March 28, 2011.
The Great Battery Debacle.
We arrived in Vero Beach with our only remaining battery still barely doing the job of sustaining the boat through the night. While sailing at night we had to run the generator twice for 30 minutes each night to keep the voltage up. Our friend Jay offered the use of an old Group 31 AGM that was sitting in his garage. I figured that if I wired this additional battery into the system we would safely be able to make it back up to the Chesapeake.
Batteries on a cruising boat have a finite life. If I replace them here in Vero the clock starts today. But if we could get to Annapolis we’d be on shore power for several months. This would enable us to replace the batteries in September rather than now.
Another friend, Greg, picked Jay’s battery up and dropped it off to me at the marina. I was a little surprised that the used battery was in a box and when I picked it up the heavy box felt a little “off”. There were handholds in either end and the whole box felt a little soft but I told myself that I would just have to be extra careful in handling it.
I lugged the 80 pound battery down and got it safely transferred into the dink. Once out at the boat I carefully placed the battery up onto the swim platform. I tied the dink off and climbed up onto the swim platform as well. The fact that the battery was in a box was niggling at me in the back of my mind. Usually batteries have a lifting handle across the top but I ignored my reservations and gripped the box by both handholds and lifted it up onto the transom.
With both hands on the box that meant there was no hand left to hold onto the boat with. I mean, its not like I'm Ganesha. The swim platform is fairly narrow but the battery was safely on the transom. One more lift to get it up over the stern pulpit and I’d be home free. I got the box about eye level and WHAM! The entire top of the box ripped completely off. Instantly the battery fell a foot and a half down onto the transom cap rail which deflected it towards me. Next it landed squarely on my right thigh, knocking me backwards towards the water. I shot out my left hand and made a lucky blind snatch grab of the stern pulpit which kept me from falling into the water. The battery was now spinning as it tumbled and bounced off the transom itself, then my right shin and then the transom again. I tried to “foot trap” it and it landed squarely on my right foot. It turns out that it was a lot heavier than a soccer ball. At this point I thought I had it saved but it was like it was alive as it continued to bounce and spin. It might have all happened in less than 2 seconds but it seemed to take for ever until it took one final grand bounce and fell into the water. Oh, but I still got the top half of the box in my right hand. F@#K me.
At least a half dozen times I considered the integrity of that damn box. I mean, I’ve got tears in my eyes and not because of the deep bruise to my thigh, or because of the missing skin from my shin or because my foot is throbbing. Something was tapping me on the shoulder and trying to warn me about that damn box……Crap.
12 feet of pitch dark water, the battery probably even penetrated the muck bottom and I don’t even want to think about the fecal matter present in this mooring field. I didn’t even consider going in to look for it. After a brief mental breakdown a new plan was formed.
Christy called Jay and told him that the battery was now swimming with the fishes. He was out and about so he did a little reconnoitering for us and found that Sam’s Club had a fresh load of golf cart batteries in. The Savages are in town and they own a mini van. Perfect. A quick trip to Sam’s Club and we were now the proud owners of a half dozen 6 volt golf cart batteries.
On Saturday morning I removed all 3 of the old 4D’s and installed the new golf carts. The old capacity was 600 amp hours and now there are 660 amp hours. It’s nice to have a little more capacity but the big advantage is the actual weight of the batteries themselves. The 4D’s weigh in at a whopping 130 pounds a piece. I’m getting too old to be dealing with crap like that. The new golf cart batteries only weigh in at about 70 pounds a piece. It’s still a bit o’ weight but when compared to the alternative….its like they’re toys.
I got the new batteries wired in, charged up and everything looks good. The settings on our charge controller have been reprogrammed from AGM’s to wet cells. I still have to change the engine oil and a few small chores and we can get outta here.
We’ve been checking the temperatures up north and it was 37° up in Annapolis today. We don’t want any part of that crap so it looks like we’ll really be taking it slow. On the other hand…..we’re still legal in the Bahamas…and since we’ve got some time to kill….and the Abacos are technically north of here……we could…..I’ve gotta talk (beg, convince, wheedle and whine) to Christy.
We’ll see what happens…….