Sunday, February 16, 2014

Happy Battery Day Report II

I don't know what happened, but my most recent Blog, Happy Battery Day, did not seem to come out as it should have.  I downloaded all the photos and they were all complete but when I looked at the published blog some photos did not appear to fully load, which should not have been the case.

So, all of you (the few that there are), please report back to me and let me know if you see all the photos in their entirety!  This is really frustrating (but, guess where I am!) and I spent many hours putting that blog together.  The majority of the time was spent downloading photos!  Of course, my location should not be a factor as this is the internet, right???!!

Sorry, and I am just hoping that the appearance of incomplete photos is just a quirk and when the blog is delivered you will see them in their entirety.

Frustrated Blogger, Sharon

Happy Battery Day!

Valentine's Day and we finally have our new solar batteries and are ready to remove the old Fork Lift batteries of which there are 2 weighing 460 lbs. each to be replaced by 5 sealed AGM batteries weighing in at 168 lbs. a piece.

The top photo is of the batteries in the laundry area followed by a photo of the chain hoist that we used to lift each battery out  and swing it around to face the back door where it would be taken down 3 stairs to the sidewalk running in back of the house.  My husband hired 3 men for this task and with our permanent worker, Gregorio, we had sufficient manpower.  After all, this island is all about muscle power!

The above batteries were to be replaced by these which are to be hooked together via cables attached to each battery and then to the inverter.

The first battery was finally moved into position and taken down the steps.  I was concerned for one of the men's safety as he wore no shoes and all I could envision was the battery sliding down the initial ramp or falling on his toes when lowered to the sidewalk.  Of course, as was pointed out to me, even with normal shoes on, if the battery would happen to land on a foot the injury would be the same!  As it was, this, fortunately, did not happen.

Round tubing was placed under the battery on a board to be used as rollers to facilitate getting it out the door and down the steps.

Next the battery was put on a hand cart, secured with ropes which were used to help control the speed of the cart while on its downhill trip to the beach where it was finally maneuvered onto the dock.

The second battery was handled much in the same way and now we had two batteries ready to low into the large boat that Morgan, the boss, had for transport.

Getting the batteries into the boat did not prove to be an easy task at all and with a lot of careful shoving, pulling and maneuvering both batteries were placed in the boat.  Morgan is planning on finding someone who reclaims batteries, copper, aluminum, etc. and make a deal with him for the batteries.

Next came time to bring up the five new batteries and set them in their proper placement.  This is not an easy process as the cables to each battery are quite stiff and the cramped area in which the new batteries were situated made connection a little difficult.  Two batteries were to be set right side up, a board placed on top and the second set of two were turned upside down and staggered in a manner that the brackets would not touch and short circuit the batteries.  A fifth battery will be placed on top of the stack of four and all connections finalized and hooked up to the inverter.

Naturally, being this far from the company that we bought the batteries from,  we hoped all would be well.  But, in checking the voltage on each battery my husband discovered that one of the batteries was at a lower voltage than it should have been which could have been caused by the battery sitting for any length of time or not being fully charged at the factory.  We wrote the seller advising them of this problem and were asked to check the top of the battery for the seal showing the month and date codes and let them know what was picked.  Unfortunately, again, none of the seals showed any month or date picked.  We were then advised that the date should be etched in the top right hand corner of the battery.  Sorry!  No date was etched.  We advised the seller and are awaiting their response.  

In the meantime we were told to charge the battery for 24 hours!  Duhh, these are batteries made for solar, we have solar and the sun does not shine even 10 hours a day right now!  We certainly cannot run our generator for a full 24 hours so we also inquired as to whether or not we could do them in increments over 2-3 days to get the battery up to full charge.  Again, we are awaiting their response.
It is amazing how much power our old batteries had been losing over the last year.  Initially they were set for a 20 year useage capability but we think that due to the circumstances of our moving, the environment and other factors, we managed to get 17 years use out of them.  We are not complaining as they have paid for themselves several times over.  We chose not to go with the same batteries this time mainly because of the weight and the difficulty in getting them into the house.  We have noted that the new sealed batteries have a shelf life of 10-12 years and we are happy with that.  The cost was lower, the weight less by 80 lbs. and unlike the previous batteries, these are sealed so we will not have to occasionally add water.  Plus the total weight was between five batteries and not two which assisted in easier placement.

This morning we woke up to an inverter which showed the batteries were all up to full power by 8:30 a.m.!  We have been using the computer all morning with a cloudy sky and no sun and we still have plenty of energy.  We now wake up and the batteries are still fully charged even after a day of use!  Wow!

It took us almost 3 months to get the batteries.  We ordered them in Dec. 2013 but there was a back order on them and they did not come in until mid-January, 2013.  Finally they left Houston where they had been held up by bad weather in the Gulf.  Then when they finally reached Port of Cortez in Honduras, two of the cranes for off-loading containers from the various ships were out of commission.  Finally in February 2014 they were delivered to La Ceiba and we took shipment on February 13, 2014 on Guanaja.  Hey, nothing new here - we expect delays and are very seldom disappointed.  In fact, when something gets here on-time or before, we are totally surprised!

We have never regretted our choice to go solar and outside having to put forth a lot of dollars up front, we have saved many times over during our 17 years on the island.

So, while other were celebrating Valentine’s Day, we were celebrating New Battery Day!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Welcome 2014!

Wow!  Can you believe it?  Just yesterday (now there's an old statement) we embraced the 21st century and were on to the world of 2000!  I wonder if this is how the people felt when it turned to the year 1000?

Anyway, here on the island we were going through our regular weather cycle - the rainy season.  This year I believe we had more rain filled days then normal but the end result - our island is SO GREEN!  Heck, even Grant's peak was not longer the drab brown up to the top.  The color green prevails everywhere.

I remember visiting my brother in Arizona one year and for as far as the eye could see it was brown, brown and more brown.  As a matter of fact I thought I wrote about my trip but just can't seem to locate it in my archives.  Not to worry, take my word for it the desert is brown.  The buildings are brown.  The cars were even drab colors. Not a speck of green.  Well, besides a cactus or 300 which are still mostly brown!  I like GREEN!  Therefore, this season brought all shades of green imaginable.  Of course waiting for the sun to come out and show off these glorious shades was something anxiously awaited.

Some friends and I made a couple of trips to the coast already this year to buy items we are in need of or just to get away.  I will tell you this much, when living on a remote island we are appeased by the simplest of things.  I looked high and low for Scotch Brand tape in La Ceiba.  None to be found.  Oh, finally I found a store with a clear roll of tape which one can use in place of the Scotch Brand but 1) it is not in a dispenser 2) it is hard to get off the roll and 3) when you do get it off it comes off in shreds.  Well imagine my excitement when a friend recently went to the coast and came back exclaiming "Guess what I found in Ceiba?"  None other than the much sought after Scotch Brand Tape!

Now, see how excited we were with this find!  I had to put up a photo of the treasure!  

Living here at least causes us to stop and really appreciate some of the wonderful things this word has to offer - and I don't mean just nature!  We have Internet (which I would never, ever give up), we have e-Readers so that here on the island we can read up-to-date novels without having to wait for sailors or tourists to arrive and leave a worn out paperback (even though we thank you very, very much for these books).  We have phones now (as much as I dislike the way people cannot seem to get them unglued from their ears in any locale) where it was simply VHF radio for communication.  We have more variety of food stuffs to be purchased, thus making our diets even more healthy.  The list goes on, but I think you get my drift.

Of course, on the downside we still are limited when it comes to parts for engines, various construction materials and tools and then, hey, they only carry Loveable brand bras in this country!   Now, if you are a perky little teenager or young adult, these bras are wonderful.  Bright, cheery, sexy but support - forget it.  Most clothing is polyester and having something in 100% cotton is to be treasured.

To change gears here, the island elected a new Mayor who was installed last week.  After many, many years (I believe some said 12 or 16) under the same party, our townspeople finally decided they were ready for a change.  Mr. Spurgeon Steven Miller Molina is our new Mayor and has a lot of work ahead of him.  From what I hear (and I stress the "hear" part) our Municipal is deeply in debt, past employees have been unpaid for the whole month of December and may not get paid for that work at all if they are dismissed, thievery is still mainly not investigated nor are the thieves prosecuted due to a lack of the proper Judge, taxes have been raised 3% and non-taxable food stuffs have now been reduced.

Of course problems of government are pretty much the same world-wide.  Too little, too late, too much corruption and taxes are always rising with less and less being sent back in service to the community.  Unfortunately, after living here for going on 17 years I have come to the conclusion, more and more recently, that the Government of Honduras has no interest whatsoever in their citizens.  Those in high office do nothing to help their fellow man and it seems that their only goal is self-gain and enrichment for themselves.  We have a hard-working people here, for the most part, who struggle daily and are constantly pushed down by bureaucracy.  We just hope that with a "new" start for our little island problems can be addressed and solved or at least a more open-door policy will be put in place.  So, good luck to Mayor Miller and we hope that he will be able to prioritize and solve some of our woes.  

Next, we have seen new people arrive on the island in the way of new land owners and/or supervisors over presently-held property.

Just recently we had a party at our house welcoming the new caretakers (temporary) to Clark Cay, Steve and Julie, and some guests that were visiting Wilmont Bay, Forrest (and yes, he has heard all the jokes) and his wife Debbie.

We were also saying farewell to Selyna and Markus, Hanspico's daughter,  She and her companion had been here for several months but were now returning to their studies in Germany.  She is going for her Masters in Psychology and so will not be returning for at least another 2-3 years!  Good luck to both of them and it was wonderful seeing these two young adults who have been a part of our lives for so long.

We were fortunate on the day of the party that we had wonderful sunny weather with fairly calm seas.  The day before and the day after we had rain and overcast skies!  It is really invigorating to greet new people on the island and we enjoy the contribution they give in the form of news, information and just exchanging insights about a variety of topics.  Welcome and to those leaving, please return soon!

Meanwhile we are awaiting the delivery of new batteries for our solar system and we might quite possibly have to buy a new solar refrigerator.  The old batteries are 17 years old and in spite of the projected 20 year life span we are pleased that we have gotten this far and are still happy that our choice was solar.  Of course getting the two 450 lb. batteries out of their container and out of the house presents another challenge.  A new set up with 5 new 150 lb. apiece batteries will replace the two fork-lift batteries and so while the weight will be less, it will be a lot of work.  Our solar refrigerator may be losing its insulation base and, therefore, an big chunk of the budget will have to be used if we decide that now is the time.  Either way, we are very happy we have solar and after seeing all the problems that are present on the island with Belco, we would do it again if presented with the choice!

So, we look forward to a good year and hope that it will be more beneficial to all people living on Guanaja.  Good luck to those in charge and we will keep our hopes high.