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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pleasant Chores

One of the nicest things about living the way we do is the ability to just diverge into doing. . .well. . .whatever the hell we want to do.  One of the things we've loved doing over the last year or so was making our own hard ciders, beers, gruit, and the like. 

We come to it naturally.  We've both been reenactors, and the ciders and what are commonly called "small beers" (so called because of their relatively low alcohol content and that they are meant to be drunk young) were in eras past something you made in the kitchen with no more equipment than a crock and maybe a jug or bottle or two.  They're fun, they're easy, they're delicious, and they're a WHOLE lot cheaper than popping for a bottle of decent wine or a six pack of craft beer.

Doing an initial straining of an oat stout.
What really strikes me is how common and how easy this all was.  Almost anything can be fermented provided it has sugars.  Oats, Barley, Ginger, Apples, Pears, Pumpkin. . . .what do you have?  You can preserve it by turning it into a drink.  You add water, simmer the must for a bit to break it down and kill off any wild yeast, add a sugar like molasses or raw sugar or honey, pitch your yeast,  and in a few days strain it into a bottle with a bit of sugar and cork.  No elaborate measurement equipment, no computer temperature controls, no anything.  Just a daily drink you made yourself.

This is REAL Ginger beer: Ginger, molasses, lime, allspice, cinnamon. . .you WANT this, trust me.
Everything we do, every single thing that we have control of, makes us more and more in control of our own lives and, correspondingly, more and more happy with the way we're living.

Happiness.
We'll be publishing the receipes for the stuff that's worked for us shortly.  Try em.  You'll be happy you did.

Now if you'll excuse me, I feel the need of a libation.

M


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dragging Wire, Brewing Cider

Made a bit of progress on the multiple projects over the last few days while STILL waiting on parts.  Some of what I've been doing is dragging wire for the control systems that we'll be installing shortly.

New outlet in the cockpit, 2 USB plugs and one 12V DC.
I wired in a new set of outlets for usb and 12V equipment by the binnacle and pulled the wire through to wire in the marine radio aft.  When we pulled the mast we were left with the deck mast step and wires, both of which rather leaked when exposed, so we've built a new box to enclose it and contain a wire race for the solar panels and steaming light.

Staining our little cover for on-deck wiring.


We also found time to make a batch of strawberry and apple cider, which is bloopiing away merrily belowdecks.  Kicking bubbles once every five seconds or so, it's a particularly active batch.  Should be able to rack it off and bottle in a day or so.

Of course in the midst of all this, we both came down with some kind of bug, which has left us with a kind of energy-less day today.  Hopefully a good night's sleep will fix that and we'll be back at the motor install tomorrow.

Until Then.

Bloop

M

Monday, September 25, 2017

Intex Kayak K2 Explorer Review

Okay, so in our seemingly endless prep for travel, we were thinking seriously about a tender/dinghy for Tesla's Revenge.  Here's the thing:  while we love our beloved little puddleduck racer, the thing is frankly too broad and heavy to tow easily, and there's no room on the deck for Dharma Duck, so we needed to find another option.
The little puddleduck racer is a great little boat, but a bit too heavy for our needs.
We knew we would only have use of such a boat occasionally, so an inflatable was a good choice.  We had earlier used an Intex Excursion 4 man boat for a time, which worked fine and did well with a little trolling motor, but, again, the thing was a beast when inflated, and a large lump when deflated.  We needed something more compact, something we could inflate on board to make repairs if needed and could use to get to shore when on the hook.

I was delighted, then, when Amazon Prime put an Intex inflatable Kayak on sale.  We had been pleased with the durability of the Excursion, and since the price was under $70, we thought we would give it a shot.

Intex Explorer K2, as it comes, with pump and paddles.
We've been using the boat just as a pleasure craft now for several months, so I thought I would take the time to give you a bit of a review.

Right out of the bag, we were rather pleased that the fabric of the kayak was the same vinyl we had seen in our 4 man boat.  The pump (which was identical to the one supplied with the Excursion 4) seems a bit light and flimsy, but has proven actually quite durable and inflates quickly.  Deploying the boat and pumping it up (once you FIND all the freaking valves. . . we spent forever looking for the one to pump up the sole of the boat) takes about 10 minutes start to finish.  The paddles are fairly stout, and snap together easily.  Apparently an earlier iteration of this boat had a problem with the skeg coming loose.  That has been fixed.  I mean REALLY fixed.  As in, don't plan on ever removing the thing once you snap it in place, not that that matters.

This is the skeg.  you will not be losing it.
The most irritating thing about inflating the boat is that three, count em, three different kinds of valves are used to inflate the thing.  I'm a big fan of the screw in Boston valves.  The rest, not so much, but the pump does have adapters for everything and it's a minor deconvenience.

The seats attach with webbing to support the back and a wide strip of velcro to hold them in place.  There is a nice range of positioning possible for both the front and back seats, which makes them pretty accomodating.  With both seats in place and two people in the boat, there is a fair amount of stowage forward and aft under the spash covers.  The boat is also provided with two stout handles fore and aft to lift and portage the boat.

In the water, the boat handles and points very well.  We both have experience with canoes and kayaks, and the little inflatable moves along smoothly and smartly.  The skeg makes holding your course pretty easy, and we've found we're able to get in and out of the boat even when it's in water too deep to stand on the bottom.  All in all, the little boat is pleasing to paddle and easy to deal with.

Okay, the downsides:

This is an inflatable boat.  You're not going down any class IV whitewater in it.  The vinyl is tough, but if you rammed it into some underwater branches, you would hole it.  Heavy chop is kind of unnerving, as--being an inflatable--the waves move through, not just under the boat.  The paddles are . . . well. . .okay.  They're too short by at least six inches, and replacing them is on the agenda.  Them being short means you drip a lot more water into the boat than you would otherwise.  Some of the valves have to be pinched open to deflate the thing, which is a bit of a pain, and the pump doesn't have a reverse mode, which would help. There's also, sadly, no good way to affix a trolling motor or sail.

All that being said, the boat has a lot going for it.  It inflates quickly, is easy for one or two persons to handle, paddles smoothly, can be accessed from the water, and deflates and stows in about 15 minutes.  Wonder of wonders, the bag supplied is ACTUALLY LARGE ENOUGH FOR THE BOAT TO BE PUT BACK IN IT.  I was stunned.  The stowed package, including seats and pump and oars, is a good sized duffle bag and weighs in the neighborhood of 40 lbs and fits easily in one of our lazarettes.

Alongside Tesla's Revenge.
While our intent for the boat was purely utilitarian, we've had a blast with the little boat.  It's simple to toss in the back of a car and take to local inlets and rivers for exploring, and we've paddled many miles around Marshy Point Nature Center and the Gunpowder River, as well as wandering around our own Middle River in warm, early fall afternoons.

All in all, we remain happy with the purchase.  Find it on sale and grab one.

Back to installing the electric drive in the next episode.....still waiting on a reversing contactor.  Ah well.

Hey would anyone like our little Puddleduck Racer for free?  I just hate to have it sit here if we go traveling.

More Later,

M

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sigh

Waiting Waiting Waiting. . .. .

We're piddling away here waiting on a couple of components that we need to actually do the motor install, specifically the adapter to connect the motor output shaft to the driveshaft and the reversing contactor to be able to reverse the motor.  Until then we've been making some limited progress on the rest of our. . . .stuff.

We had no takers on the old mast for the 2-29 CAL we're rebuilding into Tesla's Revenge, so I finally cut the thing thing up, removed the hardware and winches, and recycled the aluminum, which netted me a massive $45, but hey, that's $45, and now the marina owner is happier.  In the midst of all this the Nimtek power inverter went "POP" one afternoon and then went silent, so we've been in broken English web chat with them trying to figure out if it we can effect a repair or just turn the thing in for a new unit, which is what I suspect is what is going to happen.

If anyone is curious, we've thus far missed all the huge storms battering America lately.  The northern Chesapeake has been actually rather unseasonably cool and placid of late, an early harbinger of fall.

It's beginning to resemble early fall around here.
Still, we're jonesing to get this project in effect so we can travel a bit this fall and early winter.  Hopefully this week will bring the remaining parts we need and we'll give you a full accounting of the install.  Until then, those of you in harm's way, stay safe, don't do stupid risks, and take care of one another.

More shortly.....I hope

M

Thursday, August 31, 2017

More Drive Components Arrive

So a rather heavy box from the fine folks at WildernessEV showed up yesterday with almost all of the components we need to install the motor and controlls.  Thought I would share it with you:

Clockwise from upper left:  Capacitance charger, gauge mount, throttle, volt and amp meter, motor mount, heavy (2GA) cable with terminals, cut off switch, assorted bolts, Kelley solid state motor controller and, at center, adapter sleeve to connect propshaft to motor and an amp shunt..
Our idea is to create a carrier that will sit athwart the old motor bunks in the boat to hold the motor and controller hardware in place.

Here, to give you some idea of scale.  Here's the controller, motor mount and trrottle.
So having taken some measurements, I'm off to get some wood and hardware.  Still to come is the reversing contactor and a few other hang-y on parts.

Stay tuned.

M

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Motor

Well, we came back from shopping and there it was, sitting innocently outside the marina office.

I love to get packages in the mail.
A brown box, and inside it. . . .
Ohh, this thing's heavy.
. . . a white box, and inside that:

Mungo's new toy
4.7 KW of brushed, permanent magnet motor.  Oh this thing is gonna be a beast with which to crawl under the cockpit.

Stay tuned.  More toys to come.

M

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Two steps forward. . . . .

. . . .and one back.  I HATE re-doing stuff, I really do.  You may remember a few posts ago where we replaced the plastic flipper-pump galley pump we had (that had stopped working) with a Whale pump, and spoke glowingly about it's form and function.

Bah.

After less than two months it began to leak like a sieve and get progressively harder to pump.  I followed the disassembly directions.....everything seemed fine, it just wasn't working.

So finally I ripped the thing out and put in a new cheap flipper pump.  Hopefully this one will last more than two months.

So now I have ANOTHER hole to fill. . .and a lot of staining to take care of.  Sigh.
The motor and controller are on order from the nice folks at WildernessEV and are on their way.  Stay tuned for an unboxing.

More shortly.  Back to messing with the wiring.

M

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fabricating an Anchor Light

Of course, with the mast gone, Tesla's Revenge no longer has an anchor/all round/steaming light as required by colregs.  So, having acquired a new LED all around light from them interwebs, we set about to fabricate one.

The light threads easily through PVC pipe fittings and makes for a durable install.
Most of the lights we looked at were in the $12 range, and were basic, bayonet base sockets fitted with all-round LED lamps.  Note if you install one of these, ventilation on the bottom may be necessary to help prevent the buildup of heat within the housing.  make sure if you use caulk or glue that you leave airflow space.

we attached the lamp to a pipe fitting base using 3/4" stainless screws.

The hardest part of this was attaching the 2" PVC upright to the wheelhouse.  I wanted to put stainless washers on the inside to distribute the load, but lining them up was a BEAR.

The final installation.  I'm happy.
Of course then I had to trace back the wiring to figure out which of the multiple bundles of wire running under the settee were part of the mast lights.  This vessel has been rewired at least twice, and BOTH times all the wires were simply left in place.  Figuring out what goes where involved a volt meter, a screwdriver, some wire cutters, contortionist skills, and a good deal of foul language.

Why did I pick one of the hottest days of the year to do this?  Tell me.
But now we have fully functional running and anchor lights.  Yay!  Now I just have to figure out why I suddenly have no cabin lights......

Sigh....always somethin.

More shortly.

M

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Off Gridding

Going off Grid

Boat living, tiny house living, van living, tent living, cave living. . ..one of the advantages of virtually ANY living other than the standard suburban home is that your small spaces and tiny carbon and energy footprint means you can have an unprecedented amount of freedom from utilities, services, and their associated bills. One of our objectives in this livaboard enterprise has always been to get as far off that dependence as was possible.
The Floating Empire's original 200W of solar was fine for electronics and internal lights. . .that's about it.

Our original shantyboat “The Floating Empire” went a long way in that direction. We were able to filter and pump our own water, and our scant 200W solar panels provided enough power for our electronics and interior lighting, but, sadly, not for refrigeration or travel. One of the driving forces behind getting our new vessel “Tesla's Revenge” was to take care of this.

So in our right minds and everything and after large amounts of caffeine, we've begun the process of getting fully off grid, with new components and a new battery layout, with an eye to producing and being able to store enough power to both live and travel unconnected from shore power.
Here's the hardtop, caulked and painted and ready for the membrane covering.  It EXACTLY fits the four new panels. . . .I didn't ask where I as gonna stand to put them on, now did I?

Every solar system is made of two major parts, both of which are limiting factors to what you can do. The first is, of course, the solar panels. Modern panels produce a LOT more than their predecessors, and the prices have plummeted. Our ultimate goal is to have 1300 watts of energy coming in, the limitation being more one of the surface area that we have on which to MOUNT the beasts than anything else. The second part is your storage, how much of that energy can you put away when the sun ISN'T out, and how rapidly can you draw off that energy when you need it. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that our new motor system will run at 48 volts, which means both the solar panels (normally 24V apiece) and the batteries (12V, grouped in series to make 48V) must be wired to match that voltage, and anything like, say, an inverter to produce 110V AC for appliance use must be able to take 48V on the DC side

After a couple of days of the knuckle busting job of rewiring our 8 deep cycle batteries in two series sets of four (48V, remember?) and dragging wire and installing our new 48V true sinewave inverter and the MPPT controller to regulate the power going from the solar panels to the batteries, we embarked on the perilous task of mounting the first two of our four solar panels on the hardtop. Actually, we wanted to do it the day before, but there were 16kt winds, and I figured I'd wind up somewhere over White Marsh hanging from a flying solar panel. Stylish, yes, but the landings can be messy.

One great place to acquire solar panels (if you're looking for large and high output) is solar installers. They buy the things by the palletload, and after they finish an installation, they'll often sell off the remaining few panels at cost or nearly so. We dealt with the VERY nice folks at Ameresco Solar in Chase and managed to acquire a couple of 325 watt, 24 volt panels for a very reasonable price. Great. Okay.

Finding a place to mount the inverter and the MPPT solar controller was a bit of a challenge as well.  We opted for beneath the companionway step.

So now all I have to do is managed to install two 6 ½ by 3 ½ foot, forty pound solar panels on the top of a moving vessel. We are VERY fortunate to have some lovely slipmates who came over to help us get them on top of the wheelhouse, which made life a lot easier. Of course, though I figured my spaces PERFECTLY for the installation, I forgot to ask one simple question: Where the hell do I stand to screw these in? The resultant, somewhat comedic installation routine resembled someone playing a game of “Twister” over a bed of black, hot, potentially shatterable glass with a cordless drill in one hand. This was one of those moments when extra limbs might have come in handy. Certainly, my wife's suggestion that I put on taller shoes (no kidding, it worked) made it possible by about 2/3 rds of an inch. Regardless, we got it done, clipped together the wires, and low and behold, we were powered up and off grid. . . .

Two Down, Two to Go

. . . .sorta. . .

It's been four years since we launched The Floating Empire, and that's about the lifespan of the original bank of deep cycle batteries. Frankly, they're getting a bit elderly and are no longer up to the task. We can produce plenty of power now, but can't store enough of it to reliably make it through all evenings and cloudy days (a problem also faced by municipalities and utilities working with renewables. Tesla's working on it.). So I'm spending my days at the moment shopping for another block of 100AH batteries to replace our old bank. For the moment, though, we have just dramatically reduced any power consumption we had (which wasn't much). The current system can provide power for all our internal lighting, electronic gear, refrigeration, fans, and assorted small appliances without being plugged into shore. As soon as the new battery bank goes in, We'll be completely disconnected. Then we put in our 4.7KW drive motor and other goodies, and another two panels. . .

Yay, off grid.

Where am I STANDING to put in the last two panels? I have no freaking Idea.

Stay Tuned.

M

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tease tease tease

Still no internet at the marina. . .they're working on it. . .but I thought I'd at least upload a bit of  a tease from my phone:

These beasts are 3  1/2 X 6 1/2 feet.  Getting them up was a bear.
Here's a shot of the first 650W of solar panels we installed on the hard top yesterday.  Full saga shortly, but things are working fine :)

More as soon as we can ...LOTS more in fact

M