We were on the dark side of the moon
“But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will.” ―Yoda
“Always pass on what you have learned.” ―Yoda
So here it is:
Last week we escaped from the clutches of evil electrons in France. On March 14, early morning, we quietly sneaked out of La Grande Motte, sailed west a baby step to Cap d’Agde – 35nm. Here we waited for a weather window for the larger leg going past Barcelona. We felt the dark force weakening.
Now, what is the Force? Since September 3, 2018, we were tied to ports in Southern France. We laid in two ports just for the convenience of the electrical systems installer to finish their work. This was their second round of correcting and finishing a failed installation which began in March 2017. Spread out over six month technicians appeared. Their working time on the boat totaled maybe 4 weeks. Five month were idle time when nothing happened – except us, in desperation, touring vineyards in the vicinity. Mondays was the technicians travel day, Tuesday the work began and Friday at noon they rushed back home, and don’t forget the two hour lunch time in France.
Practically every blue device onboard was exchanged (blue is the brand color of Victron’s electrical marine equipment). We also swapped out two destroyed alternators, one generator, one pump and many other smaller items, which were either the wrong device, not needed or malfunctioned. A shoddy installation could have been the reason for their malfunction or it could have been the devices themselves. Whatever the reason, we were tied to port.
Not forgetting the smoldering electrical fire on top of the coach roof last year and the subsequent discovery of osmosis under those six solar panels. The argument with the insurance companies about which one is responsible to pay, took a long time. It lasted into the cold, wet winter period of southern France. As a result we were limited in our ability to do lamination work. Epoxy cures above 11°C and we were most of the time below the curing temperature.
A local company – Thalassa Nautic, planed down the osmosis affected roof by some millimeters. Then we waited several weeks for dry weather with temperatures around 10°C or higher. With the help of an armada of electrical heaters and a tent over the top deck we got the deck warmed above the curing point.
Ah yes, the other thing. In Ibiza, July last year, I got an electrical shock swimming under our boat. This was a deeply disconcerting accident for me; without – thank God – physical consequences for myself. The persisting electrolysis problems and its source were finally found. An electrical bridge in the isolation transformer was missing since the very beginning of the electrical installation. This meant we built a 230V field under our boat. Sailors check “Input earth connection” as per the manual of the device!
As of today we are in Catalonia in South East Spain. Yet, the dark force is still with us, though to a lesser degree! During our first real sea-trial, sailing from Southern France to Roda de Bara in Spain, we experienced some electrical equipment failing again. The new generator stopped after 1 hour with an exhaust temp overheat message. One of the engines small 60 amp alternators generated a piercing alarm signaling over-voltage.
After arrival in port, during the post voyage boat inspection, I discovered that the autopilot control box fell off the wall in the engine room. The data cables were just holding the box, while the rudder steering cable chafed on this critically important instrument.
I was very upset about this discovery since I also found a shallow hole drilled into the outer hull, which is an absolute No-No. Even a non mariner can imagine the consequences of reckless drilling on a boat. The box was fixed with silicone to the hull side without roughing up the surfaces, another No-No. I could peel-off the remaining silicon with my fingers from the mounting board! “Do. or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda
Collateral damage from the installers we suffered a lot, like the port side bilge pump where someone stepped on and broke the pump housing letting the impeller chafe on the housing. In the starboard engine room bilge I found a small ‘Deutsch’ connector piece, which belongs to the Volvo MDI box. Another todo 🙁 . Right now, I just hope that we will not have the same problem like on the port engine, where a Volvo technician discovered an improperly installed Deutsch connector with a contaminated pin which prevented contact with the electronic MDI box of the engine. We needed Volvo to find out why we couldn’t stop the engine. The Volvo technician blamed the electrical installation company after their work on an alternator.
And now, firm promise, I save you from a continuation of this rant, except that the installation is still not complete and parts of the electrical plan need still to be installed.
Roda de Bara is a quiet beach resort in winter and spring. Tourists begin to appear around Easter. Many restaurants are closed or only open during the weekend. We find it idyllic and like it. On the dock we met several nice neighbors including some fellow Germans and Austrians!
Sunshine, turquoise waves breaking on the beach, palm trees, tapas for lunch with a glass of brut Cava. This is how I imagined sailing in retirement.
Today we have to do some technical work on the boat – hint: evil ‘E’ related. We are not the first one to discover that a boat seems to be a floating construction site, which the owners surprisingly enjoy. Freud would have dedicated a whole book to sailors, why they do that and how it relates to their traumatic upbringing 🙂 .
We know why we are doing this, it’s just momentarily that the dark Force sucks the light out of the joy.
PS: we got a sample case of brut Cava onboard. In the evenings we conduct dangerous experiments with olives, cheese and Iberico ham. Any tips on how to compose the explosive mix, let us know.