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Emancipation Day

Yesterday was a public holiday in Trinidad – Emancipation Day. I had asked locals in stores earlier in the week if anything special would be happening and no one seemed to know. The best I got was that something maybe happening in Port of Spain but not around here. We were also told that shops are likely to be closed.

We debated our original idea to take the bus into Port of Spain as we didn’t want to go all the way there and find nothing open. We never really came off the fence on this one but we thought it was worth a try. Once in the dinghy we first went over to see Diane and Gerald on Whiskers who had arrived a couple of days ago. We chatted for a while and agreed to meet up at Sails in Power Boats for beers later in the evening. A steel band was due to play and we were hoping to have a good atmosphere. They were also of the opinion that not a lot would be open in town.

We then popped round to Freya of Clyde to talk to Anne and Alan. They had a map to lend to us which we picked up. Again – another chat about things. We talked of our plans and they pointed out the busses would likely to be infrequent too. That kind of did it. We had a plan B which was to go for a walk so we decided to do that.

As we walked along the main road, two local busses passed us by. This was hardly infrequent so we decided to catch the third into Port of Spain. When we arrived we found our bearings and headed off into the center of town. It didn’t take long to realize there something was happening. We came to a corner and there were some men and women in bright African clothing, all the same.

Soon we realized there was a parade on. We had no idea of the size of it. Some of it had already passed by but we stood our ground to watch what was left of it. This parade put the carnivals we have seen in Dominica and Bequia to shame. I was glad I had pocketed my small camera so we could record the occasion.

There were floats of many kinds. There were a number with deep booming drums being beaten intensely by enthusiastic drummers. There were trucks with 20 piece steel bands with bands both young and old all well practiced.

Almost every truck was themed in some manner. Some being themed by a local association or church, some going back to African roots. Practically all were followed by throngs of colourfully dressed crowds enjoying the music and occasion.

It didn’t take long before the end of the procession passed us so we walked further into town only to come upon the front of the parade which had looped back along a parallel street. This allowed us to see the rest of the parade that we hadn’t seen before. There were a couple of trucks with the immense speakers stacks that would send our clothes and eardrums vibrating (as we’d seen further up the islands) but fortunately they were the minority – the rest being live music.

In all we must have spent over two hours watching the parade. It was such a pleasant surprise. We wondered why no one had told us of this and why none of the cruisers, some of whom had been coming here for years, knew about this. Perhaps this was a personal thing and it’s not advertised broadly for tourists to come and see. Who knows? We felt privileged to be part of such a wonderful celebration.

We then wondered around for a while zig-zagging through the streets at random. Many of the shops were indeed closed but a few were open. We didn’t go in many but the cold air conditioned air pouring out of some was very welcome. We had lunch in a Chinese restaurant. Every takeaway had solid bars between the eating area and the cooks as if they were in jail. This was a reminder that crime is an issue here in Trinidad. The meal was a little bland but we had huge plates of food for about US$4 each, including a large soda. Not bad.

After lunch we were worn out so we headed back to the bus station via a supermarket where we shopped for some essentials and, by luck, a street market with lots of fruit for sale. On the way back we were again deluged by rain but not for long. By the time we arrived in Chaguaramas, the rain was mostly behind us.

Back on Dignity we were set for a rolly time. Not only was the swell coming in and making the bay choppy, the hoards of power boats coming in and out were creating immense wakes. A few were respecting the anchorage but they were the minority by far.

I did do a little more work on the batteries. I used my mini blow torch to heat the lids where they needed to bend around the cables. It wasn’t often pretty but it worked. Now all four lids sit snugly on the batteries. Port side fully done.

In the evening we went ashore to Sails for beers and a plate of chips. We sat down with Carol and John from Sweet Caroline and another cruising couple from Sail Away. We were soon joined by Diane and Gerald from Whiskers. We were also joined by Gary and his wife from Inspiration Lady. We’ve crossed paths before in Grenada. We didn’t get much time to talk but hopefully we’ll bump into them again in our travels. It looks like they are aiming for a Panama crossing around the same time as us.

We invited Diane and Gerald back to Dignity for a final Rum and Ting. On the way out we passed the Freya’s who we’d not had much of a chance to talk to in the evening. We had a pleasant time aboard with the Whisker’s. A late night to bed was the result.

This morning the weather looks fine. We need to goad ourselves into getting to work on the starboard side drive bank. The plan today is to remove the battery cabling, lift out the six 8D batteries and remove the boxes and all straps and dowels. We’ll then clean up the locker before redoing the dowels and straps and putting some wood filler to cover some burn marks left by some welding that was done before Dignity was originally delivered. If the wood filler sets sufficiently we’ll place another 12 of the 6V batteries into the boxes ready for cabling tomorrow. We still ache so we’re not looking forward to this work at all.

Aches

We had no rain yesterday which was a timely surprise. That meant we were able to work all day on the batteries.

First order of the day was to check the acid concentration on all of the batteries. Helen did most of this while I disconnected the first battery on the port side. We removed this battery together – it really is a two man job to move 8D batteries around. This enabled us to remove the battery box, clean it and verify that three golf cart batteries would indeed squeeze into it.

The good news was that they did fit. The bad news was that the ridges on the bottom which keep most of the 8D battery out of contact with the bottom caused the golf cart batteries to sit unevenly. This felt like a solvable problem so we made the decision to proceed with the port side battery bank replacement. The next step was to remove all the cabling between the batteries and to start removing the remainder of the batteries and boxes.

This was hard work. The batteries are extremely heavy and lifting them out can’t be performed in a single move. A plan is required for each one so that the lift can be performed in a series of steps. Making the job worse was the fact that some batteries had spilled acid. This was from before we moved aboard. I had put baking soda in the boxes to neutralize some of the acid but this was incomplete. This required cleaning the batteries while lifting them. Under the boxes was some oily residue so this had to be cleaned too.

During all this the morning net came on. I was able to ask the listeners where I could get some acid resistant plastic to create supports in the bottom of the boxes. We received some good advice. I also advertised our batteries as going spare and that we were willing to trade.

Once we had all the batteries and boxes removed I left Helen to unscrew all the batons which held the cases in place as well as all the battery straps and to give them all a wash. I then took the dinghy into Crewsinn to visit Dockyard Electrics. I took all the cables that I had removed from the batteries and gave them my requirements for new cables to be made. As I was landing in Crewsinn, Sweet Caroline were landing at the customs dock so I gave them a hand before heading to the store. Next stop was Budget Marine to pick up washers, lock washers and a handle to carry the batteries.

Back on the boat Helen had made good progress. Mike from Whitebird, who I had met in a store the previous day and had mentioned the spare batteries, was aboard to look at them and measure up. He was interested in two or three of them depending on fit. He returned to his boat to check to see if they would fit and how many he could take.

While Helen got back to work clearing and cleaning out the port locker I went off to find the Marc One marine store where I could get the starborg I needed to create the new supports. It turned out I could not dinghy close to the store so I had to leave the dinghy at Peakes and walk about a mile in the midday heat. The humidity was forecast to be 94% and we both felt it.

I was able to obtain 24 feet of ¼” starborg 1″ wide for a very small fee. Walking back to the boat I was contacted by Jack who was receiving a box of Doyle guide books from Grenada. We met up by the Dinghy dock and I took him aboard to collect the books. Ordinarily we would have chatted for a while but we had a lot on and wanted to get as much done as possible while we had good weather. Apologetically I rushed Jack off the boat and took him ashore.

I began the work of reseating four of the boxes in the port locker. Now that we only had to place four rather than six I was able to space them a little more conveniently. Meanwhile, Helen took on the job of snapping the starborg into smaller pieces and attaching them to the bases of the boxes.

I had just started reinstalling the batons and straps when Mike returned. He’d worked out he could take two of the 8D batteries. We agreed a deal and then tested the two older batteries I was pretty sure still had six good cells each. I then helped him take the batteries to his boat before returning to Dignity to complete installing the batons and straps.

Then it was time to go and collect the modified cables from the store. Back on the boat the new supports had had enough time to bond to the boxes so we went about the job of putting the boxes into the locker, putting the batteries into the boxes and connecting them up. Once they were all connected we postponed testing in order to take three of the 8Ds which we knew to have bad cells (including one which was reading a low voltage) back to Marine Warehouse for eventual disposal.

Finally, back on Dignity we tested the new battery bank. Everything was fine. We were able to operate the motors using just that bank. I charged them for 20 minutes or so before testing the cables and connections for any warmth. All was fine.

All that remained was to tidy up and wind down with dinner and a movie. Helen fell asleep before the end.

This morning we ache. Now that we know the port battery bank is fine we can work on the starboard bank. We’ve decided to give our bodies a rest today. Coupled with the fact I want to minimize the time period we have only one bank we’ve decided to work on the starboard side Sunday. Today we intend to take the local bus to Port of Spain to have a look around. This evening we’ll probably go ashore to one of the weekend cruiser get togethers.

We forgot to take ‘before’ pictures of the port locker so I’ll postpone publishing the ‘after’ pictures until we’ve opened up the starboard side. The port side still isn’t quite finished. We need to find a way to bend the back of the lids where we now have cables running where previously we didn’t. A problem for another day.

 

Clarke’s Court Bay

Friday night Fish n Chips at Clarke’s Court Bay Marina and a Saturday morning flea market at nearby Fleur Bleu brought us to Clarke’s Court Bay yesterday. Our sail round was at midday. The only thing of note in the morning was my dinghying to the dock at Prickly Bay Marina with my face mask and snorkel to search and locate a pad lock dropped into the water on Wednesday evening. I managed to find it fairly quickly despite my initial pessimism when I saw the bed was a jumble of large rocks. Dripping wet I walked into the mini-mart as I’d heard they needed something dropped off in Trinidad. Now I’ve got us running a box load of Doyle’s Cruising Guides south.

The motor sail round to Clarke’s Court Bay was a bit of a pounding – particularly around Prickly Point – as the winds were slightly south of east and waves squeezed into small places. At one point a pair of my swimming shorts blew off the rail (they shouldn’t have been there really). We probably could have quite easily turned to get them but we were squeezed between the shore and off shore rocks in messy water. The economics or risking your boat/home for your swimming shorts made us decided to pound on through.

Once round the point we again took the marked dinghy channel inside the reef of Hogg Island where the waters were much calmer. We found a spot a little away from the main pack in the bay and anchored – our Manson again setting firmly on first bite of the ground.

Fish ‘n’ Chips was again delicious. We bumped into the Where IIs and Jacksters and Bristol Roses (briefly). They’ll all be at the flea market too. We also saw Sweet Carolines. They’re off to Trini next week too but later than us so we may see them down there. We also made new friends with a couple from Durban (Whiskers) who are now on their second circumnavigation. They’re on a similar timetable to us for heading across the Pacific. They gave us some useful information on routing and timing which may lead me to adjust our plans a little.

There’s quite a good weather window tonight for the overnight trip to Trini. It’s just a bit too early for us and it would involve paying overtime to customs at each end. The next window looks like Monday night but continue we monitor the forecasts twice a day in case this changes. I don’t mind paying overtime here in Grenada but I’ve heard it’s a real pain in Trinidad. If we discover tomorrow morning (Sunday) that we have a window that evening I’ll take the bus into St George’s and check out in the morning.

Over the next couple of days we’ll get Dignity ready for the passage south. We’ve heard it can be a little rough so we need to make sure we have nothing loose. We’ve got used to traveling without having to put things away. This will be a chore but a useful exercise.

Batteries !!

Wednesday night was burger night at Clarks Court Bay Marina. For us it was but a short walk from the boat so we had to go. Where II were there during happy hour. We also bumped into John and Caroline from Sweet Caroline.

We also made some new friends. Two British couples were there. Jackie and Dave from Jackster as well as Jamie and Lucy from Bamboozle.  They’re both heading west in a similar time frame to us and hanging around Grenada for a bit so hopefully we’ll meet up again from time to time.

Today the focus switched to equalizing some of the drive batteries.  I hooked up three batteries in parallel, disconnected our house batteries and used the jump leads to connect the charger to the paralleled drive batteries.  The jump leads warmed up fairly quickly so I soon took off one of the batteries.  I took hydrometer readings of the problem cells every hour.

For the first couple of hours there was no apparent change in the readings.  Ominously, unlike the good cells, the problem cells were showing little if any bubbling from the high voltage being applied to the batteries.

In time, the worst cell began to bubble and as the hours progressed the hyrdometer readings went from terrible to not so terrible.  After 7-8 hours the batteries were quite hot so I stopped the session.

Towards the end of this period I took detailed measurements of the house bank.  These had been on trickle charge overnight following their equalization and had since been disconnected from each other and any load.  In theory they should all have been reading around 12.7 volts.  Three read 12.6V and one read 12.4V.  The latter battery and one of the others had poor hydrometer readings on single cells (out of six).  I tried equalizing the 12.4V battery on its own.  It sucked up current and became hot quite quickly.  Not good news.  I then tried the other house battery with poor readings on it’s own.  The poor cell improved quickly but the battery heated up even quicker.  It never produced a good reading but it was heading in the right direction.

That is where I’ve left it for today.  Part of me feels these batteries have been somewhat abused at some point in their past and we’re now seeing the results.  Part of me realizes there is more to do to learn the extent to which they can be recovered.  It seems that focussing on individual batteries has a greater opportunity for recovering bad cells so that’s what I’ll do tomorrow.

Also accomplished today was cleaning out the chain locker, removing the old chain and putting in the new and switching the anchors.  Unfortunately we don’t have the right sized shackle to connect the new anchor to the chain so we may have to got to town tomorrow to pick one up.

We also were introduced to Mick and his son Ian who live aboard their boat nearby.  They’re supposed to be terrific at boat work.  We dicussed our need to install a second anchor roller and windlass.  They’ll do more work than our professional quote for less so we’re lining them up.  This also means we need to get our new windlass ordered and shipped along with all the other stuff we need which is much cheaper in the US.

No other projects closed off today but did some research including, if it comes to it, replacing all our batteries.  Haven’t come to that decision yet but it may happen so I may as well be ready for it.

Aside.  It’s now mid-July and so far we have had NO tropical storms in the Caribbean even though hurricane season started in June.  This doesn’t correlate to having fewer storms but locals are saying it feels cooler this year and that means there’s less energy in the system.  That could mean we’ll be unmolested down here in Grenada.  Lets hope so.  Having said that, looking at the NOAA website just now I see a depression forming on a tropical wave in the eastern Atlantic and, for the first time this year outside of the gulf of Mexico, there is a warning.  Something to watch.

Saturday Projects

Project progress :

72V/12V bypass switch

The rational for this project is to allow us to make better use of the regeneration on the boat.  We have a switch that engages the DC cross converters that allows us to flow charge from the drive banks to the house banks.  This keeps us off the generator for days when at anchor and allows us to fill the house banks when sailing regeneratively.  There is a ‘feature’ which cutrs off the cross converter when the drive bank charge drops below 80% and only reenables it when the charge gets above 86%.  We can get around this at anchor but when sailing this can get very irritating.  Given our typical tapping of the drive batteries at anchor and our usual sailing in the morning, we normally set sail with house batteries down at 50% and the drive batteries around 70%-80%.  As soon as we’re in the wind we’re regenerating but as a result of the described ‘feature’ we can’t use any of the power we’re making for the house bank.

The fix is to change the switch so that we can activate the cross over relay whenever we want.  This I managed to do yesterday and am very pleased with the results.

The project is not yet complete as the new configuration represents a risk of drive bank depletion should we forget and leave the switch on.  The next step is to implement a red indicator light somewhere in the visible console to warn us when the relay is engaged.  The light I wanted was in Island Water World’s other store so I can’t get it til Monday.

Watermaker Reflush

The water that comes from the watermaker has around 200 parts per million of impurities in it.  This better than most tap water but not good enough for using in lead acid batteries.  Good distilled water comes in at around 1 part per million but we’ve found it hard to find at times.  I understand that anything under 20 parts per million is ok (please comment if I’m wrong on this).  (NOTE:  We bought some battery water in Rodney Bay, St Lucia that had over 40 parts per million).

In theory, if we run product water back through the water maker the new product water should be close to adequate.  If nothing else this could provide a promising backup supply of battery water.

Yesterday I proved the concept.  I independently powered the valve used to take fresh water to flush the system at the end of normal operation and used the system in normal mode.  With Helen’s help we monitored the water quality as it came out and very soon we hard water at 10 parts per million.  Because the pipe I was using to collect the water was missing a seal we were leaking water so we stopped the test there.

Having proved the concept I set about wiring in an override switch for the fresh water valve.  Turned out I had the wrong switch so all was able to do was run in all the necessary wires and fuse and leave it there.  All the marine and hardware stores close at midday on Saturday.  I tried to find an open store but the only one that was open didn’t have the switch I wanted.  To be completed Monday.

Topping Lift Shackle

The way the topping lift is tied to our boom eventually chaffs the line so a smooth shackle is required.  On attempting this improvement I discovered the shackle I bought was too small so I’ll replace it on Monday and have another go.

Bow Locker Platforms

The bow lockers are so deep that we rarely put anything in them.  We intend to put in place platforms on the convenient ridge half way up.  Yesterday we bought the wood and Helen cleaned out the lockers.  Now the wood needs cutting.  Once installed we’ll put rubbish/trash up front out of the way of our noses.

Lazy Bag Line Replacement

One of the short lines at the rear of the lazy bag (which covers the mainsail) was badly chaffed from rubbing against one of the reefing lines.  To protect both lines I put in place a longer one which should hang better.  This project can’t be considered closed until we’ve had the sail up and I can see the chaffing has been addressed.

House Battery Bank

Batteries require topping up and full equalization.  The former was completed but the latter awaits our docking at Clarks Court Bay Marina some time next week.

Net result of days activities: Zero projects fully completed.

In between all this we managed to refill the dinghy, did some food shopping and a walk around town.

At 5pm Carol and John from Sweet Caroline came over for a couple of hours for refreshments.  We closed the day with an episode of 24.

We’re at a parts jam for moving ahead on projects.  Jim has offered us the use of his electric saw which we can use to cut the bow locker platforms.  If this is available we’ll get this task done this morning.  We can also research some parts we need to build up our spares inventory as well as look for somewhere to get some of the more expensive items (such as a second windlass).  Some time today we hope to move out of the lagoon into the fresher waters (and more importantly fresh air) outside.  It’s a bit further to come into the shops on Monday but we’re becoming desperate for breeze.  We can also fill our water tanks.