What do you do with a month in Alameda?

Install Lithium Iron Phosphate Batteries, that’s what.

It took a long time to plan, but they are in, and the old lead-acid batteries are out.

The previous Trojan batteries may have a good reputation, but we never liked them. It always felt as though we were just a blocked vent away from a hydrogen explosion. We could hear them charging. It sounded like water bubbling in a brook: calming in the proper context but alarming coming from a set of batteries. 

But now all is quiet and a lot safer. The new Thundersky Winston cells are installed and provide a punchy 400 amps of power that can be almost fully utilised, unlike lead-acid batteries that can quickly deteriorate if discharged below 50% (the recommendation is not to discharge them below 80%.) And the cells take in all the power flung at them from the sun. They don’t baulk at any charge offered – they take it in like Mr Creosote at a free buffet.

In the morning, with the coffee machine running – after cooking on electricity the night before.

The change to these cells has already made a difference. Although in a marina, we haven’t plugged into shore power – relying instead on solar energy and the occasional use of our generator. And since installing the new cells, we have only run the generator once – only because we disconnected them for a few hours to install larger busbars.

Running control cables between the engine room and the battery control stuff.

We sold the old batteries to two sets of people. One guy, Ron,  bought six of them to put into an electric car he was making, and the other two went to the fine folks below for their van conversion. 

Melvyn, Veronica, Jaylan, Myla and Chubby the dog.

A fun work in progress

Ron bundling his batteries into a barrow

Good times at Grand Marina

In recognition of our achievements, the marina threw a party to which management invited every berth holder. In truth, it was a berth holder appreciation event. Tequila, wine and beer flowed freely, and the food was superb.

Steve enjoying a glass of wine or two

Free ice cream

Brandon, the chef

Grand marina is possibly the best marina we have stayed at. They accept deliveries without question or fuss (and we have had a lot of things delivered, ranging from alternator parts to bicycle wheels.) The staff are friendly, and the rates are reasonable at around £550 for a month’s stay. That, compared with Solent marinas, is a rare bargain. 

And the people staying at the marina are generous. As an example, one of the berth holders here, Mike, who went out of his way to make us feel welcome, drove me to a fuel station to fill our propane tanks, took me on a tour of an old military base and always offered to take us places – expecting nothing in return. He said he wanted to create a favourable impression of his country. And he certainly accomplished that.

It isn’t what it seems

Caning anyone?

We came across this pair of local businesses on a bike ride to a supermarket where, in contrast to the marina, the staff are as miserable as forced labourers. The owners of the premises in the above photo have a sense of humour, though.

Getting around Alameda by bike has been refreshingly straightforward. There are cycle paths in most places and the occasional protected cycle lane. So, after replacing the tyre that gave up in Port Angeles, we hit the roads. And unlike our previous outings, we managed to get from the boat and back without getting the toolkit out. And as a reward for the bikes, we have treated each of them to new front wheels. Actually, that’s a preemptive move to avoid changing any more spokes.


If you’re going to San Francisco…

Be sure to take plenty of cash.

Working on batteries, ordering parts and servicing whatever else needed servicing on the boat felt a bit like hard labour after a while. So, we took a couple of trips to San Francisco. 

As with the bike lanes, public transport works pretty well here. An express bus leaves close to the marina and arrives near the heart of San Francisco in less than 40 minutes. No changes are required. There are plenty of options for onward transport: bikes, electric bikes, Lime scooters and Spin scooters. And we tried most of them.

The blunder we made on our first visit was to grab a Lime scooter each. Those things are surprisingly expensive if used for a long time. We were each charged over $32 for 74 minutes of riding. So, on our second visit, we prepaid for two hours on a Spin scooter for a bargain price of $10.99. Our objective was to get to the Golden Gate bridge to see it from other perspectives – although we stopped short of walking across the bridge because the mist was so heavy it felt like rain.

It doesn’t matter how many times we visit; we never get bored of it.

A misty Golden Gate bridge

Inside Fort Point

More mist

Maria going for a spin

Alcatraz island

Holiday by the sea

Around San Francisco

Maria and I visited San Francisco in another life – it was a Microsoft event to which partners were invited for the weekend. So it was good to see what had changed. Very little, I think, is the answer. The sea lions are still hanging around Pier 39, looking at the people; the trolleybuses are still running, and the place seems to be just as busy as it was a few years ago.

An art installation made from skateboards.


More sea lions

Heart at the front, Alcatraz at the back. We visited the prison last time we were here.

This lock thing is catching on

Sea lions vs people

I understand these folks moved in shortly after Pier 39 opened

More Alcatraz

One of the famous trolley cars

Lombard Street

San Francisco to Oakland Bay bridge

And after our month’s stay, it is time to move on again. We need to be in San Diego before the end of the month to start the Baja Haha rally to Mexico, so we had better get a move on. I think they expect us to turn up; we are mentioned in the October 2021 edition of Latitude 38 magazine.


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