Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cinderella sailing

In the Caribbean the wind almost always blows from an easterly direction. This happens to be the direction that we want to sail in, go figure. Luckily a sailboat can actually zig-zag into the wind. If you think licking your way to the center of a Tootsie Pop took patience, you have no idea what patience is. Imagine our excitement to learn that we would be having a few solid days of wind from the northwest at about 10 knots with seas 2 to 4 feet. This is a rarity to say the least. We made our final arrangements to leave Puerto Rico, truly the "Island of Enchantment".
As part of my to-do list, I actually had to change out the axles on our car before turning it over to its new owners. I had mail-ordered the parts only to find that one of the axles arrived damaged. Car mechanics are a love-hate thing for me, I love that I can do the work, I find it rewarding. I hate the physical strain of a less than ideal work environment. I was lucky enough to have a covered roof to work under, still I am not in the best shape to be dragging my butt under a car. Oh, back to the car parts, we ran out to try to find an axle for a 2000 Puerto Rico it would take a small miracle, but lo-and-behold we found one at the third auto parts store that we visited. After an anxious 12 hour day, I was able to scratch "fix car" off of my list.
As you know from my previous post (you did read it, right), I'm receiving parts by mail from the States to build a wind generator. We were still waiting for the last part to arrive on the day that we were scheduled to leave. A 9 am departure turned into a 5 pm departure, but then we are always late for everything, why should this be any different?
We checked out of Palma del Mar marina, it's like leaving family, and began our voyage. The ocean was calm, and there was only a slight breeze. Just like we like it, we're not racers. In fact, there is not a racing bone in us, we like it slow. I set "Otto" the autopilot, and he steered the whole way through. We moved along at 4 to 5 knots. The moon was full, and it was so bright that you would cast a shadow as if it was sunlight. The light would dance on the tips of the waves, and it was serene, almost spiritual. I took a deep breath, and appreciated being alive.
At about 2 am Marie came up, and took the helm, or that is sat by Otto while I went down for a little sleep. When I awoke at dawn, we were approaching St. Thomas. Marie quickly ferreted through a couple of cruising guides for a place to anchor, as the marina that we had made reservations with was closed on Sundays. She found a beautiful place called Christmas Cove where the mooring are free. A lot of places in the Virgin Islands do not allow you to drop an anchor because it damages the sea floor. As we got near to our cove we dropped the sails, and continued with the motor. It was so calm that we were able to pick up the mooring with little effort, not always the case.
It was a gorgeous early morning, and we were in St. Thomas! I could hardly believe it, as I looked around at the paradise that lay before me. This is a milestone on our adventure.
Approaching St. Thomas.

Eva wasted no time.

The view from Christmas Cove.

Hadrian is really helpful on the bow.

The cruise ship traffic is almost a part of the landscape.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

More Juice

It's hard keeping up with our power needs...electrical that is. There is a little bug in my system, for some reason my battery charger won't charge at full speed while we are away from the dock, using the generator. What this means is that I have to run my generator somewhere between 3 and 4 hours a day to charge the batteries. In a classic domino effect my refrigerators don't cool down all the way...because of the batteries being low.
So, how to solve this problem? I have 4 solar panels, and no room for any more, so I turn to the wind. Perhaps a wind generator can pick up the slack. A quick look-see on the internet had me gasping for breath. What! 2500 dollars!
Okay, let me let you in on one of my biggest vices, I think I can do "anything". Oh, it's a vice alright. In my defense, I inherited this genetic glitch. Awareness is half the battle, I try to fight it, but when I get hit with something like $2500 for $300 worth of parts, well, I lose control. My vice is at the wheel, yet better than younger days when other parts of me ruled over my common sense!
I started searching the internet for the parts it would take to assemble a wind generator of my own. I'm looking at about $400 bucks for a nice size unit, 600 watts in 25 knots of wind, and 100 amps in 12 my estimates. This should give me about 100 amps on a typical Caribbean day, which my refrigerators would just love to eat up.
The tricky part is balancing all the parts, the size of the motor with the size of the blades, and the size of the tail, and a half dozen other components. Oh, and making it not look homemade is important to me. Getting materials here in Puerto Rico has proved a challenge. After a tank of gas, and a day of running around with no luck, I just gave in to the convenience of Amazon.
Here are the blades, the motor, and nose cone.

This is the mount which I'm in the middle of fabricating.
I'll keep you up-to-date on the progress, but right now I've got to take advantage of a great weather window to sail to St. Thomas. See you soon!