Have you been following along on our battery adventures? Struggling our way down the ICW with batteries that just wouldn’t fill, we thought we had solved the mystery when we found a faulty MC4 connector on one of the solar panels (waaay back in Daytona).
In fact, it turns out that our 400 watts of solar power may not be enough to actually fill up our lithium ion batteries if we let them drop below 13.3v… at least not in one day’s worth of sun while continuing to use things like the fridge. Remember that day I was catching rain during a 3 day front? Our batteries did NOT like that rainy, gray front. But the water tank did!
Lithium ion has a different charge level than typical 12v boat batteries, so don’t let my wacky numbers confuse you. But my idea of full is 13.5v This is technically about 95% full, which is a method of extending the life of the batteries. And as much as we paid for this upgrade, trust me – I want them to last as LONG as possible.
As long as we do not drop below 13.3, our current solar panels seem to keep up ok. But once they drop below, it takes a heck of a lot of power to get back up over the theoretical hump. Our batteries have a ton of power stored in the 13.3 to 13.5 range. But below that, it is down hill pretty fast and furious.
So what is the point of this rambling post? We needed a way to charge the lithium ions when we do not have enough sun/solar, or when we have to run an excessive amount of power out of them – like making water and using the wifi booster and charging a toothbrush ALL IN THE SAME DAY. Sure, we can run the engine, but it takes about a 10hr or more trip to do the job when they are below that 13.3 magic number. We are trying to use our engine as little as possible. And we are already in the Bahamas… so when we find a solution, how do we even get our hands on it?
I have been chatting off and on with our Relion sales rep about our issues. I finally contacted him and said we have got to find something that will work – maybe with our Honda 2000i generator? The generator with our existing shore power charger is no where near strong enough.
In comes the lithium ion charger/converter. Yes, another freaking gizmo to install below, near our battery bank. But this baby will hook up to our gas/propane fueled Honda 2000i generator and fully charge in 3 hours from flat empty (which we never drop to). But they don’t seem to have one in the Bahamas…
Shipping to the Bahamas
Our friendly Relion sales rep was on it. He not only packaged up the charger, but got our required dimensions and picked up the necessary battery cables and power cord. Then had them Fedexed to Spanish Wells. That is some pretty good customer service.
He let me know they were on the way on a Thursday. And Fedex told him it would arrive the next day. What is this magic that gets a package to another country, thru customs, onto a ferry and up the Eleuthera coast to us in a 24 hour period?!
This magic is non- existant.
We waited for the package, and checked in the local shipping office Friday and Saturday just in case. Then we headed back out to Meeks Patch for a weekend of campfires, coconut gathering and general hanging out with some other cruisers who had also discovered our protected little anchorage.
This story could go on and on. We snorkeled, checked for the package, provisioned, checked for the package. Monday I received a call requesting a copy of our cruising permit – this is necessary to avoid import duties.So we at least knew it was in Nassau and would be on a ferry at some point.
The next Thursday morning came and still no package. Tracking said it was waiting in Nassau for us to pick it up… I tried calling the Nassau office repeatedly. If it was staying in Nassau, we would just go pick it up. No answer in the office, so I called the 1 800 number and explained the situation. They assured me the package was in Nassau waiting on us – and that it would still be there the next day when we arrived via LunaSea.
We contacted a friend who has an office in Nassau and he asked someone in the office to go pick it up. We had a limited break in the weather, pulled anchor and headed toward Nassau. 6 hours later, we dropped anchor just off Booby Island. (How can you not?) We would finish the journey in the morning and find the local woman who had so kindly picked it up.
Then we got cell service again. And our phone went crazy. Turns out our friend was trying to let us know to turn back – because, you know, our package was now in Spanish Wells … We were so happy to get this info before we wasted a whole day – or more, if the high winds had caught up with us!
We ate dinner, pulled anchor (it was only 6pm) and turned back. Our autopilot had a cookie crumb trail we could follow in the dark. The alternative was to try to sleep in our rolly ass anchorage, then get up and race back to town in hopes of beating some forecast high winds.
The down side to this was that we had to go through a very sketchy cut – in the dark. Current Cut’s waters rage during tidal change. But if we waited for daylight, we risked contending with both raging water AND winds.
I stood on the bow with the spotlight swaying from shore to shore, while Mark stood at the helm and kept us on our earlier path. Hand steering at night can be be disorienting but we made it through safely. I am certain that this is based solely on my masterful spotlight rock pointing out technique. We dropped anchor back at Meeks Patch at 12:30am and crashed for the night.
First thing in the morning , we headed back to town to retrieve our package. Only to be told they had not seen it – it was still in Nassau. I might have teared up just the tiniest bit…
A Bahamas Ferries employee took over and called the Fedex office. (I think she felt sorry for me) This was the first time anyone in that office had made any attempt on my behalf. They were all polite and professional, but no one had bothered to pick up a phone. She went so far as to get and give me the cell phone number of the Nassau shipping employee that handles shipping to Spanish Wells. That person then told me it was on the ferry for Friday morning arrival – and was being shipped to Leroy.
Of course! Why would our package NOT go to Leroy?! Now to find out who the heck Leroy is and let him know we were there for the package.
It turns out Leroy is the very friendly man who runs the Marina. And because the package was coming to a Yacht in Transit, they felt it would eventually make it to us via the marina. After the fact, I noted that the package was addressed to the Spanish Wells MarinA Hardware. NOT the Spanish Wells MarinE Hardware… The shipping employee saw Spanish Wells Marina and assumed it should go to Yacht Haven Marina, thus Leroy, who runs Yacht Haven – the only marina in Spanish Wells…
Oh Island Life. We are loving it. And we are loving that we finally got this new battery charger installed. We can now make water, check Facebook (when we have internet) AND brush our teeth – maybe while being so bold as to listen to the iPod. All at the SAME TIME.
NEXT UP: We head through that sketchy ass Current Cut again to check out the Glass Window Bridge before going to Nassau to pick up our additional solar panels!