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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

We Have Discovered 'Boating'!

Last weekend, we discovered that people do other things with boats besides 'build' or 'work' on them!

A small boat diversion.

Took the small boat out last weekend for the first time this year. We felt sorta bad as we usually get out earlier in the year (sometimes March or April). Time on this boat has, so far, been spent doing maintenance things like cleaning and varnishing. But this outing was not without excitement. The first spring/summer three day holiday weekend of the year (in the US) and warmish weather in the PNW makes for LOTS of boaters on the water. The big excitement was the small craft advisory issued by the National Weather Service for Saturday night, calling for high winds out of the SW. Often, these SCA's never happen, but not this time.

Saturday afternoon we dropped anchor in a popular anchorage, a small bay packed with at least 30 boats. Having heard the SCA, we selected a spot in the south end of the bay, hoping the south edge would shield some of the winds. At about 11pm, the winds started to gust (we estimate 30-35 knots). Around midnight, we heard a number of horns across the bay. Looking out, there were spotlights from other boaters turned on boats that appeared to be dragging their anchors. Boaters were up and about in their dinghies, in the dark, trying to help sort things out. We appeared to be fine with our Bruce anchor tied to 70 feet of rode (50 feet chain + 20 feet line) in 10 feet of water. As we were upwind of most boats, there was no danger of others dragging onto us.

By morning, we discovered that some had departed, and some had arrived from a more exposed anchorage around the corner. More noticeably, there were two boats on the rocks.

This was not a big deal as they were able to float off during the next high tide. But, on the other side of the island, there were more boats on the rocks, one requiring USCG assistance (chopper and cutter). Something about 'taking on water' was heard over the VHF.

By Monday morning we were one of only five boats in the bay. I guess everyone else had enough and went home.

Looking back, we are somewhat amused. We are pretty picky about how we set our anchor. Usually involving a number of "tugs" in reverse to ensure that it is set. All to often, we see boats come in, stop, drop their anchor and rode in one big pile and call it 'set'. In fact, the day before these high evening winds, one big trawler did just that right next to us (the boat was gone by morning). Why not spend the extra few minutes setting for that peace of mind?

Anyway, I guess I am ranting. Enough. Checkout this great post on anchors and anchoring (comments too).

Obligitory Westsail stuff: waiting on parts. Then lots will be happening.  Stay tuned.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Marine Stainless Fittings LTD

A small boat diversion...

Anytime you step onto a boat (on the hard, or in the water, it doesn't matter) with the plan of tackling one task, you step off with five more added to the todo list. Such was the case last weekend when we were re-bedding the leaky portlights on the small boat. At the end of the day I was hauling the propane galley stove up the dock to take home to the garage for a good cleaning. Aside from the burner surface, it has never been cleaned in twenty years.

As I was removing panels and getting into the corners of the oven for cleaning, I noticed how well built this stove was. Made from heavy gauge stainless steel, a welded stainless frame with clean, almost 'artistic' weld quality, and side panels secured with many rivets. Your typical Force 10 brand galley stoves, with thinly stamped stainless and plastic parts, do not come close to the build quality of this stove. And mechanically, this little stove has never let us down.

Having seen the new stove options out there, it would be nice if I could find a larger version (at least three burner) for the Westsail. Branded as "Mariner", this stove is at least 25 years old and was made by Marine Stainless Fittings LTD in Auckland. To our knowledge, the business know longer exists (a google search provides nothing). I guess I could try and keep an eye on the used market.

Got a lead on a used one of these that you can share? Please post a comment!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Engine Exhaust Beginnings

This is a test fit of some engine wet exhaust bits. Turns out the space planned for these, and the aft bilge pump anti-siphon loops (previously installed) was a bit too cramped. So, the pump anti-siphon loops had to be relocated. Turns out the new space for these has better access for maintenance anyway, so its all good.

I suspect most center-cockpit boats of this vintage had a similar limitation: where/how to run mechanical bits (exhaust, steering, etc) aft without interfering with the aft living spaces? I have seen some Westsail 42's do a port side-exit amidships for engine exhaust, which can be a simple and easy install giving you the shortest hose run possible (ideal). But I can't do that, given how I designed the engine room, without a big hose looming over your head. I would rather have exhaust discharge aft anyway.
Vetus Gooseneck

So I came up with a stern discharge solution that involves a Vetus exhaust "gooseneck". With wet exhaust you want the hose to "loop" up to a high point within the boat (the higher the better). This will prevent any following waves from "backfilling" into the exhaust and the engine. Saltwater backing into a diesel engine can kill it quickly unless you remedy it immediately (usually involves removing the engine heads before corrosion has a chance to work). If you have the space, simply looping the exhaust hose up-then-down from a high point is sufficient. But exhaust hose cannot bend enough for that to work in the small space we have.
Test fit of gooseneck in port-aft quarter.
So, this gooseneck provides the anti-backfill loop in a very compact space. I am somewhat loathe to use one of these. We tried one on a re-power of our small boat years ago. We removed it due to the excessive back pressure it created (exceeded the engine maker spec's for warranty). But, after a lot of thought, this is really the only sensible solution for this project. To help with the back pressure, the size of the gooseneck and tailing hose is 2 3/8 inch inner diameter. The engines in our target horsepower range (60-80hp) have 2 inch exhaust, so a reducer (expander?) will be inline near the top of the loop. Expanding the hose to 2 3/8 inch at the top to the "downhill" side will help the system to "breathe out" more of the exhaust pressure.
Discharge from gooseneck, down and toward the stern, underneath the aft-berth.

That is the idea at least.
More later...

Monday, May 07, 2012

Live AC 120

First, let me say that I 'punted' on the Blue Seas custom 360 panel idea (previously mentioned here). As much as it was fun to design, and would look cool, it would not be flexible enough for this project. The original idea had the panel designed for future appliances that we may or  may not install. Logic stepped in and asked "what if you change your mind?, what if you never install these devices?" So I took a look at other off-the-shelf panel options.
Test fitting the freshly cut panel frame.
I concluded that using the "traditional metal" panel designs would be more flexible, and maybe even cheaper in the long run. The idea is to start with basic needs, and expand as devices are added. There is plenty of panel space in the engine room, and I have designed the space with "easy reconfiguration" features in mind. This should be better than trying to predict future needs, with one big panel, all at once (especially knowing us).
Shore power AC panel and meter showing AC current.
So, with all that, the first AC panel is in and live. This as a Blue Sea Systems "traditional metal" panel that  includes one 30A ELCI master shore power switch, and five positions for breakers. Two of these five have 15A breakers: one for 'AC Outlets', the other for 'Battery Charger' (coming soon). Also added is a digital multimeter for measuring AC voltage, current and frequency. Chaining more panels to this one, if necessary, is quite easy. Mounted on the same frame are two duplex outlets supplying power needs for workbench projects. One of these is a GFCI outlet behind which are wired ALL of the AC outlets throughout the boat.
Panel hinges down for easy access.
The panel frame is hinged at the bottom allowing easy access for reconfiguration and circuit additions.

Finished install. Meter is showing AC voltage.
I had previously wired AC sockets throughout the boat. I also ran wire for the "future" appliances. Until such appliances are installed (if ever) their wire feeds will simply be terminated with another AC socket. This means, you are ALWAYS in reach of a live AC socket. No need for an extension cord! So now the growing spider web of extension cords can be removed, much to the relief of my local fire marshal.
A motivating goal: removal of the rat's nest of extension cords.

Readers have probably heard of GFCI outlets. GFCI stands for "Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter". One commonly sees these sorts of outlets in house bathrooms and lavatories (squarish looking outlets, with red and black buttons, sometimes). GFCI outlets provide fire hazard safety such that they can detect an "electrical short" to ground (green wire) and automatically switch off the circuit in such an event.

ELCI, stands for "Electrical Leakage Circuit Interrupter", and goes one better than GFCI. These switches, installed between the shore power connection and AC distribution panel,  monitor current flow on the HOT (black) and NEUTRAL (white) lines of an AC circuit. Physics asserts that the sum current of both sides must be equal to zero at any given time (current in, must equal current out). Any electrical leak will create an imbalance (non-zero sum) detected by the ELCI cutting off the circuit (within a 30 milli-amp tolerance, typically). A short to the ground wire (green) creates such an imbalance and qualifies as an electrical leak, thus ELCI provides the same protection as GFCI.

ELCI switches are more expensive than GFCI switches. So, why not just use a GFCI? Well, when the boat is connected to shore power, protection by a GFCI  is only as good as the wiring of the dock's shore power system. All marina shore power wiring can vary in quality (despite local codes). If the ground of the dockside shore power socket has poor or no earth ground, a GFCI will provide NO protection AT ALL.

On a boat, there are more potential paths to earth ground than the shore power's green wire. The boat's bonding system, to metal thru-hulls, to seawater is a common point of electrical leakage faults. Such faults can cause lots of problems not only for your boat's underwater metals (thru hulls and zinc anodes), but those of neighboring boats as well. And any diver, changing zincs underwater, in the vicinity of such a fault, may not be having a great time either.

An ELCI installed on the boat, between the shorepower connection and AC distribution will protect against these faults. Shore power connection ELCIs are now required as part of the ABYC E-11 specification. If you have a steel or aluminum boat, an ELCI is an absolute MUST in my opinion.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Transplanted Power

As the 24volt electrical system is built out, there is a need, of course, for a 24volt power source. I had a couple old flooded cell batteries of different sizes kicking around, but those ultimately died (I mean dried-up, exposed plate, dead). I tried wiring in a small 24volt DC power supply, similar to the type you might find in a desktop computer or similar electronic device. This was good for testing lights and gauges but it did not supply enough 'umph' for running multiple high-load devices like pumps. I need a real 24volt battery bank.
As the boat is in the midst of construction, I did not want to spend money on new batteries that will sit for a few years before they get used "in production".

Small-boat to the rescue 

Our little 28 footer has four 6volt "golf cart" style batteries wired as a 12volt house bank. Despite being eight years old, the battery testers (hydrometer and electronic) have always tested  these as "good". Which, for us, is almost unheard of. Seems we always hear of boaters having to replace bad batteries every couple years, due to, if anything... age. We experienced the same until we upgraded to a more modern charging system (Balmar alternator & three stage regulator) ten years ago. Side note: I am convinced that with modern three-stage charging systems and proper maintenance (keeping electrolyte levels up and never discharging more than 50%), deep-cycle flooded cell batteries can last almost indefinitely. Anyway, I figured if I had to buy new batteries, it would be for the small boat, which would reap most benefit, and the old ones would be transplanted into the Westsail.
Tailgate party: top-up and test of batteries.
So, I am up early and down at the marina, taking advantage of the high tide and minimal gang-plank angle on the dock, hauling up-and-down new and used 6volt batteries weighing 65lbs each. Having hauled the old ones home, I top up electrolyte, put them on the charger, and do a final test before installing into the Westsail. The battery tester still says 'good'.
Batteries installed and wired in series to form a 24volt bank, 245 amp-hour capacity (125 useable).
In the Westsail, the batteries are fitted into the house bank battery box and tied together with insulated copper buss bars (custom, easy to make). The house battery box is located under the floor, in the forward end, center section of the main salon.

To give an idea of how many more batteries we can fit, this last picture shows the remaining space in the box. We can fit at least eight more of these golf-cart type batteries, which would give a total capacity of 735 amp-hours (367 amp-hours useable) and 780 lbs of more ballast!. For 24volts that is a LOT of reserve capacity. Should we ever fit out with more modern, higher power density batteries (like lithium), add the inverters, and wind and solar generation, I figure the boat could power a small third-world country. Just need a long extension cord.

Room for more.
In the next few weeks, before these batteries get used too much,  comes the battery charger installation. Stay tuned...