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.
With 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.
Click to enlarge and see the location of the three battery compartments on Möbius
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. For example, this new form factor of “12V 270Ah GameChanger 3.0” LiFePO4 batteries from DragonFly had some very attractive features.
I 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.
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 …………………….)
………….. After a LOT of deliberation I decided to go with Victron and chose their “Super Cycle” AGM batteries. We 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.
I 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;
Here 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)
This 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. This is the forwardmost battery compartment with the lid removed to start disconnecting all the batteries. With all the interconnecting battery cables and copper bars removed these 8 batteries are ready to leave the building. Each 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!
A bit of a sad end to what should have been a much happier relationship with these FireFly batteries, but it is what it is. Enlisting 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! At 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
The 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. .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. Each of the three pans needed to be extended in length so I just cut them in half with my circular saw ………. and 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:
This 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.
I 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.
You 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. Christine’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. Tim 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. Tim 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!! For 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. Not 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. And 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.
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 Iposted 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.
I 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
I don’t recall just when or how she acquired the moniker of Ruby the Wonderdog, but it was very early on as a pup and my First Mate aboard the Good Ship Learnativity as we sailed out of San Francisco back in 2007 and set out to explore the world together. This is my very first photo of her the day I picked her up on the 12th of October, 2007 when she was about six weeks old.
Today, almost 16 years later, Ruby weighed her last anchor and headed off on her final passage. As you might imagine, Christine and I are riding life’s rollercoaster of emotions today which includes a lot of sadness but if you chose to continue reading, I hope you will indulge me this personal detour. I’d like to remind myself just how much Ruby was THE Wonderdog as we celebrate and appreciate the profound joy she brought into our lives and that of countless others she met along the way. Like most of the awemazing events in my life, Ruby came into my life when the forces of serendipity and synchronicity combined to have us meet and be bonded forever after.
As I was preparing to head off sailing around the world singlehanded, I had thought I might get a cat at some point but my dear friend Grace happened to mention that her two dogs had just had a litter and she was looking for a good home for the last one. It was the classic love at first sight ,and we’ve been together ever since. Ruby was a “Spoodle”, cross between Poodle and Cocker Spaniel and both her parents, Grace’s dogs, were Spoodles. And when I say she was small I’m not exaggerating as you can see here in this picture with my daughter Lia’s little Papillion “Piglet”. And Oh, the places we did go! We started by sailing down the West coast of North, Central and South America to Rapa Nue aka Easter Island where we turned right and headed West to Pitcairn, Gambier and on through most of the Polynesian islands. Westward to more islands such as American Samoa, Niue, Tonga, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Vanuatu with multiple passages between all of these for about the next five years. Aboard Möbius this past year, the Wonderdog sailed with Christine, myself and her buddy Barney, along the coasts of Turkey, Greece and Sicily then across the Med and North Africa, across the Atlantic to Martinique in the Caribbean and up through the Bahamas to Florida and now her final port here in Portsmouth Virginia. Being all Black other than a small White blaze on her chest, Ruby was typically difficult to see in photos but if you look closely or click to enlarge, you’ll see her on the other side of me as we crossed the equator in 2009. This would be our first of seven times we crossed the equator together. In 2013 when serendipity and synchronicity again combined to have the awemazing Christine and I meet for the first time in Fiji, Ruby was there too as seen in this first photo ever taken of us a few hours after we met. That first photo above was taken on our dear friends Ian & Coleen’s boat Summer Spirit in Vuda Point Marina. Ruby fell in love with both of them, and vice versa, probably spending more time aboard Summer Spirit than Learnativity in all the years we were back and forth to Fiji and Vuda Point. Ruby loved running up and down beaches and this one in Majuro in the Marshall Islands was one of her favorites. In multiple passages up to Majuro from Fiji, we probably spent over a year’s time there, the last two with Christine aboard as well. The Wonderdog was always a marvel of balance that would make any gymnast or circus act envious and perched herself at the bow every dinghy ride no matter the conditions and never fell off once. Though she jumped off as soon as we got near the beach as she just couldn’t wait to swim ashore and hit the beach running. Another of her many skills, she became and expert and sniffing out and then digging out crabs no matter how deep down under the sand they went, and then eat with great gusto and lips carefully bared so as not to get bit by their claws. On rare occasion she would take a back seat to her best buddy Barney as long as it meant another trip to the beach. We soon became a family of four when Christine’s dog at the time Barney joined us, and he and Ruby became best buddies immediately almost more than did Christine and I. However it quickly became apparent that Barney was “my” dog and Ruby was velcro’d to Christine from the very first day they met. In any case, we were now a family of four. Both Ruby and Barney were great snuggle buddies, sometimes along side us sometimes alongside each other. Always at the ready for the next adventure, or the next meal. Can’t say that it was her favorite thing to do but Ruby was no stranger to dressing up for special occasions such as being Bridesmaid along with Barney as Groom at our wedding in 2015. And celebrating each Christmas with us as Santa’s little helpers. Along for the ride with all our family and friends such as one of Lia and Brian’s many times aboard starting with this first one in Puntarenas Costa Rico along with their little dog Piglet. Son Skyler on one of our many visits to Vancouver BC. And my apologies to SO many other friends and family I’m leaving out here.
If you believe in dog years, Ruby would be about 110 years old now and Christine and I have known for the past few months that age was beginning to catch up with her. She had lost most of her hearing the past year and was developing cataracts in both eyes, but she was still as frisky as a pup at times racing up and down the side decks, eating, drinking, pooping and sleeping well and seemed to continue to enjoy life together with us. So we’ve been keeping a close eye on her, and this past week she started to go downhill down rapidly. Barney noticed the change as well this past week and in an apparent common scenario, for the first time he began to give her some very serious grooming sessions licking her head to toe for half an hour or more multiple times a day. Ruby seemed to signal us as well as her appetite diminished as did her weight this past week, and she ate and drank very little the last 24 hours.
The decision was not easy but it was clear to all four of us that this fateful time had arrived. So a few hours ago, we snuggled together with our dearest friend and crewmember for one last time, shed more than a few tears and kissed Ruby the Wonderdog Bon Voyage for her final passage in this life, with us by her side.
Over our years together the boats Ruby and I have lived and sailed upon have changed, but I’d like to think that we have both stayed largely the same and as bonded together as ever.
This was us in Fiji in 2009 and ….. …… this is us this morning in Portsmouth Virginia, fourteen years later.
FYI, totally unintended coincidence but yes of course I’m still wearing the same shirt!
We have seen a lot of the world together and watched a lot of sunsets over the years, my dearest Ruby. My rough guesstimates are that together we’ve checked into more than 33 countries, flown almost one hundred thousand air miles, tens of thousand road miles in cars, trucks, RV’s and motorcycles, countless more miles on trains, taxis and busses and sailed over 60 thousand nautical miles.
Ruby, words can not possibly articulate how rich and charmed my life has been since you first entered it. I will never be able to thank you enough for all the many gifts and profound joy you have given me during our almost sixteen years together. I think I may be ready for a world without The Wonderdog in it, but I’m not at all sure if I will ever be ready for a world without my partner Ruby.
Lucky for me, there really is no such world as I will always have and cherish the treasure trove of memories from all our shared experiences in life together.
Thank you my friend, my partner, my beloved Ruby. Fair winds and following seas as you weigh anchor and set out upon your latest voyage with me at your side as always!
As I am writing this on New Year’s eve 2022, I’ll start with a spoiler alert that it seemed only fitting for us to celebrate New Year’s eve in our last port on this side of the Atlantic and get 2023 off to a great start by leaving in the morning on New Year’s Day for our Trans Atlantic crossing over to the Caribbean.
OK, now that you know where we are headed, let’s rewind back to where we left off in the last Mobius.World update “On the Run” when we were still in Tangier Morocco patiently waiting for a good weather window to head down south along the West coast of Morocco to the Canary Islands. It all worked out as I had written in that update and we checked out of Morocco and left Tanja Marina Bay on Wednesday morning the 21st December. There was a bit more wind and wave on the nose than the forecast had predicted but it continued to settle down that evening as we made our way West and then turned South for the Canary Islands.
The conditions that first day gave us the opportunity to become more familiar with our Paravane stabilisation system to see how well it worked to reduce the rolling from the beam (on the side) waves and swell. This was the first chance I got to test out the latest rigging setup so I was keen to see how it would worked and very happy with the results in the end.
As you may recall from previous posts, Paravanes or “fish” as they are sometimes called are commonly seen on commercial fishing boats as well as a few recreational trawlers and provide a way to reduce the roll of a boat as it follows swell and waves coming at angles of about 45 to 125 degrees of the hull, which means on the beam or sides. I used this design from some Canadian fish boats as they were very well suited to a DIY project and would let me experiment with various sizes and setups to find the Goldilocks just right setup and then perhaps make a pair out of all aluminium. Here is what my finished version 1.o of these paravanes look like when they are all ready to go to work. Each paravane is suspended by fixed length lines of Dyneema from the end of the A-frame booms that we set out at about 45 degrees. These fixed length lines going down to the paravanes allow them to run about 6 meters/18 ft under the surface of the water. As the boat tries to roll to one side that paravane “dives” down and then as the boat tries to roll over to the opposite side the paravane resists being pulled up and thus reduces the amount and speed of the roll. Super simple all mechanical system. Deployment is very quick and easy, just let the A-frames out by easing off the lines going from the tip of each A-frame over to the top corner of the Arch and then lower the paravanes into the water with the boat stopped or moving slowly. The design of the paravanes is such that they automatically align themselves and dive down till the fixed length line stops their descent and they start “flying” through the water about 6 meters below the surface. My previous rigging was to have a retrieval line, the white line in the photo above, attached to the top rear corner of the aluminium “fin” and just let this trail through the water out behind the paravanes. It worked fine but the retrieval was purely manual by hauling in that retrieval line by hand and in anything other than very calm conditions was quite slow and laborious and potentially dangerous so I came up with a different design. Staying with the KISS approach, Keep is Simple & Safe, I simply used these aluminium low friction doughnut shaped rings that we use with our Dyneema lines in many other places on the boat. Easy to insert them into the orange Dyneema line going down to the paravanes such that this ring would be about a meter above the water and then run the White retrieval line through the ring. If you look carefully or click to enlarge the photo, you will see that I added a block to the middle of the A-frame and ran the retrieval line through this block and over to the Arch. Easier to see the whole thing when the A-frame is in its vertical stowed position here. You can see how that White retrieval line goes through the low friction ring, up to the turning block on the A-frame then over to the second turning block attached to the Arch and down to the horizontally mounted winch at the base of the Arch. Here is the best shot I could get of what the whole setup looks line when it is fully deployed and working. The White retrieval line is kept slack and allowed to trail out behind the paravane so it flies freely. Retrieval now became as simple and as safe as deploying by simply using the winch to pull in the white retrieval line which starts to pick up the tail of the paravane and put it in this neutral vertical position with very low resistance to bring to the surface. I just keep cranking the winch to bring the paravane above the water and up to about level with the deck of the boat where I can use a boat hook to grab the line and pull the suspended paravane onboard. The whole process was very controlled and safe and this setup allows me to retrieve the paravanes without having to fully stop the boat so the whole process takes less than a few minutes and then Christine can take us back up to speed and we continue on our way or head into our anchorage or port. So how well did these paravanes help stabilize the boat and reduce the roll you ask? I thought the best way to show this was with this screen of a Roll graph I created on our Maretron N2K View system you see here. This is a shot of the previous 4 hours and you can see the point a bit right of center where the paravanes went into the water and started working. Previously on the Left you can see that the roll on the vertical axis was much larger reaching up over 15 degrees side to side and then dropped off noticeably to about 5 degrees or less. At the time of this photo you can see that the roll was -1.3 degrees, negative being roll to Port, positive to Starboard. The best way I can describe the effect is that these paravanes don’t eliminate the roll, they dampen it considerably both in degrees of roll and in speed of roll. There is still some roll but it is now much slower and less “deep” which makes for a MUCH more comfortable motion that makes it easy to move around the boat safely. I want to be clear that were we to have active stabilizer fins or Magnus effect cylinders, the reduction in roll would be much greater, however that comes with a significant cost in both complexity, price and maintenance. For now we are very happy with these early trials of our Paravane system and we will continue to learn and test it in different conditions as we travel the world. If they continue to work as well as these early trials indicate then we’ll just keep on using them. If not, the hull has been fully framed for active stabilizers if we decide we want to install them at a later date. I will continue to report the real world data on how well the paravanes work as we venture forward.
I will come up with a more permanent storage setup for the Paravanes when they are not in use but for now it is working well to stow them safely out of the way on their sides like this, lashed to the very sturdy AL stanchions with their own lines.
As it turned out we didn’t get a chance to use the Paravanes after that first day of our 3 1/2 day passage down to the Canaries as the seas flattened out and no stabilization was needed at all. Weather WonderWoman Christine had found us yet another great weather window and the rest of this passage was smooth and comfy as could be. These were our typical sea conditions. Hard to ask for much better and we even had a bit of a following sea to help us along. As these two crew members can attest. For those interested in overall passage performance this trip, the total distance was 678.4 NM in 78.2 hours. Average SoG, Speed over Ground was 8.7 knots and average fuel consumption was 1.76 L/NM. All numbers which we are eXtremely happy with and will continue to try out different combinations of engine RPM, load and prop pitch to see how these numbers change as we log more and more nautical smiles.
Other highlights of this passage include numerous schools of different types of dolphins who joined us for various amounts of time to the squealing delight of the Captain from her perch on the Bow. We also picked up a few hitchhikers like this rather large squid but they didn’t travel too far with us before heading back to sea. We had originally intended to head for the northernmost Canary Island of Lanzarote but we were not able to find a berth at the Port of Entry there so we headed over to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria instead. A bit disponing for us because we had hoped to meet up with David, who we had met years ago on our previous boat Learnativity when we were in Vuda Point marina in Fiji. David has been following us for a long time now on the bloat and he very kindly reached out to us when he saw that we were heading to the Canaries where he was now working on Lanzarote. Sorry to miss you this time David but stay tuned for the next opportunity. And so it was that we pulled into the very large Las Palmas Marina, which is where the ARC rally starts from each year in November. Even with those 200+ boats now long gone, the marina still only had a few spots but managed to fit us in on the end of the fuel dock you see here. The night after we arrived another low front passed through with some sustained winds over 40 knots which caused a bit of problems for some of the boats inside and outside the marina so we had several of them come in during the middle of the night and this is what the scene looked like in front of us the next morning. Several more came in after this and we had one tie up alongside us to add one more spot for a few days refuge. All has been cleared up now but repairs are still underway for damage in the marina and on several of the boats. Seems like the Canary Island people like to get an early start on celebrating the pending arrival of the New Year and Christine was able to get this shot of the fireworks going off over in the city the other side of the marina last night. I’m guessing this was just a warm up for the big show tonight so should be quite the celebration for all of us this New Year’s Eve. Weather may change our routing but we are currently heading to the south end of the Caribbean islands to St. George’s on the West side of Grenada. This zoomed out view will help provide a better overall picture of the typical routing many boats take for crossing the Atlantic both directions. Who knows, maybe we’ll just keep going and do the whole loop and end up back over in Europe in a year or two? Our intended route from here in Las Palmas over to Grenada will likely be about 2800 NM and should take us somewhere between 13-14 days but of course weather conditions can change that both directions so we’ll just leave it up to Mother Nature to decide.
For now, we eagerly look forward to eXploring the many many islands and experiences awaiting us in the Caribbean which will also be a bit of “back home” for Christine from her many years sailing there since the 90’s. Fist though, we need to send 2022 into the history books and get 2023 started with our first Atlantic crossing in Möbius.
We have SO much to be grateful for from our experiences in 2022 so we look forward to tonight’s celebration. We’ll try not to stay up too late, which is pretty easy for us to do, as we intend to throw off the dock lines tomorrow morning and start making our way across the Atlantic. We want to sincerely thank each of you for all the time you take to join us throughout all our adventures with designing, building and now cruising on Möbius. It means a lot to both of us to know that so many people are ridging along with us and we hope we can continue to post updates that will want you to keep coming back for more. We will be off line throughout the crossing so the next update here will be from wherever we land in the Caribbean and I can provide you more details on the passage mid January or so. Wherever and how ever you celebrate the end of 2022 we wish that 2023 will turn out to be the best year yet for all of us.
Not too much to report from my side of the past two weeks as we continue to wait for a weather window to open up and let us make the passage south along the West cost of Morocco to one of the Canary Islands from where we will start to cross the Atlantic. Lots of daily boat projects configuring some of our Maretron monitoring system, dialing in Furuno Radar, adding insulation to fridge/freezers, etc. but nothing too photogenic to show.
However, Captain Christine has been using our extended time in this fascinating city of Tangier to get out and explore so I will mostly share some of her great photos.
Picking up where I left off in the last Mobius Update we were exploring “The Rock” aka Gibraltar as the great sunny weather we’ve been having for months for both shoreside explorations and passages continued. Taking advantage of the good weather, we waved goodbye to Gibraltar as we put it in our wake on Monday the 28th and made our way back across the Straits of Gibraltar heading SW over to Africa and officially out of the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic. As this satellite shot from space shows the Strait is VERY narrow and the only place where all the water of the Mediterranean flows in. Not surprisingly then this tremendous volume of water flowing for so many years has also made this Strait VERY deep, which makes for some pretty significant and wild currents. Oh, and of course this narrow passage is also the only passage for all ships going In/Out of the western end of the Med so it its a bit busy as well. Each blue triangle on our chart screen is a commercial ship. It was another sunny day with winds below 20 knots most of the passage and you can see the seas starting to churn a bit as we headed West to get over to good spot to turn South and get across the shipping lanes as quickly as possible. You can see this pretty clearly in this screen shot of our actual track coming out of Gibraltar and heading over to Tangier. With such varied currents and sea conditions our speeds ranged from as slow as 4kts up to 13 and Möbius handled it all eXtremely well and we made the 37nm passage in 5 hours for an average speed of 7.4kts. We entered this lovely Tanja Marina Bay in Tangier where we went through a very smooth checking in procedure before moving over to our spot on N dock which is in the top right end of the photo here. The marina can hold up to 1400 boats and is relatively new having opened in 2018. We had heard from other cruisers that the marina was very full due to the poor weather off the coast preventing all the boats trying to get down to the Canary Islands but we were treated to this excellent spot with an empty slot on the Starboard/Right side and nothing on the other. A good spot for a few days, or so we thought at the time. Mother Nature apparently had different plans in mind for us and our weather maps since just after we arrived have looked like this one, which is from today, Dec. 11th. We’re looking for Blues 0-10 kts and Greens 10-20 kts but as you can see it is mostly all Yellows and Reds which are winds up to 50+ kts. These are being caused by a series of Low pressure spots that keep marching East across the Atlantic one after another for the past few weeks with no end in sight yet. This legend will give you the details of wind speeds and colours if you’re interested. Fortunately we live on The No Plan Plan and so the only date we have for making the Trans Atlantic crossing over to the Caribbean is whenever Mother Nature gifts us with a nice Blue slot across. And so we wait until we see something more like …..
…. this! I’ve marked up this forecast weather map for next Saturday 17th December (click to enlarge) to help visualize the difference and what we’re waiting for. The challenge is that the passage down to the Canary Islands will take about 3 days and then the crossing to the Caribbean will take about 12-16 days so we are waiting until the forecast calls for the typical “Blue slot” or Green with winds behind us, across the Atlantic like the one you can see here, and one that will hold for 2-3 weeks. Historically those are the conditions here from about the end of November through February and hence the time when sailors come to the Canary Islands to cross the Atlantic. But as we are all experiencing no matter where we are, weather patterns are changing and often not following patterns from previous years and so this year we are getting this parade of Lows coming across and so the marina here in Tangier is chock full of boats all waiting like us for the weather window to open up to let us get down to the Canaries or Cape Verde to the south, and then make the Atlantic crossing with good winds and seas. Being a power boat we have the significant advantage of being able to go in anything from Blue to Green whereas sailboats want Green winds of up to 20 knots from the side to behind so we will likely be able to leave before many of the other boats here. But not for at least another week or two by the looks of the current forecasts. On the flip side, the local weather here in Tangier all last week was beautiful and this is an eXtremely fascinating city with a very long and diverse history so a pretty good spot to be for a few weeks or however long it takes. Being such a strategic location Tangier has been very highly fortified since about the tenth century BC, and all the ensuing occupations since by Romans, Berbers, Greece, England, France, Spain, Portugal, and more. Today fortifications like the one in the photo above have been restored and updated such as we saw here. We spent an hour or so wandering through this sprawling fort with views like this which make it easy to see just how advantageous this location was for defending the Straits. As we moved further in the historic preservation areas soon transformed into scenes like this with shops of every description on street level and apartments above. Diverse does not begin to capture the tremendous variety of everything from architecture and colours to ….. …. butchers …. …. fish … … spices …. … pastries … …. and dress.
I enjoy just taking it all in and observing details of the buildings, the people and the businesses. Christine is the researcher and she found out that this was where many scenes in the Jason Bourne Ultimatum movie were shot including the Gran Café de Paris scene. Where she walked there last week for her afternoon coffee. and to this patisserie with her “Freedom machine” parked out front. Meanwhile, back at Tanga Marina Bay …….. We aren’t the only eXpedition type of boat here when this little fellow showed up about a week ago. Christine met up with the crew on one of her walks and they were very familiar with our boat and some of the similar ones built in by Circa Marine in New Zealand. I think their “tender” on the back is bigger than Möbius! The weather may have turned cold and wet this past week but what was really hot was all the celebrations of the Moroccan national football team competing in the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar. We are docked beside a long row of cafés and restaurants and the Moroccan fans have been bringing down the house every night their team plays. This is closer to what it looks like inside these spots. We aren’t much into sports but the story of the Moroccan team is quite incredible being the first team ever from Africa to compete in the World Cup and as of last night’s win over Portugal, who were favored to win the whole tournament apparently, the Moroccan fans have been partying hard and loud ever since. An amazing story and they play top rated France next so I’m sure that the feverish support will reach all new highs on Wednesday. Great timing for us to be in this mix and Go Morocco GO!
So there’s your update from the Good Ship Möbius and I will update again once the weather window arrives and you can join us in the trip South to the Canary Islands. Till then, thanks for all your comments and questions, please keep them coming and we’ll do our best to keep you entertained and informed.
Here is the latest SitRep aka Situation Report for the Good Ship Mobius as of 27 November, 2022. Last SitRep took you up to Nov. 16th when we were in the little Spanish enclave of Melilla on the Moroccan coast waiting for a good weather window to make the next jump Westward and across the Strait to Gibraltar.
Where are we and how did we get here?
Zooming waaaaay out here is a screenshot of the satellite version from our PredictWind app which is what Weather Wonder Woman Christine uses most to do all our weather routing, that shows our travels since we left Kalymnos Greece on Oct. 30th, to where we are now at the base of the Rock of Gibraltar. Total route distance from Kalymnos to Gibraltar is 1653 nm. For those interested, here is the “weather version of this same map from PredictWind showing the various wind speeds and directions as of this afternoon, Sunday Nov. 27th. These weather maps are a bit difficult to read at first so you will likely want to click to enlarge this in order to see the thing white line that is our actual GPS track. My cartography skills are sadly lacking but I’ve done my best to add some text to help you read this somewhat busy weather map.
To help you read these weather maps, here is the color code for the different wind speeds in kts or Knots with dark Blue being zero wind, Greens being in the 20 knot range, Orange/Reds in the 30’s etc. In our case we like having a bad case of the Blues! The shortest version of this latest Sit Rep for those who just want the facts is that we stayed in Melilla for 9 days and then made the overnight passage to Gibraltar over what was American Thanksgiving on the 24/25th. That passage was 144 nautical smiles which we did in 18 hours 5 minutes so our average SoG (Speed over Ground) was 8.0 knots. 8 knots has been our overall average speed on the entire trip so far and now that we have Mr. Gee v2 pretty well broken in and have gained a better understanding of how the boat handles in different conditions and weights, we will start to play more with different combinations of engine RPM, prop Pitch and record the resultant boat speed and fuel burn rates as we seek out the Goldilocks combination for us and Möbius. Our average fuel burn rate at 8 knots is averaging out to be about 1.8 L/nm which we are quite pleased with and we will just see how this varies at different speeds, RPM and pitch. Stay tuned for more updates on these statistics in the coming weeks and months a we gather more of this real world data as we travel.
Crossing from Morocco to Gibraltar
I don’t think I had fully appreciated the fact that the ONLY way into the Med is through the Straits of Gibraltar which is only 13 kilometers (8.1 miles; 7.0 nautical miles) at the Strait’s narrowest point! So there is a LOT of water that needs to flow in and out of that very narrow Strait every day. This satellite photo from space helps you appreciate just how narrow it is with the Gibraltar down in the bottom left looking across the entire Mediterranean sea. In addition to all the water that, there is also a LOT of boats that also have to go through on their way in or out of the Med.
Here is a shot of our chart as we were crossing the Straits just at sunrise on the 25th. Each of those blue triangles is a commercial ship on our AIS Automatic Information System overlayed onto our chart. Möbius is the little Red ship icon down on the bottom right of this shot. It actually worked out quite well and we only needed to slow down briefly for one ship near the beginning of the crossing to allow him to cross in front of us and the rest all worked out to be far enough away as our wakes crossed.
The Rock isn’t a Hard Place at all!
The past few days we’ve been busy exploring the famous Rock of Gibraltar and all this area has to offer. Gibraltar has been a “British Overseas Territory” since 1713 and is only 6.7 km2 (2.6 sq mi) and completely bordered by Spain on the North, but being at the literal gateway to the Mediterranean it is hugely strategic. Being such a small area means that pretty much everything is within walking distance so we’ve been doing lots and the weather has been grand. Christine also put her eBike to good use to ride over to the “grocery store to die for” as she described her time in the Morrisons Grocery store that is only a few blocks away from where we are docked in QueensWay Quay and transport about 25 kilos of goodies she found there back to Möbius. Gibraltar may be small but based on the number of condominiums and new construction we’ve seen this is obviously a very popular spot for people seeking to find warmer climates than most other spots in Europe. Due to Brexit and the Schengen restrictions elsewhere in the EU, Gibraltar is particularly popular with the Brits it seems. The benefit for us is that in the midst of one of these newer developments is QueensWay Quay Marina which is where we tied up early Friday morning to use as our home base to explore the infamous Rock of Gibraltar and wait for the next weather window to cross back over to Morocco and around the corner to Tangier.
Today we took the aerial tram up the almost vertical face to the “Top of the Rock” and had a marvelous time exploring this awemazing vantage point. If you look really, really, really closely can you find Möbius docked in the Queensway Quay marina in the center of this photo? The Rock itself did not disappoint, either as we sailed by it coming in or up close and personal as we walked around it today. Pardon the glare through the window but couldn’t resist including this shot that Christine’s quick fingers managed to grab out the window where we were enjoying a bit of lunch. Christine also spent a few hours exploring some of the caves and tunnels on The Rock and we thoroughly enjoyed our time up on The Rock today.
Where to Next?
As you may recall from seeing this chart in previous posts, our intent is to leave the Med and sail across the Atlantic which we are now about to do. Ever dependent upon weather, we are watching what is known as the Azores High which spins up winds in a clockwise direction so we will be looking for low to no wind areas down on the bottom South end of this High such that they will be behind us and helping us along. Marked as “Return of Rally Route” on this chart. Best time for this Westward crossing has just started so our timing is very good to be here now. This is also the time when the large Atlantic Rally Crossing or ARC begins and as per this real time position update, about 200 boats left the Canary Islands on the 20th and are in the positions you see in THIS real time position map courtesy of the ARC web site. And you thought the Straits of Gibraltar were busy! The ARC and other rallies are more and more popular for their safety in numbers and ease of crossing advantages as well as the high social factor but not our cup of tea so we are purposely trailing well behind them and more likely that we’ll leave the Canary Islands in about two weeks from now, mid December.
As of tonight, Sunday Nov. 27th, weather is looking good for us to cross back over the Straits starting tomorrow and the next few days. We will most likely stop next in Tangier for a brief tour of that interesting city before we continue south hopping along the coast of Morocco and over to the Canary Islands. We will again let weather and whim dictate how many hops and stops we make along the way and will update you in the next SitReps here as to how that all goes. So that brings you all up to date on the latest from the Good Ship Möbius and our thanks to all of you for joining us on this latest adventure of the Nauti Nomadic Grandparents. We’ll be back in a week or two with then next SitRep so please stay tuned for more to follow as we continue our journey West and across the Atlantic.