Our boat came fully equipped with most everything we’ve needed to travel well and to live aboard successfully. With one major exception. Power. And, of course, the nice amenities our new boat has, such as running water and a flush toilet, require power. The only way we have had to recharge our batteries that run the boat’s systems has been by running the diesel engine. This is fine when you are going places and running the motor anyway, but when you are living on anchor it is loud, stupid and annoying (and expensive!) to run the engine to charge the batteries. So we have been saving up money for solar panels, and at last we have them!
We purchased two 140 watt panels from an online store for a pretty great deal. Capt K put up a temporary installation to get them juicing us up. They are mounted on the lifelines in such a way that they can be angled towards the sun, or folded down entirely when it is not sunny, too windy, etc. Eventually we are going to have a stainless steel reinforced bracket welded onto the boat to support them, but for now the solar panels are at least up and functioning!
Our batteries had been suffering severely from chronic undercharging. We never wanted to run the engine for the length of time it would require to really fully charge them, and so we were just charging them enough to get by, but it wasn’t an ideal situation at all. We were living with power anemia, too….having to skimp on how much we used our laptop, lights, etc because our batteries were so low.
But now, with our beautiful new solar panels, we can have the laptop on all day, and do amazing things like run the water and flush the toilet at the same time, without causing the inverter to shut down due to insufficient juice! And no more loud stinky polluting engine every day!! Our lives have just improved significantly! We can even run our refrigerator again!
The other major upgrade we have done is converting our marine stove to run on propane. The stove, which is a great 3 burner, gimballed ShipMate with an oven, originally was designed to run on compressed natural gas (CNG). This fuel is safer than propane, as it doesn’t sink into the bilge to become a potential explosive hazard. However, it is not popular amongst boaters (I don’t really understand why), and so it is almost impossible to get. The guy we bought our boat from happened to store the boat right next to one of the tiny handful of places on the whole East coast that refills marine CNG tanks, so for him the system worked great. But for us traveling, as well as living in St. Augustine, it has been a nightmare to track this fuel down. The closest place to get it is 200 miles away. So Cap’t K figured out how to convert the fuel lines to propane, and got the parts installed this week. It’s a good thing, because we had just run out of CNG!
It has been nice having Cap’t K around more on the boat since he quit his 9-5 temp job. He sure is a good handyman! He has been spending the last few weeks doing lots of boat projects, including the solar panel installation, which took several days. While we were both working full time a lot of boat projects were put on the wayside, and now more of them are being attended to again, which is good. Right now it is just me working full time — actually I will be working more than full time over the next few weeks as I juggle two jobs and get myself rolling on the pirate ship. I am still waitressing at the Cuban restaurant as well, and have even been filling in some extra shifts for co-workers who have had to be away due to family emergencies. So at the moment it’s me bringing home the bacon and Cap’t K taking care of things on the home front. He is doing a few shifts on the Schooner Freedom and will have his first excursion on the Black Raven Pirate ship tomorrow, but until the tourist season picks up, his schedule is not too busy.
My training on the pirate ship so far has involved working as a photographer. I get to dress up in my new pirate costume and take pictures of the tourists as they board the ship, posing them with two pirates. Then I print the pictures in the mobile photo studio aboard the ship and sell the prints to the people. Pretty gimicky, but hey, its more fun than waiting tables. Soon I will be training to be a full “pirate actor”, taking part in the show and singing. Our costumes are in need of some extra accessories, so if any of you readers out there come across any extra swords, daggers, eye patches, or whatnot, send them our way!