Saturday, July 29, 2023

Soft Start Install on Dometic ECD 10K Air Conditioner

 We added a Soft Start to our Dometic AC System on board our Catalina 34 Sailboat

We have had our Dometic ECD 10K AC unit since 2016 and we would power it at Anchor with our Honda eu2000i Generator, they worked well together.

Then I upgraded the electrical system on our boat to a Victron System which is really clever, even too clever!  When we run the generator and turn on the AC, the Victron would detect that the generator output was insufficient during the AC Startup and it would then start powering the AC from our LiFePo4 Batteries. That's great, until the battery power is too low and then we're without DC power. But we could run the Multiplus in Charge only mode and recharge the batteries, but that process is a pain.

Researching pro electrician 'Google', it seemed that a Soft Start would solve the issue.

I contacted Dometic and they confirmed that a soft start would help but when I contacted a local dealer, I found that the recommended Soft Start device would cost $700 !!!!! Wow!  Searching the web, I found several vendors that sold similar devices at over $300 but then I found SpartanStart for $180, a significant difference from the local dealer $700 for the Dometic device. I called Spartan and they recommended the SpartanStart - Softstart and advised that if I had any issues with the install I could call them and they would walk me through the process.

Installation was easy! The AC unit is beneath our V-Berth, so we removed all of the bedding, mattress and locker covers from the V-Berth

Step 1: Connect Shore Power and turn on the AC - Just to make sure it's working normally.

Step 2: Disconnect Shore power

Step 3:  Remove the Cap on the top of the compressor that covers the electrical wiring that connects the electronics box to the AC unit. There's a single screw that also secures the Ground terminal to the Compressor. 
Underneath that cap are the connectors to the compressor, there's 3. Run, Start and Common. Colors are as shown in the pic below.
Now that I knew which color was what, I replaced the cap.

Step 4: The individual wires are inside a plastic, split, conduit. I separated the conduit about midway from the top of the Compressor and the Electronics unit, and pulled the three wires needed out of the conduit.

Step 5: I cut the wires one at a time and crimped them to the correct wire as shown in the diagram above.  That's 6 crimps. 

Step 6: Time to test;
First I reconnected shore power and turned on the AC unit, after it's typical delay it turned on and started to pump out cold air.  Looking good so far.

Next I disconnected shore power and connected it to our Honda eu2000i generator and switched it to, what I call is 'Turtle' mode - it's a power saving option. The generator runs at minimum power and adjusts the power on demand.  Time to test the AC on the Generator. 

Turning on the AC system, it had it's usual delay, not noticeably different from when the AC starts up on Shore power.  The AC ran and the generator barely changed it's output.

The AC unit pulls about 900Watts when running.

At this point, the AC was running and the Victron system was showing that all power was coming from the Generator ( shore power ) and that no power was coming from the Battery.

We left the AC running and tested it running on the inverter powered by the batteries. I simply switched off the master shore power switch. The AC didn't even blink, it continued running but now pulling the 900Watts from the Battery ( 12.8v x 100a *3 = 3840 Watts ) 
With the AC running off the batteries, I turned the master shore power switch back on and after the normal delay the Victron Multiplus turned on and started powering the AC system, there was plenty of  power available from the generator, so the Victron Multiplus started to recharge the batteries.

With everything working correctly, time for a bit of wire management, and a few zip ties pulled it all together.

This was a major step towards our cruising plans. With the current heatwave that is being experienced all over the East coast of the USA, we believe we'll need the ability to run the AC from the Honda Generator.

See  you on the water and if we're running our generator at Anchor, then it'll probably be for the AC unit and it will probably be running in turtle mode.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Sailboat Sunshade

 Making a Sailboat Sunshade for our Catalina 34 Sailboat

We have a 10K AC unit on board and a Honda eu2000i generator to keep us cool in the boat, but the heat transfer through the deck into the Main Cabin and the V-Berth is incredible and really puts a strain on the AC unit. Solution: Make a Sunshade to cover the Deck from the Bow to the Cockpit ( The Cockpit has a Dodger and Bimini so that is typically well shaded.

The fabric that I have chosen is from Sailrite, $11 per yard, 150" wide - that's 12'6" or if cut in two, it's 6'3" or 5'7" when double hemmed.

It's not a solid fabric, so rain should pretty well pass through it and it will also not act too much like a sail.

The material is easily sewn and I plan to add grommets along the edges and use bungees or ties to secure the panels to the boat.

I plan on making 3 panels.

The Purple panel will cover most of the foredeck, I hope it will extend slopping down towards the bow so that the rain tends to run away from the mast. The Red, Port and Green Stbd panels will cover each side and extend from the mast, aft to the Dodger, the sail cover will slope down towards the lifelines.

By making it three panels, each panel will be more manageable, I'll make a sack for each of them.

The aft end of the port and stbd panels will connect to the front of the dodger at the grab rails. 

My purchase was 10 yards of the material, that should be plenty. I have purchased shade material from sailrite before but it was a lot less expensive, this is a very nice material. On the sailrite site, it is "Shade/Privacy Fence Fabric Blue 150"

From a scale drawing, I figure the sizes to be ( allowing for seams ):-
  1. Purple: 
    1. 11' wide aft edge -> Make that max width of the fabric to allow for slope and 3" hem each side for the grommets or 12'
    2. 3'6" wide on forward edge -> make that 4'6" to allow for slope and hems
    3. 10' 6" fore-n-aft - plus 6" for the hems or 11'
  2. Red & Green
    1. 5'4" wide  -> Make that 1/2 of the max fabric width or 6'6"
    2. 8'9" fore-n-aft -> 9'3" with hems
That's one piece 12' x 4'6" x 11' Trapezoid
Two pieces  6'6" x 9'3"

The extra widths will allow the fabric to slope down towards the sides of the deck.

I'll add a second layer to reinforce the areas where the grommets will be installed. I'll use Brass or Stainless Steel Grommets

They will need slots for the shrouds, no need for zippers to close them I'll just put loops and toggles to close the slots. Again, reinforce the edges of the grommets.

Also, they will need cords to attach them to the mast and the lifelines, however, I might run a line horizontally from the shouds back to the dodger grab rails, that would possibly improve the deck access forwards, else it will either mean crawling to go forward or unhitching the shade panels on the side in order to walk along the deck.

I'll double check the measurements next time at the boat and establish the distance from the mast to the shrouds so that I know where the slots start, will also have to measure the distance from the front and back edges of the mast to each shroud.

Ok, the plan is made. Get the numbers and start to make them.

Foredeck cover - ready to fit.

The first piece is cut and sewn, only took a couple of hours. It has a 1.5" double hem all the way around. That's wide enough to install gromets in the long sides and the corners. We'll go down to the boat tomorrow to do a test fit. Install the gromets and it should be ready to go.

Oh! good news too. The Foredeck cover folds up to about 18" by 12" by 6" and that is the largest piece. 
I'll make stowage bags for each of the three pieces 

Port & Stbd Covers complete.
That's the last two pieces done. Bags and all. Fit great. I might put another grommet in the outboard edges but will wait till we have tried them out this weekend.

Where to store them when not in use?

I'm guessing that the fabric will not last long if left in the South Florida Sunshine 24/7, so the plan is to stow them below but where?

No room in the anchor locker. I don't want them ( the 3 cover bags ) loafing around in either the main cabin or the aft cabin and the V-berth is pretty well reserved for our belongings.

That leaves either the Port Cockpit locker or the stern lazarette. There's room in both but the least used is the lazarette. I'll put some hooks on the port side in there and hang the bags.  I'll also put colored tags on the bags to match the covers - Red for port side, Green for stbd and Red & Green for the bow cover.   

Ok, we're into prep of the boat for this weekends trip up to Lake Boca. As always, I have a long list of things that I need  get done.

We used them in earnest for the first time over the Oktoberfest weekend. What a difference! Ok, so the weather was perfect and had dropped a few degrees, still in the high 80's low 90's, Fahrenheit but the cabin stayed so much cooler that we didn't even need to run the Generator while at anchor on Lake Boca.

I'll add a few extra pics when I get the chance ( ie, when I'm on someone else's boat and can see them from a distance.

See you on the water - if we're at anchor then we'll probably have our 'tarps' on. ( they are not tarps, but the material is a similar color to blue tarps 😂





Friday, July 14, 2023

Fuel Gauge Failure

 Our Fuel Gauge Failed 

On the last couple of trips, our Fuel Gauge became erratic. I would drop from showing 3/4 full to Empty or some other significant change in reading. I would normally put that down to a bad wiring connection however, I rebuilt the entire engine control panel in 2016 and I know I did a really good job ensuring all of the connections were solid. ( Crimped ! ) But still worth checking out the wiring.

The engine instruments are all on a common power supply and a common earth and the wires are connected to the instruments via ring terminals and nut and bolt attachments. All were secure. The other earth on the fuel gauge system is at the fuel tank itself, but that was solid too and using a Multimeter the resistance was less than 1Ω.

Next suspect was the Sender.

It's a pretty simple unit. The float opens/closes a series of reed switches as it moves up or down the shaft of the sender.

That changes the resistance of the sender and the gauge displays the fuel level dependent upon the resistance.

The tank is located on the Port side aft, Access is by removing the plywood bulkhead on the port side of the Aft Berth. 
I removed the sender from the tank and we tested it by moving the float up and down, ah ha! it would intermittently operate correctly, so I have to consider that one or more of the read switches is faulty.

Disconnecting the sender from the system and testing with a multimeter confirmed it was the sender.

I had ordered a replacement Sender and Gauge so that I was prepared if it turned out to be either of them.

The new sender did not work with the old gauge but the new gauge was the same size so it was a reasonably easy swap out.

The Gauge is not just a simple voltage meter!
When the power is applied, the gauge lights up to the selected background color choice then the needle moves from E to F, back to E and then it moves to indicate the current fuel level. It does this very smoothly. I found this a really nice feature, the needle moving in that way indicates that the system is working.

Once the system was wired in, all that remained was to replace the engine control panel, sealing the edges with Butyl tape - that makes it easy to remove if needed. Then secure the wiring at the tank end and replace the wooden bulkhead.

Most of the time taken was in testing the various components and wiring.

Kit details: 100TECH Boat Fuel Sending Unit with Gauge 11"(280mm) 
SUS316 Stainless Steel Marine Fuel Level Sender Sensor 240-33ohm

I opted for the 11" sender rather than the 12" that would still fit, if the gauge reads empty, then we have at least 1.5" of fuel in the tank. Consider it a reserve.

I purchased the kit from Amazon $69.

The only near hiccup was that the float on the new sender is slightly wider ( Dia. ) than the old unit but it fit snuggly. The kit included a new gasket, screws and butt connectors.

Just an FYI, we never fill the tank to Full - I really do not want to risk fuel overflow so when the gauge reads over 3/4 full we stop filling! We always carry at least 2 x 6 gallon fuel cans. So our normal capacity is 23 gallons in the tank plus up to 24 gallons in cans on deck. That gives us about 45 gallons and at 1 gallon per hour, we're good for 45 hours of motoring. 

One last thing: When we are motoring, we have a routine of 'checking the heartbeat'. About every 15 minutes, we'll check the engine status:- Look over the stern to ensure water is pumping out the exhaust, Check the engine Temperature and Fuel level.  If I'm in the cabin and Peggy at the helm, all I need do is tap my wrist with two fingers and Pegs gets the message then checks the Heartbeat.  

See you on the water.

Monday, July 10, 2023

Solar Panel Wiring & Mounts

Managing the Solar Panel Wiring

Currently, the Solar Panels on Eximius have their power wires secured with zip ties down the Bimini Support Stainless Steel tubing. The same type of zip ties are used to secure the wires that run up the Pedestal Support tubes to the electronics at the helm: Chartplotter, Depth Display unit, Auto Pilot control and display as well as the general data display and finally the VHF Remote Microphone.

Those Zip Ties have to be replaced at least once a year due to them breaking down as a result of UV damage.  

While aboard a friends boat this past weekend, I noticed that his wiring is secured using much larger zip ties. The Brand is TR Ultra Heavy Duty Multi-purpose cable ties -- UV resistant,  Black

They are 11.8" long and .49" wide, 0.067in thick.

The pic shows the typical thin zip tie that I get from Harbor Freight and the TR Zip tie. Literally a Huge difference.

The Pack of 50 is sold on Amazon $20, here's the link there are other sizes ( various lengths. ) 

When I install the new solar panels in the next week or two ( awaiting delivery ) I plan on running the wires down the Radar Support Post instead of the Bimini frame.

I see several benefits to using these larger width zip ties.
      1. UV Resistant - We live in South Florida - Enough said
      2. Larger Width - The extra width expands the area of wire reducing point loading.
      3. Appearance - they look so much better than their thin counterparts.

Moving nearer to installing the new Solar Panels !!

I have decided on the rail mounts. Recently, I assisted in the install of 1200 Watts of solar panels on a Trawler, we used Aluminium Rails and mounts to secure the Panels to the roof of the boat. That worked out really well so I'm going to use the same products.

Ok, onto the Solar Panel Mounts.

The existing panels are mounted on top of the Bimini supported by a hodge podge of rails made of Wood or Aluminum square tube or Aluminum U channel. It does not look neat and tidy and the wooden rail is suffering, I'm removing all 3 rails and replacing them with Aluminum Rails

The pieces of rail are only 30" long but can be connected together easily with a solid bar that fits in the square slot.

I have a total of 10 pieces plus 2 half lengths left over from my buddies Solar Project.

So there is 300 inches of rail and the rails are about 60" long or between 2 pieces and 2 + 1/2 piece, so I have plenty of rails and also plenty of the various fittings to attach the rails to the Bimini and the solar panels to the rails.

I purchased additional connector pieces as the kit only had 2 of them, the additional ones are solid but have the same function.

Ideally, the panels would all touch the adjacent panel, but the Back Stay cables prevent the two aft panels doing that, however, I hope that the forward edge of the two aft panels will be able to touch and connect to the front most panel.

Starting this week ( July 11th 2023 )

See you on the water.

Update to include links to the Solar Panel Rail Kits that I used.
The rails are 30" long and can be joined. The aft rail is about 68" long so that is made from two full length pieces and a short one in the center. The other two rails are 60" so just two pieces joined together.

I put rubber plugs ( Black Sink Stoppers from ACE Hardware ) between the rails and the Bimini Tubing to support the rails ( they also act as a water barrier over the holes drilled through the Bimini canvas and the tubing.)

Here's the link to the rail Kits  I had needed two kits for my install.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

July 4th Cruise 2023

No Wind = more of an RV event than an SV event for Eximius

High tide dictated that we would have to leave the dock on Thursday evening so we loaded the boat Thursday afternoon, it was Hot! so we plugged in shore power in order to run the Air Conditioning. We left the dock about 18:45, it was looking like we would have good weather but no wind, so our plan was to anchor overnight at Sunrise Bay. We dropped anchor before the Sun went down and made a dinner ( see that disaster here

Oh! we tried out our new Anchor Ball in Sunrise Bay and it gets my ***** votes right now. I have it setup for a 12' 1/8" white line from the ring on the ball to a spring hook to attach to the Anchor chain close to the Anchor shaft. That way, the ball will float without trying to pull up on the anchor in waters up to 12' deep. 

It was nice being able to see where the anchor was relative to the boat, it also indicates where it is compared to other boats especially when they are dropping their anchor. The Bay was almost empty, plenty of room to anchor and our nearest neighbor was about 80' away ( we have a digital laser range finder ) and was the type of boat that would not stay overnight - no cabin.

Ouc  cabin was reasonably cool overnight so we slept well although I did get up at 2am to turn off the dry bilge system, it's not that it's loud, but just annoyingly loud enough to cause me to wake from a not very deep sleep. Once the dry bilge system was turned off, I was able to go back to sleep.

We woke up around 7am and had a cereal breakfast with skillet toast and that so important Coffee! The morning was off to a good start.  After breakfast, Peggy took the helm while I hauled in the Anchor Snubber and then we worked together as I pulled the anchor and Pegs kept the boat so that the anchor chain was mostly straight up and down. We wore our headsets and that always makes it easy to communicate. Once the anchor was up, the anchor ball removed and everything stowed, Peggy turned us to the East side of the Bay so that we could turn North on the ICW.

There was no wind, as expected, so we motored up the ICW and easily made all of the bridges. We have a Cheat Sheet with all the ICW bridges listed and the distance and time to the next bridge if we were traveling at 5 knots.  We had the ICW on the nose all the way up to Lake Boca. Not many boats on the center of the Lake, however, we were able to anchor about the center of the North side of the lake. We used the anchor ball again and this time it was really useful.  Most of the boats along that North side of the lake are in various states of abandonment and they are permanently anchored and not necessarily on reliable anchor rodes.  But we anchored safely and the anchor ball helped us know where we were relative to the anchor. Most of the night, the anchor ball was touching our hull, so we were over the top of the anchor.

We had a cooked breakfast of eggs, sausage, tomatoes and skillet toast plus the coffee. Then it was time to cleanup the deck. We get a lot of tree droppings landing on the boat at the dock. While I was sorting out the deck, a guy came along on his JetSki and asked if I knew who had set the mooring ball off of our Bow. I explained that it was our anchor marker ball. He then proceeded to tell me how a boat had broken free of it's anchor and had collided with his dock  - mind you! His dock is on the frontage of his huge home that overlooks the lake. He told me that he pays $250,000 taxes a year for the property and that he had 'poop' in the water by his dock. Then he went on to complain about the boats in the lake emptying their poop buckets in the lake and rinsing them out.

Ok, let's keep this straight. I don't care how much you pay in taxes or even if you don't pay any taxes. In my mind, it doesn't matter - we all deserve clean water and none of us want to swim in a Bay that is polluted by human waste. 

Personally, we take pride in running a clean boat. We just spent $$$$ on replacing the toilet hoses and pumping out the holding tank as well as replacing the Macerator pump on our waste system. I'm happy to report that our system is smell free. Also, the Thruhull for the waste system is locked off and cannot be accidently opened. That's the Law! To my knowledge, all of the members of our sailing club that own boats follow that same law. 

However! When we see boats anchored for months, if not years, in the Lake and never moving, plus there is no mobile pumpout facility close to the lake, then those boats do not 'pumpout' and if there are people living on the boats, they must produce some waste and they need to dispose of that in a healthy manner. By the way! Wrapping it up in garbage bags and dumping it ashore in a trash can is not a healthy manner!

So, I understand the complaint of the home owner about finding poop along his dock - I must admit I have my doubts about that - poop disintegrates in water pretty quickly especially when there are plenty of power boats navigating around the sides of the lake away from the anchored boats. Those power boats are like floating macerators!

Anchoring restrictions are an issue in South Florida, primarily due to boats being used as a really low cost housing option.  But I see no reason why those boats cannot be maintained in a healthy manner and I support local legislation that would enforce that.  

Florida has a program that encourages mobile and static pump facility services. It's probably abused by big corporations taking some of the grant money and then closing the facility ( Los Olas Blvd Marina might be an example of that )  We really do need pumpout facilities within reach of all anchorages. It should be easy to request a pumpout that would arrive within a few days, and local law enforcement could easily monitor that the pumpouts are being used without even visiting the boats.

Ok, end of Rant!

I'll close this post and start a part II covering the great weekend on the water and the parties with the HISC members on their boats.

See you on the water.


Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Replacing the Masthead Sheaves

Replacing the Masthead Sheaves on our Catalina 34 - In the water!

I plan to replace the Standing Rigging on our 1987 Catalina 34 Tall Rig Fin Keel later this year.

My plan  is to replace the rigging while the boat is in the water and not to pull the Keel Stepped Mast.

Pulling the mast would make it a lot easier, but it's crazy expensive here in South Florida. just to have the mast pulled. Just removing the mast and replacing it will cost about $3,000 !!!!! 

So, how to complete the task with the boat in the water?

The Rigging consists of 
  1. Forestay ( $600 )
  2. Backstay ( $1000 )
  3. Port & Stbd Upper Shrouds ( two ) ( $1900 )
  4. Port & Stbd - Fore & Aft Lower Shrouds ( two pair ) ( $1250) 
Rigging materials = $4750 + Taxes and Shipping -- Guesstimate $6000 ( as sold by CatalinaDirect )

The sheaves at the top of the mast are part of the Mast head and there lies the problem. I have gone up the mast several times ( 5 times in one month when our Wireless Wind Transducer Failed ) so I'm very comfortable about going up the mast and do not see any problems working to replace the standing rigging, but the sheaves are another problem because when I go up the mast, I am supported on the halyards that run on those sheaves that I want to replace!!!!

My solution is to install Mast Steps from about 6 feet from the top of the mast, the highest being enough to support me on both sides of the mast while removing the Masthead.

So, the plan would be to measure all of the rigging, purchase the correct size cable and new turnbuckles and any beckets that need to be replaced ( most of them ) and of course, purchase the mast steps.

Then going up the mast and install the mast steps. With the steps in place, I would replace the standing rigging one cable at a time. First I would backup the cable with a halyard or dyneema cable taking the strain off of the piece of standing rigging. Remove the piece of rigging and make up the replacement using Mechanical Fittings.

Next, onto the Mast Head.

There is a halyard that does not attach to the Masthead ( Spinnaker halyard ) I would use this to climb the mast using the other halyards to climb up the mast to reach the newly installed Maststeps.

At the top, I would unbolt the masthead and remove the sheaves, replace them with new sheaves and pins then replace the mast head.

Sounds pretty straight forward, but it is a boat!!!!

Posting this hoping to get some feedback on the project.

Rigging Dimensions