Saturday, March 30, 2013


With the battery voltage meter part of the instrumentation project finished. It was time to move on to the important current meter part of the project. BIANKA already had a Xantrex XBM battery monitor but, to see it required that I move away from the helm and lift a cockpit hatch and bend down to see it. It was awkward and inconvenient to look at while underway.

I went looking for another meter that could measure the current being drawn from or charging the battery bank. But, the catch was I did not want to have to put in another shunt for measuring  current in the battery circuit like the XBM battery monitor already used. I wanted to keep any extra connections to a minimum. To do that I needed to use a hall effect type of current meter.  It determines a current value by measuring the magnetic flux around a piece of wire with current flowing through it. I found exactly what I needed with a company called Devicecraft. They had a hall effect current meter with a transducer that would fit the 2 AWG wires that connect to  BIANKA's 48 volt electric propulsion battery bank.

The hook up is farely simple.

The display required a supply voltage and three wires that go to the hall effect transducer.  I needed to run the transducer wires about eight feet and used some   Twisted Servo Hookup Wire,   normally used in things like model cars and planes:

Like I did for some of the wires for the battery voltage meters part of this project I enclosed the transducer wires in a  Techflex General Purpose 1/4-inch Braided Cable Sleeve.  This was to keep the wires together and also protect them from chafing.

The 100 amp Hall effect sensor will fit over the 2 AWG cable that is used in the my electric propulsion system but, would not fit over the existing lug. So I needed cut the existing battery cable. I used a ratcheting wire cutter like a Klein ratcheting cable cutter which cuts heavy duty battery cable easily:

and makes a nice flush cut:

I took the opportunity to trim some other 2 AWG  battery interconnections that were a little too long from my initial electric propulsion installation five years ago too.  The Hall Effect transducer has a polarity in terms of it's display. That is if you a drawing current from the battery the display should show a negative sign in the display. Likewise when charging the battery it is useful to see the current flow as positive (no minus sign) on the digital display.  In order to make sure I got the polarity right I used some of the trimmed battery cables and a jumper to check the polarity of the meter.

Once I had established the proper orientation for the sensor I put it on the battery cable and crimped a new lug on the end and reconnected it to the battery. I then ran the sensor wires up through the cockpit wire conduit I made and into the helm area using one of the  Fiberglass Wire Pull Rods    I carry on board:

It was then just a matter of hooking up the sensor and power wires to the current display and the instrumentation project was finished:

I mounted it the box temporarily at the helm and used it on my fall cruise up the Hudson River and back. I still need to make a permanent platform for the box at the helm location but, that is a project for another day.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


A few years ago I was on a freighter heading from Houston to Mexico and South America. Every morning I would take a walk around the ship. One morning in the Gulf of Mexico I peered over the bow and found a pod of  Dolphins hitching a ride on the bow wave. I must have watched them for twenty minutes here is a small sample of that magical moment:

Sunday, March 24, 2013


I went down to the boatyard again on Friday to look for the Kings Loran manual that a sailor in Norway asked me about. While there I found out my new 500 pound mooring was already rigged up and ready to be dropped. But, that also meant the bill would soon be coming in the mail too.  At least I'll be able to relax a little in case another storm like Sandy heads this way knowing the mooring is 200 pounds heavier and has some new chain on it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A CAPT. MIKE MONEY SAVING TIP:Defender Marine sale

Capt. Mike loves to save a bit of money. As luck would have it Defender Marine is having it's annual warehouse sale for the next two days. If you need something for the boat you might want to check them out while the sale is going on and pick up what you need.


I was working on board the boat yesterday when there was a tap on the hull. It was the boat yard manager asking me what I wanted to do about my mooring since they were starting to set things up for the up coming season. We had talked about increasing the size of the mooring ever since I found BIANKA a thousand feet from it's usual location after Hurricane Sandy. The original mooring that held BIANKA since 1996 was 300 lbs. It did an admiral job until superstorm Sandy came ashore last year. I could have jumped up to 400 lbs but, he mentioned BIANKA's bow mounted mast that maybe 500 pounds might be better. I had to agree. Might as well go BIG and not push my luck this Hurricane Season. I drove out of the boatyard singing the Bob Dylan song  New Morning but, changed the lyrics slightly singing the chorus as "new mooring" instead.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Another day of warmth arrived last week. So I once again took advantage of it and went down to the boatyard to check on BIANKA.  A couple of the guys from the boatyard  had a 36 foot Beneteau in the marine lift and were working hard on the bottom with scrappers. The boat was being voluntarily repossessed and had been sitting at a dock for three years. Here is what the bottom looked like after three years:

There were barnacles and other growth of course. But, most of the bottom was covered with thousands of nice sized mussels:

Somewhere in the above photo is a mussel covered sail drive. Below is another view:

I was severely tempted to gather a pound or two of the mussels and whip up some Mussels Posillipo for dinner.

But, I instead left them all for the Seagulls who with several hundred pounds of mussels piled up next to the dock will have thought they had died and went to heaven.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


The battery end of the project has been wired up with fuses and Anderson connectors. The helm meter panel like wise has been wired and tested. So the only thing that remains is to connect the two with wires. There are four meters each monitoring one of the four 12 volt batteries in the 48 volt electric propulsion string. I thought about individual wires in a harness, duplex wire and various other cable types. Happily I found what I needed in a trash bin that fit my needs perfectly.
    I was doing some freelance work in a building that was undergoing some renovation and found about fifty feet of E90298 cable made by National Wire about to be thrown out. It had ten 20 AWG wires inside a durable UV resistant cover.  It even had a shield around the bundled wires. The wires were also tinned making it perfect for the marine environment on board as it would be more resistant to corrosion than bare copper. Best of all I could not beat the price FREE! I love to recycle where I can and this cable instead ending up in a landfill  is perfect for the instrumentation project interconnection.

I love it when a plan comes together like this. Because I only needed eight wires to measure the four individual battery voltages it meant I had two spare wires that I might use down the road for something. The only issue I thought might be a problem is each of the 10 wires in the harness were different colors. Which could be confusing down the road in trying to figure out which wire was positive or negative when connecting or trouble shooting. But this was easily solved after I first assigned the color coded wires to each battery:

Because of the various colors used to connect the batteries I decided to cover each wire with two different colored heat shrink at the battery end. Red for the wires that went to the positive battery terminals and black for wires that went to the negative battery terminals. These would help avoid confusion and mis-connections even though the Anderson Powerpole connectors where color coded. It just adds helps eliminate confusion. It would also add another layer of protection for the wires:

.I also put on some  General Purpose 1/4-inch Braided Cable Sleeve over the heat shrinked wires. This not only kept the wires together making for neater wire runs but, also added another layer of protection to the wiring harness:

All I needed to do now was crimp on the Anderson Powerpole pins and insert them into the proper color coded powerpole housing and the battery end of the instrumentation project was done:

 For the helm end of wire I chose to enclose each pair of wires in white heat shrink:

and connect them to the helm panel meters box:

After an operations check out the project was just about complete. All that I needed to do was to add a little sealant to the back of the Anderson Powerpole connectors to water proof the wires and also inside and outside of the meter enclosure box where they connect up. I used Marine Goop. Once that was done it was time to move on to wiring the battery current meter.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


The instrumentation project is pretty simple setup whose purpose is to give me real time access to battery voltages and battery current readings while at the helm. Boats with a diesel usually have an instrument panel to monitor the internal combustion engine in the cockpit. On a boat with electric propulsion it's also good to monitor what is going on down below too though they are different parameters. So the initial setup for the project included a digital voltmeter on each battery, a total pack voltage meter and a current meter to monitor how much current the battery was providing (or how much current was flowing into it if charging).

The above schematic shows the DC Voltmeter wiring. Installing and wiring up the panel was not difficult. The hardest part was deciding what to use to connect the batteries to the panel. I decided to use Anderson Powerpole Connectors.

As this would allow the panel to be disconnected easily for repair or storage as needed. I've started to use them elsewhere on board with good results. They are quality connectors with wiping contacts that hold up very well in my experience.  I already had several  4PDT Heavy Duty Toggle Switches on board that I was originally was going to use for the solar bimini. But, after finding some 48 volt solar panels I no longer needed  to use the switches for charging. So I used it to switch the four digital panel meters for the individual batteries on and off. I installed the switch first since it is rather large and I wanted to make sure it fit correctly:

Then I found a location for the eight Anderson Connectors that connect to the fuses on the batteries:
One nice thing about Anderson Connectors there are various mounting clamps available to install the connectors securely in panels or enclosures like I am using for this project:

With the switch and the Anderson connectors installed it's time to wire the panel up:

I did a bench check of the DC Voltmeters using triple connection jumper. This allowed me to check three meters at a time.:

The second small switch on the side of the box is to turn the whole  pack voltmeter on and off. I did make one mistake with this whole pack voltmeter. I wired it just like the other four meters. The meters I bought can read up to 99 volts but, in order to measure a voltage over 30 volts the meter needs a separate lower voltage power source. If you are just measuring 12 volts you can tie the meter supply and measuring leads together and it will work. I did this for all the meters and tested them using a 9 volt battery. But, when I installed it in the boat the pack meter failed because the 48 volts was too much for the meter. I'll need to replace it and provide a separate voltage to power that meter to measure the whole pack voltage.

Another Anderson connector was installed to provide power for the current meter from the helm power distribution bus. So with the panel wired up and bench tested. It was time to move on the final connections from the battery to the helm. Which I will do in the next instrumentation post.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


My original plan was to have four digital meter to read each battery voltage of the 48 volt electric propulsion bank. Because I decided to use a bigger box to house the meters I added a dc current panel meter. Since since the wiring and space would allow it I also added a meter to measure the  whole pack voltage too:

Here is the unfinished panel with the whole pack meter installed showing the position of the other meters:

Finally the panel painted with the completed meter cutouts and installed in the BUD Polycarbonate boxl:

I did a quick test of the panel voltmeters on the bench  before installing them in the panel:

A word here on the meters I choose. I purchased five digital panel meters that could read up to 99 volts like this one. I realize now that I only needed one of these not five because four of the meters would only be measuring around a nominal 12 to 14 volts so buying a meter that measures up to 99.9 volts was really overkill. I could have saved a few bucks by buying cheaper digital panel meters that only measured up to 30 volts or so  like these. The advantage being that they only had two wire connections as opposed to the meters that read up to 99.9 volts which had four. Though when using them in a 12 volt application you just twist the meter power and measuring lines together and the same with the two ground wires. So other than a few extra bucks out of my pocket it was not a real critical mistake. Still it was money I did not need to spend  but, oh well. So it goes.
Another thing about the panel meters I should mention is I choose red as the color for the display. The reason being since the meters would be installed at the helm in the cockpit I wanted to minimize the loss of night vision for the helmsman when checking the battery bank at night. More on the wiring the instrumentation panel in the next post.

Thursday, March 07, 2013


So it's time to start thinking about the wiring the instrumentation project up. Since I'll be running 12 volts out to the helm from each of the 8A4D batteries in the 48 volt propulsion bank. Also since each battery is also rated at around 210 amps it is real good idea to have fuse in line with each of the meters.  On the Paktrakr meter there was a 1/4 amp fuse soldered in line with the power lead.  It was easy to blow it when hooking it up to the battery terminals. So I soldered in an  In-line AGC Fuse Holder so I could disconnect it or replace it easily.  It worked OK. but, the two pieces when disconnected easily separated and the contacts could be come exposed  if one was not careful. Since I would be using at least four fuses in the instrumentation project I wanted to use a better fuse holder. One that would not expose it's contacts or wander around in the confined space around the batteries.

I found what I needed with a In-Line Waterproof fuse holder made by Bussman. The waterproof aspect of these fuse was not that important in my application. Because if these fuses are ever under water I would have other problems to worry about. But, other qualities of these fuses are useful for this project.

For example the yellow color makes them stand out in the dark space where the batteries are located. Even more important is that when disconnecting the fuse the two pieces are connected together and don't separate.

 Also the contacts are securely crimped and not just tack soldered to the contact face like the in line fuse holder I used with the Paktrker.

This makes for a secure connection that will not easily pull apart. For the wire connecting the fuse holder to the battery I cut open some 16 AWG duplex marine wire with a box cutter and removed the red and yellow wires for the fuse connections:

The 16 gauge wire was a little hard to install into the fuse holder. So I spread a little dish washing liquid onto the wire insulation which made it much easier to push the wire through the opening:

At the other end of the wire I crimped on a closed marine lug and used some heat shrink on the crimped end:

So now that I had the In-Line Waterproof fuse holders connected to the batteries on one end. On the other end of the fuse I used a short piece of the 16 AWG wire and connected it to an Anderson 30 amp Powerpole connector. I'll explain why I chose to do this in a future Instrumentation Project post.