Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Sun at Last!

Sun at last, sun at last, thank God Almighty, we have sun at last.
It was almost freezing at the marinas in Belhaven and Beaufort North Carolina. By the time we got to an anchorage just north of Charleston, it was almost warm. But it wasn’t until we arrived in beautiful Beaufort, SC that it was FINALLY warm enough to take off our sweaters. Getting to Beaufort, however is what this story is about, so let me go back to the beginning.

We left Beaufort, NC the day after Thanksgiving. We could barely walk after stuffing ourselves with Ann’s Thanksgiving meal, but we didn’t have to walk, we were on a boat and we were on our way to anchor at Mile Hammock Bay, which is just outside Camp Lejeune, NC. Mile Hammock is one of our favorite anchorages and we have stayed there a number of times. There is nothing to do, it is just a protected place to spend the night. There are usually at least a half-dozen boats with us and there have been as many as fourteen. This year, however, there was only one other boat – showing that we left Maryland later than we should have.
It was c-c-cold at Mile Hammock, but we do have reverse cycle air conditioning which can provide heat, so we turned on our NEW EXPENSIVE GENERATOR and the heat to take the cold bite out of the air. (Four years ago when our son was with us we seldom turned on the generator. We did that to show him how tough we were and to make him suffer (Shhh, don’t tell him.) Since he wasn’t with us this year, we turned everything on and were toasty warm. Anyway, in the morning when we got ready to turn on the engines the starboard engine went “Crank!” just like it should have. The port engine when “CR” … Oh oh, the engine didn’t start. Again it went “CR” ... again and “CR” … yet again. Since I had a similar problem last year, I figured (and hoped) it was the batteries. Luckily, I have a switch set up which allows me to put all six starting batteries to work starting either engine. After I threw the switch I heard the appropriate Crank! coming from the port engine. Yessss. Okay, the engine is now running. We went down the waterway a few miles and came to the marina where we had planned to get fuel (the lowest price on the ICW, by far). The question was, dare I stop the engine and have to start it again or do we just drive on and find a fuel stop later. Most of you know that I am both a cheapskate and gambler at heart, so we stopped … refueled … and the engine started right up again. Yesss.
Jim and Bess Treadwell as well as your truly and his OAO.

A few days prior to the engine incident I had been e-mailing with a friend of mine. Jim Treadwell was three years behind me at West Point, but was in the same company that I was. Moreover, he was a platoon leader and later the executive office of the company I commanded in the 82d Airborne Division. It turns out that, although Jim lives in Florida, he has a summer house in Ocean Isles North Carolina AND he was going to be there for a week or so around Thanksgiving. We had to link up. And we did.
Originally we were going to re-connect at St. James Marina, but we ended up going to Southport. Southport, you see, has mechanics just in case I would have needed them for my difficult-to-start engine. Anyhow, we met, had a drink, went to dinner and generally had a blast. As is so often the case with my West Point contemporaries and/or my former Army colleagues, our conversation started up where we left off 20 years ago. Ann, of course, knew Jim (but hadn’t seen him for 40+ years. Neither of us had met his wife, Bess, but when we did, we decided she was the perfect woman to keep Jim under control. It didn’t take much calculating … they have been married for 30+ years.

In addition to my toes (unintended) you can see
how difficult it is to check the vents without moving the cables.

While at Southport, I also gave the batteries a good once over. As you can see by the enclosed picture, many of the cables cover the vents and vent caps. To check the water and electrolyte level, I had to take off some of the cabling to get at the vents. It was a time consuming process. Since I did replace quite bit of water, I am assuming that it was, in fact, the batteries (plus the cold weather) that led to the slow start on the port battery. We didn’t need a mechanic after all, but I am glad we stopped at a place where we could have found one if needed.
Because we had lost two days at Top Rack waiting for the Albemarle to calm down, had lost a day at Beaufort to enjoy Thanksgiving, and had lost a day at Southport for our battery problem, we decided we would “pick up speed” for the next several days to get back on “schedule.” Actually, we do not have a schedule per se. We have the chart you can see below.  It tells us how many miles we have to go, the average number of miles we have to achieve and, most importantly, the number of 60 mile days we have in front of us (we generally travel around 60 miles per day when in the “move out” mode).

Night of
ICW Mile Marker
Miles covered
Miles to Destination
Days left
Avg miles Required per day
Number of 60 mile days left
Beaufort, NC
Mile Hammock
Beaufort, SC
Beaufort, SC
Beaufort, SC

The beautiful Enterprise Anchorage  off the Waccamaw
River in South Carolina
 Anyway, we spent the following three nights anchored first at what I call the Enterprise anchorage, and subsequently at the Adendaw and Toogoodoo anchorages (don’t you just love to say and spell “Toogoodoo?” We didn’t have any engine starting problems or any other kind of difficulties – other than the fact that they were pretty long days and it was damn cold outside. We cooked on the grill for the most part and enjoyed the wonderful (though chilly) South Carolina air. Oh, one note. Some of you know that we don’t have a satellite or any other special, expensive kind of TV system. We do have a regular old antenna-based system, however, just like you have when you were a kid – well, provided you are as old as Ann and I. Our old fashioned antenna cost $100 or so at our local West Marine store. I just want you to know that even in the middle of the South Carolina Low Country we could get some channels. Some locations had more than others, of course, but we always had ten or more. 

On 30 November we docked at Lady’s Island Marina in beautiful Beaufort, SC. We love Beaufort, it is a beautiful town with a lot to see and do, PLUS we have good friends here in the person of Captain Mark Covington and his wife Becky aboard their boat Sea Angel. Seeing them again was great – and the fact that they lent us their truck and went out to dinner with them was icing on the cake. We used the truck for a trip to Walmart, Publix, and the local hardware store, Grayco (one of Ann’s favorites).

Tomorrow we are on the way to St. Augustine. Yes, we will have several stops along the way, but we are looking forward to a few days at one of our favorite cities along the waterway AND to watching Army beat the hell out of Navy on 9 December. GO ARMY!

Ann’s Notes: This is the first entry on the blog I have done in a while…I was not fast enough for the first one Michael sent.
We had a busy summer full of doctors’ appointments, dentist appointments, a few medical procedures, a surgery on me, meeting neighbors at our condo and still settling in to our new home town of Solomons, MD. We were also busy preparing for our presentations at the Hampton Snowbird Rendezvous. We had to drive there and stay at a hotel, that was not as much fun as going by boat, however both Michael and I did a good job and I am glad we went.

I am glad to be back on the waterway and heading south. One morning I went out to do my normal anchor job and there was a thin layer of ice on the bow and deck of the boat. Good thing I walk slowly, I was able to feel the difference on the deck and did not slip. At that point I had to agree with Michael that we needed to get further south.

Meeting old and new friends is such a blessing, we always meet the nicest people while we are on Traveling Soul.

I heard the cutest statement while we were at Top Rack Marina in Chesapeake, VA. This couple was on a forty-ish foot sail boat, their home port was somewhere in Canada and they were only at the marina to get fuel. The dock hand asked them where they were going, her response was wonderful…she said, “ I want to go south so my butter is soft in the morning” That really made me chuckle. And THAT is where we are going.

Thank you for following us.

Traveling Soul…OUT


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Underway Again

Well, here we are … underway again … finally!

As you can see it took It took us a while. We usually leave in mid-October right after the Hampton Snowbird Rendez-vous, but this year we had doctors' appointment after doctors' appointments. Then at the end of October, Ann had a surgical procedure and I had several injections to alleviate the pain in my legs. We ended up driving -- rather than boating -- down to the Rendez-vous and giving our presentations. This year both Ann and I gave presentations which both went very well.

We did not leave Solomons until 16 November and we have to be in West Palm Beach, FL by 15 December. It is easily doable, but we don’t have a lot of time to meander down the waterway and explore little towns and villages as we usually like to do.

Our first day on the water was almost perfect – a little cold, maybe, but otherwise just right. We left Solomons right on time at 0800, all the boat’s systems behaved as designed, the seas were fairly comfortable, and when we arrived, the anchorage at Fishing Bay was nearly empty and I was able to barbecue for the first time in several months. Barbecued ribs … Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm. All in all, it was almost a perfect day. Our second day, however, well, let’s just say it did not go quite so well.

That night the wind blew 15 – 20 knots as a “weak” cold front came through. That wasn’t so bad, but when we woke up that morning the wind was still blowing – not as hard as it had the night before, but hard enough to create two to three foot waves on the Bay. Now, 2-3 footers aren’t that bad and we have certainly handled much worse. However, these waves had a very short period and were on our beam for the first hour or so. The effect was to rock us from side to side. Ann and I were fine, if a little uncomfortable. Spot, however, couldn’t go to her favorite hidey-hole as we had used it for storage. Don't worry, she is looking for a new hideout.

Eventually, we turned south and the northerly winds were behind us, making for what are called “following seas,” and traveling was tolerable if not great. We refueled and moored at Top Rack Marina and decided to fix a few problems that we had noticed on the trip coming down. The first of these was the anchor chain which led to ... the GREAT CHAIN FIASCO.

The previous day – yes, the “almost perfect day” we had noticed that our anchor chain was all twisted and tangled. How exactly that happened I don’t know. Anyway, we decided that we should untwist and untangle the chain before we anchored again.  Well, one thing led to another and I accidently hit the "chain up" button on the windlass while my thumb was in the "untangle" mode. Yes, it hurt. A lot. No, I didn’t do any permanent damage. My thumb is black and blue and it is an even bet on whether or not I will lose my thumbnail, but I am still alive and kicking – with my thumb wrapped in a bandage.

That night, with my bad thumb and all, we decided to eat dinner at Amber Lantern, the restaurant associated with the marina. They used to allow free overnight docking to boats that ate in the restaurant. Too many people skipped out, however, and took the free dockage without eating the dinner. Now, they charge $35 per night, whether you eat dinner or not – still a pretty good deal.

The next two days can be summed up in one word: B-O-R-I-N-G.  Although the weather at the marina wasn’t bad, the winds and waves on the Ablemarle Sound were terrible. We decided we would stay in our slip for another couple of days. The problem is that there is absolutely nothing to do anywhere near the Top Rack Marina – nothing nada, zip – so we pretty much stayed on the boat for two days. As I said: B-O-R-I-N-G.

On the morning of 20 Nov, we were off … again. We timed the Great Bridge Lock and the subsequent bridges perfectly. The weather predictions were right and the Ablemarle Sound was as calm as we have seen in twelve crossings. Finally, life was good again! We spent the night at anchor in South Lake just off the Alligator River. Like an idiot I forgot to take a picture, but the water was mirror-calm and there were four sailboats silhouetted against a setting sun. It was really beautiful!

Now, here is one of the problems caused by the delay we suffered at Top Rack. We arrived at River Forest Marina in Belhaven, NC on Tuesday. We have stopped in Belhaven for three of the past the four years for one reason and one reason only – Spoon River Artworks and CafĂ©. I know it sounds like an art studio, but it is not. It is one of the best restaurants on the ICW; it competes with any of the good restaurants in DC. I could go on, but I won’t – because there was a problem; Spoon River is closed on Tuesday. I know, right? Well we actually knew that going in, but there was an up and coming restaurant that we wanted to try – the Tavern at Jack’s Neck. What we didn’t know was the BOTH of them are closed on Tuesdays. YIKES! Ok, so we were very disappointed, but the assistant marina manager told us that a place called “Fish Hooks” was open and had very good food – especially fried chicken. Now those of you who know me well, know that I LOVE fried chicken. So, disappointed as I was, we went to Fish Hooks. I was determined to have fried chicken.

The Galley where the magic takes place
They don’t serve fried chicken the evening, only for lunch. WHAT? What kind of a rinky-dink place was this that didn’t serve fried chicken for dinner? Distraught, I ordered some kind of honey-mustard chicken. It was terrible. So, we are going to think very hard about going to Belhaven the next time we cruise through -- especially if it is a Tuesday. Instead, we may have to try a bunch of different restaurants on the Waterway until we find a new favorite J.

The day before Thanksgiving we arrived in Beaufort, NC (pronounced BOW-fort). It is now Thanksgiving Day and we have just had Thanksgiving Meal. Now some of you may be thinking that we don’t get a holiday meal on a boat. Boy, would you be wrong, especially with Chef Ann Brown on board. We had:
·         Turkey (okay, it was not a while turkey, just a leg – but who wants breast mean anyway)
·         Stuffing (It was really good!)
·         Gravy
·         Green Bean Casserole
·         Mac and Cheese (My favorite dish of all time!)
·         Apple Crisp

For us, that’s about as traditional as it gets!

Ah ... it is eatin' time
I am going to try and get this out tonight as the Redskins are looking just as bad as the Giants are (What would Thanksgiving be without football?) We leave early tomorrow to head for Mile Hammock Bay -- an anchorage near Camp Lejeune.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Into the Deep Blue Sea!

Sunset from somewhere in the North Atlantic!
We left Fort Pierce, Florida at about 0930 on Thursday 28 April. We arrived at our anchorage just off Cumberland Island, Georgia at about 0930 Friday, 29 April. Yes, we spent 24 hours cruising in the deep blue sea and traveled 253 miles, for an average of just over 10 statute miles per hour. Why did we make this trip in the ocean? Well, we had just spent 10 days at the boatyard in Stuart, FL and we had fallen way behind where we wanted to be. No, we aren’t under any pressure to be at any specific place at any specific time, but we did want to get moving. On a normal day traveling the ICW we make somewhere between 60 and 70 miles, so doing 253 miles in one 24 hour period put us four days ahead of where we would otherwise have been.  Second, we had just spent a whole bunch of money at the boatyard in Stuart and decided that we did not want to spend a lot of money on marinas. One way to do that, of course, is simply not to stop. And finally, it has been over a year since we had completed an overnight and we decided that it was about time that we did it again – for braggin’ rights if for no other reason.
So, how did it go? We had been watching the weather for over a week while at the boatyard. It looked like Thursday and Friday were going to be very good days to go “outside,” as we cognoscenti call it. When we first started watching the weather, the predictions were for waves 2-feet high with the wind from the south. Now you can’t beat those wave predictions as I don’t think NOAA forecasts anything less. And the wind direction? If it were from the south, it would be at our back, so we would have following seas. We were set. As the week progressed the forecast began deteriorating a little, though just a bit. After a few days the predictions were for 2-3 feet waves. That is still near perfect and we were looking forward to it. The day before we left the predictions had made it to 2-4 feet, but the winds were still predicted to be from the south to the southeast. Now, to be honest, that is kind of what we had been expecting since we started planning the trip, so were weren’t dissuaded – but we certainly did not like the trend. We were chomping at the bit to get underway before the weather deteriorated any further. On Thursday morning we were off!

Now, we obviously like boating. But 24 hours of up and down … and down and up … and sideways and up and … did I mention it was for 24 hours? You get the picture I am sure. Although the first couple of hours were a little more choppy than we had planned, once we made the turn to the north the motion became a little more manageable and we got into a pattern … up, down, sideways, down, up, other sideways, etc. The motion didn’t seem to bother Ann at all. Spot, well she went into her special hidey-hole for the first couple of hours, then reappeared to eat, get scratched and use her littler box. After that, she did okay – though she clearly thought we had lost our minds. As for me? I did okay. I don’t get motion sickness, but I will admit that the constant up and down did cause a little bit of uneasiness. I drank some ginger beer and tried not to focus on anything but the task at hand.
When we travel outside parallel to the coast, we usually cruise about 10-15 miles offshore. Other cruisers like to stay closer, but we have a couple of reasons for keeping our distance. First, we want to stay away from lights on land. You would be amazed how far a single red light can shine at sea on a dark night. If you are near shore, some of those red lights can seem a lot closer than they really are. Or even worse, you can convince yourself that the red lights you see are on land – when in reality they belong to a huge tanker not too far away. Second, there are places along the coast (usually near major ports) where there are bunches of navigation aids marking a channel, a shoal, a fishing area or something else. At night, when our radar picks up ten to fifteen nav aids it becomes difficult for me to separate them from any boats that might be in the area. In fact, one time I was so busy matching various buoys that appeared in the charts to targets picked up by my radar that I missed a sport fishing boat that was zipping by about 50 yards off my bow! That was certainly a wake-up call and sent us further off the coast.

 Cruising offshore during the daytime is one thing, cruising offshore at night is something else entirely. Some of our friends do it often, and to them I am sure it is almost second nature. But for those of us who only do a 24-hour jump outside a couple of times per year, it can be downright spooky. Remember I told you that we want to stay far enough offshore that we don’t get confused by lights on land?  That generally means there is little ambient light. Now imagine a moonless night. If you are thinking that it would be very, very black outside then you are thinking right! There is no way you are going to see anything if it is not marked with lights (as almost everything at sea should be) or if it does not appear on radar. We generally pick up a radar target 4 miles out, if it is going to pass anywhere close to us we make a significant turn to the right or left so we are far enough away when we pass it – and track the blip until it is well past us. Now that we stay far enough out that we don’t have ten or more nav aids as radar targets, we can manage everything pretty well.
Although they are very hard to see, there is a herd of wild
horses behind the fence. They are from Cumberland Island.
Well, obviously we completed our overnight and came to rest at Cumberland Island, Georgia. Cumberland is one of our favorite places, as there is so much history, so much wildlife and magnificent beaches, beaches, beaches! This year we hopped in our dinghy and rode up and down the island on our own little expedition of discovery. We found the Plum Orchard – a place where we had not yet been – and discovered they have a really cool dinghy dock. We didn’t use it this year because we were busy exploring other places on the waterway, but next year I have a feeling we will use it extensively.

We had pretty much decided that because of the expense associated with our batteries and generator, that we would do a lot of anchoring this year as we headed up the waterway. I have to tell you, though, that for me this isn’t much of a hardship because I really LOVE anchoring. Ann likes it too, but no one likes it as much as I do.  Before we started anchoring, thought, there was one place we wanted to go … Jekyll Island, Georgia. While there, we bicycled around, provisioned for the next phase of our venture re-met our friends Russ and Lori and generally had a great time.
On the way up we refueled at Brunswick Landing Marina (still the lowest fuel price in the area, but it seems to be creeping upwards), then we anchored successively at Walburg Creek, Bull Island, Toogoodoo Creek, East Minim Creek and Carolina Beach. The three most interesting anchorages were Cumberland, Walburg and Toogoodoo (I like Toogoodoo in part because it is so fun to say and easy to spell).

On Jekyll, Lori was showing Ann how to make bracelets.
Spot was keeping a close eye on the proceedings, in case
 Ann needed her help.
The island separating Walburg Creek (where we stayed) from the Atlantic seems alternatively to be called St. Catherine’s Island and Walburg Island. As St. Catherine’s it has been designated a National Historic Landmark because of its rich human history. A succession of Spanish Missions were established on the island during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Current archeological work is discovering (among many other things)  how Catholicism was practiced and taught in the Georgia missions was different than the way it was taught and practiced in, for example, St. Augustine.  In 1670, when the English established a settlement at what would become Charleston, SC, the beginning of the end of the Spanish missions was in site. The island has an interesting English history also, but I don’t know enough to write about it.

The island is interesting for another reason. Although it is difficult getting good information about the program, from 1974 through 2003 the Wildlife Survival Center of New York's Bronx Zoo kept hundreds of exotic and endangered animals there to propagate and then release them into their wild native habitats. The preserve was established so scientists could study several species of birds and mammals in a habitat as close to wilderness as possible. The island's large spaces, its large enclosures and its private grounds, to which no visitors are allowed, permitted zoologists to study how animals would act in "herd situations" or determine what would happen if captive beasts were reintroduced to the wilderness.
I wish I could find out more about that program.

Sunrise on Toogoodoo Creek
Anyway … In addition to the cool pronunciation and spelling of Toogoodoo, the Creek provides an excellent set of anchorages. While we were in the area, the winds were from the west – and were 20 – 25 knots. We looked at a number of places that we thought might offer some protection. We found nothing– until we looked at Toogoodoo. The Creek meanders through the countryside sufficiently that if you follow it far enough – and we followed it for about 2 miles – you will find protection from just about any direction. When we got to the point where we dropped out anchor, we had trees and a slight hill giving us fairly good protection from the wind. It was great. It is now on our list of favorite protected anchoring places.
All of this anchoring gave us an opportunity to test our expensive generator and our new set of batteries extensively. And I have to tell you that … (drum roll please) so far, so good!
After Toogoodoo and Carolina Beach it was on to Beaufort, NC – which is where we are now. Our next entry will close out this year’s trip up the ICW and will likely contain a list of summer projects we have to complete before we set off again next year.
Ann's NOTES: I really to not have much to add...
Our time in the Atlantic was fun and exciting. My "go outside" meal is meat loaf and mashed potatoes. I make it the day prior so it is a simple meal to reheat while we are under way. The nice part is with the new generator and batteries we did not have to count amps while the micro wave was on.

Michael and I have been going up and down the ICW for six years now, and every year we find new and interesting things to see and do. Two years ago we decided to really discover Georgia, we spent extra time exploring the little towns on the ICW and off the main part of the waterway. Our country and states have some many hidden gems. Small town museums, National Parks with guided tours, it truly is interesting and amazing. I think the next state to explore will be North Carolina.
I am looking forward to that.

Our  winter adventure is almost over, Traveling Soul will be in her slip in Solomons MD, She will get some new bottom paint, a few upgrades in the salon, a good cleaning and reorganization for her next trip.

Remember you are welcome to visit our land base ... Spot loves company..
Have a wonderful summer, thank you for following us..
Traveling Soul..OUT  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Boatyard

I know, I now, you didn’t expect another blog entry so soon after the last one. Well, we are kind of stuck in a VERY LOUD boatyard watching the paint dry on the boat next to ours and watching workmen spend our hard-earned money. There are two reasons why we are here. The first one relates to the battery problem we have been having for several months now.  I hope to be able to resolve that forever – you will have to read on before you know how. There was another problem, however – a problem with our generator – which turned out to be the much bigger and much more EXPEN$IVE problem, costing  more boat units than I can count. For a discussion of our NEW generator, you will have to read on or skip forward.

Batteries, Batteries and More Batteries

You will remember that I have been complaining about my batteries ever since we left the States. Four years ago when I was having similar problems, I decided that I would spend whatever it took to solve the problem. I was told that Lifeline batteries were the top of the line, that they had a five year warranty and that they usually lasted much longer than that. I bought two of them for my inverter bank and a year later bought two for my house bank. Fast forward three-and-a-half years. Our inverter batteries are now producing at about 60% of the capacity they produced when they were new. I have to crank up and run the generator twice a day for about 2-3 hours in order to keep our food cold, our phones charged and our computers on-line.  I contacted Lifeline to ask them what I should do. Their tech rep told me that it appeared I had a “minor sulfation issue” – that’s right he considered a drop in 40% of the batteries’ capacity a “minor sulfation issue.” Isn’t that like telling someone whose boat is sinking due to a huge hole in the hull that he has a “minor fiberglass issue?” or a guy who has been decapitated that he has a “minor neck wound?”   Or a guy who has suffered a massive coronary that he has a “minor cardiac issue?” “Minor sulfation issue” my patootie! Needless to say I was not particularly impressed with Lifeline batteries or with the technical support offered by the company.

So, I contacted several friends who are especially knowledgeable about these things and have boats similar to ours. I asked them three questions: (1) How many amp-hours they had in their battery banks, (2) How many battery banks they had on their boats and (3) What kind of batteries they used, golf cart or big 8-D batteries. (NOTE: An ampere hour (abbreviated Ah, or sometimes amp hour) is the amount of energy charge in a battery that will allow one ampere of current to flow for one hour. An ampere is a unit of measure of the rate of electron flow or current in an electrical conductor. Our refrigerator, for example, requires about 10 amps per hour, or 240 in a 20-hour day.) This first thing I learned is that the measly 1100 amp-hours I had in my two banks was clearly not enough. We have a pretty big boat, but people with smaller boats than ours have more A-H that we did. Moreover, we use Alternating Current (AC) extensively. We have a household-size GE refrigerator on our boat, for goodness sake. Other people have made different choices; some don’t have electric refrigerators or freezers, some have smaller ones, some have propane appliances, some have special marine 12 volt – 120 volt refrigerators, etc. We like having the luxury of a big household refrigerator. That means we have to have enough battery power to run it for a reasonable period of time. 1100 amp hours wasn’t going to cut it.

Second, we learned that several (though certainly not all) of our friends have combined what I call their “inverter” banks and their “house” banks into one. There are advantages and disadvantages to that approach. On the one hand, for example, it is much easier to keep track of what is happening to your batteries when you have only one bank. In addition, you can use the juice from all your batteries equally. On the other hand, if you have a big bank you may have issues charging all your batteries in a reasonable amount of time. So, to me, it doesn’t seem to be a slam-dunk one way or the other.

Third, I learned that many (though not all) of my friends were using golf cart batteries on their boats. I knew, of course, that many people on power boats used golf carts, but I was a bit surprised at the number of my friends that did. The most important reason they cited was that the Golf carts are smaller and easier for one man to handle. While that is true, because most golf carts are usually 6-volt (requiring two batteries wired in series to produce the required 12 volts) larger banks will require two to four times as many connections as regular batteries. Connections, of course, lead to inefficiencies and the potential for problems.

After that input, I initially decided to increase our battery bank by at least 50%, to put all batteries in one bank and to convert to golf cart batteries. Then, I talked to the boatyard (Whiticar, in Stuart Florida) that would have to do much of the work. They had a couple of observations and suggestions. First, they understood completely my desire to increase the size of our bank. Second, they wanted to make sure I understood that while they were perfectly willing to put in all golf carts, it would be a lot more costly as they would have to find and/or make space for the new batteries (even though we would be taking out the old batteries, it was not a 1:1 exchange) and they would have to reconfigure and re-wire the banks that I had. They suggested that I think about making a one-for-one exchange with my existing 8-D batteries, then find room for two more. They thought, and I eventually agreed, that it would be a lot less work (read a lot less expensive). Moreover, let’s face it, while some of my friends are agile enough and handy enough to move and re-connect their batteries in the coming years, I am not going to. I can reconnect batteries regardless of their weight, but if I really need to move them, I will whip out the two most important items in my tool bag – my checkbook and my cell phone – and find someone who can do it for me. So, the fact that that golf carts can be handled by one man (they are still about 70 pounds each!) is not that much of a selling point.

So, here is what I ended up with: 6 x 8-D batteries with 330 amp-hours each for a total of 1980 Amp-hours. Now, most 8D batteries have around 250 amp-hours, but I figured in for a penny, in for a pound.  I know what most of you are thinking, “Brown, what the hell did you do? Increasing your AH capability by 50% is one thing, increasing it by a factor two is another!” You may be right, but I decided to go big or go home. Here is my thought process: (1) I am tired of worrying about how many AH are left in the banks and when we are going to have to turn on the generator. (2) We all know that the less the depth of discharge (DoD) of a battery the longer it will last. In the case of these particular batteries, the manufacturer indicates that when they are normally discharged to 80%, the service life (measured in cycles) is likely to be 2.5 times higher than if they were discharged to 60%. When my previous inverter bank was new, I would frequently discharge it to 60% (never below 50%, of course). Now, because I will have twice as many AH available I should not be discharging it to less than ~80%. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll last longer.

My original intention was to keep all these batteries in one bank – but, since I have so many AH there may be a problem. I have two very good, modern battery chargers, one part of the inverter-charger combination and a separate 80 amp battery charger made by Charles, one of the best on the business. I am not going to go into the workings of modern three and four phase chargers, but suffice it to say that using two chargers will not cut the charging time in half. In fact, the only way to tell how much the second charger will contribute (if at all) seems to be to test the various configurations. So, what I had the technicians do was to give me a switch so that I can either combine all the batteries into one bank or separate them into a 4-battery inverter bank and a 2-battery house bank. Before we leave the Yard I will test the two bank solution versus the one bank solution to see how long it takes my two chargers to charge the batteries. Based on that observation, I will normally carry them in one configuration or the other. I will keep you posted.

The Generator

OK, even though the batteries cost upwards of $500 each and even though there was quite a bit of labor involved in moving out four 200 pound batteries, and moving in six two hundred pound batteries, the eventual cost of the battery challenge will be insignificant in comparison to the cost of the generator challenge.

We have always had problems with our generator. Initially it was the solenoids. After we fixed those it was the fuel system. When we had the fuel system repaired the cooling system began acting up. This year we had problems with the radiator cap and the heat exchanger. Well, we have finally hit the point where the heat exchanger failed catastrophically – failed to the point where the damage it caused to the rest of the system cannot be fixed.

In our generator, as in most marine generators, a fresh water-antifreeze mixture circulates through the system to keep the generator cool. As this mixture circulates, it cools the generator, of course, but at the same time the mixture becomes hotter and hotter. Eventually, the fresh water-antifreeze mixture runs through the “heat exchanger.” The heat exchanger takes the cool salt water that the generator has sucked up, runs it past the mixture to cool it down, then dumps the now-hot saltwater overboard. In our generator, somewhere along the line, the heat exchanger broke and allowed salt water in to the fresh water cooling system.  You know how corrosive salt water can be. Unbeknownst to us, the salt started corroding the insides of the fresh water system and punched holes in it until just about the whole generator was compromised and feeling the effects of the salt water. When the tech looked at our generator he said he would have to replace this, replace that and replace something else, just to see if the generator could be flushed and repaired. He didn’t know how much that would cost, but it wouldn’t be cheap, OR we could get a new generator. To paraphrase a famous song, “We closed eyes, we held our nose … we paid the money.” We are now the proud owners of a brand new 17kW Onan-Cummins generator. 

This generator is so quiet … c’mon, c’mon, you are supposed to say in unison, “how quiet is it?” Anyway, it is so quiet that we (mainly Ann) decided to take up the carpeting in the galley. (Nobody wants carpeting in their kitchen. We kept it there because it attenuated the sound from the previous generator). When we started picking up the carpeting we found parquet flooring, as is the case in the rest of the boat. Ann spent some time repairing the floor, filling the holes from carpet nails, etc. and now we have a beautiful hardwood floor in our galley. Yes, it has a few scars and a few gouges, but hey, who among us does not?

Side Trips
While the boatyard boys were working on the boat, we took two side trips, one to downtown Stuart and one to Saint Augustine. We kind of had to. In the first place we were going nuts just sitting there; in the second place they had to turn off the water and electric while they put in the batteries. Moreover, they had to build scaffolding for the generator to pull it out of the generator room, then maneuver it through the saloon (living room). For our trip to Stuart, we rented a car, visited West Marine, Publix (the Florida grocery monopoly) and a few other places. The most interesting was downtown Stuart where they were holding their weekly Farmer’s Market. The vendors didn’t really have anything that we needed, but it was nice to see folks peddling their wares on a nice sunny Florida afternoon.

St. Augustine was … well, it was St. Augustine. It is probably my favorite city along the ICW and has more history and tourist attractions than you can shake a stick at. For example, did you know that, English propaganda notwithstanding, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States? Did you know that Ripley’s first “odd-itorium” is in St. Augustine? Anyway, we spent three days at a motel in St. Augustine and had a really good time. When we got back to the boat, we found that they had put in the batteries, had removed the old generator and put in the new one – though the new one hadn’t been connected yet.

Finally, on Wednesday we left Stuart and headed to Ft. Pierce to fill up with fuel and head into the wild, blue yonder. But you’ll have to wait until next time to learn about those adventures.
ANN’S NOTES:  OK readers….TEST in ten minutes…Subject 1.. size of batteries and the number of Ah that corresponds with them? Subject  2..How many batteries and battery banks does Traveling Soul  currently have ? No cheating..ok..open book test.

What Michael did not tell you was that Me, Myself and I gave up valuable storage space in the galley to put in those big ass batteries. I figured since it is the fridge that sucks up so much power, that is was only fair that I sacrifice some space under the bench sitting area.

The new generator is very pretty and quiet. The big red salt encrusted one is in a scrap metal heap and the pretty new one is earning its keep. Heaven knows we paid a small fortune to adopt it and give it a new home.

St. Augustine was great, I found a nice motel just outside of town that takes pets. Traveling with Spot puts a whole new twist in finding accommodations.  If you ever need a nice place to stay , it is called the Southern Oaks Inn. Clean room, comfortable beads, mini fridge, mini microwave, coffee pot, very good  breakfast, pool , wifi, and free parking. Surcharge $15 per day to bring a pet.
I know Michael wants to send this out so I am going to close out.

We are heading back to the condo. It is going to be a busy summer full of family, friends, trips, and the normal medical and dental appointments.

Hope to see all of you soon, come visit!!!
Traveling Soul…OUT