20 July 2024 – Isla Gavina Mallorca

After several weeks in the La Maddalena Park on the NE corner of Sardinia. It was time to move on. We took the bus in to the grocery store several times and enjoyed walking onshore amidst the pristine natural environment of the park. We were there for about 12 days, and it was very well protected from the storms that passed over.

Our first leg West took us to La Colma. This was a very good anchorage, just in front of a beach while facing into steady East winds.

Our second leg took us to Cala Grande Isola Piano, on the NW corner of Sardinia. Here we rested one night, before setting out on the final leg to Menorca (the first of the Spanish islands that make up the Balearic Islands) , a passage of 192.5nm. This passage was undertaken just after some very strong winds, but there was quite a residual side swell present, so it was a lumpy motor-sail, for most of the way.

At Menorca, we first anchored at Cala Teulera, just on the outskirts of the capital Mahon. This is a very, very well protected and popular anchorage. It is nearly always FULL with sailboats at anchor, and then 3X full when you add in all the local boats “day trippers” who come out for a few hours at a time to enjoy the calm, shallow waters and the tranquility.

At Cala Teulera, we walked up the hill to the nearby ancient fort of La Mola – dating back to the 16th century. The English, and then the Spanish took more than a century to build this fort, and there was never a shot fired in anger.

Kevin and Sandy rented a car to do some errands, and we tagged along with them.

One afternoon we treated ourselves to a very tasty tapas lunch, with 8 different tapas dishes and 2 rice paella dishes. We were stuffed!

We drove to the West side of the island, and visited the city of Ciutadella. First off, we visited the Cathedral Basilica of Ciutadella de Menorca. Construction started in 1300 and was finished in 1362, creating a building of the Catalan Gothic style.

Then, across the street we visited the home of a former rich family – the Oliver House. This is a view of their wine cellar.

Later on, we stopped in at Lidl for some cheap European groceries, and even bought some of this “vino blanco” for 0.89 euros (1 Litre). You can’t beat that…..

Here is a typical street view of the downtown of Ciutadella.

While in Mahon, we went to several chandleries and hardware stores, and it was wonderful to be back in a country where “things are on the shelves” and you are free to browse around looking.

On 18 July, we made it to the island of Mallorca, anchoring first at Cala Varques and secondly at Isla Gavina – where I am writing this blog entry. At Gavina, we are still “repairing our dinghy”. I have made several “Sikaflex” fixes, but they do not seem to be holding up and water is still leaking in at the stern. So, this time – we hoisted the dinghy on the foredeck “again” and made a determined repair, and are allowing the Sikaflex to cure for a full 4 days.

With our dinghy “out of commission”, we invited Sandy and Kevin over for lunch and to get water from us. With their outboard “out of commission”, and us unable to offer a ride – they are paddling.

27 June 2024 – Arrived in La Maddalena Park Sardinia

About a week later, we got our new Suzuki 20HP 4 stroke outboard. After installing it, and modifying the lifting harness – we have had ample opportunity to test it. It starts easily (pull cord – not electric) but with 4 people in the dinghy, we are a bit disappointed not to be able to get up on a plane – although we could easily plane with the Tohatsu 2 stroke 18HP. The difference though, is that this 4 stroke outboard has a much smoother power band, and no carburetor to foul (fuel injection). I think we’re better off.

We’ve had more Italian pizza onshore. Italy may have invented pizza, but pizza shops in the US and Canada have very much improved on the original design.

This photo shows JOANA from the dockside at Golfo Aranci, with our dinghy Lil Jon in the foreground and a cruise ship and several super yachts in the background. We were anchored precisely in that spot for a month.

As predicted, our friends Kevin and Sandy on SV NOCONA MOON arrived in the anchorage from Positano Italy (near Naples). They departed Monastir Tunisia from the same marina as us about 6 weeks earlier, headed for Sicily and mainland Italy. It is sure nice to again be able to cruise in the company of friends.

We’ve eaten in restaurants with Sandy and Kevin many times. This particular restaurant was vastly overpriced and skilled at under-delivering. My swordfish pasta dish was tasty, but the quantity of fish was about the volume of my fingernail. In the end, disappointing. In future, we’ll stick to fast food. A week later, we had a great Chinese food dinner in Olbia!

Over a 3 day period, we rented a car and drove from the NE to the NW side of the island. This gave us a good opportunity to see what the difference in landscape was. These are the ruins of a Roman aqueduct found on the outskirts of Olbia.

This is a landscape view of the beautiful area that surrounded Golfo Aranci.

On the NW corner of Sardinia, we visited the Nuraghe Palmavera – an Bronze age archaeological site consisting of several towers joined together. Ruins.

The landscape view shows a scenic background of vineyards and olive groves.

Here is a photo of a fisherman working on his nets. It’s a common sight here in Sardinia, as many people still make their living by the sea, in one form or another.

In Olbia, we visited the Basilico San Simplicio, built between 594 and 611. This church still has services, and when we were there at 1030am, they were already setup for a wedding that day. It looked like it was going to be a full house.

In Olbia, we found this fountain in a small square.

Of course, no trip to Italy (Sardinia is a part of Italy) is complete without a photo of a Ducati motorbike. This lovely example could only be improved if it was red.

Kevin has not yet installed a water maker on their boat, but ours is working fine – so I make them one or two jerry cans of clean water every day. This saves them from the effort of going in to a marina.

I continue to revisit my dinghy repair of a few weeks ago. This time, redoing the attachment joints between the transom and tubes with SIKAFLEX (a white marine polyurethane sealant/adhesive) instead of one-part hypalon glue. This is a very difficult area to make solid and waterproof. It is frustrating, but a work in progress.

So, here we were anchored at Porto Puervo and I got to see something for the first time. Well, for the past year we have from time to time seen someone go buzzing by on a motorized (submerged electric motor) hydrofoil. However, this time, we saw a guy taking his dog out for a spin. It was very quiet, and super cool. What a wonderful world we live in!

30 May 2024 – Golfo Aranci Sardinia

Since we were in Monastir Tunisia for “the winter” and there appears to be very little written about it in the usual cruiser sites, I decided to write (as I have many times before) about our experiences in Tunisia. This is a link to my NOONSITE article.

We left Monastir Tunisia on a Saturday morning at 6am, bound for the SE corner of Sardinia, a two-overnight passage of 234nm. It was supposed to be a mostly downwind sail, but as often happens, the winds were greater than forecast. Our Tides Marine mainsail track was damaged (first installed in 2001, replaced in 2015) and a new one is on order. We should be picking up and installing a replacement when we pass through Palma Mallorca in a month or so.

We heavily relied on Navily both for investigating anchorages and estimating the effects of wind and swell. This worked out very well, building on the data base of contributions made by so many people before us. I installed an unlimited multi-European eSIM on my phone (which I can HOTSPOT to other devices on the boat), and Diane installed a 10GB per month multi-European eSIM on her phone. We had Internet in every anchorage, and if we didn’t – we left. We first stopped at Paggia di Campulongu, an excellent anchorage – but we moved the next day because a storm was coming in.

The next day, we sought refuge in Port Giunco, another sparsely populate beach (it’s early in the season).

Then, we motor-sailed further up the east coast of Sardinia to Arbatax – where we arrived right in the middle of a pretty energetic squall. After a few hours of lively and exciting motion (verging on dangerous) in the anchorage at Arbatax, the conditions settled and we able to rest.

The next day, we again moved further up the coast to Capo Coda Cavallo, where we stopped for two nights, and took the time to recommission our EchoTec water maker. Last summer, when cruising from Turkey through Greece, I had some problems with the flow meter and pressure regulator. I couldn’t get the pressure higher than 400psi, and consequently the product water was over 800ppm, even with a new membrane. While in Tunisia, I replaced the flow meter and pressure regulator, using parts shipped from Trinidad to Canada, and then hand-carried back to Tunisia. This time, after closing off a few minor leaks (that always happens when parts are changed), I got the pressure all the way up to 900psi, and producing product water testing at 230ppm – just like new.

Eventually, we moved to the anchorage next to Aranci, my first preferred spot. The next morning, we took the next step of dinghy and motor setup. It was then, that we recalled the value of a buddy boat, and the disadvantage of not having one at hand. We have not launched our dinghy or been ashore since leaving Monastir last Saturday. We are now in a perfect anchorage for this, with restaurants and grocery stores ashore. We launched the dinghy and brought it around to lower the outboard – and a lifting harness strap broke. So Diane took nearly an hour to fix that. Then, much to our horror, once the dinghy was launched and in the water (first time in 11 months) we realized the dinghy was seriously leaking from both tube attachment points to the hull – at the stern. There were huge open spaces. These areas were re-glued in Turkey – but it appears that they used PVC glue instead of hypalon glue. BUGGER. No expedition ashore today. We lifted the dinghy onto the foredeck, deflated the tubes, cleaned and re-glued the areas, re-inflated and tied it together. Thankfully, I had two tubes of hypalon glue on hand.

The next morning, we launched the dinghy and it didn’t leak! YAY. Then we mounted the Tohatsu 18HP 2 stroke outboard, and although it was serviced only a few weeks ago in Tunisia, it did not pass cooling water. It occurred to me that despite having it “serviced” by professionals in Trinidad, Malaysia and Tunisia over it’s life of 13 years – it appears that nobody changed the impeller. I never changed it myself, because I thought it looked too difficult. I have no one to blame but myself. We found an “outboard mechanic”, “Johnny” close by. He picked up the outboard from the shore and took it to his shop. With our help, we all struggled for about 5 hours to separate the lower drive unit for access to the impeller. It had obviously never been taken apart and saltwater ages outboards much more quickly than use in freshwater lakes.

The impeller was shredded and needed replacement, but, it still didn’t pass water, evidently because there were bits of the old impeller lodged in hard to access water channels. After considering the age and condition of our Tohatsu (it had a surprising amount of corrosion, and the tilt lever did not operate any more), we finally gave up on our outboard and bought a new Suzuki 4 stroke 20 HP, for 3600 euros. To be more precise, it is ordered and will come in, in 7 business days. I don’t mind rowing to shore, but I have to do it in light wind conditions. Here we sit in Golfo Aranci, a very fine anchorage and town. We have been ashore several times, to go to the grocery store, and help Johnny with our outboard – but the real exploring awaits.

At the moment, we are hunkered down, waiting on anchor until the winds settle down – and in two days time will be able to get ashore again. Sure, we could go ashore today if we were will to spend 175 euros per night in a marina. The air temperature is about18C (night time) to 24/25C in the day, and the water temperature is 22C (but we have not yet gone for a swim). The water is clean, but still a little too cold for us.

19 April 2024 – Douz Desert Trip

In late October 2023, we had intended to make a trip to the Sahara Desert with Kevin, but then war broke out in the Middle East again, and we felt that it was best (as tourists) to keep a low profile here in Tunisia. Whether that decision was required or not is one question that we will never know the answer to. However, we just finished the trip and were quite pleased with the result. Our friends Kevin and Sandy (SV NOCONA MOON) organized the rental car, hotel and Sahara trip.

We first drove about 4.5 hours South of Monastir in a rental car, staying at the Sahara Douz Hotel (4 star). This was our hotel view from the window, late on the first afternoon.

It rained heavily on the way there. There were warning signs of camels grazing in the desert, and yes indeed, we did see small herds of camels freely grazing on what limited shrubs were available. If you look closely, you will see that their front legs are tied close together, and they are branded, indicating ownership.

With a bit of wind, the sand blows across the highway – much the same way that in Canada we see snow blowing across the road in the winter.

That would explain why they have constructed “sand fences” to try and limit the amount of drifting sand on the highways.

In the morning, we were met by Afeef (rhymes with “A Thief” – but that was not his character at all) our camel jockey.

We took a short walk with him from the hotel, to meet his camels (yes, they were his camels) and we had ourselves a little caravan of 5 camels. He lowered each one of them to the ground, and we climbed aboard.

All four of us mounted our respective camels and followed Afeef as he led us deeper and deeper into the desert. Along the way, he showed us various samples of desert rose, a geological formation of crystal clusters of gypsum or baryte which include abundant sand grains.

After about a two hour camel ride, we arrived at our destination, Desert Camp Abdelati. This was about 6km from our Hotel (in a straight line) but our trek was not straight at all as we meandered between the dunes and over the small ones. As we moved deeper into the desert, the signs of civilization gradually diminished, and when we got to the camp, we had the “full effect”.

Our camels were well behaved and sometimes paused during the trek to munch on some small bush sprouts. I spotted one small desert lizard (gecko?) (sand in colour) and we saw fox tracks as well. Here, Kevin demonstrates how he (and I) frequently shifted his legs to the front for rest. Those camels are very wide! Note to file: next time, do some extensive groin stretching exercises in the days leading up to two, two hour camel rides (there and back).

At the desert camp, we had an excellent hot lunch and watched the locals make fresh flat bread buried in the hot coals of a fire.

It was an excellent, and interesting trip. One more adventure done.

Back at the marina, a few weeks ago our 220V air fryer broke. It just wouldn’t heat anymore. In “this world”, when something like that breaks, you find somebody to repair it – and don’t rush to replacing it. We took it to the small appliance repair man and he fixed it within an hour at a very reasonable cost. He told us that he had to repair some bad soldered joints on the circuit board!

Many years ago, I made a boarding step out of some leftover “teak”. It has served us for many years (at least 10), and it was much better than the white inflatable ones that don’t last more than two years – but we found it a bit heavy, and we were interested in a replacement. Kevin had Adel (a local carpenter) make him one, and we were so pleased with the result that we ordered one as well. So, after the step was manufactured in 3/4” marine grade plywood, I finished it with Marine Cetol (5 coats) and then Diane and I glued a piece of foam to the back (where it presses up against the hull) and some “fender cover fabric” over the foam to protect the hull finish. This will hang on the toe rail on the port side, just at the boarding gate. It will make getting on and off the boat easier when at anchor (and we hang the dinghy on that side) and at dock (when we have a side dock).

First Post of 2024 – 28 March 2024

It has been a while since I wrote about our life and it’s journey, so I thought it was time to post a few things here, and bring the blog up to date. I posted some of these photos and text on Facebook, but then I realized that not all of my family and friends actually use Facebook.

First off, back during the Christmas, New Years period, we traveled to Rotterdam and Brussels to visit with family and friends. In Rotterdam, the Netherlands, we visited with son Raoul (who traveled from Vienna Austria with his wife Amelia and son Thorsten), daughter Joana (with boyfriend Arend and stepson Pike), stepdaughter Julia (and husband Timo, and sons Floris and Hidde). There were lots of dinners, walks and events going on, and I could summarize with just these two photos.

We rented bicycles for the stay in Rotterdam, and here is Jonathan posing with his.

Then, we took a quick train ride to Brussels to visit with our friends Rob and Teresa Clark. In Brussels, we relived our experience downtown at the Grand Place, bought some chocolate and enjoyed the hospitality of Rob and Teresa. The city has obviously changed a lot.

On return to Monastir Tunisia, we had a few small jobs to catch up on. We contracted for a new wheel cover, so when dockside – we removed the wheel and store it on deck, covered.

Also, it’s worthwhile to mention just how close the adjacent boats are here. During the winter period, the marina fills up to 125% capacity. The boats are really jammed in tight, and there is often a problem with the water and electrical connections. This boat was launched from the fishing port nearby, and berthed right next to us. There is nobody on-board, but there is a carpenter working on it FULL-TIME, from 0700 to 1900 everyday. After two days of listening to all this racket, I complained and they moved the boat, and resultant dust and noise, 4 spaces over. We can still hear it, but at least we can talk in the cockpit. Doing maintenance at the dock is one thing, but this is a major renovation that will take a year or more – and they should have left that boat in the yard. They swapped his boat over with another one, that is jammed in just as tight – but there is nobody on board.

I should also mention the “abandoned boats”. As we move around the world, we have seen abandoned boats in every marina, yard and even many anchorages. People park their boat, go home, and for one reason or another – don’t return. This leaves the marina in a tight spot, sometimes the boat is sitting there for 10 years! Nobody pays the rent, and it can present a hazard to other vessels nearby. This boat, with the shredded sail, is just one example. Since we have been here, we have seen two sails come loose (two different boats), and whip around in the wind for months – until they are absolutely destroyed. The marina staff will assist boats that have paid their rent, but abandoned boats present another challenge, and the staff are often unable (due to legal issues) to do anything.

In mid-March, we took a one week trip to Bristol England to visit with our friends Martin and Jane Robertson. It was somewhat wet and cool, certainly cooler than we have become accustomed to – but it was an absolute treat to be in a country where people spoke English as a first language. Having said that, it was sometimes difficult to actually understand their accents. This photo is in front of the cathedral at Wells England.

We had a very nice dinner in an Italian restaurant with Jane and Martin’s son Luke, together with his girlfriend Maisie and friend Jordon. Lots of different accents!

I took this photo when we were driving through the Cheddar Gorge.

Now for the shocker…..We have often thought of sailing to Bristol, even staying for a few months. However, one look at this marina in Watchet, during low tide (drying) convinced me that this is a bad idea. Really, you couldn’t pay me to bring our boat here.

Can you imagine JOANA in this berth? Not me.

12 Watchet Marina

No visit to England would be complete without a picture of a castle. This one is from Minehead.

Anyone who was watching the news in 2022 should recall that Queen Elizabeth passed away in 2022. Her royal mark (on mailboxes etc) has been very familiar through my life as ER. What do the royal initials actually mean? The ER stands for Elizabeth Regina. The ER, or EIIR, initials were the Royal Cypher of Queen Elizabeth II. Elizabeth, of course, was her first name – and Regina simply means ‘Queen’ in Latin. Now, fast forward to 2024, and we are watching for the currency to change and other signs that King Charles is now the head of the British monarchy. Keeping that in mind, I found it quite surprising to find not one, but two post boxes clearly marked with the sign of GR, King George VI – Queen Elizabeth’s predecessor.

Of course, no visit to England would be complete without an authentic fish and chips dinner. Martin and Jane took us to one of their favourite restaurants, where we all had an excellent traditional meal.

Finally, as we were leaving Bristol and flying out of the airport, I thought I would make two final notes. First off, Martin drove us to the airport and dropped us at the curb. There was no parking involved. However, the airport charges people 6 pounds (almost $10 CDN) to drop someone off. INCREDIBLE. Inside the airport, there are no places to plug in and recharge your devices (not that we actually needed this), but there are several of these convenient and expensive recharging vending machines. Using this vending machine, you can rent a power bank for 3 pounds (approximately $5 CDN) per hour. This is the first time I have seen this.

We are back now in Monastir Tunisia, and expecting to leave by mid-May 2024 to continue our voyage West. In late April, we will be taking a very short administrative trip back to Canada.

9 December 2023 – A Trip to the Fabric Shop

This is just a short blog to show that yes, we are still in Monastir Tunisia, and enjoying daily life. Shannon (on SV SWEETIE) put out an open invitation to join her in an outing to the “fabric shop” a few days ago. Since we didn’t have any boat projects going on, we jumped at the opportunity for an excursion off the boat, and out of town. The daily temperatures are about 18-22C, and it falls to 11-16C at night, depending on whether there is a system moving through. It rains every few days, mostly at night.

This excursion involved first walking from the marina to the train station (in the middle of town) about 1.4km away, and then taking a local train/metro to the town of Saline another 12km from here. The trains are very cheap ($ 0.25 CDN for a 12km ride), clean, and on time. There are signs of vandalism here and there on the train (a few cracked windows), but otherwise, I have no complaints. Sometimes the trains are full, standing room only, but we were lucky travelling in the middle of the day to easily get a seat.

The building was very modest, and didn’t even have a sign out front.

However, inside was another world entirely. It was the largest fabric shop I have ever been to, and it was on two floors. A single photo really doesn’t capture the content.

We went with the idea of finding some fabric suitable for Diane to make some new fender covers, and yes – we found just what we were looking for.

If you look for this shop using Google, you won’t find it. In fact, it is our observation that in “third world” countries (if this term even exists anymore), Google is very poor to identify resources that you should be able to find. Why is that? Here is a photo of the shop’s Arabic business card, and what I translated to English.

On the way back, we stopped in for lunch in Monastir at yet another local restaurant that we have never visited before. Together with Tony and Shannon (on SV SWEETIE), we had the daily special of either rice and chicken or couscous and chicken. We clocked in about 7,000 steps, bought fabric and had lunch out — it was a great day!

22 October 2023 – New LiFePO4 Battery Installation (Winston)

When I first built SV JOANA in May 2000, I used 14 – 6V golf cart batteries (wet cells) in series/parallel to produce a 12V bank at 1640 Ah (deep cycle storage batteries). This was a common solution in that era, although a bit big. In time, I realized that this was too big, unnecessarily big, and cumbersome to charge. At that time, I had much less solar as well. The next iteration took place in May 2008, when I replaced the original 14 with 6 – 6V floor sweeper (slightly taller than golf cart size) AGM batteries, in series/parallel to produce a 12V bank at 900 Ah (usable capacity of half, or 450Ah). This seemed to be the right size for our boat. However, cooking with electricity was still a challenge and we had low voltage alarms when night sailing, requiring the generator or engine to be running for an hour at 2am. In 2012, we were early adopters of the LiFePO4 technology and bought a 380Ah battery (400Ah with a 5% safety margin) from Lithionics in Florida. Lithium batteries in general are much more suited for house storage banks. They are much more receptive to solar charging (low resistance) and always present a higher voltage than lead batteries – which is better for all 12V motors (pumps and fans) on the boat.

With the purchase of more electrical devices, more solar, and more experience cooking with electricity (we have no gas inside the boat), it was obvious that although 400Ah was sufficient for our needs, it was insufficient during the winter months (low incidence of sun) and seasonal storms (we could only last for 2 days if there was no sun). Therefore, within a few years, we realized that the optimum capacity was going to be 600Ah, not 400Ah – an important figure for “when we next replaced the house bank”.

When I replaced our 380Ah Lithionics battery in India in 2019 (it suffered from over-charging and insufficient monitoring during its 7 year usage), I was determined to “get the size right”. However, because of the extreme difficulty of importing items into India (where we were docked in 2019), I was again forced to adopt the less than desired capacity and had an Indian defence contractor build another 400Ah battery. It was just not possible to put a larger battery into that defined space, at least not while we were in India.

Well, fast forward to 2023, when I decided to set this issue right, once and for all, despite the obstacles. I ordered Winston 700Ah cells from Skypower in China – delivered to Turkey where the administrative fees cost almost as much as the batteries themselves.

Also, another big piece of the puzzle was the Battery Management System (BMS), a customized JBD 250A BMS from Mueller Energy in Australia (delivered to Diane’s niece in Australia and hand carried back to Canada by her cousins Mike and Brenda Toonders!).

I picked this particular BMS for its obvious heavy duty construction, as well as passive and active cell balancing. This BMS was reviewed by Off Grid Garage, and although it has active balancing, it only “connects” the active balancer when certain voltage conditions are met. In addition to a small external monitor, through bluetooth, the BMS offers a very good app (for my iPhone) where I can see what is happening with the cells, and where I can adjust limits for safety and performance, as well as triggers for the balancer. There is even a software switch to turn off CHARGING and both an external wired switch and software switch to turn off DISCHARGE current – a feature that is very useful at the time of installation and troubleshooting.

This new Winston battery is actually described as LiFeYPO4 and not simply LiFePO4 (the cells contains Yttrium) and boasts a nominal capacity of 700Ah, yet its actual capacity is known to often exceed this nominal rating by around 12% upon initial usage. What sets these cells apart is their extended operating voltage range of 2.8V~4.0V, wider than typical LiFePO4 cells. Also, according to factory claims and real life usage, it boasts an impressive cycle life of over 5000 cycles at 80% depth of discharge (cycle life can be as much as 7000 times at 70% DOD), making it a robust choice for sustained usage. With an operating temperature range spanning from -45℃ to 85℃ (much greater than any LiFePO4 cells), it thrives in challenging environments. Its high discharge and charge rates cater to demanding high-power and fast-charging requirements.

It was here, in Monastir Tunisia that I was finally able to construct this custom battery, after returning from Canada with the BMS. The cells and other bits and pieces have been onboard since late Feb 2023. Over the past month, I first physically stacked the cells together, using the compression plates provided. Getting these compression plates connected took a few hours, it’s a very tight fit – and it should be.

Next, together with Diane, we installed 4 nylon web straps and a bottom plate of acrylic that would serve as the “case” for the battery. Then, I wired the cells in parallel and used a small 20A 3.65V cell charger (bought from AliExpress while we were in Turkey) and charged the cells up full – to 3.65V.

It took nearly 10 days to do this parallel charging with this small cell charger, but the result was worth it. While it was charging, I took the time to mount the BMS. My initial plan had been to place the BMS on the end of the battery pack, but due to “short” leads – I was forced to mount it on the side, pressing the heat sink against the aluminum battery compression plate (which I think will serve well to dissipate heat) to save space. At this point, the battery weighs about 190 pounds (21.6kg per cell. 86.4kg total), not including the aluminum compression plates, BMS and wires).

Next, I withdrew these temporary “parallel wires”, connected the manufacturer provided series interconnects and finished installation of the BMS and its balancing leads. Then, I set about actually configuring the BMS.

Here, I discovered that due to firmware limitations, the actually battery capacity entered could only be a maximum of 655.350Ah (rather than the purchased and technological limit of 700Ah). What’s more, the “cycle capacity” maximum is only 524.280Ah, again – noticeably less than the 700Ah I built! The cycle capacity built into the BMS leaves a 25% safety margin. In other words, the battery has a capacity of 700Ah, but at 0% SOC displayed by the BMS, there is still 25% (175Ah) remaining, still usable – as long as the minimum cell voltage levels are respected. I set the minimum voltage levels to Cell 2.8V and Battery 11.2V – still above the minimum limits set by the manufacturer Winston. I actually have two other current shunts (one Victron and one Balmar) that make their own SOC calculations, so I am not fussed by the issue of SOC calculations.

I then connected up my digital load tester (bought from AliExpress while in Turkey) and drew the battery down over a 4 day period. The load test was interrupted when I burned out the device at the 16 hour point (foolishly operating it at 180W, and not “under 150W” as recommended on YouTube). I figured out that a single MOSFET had burned out, and found a very good Tunisian technician who sourced and replaced it for me (in a week).

The total capacity of the bank was determined to be 82.04Ah (until the tester burned out) plus an additional 700.76Ah (after I had the tester repaired) when the BMS shut the battery down with a remaining voltage of 11.93V. This proved the REAL capacity of the bank as 782.80Ah, even further from the BMS’s “cycle capacity” of 524.280Ah, and throwing off even more it’s SOC calculations. This video explains how to use the tester.

This is a screenshot from the BMS at the end of the discharge, when it was shut down for a low voltage condition. With this BMS, most of the parameters are adjustable, so that I can run a safe battery and protect it from damage. I’ve circled three things in red: the Discharge MOSFET is now OFF, Protection (Cell UVP) is triggered, Battery voltage is 11.93V and Current is zero. The battery would still permit charging current, but no discharge, at least not until the cell voltage increases.

The next step was to fully charge the new Winston battery using a 30A LiFePO4 charger (again, something I bought from AliExpress while in Turkey), bringing it up to the top balancing all the cells.

Then, I was finally ready to remove the Indian made ULTRALIFE battery, and prepare the area to receive the new battery. The Indian battery was removed using a halyard, perfectly lined up through the overhead hatch – and then 4 people carried it up to the aft deck. Then, I cut away the old battery box to make just a little bit more room for the new battery. After cutting away 3/4 of the old battery box, I gave it a good paint job. This is a photo of the empty space, before cutting and painting.

This was what the new battery looked like from the backside, before moving it into the new space.

I also made up this functional top cover, to protect from any short circuits due to misplaced tools or hands. This photo shows the mounted discharge switch as well.

Then, Diane and I lifted the new battery (now weighing nearly 200 pounds) using a halyard and positioned it in the right spot. This photo shows the battery blocked in place and connected.

This photo shows the battery with it’s top cover in place, and the remaining items placed around it. In summary, I am very pleased with the overall installation and expect it to last for a decade or more.

I fully charged the “old” ULTRALIFE battery and load tested it at 358 Ah (when it’s BPM shut off the discharge at 10.8V).

This screenshot from the Victron monitor shows that over it’s 4 years of use, the Indian made ULTRALIFE battery consumed 584 charge cycles, suffering a deepest discharge of 297Ah and an average discharge of 168Ah – in other words, not heavy usage.

Finally, I came across this handy image a few years ago that illustrates cycle usage. A decade ago, I naively thought that each day was “a cycle” but of course this will entirely depend on the severity of the discharge – how deeply you take the battery down.

Several other cruisers at the marina have shown interest in buying it, and I am keen to see it go to a new home where it should still have many years of life left in it.

3 October 2023 – More of Tunisian ruins

We have discovered what might be the best hardware store in Monastir. At least it looks like it has a lot of stuff, and the staff are very helpful. It is called Society Generale Znati et Cie, located just outside the Monastir Medina.

At another automotive shop, I recently ordered these 10 oil filters. They are made in Tunisia by MISFAT, as an equivalent to my Volvo oil filters. I have to change oil every 100 hours, so it pays to have a stack of these. Now, I think I have enough stock until we get back to the Caribbean.

On 30 September (my 67th birthday), I went on another tour – this time only with our friend Kevin, as unfortunately Diane was feeling unwell. This was destined to be another day tour of the region, and the first stop was at Kairouan, Tunisia’s first Islamic city, and formerly the capital in the 9th century.

Here, we saw ancient water pools (Aghlabid pools) constructed in the ninth century. There used to be aqueducts in place that carried the water from the mountains, but these have disappeared through the course of time.

The next stop was to the Abu Zam’A Al-Balawi Mausoleum and mosque. Abu Zama participated in the first Muslim military expeditions in Northern Africa and died in AD 654.

The next stop was to the Great Mosque, revered as one of the most impressive and largest Islamic monuments in North Africa. The mosque occupies an area of over 9,000 square metres (97,000 sq ft) and attracts pilgrims by the thousands. We were told that the city of Kairouan swelled to over a million just last week with the influx of pilgrims.

The Great Mosque is one of the oldest places of worship in the Islamic world, and is a model for all later mosques in the area. Its perimeter, of about 405 metres (1,329 ft), contains a hypostyle prayer hall, a marble-paved courtyard and a square minaret. In addition to its spiritual prestige, the Mosque of Uqba is one of the masterpieces of Islamic architecture, notable among other things for the first Islamic use of the horseshoe arch (seen in some of my photos). These clocks depict the prayer timings, changing on a daily basis.

The next stop was to Bi’R Rita or the Barruta Well. This well represents one of the last implementations of a “water drawing well” in Tunisia. In ancient times, the city of Kairouan suffered an obvious lack of water. They collected rain water in pools, but also used this system of water wheels to lift the water up from shallow water tables. The water was used for drinking, cooking, cleaning, irrigation etc. The camel, as a beast of burden – was used to draw water up, tied to a primitive water wheel.

Next, we drove to El Jem, the successor to the ancient Roman city of Thysdrus. In a less arid climate than today’s, Thysdrus prospered as an important centre of olive oil production and export. It was the seat of a Christian bishopric, which is included in the Catholic Church’s list of titular sees. This amphitheatre was built around 238 AD and is one of the best preserved Roman stone ruins in the world, and is said to be unique in Africa. Like other amphitheatres in the Roman Empire, it was built for spectator events, and it is one of the biggest amphitheatres in the world. The estimated capacity is 35,000, and is built of stone blocks, located on a flat ground, and is exceptionally well conserved.

Kevin and I enjoyed barbecued lamb shish kebob directly in front of the Amphitheatre at El Jem.

The tourist “camel rides” were tempting, but we gave it “a miss”.

The last stop we made was to the museum, which was mostly about mosaics – and yes, they were well preserved and displayed.

Here, I would like to make a point about entrance fees. Throughout our travels, we have often seen entrance fees for citizens/residents at a lower price than tourists. In this case, the tourist entrance is 12 Dinars (about $ 5.17 CDN) and the local price is only 6 Dinars. By the way, that entrance ticket included both the El Jem amphitheatre AND the museum. In my opinion, this is easily explained when comparing the value of their local currency. What is also interesting though, is that they divide their Dinar into “thousandths” and not “hundreds” like we do with the dollar or the euro. The actual tourist entrance fee is 12.000 Dinars, and not 12.00 Dinars. This may seem like a trivial point but I can tell you that we have frequently been confused by the pricing of items, because of this single extra digit.

23 September 2023 – Cap Monastir Marina, Tunisia

On 15 September, we returned from a two month vacation to Canada and took respite from the heat in Tunisia. This strategy mostly worked, but a hot spell started up as soon as we arrived! A few days ago, we (Diane, Kevin and I) took a one-day excursion to actually see the sites in Tunis. Although we have passed through, or driven to Tunis (to fetch our luggage), we had not yet taken the time to see the city.

Downtown Tunis looks very similar to many streets in France or Italy, with large stone buildings, shaded walkways and trees.

We started with Tunis’s old Medina (an old walled part of an African town) classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – entering through this gate in the city wall (which has largely vanished through history).

Founded in 698 around the original core of the Zitouna Mosque, the old Medina of Tunis continued to develop throughout the Middle Ages. Today, it is a bustling, crowded narrow shopping “lane” (I hesitate to say street), where you could spend a day wandering around and looking in shops.

We stopped at the exterior of the Zitouna Mosque, but unfortunately it was closed. This mosque is the oldest in the city and covers an area of 5,000 square metres with nine entrances.

There were other places of worship evident, a synagogue and this cathedral, for example.

Later, we drove to the neighbourhood of Sidi Bou Said, a picturesque village overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Known for its cobbled streets and blue-and-white houses, Sidi Bou Said is a charming town on a promontory overlooking the Mediterranean, with al fresco cafes, Tunisian eateries, and small art galleries.

Lastly, we visited the ancient city of Carthage which offers a superb view of the surrounding coast. It’s predecessor ancient Carthage was one of the most important trading hubs of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of the most affluent cities of the classical world. The city developed from a Canaanite Phoenician colony into the capital of the Punic empire which dominated large parts of the Southwest Mediterranean during the first millennium BC.

Ancient Carthage was completely destroyed in a nearly-three year siege by the Roman Republic in 146 BC. It was re-developed a century later as Roman Carthage, which became the major city of the Roman Empire in the province of Africa. It was one of the largest cities of the Hellenistic period and was among the largest cities in preindustrial history. Whereas by AD 14, Rome had at least 750,000 inhabitants and in the following century may have reached 1 million, the cities of Alexandria and Antioch numbered only a few hundred thousand or less. Carthage and Alexandria Egypt were the next largest cities in the Roman empire. Sadly, history has not been kind to the remaining amphitheatre.

As an added bonus, our guide (Najd) stopped by Port Yasmine Marina in Hammamet on the way home. We have heard many good things about Port Yasmine Marina, but the reason we did not stay there is that historically – there was little, if any, of a live-aboard community. It seems that most cruisers berthed their boats, and flew home. This is not what we were looking for. However, it does seem to have one now, and although slightly more expensive than Monastir, does look to be in much better condition. It has a 150T travel-lift and very good protection from swells. I have heard though that with the presence of super yachts, the management are much more fussy about contractors working in the yard, and it is consequently more expensive than the popular Port-a-Peche (fisherman’s harbour) at Monastir.