Saturday, August 15, 2020

Updating the Solar System - Part 2

 Part 2. Replacing the wiring

The existing wiring to the panels is primarily duel cable 10awg wire. The wires are attached to the terminal blocks inside the Panel Terminal boxes using twisted wire inserts. Those connections need to be correctly terminated.

In order to maintain consistent wiring practice between all three panels, the panels will connect to T branch connectors. This means that each panel will have a pair of wires from the terminal box to the T branch connector.
This means that the new panel can be installed at any time and thus allow completion of the system in advance of the arrival of the 3rd panel.

The good news is that the Solar Panel was due between September 13 - 19th, Amazon sent an update today stating that it would arrive between August 13 - 19th. That's next week WooHoo!

The Cable Gland kit from Amazon should have the appropriate size glands to create a waterproof insertion point for the 10AWG cables into the Panel Terminal Boxes.

Just so that it's obvious in 2030 - This is another of the boat projects that is being done during the 2020 Pandemic of Covid19. There's a degree of excitement about the work, it gets us out of the house and should improve the power system on the boat. We're going from 350 watts of solar power that we were told was on the boat when we bought her, to finding that we only had 230 watts of solar panels and then 130 watts after finding that the largest, 100watt, panel is defective. We should end up with 300 watts of solar with a max current of 3.69 amps + 3.59 amps +9.44 amps = 16.82 amps - but it will never get that high. I should be able to get 10 amps when needed.  Of course, the other benefit is that the wiring will be top grade, very reliable and, most importantly as far as satisfaction is concerned, we'll be able to monitor the Solar system which is something we cannot do right now. It's good to know that things are working correctly.

Update Saturday August 15th.

Made good progress today:- After removing the defective panel yesterday, today we worked on the wiring. Once I had detached the cables from the Blue Sky Solar Controller and traced them up into the aft end of the Nav Area covered shelving, Peggy started snipping the tiwraps that held the cables to the loom in the bathroom. Meanwhile, I removed the wires from the remaining two panels and extracted the main wire from the Panel mounting down to the Port Side Combing where it passes into the area inside of the Port Side Cockpit Locker

Once inside the locker, I was able to see where the cable came into it. There has to be a hundred tiwraps holding the loom together and to the large Exhaust pipe that reaches up to the top of the locker.

Just as we have found virtually everywhere in the boat electrical system, the Solar Panel Power wire has multiple connections, one was a 4 screw chocolate block and another was the dreaded twist, solder and cover with sticky electrical tape.

The new wire from the panels will be two pieces of continuous 10AWG wire.

While in the locker I was able to see the original Catalina Wiring for the Stern light glassed into the underside of the Combing area. 

As we make further improvements to the boat, I'm sure we'll fix the rest of the wiring in that area, I cannot think what it must all be for? I replaced the Engine Harness wiring a couple of years ago, so I know that's good.

With a heavy rain cloud in sight heading our way, we quickly stowed the locker contents and closed up the boat. By that time we had the cable double cable entry gland installed and the cables from the solar panels lead all the way into the Port side Locker. Monday we should be able to complete the wiring of the panels and the installation of the new Victron MPPT Solar controller.

When we got home, there was a pile of stuff from Amazon waiting on our doorstep. The Controller, Battery Smart Sense unit, 30 amp circuit breaker/switch, and the box of cable glands.
The only thing left to arrive is the new 170 Watt panel.

Part 3 should conclude this project. We're planning on a sailing trip next weekend the 22nd of August, so no pressure !!!

See you on the water.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Updating the Solar System

The Solar Problem

When we purchased Eximius, we were told that the Solar Panels were a total of 350Watts with 2 x 100 Watt panels and 1 x 150 Watt panel. The solar charge has never lived up to expectation, and I wondered why!

My first thought was that the supply wires from the panels to the solar charger were undersized and that we were experiencing voltage loss over the length of the wires.

The wires are twin 10AWG and length is approximately 24’ one way, or 48’ round trip.

Looking up in the electrical tables for the voltage loss over that length of 10AWG cable I found that the resistance of that wire is 48’ x .102Ω/100feet = 0.049Ω≈ .05Ω

With the panels connected in Parallel, the max current would be about 15amps

Voltage Drop, Vd, = I x R = 15amps * .05Ω = 0.75v

That's not a huge voltage drop but more than I would expect.

The Solar Panels are mounted on top of our Bimini so we cannot see the underside of them, and we didn’t think to take pics when we had the Bimini off a year ago for restitching. I took photos this week.

The panels are not 350Watts!!!!

We have 2 x BP365U solar panels which are each 65watt panels and 1 x ICP SolarTech 100w panel.

So total wattage would be 230Watts and that was when new, which seems to have been in 2003. They have a 25 year warranty of 80% nominal output. So realistically, we have somewhere between 180watts and 230watts.

So taking a mid point on the 17 year old panels, let’s say we have 200 watts. The panels in parallel should have a voltage of 21v and max current of 14amps. So my calculations above would seem valid.

We have a Blue Sky 251 2i Solar Boost MPPT Controller. Which has a 25v, 25amp capability. Which would seem very capable of handling the output of the panels and the battery charging.

Oh, the Batteries: We have 4 6volt Trogan 105 Batteries connected in series and parallel to provide a total of 12v and 450 Ah at the 20 hour discharge rate.

Upon inspection, we found that the Wire from the solar panels is showing signs of damage and the connections that join the panels in parallel are not up to my spec (they seem to be covered in electrical tape and liquid tape, yuk) also the wire passses through the top of the port side combing through a drilled hole which has been covered with a huge goop of silicone sealant. 

The MPPT controller does not have any management utility, there is an upgraded version that does, but it would be cheaper to replace the unit.

I have decided to replace the wiring, I’ll use individual 10AWG wires and MC4 connectors along with a suitable cable gland where the power line passes through the fiberglass of the boat. I’ll also change the MPPT controller for one that has a remote management facility (most likely bluetooth) in order to correctly tune the charger to the system, which will include a temperature sensor on the battery bank.

Now to decide on the controller and the wiring cables, connectors and the cable clam to provide a waterproof pass through.
  • 30' of 10 AWG Black Multi Strand Tinned Copper Wire
  • 30' of 10 AWG Red Multi Strand Tinned Copper Wire
  • 6 MC4 Connectors Male/Female Pairs
  • 1 of 1M-3F Branch Connector 
  • 1 of 1F-3M Branch Connector 
  • Twin Cable Clam
  • Victron SmartSolar MPPT 75/15 Solar Charge Controller 75V 15A with Bluetooth

 Found all of those on Amazon. I don't have a crimp tool for the MC4 connectors, hence choosing a kit that includes the crimper and wrenches. Here's a link to the shared ideas list on Amazon 

We went down to the boat today to further inspect the wiring. The Wire, Terminals and Crimp kit as well as the twin cable clam had all arrived, time to get dirty.

Step one was to remove the Bimini canvas so that we could get to the underside of the panels. The two 65w panels have terminal boxes affixed to their undersides, with the covers off I could see the connections and the diodes, that's a good start, but the larger panel wire is connected to the Stbd side aft panel (65w) via a hole in the terminal box and a large goop of silicone. Grrrr.

So, we tested the panels.

  • Port Side 65w BP Solar panel - 17.9 volts 3amps
  • Stbd Side 65w BP Solar panel - 17.9 volts 3amps

  • Foward 100w Solar Panel - 0.00volts 0.0amps
    • Inspecting the panel, it has no terminal block and I cannot see where any diodes could be fitted! The wiring looks awful and it's connected from the Port Aft corner of the panel to the terminal box  on the Stbd panel. I checked at the inter panel connections that are on this panel and they were all zeros! This panel it no use!

My conclusion is that the 100w panel is beyond my repair and is probably 13 years old.

Time to look for a new panel. I searched for a panel that was the same physical size 60in x 29in and could not find one, but I did find a 170w panel that uses Z brackets and they would extend the size of the panel by about 1.5" with luck it will fit, if not I'll just have to add a wider brace between the two aft panels and the new forward panel.

Here's the updated materials list

  • 30' of 10 AWG Black Multistrand Tinned Copper Wire
  • 30' of 10 AWG Red Multistrand Tinned Copper Wire ✔
  • 6 MC4 Connectors Male/Female Pairs ✔
  • 1 of 1M-3F Branch Connector ✔
  • 1 of 1F-3M Branch Connector ✔
  • Twin Cable Clam✔
  • Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/20 Solar Charge Controller 100V 20A with Bluetooth 
  • Victron Smart Battery Sense Long Range (Up to 10M)
  • BougeRV 170 watts Monocrystaline Solar Panel 12volts
  • BougeRV Solar Panel Mounting Z Brackets✔

Everything has either arrived or is ordered, the last item to arrive is, according to the amazon schedule, the solar panel due on September 3rd. Meanwhile I can get the other wiring taken care of. 


 So there's a few items to arrive, I hope to get as much as I can done before the new pan el arrives in September. I'll take more pics and post another article then. Maybe I can get Peggy to take a video showing what we are doing.

Stay tuned. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Just a bit of Boat Work

New Anchor

Our primary anchor has been a Delta 25lb plough style anchor. It gets great reviews, but we have dragged often even with 90' of anchor rode out in 7' of water, with a 4' anchor roller to water length that's 11' and 7:1 rode would be 77', yet we would still drag even after digging the anchor in by backing down.

West Marine had a new model of anchor that had a list price of $299 on sale for $68, at that price it was worth trying.  

To install the anchor, I first had to remove the existing anchor, the shackle was seized but soaking in WD40 for 24 hours. With the new anchor attached, I next needed to remove our secondary anchor which is past it's best by date by a few years. In order to remove it, I had to pull out all of the rode for both anchors. That's 100' of chain on the primary anchor and a further 250' of 7/8" 3 strand rope. Then the 50 of chain and 150' of 7/8l" rope on the old secondary anchor. 

With all of the rode out of the anchor locker, I was able to give it a significant clean, it's been a couple of years.

There was a plastic cover for an old hole near the top of the locker, I peeled that off and cleaned up the area then looked for a suitable cover.

I found a 'Sample' of formica available at Lowe's for $0.25 including shipping !!! 

I'm guessing that the hole (behind the white piece of formica) was probably the original position of the 12v power outlet which had been moved forwards so that it was out of the way of the flukes of the anchor.

To secure the panel in place, I used double sided duct tape, it stuck really well. The Delta anchor (shown in the lower left corner of the photo at left) does not have flukes that are likely to damage the sides of the anchor locker.

Then the rode for both anchors was put back in place, pretty neatly, by using a boat hook to push down the anchor line into the depths of the locker. 
That mesh bag seen in the right lower corner of that photo is the bag that contains our Snubber. Also in the locker is our Day Marker for when we use the anchor during the day.

Another job was to complete the new backing plate for the shower thermostat.  When I installed the thermostat, I didn't realize that the front of the control could be removed, so the hole drilled in the surface in which it was mounted was cut to allow the control handle to pass through. 
The thermostat is held in place by two pipe supports on the inside using 4 bolts. I replaced those today with countersunk bolts and then covered the hole with another piece of the Formica sample from Lowe's. Again, secured in place by using double sided duct tape.

The result is actually better then expected. The panel fits really well behind the thermostat control knob.

With this panel complete it looks much more 'finished'

The top edge of the panel slides up behind the underside of the teak countertop surround.

Last project for the day was to modify the way that the new fan in the v-berth was installed.

When the fan was attached to the teak on the port side of the v-berth, it was too close to the deck head. Consequently the fan could strike the deck head :( 

Today I removed the fan, screwed an extension  piece of teak about 7" tall to the teak rail and then the fan to the teak extension. The whole job took about 15 minutes, but that included getting the tools ready and the clean up afterwards. 

So today was a nice and quick visit with three projects crossed off the list.

We're hoping to be able to take the boat out on a cruise down to Biscayne Bay starting this weekend, but the weather is not cooperating, We're happy to let it slide for as long as necessary, but if we don't get away by Wednesday we'll take a break and spend a night at a hotel to celebrate. 

Hope to see you on the water.

Paul & Peggy

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Leak from Engine's Raw Water Filter

Leak from Engine's Raw Water Filter

During our Father's Day Weekend Cruisette, when we arrived at the Bahia Mar, we realized that the Bilge Pump had run twice and the Bilge had a couple of inches of water.

Peggy is always good at finding leaks, so while I was out chatting to boat buddies, Peggy was hunting down the leak. Turned out it was from the Engine's Raw Water Filter.

When I looked at it, water could be seen dripping out of the clear plastic cup that holds the filter.

I checked it was screwed onto the housing securely, it was, so I closed the Raw Water Thru hull and unscrewed the filter cup.

The cup has a seal and that seal appeared to have a split in it's surface. Upon removing the seal, I noticed that it was way to big for it's location, probably swollen for some reason. It was certainly not going to go back in place without a struggle which would probably worsen the split.

I had installed that new filter in 2018, and had also replaced the AC Raw Water Strainer with the same type of filter, figuring out that if ever the Engine Raw Water filter had an issue, I had a spare that I could steal from the AC unit.

I considered using the AC Raw Water strainer cup and seal to get us back home. After an extensive online search, I could not find a replacement seal, so I ordered two new Filter assemblies, one to fix the current issue and a spare. As the old filter cup was going to be replaced, I decided to replace the Seal with a ring of Silicone Sealant. After cleaning the Filter Cup and making sure it was totally dry, I applied a healthy coat of sealant in the grove where the seal should be. Then I let it cure for 24 hours.
Sunday afternoon an inspection of the silicone showed it was fully cured. I installed, the now repaired, filter cup and we did a test run of the engine. No leaks. WooHoo!

When we got home on Monday, the new filters were waiting on my doorstep.

Life is good.

See you on the water.

Father's Day Weekend 2020

Celebrating Father's Day with the HISC

Father's Day fell on Sunday June 21st 2020 (last weekend) right in the middle of the Pandemic which has caused most of us to be in some form of quarantine since the middle of March.

We joined other club members at the Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale, there were 6 boats in attendance from the club with a total of about 20+ crew.  The event was held after the Nederlanden Coastal Race from Hillsboro Inlet down to Port Everglades, but we (Eximius) did not race, we just went directly to the Bahia Mar from our Dock an hour away.

The Bahia Mar Crew were happy to see us, their business is picking up as Broward County Opens up, but they are still, correctly, practicing Social Distancing and every staff member that we interacted with were wearing Face Masks, both outside and inside their offices.

The Pool was open, and some of the HISC crew cooled off from the 90º+F  Temperature and commented that it was not too crowded, compared to normally there being probably a hundred folks swimming and dining up there. Peggy & I did not go up to the Pool, we're being a bit more aggressive about maintaining Social Distancing - at least we're trying.

The Celebrations really consisted of the club members sharing Pizza, Fish, Water Melon, Klondike Bars while staying, mostly 6' apart and wearing Face masks when getting any closer. It sure was nice being able to chat and share stories with our friends after being away from club activities for so long. True, we've had Virtual meetings and Happy Hours online, but there's really nothing better than meeting with good people.

We stayed at Bahia Mar Saturday & Sunday, departing on Monday, Affection was there on Friday & Saturday nights, everyone else arrived on Saturday and departed on Sunday. Weather was glorious except for the storms on Friday Evening, the rest of the weekend we barely got wet - well, except for the results of the very high temperatures. Luckily, our AC on the boat worked just fine, we do need to consider a Sun Shade over part of the hull, the underside, in the cabin, gets surprisingly hot.

Sunday morning there was a huge boat parade on the ICW, we saw at least 50 boats dressed up and celebrating Gay Pride, they were certainly having fun. 

We departed Bahia Mar on Monday at about 10:30am just as the tide was reaching slack and had an easy motor up the New River, no crazies around, I guess most folks are getting back to work. A couple of big yachts were heading up river under their own power, in fact we didn't see a single boat under tow, a rarity. 

Because of the time we planned to leave Bahia Mar, we had plenty of time to prep the boat for unloading, it's surprising how much we take on the boat considering how much we keep onboard at all times. But preparing for the unload that way really reduces the time from arrival at the dock to being on the road for the drive home. We called the local Thai Restaurant and ordered take out so that we didn't have to prepare lunch. By 13:40 we were settled in at home eating Thai Chicken Red Curry and Chicken Lo Mein. 

Great weekend with some great people. 

Hope to see them again on the Independence Day.

See you on the water!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Stuck KNOT Transducer

Our Speed Transducer stopped working

Not the first time and it's typically due to getting a piece of floating grass or the ilk caught in the paddle wheel. Still, it's a pain as we compare our GPS speed to our 'through the water' speed in order to determine the water's current & direction. ie. GPS speed of 5 knots and Water speed of 3 knots means we have 2 knots of current on the stern, or GPS speed of 3 knots and Water speed of 5 knots means we have 2 knots of current on our Bow. That helps us plan for going alongside or as we are approaching a bridge that needs to open.

Our Speed/Depth/Temperature transducer is mounted in a through hull that is inside the Bathroom cabinet, along with 3 other thru-hulls (Engine Raw Water, Sink Drain and Shower Sump) and despite my recent update to the Fresh water plumbing, the Transducer is a bit awkward to reach (it's a boat!), however, not to difficult. 

To clean off the transducer, we can reach over the side from the dinghy with the boat brush and wipe off the surface which is just in reach underwater, it takes a while if we don't have out dink in the water already, so the alternative is to pull the transducer from it's thru-hull and plug it until we have chance to clean the transducer. Doing this does put some water in the bilge, typically about a 1/2 gallon, more or less.

This weekend we were at the Bahia Mar Marina in Fort Lauderdale and met with a friend on his boat 'Cookie Monster' among other things, we discussed the transducer issue. He explained that he normally takes out the transducer when the boat is at the dock and replaces it prior to departure. What a Great Idea!

 On Sunday morning, I pulled the transducer and plugged the hole with our new True Plug Mini just to check out the plug.
It worked great, cut the water flow from the open thru-hull completely.

The Transducer Thru-Hull is an older version and does not have the internal water trap hinge that a modern Tranducers Thru-hull does, I've got one and might change it out later this year when we plan on a haul out.

To make sure I had the correct Thru Hull plug, I pulled the True Plug Mini out (more water) and inserted the spare Airmar plug. Again, it fit just fine and no water flow. 

Cleaned the transducer and spun the paddle wheel to check all was well, Peggy confirmed that we had apparent water speed on our GPS display.

One more time, pulled the plug and inserted the Transducer into the thru-hull. We should be good to go now.

When we left the dock, it was nice to see that the Water speed was now working fine.

Normally we take about an hour to unload the boat back at our dock and we're typically exhausted, today was no different. We're going back down to the boat on Wednesday and at that time I'll pull the Transducer and insert the Airmar Plug (keeping the mini plug in place when not needed is not a good idea.)

See you on the water!

Friday, June 12, 2020

Re-plumbing Catalina 34 Mk 1 - part 3

Success - New Plumbing finally passed the Pressure Test.

Tuesday May 26th 2020.

What was intended to be a quick trip to the boat turned out longer because things came together so well.

On Saturday, we completed the install with the exception of a leak where the new plumbing connected to the old Shower Thermostat. Turns out that was caused by a sloppy removal of the old hose in which I had to cut a slit in order to get the tube off of the fitting. The knife blade not only cut through the hose, which was the plan, but it also cut s slit in the surface of the fitting. That slit was the source of the leak.

So today I went armed with a replacement fitting and new hose. Replacement complete, I did another pressure test before re-securing the Shower Thermostat in place. All of that took about an hour.
With everything working, it was time to start putting the boat back together again. Bathroom Cabinet replaced and Under Sink Cabinet door replaced. 

In the Galley, I tidied up the electrical wiring that I had relieved in order to run the new piping. That included repositioning the Drinking Water Filter System UV Lamp power unit. In order to disentangle the wire from the lamp to the power supply where it was twisted around the sink drain pipe and the Pump housing, I had to remove the lamp from it's housing - Grrrrr! I could hear the inner glass of the housing snap as I pulled out the lamp! Note to self - next time remove the entire UV Lamp housing from the filter assembly before extracting the lamp. I bypassed the UV lamp system for the time being. and then replaced the Galley under sink cabinet and cutlery draw. 

With the water pressure turned on, a last check of all joints to inspect for leaks. I was certain there were none as the pump automatically turned off when it got up to pressure and it stayed that way while I put all of the cabinets back in place.

Other than having to replace the quartz glass sleeve for the UV Lamp housing, the job is finished. Oh, one more thing to do. Print out nice labels for the Water Selector Valve - Mid Ships  -- Aft -- Off

Hardly a big HuRaaa! but sure feels good to know that the new pipe joints are solid. As expected, water pressure at all faucets and the shower is still plenty high and I could hardly notice if there was any drop in the pressure compared to the previous hose piping system.

Here's the Re-positioned Water Pump and the UV lamp power source.

Much neater and I anticipate that it will be easy to change out the pump when it eventually fails.

I had broken the UV Lamp housing glass tube: That's the tube in which the lamp is inserted and allows the UV light to pass through into the water chamber.

I was able to get a replacement tube and a spare lamp from Atlantic UV online. It took all of 5 minutes to replace the lamp tube and put it back together.

In this pic, the galley drawers are removed for access.

This is the inside of the galley unit showing the Three Way Ball Valve. 

It's held in place by two SS screws from the outside face.

Not so clear but it also shows that the access to the Galley Sink Drain Thru-hull, so it's a lot easier to operate the Thru-Hull.

And, Finally! the new Fresh Water Tank Selector valve is complete with natty little labels to avoid confusion.

Having finished the job, we spent a couple of hours cleaning up the cabin, stowing everything that was removed or relocated to access the hidden areas of plumbing.

We have already booked a weekend at a Marina for our first trip since the pandemic hit. We'll be practicing safe distancing, and meeting with sailing buddies. 

Time for the next projects - new Spinnaker, Sock and running rigging. And fix the ding that we put in the port side 3 months ago (March)

Now to pull from these posts for a Magazine Article.

Stay Safe and we'll see you on the water.