KHo Mook:  routine, cave, gallery of Babel, freezing and solar power for ANTARES

June 23

We have converged to a sort of steady-state here, and only our daily routines give us a sense of time. Coffee soon after sunrise drank while checking e-mails; every other day a run to the other side of the island for a swim and workout (the whole thing takes around one hour); work until the sun is high; lunch in one of the two restaurants we have around, usually with wine; reading, a nap, another swim; some more work and virtual meetings until sunset; drinks around the time the cicadas start to play; dinner at the local restaurant, always with a bottle of wine; finally a movie, a book, or we simply go to sleep.

The routine was broken today, our last day in the island.  We rented one of the local boats with a skipper and his two sons (the fresh lowers at the bow, see pic, were not included in the price), and motored around the south end of the island to Emerald Cave. The cave is 80 meters long and completely dark. The eldest of the sons was wearing a head lamp, the youngest was in charge of transporting a sort of cooler which inside had a waterproof bag with our iPhones and glasses/sunglasses.  The two of them and Natalia were wearing life jackets, I chose to swam freely.  Most of the cave follows a straight line towards land (east), close to the end it curves south and you can see daylight.  We emerged into a beach of white sand surrounded by cliffs. Meaning, the only way to get there alive is through the cave or via a rappel down the vertical face of the one of the rock formations.  It is a beautiful place, deserted when we got there.  But soon other tourists wearing orange life vests started to emerge from the cave and we left. Going back the head-lamp is no longer needed because soon you turn west and you follow the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

From the cave we motored west to Koh Kradan island, a 20 minutes trip at a speed of 10 Kts. The two sons expertly picked up a mooring and gave us snorkeling masks. A truly wonderful snorkeling site.  The water very clear (maybe a bit too warm which is not good for the coral), no currents or dangerous rocks nearby, and a spectacular number and variety of fish and other sea creatures, including anemones and urchins.  At some point I was surrounded by hundreds of fish of different sizes, shapes and colors; a sort of Borges’ Library of Babel but for paintings, a gallery. It is difficult go grasp sometimes what evolution has being able to create and we hope mankind will be able to preserve.

We had lunch at a restauran in the island, this time with just a couple of local beers.  A whole sea-bass with garlic, a soup with lemon grass and see food, and a few crab cakes.  All tasty though three hours later, while writing this this, my stomach was complaining so I’ve poor myself a gin.

———

On more mundane things, this week I also did some research about a new fridge and solar panels for ANTARES. As readers would know, during the last cruise in Grenada the fridge’s water pump died and we couldn’t find a replacement. The compressor is supposed to also work with air but despite refilling the gas it wouldn’t cool enough.  It is also very bulky (it lives in the back of the starboard cockpit locker), noisy, and consumes an exorbitant amount of electricity (3.5AmpsH continually). 

Getting rid of the fridge completely is not an option for me because my wife and daughters would never come back again to the boat.  Plus, I do like to have cold drinks handy, particularly on a hot day. So I was able to find am more or less affordable replacement for the current system: The  Isotherm 2501 Compact Classic Air Cooled Refrigeration Component System.  It is much smaller, supposedly vey silent, and consumes, on average, only 0.9AmpH.  I plan to install it just to the side of the fridge box; there is some space aft of the galley next to the sink that it is not used, it’s wasted.  The entire system is only 23 pounds and includes:  the compressor, the evaporator (or plates that go inside the fridge box), and a thermostat.  

The other thing that was a bit problematic during our last cruise was power.  Every morning, right after preparing coffee, I had to run the Honda 2000 generator for a couple of hours — and sometimes a couple more in the afternoon.  It is not too noisy but still, neither Natalia or Marina (who was usually sleeping early at that time) liked it. Unfortunately, charging computers, iPads, iPhones, the battery of the Torquedo, and powering lights at night, including the anchor light, drained more than half of ANTARES’ 200 Amps, two-batteries, house (the third type-31 battery is for the engine). Granted, part of the problem was the fridge.  

So I did some research and also consulted with Webb Chiles whose GANNET is fully powered by solar. It is a smaller boat and it doesn’t have a fridge but it gave me an idea of what is feasible. This is his report:

“I started the GANNET circumnavigation with 6 25 watt solar panels.  The total of 150 watts was more than enough to meet GANNET’s limited needs, the greatest of which is the tiller pilot if it is in use.  Her masthead tricolor is an LED.  Her cabin lights individually solar charged.  Other than the tiller pilot my biggest use is charging iPad Pro, iPhone, MacBook.  However all of those solar panels failed.  The replacements failed.  They were made by a company, Aurinco, now deservedly out of business.  In Australia I replaced two of the Aurinco panels with two from Solbian, an Italian company.  They are each 50 watts and only slightly larger than the ones they replaced.  When I reached Florida I replaced the remaining Aurinco with two more 50 watt Solbian panels.  200 watts is more than I need, but again the panels on the foredeck are the same size as the 25 watt panels.  Each is wired individually to a voltage booster/regulator.  For whatever reason the Solbian panels put out 9 volts and I need 12.  I was given excellent guidance about this from Tom Whitehead at https://oceanplanetenergy.com

I have two Group 24 AGM batteries wired together.  I think each is rated for about 80 amps.

Since switching to all Solbian panels I’ve had no problems, though it may be about time to buy new batteries.  “

Because of the Aurinco saga, getting the right company became important.  I discovered a family owned one that gave me good feeling: Sun Powered Yatchs. They have been very helpful and patient answering my questions. I am planning to get 3 of the 170W semi-rigid panels that will go over the new Bimini (I have a guy building one back in Grenada) and new dodger.  I estimate that I need some 150 AmpH per day while in passage, probably more at anchor with family (see table).

Each of the 170W panels is supposed to produce some 60 AmpsH per day (assuming a 14V charging voltage and 5 hours of sun).  That would be an average of 180 AmpH per day.  I won’t dispose of the Honda 2000 but ANTARES will become much less dependent on it. 

I plan to come back to Grenada in early March to continue the voyage, next destination Panama.  I have given-up on Martinique and Guadeloupe but might stop in Aruba…   


AmpsHourUse HoursTotal day
Autopilot standby0.08241.92
Autopilot on21224
Bilge50.166666670.83333333
Cabin lights1.823.6
Instruments0.3247.2
Compass light0.5126
Fresh water pump414
Fridge22448
Navigation lights2.21022
Nav Ipad0.4249.6
Iphone0.410.4
Computer122
Radar standby0.58333333105.83333333
Rada transmit1.4166666734.25
VHF stanby0.3247.2
VHF transmit1.20.50.6




TOTAL

147.436667

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