After a late typhoon, we began our seasons cruising with a trip back to one of the favorites, Coron. Again, we met old and new friends, dove the famous WWII wrecks and bathed in the hot springs.
from a typhoon to sunshine
Our plan was to venture off shore to the small island country of Palau, this would require a good weather window with a break in the NE monsoon winds as it is 500 miles of open ocean. The winds usually subside in March and bring warm, dry and calm weather to the Philippines, their “summer”. The other requirement I had for making this trip is the boat must be void of any major problems, there is no help out there!
Sadly, neither of these things panned out. The weather just did not break, the winds and rain persisted way beyond the normal times. We watched the weather programs diligently and saw only those dark green and brown arrows, not good.
Furthur seemed to not to want to go either, gremlins kept popping up and old ones not going away. I have had a consistent problem with batteries, they just did not last. When we go back to Puerto Galera we were running the gen much longer than usual to keep the charge. We got a technician from Manila to come down and he found a weird draw from the inverter, whether it was running or not, up to ten amps. This explained the radical drop in voltage we would find overnight. We also discovered 2 more dead batteries in the 6-battery bank.
Not having access to invertor parts or the know now to fix it, the short-term solution was to switch off the main power cable from the inverter, so we installed a switch to do so. We found that if we cut off the power drain we had much better voltage each morning. A short-term solution we could live with.
the trusty Balmar gave up
The other failure that hampered our love of amps, an addiction common amongst cruisers; our trusty Balmar 160 amp 2nd alternator died. Not a big shock after 12 years and over 8000 hours. I took it to a small local repair shop with no luck. It also seemed that the smaller stock Cummins alternator had failed, possibly long ago but we could not notice with the big one churning out big amps. This left us running with no charge off the engine.
The good news is that our newly reworked solar system was spitting out a great charge and more of the day. Upon good advice from a solar expert, we switched the panels to be “in series” instead of “in parallel. This required a larger, higher voltage MPPT controller to handle the over 100 volts we now produced. The net result is the panels begin charging much earlier, as soon as they hit 24 volts and stay much later.
So, our procedure until I could get a new alternator was to run the gen in the early morning and watch the solar charge. A nifty Bluetooth gizmo now sends the solar charging data to my phone! On a clear day we could run off the panels by 8-9 am and until about 4pm.. then back on went the gen all the way to Cebu.
Multiple emails with Balmar and our good friends at Fisheries Supply and the new alternator was on its way with some other goodies. When we get to Cebu, I was directed to a huge junk yard, salvaging company, I walked in to see piles of dead alternators and other parts. The Chinese/Filipino owner took us in his care and we sent the alternator to his friend in Manila for repairs, 4 days and $200usd later I had the rebuilt one in my hands and it worked, still is! We then sent the smaller alternator and the –never did work- wind gen to the same guy. Trojan sent us 2 more batteries to replace the dead ones and they really work. About this time the new alternator arrived. So now I have a complete set of spares, you should not have to read about alternator troubles for quite some time!
Boat woes under control, we centered on the weather again. We were moored with a 150’ expedition super yacht with 19 crew. They had been in Cebu for 2 months waiting for the same evasive weather change. Finally, they found a 3 day lull and took off. About that time an Aussie cruising boat with some friends pulled in returning from Palau. The reported bad weather all the way, they were going down wind returning we would have it on the nose. They also gave glim reports of 59 out of 60 days of rain there. One cannot ignore these signs from above, Palau was out this year.
Sadly, with our change in plans we lost our one good crew member, Liz, who went on to other adventures. So, Donna and I ventured off to explore the central parts of her country more. We went to Bohol Island and spent a few days exploring its wonders. We saw the tiny rare and endangered critter, the Taisier. Did a ultra-tourist river cruise and then headed back north.
Our next stop was Comotes Island, a gem of a place with white sandy beaches, dotted with excellent and cheap eating places, 85 pesos for a great meal ($1.60). The warm water was so clear we could see the anchor at 30ft of depth. The sun shone, I got my tan back and life was good. Summer cruising was back!
Make Your Dream Your Story
Capt. Brian Calvert