Each bend of the Saone River presents us with a new view as we continue upstream. The hillside vineyards have faded as the narrowing river now winds its way through wheat fields and cow pastures. Travel is peaceful; staying within the channel bouys we glide through the water at a smooth 5.5 knots. We seldom see commercial traffic now while underway and large, cruise ships are few and far between.
We’ve spent many a night at pontoons that were available to us free of charge; they also had no services such as electric or water. We loved the price, but we observed that we were not as self-sufficient as we’d like to be when it comes to power. Detour‘s house battery bank is 300 amp hours. We are not power hogs, even with the refridgerator running this bank should have been sufficient for our needs. Yet, at each stop we were noticing the batterys’ voltage rapidly dropping (we have a Victron battery monitor installed). This became a problem which needed immediate fixing once it affected the pressure water pump and refrigerator; each not getting sufficient power to pump could damage these systems. So, although replacing the house battery bank had been on the “near future” to-do list, Detour‘s 7-year-old actively dying batteries suggested otherwise.
Brian began measuring the dimensions of our available spaces for our new house battery bank, including various locations in the bilges and closets. Our vision for the power project was to enlarge the house bank and install solar (currently our only recharge is from the engine’s alternator). But as boating projects tend to occur in exotic locations, we were not in a location where we could easily pick up a few solar panels, charger, batteries, and all the little minor details for a proper installation. In fact, just locating the batteries was a challenge.
At the town of Macon, where we’d determined the batteries needed replacing and quickly, we were fortunate to find a chandlery just beside the Port de Plaisance de Macon. At the chandlery, Oliver provided us with dimensions for batteries that he could obtain locally, within the day. Brian was unfamiliar with the brand and wanted to further research before replacing our entire house bank with unknown AGMs. Back to the computer, and back to the measuring tape; it was determined that none of the available options would fit into our spaces. All the while we were still discussing whether to enlarge the bank now, or to simply replace the current bank and determine with new batteries whether the current bank would, in fact, be sufficient. With a bit of research, we confirmed that Victron batteries actually presented us with several options to fit our spaces (that’s right, the expensive, name brand batteries). At Macon, Oliver could have ordered Victron batteries for us for a hefty fee plus we’d have to wait several days in Macon which was a town that we were ready to leave.
Brian found two Victron dealers and contacted both for pricing and in-stock availability. One of the dealers was south of us, and the other north along our route. I was keen on continuing north. Brian spoke with Philip at Port Blanquart in the town of St Jean de Losne. Philip was fabulously helpful, also answering several questions we had regarding the differences between AGM and Gel batteries, necessary chargers, etc. Philip had Victron Gels in stock and their measurements fit our house bank location. So, we did continue north. While we motored, we turned the refrigerator temperature very low so that the cooling plate would freeze. Then while docked, we could turn off the refrigerator for the evening without risking our food or risking any damage to the compressor while the batteries provided low voltage.
In the meantime, a stop at the Port de Plaisance de Chalon sur Saone provided us a fun touring town with two market days and no power worries while plugged into shore power. Port Captain, Thomas, offered his help to find batteries locally yet again resulted in unfamiliar brands and wrong dimensions. And so we enjoyed our surroundings and we met some fantastic cruisers! Peter and Amanda welcomed us and our neighbors aboard M/V Le Piglet for an evening of swapping stories and wines.
In St Jean de Losne at Port Blanquart, Brian and I felt like two kids in a candy store! The chandlery was well stocked and we had a list ready! Philip, the electrician, was prompt, knowledgeable, and courteous. Sure enough, he had Victron Gel batteries waiting for us and they fit into our house bank location as if it were made custom for them. Philip made new connection cables that morning and within an hour we were powered!