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  #1  
Old 04-08-2007
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Batteries RIP, or not?

Another inexperienced new owner question. Sorry....

Oh, Happy Easter, everyone!

Here's the situation. My new (to me) boat has three batteries on board:
  • 115AH wet-cell
  • 75AH West Marine Gell-Cell
  • StowAway starter battery (a WM brand? don't recall)

The PO has a MinKota trolling motor charger plugged into the shore power 110 outlet in the cabin. Then he uses the alligator clamps to attach to whichever battery he wants to charge.

Here's the other part of the problem. The manual bilge pump in the lazarette doesn't apppear to work. There's at least 3/4" of standing water in the bilge. The PO has a Rule automatic pump sitting on the keel housing, held down with the sole panel (which won't close with the pump there). The pump wiring is connected directly to one of the batteries sitting on the cabin sole.

I know how to fix the bilge pump problem. Most of the bits are on the way from Defender (Rule 25D 500gph non-automatic pump, float switch, and a 6" deck plate - cut out a part of the cabin sole and install everything directly in the bilge), and the other bits I can get at the chandlery or the delightful Home Depot.

My problem is the electricals. I hooked the MinKota up to the 75AH gell cell battery, and it thought for a minute and said "charged." My voltmeter, though, reads 4.04v DC when everything's disconnected. The reading drops by .01v for every second or second and a half that you hold the meter probes on the terminals.

I then measured the charge on the 115AH wet cell, and it said 7.54. I haven't hooked the charger up to it, yet.

I haven't checked the starting battery, because that's not what worries me right now.

Before leaving the boat yesterday, I wired the bilge pump to the 115AH battery, and disconnected the charger completely. When I get down there later today, I'll finish my inspection of everything, and then get to work on figuring out and mapping the electrical system.

Oh, and it's about 40 degrees outside (with a 20kt wind - brrr!). This may be a factor.

Now that I've laid the groundwork, I can get down to the questions.

First, is the gell-cell dead and gone? I know cold batteries may not take a charge, but the "12v Bible for Boats" says 11v is flat dead, and this guy is showing a meager 4v.

Second, is the 115AH wet cell likely dead or badly damaged? It was reading 7v and change, so I imagine there's bad chemistry happening to the plates.

Third, I am planning to bring the batteries home, let them warm up, trying the charger again, and seeing what they read. I also thought about calling around to see if any shops can properly load test them for me.

Bottom line: is it worth it to spend time trying to resurect these batteries, or should I just drop the $1xx and get a new Group 24 battery and be done with it?

Cheers!
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Old 04-08-2007
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It sounds like the PO let the batteries sit in a discharged state for a long period of time. It takes a lot to get a battery down to four volts. Chances are very likely that the batteries in question are DOA. The fact that the bilge pump was wired to one probably means that the pump drained it and then burned out when the voltage got too low.

Also, hook up the batteries properly and get yourself a decent three-stage smart charger. It'll go a long way to paying for itself when it is used properly as it will prolong the life of your batteries.

The gelcell is almost definitely a write off... the 115 AH battery might be salvageable. I'd check the water levels in it, and if they're okay, charge it up. If the water level is low, then it is probably a write off too.

Personally, I would get new batteries. Don't waste your time on these guys... Even if you can get them to hold a charge, they won't be reliable IMHO.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
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Last edited by sailingdog; 04-08-2007 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 04-08-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmoyer
Another inexperienced new owner question. Sorry....

Oh, Happy Easter, everyone!

Here's the situation. My new (to me) boat has three batteries on board:
  • 115AH wet-cell
  • 75AH West Marine Gell-Cell
  • StowAway starter battery (a WM brand? don't recall)

The PO has a MinKota trolling motor charger plugged into the shore power 110 outlet in the cabin. Then he uses the alligator clamps to attach to whichever battery he wants to charge.

Here's the other part of the problem. The manual bilge pump in the lazarette doesn't apppear to work. There's at least 3/4" of standing water in the bilge. The PO has a Rule automatic pump sitting on the keel housing, held down with the sole panel (which won't close with the pump there). The pump wiring is connected directly to one of the batteries sitting on the cabin sole.

I know how to fix the bilge pump problem. Most of the bits are on the way from Defender (Rule 25D 500gph non-automatic pump, float switch, and a 6" deck plate - cut out a part of the cabin sole and install everything directly in the bilge), and the other bits I can get at the chandlery or the delightful Home Depot.

My problem is the electricals. I hooked the MinKota up to the 75AH gell cell battery, and it thought for a minute and said "charged." My voltmeter, though, reads 4.04v DC when everything's disconnected. The reading drops by .01v for every second or second and a half that you hold the meter probes on the terminals.

I then measured the charge on the 115AH wet cell, and it said 7.54. I haven't hooked the charger up to it, yet.

I haven't checked the starting battery, because that's not what worries me right now.

Before leaving the boat yesterday, I wired the bilge pump to the 115AH battery, and disconnected the charger completely. When I get down there later today, I'll finish my inspection of everything, and then get to work on figuring out and mapping the electrical system.

Oh, and it's about 40 degrees outside (with a 20kt wind - brrr!). This may be a factor.

Now that I've laid the groundwork, I can get down to the questions.

First, is the gell-cell dead and gone? I know cold batteries may not take a charge, but the "12v Bible for Boats" says 11v is flat dead, and this guy is showing a meager 4v.

Second, is the 115AH wet cell likely dead or badly damaged? It was reading 7v and change, so I imagine there's bad chemistry happening to the plates.

Third, I am planning to bring the batteries home, let them warm up, trying the charger again, and seeing what they read. I also thought about calling around to see if any shops can properly load test them for me.

Bottom line: is it worth it to spend time trying to resurect these batteries, or should I just drop the $1xx and get a new Group 24 battery and be done with it?

Cheers!
Read Nigle Calders boat book. it has a very informative section on batteries.
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  #4  
Old 04-08-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
Also, hook up the batteries properly and get yourself a decent three-stage smart charger. It'll go a long way to paying for itself when it is used properly as it will prolong the life of your batteries.
Thanks for the help, again! The three stage charger is on its way. It's the 20A/2b Guest smart charger I was asking about in the "ConnectCharge" thread. I went with that one because a) it's designed for permanent installation, b) it uses a temperature sensor to optimize charging rates, and c) it has a selector switch for charging profile based on battery chemistry.

I'm not installing an inverter, because there are no 110v devices that I need to go sailing. If my iPod dies while I'm on the hook, oh well. The VHF is a handheld that recharges when I'm on shore power; I'll bring it home and turn it on to see how long it lasts. Everything else is 12v or (very) optional. If I change my mind later, or experience shows that I need to inverter to keep my cell phone charged, I'll install it. Postpone that expense for now....

I'll buy a new Group 24 battery through my wife's employer - fortunately, they're cool with that.

The new charger/battery, and the new bilge pump installations, will make me much more confident that water will stay on the correct side of the hull.

Oh, and she has an outboard. I'm just going to install a battery box in the lazarette, put a starting battery there, and let the alternator keep it charged up. I'd rather keep it completely separate for now, and carry a set of jumper cables in case I have to start the outboard off the house battery.

Cheers!
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Old 04-08-2007
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You need a decent charger no matter what you end up finding about the batteries. Suggst you get one and then try to ressurrect the batteries. Chances are they are well and truly gone...but at least a good charger will let you tell.
OOPS...your post came up as I clicked reply! Sounds like a good plan. Make sure all your batteries are the same type!
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NickL-

Just curious as to why you bothered to quote the OP if all you're going to do is ask him to read Nigel Calder's book. It's kind of wasting a lot of space unnecessarily IMHO.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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That sounds like a good start. BTW, you can always get a DC charger for the iPod. I have one on my boat, but it will be unnecessary in about two weeks, since I should have my stereo, which has an iPod dock connector on it, installed.

Your handheld VHF should also have an available DC-charging cradle... and you can use a car-charger to keep your cell phone topped off while on the boat as well.

I would install a bilge pump cycle counter on the bilge pump. That way you can keep track of how often it is cycling when you're away from the boat. That can help you learn if you have a slow leak in the bilge, or a deck fitting that is leaking in the rain...

Depending on the size of the alternator, it might not be a bad idea to let it charge the house batteries when you're under power. I have the 20HP Honda on my boat and it is setup to do that.
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New England

You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

If you're new to the Sailnet Forums... please read this
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  #8  
Old 04-08-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
That sounds like a good start. BTW, you can always get a DC charger for the iPod. I have one on my boat, but it will be unnecessary in about two weeks, since I should have my stereo, which has an iPod dock connector on it, installed.
That's on the "someday" list. Half of me says sailing is to get away from all the gadgets, and the other half really likes kicking back with a good book and listening to some tunes....

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
I would install a bilge pump cycle counter on the bilge pump. That way you can keep track of how often it is cycling when you're away from the boat. That can help you learn if you have a slow leak in the bilge, or a deck fitting that is leaking in the rain...
That's a fantastic piece of advice, and I hadn't thought if it. I inspected the cabin very, very closely, and didn't see any evidence of water intrusion at any deck fittings, or at the through-hulls, thank goodness. There's a lot of play in the tiller, so there may be some leaking around the rudder post. I'm going down under the deck today to take some pictures, so I'll check that while I'm there.

Also, the water level is staying constant in the bilge, at least between the first time I was on her and yesterday. It may just mean that the intrusion rate = evaporation rate. I'm going to use the hand pump to get all the water out of the bilge today. When I go back mid-week, we'll see what the bilge looks like.

Regardless, I'll do exactly what you suggested and put a counter on it. That should let me keep much better track of things.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
Depending on the size of the alternator, it might not be a bad idea to let it charge the house batteries when you're under power. I have the 20HP Honda on my boat and it is setup to do that.
It's a 9HP Johnson Saildrive. My "future state" wiring diagram actually had it set up that way (dual group 24 batteries used for both house and start), but it would mean adding a battery isolator and a battery switch at the panel. I decided to save the two or three hundred bucks for now.

Cheers!
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  #9  
Old 04-08-2007
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You don't need an isolater and a switch, just a switch (OFF/1/2/BOTH) will do the job. You just have to remember to switch to House (2) when not charging, so you don't drain the Start (1) as well.
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Old 04-08-2007
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John's right... no isolator necessary, just a switch. Also, a 9HP outboard is small enough to start with a rope in a pinch.. so if the start battery does go flat, you have options.

BTW, I generally don't listen to music under sail... it's mainly for use on the hook or at the dock... I find that my hearing is important when I'm sailing, as it often warns me that the sails need trimming before I look at the telltales.. Sailing is something that involves sight, hearing, and touch IMHO.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

If you're new to the Sailnet Forums... please read this
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
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Still—DON'T READ THAT POST AGAIN.

Last edited by sailingdog; 04-08-2007 at 11:52 AM.
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