Evolution of Lance’s Interior Design

Evolution of Lance’s Interior Design

Lance picking up Front view doors open

In the very first post here in a year “We’re back! Transition to Möbius v2.0 begins” about Project Goldilocks Version 2.0 aka Möbius on Wheels aka Lance, I introduced you to Lance, our 2016 Kenworth T270 medium duty Horton ambulance that we are now transforming into our newest adventures eXploring this awemazing world by land.  

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If you missed it, that post will provide you with a good overall sense of the vehicle itself, our January trip to bring him from his birthplace in Sterling Illinois to our new place on Saturna Island in BC and then our relocation to our rental place that is appropriately across the street from the Klamath Falls Fire Department in Oregon.



PXL_20240623_004029797.MPWhere I’ve continued the long process of removing most of the original ambulance interior equipment, walls, ceiling and floor. 
I will get back to that in a later post but I thought it might be more helpful to go back to what is both the beginning and the end so to speak; the design we have evolved so far of what we hope the end result will look like.  So that’s what I’ll be covering here in this week’s posting.

As I did with Möbius V1.0 (the boat), I continue to use Autodesk Fusion 360 to create 3D models of almost everything I build, and so I will use screen shots and some animations from Fusion 360 to walk you through the evolution of the design we have so far.

Original Box Framing

I started by creating a 3D model of the Horton ambulance box/module itself which is an extremely robust all aluminium framed box.  I spent time measuring all these frames to an accuracy of about +/- 1mm (0.04”) as I want to be able to use this model to plan out the whole interior and know exactly where every part of the frame is located.  This will become especially valuable to me after I have put in all the interior insulation and walls and this AL framing is completely covered up.

PXL_20240608_000157782.MPThe aluminium frames are all 2 inch (50mm) square AL tubing that is 1/8” (3.2mm) thick and then this is “skinned” with continuous sheets (no seams or joints) of 10 Gauge (3mm/0.10”) thick aluminium.

PXL_20240608_002705363This shot of the upper rear DS (Driver Side) corner will give you a bit of an idea of just how well reinforced and strong this box is. 
One interesting detail I discovered along the way is that the outer AL skin does not come in any direct contact with the AL frame members as the skin is all fastened using 3M VHB (Very High Bond) tape that is about 2mm thick and keeps the outer AL skin isolated from the 2” square AL tubing and reduces the heat bridging transfer.

One of the big benefits of using an ambulance as the base for our XRV is all the compartments that are built into the AL framing with external doors accessing each one, so I added these to the 3D model next.


2016 Kenworth side storage openOn the DS (Drivers Side) there are three of these compartments; two tall ones on the front and rear corners and then a very wide one midway along the DS with double doors.



Original Box Framing   DP compartments from Rear DS cornerAll of these externally accessible cabinets are made from 3mm / 1/8” thick diamond plate Aluminium which makes them very strong and fully sealed off from the interior.

As you can see in the photo above they are all in like new condition.
The Black rectangular shapes are the AL plate covers over the wheel wells
2016 Kenworth passenger sideOn the Passenger Side (PS) there are two compartments, one on the front and rear corners as well as the side entrance door into the interior. 

Original Box Framing   PS compartments from Rear PS cornerThe compartment on the Front PS corner is in orange here because it was built as an independent AL framed cabinet framed which will be removed and replaced by AL cabinetry I will be building to house the full size fridge/freezer as well as additional storage via the external door (not yet in this model)



New External compartments & Window Framing from Front PS cornerLooking from the PS front corner here I’ve added in the original flooring to help show how all of these diamond plate compartments extend about 50cm/20” below which adds significantly to their total volume.  I have now also started to create the new framing (in Black) that I will be adding in for two windows on the PS and one large one on the DS as well as framing in the walk through into the cab you can see on the Right here.

New External compartments & Window Framing from Front DS cornerLooking from the DS front corner here, if you compare these last two views of the model to the previous ones you will see that the diamond plate external compartments have now been cut down to accommodate the internal floor plan we’ve come up with and provide more internal volume.

DS Front compartment coming outHere for example is the DS Front compartment with about 3/4 of its depth cut off leaving about a 24cm / 9.5” deep full height cabinet which will be the new home of the entire electrical system for the habitat which I will cover in detail in future posts.

PXL_20240705_215049296We will be insulating all surfaces very heavily with 2 inches of PolyIsocyanurate rigid foam board with double AL foil both sides for maximum R value.  This works out perfectly to completely fill the 2 inch deep voids between each of the 2” AL square tubing as you can see here in the ceiling. 
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On top of this we will add another 1 inch thick layer of double foil faced PolyIso which will give us an total R-value of about R-20 which we think is pretty amazing and is in addition to the black coating of sound suppression on all the interior AL surfaces. 
We’ve learned from living in our VERY well insulated boats over the past decades how much overall efficiency we get from having lots of insulation.  Keeps the heat out in summer and the heat in during winter so our HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) systems have to work much less and it also dramatically reduces the ingress of any external noises and creates an eXtremely cozy habitat.

Even with all this added insulation our overall finished interior space works out to be 421cm / 13’ 10” Long x 228cm / 7’ 5” Wide x 184cm / 6’ 1/2” Headroom.  Might not sound like very much to most of you but by our tiny living standards, and certainly compared to any camper van, is HUGE!

But I digress with all these background details ……………

OK, let’s get back to the interior design!

Once we had the original faming of the ambo box all modeled in Fusion it was time to start figuring out how to organize everything for optimal and maximum living.

This is what I call the “box modeling” stage as using basic box shapes for the major interior components makes it very fast and easy for us to try out every idea we had, and between the two of us and all our times living in boats, we had a LOT of ideas!

Doing all this within our 3D model ensured that we were working within the actual interior dimensions we had and allowed us to work out realistic dimensions for things like countertop and drawer depths, headroom, walking and seating spaces.

       * Note; you can click on any image to enlarge if you’d like to see more details.


Block Modeling Interior LayoutI have annotated this example of one of our box modeling sessions which is about where we ended up.

We started with the placement of the bed as it is the largest single item and because knew we wanted to make this a lifting bed rather than fold out/up/down style so it could be a full Queen sized mattress that was always ready to use at a push of a button and not one that needed to be put together and taken apart every night/morning.


As we used to say about our boats, this is our full time home, we are NOT camping!  Hence all our focus on designing the interior for maximum efficiency of the available space.


Block modeling of interior layout Bed lowered from PS Rear cornerPutting the bed on a platform that raises and lowers electronically using Track Actuators allows us to put the bed all the way up into the ceiling every morning and have the entire space below available for our equally large L-shaped settee. At night we lower the large table in the settee and lower the bed in seconds and climb right in. 
This layout naturally divides the length of the habitat into three areas; the lifting Queen bed and work/eating settee in the rear, Galley/Kitchen in the middle and then Fridge/Freezer + Head + Shower in the front.

Fast forwarding through MANY iterations and discussions the final design gradually emerged as I added in the specific equipment we have decided on (for now) with models of actual components and equipment such as the double sink, induction cooktop, smart oven, fridge/freezer, toilet, windows, house batteries and so on.  I’ll do my best to use screen grabs from our Fusion 360 model to show you the layout we will be building.



Interior layout overview from PS Front cornerIt is still very crude but I’ve added in some textures, colours and materials to help show the basic interior design that we’ve settled on. 

Interior layout overview bed down from PS REAR cornerSeen from the PS Rear corner in bed time mode.
Interior layout overview bed removed top viewBed removed this top view might provide a bit more perspective.

And that’s a wrap for this week folks!  Hope this has been helpful in visualizing the layout in your own mind.

Any and all comments, ideas, and critiques most welcome and appreciated and I look forward to reading them all as they come in.  Having you along for this adventure is MUCH appreciated and thanks to you all for putting up with my long winded reporting.

One note is that we are going to be up in Saturna till about the end of July with our two awemazing Granddaughters for a LONG awaited visit.  And yes their pesky parents are coming too!  Christine is actually up there already looking after Cotton their lovable white Golden Lab and I’ll be traveling up there on Tuesday.  So my time will be a bit short for responding the rest of this month but I’ll do my best to answer and create weekly posts and appreciate your patience.

-Wayne

We’re back! Transition to Möbius v2.0 begins

We’re back! Transition to Möbius v2.0 begins

Hope you’ve enjoyed the long break from your brevity challenged reporter here but your time is up and I’m back! 

 

Hard for me to get my head around but it was almost exactly one year ago today, July 11, 2023 to be precise, I posted THIS and thought it would be the last article here on the Möbius World blog.  However, as is often the case with me, I was wrong.  Turns out that it was just a case of one door closing while another one opens.  My sincere thanks to all of you who sent all the supportive messages and emails, including the more troubled of you asking when I was going to get back to blogging because you were missing these regular updates.  I’ll leave the need for you getting help with that problem to professionals but I’m glad to be back at the keyboard here and will be doing my best to provide weekly updates again in the all new version 2.0 of Wayne’s World and the joint adventures of Christine and I as we make the transition into this newest version of Möbius World V2.0.

   
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To say that the past year has been a bit of a whirlwind might well qualify for one of the greatest understatements of all time and fortunately for you I am not going to resist the temptation to summarize it all as it would be excessively long even by my verbose standards. 

 

Instead I happen to know someone who is a “proper” writer as my British friends might say and unlike me, she knows how to write clearly, concisely and can synthesize large topics into succinct text and photos.  So for those of you interested enough in the back story of the wild roller coaster ride that has been our life for the past year, I’m going to let my Beautiful Bride Christine provide you with the updates for you to read at your leisure.  You can do that by simply clicking on the links below that will take you to several of the posts Christine has put up on her Sailing Writer substack newsletter

Here are the relevant links that will provide those interested with a relatively quick summary to fill in the gap between my post last July and this new one today.

FYI:  if you like what you see and read you can subscribe to Sailing Writer to get automatic updates whenever Christine posts a new article which is typically every month or so.

For my part my goal with this first new posting is to bring you to date and closer to real time with Möbius version 2.0.  Buckle in and here we go ………………

 

From Möbius to MöbiLance

No surprise to most of you I’m sure, while it came as quite a shock for us to have to “swallow the anchor” after decades living at sea and move on to life ashore, it did NOT diminish our adventuresome spirit and passion for exploring this awemazing world of ours.  Indeed if anything it has reminded us both of how much we love living an exploratory and adventuresome lifestyle.  We very much remain the “Nomadic Grandparents” you’ve come to know and have simply pivoted to adjust to our new situations and are now in the process of creating what Christine so aptly calls “Möbius on Wheels” or Möbius V2.0 as per the title of this post. 

Come on now, you didn’t really think that we’d just settle into a retirement community in Florida now did you???!!!

Lance picking up Front view doors openSeveral months of introspection, reflection, research and intense discussions between us rekindled the spirit that drove us to create eXtreme eXploration Passage Maker or XPM Version 1.0 aka XPM 78-01 Möbius.  We hit upon the idea of converting a medium duty ambulance into an eXtreme eXploration Vehicle which I will now refer to as either the portmanteau of MöbiLance ( Möbius Ambulance) or just “Lance” as we have come to call him. 

For those wondering, there is no particularly good reason though it seemed in keeping with the severity of the transition for us, to also switch genders from all our boats being female to our new big boy Lance being male.  He’s a beauty but he’s a brute! 

Lance and his Pewaukee buddies 1Serendipity and synchronicity continue to be my guides in life and so in December I stumbled over an online post that mentioned a 2016 Kenworth medium duty ambulance being retired from its first life and looking for a new home.  I tracked it down and reached out to what turned out to be the original coach builder that created this ambulance and they had just taken this vehicle back from the fire department after delivering an all new one to them. They were anxious to get this vehicle off their books by the end of the year and short on time but willing to be flexible with the price. 

Lance hood   side doors openThat triggered a flurry of emails and phone calls to answer my endless questions but Shawn at Foster Coach had been the one who created the original specifications for both the Kenworth chassis and the Horton ambulance module so he knew every detail and was able to expertly answer my every question.  Shawn could not have been more helpful and generous with his time.  He also worked with the fire department and their service center and was able to send me every invoice with detailed descriptions for every bit of work ever done over the almost eight years it had been in service.  The more we learned the more this seemed to be the Goldilocks, just right, just for us base upon which to create our Möbius on wheels.

         And yes I am going to continue to use and overuse and abuse this metaphor.  Shocking I know!  



Lance picking up FL corner view doors openPerhaps it was the Christmas spirit that was in the air at the time (third week of December) but I submitted what I thought was a rather low all cash offer to buy this beauty without ever seeing it in person and to my delight and surprise when I woke up the next morning, there was an Email from Shawn saying “offer accepted, when would you like to pick it up?”  I turned to Christine and said Holy flaming fire trucks Batwoman, I think we just bought ourselves an ambulance!!!!

IMG_3764It was now the week between Xmas and New Years and we had just moved into our little sanctuary on Saturna Island in the Gulf Islands of BC Canada (see Christine’s post above for those details and photos) so it took several weeks to make all the arrangements for a trip out to Illinois where Lance was waiting for us at Foster Coach as we not only had book flights and hotels, we also needed to make all the arrangements for transferring title, plates, insurance, renting a truck to pick up all our belongings we had left in Portsmouth Virginia after selling Möbius. 
But we are well seasoned travelers and we soon had flights booked for mid January to Jacksonville Florida as we needed to be at the DMV in person to do the out of state transfer and have Lance registered as an RV.  That was a whole adventure in itself but I’ll leave that for another time.  With papers and plates in hand we then flew up to Norfolk the next day to pick up the rental truck and move all our belongings we had moved off of Möbius in October that were in a storage locker in Portsmouth and start our cross country drive.

Lance in snow outside Foster CoachWe made the drive from Portsmouth to about 100 miles West of Chicago just as what turned out to be one of the coldest winter storms in history was building but we soon had our hearts warmed by meeting Shawn and finding Lance sparkling inside the warehouse at Foster Coach as you can see in the photos above. 

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We spent a few hours with Shawn going over just a few of the unique features of this very unique vehicle, transferred all our belongings (and Barney) from the rental truck and we were off on our first adventure in Lance.
 
IMG_3843It was bitter cold but we managed to find mostly all clear dry roads all the way across the US and up and up to Vancouver where Lance took his first ferry rides to get him over to his new part time home on Saturna Island.

Total miles for drive from Illinois to Saturna was 2469 and we were pleasantly surprised to have averaged 11MPG for the trip. 

Meet Lance:

IMG_3787I will write a separate blog post to go over the details of why we chose a medium duty ambulance as the base for building “Möbius on Wheels” and try provide answers to the many questions some of you may have but for those curious, here are the quick details of our new rig:

  • Make & Model:  2016 Kenworth T270 with a Horton Emergency Vehicles ambulance module
  • Engine:  Paccar PX-7  (modified Cummins engine) inline 6 cylinder 6.7 litre 300HP @ 2600 RPM  723 Lb-Ft Torque
  • Transmission:  Allison 5 speed w/ PTO
  • Air brakes and rear suspension
  • GARW:  11,713kg / 25,822 lbs
  • Odometer:  121,619 miles (195,726 km)
  • Engine Hours:  8569
  • Wheelbase:  4.37m / 172 inches
  • Bumper to Bumper Length:  7.6m / 24.8ft
  • Overall Vehicle Height/Clearance:  2.87m / 9’ 5”
  • Interior dimensions of bare ambo box:  4.3m / 14’ 2” Long x 2.4m / 7’ 10” Wide x 1.91m / 6’ 3” High

Let the Demo(lition) Phase Begin!

That brings you up to date to the end of January 2024 with Lance safely parked in his wooded home on Saturna and I spent the next few months doing a combination of building a full 3D model in Fusion 360 of the existing structure of the “Happitat” which is our name for the ambo box on Lance which is technically called either the ambo module or the habitat and then starting the major job of carefully removing all the cupboards, seats and interior cabinetry of the ambulance.  We qualtiy of construction of these Horton ambo boxes is incredible and we considered leaving it largely as as we designed the layout transforming this into a full time XRV, it quickly became clear that the best approach was to remove EVYERYTHING and strip it down to the bare aluminium framework and starting the new build from there.  I will have MUCH more details on all that in future posts but here is a quick run through of the lengthy process of removing everything.
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Difficult to capture it all but this photo shot from the rear looking forward will give you an idea of what the inside of the ambo looked like to begin with.  Side entrance door on the very far Right, pass through window into the cab you can see behind the jump seat, refrigerator (black rectangle) top Right, Oxygen controls above what they call the “bar” on the Left of the seat and then lots of extremely well built cabinets, drawers and doors throughout.

PXL_20240201_232052187There is a LOT of electronics in these modern ambulances and this is a small sample of one of the 5 LCD touch screens on the top Left, controls for the Oxygen and vacuum pumps below it, pass through door into the drivers side DS external compartment on the lower Right and then 120VAC and 12VDC plugs on the Right side of the wall.

 


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Looking back here out through the rear double doors as the demo begins.

PXL_20240218_212803963To be certified for emergency use these ambulances must be able to go through a complete 360 degree roll over without any damage to the interior or its occupants, more on that in future posts, so they are built like a proverbial tank, just all out of aluminium with a bit of stainless steel and in the case of the countertop here a Corian like composite.

PXL_20240218_212628987If you check out the exterior photos up at the beginning you will see that there are compartments on all four corners of the module/box and a double door one in the middle of the drivers side.  These are all accessed through eXtremely robust aluminium doors on the exterior and on the inside they are all built out of aluminium diamond plate. 
As per this example on the passenger side front compartment, they also have equally robust adjustable shelves also built out of 3mm / 1/8” diamond plate.  Compartments also have 120V and 12V outlets throughout.    

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There was literally not a toothpick worth of wood in the entire build, EVERYTHING is built from either aluminium plate or ACM (Aluminium Composite Material) and so I carefully unbolted all the fasteners holding the modules together and moved them into my storage building for future use in either the new build or for future home projects.

As you can see by peering into that tall cupboard on the mid left, there is also a LOT of wiring and electronics involved which added to the puzzle.

PXL_20240311_014256672The builders at Horton also went to great lengths (pun intended) to build the cabinetry out of very large single sheets of AL and ACM (Aluminium and Aluminium Composite Material) This piece that I finally wrestled off the driver side wall was over 4 meters or almost 14 feet long!

PXL_20240311_014847952Starting to empty out. 

PXL_20240312_005207407Getting down to bare AL framework in walls. You can see the stairs leading out the passenger side (PS) door in the bottom Left corner here and then the bench that runs down the PS side.  The AL track embedded in the middle of the floor is for the Stryker stretcher to slide into and lock in place but that will need to wait for another day.

PXL_20240409_224310182This is a very small amount of the material that I removed from the interior.  Some covered with contact cement or padding as you can see but all very high quality material and very valuable for using in future projects so it all gets stored away.

 PXL_20240227_233325623Another one of the LCD screens, this one while I was running the engine every few weeks to keep battery levels and systems all working. 

It was cccccccold in Saturna this past winter but not quite as cold as the disconnected “interior temp” gauge says but the exterior temp is accurate at 35F/ 1.6C! 


You can control most everything in the Happitat or ambo module from these screens and all the option buttons on the sides.  May try to repurpose these for use in Lance as we build but for now they all go in the rapidly growing electronics pile.

Oregon Here We Come!

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As part of our pivot to new landlubber status we are going to establish a type of “mobile snowbirds” lifestyle where we will spend the warm summer months on our lovely island getaway we refer to as “RavensRidge” on our 4 acres on Saturna Island which I’ve circled in Red here.  Click to expand any photo and Click on the link to Christine’s article “From the Canary Islands to Saturna” above for details and photos.

Saturna Island is is nestled amongst the Canadian Southern Gulf Islands and the US San Juan Islands as you can see by the very zig zag border line.  We live on The No Plan Plan but our intent is that when the weather turns cooler on Saturna in October or so will move into Lance full time and head to warmer climes in the southern US, Mexico and Central America.  As those areas start to get too warm we‘ll head North back for more warm and sunny weather at RavensRidge.       

Right now though because we ended up buying both Lance and RavensRidge quite unexpectedly this past January we are out of synch with this snowbird like schedule and officially we are both residents of the US and so we need to keep our total time in Canada to be less than half the year.  Factoring everything into the equation, we decided to find a place to rent in the US for the rest of this year where I work on transforming Lance and Christine write her next books.  It took quite a bit of online searching but we found the ideal spot in southern Oregon and drove Lance down to Klamath Falls mid April and set up our latest home base here.

          You didn’t really think we would stay in the same place for very long now did you???

PXL_20240413_001222241.MPIt is a rather unique property that matches our equally unique needs as it is a commercially zoned location with a two bedroom home adjoining a huge workshop/garage.  We even have our very own parking lot that you can see in front of Lance here so not much grass for me to have to mow!

 

 

 

 



PXL_20240424_213326611Lance feels right at home here as his brothers and sisters all live in the big Fire Department across the street.


Klamath Falls is the Goldilocks not too big, not too small, size for us where we have all the shops and services we need, great Amazon, FedEx, UPS, USPS deliveries for all the equipment and supplies we need to build out Lance AND no sales tax!  Both of which are a huge benefit for this latest project.
       

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This is one half of the garage after I set up some workbenches and unloaded some of my tools and equipment I brought down in Lance. Provides a great place for me to work and Christine has her latest office all set up in the 2nd bedroom so it suits us very well. 

PXL_20240417_002440878On the other side of the workshop, this is about a quarte of the materials that came out of the ambo.

 


Demo Part II

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As you saw in the photos above I had removed most of the interior in Lance’s original ambo box while in Saturna and so I was down to the bare AL frame & skin on the walls as you see here.  So once in Klamath Falls mid April I continued with the demo and removed the ceiling and the floor. 
You will also note that I have yet to remove the miles and miles of wiring and electronics inside but like eating an elephant it is one bite at a time right?!

PXL_20240420_235336732The ceiling was a double layer of ACM (Aluminium Composite Material) with a foil faced backing sandwiched between it and the AL ceiling ribs. 

PXL_20240421_004925946All of which came out relatively easily.

PXL_20240420_235321940 Leaving just these battons of insulation to remove that were also simple to remove and left me with the bare ceiling to work from.  The entire box is framed with 2” x 2” or 50mm square aluminum tubing with 3.2mm or 1/8” thick walls.  The frames are all welded gogether and you’ll notice that many have additional 45 degree gussets for additional strength and rigidity. 
For those wondering why it is all Black, all the surfaces have been sprayed with black sound deadening.  

PXL_20240621_231811767I tackled the floors next. First by peeling off the diamond pattern rubber sheet floor surface.

PXL_20240621_235354881Under the diamond pattern flooring was a layer of AL faced 13mm / 1/2” thick ACM board and then under this ACM floor was a 5mm / .2” thick rubber sound deadening matt.  The ACM board was bolted through the 10 gauge AL floor pan that is welded to the 2” x 3” AL floor joists.   Stainless bolts in aluminium tend to corrode over time so it was quite a chore to remove each of these floor bolts with my manual torque screwdriver but I was able to finally find and remove all of them.

PXL_20240622_231728341With all the bolts removed I was then able to carefully pry up the ACM board ………

PXL_20240622_232115650 ……… and flip it and the underlying thick rubber sheet up and finally reveal the actual AL floor panels.  

PXL_20240622_233325441They had cut the ACM floor out of what must have been a huge single sheetso to make my life a bit easier I used my track saw to cut it lengthwise into two halves to make it a bit easier to get out of Lance.  I will reuse this ACM and be able to butt the new straight edges up to each other to avoid any seam.

PXL_20240622_235245745I was very familiar with ACM or Aluminium Composite Material as we used it extensively in building Möbius V1.0 and it is an incredibly useful building material that many are not aware of.  It comes in large sheets in thicknesses from 2mm to at least 55mm or 1/8” to 1” and each sheet has three layers, a 1mm thick layer of aluminium on both sides of the center polyethylene foam core. 
ACM is eXtremely rigid, flat and easy to cut with regular carbide saw blades, routers, etc.  You will see me working with ACM in future posts as it is a key material I will be using in the new build of Lance.

PXL_20240623_001458433There were a few of he SS bolts that had sheared the heads off during removal so I went through and removed all of them.  The black surfaces you see are thin rubber non skid sheets which are very solidly glued to the AL floor panels.  I’m debating whether or not to peel them off and take the floors down to bare AL or leave as is.  For now I am leaving them alone as it makes for a good surface for me to stand on and work from.

 

 

 

 

 

       
        

OK enough already Wayne!!!

Whew!!  That was a bit of a marathon to bring you up to about mid July and my congratulations and condolences to any of you who persevered to reach this point. 

I’ll try to get back to posting about every Sunday and bring you up to about real time with this build process in the next few postings.  Next week I will show you the significant task of carefully removing literally miles of wires and then starting to add in the new framework for the three big windows are will be installing.  I’ll also add some posts about the extensive amount of 3D modeling I’ve been doing to create both the existing box as well as then designing the layout and virtually building all the interior cabinetry, bed, galley, etc. 

So if you are still interested in following along with our adventures as we make this transition from sea to land please do subscribe and stay tuned for more and join us on our latest adventures into Möbius World V2.0.

 

Thanks,

Wayne

  

New "Super" House Batteries  Möbius Update 9 Sept. 2023

New "Super" House Batteries Möbius Update 9 Sept. 2023

The newest update to Möbius is that our all new House Bank batteries are now fully installed and up and running!

As you may recall from THIS post almost a year ago, our original FireFly Carbon Foam batteries had sadly lost most o f their “fire” aka capacity and repeated efforts using the FireFly prescribed “Restoration Charge” was not able to bring the capacity back.  Fortunately the combination of having a total capacity of 1800Ah @ 24V and our large solar capacity from 14 320W solar panels allowed us to go for almost a year of full time live aboard cruising running all systems other than extended AC use, without needing to ever plug into Shore Power.  So we did pretty well I think!?  But about a month ago while docked here in Norfolk, one of the four FF banks started to overheat and so their time was up.


PXL_20230809_174026276With our new situation (details if interested here) I had hoped that the FF batteries would last until we find the new owners and they take over so they could chose the new replacement batteries that were just right for them  But the “fire” had sadly gone out on the FireFly batteries and so I needed to make that call and have all new House batteries installed. 

For those interested, this post will give you an overview of how that progressed.


CHOOSING the GOLDILOCKS NEW BATTERIES

The quick summary of my requirements and priorities to determine the just right Goldilocks batteries for Möbius’ and our use case is as follows: (in no particular order)

  • WEIGHT:  Somewhat unique to us perhaps, weight is not a factor for choosing the batteries.  In fact we actually want/need as much weight as possible as we had designed the boat around the batteries to some extent and treated the 1022Kg/2250 lbs of FF batteries as part of the lead ballast of the boat.   
  • SIZE:  Battery size is also not a factor as we had to some extent designed the hull around the battery compartments which ended up being three large watertight and positively vented compartments which spanned and were centered on the 1″ thick x 18″ keel bar that runs from the transom all the way up to the top of the bow.  See the GA drawing below to see this layout.
  • WIDE TEMPERATURE RANGE:  Working well and safely within in as wide a range of operating temperatures as as possible.  Our intended use case for Möbius was to go everywhere from the Arctic/Antarctic and high latitude cccccccold climates to scorching hot locations. (which seems to be more and more locations in our world these days!)
  • FAULT TOLERANT:  In addition to temperature it was also important that the new House batteries were as robust as possible in that they would be able to deal with the typical “accidents” that happen over the years with the battery systems on boats.  Things like full discharges when the boat has been left for long periods of time and the charging system fails for some reason.
  • SAFETY:  Always a top priority of course but in the end I had no concerns with safety of either Lithium or AGM as I’m of the opinion that battery safety is all a matter of good design and installation of the electrical system and battery management, as well as sticking to top quality manufacturers.  So I did not consider any of the “off brand” batteries and companies.
  • VALUE:  Cost is an ever present factor for most of us but I think in terms of overall value rather than price alone.  I will gladly pay for quality and other features listed above to get the best match of batteries and our use case criteria.  I think this is well evidenced by all the equipment we have installed on Möbius.  So I did not consider any batteries or companies that were not IMO offering high quality batteries. 
  • EXTENDED 100% SOC + FLOAT TIMES:  This is a relatively new factor I have come to appreciate and which I believe may have contributed to the early demise of the Carbon Foam FF batteries.  Most of us have experienced how leaving things like laptops and phones plugged into their chargers and kept at 100% fully charged for most of the time leads to them loosing more and more of their capacity and shortening their lifespan.  I don’t have the expertise to prove this but my first hand experience over the years and my research into that of others has led me to suspect that there is a similar situation with LiFePO4 and Carbon Foam batteries. 

Due to our large almost 5KW solar power the batteries on Möbius sit at 100% fully charged state almost all the time.  With the large overall available capacity we typically only take the House batteries down to about 85% SoC or less between the end and start of each solar day and most days the solar charging brings them back to 100% fully charged by 10 to noon depending on solar conditions, time of year, geo location, etc.  You would think that this would be ideal for battery health.  However, I am finding increased evidence and examples that not only do LiiFePO4 and Carbon Foam type batteries deal very well with being in PSoC or Partial State of Charge for extended periods of time, they actually PREFER to be in a PSoC condition the majority of time.  Being kept in Float mode at 100% SoC can lesson their capacity over time.  It is possible to deal with this by carefully customizing the charging profiles of all the charging sources on the boat and our WS500 regulators for the alternators, MPPT controllers for the solar panels, and MultiPlus chargers all have this ability.  However based on my experience to date I think that AGM type batteries actually prefer to be kept at 100% fully charged SoC which is the situation as I’ve outlined above on Möbius.  I’m sure this factored to some degree in my final decision.

I should add that the rest of the equipment that forms the overall House Battery system would work well with any of the LiFePO4 or AGM batteries I considered.  Things such as the twin 250A 24V Electrodyne alternators with external rectifiers, WakeSpeed 500 Smart Regulators and Victron BMV712 battery monitors, would all work for any of the batteries I was looking at be they Lithium or AGM so this was a non factor in my decision making.  Lithium batteries would of course require equally high quality BMS either internal or external so I only considered LiFePO4 batteries with dedicated BMS from their manufacturer.

11 GA Battery CompartmentsClick to enlarge and see the location of the three battery compartments on Möbius

BATTERY CHOICES:

I’ve written about this topic of batteries for Mobius multiple postings here on the blog and I spent a LOT of hours discussing this with experts and other boat owners and researching the latest offerings of high quality batteries.  This lead me to narrow it down to a choice between Lithium (LiFePO4) and AGM batteries from the likes of Victron, Battleborn/DragonFly, Lithionics, etc. all of whom had some very high quality options.
Box
Dragonfly Battery Images (Transparent Background)For example, this new form factor of “12V 270Ah GameChanger 3.0” LiFePO4 batteries from DragonFly had some very attractive features.


Victron OPzV battery photoI also went back to the original batteries that I had considered for Möbius during the initial design phase which were these type of OPZv Gel type “traction batteries” and they were in the running again in this most recent search.
I paid close attention to how “bullet proof” the batteries were in terms of being able to deal with such factors as the likelihood of a few times in their long lifespan where they would end up being completely discharged for some reason or another.  Never planned of course but always possible and when we start talking about lifespans of 10+ years the probability of such “accidents” becomes quite high.

Lithionics batteryThese intriguing 24V 275Ah LiFePO4 “modules” with external BMS from Lithionics ticked off a lot of boxes were also recommended by OPE though came with a deservedly high price as well.
There were several other batteries and companies which I researched and made it onto my short list but the ones above cover the top contenders. 

and the WINNER IS …………..

I’m well aware that many of you would make a different choice for YOUR boat, but I do my best with all equipment decisions to find the “Goldilocks” just right choice that best matches with Möbius’ use case. 

In the end, this is what I chose; (drum roll please …………………….)


Victron SC AGM battery shot………….. After a LOT of deliberation I decided to go with Victron and chose their “Super Cycle” AGM batteries
PXL_20230426_213319964We chose Victron equipment for the entire electrical system on Möbius including their Isolation Transformer, MultiPlus Inverter/Chargers, MPPT controllers, Octo and Cerbo GX monitoring, etc. so they are a company that we have come to know well and not doubt have a bias for and I’m sure this did influence my final choice and Victron offered multiple batteries in both LiFePO4 and AGM to chose from.
These Victron SC AGM battery model are 12V @ 230Ah C20 and one of their more interesting qualities that caught my attention was their stated ability to withstand 300 complete 100% discharges without any damage to them although it certainly would shorten their lifespan if you were to do that.  Having gone with Victron for almost all of the equipment that makes up the overall electrical system on Möbius, I have come to trust and respect them as a company but I still wanted to verify these claims and was fortunate to find that Bruce Schwab at Ocean Planet Energy OPE, was able to personally verify Victron’s claims of these Super Cycle batteries based on OPE’s direct testing and he wrote:

Being a Victron distributor, we have tested the Victron Super Cycle AGM 125Ah (G31 size) in our PSOC regime. Nearly all Pb batteries suffer permanent capacity loss when run through this 30-cycle PSOC test.  We’re happy to say that the Super Cycle AGM passed with flying colors, with no discernable loss of capacity.


bruce-schwab-energy-systems-logo-SHORTI was therefore delighted to be able to work directly with Bruce and his tech Kevin at Ocean Planet Energy and can not recommend them more highly.  Bruce was incredibly responsive throughout the whole process, answering all my barrage of questions leading up to the choice of these Victron batteries and then getting the new batteries along with some additional Victron equipment ordered and delivered to the marina here in Norfolk VA. 

Bruce and Kevin worked with me very closely during the entire installation and configuration of the whole new electrical system to get it dialed in “just right”.  It is all too rare in my experience that you find such high degree of expertise along with truly exemplary service and so my hat off to Bruce and Kevin, can’t thank you both enough.  If any of you have any electrical needs for your boat I’m sure you will thank me later for contacting Bruce and his staff at OPE and similarly benefiting from their expertise and incredible customer service.

* NOTE:  Just to be clear and transparent, I am not sponsored by OPE or Victron or any other manufacturer, just a very satisfied customer wanting to share my first hand experiences with these high quality companies and people.

OUT WITH THE OLD;

XPM 6S4P House BatteryHere is the schematic showing how the original House Bank of 24 FireFly L15+ Carbon Foam batteries was setup.

     (click to enlarge this or any other photo)


PXL_20230727_154145252This is one of the three sealed battery compartments that are built into the hull with the batteries stradling the 1″ thick center keel bar so that all their weight acts as nicely centered “lead ballast”.  As per the schematic above, each of the four banks of FireFly batteries were wired directly to the positive and negative main bus bars inside the Grey DC Distribution box you see here.  All cables are of equal gauge and length, hence the looped Red & Black cables,   Positive cables from each bank have their own Off/On Battery Switch (Grey switches top left corner) and the negative cables each connect to the Neg bus bar through their own shunt for the Victron BMV712 battery monitors.  Fortunately I was able to reuse all these cables and battery monitors for the new batteries.
PXL_20230727_154208403This is the forwardmost battery compartment with the lid removed to start disconnecting all the batteries.
PXL_20230727_162322153With all the interconnecting battery cables and copper bars removed these 8 batteries are ready to leave the building.
IMG_3076Each FireFly battery weighs 43Kg/94lbs but fortunately they had very good handles on both sides so lifting them up and out went well.  This is the first eight of 24 batteries out on the dock beside the boat.

OUT OUT OUT with the OLD!

PXL_20230821_150439744A bit of a sad end to what should have been a much happier relationship with these FireFly batteries, but it is what it is.
PXL_20230821_145518401Enlisting the generously offered assistance of the marina staff and their golf cart to make the looooooooong trek along the maze of docks to get from the boat to the shore, we were able to transfer the batteries from boat to shore to pickup truck to take them to the battery salvage yard.

A forklift sure makes life easier once I got the batteries to the salvage yard!
PXL_20230821_150422017At least I was able to offset the cost of the new batteries with the money for the 2317 lbs of lead contained within the 24 FF batteries. (less weight of case, gel, etc.)

Bye bye FireFly; Hello Victron!

IN with the NEW

PXL_20230809_174034822The new batteries were delivered a few days later and with some help from the marina staff and their golf cart, we were able to bring the new batteries out to the dock beside Möbius.
IMG_3077.With the old FF batteries removed I could take out the fiberglass pans and modify them to fit the new batteries.  Not actually required by ABYC for these sealed batteries but a smart “belt & suspender” safety feature I think. 
PXL_20230802_200212279Each of the three pans needed to be extended in length so I just cut them in half with my circular saw ……….
PXL_20230807_154258855and then glassed in the space between with new cloth and resin.


Just visible on the far left end of this pan you can see the new SS tie down D rings I installed for the ratchet webbing used to secure the batteries in place.

Now all that was needed was to lift each of the 125lb new batteries from the dock down into the Basement and then lower them into their new home inside each battery compartment.

IN WITH THE NEW:

New Victron House Bank schematicThis schematic illustration will show you how the new House Bank is wired up.  Over the many years of boat ownership I have come to appreciate how important it is to keep ALL batteries very well balanced as they are being charged and discharged. 

    
NOTE: this is a schematic diagram only, cable sizes and lengths not shown to scale


This boils down to ensuring that each battery has the exact same resistance as their electrons flow in and out which is mostly determined by having the exact same size and length of cable connecting them to each other in the parallel and series arrangement required for such a multi battery bank setup.  It is similarly important that each individual battery bank also has the exact same cable gauge and length for their connections to the main positive and negative bus bars.

Also worth noting that all battery cables are oversized to 120mm2 (two sizes larger than AWG 4/0) to have less than 1% voltage drop.

Nigel Calder Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manaul coverI have also come to appreciate how much it helps to go the “extra mile” with the interconnecting cables to make all the series and parallel connections between each of the four batteries that make up each bank.  I first learned this method many years ago from Nigel Calder’s invaluable “Boatowners Mechanical & Electrical Manual” which you can see in Fig 1.21 page 22 if interested.

This is the wiring I used for each of the four batteries in each battery bank.

PXL_20230817_165919952You can see this in the schematic above and here in the actual cables installed on the new Victron SC AGM batteries. 

Small gauge wires you see here are for the various temperature and voltage sensors for monitoring these batteries with both Victron and Maretron.
PXL_20230815_140431433Christine’s son Tim flew up for a visit during all of this and being a very good certified electrician he generously worked with me for the whole installation process.  Here seen crimping the lugs onto the new interconnecting cables that needed to be made up.
PXL_20230817_165943879Tim does very high quality work which I certainly value highly and is also great to see in this new generation of electricians and workforce.  Good example here of affixing the SS ratchets and straps to this battery bank.
PXL_20230816_220800754Tim also took on the finicky mounting and then wiring of the three Victron Battery Balancers that we added to the installation. 

Thanks Tim, couldn’t have done it without you!!
Victron Battery Balancer connection diagramFor those interested, these battery balancers work as follows:

The Battery Balancer equalizes the state of charge of two series connected 12V batteries, or of several parallel strings of series connected batteries. When the charge voltage of a 24V battery system increases to more than 27V, the Battery Balancer will turn on and compare the voltage over the two series connected batteries. The Battery Balancer will draw a current of up to 1A from the battery (or parallel connected batteries) with the highest voltage. The resulting charge current differential will ensure that all batteries will converge to the same state of charge.

With the kind of $$ we boat owners invest in our battery banks, every bit that we can extend their lifespan helps and is well worth doing in my experience.
PXL_20230815_140513199Not quite finished, still need to tidy up the cables and small wire sensor cables with zip ties but here is what House Bank #1 looks like.
PXL_20230816_190334080And this is the aft most Bank #3 just about ready to have the lid bolted on to finish this installation.

It took a few days working with Bruce and Kevin at OPE to get all the settings setup just right in the MPPT controllers, WakeSpeed regulators, MultiPlus chargers and BMV sensors and they went the extra mile and then some to help configure and finish up the installation.  We have been running the new Victron House Battery setup for about three weeks now and it is performing flawlessly.   I’ve tested it both with and without shore power and the each battery and each battery bank has stayed perfectly balanced and performing just as hoped. 

A very good feeling after nursing the original House Battery along for the past year but we now have a great setup that should continue to meet all the significant electrical demands aboard Möbius.  This is very much a “battery based” boat with all DC and AC power coming from these batteries so this really adds to the SWAN or Sleep Well At Night factor on our beloved Möbius.

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far in this all too typical “brevity challenged” update.  With any luck there won’t be any more big jobs like this to report on but I will post updates from time to time as things evolve aboard and soon hopefully off of the Good Ship Möbius.

-Wayne

As Wayne’s World Spins; Möbius’ World Turns Upside Down

As Wayne’s World Spins; Möbius’ World Turns Upside Down

Christine and I are still working our way through our recent “difficult but clear” decision to send our beloved dog Ruby off on her final passage which you may have read about in my last update I posted here. We both want to say thanks to all of you who sent such kind thoughts in your comments, text messages, Emails and calls. All much appreciated and we are most grateful for bringing us even more memories of all our adventures and travels with Ruby the Wonderdog.

As the randomness of life would have it, it turns out this was just the warmup for us as we now find ourselves confronted with an even more “difficult but clear” decision to make which I will explain as best I can below.

Mobius World PNG Logo WITH Words Under FINALI won’t bore you with too many of the details, but I have recently received confirmation that I have a rare condition called Ménière’s Disease that affects my inner ear and balance. In my case, the primary symptoms are sudden onset Vertigo which makes me dizzy and disoriented without any warning when I am moving around and increased tinnitus that has been ringing in my ears for many years. Currently, there is no cure or treatment for Ménière’s disease, and the symptoms are predicted to increase in frequency and severity over the coming years. We will just have to wait and see.

Right now, these random bouts of vertigo are not too frequent and only occur when I am moving around. The bigger problem is when I am unable to grab onto something, and I lose my balance and fall. In several instances over the past months while we have been underway on Möbius, I’ve hit my head badly and worse, I’ve aggravated the four cracked disks in my back from a serious motorcycle accident I survived many years ago. This has triggered severely painful spasms that incapacitate me for several days.  I’m no stranger to pain and can deal with that, but as you might imagine, with this all happening on a moving boat while underway, it has been very stressful for poor Christine. She has often reminded me that her worst fear is waking up for her night watch and finding herself alone on the boat. With this news, and her first-hand observation of a fall or two, she tells me her anxiety level has skyrocketed.

After much discussion of our options and processing through stages of denial, anger and frustration we have both come to accept the painful but clear conclusion that it is no longer safe or sensible for us to continue our nomadic adventures exploring the world by sea aboard the good ship Möbius. After investing and immersing ourselves so completely for the past five years to bring our Goldilocks “just right, just for us” dreams to the reality that is Möbius, ending our voyages just as we were getting started is sad and disappointing to say the least.  Yet for us, this does not diminish in the least the incredible experiences we’ve had joining forces with SO many eXtremely talented people to collaboratively design and build this boat of our dreams. We remain eternally grateful to each one of you. In the short time since setting off to eXplore the world on her, we have already had so many truly awemazing adventures together visiting places we had never seen before and making the transition from sail to power. Mirroring our recent experience with losing Ruby, it will be painful to let Möbius go, but it is equally clear to us that this is the smart and right thing to do. She is an amazing boat, and we adore her, but she deserves and needs owners who can take her on the ocean-crossing voyages she has proven to be so capable of and is currently tugging at her dock lines to continue.

I’m not sure that it has fully sunk in for either of us yet, but we are going to be “swallowing the anchor” as the saying goes. However, we have accepted the eXciting new challenge of dreaming up a whole new home for us and new way of equally eXtreme eXploration of the world by land. At this point in time, we have no idea just what that will look like, but we’ll figure that out over the next few months and are anxious to get started on this as soon as possible. We love these kinds of challenges, and we think we have been quite successful so far. Why would we change now?! Heck, we made the transition from voyaging by sail to power and transformed our aquatic Goldilocks dreams into reality by designing and building Möbius, and we have just covered over 8200 nautical smiles since leaving Turkey at the end of October. How hard can the next transition from sea to land be? Maybe we’ll end up following that natural progression with age I’ve heard some mention: Sailboat –> Powerboat –> RV –> Hearse. hehehe

So, what’s next for us? Our immediate plans are to stay living aboard Möbius safely docked here at Tidewater Marina in Norfolk VA where we recently enjoyed having our son Skyler here for a week long visit and our two Granddaughters and their parents aboard for the July 4th week.  Now that we have been able to spend time with our thee children and grandchildren and discuss our big decision with them, our top priorities are to get our personal gear down to the bare minimum on Möbius and get her spick and span and shipshape as we seek out her new owners. As most of you know, Möbius is our full-time home and everything we own is onboard so it will take a good bit of time and work to transfer all our personal gear from the boat to shore.

Trust me when I say that I know this is a LOT to take in and process! We are feeling more than a bit overwhelmed by this sudden and complete change in plans, but we both wanted to deliver this news to you as directly and transparently as possible as we work our way through it all. It won’t be fast or easy to find the new owners for Möbius, but now that we have made the decision we are highly motivated to find them so she will be the deal of a lifetime for someone out there such that we and they can both begin our new adventures right away.

And of course, if YOU have been dreaming about exploring the world by sea sooner than later on a boat that has proven herself an eXtremely capable exploration passagemaker, here is your chance to fulfill those dreams NOWl!  So, if this boat is calling your name or you know anyone else who might like to become the new owner of Möbius, please email us at wayne.christine@mobius.world.  It will take us a few weeks at least to get Möbius decluttered and ready to put on the market and we will create a “Möbius for Sale” blog post with videos, photos and details of all her equipment and systems and publish that as soon as we can.


I realize that this is likely as unexpected and surprising to you as it has been to us, and I apologize for veering off onto this personal tangent on the Mobius.World blog. Having each of you choose to join us on this grand “Project Goldilocks” adventure has been a huge part of what has made the journey so far so special and meaningful for both me and Christine, and we are grateful for your encouragement and companionship throughout. Therefore, it seemed only appropriate to share this unexpected new development with you directly today.

That’s more than enough from me for now. Please don’t fret or worry, as this is NOT a life-threatening condition, just a lifestyle-threatening one. I’m still very appreciative and grateful for everything I am so fortunate to have in life. At 70 years young, I still lead a very charmed, adventurous and eXciting life. Despite this new wrinkle, I’m otherwise very fit, healthy, and energetic. I have the best partner in life and love, my Captain Christine at my side. And I have more love and care from more family and friends like you than I deserve. So, could I be any more fortunate? Methinks not!

I appreciate that you may be feeling the urge to respond to this update, and I thank you for that, but no response is needed nor expected. For us it is onward and upward, as we close out one set of adventures and begin the next.

So don’t worry, we’re not done yet! We’ll keep you posted here on our next steps as we continue our newest round of awemazing adventures in life.

-Wayne

Way to Go Christine!

Way to Go Christine!

A very quick but important update for those who might not otherwise be aware.

An article entitled “Project Goldilocks” that Christine wrote several months ago has just gone live and been published on the web site of PassageMaker magazine. 

As per their byline PassageMaker is “The World’s Cruising authority” so this is a premiere magazine for the community surrounding those out cruising the world, mostly in power boats. 

As such, many of you may not subscribe but I am delighted to pass on that the article is now available to the public via the Passagemaker web site which you can access HERE. 

Screenshot Christine Passagemaker article on Project Goldilocks

Part of the interesting back story for you is that Christine began her professional writing career back when she was in her twenties and wrote an article about her experience of riding her bicycle solo down the entirety of then just completed Baja Highway on the West coast of the Mexican peninsula.  This article was published in “Bicycling!” a major bicycling enthusiasts magazine at the time. 

Christine has written quite a few magazine articles for a wide range of magazines in the years since and back at the beginning of this year the editors of Passagemaker magazine contacted her asking if she would be willing to write an article about her experiences with Möbius for an upcoming edition of Passagemaker magazine.  The magazine publishing business still works quite slowly and the article has only just now appeared online and will be featured in the July/August 2023 print magazine.

For those with sharp eyes who might be confused to see that this article says it was written by “Christine Kling”.  No, this is not a typos as this is Christine’s Nom de plume or pen name under which she writes all her best selling mystery novels.

I am SO proud of my awemazing and talented partner and Captain in life for this most recent opportunity to share her writings with the world and hope you will enjoy reading this great summary of the experiences of transforming the dreams of Project Goldilocks into the reality that Möbius now is.

Enjoy!

-Wayne