We're still here in Puntarenas after 10 days...quite a bit longer than expected. We got the engine exhaust welded in just a day or so...turned out very well...though I thought the beer can patch was kind of classy.
But we've noticed our refrigeration system has been working much harder than ever to keep our freezer frozen and our fridge cold. Much longer run times than normal to freeze the holding plates, and even then, we can't get them as low as before....it just runs and runs trying to get colder without effect...translates to enormous battery drain (the system runs 35 amps / hour) AND shorter hold over time before the system needs to run again. A bad combination. Coupled with the cloudy days (lower solar output from our panels), we're now running our generator twice/day, for a total of perhaps 3+ hours. Not good. And it means we cannot leave the boat unattended for more than the day, as we need the morning and evening genset run. This is a major issue for us.
So we've been working with our Seattle refrigeration guru, Mark McBride, who installed the system 8 years ago. He's a whiz, but it's very difficult to troubleshoot a complex system like this remotely, with many variables affecting the performance. The first thought was low refrigerant level. We found a local refrigeration mechanic here in Puntarenas to help, but he didn't have the identical refrigerant as the original (HFC-404a), so we needed to vacuum the system, then introduce a new refrigerant, R-22.
That didn't help, the system is still not working well. The local mechanic thinks it's the compressor. Unfortunately the company who made this "state of the art" (note the quotation marks!!!), Glacier Bay, got out of the business a few years ago, and the compressors are proprietary. And the one person in the world who has the compressors available is traveling in Portugal now!!! And our Seattle mechanic doesn't think it's the compressor anyway, but at this point, is not sure what the problem is..... Ughhhhhhhhh.......
It's an old cliche that the definition of "cruising" is "getting to fix your boat in exotic places". Knock on wood, 'Bravo' has been pretty trouble free for the past 2 years, at least for major problems. This is the first real stumper we've faced. Will see what today brings. If we can't at least come up with the cause of the problem, we may need to limp the system along until we get to Ecuador, with the time to work on it some more. Might mean......(shudder)......shutting down the freezer. Hard to enjoy a margueritta without ice!!!!!
As we said, we're now firmly in the Central American rainy season. And with the rains come the bugs. We're moored not 15 feet from the mangroves on shore, so the "no-see-ums", or "jejenes" in Spanish have been enjoying 'Bravo's crew for breakfast every morning. Nasty little buggers, they really are so tiny that you can barely see them. We have screens on all of our ports and hatches, but they laugh their little bug laughs as they fly right through the screens! Tried repellent sprays at first. Sort of worked, but we hate being cooped up in the cabin breathing the stuff all the time.
Stay for updates on this continuing saga!!!
In the meantime, must be time to head to the pool and noodle the refrigeration problem some more...holding a coldie.......