Thanks to Christine and some tech support people at our web host provider, we now have all those technical problems worked out and I am able to post updates again. Yaaayyyyy!!!
My apologies for any annoyances you may have experienced with the test post and notification Email that went up here on the site instead of posting as a hidden draft only. I appreciate your patience and happy to be able to post this quick update on what’s been going on aboard the Good Ship Möbius the past two weeks.
Best thing that happened for me last week was that my Captain returned!
As you may recall, back on the 1st of the month, Christine flew over to Miami for some much needed Gramma time with our Grandson Liam, some visits with her family and friends and to look after a few medical appointments.
She had lots of fun outings with Liam, seen here goofing it up with a selfie of him and his Dad, Christine’s son, Tim. And timing was perfect for Liam’s first day in First Grade. Yayyyy Liam!
Meanwhile, over on the opposite coast near Los Angeles, our two Granddaughters Brynn (left) and Blair were also starting their first days of the new school year as well so school year 2022 is off and running!
Christine landed back here in Kalymnos on this ferry from Kos to Kalymnos on Monday (19th) evening after a two day marathon of travel. Being on this tiny Greek island adds several legs to the journey with three flights to get from Miami to Dulles to Athens to the neighboring island of Kos and then the ferry from Kos to Kalymnos. Oh, and did I mention that she was schlepping over 55 Kilos/120 Lbs of new bits and bobs for the boat and ourselves?! However, very happy to report that all went amazingly smoothly, checked bags went all the way from Miami to Kos without any intervention or loss, but it still requires lots of energy and time with not much sleep in between. She has slept VERY well the first two nights without any real sense of jet lag and we are both very happy to be back together and home.
One of the many bits of kit for the boat Christine lugged back with her, and one of the heaviest, was this Super Hole Hawg as Milwaukee calls their monster HD right angle 18V drill. Weighs in at 8 Kg/17.6 Lbs, has two reversable speeds and over 1000 FtLbs of torque. It is quite the beast and I was able to get a very good deal buying it through Home Depot with three of these super sized High Output 6Amp 18V lithium batteries which enables long continuous use between charges.
This is part of our style of doing prototypes of systems on Möbius that allow us to try out different ways of doing things and allow us to find out what is the Goldilocks just right way for us. In this case we are trying out this way of converting several of our manual winches to electric. I ordered this SS adaptor that fits into all our winches. Almost all winches no matter the brand, use this same star pattern for their manual winch handles so this adaptor enables us to try out this powered winch handle on any winch we have so we can see which ones would make sense to convert to full built in electric systems. As an added benefit, this power winch handle will also give us an emergency back up for any failure of our already 24V powered electric winches such as this hefty Lewmar 65 on the Aft Deck. Two of the currently manual winches we are most interested in trying this out on are these horizontally mounted winches on the Tender Davit which we use to raise/lower the Tender in the Davit Arch. Up to now we have been using the manual winch handles for this job which works well but we like to bring the Tender onboard every evening so this makes it much more convenient and faster. I will let you know how it all works out once we have tried it out a few times.
Much lighter and put to immediate use unfortunately, were six of these classic Victor rat traps which I was able to get delivered to Christine hours before she flew out of Florida. A few days earlier I discovered that I had a new and uninvited guest aboard and these traps are the best way I know of to get them to leave. Ruby and Barney donated a piece of their kibble for bait which I upgraded with a bit of peanut butter and had had several set out a few hours after we were back onboard Monday night. A few hours later we heard the distinctive and loud SNAP! of the trap under the sink and I escorted dead Rat #1 off the boat. Turned out he had two other buddies which were shown the same exit the next night and the traps have all remained undisturbed ever since. Whew!
Super Synthetics on Sale
For most of the lines we have onboard we use synthetic braided line such as Amsteel or Dyneema as they have SO many advantages such as higher strength that same size SS wire rope, very light weight, easy to handle and they float. As you might know or guess they are also quite expensive, especially when you buy them from Marine suppliers. But a tip I can share with you is that the same synthetic line is also now being used extensively in applications such as power winches for off road vehicles, emergency response teams and the like and buying these lines through those outlets is a fraction of the inflated marine cost.
So these two 30 meter/100ft lengths of 13mm/ 1/2” Dyneema also found their way into Christine’s checked luggage. These two are made for electric winches on the fronts of 4×4 and Overland vehicles so they come with a SS thimble on one end and a crimped on fitting for the end that bolts to the winch drum but it is easy to cut these off so I can tie my own eyes, loops or whatever ends I need. These two are going to be used for some of the rigging on our Paravanes which I now have everything I need and we can start testing out when we get underway again.
One of the other heavier items Christine brought back with her was this new stator coil for one of our 24V @ 250Ah Electrodyne alternators. Due to a manufacturing error, there was a short in the external rectifier and as you can see every third one of the copper coils was burned out. There are two of these coils in each alternator which produce the high AC current which then runs through the thick cables out of the Engine Room over to the external rectifier where it is converted into 24V DC current. Electrodyne quickly sent a new replacement coil several months ago and this was our first chance to get it brought over to Möbius. Fairly straightforward process to remove the old coil by first removing the aluminium Rotor that holds the permanent magnets for the alternator at this end. The holes in this Rotor provide good air flow to keep the alternator cool. These Electrodyne units actually have two individual alternators, one at each end of the Red housing but only the one on this end needed replacing. Once the old Stator windings are removed the trickiest part is fishing these three large gauge solid copper wires through the hole in the body of the alternator but just takes some time and holding your tongue just the right way.
Then I could bolt the new Stator windings onto the body. Rotor is bolted back on next and then all the wires inside the junction box up top can be attached to their respective studs.
This upper alternator is driven by a cogged belt system I installed, driven by the crankshaft and also powering the bronze sea water pump you see on the far Left. Further down, the second alternator is driven directly by the PTO shaft from the front Left of the engine.
Each of our Electrodyne alternators can provide up to 6kW of power and so with the pair mounted on Mr. Gee we effectively have a 12kW generator whenever he is running. Each external rectifier is connected to a WakeSpeed 500 Smart Regulator which automatically look after balancing the two alternators and keeping the 1800 Ah House Bank fully charged.
Speaking of Mr. Gee, I am eXtremely pleased to let you know that I am flying up to the Gardner works on Tuesday to be there when the new engine is put through its paces on the dynamometer for the initial breaking in and to create a full data sheet and graphs of torque, horsepower, fuel consumption, etc. I will be sure to take lots of photos while I’m there and be able to share those with you in next week’s update.
The new engine is due to start its return voyage back to us here in Kalymnos next Friday and hopefully will take “only” 3 weeks or so to get here. Given that the shipping up to Gardner took over six weeks, that will actually be quite fast! Everything is relative right? Once the new Mr. Gee arrives here I will be able to provide you with more details of the installation and most excitingly the results of the initial sea trials so do stay tuned for that.
Thanks for all your patience with the change of pace the past few months and please do keep your questions and comments coming in the Join the Discussion box below.
NOTE: Still have frustrating technical issues preventing me from posting this latest update as I usually do. We have been creating these posts for five years with nary a problem but suddenly it isn’t working so I’ve created this update manually direct online to just get it out while we resolve the technical issues. I’m sure you can all relate from having similar challenges with technology and appreciate your understanding and patience.
As you can see the photos are much larger and don’t expand when you click on them so I will put the relevant text below each photo. But, should give you a good overview of what’s been going on the past two weeks and hopefully the next update will be back to normal format.
Möbius is still safely docked in this beautiful harbour on the South end of the Greek island of Kalymnos and other than some very gusty Meltemi winds the last two weeks have been unusually quiet aboard with the absence of Captain Christine. So we are down to just the three pupsketeers of Ruby, Barney and I aboard.
Christine has been enjoying some much needed Gramma time with our Grandson Liam and spending time with her family and friends. Liam has always been enthralled with tornados and loves making his own in bottles like this one while his Dad, Christine’s son Tim, enjoys the glee.
They have been enjoying outings like this one to a great hands on science museum in Ft. Lauderdale to Liam’s obvious delight.
Christine has been able to squeeze in time for a new hairdo and glasses and a visit with her very dear and longtime friends Kathleen and Steve.
She will be flying back here next Monday and the pups and I will be VERY glad to have her back.
Meanwhile back on Möbius I’ve been busy with several projects and ordering boat bits we can’t get over here that Sherpa Christine can bring back with her.
I am also regularly in touch with the good people at Gardner Marine Diesel GMD as they complete the building of Mr. Gee version 2.0. That has been going very well along with the forensic analysis of Mr. Gee 1.0 and they have been taking photos along the way and I should have more details and photos of that in the next blog post.
It took over six weeks for the engine to get from Kalymnos to the Gardner factory in Canterbury in the UK due to the huge crush of tourists in the EU this summer that took up all the spaces on the three ferries it takes to get there. Most companies in Europe also shut down for holidays in the month of August so that delayed things further but he finally made it. GMD have been removing all the parts that will be swapped over to the new engine. If all continues to goes well, the new engine should be fully completed and run in on the dyno in about two more weeks and start his hopefully much faster return trip!
This part of Greece we are in has always had very strong summer winds out of the North called “Meltemi” winds which are the result of a high-pressure system over the Balkans area and a relatively low-pressure system over Turkey. Most of the time they are good news to us as they provide a natural form of air conditioning to keep you cool day and night. Typically these gust up to 25 knots or so but in the wee hours on Monday they gusted up to over 50 knots! (57 MPH/92KPH)
Which leads me to the title of this week’s post…….
Things were howling pretty good all night but about 3AM there were several huge crashing sounds up on deck above where I was sleeping in the Master Cabin so I scrambled out of bed and up on deck to see what was going on.
In the early morning darkness it took me awhile to figure out what had happened but became pretty clear when I got up on the forward deck, turned around and looked back over the hinged solar panel array in front of the SkyBridge.
As you may recall, this set of three 300W solar panels are mounted in an aluminium frame that is hinged on the aft end so that it can be lifted up like this when we are at anchor or on a dock. This has double benefits of getting the solar panels horizontal which is often a better sun angle and then creates this huge wind funnel that takes the breezes over the bow back to a mist eliminating grill set in the far back wall.
Which then flows into the middle of the SuperSalon through the White air diffusers in the ceiling. The Black ones further forward get their air from another vent tucked under the overhang of the roof above the front window. Helps keep good airflows.
When we are underway, the panels simply fold down like this so they are flush with the angled roof section of the SuperSalon.
I’ll bet you can’t guess which position they were in on Monday night/Tuesday morning??!!
Took me awhile to put it all together as I tried to figure out what had punched that gaping hole in the middle panel?
At first I thought perhaps the strong winds had carried some hard heavy something crashing down onto the panel and there was a good culprit staring right at me from the bow of the oil tanker that overlaps our bow on the dock we are tied up to.
Made sense, but then I looked up…………….
I’d estimate it takes me about 20Kg/44lbs to lift the front of this panel up when I want to put it in the UP position so you would think that it would be pretty stable. But you’d be wrong!
These panels have been in the horizontal UP position for the past two months with nary a problem but what had happened was that Meltemi winds had shifted on Monday night so that they were coming more directly over the bow rather than over the Port/Left side they usually blow over, and one of those big gusts had lifted up the whole rack, slammed it against the front of the roof over the SkyBridge and the video camera had punched itself right through the solar panel.
Fortunately I have several new solar panels onboard for spares and so it only took me a few hours to unbolt the broken PV panel and bolt in a new one. These panels use these handy MC4 connectors with a built in fuse so all I had to do was unsnap the old ones and click the new ones in place and we were back to full solar capacity with all 14 panels now working.
Christine had a new and improved video cam that she had put on my ToDo list to replace the original one. How convenient!
Easy enough to unbolt what was left of the base of the old camera and bolt the new one in place. This new camera uses PoE or Power over Ethernet so only requires a single Ethernet RJ45 (waterproof) connector and it was good to test out.
Fired up the main boat computer in the SuperSalon and a few clicks later had the new camera streaking this video over the bow.
Right now we have four cameras onboard with a rear facing one off the transom which is great for docking and then two in the currently very empty engine room to keep an eye on Mr. Gee once he gets back in there.
Lots of other smaller jobs and time online sorting things out for the new engine and boat bits but nothing too entertaining to show so I’ll close out for this post and will be back when I have enough interesting content to share with you in the next week or two.
I will leave you with Gramma’s bed buddy and fellow geek.
Thanks for your patience in dealing with this delayed and different looking update. Hopefully we will get the technical posting problems sorted out and be back to the usual format in the next week or two.
Please put any questions and comments in the “Join the Discussion” box below.
Greetings everyone, just a quick note to let you know that I have the new blog post Update all ready to go but am having technical difficulties with our WordPress site or perhaps the web host and not able to get it posted right now.
Sorry there won’t be a new post today and just wanted to let you know that all is well here and I’ll do my best to get the post to publish tomorrow if I can sort out the problem.
Christine has been back in Florida the past two weeks and is enjoying some much needed Gramma time with our Grandson Liam and seeing her family and friends. She will be flying back here on the 19th and is doing her best to help sort out these tech problems from over there.
Thanks for your patience and enjoy the rest of your weekend.
As many of you may have seen in your various news feeds, Friday August 26th is/was International Dog Day. Based on my observations of our dogs, it seems to me that EVERY day is pretty much Dog Day, but apparently the 26th makes it official. Ruby is our 14 year old “Spoodle”, a mix of Cocker Spaniel + Poodle and Barney is our 10 year old Yorkshire “Terror” as Christine affectionately calls him. They have been with us from the very beginning of their respective lives as well as ours as a couple.
As you can see, they have become quite the couple themselves. Happy International Dog Day to all the dogs in our lives!
Going to the Dogs is a bad thing?
I’ve always been curious about the origin of all the various sayings we have in our language and years ago I was quite surprised when I looked up “it’s a dog’s life” and found it defined as “a difficult, boring, and unhappy life” and that “going to the dogs apparently means “: to become ruined : to change to a much worse condition,The economy is going to the dogs.” All my experiences with dogs had been quite the opposite and as you can see in the photos above, Ruby and Barney certainly seem to have a life that many would envy.
However, I must admit that of late things aboard Möbius do seem to fit the dictionary definition of “going to the dogs” with the various problems that have cropped up with our FireFly batteries, Kabola diesel water heater and the list goes on. Latest addition this week was finding that the Bow Thruster was not working and I’ll use that example to highlight my contrarian perspective wherein I regard all these as challenges to be taken on and resolved and that in the end they turn out to be good things.
That’s not a Bug! That’s a Feature!!
Another common phrase we often hear is that when life deals you lemons, make lemonade. Along similar lines, one of the more profound and transformative concepts I synthesized during my decades working with software and technology, was that rather than “problems”, such challenges present me with the opportunity “to transform bugs into features”. I have come to realise that it is largely a matter of perspective. If you look at things differently, things look different. In addition to the new understanding and skills I learn by fixing things and resolving these challenges, they also present me with the opportunity to improve and make things better after they are fixed than they were originally. The problem with the Bow Thruster “challenge” this week is the most recent example I can use to illustrate how I apply this “bugs into features” approach.
After spending time with my multimeter tracing all the wiring for the Bow Thruster, the issue turned out to be caused by very poor electrical design by the manufacturer, in my opinion, for the way the fuse and wires from the controller joy sticks at both helm stations, are placed and connected to the Bow Thruster motor in the Forepeak. The four wire connector on the Left and the 5Amp ATC fuse on the Right are located on the outside of the 24V motor of the Bow Thruster and thus completely exposed to the damp and often salty air in the Forepeak.
Not surprisingly then, these exposed copper connections had suffered from severe corrosion.
This is the four wire connector with the 24V positive connection being completely corroded and making no connection to the Red wire it joins. The ATC fuse holder and the 5A fuse itself were in even worse condition. Compared to the new Orange fuse on the far Left, you can see that both of the spade terminals on the factory fuse have completely corroded into dust.
Not much surprise then that the Bow Thruster wasn’t working. Quite surprising and disappointing to me to find such an obvious design fault in what is otherwise a very high quality bit of kit, and it made no sense to just clean up the fuse holder and redo the four wire connectors as the same thing would just repeat itself, presenting me with the “opportunity” to not just fix the problem but to improve the whole wiring setup.
My apologies that I forgot to take photos as I was working and hope these generic images will still help you understand what I did to transform these bugs into features.
I carry a good supply of these sealed ATC in-line fuse holders for just these kinds of situations and so I replaced the original factory Black plastic built in fuse holder on the Bow Thruster with one of these. I also extended the wire length so that the fuse holder was located up higher in a more protected spot which also provides better access if/when this fuse ever blows and needs to be replaced.
√ Fuse now fixed and working
√ Sealed fuse holder
√ Better protected location
√ Easier to access for future fuse replacements
For the four wire connector, I replaced it entirely with new wires that I spliced directly to the wires on the Bow Thruster using these crimped butt splice connectors that have adhesive lined heat shrink coating that completely seals the connection.
√ No more exposed connections
√ No more corrosion
Hope this helps illustrate my perspective on how to transform bugs into features.
With the above as context, I have a much bigger and much better example of my latest transformation; Mr. Gee 2.0! Here is a brief (consider the source) overview of what’s been happening with Mr. Gee lately.
Several months ago, after Mr. Gee had about fifty hours of run time, I began to hear a metallic “ticking” noise when he was running. It wasn’t very loud and sounded very similar to when there is too much clearance between the end of an exhaust or intake valve and the rocker arm. I had previously done the recommended valve adjustment after about the first five hours of running and all the metal parts have been through multiple heating and cooling cycles. Shortly after hearing this new ticking sound I checked the valve clearances again and found them all to be spot on but the ticking noise continued.
After that I kept my ear attuned to the ticking and it seemed to stay the same, not changing or getting any louder so I thought it was perhaps just a normal Gardner sound and just kept listening closely on every engine room inspection while we were underway. I do one of these ER inspections every hour or two when we are underway and record all other engine data such as RPM, fuel consumption, SOG (boat speed over ground), oil temperature and pressure, coolant temperature, Exhaust Gas Temperature EGT and temperatures at various parts of the engine and the air in the Engine Room. Reviewing this spreadsheet allows me to see what all these readings should be and makes it easy to spot any changes.
Everything stayed the same until we about ten hours into making our way from the Greek island of Rhodes to Athens on the mainland. I began to notice some increased temperatures in the area of the cylinder heads by cylinder #3. All the other temperatures of oil and water and metal parts elsewhere remained the same but I also noticed that the ticking noise was getting louder. More like a slight metal on metal knocking sound. Always hard to tell with sounds inside an Engine Room if this is just your imagination or if the sound really is changing but I shut the engine down and did a much closer inspection of every part of the engine but found no visible signs of any leaks or other changes. So I restarted Mr. Gee and we continued.
You know where this is going! Sure enough the heat around the exhaust and intake ports of cylinder #3 continued to rise, the ticking noise got louder and the engine ran more unevenly. Not a condition that could be allowed to continue and so we rerouted ourselves to the closest island of Kalymnos where I would be able to take on this latest challenge and figure out how to transform this bug into a feature. This would have to wait for a month or so because we now had our granddaughters and family onboard followed by some other dear friends so not much time to work on Mr. Gee.
Eventually though, I was able to do some deeper testing and dismantled the engine enough to find that the exhaust and intake valves on cylinder #3 were defective and no longer sealing on their valve seats and hence not getting cooled down. Valves, the exhaust in particular, live in a very nasty high heat environment and they mostly are cooled when they are tightly closed and can transfer their heat through the valve seat. If they don’t seal tight they don’t work as a valve bringing the air/fuel mix into the cylinder, sealing it completely on the compression and then power strokes and then letting all the burned mixture out the exhaust port. And without the contact to the valve seat, they rapidly start to overheat and would eventually likely crack. I am very fortunate to have some of the best experts there are when it comes to diesel engines and Gardner’s in particular. I have the Mr. Gardner himself, Michael at Gardner Marine Diesel GMD, the home of Mr. Gee and all Gardner engines and my long time friend Greg who I’ve known since we were in University and trade school together and who is the best expert on diesel engines I know. I spent a LOT of time texting and talking with Greg and Michael and they were both eXtremely generous with their time and patience. After going through all the possible scenarios and reviewing all the data and photos of what I was able to see, the problem and the solution became quite clear.
I had begun the restoration of Mr. Gee when Christine and I were house/pet sitting for some dear friends in Portugal and had a machine shop there do all the machining of the cylinder heads and block and install the new valve seats, valve guides and cylinder liners. Michael at GMD remembered this and he noted that installing new valve seats in these LXB engines is quite particular and he has seen problems in the past when other machine shops have installed new valve seats and valve guides, so this cast some doubt on whether these had all been installed correctly by the machine shop in Portugal. While we won’t know for sure until a more detailed examination of the valves, seats and heads improperly installed valve seats became the most likely suspects as to what was causing the problems with Mr. Gee and making that ticking noise.
It was possible I could remove the cylinder heads, order in new valves and seats and find a machine ship in Athens or somewhere to properly install all new valve seats and guides, but this would not be easy to arrange and would not be a shop that had experience working on Gardner engines so we quickly ruled out this option. To be completely sure that all the valves, seats and guides on Mr. Gee were 100% correctly installed, this work needed to be done at the Gardner works at GMD. Our attention thus turned to how best to do this?
30 Horses Gallop into the Scene…..
I should also note at this point, that I have been having a completely separate conversation with Michael all this year about converting Mr. Gee from the 150HP @1650 RPM he is currently at, to the 180HP @ 1800 RPM option which the 6LXB can be configured for. The 150HP setup is a Continuous or 100% duty cycle which means the engine can be run at this speed and HP 24/7 which many 6LXB’s are. The 180HP version has a lower duty cycle which means that you can run them safely at full power and RPM for shorter periods of time and then continue at lower RPM. Almost all diesel engines have this range of RPM/HP they can be configured for and on mechanical fuel injection engines such as the Gardner LXB, this involves physically changing the fuel injection pump setup to inject a higher volume of diesel fuel on each intake stroke and adjusting timing of the injectors and valve advance. Not that difficult but requires specialized tools, equipment and expertise from Gardner than what I am comfortable doing.
In our trips this year, about 80 hours total run time, we have been finding that the Goldilocks or sweet spot for the best combination of loads, EGT, speed and fuel economy is about 1400-1500 RPM so why am I interested running Mr. Gee at up to 1800 RPM? Simply put, I would like to have the option to call on those additional 30 HP, a 20% increase, in an emergency situation when that extra power could mean the difference between getting out of a situation vs loosing the boat. One example of such a situation is when you are at anchor and find yourself on a lee shore when the conditions change unexpectedly such that there are high winds and seas trying to push the boat onto the shore. Of course this always seems to happen at O’dark thirty and you are in the dark with every second counting, so being able to start your engine and call on every pony the engine has can make all the difference.
Lest this should sound a bit farfetched to some of you, just this past week we were vividly reminded of how fast and unexpected this type of lee shore situation can develop when a very high wind storm swept over the island of Corsica in France. You may have seen this in video on the news you watched and seen these winds gusting up to 224 km/h (140mph) pushing hundreds of boats onto the shore.
I had therefore wanted to do this conversion to the 180HP setup before we start venturing out on our longer passages and later in the season and was going to remove the fuel injection system from Mr. Gee and ship to GMD to do the conversion and then ship back so I could install it and we could continue our travels. The trick was going to be when and where to do this as Möbius would need to stay in one place while the fuel injection was off being reconfigured. Now that we found ourselves with such a rare and ideal side tie dock arrangement we serendipitously stumbled upon here in Kalymnos, this latest challenge with Mr. Gee’s valves and the repowering all seemed to converge into a perfect storm kind of situation and here is how this all came together.
Go BIG or Don’t Go!
As long time sailors, we have come to understand how critical it is that you have complete confidence in your boat before you go to sea. When you find yourself in those rare but inevitable situations where things have become very nasty and every decision is critical, having ANY doubts about your boat, or yourself, can be crippling and life threatening. Mother Nature can be an eXtremely effective teacher and you soon learn the hard truth about how critical such confidences is and that if you don’t have full confidence, then you don’t go to sea.
Given the high dependency we have on Mr. Gee for our propulsion and the fundamental requirement to have eXtreme confidence in all the critical systems on Möbius, it was not difficult for Christine and I to decide that we needed to go “all in” on this situation and transform all these “bugs” into features resulting from us doing everything possible to ensure that Möbius is the most seaworthy boat we could create.
I’m sure you can see where this is all headed. Rather than send just the fuel injection system to GMD to convert it to the 180HP version, go Big and send all of Mr. Gee to GMD. Michael made this decision even easier by kindly offering to do a full exchange of Mr. Gee for a new 6LXB that they would put together at the Gardner Works there at GMD. We send them Mr. Gee, they send us a new 6LXB we will now refer to as “Mr. Gee two point O” or Mr. Gee 2.0 They will transfer over a few of the external bits such as the items I have already polished such as the rocker covers, GMD side covers and the custom brackets I’ve designed and built for things like the sea water pump and hand crank system but these can all be done right after Mr. Gee 1.0 arrives at GMD and after the new Mr. Gee 2.0 has been built.
Michael will also put the new engine on the Gardner dynamometer where they can run it through its paces, do the initial break in and create a full HP/Torque/Fuel graph directly from the readings on the dyno. I don’t have a photo of their dyno yet but this one will give you a rough idea. The engine is mounted to the dyno with flywheel connected to the measuring devices that read horsepower, torque, fuel consumption, etc. and plot this out onto a graph. This will add to our confidence that we know for sure what these outputs are and will make it a relatively straight forward process for me to lower the new Mr. Gee 2.0 into the ER, connect him to all the mounts, Nogva CPP, hoses for coolant and exhaust and electrical and we will be able to get back out to sea and set our sights on destinations West. I hope that all of the above does not come across as me being flippant or suggesting this was all easy or without a good share of sadness and frustration along the way. It was all of those things and I do have thoughts about “Why me?” from time to time. But as I’ve often found with the big decisions in life, these were also very clearly Goldilocks decisions being just right, just for us and in that sense they were easy to make. The harder part has been dealing with all the time and logistics it has taken to do all this from a small remote island in the middle of one of the busiest and most disrupted summers in the EU and now waiting for the new Mr. Gee to get back here.
Out with the Old
As you might imagine it was rather hectic here going through all this testing, making the arrangements with the local crane truck to remove Mr. Gee 1.0, securing him to the pallet and arranging to get him trucked from Kalymnos to Athens and then onto two more ferries to get him all the way to the GMD in Canterbury in England, so I don’t have too many photos but here is a quick summary of all that.
Gee, I wonder why it doesn’t take me too long to disconnect everything and get Mr. Gee ready to be lifted up? Oh yeah, lots of practice! I enlisted the help of two local men to help extract Mr. Gee from the Engine Room and ….. ….. then over to the concreted dock we are side tied to. All the openings sealed and taped off and engine strapped onto the shipping pallet. Shipping labels attached under Shrink wrap to keep him clean and protected for his long journey home to GMD. And just a few hours ago, I received this photo of Mr. Gee in the storage warehouse of the trucking company outside of London waiting to be make the final leg of his journey over to GMD in Canterbury on Tuesday as Monday is a national “Summer Bank Holiday” in the UK.
Don’t even think about asking me how long this whole journey has taken! Let’s just say that all you’ve been hearing about disruptions to supply chains and shipping, record high tourist traffic this summer in Europe and how the whole EU tends to take their holidays in the month of August, is so very very true. Leaving me with a very sadly empty Engine Room and a lot of greasy hand prints to clean off the walls.
She continues to be very self disciplined with her daily physio routines after her knee operation and been taking full advantage of her “Freedom Machine” aka her eBike, to explore this fascinating island we have been living on since July and finding new beaches for her in the water exercises. Click the link above to see all her photos and explanation of how this island is literally a dynamite place to be!
Back to where I started this posting, I will let Barney send us off into a new week as he wistfully enjoys another sundowner and contemplates what it truly means to live a dog’s life Thanks for joining me again this week and hope you’ll be back for more next week. I will!
Another regular “work week” for the crew of Möbius this past week so not too much in the way of a Show & Tell post. So I’m going to use this week’s update to cover the recent demise of FireFly Batteries both as a business and on Möbius. Not sure that this will be of too much interest to too many of you so feel free to speed read or skip this weeks posting and I’ll have something of more universal appeal next week.
I must have jinxed it in last week’s update where I talked about how ideally cool the temperatures are here in Kalymnos, as the past week Mother Nature turned the thermostat up a touch and we hit a high of 35C/95F on Friday. Still not anywhere near what most others in Europe and elsewhere in the world are experiencing though! Daily highs have been dropping a degree a day since then and the Meltemi winds have been blowing hard every day so keeps a good breeze flowing through the boat and makes it pretty comfy onboard. Christine continues to have her daily swim and knee calisthenics and thinks her knee is ready for longer walks now so that will help change up her daily routines.
You can’t see it for the other boats but FYI, Möbius is just above the unicorn’s horn here.
I made some progress with the rigging for the Paravanes but most of my time was consumed with working out the best Goldilocks way to rig them, particularly for retrieving them and I’ll hopefully get time this coming week to install the actual rigging and have that to show you in the next update.
Summary of Möbius’ Electrical System
For a quick refresher and provide some context for what I’m about to discuss, here is a schematic of the overall DC electrical system in Möbius. (click any photo to enlarge) We are a “DC based boat” in that pretty much all our electrical power, both 12+24V DC and 120V+240V AC originates from our 24 volt x 1800Ah House Battery bank. We do have the ability to plug into shore power when in marinas but the majority of time we are on anchor and even when in marinas we don’t usually plug in as it is much easier and cheaper to just power everything from our 24 Volt House Bank. This House Bank is made up of 24 individual L15+ FireFly Carbon Foam 4V/450Ah cells which when wired as per this schematic creates the 24V x 1800Ah or 43.2 kWh battery bank. In THIS post last year I outlined how and why we decided to go with these FireFly batteries rather than traditional AGM or Lithium so please check that out if you are interested in those details. Short summary is that these Carbon Foam batteries were the just right choice for our use case as this chemistry is eXtremely efficient, safe and tolerant of cold temperatures and partial states of charge. They are heavier and larger than most other batteries but we built the battery compartments integral to the hull on either side of the keel bar. In addition to being a well cooled and secure location the batteries provided a very useful form of lead ballast and thus their weight was a feature and not a “bug” for Möbius. Keeping this House Battery charged is primarily accomplished by our 4.4kW array of 14 Solar Panels and this can be supplemented by the 12kW available from the two 24V x 250A Electrodyne alternators whenever Mr. Gee is running. We have been using this system every day since the boat was launched a year and a half ago and has proven to work very well.
Until they didn’t!
Several months ago I noticed that the batteries had lost some of their overall capacity and so I performed the “Restoration Charge” that is recommended and outlined very thoroughly in the FireFly User Manual. The Restoration Charge involves doing a deep discharge of the batteries, pretty much flattening them, followed by a very high amperage Restoration Charge.
As per the second schematic above, the 24 batteries are divided into four 24V @ 450Ah or 10.8kWh Groups each consisting of six 4V @ 450Ah cells/batteries. Each Group can be connected On/Off with individual battery switches which enables me to charge them one Group at a time with the very high rate Restoration Charge of about half their overall 450A capacity, commonly referred to as .5C. Being able to apply such large amperage charging is one of the other big advantages of Carbon Foam and Lithium based batteries and can accept charging rates as high as 1C meaning charging at the rate of the full capacity of the battery. IF you have the ability to generate these high amperage charging it allows you do dramatically reduce the overall charging time. In the case of a boat such as Möbius that primarily uses solar charging, this rapid rate of charge is not really an issue or a benefit because the solar panels fully recharge the batteries almost every day. However, having the ability to generate high amperage charging (.5C or above) that this Restoration Charging process requires, via either our three shore powered Victron MultiPlus 120A chargers ….. ……… or the two 24V x 250A Electrodyne alternators, which made it relatively easy to perform these Restoration Charges. Based on my research and speaking with other owners who have FireFly batteries this Restoration Charging can be used any time that the capacity of the FireFly batteries goes down and only seems to be needed every few years if at all.
It worked just as promised for the first two Groups and in fact restored to a bit more than 100% of their rated 250A capacity. However the third and fourth Groups I performed this Restoration Charge on did not recover. I repeated this Restoration Charge process a second time on both Groups but to no avail and their fully charged capacity remained very low at less than 100A. I spent quite a lot of time both researching this situation and testing the individual 4V cells and all the cabling, connections and readings checked out properly with no significant differences between cells other than their capacity.
I spent a LOT more time on all this as we literally live off these batteries, but after discussing with many other FireFly owners and speaking to FireFly technicians, the conclusion was that the Quality Control issues that have plagued FireFly batteries for several years had come home to roost on Möbius and 12 of my 24 batteries were defective and would need replacing. Not the news I wanted but at least FireFly has a good warrantee program and would cover most of the cost of replacing these batteries right?
This too started out promising with my Email discussions with FireFly International but quickly faded into less and less responses and then complete silence and lack of any responses.
Bye Bye FireFly?
I don’t know the exact details but as best I can tell FireFly batteries don’t appear to be available at all anymore and the company appears to be out of business. I can not find any official news or reports on this from FireFly themselves or in the media, but after even more research, here are some of the details I can provide in the hopes that this might help other FireFly owners or those considering purchasing them.
All of the Email addresses I have for both individuals at FireFly as well as generic ones such as “information”, “Sales” and “Contact”, all of which had been working up to about the beginning of June are no longer working and return with permanent errors. No response to any Emails from me for over two months now.
They (FireFly) began having some warranty issues that they never had when they were made in the USA. The current owner of the company has run a great product into the ground. So after years of investing lots of time & energy into what can be a great product, yet receiving little support from the manufacturer, OPE decided to throw in the towel. If OPE was no able to get quality batteries, and they were spot testing every shipment. A DIY stands even less of a chance when ordering direct from India..Sad but This is what happens occasionally with off shore manufacturing..
You may well be asking yourself, where does this put us for a solution to replacing our FireFly batteries on Möbius? I know I am certainly asking that question!
For the time being, several months now, we are up and running without much problem. I purposely oversized the overall House Battery capacity to be 1800Ah / 43.2kWh and this is now proving to be very helpful. I have all four Groups connected as a single House Battery, which I’d estimate combine to give us a bit more than 1000 Ah or 2.4kWh total capacity. In these summer months, the solar panels bring the House Bank back to 100% by noon or earlier every day and I think that we can continue to have the boat be very livable with all our electrical systems, cooking, etc. fully operational on this reduced overall capacity for quite some time.
It really is a shame that this company has not been able to build reliable Carbon Foam batteries and I hope that some other company acquires the patent and brings good quality Carbon Foam batteries back onto the market, but that would likely take years if it happens at all and battery technology is evolving rapidly all the while.
I do still REALLY like these Carbon Foam batteries and believe that this chemistry offers an eXcellent solution for use cases such as ours and so I am trying, without much success so far, to find out if there are any dealers who still have inventory of 12 or more of these L15+ size 4V FireFly batteries, that test out OK. I would then need to figure out how to get them delivered to me or me get to them but this would be the best option if available. If any of YOU reading this might know of a source for these L15+ sized FireFly batteries that might be taking up space in some dealers warehouse, PLEASE do let me know!
Switching over to another battery type would require a significant amount of time and cost but may be in our future now. Given that we have the space and can use the weight of batteries to our advantage, perhaps going with tried and true AGM or Gel, or perhaps going with the batteries I had originally chosen, 2V OPzV traction batteries would be the best solution?
And of course Lithium and LiFePO4 batteries and their related BMS systems are becoming more and more common and proven and perhaps a bit better value so that’s another option I’m exploring.
At the end of the day a boat, even a relatively new one, is still subject to the harsh reality of all boats wherein they ALL have ongoing problems and present ever expanding To Do list items so I guess this is just the latest one for us to solve.
For now I will put this out there as a question for all you fellow boat owners and those with experience in larger House Batteries such as we need on Möbius, to send along your thoughts, connections and recommendations and I will gratefully add these to my own research and let you know what we decide to do.
In the interim, we will continue to enjoy each other and our unique situation here in Kalymnos and remind ourselves of just how fortunate we are to have each other, to be where we are and to have this great home from which we get to enjoy sunsets like this! -Wayne