Power to the People

This entire spring, I have been dealing with electrical power issues, of course, like usual, mostly self-imposed. My Kadey Krogen 42 is a really well designed, well-built boat, but for the nut behind the wheel, all would be perfect.

This is what’s been happening.

Batteries. My four Yuasa 8D Sealed Lead Acid batteries, bought in Ireland 4 years ago, are shot. Each battery is 225 amp-hours (AH) but are down to about 10 AH each! That means that once 40 AH are out of the entire bank, the voltage crashes to under 11 volts.

The battery that was replaced.

Last fall and again this winter, hoping it was just one battery gone bad, pulling the others down, I separated each battery, let them rest and then checked each voltage. Normally it’s a good sign that they were all within a couple of hundredths of a volt, but in this case, it just affirmed that the entire bank was shot.

My first solution was to get and install an Automatic Generator Start (AGS). I found a Magnum on Amazon. An AGS starts the generator automatically at a certain voltage, in this case 12.0 volts. Once this was up and running, at least I didn’t have to wake up every three hours, check the voltage, go back to sleep for an hour or two, then get up to turn off the generator.

The AGS Setup
The replacement cells

Now, the gen would come on automatically, run for the time I had set, in this case one hour. That would put enough charge back in the batteries for the next few hours.

The installation was relatively complicated because of my Westerbeke gen. It required using two additional relays (the AGS itself is essentially three relays).

About his time, somewhat unrelated to the batteries, I managed to short out my Heart Interface b y doing something really stupid.

We were connected to one 30-amp shore supply. To make life easier, I installed a jumper breaker switch so that I could power both circuits of the boat from the one source. It does mean we must manage our use, so if making hot water in the electric kettle, we must turn ff the water heater which itself uses 10 amps of 120 power.

I managed to blow up two of the mosfets in the Heart inverter by forgetting to disconnect this jumper or disconnecting the shore power, when I went to start the generator.

So, I was also in the market for a replacement inverter. I wanted a pure sine wave inverter to be able to run by 120v heating pad on my bed.

I ended up deciding on MPP Solar Inverters, I got two 1,000-watt inverters that normally run in parallel and thus provide 2,000 watts as needed. I can also sun them singly, giving me back up if needed. Also integrated into each unit is an 80 A MPPT solar panel controller.

The Li battery is under the black rubber protective cover lower right. one od the older 8Ds is in middle. MPP Inverter/Chargers are on top.

On the battery side, I decided to try ONE LiFePO4 chemistry battery, that I would put together myself using four 3.2-volt cells (each 200 AH) and a Battery Management System (BMS). Total cost for the four cells, shipping and BMS was $600, though it took two months by boat from China to Seattle, then barge to Wrangell, Alaska.

The battery was relatively easy to set up. I’d spent much of the winter watching Will Prouses’s videos on YouTube and reading his forum.

Update: the link to one of his videos and forum. Will Prouse’s channel

From the forum, in the marine section, I found the solution to the issue of an abrupt battery shutdown by the BMS, possibly blowing up the diodes in the Alternator or Generator.

link to marine forum

 

The easiest solution seems to be to keep lead acid batteries in the system. So, in my case, I took out only one of the 8D’s and replaced it with the Lithium battery.

The naked battery before covering
This is how I got that 100 lb 8D out of the engine room, without breaking my back. I used the winch on the boom from the fly bridge.

The new setup has been operational since June and has worked well and as anticipated.

I had to set a user custom charging program for my Balmar ARS-5 regulator. I also added a temperature sensor for the regulator to know the temperature of the alternator. I set the bulk charging to 60 amps and 120 minutes at 14.2 volts. Absorption I set to the minimum 6 minutes and Float to 13.3 volts.

Works like a charm. If we are on the hook, 12 hours overnight uses about 110 to 150 AH. Once we get underway, the alternator will put 60 amps into the batteries for the first two hours, then go to Float.  LiFePO don’t like being kept fully charged, so the Float at 13.3 keeps them about 85 to 90% capacity while underway.

The MPP Inverter/charger works somewhat the same, but at least for now, though I did have to change the Bulk charging voltage from 14.2 to 14.6 volts to get it to go into Bulk charging if the batteries are at 50% since the voltage at 50% stays relatively high at around 13.00 v.

With this set up, now when out fishing for the day for days, we just run the generator for an hour or two in the morning and maybe one hour in early evening.

Next up, our summer fishing trip.

 

 

 

On a Roll

Yesterday, I completed two things on the nice to do list: replacement of the Raritan water heater anode and replacement of a terminal block for my 120-volt neutral circuits in the engine room distribution panel.

The new anode is on the right

After two months, I’ve finally hit my stride and actually feel confident in what I am doing. That manifested itself in those two completions yesterday. Instead of taking a couple of days, they took a couple of hours and I didn’t have to redo anything.

This got me to thinking about a job interview I had just the other day.  I found myself talking about the importance of not overwhelming students, especially students who may be far being in whatever work that needs to be done.

I mentioned in the interview that even when a student was far behind, let’s say they need to complete 20 projects or work assignments by years’ end. It’s already February and they have nothing done, with only a few months to go. It’s easy for a teacher to just be upfront about it, if you don’t get these done; you’ll fail.

I’ve seen teachers do that countless times. But it won’t accomplish the stated goal of getting that student to be successful, (though it does make the class smaller). If a student sees a mountain of work to do, they never get started, discouraged, not seeing how they can get it all done, they give up before they even start.

That’s me, now and then.

My driving lights are lighting up that sailboat

So, two months ago, when I made my list of the top half dozen things to get done before departure, I knew the last was far bigger, but I couldn’t overwhelm myself. I didn’t want to paralyze myself with indecision. Now, I know many of the readers here are successful boaters because they just see what needs to be done and get to doing it.

In the same way half of all students are impervious to the adults in their lives who get in their way, be it parents, teachers, or anyone else. They’re going to learn and be successful no matter what.  It’s not by chance that the historic graduation rate in the last 50 years continues to be about 50 to 60%.

I’m not in the group. I needed a teacher to be able to at least steer me in the right direction or a teacher who could tell I was bored to death and challenge me in ways the curriculum didn’t. The same way a good teacher will give make-up work to a student in a piecemeal fashion. Do this for me tonight and I’ll give you something else tomorrow. At the same time scaffolding the rigor of the work. So, in a short time, they are whipping out stuff they never thought they could do just weeks ago.

Two months ago, starting with a list of 6 items, I knew I’d do more. I’ve done three times that amount so far. While moving the instruments on the mast, I knew to check the paravane fittings. The clevis pins needed to be checked and I wanted new cotter pins. I also noticed too much wear on the main fitting to the mast, so I needed to add some washers and new pins.

As I did more and more, sometimes taking a week to complete one checklist item, but I also did another half dozen items, that were not on the checklist.  I became more confident.

Confidence is the other side of the equation. When I finally completed the LED project, which involved 4 wires, with four conductors each (a positive, and 3 separate grounds that control the three colors, blue, red and green), I was very pleased to see it all worked as anticipated. I had three switches to turn each respective set on or off, plus three additional switches to control the colors, since I figured I didn’t need any complicated controller.

That it all worked, gave me the confidence to tackle the 120v terminal bar, that seemed straight forward, but you never know. When that went well, without me having to redo stuff, I tackled the water heater anode and that went even quicker.

The order I tackled these projects mattered. I have read education studies that when formulating a test, the order of the questions can make a significant difference.  The same questions in a different order can make a significant difference in student performance. Teachers have known this forever. If you put the hardest questions first, it discourages students. Why a teacher would do that is a story I will save for the book I’m thinking about writing. But it also goes to our overall 60% graduation rate.

When I took the test for my NMC Master’s license, the lights and signals test was the hardest for me. It was hard enough to remember red over green. Was that fishing or trawling or neither? But the day shapes were even harder for me, since I was not using them myself.

For a week I took practice tests. The passing requirement for that portion of the test was the highest at 93+%; meaning out of 33 questions, you could only get 2 wrong.

During my practice tests, I got anywhere from 65 to 80% correct. Well off the mark.

Test day came up and we took the other three portions of the test first that were easy for me. Then the dreaded lights and signals. The first 5 or 6 questions were “easy” in that I was sure of the answers. By the end of those 33 questions, I was positive that I missed only one!

Well, I missed two, but that was still enough to pass. I was elated, but I also recognized that the question order made a significant difference for me that day. Because I felt confident in those first half dozen questions, I didn’t stress and overthink the rest.

In the same vein, when I started working on the boat projects, I knew the order made a difference.

Since I whizzed through those two things yesterday, I decided today to tackle the Purisan project. Two months ago, I’d not even mentioned it because …

But now, it’s almost done, but that’s for tomorrow’s story.

 

 

Everything Gets Done Twice

My galley currently at night

I told you of my plan to add a 16’ rope of LED lights for my galley. I t had occurred to me that Dauntless is a bit dark at night in the salon and galley. While I have under counter lights, that do a good job when cooking or cleaning, looking in the cabinets are another story. I know where everything is or at least how it is organized, but thinking about Ti, everything on Dauntless will be new.

So, I decided to add those LED lights, but it as another project that started and then stalled. Last night, while in bed, I realized why I’d stopped.

My original plan was to just add the string of LED lights to the overhead dome light. Switch on the dome light (which I never use) and the LED lights would also light up, illuminating the upper cabinets and the spice rack. I had taken the light fixtures down, as part of the process and also got new warm white (2700°K) to replace the hot white LEDs I put in 5 years ago. Only in the engine room and these galley lamps (which I never use) did I put cool white LED’s (6500K). They are pretty ugly in the galley, so I am changing them just in case someone does turn on those lights.

I was so proud of myself; if only it had been the correct set of lights!

Ti’s given name is Trinh, pronounced Din, rhymes with tin. Her childhood name and the name her family and friends call her is Ti, like tee or tea. In this last year I realized that it’s just easier for all concerned to say Ti. She was called Ti because in Vietnamese it means, small, like a mouse. She is small, like the runt of the family, at just under 5 feet. So last night in bed, it finally dawned on me that she could never reach the light without a ladder.

That switch is on the ceiling, 7 feet off the floor. I can reach it, but Ti will need a ladder. Now, I know she would never say anything, but still, I’ll put the new switch near the current one for the under-cabinet lights. That will be easier for everyone

I did finish one other project today. Last night I was excited to look at Dauntless with all her new exterior LED lights on, only to discover that the starboard side deck was still not connected. So, I got up this morning with that in mind.

Finally, the right set of lights lite up.

I was so proud of myself. The picture shows my handiwork. Went to the salon to turn everything on and to my dismay, still no lights, but even worse, the pilot house eyebrow lights were on.

When I started working on the lights today, I wondered why I had left the end wires so short. Well, I figured it out, they were the END wires, not the beginning wires. In other words, I had hooked up the end of the wire line that was on the fly bridge!

Another warning sign that I had ignored was that I had already led the wires down to the starboard side deck. I wondered why I did that but didn’t bother to look up and see the light pigtail that needed connecting.

The New Warn white LED bulb in the light fixture

A comedy of errors.

After fixing that, again pleased with my work, everything worked and then if you are eagle eyed you will be noticed in the attached picture that the wire runs outside of the aft stay for the paravanes. Luckily, I just had to untie that stay, but it also means that I will have to check its adjustment again once we get underway.

I certainly keep life interesting. But it also demonstrates how much easier everything is when you have a partner to ask you, why are you attaching the wires there, when it is wired on the other side of the boat already? Or Are you sure you want that line on the inside of that wire?

BTW, Does this look a person who is going to complain about he location of a light switch!

 

The exterior double row LED lights in a protective case

The double bayonet, double pin LED bulbs for the Kadey Krogen dome lights

 

 

Slowly, But Surely, Things Are Getting Done

But does it have to be so slow!

Just a beautiful picture of the boats and the Mare Island Bridge in Vallejo

I’ve noticed, not for the first time, I may add, that I never start and finish anything in a direct line. Project A starts, but at some point, I’ll start Project B and maybe even C, while A limps along.

Why, I wondered? It certainly seems inefficient and worse of all; I’m always tripping over all the “stuff” laid out. I won’t even take a picture of the chaos as it’s embarrassing, but evidently not so embarrassing that I would change my ways.

So, why do I do it?  It’s combination of my ineptness whenever I do something the first time, coupled with my unease, once I see that I should have done it differently and probably better. My brain, all brains, need processing time. “Sleeping on it” is part of that process.

My instruments on the laid down mast

Therefore, while it may seem inefficient at first glance, there is almost nothing on Dauntless that survived the first cut and sometimes even the second cut.

My mast instrument project is finally done. I also replaced all the cotter pins and a few clevis pins also. The rigging for my paravane stabilizers was carefully inspected also. I was pleased to see only minor wear over the last 25k+ miles and 5 years. Sad to say, I’d say that 80% of my cruising has needed the paravanes deployed. Sad because it means I need to stay home more often, but then when your home is constantly on the move, …

I did update my C-Maps for the west coast and Alaska. Figured there was no reason to save it for the last minute. I also have a rough cruise plan to get to Seattle in June. That will be in an upcoming post.

I was hoping to finish the replacement of my driving light bracket and cross bar with the new stainless-steel versions. All has gone to plan, except I have discovered I made the driving light brackets 9 mm to narrow, that’s about a third of an inch.

Oh well, luckily, I’m flying to Vietnam next week for two weeks and I can get new brackets made for a couple of bucks. Now, the plane ticket is another story.

I just soldered these 4 wires

Easy Come, Easy Go.

Dauntless without her driving lights (But how is she going to sea?)

 

 

Atlantic Passage 2016 Videos

I am writing a piece on getting seasick and I wanted to include some of the videos I had made just before I got sick. My point being that I’m not sure it is seasickness per se.

In looking for the videos, I realized that while I had posted a link to them in my smugmug site, https://dauntless.smugmug.com/Dauntless/Dauntless-Atlantic-2016-Videos/

I’d never posted some of them here.

So here they are:

 Day 13, Stbd deck view, seas 8 to 15 feet. An average day.

 Day 14, View from the fly bridge looking east.

 Day 14, I’m replacing the hydraulic hose in the lazzerette.
We are dead in the water and Micah didn’t like looking aft at waves that towered over the boat and then disappeared, as we bobbed on top of the wave. (View of seas at 2:40).

 Day 14, I show the new hose.

 Day 16, On our more steady days, we’d play a board game, in which I had glued a piece of non skid rubber to the bottom of the pieces.

  Day 16, The only ship we encountered in the 3 week trip.
Thank you AIS (for he avoided us).

Day 16, Our well travelled Kadey Krogen Flag on it’s second Atlantic Crossing

 Day 16, Christmas, one of our best days.
We had great steak dinner and had a whale with us for awhile. 

 Day 16, Our Christmas whale

 Day 16, Christmas Dinner.
I got “seasick” as soon as I finished cooking.

Day 14, the Maretron data showing 8 hours of Rolling (right) and 4 days of pitch (sorry I did not make the time frames the dame). The rolling graph also clearly shows the 30 minutes or so we were stopped, while I replaced the hose (between hr 4&5). Also, please note that while it seems rolling is the same or increased while stopped in the water, the paravanes have no effect when stopped. Therefore, if underway without paravanes, the rolling would be about double under these following seas condition (when the paraveanes are least effective).

 

 

 

Maretron or Not

For a little, non-electronic boat, I sure love my Maretron data. I have 9 modules:

  • two to communicate with everything else, (USB, IPG) and the N2K Viewer
  • two for the fresh water tanks, (TLM),
  • one solid state compass, (SSC),
  • one GPS, (GPS),
  • one depth sounder with paddle wheel and lastly, (DST),
  • the love of my life, my (WSO), the weather instrument.

The solid sate compass seems to work better with my ComNav autopilot. In addition, it gives me the roll and pitch data I often quote in my blog.

The weather instrument is also solid state with ultrasonic wind measurement.  Considering I installed the system myself over 4 years and 20,000 miles ago, I’ve had few problems.

A glorious day in Vallejo, under a roof, with the mast down, facing aft

Coming west across the Atlantic, the constant winds behind us and to the side, from 15 to 35 knots for 528 hours or 22 days (No, I didn’t stop to change the oil) took a toll on my connections on the mast. Everything still worked, but occasionally, if a line got caught it would put enough strain to disrupt the connection until I freed it.

So, one of my projects now is to redo all the connections in the system. I  also now slather everything in dielectric grease. So much so, that I almost put it on my pancakes the other morning.

One of the offending connectors

So, the day started out so very well. Sitting on deck, with the mast down, Dauntless under a roof, protecting us from the elements and sun, I thought about climbing up the mast in Cabo San Lucas, in hot, 95° sun, holding on the mast with one hand, while trying to tighten the 5 little wires inside the plug just under the WSO.

I was in hog heaven. I carefully tool the plug apart, unattached the 5 little wires, and recut them all and trimmed them. Now, I knew power was still on the system.  Before I started any of this, I wanted to make sure that it was only the WSO that was incommunicado.  So, just as I was thinking that I would have to be careful in cutting the positive power line, meaning not to cut it with the ground wire at the SAME time; I did exactly that. The little spark, showed me that I’d f..ed up.

Sure enough, when I go below to check, now the whole Maretron system has no data.

Had I shorted out something serious? Was there a fuse in the system? If so, where was it?? Who the hell installed this system?? Oh, it was me!

Let me check the computer cabinet. Open cabinet and what do I see, the fuse block that I put in 4 years ago and even nicely labeled at that.

It went downhill from there.

To check the fuses, I had to pull them, to do that I needed to power down the whole system. That done, I pulled each fuse and looked at it very carefully. Very carefully (for those of you who already know the answer, don’t spoil it for your dear ones who are also reading this).

They all looked good. I powered the system back up. That takes a few minutes because the modem and router have to be booted up before the computer otherwise everyone gets confused.

At this point, I noticed that the little light for the Maretron circuit was not lit on the router until I turned on the computer. I hadn’t noticed that before. (and in the future, I will explain that issue).

No change. I went back to the fly bridge. One of dozens of trips I would make over the next couple of hours. I figured I had screwed up the wiring of the plug. I took it all apart again. I convinced myself that possibly the ground shield covering was touching one of the data lines. I put it all back together again, rebooted the entire system and alas. No joy.

At this point, I’d spent an hour on this. I pulled the fuses again. They still looked good. I even held them up to the light. But finally, just to be sure, I changed the 5-amp fuse that powered the Maretron system. Surely now, it would work.

Still No Joy. Now, more than ever I was convinced it was the plug. The plug was the only thing I had worked on.

Back to the flybridge. Took plug apart again. Put it back together again. Rinse and repeat.

I got my electric meter out (finally you think), check the plug for the umpteenth time. No power.

I go online and check the Maretron site. It tells me I should see 60 and 120 ohms between certain lines. I see exactly that. But still no power. I must have shorted something else out. Where did I install the power tap?

Oh, I remembered where the power tap was because it’s in the port side pilot house wire race that is so full of wires I have trouble getting the teak panel back in place.

Other than no power, the continuity on the plug and lines tested correctly.

I’ve been working on this for three hours now. I return to the computer and fuse block.

I finally decide to test for power in the fuse block. Umm, the Maretron circuit has no power here.

I pull that fuse and check it. No circuit. I check the old fuse I had pulled out, no circuit.

I got fuse number three and checked it, a circuit.

I stick it in and low and behold, power.

Two hours earlier I had replaced a bad fuse with another bad fuse. Both fuses showed no sign that they were open. Both had very clear “Z” wire that wasn’t broken.

One of the offending fuses

 

Hundreds of Males, Too Few Females.

I was looking forward to this project, as I like working on the electrical things and I just wanted to also tidy up the wires and the things I’d done over the last couple of years.

I needed to put new female spade connectors on the gauges and switches in the forward head. I also needed to replace the little bilge pump and replace the float switch for the big Rule 200 bilge pump in the forward bilge.

Cleaning up my cabin. This fuse and terminal block is for the forward head and bilge. The Raritan black box is for the old ElectroScan that I replaced with a Purisan.. This was the easy part. I had no corrosion here.

So, I get my two trays of electric connectors, with hundreds of pieces and what do I find: hundreds of males and a half dozen  females.  Sociologists warn of impending disaster when the male to female numbers reach 52% to 48% respectively in society. Because those single males unable to find mates wreak havoc on the society.

All those rogue elephants in Africa, male. Nuff said.

Female spade connectors are needed to connect a wire to the switch or instrument. I need about a dozen just for the forward head. The current connections are all corroded considerably. I know why, but don’t think I’ll mention it, other than to say, my not wanting to throw anything away can be dangerous.

Amazon will deliver the females on Tuesday.

So, I could tackle the paravane bird holders. I’ve tried various things in the last 4 years. Some have been a bit more effective than others, but in the last weeks I’ve gotten tired of stepping over them on the side deck. With the paravane pole taken down, there is not way to secure them.

In normal use, even if I think I won’t need the paravane stabilizers, I will deploy the poles only.  This allows me to deploy the birds without having to go the flybridge again. So, I need a method to secure them, with or without the poles in place.

This has been an ongoing issue. Each half-assed system I make, breaks sooner rather than later.

My solution is very simple, net and won’t get in the way, in the narrow deck space. I must say, that I think my time in Vietnam has enabled me to see simpler solutions. The Vietnamese make do with whatever they have, which is fractions of what we Americans are accustomed to.

The New paravane bird holder, suing eye hooks and 1/16″ Amsteel. Another view
The New paravane bird holder, suing eye hooks and 1/16″ Amsteel

It’s a thrifty culture and probably what I need in my reduced earning years.

To that end, I have also really tried to limit my going out for dinner. Thus, my chicken and brussels sprouts for dinner today. Very good.

My plated dinner, chicken and Brussels sprouts.
My dinner cooking, chicken and Brussels sprouts

 

 

Two Types of Boaters

Two More Projects Down; 37 to Go

Now, there are two types of boaters.

There are those who have few parts, but they are well organized and whenever they need something, they always have just what they need. Best of all, they have very few extra pieces, everything being stored in a few 2-liter containers.

Then, there is the boater who every marine store, big box store and Amazon loves. They have literally hundreds if not thousands of parts: plumbing connectors, electrical wires of all sizes, butt connectors, spade connectors, every connector under the sun; except for the one they need.

All threaded NPT

I’m in the latter group.

So, my little, very little, dock filter project, took three days and 4 trips to Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Ace hardware. Why, you wonder with the plethora of things I already have on board?

An assortment of hose barbs and NPT connectors

Well, it’s like this. I have 100 feet of ½” clear braided nylon tubing. I also have about 25 feet of 3/8” of the same, as well as 50’ of 1 inch. The water filter I bought used ¾” fittings. I didn’t want to use ½ inch. I also needed ¾” NPT to Hose thread.  I had a nice variety and quaintly of stainless steel ¾” hose barbs to ¾” NPT, and many ½” barbs, but alas no ¾” tubing.

I will spare myself the embarrassment of the Rube Goldberg setup I made first, then second, finally third, but with too many connectors of different sizes, it was difficult to not have a joint leaking.

Finally, I bit the bullet and went back to HD for the umpteenth time and bought a ¾” NPT male/female water heater hose of two feet.

Thus, my dock water household filter was installed in a manner that I’m happy with. Even got a quick disconnect to work that I’ve been carrying around for 4 years. I also took the time to re-organize all my hose and pipe fittings.

Now as you look at the pictures, while it may seem relatively organized, I seem to have soooo many ¾” fittings for who knows what, since I have few ¾” anythings on board.

An assortment of Hose thread (top), hose to NPT and all NPT (middle) and hose barbs (bottom)

The dock water filter was certainly not a necessity, as I have gotten along fine without it for these 5 years. But I am on a self-imposed deadline, getting the stuff done that is at best superfluous and at worst a waste of money. For next year, with Trinh here, she’ll ask me how I managed all these years without it, not having a good answer, she’ll tell me to save my money.

I’ve already calculated that I will save $500 per month. I feel richer already.

I did have a much bigger and serious problem, that I have worked around, but had to be fixed.

My Heart Inverter/Charger has not been charging for the last few months. I could tap it and it would wake up and start to charge, but sometimes within minutes, sometimes within hours, it would revert to not charging.  So, I knew it was an internal relay problem. But I hate disconnecting it from the 930 amp-hours of batteries.

Also, I could work around it relatively easily, as I have another charger, a Neumar, that charges only, but will work on any voltage, which made the time in Europe very easy. It’s on circuit 1 and as you have read, in this marina, I only am connected to circuit 2.
When I left Dauntless in July, I left her connected to circuit 1 and therefore the Neumar was charging.
But now, being on the boat, circuit 2 is more convenient. I didn’t want to do another work around like I did for the washer and water heater. I needed the Heart Inverter/Charger to work as it is supposed to.

So, I depowered everything, turned off all external power and disconnected the batteries (at the 300-amp fuse). Open the Inverter case and sprayed a lot of contact cleaner on everything, especially the two sets of points that make up the charger relay.

I also tightened the female spade connections on the circuit breaker for the charger (on the upper right of the picture). They didn’t feel loose, but still, couldn’t hurt and a loose connection like that, while very simple, can cause havoc or worse.

I let it dry for an hour, re-connected everything and powered her up. This time, I didn’t have to tap it and it worked as it should. Battery voltage slowly worked its way up to 14.04 v and stayed there for a while as the amperage came down. But even after 24 hours, voltage was 13.78 v, while the amperage was still about + 4 amps.

49 hours later, the voltage as stabilized around 13.70 and the amps going into the batteries stays a little positive, even if it is only +0.4 amps.

Very happy. Now, when I leave the boat this winter, I will leave it on that inverter charger.

I also ate some great Korean food this past weekend, as I had a great day in San Jose with some wonderful Korean friends.

Korean food in San Jose

 

And I did go to Costco, since my 3000 feet of plastic wrap which as lasted me 5 years ran out yesterday. While at Costco I bought romaine lettuce, Brussel’s spouts and rack of lamb.

The new box and old box (with wood veneer)

 

Coming up next, a hundred males, only a few females; nothing good can come from that.

Still Plugging Away in Vallejo, But a New Tale of Adventure and Woe on the High Seas

My fresh water replumbing job was 75% done yesterday, today it’s 50% and even that took a couple of hours. Suffice to say that the floor of closet now looks like Charlie Kruger took to it with a chain saw. No pictures, since many who read this are carpenters or at last know how to work wood and the pictures are not fit for a mature audience.

My beloved grill already for another 5 years

But it does bring back some painful memories. My first wife had asked me many, many times to repaint some chairs we had. Finally, I did. I laid the yellow paint on nice and thick, so the old color would not show through. I was pleased, though they took days to dry. Finally, I presented my masterpieces and she asked me about those drip marks. What drip marks? They weren’t there when I put them to dry. I hope she’s not reading this and cringing.

I stuck to things mechanical and electrical after that.

Who looks at the bottom of the closet anyway?

I have finished some small things though. I replaced both burners and the electric igniter  on my Weber Q300 grill. That grill has spent 5 years on the ocean. I’ve been quite pleased with it.

I also installed the new thermostat in my Raritan water heater. I did notice in my travel this week that both the thermostat and heating element are available at your local Home Depot for roughly half the price. It’s expensive to print the word “marinized” on the box.

The tangle around the prop that was removed today

Last, but not least, I had a diver come by to check my bottom. Well, Dauntless’ bottom. And sure enough, I had a little collection of lines around my prop. I’m so happy. Coming up the California coast, I thought I felt a slightest of vibrations. Almost like a shudder every few seconds. It would not have been noticeable to anyone else and Larry didn’t feel it, but I knew. Even wanting to be wrong about it, I knew. I was worried that I had tweaked the prop. Worse yet I thought I had tweaked it by doing something stupid. Yes, even stupider than the last stupid thing.

We were underway from Ensenada to San Diego, eagerly anticipating the celebration with fireworks and fire boats that was sure to wait us in the old U.S. of A. It had been 4 years after all.

This shows the Maretron Data of Pitch (left) and Roll (right). You can see where I deployed the paravane because the roll was reduced by more than half at about the 28 minutes ago mark. You can see that it also reduced the pitch, but that is not to be expected. It happened this time because of the combination of NW swell and West wind waves as were headed NNW.

The wind was light, 10 knots from the west on our port beam. With the added Pacific swell from the northwest, the boat’s rolling had increased as the day wore on. By early afternoon, the roll was 10° to starboard and about 5° to windward or port. But occasionally the roll increased to 15° & 10°. That’s a difference of 25° and usually is the point where I really notice the roll and so I will put one or both paravane birds out. In this case, I just put the windward bird out. That would dampen the roll about 50% and we only lost 0.4 knots. A good price to pay for a nicer ride.

This picture I took as the boat slowed down, so the bird was back under the water.

Suddenly, close to the USA-Mexico border, the ride of the boat abruptly changed. It became very smooth. I jumped up from the pilot house settee to look at the paravane and see that we had snagged hundreds of feet of line connected to pots, I guessed. I estimated hundreds of feet, since I could see at least 100 feet strung in the air, then to the bird which was well out of the water.

I chopped the power, the boat slowing quickly. But now, the line of the pots was snagged on the bird, but stopped dead in the water, with the pole vertical, we had all the dead weight of whatever that line was attached to.

I got the not so bright idea to go in reverse. Possibly, the line would un-snag itself at that point. It’s worked in the past, but no luck this time.

Larry and I heaved and heaved and got the line up to the bird, at which point, we cut the snagged line away. This line also had several floats on it. Once cut away, the floats and line and floating right next to the hull amidships.

Until now we had done almost everything right. I just needed to be a little patient.  But patience is not a virtue I have been gifted with. I decided to go forward to get away from the floats. Yes, by running over them. Sounds stupid even in the writing. Sure enough, within seconds the line was in the prop. I stopped the motor and cursed at my stupidity.

That done, I put her in reverse, as I have unwound lines that way also. In this case, no and hell no. There came a hellish scream, which I attributed to a float being wound around the prop scrapping the hull.

Wow, as I write this, details came back that I totally forgot about!

I went in the water. I lowered the swim ladder, climbed down the ladder to the lowest rung and stood there, while Larry handed me the boat hook. I was able to snag the line using the boat hook, since it was about 10 feet under the water.

We got that line up to the boat and cut it.

I then backed up again and we were free.

But from then on, I felt this slight shudder. Had I tweaked the prop? I didn’t know until today.

I do have a SALCA cutter anode (model 2000, 2″ diameter) on the shaft, just in front of the prop. I’m sure it has saved me many times and even this time, may have helped. But that pile of lines now on the dock, was wrapped around the prop since San Diego.

In thinking about this incident, I also realize that the paravanes were well designed for incidents like this. I’m sure that is the most force put on that pole and lines since installation. The 3/8” Amsteel Blue line fore guy did its job. To stop the roll suddenly and slow the boat so abruptly, there must have been thousands of pounds of force to the aft on that line. It’s tied off permanently at the bow hawsepipe and cleat. I have it doing 4 turns over the cap rail, with a clove hitch before it’s tied off on a cleat. Thus, the cleat never really sees significant force, even under these circumstances.

Thank you, John Duffy in Miami, for doing such a great job with the paravanes.

I think I’ll have a celebratory drink, since I missed the fireworks and fireboats in San Diego.\

And I’m looking for a decently priced Hookah outfit. I need to be even more self reliant.

 

 

The Saga of the Katadyn Watermaker

The passage from Huatulco to Xtapa was eventful in many ways.

Our fine feathered friend was ready for adventure

The Katadyn 160 Water maker, made in Switzerland, has been a stalwart since installation four years ago, in 2014. It’s simple, which attracted me to it. No gauges, no bells, no whistles, no back flushing, no nothing. When doing long distance cruising, the more simple, the better. It’s only accessories are the manual and a salinity meter, but the manual says your taste buds are more accurate than any salinity meter. Thus, I turn it on, have the three-way valve to the test hose which empties into the galley sink. In the first minute or two, it will taste salty and maybe even moldy, if I haven’t used it in a week. After 5 to 10 minutes, (depending on when last used), I check it again and it’s good.

If I won’t be using it for more than a week, I will “pickle” it. Basically, that is to run a solution that prevents bacterial growth, mold, on the membrane that is producing fresh water.

I have used it in brackish water, but the organic growth quickly clods the first filters, so I don’t do that anymore. I also have a special cleaning solution that I have only had to use once, this past year, because I did not pickle it for a few weeks of non-use.

So, this Katadyn has produced thousands of gallons of water the last four years. I turn it on, taste the output in 5+ minutes and switch the three-way valve to fill one of the water tanks. No fuss, no muss, simple.

This time was no different, however after a few hours, I noticed that I was wasn’t hearing its distinctive thumping sound. It’s hard to hear unless you listen for it, though I can put me hear near the galley sink and the thumping is quite distinctive there since the output water uses the galley drain thru hull.

The power was on, but the watermaker was not. There is an auxiliary pump and the watermaker itself (which is essentially a very high-pressure pump that forces seawater thru the membrane and molecules larger than pure H2O, water, can not pass thru and are sent down the discharge hose.

The auxiliary pump and the watermaker each have a separate fuse, so that was an easy check and I found the watermaker fuse had melted. not just opened, but the plastic fuse itself was melted.

That’s bad.

Mark pointed out that those fuse holders can be the culprit by not holding the fuse tight enough, letting it arc. OK, new fuse and holder. Watermaker is thumping again.

Eight hours later, the watermaker had stopped again. Same fuse, though not melted, just blown.

There was clearly a problem, that just couldn’t be laid on poorly made Chinese fuse holders.

To compound matters, I had let us leave Huatulco with minimal water on board, only 55 gallons in one tank, the other being empty, ready for the watermaker to fill. The watermaker fills one 150-gallon tank in about 20 hours.  In normal water usage, I use about 25 gallons per day, but there were three of us.

I was far more stressed than I let Brian and Mark know.

I replaced the fuse again and hoped for the best. This process was made more difficult because to check the fuse and the watermaker, I had to open the heavy hatch cover to the aft section of the engine room in the salon. (On the list of winter projects is to put a hinge on two of the four panels).

Seven hours later, it stopped again. Quick check shows fuses OK. Next step, the relay.  This relay was one of the half dozen I bought from Amazon for $8. It had been working in that hot engine room for 4 years. Despite being Chinese made, it was heavy duty and well built, except for one thing, the wires, also heavy gauge, were cross colored. Color coding and “standards for American and European Direct Current (DC) wiring (as used in boats and cars) are pretty much the same: red is positive, black is ground, yellow is accessory, etc. So, these relays, all used red, black, yellow, blue wires, but not in the accepted color scheme. It was clear even before I bought them that that was the issue and the reason they were on sale at such a good price. So even though I’ve used them on applications around the boat for the last 4 years, even doing a simple replacement, takes me some time, because it’s hard to get my head around the different color scheme. Don’t connect that red wire to the black one!

But that was done, and we are making water again. Good, because we were down to 23 gallons.

Three hours later, again a blown fuse. Now I was getting worried about running out of 30+ amp fuses.

While I was dicking around with the relay, I took the opportunity to dig thru my spare 12-volt electrical parts bin to figure out my options if I had to replace the fuse holder.

I could take the fuse out of the circuit altogether, but that’s an emergency fix. I did have a real circuit breaker. I could rewire and replace the fuse holder with the circuit breaker and put long enough wires on it for me to have access in the salon. In other words when it tripped, I could just reset, without opening the heavy hatch each time.

So, a few hours later, when the fuse went again, that’s what I did.  I also stopped the engine, over the years I have come close to having a severe accident when underway and my foot slips next to the spinning shaft. In this case, my ankle just bounded off the shaft, but I took it as a warning. It took 30 minutes, but at the end, I had the circuit breaker wired up to the salon.

The watermaker worked for the next 20 hours filling the one tank.  I think the circuit opened not once during that time, though it did open while filling the second tank the next day.

Best of all, it was easy for me to check and we had no more water problems.

We left Xtapa with full water tanks and the watermaker did work as required on the four-day passage to Cabo San Lucas, however, just before arrival, I noticed that the watermaker pump itself was leaking its internal oil. The seals had failed. I’m sure that was the cause of the higher than normal electrical draw all along. I’m just happy after four years of no maintentance, it gave me one more week when I needed it.

I have the seal repair kit, it will be another winter project. More than ever though, I was grateful to Katadyn for making a watermaker that would tolerate my shenanigans.

Here is a link to the Katadyn. I bought it directly from Katadyn, since they were discontinuing the model, so they gave me 30% off. But the link shows the simplicity of the system.

http://www.downwindmarine.com/Katadyn-PowerSurvivor-160E-Watermaker-12V-p-91001017.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dingy Fiasco part 1

It’s hard to believe that I have 5+ years and 20,000+ miles under my belt. I don’t.

Why, you wonder?

Oh, the routine things, those daily tasks or almost daily takes, are easy. It was in Germany when I lost my bow thruster. That was at the beginning of our 2015 Baltic Adventure. Seems like ages ago.

So, I’m pretty good at back and filling now. I can turn Dauntless around in a 180° in two boat lengths or 85 feet. It also gives me the excuse to Just Say No. When a marina, like recently at Dana Point, gave me a slip that I thought that I may be able to get in, but never get out again, I was able to easily say no, without guilt.

They found an end “T” dock for me.

I can also change the Racor fuel filters and prime them in less than two minutes. But now, I have the wisdom that I don’t need to rush. That’s the advantage of having the two dual Racor filters in parallel. Also, by only feeding from one fuel tank at a time, it a problem or issue develops, I immediately change the tank feed and filter and then diagnose the problem. This came in handy a couple of weeks ago when I sensed a change in engine pitch.  I immediately asked Larry to take the helm, while I went to the engine room. Sitting on the stringer in front of the engine, I could tell the rpms were not steady, but slowly rising and falling.

That meant a fuel or air problem.

The Racor bowl looked good, but I immediately changed to the other Racor. No change. I switched fuel tanks. The surging continued and got a bit worse.  But now I thought I understood the issue. I talk Larry to increase the throttle. After a moment’s hesitation, the engine started running smoothly and normally again.

What was the problem?  I’d run the fuel tank empty!

But I didn’t kill the engine because I acted immediately by changing both the filter (that at that point, probably had some air in it) and the tank. The Ford Lehman can be a PIA if you run it totally out of fuel, but I do have an auxiliary electric pump which I use just to prime the Racors and the engine mounted filters if need be. It works great, within seconds, system is pressurized and no more f…ing with that lift pump on a hot engine.

But the dingy, why that’s another matter. In 2016 we only used it a few times. Sitting in Cabo San Lucas with nothing to do, waiting for the head winds to die down, I figured I may as well make one last attempt to get the dingy going.

I spent an hour in the hot Cabo sun pumping it full of air. I’d already used another tube of 5200 to seal the back transom to the pontoons. The dingy looked pretty good. No need for a new stink’in dingy. I had looked at the local Costco the day before but saw no sign of any. (My observational powers leave a lot to be desired).

My inflatable, inflated. Looked pretty good.

Then in yet another moment of inexperience, I decided to lower the dingy to the dock, without checking the outboard.

I was feeling pretty good until the next morning. That sad picture tells the tale.

I decided that we could survive without the dingy. And in hindsight, we would’ve, could’ve, should’ve done without one.

Returning to Costco to stock up on required supplies like Danishes for yet another attempt to head north, I spotted the dingy that had eluded me the last TWO visits. They had it displayed standing vertically, on it’s tail. Of course, I couldn’t see it like that. They may as well have hung it from the ceiling.  But remember, that this point, I had decided to go without. How was I going to get it to the boat in any case, so, I just bought my Danishes

Walking out of the store, I noticed these guys, presumably taxi drivers, and with my 20-word Spanish vocabulary, I never found out, but they did point me back to the store and I understood that Costco delivered.

When businesses make it easy to spend money, I’m all in. In 10 minutes, I had my dingy bought and they would deliver the next day.

The Next Day

Another hour of foot pumping, my new dingy was good to go. Now, to get the outboard working. Of course, after The First and Nearly the Last almost a year of non-use, it was a no-go.

The New Dingy

I realized I had to clean the ports in the carburetor again. No biggie, except in my inexperience, I had not done this while the outboard was on the boat or even on the dock. It was now sitting on the transom of the new dingy. I debated trying to take the carb apart while hanging off the end of the boat., but realized it was a sure way to lose a critical part. My back would have to pay the price for my brain not thinking about this before.

Another hour later, I finally was good to go and thought it would be good to take the dingy down to the fuel dock and fill up the gas can.

All went as planned and I was left with a confidence that I did not deserve.

The video of the first and nearly the last dingy trip

 

 

 

 

Keys:

 

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water

I left the marina finally.

Just as i anchored it started to rain

Southern Costa Rica is like Vietnam, hot, 30° and humid.  Maybe more humid.  But that thought prompted me to check the latest obs from VVTS, Tansonnhat Int’l. Nope, their morning dew point is 77°, while it was only 72° this morning in Golfito.

My chart of the anchorage. The marks are where where my anchor is and the mooring ball

In any case, after the stress of leaving the marina for the first time in almost 4 months, it’s time to check and double check.

While still in the Caribbean, I had tried to use the generator.  It ran for a minute a then shut itself off. So, we had spent a miserable night before arriving at the marina in Colon, Panama.

I’ve planned on anchoring a lot over the next three months, so a working generator was no longer an option but a necessity.

Last week I tackled the problem, having been guided what to look for from a mechanic friend on the East Coast.

In minutes, I found the suspected problem, a bad connection to the exhaust temperature sensor, and set it right.  The generator than started and ran for 30 minutes, with load, no problem.

Saying goodbye to Fish Hook Marina

I was leaving in mid-afternoon, as much to save another $40, but also to get my sea sense back.  We were only going a few miles to anchor, so after a hot day, in the heat of the afternoon, the generator would be called upon almost immediately.

Not being born yesterday, just before leaving the dock, I started the gen for just a few minutes, just to make sure, maybe 5 minutes.

15:00, finally ready to leave.

But Sergio, who was going to be with me for some days, then told me he had to go home.

OK

Maybe a language issue? Certainly not the first time for me.

Then the guy on the marina is throwing off the dock lines. OK.  I’m sort of ready.

But what about the two pangas fishing 20 feet in front of Dauntless?  No problem, they were told to get out of the way. Slowly evidently.

Once the lines are off, I need to get underway.  My bow wave must have nudged them the last few feet,

Now, out of the slip and safely past the pangas, I look to my chart to check my route in and the depths.

But the chart isn’t on. Why?

Computer’s on, Coastal Explorer is running, but the magic “M” key is not bringing up the C-Map.

This kind of crap happens when rushed by other people’s schedules or perceived schedule.

I had put Dauntless in neutral not wanting to go in water I had no idea what was the depths.

Finally, I see the keyboard was turned off.  Easily solved, my chart comes up and confirms that my route into the marina was good and the one to follow out

I poke along at 5 knots in no real hurry. Just happy to have the sea under my feet again.

The spot I was anchoring in is a quarter mile off the beach in front of a friend’s house I meet on the bus to Golfito.  It’s a steep slope with a big 15’ tidal range. I can’t get too close, even though I have 35’ below me now.

I drop the anchor, it catches quickly like it always does (a much beloved Delta). It’s hot, very hot and humid.  I’m dying.  I put out 110 of chain on top of the anchor.  Then I realize the mistake I made. With the steep slope, large tidal range and 100+ feet of chain out, when Dauntless swings around (we’re now facing the beach) her behind may end up high and dry.  Not the first time, but I’m trying to have a year without a grounding.

I decide to throw the stern anchor in.  Oh, no stern anchor.  Must have been stowed for the Atlantic passage. Just then I see a mooring ball, just within reach of my short boat hook (they charge more for longer ones!)

I quickly grab the line from the mooring ball and put a short line thru it.

Worked like a charm.  Dauntless soon went parallel to the beach, but that was fine.

Now I’m sweaty, almost dead for the heat, stress and whatever else.

I turn on generator to get a much-anticipated relief.

It runs for one minute then clearly can’t handle a load. It putters to a stop.

I feel like crying.

I start it again, it starts, but with no power, like before. What changed? I asked myself.  Only I put the cover back on.  Could it not be getting enough air?

I take the front cover off, it continues to run poorly, then stumbles, then starts running normally.

I power up all the accessories, A/C’s, Inverter Charger.

For the next few hours, with the passing of every bird and fish, I think the gen is dying, but no, it runs steadily, until I turn it off for bed.

Now, the next test, how hot will the boat become without the A/C.  The water temperature is 92°.  I’ve never been in such hot water; the engine room never gets below 100° and that’s only with the Inverter and Water heater working there.

Dauntless hardly moved.

Just when I was finishing my shower, a peal of thunder overhead made me think that we’d run hard aground. I flew out of the shower.

It was only Mother Nature having a little chuckle before I went to sleep.