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Sunday, July 24, 2005


July 24, 2005
Isla San Marcos, 27o 14' N 112o 07' W (10 mi SE of Santa Rosalia)

We moved back to Isla San Marcos the other day to get away from the muck and expense of Santa Rosalia. The town is very nice but the harbor is really dirty. Every night at sunset about 100 pangas leave to go squid fishing. They return between 10pm and 2am, offload their catch, and then proceed to clean their boats in the harbor, washing all the squid ink and other assorted muck into the waters of the harbor. Both nights we were there I woke up thinking 'what is that SMELL!'

There's not much going on at Isla San Marcos; we're really here to stage for our crossing to San Carlos which we think we'll try in the next few days. They weather was a little strange yesterday and the day before. We had constant overcast, high temps in the low 80s, and night before last it rained pretty hard for about three hours. The boat feels nice and clean after not being washed for weeks.

A friend recently sent us email asking how we manage to keep up with the increased battery load due to the hot weather. The short answer is we use a 1000 watt Honda generator to run the battery charger. On average, we have to do this about 3 hours every other day. We could run the generator every day but it's a little noisy and it seems like we get charge faster if we let the batteries get down to about 30% discharge before we run it.

Now for the long answer, you can skip this if you don't want a lot of boat related details. Our battery bank is four each six volt golf cart batteries, lead acid. This gives us about 440 amp hours of capacity, but I program the battery monitor with 400 just to make sure we have a little reserve. We have a Cruising Equipment battery monitor which tells us how much battery capacity we have left in percent (it will also tell us how many amp hours we've used but I like the percent meter better). We have three ways of charging the batteries: 1) a 30 amp IOTA battery charger, 2) a 90 amp Balmar alternator, and 3) two 55 watt solar panels (110 watts).

A couple of comments on the charging facilities. First I wish I had a bigger battery charger. I installed the 30 amp thinking we'd only use it when tied to a dock so it didn't need to be very big. That was before we bought the generator. Now I'd have a 55 amp battery charger if I was sure the 1000 watt Honda would run it. Second, I wish I had room for more solar panels. I think if I had about 150 watts more I could just about keep up with our load. If I had 250 watts more I know I could keep up, the thing is there just isn't room on NAKIA for 16 sq ft of solar panels (4 ft x 4 ft). On the other hand, I've only seen one boat in the Sea of Cortez that I thought had enough solar power. It was a power boat with a big back deck covered by a bimini. The entire area above the bimini was solar panels, I figure about 1000 watts.

We don't have a wind generator, and I don't think I would want one. Most of the ones we've seen (heard) are pretty noisy. Others are quieter, but don't seem to put out as much. I'm not sure I could live with the noise unless it put out 10 amps and even then I'd probably shut it down at night to sleep.

We don't have a water maker (more on that later) so our biggest draw is our refrigerator. It's an Adler Barbour Super Cold Machine, it draws about six amps and though it has an option for water cooling I've yet to install it. This is the 'next big thing.' We have a pretty small fridge, enough to hold 4 liters of water, some beer, a couple heads of cabbage, four or five cucumbers, condiments, cheese, tomatoes, and avocados. We also have a small freezer which will hold two ice trays (yes we make ice) and about four pounds of meat. The fridge is cooled by a spill over fan from the freezer. Several years ago, when we first got the boat, I re-insulated the box with six inches of extruded polystyrene (Dow blue board) against the hull and four inches on the sides and top. I did this because I found that the existing insulation was soaked through with water that leaked in from the drain in the bottom of the fridge. The re-insulated box does not have a drain. All that seems pretty good, but in fact worse then the amount of cold lost through the insulation is the cold lost when you open the box to get something out. If I had the chance, I'd put a small water tank (2-3 liters) in the fridge and plumb it into the pressure water system. That way we could have a cold drink w/o opening the box.

Like I said, we don't have a water maker. This was an 'experiment' on our part, to see if we can live without one before we commit to the bucks, and we're still not sure if we want one. It would be nice to have the extra capacity that a water maker enables, but we're not sure it's worth the expense and maintenance hassles. As it is we can go about four weeks on our tanks (105 gal in the boats tanks and 25 gal in plastic jugs). That's about 4.5 gal per day (2.25 per person per day). We don't do laundry on NAKIA but out of that 4.5 gal per day we get a daily shower (bathe in the sea and then rinse with fresh water), wash dishes, and all the water we can drink. We get water when it's available, either at a dock or from water purification plants. Every town has a purification plant and you can usually have a truck deliver water to the shore where it's a short carry to your dinghy. Cost for this water is anywhere from $.80 to $2 per five gallon jug. We have five jugs which we bought on the mainland, actually we just paid the deposit on them, for $4 each. We give the water truck driver our empties and he gives us full jugs. $2 for five gallons might seem like a lot, but if you consider that a water maker can easily cost $5000, we can buy 12500 gallons of water @ $2/5 gal before we pay for a water maker. I read an article recently in which the author said he's run his 180 gal/day water maker for 1500 hours over the last four years(approx 12000 gal). His water maker still hasn't covered the original purchase price, not to mention new filters and repairs. All that said, we may still install a water maker, there's nothing like knowing for sure where your next five gallons of water is coming from.

I hope that covers some questions on cruising. Let us know if you have more, and we'll try to post answers.

John and Linda