Battery Woes Resolved… Yay!

Before leaving San Jose Del Cabo, I was able to finally identify the root cause of my battery problem (https://mvmissmiranda.com/2019/11/11/battery-woes/), and it was not a bad battery. That was a good thing because a replacement battery would have had to have been shipped to San Diego to a freight forwarder for delivery to Mexico, and the manufacturer would have likely wanted the old battery back. No fun.

So, what happened? In order to find the problem battery, I disconnected the cabling from all 5 batteries in the port bank and then measured voltage across each of them individually. Well, each one measured 12.9 Volts… exactly what a healthy battery should. This didn’t make sense to me, since when I tried to power the whole boat from that back alone, by switching it “on” and the other one off, I saw a rapid voltage drop and an indicator of dead batteries up at the pilot house monitoring panels.

CUBAR Fleet Captain and fellow Nordhavn owner Bill Roush came over to help me troubleshoot further. I was looking at voltage at a monitoring panel, and we wanted to see if the readings at the batteries were the same as the readings at the panel. It turned out that they were not. The batteries read a constant 12.9 volts no matter what we did, as if they were completely disconnected, even though the switch was on. Bill says “maybe the switch is bad”. I say, “no, can’t be, just replaced this year”. Bill, being somewhat more lithe than me, was able to reach way over to where the switch is mounted in the lazarette, and surprise, surprise, one of the cables was WAY loose. He was able to tighten the connection, and upon retest, the battery voltage was agreeing with the system measured voltage.

The culprit!

I was wrong in my suspicion of a dead battery, and Brother in Law Sean (who had gone back to Boston by now) was right in suspecting a bad connection. What turned out to be a complication was the input of the solar panels, which was creating a voltage that masked the fact that the battery switch wasn’t working. However, they did not provide enough amperage to power the systems as the only source. When we thought we were selecting the port battery bank, we were, in fact, powering the boat only off the solar panels. What I now realize is that for some unknown period of time, the port battery bank was disconnected due to the loose connection. When I saw a low battery voltage in Turtle Bay, I thought the batteries were 40% discharged. Because the port bank really was offline at the time, the batteries were, in fact 80% discharged, so the low voltage was perfectly consistent with that state of charge.

I am very glad to have found this, as a loose connection, particularly in a very high amperage DC circuit, is a serious fire hazard. So, happy ending to this one, and we are now off to Bahia los Muertos and the last leg of the CUBAR Rally.

Of course, the list never gets shorter… it’s just the items that change. It seems that our second Nav computer was a victim of the low battery voltage that occurred during the testing. It refuses to boot up, and the recovery procedure for booting from an external BIOS requires a wired keyboard. We probably have 5 keyboards on the boat… all wireless. So, we’ll be hunting for a USB keyboard in La Paz, or may even try to order one from Amazon MX and have it shipped to the marina. On to the next problem!

Turtle Bay – Giving Back to Mexico

The waterfront of Turtle Bay.

A week or so ago, our first anchorage after a 36 hour very smooth run from Ensanada was Bahía Tortugas, or Turtle Bay. This has been by far the best and most rewarding part of the voyage for me to date.

I was looking forward to this stop because I had organized a medical supplies donation from CUBAR participants to the town as a way of giving back to the community.

Bahía Tortugas is very remote on Baha. They are at the end of approximately 100 miles of deserted partly gravel road. The community is about 3,000 people and their livelihood is fishing and lobstering. There is no official firehouse or emergency services, so they are on their own in emergencies.

The dock at Turtle Bay. Pangas tie up and you scramble up the ladder.

About 10 years ago a group of citizens formed an association to work on improving the health and safety of the community called the Asociacion pro bienestar Bahia Tortugas.  They are a group of about 17 men and women who have gotten firefighting and EMS training on their own in order to support their community.  About 10 years ago an old American ambulance was donated by Russ Harford, an expat living in the community, but they had no supplies, no funding and also no place to acquire supplies from easily even if they did have money for it.  A new ambulance was provided by the government recently, but still without supplies. 

They help a lot of folks with serious injuries make it to the hospital.  CUBAR brought them some basic supplies two years ago, but they really needed all the basics for accident care, and during that CUBAR visit one of the participants had a head injury and was delivered by the ambulance to the hospital. 

Through conversing with Turtle Bay native Isabel Harford and her husband Russ in San Diego as my liaisons, we developed a list of needed supplies, collected financial donations from the CUBAR fleet and I ordered up the supplies to be delivered to stage in San Diego.  The Montecito Fire Department also donated a bunch of equipment and uniforms.  It took about a half dozen boats to carry the stuff to Turtle Bay. 

I got quite the Spanish workout communicating by text to coordinate our dropoff visit through texting in Spanish with Esdras, my local contact.  On the day of the visit, we were greeted at the boat by a group of the Bomberos, or firefighters, and the President of the Association, Señor Jose Ignacio Perpuli, by panga.

Unloading supplies onto the dock with the bomberos. You can barely see me and Christy in the panga below – the ladder is steep. Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.
Some of the supplies in front of the ambulance that they will fill up, and the bomberos! Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.
In front of the station. They don’t have a firetruck but the ambulance lives here. Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.

Through my and Christy’s Spanish and their enthusiasm, we had a wonderful time visiting with the group and touring their station. They were excited also because Esdras had invited us out to see the Lobster facility where he was working that day, and to host us to a big meal.

We crammed into their van for a 45 minute trip on the dusty gravel road to Punta Eugenia to visit the Lobster Cooperative where lobsters are received from the fisherman. The Cooperative has 35 teams of 2, and the holding facility prepares them to be shipped live to US and then to China. The facility looks out on massive kelp beds, and also houses an Abalone Nursery where they are breeding abalone and working to repopulate the bay with juvenile abalone.

A live lobster. Now I know how to hold one! Esdras is both a bombero and works here at the lobster facility and the abalone nursery. Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.
The view from Punta Eugenia of kelp beds where the abalone live.
The abalone larvarium where they are bred.
An 5-6 year old abalone for breeding. They are slow growing. They wait until the abalone are 1 year old before putting them into the bay.

The absolute topper of the day was the journey out to a fish camp where one of the bomberos was living and working for the season. They put on an incredible lobster and fish feed for us, complete with gorgeous views.

Preparing the bountiful feast.
House with pangas at anchor in the distance.
The fish camp.
Larry and Larry fixing the seafood cocktail drink that makes you go “wow!”
Larry, me and Sean at the fish camp. Photo Courtesy Justin and CUBAR.

Our group videographer Justin is preparing a video about the whole experience that I will be able to share soon!

Battery Woes

The suspect is in here somewhere….

We have been in Bahia Los Tortugas (Turtle Bay) for the last couple of days after a 35 hour run down from Ensenada. We have a great story in an upcoming blog post with lots of pictures, but it will have to wait until we get someplace with better data connectivty. We had great Telcel phone signal, but no data here.

This is the first time we have anchored overnight in a month (since we were in Neah Bay). Unfortunately, when I got up the first morning to make coffee, I discovered that the battery voltage was unusually low. I realize that before I continue the story, I need to do a little aside explaining our electrical system and why low battery voltage is not a good thing…

Our boat has an electrical system based on large 12V DC batteries. These batteries power the electronics, lighting, water pumps, heads, etc, that all run on 12V DC, and in combination with an Inverter, also power 120V equipment such as the refrigerator, freezer, etc. The batteries (in what we call the “house bank”) are charged by chargers which run from shore power when we are at a dock or from a generator when we are at anchor. They are also charged by the solar panels that we installed recently. The bottom line is that the house battery bank is a critical system on the boat, and we carefully monitor the “state of charge” to make sure that everything keeps working as it should. One important detail here is that the battery voltage is a (rough) indicator of how fully charged the batteries are, and a fully charged 12V battery should read not 12, but 12.8 volts. If the reading is below 12V, as it was on this morning, that means that the batteries are either deeply discharged, or a warning sign that something is amiss.

Back to the story… we ran the generator to recharge the batteries and decided to monitor and record the state of charge data over the next 24 hrs to see if we could identify the problem. During the day, our new solar panels are working well, producing enough energy to keep up with the house loads (usage by the refrigerator, freezer, etc) all day. When the sun goes down, we start drawing on the house banks, and the battery voltage got pretty low by bedtime that night. The next morning, we were down to 11.5V. Clearly something was wrong.

Because our batteries are split up into two banks (they are in two bix boxes in the lazarette), I was able to isolate the problem by turning each bank off and observing the results. When I switched off the port bank nothing happened. So I turned it back on and switched off the starboard bank… and everything on the boat shut down. Clearly there is a bad battery in the port bank – so bad that the boat can’t even run on it. My suspicion is that the bad battery is creating a load within the battery banks, therefore drawing down all the other batteries. So, I disabled the port battery bank and started the generator to charge up the starboard bank. That bank charged back up, with voltage and other parameters as expected, so we think that set of batteries is still good. Therefor we are good to go, except with half our our battery capacity. We will need to conserve electricity usage and monitor the batteries carefully, but will have no problem continuing on down the coast to San Jose Del Cabo. Once we get there, our task will be to determine which battery (or batteries) is dead and figure out how to get a warranty replacement from the manufacturer.

Today (Wednesday, Nov 5th) we are underway from Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria. It is a 30 hour run, and we have the same great weather (and fishing… also the subject of another post) that we had for the ride down to Turtle Bay. We expect to arrive tomorrow (Wednesday, 11/6) around 2 PM. We have heard that there is decent cellular data there, so we will be able to do some updates on the great time we have been having so far on the CUBAR Rally, Fishing, and enjoying Mexico.

Into Mexico!

The Marina Coral in Ensenada. Finally in Mexico!

After our aborted departure on October 30th due both to a stabilizer issue and then 50 knots wind reports telling us to stay in port, we had a lazy afternoon with a nice lunch courtesy of Sean (thanks Sean!) at the Kona Kai resort next to the Police Dock.  It was a beautiful day, although we did feel a bit like we were in limbo.

Still in San Diego…..

The next morning we were up and out and successfully made it to Mexico.  The winds were still gusting up to 35 knots for a few hours with big waves and we took a lot of water over the bow and port side,  but we had secured everything well and rode it out into Ensenada.  The winds had another effect which was fires – we saw several large fires on our way down the coast, including one that seemed to have started spontaneously as we passed with huge amounts of black smoke suddenly pouring off the hillside.  On our way into the Ensenada harbor there were fires on the shore – we could see firefighters actively fighting them. 

Wildfires above the bay in Ensanada.

In Ensenada Marina Coral staff took us to town to the Customs and Immigration offices, as well as the Port Captain. It was hopping there as this is prime season to enter Mexico by boat.  We had to check ourselves into the country and obtain a Temporary Import Permit (or TIP) for the boat.  The TIP allows us to have the boat in the country for 10 years.  They ask for a list of equipment on the boat and serial numbers of the engines.  If you do not get a TIP, the government has the right to confiscate your boat.  It seems similar to the US process of registration and tax collection.  In this case no tax payments are required. 

One of the very professional Mexican Officials. Photo courtesy CUBAR and Justin Edelman.

There was some confusion over names.  The boat documentation has Jr. listed next to Larry’s name, which he never noticed was there, but it’s not on his passport.  Much confusing discussion in Spanish and English ensued about where the owner, his son, was (we do not have a son), and us telling them the boat is named after our daughter.  Hijo versus Hija and lots of perplexed faces all around.  In the end, we reached comprehension and the officials decided I would be listed as the sole boat owner on the TIP to avoid any problems with the mismatched Jr.    Larry seems ok with that for the moment. 

That evening there was a spectacular seafood feast for us hosted by Marina Coral.  They obviously specialize in all types of ceviche and oysters cooked with various toppings.  I ate until I felt like I would explode.  We listened to a lecture by a professor who is part of a conservation group kayaking the entire Baja peninsula to bring awareness to the history and environmental gems of Baja.  It sounded somewhat harrowing at times with the huge Pacific swell!    Topped off the evening with the best margarita I have ever experienced – no mix used here, and churros, a classic Mexican dessert.

All the captains assembled for the CUBAR Captain’s Briefing in Ensenada.

Boat Repairs in San Diego

We arrived in San Diego a couple of days earlier than planned in order to get some repairs done for the issues I described recently. Boomer and his crew of two helpers showed up after receiving the necessary parts and went to work on fixing the leak on the new autopilot steering pump, installing a replacement for old, leaking steering pump, and replacing the coupling for the bow thruster. It was actually a bit scary to see Boomer disappear deep in the forward bilge to get at the thuster coupling. There is no way I would have been able to get in there, much less get out. After a long, hot day’s worth of work, we had a working bow thruster and two brand new autopilot steering pumps. The next day we did a sea trial around the harbor to make sure that all was well. Everything was good, so we were ready to go.

The new autopilot steering pumps mounted in the Lazarette.

We also had an issue with the stabilizers, which I THOUGHT we had fixed on the way down to San Diego. Briefly, the stabilizers on our boat are a pair of fins mounted on the hull of our boat. They are moved through a complex electical and hydraulic control system to counteract the rolling motion induced by waves. The stabilizer circuit breaker mysteriously started tripping, shutting off the control circuitry, and therefore, the use of the stabilizers. We actually discovered this on our run from Marina Del Rey to Alamitos Bay and spent a couple of hours underway without the stabilizers working. Even though the conditions were mild, we realized that we’d really rather have them working. After consultation with fellow owners on the Nordhavn Owners Group and Ernie Romeo, it appeared that the circuit breaker was undersized for the new power supply that was installed this summer. So, I changed the breaker, and everything worked just fine on the remaining legs down to San Diego. Of course, there was the nagging question of why the breaker had not tripped before….

As Gwen mentioned, we prepared to depart San Diego for Ensenada this morning, only to find that the breaker started tripping AGAIN. We turned around after getting less than 100 yards from the dock and tried to figure out what was wrong. It was clear that the circuit was not overloaded – the 20 Amp breaker was tripping with a measured 8.5 Amps of load. Now thoroughly confused, I decided to call Boomer – actually expecting to leave him a message. I just happened to catch him on the way in to work, and he came right over to the boat. He started troubleshooting and I was helping him recreate the problem, when suddenly, the stabilizers were not working at all – there was no hydraulic pressure. Boomer discovered the culprit, which was a failed main relay for the hydraulic system. This relay allows the hydraulic system to become pressurized and move the stabilizer fins. In a stroke of good luck, Boomer happened to have a spare relay at the shop. Replacing that and a fuse that blew when the relay failed finally fixed the stabilizer problem once and for all (I hope).

The failed relay at left and the fuse at right.

So, one more night in San Diego and we hope to rejoin the CUBAR group down in Ensenada tomorrow (October 31).

The Odyssey Continues…

We’ve spent the last 9 days in San Diego, soaking up some hot weather and getting LOTS of boat chores and work done. Today was departure for Mexico day.

Tunamen’s Memorial on Shelter Island.

Most our nights were at the San Diego Harbor Police Dock on Shelter Island, but not because we were arrested. It is a bargain place to stay as a public dock, and one of the only places available when we made reservations a month ago. San Diego is full of boats staging for entry into Mexico around November 1, either with CUBAR as we are doing, the much larger sailboat version called the Baha Haha, or just going on their own. Marine insurance companies won’t allow boats to be in the hurricane zone in most of Mexico until November 1st when hurricane season officially ends, which leads to this bunching up of folks waiting to go.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Vessel. If you look really closely you can see one of their underwater vehicles on deck.

On walks around Shelter Island, various entertaining sites.

Larry loved this.
Friendship Bell from San Diego’s sister city Yokohama in Japan. I was surprised to see that this gift was made in the 1950s so soon after WWII.

Most of the time we have been here it has been unusually warm for this time of year according to the locals, up to 90 degrees. We have loved it, but one related effect is the Santa Ana winds, which are blowing in localized areas in California and causing sudden and terrible fires. The last two days we have periodically smelled smoke and seen haze from the Los Angeles fire.

CUBAR (Cruise Underway to Baja Rally) officially kicked off with registration last week, and a Captain’s meeting and dinner at the San Diego Yacht Club last night.

San Diego Yacht Club

After listening to various weather reports, we decided to depart early this morning after hearing about the Santa Ana winds that would affect part of our day’s cruise, but not be more than 25 knots. We were up and out at 6am, then had a deflating return to the dock when our stabilizer breaker kept popping. But luck was with us and we were able to find the source through the ingenious and speedy service call from Boomer (more to come on all of this from Larry) and we were on our way again at 9:15am.

Exiting the harbor we passed a US Navy destroyer up close and personal, which made former navy officer and Miss Miranda crew Sean very happy. They called us on the radio and at first I thought we were in trouble, but they just wanted us to hold our course.

Photo credit to Sean. Lots of military vessels around us this week!

Soon after that we got several texts and messages from CUBAR participants who had left early in the morning. They were experiencing 50 knot winds, and one had decided to turn around and come back. We made a speedy decision to return and wait the winds out, which are supposed to be much better tomorrow morning. So we will be a day late entering Ensanada, but we will still be there for Halloween and the Day of the Dead!

Paddle boarding witches!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Southern California

We’ve stayed at several great spots on our way to San Diego. We are fortunate that a number of yacht clubs let us stay on their dock for a night or two as reciprocals from Seattle Yacht Club. It’s fun to see the variety of clubs large and small on the California coast. I have to remind myself that there are millions more people in California than in Washington, and hundreds of miles of coastline, good reasons for the plethora of clubs!

Mylar Balloons are a Scourge

As we were coming down from Santa Barbara, I saw a funny looking item floating in the water. It was pink, which is not a color used by fishermen on floats. We got closer and realized it was a balloon. I wanted to grab it to prevent it from winding up in the gullet of a whale or dolphin.

Three balloons retrieved from the water. I regret that we couldn’t get more.

As we headed in, we retrieved more, but could not get all we saw as winds were picking up and we needed to get in to port. I thought there must have been a party that lost control of its balloons, but the manager of the yacht club told me it is such a scourge they have a monthly contest for who can pick up the most balloons, and the prize is Prime Rib dinner for two! Every month!

Marina Del Rey

We stayed two nights at the California Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, a gigantic man-made boat basin that holds over 6,000 boats. They assigned us their end-tie guest slip so docking without the use of our bow thruster was not a problem.

After trying unsuccessfully to arrange for a diver to investigate the underwater tunnel of our bow thrusters, I flagged down one of the many divers zooming around the basin and he was very kind to take a look, and verified there was nothing in there.

Very nice diver checking the bow thruster tunnel.

That afternoon we hopped on our bikes and rode the path to Venice Beach and beyond to the Santa Monica pier. Venice was both seedier than we thought it would be, and much less active, despite it being in the 70s and sunny. It was a weekday though, and I expect even Southern Californians do have to work.

The pier reminded us of Coney Island.
The swarming of pigeons and seagulls felt like The Birds!

Oceanside

Yesterday we got in pretty early to Oceanside. It’s a much smaller boat basin, for less than 1,000 boats and no super yacht sized boats. The harbor shares the oceanfront with Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine base on the West Coast.

We walked around the circumference of the marina to the beach, never finding the long boardwalk that we had read about. I suspect that our guidebook is becoming out of date since it was published 12 years ago.

Looking out from the Oceanside Yacht Club deck.
Miss Miranda at the end-tie.

The sea lions have become an increasing presence as we make our way down the coast. We have seen them lounging on docks and finger piers. We were serenaded all night by their barking at Oceanside.

The sea lion float. Quite odoriferous downwind.

Today we will make it San Diego and a week of preparations for our Mexico departure on the 30th!