Friday, March 18, 2011

Saralane goes solar

Having spent the past few weeks bumping around the central Exumas – Black Point, Staniel Cay, Farmers Cay etc, we’re now back in Georgetown. We haven’t had much internet access lately and I’m a little behind with the blog – so this is a long one. Grab your cup of coffee or glass of wine and settle in. I’ll let the photos do most of the talking.

The swimming pigs again! (Aka: bacon on the beach)
Lots of nurse sharks hanging around the dock at Staniel Cay.... 
.... this is why. People clean their catch here and toss back the guts. Shark snacks!
Pretty bougainvillea along the road in Staniel Cay
It's hard to miss this building....
.... but just in case, this sign points the way.
If the blue grocery store doesn't have what you want... you can try the Pink grocery store right next to it.
There’s great internet access now at the school in Little Farmers, and Mr. Jagroo, the principal, who’s also one of the two teachers, encourages the community and visitors to come up to the school and use the connection.

The road to the school
Skip online behind the school
Hanging out on lunch break in front of the school
The older kids' classroom
They’ve been great to us and the kids have become accustomed to us being there outside while they’re in school. We were there one day while they were outside practicing their music lessons and the younger kids put on a little impromptu performance for us. (I didn’t have my camera with me so I shot this with the camera on my Mac.)

They have a few computers at the school and have recently started exploring online lessons for the kids in addition to classroom lessons. This would open up huge opportunities for them, so I'm putting in this shameless plug for the school: if anyone out there has an old internet compatible computer sitting around collecting dust and you’d like it to have a new home…. the school could definitely use it. You can contact Mr. Jagroo directly (by phone 242.355.4031 or email and get info about donating what you have.

Town dock at LIttle Farmers
The post office.... where they have no stamps and can't send mail.
The main reason we’re still this far north is that we decided to add solar panels to Saralane. The panels were flown into Staniel Cay by a company that flies both freight and passengers over from Florida. Passengers get priority over freight so each day we’d check in to see if our panels made the flight. Seems a lot of people were flying in to Staniel so our delivery took a while. Once everything arrived, we got to work.

Like the first night of Hannukah, or Christmas day, depending on your persuasion.
Now what?!
Now we tear the boat apart to get all the tools out and start running wires.

Skip and Steve built a stainless steel frame and attached it to both the bimini frame and the stern rail for extra stability. They created a frame for the panels and reinforced it with aluminum angle and a mahogany beam. Steve's friend Paul helped out too.

Under optimum conditions, our two new 85 watt panels give us 8 to 10 amps an hour. To give some perspective to the numbers – our fridge draws about 4 amps per hour and runs less than half the time. The fridge is the biggest energy hog on the boat so rather than buying diesel to run the engine to charge the batteries… we’re now charging the batteries with energy we’re getting from the sun. Cool! Now instead of being outside enjoying the sunny days, we sit below in front of the energy monitor oohing and ahhing when the amps go up without the engine on.

Saralane with her new panels.
Solar panels in place we started heading south in earnest. We were just talking about how pleased we were that all the systems on the boat have been working well and we haven’t had any problems. Jinx. As we were sailing through the cut into Georgetown we felt a jolt that felt like a big wave had smacked up under the stern. There hadn’t really been a wave big enough to have caused that kind of jolt but we’d have a pretty energetic sail down and were still mentally in big wave mode. A while later we felt a vibration under the boat that we couldn’t figure out. It came and went and seemed to disappear once we were through the cut and into the anchorage. We dropped the anchor in just under seven feet of water, which is pretty normal for us with our five foot draft, and waited for the wind to blow us back on the anchor. And we waited. And waited. Hmmmm…. we seemed to be stuck. But in seven feet of water? When we only draw five feet? Skip walked to the foredeck and on the way back to the cockpit he saw the frayed end of the cable that holds our centerboard up. That explains the jolt we felt – the centerboard dropped hard when the cable snapped, turning us immediately from a five foot draft vessel to an eight foot draft vessel. The vibrations, we realized in retrospect, we only felt when we passed over a patch that was less that eight feet and the centerboard dragged on the sandy bottom. Cripes.

We still had some daylight left and we rigged a line from one side of the boat running under the hull to the other side and managed to lift the centerboard up enough to clear the sea floor. This is an out-of-the-water-to-fix-it kind of break, but we came up with a temporary solution that will (hopefully) hold the board in place until we haul the boat for hurricane season. This post has gone on too long already so I’ll write up the centerboard fix in the next post. (A cliffhanger, eh?!)

PS - Happy belated birthday to my baby sister Ruth!


Kim said...

Hi Skip and Maddie! Sorry to hear about the centerboard...jinx is right. Loved the school pix, and the solar energy is fascinating, I think! Good for you. Love reading your blog...better later than not at all. Much love to you both!

Leslie said...

So, do the blue and pink super markets compete? And just out of curiosty, what makes the post office a post office if they don't have stamps and can't send mail? Why not just call it the green office supply store?

These are questions that keep me up at night. Good grief, do I need a job!

Nice pics. Why didn't you tell the Santa Claus story? It's funny.



Madeline said...

The pink and blue stores are owned by brothers... so they don't really compete. Or perhaps it's friendly competition? About the post office... i dunno. Just seems to be a Bahamian thing. (And YES you do need a job!) The Santa Claus story..... perhaps in an upcoming post!!


Cindy Barnard said...

Your post was worth waiting for. Really sorry to hear of your centerboard dilemma. Good luck on that one.

Miles said...

Hey Peeps! Aaah, I love swimming pigs... Good to hear from you. Sprng has sprung here on the Eastern shore. We are mulching amidst the opening daffodils, Dora Mae gets wilder by the day and my hockey season has just wrapped up. And if you were wondering who the 2010-2011 Murphy's A League Hockey Champions are? Wonder no more. We are Mothers Canteena. I'll send you pictures of our post game celebration where we drank from the cup. Still workin' on that Skype thing. On the edge of my seat for Attack of the Centerboard Part Deux.

Jim said...

Hi Maddie and Skip, we are packing our bags...headed to Turks and Caicos in the AM, hope we can meet up over the weekend. i will send a photo via email so you can see the snow we had here in Mamaroneck last month...almost as much as our friends Rob and MB in Ithaca! It's sleeting and 34 degrees this evening...YUM! Bet you miss this character-building stuff we get in the north-east. Can't wait to feel sand in my toes.