the problem. In addition, it turns out he had some very gently used AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries at a price that was very good. After a trip back to the boat for measurements, we became the proud owners of said batteries. After installing them, and on our second night, they are performing flawlessly. I have ordered a new charge controller, and am unhooking the solar panel at night until it arrives and can be installed.
Carol is learning to single hand the dinghy. I am now a passenger in our trips to shore. She has not soloed yet, but that first flight is imminent.
And so, it is Christmas Eve.
Longtime friends and family know that I have struggled with this holiday for many years. I have railed about the commercialization of it all, and how no one (at least very few) seem to remember what the holiday is really about. The retail industry (of which I was recently a part) drives the season starting earlier every year (even before Halloween). I participated reluctantly in it.
This year, all that went away.
I do miss the family. Parents, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters and friends. In the end, that is all we really have, and if we are still out here next year, maybe we will make different plans. So to all of my friends and family we wish you a Merry Christmas from the sunny Keys.
It's been a heck of a year. Freezing January weather on the boat that sunk, not allowing that to sink our plans as well, the refit of Sea Bird, our first journey, more cold, and finally warmth and sunshine. My core temperature has finally risen past critical mass so that I am no longer afraid of a little cooling trend.
And maybe, just maybe, my Scrooge heart is thawing. Just a little.