Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ran out of volts

We decided that today was as good a time as any so we packed up the stuff that was scattered all over the cabin, untied all the extra lines we had put on in July and about 2:30 we set out for a brief cruise of the bay.  Getting away from the dock means that everything has to be shipshape, or sort of of shipshape anyway and it forces us to get that done now rather than putting it off for yet another day.  When we got back the sun was still trying to peek out so we pressure washed some more of the green slime away.  Our boat is starting to look like someone loves it again.

When we got ready to leave I discovered that we didn’t have a bow thruster.  That’s bad but not a deal breaker so we went anyway.  After all, that was the purpose of the trip, to see what worked and what didn’t.  After we got done pressure washing I traced the problem to a lack of volts emerging from the 48 volt charger.  I hope it hasn’t killed the batteries that power the thruster but I assume it will have.  Tomorrow we’ll find a new charger and then likely the next day I’ll find some new batteries.

I already mentioned that we had put the dinghy on the foredeck to keep British Mike from ploughing into it during his random-navigation departures and arrivals in the marina. Having it on the foredeck was making it really hard to get around on deck and it meant we couldn’t let the cat outside for fear he would put little holes in the dinghy.  We couldn’t unload it in the slip though because we are too close to our new neighbour so we pumped all the water out of it and as soon as we got out in the bay we chucked it overboard. Its not hanging on the davits exactly the same as it did before but I still haven’t decided whether I like the way it hangs now better than the old way so it can hang like that until I do decide.  Long term my goal is to extend the davits so that it hangs a lot higher than it does now but I’m not sure whether I’m going to hire that done or use it as an excuse to buy a little MIG welder.

Gary (our landlord) has installed wifi in the marina but like most amateur wifi installations it doesn’t work very well.  I bought something called a range extender at London Drugs the other day.  I didn’t even know they existed but when I went looking for an external USB wifi antenna I came home with the range extender instead.  The theory is that it picks up weak wifi signals and rebroadcasts them, both directions.  So if your computer is too weak to reach the router it will amplify that signal and if the router is too weak to reach your computer that signal gets amplified.  It was a bit of a PITA to get it set up, mainly because they ship it with idiot software that is supposed to do everything automatically – and of course it doesn’t.  Then it puts a stupid message on your screen that tells you to call support.  I can just imagine how that call would go “is your extender turned on?”, “is your computer turned on?” – life is too short but fortunately Google was acquainted with both the range extender and how to configure it manually.  So now we have functioning wifi onboard.  Its by no means ripping fast and in fact it becomes snail slow late in the day but its more than we had last year.  And did I mention – its free.

(later – Thursday the 12th)

I never got around to posting this so I’ll just add to it rather than start another one.  Our wifi access comes and goes with the tide.  I’ve got the extender on the top of about 8 feet of PVC conduit with the conduit stuck on the top of the mast but it needs to be just a little higher.  We have a connection pretty well all the time but there are a few times during the day when its really flaky.  I think another few feet will likely make a huge difference. 

Finding a charger for the bow thruster batteries turned out to be more of a challenge than I had expected.  My first stop was Philbrooks in Sidney because they were so helpful during the Webasto furnace adventure last winter.  And they tried to be helpful again although it was clear that they don’t install 48 volt systems and had never actually seen one either.  That’s really strange because my understanding is that higher voltages are preferred for thruster installations and Philbrooks definitely claims to be a high end yard.  I wasted quite a bit of time there and then went to my favorite chandler, Waypoint Marine who is just down the street from Philbrooks.  We came up blank there too but he suggested I try some of the power wheelchair places around here.  Given the number of senior citizens on the Island the only business better than coffin sales is wheelchairs.  I struck out on the wheelchair stores though because they seemed to be staffed by fools who knew that their wheelchairs came with a charger and couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to buy just a charger.  And they seemed also uniformly clueless about the voltage of their chairs.  So I tried a couple of battery stores and hit the jackpot on the 2nd call.  The guy actually had one in stock and didn’t want to argue with me about what I was doing or why or how – he was just happy to tell me he had a 48 volt charger and how much it was worth.  Gotta love that attitude.

The 48 volt battery charger worked a charm but before I figured that out I had bought another one identical to the original online.  The one I bought first is intended for a power scooter.  It charged the batteries just fine but it didn’t seem to want to go into float.  When a multi-stage battery charger starts out it pumps a huge amount of amps into the batteries but over time the charge should decline and eventually the charger should stop trying to put anything into the batteries.  Cheapo chargers like you buy for $25 at Canadian Tire don’t do that which is why, if you leave them attached for long periods of time, they will eventually boil your batteries dry.  I thought that was what this one was trying to do but it turns out that the batteries were just so badly drained that it took longer to bring them back up than I thought it would.  I’ve spent most of my time the past two days in the engine room and this morning I noticed that the new charger had gone into float mode.  That’s a relief but I had already bought another OEM charger online so ultimately we’ll have a spare, which isn’t all bad anyway.  We’ve got spares for pretty well everything else onboard so why not that too.

Everybody else in Cow Bay appears to be heading south to Melacque for a winter vacation.  I don’t think their departure time is related to our arrival but it certainly seems like it might be.  While its warmer here than it would be on the prairies its none too warm nonetheless.  Today I’m trying to refill our water tanks but may end up stymied by the fact that the dock water connections are frozen up.  Right now (4:00 boat time; 2:00 local) there is water running about 200 feet away from our spigot but I’m afraid the thaw won’t make it to our slip before it starts getting colder again.  There was even a hint of ice floating around the marina earlier this afternoon.  There must be enough fresh water dumps into the bay to allow the surface to freeze.

1 comment:

Reluctant Cowboy said...

Maybe not for you but for me any excuse to buy a new tool for a project moves that project up the list of things to get done :)

Maria and I were talking about maybe coming up that way to visit and of course look at some boats for sale in Maple Bay.