Friday 29th November Truckin' on Down South

Jon & Carol Dutton
Fri 29 Nov 2013 06:48

29:06.53S 175:37.86E


Friday 29th November Truckin’ on Down South


Well, life could all have been a lot more difficult than it has been for the last 24 hours or so.  We’ve had a sailing breeze of some sort for most of the day and Hector the Hydrovane has been behaving himself in looking after the steering.  For a chap with absolutely no brain at all he’s been doing remarkably well.  But, he does require close supervision and is incapable of learning anything.  Orville the autohelm is, of course, much more independent and dependable - and has got a brain - but he does insist on being fed ergs from the batteries.


Therein lies a germ of a problem because our domestic batteries are on their way out.  They are not holding their charge as they ought which means that they require frequent recharging.  So, the less current we can arrange to draw from them the better.  Hence our new-found enthusiasm for Hector.  Our particular domestic batteries are pretty expensive items and are quite difficult to obtain.  For the technically-minded the domestic bank comprises four 400Ah, 6V absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries connected in series to give us the 24V we need.  Anybody who knows anything about batteries will know that a 400Ah, 6V battery is bound to be a largish beast and indeed each of these is – coming in at about 12” length, 7” width, 17” height and 124lbs weight.  We’ve had them only just over two years and are a bit disappointed that they have given up the ghost so early, notwithstanding the fact that domestic batteries on a cruising yacht do have a pretty tough life.  We hope that the solar panels we intend to fit in NZ will ease the life of their successors.  In addition we’ll do something to help keep them cool because the hotter batteries get (above their optimum operating temperature) the sooner they die.  For much of our time in the Tropics the current bank has often been a great deal warmer than the manufacturers recommend, locked away as it has been in its battery box without forced air cooling and so on.  We’ve obtained direct replacements from the Mastervolt agents in NZ and these will be available to us as soon as we arrive.  We just have to get there and there is little doubt that we will.


Given the need for fairly frequent re-charging we’d obviously prefer to use the auxiliary generator rather than the main engine unless we have to motor anyway.  But, that would mean that the auxiliary generator would have to work.  And, despite our best efforts today in sorting out one problem successfully, that still has not resulted in such an unlikely outcome.  So, the only means we have of charging at present is using the main engine.  Not a big issue given out new and bigger alternator but a serious irritation given the cost and weight and all the rest of it associated with the purchase of the auxiliary generator.  It might be lucky to avoid being deposited in the skip (dumpster to all you Yanks).


The wind is now gradually dropping and we may well end up motoring again for much of tonight, although it looks as though there may be helpful wind tomorrow from about dawn onwards.  We have about 370NM to go to Opua so an arrival sometime on Monday looks likely.