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Three year gear report, 2007-11-11
Yes, we have been out, cruising, for three years now! We departed our slip (the last permanent one we had), on September 15, 2004. This report is a bit later than our normal September issue date. We were out actively cruising the Sea of Cortes for the last 5 months and did not want to write this up until we got to a slip.
We are now in a slip in Marina de La Paz. With a small boat, why not?
What I said last year was, "She has done us proud in EVERY respect! We have not come in to one port that we did not get Ohhhsssss and ahhhhhssss! And she has taken all the punishment that day-to-day life at sea has dished out to her. She is a very fine and meticulously put together, high quality boat capable of far more than we can take! She has really taken good care of us!" AND it still holds true today! If anything, I am happier now than last year, if that can be?
The anchor windlass.
We have been using the new windlass now since March of 2006, so I cannot give you a lot of details yet. BUT, It is my feeling that a lot of the makers of marine equipment (NOT just Sampson Lowerance and Lewmar) feel that if they are designing items for boats under 50 or 60 feet, they only need to design for weekend users. I expect that the Lowrance windlass would have worked for a long time under only weekend use. This is something to consider if you are planning to head out in a smaller boat.So far, we have used this windlass 42 times. That is 42 real downs and ups.
Autohelm 1000 autopilot
This year it has worked very well with only a couple of problems. We only use it when the engine is running, so we do not worry about the power it uses.
The first problem was the fitting for the remote control. The housing on the remote attached to the cord broke! It did not effect the use, but was a disappointment. By the way, we like the remote a lot. When under power we can sit on the bow, and steer the boat!
The second problem is that it seems to cut out at times, not often, but it did just quit. It MAY be just a loose wire. I will have to track this down.
Unisolar flexible solar panels (4 each) and one Kyocera KC-85
Each Unisolar solar panel is rated at 1.94 Amp. They work well and are easy to put out once we reach anchor. They roll up nicely and stow in the aft cabin when not in use. When we prepare for a hurricane, EVERYTHING MUST stow below!
If it were not for the freezer, they would be way more then enough to power the boat all the time. BUT, we have added a KC-85 (85 Watt) panel this year.
PLEASE read my commentary at the end of this report regarding power and water.
Link-10 energy monitor
This is one of the GREAT magic items we put on board! Before we got this, I would go behind Jill and turn off the lights to conserve power. I never knew exactly how much we had, or had left. I was driving Jill crazy. NOW, all I have to do it take a look at it and we know our status! The BIG bonus is that you can make sure you do not over use your batteries! That is, do not use them beyond 50% discharge. This greatly extends there life and SAVES a LOT of $$$$$.
A new note to add about the Link-10. It does NOT take into account the battery voltage. That is the actual state of charge of the battery! So, as you use your system and it is no longer new, you must reduce the total amount of amperage available from your batteries. If you do not do this, you could wind up with all 4 LEDs on (the gauge stating you have full batteries) BUT, have a battery voltage of less than 12 volts (battery almost empty). Don't ask us how we found this out!
Here in the Sea of Cortez they ARE A MUST! You can NOT live without them. We had our canvas guy make us a cover that goes from our dodger to the boom gallows and can stay on when we are sailing. WE LOVE IT. But that alone was not enough.
We now have a ShadeTree sun cover.
It goes up easy, as far as covers go. It is strong and we are able to "reef" it easily at night. We reef it every night in case of a Chabasco (sudden storm).
It cools the boat off by at least 5 degrees! At least it feels that way. During this summer, the inside temp of Guenevere never got above 97 Degrees F. We visited other boats that had a cabin temp as high as 107 Degrees F.
We did have one problem with the ShadeTree. One of the rods that support it broke length ways. I taped it up and it's still usable. I plan to contact them and see if they will help out.
Our 8 foot Porta-Bote is still working good after 12 years! We bought a set of the new plastic seats in 2003. They are a LOT lighter than the old wood ones and we were very happy with them. BUT, after only one year, due to the heat, the plastic seats are breaking. The middle support that keeps the boat bottom ridged, and is hinged in the center bottom of the seat has pushed it's way up into the foam center of the seat. This slows the dink down when motoring as the bottom does not stay as ridged as it should. I tried to fix them when we were back at a dock. It did not work well.
Here is what the OLD seat bottom supports look like.
This shows how the metal seat/bottom support hinges on the underside of the seat. This is a good, unbroken support.
This photo shows the failure mode. You can see how the metal support has broken through the bottom of the seat and is working it's way through the white Styrofoam. Once the Styrofoam breaks away, the seat can drop about 1.5 inches and the bottom is no longer ridged..
The new seat support system is working good so far. My next step is to paint the seats white so they do not get so hut. Jill is also talking about making seat covers for them.
At one anchorage we visited last year, there were 5 boats, all with Porta-Bote dinks! AND, we all had the same problem with the seats. When we got back to La Paz, I managed to call the Porta-Bote company. I was informed that they had redesigned the support. They were very willing to supply a new set of supports that could be retrofit to the old seats. I was informed that they wanted happy users!
We have now talked to a lot of boats using Porta-Bote for every day dinks. When used like this, they get a LOT of usage. We have to say that we think they are a great dink for use in the Sea of Cortez. The beaches here can be smooth sand or rocky. It's nice to not have to worry about just running it up on the beach. When other boaters stop off the beach and wade in, we can just run up and step off.
We have heard that some people have had problems on the mainland, trying to get to the beach through any sizable surf. We know of at least one that was upturned heading through the surf. But then, we have also heard of a number of inflatables doing the same. We have also heard from other Porta-Bote owners that had no problems going through surf. We do notice that the bow of the Porta-Bote tends to be a bit low and can scoop water if it drops.
Another good point is that we do not need wheels on the stern of the dink like the inflatables with big motors. It's light enough to just pull all the way up and out of the water.
Other than that, I get about 8 Knots of speed out of the 3.5 HP motor when it's on its' plane.
Two Hella cabin fans (one over each berth)
Without these, we could NOT have spent even one summer here in the Sea of Cortez! During the summer, they run mostly 24/7 when we are on the boat! Both fans have now had some problems. On one, the fan blade has come loose. I replaced it with a new unit. The other has been slow to spin up and at times makes a screaming sound. I think they have done GREAT duty for the amount we asked of them.
According to our plan we purchased two more just like them and I installed one this year. The other fan seems to have stopped making the noise. So it will stay in place until it stops working. We also bought a couple of "clamp-on" fans to use around the boat (see in personal items area). In the Sea of Cortez, during the summer, you can not have to many fans!
Icom RAM Mic
Last year, the RAM mic crapped out! I had a problem with troubleshooting it down to the radio, the mic, or the cable. So when we were in the US, we bought an identical replacement for all the parts. It turns out it was the RAM mike itself. I am unhappy with that. I think it should have lasted more than one year! The cord also darkened up over the year. It says it is for use in the cockpit, but once again, I think it is aimed at weekend use only! I am not sure what I would use if I changed, it's very nice to have the full ships radio in the cockpit! All summer we were talking to other boats trying to use handhelds in the cockpit and they were ALL having problems! Batteries dying and low power output makes relaying on a handheld less than optimum.
This year, the mic worked fine and is still working.
This is a small "Tell Tale" compass that we have just over our V birth. We can see it at night to let us know what direction we are pointing. This helps a LOT when at anchor.
We found out about this type of fuel fill can on the WEB. It is without a doubt the BEST can for filling your dink motor! We have filled the dink in even rough water without spilling a drop!
BUT (don't ya hate the "but"!), the top is very sensitive to sunlight. The tops only seem to last one year here in the Sea, even when covered with a white cloth.
Hand Held Anchor controller
We use a hand held anchor windlass controller. It connects to a plug up by the bow and can be removed and stowed inside when not in use. Any time we are at anchor, it is plugged in and clipped to the lifeline at the bow.
Hand held Depth sounder
A great small toy to use from your dink. We have anchored out and run in using the dink to make sure we had the depth.
Morningstar solar Charge Controller INSTALLED AND FAILED THIS YEAR
This item was a real disappointment! We installed it when we put our KC-85 solar panel on due to the larger amount of power we anticipated having. Once connected, (an easy job) it worked just fine. It continued to work for most of the time. Then one morning I looked at it and found that the green LED said power from the panels was good, but NO power was going to the batteries. ALL of the 3 right LEDs were out. I tried a reset with no help. I disconnected it for 3 hours, reconnected it and still no joy. So as you can see in the photo below, I went back to an older, more simple controller. I think I will get a second simple controller as a spare and stick with that!
Bottom Paint - FAILED THIS YEAR
In late September and early October, 1996, we sanded ALL of the old bottom paint from Guenevere. On 6 and 7 October, 1996, we coated the bottom as directed in the instructions that were provided with the CopperPoxy.
It's official, the CopperPoxy bottom stopped working last year. We were finding hard growth all over the bottom. When we bought it, the product said it would last about 10 years. I guess they had it correct.
If you are coming to the Sea of Cortez, DO NOT USE THE FOLLOWING.....
Pettit Ultima SR or Interlux Micron Extra!!
On our next bottom job, we are going back to CopperPoxy, or a CopperPoxy like product! At least it WORKED in the SF Bay area AND down here!
This time we did not do another CopperPoxy bottom as we were concerned about excessive buildup. As it turned out, we did NOT need to worry. Once the boat was out of the water and the yard did a very good pressure wash, we found the actual metal copper had all leached out of the epoxy. Once the copper was out, the remaining epoxy was like a sponge. So, the strong pressure washer took all of that off! We were back to a bare hull.
Trident propane Gas Control and Alarm unit. FAILED THIS YEAR
We have found the Trident gas warning to be a pain! It was very SENSITIVE! We cannot use spray Pam (or any other aerosol spray) inside the boat without it shutting down the gas and ringing the alarm! This year it failed! The alarm would go off and it would NOT shut down the gas! We have disconnected it for now and may look for another brand of sensor/alarm.
Propane Gas shut off valve FAILED THIS YEAR
The propane shut off valve failed this year. The failure mode was that it started to not completely open. It made the system look like we were running out of fuel. The stove flame was getting smaller and smaller. Once replaced, the system was back up working fine.
Another note, here in Mexico, almost all propane hardware is VERY easy to get, and MUCH less expensive than in the USA! BUT, they do NOT use shutoff valves!
Belmar MC-412 Alternator Controller FAILED THIS YEAR
This year our original Balmar MC-412 alternator controller failed. It just would not start at all!. I was in an area that I could get a new controller shipped/bused to us, so I replaced it with a newer MC-612 model. So far, so good. It gives a lot more info on the system as it has a numeric readout. I will let you know more later.
Here is a photo of the new 612 in it's new location. Here I can see the readout from in the main cabin without putting my head close to the engine!
We do have the original alternator aboard that came with the Yanmar. But it is only a 35 Amp unit and we decided to not use that unless we had to. This year I am planning to put a spare controller aboard!
"Fat Man" cooking timer.
Creative NOMAD Zen Jukebox MP3 player
We have 2 sets of Panasonic Noise Canceling headphones. They are working very well to listen to music, and ALSO to listen to the radio NETs when the engine is running. They remove a LOT of the outside noise so we can hear what we need to.
Zapper bug swatter
You can NEVER have to many fans in the Sea of Cortez. We now have 2 of these and use them all over the boat!
We are now using this Olympus Stylus 720 SW digital still camera. It takes 7.1 Megapixel photos. Best of all, it's waterproof to a dept of 10 feet AND shock proof for a fall of up to 5 feet.
At one point this year I was in the water next to the boat. Once I got back aboard I discovered that I had left the camera in the pocket of my swimsuit! It's still working fine! And the photos are very good.
Inverters, small and large
When we in the market, we purchased a small Raid brand insect device. You put a small pad in a chamber in it and the unit warms it up a bit to release an insecticide to kill bugs. We plugged this into one of our small inverters and used it a couple of nights when we were anchored near an island that had lots of Bo-Bos, No-See-Ums and flies. It seemed to work well and used less than 1 Amp of power. It's not something we used all the time, but we were happy we had it along when the bugs showed up in the evening.
This is a fun toy that is also useful! We used to to check on the temp of the alternator and engine when in use to see if we might be exceeding specs. I also used it to get the temp from the alternator pulley. As the belt loosens up, the pulley temp goes up. So I made sure to adjust when needed.
This is another handy toy. We have always seen it as the wind you have is: too much, just right, or not enough. But, this puts a figure on it.
We put this solar powered garden light on the bow. We also have one on the back of the boat. That masthead anchor light might be great for legal use, but when the Panga fishermen are screaming home on a dark night after a full day of fishing, I can tell you they are NOT looking up! this is very cheap insurance!
Another note on anchor lights. We have seen a lot of boats with LED masthead anchor lights. BEFORE you get one, take a look at how one looks on a boat at night with no moon out. Look at it from at least 5 boat lengths away. We have seen a lot of them that you could NOT tell the difference between them and a star. An anchor light MUST have a color different from a natural star!!
I just had to add this item. Jill just LOVES to play this one and it has lasted us all the time we have been out. AND, in the last 3 years, and MANY MANY HOURS of use it has used just two AAA batteries.
Jill has got to keep our cloths ironed so we do not look bad when we are visited by the passing Dolphins. This solar Iron works wonders as you can see...... GRIN!!
The first anchor
I just did a quick review of our ships log. As it turns out, I used this Windless 37 times.
ONLY 37 times!!!!!
At US $699.00, it cost me about US $18.92 EACH TIME I used it!!
BAD BAD BAD
We HAD a Sampson Lowrance 600 GD electric.
Shortly after we did the 1st year report, the windless STOPPED pulling the anchor up. Last time I checked, that was the only reason for a windless.
The symptoms were that the anchor would fall just fine, but would not come up. Also, the circuit breaker would NOT pop. That is, the windless was not overloaded.
I wound up troubleshooting by opening the anchor locker, cutting the power leads and going directly to a small motorcycle type battery. It still did not work.
I called the support line and the first thing the guy said was that I must have overstressed it. NOT ONCE did I leave the anchor set without the manual stop set. I NEVER allowed the boat to ride to the anchor just on the windless!
As it turned out, inside the unit is a roller bearing that only spins one direction. I did not know they made such a thing! That bearing had gone bad. The design is that this is what stops the anchor from falling until the switch is made. In my opinion, this is very poor engineering!
I once again called, and you cannot purchase just that bearing. Naturally, you have to get the kit with ALL of the unit’s bearings. And oh, by the way, that bearing MUST be pressed in and out. And, it MUST be pressed in the correct way!
The outcome is, we were trying to go out and it was faster, better and cheaper to just replace the windless! So, that is what we did. We now have a Lewmar Pro-Series H700.
Raymarine Tridata depth/speed
Last year I said - "What can I say, This was $$ down the tubes. As far as the speed indicator goes, it never did a good job. We installed it just as we were about to head out. I ran the measured mile on the Oakland estuary 4 times (as called for in the instructions) to calibrate the unit. By the time we got to Half Moon Bay I was unsure of it and was positive it was no longer accurate by the time we got to Monterey Bay. Even after adjusting for currents. Off of Santa Barbara, it just quit reading any movement. I keep taking it out and cleaning it, but it's not worth the effort. I now stick to the GPS for speed."
We still have this on board, only because I am to lazy to remove it and fashion a new board. And, we do still use the depth sounder. When I can, my plan is to remove it and put in 2 depth sounders (different frequencies). That way, if one quits, we will have a backup. A couple of times I have wished for two depth sounders.
We put the information that follows together during last year in the Sea of Cortez. Please note that IT IS HOT in the Sea of Cortez and that what follows is our thought only.
Do you have one yet? If not, here are a few things that you may want to know before you purchase one.
Asking a manufacturer what the output of his unit is only gives you a number to compare units. DO NOT think that you will actually get the amount stated in the advertising. The actual “usable” amount of water (product) you get from a unit depends on a lot of different factors!
First, the temperature of the intake water makes a big difference. Hotter (up to a point), gets more product water, cooler gets less.
The salinity (amount of salt) in the water makes a difference. More salt, less product.
How long after startup does it take to start getting good product water? 5 min or more?
How often do you need to back flush the unit, how much water is required? If the unit needs to be back flushed every time it is used, and it takes 2 gallons, you need to subtract 2 gallons from the total product water made, EACH TIME!
How often do you “NEED” to run the unit? Some units MUST be run at least once every 3 or 4 days. If not run, you need to back flush it, or preserve (pickle) it.
Over time, the unit will start to produce less product water due to normal usage of the filter element.
One other thing you need to think about is if you plan to just let the water maker run without you being present. I don’t think that is a good idea, but some people do. When we make water, it goes into a separate tank and I sample it (taste test) BEFORE it goes into our main tanks.
Having said all of the above, we seem to be getting about 70% to 75% of the “rated” product output.
How much water do you need to make? For us, that amount is about 28 gallons every 4 days. That is, we need per person, 1 gallon to drink, ½ gallon for cooking, and 2 gallons for washing. That is 7 gallons per day and we try to make water every 3 to 4 days.
In the heat of the Sea of Cortez, 1 gallon a day to drink is the minimum! And washing off after a day of swimming may not be critical every day, but after a few days, YOU NEED IT! This year, there was a drought on the Baja and a lot of the animals were dying due to lack of water. So water was hard to come by. We felt that a water maker was a necessity.
Of the other boats we met and talked to, only one had a working “parts per million tester”. A lot of boats bought them, but all now just taste the water. We did not talk to any boat that was satisfied with a low output water maker. It is AMAZING to watch the fresh water flow out of the product water hose. You look at it and ask yourself, "is that all it's making? is it working correctly?" This does not apply to emergency units!
Make sure you have it working BEFORE you depart on your cruise! Getting it worked on once you are away from your home waters is HARD TO DO!
Now on to how much does it cost? Not to purchase, but how much power does it take to operate.
By now, you know all of the systems we have aboard Guenevere. So you know we need a bit of power.
The first year we were in the Sea of Cortez, we had 4 each 32-Watt Unisolar flexible Solar panels. During the heat of September, this was WAY LOW! We had to start the engine every day or two.
The major draw of power is the refrigerator. It draws 4 Amps per hour of usage. We have super insulation, and if we did not open the box, the solar panels worked just fine. But, the real draw was the 2 gallons a day (or more) of water that we cycled into and out of the unit.
During a number of talks with other cruiser at beach bonfires, most boats were down by 50 to 70 Amps each morning. We were right in there with the others, just a bit higher than the lower numbers.
You may think that this is not a problem, but let me tell you how unhappy you can get sitting in the boat running the HOT engine on a VERY HOT day! It was also getting so hot that the temp sensors on the alternator and battery would lower, or cut off, the alternator output! That would require us to shut down, wait a few hours and start over! A BIG PAIN!! Not even talking about how BAD it is to use your main engine to just charge the batteries!!!!!
During the summer here in the sea, we have almost no wind a LOT of the time. Not one cruiser we talked to was happy with their wind generator. We talked to about 6 or 8 boats about their units.
Our solution - MORE SOLAR POWER.
How much do you need?
We have come up with the figure we think we will put on board. See if this helps you.
We know that our water maker uses about 14 to 18 Amps to run. Our refrigerator uses 4 Amps. So we plan to have about 20 to 25 Amps in solar panel generation capability. That will be 1 each 85-Watt panel on the stern rail aft of the back stay and forward of the Monitor wind vane. The current 4 Unisolar panels. Plus 4 more ridged panels mounted (removable) from our pin rails. This will allow us to add and remove panels as required.
The logic is that at anchor, once every 3 or 4 days, we can fly all panels and during the four sunniest hours, make water, run the refrigerator and still be able to trickle charge the batteries. On the other days, we should be able to charge the batteries full by noon. Also, on an overcast day, we should still be able to fully charge the batteries.