Friday, January 14, 2011

Leaving for St. Martin

We have stayed several days longer in St. Croix than planned -- typical, I guess, for cruisers.  First, we had to wait for our wind generator to be delivered from Trinidad.  We had ordered it before Christmas, but I think that the KISS Energy company took a fair bit of vacation over the holidays.  Anyway, it arrived Wednesday evening, and we thought we could leave on Thursday.

Not quite...  We had arranged for some stainless steel work to be done in St. Croix.  The pole on the back of the boat to hold the wind generator was too short, and we needed it to be lengthened.  Plus, we had done some minor damage to the frame holding up our solar panels, and these needed repair.  This was supposed to have been done on Monday, but the welder was tied up because he had been a witness to a crime and needed to give information to the police.  He wasn't able to start the repair until Thursday morning, and by the time he finished it was too late to leave.

The trip to St. Martin will take, we think, about 20 hours.  It is just under 100 miles, but with the easterly winds in the tropics, we will have to tack quite a bit and will probably travel more like 150 miles.  We need to arrive in daylight to be safe, so we will leave St. Croix around 1:00 pm, and plan to arrive in St. Martin Saturday morning.  This will be our first overnight passage with just the two of us, and we are both just a little nervous.

A word about the wind generator.  Last summer we had tried out our solar panels.  In the Chesapeake, and at that time of year, we were able to meet all of our electricity needs with just the solar panels, plus electrical charging that came for free when we used the engine to move the boat.

In the Caribbean we are finding our electrical usage higher (warmer water means the refrigeration has to work harder, less daylight means more lights, etc.), and we aren't using our engine very much for propulsion.  The solar panels help, but in the winter they put out less energy and just can't keep up.  We were running our engine for a couple of hours a day just for charging.  This is expensive in fuel and also hard on the engine.  Therefore the wind generator.

We chose a model by KISS Energy for several reasons.  It is optimized for the wind conditions we experience in the Caribbean, and puts out an amazing amount of power in 15 knots of wind. It is extremely simple in design, which appeals because we hope for fewer breakdowns and less maintenance.   It is used and recommended by a large number of cruisers.  And it is relatively inexpensive compared to some of the more-complex models.

It will take several days to complete the installation.  We will post in the future about how well it works.

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