December 15, 2018
Color me surprised, but I didn’t budget enough for emergencies at sea. Last week’s epiphany that we had NO clue what was wrong with the drive generator saw us getting a team of 3 experts on board while we were at the Harbor Towne Marina in Fort Lauderdale – and for the next 4 days it would take them roughly 30 hours to find the problem: a raw water pump slowly leaking salt water onto the alternator ground caused enough corrosion to fool Captain Rockstar into thinking the alternator was bad. So he was half right after all. This leak burnt the start battery out, we needed a new raw water pump, and a whole new ground wire for the alternator. The parts themselves cost $1000 but with all that labor, tack on another couple grand.
Meanwhile, this was our final US destination and our required stop before heading to the Bahamas for the next six months. Erik chose Maz Ocean to do the solar install because quite frankly, even with all his MacGyver skills, installing such intricate technology just prior to leaving the country is not something that he felt he wanted to do. I think he was more worried that if something went wrong, I’d blame him (of course I wouldn’t – well, not much at any rate.)
Early this summer, as we started planning our life aboard we knew there were a few things we would absolutely have to have in order to live the life we were seeking: solar energy and a watermaker.
We read blogs and watched videos and all the salty sailors out there who shared how much they budget had us planning $1000/month on average to cover repairs, parts, and equipment. Let’s just say, I spent over a full-YEAR’S budget while we were in Ft Lauderdale. Yes, it was that expensive.
We were waiting for a slip at the marina in order to get the solar installed – and frankly I was getting worried because if we continued to be delayed, we would likely miss one of the last windows out of Florida as winter storms would start arriving. Turns out our friends Bryan and Jen, from S/V Karma were in our spot (just kidding, they were there first!), but once we got the news they were leaving, it was time to exit our mooring ball and head to the glamorous industrial marina park. As we tried to detangle the bridle from the mooring ball, our friend Darryl from S/V Open Agenda dashed off in his dinghy to give us a hand. I’m glad he did – that line was more twisted than a SNL plot line.
We headed off the short distance to the marina and reconfirmed where the slip was – and oh great, it was at the end of a narrow bay and we needed to stern in. Dock hands were there and it’s a good thing I didn’t know they weren’t really dock hands or I would have been more nervous. Erik pulled forward and turned right and then began backing into the slip like he’d done this a million times before. It never ceases to amaze me how at ease he is with piloting this boat.
So let’s talk power needs: Between my Mac, iPhone, iPad, Erik’s PC, Google phone, and iPad, plus our GoPro, Canon, and Drone, we consume quite a bit of energy. And that doesn’t factor in the 2 refrigerators and freezer that are always on. As such, Erik went with 1440kw of solar. (As I write this two weeks after install, I am glad he did. I never have to worry that we have to run the generator to charge the drive batteries or our technology tethering devices. Well, except my Mac – I failed to buy a 12V charger for this puppy, so we now have an obstacle course to move through since the inverter is on the far side of the salon!)
In any case, I think Maz did a very good job getting the solar installed – if not at the last minute I might add – they finished installing the solar at 5p and we took off for Bimini the next day at 4a!
We had a MUST DO list before we left the US: this included finishing the watermaker install. Erik is incredibly handy and instead of buying a watermaker pre-fabbed, he bought it in parts so that we would have the baddest watermaker out there. This is a Sea Water Pro DIY unit with upgraded stainless steel high pressure pump and two desalination membranes. This produces 40+ gallons PER HOUR and is super quiet. We installed it (correction, Erik installed it) in the bilge area in our cabin. It’s now tapped directly into the raw water for the drive cooling and fresh water rinse from the galley. And the 120v was a convenient 6 foot wire run away. Easy peasy! We also set up a timing system to fresh water rinse the lines for 10 minutes every 3 days. Clean. (I’ll go over how sea water tastes direct from this system in a future post.)
We also had to stock up on booze – wine, beer, and Jack Daniels. Let me start with the wine. To save space, I (gulp) decided to give boxed wine a try. I reasoned this would be much easier to store in bags in than a case of 750ML bottles. Just the mere idea of going boxed screams un-chic though. Girding my loins, I purchased two boxed wine brands and took them to the car to ‘taste test’. I chose Pinot Grigio, because frankly, how can you mess that up? First up was the infamous Black Box wine. It didn’t make me squint my eyes, so that was a good thing. Next was Bota Box, and I gotta say, it tasted better. Then again, how good were either of these as I was basically waterboarding myself in the car from the bags. Bonus: Kroger had them on sale so I stocked up as much as I could.
Next was the Jack. I started calling around to get prices and found that Walmart sells booze and it was less than $36 for a 1.75ML which is quite a savings from what we used to spend in Virginia. I went to the closest Walmart and started walking toward the booze area and guess what? This Walmart didn’t carry booze. What? I plugged in the next closest Walmart and drove there. Started walking around and thought better ask someone. Kept walking until I found a friendly little face in a blue vest. She told me they were NOT selling booze for 30 days. I jokingly asked her if the Booze Nazi declared NO BOOZE, 30 DAYS? She didn’t understand, but we kept a nice jolly round of “Are you serious?” and “Yes, no booze” and “No booze, really?” and “Yes, no booze.”
I decided here on out I would need to call the next closest Walmart to find out first hand if they had a booze department, and did they have any Jack Daniels. Fun fact: All Walmart auto-attendant options are the same.
I then drove to the next closest Walmart and in fact, they did have Jack Daniels. Like 20 bottles. That wouldn’t do – we needed more. Like enough to cover 6 months of boozing. C’mon!
I am pretty sure between their 1.75ML bottles and 750MLs, I wiped that store OUT. But I’m pretty sure that Erik will still have Jack stateside when we return next summer.
Oh, forgot to mention… American Express clearly knows I don’t shop at Walmart normally and sent me a fraud alert after I purchased $1k in booze. I had to explain what was going on – which actually turned out to be a good thing because chances are they would deny purchases once we got to the Bahamas. You know, the purchase at BTC I’d have to make in order to call American Express to confirm the purchase was valid. But that’s another story.
With final provisioning done, the solar installed, the watermaker installed, and drive generator finally fixed, we were ready to sail away. We set the alarm for 2:45a and tossed our bow lines on December 16 at 4a. We were joined by our buddy boat, S/V Open Agenda and we made our way slowly across the currents of the gulf stream for Bimini, and the new life we had worked our asses off over the last six months to start.
Next: Buddy boating to Bimini, dodging coral heads and bull sharks