I’d had a shopping list whirling around in my head for quite some time.
So when we planned to visit St Maartin, a wonderful tax free port, it seemed like a good idea to really look hard at what we should equip Skylark with for the rest of our journey. With 6 months under our belt, we had a fair idea on what items were vital, what were necessary at some point and then, the nice to have.
Before we left the USA, I bought 280W of solar panels, thinking that this would go a long way to help us to be self sufficient in energy. I wish I’d bought more ( the most I’ve found on one boat is 1200W!) but saying that, I’m not sure where I’d actually have been able to mount them without some fairly serious remodelling of the stern fittings of the boat. As we progressed down island, we realised that the energy bill was adding up and with no power generation at night, we were coming up short, needing to run the generator every day.
It wasn’t helped that out single 8D AGM battery was knackered after years of misuse. We were often getting up to find the battery saying 10.8V. Less than 12.3 is regarded as near flat……..
First things first, I knew that the battery had to be replaced.
Having failed to get cheap Lithium Ion batteries from fellow RHYC member, Highland Fling who had imported a number and sold them on to other boaters in St Maartin (we arrived too late), the choice was then either to stick with AGM or go for cheaper lead acid. In the end, I choose four T105 6V in series and parallel to give me near double the Ahs I had previously or would have available with a like for like AGM. I’d seen another FP Lavezzi with this set up in BVI whose owner was v happy with T105s. Unlike the AGM, I will need to make sure I carry out proper battery maintenance on them. A new addition to the monthly checks. After a few schoolboy diagrams the system was wired in without any other issues than a too short lead, quickly fixed.
An easy add on, which I originally reserved judgement on, was wind power generation. I had had a long chat with the company rep for the D400 and the Silentwind systems in the BVI who was parked a couple of boats down from us in Nanny Cay. Whilst the D400 is (maybe) the best around for power generation, it is also one of the heaviest at 20+kg. Fine if you have a big frame to hang it on but I didn’t. The next choice and his recommendation was the Silentwind, manufactured with blades designed by an infuriated German engineer sick of the noise of his own system. These blades are now used by several firms due to their efficiency and quietness. For all those who have had to put up with the noise of some sods howling generator in an otherwise quiet anchorage, that word is crucial. The system only weighed about 7kg which sounded a lot more manageable too.
After deciding that for ease of access and wiring into the house battery, it needed to be on the starboard hull it was an easy matter to drill holes and wire it in. Less easy was the balancing act to get the damn pole vertical and the final tightening of the blade hub. My thanks to Ernesto on Taia for balancing on a stack of beer cans and a small step ladder. Handy having a tall(er) friend to call on!
Silentwind 400 at work
Since we fitted it, although we have been running the water maker every couple of days, we had had to only once switch the generator on in the last week. The infamous incident involving Lou, the inverter and the toaster will need to wait for another time.
You may also remember I wrote an article a while back on “Dinghy Envy”. Well, we succumbed on our very first day here. We arrived to be told that the next day was the last day of a sale at Budget Marine, the main chandlery on the island. Can you smell the credit card burning yet?
Although the Apex dinghy we had had a plastic body, it weighed a lot. Too much frankly, especially with the 100kg limit on my davits. Budget conveniently had some aluminium ribs for sale. I knew I did not want more than 100 lb as the dinghy weight budget and the 9.5 foot aluminium AB dinghy for sale came in at 95lbs. Perfect and lighter by 10lbs than the 8’ Apex I had. Unfortunately I then got a bit carried away with the engine. I was looking at either a 9.8HP or a 15HP but was persuaded to take an 18HP 2 stroke Tohatsu at sale price…. and then with a bit more off as well – lesson for all – always, always bargin. The 18HP is the same weight as a 15HP after all. Damn engine weighed nearly the same as the dinghy…….
So, I have a big cheesy smile, a shiny new dinghy that when I opened up the engine with Lou on board, her response was to grab a handle and say, in surprise, an unprintable word. Fast, or certainly when compared to our little 5HP Mercury on the old dinghy. But a complete inability to put the dinghy up on the davits as is. Oops.
The last couple of weeks has been taken up with finding someone who could build a hoist and make some new rails to take the engine mounted on board Skylark whilst we travel. We lucked out finding Jean Pierre (arrived in his boat in 1995 and hasn’t left since) in one of the yards on the French side who quoted us a fantastic figure for the work he did. Having been quoted $850 just for the hoist and pulley before more than double that again for rails and fittings from the very good but fiercely expensive FKG, he was very very competitive. I’ll happily pass on details to anyone that needs similar work done.
The new hoist, pulley, engine mount and rail
So, we leave St Maartin with a greatly upgraded boat with only one boat system that I’m still unhappy with which is the foresail furler which remains a lot stiffer than I like. But I think I can manage that until the bank balance stabilises a bit. Maybe once we get to Columbia though…