Everybody who knows me, knows about my rather tense relationship with
electricity. In combination with the maritime environment it actually
becomes (pause for the f-word) voodoo.
The wind veered south just before 3 am so Nelly Rose went on a heading for
Australia. That doesn’t figure in any of our immediate plans for the near
future, so – as it was changeover time for the watch anyway – Tim woke me up
and we decided to tack! For the first time at least since Panama, probably
since Colombia and maybe even further back Nelly Rose was sailing  on
starboard tack (for my Dutch friends and relatives: over bakboord).
The wind was dying however and at 4 am I was left with no choice but to use
our last volts and amps in the engine battery for what was supposedly the
last time we could start the engine. That in itself was enough to cause
ample anxiety, but on top of that it meant handsteering the boat. So,
dressed up in all my layers of Musto clothing that had already been
retrieved from the furthest corners of our storage capabilities over the
last few weeks, I sat down behind the large wheel and started handsteering
with my feet (that allows me to keep my hands stuck deep down in my pockets.
As one steers the boat there is not a great deal more to do than to focus on
the desired heading on the compass and to keep the needle there. If I allow
my mind to wander too much, so will the boat, so there is just enough going
on up there to keep me from falling asleep. That would really set the boat
wandering. The one thought that really persistently kept coming back was my
curiosity about the residual charge left in the engine battery. I was hoping
to see more than 12.5 V as I felt that would give me a reasonable shot at
one more start of our Yanmar diesel engine, that really never needs more
than a half turn on the crank to spring into life. It wouldn’t go away, so
finally I gave in to the urge to go down and have look. If I tighten the
screw on the wheel when NR is reasonably stable pointing in the right
direction it fixes it so, that I can just about dash down and do what I have
to do (no number two) and make it back up before she has decided to go on a
reverse course. So, I fixed the course, dashed down, looked at the voltage
meter and saw 13.2 V for the engine battery. It had been charged! Whether
the cure is permanent is highly questionable, but it has lasted long enough
to give me the certainty of that hither elusive extra start.
A check of the voltage on the house batteries showed that they too were
being charged, so I quickly engaged the autopilot. Freedom!
I immediately sat down to write to share my delight and also switched on the
refrigerator with the thought of a celebratory cold beer tonight. However
I’ve switched it off already, as the readings on the voltage meter seem to
indicate a recurring fault. I’m only getting 12.9 V there and on a float
charge that should still be just above 13 V, but heck, we can start our
engine once more and run the autopilot on this charge and later on the solar
panels for as long as that lasts. Probably no more handsteering today. Yeah.