Selene - Everlasting battery
We seem to have an everlasting battery. We have kept the instruments running for the last 36 hours over two nights and all days yesterday whilst sailing with the kite as it helps to know TWA, VMG and heading to get the most out of our downwind performance. The instruments use only 0.4 A of current and the voltage has only dropped from 12.1 to 12.0V at this load over 4-5 days now since we lost the alternator. The drain from the computer charger puts the drain up to 4A, but this is only for the 20-30mins it takes to write and send the blog and download messages and gribs.
I have been reading Nigel Calder's Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual to try to diagnose the problem. It seems that 12.7V in the starter battery really ought to be enough to crank the engine, so it is possible there may be another problem. Top f my list of suspicions is the ignition swith, but we don't have a spare. There are however tests we can do to try to diagnose this and I may be able to hot wire the starter motor or solenoid if they are the problem. Difficult with us rolling about as we are, but potentially solvable if it goes flat. It would certainly be nice to enter Rodney Bay under our own power than under tow. A task for later if the sea becomes a little more comfortable.
At the moment though we are benefiting from a moderate following sea with some surfing under Big Blue on starboard gybe. Last night we found ourselves sailing 30degrees north of our desired heading and got to about 12 miles north of the rhumb line before we decided to put in a gybe. An example of Sod's Law of the sea in operation that our first gybe in more than 2000 miles of sailing should be at night with failing batteries - at least the wind was light - only 10-11Kts. Anyway it was a complete clusterf*@k in spite of carefully talking the manoeuvre through in the cockpit first and all ahnds on deck to complete it. We even risked the 4A drain opur decklight draws to illuminate the scene of chaos. We managed to wrap the spinakker around the forestay as we were coming in for the final approach - definitely my fault! We also dropped the preventer overboard, caught the pole down around the jib sheet and deck cleat, beak the new guy the wrong way round and forgot to release the check stay. Anyway we managed to complete the procedure with no damage to the boat, sails or crew with a few helpful comments from the brains trust at the back offeringf opinions and advice to anyone who happened to want to listen (numbers falling into that category were rather limited at the time, plus of course the helpful reply from the front of just sail the boat Adrian - that one always goes down well with me, because as all skippers know you are blessed with perfect vision and foresight to the potential problems from behind the wheel). Anyway we were soon off on the new gybe, inevitably to find that the wind had clocked back and it was now the wrong gybe. I did not feel that my coronary arteries could withstand another gybe in darkness so we carried on through the night making a little extra south and by day break we were only 3 miles south of the rhumb line. I am pleased to say that we managed to perform a perfect gybe so quite clearly the crew had taken notice of my helpful comments, delivered in the spirit of helpful collaboration so we could all gain the maximum benefit from an analysis of the problems of the previous gybe!
So here we are goung along nicely at 7.5Kts in 14-16Kts of breeze with occasional surfs as the following sea begins to build taking us well over 9Kts and many of 8-8.5Kts. If this continues we are looking at another 180 mile plus day, hopefully in the right direction. We now have less than 500 miles to go, so less than 3 days and Tuesday morning is still looking good.
There is still plenty of scope for further problems, but at least the weather appears settled and the massive sense of anxiety I think we all developed (but did not vocalise) soon after leaving Las Palmas at the enormity of the task we had set ourselves, is beginning to diminish and is gradually being replaced with a sense of achievement at what we have managed so far. The biggest issue for me has been the sheer distance we have been from land and potential assistance, should we have had a problem. I don't think I had really appreciated how lonely and challenging this journey would be, or really allowed myself to dwell on the responsibilty I felt for the vessel and the crew - one of whom is my daughter. Even in the context of a rally such as the ARC, I wonder how realistic it would be to expect help from another rally participant. How would we have been alerted to the fact someone near us required assistance? The VHF has been on since the start until we ran out of battery, but we only had one brief conversation with friends in Heartbeat IV when they crossed in the middle of the night. With a range of only 25 miles, who would we have heard. There have only been a couple of occasions when anyone else has been that close to us it seems. The sathone has been off except for when we have been using it for sending messages and downloading gribs. Perhaps someone could have sent an email or text to us, but it may have been 24 hours before we would have received such a message.
Such concerns are fading as we close in on St Lucia and are being replaced by the excitement of being reunited with loved ones and finding out how we have done in the race. The positions keep changing and are really irrelevant until you finish, but we have been pleased to find ourselves in the top 5 for most of the race in spite of sailing very conservatively with cruising sails and deeply reefed for much of the time erring on the side of caution and good seamanship rather than full on racing as we have approached previous competitions. Our performance so far is a testament to the great sea keeping ability of Selene, a closely knit and enthusiastic crew with a can do attitude and some graet navigational calls from Bob.
Meanwhile, time to catch a few rays and rest a little before I take my turn at the helm for another two hours.