Translate

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Electric Motor Install part I.5

Well, just to give you guys a little update, here's what's happening with the install on our electric drive system. 

4.7 KW motor with coupling adapter
So our new motor mount, the motor, and the coupling adapters went in with a lot less grief than I'd expected.  We loosened the packing nut on the drive shaft as per youtube, hooked up the wiring, and fired the thing up. . . .low and behold, it worked!  It turned beautifully. . . .for about 12 seconds.  Then something in the motor controller fried and that was it. 

sigh....

So we ordered a new one, waited till it showed up, installed the thing, and tried again. 

It worked as well.  But we noticed that the turning of the prop shaft was somewhat. . .um. . labored, and that the new unit was heating up rather quickly.  I crawled back under the cockpit and tried to turn the shaft and it took all my effort to be able to move it at all.

Not the idea, folks.

I re-loosened the packing nut. . .rather more than I was comfortable with.  Same result.

So something is binding the propshaft, which leaves us basically four options:  1) it's out of alignment.  Possible, but having messed with it, nothing I did seemed to help it turn better.  2) The packing gland is still too tight, which is also possible, but I'm leery of backing it off any more as the water flow into the boat is about as much as I'm comfortable with.  3)  We've been in the water, not moving, for a year now.  This area has a lot of Zebra mussels.  It's possible we've just got a lot of growth on the propshaft, cutlass bearing, and in the prop shaft log that are inhibiting movment.  or 4) the prop shaft is bent.

Okay, so I thought the best way to eliminate #3 would be to go down and look, so I found my mask and went into the water to see what the situation might be.

The situation was dark.  No, I mean that literally:  our hull is black, we've a lot of duckweed growing around the slips in the marina, and since it's been raining, there's a lot of crap in the water.  I couldn't see a damn thing.

Ah, well. . . .

So, next week we're doing a haul and hang to see what the prop looks like, pulling the boat over to the well and putting it up on a sling so we can work on it out of the water for a few hours.  That should tell us quite a bit.

Stay tuned

M

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hurricane Florence

Be careful out there.




We are, happily, well north of where this thing is supposed to hit, but please, PLEASE if you're in it's path don't get all macho on us an decide to "stick it out".  If you'll note, this thing is likely to slow down when it hits the coast and to pound NC/SC's coastlines for a full THREE DAYS.  Either sail out of it's way, pull your vessel, or go get a hotel room.  Either way, be safe.

Feel free when this is over and we see what has happened to the barrier islands to send a poisoned pen letter to those NC legislators who, in 2012 made it literally illegal to consider this kind of thing in zoning and planning because it "got in the way of development".  Bah.

Be safe.

M

Monday, September 10, 2018

Dining Aboard


This happens all the time: someone takes one look at our boat and pipes up “Guess you guys eat out a lot, huh?”

um, not really.

For the record, we rarely eat out. We're former restauranteurs, and we both love to cook. We cook a lot, and elaborately, and we literally NEVER go for fast food. Why would we? The food we make is so much better (and, of course, healthier and more interesting) than anything any drive-through could offer.
A small galley doesn't mean we cant get interesting.  These are stuffed baby eggplants with a Northern Indian spicing.

The misconceptions about cooking aboard continue to amaze me.

The Galley of Tesla's Revenge has a single burner propane stove. We have a small freezer, a cooler, a small smoker that we use sometimes up on shore, and not a lot of storage space for foodstuffs. Yet, for all that, we manage to crank out of plethora of soups, stews, exotic pot dishes, frittatas. . . a whole range of healthy and interesting dishes despite—and sometimes because of—the limitations. We roast our own coffee. We make our own butter, brew our own Ciders and Ginger beers. We do more in house—and easily and more economically—than most folks with vast kitchens would dream of doing.
Keep your cooking space uncluttered and your tools handy.

So here, gentle reader, are our suggestions of how to make the most of a small galley. As a note, this applies as well to your camper, apartment, or dorm room, just sayin'.

First of all, let go of the idea that you have to do long term menu planning. The lack storage means—rather happily—that you'll be doing a lot of “market shopping,” that is to say, buying what you need for the next few meals, driven by what is local and in season. All that makes for a healthier, tastier diet, and a greater local knowledge of the area in which you're docked. Introduce yourself to your local butcher, your fishmonger, your local farmstand. As a Livaboard, you have a built in interesting story, and folks are generally happy to be part of that. Is there food growing wild near your moorage? We've found crab apples and raspberries and mulberries, dandelion and day lily (not to mention fish and crab, but that's another story entirely) growing happily for the taking near the very heart of the marina. Build your meals around what you find, and let the ingredients shine, adding to them stable staples that you CAN afford the space to store: pastas, grains, nuts, and the like. We don't have a lot of foodstuffs in stowage, We DO have a ton of spices, herbs, sauces, flavorings, and we make liberal use of them.
You'd be amazed what  you can do aboard.  This is a hard cider in the making, made from foraged crab apples.  It was amazing.

Do your prep up front for as many of the dishes as possible so you don't get in your own way. Take the time to think through the process of preparing the meal. What will take the longest to cook? What can sit for a bit and what has to be served right off the burner? What can be brought up to temperature and left aside to continue to cook on it's own (residual heat is your friend). What can be cooked in the same pot, at the same time? It's like a puzzle, like the kind of reverse engineering you have to do when blacksmithing or doing ceramics, and it really rather adds to the enjoyment of preparation.
Compact, versatile tools like stick blenders can stand in for a host of single use kitchen appliances.

In that regard, think of meal components that can be rolled into other meals. Cooking country ribs? Get enough to cook an extra that can be part of a frittata or salad the next day. Your sauteed veggies for lunch can be the basis of a stew for dinner. Think in terms of components rather than meals and menus.
Spectacular food is just a matter of being willing to experiment. . . .that and a good wine merchant.

Don't crowd your galley with a lot of single-use gadgets. Buy good knives, good pots and pans, and make them work (Almost all our cookware is cast iron. It holds heat well and lasts forever, despite the weight). Some compact appliances (I'm a big fan of stick blenders) can do the work of several single use kitchen toys. If you're not using it, get rid of it and use the space for more spices, dried fruits, or another bottle of really good wine. Set up the work flow with the galley sink and your stove and work surfaces so it's comfortable and efficient and so you're not having to do gymnastics to get past one another just to make lunch. It's amusing to watch, granted, and can make for some fun Youtube videos, but after a while saying “excuse me” every six seconds begins to pall. Set up your space so you can work largely from a single position and you'll be a lot happier.

Also get to know some of your slipmates. Sharing dishes in a potluck can make for some great meals, some great friends, and a lot less effort and expense on everyone's part.

And, finally, remember, you objective is your own enjoyment. Food is social, food is entertainment, food can be history and culture and wonderfully reckless experimentation. Let it happen.


More shortly
M

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Setting up a Q and A

Well, for reasons known only to the ISP, our bandwidth this AM is absurdly slow, so I thought a bit of a text update might be do-able if a lot of photos might now.

We're stalled for the moment on the motor install waiting on a part, but as soon as that shows up we'll be doing tests on the system and taking some short trips and I promise to give you full details.

In the meanwhile, I've had a lot of questions lately, especially on solar and composting toilet systems, so we thought we'd put out a call if there was anything you fine folks wanted to know that we haven't addressed.

So please leave your questions in the comments below and we'll port them into a new Q and A post in a few days.  All post will be anonymous, so feel free to ask away.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

New stuff over at Life, Art, Water, btw.

M

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Electric Motor Install, part I

Okay, so this is a bit of a tease.  This motor install is going to take us several days and I'll be updating the blog here as it goes in.

To recap, we're putting a 4.7KW electric motor in the space formerly occupied by an Atomic 4 gas motor.  The motors are of equiv. horsepower (about 12) and drive the propshaft through a stuffingbox.  (If these are new terms to you, believe me, you'll see).

Our good friend Rich welded a frame for us to be able to mount the motor on the original bunks that held the gas engine (which was, of course, massively larger and heavier), and, at the moment, we're tweaking that to make sure the motor will align with with propshaft.

Here's the frame with the motor affixed. Total weight is probably around 50 lbs. You can see how wide the space occupied by the original motor was.
Anyway, stay tuned.  We hope to have this in, up, and working over the next few days.

M

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Things we've successfully used in a composting toilet.

Since someone asked, here are the things we've successfully used as biomass in our composting toilet setup:

1) Wood shavings.  A slip mate gifted us with like eight garbage bags of em after doing some dock work and we used them all winter.  They work well, but are somewhat messy.  Avoid stuff from treated lumber.

2)  Peat Moss.  This works beautifully, comes in huge compressed bricks, and, in general suits the composting process well.  It is also damn messy.  It's a fine brown powder that finds its way everywhere in the boat.  I'd use it if I had few other choices, as it does work, but it can be a pain.

3)  Wood Stove Pellets.

Yep, these guys.
Wood stove pellets in the US are primarily compressed sawdust.  They are compact, store well, and neat to use and, in general, our our fave for the composting toilet.  At something like $5 a bag, they're also pretty cheap.  Try for the ones that don't look like they're oiled or coated.  Broken bags are fine (and dirt cheap) but make sure the stuff isn't damp or you'll find your head abruptly starts smelling.

4) "Natural" cat litter.  AKA  Wood stove pellets.  Same thing generally in a smaller, more expensive bag, but available all summer, which wood stove fuel generally isn't.  Please note:  You can NOT use regular, clay-based cat litter.  It turns into cement and will not compost.

5)  Wood smoker pellets:  AKA Wood stove pellets.  These things are used in automatic meat smokers and are identical to the ones used for heating except these are "food grade."  They work fine and are available all summer and in all climes, but at around $16 a bag, they're pricey.

6)  Sawdust.  Yep, messy, but works fine.

7) Pet bedding:  AKA wood chips.  See #1.

8)  Crushed, dried leaves.  Works in a pinch.  Tends to be a bit high in tannins for the composting process, but works.

Things we have not tried :

Coir (coconut fiber).  I've seen it recommended.  Available in some garden centers in compressed bricks.

Shredded cellulose (wood, paper, etc).  Should work.  Never tried it.

So we're waiting anxiously for our motor mount to get welded so we can get it in and get on the water.  We've gotten a bunch of small stuff done:  installed the transducer for the depth finder, built a small table for the cockpit and, in general, tried to tidy stuff up and make ready to get this beast mobile.

Can't wait.

More shortly.

M

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A quick update

Got the speed controller in today.  All the wiring is now in place and all we have to do is get in the motor mount and we should be good.

Magellan just wishes we would stop moving stuff around.  It's cutting into his nap time.
In addition, we finally got the name and home port on the stern.  It feels oddly fulfilled.

She has a name!


Photos shortly.  Back at it.

M

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Rather Good Day

You know, today went rather well.  Today dawned beautiful and rather cooler than the last few days.  The new power controller for the motor turned up today.  Disgusted with the thing WildernessEV sent us, I just went ahead and ordered one of these Chinese jobs for light electric vehicles.
What the hell?  We gave it a shot.
The unit supposedly will handle 100A at 48 volts  (they say 5000 watts).  When it arrived I was rather surprised how light it was, but then realized that the old unit was one massive aluminum heat sink and this little guy has it's own fan.

Anyway, we hooked it up for a test, and behold, it worked fabulously. Wonderful control of the motor and no over heating, even using paltry 16 Ga. wires for the test.

And, yes, I know the wires are too small.  This was a test to see if it worked, and it did.
Forward, stop, and back.  It all functioned beautifully.  We celebrated by taking a lovely afternoon kayak sortie and by making a great meal:  grilled country ribs with fresh local tomatoes and corn.

All in all, today worked.  Tomorrow, I'll go get some heavier wire for the installation and the iron for the motor mount.

So close I can taste it.

more shortly

M

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wiring Hell

Ugh.  Okay, so this has been a week of progress and setbacks and frustrations and triumphs and not nearly enough alcohol.  Let me say this up front:  If you were ever considering it (and I know I've spoken kindly of them in a couple posts a few months ago) I don't recommend you do business with WildernessEV.  We purchased most of the drive components from them, and are regretting it now.  With the exception of some wire connectors and the motor itself (which was shipped from the factory directly), everything we received from them was a piece of utter crap.  The motor controller, on careful examination, had been used and mounted before, and when we wired it up, it simply wouldn't power up.  The throttle control had been wired with used speaker wire--no, I'm not kidding--and we never received the reversing contactor for which we paid, despite assurances from them.  Now they won't answer emails or phone calls.
See this lovely motor?  It's the only goddam thing they sent me that worked.

Live and learn.  There's several hundred dollars I'll never see again.

So I bit the bullet and ordered a new motor controller and while we were waiting I figured I would go ahead and pull and mount the lug connectors on the 4ga power cables we need to power the motor.  So right in the middle of doing that, there was a pop and a fizz and the smell of something burning and we suddenly didn't have a working 12 V system.

Sigh.
Place is a wreck while we drag new wiring.

This boat has been rewired something like three times, and each time the former owner LEFT ALL THE FREAKING WIRES IN PLACE FROM THE PREVIOUS WIRING JOB.  As a result, in places there are wrist-thick bundles of wire.  Somewhere in there is one you need.  Get the picture?

I finally got pissed off, and we dragged half of our stuff out of the lazarettes and storage cubbies, ripped out lots of dead wire, and ran new, color coded cables for our 12v system.  In the midst of that we discovered that the step down transformer that drops our 48V system to 12 volts for interior lighting, navigation, etc., was the WRONG UNIT, which is why it fried.

Sigh again.

So I've spent the last three sweaty days crawling through bulkheads and under cabinets running new wire.  My knuckles look like I've been prizefighting and everything else hurts, but now we have working lights, working running lights, a working radio and depth finder, some lovely 12V and USB outlets in the cockpit, and a wiring system that can be comprehended in an emergency.
Finally got the Chartplotter mounted.

Ah well.

There is some good news.  The new motor controller arrives tomorrow, and we got the motor mounts (big chunky neoprene things intended for an air conditioner compressor) yesterday.  We'll be running a test of the motor and controller and then, the gods of electronics cooperating, we'll be doing the install of the motor and it's mount, for which I'll supply full details and pictures.

Today, since stuff was still in shipment, we took the day off.  We went for about three or four miles of kayak ride down the Middle River (visiting our old shantyboat Floating Empire in the process, but I'll save that for another day), and tonight I'll be grilling some bison burgers with fresh local corn from Zahradka's farm and a tomato salad and a nice red wine.

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves why we do this.
The river at nightfall.

More shortly,
and more stuff over at Life, Art, Water

M

Monday, July 9, 2018

More Drive Train Progress

Thought I would give you guys a quick update on some of our recent progress.  Here's a shot of the 4.7 KW motor with the shaft adapters in place.  I was delighted to see they actually fit.

The shaft adapters fit, wonder of wonders.

Here's one with the motor mount fitted.  This thing is gonna be a beast to drag under the cockpit and hook up.
We've got a few nice, less than the center of the sun heat days, so I'm hoping to get all this stuff together and tested.  Today we'll be attaching the connections to the motor controller and checking it out.  Wish us luck.

More shortly

M