Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I took advantage of the one day of sun and warm temperatures to go check on the boat the other day. I'm glad I did. There was not a breath of wind and the temperature was near 50 degrees F and this was the view from the cockpit:
Hard to believe in a few months the harbor will be filled with several hundred boats on the docks and moorings.
Like two weeks ago I did a quick charge of the batteries using the Dual Pro Battery Charger
. All the batteries were well balanced to each other which was good to see. I was about to lock up when I thought let me check the bilge. Two weeks ago it was bone dry so I thought it would have been OK  When I lifted the floor board I found the bilge full of water. Yikes! Looks like snow from Blizzard Nemo had somehow gotten down below and melted filling the bilge with water. I found the automatic bilge switch not working which is why the water was so high,  I was able to operate the bilge pump with in the manual switch position and drain the bilge. Looks like the first thing on the spring TODO list is to find out why the automatic bilge switch is not working.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Once I gave up on using the obsolete Kings Loran case new possibilities opened up. I could use a bigger enclosure that would hold more meters and therefore have more information on the battery bank. I planned to mount the enclosure at the helm so I would not have to move to see it.  I would need to make sure that the enclosure would be able to endure the weather conditions at that location. Looking at my choices I choose a
 BUD Industries PN-1325-CMB Polycarbonate NEMA 4X Box with Mounting Bracket and Clear Cover.
It had dimensions of 8.74 x 5.75 x 2.17 in.  Big enough to easy house the four battery meters I planned to install originally. Now I could also add a total battery pack voltage meter and also an amp meter too. Plus I'd still have space for other instrumentation meters I may plan in the future.
It also has flanges so I could mount it easily without drilling holes in the back of the enclosure. Since the box may be exposed to the elements keeping the amount of holes drilled into it is a good idea. The box it's self is designed to IP65 of IEC 529 and NEMA 1, 2, 4, 4x, 12, and 13 specifications and is UL Listed. The NEMA 4X spec is especially relevant in my application on board BIANKA:

"Type 4X  Enclosures constructed for either indoor or outdoor use to provide a degree 
of protection to personnel against access to hazardous parts; to provide a degree of 
protection of the equipment inside the enclosure against ingress of solid foreign objects 
(windblown dust); to provide a degree of protection with respect to harmful effects on 
the equipment due to the ingress of water (rain, sleet, snow, splashing water, and hose 
directed water); that provides an additional level of protection against corrosion; and 
that will be undamaged by the external formation of ice on the enclosure."  

Sounds like it should be able to hold up for most of the conditions experienced at the helm position. It also comes with Threaded brass inserts and cover screws are M-4 stainless steel, non-magnetic and fasten into threaded brass inserts. The cover has a gasket material of Silicon Sponge. The body and cover are also UV stabilized.
I also bought the BUD Industries PNX-91425 Aluminum Internal Panel which fits inside the PN-1235 box and mounts to the brass inserts molded into the bottom. This panel will be used to mount the meters inside the box.
With the enclosure now in hand it's time to start wiring things up.


Thursday, February 21, 2013


Finding that the obsolete Kings 8001 Loran case would not fit in my plans for the electric propulsion battery bank instrumentation project was disappointing  The four digital meters where just too big for the case. But, deciding that I needed a bigger case to house the meters also opened up more possibilities for me.
The first plan was to simply have a digital voltage panel meter on each battery with a master on/off switch so I could check each battery's voltage when I wanted. I was also thinking of keeping the Paktrakr connected too but, perhaps with a switch to turn it on and off too instead of keeping it on all the time. When I found out I would need a bigger box to install the meters I thought why not add another meter that would measure the full pack voltage too.  This is what the original schematic looked like:

I also decided to add the all important battery current meter into the same enclosure and mount at the helm position so I would have all the important parameters of the battery bank available there. I would not have to open any cockpit hatches to observe the Xantrex XBM battery monitor for voltage and current readings. I'd also have room to add more instrumentation devices into the box at a future date if I wanted. Because I had already installed a PVCconduit tube in the cockpit for previous helm projects running the wires for the meters would be pretty easy to do:

So the plan looked pretty good. Now I just needed to decide on a enclosure to house all this instrumentation.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


I guess I should explain why I am doing this instrumentation project. When I first converted to electric propulsion I had a Xantrex XBM battery monitor. I ordered it with with the Asmo Marine Thoosa 9000 electric propulsion system. It worked well except for the fact that even though the specifications claimed it was "splash proof" it did not say anything about it being sun proof. So I had to move it to a location in the cockpit where I could still see it but, was not view able without opening one of the cockpit hatches.
In addition it could only read the battery pack voltage and current. It did not read the individual battery voltages.
In my researching for an electric propulsion system I came across postings for another battery monitor called a Paktrakr.  It had been used by a number of electric vehicle enthusiasts. Unlike the XBM it could read the individual voltages of the four batteries in BIANKA's 48 volt propulsion bank. Here it is showing the voltage of battery number one in the 48 volt string:

It  could also show the entire pack voltage in a digital display and as a fuel guage:

It would also even tell you the temperature of the battery compartment:

It provided a lot of information in a small package.  It could with an additional sensor also read current and also had the ability to download battery data (with an optional cable) into a computer for analysis. I thought it would be a good backup the XBM since monitoring your battery bank in a boat with electric propulsion is like having a fuel gauge on a boat with a diesel engine. So a year after I converted to electric propulsion I bought a Patrakr and installed it in the main cabin so I could keep an eye on the battery bank without having to go out into the cockpit to look at the XBM monitor. It had a nice small display and it fit very nicely on the door to BIANKA's  wind, depth and speed instraments:

It worked well for several years. At first I just used it for voltage measurements of the battery bank. But, soon I ordered the current sensor so I could see how the battery bank was charging too. A few years later I ordered the data cable. So I could see how the battery bank was charging over the winter layup with the solar panels.
Then early last spring I went on board and found out one of the 8A4D AGM batteries in my 48 volt string was not completing it's charge cycle. I could not see a reason why this battery would suddenly time out when charging. The only thing different between this battery and the other three is the Paktrakr takes it's power from this battery. Even though it's only drawing 25 milli amps of current for the basic unit I had recently added the data recorder and so it might have been drawing more. How much I don't know but, I decided to disconnect from the battery bank full time. I was able to eventually get the troublesome battery to accept a full charge. But, I decided that I needed an alternative battery voltage and current monitoring system to the Paktrakr. One that does not take power from one individual battery like the Patrakkr did. That's the reason I embarked on this instrumentation project.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Back around Earth Day last year I mentioned that I was planning on recycling the now obsolete Kings 8001 LORAN unit. I have come up with a new instrumentation project to monitor BIANKA's propulsion battery bank. The  weather proof case of the Kings LORAN will fit nicely into my plans.  The back of the Kings unit has a few connectors on it which might come in useful:

The coaxial LORAN antenna connection might come in useful for some type of video feed.  The AMP 25 pin connector might also prove useful. But,  first I have to  remove some of the internal electronics. This King 8001 LORAN unit sold for about $600 in 1985. In today's dollars that would be over $1,100. Opening it up I could see why:

Ed King sure put a lot of electronic technology inside the box:

Including some LSI (Large Scale Integration) chips for the display board and some nice conformal coating to help protect the circuity from the marine environment:

It's no wonder this unit was working right up until the Coast Guard shut down the Loran transmitters. Probably would have kept on working for many more years if they had kept the transmitters operating too . Oh well at least some of Kings design will live on at least on BIANKA. Even if it is only the case:

 I knew the case for the Kings Loran would be good to use since it already had a home and mounting hardware in the cockpit and was pretty weather proof.  But, I also hoped to recycle as much of the existing hardware as possible. The first thing I thought I could use is the metal shield that was used  between the some of the circuit boards inside the Loran. I thought it would make a good mounting plate for the meters and switch.

Well, after buying some of the metering components I soon found out that my original plan was just not going to work out.

Using paper cut outs of the meter dimensions I soon realized that the Kings Loran case would be to small to house all the instrumentation I wanted at the helm. It looked I could fit the four battery meters and the switch that controls them. 

But, I could not also fit the more important current meter inside too. Even though it looked at first like it would:

But, in the end I could see it was just not going to work out:

So it's on to Plan B!

Saturday, February 09, 2013


While some sailors may look out their front door in despair at this scene courtesy of the blizzard Nemo. As for myself, I take comfort that I mailed in the application for this seasons mooring permit yesterday. So I know the sailing season is on it's way.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


It's sure been a cold cold winter
Rolling Stones

Yeah, this winter is certainly not as warm or snow free as last year. So last week when things warmed up into the mid fifties last year I took advantage of the heat wave to go check on the boat. Things were looking good. The bilge was completely dry except for the splash of   antifreeze    I left in it.  I also did a quick check  of the propulsion battery bank which has being topped up over the winter by solar and wind charging systems. I fired up the Dual Pro Charger just to make sure things were fully topped up. While I waited for it to go through it's cycle I finished the last chapter of The Coast of Summer: sailing New England Waters from Shelter Island to Cape Cod by Anthony Bailey. A book I had been reading on board. I took a little nap too and by the time I woke up the charger had finished.

Things were looking good there too!

Elsewhere in the boatyard there were signs of recovery from the effects of Super storm Sandy last October. New replacement docks being assembled in the yard:

.and others like this new Dingy dock are already floating in the water:

So even though a snow storm is threatening to hit the area in a few days there are signs that the boating season is on the way. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013


Leave it to some inventive New Zealanders to help put out a boat fire  when the Fire Department and Marine Patrol are not around:

  Though it is a good reminder to also carry a Marine  Fire Extinguisher
or two on board and contain the fire before it gets to this stage.

Even better watch these videos and familirize your self with how your Fire Extinguisher works before you need to use it: