Scotland - Part 1
Leaving Dartmouth a few weeks ago was a bit like leaving home...after 4 months on the River Dart, we really had developed feelings of nostalgia for the lovely town. But it was time to move on, and point the bow west to Lands End, before heading north to Scotland. Our time in the UK has been largely spent in lockdown, and we were eager to see as much as we could before our visas expire.
|Passing Dartmouth Castle, as we leave the River Dart, our home for nearly 5 months.|
|photos of Bravo by Graham Keating|
|Maunie handled the winds with ease|
|How many drunken sailors over the centuries have been dragged to their waiting ships through this alley?|
The weather window wasn't huge, but we decided to jump on it, as to wait could have meant a week spent waiting for the strong cyclonic winds to go back to the south. The PredictWind models showed the tale...
After a few days in Falmouth, we set our sights on Scotland, and the little town of Kirkcudbright, home to Graham's parents. The sailing gave us a wide range of conditions, from light and fluky to fine breezes. We were accompanied by several pods of dolphins, some staying with us for an hour or more at a time.
|Geoff with his sweet boat at her mooring.|
After a few days of the Keating's hospitality, we headed north to Troon. The forecast called for brisk winds, in mid 20's, and moderate seas. Together with Maunie, with Graham's dad Geoff, an avid sailor, on board for the trip, we decided that it would be feasible conditions to round the Mull of Galloway, even with it's reputation for big overfalls and currents, especially in wind against tide conditions.
Mull of Galloway
The "Mull" lived up to it's reputation. Shortly after leaving the mouth of the River Dee, the winds built up to around 35 knots on the nose, and the confused washing machine seas were around 3 meters, giving us the roughest conditions we'd yet experienced on new Bravo. We had a #2 reef in, but at that we were still very much overpowered. We're still learning the sail combinations for the different conditions with this boat, which is very different to sail than old Bravo, with her 11,000 pounds of lead in the deep keel.
Just as we were preparing to put in a 3rd reef, the entire boat "went dark" without warning. No autopilot, instruments, gps, radio comms, or lights.....all circuits were dead! And just as we really wanted the autopilot to keep driving as we tucked in another reef. The boat was on her ear, (we later found seaweed draped over the leeward lifeline!!!). As we struggled to regain control, all of a sudden the boat "lit up".....all 12 volt circuits started up again!!! YEE HAH!!! we did a quick happy dance!!! But our happiness was short lived, as the cycle of off/on happened 3 more times over the next hour or so. We dropped the mainsail completely while we tried to figure out the problem with the electrical system. Visibility was very poor, as the rain got heavier. We started the motor (it has a dedicated starter battery) and dropped the main sail for the last bit of the overflows. At last we rounded the Mull of Galloway, out of the tidal race, and gladly headed north.
So what the hell had happened to our electrical system? After all, having the boat shut down like that at the wrong time could be disastrous. Had this occurred at night, in shipping lanes, ships tracking us on AIS or visually by our lights would not have known we were out there. And similarly, we would have been "blind" without radar or AIS to spot ships. While we still have no definitive answer, at this point all signs point to the Battery Management System (BMS) of the lithium battery installation. All of the electrical equipment is by Victron, a quality, major manufacturer, and all of the "smart" components, including the batteries themselves, are networked. The job of the BMS is to protect the batteries, and will shut down all loads on the system if it senses low overall system battery voltage, overheating of the batteries, or cell imbalance between individual cells in the batteries. Here is where the answer may lie.....given the struggle of the autopilot in these wind/sea conditions, it is possible that the demands on the battery bank may have caused a cell imbalance, even though the overall battery voltage was fine (we'd been hooked to shore power for 3 days in Kirkcudbright, so had been 100% only 2 hours earlier). This COULD be what caused the boat's loads to be disconnected intermittently. Basically, the batteries are just too smart!!! Scary.
Later, after consulting our schematic wiring diagram, reading the manuals for the system components, and emails with Boreal/TEEM back in France, it seems as though we can install an override switch across the terminals of the BatteryProtect relay, which can allow us to disable the protective circuitry in case of emergency, should this event happen again. Definitely a project for the near future, when we bring the boat back to France for some work (more on that later). Happily it has not re-ocurred in the past 3 weeks of cruising.
After a nice stop at Troon, and a visit with South Pacific cruising mate Colin from s/y Ithaca, we continued to enjoy our journey north with visits to sweet anchorages and small towns.
Caladh Harbor was one such little anchorage. Quiet except for the birdsong, we even enjoyed a rare bit of sun!
|Enjoying the evening on the "back porch" with Maunie|
|Harbor of Tarbert. The manmade island in the middle of the harbour once held a large windlass, used to turn sailing ships around after loading with cargo.|
We were headed for the Crinan Canal, a 9 mile / 15 lock waterway built in 1801, which opens up Western Scotland without needing to round the south end of the Mull of Kintyre. It saves many miles, and also presents a unique diversion, as we enjoyed 2 days of meandering around the Scottish countryside, often times way above the road below us. Nearly all of the locks are manually operated by the boat crews, though we were lucky enough to have help from a few of the canal staff along the way. We typically squeezed into the locks alongside Maunie, without much room to spare. Here are a few shots along the canal.....
|Maunie enters the first lock|
|Bike path runs along the entire canal.|
|Cairnbaan, where we tied up for the night.|
|Cindi with Shea, our favorite lock tender!|
|One of the last of the Clyde Puffers, steam driven cargo boats which linked the Scottish Islands.|
|Anchorage at Loch Na Droma Budhe (photo by Graham)|
|The waitress assured us that we would not be disappointed...she was right!!!|
|The little critters could be surprisingly acrobatic!!!|