Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Fixing the gWind Transducer

Fixing the gWind Transducer

Our gWind, Wireless Transducer failed during our trip to Biscayne Bay over Memorial day weekend, I guessed that it was the Battery and ordered a replacement online. Yesterday ( June 27th 2022) it was time to replace the battery.

I took my phone with me when I climbed the mast, but sadly, it was in a pocket that I could not get to when wearing my harness and in the Bosun's chair. So the pics are some that Peggy took down on the dock.

I'm pretty sure that the Main Halyard sheave at the top of the mast needs to be replaced as neither Peggy nor Mike,  club buddy that came down to help out and provide additional safety, could pull me up using the winch! So I did my usual practice of climbing the mast: Using a pair of prusik knots on two separate halyards, one tied to the Bosun's chair and safety harness  the other tied to the foot straps. Using them I can sit in the chair, raise my feet and then raise the foot strap prusik knot as high as it will go (about a one foot stretch). Then I stand up in the foot straps, taking the weight off of the chair, raise it's prusik knot, sit down and repeat. If I move the seat knot up by close to 1' each pass, then it takes about 40 moves to climb the mast. In reality, it takes a lot more, probably eighty moves as some of them are only a few inches while trying to maneuver around the shrouds and especially the last couple of feet.

Once I had gotten to where the foot strap prusik knot it as high up the halyard as it can go, that's about 8" from the top of the mast, then I can stand up and my shoulders are above the top of the mast and I can reach pretty well everything up there.

This time the plan was to climb the mast and replace the gWind Transducer's battery. The transducer is held in place by a clever bracket and nut system. Simply pull off the clip that stops the nut from unscrewing, unscrew the nut, pull the whole transducer arm forwards and slightly upwards. It takes less than an minute to release the Transducer.

With the Transducer on my lap in the chair, I used a #1 Philips head screwdriver to undo the small screw that holds the battery cover in place. It was easy to lift off the cover, unplug the old battery, plug in the new one and replace the cover. The insides of the Transducer looked pristine so no apparent water ingress which is a problem with the heavy rains that we get here in South Florida. 

I did note that the Solar Panel on the top side of the Transducer was 100% opaque, completely white! I'm guessing that means that the Transducer is not going to charge the battery. We have had wind data on our Nav system on every night trip, so the battery is just there to cover the times when there's no solar power and normally, rechargeable batteries are at least partially charged when new.

Less than a minute to reinstall the Transducer and call down to the team ( Mike & Peggy ) down below and ask them to test the system.

Sadly, that didn't go well :( 

With the Nav instruments powered up, the display lit up showing that it was powered but the data came on but only for a few moments. It showed wind angle info ( True Wind and Apparent wind Directions) but no wind speed, after a few moments the data disappeared. If we reset the Nav instruments, then it would pretty much repeat that scenario. 

I've been in the Bosun's chair I was ready to get back to deck level. Going down was a lot easier, I Mike & Peggy used the winch to haul the main halyard and take all of the weight and I eased the two prusik knots, then they eased the winch and as I moved down, I just moved the prusik knots with me.

They stopped lowering me when my feet were able to get on the spreaders. From there I freed the line for the lazy jacks that was stuck between the sheave and cheeks of the block attached the mast above the spreads. I need to replace that block ('blocks' as there is one on each side of the mast )but it's free right now so we can adjust the lazy jacks.

So, my thoughts.   If the solar power is zero, then the battery will run down within a day or so, but if there's any solar power getting into the battery, then it should charge up within a day or too also.

If it's not a Solar/Battery issue, then it's the gWind and looking at the reviews on the web, that's a strong likely hood. Under normal conditions, it's not unusual for the wind data to just disappear for a few minutes and it normally comes back if we reboot the system which we only try if the data does not return within about 5 minutes.

  • Check it today and all may be well.
  • Replace the Transducer with another gWind Wireless = $750+tax
  • Replace the Transducer with a wired gWind = $650 
It's nuts that the wireless Transducer is so much more than the wired unit, as the wired unit has so much more in the Kit 

Using the wired unit brings me back to why we used the Wireless model originally: Running a new wire up the mast is a significant job.

Other things to consider.
If I do end up replacing the Transducer, and if I go the Wired route, then I might as well replace the VHF antenna coaxial at the same time, the existing coax has a much higher power loss than a decent cable and that would improve our VHF communication range both for Transmission and Reception.

Ok, first things first. Go down to the boat and check out the status.

A day later: 

The system is still not delivering data from the Transducer.

I spent a good while on a text chat session with Garmin this morning. From that chat I conclude the following:

#1 If the transducer is the older generation then I'm out of luck and will have to purchase a new item that's $750 plus tax.

#2 If the transducer is a new generation, then I should be able to get an out of warranty exchange, that's $350

#3 If I replace the Wireless Transducer with a Wired unit, I should be able to connect it to the GND 10 and disconnect the no longer needed WSI Box (the Wireless Receiver).

The Wired Transducer will cost about $650.

I'm leaning towards the Wired Transducer and replacing the VHF Coax at the same time.

Time to get busy and earn some boat bucks.

See you on the water, even if I don't know the wind speed & direction.


Reusing Heat Exchanger Zinc Cap

Reusing Heat Exchanger Zinc Cap

<<< Zinc ---- Cap >>>
The Zinc Anode for the Universal M25-XP heat exchanger is in two parts. The Zinc and the Cap.

There must not be any insulation between the zinc and the Cap nor between the Cap and the body of the Heat Exchanger. The whole idea is to allow the zinc to corrode rather than the body or tubes of the heat Exchanger.

The problem is that the screw thread of the Zinc corrodes with the metal (Brass?) of the Cap. As the Zinc corrodes during it's stay inside of the Heat Exchanger, the zinc is washed away in the flow of the salt water that passes through the Heat Exchanger. So when it's time for the zinc to be replaced, it's in a pretty weak state and often breaks off when trying to remove it from the Cap.  <<<< Just like this.

I know, change it more often. Will do!

I tried drilling the zinc out, gave up pretty quick.

Then I tried Barnacle Buster !!!! Wow!

As it happens, I have a spare Zinc Cap from a previous change out, so I'm seeing what happens.

Here's what it looks like after 48 hours
The remnants of the zinc have gone and the threads are clean.

It looks kinda grotty, but in fact is is extremely clear of the debris from the old zinc

The Cap's end gives a clue.

By the way, I used a pair of stainless steel tweezers to pick the Cap out of the Barnacle Buster, the tips of the tweezers have that similar black color now.

This pic shows the Cap after literally 2 minutes of wire brushing using a brass wire brush.

This is after rinsing and drying.

I have no issues with using this as the Cap during a future heat exchanger zinc change.

The stores sell the zincs either with or without the Caps, I have a couple of spare zincs without the caps.

Now I have 2 usable Caps.

Love making progress, even on the little things.

See you on the Water


Saturday, June 25, 2022

Securing the Alternator on our M25-XP

Securing the Alternator on our M25-XP Engine

The alternator on our Diesel Engine has moved about due to vibration (hey, it's a 3 pot Diesel) and has broken the support arm twice.

I purchased a new 10mm x 100 mm bolt and a Nylock nut to replace the old one just in case some of the slack in the Alternator mounting was due to a worn bolt.

It also occurred to me that the mounting bracket spacer might not be suitable for the Alternator ( which we replaced a few years ago). My calipers were not accurate enough to measure the gap between the Spacer and the Alternator Ear (I think that's what they call it), it would really require a Micrometer and I don't have one ( YET! ) 

On Amazon I found some 10mm internal diameter shims, 10 each of 0.1mm, 0.2mm, 0.3mm and 0.5mm and purchased those.

By trial and error process, I figured that the existing spacer between the Alternator support brackets and the Alternator Ear had a 1.2mm gap.

Using two 0.5mm shims and one 0.2mm shim the alternator 

With those 3 shims in place, I was amazed at how batter the alternator was supported by the brackets.

It took about 10 minutes to fiddle the shims on to bolt after it passed through the foremost support bracket, then get the Spacer onto the bolt, there is obviously almost no gap now, and finally the bolt into the aftmost support bracket. With the Nylock in place but barely tight, the alternator felt rock solid in the mounting.  

After adjusting the drive belt tension and securing all 3 of the bolts that hold the alternator in place, it feels total as one with the engine. Solid! 

With everything tightened up, Peggy started the engine. Not a hint of a squeal when she shifted the rpm up to cruising speed and no movement of the alternator. 

I'm hoping we have cured that issue of vibrating alternator and subsequent breakage of the tension support arm.

I hear the waves beating against the bow! See you on the Water.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Servicing M25-XP Engine Heat Exchanger

M25-XP Heat Exchanger Service

As the boat has been out of action for a couple of weeks while I installed the new Victron Electrical Power Management System (Here's a link) I decided now was a good time to replace the engine's Heat Exchanger Zinc.

On our Mk1 Catalina 34, I can reach the heat exchanger by just leaning over the top of the engine as long as I don't mind scratching up my arms in the process. The Zinc is located on the underside of the exchanger near the Port side end of it.

Having replaced the zinc previously by accessing the back of the engine from underneath the Aft Cabin floor, which involves some serious Boat Yoga, and, as we use the aft cabin for storage - lots of storage, the option to change the zinc out from leaning over the engine is really appreciated.

I use a Puppy Pad to cover the engine, then reach down the port side with a wrench to unscrew the zinc, pretty easy, especially as I'm a skinny guy.

 However, putting in the new zinc was not so easy, it just felt like I was cross threading the zinc. So I made the decision to pull the heat exchanger out and do a service while checking why the new Zinc would not fit.

To remove the heat exchanger on the M25-XP there are 4 hoses and two large hose clamps that are used to secure the exchanger to the mounting plate attached to the back of the engine.  I had replaced the hoses a couple of years ago, so they came off pretty easy. The two clamps holding the exchanger in place were easy to release and in less than 15 minutes I got the whole thing out. I did put a bung in the port side coolant pipe when I removed that to prevent the coolant just emptying into the bilge. Successfully, I kept the loss of coolant to a couple of cups and I mopped that up with paper towels.

My initial thought was that there might be a couple of leaks around the nipples of the heat exchanger, the green patches are at least surface corrosion.

Decision made, take it home and clean it up, detailed inspection and do what is needed to get the Zinc installed.

At home in my garage, I could see that the thread on the nipple which hoses the zinc was pretty crudded up. Using a Battery Wire Brush to clean out the nipple was not very effective. Time for some Barnacle Buster.

It was easy to remove the end caps and the rubber seals looked in good condition ( thankfully, but they are available on Catalina Direct - it just delays the project while they are shipped )

Inspecting the inner tubing, I could see that it was about 20% occluded ( my wife was a nurse for 40 years) and 20% is not so bad, but they needed cleaning.

I made up a mixture of 4 parts water to 1 part Barnacle Buster, about 2 gallons all told, put that into a narrow bucket and let the heat exchanger soak for about an hour. The grot that came out was amazing, the mixture was a dark brown after removing the exchanger. I rinsed it thoroughly then wire brushed anywhere that looked like it needed repainting. 

All of the corrosion came off and the braised joints all looked pristine. The Zinc nipple thread was now spotless and I was able to screw in the zinc a total of 4 turns. I'm sure the thread is tapered. But it looks good.

After a good cleaning with fresh water and a thorough wipe down with Acetone, I gave it a couple of coats of spray primer (for high heat applications)  and let it dry overnight.

Looks pretty good, ready for the 1st coat of top paint.

1st coat of top coat. It's about the same color as the original, needs about 30mins between coats.

Almost a shame that when installed, it will not be visible.

Plan is to apply the 2nd top coat this morning and put it all together. Tomorrow, we'll both go down to the boat and reinstall it.

After connecting the coolant hoses, we need to 'Burp' the system to eradicate any air in the system. The method is to top up the coolant reservoir and close the cap, then open the Pet Valve on top of the Thermostat housing, run the engine at above idle until air stops coming out of the Pet valve. Close it up and re-top off the coolant tank.

That's the plan! here's hoping there's no leaks, especially from the Zinc Nipple.

With luck, we'll see you on the water.


Thursday, June 23, 2022

Shore Power Reverse Polarity Test at the Boat

110v Disconnect Switch and Reverse Polarity Testing on our Boat

When we purchased our 1087 Catalina 34 in 2015, I was blissfully ignorant about the boat's 110v electrical system. Since then I have learned a lot, hopefully the changes I have made and the changes I plan to make are a whole lot better than what we started with.

The boat had a Reverse Polarity indicator on the Main Electrical Control Panel and it had a 'Test Lamp' switch. Whenever we went to an unfamiliar dock and plugged into the their shore power, I would observe the status of the Reverse Polarity Lamp, it never lit, which meant we were not connected to a reverse polarity 110v Pedestal, I would operate the test switch to check that the lamp was working. It always worked.

The problem was ( as I found out this past week) that the lamp was not connected for reverse polarity indication, just to illuminate when the test switch is pressed.

During my design for the new Electrical Management System, I included a reliable Reverse Polarity Indicator and Test.

The Switch is a On-Off-(On) switch, it's normally Off, can be switched to the On position which would test for reverse Polarity and it can be momentarily switched to the Test Position which would check that the lamp is serviceable.

All of this is installed inside the 'Shore Power Disconnect Switch' box mounted under the Nav Table a few inches from the Victron Multiplus 12-3000-120

The reason for moving the disconnect to the Input of the Inverter Charger rather than the output is a safety issue.

With this setup, we can move the disconnect switch to the off position, connect the boat to the Shore Power and confirm that power is available as shown by the Green Shore Power Available Lamp. Then operate the Polarity test, in the On position if the lamp lights, then the polarity is reversed, if the lamp does not light, then it should be tested by operating the Momentary On Switch which connects the lamp to the Live and Neutral lines, if the lamp lights, then we're good, if the lamp does not light, then it's a dead lamp. In that case we'll have to test the pedestal with a Multi meter before accepting the power is ok and then closing the disconnect switch.

The procedure for attaching shore power is:
  • Select Off at the Disconnect Switch
  • Connect the shore power cable to the boat
  • Connect the shore power cable to the Pedestal
  • Check for reverse polarity.
  • If ok, then Select On at the Disconnect Switch.
The process for disconnecting Shore power is:
  • Select Off at the Disconnect Switch
  • Disconnect the Shore power cable from the Pedestal
  • Disconnect the Shore power cable from the boat
Another project completed.

See you on the Water.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Victron Install - we have power

The Victron system is up and running.

We have power! The last few steps in installing the Victron Multiplus 12v 3000w 120v Inverter Charger were completed yesterday and we were able to reconnect the Boat's batteries. 

The last item of the install was connecting the Battery Temperature sensor to the -ve House battery terminal and connecting the Shunt power and the Main DC power line to the +ve terminal of the House Bank. With that done, the Victron started showing signs of life. The Cerbo GX showed that the Blue Tooth link was active. The GX Touch 50 showed that the system was starting up. No sparks, no smoke, no smell of anything burning, things were looking good.

We quickly checked that all of the boat's electrical systems were working, I had done a lot of work behind the Main Electrical Distribution/Control panel, I had looked closely at every connection on each of the DC and AC Circuit breakers, they all looked secure. Of course, there are several wires that have no attachment left over from previous work by others before me, they are on my list of additional projects on the Electrical system.

Today we installed the USB Charging station (to the left of the GX Touch 50 ) and completed the securing of the panels.

The long term plan is to replace all three of those panels with just two, one for the DC Power Selector and the other, an 'L" shape panel, to hold the GX Touch, the USB power and the AC  /  DC selector panel.

That's another big project, but one that is quite a way along the planning stage. Probably going to keep the existing selector panel but make it part of the larger panel.

Of course we had low level panic when the GX Touch 50 going dark when I changed the Multiplus switch from Off to On !! Returned the switch to Off, nothing. As the Touch 50 is powered from the Cerbo GX I figured I would reboot the Cerbo. Pulled the power cord out (it's on the lower edge of the Cerbo) gave it a coffee break, plugged it back in and a few seconds later the GX Touch rebooted.
Continuing the review of the state of the system, a few minutes later the GX Touch went dark again.  Peggy suggested that it might be a screen saver! Duh! Just touching the screen woke it up. I guess that's one reason they call it a 'Touch' screen.

We turned on the Solar Power and a few seconds later, the display showed that the battery was being charged - Woo Hoo!

Next I connected the Shore power. First we checked that the new Shore Power Disconnect switch was in the Off position and that the 'Shore Power Available' lamp was illuminated. Good so far. The Reverse Polarity lamp was not lit, I checked the lamp worked by flipping the Momentary switch and it worked fine. So power was available and the correct polarity. I flipped the Disconnect switch and almost immediately the GX Touch showed we had power to the charger and were charging the Batteries. It automatically diverted the Solar Power. Seeing the display indicating the flow of power from the Charger to the Batteries is pretty cool, definitely much clearer than the simple digital display of the old Heart Interface Control panel.

Time to check the Inverter. I plugged a fan into one of the 110v outlets, switched the outlets on ( see the left side of the power control panel in the pic above) the fan ran fine. Then I switched the Disconnect switch to off to remove the shore power and the Inverter took over without any delay.

So far we're looking good.

The GX Touch  ( I'll call it the system display ) showed that there was no AC In power, which was not the case as the Charger and the Fan obviously had AC Power. I found in the settings an option to show which AC power would be displayed ( Shore Power, Generator, PV alternator) so I set it to Shore Power and when back at the system display page, it now showed the shore power voltage and the power in.

The T-Mobile Sim card had arrived yesterday, we plugged it in and in a few seconds the GX 4G LTE Modem showed it was connected to the internet. I setup my laptop to my phone's HotSpot and visited the Victron VRM added the ID of the modem and it connected right away and within a couple of seconds, we ( Peggy was with me) could see the system on the internet. 

I noticed that the Max AC current was set at 50Amps, but our shore power is only rated for a 30Amp power source. On the system display I found the setting for the Max power draw and changed that to 30amps, rebooted the display and, again, a few seconds later the Internet VRM showed we were now limited to 30amps.

During the test of the AC In, we had the Air Conditioning turned on, and the system display showed our power consumption as well as the Battery Charging. Total draw was 850 watts.

Things are looking good. I do need to figure out how to change the battery charging parameters, the Default are for AGM or FLA, but I want to make sure the parameters are within specs for our batteries. 

Other than a few settings changes, I think we have completed the system upgrade. I'll post some more pics and the wiring diagram of the Disconnect switch box ( thanks to Amazon the parts were easy to obtain )  My primary reason for that switch box was to allow disconnecting the shore power without having to hop out of the cabin and jump ashore to flip the circuit breaker on the power pedestal, just incase anything had a run away in the electrical system.

So our procedure for applying Shore power is:
  • Ensure the Disconnect switch is in the Off position
  • Connect the shore power cable to the SmartPlug on the Boat
  • Connect the shore power cable to the Shore Pedestal
  • Down in the cabin check that the Green Shore Power Available lamp on the disconnect box is on.
  • Flip the 'Test Reverse Polarity Lamp" switch to make sure that lamp is working
  • Switch the Disconnect to On.
  • Check that the Multiplus is in the On or Charger Only position as needed.

Before heading home there was time to replace the Engine Heat Exchanger Zinc, the old one came out and definitely needed replacement, it's been about 9 months since the last change out. But for the life of me I could not get the new Zinc to screw in. So tomorrow I'm removing the Heat Exchanger to do a complete service and put in the new Zinc. A 20 minute job, right :)

Thanks for reading, I'll post some more pictures of the Victron Install in the next few days.

See you on the water.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Victron Install - Oh so Close!

We were so close!

I expected to have everything installed and ready to power up today, even took my laptop to the boat anticipating that we might turn the system on, but I did leave it in the truck as I wasn't totally convinced that all of the last few things would get done before rain stopped play. The rain didn't, but the heat did.

First thing today was to complete the new Ground wire for the Victron Multiplus to the Ground terminal block on the Port side engine support frame. I had run the wire on Saturday, glad that it was 15' long as if I had just purchased the guestimated length of 12' it would have been a couple of feet too short.

With the cable in place, I crimped a ring terminal to the Multiplus end of the cable using my new Hydraulic crimper. Works great, worth the $99 (including 2 years warranty)

Then it was a bit of a struggle to get the other end of the cable right up to the terminal block. The cable was easy to get to the Bathroom cabinet right next to the Depth/Speed transduce, but that last couple of feet was the challenge. With the cabin steps removed, we had easy access, well, easy for a skinny guy like me. With the cable fed around the back of the engine bay and in through an existing hole in the bulkhead, I was able to crimp a terminal on that end. To install the terminal on the terminal block I had to use every socket extension that I had in order to reach down to the terminal nut. Got it done.

The ground cable fully installed except for the looming of the cable, that would have to wait till the last few cables are installed so that they can all be loomed at the same time.

Next it was time for the Start Battery Trickle charger cable, that goes from the Multiplus to the Start Battery. The two end points are maybe 18" apart, but the cable is about 10 feet long as it around several corners/holes. But no big deal, Peggy was a great help in running the cable and I was able to crimp the Multiplus terminal end ( spade connection ) with my regular crimping pliers, but the other end required a larger lug and so the Hydraulic crimper came out again.

The next job was to make up the new Disconnect box, the first one that I purchased was just too small to allow the cables to fit inside and reach all of the switch terminals. It took about a half hour to drill the top for the Circuit Breaker Switches, the Diode indicator lamps and the Test Switch. Once that was done, it was simply a job of mounting it to the bulkhead under the Nav Table, running the wires through the cable clams and connecting them to the Circuit breakers and the test switch.  That went well, I checked that the top would fit into the base of the box and that there was sufficient slack in the cables to allow them to bend and fit within the box. They did, Great! Now, just check tighten all of the terminal screws.

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! The 1st screw that I 'Checked' broke the switch! Grrrr! My fault, too much torque on the driver. But the plastic cover of the switch broke and that's it. Have to replace it.

Without hesitation, I ordered a 2nd switch from Amazon, it should arrive overnight.

With everything else done, it was time to make it look neat and tidy. I applied a couple of dozen zip ties, securing the wires, taking the strain, cutting of the surplus zips.

It was already gone 1pm and the high humidity and the early Summer heat was basically unbearable. So we stowed the tools, picked up all the bits that were laying about. Packed our bag and headed out of the cabin. We made it to the truck before it began to rain and stayed dry. The rain did wash the truck on our way home, but all gone by the time we pulled into our driveway.

So we nearly made it today.   The plan is to go back and finish it off tomorrow, Tuesday, but that depends upon the new circuit breaker arriving overnight - turns out that is between 7am and 11am Tuesday.

Oh well, there's plenty to do at home, mow the lawn, paint the facia, bake some desserts. 

If the circuit breaker doesn't arrive early enough tomorrow, then we'll head down early on Wednesday. I should definitely finish the install and should be able to reconnect the batteries and shore power.

Wish me luck. But I'll be checking everything before we turn it on.

See you on the water.