Sunday, March 25, 2012


So after my trip to the beach I was back on board taking advantage of the mild weather to continue to look at the battery charging issue with the fourth battery. For two weeks the 48 volt battery string has been charging via the solar panels and the Paktrakr load has been disconnected off of the fourth battery. There was a little surprise when I plugged in the Dual Pro charger. It showed the second battery to be a little down chargewise compared to batteries one and three:

I've seen this before you never know which battery may be slightly down when you plug in the charger as they all do not come up the same way everytime. But, my concern is with the fourth battery in the string which earlier in this investigation was not even able to achieve a full charge. It is now behaving more like the other three.  Twenty minutes later and this what I saw on the Dual Pro display:

One hour later and the first and third batteries were now fully charged and the second and fourth batteries were still somewhere in the 90 to 99% range:

Finally after about one hour and twenty minutes all four batteries were fully charged:

I once again took some voltage readings of each battery after they were fully charged:

1                  13.7
4 (suspect)   13.3

These latest reading shows all four batteries even more in balance than when previously tested. Which leads me to believe that keeping the load from the Paktrakr off of battery four is beneficial in keeping it in balance with the other three batteries. I think I'll will do one more charge test in the near future and then conduct a load test on each battery before I fully can say that all batteries are ready for BIANKA's fifth season under electric propulsion. However things are looking more promising that they are.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Capt. Mikes companion wanted to head to  Ocean City Maryland for a few days in the off season to walk on the beach. As always Capt. Mike goes along to get along. Actually, if I can't be on the water an ocean front room looking out over the Atlantic Ocean is not so terrible:

As with shores on the East Coast man often has a prolonged battle with trying to make the restless ocean halt or at least postpone it's efforts to move the beaches further inland. You can see this most vividly at the Ocean City Inlet. The inlet was made in 1933 by the Chesapeake Potomac hurricane.   You can see the offset where the undisturbed Assateague Island shoreline has moved further west when compared to the Ocean City shoreline at the top of the picture which has been replenished over the years by dredging:

From my 11th floor room I also noticed how the paths to the beach are arranged in a chevron like pattern:

Looking a little closer you can see why this pattern makes sense when storms threaten. The chevron pattern makes it harder for ocean waves break through:

 This pattern might very well help the sand build up on the path in storm conditions rather than have a straight path to the streets of Ocean City.

One day we took a drive over to Assateague Island  where there are two kinds of horsepower on display in the beach parking lots:

The hurricane that opened up the inlet also opened up the opportunities for the local residents to participate in one of the east coasts major fishing industries. The inlet allows easy access to the Atlantic Ocean. While heading back from lunch one day this boat caught my eye:

Is it a sailboat or is it a fishing boat?  The answer it's both! While it was built when fuel prices were cheaper and is currently just sitting at the dock. With today's rising fuel prices it will probably be out on the ocean again doing some long line fishing before too long.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Rudolph Diesel was born in Paris France on this date back in 1858.  So if your boat still has a diesel engine that is still running well. Be sure to make a toast to Herr Diesel!

As for me I'll be toasting that my diesel engine is no longer on board. Different strokes for different folks. Oh yes and you know that this book:

is no longer taking up space on BIANKA's bookshelf.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

ON BIANKA'S BOOKSHELF: Books of an electric sailor

I've seen a number of posts recently  on various sailing sites of people wanting to find books on gaining knowledge about all things electrical on board their boats. I have two books on board BIANKA that I consider worth having on board. One is Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual: How to Maintain, Repair, and Improve Your Boat's Essential Systems by Nigel Calder.
My dog eared and oil stained copy has been on board since I first purchased BIANKA back in 1995. Since I converted to electric propulsion there are now whole chapters concerning diesel engines and alternators I can now ignore. But, others especially those concerning electrical wiring and extensive coverage of batteries have come in very handy. For example I purchased a heavy duty crimper to make the crimps on the 2 AWG wire interconnects for the electric propulsion battery bank. Unfortunately, my crimper had markings only for metric sized wires. I opened Calders book and found a conversion chart that allowed me to set the crimper to the proper setting. It's information like that which can save the day when you are in some far away anchorage trying to make repairs.The Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual : How to Maintain, Repair, and Improve Your Boat's Essential Systems is also available for the Kindle.

The other book which I find useful is  Boatowner's Illustrated Electrical Handbook by Charlie Wing. It contains a lot of information about the various electrical systems one would find on board and the theory of how they work. There's DC and AC theory covered as well as things like bonding and corrosion issues. Wiring color codes and a number of charts and formulas as well. The Boatowner's Illustrated Electrical Handbook is also available as a Kindle e-book download. 

Both books are worthy of the space they take up on board. Both are very useful if you just want to understand about electrical systems and devices on board your boat, need to do some repairs or even rewire your boat. After converting to electric propulsion I find them even more valuable to have on board.

Monday, March 12, 2012


It's been about two weeks since I last looked at the battery issue concerning the most negative battery in the 48 volt propulsion string on BIANKA. The battery passed the Centech Battery Analyzer and load tests but, would not fully charge using the on board and an external battery charger. I suspected that the parasitic loads on the battery by the Paktrakr battery monitor (which draws it's operating power from that battery) might be the cause of the problem. So two weeks ago before I left the boat I disconnected the Paktrakr from the battery and just left the solar panels and ProStar PS-15M-48V Morningstar Charge Controller
 to keep charging the battery in the mean time. I went back on board recently and fired up the Dual Pro Professional Series PS4 4 Bank 15 Amp Battery Charger and got some good news:

So after about two weeks without the parasitic drain from the Paktrakr the suspect battery's charging has improved. Three minutes later after plugging in the Dual Pro charger I got even better news:

The flashing green lights mean that the Dual Pro considers the battery to be somewhere between 90 and 99% charged. This was a big improvement since the last time I tried to charge the suspect battery. So it seems that over time the Paktrakr's parasitic load was affecting the charging ability of the fourth battery in the 48 volt string. I continued to let the bank charge with the Dual Pro charger and an hour later I got even better news as shown below:

The suspect battery now accepts a full charge according to the Dual Pro charger. Which was a big improvement over the previous times I tried to charge it. So I kept the Paktrakr disconnected from the battery and let the solar panels and Morningstar controller keep things charged up in the meantime. Voltage readings on the suspect battery are still lower than the other three batteries in the bank as shown in the following table  :
BATTERY 1                      15.1
BATTERY 2                      14.7
BATTERY 3                      14.9
(Note: Readings were taken shortly after batteries got to a full charge on the Dual Pro charger)

I'm hoping that will change as I continue the investigation further. The fact that the battery has improved in it's ability to get to a fully charged condition gives me hope that things will continue to move in a positive direction.

Friday, March 09, 2012


A few weeks ago I was attempting to use my digital voltmeter to get the current draw reading of one of the boats battery monitors. Somehow I managed to blow the meter's internal fuse. When I opened the meter case up I notice some corrosion on the battery contacts. Looks like it's time to do a little electronic maintenance. For cleaning small electrical contacts on board BIANKA and at home I like to use  nylon bristled  a Connector Cleaning Brush 3-6 mm x 20 mm


The nylon bristle  cleaning brushes are durable and reusable. In a pinch I will also use a cotton Q tip. But, I prefer these brushes for their durability, re usability and the fact that they can get into spaces that a Q-tip can't because of it's size.  The brushes are tapered and they do not shed fibers like a cotton Q-Tip can:

The scrubbing action of the nylon brushes also allow for better cleaning in tighter spaces:

You can see the difference in the first pass with the brush on the contact on the left in the photo below:

The tapered design also allows you to give other connectors and contacts a good scrubbing and cleaning. Like the meter's test cable input jacks:

The Connector Cleaning Brush can also clean hard to reach computer cable connector pins that would be difficult to clean with Q-tips:

In short it's the right tool for the right job. With boats having more devices on board with more and more connectors it's always a good idea to have a few of these Connector Cleaning Brushes on board along with some denatured alcohol to use as a solvent to clean contacts and connectors.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Because of the charging issue with one of my propulsion batteries it is the first time in four years that I have had to actually squeeze my six foot two inch frame down below the cockpit to work there. I've had an  item on my to do list concerning the batteries for those four years. That was to replace the electric tape covered terminals with something more robust and protective. When I first I looked around I could not find exactly what I was looking for to protect these terminals. But, eventually I found something I could modify to work. It is the  Rotating Cable Cap from Blue Sea Systems:

They can help insulate the battery terminals better than just wrapping them up with electrical tape.
In order to use the Blue Sea Caps I had to modify the base part using a box cutter or razor blade to notch out an opening to accommodate the battery terminals as shown below:

Below  is the end result. It does not have to be perfect but, just big enough to allow the battery tab fit.

The photo below shows the base part of the Blue Seas cap installed over the battery terminal. The upper cap attaches to the base part to help protect the terminal and rotates in the direction of how the wire is run to the terminal. But, both can be removed easily too for cleaning and servicing.

Since I'm down below connecting and disconnecting the battery cables it seems like a good time to finish up the last item concerning the battery bank.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


I was out on a charter in the Leeward Islands recently and bought along my new GoPro Hero camera. I also bought along a 12 volt USB adapter and the GoPro charger cable to charge it. But, when I got on board I found that the boat did not have any 12 volt cigarette sockets on board that were wired.  But I did have a 120 volt outlet in my cabin hooked up to the  boats inverter. So I did what any good sailor would do and looked around for something that I could adapt to charge the GoPro camera. I found just what I needed with my Kindle e-reader charging cable:

The Kindle comes with a small 120 volt to USB adapter plug with a removable cable. So I was able to plug the GoPro Hero camera cable into the Kindle adapter and charge via the boats 120 volt inverter. It's a good thing to know if you need to charge the GoPro camera and just have a 120 volt Kindle charger. It will serve a dual purpose charging both your Kindle and GoPro camera.
Speaking of the GoPro cameras nothing gets me looking forward to summer and the up coming sailing season than a video like this: