Kept watching the battery monitor hoping to see little green lights illuminating up to 13.8 or 14.4 volts but they just seemed to keep going lower and lower, 12.9, 12.6, 12.3, 12. I was assured the battery charger was still correctly hooked up; I checked and doubled checked the electrical panel to make sure the charger and all breakers were on (shouldn't have questioned myself, I knew I had these right). But did not see happy little indicator lights illuminated on the battery charger. Kept checking, hoping for a nice hum and some lights aglow, to no avail.
OK, deep breath. Even if something is awry, I should be able to charge the batteries by running the engine and I know I have a full tank of diesel. Nervous about starting up the engine when there isn't a traditional brake pedal, I got ahold of a friend and threw a bunch of unbelievably basic questions at him about the shifter and throttle. He patiently explained which control was which, where they should be, not to idle too low or the batteries won't charge. (Thanks, Phil, for walking me through all that, and a shore power cord loan to boot!) I envisioned the boat lurching backward into the dock as soon as I hit the start button. That fear was overblown since the batteries were too drained to even turn the engine over.
Adjusting lines in the dark, in cold rain, with gusts that heeled the boat over too far for comfort: I got that. Can't start the engine or charge the batteries: reduced to tears. I understand and respect Mother Nature. Those threats and challenges I can manage. However, I have no understanding of mechanical things or electricity; it's always the unknown we fear and loathe.
I was encouraged to check whether the other shore power outlet on the boat was the one tied to the charger. I balked because, quite frankly, it would be plainly stupid to wire it that way. I couldn't really imagine that someone would set the system up in such an inconvenient way. Battery charger on one 30 amp line and everything else on the other, so that two 30 amp lines (not available at all marinas or slips) is always necessary when docked. But--as I'm sure you've gathered by now--that is precisely what some prior owner did. I had had to disconnect that second shore power cord a few days ago because the increasingly bouncy weather pulled out the short 10 foot cable from the outlet--a very dangerous situation. (A pricey new 35 or 50 foot cord is now a must on the shopping list.) Borrowed a cord from a friend, and now batteries are charging and other 110 volt creature comforts (i.e., laptop, cell phone, music, and space heater) are operational as well.
Crisis averted. And while I want my creature comforts, they were not the crisis; the crisis was getting more rain in the coming days and lacking power to run the bilge pump. Yes, I also want to keep my beer, soda, and yogurt cold in my 12 volt fridge; but, fundamentally, I want to keep the boat afloat.
I hate that I am not self-sufficient on the boat. I never have an easy time asking for help because I want to be able to do everything myself and, more importantly, don't want to be a burden on anyone. By the time I am asking for help I've been investigating, trying solutions, and then hit a breaking point of frustration. I don't want to be helpless, so I don't want to ask for help. But I can't learn my boat's systems, or how to repair or refurbish her, without help. What I most want is for someone to patiently teach me how to do it myself; show me where necessary, observe and correct where appropriate. Though I certainly have the ability to be that single girl batting her eyelashes to get things fixed on her boat, I don't want to be that girl, and it runs entirely against my nature. I'm a girly-girl and tend to get what I want, but I am fiercely independent and strive to take care of myself.