Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Remembering Sandy


It was two years ago the superstorm Sandy hit the area.  I went down to the boatyard in the morning before the storm hit but, the winds had already whipped up Long Island Sound into very rough conditions:


In addition water was already flooding over the only access road in or out to the boatyard. So I was only able to catch a quick glimpse of BIANKA still at her original location before I had to hightail it out of the area or be stuck for as the storm hit. I choose to head back and just barely beat the flood waters:


After the storm passed I found BIANKA a thousand feet from where I had left her the day before. Luckily undamaged and still floating. Which was good since I moved back on board since there I had power thanks to the solar and wind turbine and also the Honda 2000 generator. I also had Internet access via the cell phone. While back on land many did without these due to power lines being down for weeks.  The storm also taught me some important lessons.  .


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nor' easter Season Again


Two days ago I had a delightful sail back to BIANKA'S homeport at the end of a fall cruise to the Oyster Bay Oyster Festival. Today I am tied to a dock as a Nor' easter starts to form just to the south of the Long Island. I actually prefer to ride this weather out on a mooring. But, I am expecting some packages to arrive on shore and wanted to be there to receive them. I have doubled up on the lines and they have stretched enough to make stepping on the dock a little iffy. Another concern is the cleats on the aging dock. Winds are expect to increase even more this afternoon with gusts to 30 knots. Welcome to Nor' Easter season.

Monday, October 13, 2014

OH WELL!: Not all ideas work out.



Having Electric Propulsion can be boring. Once installed there is not a lot of maintenance or repair. But, it is easy to modify. So one day I thought about how when using the propulsion system  in hybrid mode on a windless day I am only using 900 watts of power from the Honda 2000i generator. That is because this is the max that the ZIVAN NG-1 charger can provide to the 48 volt battery bank. So I thought if I bought an additional 600 watt power supply and connected it in parallel with the Zivan I might be able to get another 12 amps when electro sailing. So yesterday I installed the wiring to make this happen and did some tests to see if my idea would work. Let's just say it did not. The Zivan performed as usual but, the new 600 watt power supply did not add any amps for charging like I thought. Oh well. I have not totally given up on the concept. I'll try another test and see if I can make it happen but, the first attempt was not encouraging. But, at least nothing smoked either. I'll post about the next attempt in the future.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

HARVEST TIME


I was glad to be on board to once again see the full moon rise over the harbor. It was the Harvest Moon and probably the last one I see before I put the boat on land for the winter. Watching that Harvest Moon I began thinking that BIANKA has been back on the mooring for over two weeks. In that time I have not had to fire up the Honda 2000 eu generator to charge the two battery banks on board. Which is a good thing because as efficient as the Honda is it is still fuelish to use it. Instead BIANKA has be harvesting all the energy it needs from the solar panels and 48 volt Marine Air X wind turbine. So there has been no need to fire up the generator. No doubt the addition of the new 100 watt Renogy solar panel has added enough power to make up for the additional refrigeration I added this year.

Monday, October 06, 2014

OCTOBER CHANGES: Wind and windage

October is a month of change here in the harbor on the Isle of Long. Boats start disappearing from dock slips and morrings. Sails come off of boats and on some boats the masts also come down. At least they don't fall down but, are laid on deck so the boat can be moved and stored in some inland location. Yep, lot's of changes happening around BIANKA.  The taking down of the mast on a sailboat before it's pulled can change things quite a bit especially if the boat is put back on it's mooring to await hauling out for the winter. I observed this the other day as two nearby boats had a close encounter with the change of tide. One of the boats had it's mast laid on it's deck the day before which changed the amount of windage upon it. This gave the currents flowing underneath the boat more sway in how the boat lay at the mooring. Meanwhile, the boat on the next mooring still had it's mast and was affected more by the wind. The result is when I looked up at one point the end of the mast of the demasted boat was poking into the cockpit enclosure of the fully rigged boat:

Luckily, it appeared to be just high enough to make it over the lifelines and did not appear to be hung up on anything. I kept watching hoping I did not have to make an intervention. Which would have been difficult in the conditions since I only had a dingy with oars and the wind was picking up. In a few minutes the boats had separated:


But, only for a few minutes. Soon the currents and winds resumed their battle and the boats were once again in close proximity to each other. But, not in any danger of getting hung up as before:


Eventually, things got back to normal and the collision danger passed. The next day I woke up from a nap hand found that the boat with the stepped mast had been removed from the mooring eliminating any further chance of the two boats bumping into one another. Just something to consider this time of year when the wind and windage of the boats can change and mysterious damage happens.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ANOTHER SOLAR PROJECT: Cockpit Ammeter Junction Box

Temporary cabin meter setup
With the purchase of the new Renogy 100 Watt Solar Panel. I finally got the gumption to get going on another long overdue project. namely moving the Solar Panel Ammeter from inside the cabin where it was temporarily mounted over ten years ago to a more useful cockpit location. Though like many projects my procrastination had the benefit of an improved idea over my original thoughts. For example I had purchased a Cable Connect Waterproof Enclosure Case Junction Box for another project. The measurements were metric and since I think through the dimensions I found the box was too big for my original plans.
 Original Kings LORAN mounted

But,  sipping a beer one day I looked at the space where the original Kings 8001 Loran unit used to reside and found that the waterproof junction box fit very nicely between the still installed Kings mounting bracket. AHA I thought the box would be perfect for the solar panel ammeter moving project. So it began.





 First I decided where on the waterproof box I would mount the ammeter and marked it out:

Then using a hole saw I cut out a hole for the back of the meter to fit through:

It was not quite the right size so out came the trusty Dremel Tool and using a cutting drill I was able to enlarge it slightly to the proper size. Once that was done I carefully removed the front panel of the meter to mark where the mounting holes would need to be drilled to secure the meter:

Once that was done I mounted the meter:


I used Anderson Powerpole connectors for most of the connections behind the panel in the junction box. This will allow for easy trouble shooting or changes in the future should I need to do so:

With the ammeter installed now I could easily see how many amps are heading into the 12 volt house bank and how I can improve on the amount of current by repositioning the movable Renogy 100 watt panel or repositioning the boom:

I also thought up another useful addition to this project that I will post about as soon as some parts arrive to implement it.




Thursday, September 25, 2014

A LOOK AT THE RENOGY 100 WATT BENDABLE SOLAR PANEL

BIANKA was doing well energywise with my homemade solar bimini that contained just two 75 watt Siemens 12 volt solar panels and two 60 watt 48 volt Kanaka panels. But this year I added a second Engel refrigerator/freezer and the 150 watts of 12 volt solar available was having a hard time making it through the night without the Morningstar Solar Controller having flashing red lights appear on it's charge panel in the wee hours threatening to cut off power to the ENGEL coolers. Cleary a little more power would help. Yeah, I could fire up the Honda in the evening to charge things up a little more. But, that would be a little fuelish and something I try to limit doing.  So an additional solar panel seemed like the best solution and something that I was thinking of adding anyway. As I looked at the possible choices of Solar Panels  for installing on BIANKA. I came across the Renogy® 100W Monocrystalline Bendable Solar Panel. This panel looked like it would solve a lot of issues I had about adding a new solar panel to the boat. Namely the weight and where to mount another panel. Since the Renogy panel only weighs four pounds it's light enough to move around. Since it can also bend a little I could easily move it and lay it on the deck in a location to receive the highest energy from the sun. It also claimed a 20% efficiency rating.  It sounded too good to be true but, I bought one to check it out. First take a look at whats in the box:





After unboxing the panel a small sticker on the plastic membrane says to remove it:



The big junction box that was the norm on early solar panels has been replaced by a thin raised piece of plastic with two wires coming out of the ends with MC4 connectors on the ends:



The panel has six small brass grommets situated around the panel so you can secure it or hang it depending on your mounting needs:


The holes are a little small but, I was able tie a bowline through them using some 500 lb paracord:



This will make it easier to secure the panel as I move it around the boat or hang it to use as an occasional solar shade.  The photo below shows the comparison in size of the 100 watt bendable Renogy panel next  to one of the 75 watt Siemens panel on the right:

 The Renogy panel also weighs only about four pounds compared the the Siemens sixteen. This makes it ideal for being able to move around the boat to get maximum exposure on the panel. That's not easily done with the rigid heavy panels like the Siemens and others. Here is an example of moving the panel off of BIANKA'S solar bimini and laying it on the deck for better exposure to the sun:

With a little adjustment of the angle I was able to get some decent amperage out of the panel without too much effort:

5.15 amps is pretty good considering the optimum operating current according to Renogy is 5.70 amps.

NOTE: The panel comes with MC4 waterproof connectors on it's output wire but, you will have to purchase two more MC4 mating connectors and wire them to hook it into your system.

So far I am very impressed with the Renogy panel it bends nicely to the curve of the deck and seems rugged enough to move around without breaking. You might be able to step on it as long as it was fully supported underneath but, I really would not recommend it. It is smaller than the 12 volt 75 watt Siemens panels I installed  back in 2002. This shows the advances that have come along in solar panel technology over past twelve years.  Whether or not the Renogy panel will hold up as well as the Siemens panels is yet to be seen. But, so far I'm very pleased with the purchase and it's operation.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

REMOVING A FROZEN ANCHOR SHACKLE AND SWIVEL

I recently mentioned the anchor swivel's pin that was approaching a "yikes" moment. Since I had a spare on board I looked to replace it. It had been attached for as long as I have owned the boat and normally should have been a five minute replacement job. Except for one thing the pin of the shackle that attached the swivel to the anchor was seized and no amount of PB Blaster, wrenches and even  micro torch supplied heat could move that shackle pin. Looks like that five minute job just got a little longer since I was going to have to cut this shackle off too in order to replace the swivel. But, what to use? It's a tight space around where the anchor and shackle lay. A hacksaw would be awkward to use in the confined space take quite a bit of time even if I had a new blade which I did not. Enter the Dremel 200-1/15 Two-Speed Rotary Tool Kit with a pack of heavy duty cutting disks. I am able to power the Dremel a number of ways on board. One is with my on onboard Honda EU 2000 generator which is really over kill for the power requirements of the Dremel Tool. Another is with the AIMS 1500 Watt 48 volt Inverter I installed last year. Though for most jobs I just use the 200 watt 12 volt Powerstar Inverter that I bought back in the 1980's. It not a pure sinewave inverter but, it powers the Dremel Tool quite nicely for all sorts of quick projects.  The Dremel made short work of cutting through the swivel that was attached to the seized anchor shackle as shown here:

Once the old swivel was out of the way I could start to work on the seized anchor shackle.  I probably should have used a  Dremel 1-1/4-Inch Reinforced Cut-Off Wheel but, even the Dremel 420 Heavy Duty Cut-Off Wheels  I used did the job. Though I did have one or two disks break in the process. They still cut through the swivel and shackel quite easily despite not being reinforced. I was impressed.

After removing the swivel I tackled the stuck shackle pin. Rather try and cut through the crown which would have required two cuts to remove the shackle. I decided to see if I could just cut through the one lug of the shackle where the pin screwed into. Perhaps just cutting away enough of the lug would allow the pin to be removed:

I was careful not to cut into the anchor shank. After a few partial cuts of the shackle lug I was able to easily unscrew the shackle pin:

Which still looked pretty good but, the corrosion that held it in place was pretty tenacious so it needed to be replaced along with the swivel.  I used some  Tef-Gel on the replacement shackle threads to help insure that I will not have to cut the shackle next time I have to remove it:

With the old swivel and anchor shackle replaced I could now sleep easier when BIANKA is at anchor:




Tuesday, September 16, 2014

SOMETIMES IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS

I don't spend a lot of time on docks with BIANKA. The boat lives on a mooring in the homeport and usually on the anchor or mooring when cruising. Though sometimes I splurge for an overnight stay here and there to re water or get provisions etc... Then there was the recent cruise where I entered a harbor at 9:30 at night tired from a ten hour sail where a lot of hours where at the helm. I was not in the mood to try and deal with anchoring and did not want to disturb the other boats by firing up the generator to recharge the batteries. So I tied up to a marina dock for the night. The good thing about it I'd be able to plug in the DUAL PRO 4 charger to charge and balance BIANKA's 8A4D AGM batteries that make up the 48 volt propulsion bank. So that's what I did. As soon as I'd finished plugging in I went to bed exhausted.  A couple of hours later I woke up to answer natures call and noticed steady green lights on the charger which meant that all four batteries were fully charged.  Glad to see that. Then a few hours later when I woke up again I noticed that one of the batteries had a single red light on. This indicated that the battery was only 30% charged. This was not good but, I still tired thought I would deal with this in the morning. In the morning the light was still on indicating the battery was only partially charged. There were two possibilities as I saw it. One I had a battery that went bad during the night or that something was wrong with the cable from the Dual Pro charger to the battery. I was hoping for the latter to be the issue and it was.
I used my instrument panel at the helm to first  check the individual battery voltages and found they were all very close. So it looked like the battery was fully charged. So my attention shifted to the battery charger. I thought it might be a bad connection on the battery but, as I touched the fuse holder that the Dual Pro has in line I felt it somewhat warm. It turns out that the fuse was not seated all the way and had become loose enough that a bad connection occurred triggering the charger to interpret this as a poorly charged battery.




At first everything looked normal:
But, as I started to check the holder it just came loose:

I had not actually fiddled with this holder since I installed my instrumentation panel at the helm. Which must have been over a year ago. But, obviously I had not seated the fuse properly back then and it had finally become loose enough to make a bad contact. I reseated it and the charger reacted normally. If you compare the picture below with the first fuse picture above you cane see the difference in spacing on the left side of the fuse:

This all goes to show that sometimes what looks like a major problem might not actually be so bad. In fact it might be just a little thing like a bad contact on a fuse that is the issue.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

MORE SOLAR

BIANKA already has a bimini made up of solar panels. Two 75 watt 12 volt panels charge the house bank batteries and two 60 watt 48 volt panels help charge the propulsion bank. The panels have served me well but, this year I added an addition  Engel Marine Fridge Freezer unit and the two 75 watt 12 volt panels could use a little help. I find myself having to fire up the Honda 2000 generator on occasion. Something I did rarely with just one Engel in operation.  so I ordered a  Renogy® 100W Monocrystalline Bendable Solar Panel to add a little more power for solar charging.

I should have it in a few days and will connect it into the 12 solar controller and see how much it helps with the additional load the new ENGEL refrigerator has added. What convinced me to try it  was it's lightweight and the ability to move it around the boat in order to get access to the most sun.   Unlike the panels on the solar bimini which are rigid frame units the new panel has some flexibility that allows it to conform to curved surfaces like the deck. It looks like it will help a lot.  I'll report on how well the new Renogy panel works as soon as it arrives and I get a chance to play with it which should be in a few days.