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Aannsha’s Blog #104 – Low batteries, increasing nerves

Boat head sounded strange

My toilet (head) sounded flat when I flushed it one morning so I mentioned it to Baz. He said his had been similar too. He also mentioned how the fridge was making strange sounds, as if it was switching on but didn’t have enough energy, so immediately switching off, and then coming back on again.

He checked the batteries and to our surprise and dismay it turned out that two of the three house batteries were dead. The third was alright, but this was definitely a problem. While our solar panels miraculously capture the sun’s power and convert it to usable energy, our batteries are where that energy is stored. If two thirds of our battery bank was dead, we were in serious trouble in terms of powering our electrical items: computers, chargers for our phones and cameras, navigation systems, lights, fridge, heads … Not good.

Bad timing

Of course, this happened three days before Baz was due to leave me solo on A B Sea to go to the UK for a long weekend for a reunion and we both realised that it was imperative to replace them before he left.

We were anchored in a fairly large town – Varkiza – on the mainland near to Athens. We hired a car from Drive Plus, a local car hire place and, taking our very helpful satnav with us, found the battery shop – Battery Park - in Athens that we’d previously Googled and picked up three replacement batteries.

Putting them into the boot, we then went on search of a car adaptor transformer that would step the 12 volts from the batteries up to 19 volts to power our laptops. This would be a more energy efficient way than our current adaptors turning 12 volts to 220 volts to 19 volts.

The first store we visited couldn’t assist us. They recommended another shop quite a way from them. They looked at us like we were crazy. They recommended another store. After zig-zagging our way around Athens, visiting 8 stores we eventually gave up our search. It seemed the adaptor Baz was looking for simply wasn’t available in Greece. He decided to order one on line and have it delivered to his brother’s place in the UK, and would collect it at the weekend when he visited there for the reunion.

We were pretty hangry by that time – well I was – and we stopped at a great burger place called Simply Burgers. I can highly recommend the food there, it was well cooked and plentiful and the service was good.

Returning to the boat, we hauled the three batteries up off the dinghy onto the deck. Baz replaced them bright and early the following morning and they had a whole day of sunshine to store power. Great, that problem was solved.

Trouble shooting the reason for battery failure

Baz worked out that while the batteries that had failed had been new – installed in June 2018 – the fault lay with the fact that the electrical guy who had installed the battery monitor hadn’t set it up correctly. He’d programmed it for 300 usable amp hours, whereas realistically you should never go below 50%. So Baz reset the battery monitor for 150 usable amp hours. That now shows us realistic battery usage. Problem solved.

Shoe shopping

The following day we headed out to Athens again to buy some deck shoes. We’d purchased some great shoes in Decathlon (SUBEA Adult Aquashoes) when we were in Spain but these were wearing out and wouldn’t last another season. Do you think we could find any in Athens? No. Not even in the Decathlon-equivalent store in Varkiza. It didn’t help that there was a strike and march in the centre of Athens, so we spent most of our ‘shopping trip’ stuck in traffic jams. As I write this, we are on the hard in Evia island in Greece and now we have a permanent address for a few months, I’ll order some from Decathlon on line.

Ignoring my nerves

I’d been starting to get a little anxious about Baz leaving me on my own for about a week before our batteries died, so I was quite relieved to have something to take my mind off his impending trip. We’d decided to leave me on A B Sea at Varkiza as we knew the holding was great there and we’d let out 10:1 chain to depth. Plus I could take the dinghy to shore and moor on the local dock if I needed anything.

But I had a niggle and kept getting the impression that, while the weather had been fabulous for days (light winds, calm seas), that my time alone on our yacht-home wasn’t going to be all sunbathing and fun me-time. It felt like I was receiving an intuitive heads up that I would be tested. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about the batteries failing!

White out rain squall

The day before Baz was due to leave, we checked the predictions which showed strong winds coming from the south rather than the prevailing north wind. If we stayed at anchor at Varkiza that would put me on a lee shore and very exposed as it is a large open bay with a lot of fetch to create big waves. We made a quick decision to move around to the only bay close by that would be protected from the south – Karvouri. This is a picturesque bay that is closer to Athens, but it was mainly weed with small patches of sand and it took Baz and me 3 attempts before the anchor set. I dived the anchor so I knew it was dug in, but one concern I had was if the wind did change direction and the anchor re-set, would it drag over the weed and not re-set properly? I became increasingly nervous at how I’d cope over the weekend.

The morning of the day that Baz was due to leave (early that evening), we had a strong squall come through with driving winds over 40 knots creating a rain white out. Fortunately, it calmed down by the time I had to take Baz to shore, but reversing the dinghy back into the choppy waves caused the motor to cut out about four times, each time getting water dumped into the dinghy. I was scared. Baz couldn’t help. He shouted at me to really power back on full thrust, and I managed to get the dinghy off shore, away from the breaking waves. There were swimmers in the water so I had to slow down to pass them, but I got back to A B Sea. She was bobbing up and down and the dinghy was bouncing up and down and it did take a while for me to tie the dinghy to the cleat. But I managed.

Bouncing dinghy

I got back on deck and almost wept with relief. That had been my first test. And I’d passed. As I looked to shore where I’d left Baz, I wondered what the weather had in store for me. I’d be okay if the wind came from the south as I was sheltered by land. But if the wind changed and came out of the west or north, I’d be on a lee shore and there’d be a chance the anchor might drag.

How did I get on? I’ll tell you all about it next week.

You can see all of this in the video that accompanies this blog. Just click here

Approaching storm

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