Archive for the ‘Products’ Category

Contrasts

Saturday, May 28th, 2022

Our lives are an adventure in polar opposites. We hauled the boat and had secured an AirBnB near by. Walking distance. A week before we hauled the AirBnB owner called to let us know that a contractor had informed him of an earlier start. The unit would not be available. Oh-oh. That was the bad news.

A couple of tennis friends we have shared much time with had gone to the UK for a few months. They kindly offered their place for us to stay while the boat is being hauled out. We accepted. While a bit farther away, we still have the car. Driving to the new and walking to the old was about the same time.

And best of all, when working on the boat we would be tracking less yard dirt and crud into the boat. We could leave it cluttered with tools when we left and begin where we left off when we return.

And yet mother nature had other plans. We knew the weather predictions. We also know that Mother Nature either doesn’t read or doesn’t care what the weather service expects to happen. Four days after we hauled, the rains set in. And they stayed. For an entire week. So much so that not only was boat work stymied, tennis too was cancelled many times.

What little could be done on the boat was accomplished.

When we hauled I had a seacock that a contractor had cracked the bolt attaching the handle. I didn’t do anything with it till we hauled out. A seacock is the beefy Bronze item that keeps water out of the boat and allows water to pass through the hull into the sea. So I waited until now. When the boat is out of the water working on this is much safer.

I thought the easiest would be to drill the end of the bolt, and use an Easy Out to remove the screw. I couldn’t get the drill centered well. I drilled anyway. I was able to get a couple of left handed bits at the nuts and bolt store. What luck. Drilling with the left handed bit would help ease the bolt end out. It did not move. I put in the easy out and twisted. The easy out didn’t hold. I needed to drill a larger hole and then use a larger Easy Out. To do that I would most likely damage the threads. The alternative was to remove the fitting. Fortunately we have kept every paper that came with parts for the boat. We have 9 folders full of manuals, instructions, and details. There was a diagram of the parts. I removed the piece.

Next, I needed a machine shop to remove the bolt and then I could reassemble everything. Remember, we live a life of contrasts. I first went to Jock at the Scarborough chandlery. I asked two questions: Where is a good machine shop to get the bolt out and can I order another replacement item.

For the most part Australia has been a wonderland of boat supplies. The seacocks we use are Groco, high quality bronze – US made. They are available here, in limited places, and pricey. It is a boat. What did I expect. First,

Innards of a Groco Bronze Seacock

Jock told me of a machine shop owned by a cruiser. Sweet. Second he would make some calls and see about the part. I gave him the part number. Hopped in the car, W/ and I drove to the shop. Always take W/ , she is much better dealing with people than I am. 🙂 We couldn’t find it the first time and called on the phone. W/ did. After chiding us for not finding it; he said he had been there for decades. He would stand out by the street making sure we didn’t…. drive by…. again.

We showed him the item and as any good machinist would do, said he would try. We left it with him and returned to the boat. We stopped at the chandlery again and Jock informed us that there are no parts available for the Groco in Australia. I could buy a new one, but not the part. Add that to my list. It is however still raining. I wasn’t yet ready to call the US, find the part and have it air freighted over. We do have a daily yard rate while hauled. 🙁 On to the next task while awaiting the results of this one.

Lubricating the seacocks. They need to be lubricated so when and if there is an issue with any leaks one can turn the handle and shut out all water. While in the past I had Rube Goldberged the process, this time I was doing them right. I had purchased two small grease guns that never, ever seemed to work properly. Again W/ and I hopped in the car looking to buy a real, full size grease gun. We did and proceeded to load it with grease and complete the next task. Now to get the Zerk fittings to grease the seacocks. Found them! Great. The 90º fitting fell apart. Some of the Seacocks were in; not impossible, but hard to reach places and I needed that elbow.

Back to the Chandlery. Jock didn’t have any with imperial threads. Remember, I said this was a US made product. The only suggestion was Zackleys; where I bought the left handed drill bits. Off I go. Here I got lucky; they had Zerk fittings with elbows and imperial threads! They didn’t have any straight fittings with imperial but my straight ones were ok. I bought a couple; always good to have extras and back to the boat I went. W/ and I began the process of lubricating all the remaining Seacocks. I love when things work and now they opened and closed easily.

The following morning we stopped by the machine shop. Ian, the owner came out with a shiny piece and the stud still in it . He showed me the corrosion and said no matter what, this would not keep water out. The best he could suggest was a new one. My head was spinning considering the cost of shipping from the US, the shipping time; sourcing the supplier; I didn’t like it. He suggested he could make a duplicate out of 316 SS. How much; $100! Hell, shipping the fastest way from the US would cost more than that! I asked him to make two. With a spare on board, that would guarantee never having another issue. That is what sailors believe, and I’m sticking to it.

Friday we picked up two new parts and I reassembled the seacock. Add the grease and celebrate one of the jobs completed.

Next: fix the water line with the Aqua – Coat, Fix the blisters, Paint the bottom and relaunch.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Something’s all Happening at the … Boat.

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

Progress! We’ve removed over 1/2 the external teak coating and are making progress towards a new protective… good looking coating. Two reasons: first is that after 15 years the fixes and many spots were failing, and second; the Honey Teak coating is no longer available. If it would be available, shipping to Australia would be expensive and time consuming. We are using a clear epoxy coating that is advertised to last 5 years. We are hoping for 3 years. While we are removing the old coating on the boat I removed the anchor roller nose piece. When I had it made in Annapolis I messed up and the rollers were not aligned right. Our Steel (SS) shop has already modified it and it is now ready to reinstall.

Beyond that we’ve sold one of the items we bought for comfort and our time here. So…. basically…. beginning to downsize… back to cruising mode. Just a little! 🙂

We’ve removed the SailoMat Wind vane and disassembled it. I really, really, REALLY, get annoyed when companies use Aluminium (Al) and SS together. The base of the unit could have been cast in Bronze and I doubt it would have cost significantly more. It would have lasted better, required no paint. Stainless Steel and bronze like each other better than Al and SS. The painting we did in Panama was peeling and corrosion was having a field day with the Al. I was able to disassemble all except one bolt. That needed a larger impact driver than I had. I hauled it to a local machine shop one morning and boom, $10 AUS later the bolt was out.

From there I drove 5 minutes to a local blaster for cleaning all the corrosion and paint off. Five pieces plus priming ended up being $100 AUS. Three doors away there was a powder coater. All 5 pieces cost me…… get this….. $50 AUS. Next step, re-assemble and install.

Green is Firm, Beige is Memory

Inside the boat we are having some new foam for the main salon seat cushions. The foam we changed to in Panama was too firm and when offshore sleeping; for me, it was like sleeping on a rock. We’re adding 2” to the over all thickness and making one side firm and the other memory foam. Turn it over for sleep and keep the firm foam on top when in port. Hopefully, this is a good compromise for sleeping offshore and sitting / lounging in port.

We purchased a Vesper AIS XP-8000 setup. We need this for heading to SE Asia and this system will integrate well with how we navigate.

10 mm Hayn Rigging Cones

The cones for the rigging are in Australia. I was contacted by the importing agent (Vanguard) for the paper work. I don’t know if I told you, I screwed up… again! 🙂 If I would have had the order broken into two shipments I could have avoided the duty. Australia charges duty on anything over $1,000 AUS including shipping. They call that “High Dollar”.  And further they do not recognize “Yacht in Transit” for the boat. Anyway, the order was something like $100 US dollars over a the $1,ooo  AUS so we now pay an agent plus AUS duty and GST. Total: an extra $380 AUS. Live and learn. Tis a good thing I ordered these parts in June. It will be close to 6 months before we receive them and can begin any of the rigging project.

For the most part, things are looking up. The boat is getting cruise ready again. Everything we need to finish is now here in Australia. Both of us are getting itchy feet. Especially, as I go through our pictures of where we’ve been and the adventures we’ve had. The website has been eating up my time. I have new galleries of French Polynesia, the San Blas, Fiji, and Vanuatu up. A few hundred images so if you’re bored any time and want some far away place to dream of; have at it.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

 

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Biding our Time

Monday, October 18th, 2021

it has been awhile. I guess I need to just stop apologizing and blog when ever I am thinking of something. I’ve been working long hours on the website. Thus I have two new larger picture galleries . One, of our travels though French Polynesia and the the other of our three visits to San Blas islands.

Trying to play catch up on web stuff is not easy. I now know a little of the web add ons. The styling part called CSS, and even less of some of the under the hood programming for the web, called JavaScript. But, like the turtle in the classic race with the hare, I will keep trudging on.

Then too is our time here in Australia dealing with Covid. While the Covid fight hasn’t effected us all that much, it is effecting other cruising friends. One, who I will not name, is going to ship his yacht back to the Caribbean at great expense. I asked him about it and he said; he’s not having any “fun” now. A sad point to be at in life. I understand.

Fortunately, both W/ and I are having fun. We enjoy the boat projects. We don’t want to work full time on them but improving the boat and keeping it looking; in our minds good, is important to us. We play tennis 3- 4 days per week and have met a great group of Australians. None of whom are yachties, but that is how we like it. We cruise not to to be water tourists but to experience life as others live. And luckily for us, Covid struck while we were in a place that is like what we had at home. Weather wise, traffic wise, supply wise and tennis wise.

Oh there are differences. Australians drive on the side of the road that feels odd. I’ve gotten in the wrong side of the car looking for the steering wheel a couple of times. People drive the wrong way around- Round Abouts. Round abouts, those circles at intersections where there are no lights. Some words have similar meanings and others like “Fanny” are verboten. Luckily when I used it once, a nurse I knew came up to me and whispered what in the local culture fanny refers

Epoxy Varnish Removed

Signature Finishes Epoxy Varnish removed

to. To help one understand, it is the slang for a little kitten – part of the female anatomy.

Needs to be cleaned up and Powder Coated

So we plod on. I’ve ordered some new parts for the rigging. They’re at the shippers for posting them to Aus. We’ve taken the Sailomat wind vane apart and those parts are at the sandblasters and powder coaters. We’re having a new memory foam pad made for our new aft bedding. We plan on three new foam cushions made for our sea berth in the main salon and then I get to make new sets of crew covers. We work a bit each week on the teak. The idea is to have the exterior teak Varnish completed when we leave here.

If all goes well, if the governments around the world get their act together, if Covid is under control, we will be heading North and back to the tropics; next winter in Australia. Remember now, cruisers plans are written in the sand at low tide.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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A Little Worry

Monday, August 30th, 2021
I’ve been working on the website and think I have it in pretty good shape. Updated a great deal and cleaned up more. But, as time is not infinite for us humans I’ve not made a lot of progress on the boat. Yes, the large awning is completed and W/ and I have made inroads on the teak. Some parts are completed and others in process. If the Signature Finish was in good shape we’ve stayed with that. Hey, we had some material still good on the boat and those that know me, know I don’t love to throw much of anything away. Those pieces will wait to be stripped and completed in another 12-18 months.
 
Some of the new finish looks great but the larger areas we are still learning how to deal with the epoxy coating. I’ll share the process with you in the next few updates.
 

One Zinc is past due.

And, most important to me; we have replaced the zincs on the boat. I was getting a bit worried that in the marina I would be out of metal protection below the waterline. A diver was cleaning a boat near by and I asked about replacing them. For $75 Aus he replaced two of them. Personally, I don’t want to dive in the marina water and as the water is rather opaque with sharks that have visited boats in the marina, I felt it would be in my interest to pay someone.

 
Luckily, both zincs, the shaft zinc and the prop zinc were still there. Zincs to be replaced when they reach 1/2 that has disappeared. The shaft was about 60-70% gone, the prop was only about 20%. Whew. I dodged a bullet there. On to something new to be concerned about. 🙂
 
A few projects left. I’ve ordered new cones for the Hayn fittings but haven’t received them yet. Don’t even think they’re shipped yet. Not good. The chain we dropped off today for re-galvanizing. Will pick back up in a week to ten days. In removing the chai, I discovered the anchor windlass isn’t wired correctly. I moved the solenoid when we replaced the refrigeration system. I moved the Exeltech Inverter and all the wiring around it. Something new to check out. I have some LEDs to add to the engine room lighting and then we’ll be close to cruising again. That and when the world gets its head around fixing the Covid mess.
 
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Awnings…

Saturday, August 21st, 2021

Time Does Fly

I’ve wanted to blog once per week but already see I’m past two! 🙁 We’ve been working like crazy on the awning and epoxy /varnish teak cover. Well, let me clarify that statement. We’ve been working cruiser crazy. As cruisers we try to put in 20 hours / week of boat work. For us, we’ve found 20 hours works to keep the boat functioning and our life aboard comfortable. We’ve actually been doing a bit more lately. All this while maintaining some social connections and exercise (playing tennis).

Playing tennis does tire us out – a bit. The Aussie social tennis style is to play without the normal 90 sec break every two games. And the groups like to play straight through the morning; somewhere between 3 to 5 sets. As I said; with few breaks. Thus many afternoons as we return to the boat there is no desire to start new or continue a project. Some of those days slide by.

Other times are full on. We get out the sewing machine, a beefy Sailrite zig zag and begin work on modifying the awning. The awning was brand new 5 years ago and we never used it. I was waiting for our old awning to blow out. After 13 years it never did. I had some chafe and it was getting brittle in places. Yet it still held together. We did try to take it down if the winds exceeded 25 kts. On a cruising boat we like to extend the life of a product to the fullest. Sometimes even more, finding a new purpose for it or to use parts elsewhere. Anyway…. the new awning sat for 5 years. The old awning was getting to be a PITA because we had changed our mainsail storage system. That and the fabric was getting too brittle. We added a Stack Pack with Lazy Jacks in Fiji. To use the old awning we needed to release the lazy jacks and drag them to the end of the boom. (Lazy Jacks help to store the sail as the sail is lowered.) . The old awning sat over the boom. The new awning had been sewn like the old one; before we made the switch to a Stack Pack and Lazy Jacks. That switch was forced because in NZ we had a new sail made with full battens.

To change the new awning we needed to split it down the middle. Each side would attach to the top of the Stack Pad with a Keder Track. New shorter poles would rest in the boom and hold the awning taut. If all works well we will again have shade while anchored in the tropics. And I have checked out temps before. There is a 20º F difference on the deck under the awning vs outside the shade of the awning.

Modified Main Awning

Attaching the track to the awning sounds simple. Not quite. Moving pieces of the awning the length of the boom around in the boat makes Twister look easy. All the forward attachment points on the awning would change. The after piece would be different because the boom is now centered on the boat with the awning up. Sewing / moving / rotating 10 meters of Regatta fabric in the boat was NOT a bucket of joy. One day we hauled the awning up to the community room/lounge. There we spent all day remaking attachment points and adding a new end.

So far, it is looking good. Good enough that we can get back to the epoxy / varnish job at hand.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

ps  I hope to have the new website up and functioning with in the week. I’ve been cleaning up all the links and fixing pages. From there I will then begin to add more content. Of course… for the nitty gritty on the cruising life… this blog is it.

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Turning Dollars into Pennies…

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

Cruising; Throwing Money Away….

Yep, sometimes it does seem as if the saying: “A boat is a hole in the water in which you throw money” is true.

It all started four years ago. Our friends on Quixotic were changing out their refrigeration system. They had a Sea Frost holding plate system. We had a holding plate system. And I helped them.

The plate they had was larger than the plates we had. And even though I had worked out all the energy details, size, heat load, heat loss, holding plate time etc, somewhere, somehow I missed something. My target was a run time of once per day for an hour. Generator or Large compressor I didn’t care. I had one large plate in the freezer and one slightly small one. At the present I was needing to run the system twice per day. This tied us to the boat and often effected our ability traveling freedom as the generator needed to run often or the batteries voltage would go too low. At the time we had roughly 150 watts of solar which we had purchased for about $1,500 bucks a decade earlier. All that would need to be replaced and there goes another 1,500 bucks…. into the deep blue.

Anyway, back to the project I envisioned. The plate was larger so I thought if I replace the smaller plate with the larger plate I will achieve better hold times out of the system. So, I inherited a new / used plate. There were a couple of issues. Somewhere in the past blogs I believe I have said “If it’s free it’s NOT for me”. I violated that mantra. First issue, it was a refrigeration plate, needed to change the eutectic solution, not a big deal. Second it only had one set of tubing and I have a dual system, I need to add a second set of tubing, and third, the tubing exits in the wrong place. All of that can be changed….. for $$$$. I was remiss in thinking how much.

The cost of the changes were just at $1,000 NZ. Had I been really smart I would have scrapped this idea and simply ordered a new plate, shipped from the US exactly the size, the solution, and the plumbing as I wanted. I would have saved an estimated $250 bucks up front.

Lots of Cu

Lot’s of Copper

So…. now I have the larger plate and spend about a week worth of my own cheap labor jockeying it into position and connected up. Then I vacuum the system (yes I have a vacuum pump with me, clean the condenser, pay a refrigeration mechanic to install another charging port and sight glass, check for leaks and we’re good to go.

Everything is fired up and running. Plates frozen, I still get 12 good hours out of each charge. One hour on 12 hours off. Well, more like I could go 14-15 hours but that puts me in the middle of the night and the 1/2 hp 12v compressor does make some noise, way too much noise.

We have lived with that system for about 3 years. I play with it trying to figure out why I only get the limited hold over. Never a good answer. I need to add refrigerant to the system as leaks tend to pop up every so often where they weren’t before. I seal it and recharge and in 6 months need to do it again. There just is a lot, and I mean a lot of plumbing running two sets of copper from two different compressors to three plates in two systems.

Twenty years ago when we planned this out holding plates were the Gold Standard. Not anymore. Mike on Infini tried them for about 5 years and changed them out in Hawaii. I, being quite stubborn, lasted longer.

Thus stuck in Australia with Covid running rampant in the world, W/ and I figured this would be a good time to move into the 21st century. We would switch to Engels and evaporator plates.

We bought an Engel MDF 40  chilly bin; an igloo with a compressor for the boat while we destroyed the old system and put in new. We pulled out the holding plates and I listed $750 dollar plates on the local site for $150 bucks each. No one wants them anymore. 🙁

So I pulled the new plate apart, drained the eutectic solution, removed all the cooper and took it to the recycle place. My free plate, that I paid $1,000 NZ to have made as we needed, returned $26 AUS.

If you think cruising is in anyway an investment; put your money somewhere else!

Am I going to give up this lifestyle. NO WAY! The adventures and the love of working on boats is not…. FREE… and most certainly worth it!

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Sail Far
Stay Long

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Duh…. It’s Broken

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

W/ could easily be a Dowser. One who finds water with a wishbone like branch.  If there is a drop of water somewhere in the boat she will find it. Which; by the way, is a good thing. Water is to be kept outside the boat if you wish to stay afloat.

She opened up a locker the other day and said “Dave, why is this wet”? I know my day will change from that point on. There were some drips from the seacock for the forward head sink. When we refurbished the boat we put in all new Groco seacocks. Those are the gates between the ocean and inside the boat.

From my standard prone position of reading I am now called forth to attend to a “drip”. We moved the gear around the seacock out of the way and I see the drip is coming from the handle. The seacock opens and closes fine. Whenever we haul we grease all the seacocks ensuring that each one will open and close on the boat. One never knows. These are the Groco Full Flow Seacocks.

I get out the tools I need to clean the handle and ensure the “leak” becomes a thing of history. I put a wrench on the bolt and loosen it. It turns awfully easy! Seconds later I discover why. It is broken. How the hell did that happen?

The bolt (Part #15)  only keeps the handle on. The handle comes off. Luckily the seacocks are designed such that they work fine without the bolt holding the handle on. Just a little care needs to be observed to ensure the handle fits over the tap to turn the inner SS part. And offshore we close down that head anyway so I rather doubt there will ever be an emergency there.

What to do? As we’re not sinking and as the seacock is functioning I am going to wait until we are at a facility where if something happens we can haul the boat.  Currently the fitting that is to keep water out is the “nut” (Part #11)  is not  easily moved. The part that shuts  the water out is easily moved. I tried.  I don’t want to add heat to the fitting and damage something while it still works and we’re in a developing nation. I sprayed it liberally with PB Blaster. When I work on it again I’ll make sure it can be unscrewed and we are also in a position; should the worse case happen we can be hauled for repair.

I have three possibilities on what happened.  First, I over tightened the bolt. Highly unlikely. I’m pretty good at knowing when tight is and this is not even one bolt that needs to be torqued. It only holds the handle on. Second, we had some repair work in Fiji and the repairer was in that locker doing some glass work. I don’t know if the worker removed the handle to make it easier for him or not. He might well have really put some muscle into reattaching the handle. Third, the bolt had a flaw. I’m going with #2, or #3. Either way, it needs to get fixed and it will be; just not right now.

 

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Forwards and Backwards

Saturday, May 18th, 2019
Having completed much of what we wanted in Denarau we moved across the bay to Vuda Marina. Here we would connect with Kitty, the manager of Yuvee Marine, for some boat work. I found a couple of fiberglass tabs that had let go when we were struck but the ship in Suva. Who by the way never made good on their promise to pay nor did MSAF on their promise to fine them. We were stuck with the expenses. Anyway, we needed those interior repairs completed. We need the teak we purchased cut to repair the slats on the bow sprit. We need new bottom paint. And finally the wheel attachment for our Sailomat wind vane stripped and repainted.
 
Finding and keeping good contacts through the world is a real plus for cruisers. And Mr. Coreman of Altex in NZ is one of them. He provided us with the contact info for the Fiji distributor of Carboline SB-3000. We contacted them and while the process wasn’t that of a developed nation it all worked out.
 
We received a quote and they asked when we would come to Suva and pick it up! Lots of laughing occurred on our end. We don’t have a car and it is a long dinghy ride. We wanted it shipped. First, they indicated they would drop ship it with a freight forwarder. Opps, we needed to pay first for the paint. At home in the US the entire cost would be included. Ok, they sent us an invoice to pay. I went to Western Union to see about transferring the money to their bank account. First Western Union said yes but we need a copy of your passport. Back to the boat for the copy. Returning to the office I now heard: Opps, they can’t do it. Western Union provided some; IMHO, lame reason but I couldn’t finagle them to do it. I had to go to the bank.
 
That evening I thought I could pay them from our NZ account. I could, if only I had the banks physical address. The bank was BSP. The Bank of the South Pacific. While on the BSP website they didn’t provide any postal address’. The following day it was into town for me.
 
I was up early, Grabbed my wallet and headed to the bus stop. I had the cash. Stupid me; W/ had grabbed some cash from my wallet for more groceries. Off I went. I caught the dollar bus to town, found where the bank was and got in line. Less than 30 minutes later I was at the teller and ready to pay the bill. She filled out the paperwork and I opened my wallet to count the cash. Opps. I was $300 short. I asked if I could put some on my credit card. Sorry. She said there was a bank machine on the other side of the room but I had already taken money from it today and was at my limit. Hanging my head I left the bank with my money and the bill.
 
I called W/ and asked her to hop the bus; bring more money and met me in town. While I waited I eased my hunger and had lunch. She showed up an hour later and we both went to the bank.
 
In the morning I had a call from the Altex distributer in Suva saying I didn’t need to pay the Fiji tax. Yipee. We both went to the bank and this time I was able to complete the transaction. I expected the paint shipped tomorrow and I ought to get it in the afternoon. Sweet.
 
Two hours later; back at the boat I received a call from Altex saying I didn’t pay the freight charge. I thought they had said it would be freight forwarded and I would pay when the product arrived. Nope, I needed to pay for the shipping. With the paint paid for they said they would ship it anyway and trust that I would pay the extra $100, at my earliest convience.
 
At least, from Denarau getting into Nadi is not difficult. Roughly every 15 minutes the dollar bus picks up passengers and 30 minutes later you are in town. Not wanting anything holding over my head I went into town the following day. Same bank, different teller and paid the $100 FJ.
 
That afternoon I received a call from the shipper, where was he to met me. Bingo! Fifteen minutes later he met me at the fuel depot and I had my paint. Tick another thing off our list. Next we can proceed to Vuda where we will have the work done.
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Project: Boat Power -Results

Friday, September 14th, 2018
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
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Shameless Plug

Friday, December 1st, 2017

 

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

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