They are thin and light. Four of them produce the same wattage as all five of the panels Orion Jr sported last season. These are our new semi-flexible solar panels that we installed on the bimini shortly after arriving at LaBelle. After considering various options, we opted for 2- 30W and 2 – 90W panels, which are mounted on the bimini on each side of the boom. Given the different dimensions of the new panels, we had to modify the bimini attachment points and create a new channel to allow the wires and thicker MC4 connections to pass over the bimini and down to the solar controller mounted in the port cockpit locker. They also have a blocking diode that ensures the current flows toward the batteries from the panels, but not the other way around. The only downside of the new panels is that they are not as shade-tolerant as the 3 flexible panels that used to sit atop the bimini. So, we needed to ensure they were mounted as far from the boom as possible to minimize shade, and also we needed to expect that we would routinely lose half of the panels, assuming the boom cast a shadow in one direction or the other.
Keeping up with the Joneses. As Cathy did some repairs and sewing for other cruisers, Dave kept coming up with ideas for Jr to keep up. Why don't we have a tiller cover? Maybe we'd get more air flow with another set of larger mesh screens? OK. OK. So, in short order, a tiller cover appeared and this one even had a webbing strap to hold the tiller up and out of the way in the cockpit. And that 2nd set of screens appeared. With the warm weather and the persistent bugs, the increased air flow while still keeping the pests at bay was appreciated.
The hinge wasn't the only emergency repair that we had to do. Our short trip to LaBelle was more eventful than it should have been because the engine kept shutting down. We switched fuel tanks and it then ran smoothly. The problem was two pinch points in the fuel hose on the one tank. Dave replaced the hose and the engine ran smoothly on both tanks again. The summer heat once again caused 2 wooden blocks that we had epoxied to the hull to support the water tank and to support the dinghy seats to fall off. We replaced them taking more care to clean and sand both the block and the hull surface to get a better bond. Maybe we got it right this time. Cathy loves crawling into that locker to fix these things, so she's especially hopeful they stay put.
Our departure from Port LaBelle was delayed longer than we had hoped due to the windy weather brought by a cold front Thanksgiving week. The same front that brought cold and lousy weather to much of the rest of the country. We didn't let it de-rail our plans too much. Instead we drove to Tom and Dau's house for Thanksgiving dinner, spending the day with them, their son Grady, Dau's mom and step-dad and Dau's sister and brother-in-law. It was a big family gathering and we felt privileged to be able to join all of Cathy's “cousins” for the day.
So, we keep figuring out where we're headed on our cruise. Since we plan to leave the boat back at Port LaBelle when we travel north for Christmas, we'll only be out and about for a couple of weeks. Maybe we'll head to Cayo Costa or Fort Myers Beach. We've already promised Tom and Dau that we'll come back by boat. And then there's Franklin Lock. We're not in a hurry, so it will give us time to explore. And at least we're moving again.