But The Solar Panel is OK

Trip Start Dec 01, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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On the Hook

Flag of Mexico  , Baja California,
Friday, April 13, 2012

I heard this cruising gal talking the other day about the rough conditions she and her husband encountered on a trip across the sea and was struck by her comments. She said that at the height of the storm she realized she might not be able to fully tell her kids the story because she wasn't sure she would want them knowing how difficult and scary it can really get "out there". At the time I told her she should just be honest with them because they will certainly be amazed and proud of their courageous and adventurous Mom. But thinking about it later, I realized that the main reason to share both the good, bad and the scary with our friends and family is because we are so far away and we want to share our lives in full because we want to maintain the intimacy of our relationships. 

So, kids, friends and family, we almost burned the up your inheritance but we're all ok.

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                  That's Ashika on the far right. The green hulled beauty to the left is our dear friend Heather on Cabaret. We haven't seen her in almost 2 years and she just happened to come into the bay right after we put the fire out.

It started out as most mornings do around here, just beautiful. We had power issues though. We were on the hook with the generator off line and not quite enough solar panels to keep the fridge temp in the zone, so Dois put out the spare portable solar panel on the house top.  That brought our charging amps up and so we turned to the SSB to listen to the weather report. 

Just about that time, a gust of wind came rolling down the mountains and caught our unsecured solar panel and flipped it off the house top and onto the deck. But we took a quick look and it seemed nothing was broken and it was still catching sun, so we left it like that for the moment.

Right as I'm turning off the radio, I smelled something burning. Dois hopped out on deck to see smoke coming from the solar panel plug where it enters the boat. He pulled the plug out from the side of the house and smoke poured out of it. We thought the problem solved... when the panel had fallen, two wires had crossed and shorted out. We disconnected panel, no problem. But we were really wrong. The short had caused the battery banks (read all the battery power) to send all the juice they had back into both the positive and negative wires. That had the effect of melting wires that were in bundles so that a lot of wires were now involved. And there is no on/off switch or fuse because the solar panel was direct wired to the batteries. 

Dois and I had spent a few moments (way too long) commiserating over the loss of the solar panel, but we could still smell smoke. He asked me to check the engine room. I went below and opened the door and was hit smack in the face with the most noxious billowing cloud of black smoke. From his place out on deck, Dois called out "is there smoke in there?". But I could not take a breath to reply. I heard him ask the question again but still could not answer. I had a small fire extinguisher in my hand, but I couldn't breath. I couldn't go in there. I grabbed Ginger and climbed into the cockpit with Daisy where I was finally able to answer Dois. "We have a fire in the engine room!" which was completely unnecessary by that time as the smoke was billowing out the boat by then. He grabbed a towel and got it wet and went below.

When he stepped in there it was pitch black except for the red hot glowing wires. The wires were burning their covers and where ever there was still plastic to burn, there were flames licking up the wire. The burnt plastic left black ash in the air and all over the engine room. He struggled trying to decide what the best course of action would be, and then my fireman became my hero. He turned off negative ground isolator and that effectively broke the connections between the negative and positive terminals, stopping the batteries from burning themselves up (and possibly the rest of the boat).

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The lower wire is the culprit, the larger wire over it is the radar cable. The is where the wires go through the cockpit lazarette through that burned out hole into the engine room.

You can't be an adventurous and/or courageous cruiser with out having trials and tribulations, and mistakes and accidents are part of the deal. Therefore we spend and enormous amount of energy and cash on contingency plans, spares and safety equipment. I don't think we're all that courageous, but we do try to claim safety and adventurous with a healthy dose of optomism. We are still learning from the experience and will install more saftey systems before this is over. And aside from burning the cover off of the new radar cabling, I don't think there is anything to cry about.

We are currently moored at Marina Palmyra, La Paz, Baja California Sur, having arrived yesterday April 13, 2012 after a lovely day cruise on a calm and gorgeous day on the Sea of Cortez. 

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                      I'm not making this stuff up! This was the view for a better part of the ride.

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                                                                                  Ginger on the look-out for dolphin.

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                Daisy on the look-out for Ginger because she knows Ginger will call out the alert.

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                                                    Dois on the look-out for any hard places.

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                                                                    Captain Ginger

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Roonie on

Lauri and Dois,

I'm so glad you're okay!!!
Love to you! Thanks for the blogs:)

Paul Frattone on

Going Green looks dangerous ! Take care !

ashika on

Roonie! Miss you and so very glad to know you are getting the blog. As soon as we get the boat cleaned up you should think about visiting. The islands are beautiful here. xxooo Lauri and Dois

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