Friday, September 28, 2018

Charged with Battery

We are underway southbound in Chesapeake Bay, bound for Solomons, Maryland. Unexpectedly, we are traveling in the company of Louise's cousins Tom and Donna on their sailboat, about a half hour behind us. We hope we can connect this evening for dinner.

Shortly after my last post we steamed into Annapolis, turned down Spa Creek, and tied up in an enormous slip meant for much larger boats at the Annapolis Yacht Basin (map). The boat show opens here next week, and the north half of the marina is given over to the show, which is why we think they spotted us here instead of a smaller slip.

Vector docked in an enormous slip at Annapolis Yacht Basin.

The first thing I had to do after getting secured alongside was march down to the dockmaster's office and complain that the Ocean Alexander hundred-footer in the next slip was taking up the whole width of the finger pier with their Tide-Rider stairs, which would make our battery delivery nearly impossible. The marina came out and moved the stairs, but I had to slide the mat of real sod, also blocking access, out of the way later. I assume this is an under-way doggy potty; yuck.

We tied up shortly after noon, but it was nearly 3pm before the temperature in the engine room was tolerable for working. Still, I had the battery bank bypassed and the batteries disconnected and out of the racks by cocktail hour. We had a brief break for a beer before hoisting four of the six out of the ER and onto the aft deck. I had to keep the best two behind and jury-rig them into a 24-volt supply to run the heads, which can't run on the bypass.

"Ego Alley" has come right into the parking lot. Warning sign is for the boat show, which needs the lot.

That made for a long day and we got a late start to dinner. Between that and the fact that it was raining, we opted for one of the closest joints, the Iron Rooster right in town. Getting there proved a bit of a challenge; the rain on top of astronomically high tides had one of the streets en route flooded. We also noted the bulkhead where we normally tied up our dinghy was well underwater, with much of the adjacent park awash.

We were up early yesterday morning, and I called the battery dealer to move the delivery up to 8:30 from the originally scheduled 11. We hoisted the final two batteries on deck, then swung the crane around and hoisted all six from the deck to the dock. Pasco Battery arrived right on schedule, and we had all six batteries back aboard and down in the engine room by 10 or so.

The dock where we normally tie up our dinghy.

Meanwhile our friend John stopped by to say hello, just in time to miss the battery-loading extravaganza. John was in town for the survey and sea trials of a boat he is looking at purchasing, a lovely Selene 57. John is the person from whom we bought Vector a little over five years ago, and we have been good friends ever since; we're hoping maybe we can cruise with them a little bit if they close the deal on this boat.

We only had perhaps a half hour to chat before John had to return to his tasks and I had to descend back into the ER to get the batteries racked and connected. That, naturally, is when the inevitable trouble began, and I was soon very glad we had the batteries delivered much earlier in the day.

Getting the batteries back into the racks using a 7:1 block & tackle was a cinch, completing what I thought would be the hardest part of the job (off- and on-loading the 175-lb beasts). I merrily clamped the military-type adapters onto the posts of the first battery, and soon discovered that the lugs of my battery cables could not bolt to the adapters on the new batteries.

The old batteries, made by Deka, had posts that were stood off the batteries by perhaps 1/8" or so, coming out of plastic bosses on the case tops that stood proud of the case top by that amount. The lugs easily fit the adapters, which were well-secured all the way onto the posts. The new batteries, Lifeline brand, have posts that rise directly from the otherwise flat case tops. The adapters, when properly secured, sit right against the case tops, leaving not enough room to get the lugs onto the bolts.

Properly fitted adapter, flush with the post top. Cable fits, vertically.

I fought with the adapters, lugs, and bolts for over two hours. Ultimately I was able to get many of the shorter cables on by turning the lugs 90° -- the hole in each lug is closer to the end of the lug than to the sides. That would not work for the longer cables that bridged across the ER or the ones that connected the bank to the loads. I ended up having to overtighten the adapters, deforming them to fit onto the narrower part of the tapered posts.

This is not viable long-term. Those connections are higher-resistance than they should be, and in addition to robbing the whole system of efficiency, they will heat up, and the lead of the posts themselves can melt and deform, possibly ruining an entire battery. I spent a couple of hours researching solutions, and it looks like my first attempt will be to add some "battery post shims" to the posts that need them.

Jury-rigged adapter. Note it is proud of the post top, and there is no gap left at the clamp.

Just after I was done fighting with the adapters, Donna and Tom  drove up from the Rhode River in a borrowed car to visit with us, before we all realized we would end up in Solomons together. They spent an hour or so with us, which was a nice diversion for me after such a difficult afternoon.

I did have the whole thing installed, reconnected, buttoned up, and cleaned up before cocktail hour. We were hoping to connect with friends and long-time readers Paul and April, docked at the same marina in their lovely Nordhavn 55, for either cocktails or dinner, but our schedules just did not click and we'll have to catch them elsewhere down the road.

We walked next door to Pussers for our evening beer, having finally run out of our on-board supply Wednesday evening. After that we ended up walking again a short distance to town and dining at another of our old stand-bys, the Dock Street Bar and Grill, again in the rain.

Our finger pier. I had to move the sod; you can see the steps at the far end.

This morning we dropped $25 on Lyft to make a provisioning run to the Safeway. With all the rain and too much on my plate, we did not manage to get the scooters on the ground. Sadly, beer is not sold in grocery stores here in MD, so after returning to the boat I hoofed it into town to the package store to get at least a few days' supply.

We dropped lines before the checkout time of 11 for the run to Solomons. When last I posted here we had contemplated running up to Baltimore to catch the tail end of TrawlerFest, but we reached out to some friends already there who basically said not to bother. We'll connect with the friends we might have seen there in Florida instead.

In a short while we will have the hook down in Solomons. We'll drop the tender and be ready to head over when Tom and Donna arrive perhaps a half hour later; we're having something of a pot luck on their boat for dinner. In the morning we will continue south to the Potomac.

Update: We are anchored in a familiar spot in Solomons, Maryland (map). The tender is in the water and we just saw Donna and Tom cruise through the inlet. We're off to dinner.

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