Each summer I hope to have time to laze around and enjoy the hot long days but somehow it never seems to happen. I am always busy balancing the needs of keeping a home up along with a boat and somehow both feel like “fixer uppers” in spite of putting tons of money into both each year.
And as summer draws to an end, it always feels like a scramble to get Pandora ready to head south and this year has been no different. I’d be lying if I said that I am always happy with the pace of projects that need to be done and this year feels even worse.
While I am a card carrying member of the “cup is half full club”, I have found this year to be a bit overwhelming. Perhaps it’s the sound of all those boat dollars pouring out of my cup. My cup has not “runneth over”, it feels like the bottom just dropped out…
Arriving in CT with a damaged propeller coupling and then having to replace the entire mess, prop and all, didn’t set the tone for a lazy hazy summer.
I did get away with a friend for a week but otherwise, Pandora hasn’t left the river and yet I’ve been aboard, working on her most every day.
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind trying to get things settled including the installation of a new water heater. The old one, recently out of warrantee, started to leak fluid back into the engine from the internal heat exchanger so I had c0ugh up nearly a whole “boat dollar” to set it straight.
Here’s where the heater lives, ready for the install. I had to move a huge amount of stuff to make room for it. Here’s the finished install. “Water heater? I don’t see no stinkin waterheater. ” Trust me, it’s somewhere back there. I also finished the upgrade to the solar array. Last summer I learned that the old style panels, those that are more than a few years old, degrade at about 5% a year and the four original 80w panels that came with the boat when we purchased her were only putting out about half of their designed capacity. Las summer I upgraded the 80s four 15ow panels, leaving me with a single 290w panel over the davits that I had added when we purchased the boat.
So, I did some research and learned that I could upgrade the 290w panel with three 150w panels and only increase the footprint by about 5″ in length, with three smaller panels taking the place of the one large 290w panel. The newer designs put out a lot more power per square foot.
This photo is of the “new” 290w panel when I installed it in 2015. It’s still huge. Amazingly, I was able to put three 150w panels into the same space with only an extra 5″ of overhang aft of the original davit supports. An amazing increase in capacity. These panels make the four 150w panels forward look small but it’s only a matter of perspective as you can see from this shot from forward. In order to be sure that the three new panels are well secured to the davits, I had to fabricate a half dozen custom brackets made up of starboard and 1/4″ marine grade aluminum. They were a lot more complex than they look to get in place with properly drilled holes. This version on four corners. And these in two spots on the aft end to support the middle of the panels. In summary, this meant that by replacing all of the panels, between last summer and this, with seven 150w panels, I was able to bring the total wattage for the mix to 1,050w from 610w, a near doubling of the capacity of the array.
And, all this, in addition to the wind generator and the lithium bank, I now have enough power to run everything on the boat directly from the batteries, all maintained by wind and sun.
Oh yeah, and Uncle Sam paid for 30% of the entire bill under the Inflation Reduction Act that covers green upgrades including boats if they are your primary or second home. And yes, I checked with my accountant, a very straight shooter, and he said that I was good to go. It saved me over $10,000 in direct tax reductions.
Among the items that I run directly from my inverter. Note that we don’t even have a house generator. A washer. No, not the dryer but we don’t use that and let the relentless wind in the Caribbean dry things. This unit doesn’t draw much power in wash mode anyway. Our Starlink, a pretty power hungry unit that I power from a small 600w plug in inverter. It is amazing how many appliances we have to plug in each day. In the last few years I have added a number of USB ports in the nav station. And, I have gone out of my way to procure some low voltage lighting including this wonderful table lamp. I saw it noted as the “must have” lighting in fancy dining places in NYC as written up in the NY Times a year or so ago.And, these nifty rechargeable lights that Brenda got for me. They can be made to dim and change color. I use them down below on passage for soft red night lighting in the galley. We also hang them in the cockpit when we head ashore so it’s easier to see in the cockpit when we return later. And, of course, rechargeable bluetooth speakers. We use these to listen to music and also to extend the sound from our laptop if we watch movies in the cockpit. We also run or watermaker every other day for a few hours to fill the tanks and run the waterheater each morning for about 30 minutes to heat hot water, all off of the batteries.
Prior to the upgrades to the batteries and solar, we had to supplement our electricity with a small portable Honda generator but now we are able to run everything, including our electric hookah compressor that I use to dive and clean the bottom of the boat, and never have to use our engine or generator to charge the batteries.
Of course, if we were to get cloudy weather for a week, that would be problematic but that is generally not a problem in the Caribbean where it is usually sunny and plenty windy to get power from the wind generator anyway.
So, this brings me to heading south and in the next few weeks I will bring Pandora to Hampton, VA where she will sit until I head back at the end of October to meet up with the nearly 90 boats that will be heading for points south, some for The Bahamas but mostly to Antigua.
Yes, things are plenty busy and I still haven’t settled on crew but hope too soon.
So much for those hazy lazy days of summer.
So much to do, so little time…