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2015-03-03

Getting a charge out of winter

Ice, Sun Dog and Condo Crane: A typical Toronto tableau.


While I can ski, or rather have skiied in the past, I don't do so now, as this car-free sailor doesn't find the idea of taking a bus to and from a place to rent ski gear particularly appealing. I don't skate, either, and hence am not much of a Canadian, I suppose. So my winter sports are essentially identical to my summer ones: lots of cycling and lots of boat repair.
Open water? In my lake? It's more likely than you'd think.

Of course, the more appalling brand of weather, of which we've had an excess since late November, can and has put a kink in those activities; it has been either too cold, too windy or too snowy, sometimes all at once, to get more than essential biking it (groceries and run-dry impellers and Perko seawater strainer gasket kits, for instance). So things have been slowed up.
Allegedly visible: A sundog, as seen by a seadog.

This has created some practical problems. Aside from the cold, which may be testing the limits of my winterizing regime (currently under review, by the way), I habitually "lay on a charge" on both boats several times a winter. For Alchemy, this involves simply plugging into a power stand in the drift-covered boat yard. As long as it's between 0800 and 2000h and the power company is on game, I can get one or two 15 amp circuits aboard, the latter enough to get the sole battery aboard charged and to allow a minimal amount of space heating to occur, the latter being of interest as I tend to stay aboard when charging is happening, due to some early lessons in what can go wrong with unattended boats while plugged in.

During my unfortunate stay at Outer Harbour Marina in 2007, this boat went up in little toxic cinders while charging unattended and took the portable toilets with it
On Valiente, which has a pair of larger-format batteries as a combined house/start bank, it's a case of taking a Honda 2000 generator down to the boat and letting it power the onboard charger for several hours. That means a) finding a day clement enough to do the job, as I have to cart the genset by bicycle trailer, and b) finding a day in which it's practical for me to kill several hours aboard a cold, dim boat. Item B is really more of an issue, inconceivable as that might seem to a car owner, than is the transport aspect, because I don't leave the boat unattended. If it's below freezing, as it has been for a ridiculous, record-breaking stretch here this year, even the useful prospect of swabbing out the interior can't be realized. Besides, that yard's pipes are almost certainly frozen or off.
Roads to nowhere until the ice breaks up in a few weeks
So I may have frozen batteries and a burst block when I finally get to poor, drifted-over Valiente, probably later this week. Oh, well, it'll be something to write about.
"Hank on the drifter", they said.
UPDATE, 15.03.10: I finally got to Valiente and while a surprising amount of snow had to be shifted to even reach the cockpit lockers.revealing an absolutely filthy coaming and deck thanks to the diesel and dust from the nearby recycling plant, the good news is that the engine appears unburst from the anti-freeze defeating cold.
Focused or not, that's a lot of snow.
Perhaps the metre of snow insulated the engine bay?

The penalty for leaving the mast in involves frozen bilges. The sobering thing is that I poured a litre or so of antifreeze in that bilge in the fall.
The batteries, read (quite) cold, summoned up 12.8 volts, which was better than I had hoped for. Three hours of Hondafication later, they read 13.6. I even gave the Coast Guard a radio check to see if the antenna and connections were intact. Apparently, yes.

Bucket and drop board substituting for shovel is no way to get past winter.
So, while the boat is cosmetically at somewhat of a low, the snowpack is retreating (i.e. "pushed") and while I won't know for sure until a test fire if the engine isn't cracked, I have no evidence in the form of extruded pink tears to indicate it is. A cold, wet, dirty but good day.
On Comet, or perhaps Vim, and a conscientious power washing. Argh.