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Friday, December 1, 2017

Dealing with Cold, the final. . .for now.

So, yesterday, after a week of beautiful weather, we mostly completed closing in our cockpit/wheelhouse.  The effects have been immediate.  Last evening we were able to sit in the cockpit in our shirtsleeves comfortably with no other heat on (outside temperatures were hovering around 50F at the time.)  In the mornings, the moment the sun is up, our new floating greenhouse begins to warm and by mid morning the place is quite comfortable.  We don't have hard temperature data yet but I'll be supplying that shortly.
This stuff is so damn clear it's hard to take a picture of it.  You can see the substantial size o our winter greenhouse, though.
To recap: we decided to enclose the wheelhouse in a product called flexoglass from a company called Warp Bros in Chicago, Il (we purchased ours through Amazon here). The product is a tough, amazingly clear vinyl glazing sold in 25 yd. by 48" rolls (other sizes are available) and used primarily for enclosing screen porches and greenhouses.  It is a great deal cheaper than the "eisenglas" typically sold for boat enclosures.  We chose the 4mil variety (It also comes in a stout 10mil). The roll we bought cost us a bit over $80, and was enough to do the entire boat.

After measuring and in some cases creating a paper template to match irregular openings, we laid out and cut the material (scissors work just fine)and reinforced the edges of the material by folding 2" of Gorilla Tape over the edge. We finally figured out that the best way to do this was to lay out the Gorilla Tape sticky side up, held in place on either end by a bit of blue painter's tape (which is easy to remove).  Then we stretched out the Flexoglass and stuck it down halfway across the tape, then folded the edge over.  Please note, the Gorilla Tape is VERY FREAKING STICKY.  It will stick to anything:  itself, the floor, you, your clothing, the cat. . . .and once it does stick, you aren't pulling it loose, PERIOD.  This makes sticking the tape to the edges a matter to be undertaken with some care.  We might opt for something simpler, but we used the same technique in creating screens for our hatches, and were impressed by the strength of it (including supporting our 17 pound boat cat who loves to sleep on top of the hatch screen).

We then set screw snaps around the Gorilla Tape edging.  While most of the big box stores have screw snap kits, with the stuff to set them, they usually only include about 6 snaps, so after we had the kit, we went on the web and ordered a larger amount of the snaps themselves. Trust me, you're gonna use twice as many of these as you think you are.  Places we didn't intend to open, we used small stainless screws and washers instead as a cheaper, faster alternative.

Most of the big box hardware stores carry these, but once you have the setting tools, it's much better to buy the snaps in bulk.


The paper backing is rolled up with the Flexoglass and not only helps keep it clean and unscratched, it also helps you SEE the damn stuff.
No way around it, setting the snaps is tedious.  There are pliers designed for this, but they're REALLY pricey, so unless  your setting hundreds of snaps, you're likely stuck with a hammer and this stuff.
If you're careful, though, the look is pretty clean.
Attaching the male part of the screw snaps is a matter of holding the glazing in place to make sure where the snaps fall and screwing them in place.  There is VERY little wiggle room here, if you want the stuff to lay flat.  The next time we do this I might consider edging the glazing and screwing it in place with screws and washers, then removing it and using those holes for the snaps, both on the glazing and on the boat.  Yes, that would probably work pretty well.  Duh.

About 3/4 way through the install, we had a night of VERY high winds, gusts in the 50mph range.  We got knocked around pretty good, but if I had any doubts about the strength of 4mil Flexoglass, they were assuaged that night.  No damage, nothing pulled through, nothing even came unsnapped.  Lesson learned.

We're not fully finished yet.  The front is probably going to be rigid lexan, and right now it's enclosed with a blue tarp, and there are still some gaps around the top of the Flexoglass for which we still have to fabricate a fill, but the enclosure has already made a huge difference. I can see that we'll be able to use the cockpit as another living space through most of the winter, and that pleases me.  As I sit here at the laptop, it's 42F outside and we're both sitting here in our stocking feet with the main companionway open to the wheelhouse and the heat off.  Interior temperature is a bit over 60F. Actually it's warmer in the cockpit.  Not a sauna, but I'll take it.

It's been a beautiful, mild late fall here.  Some days have hit the 60's and we've not had really any terrible weather of late, which has let us get a lot of things done that might otherwise have been miserable and problematic.  The boats are coming out of the Marina and being stored up on the hard apace, and very soon, it will just be about 20 livaboards afloat here on the middle river.

Within a few weeks, the lovely water will still be here, the boats will not.
Also our favorite local farm Zahradka's  has been cranking out some truly amazing local, sustainable produce.
George Zahradka does some great growing here in MD
So all in all it's shaping up to be a warm and yummy early Winter.  More shortly.

M


Friday, November 17, 2017

Dealing with Cold III

So we wound having an amazingly  F*%*%*^ing irritating and frustrating day today.  You know the kind.  Tools you needed seem to have dropped into a black hole and reemerged in Calcutta, you discover you've mismeasured, miscounted, and misappropriated just about everything, and you woke up in a pissy mood to begin with.  You know those?

We began working on cutting and seaming and reinforcing the edges of the Flex-o-glass to enclose the pilot house.  It was freaking miserable.  No fault of the materials mind you.  It was a combination of poor planning, general irritability, and Waaaaaaaay too much wind to make doing this comfortable.  Still, we persisted and got one of the panels in to figure out how to proceed.

We've used GorillaTape to rim and reinforce the edges of the Flexoglass and then punched snaps through the tape to be able to connect to screw snaps on the boat.

Snaps set into the gorillatape.
Weve used the GorillaTape/snaps trick before to make screening for our hatches, and it's held up really amazingly well.....I mean our freaking 17 pound cat sleeps on top of the screen and it hasn't collapsed so I count that as a success.  Anyway, the actual installation of the tape and snaps on the Flexoglass is really pretty simple.  The Flexoglass is 4mil, surprisingly tough, amazingly clear, and really pretty simple with which to work.  After many trials and tribulations with which I shan't bore you, we managed to position the snaps on one of the correctly cut panels and install it on the screw snaps on the boat.

See it?  No?  That's the Idea.
The above picture shows what we like about it.  The middle panel is glazed.  No, really, it is.  The stuff is damn near invisible.  You can see against the boat's fiberglass surrounding the cockpit the black outline of the glazing panel, and that's about it.

So apart from being in a crappy mood, hating the wind, and not being well enough organized (which is, apparently, my hobby) we actually did get some decent things done.  We now know how to do this, and will hopefully get lots more done tomorrow, and we learned that. . . .well. . . .the stuff will work.

Okay, we didn't actually know that going into this.

So dinner and a bottle of wine is in order.

More tomorrow

M

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Dealing with Cold II

Well today, finally--FINALLY--the flexoglass showed up for enclosing our wheelhouse.  Flexoglass is a VERY clear plastic sheeting, about 4 mil, that is often used to enclose porches and the like.  We'll be using it to turn our wheelhouse into a greenhouse for the winter.

New support struts to our solar roof to facilitate the enclosure.  Dealing with the weird angles on a sailboat hull can be a challenge.
We spent most of the day installing a series of new support struts to which we'll attach our new, clear membrane around the wheelhouse.  Since this is an old sailboat hull (a cal 2-29 to be specific) some of the angles are, to put it mildly, bizarre.  The Flexoglas turned up way too late today for us to do much about it, so that's the agenda tomorrow.  Will give  you a full report, but, from sitting in the cockpit this afternoon in the sun, the whole concept looks promising.

We've finally gotten a bit of cold weather here on the Chesapeake, but the last couple of days have been beautiful, so we took the opportunity to go hiking in one of our favorite spots, Marshy Point Nature Center.  It's really beautiful this time of year, and, frankly, we need to get out of the boat and get some exercise that didn't involve construction.

Where ever you are, there is a place like this near you.  Take advantage of it.
We love Marshy Point.  It has a great staff, a cool little interpretive center, and miles of well maintained and marked trails through some of the most varied flora and fauna I've encountered.

Really a lovely day to do some hiking.
 This time of year, in particular, the lycopodium stands out.  The club moss looks like tiny pine trees.  It's cheerful, evergreen, has lots of medicinal uses, and is vaguely explosive. . . .

One of the few explosive plants of which I am acquainted.


. . .no kidding about that last one.  The spores were used in flashpans for early photography and are still used for magician's flash powder.

So tomorrow we begin closing in the wheelhouse, which should make for a MUCH more pleasant winter.  Will give you pictures and a description of how we're doing it shortly.

Stay Tuned.

M


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Dealing with cold

It's interesting, we've had some pretty unseasonably cold weather here the last few days (following some unseasonably WARM weather) and everyone we run into at the Marina keeps going "are you guys okay?  Are you warm enough?"

Um, thanks for asking.

But if we weren't, we'd be in a hotel.  Seriously, folks,, 80 square feet isn't hard to heat, though you do have to take some things into consideration.  First of all, since most boats are poorly insulated, air leaks are an issue.  We've crammed discarded foam into every crevice we can find in the evenings to make sure we don't lose the heat we have.

Some gonzo foam insulation we stuff in the hatch when we button up for the night
Another issue is, of course, condensation

The confined space of a V berth, covered over with hard, uninsulated fiberglass, is a formula for condensation.  You're in there, you're breathing, and your breath condenses on the ceiling.  It's not impossible for it to rain.  No foolin.

In the original Floating Empire, we had a problem with condensation collecting between the ceiling fabric and the membrane which could suddenly result in a waterfall . . . .of course, directly over the bed.  Here aboard Tesla's Rvenge, there's less of a gap in which water might collect, but still the roof above  your head can glisten with water.  It can get unpleasant.  Partly, we solved that with a small, Peltier device dehumidifier that did a great job of removing moisture from the small space (see here).

Of course, with the first of the cold winds coming on, we took the gizmo out of storage to discover that it's power supply had shorted out.  Ah well.

Candles help.

Right now, it's comfy inside, with our new insulation in place, and some candles going, and lots of blankets in the V birth.  We'll be snug and fine.

Winter aboard a boat is at the same time a problem and rather simple.  Insulate the drafts, deal with the condensation, and you'll be fine.  Frankly, we're looking forward to it.

More shortly

M .

Friday, November 3, 2017

Fall and Winter Prep

Well it's been an unseasonably warm fall here on the Chesapeake. . . .hardly surprising with what's been happening with temperatures everywhere. . . .but we've had our first few chilly nights, and given that, we've begun our cold weather prep here aboard Tesla's Revenge.

Fall here can be drop dead gorgeous.
I've had a number of people ask me what we do for prep, and the general answer is "not a lot".  Really, most boats being rather small spaces, heating them isn't a lot of a challenge, and the Marina installs ice eaters to keep the docks clear of river ice during the few outrageously cold days of winter.

We will be taking some steps, however.  In a week or so (as soon as the materials show up) we'll be glazing in the wheelhouse with flex-o-glass, a super clear glazing film used for enclosing screen porches and the like.  That will turn our wheel area into a big greenhouse during the winter and help keep us cozy. 

We've also installed the carpeting we normally leave up in the summer months to keep our toes warm, and dragged down the heater from the basement up in the marina office 

So when we do finally get some chilly weather, we'll be as ready as. . .well. . .as we get.

People always say "isn't it COLD?" when we say we overwinter on the boat. I always say, yep, outside, just like it is where you live.  Inside an 80 square foot space, keeping it cool enough with a heater is more of a challenge than it being chilly.

I love the Fall here.  The boats are, one by one, being pulled up onto the hard, which frees up our view of the river, and the whole place becomes quiet and peaceful.  Soon, we'll be one of only about 20 or so boats still in the water, and that suits us fine.  By spring, we'll be ready for company, but for now, the quiet, and time to write and cook amazing meals and just relax is at hand, and I'm ready for it.

More shortly.

M

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Stalling

Okay, so if seems like we're stalling telling you about the electric motor install and our initial sea trials with said,  . . .well

. . .okay, we're stalling.  We are STILL missing the reversing contactor and the adapter to connect the motor shaft to our drive shaft, and, since the installation will tear up the whole back end of the boat for a couple of days, I'm kinda not wanting to do anything back underneath the cockpit until we can do ALL the stuff.

So we've been doing other things, brewing hard ciders, making meals, and, in general, enjoying what is being a really beautiful fall here on the Middle river.

Filtering a wonderful new batch of pumpkin and apple cider.  Tis the season.
Filled bottles doing a bit of secondary fermentation and carbonation.  Can't wait.
Of course one thing we had to deal with this morning--and it's unusual--was a massively high tide.  This one was weird.  My spouse dragged me out of the sack a little after 7AM saying the water was nearly over the dock.  By the time I pulled on some jeans and got off the VERY high riding boat, the wet stuff had risen above the boards ( in all of about ten minutes) and I was sloshing down the dock checking people's lines, some of which were, due to the boats riding so high, tight as bowstrings. 
Um, surely the wet stuff is supposed to be on the UNDER side of the dock, right?
Half an hour later, it was back below the boards, then an hour later, back above for a few minutes. . . we finally figured out it was being driven by an unseasonable south wind downstream shoving around some heavy rains that were flowing into the bay from PA.

Ah well, living aboard.  Just part of the fun.  I kid, but it IS fun, even stuff like this.

Heard from David, the gentleman who bought our shantyboat "Floating Empire" from us, and found out that he's doing a major rebuild, replacing and adding to the floatation, replacing the side walls, and, in general, doing the stuff that needs to be done to extend the life of our beloved Shanty.  Good on you, Sir.

So here we sit, enjoying the leaves changing, taking trips in our little inflatable kayak, brewing beer and cider. . . .Gail is doing artwork madly (here see Life, Art, Water, her blog) and I'm currently working on two, count em, TWO new novels, one of them a sequel to The Ganymeade Protocol (which has been oft requested).

Livaboard life.  Recommend it.

More later, 

M

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

Saturday, July 29, 2017

We apologise for the inconvenience. . . .

We've a ton of photos and new posts on the current work on "Tesla's Revenge", but our lovely little marina is having some SERIOUS bandwidth problems of late, which is making  uploading just about impossible.  They're working on it, and should have it functional by the end of the weekend, but if not, I'll drag the laptop over to a starbucks and get some of this stuff here on the blog.  Stay tuned.  Lotsa stuff coming as soon as we can.

M

Friday, July 21, 2017

Making a Simple, snap-on Screen

Screening in hatches, ports, companionways, and the like on vessels and tiny homes can be a pain. The surfaces are often uneven, the openings far from square, and, in general, trying to fabricate something like a screen that will stay in place and keep out the native insect life can be as much of a pain as.  .well. . .as the native insect life.

Window screens for the original Floating Empire were never satisfactory, as they involved lots of staples and not a lot of finesse.
We've found that a relatively simple expedient can be created, however, just through the use of screw-in snaps.

These simple screw in snap kits contain all the tools you need, save a hammer.
The method is really simple.  Cut your screening to fit and trim the edges with a stout tape or cloth.  We used Gorilla gaffer's tape.  Set your female snaps per the package instructions into the tape rim, then mark where the snaps will fall on the surface of the window opening and screw in the male part of the snap there.

It makes for a clean, easily removable, bug free screening system.
Since the whole system is non-rigid, it will easily adapt to virtually any opening.  Have a mind:  if drilling the snaps into fiberglass, a pilot hole is recommended as the screws can bind and snap off.

Anyway, just wanted to pass this along.  We've now got a screened main forward hatch and a LOT less mosquito intrusion.

More shortly

M

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Saga of the Great Unmasting

So if you've followed this latest project of ours, you'll know that Tesla's Revenge, formerly a Cal 2-29 sailboat, had some issues that prevented her from being a . . .well. . .sailboat.  The supports that spread the force from the deck-stepped mast to the keel were shot, literally rusted to bits the size of coins, and that was, of course, one of the reasons we got her cheap.

Having re-assembled the interior, rewired stuff out the wazoo, and begun serious work on our wheelhouse, it was time to get rid of said troublesome mast in order to proceed with our conversion of the vessel into an electric cruiser.  Unfortunately, the marina where we're berthed, lovely as it is, lacks a crane to do this, and the nearest boatyard that can handle unstepping the mast is some miles down Middle River and up Frog Morter Creek, and, lacking either sails or a motor, getting over there was somewhat problematic.  But the boat DOES have an outboard mount, and, with an outboard borrowed from the former owner, we decided we could make the trip to Maryland Marina under our own power.

The Captain at his helm, mug of Iced Tea at the ready.  Note how hopeful he seems.
The day started auspiciously, with virtually no wind.  The borrowed motor started up instantly.  We did a wonderfully graceful job of getting out of the slip and into the center of Middle River.  All in all, quite the happy start.  I'd never been by water to Maryland Marina before (we did go to check it out by car just to be able to recognize the place) but I had the Navonics app on my smartphone, a functioning radio, maps on our computers. . . .the cat even seemed calm with his home suddenly deciding to move.  It was all good.

Okay, full disclosure here:  I have this paranoid distrust of internal combustion engines of any kind.  The guys at the marina all seem to love tinkering with them, listening to them, messing with them, talking about them. . . me, I seem to have a native antipathy to them.  I always assume they're going to fail, usually when I least expect it.  One of the effects of this paranoia is that I spend the ENTIRE TIME a motor is running listening for every hiccough, every burp and burble, convinced that something dire is about to happen.

But happily, nerve wrackingly, it didn't.

We even managed to find the Marina with only a minimum of angst.  All in all, the trip over failed to suck.  The Cal's huge rudder made steering a breeze, and the boat proved responsive and easy to manage.

Okay, to the mast.
The mast is a MOOSE.  You can also see some of our gonzo cribbing.
 The mast on this thing is a beast, the Cal being designed for offshore racing.  It's big and it's thick and it's long and the idea we had was to pull the thing and lay it across the new wheelhouse, along with a tripod of cribbing at the bow, then to motor back to Middle River Landing and remove the thing with the marina's sling.

As you can see, this thing is NOT short.
The whole process is kind of daunting.  The Marina made it look easy.

The crane was on it's own truck, and our beloved cat Magellan was totally freaked out by it, by the motor noise, by being off the boat (albeit with a leash) in a strange place.  I don't blame him.  Staring straight up at the mast, you really don't get a sense of how LONG the thing really is.  When they lowered it onto our cribbing, some of which nearly skittered off the deck during the loading process.  We lashed it on to the lifeline stands with some heavy line and managed to get it seated and tied down.

Tied down and mercifully back at our slip.
Of course, the entire way back, every creak and groan of the cribbing and the wheelhouse frame, every wave we hit, every burble of the motor, made me ABSOLUTELY SURE that with the next idiot powerboater's wake we would see the mast crashing into the water, dragging all our woodwork with it, COMPLETELY POSITIVE the motor was going to die any moment, leaving us stranded and void of course in the midst of the mixing bowl that is the lower Middle River.  AAAAAHHHH!   AAAAAHHHH!    AAAAAHHHHH!

It was not restful.

OMFG what an ordeal. 
We arrived back home, intact but stressed to the max and utterly exhausted (cat included).  The next day we pulled the mast off and set it on the hard using the Marina's boat sling.  That, at least, went smoothly.

But it's done.  Now we have a host of wiring and solar panels and electronics to deal with, but THAT, at least, I'm at ease with.

Not doing this again anytime soon, though.....sheesh.

Enjoy the summer.  We hope to be mobile and have lots new and happier stories for you by month's end.

This is a gin and tonic and I've earned it, so there.

Enjoy

M