Tomorrow we start our loop. We’re fueled up and pumped out. We put the burgee on the boat this evening and people know we’re leaving, so barring any unforseen incident, tomorrow it is.
We are very excited. It seems surreal that the day is actually come when enough of the “to-do” list is done to start.
Our to-do list this past couple of weeks has been substantial and there were a couple of unexpected items that had to be dealt with.
The Generator and New Batteries
One of the systems that we had looked at by the mechanics at the marina this past winter was the generator. A generator is used to provide AC (alternating current) when we are not plugged into shore power at a dock. AC (alternating current) is used to power things like A/C (air conditioning) and the stove.
We got the news a week ago that our generator was quite ill, possibly terminally ill. It would cost a lot to tear into in to determine all that was wrong, with the end result likely being that we would need a new one. We had a line on a new one, but it ended up being too expensive. We decided that a generator is a want, not a need, and we would just go without one. Many people over the years have successfully cruised without a generator.
We have non-electric ways of cooking (butane hot plate and propane barbecue). Also, our Bluetti solar generator will run the electric kettle or the coffee pot or the induction hot plate for enough time to boil water, make coffee, or scramble eggs. And our new rather small array of solar panels seems to be effective in keeping the Bluetti charged up.
The main other thing a generator is used for is to charge up batteries when out at anchor. The “house” battery generally gets charged when we run the boat engines or when plugged into shore power. If we are at anchor, the refrigerator, lights, water pump, and toilet flusher are running off the battery. If the battery gets low and you have a generator, you can fire up the generator to top off the battery.
Our house battery was from 2018. The normal lifespan of a battery of this type is 5 years, so we knew it was likely at the end of its useful life. We did a little test on it, and sure enough, it was pretty much used up.
So off to Sams Club we went to put in a new battery configuration. Instead of one huge 8D battery, we went with 4 smaller golf cart batteries. We’ve seen reference to this setup on various forums and decided to try it out.
It took the better part of a day, designing, dragging the old 160# battery out and hooking the new ones up. But it all worked (hallelujah!) and we have a new battery system with more amp hours than the old one had. We will have to see how long we can be at anchor. If it turns out that the generator is a need, rather than a want, we can look into getting something this winter.
We installed the AIS (Automated Identification System) during our March/April trip, but it wasn’t working when we fired it up once the boat was out of the building. It indicated that the old antenna wasn’t up to snuff. We ordered a new one. The installation always takes longer than you expect, but we got it installed and now we show up on the worldwide marine traffic website. Yay! This means we can see other ships/boats and they can see us. It is helpful, especially, when going down rivers (like the Mississippi) when there might be a barge around the next bend. The AIS lets you see who/what is coming.
We have become acquainted with some really great people over the 3 weeks we’ve been at the marina. One young family on a sailboat were busy installing solar and lots of other things our first two and a half weeks here. They have plans of cruising the Great Lakes this summer and fall. They finally reached their “go” point and we had a lot of fun videoing and photographing their departure. To see them actually get to leave and start a big adventure gave me hope that our day would actually come.
Our AGLCA harbor hosts who have become friends and mentors were here much of the time. We actually ended up in a slip next to them on the dock. We appreciate all the time and wisdom they have invested in us.
We met a new couple who is here to potentially buy a boat. They completed the Great Loop in 2020 and are planning to do it again with this new boat. We had some good conversation and a meal together.
Last Minute Details
We took one last trip to Walmart and a new-to-us chain “L&M Fleet Mart”. We went with a list and were able to find everything we needed.
We’ll be leaving our car here at the marina for a couple of weeks. Once we get to Sault Ste Marie, we’ll rent a car and come back to pick up our car and move it further along the loop. Our shopping in the next few weeks will be at places we can walk to. Thus the long list and the trip to town.