Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
This was a great location and it was where the original Westerbeke panel was located. The meter on the left shows the current the 48 volt wind generator is providing to the battery bank the XBM battery monitor on the right shows the wind generator current and a little extra that is being provided by the 48 volt solar panel. Those were happier times. When I was getting ready for the second season under electric propulsion I noticed that the display on the XBM seemed to be getting dimmer and harder to read. Finally by the end of June the display was totally unreadable and looked like this:
As you can see the display is completely unreadable. The digits appear to be all on. So I call Xantrex customer service and after a considerable time on hold I was connected to India I assume. I installed the the Xantrex the previous June and this was now the July of the following year. The warranty for the XBM was one year. So it was out of warranty. Ok that is a given. But, Xantrex has also discontinued this model too. Can I get it repaired? After all it appeared that only the display had a problem. No was the answer. Can I purchase a new display part. Again the answer was NO! The best I could get from Xantrex was a discount if I bought a new Link Pro unit. Not really an option at this point since my system was set up for the XBM monitor and had a prescaler built in for the 48 volts. In addition to spending several hundred dollars on a new link pro I would also have to by a new prescaler too. Now I don't expect things to last forever on board. But, I don't want to spend several hundred dollars on a new battery monitor after only a year. Still it looked like there was not much I could do about it. I went on line mostly to rant about not being able to get the XBM repaired. When someone posted that maybe I should try and contact a company in the Netherlands called TBS. BINGO! That was the key. It seems TBS actually makes the units for Xantrex. I told them my story about Xantrex not providing parts or servicing the XBM and asked if they have a new display that they could sell me. The answer was yes. It would cost me about 10 Euros ($15 U.S) but, I would need to do a wire transfer to the company account. Unfortunately, the wire transfer cost an addition $30 dollars but, it was still cheaper than paying $300 plus for a new battery monitor and prescaler. So the new display arrives and it's time to make the repair.
NOTE FROM CAPT. MIKE:I am making this repair because I have experience in repairing and working on small scale electronic systems and circuit boards. If you do not have experience in soldering and desoldering on electronic systems you probably would be better taking the unit to a qualified marine electronics shop for repair.
The first thing I needed to do is desolder and remove the wire terminal connectors from the back of the XBM.
You need to do this to remove the circuit board from the case. The photo below shows the circuit board after the terminals have been removed:
You then go to the display side and carefully remove the grey protective cover from the front of the unit (I also got a new one with the new display). You then remove the three screws holding the front cover to the case:
You can then slide out the circuit board. Here is what the circuit board looks like after it's been removed from the case. The LCD display is on the left:
There is not much that you will be able to fix on it because of it's complex and specialized integrated circuits. The display and maybe a defective switch is all even I would tackle on this unit. To remove the defective display I used an XACTO knife to cut through the leads at the base of the display.
The traces on the circuit board are very fragile and the area is very small . Trying to desolder the many leads of the display using a soldering iron will probably damage a number circuit board traces. So I cut the leads and removed the bad display that way.
I then used the tip of the soldering iron to remove the remain pieces of leads that were attached to the circuit board traces.
After a little cleanup of the circuit board traces it's time to install the new display:
The defective display is on the left. The new display has a protective film that is removed before operation. the display also comes with a new protective panel which is at the top of the photo. Here is the new display mounted onto the circuit board.
All that is needed is to reassemble the unit including resoldering the wire terminal strips connect the wires and once again be able to monitor the battery bank.
LESSON LEARNED:Even though the Xantrex manual says this unit is splash proof. It does not mention anything about the sun. Having the XBM display exposed to the sun (even though it was covered when not in use) is what lead to it's failing. I have reinstalled the XBM under the cockpit in a location that I can easy see it when I lift a cockpit hatch. That should offer more protection and prevent another failure of the display.
Friday, December 11, 2009
"The motor to St Croix was uneventful, if a bit slow, but we made port with battery power to spare thanks in no small part to our Electric Yacht drive and Honda generator as they ran for twelve hours without a rest in really big sloppy seas and just seriously all around kicked some serious butt!"
While it's sad to read about the demasting. The good news for those of us with electric propulsion systems is that his electric motor did the job of getting the boat to St Criox for repairs in less than ideal conditions.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
I might check it out at some point.
Monday, November 30, 2009
While I have not had a problem with winterizing using this method I did have an online discussions with some other sailors about checking to make sure that the after winterizing that the antifreeze was not diluted to the point of being ineffective at the temperatures in my location. Not a bad idea I thought. Some use chemically treated slips of paper that change color to match the level of protection the antifreeze solution is providing. Others use the floating ball gauges and others use an optical hand refractometer.
So I began researching the testing methods. The antifreeze test strips were reasonably cheap around ten bucks for 50 strips. But, then I read they were only reliable for about two years. This might make sense for a boatyard that winterizes a lot of boats but, not for me. They could also give erroneous readings if contaminated. The next device was the floating ball antifreeze testers. Reasonable in price perhaps only ballpark in accuracy.
The third option was the hand refractometer. The most accurate in my opinion but, also the most expensive. In my initial research I saw prices of $120 to $220. Way to expensive to make sense for my wallet.
But, found other antifreeze refractometers for around fifty bucks. Now that's more like it. Even better it has scales for propylene glycol, ethylene glycol and one for checking the charge on flooded lead acid batteries. That's a win, win, win situation in my book so I bought it.
The above photo shows the unit I bought. It comes with two eyedroppers. The one shown here has the blue tape around it to remind me that I only use it to sample distilled water. The little black cap covers the alignment screw should one need to realign the gauge. It also includes the screwdriver in the case. The photo below shows the plastic cover in the open position.
To use this device you open the cover and put a a drop or two of the solution you are testing onto the blueish glass and close the plastic cover to spread the solution onto the glass. You then hold the refractometer up to a lighted area and take a reading by looking into the eyepiece. Here is what you see when you look into the refractometer with no liquid on the glass.
You have a completely blue field. You can see the three different scales for the propylene glycol antifreeze, battery fluid and ethylene glycol antifreeze. When you open the unit up and drop a few drops of distilled water onto the reading glass this is similar to what you will see when you do a reading:
Notice how it is clear at around 32 degrees F scale. This is how you check the alignment of the device. Note: The photo shows a slightly lower freezing point which may be due to some slight contamination from an earlier test. Cleaning the glass or adjust the alignment screw would correct his offset. But you get the idea. Next the cover was opened the glass cleaned and dried and a drop or two of propylene glycol antifreeze taken from BIANKA's winterized water system was analyzed as shown below:
This shows a freezing point of about 15 degrees Fahrenheit on the propelyne gycol scale. Only 3 degrees "warmer" than the pure antifreeze used to winterize the system. The bursting point for pvc piping according to the manufacturer of the antifreeze should be about - 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is "comfortably" below the normal lowest winter temperatures in my area. As they say your mileage may vary or location temperatures may be different. But, using a refractometer to test the antifreeze used to winterize the on board water system will give you peace of mind as you wait for spring to return. Just remember:
"How sad would be November if we had no knowledge of the spring!"- Edwin Way Teale
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Not so fast Pablo! I find having a small digital camera on board to be very useful. Not only for the usual personal photos, blogging or capturing those strange moments on the water that some will never believe without some kind of proof. But, I also found a camera useful for repairs and maintenance which I'll get into on a future post. While these new digital cameras are great pieces of technology they can also fail. Since I just recently found my Canon Powershot camera (after much searching) on board where it was hiding from me. I thought I would post about two of the repairs I have made to the said camera which others my find helpful in case the camera goes on the fritz somewhere in your journeys.
One day during the conversion to electric power. I was squeezing through one of the cockpit hatches and heard something crack. The SD600 that I had in my shirt pocket now had a cracked LCD screen and was useless. Not wanting to just throw it away I did a search on the Internet and found a site that explains how to replace the LCD screen on the SD600 and other Canon cameras. Of course you could also send it back to Canon and they will fix it for $. But, if you are handy, careful and have a set of small precision screwdrivers you can replace it yourself for about 40 bucks. You can see the steps with excellent photos by clicking here. NOTE: That there are two types of screens available make sure which one you have before ordering the part from Canon. It is explained on the site how to identify which screen your camera has. The second problem I had was:
THE CAMERA WILL NOT TURN ON
A few month's after replacing the screen I dropped the camera rather hard. All of a sudden it would no longer turn on. I thought that's it. I was trying to decide whether to send it back to Canon for repair ($100) or get a new camera. In the end I bought another camera. But, in my spare time I decided to take another look and see if I could not fix the turn on problem. I did. The problem was on the inside of the Memory Card Slot/Battery Cover.
Apparently part of the plastic tip broke off and so it was not contacting the switch and letting the camera turn on.
All of these parts are delicate. So how do I fix this? I needed some thing to put a little pressure on the switch but, not too much or I would end up breaking the switch too. I found just what I needed by using a medium sized rubber band. I cut a small piece of the rubber band and laid it across the switch. When I closed the battery door the camera came to life. The rubber band allows the remaining tip on the battery door to provide enough pressure to close the switch.
I hope the above information helps when you have a digital camera failure if not remember this:
"There will be times when you will be in the field without a camera. And, you will see the most glorious sunset or the most beautiful scene that you have ever witnessed. Don't be bitter because you can't record it. Sit down, drink it in, and enjoy it for what it is!" ~DeGriff
Friday, November 20, 2009
Most of the photos on this blog were taken with a Canon SD600 digital camera. I've had it for several years. I usually carry it around in a shirt pocket where ever I go. You never know when it will come in handy. A few weeks ago I lost it. I went to look for it at home and could not find it. Then I remembered I had changed into my boat work clothes and thought I must have left it in the shirt pocket on board. When I got back on board I searched all around but, could not find it. I kept searching several times I looked on board and around the house. Could not find it anywhere. It's not that the camera was so expensive. Indeed newer digital cameras have new more advanced features and more mega pixels. It was that I had a lot of photos on the memory card that I wanted to use here in blog posts. Well, today when I went back on board to start winterizing the water system I finally found it. But, not before looking all over the boat once again. It was actually in a location I had looked at several times but, because it's silver case blended in with the heavy duty crimper it was lying under I never noticed it. It is amazing how something can get lost so easily within the limited confines of a boat. Now that it is found I can once again start posting about some of the projects and repairs that I have been doing on BIANKA.
"To find what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle"
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
that remind me what love for the water is really all about. Anyone who can go for a swim in Gloucester Harbor in the middle of November is a force to be reckoned with and an inspiration to me to maybe keep swimming off of BIANKA a little later next year.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I've been checking into his website/blog 1000 DAYS AT SEA every couple of weeks. I and many others have been vicariously taking the journey with him through his blog. He is part sailor, part artist and very spiritual as he single hands the 70-foot and 60-ton gaff-rigged schooner ANNE around the ocean. Now that the sailing season is over for me I wish I could be out there with him as he alternates between his art and boat chores. Lately, it seems his computer is acting up and may fail at some point depriving the rest of the world of his colorful, descriptive posts. He is certainly in tune with his environment and the ocean he sails. But, personally I have concerns that he might never be able to set foot on land again after making this journey. But, reading his posts and the things he has seen and experienced I'm sure that would be fine with Stowe but, I and others would sure miss not being able to have a little chat with him should we be anchored or docked nearby the Anne someday.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
As for me I'm putting an extra line on the mooring.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
As I approached the Statue of Liberty I thought I recognized the boat I saw in the distance.
It was the CLEARWATER. A replica of the sloops that plied the Hudson River over one hundred years ago. She makes a pretty picture when her sails are up.
That night I docked at the Liberty Landing Marina. As I came in I saw a relaxed fellow on his 24 foot sloop smoking a cigar peaceful as can be. Chatting with him later I mentioned that BIANKA used electric propulsion. He said that's why you were so quiet when you came into the dock. I just smiled.
Later that night there was a solemn reminder as the lights for the World Trade Center Memorial were turned on in preparation for the anniversary of that tragic event was coming up in a few days on September 11th.
I must say they were a busy crew as they went about chores on the deck in between excursions. I good naturedly harassed them telling them that BIANKA was greener they they were. They asked how. I said I use electric propulsion while they still had a diesel for auxilary propulsion.
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Looks like a lot of other people had the same idea of where to spend the holiday weekend. I was actually glad I was under power at this time. Because I was able to get to my anchorage location before most of the power boats coming in made things rock and roll in the entrance.
I dropped anchor and enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon and evening on board. Later, listening to the NOAA weather forecast that called for 10 to 15 knot winds out of the East. I started thinking. Hmmm, sounds like great conditions for sailing West.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 6TH
So that's what I did the next morning. I took advantage of a favoring current and winds and headed toward New York. In three and a half hours I was in Cold Spring Harbor where I stopped for the night. I could have continued further but, one does not cruise in a sailboat because you are in a hurry. At least I don't. I have found that pushing things is when you often get into trouble.
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 7TH
The next morning after consulting the essential Eldridge Tide and Pilot book on board I took the last of the ebbing current down Cold Spring Harbor and arrived at the entrance just as the westward flood was just about to start helping to push BIANKA and me westward on Long Island Sound.
I lived on board BIANKA for six years on the west side of Manhattan Island starting in the mid 1990's. But, It's been three years since I've made the 70 mile trip. So I am looking forward to the trip but, with a little apprehension since this will be the first time using electric propulsion not having a working battery monitor makes it more so.
It was not long before I was meet by a flotilla of Dutch barges sent over the Atlantic to participate in NY400. A celebration of Henry Hudson's first foray into New York Harbor some 400 years ago. They were heading to Northport (Long Island)and other ports on Long island Sound. I must say BIANKA with it's wishbone boom got some curious looks from the sailors on the barges. (Special note of thanks to the TUGSTER for providing some help in identifying the barges BIANKA passed)
So far I have only been able to identify the barge below. It is the Lemmeraak. Built over 100 years ago in 1902.
I had just passed North Brother Island when I heard something behind me. Holy Ernest Borgnine! It's PT Boat 728 coming up fast on BIANKA's stern. This is an actual restored WWII PT Boat based in Kingston New York. At some point it was used in the filming of the TV show McCales Navy back in the sixties.
And looking pretty menacing I should say.
I was thinking that the U.S. Coast Guard should be using this type of vintage craft for patrols instead of the small semi rigid inflatables they now use for harbor patrols.
A PT boat with it's two twin barrel deck mounted guns, depth chargers and torpedoes would look a little more serious to those who would want to do some harm in the harbor. As you can see here:
Once past the Hell Gate bridge things will be getting a little nosier as we get close to Manhattan Island.
Or at least part of a bridge.
BLOG UPDATE: After contacting Will at the TUGSTER blog who really knows his tugs. I am 99.5% sure that the Tug in the photo above is the John P. Brown. If you click on the photo above you will get to see a bigger picture and compare it to a photo on TUGSTER taken during the Tugboat Races in September of this tug. Hint: The red and yellow stripes along the side seem to confirm it's id.
A little further on I came across one of the stragglers of the NY400 flotilla. They were most certainly going to know what bucking the currents of Hell Gate is all about. I have not been able to identify this barge yet either but, the sail has a 206 VA on it.