Project: Boat Power -Results

While in NZ we made a few changes to Elysium. One significant change was in our electrical power system. When we arrived in NZ we needed new batteries. We had been nursing our House and Starter bank for the last year or so. There had not been any place to get high quality batteries while in the Pacific; at a reasonable price. We could have shiped them in to an island but the cost of shipping would far out weigh the cost of the batteries. In NZ the equation would change.
But; and this is rather significant; while in NZ we ran into Phil on Silhouette. He was an electrical engineer in his pre cruising life and had run Lithiums on his boat for the last 2-3 years. He talked about how wonderful they were – all – the – time. And while we were in NZ other cruisers I know; Mark on Reach, Martin on Katie M II, BJ on Evenstar, and Paul on Anticipation  (all knowledgable sailors I respect) had either installed or were installing them. Not that we follow the crowd. 🙂
However; I do love using others as our “guinea pigs”. For the most part they too understand this lifestyle. They have the same experiences managing their electrical needs. On yachts we must blance charging, using, maintaining a battery bank, and the equipment while we keep it all working smoothly. With the guidance of those wiser than I, Elysium set about upgrading her electrical system… to Lithiums.
First was selecting and purchasing the batteries. I could have paid extra and had a local installer do all the work. The cost would almost double what I had hoped to pay. Instead; considering how cheap I am (and a bit concerned that I don’t want anyone else to blame but myself), I planned on doing the work myself.
I ordered them, as per Phil, from the Chinese shop in Taiwan. According to his information; China has spent billions of dollars in making this storage device perfect. The Chinese see the future. For the most part this technology is driving the new generation of electric vehicles. When on a yacht, in the middle of no where I want something that is not on the cutting edge. I learned in the working world that being on the cutting edge one quite often bleeds. Thus, I followed Phil’s advice and went with the China batteries.
The one real issue was that the supplier didn’t take any credit cards. There was no website and once they quoted you the amount; to buy the batteries you needed to make a bank transfer; roughly $3,500 US. After that I held my breath. They provided us confirmation of the receipt of funds but then there was a black hole in communication for a few weeks. Finally, I received a bill of lading for the batteries. And about 2 months later they said the batteries were shipped. I still worried. Four weeks later I received a note that we had some merchandise in Auckland. One would think that because we are a boat in transit this would be easy. In some respects it was; in others not so much. Of course the shipper could take care of everything and ship the batteries to Whangarei. The cost; another $500 NZ or so. With a car we opted to make a day trip to Auckland and run the paper work down ourselves. . We had left Whangarei in the a.m. timing our Auckland arrival to be immediately after rush hour. We arrived at the shipping agent by 11 am and found customs around noon. After completing the paperwork we began looking for the shipping warehouse and by 2 ish had located it. Thirty minutes later we had two boxes of Lithium batteries loaded in the trunk of the car and were heading home. I, was much relieved.
Phil on Silhouette was advising me. He said I didn’t need all the “rig a ma role” to use the Lithiums. And I wanted to follow the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. Once we had the batteries on the boat I removed the older gel batteries and we took them to a recycle depot. There we received almost $100 NZ for the batteries I didn’t want and wouldn’t hold a charge. Sweet! I kept one 12 v battery to run the boat with the battery charger.
First order of business was to “Balance” the batteries. Some “experts” say to balance them at the bottom of their charge and others say to balance them at the top. Phil indicated that one really didn’t need to do either as they would balance out anyway once connected. So, in lieu of buying a constant voltage charger or draining them to near the bottom and recharging them I simply connected them in parallel and let them self balance. Before any of you get up in arms about that, since I’ve installed and had them in operation over 6 months no pack voltage has been off by more than 0.01 V. I would say the avg difference is 0.006 V but my instruments don’t read to that minuscule amount and I’m having to interpolate.
Once balanced Phil said I needed two latching relays. We spent a good hour on the internet looking for exactly what he suggested. We needed relays that would handle high amps. What we found was going to cost me close to $500.00. Ouch! There goes simple!
Traveling back in time W/ and I had done a house sit for Scott. who owns EMPower Electrical. He is the “go to guy” for Lithium installs in Northland NZ. While at his office he was telling me / showing me about how their company sets up Lithium installs, the BMS they use and the switches. The cost of the hardware was close to a grand NZ! Ouch. Often during this process I was wondering if we had made the right choice. I had already crossed this bridge and to turn back would not save us any $$$’s. All I could do was barrel on ahead. The question was do we install all the bells and whistles for $1000.00 or do I have a minimal system with hope, a prayer, and $500.00 extra in my pocket. I decided to bite the bullet and get the complete Battery Management System (BMS). I bought the hardware from EMPower and Scott would advise me on what to do. Once I had the work completed he would check it all and bring everything up online. Of course that was more money but I’ve already taken hold of the hook.
A couple of days later he brought me the Orion BMS, wiring harness’, automatic battery switches and some extra battery cable. If I ever thought this was going to be easy; boy was I mistaken. During our first consult he drew a new wiring

Out with the old...

Out with the Old…..

diagram. Our boat is / was mostly old school. All charging and load sources were brought to individual power posts. Whichever battery bank I wanted to use were switched at the panel and run to the power post. That was NOT what I needed to do with the lithiums. ( Side note on Orion:  I’ve needed to communicate with the company via email a couple of times and they have been excellent in responding in a timely manner and answering my questions completely)

Lithiums needed to have the load and charge separately controlled. They die one of two ways: Over charging and being discharged flat. What this process entailed was installing some new wire runs. We have two alternators, one on each engine and an 80 amp battery charger. I needed to run new cables from the alternators to the lithium compartment and from the battery charger to the compartment. I was also going to add some solar panels. (Another blog entry will cover that). Solar too will need another cable feed into the charging post / switch. The Battery Monitoring System will shut off the charging of the batteries when they reach whatever setup point is entered-preventing them from overcharging. From my research Lithiums are 100% charged when they reach 14.4 volts. I set the BMS to shut down the charging a 14.3 volts. Lithiums have no need like other batteries to ever be at 100 % during any part of their life. On our regulator the max charge point is set to 14.2 volts. This ought to keep everything healthy, never really charging the batteries over 95%.
After a brief interlude of cursing from having to re route wiring W/ and I set about completing this job. Any yacht owners having read this far might well listen to the following advice. Anytime you run a water line or power cable through any bulkhead on the boat, double the size of the hole you believe you will need. DOUBLE IT! It NEVER fails that you will need to run more wires or more hose through that same hole. And as any woodworker understands: You can NOT enlarge a hole with an electrical cable or water line running through it. You either need to remove the cable / hose and recut the hole or add another next to it. At times there are several cables passing through the same hole. It would be quite problematic to remove them, enlarge the opening, then reinstall them. I opted to add more holes.
A couple of days later and a 100 wire ties fewer I had the change cables run. The next step was to remove the load from the power post at the panel and move it back to the lithium compartment. Again with a colorful language and W/’s support I set about pulling the load wiring and re routing it to the lithium bank. The idea here is that with an extreme discharge of the bank I could kill the batteries. Near future replacement is not in our budget. I have the minimum capacity of the bank set at 20%. All of this work including the language lapses took a couple of weeks to complete. (I’m retired and don’t work 8 hour days anymore! 🙂 ) I would run out of wire, need another power post, or simply run out of patience and need a break.

Lithium yacht power installation; overwhelmed.

Once completed I called Scott and scheduled a time that we could actually bring the system online. One item I was missing was a cable that connected the Orion BMS to my computer. Well, that and the BMS configuration file. Scott had both. I had ordered the cable from TradeMe; the eBay of NZ and was waiting for it’s arrival. But I still needed / wanted Scott to check everything and have the system functioning right the first time. He checked the wiring, checked that all the connections to the Lithium cells were correct, checked that the load and charge switches worked and then made the final connection. After that we checked to make sure my Ample Power EMON read the same voltage that the battery pack indicated, ran the charger and bingo… we were up and running. He advised us to run the charger up to where we had set the batteries for full and then I would be all good to go.

There was however one other concern I had. While discussing this setup earlier at Scott’s home he said that when running correctly the system will shut down the alternators before it disconnects the charge source. If one shuts down the charge source while running the alternators then you blow the diodes in the alternator. When off shore or in remote locations- that is not good. I was not interested in blowing out any diodes. He has another (yes I know) switch that I could wire into my regulator. Thus when the BMS tells the battery switches they will be shut down in 5 seconds, the system immediately disconnects the power to the regulator thereby shutting off the alternators. As that is a latching relay it will not repower the regulator until the BMS indicates that the batteries can now take more power.
For the most part; this setup is for safety. That and saving me from needing to purchase more batteries in the near future. Safety on a cruising boat is the first priority. And while I am by no means a conservative individual, sailing, when W/ and my life depend on everything working well: I am quite conservative.
As a rough total we have about $6,000.00 US invested in this battery setup. That includes a spare BMS ( I picked it up off of eBay), two new CAN regulators (they will actually talk to the BMS and are not yet installed- maybe this year), the extra cables and switches and the consulting bill from EMPower. In a worse case scenerio this battery bank will reach 2,000 cycles before degrading enough that I will need to replace anything again. Elysium is using about 10 cycles / month which would give us close to 200 months of full time cruising use. That comes out to about $1.00 / day for storage and use of our batteries. Not bad.
Remember I said whilst in the middle of this install I was wondering if I was doing the right thing. No longer. In our old system we had an effective amp hour usage of a maximum 200 amp hours between charging. In a typical lead acid battery for deep cycle use you only get 50% of the rated amp hours. In this current setup we have almost double that. To top it off, the charging of this bank is more efficient. A lead acid charge cycle voltage will taper off the closer you get to a full charge. For lithiums, I am charging at my full capacity for the majority of my cycle. I am getting the full benefit from my solar panels or my alternators all day long. Lithiums have been a good choice for Elysium. W/ and I no longer worry about using too much power. We no longer worry if our battery bank is below 50%. It is all taken care of . Hell, we even bought a Toaster and run it off our Inverter! W/’s happy, I’m happy, life is good…
 
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Shameless Plug

 

Infini a Westsail 43

A sweet WS 43 in pristine shape

I don’t often do this. There is an excellent deal out there for someone looking to jump into cruising. Friends of mine have finished their dream, their circumnavigation and are selling their boat. It is a sistership to ours. While we were upgrading and refurbishing Elysium I always looked to their boat as the gold standard.

And yet that is not the good news for someone looking to “jump”. IMHO this boat price is where you would get the best bang for the dollar. Yes, as in any boat nothing is perfect and there will be issues needing to be addressed. You would find the same needs in a brand new million dollar boat. At one boat show I put my hand in a dorade and removed it with a cut. There was an errant piece of cured fiberglass that wasn’t trimmed off. And this was on a $1.2 million vessel.

However with Infini’s owners I can tell you they were and are meticulous yachties. The pictures on their page are accurate. The boat looks as the pictures show. It sails well; I know because I have the same hull and rig setup. It is sea kindly. Again I know cause we’ve several thousand miles of off shore work on ours. It is easily managed by a couple… again I know! 🙂 Best of all; dollars / lb  you could begin cruising with most everything you need much sooner than you think. Good Luck in pursuing your dreams.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Cyclogenesis on da Boat

Cyclogenesis is a weather term describing a small insignificant Low Pressure system that spins up creating high winds and a great deal of trouble. Not a perfect definition of cyclogenesis but generally correct.

In November of last year we lost a brand new alternator. Here’s a link for the complete debacle. Luckily; last month I found it. It was well stored under a zip lock bag of 1,000 teak plugs. The low has began to spin up. Veteran cruisers say, when you get a new item put it on and use the old as the spare. Only then will you be 100% confident the spare works. Our old alternator worked. I had taken it to Snow Brothers Electrical; one of the most respected shops in Whangarei. Alternator was in fine shape. So I figured; ok… I’ll follow advice of those before me. I stored the old working alternator and began to install the new one.

My first discovery was that the old broken; modified alternator was in fact; broken. And as luck would have it, there is a metal fabricator on site. However I was remiss in not earlier deciding to use them. After a couple of hours and a great deal of verbal abuse directed towards our generator attempting to make it work. Finally I came to a rational decision and paid the price. I had them design and make two new brackets. Two! You bet. The surest way to guarantee that there is no problem with the first is to have a spare.

But; let me step back a bit. When I dug out the new alternator it didn’t have a pulley on it. I had neglected to order one thinking I would use the pulley on the original alternator. The down side is I have tried before to remove a pulley from an alternator without success. Without a serious impact wrench it is impossible, at least for wimpy moi! Into town we go… in search of a serpentine pulley. First place I check … nope. Second place bingo. They didn’t have one in stock but could order one. I left the alternator and would pick it up the following day. Shipping in New Zealand is awesome. Most shops that need to order anything for you will have it the following day.

Back to the boat with the new alternator, new pulley and new bracket. This time I didn’t need to talk to the generator… as much. I mounted it, installed the new bracket and needed to re- install the belt. Attempting to install the old belt let loose a new verbal dialog not fit for print!

Considering all possible avenues of problems I have several belts for this system. If the belt I had been using didn’t fit… try out the others. Now; please keep in mind, installing the belt is no easy task. I put a breaker bar ( a long ridged wrench) on the idler, pull so the idler provides some slack, reach over the engine and attempt to slide the belt on the pulleys. I make at a minimum two attempts for each belt. My arms receive numerous scratches and

Changing a belt on my Aquamarine Generator

blood appears where none ought to be. I am lucky, the engine is NOT hot. After trying each belt once; some twice I am convinced we don’t have the correct size. I am guessing the pulley on the alternator is not exactly the same size as the last one. One issue of cruising the world is that there is not near as much consistency, metric vs imperial ! (A pet peeve of mine is that the politicians a few decades ago had no spine and the US tried to remain an anachronistic island in the world continuing to use an outdated, difficult to learn system of measurement. Oddly enough; politically, not much has changed in the last few decades. End of rant.) While the pulley measures out to almost identical, in this case almost isn’t good enough. I take the belt that fits closest and head to the auto stores.

At the first one I ask for the next three sizes larger than what I have. The employee measures it and indicates it’s 1060. Actually on the belt the number is a 1065. However; they didn’t have any of the step up sizes but could order them. They would have them…. tomorrow. I know there are other establishments in Whangarei that have belts. I WANT IT NOW. 🙂 I am directed to two other places. I cross my fingers.

The next place I run to is PartMasters. The counter guy checked the belt size; 1065. Ok, I want one each of the next three sizes up. He has a 1075 and a 1080. I believe they are too big but I take them anyway. Just to have the right size on our run back to the boat we try a third place looking for a 1070. No luck. At the boat I perform my engine yoga. You guessed it. More talking to the generator. Neither fit. Head down, shoulders slumped I head back to PartMasters, returning those that didn’t fit and getting even larger sizes.

Our savior heads back to the stock to grab the next two sizes. I’m now close. Yet, not close enough. They don’t have them. Damn! The closest size he has is an 1100. That is 35 mm longer than the original one but hey; if it doesn’t fit I can bring it back. At least I’m narrowing the size down.

I return to the boat, perform my yoga, I chant…. and …. bingo. It fits. Hallelujah ! Another day I’ll return and get two more for spares. One can’t have too many spares.

Earlier in the week we were getting our refrigeration up and running. We had upsized one of the holding plates, replaced a compressor, and I was checking and reconnecting all the fittings. When I removed the old; 10 year old compressor I needed to remove the High Pressure (HP) and Low Pressure (LP) lines. The LP line came off fine, but the HP fitting tore out all the threads on the pump. I didn’t care about the pump, but I needed the HP hose with the fittings. No problem. Yeah was I wrong.

I took the hose to an hydraulic shop for new fittings. The first shop didn’t have the refrigeration fittings. It was at this point I realized the place where I was getting the new pulley from; Auto Tech, they most likely had the hose fittings. I am like a chicken with my head removed; running in circles! So back I went and indeed they could make a new hose. Or so they said and so …. I …. thought. The following day I returned to pick it up. They had examined it closer and discovered that on the other end, the Swedge Loc fitting they couldn’t replace. They didn’t have any and they didn’t know of any place in NZ that did. They could cut the hose and install a new end for the compressor. There weren’t many options at this point and worrying about the domino effect of micro changes I acquiesced and said …. “ok”. Cyclogensis must be winding down. Back at the boat with the old hose and new fitting everything went back together without any further need for modification. Now all that’s left is to leak check and charge the system. Oh happy day!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Deliveries in Paradise

It started back in July. We figured since we were on this side of Fiji and it was said that June and July were the best months to sail the Yasawa’s then why not? Let’s go.  We left our comfortable anchorage at Musket Cove and headed N.
Within the first hour our Tacktick depth sounder chose to take a vacation. The display read <reset data>. What the hell is that about?  I pressed  some buttons to work my way through the menus and never found one that indicated, <reset data>. While working the buttons and trying everything I knew about electronics with just a few buttons, various combinations, etc. I came to the conclusion that the display has taken more then a vacation but has passed on.  I noticed too the battery was low. I left the display  in the Sun for a few hours and the battery was still low (it has a solar charger built in). I checked the manual and found I can actually power it up and charge it with 12 v. I tried that and at the end of the day the batteries were still low; not accepting a charge. Ok… time to move on.
Fortunately the water has quite good clarity so we didn’t need to abort our trip. Also fortunately, Fiji is one of the places in the Pacific that every island, every harbor, every passage has internet. I begin to research.
I first discover that no one has reported the same issue. I contact Raymarine, a company owned by FLIR, and ask them what to do?  Surprised, I actually receive an answer.  I turn the display on, see the error message, and the display powers off – all by itself. OK, time to move on. I’ve spent enough time messing with a dead display. The unit will not even stay on long enough to do what Raymarine suggested so I move to stage 2 of my plan. I look for an exact replacement. Unfortunately Raymarine has purchased Tacktick so the new wireless products are Raymarine. I don’t know if they have changed anything with the units and definitely don’t want to change the transducer.
I discover the Raymarine Store in Europe that sells the system with what appears to be a slightly different model and at a very reasonable price. I contact the store and inquire about shipping to Fiji. At  first they quoted me approximately 24 Euros; which is acceptable to me so I ask how to proceed. Next they inform me they are not setup to ship outside of the EU and can’t fulfill my request.  What ever happened to the global economy?   Damn!  Fortunately we have some well traveled friends so we begin asking them for help. Our nephew was at a trade show in England then so we email him. By the time we make the back and forth he is already on his way back to the US. I ask my shore support team and they come through. Dirk and Silvie’s from Germany and still have relatives there (half of me is from Germany too but I have no more relatives there).  They volunteer Silvie’s mother to be a package drop and she will then send the package on to us in Fiji via DHL.  Bingo.
I order the product and have it shipped to her. Three days later she has it and I send the address. To avoid duty on boat gear in Fiji all packages need a Fiji Rotation Number provided each boat upon entry.  I include that in the address. A bit later we get an email from Silvie, her mom has sent the package, with a tracking number. Wunderbar! So far approximately one week has passed.  We have not stopped our

Tackticks side by side

Tackticks side by side

cruise but W/ is anxious about the depth. She loves the data!
A few days later I check the tracking number and miraculously the item is already in Fiji . Yeah! We we will have it soon! …. Not!  It hits the shores of Fiji on July 23 and we expect it any day now. The Tacktick system was sent to the Musket Cove Yacht club which is all of 10 nm from Nadi and a short car / ferry ride.  So we wait. And wait.
After a week’s wait we begin checking at the office most every day for the package. We begin to worry…. just a bit.  Anther week goes by.  Still no package. We are planning on hitting the big city of Denarau  in the middle of August and figure we may well need to head to the Post at the Airport where the Tacktick is rumored to be.  But luck was with us.
On Aug 3rd Bale (the prima facia yacht club personelle) approaches us and indicates our package is ready to be sent over on the Mololo ferry. We pay $5 F for customs and expect to have our coveted new / refurbished Tacktick the next day.  Bingo. Almost a month after it was ordered we find it at the Yacht Club office and pay another $5 F for what I don’t really know, and I don’t really care. We have it. To celebrate I stop at the small cafe here and order another chocolate milkshake. W/ decides we need to have lunch 🙂 , so we did.
Back on the boat I open it up. Good news and bad news. Obviously I didn’t look close enough, this one while having the same wireless capabilities does not have the solar charger and needs to be wired in. Ok, so I need to run some temporary wires giving us the depth display where we need it. I can do that.  I read the instructions (yes I really did) looking for any other “gotchas”. Finding none I begin the task of setting it up.
As this is a new display on our older transmitter I need to “sync” them together. I follow the instructions and they don’t sync. I follow them again and they still don’t sync. I try our older not working mn100 display and ironically for a couple of minutes it works fine and then returns to the “reset data” screen. That tells me that the transmitter and the transducer are both working. Great! However I still could not get the new mn30  to sync to the mn100 transmitter – Horrible.
Fortunately Fiji has good (I didn’t say great) internet so I contacted my FLIR – Raymarine guy in Europe for help. An automated reply said he was on his annual vacation and wouldn’t be back for (?) . Damn!  In the email there is another address for help so I sent a new request off to them asking if the mn 30 which is my new refurbished unit will talk to the mn100 which is my older unit. The FLIR – Raymarine help guy said indeed they do and sent me a pdf of the exact same instructions that came in the box. OK, I read the instructions again and tried to follow them letter by letter.  Finally, I figure out when they say press button (1)/(Z) that does not mean two buttons simultaneously but either button only  for the requested 2 seconds. I had wondered why one of the buttons had a different symbol on it and now it made sense. Whoopie! I try syncing again.  No Luck. The worst case scenerio would be that I will need to wire in the new transmitter that I received with the unit and transfer the transducer (it is the depth sounding part) to that system.  The job is not horrible but if I don’t need to make those changes I would prefer not to make those changes.
Each time I attempt to sync making a little change I email the FLIR – Raymarine help desk what I have tried and my changes.  As we are about 12 hours difference in time I didn’t expect any answers immediately but had hoped that the following a.m. my time I would hear from them. Upon my early morning rise I hadn’t heard from them so I went about doing more research.  I first checked my original email from the FLIR – Raymarine guy on how to fix my <reset data> issue. He had a good description but it was not applicable to this situation.  Next I tried some more search terms on the internet.
I hit upon a Raymarine web page talking about the mn30 units.  More instructions, more reading and maybe I will be lucky.  In one small paragraph they talk about the two different frequencies the units use a US frequency and a different frequency for the  EU. What? Two different frequencies?  This could well be the issue. Now how do  I check. There is No information in the manual. Zero, Zip, Nada!  There was a factory reset option discussed  but not wanting to mess up the potential connection to the new transmitter I held off on using that option.  Reading further down the page I discovered they actually had a setting change deep in the menu’s that allowed me to switch the frequency response of the display. Ah ha!
I scamper to the table (my work bench) and run through the menus. Sure enough I find it and switch it to the US frequencies.  Ready, Set, Go…. I attempt to sync again. After I select the network option and the display  begins the count down. In the <join> part of the countdown I receive a new message… <add node>?  and I say …. yes….YES.  But, is it working? The process finishes and I see data. I see depth. I am connected. Yeah! YEAH!
I am elated and appalled.  Why the FLIR – Raymarine does not include this information in any of their paper documentation provided with the units I will not know. Luckily they had it on their website. When I asked the FLIR – Raymarine tech  they talked to each other even he didn’t say there are two different frequencies US  and Europe. Fortunately we are able to  again expand our horizons and move out beyond the sailing triangle of Vuda, Musket, and Denarau.

So slow
Sail far
Stay Long

Stasis

We’re now in the water and slowly working on bringing the rest of our systems online.  Mostly the refrigeration. And silly me; I look for the easy way.

While both systems; the DC and the engine driven compressor, have lost refrigerant there is still some pressure in each. Unfortunately there was very little in the engine drive system and in hindsight I would have been wiser to simply evacuate it and recharge, but I was trying to keep things simple and figured I will just add R-134a till it all works right. Silly me.

I added, I removed. I hadn’t put my professional gauges on and was using a wonky car AC gauge to read only the Low Pressure side.  I ran the system. My sight glass showed bubbles; low refrigerant. Finally, I dug out the gauges and connected them. Whoa!  I was still way low. I added another can. Still low. I ran the system and I was still low. I added another can of refrigerant and watched  the sight glass.  Finally after the can was empty the sight glass foam disappeared. But the glass was still a bit foggy so I finished the refrigerant in the can. The system ran fine and the pressures looked good.

The following run time the HP went up to about 200 lbs. Real close. Oh-Oh!  Now I have appeared to have added too much refrigerant.  Luckily  the high pressure switch did not shut down the system and as the temperature on the plates cooled the system down everything looked good. The refrigeration compressor still made a bit of a grinding noise; like rust on the clutch, but over time the noise was diminishing so I felt it best to leave well enough alone. On a boat my philosophy is simple, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Right now it “ain’t broke”.

For the next couple of days we watched it. I now have enough refrigerant left to do a complete recharge but that is it.  I do have a new compressor to install if I need to.  That would mean dumping what is in the system, evacuating, and recharging the system with the end result that I have no more

Refrig Comprssor on Generator

Refrig Compressor on Generator

refrigerant for spares. Oh, I can buy refrigerant here; but not in the small easily stored cans, only in 10 kg containers. That makes storage a bit of an issue.  The other issue I faced is that of evacuating the system.

While I have a vacuum pump, it runs on 120v 60 cycle electricity. The electrical system here is 240 volts 50 cycle.  Which means I need to run the pump on ships power for about 3 hours and that is near the extent of my battery bank. My minimal solar will not keep up with the power drain of evacuation.  As I would be evacuating the system attached to  the generator I don’t want to use the generator to charge the batteries. Too many spinning belts too close to where I would be working.  Now, if push came to shove I could do it; but right now I’m being nudged and not shoved. Patience, I will be patient. I WILL BE PATIENT! 🙂

While working on the refrigeration systems we were talking to Simon (the activities directory – sort of for the Boatshed Restaurant).   Simon presented a couple of  events that we attended.  During the Fijian History lesson we brought up the idea of visiting some of the places he had mentioned.  He was all for creating a tour and we tentatively  cleared it with Adam the Marina manager. Simon set about scheduling transportation and accommodations for  8-10 cruisers.  W/ signed up 8, one ended up with an infection from of all things gardening. and so we were down one couple.  Six of us went on a unique tour from Vuda to Suva and back.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Relationships

We’re back in the water. Yep; the boat floats and now we begin to work on the systems that make our cruising life possible. From the time of our arrival till in the water was 15 days.

From the time of our departure to the time we arrived to put the boat to bed was 10 days. We have a few more left till we are ready to move out of the marina into the cruising life.
All in all; I figure it takes about twice the time to deconstruct compared to construct. For example; lee cloths.  To remove them I used a pair of dykes, cut the wire ties and untied the end tensioners. Threw out the wire ties, rolled it up and stored it below. Total time; approx 30 minutes.
To put them back on; I dug out the wire ties and put 15 on each cloth. After retying the tensioners I needed to cut the tails of the ties. Finally I threw the tails out. Finished! Total time a little over an hour.

Bare Gell Coat Bottom

Bare Gell Coat Bottom

We didn’t do the bottom work choosing instead to hire the young bucks.  We’ve worked enough boat grunge jobs in our life and continuing to expose our bodies to toxic chemicals is not our idea of looking to a bright future. Purchasing anything in most cruising destinations is oft times problematic. I have NO IDEA where to find a Tyvek suit. Besides it’s hot here and wearing one would be detrimental to my attitude. We needed Denatured Alcohol, not found in the marine store.  Mineral Spirits; they had to order it, #10 crimp on wire connectors – only in a kit, a pencil zinc – NOPE.  Some of this is just basic supplies for any working boat yard. Not here. I am damn glad we had most of the materials on board.  But whew,  we were running close to out in some

Second coat of Barrier

Second coat of Barrier

departments.
Which brings me back to time. I am not saying that the supplies are impossible to find in Fiji. I understand that denatured alcohol is available in town; a half day round trip away. Somewhere they might have the zincs, I could order them and they might well be in next week; maybe. 🙂

Bottom Finished

Bottom Finished

Yet; for the most part -if you plan on leaving the boat for any length of time consider this formula:  It takes two – three times the days required to put the boat to bed  to wake her back up again and give her new life. Two to Three times.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Do the Shuffle

Progress comes in small steps; especially when you are looking to splash.  We shipped boat gear from the states; way… back in March. I drove from our dirt dwelling down to Miami and after locating the Vanguard warehouse dropped 24 boxes; 450 lbs, worth of gear off to be sent to Fiji. We had weighed them and had the dimensions and each box was labeled. Our agent said the only thing we couldn’t ship were the flares. Odd; all ships are required to carry flares but to ship them; I guess,  is just too dangerous. Ok; we pulled out of the box of flares returned them to WestMarine.  This was almost two months ago.  Once I returned home  from the trip we received an email from Vanguard letting us know that before they could even move the material from Miami to LA and load it on the ship they needed the HazeMat forms filled out. We had sent all the MSDS sheets to our agent and thought we were good to go. Not!  The agent pointed us to some very sparse information on completing the Hazmat forms and we gave it the good ol’ US try. Filled them out and sent them in to have them returned to us as… incomplete.  Now at least we had the Hazmat contact for Vanguard and we called and talked to him. While he was picky as hell he was a tremendous help. We redid the sheets and sent them again, and again, and again. always needing fewer and fewer changes but still needing some. Finally, finally, he said it was correct; and we were good for the supplies to begin their move. If we ever need to ship more supplies to Fiji I would do my best to use Marine Warehouse as they deal world wide and know all the ins and outs of shipping all things boating. But, as we had some custom canvas work done and Marine Warehouse tries to avoid the  shipping others “goods” we elected to do this ourselves.

The ship was scheduled to arrive April 26th in Lautoka, Fiji. Our flight was to arrive in Nadi on the 28th and if things went to plan we would be in the water in less than 10 days.  That is; if things went well!  We arrived without incident (not sick with typical Airline colds)  and tired, checked the boat and happily the boat survived Winston. We un-packed and arranged to have our heavy work completed by Yuve Marine, we were ready to have our floating home back in the water. W/ called the agent in Fiji. The ship with our 24 boxes  is not yet here. She called the following day, they expected it next week!  The ship arrivd in Suva Monday, about 5 days late. Our stuff is in Suva and now we are told it will be in Lautoka Wednesday; “we’ll call you when it is ready to be picked up” they said. W/ calls everyday not wanting to slip off their radar. Wednesday, it’s not here, now we are told maybe Friday; if not Friday then Monday, they are shipping it by ground from Suva to Latoka. Finally;  our gear is in Fiji; bad news, we don’t have it yet and we are waiting for it to continue the work on the boat.  Finally…. Friday arrives, W/ calles and yes it’s here… “come and get it”.

We locate a taxi; and arrange transportation to Lautoka. Jackie on  s/v JeanMarie tells us we need a TIN number and we can apply for it at the post office. We head first to  Customs  at the post office where we fill out some forms and are told we now need to finish the process by heading over to the main Customs office 2 km away. We go there and have a great experience filling – finishing the forms, receive our stamped copy and head finally to the Pacific Agencies warehouse (our Agency – Agent) to pick up our gear.  After passing over more money we receive a piece of paper to give to the warehouse to collect our supplies. All smiles we head around the corner to the warehouse and wonder of wonders; our supplies are all there, stacked up nice and neat. I hand the employee our paper and he tells me we need Customs to release it. Smiling I pull our our TIN number and hand it to him and

24 Boxes Approx 500 lbs Made it to Fiji

24 Boxes Approx 500 lbs Made it to Fiji

he said they still need a customs agent to inspect and release the gear.  Dummy me, I would have thought when it first entered the country all boxes – crates – etc  would have been sniffed by dogs and inspected by God! But no, not here; in Fiji, they require the consignee to be present when it is inspected.  Ok, so we wait. Customs has been called; two others show up and now three of us are waiting for the Customs officer.

Finally, he shows up… a bit surly. I think we interrupted his tea. He inspects one box and we left an invoice in it, accidentally, and he now wants to know the value of all the goods. Really; what does it matter, it is all for a “Yacht in Transit”  and duty free but he is not happy we don’t have invoices for everything. Neither are we. He disappears for 10 minutes and returns telling us we need to go the the main Customs office at the docks.  OK, fortunately an agent from Pacific Agencies will met us there where we will meet with another Customs agent; we assume higher up. After locating the office and finding an agent he asks for our boat papers and our list of what is what. We tell him we need the material for the boat because of stuff that happened with Winston and getting the boat ready for sailing again. He is quite pleasant telling us that the laws have changed in the last two years and back then it would have cost us 200 $F but now Fiji has streamlined the process for us and there is NO more cost. Wonderful!  He stamps the paper for releasing the goods and said their computers were acting up; they would send a form to Vuda Point Marina for our signature when everything is working. For now; however, the goods are ours to take to the boat. Yippee!

Leaving he Cyclone Pit

Leaving he Cyclone Pit

We take two trips back to Vuda. The driver and I load up most of the supplies and we take off while W/ sits with the others chatting up the Customs agent and the warehouse men. Actually; she was able to

Ready for the next Step

Ready for the next Step

sway them to a more friendly attitude and when we returned to pick up the last load they were kind enough to load the rest without my help.

Yeah, our paint is here; we’re ready to begin!  The boat is moved out of the pit and now on stands. We are making progress, shuffling a bit but moving in the right direction.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Hell Part II

I was going to first take care of the generator and while all of the pieces were out change the water pump in the Perkins. With the generator out I would have easier access to the pump. Since we’ve had to order a battery charger  for 240v 50 cycle I needed to make our time at the dock worthwhile and that entails changing the Perkins water pump out now which entails first draining all the coolant from the engine, then me ducking my head under the generator platform while laying on the Perkins and pulling the pump off.

Draining the coolant is easy but just not fun. The drain is behind a large coolant line and above the starter motor. It is just low enough that I can’t get a hose on it and direct it to a container, it is in a small enough space that I can’t get any container of size to catch the coolant; although I try. Most of the coolant drains in the engine sump where we have to suck it out with my handy dandy boat hook sucker and then W/ mostly mops up the rest and we then wipe the area down with soapy water to remove all the coolant. No matter what, coolant seems to get on everything!

Normal Engine work on a Yacht

Normal Engine work on a Yacht

With the coolant out I can wiggle into my prone position over the Perkins and remove the pump.  Fortunately it comes off without a fight.  Four nuts, 1 bolt and two hose clamps. We have it removed and then I plan on reversing the procedure to install the new identical part back on. It is a drop in replacement. If only I knew.

I add a little silicone gasket sealant to the rubberize gasket TAD sent with the pump. I install it, NOT!  The new pump doesn’t sit flush on the gasket.  There is a bolt holding the pump flange on to the Perkins that gets in the way of the new pump housing. I check the original pump and see that it too had been modified. DAMN ! Same vocabulary as before. With the pump removed we (mostly W/ ) clean off the silicone, get the file out and I mark where I need to remove the excess metal.  As I’m heading down the dock I talk to Jim on sv Intentions and he makes my day by telling me he has a small grinder that I can borrow and it will make quick work of that job. An hour or more work has just tuned into 5 minutes thanks for a fellow cruiser! I grind a bit and then dry fit the pump, something I obviously should have done the first time. The pump now barely fits and it is tight. I grind a little more and am now happy with the fit!  Perfect!

We again add a small amount of sealant to the gasket, leaning over the engine, head down, slippery fingers from the silicone, W/ hands me the nuts and washers (hoping I don’t drop any into the engine sump) and I slip them on the studs and tighten down the pump, hook up the hoses and clamp them,

Perkins 4-236 Waterpump On

Perkins 4-236 Waterpump On

reattach the coolant lines,  brackets, and then tomorrow when the sealant is cured I will add coolant. The following day I add coolant and while the thermostat isn’t open I only get to fill the header tank but there is a smallish hole by the thermostat that coolant can drip down to fill the engine. I get about a gallon in and have to wait. Another day and I look for a leak (after having added another

Perkins 4-236 Broken Gasket

Perkins 4-236 Broken Gasket

quart of coolant) and come as close to tears over an inanimate object as I have ever come. There is a little drip at the bottom of the pump. I must remove the pump and to do that the engine needs to be again drained and all the coolant cleaned up. Still close to tears!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stayt Long

One Hell of a Day!

Saturday we were going to make  some water. The water here at the Ark Anchorage is beautiful and we are down to about 30% capacity. Started up the generator, started the water maker, set the time and sat back. About 10 minutes into the process I began to hear something a little different. A minute or so later I began to hear the engine lug and went to check. Knowing that the engine (generator) is on her last legs I figured it was working too hard and gave it more fuel. It came up a few rpms and then continued to lug down quite soon stalling out. I checked things out in the engine room. All looked good. Started up the generator, runs fine. Started the water maker (WM) and she runs for a few seconds then lugs down. Damn! Damn! DAMN!

We’d been enjoying Tonga. We spent one day at a Tongan feast with Haniteli at the Botanical Gardens. Liked him and the area so much we scheduled another day to visit the gardens and hear of the history of Tonga. Haniteli was the Minister of Agriculture and in that capacity had many dealings with the previous Kings. A 2 hour tour easily turned into three and then during lunch he kept up the story telling. Lucy (his wife) had made a coconut cake for desert and what can I say, it was good! We left there under the care of James our reserved Taxi driver who transported us both times (we had asked for him) to the Gardens and back.

Wednesday and Thursday we did some holiday shopping in town looking for unique gifts that were importable and securing some fresh stuff for our trip to the Ark.

The Ark anchorage is where the previous King of Tonga had often visited to swim. A pristine anchorage with golden hue water colored form the rising Sun, this small art gallery with a few moorings sits gently floating tied near to shore. We picked up a mooring and met Sherri and Larry, owners and now citizens of Tonga.

Saturday evening was a beach fire with food shared and there we met some of the temporary / permanent / seasonal residents of the Ark Anchorage. And there too I told them our tale of woa. But by this time I had diagnosed the issue as a short in the feed wire to the clutch and figured it would be a simple fix. I thought I saw that the wire had chafed on a pump bracket and all I needed to do was add some heat shrink and keep the wire from shorting out. Boy was I wrong.

Sunday; a day of rest, found me working in the engine room. Upon further investigating I saw that the wire to the clutch had a small rubber stopper that was to protect it from chafing and I couldn’t get that back in without removing the entire unit; WM pump and large alternator. To remove the clutch I need to remove the WM pump, disconnect the alternator, disconnect the water hoses to the pump, take the belt off the generator and then lift it out gingerly, hand the item to W/ ; which will max her out weight wise and then bring it to our dining table for continuing the disassembly repair.

With the removal completed my hands were black with belt dust and oil.  Changing the oil on the WM pump is not the most precise- easy job; a design failure of the Aquagen system IMHO, and so with the two mixed together; belt dust and oil everywhere everything we – mostly I, touched turned black. I must have washed my hands a dozen times and even with Orange GoJo they still remain the hands of a mechanic not of a sailor.

Dining Table Workbench

Dining Table Workbench

Getting the clutch off should not have required a gear puller but indeed I needed one. Fortunately Dirk and Silvie had brought one from the states when they had helped us through the canal so out it came and eventually off the outer clutch housing was removed. I could see that the clutch had moved in close enough to the magnet that it was rubbing on the housing, heating up and then acting as a brake slowing the engine down. Checking the system the day before I did notice that the clutch was HOT, too hot to keep my fingers on and that helped me diagnose a shorting restarting of the clutch as a problem. Now that I thought I knew the source of the problem I figured that I could clean it up, and set the clutch to the correct distance off the magnet and bingo; we’re back in business.

Once the pieces were reassembled I needed to figure out if I ought to put a new belt or leave the old one on. When the system is pulling a 100+ amps the belt screams so we decide to put the new belt on. However upon closer look I see the belt will drag on the alternator fan so I decide to keep the old belt. I was thinking I could put a washer under the pulley and then use the new belt. No way could I budge the nut on the alternator.  Ok, back to using the old belt.

The complete removal, cleaning resetting the clutch took almost 4 hours non stop. W/ my boss doesn’t follow US work rules so breaks were definitely at a minimum 🙂 . Lifting the two items  off the generator mount, bringing it out to the table to work on and reinstalling it was back breaking work. I was sitting on the main engine bent over, laterally moving about 30 lbs of mechanical gear and setting it, securing it on

Clean Hands (?)

Clean Hands (?)

the generator platform. Finally everything was back in place. We started up the generator; that ought to go well as I didn’t touch any of the wiring with the starting system, and the first thing we heard was a light screaming of something belt related. I looked, I searched I figured we can live with that. We started up the WM pump and that too was working fine but we still had the light screaming. Oops; the pump system shut down. I felt the clutch housing; it was hot. DAMN!  I look closer and see that the clutch has again slipped to where it is tight to the magnet rubbing. It’s getting late and we have a dinner reservation. Time to clean up and reset the thinking / planning process. As cruisers often say; our future is written in sand at low tide.  Our generator is the heart of our cruising life. It provides us ample energy, cold drinks, extending the life of food stored in the freezer, and of course water. What will we do now?

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

Yipee!

I can’t believe it. I thought I was going to have to replace the fresh water pump on the ol’ Perkins 4-236.  But nope!

We waited for the near gale to abate before doing any more engine work. I didn’t want to be without ships power just in case we dragged anchor or someone else was dragging anchor down on us. So while the winds blew steadily 25-30 kts gusting to near 40 in the harbor we just hung out on the boat.

Towing sv Barbarella

Towing sv Barbarella

Sadly we watched as a friends 65′ boat broke free of its mooring and needed to be towed off the mud shore.  Unfortunately, the boat is so big that none of the cruisers could really assist. His anchor alone is 225 lbs and it would be impossible for anyone of us to carry it in the dinghy to set out a kedge. So Dick (the owner) went and hired some tugs to come pull him off and he is now resting comfortable at the marina (if it can be called such) here.  Finally, today the winds abated enough for me to feel comfortable taking the engine off line for a couple of hours.

Remember this all started in Penhryn when we first heard the ticking. After Steve on sv Lady Carolina came by with a mechanics stethoscope which by the way didn’t find the issue, we identified the source.  We pulled off the belt to the alternator, water pump and flywheel. When we did that the ticking was no more. Great! Now I know it is one of those three items. Actually, the fly wheel was not in the mix as is was turning without the belt. Thus it came down to the alternator, belt or water pump.

Thinking ahead I had ordered a new water pump while in Penhryn. Luckily their internet is quite adequate and operating 90% of the time or better. So when we arrived we had the water pump within a few days.

After working with Steve I realized I needed a spare alternator and as this wasn’t like the US 30 years ago I needed to order that too. So I found what I thought was a great company Great – Water who sold the same high quality AmpTech alternator that I had and I ordered that. They indicated it would be shipped as I requested, via USPS Priority Express; however, they had it drop shipped from the manufacture and they shipped it UPS Sure-Post.  What a mess. After waiting a month for it I contacted Great – Waters both by email and by their web contact form. Only their web contact form provided me some relief and I was able to get them to ship the alternator the way I had asked the first time and I received it in less than a week.

Today I switched out the alternators. Ran the Perkins for 25 minutes and …. and…. get this…neither I nor W/ heard the tick, tick tick that occurred not quite randomly but frequently.  Woohoo!  One less job to do here. Now; we are down to receiving two packages and then looking for a weather window to head to Tonga. We’ll be able to move again. I feel whole!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long