Sunday, May 10, 2009

Boats like ours are very similar to a small city. We have all the necessary utilities and public services, albeit on a miniature scale.  There is the sanitation department (the heads or 'bathrooms' for you landlubbers), the water department (for drinking and bathing), power and energy (the engines and batteries for electricity) and the public works department whose job it is to maintain and fix all the other components that make the boat work.

Additionally, we have a city government that consists of the Mayor (Kim) and administration (me).  I like to think that our 'government' is a democracy where we each get one vote in all matters.... and we do.  It's just that in the event of a deadlocked vote, Kim has the authority to break all ties with her super-majority powers.  This arrangement has served us well so far.  The one thing we don't have onboard is a brig (prison).  I am not sure what the penalty is for insubordination (or dare I say, 'mutiny')  but I suspect that it is swift and severe.

On our first cruise, the public works department notified the Mayor of a potential problem that involved our electrical grid.  There were some questions about how long the batteries could support her use of a hair dryer, microwave oven and such.  Being new to the job, I wasn't sure how good our battery system was or how many amps these devices would use.  You see, when you are running the 'city' on battery power alone, you have to conserve amperage lest you run out.  Running out involves the loss of other essential services, notably the sanitation department and the ability to notify EMS via our radios.  Seeing how this fell under my jurisdiction, I felt obligated to manage this situation before it became a crisis.

The batteries we have onboard are pretty good.  They were designed to power the boat for several days while at anchor.  Every time you run the engines or genset (which wasn't working on this cruise) they are completely recharged.  However, we had been having issues with this system and I didn't want to go hog wild right off the bat.  I felt that monitoring the power usage each day and then adding components a little at a time was the best way to keep us from having a black out.  We have many other items that are good to have working as well.  There are lots of lights, which are nice.  We also have need for water and bilge pumps.  The refrigerator needs lots of power as does the starter motor that gets the main engines going.  In my mind, these are high priority items.

As it turned out, we were able to do fairly well by conserving power where we could and measuring our usage on a daily basis.  Since we ran the engines all day, by the time we stopped for the night, the batteries were fully charged.  We just had to make it through the night and following morning on our batteries until it was time to get underway again.  We have this very neat device which measures our electrical usage and gives us a reading of how much battery power we have remaining.  On behalf of the Mayor, I checked this device quite often and when necessary, provided 'recommendations' for her consideration.  Unlike Bush administration officials, I felt compelled to speak out on issues even though I knew my thoughts would not be received kindly.  But hey, that is my job and I take it seriously.

I am happy to report that the crisis that I was concerned about never did materialize and while some might call me a pollyanna, I don't think I overreacted.  Being conservative never hurt anyone, especially when you are new to something.  Perhaps a few protein follicles did not have the benefit of being dried in a controlled environment, however we were cruising essentially in the wilderness where the probability of running into any 'constituents' was nearly zero.  Its okay to let your hair down once in awhile, especially if no one is looking.

I have also been informed by the Mayor's office that I need to get the electrical grid under control before the next cruise.  This boat was purchased with the understanding that most of the creature comforts of home would be available onboard at all times and that it is my job to see that these things work.  Seeing that the next election isn't in the foreseeable future, I best snap to it.  I want to keep my job. 


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