Alarms, a near explosion and a ride to Myrtle Beach

This morning started out to be a fairly simple day. The Todds were up early and anxious to be off for home. They had received news that one of the dogs was having potty problems and they would feel better once they got there to assess the situation. Hugs all around and we bid a fond farewell to them and their vehicle which we would be needing shortly but did not know about it just yet.

Right after breakfast I began loading photos to Part Two of yesterday’s blog and was looking forward to a quiet day of watching the Sunday news shows and catching up on world affairs. That is when the first alarm sounded!

It was in the master stateroom and was a low level alarm from the Sniffer which detects certain chemical fumes. Frankly I thought it was the perfume Gabriela used and that the detector was picking up low levels of it due to it’s sensitivity. We fanned the unit to clear the air around it and left the door open to allow the room to air out. Now please do not think that Gabriela uses too much perfume. She smells perfectly marvelous but these units will go off if there is any concentration in a closed area. It seemed to solve the problem and I went back to my computer.

Later I decided to take a tour of the engine room in preparation for tomorrow’s trip to Myrtle Beach. As I descended the steps I put my hand on the house battery box to steady myself and it was warm to the touch. This is not normal and since one of my chores today was to check the water in all batteries I might as well start with this one so I removed the cover.

The battery was wet from overflowing acid, it was scalding to the touch and when I removed the caps it was boiling and sulfuric acid fumes began to float upward. Those of you familiar with wet cell batteries know that this is not only bad, it is dangerous as this thing could explode and throw acid all over everything in sight. I quickly pulled off all the caps but that allowed so much fumes to escape that I was almost choking. I dashed to find a tool and disconnected the terminals. Then I mixed some heavy baking soda and ice water from the cooler drain and poured it over the battery to cool it and neutralize the acid that had blown out. Disaster averted and the water would just collect in the bottom of the battery box. Could the sulphuric acid fumes have set off the alarm earlier? Not sure because it is at the other end of the boat and the Sniffer nearest the battery did not go off. I still opt for the perfume. 

Now I had a real problem. This battery supplies all interior lighting, the freshwater pump and runs the navigation instruments on the bridge and bilge pumps. We could run tomorrow without it but would not want to. So I began calling around to find an 8d battery on a Sunday. This is not something Walmart or an auto parts store would have. They are large batteries and can weigh as much as 160 lbs each depending on their amps. Also I had to check all the other batteries aboard to make sure this was limited to the battery itself and not another charger problem. It appeared to be limited to this one battery which is understandable since it works more than all the others combined.

I finally found one in Myrtle Beach 35 miles away at a Batteries Plus Store for $208 which was about right. But I would have to take out the old one, find a way to go 35 miles without a vehicle and haul the new one back. My kingdom for a horse though I do not believe even a good horse could carry me and a battery of unknown weight the 70 mile round trip.

So I began to cast about for a solution. Steve Rothrock had offered us a vehicle but I did not wish to impose if there was another way. I found through the marina a nice young man named Brandon who would take me for a reasonable fee but he had to be back in time to get to his new job at the Piggly Wiggly by 4pm. I had to hustle.

 
 
 
 
I disconnected everything that was in the way and pressed seaman Fred from “Boreas” across the dock. I told him I needed a strong back and a weak mind. He was ready to volunteer. Boaters are like that and Loopers especially. We horsed that thing out and onto the dock where a cart was ready. I called Brandon to head this way and Jan made me a lunch to go. Within minutes we were speeding toward Myrtle Beach.

 
 
Brandon proved to be a responsible fellow and we had a nice chat about his life and dreams for the future. He seems a hard worker and I was glad to meet him and have a chance to help financially. We got the battery with no trouble and returned in plenty of time for him to get to his first day of work. He is a high school junior or senior and hopefully will continue his education and hard work ethic. I think his family is very supportive of him and he will be successful.

 
 
Back at the boat I pumped out the waste as they would be closing shortly. Then I began cleaning out the battery box to neutralize any spilled acid. All this takes is baking soda, water and elbow grease. My quiet Sunday was gone. Poor Fred came back to help me again. The new battery is stronger and much heavier than the old one but the two of us got it in. Frankly a third person would have had no place to stand to help us as it was a tight fit for two people and a large battery on those steps. By 5pm I was in the shower and glad to be done. Now I will watch this battery tonight to be sure it is not overheating. I do not think it will because the charger ammeter looks normal now.

 
 
With a boat there are no days of rest guaranteed.

Dinner aboard as it is raining again. 60 Minutes is on and life continues aboard Cbay.

Sorry our day was not more entertaining but sometimes it is just hard work.

1 thought on “Alarms, a near explosion and a ride to Myrtle Beach”

  1. Hi Rusty & Jane – we miss seeing you guys!
    The alarm could be two things: 1) I assume it was the CO alarm. Low battery voltage will make them alarm.
    2) A boiling battery produces hydrogen gas. Hydrogen is a “mimic” gas to CO, and will set off a CO alarm.
    Get yourself a battery hydrometer. <$10.00 at the auto parts store. This will tell you if you have a bad cell, and can foresee a situation like you had. Check all cells every two months. Ken & Pat

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