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Friday, May 13, 2016

Hah! “Couldn’t Be Done,” They Said


This is the dead AA alkaline “rechargeable” battery set
from our spotlight.
We loved our waterproof, 1 million candlepower rechargeableWest Marine flashlight (retailed for ~$100+ USD).   It’s great for spotlighting sails and lines on night watches, dinghy rides back in the dark, and all sorts of other handy uses.

But after less than 2 years, it would no longer hold a charge.   “Charge it about 20 times and that’s it!?!” Wayne fumed.

Even if we wanted to replace it, Wayne couldn’t find anything like it here at Burnsco which is New Zealand’s West Marine equivalent.

 So Wayne took it apart to find out what the batteries were.

To his surprise and disappointment, they were AA rechargeable alkaline batteries… 30-year-old technology, known for its few available charging cycles, soldered together in a battery pack.  Clearly, not designed to be replaced.

NiMH AA rechargeable battery, for wireless phone handset…
and our spotlight!  Source found on TradeMe, New Zealand’s
answer to Craigslist + eBay + Amazon
.
Not one to give up easy, (read obstinate son-of a Bi*#H) Wayne did some substantial research and decided that he could replace them with nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries as the voltage was close.   The local Whangarei battery experts were skeptical, (they didn’t think the charger would work), nor did they carry the wire soldered AA batteries Wayne was looking for. 

Again, Wayne persisted.  Maybe it’s his avionics (aviation electronics) background, coupled with a perverse desire to stretch a dollar, especially given all the other “boat bucks” (a boat buck = $1000) we had already forked over this year.

Looking on TradeMe, (New Zealand’s hybrid between Craigslist, eBay and Amazon), Wayne found a place that had NiMH batteries with the wire pigtails welded on for wireless telephone handsets that would work for a mere $7 NZD (about $5USD).  Of course, the minimum courier cost in New Zealand is $10 NZD (>$7 USD). 

Wayne removed the existing batteries, replaced the 6 alkaline batteries with 4 NiMH while changing from 4.5 volts to 4.8 volts and wired them into place.

Viola!  For $15 USD (and a LOT of research), our awesome rechargeable West Marine flashlight’s been resurrected!

It offered the perfect precursor for Wayne’s next electrical challenge. 

When our Honda generator* died, we bought a lightly used replacement from a neighboring cruiser, Steve of Code Blue. Steve hadn’t used the generator in years, which is why he was willing to sell it. 

*We use a Honda 2000 generator when our solar panels or motoring isn’t enough to satisfy our boat’s power requirements, usually due to our biggest consumers of power, our refrigerator/freezer and our laptops.


Wayne, justifiably pleased with himself
after resurrecting our West Marine spotlight.
Once again, he’s my hero!
The generator featured an hour meter, which keeps track of how many hours the generator has been run.  It’s a helpful for keeping track of when to change the oil and other servicing requirements.  However, that cool little $80 upgrade didn’t work either.

Why?

Because its battery was dead.  Once again, Wayne did some excavation.  It was a basic watch (button) battery, potted in by the factory.  Again, designed not to be replaced.  Once it dies, you are supposed to buy a new meter.  This time, Wayne was able to spend a mere NZ $4 for it locally.

He then carefully chipped away the existing potting material, popped the new battery into place, and sealed it back into place.  Ta-da!  For $4 (and this time a lot less research), this $80 feature is alive and kicking.

Hah!  They said it couldn’t be done.  Sheer obstinacy made it happen.  Hooray for small victories, especially when we got slammed for over $10k US for repairs so far this calendar year --and it’s only May!

Journey, as seen from Whangamumu,
 Bay of Islands Overlook, May 2016.
Location Location

This was written and scheduled for posting while we were still in New Zealand anchored off Opua (S35.18.772 E174.07.485), waiting for a better weather window to our first major cruising stop this year, to Savusavu Fiji.  Right about the time this posts, we expect to be setting sail, Friday the 13th of May,  it will take us nearly two weeks to get to Fiji,  at 1170 nm, our 2nd longest ever passage. 

This year's planned  cruising route; 4,500 nautical miles (nm) or more.
When we finish in Australia, we plan to sell
our Pearson 365 ketch there.
Sailing by the Numbers

Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles.  This year, from Fiji, we’ll go to Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia.  After we arrive in Australia in around November, completing another 4,500 or so miles this cruising season, we plan to sell our boat.  Then, it's back to work, somewhere.