Just lost all I'd written as I was about to post it.... GRRR!!! So here's an abbreviated version....!
Many thanks to Bob N4PSK and Jim WB2REM, and others, for all their time and help over the last few days.
Fortunately, 'Nereida' sailed on serenely and smoothly, under full sail and bright sunshine, in very settled wind conditions so I was able to concentrate fully on the job in hand with only very occasional course adjustments needed due to wind shifts.
Cutting a very long story short:
We got together on 21234 kHz yesterday - excellent propagation from my position, 500 miles NNE of Pitcairn, to Jim's shack in Florida. Bob used Jim's antenna remotely while Gene used his own. Excellent copy for a long time, from when we started our session at 1pm PST (=2100 GMT). I checked voltages everywhere, having spent some time removing the charge controller, to access its terminals, the night before.
I was really delighted when I saw that the disconnected panels showed around 20V on both lines where they come into the fuse holder - it showed my efforts on a bouncy aft deck, replacing corroded connectors over the last few days, had been worthwhile!
With the panels working , the voltage at the controller was way down - showing a resistance somewhere that shouldn't be there. So I'm now putting the solar power directly into batteries via 15A fuses - the controller is clearly bad... Not as efficient as using a controller but 'beggars caan't be choosers' - it will give me some input as opposed to nothing!
In theory, this could overcharge the batteries if they are full and the panels keep feeding power. But that is not likely, given that the usage is at least as much as the input. Also, I always keep an eye on my battery voltage - the Mastervolt display is right by me at the chart table. So if needed, I can always go to the aft cabin and quickly remove the in-line fuses.
After we'd come to this conclusion, it took me quite a time to complete the necessary wiring changes - TG I have a big assortment of fuses and electrical spares and tools on board! I was tidying up, finally, around sunset - and decided to reward myself with a small (very dilute!) G&T with some cashews... Sitting out on deck, for the first time yesterday, in the refreshing breeze, sipping my sundowner as 'Nereida" sailed smoothly along in the deep blue ocean, was very enjoyable.
I'm feeling much better now that I know for sure my panels are working - but I've still a niggling query on the negative leads in the circuit. Hopefully, I'll be seeing the benefit of the work of the last few days very soon - at present, I'm seeing no noticeable increase in battery voltage, despite bright sunlight - so we're not quite 'home and dry'! I'll discuss that with Bob later today during our radio 'sched'.
Beautiful sailing at present ... The best!
1900 GMT (=1100PST) - end of Day 41. We made 143 n.ml.(DMG) over the 24 hr period since yesterday's 1900 GMT position.
Position & weather report posted to Winlink.org and Shiptrak.org (using my US call sign of kc2iov) not long after 1900 GMT:
TIME: 2018/11/13 19:00GMT LATITUDE: 19-52.14S LONGITUDE: 126-41.54W COURSE: 172T SPEED: 6.1kt
WIND_SPEED: 12kt WIND_DIR: ENE SWELL_DIR: NE SWELL_HT: 2.5m
CLOUDS: 70% BARO: 1019.3hPa TREND: 0 AIR_TEMP: 28.0C SEA_TEMP: 32.0C
COMMENT: Lovely smooth sailing under full canvas. Scattered cloud. 143ml DMG