We Have Issues
Many of our pictures and posts on social media show palm trees, beautiful blue water, dolphins and smiling faces. There is a dark side to living aboard a boat however. And those pics don't always make it to Instagram and Facebook. So here is an honest look at our last month. It was a month that caused lots of eye rolls, a few bruises and scrapes and a huge amount of sailor-type words from the captain.
We started off strong by finally finding and fixing a leak we had had for about a month that had nearly caused a boat fire (read that story HERE!) It turns out, the leak that was dripping down the wall and window in our salon was coming from a navigation light 25 feet away above the pilot house door. Pretty spectacular route for the water to take!
|Look where the water entered the boat vs where it came dripping down the window! We spent WEEKS sealing rail mounts and drains above the leak....not necessary it turns out. Pat sealed the gap behind the navigation light and now we're all dry inside!
We celebrated finding the leak, toasted ourselves for fixing it and apparently tempted the Gods with our pride....it went downhill quickly...
Saturday Aug 28th - Hurricane Nora arrived in Banderas Bay. We were tied up tight and tucked in behind buildings, so only our boat only ever saw 25 knots of wind. Then the power went out. By itself, this is not a biggie. We live on a boat and have batteries and a generator. Pat was working in the States (surprise!), so I was in charge. No problem, I went to start the generator only to not have it not come to life. I texted boat neighbors Molly & John from SV Ruby Vi to help troubleshoot with me and they immediately arrived soaking wet to help (as good boater friends do). We discovered the battery for the generator was dead. It was reading 10.8 volts on the panel. The load meter later confirmed what we knew…0% life. We tried to jump the battery with a jumper/charger from our car, but the charger was dead (note to self, charge the battery charger before a storm.) Solar wasn't going to be any help because we were in the process of replacing our panels and updating the system. We finally got Pat on the phone after he landed the plane and he told us to go ahead and start up the boat to charge the house batteries. We did that. While we were sitting around talking about the generator, Noeta's engine shut down. Silence. Pat, who is on FaceTime, states the obvious, "The engine doesn't shut down unless there is a problem with the fuel or air intake. Show me the fuel manifolds." So I walk his digital face down to the engine room and he immediately realizes that the engine isn't getting fuel. Oops. Last time fuel was transferred from one tank to another, the handles didn't get turned back in the right position, likely due to some boat project that popped up, interrupting Pat's train of thought. Therefore, the fuel manifold did not get reset for normal operation. The engine had no fuel. Well, we still had batteries and, while we would have liked to run the air conditioning since windows and doors were closed to the rains and winds, we could survive on a boat for quite awhile without external power. However, our updated hurricane prep list now includes, charge all chargers, test the generator, and start the boat.
August 29th - Early in the morning, the power came back on. For some reason the inverter breaker had tripped when it returned, so I had to crawl into the bowels of the boat to flip that breaker.
|This is the inverter. Accessing it was a challenge because the storage space I normally would have crawled into was full of stuff we'd pulled off the decks for the hurricane.
- August 29th - For some reason, the refrigerator had lost power, which it shouldn't have as it is powered by both ac power and the batteries when the power goes out. Now I had a ton of food to throw out. Pat (still out of town) then told me to remove the charger from the generator battery. Not something I'd done before, and I was exhausted, but he said "Remember the 46?", and that got me motivated to figure out how to remove the charger. To read about over-charging a dead battery, a sulfur smell and near disaster, read what happened on our old boat HERE. So I figured out how to remove the charger from the battery.
August 31st - This is one of those eye-roll moments. Jack informs me that his toilet seat broke. Not sure how...it just broke. Fortunately, we had just bought a new toilet and actually had a spare seat. Alexa has now learned to replace a toilet seat!
How do you break it here?! Jack said, "Who has a spare toilet seat!?"
August 31st- The battery state of charge (SOC) temperature module is stuck at 50°f. The temperature helps the charger determine how much juice to put into the battery. No idea why it's not working.
August 31st- The Maretron display in the master berth stopped working. Not critical, just shows weather, depth and other data. But Pat had just bought and installed it a couple of months ago. Ugh!
Sept 1st-3rd - We bought new solar panels and Pat finished the install. Technical details for those who want it: We installed two 405w solar panels that are hooked up to separate Victron 100/50 MPPT controllers. We are in the process of upgrading our inverter/charger to a Victron unit that will all be integrated and they will be able to talk to each other via a Victron Cerbo GX.
On/Off solar panel switches that Pat assembled and installed. Power leaves the solar panels through these wires. We've got 2 installed! The MPPT controllers that convert and optimize solar energy to charge the batteries.
September 4th - We bought and installed a new generator battery and reconnected the charger. We had to remove one of the main starting batteries in order to access the generator battery, while wiggling into tight places with sharp corners. But the generator works now! Then we bled the engine to get fuel back into her. Engine works! All is well again.
See how the dead battery we returned has handles?
Yeah, the new one we bought didn't have handles....
September 5th - We occasionally get a weird power surge. We notice it when all of the boat's fans slow down for a moment. It could be connected to the fridge problem, could be the bilge pump filter needs cleaned, maybe something with the new solar, we're not sure yet.
Sept 8th - 10th - Jack gets up in the morning to tell me that he thinks the cat peed on the steps the night before - he had cleaned it up, but there had been something gross on the steps to his room. This is not something the cat had ever done, so I went to check it out. The spot Jack referred to was directly outside the hole for a manual pump handle that is for some of our critical sewage plumbing (yep, this is gonna get gross). Upon closer inspection, there had been a major leak of raw sewage from our septic system. Guess what? Pat was out of town (you're shocked, right?). As I dug deeper (with mask, goggles and gloves), I discovered a manual macerator pump with a failed plastic seal. This is a pump that we had never actually used, but was there if we had need to pump poo off the boat with a handle. It turns out, all of our sewage passes through this pump, and over 20 years, had worn the seals out.
I realized I could bypass the pump by removing the hoses from both sides and connecting them directly. By this time, Pat was able to talk and agreed this was the best plan of attack. However, it was a Wednesday. This is critical because on Thursdays the marina kindly pumps out our septic tanks. Our tanks were pretty full and I was worried that, depending on what direction everything was flowing, I could potentially remove the hoses only to empty the tank into my face. So I wisely decided to wait until Thursday.
The 2 circled parts are what I needed to remove....the black pump is full of crap.
Pat was due to come home Thursday afternoon....I contemplated leaving this for him, but I knew I could do it (even though I really didn't want to). So....Thursday morning, gloves, mask and eye protection back on, with a fan blowing in my face, I proceeded to separate the hoses from the pump.
Note the tight space...also good to note, the red stair lights work (that matters later).
I needed to use a heat gun in order to loosen the tubing - imagine the smell of a really hot sun heating up a giant pile of old crap - yep, it was gross). At least I was in a cramped space. I was pleasantly surprised (can I say that when writing about s#!t?) to find that not much leaked out. I attached the now-separated warm hoses, tightened the hose clamp and 'voila', Alexa is now a plumber! I put duct tape over all of the holes of the failed pump and then took a long shower. Pat was thrilled that I had joined the ranks of poo patrol.
I did it! Minimal mess, but lots of stink!
- Sept 10th - Remember the picture above with 2 working red lights? Because with every step forward, a few have to go the other direction. Now the light on the stair doesn't work. Apparently I had disconnected the wiring on the stair light during my soiree into sewage. It needs a new connector.
- Sept 10th - Pat arrived home quite pleased with not having to wrestle with sewage hoses only to realize that his recently installed solar panels weren't working as expected. He realized the panels needed blocking diodes. Our solar panels have bypass diodes but not blocking diodes. A diode is like a check valve in plumbing. They allow the power to flow one direction. So at night when there is no solar energy, the batteries were actually powering the solar panels ever so slightly. So we turned off the solar - to be fixed another day.
- Sept 11th - So here we are 2 weeks after hurricane Nora and our refrigerator is still warming up at random times. Pulling the fridge out to look at the back was no simple task of course. But we managed it, vacuumed the coils, took pictures of the components and put it back in place.
- Sept 11th - This is just a fun tidbit to show you that I was doing more than just boat projects over the last month - I went to baby shower for a local Mexican friend where guests had to shoot shots of tequila if they crossed their legs. Baby showers here are not quite what I'm used to. I had to drink a few times.
Baby showers in Mexico are more like bachelorette parties - this is a banana speed eating game....
|Quite the set up for the fiesta!
- Sept 12th - Well, Pat headed off to work again. So of course, after I do the dishes, as I run the garbage disposal, water starts shooting up out our second kitchen sink onto the counter and floor. Now my sinks are partially filled with dirty water. With Pat in an airplane, I headed to Google. I discovered I likely had a clog in the drain - pretty common on sinks with garbage disposals. I removed the hose from the garbage disposal to drain the sinks into a bucket.
|I just happened to have a flat never-been-used plunger!
|Glad to have neighbors with useful tools!
|Part of what came rushing out....a cake of coffee?
September 13th - I was very happy to leave the boat for a few days to move our daughter into her new apartment for college. It couldn't have been simple though - I busted my suitcase. But hey - no plumbing was involved!
September 16th - While talking to Jack on the phone, he informs me that the ceiling fan in the salon stopped working. Excellent, a project for when we return!
September 18th - Pat installed blocking diodes on the solar panels. They work now! Our 405w solar panels didn’t have the blocking diodes installed, but they only cost us $150 USD each - way cheaper than you can get in the U.S.
September 19th - Not a boat problem, but my car is making crunching noises when turned hard to left or right. Added some power steering fluid to see if that would do the trick. It didn't.
September 20th - Microwave turntable doesn’t work. Ok, this is an old issue that is low on the list, it hasn't worked in awhile, but since we're complaining about boat projects....
Sept 20th- Last night the dryer worked, today it doesn't. So I went off to the laundromat while Pat troubleshot this one. It took some time to analyze the access to the dryer. It sits in the stairwell (near the now non-functioning macerator pump), but would need to be disassembled to remove it. After trying to access it from the stairs, the cupboard above it and the bookshelves, Pat finally found a way to the back of the dryer through a cavity in the bathroom. Of course. He reached out to the Nordhavn Owner's Group (NOG) to see if anyone had any suggestions. "Press the reset button" they said. In the manual, it shows the button on the back of the dryer. Not there. So Pat, after turning off the power breaker, removed the back of the dryer. Ta-dah! There was the button. Again, visualize Pat, on the counter in the bathroom, wedged into a 1 foot wide cavity, with tools to remove the back of the dryer (sorry - no pics again.) Pat, after pressing the button, turned on the breaker to test it and it worked! We LOVE simple fixes! As Pat reached in to replace the metal backing of the dryer, he heard a 'zzzzt' and the power on the entire boat went out. He forgot to turn the breaker off to the washer/dryer in his excitement. Note to self/Pat…Probably should have turned the breaker back off before replacing the back. He had shorted out the boat's power. He was lucky he didn't get shocked. "We" had never tripped the 50 amp main shore power before, so we weren't quite sure where to find that switch. After some research, he found it hiding in an upper cubby in Hailey's room, along with the breaker for the AC. Good to know!
At least it was a nice place to get some work done!
Sept 20th - Pat replaced the non working Maretron screen with a new Furuno FI70 display in the master berth.
We can now see data from the bed again- so exciting!
- Sept 21st -I had company coming the next day, so I defrosted the freezer so we could fit more ice for cocktails. Once I put it all back together, it wouldn't get cold again. I was afraid I had destroyed the freezer plate with the ice pick, but we had no leaks. This is a different unit than the other one that was having a hard time. It has a freezer drawer on top and a fridge drawer on the bottom. Welp, couldn't fix it now. We crammed all of our drinks into our small main fridge and bought ice for cocktails. Problem solved (temporarily)!
- Sept 23rd - It was time to try and fix the freezer. Removing this unit took lots of screwdrivers, drilling holes in the teak, and removal of earthquake straps (in a 2 foot space).Pat was pretty sure it was a problem with a failed power controller. At least he hoped that was the issue, since we had a spare. Once we problem solved the placement of the connectors on the control panel, we heard it start up! Fridge fixed! We filled our ice cube trays back up!
|Since one of our guests was an engineer, Pat had help troubleshooting - Thanks Jack!
- September 25th - We seem to have a fresh water leak somewhere in the boat and can't pinpoint where it is. The water just drips into the bilge, and then is pumped overboard. But occasionally throughout the day our water pump runs. We'll find it one day.
- September 26th - A gecko fell out of the vent above Pat's pillow and landed on him just before he fell asleep. We got him scooped up and placed outside.
- Sept 28th- Pat and I enjoy taking evening dinghy cocktail cruises. We went out to start her up and the dinghy didn't turn over. The battery had died. What is it with us and batteries?! Pat checked the levels and sure enough, it wasn't salvageable. Off to buy a battery at Auto Zone. In addition, Pat ordered a solar powered battery charger to keep on the battery for when we aren't using it much.
Sept 29th - Late at night, as we were going to sleep, we hear a loud 'thud' above us. I got up to investigate. A ceiling panel in the pilot house had fallen, knocking things off of counters as it came down. The panels are hung with velcro which we are in the process of replacing. The next morning we replaced the velcro on that panel.
Early October - I decided I would try to fix the non-functioning turntable in the microwave while Pat was out of town. I watched a YouTube video, had a spare motor and was pretty sure it should just take a few minutes. But since it's a boat project, it took the removal of 4 supporting boards, 87 screws, a stripped screw head, lubricating grease, duct tape and around 4 hours.
It took 2+ hours just to remove it from its perfectly tight space.
|The motor that took about 32 seconds to replace.
|The side project of fixing the ducting.
Because every boat project turns into 2-5 others.
|Did I mention, I have to wear cheaters now!? Gah!!!
|And I managed to kill my cousin's tomato plant!? :(
Meanwhile, what you all saw on social media were the smiles and palm trees:
|Volunteering at the spay and neuter clinic.
|Heading out into the bay with Mikayla and friends to find dolphins.
|Moving Hailey into her new apartment.
|A lovely dinner with my cousin, Tanis and her husband Michael.
|Delivering donations for victims of Hurricane Nora.