October 30

Today was new battery day here on the Queen Jane and I can report that all went well and we are now equipped with a new set of batteries. The day began at 8am when we moved the boat over to the fuel dock where the work would be conducted. Michael from Mobile Diesel Services showed up just as we finished securing the boat and we got right to work. Removing the batteries was the first step and this went very smoothly. The batteries are stacked 4 high in a custom stainless rack mounted in the port side cockpit locker. The top battery was the hardest to remove as it is blocked by a bit of fiberglass which is part of the locker. The top battery had to be slid to port then wiggled around before it could be removed. The other 3 came out easily and we began installing the new batteries.  

I should add here that each battery weighs close to 160lbs and we used a crane attached to a forklift truck to actually lift the batteries in and out of the locker from the dock. Once the new batteries were in the rack we had to make some slight modifications to the retaining brackets holding them in (the new batteries are a tad bit wider and the bolt holes on the retainers did not line up we simply enlarged the holes). After that we re-connected all the cables (big, thick monster cables) and we were done. The only hitch is the acrylic cover which bolts in front of the rack needs larger standoff spacers since the new batteries have larger posts which protrude slightly. Michael will come by tomorrow with some new spacers he is making and we will bolt on the acrylic cover. We were done by 1pm, not a bad days work.  

The batteries, by the way, were not cheap. We had the opportunity to replace them in New Zealand last year and we could have saved a bit of money doing it there. However, we did get another year of use out of them which should translate into another year of life from these new batteries. So, the added cost of doing it here in Australia seems offset by that extra year. In the US these batteries would have cost $475 each (+tax). Here in Australia we paid A$1080 each or US$595, about US$120 more per battery! The tax here is also higher (11% compared to 5%-8% in the US depending on which state you are in). In New Zealand we could have got them for the equivalent of US$500 each and in New Zealand foreign yachts pay NO tax at all. So, the total cost in NZ (in US$) would have been (app.) $2000 while here in Australia we paid $2630 a difference of over US$600. In short, my advice to anyone planning major purchases for their boat do so in New Zealand if given the opportunity. This also demonstrates why NZ is such a popular place for US and European yachties in general and especially those with major projects in the pipeline. The low labor rate in NZ is also important in US$ the Aus. labor rate is app. $30 (A$55) while in NZ average hourly rates are closer to $17 (NZ$35) given current exchange rates.

Then, just when we started to relax, while making dinner, the reefer just stopped working. The controls went blank. I went to the breaker panel where we have a high amperage cut off switch and I tried to turn it off and on. It was stuck fast. This morning, while installing the batteries, I shut off the reefer and I recall the switch seemed squirrelly - that is to say, it did not turn smoothly. Then, after wiggling the switch it came back on. But after a few seconds I could hear the compressor making a funny sound. It was running ok then it ran slow, it just went hummmmmmmmm then it went faster again, like the voltage was fluctuating. So I figure the switch is making intermittent contact. I opened the panel and disconnected the wire leading to the switch and now the reefer is off and will stay off. I will try to find a replacement switch and try it tomorrow. But, as with many things, I doubt the same style/type of switch is available here. They will have something similar I expect, but it will almost certainly not fit in the custom (wood) panel box built in Seattle to house it and other cutoff switches (engine, genset) and battery switches. We shall see in the morning. Always an adventure.