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.
Not as much to post about the past two weeks as I have been out of commission after hurting my back badly when I tripped and fell last week and aggravated the four cracked discs I have had from a nasty motorcycle accident over 25 years ago. But the spasms are lessening each day since and just a matter of time before I’m back to just the usual back ache which is my normal state. No complaints from me though as we continue to enjoy taking our time to weave our way generally north through some of the hundreds of postcard like Bahamian islands.
When I left off in the last post we were in Red Cut Cay and after a few days there we continued up and anchored at Black Point then on to Allen’s Cay and then a very neat fully enclosed very tiny little bay on Royal Island as seen here on our chart plotter. This will give you a better perspective on how small the entrance was and if you click on the photo I have circled in RED the two short pieces of white PVC pipe that marked each side. Captain Christine guided us through as she put the entrance in our wake and …… …… I soon had the anchor down into the sandy bottom 2.5m/8ft below and we were soon enjoying our very own little anchorage with wine up in the SkyBridge. THIS is why we worked on the design so hard with Dennis to have the least draft possible; 1.3m/4.4 ft After Royal Island we made our way over to Lynyard Cay where we anchored for four days and had a chance to meet up with some sailing friends Mark & Shawnae who were anchored nearby on their latest boat s/v Big Sky Blue Waters (they hail from Montana). Difficult to show on maps as most of these spots are too small to show up but you can get a rough idea of our route and anchorages along the way. We are now anchored up near the north end of Great Abaco Island just off of Coopers Town. There is a storm front coming through this weekend with winds out of the West and South rather than the usual Easterlies so we’ll wait out here for that to pass and then make our way West as we get ready to jump off and cross over to West Palm Beach area in Florida in the next week or so.
That catches you up on our most recent travels and anchorages and now I thought that something a bit different might be of interest to many of you. Read on to see what you think and let me know your thoughts with comments in the “join the discussion” box at the end please.
Year in Review: Top Features We Like Most and Least on Möbius
Hard to believe but we started writing this Mobius.World blog back in March 2018 so we’ve just passed the five year mark for that and the primary motivation for creating and writing the 262 posts since then has been the hope that sharing our experiences here provides a good way for us to “pay it forward” for all the other people who went before us and shared their experiences from which we learned SO much. In keeping with that hope, as the calendar turns over to May (how did THAT happen so fast??) we have been actively cruising Möbius for one year now. Also on the hard to believe list is that our log book shows that we have just ticked over 7300 nautical miles (8400 miles/13,520 Kilometers) and most of that in just the last six months since leaving Turkey at the end of October. Last year we were in and out of a number of marinas so we have been through our share of Med mooring, docking, fueling up and the like. This year we’ve been on anchor every night for the past four months in quite a variety of conditions, bottoms and weather. We’ve done everything from short day trips, lots of overnight passages and some longer ones such as our trans Atlantic crossing of 14 days. With these cumulative experiences I thought now would be a good time to reflect on what we have learned over the past year about what is working out best for us as well as what has not worked so well and we would change or do differently to make Möbius even better. I will write this up as two blog posts grouping what’s worked best into one and then a second with what changes we would make to follow. In my experience I have found that first hand experience from others has proven to be the best and most useful for making my decisions and so I hope these twin posts will do likewise for some of you.
A few caveats before I go any further:
All of the points I’ll be covering are simply what has worked so well or not for us and our use cases with no suggestion that these would be best for other owners, boats and use cases.
There is no implied order or ranking of these items, simply a list.
Any mention of specific products is done for clarity only, these are not endorsements and we have no sponsors or affiliations with any of the products mentioned.
In the years of posts here on this blog, I have provided lots of detailed coverage, too much perhaps, of each of these items during the build so in this posting I will just be listing the reasons why each item is on the list. If you are interested in more details you can refer to these previous posts and I’ll provide links to some of these.
OK, with that out of the way, let’s jump right into our top favorite features on Möbius.
Starting up at the Bow, our whole anchoring system has proven to be eXtremely strong, reliable and easy to use and has perhaps contributes more than any other system to our SWAN factor that enable us to Sleep Well At Night in every anchorage in all conditions. The “SideWinder” mounting of the anchor off the Port side of the Bow which Dennis and I designed, has proven to be a great setup eliminating the anchor and roller assembly from sticking out over 1m at docks and keeps it very securely pressed against the hull in pounding seas with nary a sound or any movement. The primary components of our Anchoring System are
110Kg/242lb Rocna anchor
100m/330ft of Galvanized DS40 13mm chain
Maxwell windlass VWC4000 w/Maxwell controls at both helms and wired remote in forepeak
Lewmar Deluxe Heavy Duty Chain Stopper 13mm chain
Lewmar EVO 55 Self-Tailing Winch for kedging The chain all stows inside of a round aluminium chain bin inside the forepeak which has worked out eXtremely well as there is no “castling” of the chain as it is stowed. and any anchor mud and muck that gets in there is easily flushed out through the drain in the bottom that exits out the side of the hull just above the waterline.
Once the anchor is set we attach a 25mm/1″ nylon snubber line using a loop of Dyneema with a slip knot that goes through one link on the chain. This takes seconds to attach or remove and the snubber from the chain and absorbs of any shock loads on the anchor chain and eliminates any chain noise into the boat. Letting the chain out until the snubber is taking all the tension the line comes up through the large round “nose cone” in the very front of the Bow and ties to the Samson post. Leading the snubber line through the center of the Bow reduces side to side swinging at anchor and the hyperbolic curve machined on the inside of the sold AL snubber cone prevents chaffing of the line which still shows no sign of chaffing after over 150 nights at anchor so far. The large degree of forward slope of the anchor deck also worked out great making it easy to hose down with all the debris draining out the nose cone back into the sea. All together this is a super dependable and easy to deploy/retrieve anchor system that sets first time every time and resets immediately on severe wind shifts. Depends on water depth of course but typically we have about 30m/100ft of 13mm anchor chain out which adds an additional 120kg/265lbs to the 110kg/242lbs of anchor on the bottom so we SWAN very well every night and is definitely one of our favorite systems!
Foul Release silicone bottom paint
Our last minute decision to go with silicone based “Foul Release” bottom paint instead of CopperCoat has turned out to be one of THE best decisions we made. This Foul Release type of bottom paint never ceases to amaze me with how it prevents almost anything from growing on it and what might be there after months of sitting still comes off completely with a simple wipe with a sponge or cloth to bring it back to like new. We used the International version called InterSleek 1100SR but several other manufacturers such as Hempel “Silic One” are also available. This paint has been in the water for over two years now and it still cleans up completely with just a sponge or cloth if we’ve been sitting at anchor for a long time and currently shows no sign of wear or age. It is supposed to be good for 5-7+ years and so far looks like it will achieve that easily which would be a HUGE benefit in terms of efficient hull speeds and no costly annual haul outs. I can’t say for sure but I think that having such clean and slippery silicone hull surface contributes to our overall hull efficiency, speed and great fuel burn rates. What’s not to like??!!
Open and Accessible system installation
All of the system components, wiring and plumbing were given dedicated locations with completely open access. This reduced the time for initial installation during the build but more importantly continues to put a smile on my face every time I need to do any work or maintenance on any of the systems as everything is easy to access and mounted at a just right height for working on. Here in the Basement for example you can see how all the components such as all the 14 MPPT controllers on the Left and the three 240V Victron Multiplus inverter/chargers on the Right, are all mounted such that when I’m kneeling or sitting in front of them they are at the just right height right in front of you to see and work on. Same story back in the Workshop area where all the major components on the Right such as the DC Distribution box, Kabola diesel boiler, watermaker and AirCon chiller system are mounted on top of the shelves to put them at just right height as well. At the far end, the front of the Day Tank has been used to mount all the fuel filters, Alfa Laval centrifuge and fuel transfer valve manifolds are out in the open and at perfect height when standing in front of them. Underneath that shelf the electrical wiring, external rectifiers and water distribution manifolds are also open and easy to access.
All of the plumbing is similarly open and easy to access such as this manifold with valves for all the cold water consumers in the Master Cabin.
One of our four primary principles for the design and build of Möbius was Low Maintenance and having all the components, wiring and plumbing open and so easily and comfortably accessed has been a big factor in achieving this goal throughout the whole boat.
As we did for all the major components, we took a “systems” approach to the propulsion system from front of the engine to the prop. coupled to a Nogva Controllable Pitch Propeller (CPP) is also way up at the top of our list of favorite features on Möbius.
Our choice of a Gardner 6LXB engine aka Mr. Gee, coupled to a Nogva Controllable Pitch Propeller (CPP) via a Nogva HC-168 2.95:1 reduction gearbox is also way up at the top of our list of favorite features on Möbius.
The combination of the slow revving engine and lack of any transmission shifting created a seamless and smooth propulsion system. This was our first experience with CPP and it did take some time to learn how to run a boat where you first set the throttle at the RPM you want and then don’t touch it and just use the Pitch lever to increase pitch through an infinite range from zero/neutral to maximum pitch for the load and speed you want. With no shifting involved to go from forward to reverse it is eerily quiet and smooth when docking and when underway we essentially run the boat based on the EGT or Exhaust Gas Temperature meter to get the just right pitch for any speed we want.
We cruise between 8.5-9 knots and after 7300 nautical miles our overall propulsion efficiency has us averaging about 1.85 L/NM @ 8.5kts which we are eXtremely pleased with.
The dedicated “propulsion room” is another of my most favorite design decisions as it similarly provides open and easy access to Mr. Gee and all his components, ….. as well as the Nogva gearbox, coupling and Tides Marine dripless prop shaft seal. I am able to stand, sit or kneel on the grated composite flooring on all sides and with a full meter of width all around and each grate can be easily lifted out of the way to provide access underneath if needed. Having a dedicated engine room with nothing but the engine inside keeps everything inside easy to see and work on, easy to keep well ventilated and all the other components typically found in engine rooms such as fuel filters, batteries and system components are kept OUT of this environments heat and vibration. More examples of how well the open and accessible systems design is one of our favorite features.
Layout (cabin locations, balance living vs functional, up/down)
The overall interior layout also makes it way to the top of our favorite aspects of live aboard Möbius. For us it has the Goldilocks balance between amount of living space vs functional systems space and our decision to have a very large forepeak up front and then an even larger engine room/workshop space in the rear has resulted in a great layout as well as keeping these spaces completely separate with their own dedicated access so you never need to go through a living space area to get to something in the forepeak or engine room or workshop. The vertical layout has also worked out eXtremely well for us with each cabin a few steps below the SuperSalon and the SkyBridge up above. One of the most useful features of our layout is having an enormous “Basement” area below the floor of the SuperSalon. We designed this to be 1.2m/ 4ft high such that you can easily move around by bending over and not hit your head on anything and then sit or kneel to access any of the equipment mounted on intermediate floor to ceiling walls or access any of the many storage bins and shelves in the Basement. The stairs leading down into the SuperSalon from the Aft Deck on the Left and then around to the stairs down into the Ships Office and Guest cabin on the Right provide excellent access between all these areas. Very difficult to photograph but hopefully this pano shot of the SuperSalon will help convey why we like this layout with the 360 degrees of glass so much.
We knew we wanted a Flybridge overtop of the main Salon or House so this was part of the design from the beginning but I don’t think either of us appreciated just how much we would enjoy this feature and how much time we would spend up here both when at anchor and underway. Part of what makes this space work so well is our decision to put the Upper Helm at the Aft end of the SkyBridge. As we’ve done in several areas of the boat we have created an initial prototype for the seating in this SkyBridge Lounge area by using patio furniture which we rearrange from time to time to figure out what will work best longer term. So far this L shaped layout has worked out best. There are great sight lines when sitting in the Helm chair just outside this photo on the far Left and yet still takes full advantage of the height for sight lines through the 360 degrees of windows that surround this entire space. The Bow and the side rub rails are all fully visible from the Helm chair. The roof overtop of the outdoor galley down on the Aft Deck does prevent a direct view of the transom but otherwise the sight lines Aft are great and we have a camera that displays a birds eye view of the transom on the Helm displays if needed when backing into a dock.
The Helm down in the SuperSalon duplicates the Upper SkyBridge Helm. But unless the weather is very cold or wet we much prefer to run the boat from the SkyBridge with its added height and even better visibility.
At anchor it also makes a great office space and a comfy bed for naps and off watch time as well. So the SkyBridge definitely makes it onto our top favorites list.
Hot Water & Heated Floors
Another example of the advantages of taking a Systems approach is our Domestic Hot Water system or DHW and probably fair to say that the heart of our DHW system that puts his solidly on our top favorites is our decision to install a Kabola diesel fired boiler. Located with all the other system components in the Workshop it is out of the way yet easily accessible. The 75L Kabola boiler is our primary source of DHW as it circulates through one of three heat exchanger circuits in our Calorifier that stores all our hot water as can be seen in this cutaway demo. The second heat exchanger circuit routes hot water from our Gardner engine and so whenever we are running the boat this provides all our hot water instead of the Kabola boiler. The third heat source is a 240V electrical heating element which we can use if the water based heat exchangers should ever fail.
However the one feature of our DHW that truly steals the show in cold weather is mostly invisible and that our Heated Floors. Underneath the vinyl flooring in all the living spaces there are circuits of plastic PEX tubing that circulates hot water and provides a creature comfort in colder climates that is difficult to adequately describe in words. A detailed description of the whole heated floor system can be found HERE in this previous blog post.
As you can read in that more detailed blog post, this is quite a simple system really but does take a bit to get your head around how it works as this is all part of the overall domestic hot water system so that all the water flowing through the floor PEX is coming from the Calorifier in the Basement circulating the same water as distributed to all the sinks and showers on the boat. No valves to adjust or turn on/off it all works by virtue of how this “Open Direct” plumbing design dictates.
Overtop of the PEX tubing and rigid foam, these industrial vinyl floor planks provide a fantastic floor in all weather conditions and are specifically made to work well with heated floors. Critical for our use on a boat, these vinyl floor planks have a simulated wood grain texture molded in which has proven to be completely skid proof even with wet feet and any spills clean up easily. After two years of rigorous use these floors show zero signs of wear or marks which helps keep them on our top favorites list.
There are three independent zones for the two cabins and the SuperSalon and each is controlled by one of these easy to set thermostats which maintain whatever temperature you want.
The manifolds and pumps are mounted down in the Basement up against the Aft bulkhead and yet another example of how easy this whole system is to access.
Battery & Solar Based Electrical System
Yet another systems approach on our top favorites list is our overall Electrical system. It is “battery based” in that all four voltages; 12V + 24V DC and 120V + 240V AC comes from our 1800Ah @ 24V House Battery bank. AC is created via the 5 Victron MultiPlus inverter/chargers and the DC is provided via three DC distribution boxes; Central Main in the Basement plus one in the Forepeak and one in the Workshop for the high amperage circuits there. Solar is our primary source for recharging the house batteries most of the time but when we are underway the two massive 250A x 24V Electrodyne alternators with WakeSpeed 500 regulators provide up to 9KW of power and we also have the option of connecting to shore power whenever we are in a marina. There are eight 320W solar panels that form the roof of our SkyBridge as seen in the photo above and then three more mounted on top of the cantilevered roof over the Outside Galley on the Aft Deck as seen here. And then three more mounted in a hinged frame in front of the SkyBridge. These 14 solar panels add up to just over 4kW of potential power and most days our battery monitors show an actual input of between 1kW during the winter months and up to over 2.5kWh of power during summer hours. Each solar panel has its own MPPT controller which are mounted in the Basement and feed into individual circuit breakers for further control as seen here. Having a dedicated MPPT for each panel reduces the impact of any shading on any panel and helps with the overall performance of our solar system. This screen shot from our Victron VRM display shows a summary for our solar output vs electrical consumption so far in 2023. And this summary of the past 2 days, April 28+29 2023 lets you see how it varies throughout a 24 hour day. We have not been in a marina or connected to shore power in the past four months and the combination of solar and alternator power is keeping our batteries 100% charged every day and so easily makes it onto our favorites list!
Handholds Everywhere for Everyone
Safety was another of the four design principles we had and one example that has proven to be a big favorite is the way we were able to ensure that there were super solid hand holds for EVERY person onboard from children to adults.
On the exterior the handholds are all 30mm diameter thick walled AL pipe such as these on the aft end of the house roof near the Aft Deck. These pipe handholds also make for eXcellent strong points for fastening things with Dyneme and other lines. Perhaps one of the most important spots for handholds is along the side decks when you are moving between the Fore and Aft Deck areas. On the left you can see the continuous length of AL pipe that runs along the entire edge of the house roof and then the three rows of Dyneema landlines that Christine rigged between each of the sturdy vertical AL stanchion pipes. The top lifeline is 1 meter above the deck so hits most adults about waist height which ensures that even if you were to be thrown against these you would be stopped and not flipped over top. Up at the Bow there is a very solid set of AL pipe railings that wrap all the way around and make this area extremely safe and fun spot to be for dolphin watching or just dangling your feet overboard and taking in the scenery at anchor or underway. At the far end of the Aft Deck there are solid AL pipe railings for the corner of the deck before the stairs going down to the Swim Step and then a solid AL pipe railing on the other side of the steps. In the Engine Room, Mr. Gee has a full set of AL pipe railings wrapped around him to ensure you can’t be tipped over onto him in rough seas and these have worked out very well to also provide good support as you are leaned over working on various parts. On the interior of the boat one of our favorite esthetic features of the gorgeous Rosewood cabinetry is the design we came up with to incorporate built in hand holds to the design that are located on all the cabinets in all the cabins and SuperSalon. This example is on the corner of the Galley cabinet across from where the fridges are located. These solid Rosewood edges wrap around the whole boat to form what we call our “Blue Horizon Line” and their key feature is that they have a deep groove that is at about waist height where your fingers naturally slip in to provide an eXtremely secure hand hold. We have had our grandchildren onboard several times now and these have worked out as designed to be at Goldilocks height and size for their fingers too.
Possibly saving the best for last, something that brings us joy every day is the choice of interior materials we made.
The Rosewood we chose for all the cabinetry really steals the show and this shot of the Galley cabinets will give you some idea. We were very fortunate that Naval Yachts happened to have their very best cabinetmakers throughout the entire build and they were a joy to work together with to produce details such as how all the grain is bookmatched such that it literally flows from one piece to the next. This was made possible because after months of searching we were able to purchase an entire flitch of Brazilian Rosewood that had been flat cut from the same log. As each slice comes off they stack these in order and therefore the grain of each slice follows the next. The other key was finding a matching stack of solid Rosewood that would be used to build the frames and every edge of every panel. NO veneer edging allowed! Unlike more typical construction, all plywood edges had these T shaped pieces of solid Rosewood glued in place and then the veneer was applied AFTER so that it overlapped the solid wood edging. What this does is ensure that there are no glue joints exposed and they become invisible as they gradually transition from veneer to solid. When these panels would be used for a corner of a cabinet, a thick piece of solid Rosewood was glued glued on and then this solid edge was rounded over in a shaper to create a large radius corner The Rosewood was more than 11X the cost of any other hardwood so to help stretch the prized solid pieces it was sometimes possible to glue on a piece of cheaper hardwood like this and then round the Rosewood for the corner. For the very large radius corners, strips of solid Rosewood were edge glued up and then radiused like this. Or like this. When combined with the Turquoise Turkish marble and the inset Blue Horizon line strips, the end result was well worth the extra time and expense to build. We carried the same combination of materials throughout both cabins, Salon and Galley and I hope these few photos help you see why this puts a smile on our faces every day. There is a LOT more that we like about our dear Möbius and she has definitely lived up to being “Project Goldilocks” by being just right, just for us but the above items hit upon most of our top favorite features and I hope this review was worthwhile. Of course there is always the other end of the spectrum and so in the next blog post I will follow up by reviewing things that have not worked out as well or are things we want to change so do stay tuned for that.
Well, finally finding the time to put together this quick update we have ALL been waiting for and <spoiler alert> let me just start with what you really want to know; yes, the brand new Mr. Gee version 2.0 is now fully installed and Möbius is back up and running! This update will focus on the installation of the new Mr. Gee and then I’ll do a second one in a few days with outline of where Mr. Gee has powered Möbius to since we left Kalymnos last week on Oct. 30th.
Let me just say that since finally departing our four month home port in Kalymnos, we have now put about 600 nautical smiles under our keel and I am writing this to you from Marina di Ragusa down on the SE corner of Sicily. We are waiting for the next weather window to continue our travels West and out of the Med across the North coast of Africa, and hope to leave tomorrow (Monday 7 Oct) or Tuesday so it may take me a few days to get that second travel update written and get some internet to be able to post it but do stay tuned for that. Now, back to as quick a summary as I can do about the installation of the all new Mr. Gee.
It took almost two months for the original Mr. Gee to get from Kalymnos to the Gardner works in Canterbury England but fortunately the return trip was MUCH faster and “only” took about two weeks for this sight for sore eyes turned up on the dock beside us. All still fully sealed up and just as it had been when it left Gardner Marine Diesel GMD the day after I flew back from being there for the full dynamometer testing that I outlined in a previous post. Even Barney was wondering when this abyss in the Engine Room was going to be filled up again and he was on hand to supervise the whole installation. James and Michael at GMD had kindly included the remaining epoxy paint and put that in the box on the pallet. Manufactured September 2022 so can’t get too much newer than that! After SO much time and effort, it was sure a great feeling to unwrap this all new version of Mr. Gee and get busy preparing him for the installation. If you look closely at the brass plate on the fuel injection system you can see that it is currently set up for Continuous 100% use with 150 BHP @ 1650 RPM, and as some Gardner fans say these are “Draught Horses”! I spent a few hours reinstalling a few things such as the big Electrodyne alternator that is powered by the PTO (Power Take Off) as it was easier to do while sitting out on the dock. Then I protected the polished valve covers up top with some foam and set up the two chain blocks front and rear for adjusting the angle of the engine as we lowered it in place. The crane truck arrived right on time which was also a nice change as the first time for taking the engine out, it took over a week to arrange. Didn’t take long to lift the 1200kg engine off the dock ……… …… and onto Möbius. Kind compliments of brothers Michael and John Psarompas who own Argo Oil & Tug Boat, two of the crew from the Argo Tug Boat behind us kindly came over to lend some extra hands to help lower the engine into the Engine Room and set the motor mounts onto the anxiously awaiting engine beds. As many of you know this wasn’t my first rodeo wrestling Mr. Gee into place and with these four extra hands it all went quite quickly. And the all new Mr. Gee was finally settled into his new home and mated up with the Nogva CPP Controllable Pitch Propeller gear box. It took me about two days to remount all the systems such as exhaust,the second Electrodyne alternator (top left), fuel lines, engine guard bars and then do the engine/prop shaft alignment and torquing down the engine mounts to lock it all in place.
Apologies for this quick and dirty video of the first starting of the all new Mr. Gee v2.0 but hope it adds a bit to how this all went. I gave a bit of an overview before starting up the engine and then did a bit of a walk around of the engine to show things such as the oil pressure, exhaust water flow, etc. Hope you enjoy!
Out of both curiosity and safety I decided to pump the diesel Day Tank empty and open up the bottom inspection port to see how things had faired in the almost two years since the first fill during the build. Very happy to find what you see here, aka NOTHING. The sump you see in the lower Left had been doing its job of collecting some of the bits from construction and I had been able to drain these out previously as per the design. Silver cylinder in the top Left is the Maretron pressure sensor for measuring tank level and the pickup outlet is over on the Right.
Bolted the inspection cover back on (lower left) and refilled this 660 Liter Day Tank with fresh clean diesel out of the main tanks. New engine called for new filters so installed these and bled them to get rid of any air. Also took the time to put coloured zip ties on each of the valve handles on the three fuel manifolds to help me double check that I have the right ones open or closed for different operations such as transferring fuel between the main tanks, polishing the fuel (aka cleaning), filling the Day Tank and of course the supply and return for feeding Mr. Gee when he is running. Once I had Mr. Gee and the rest of the systems on Möbius back up and running there was quite a bit of bureaucratic steps we needed to go through before we were allowed to leave. The boat had been officially “detained” by the Greek Coast Guard and they required that we hire this engineer to prove that the engine and the boat was back up and running again. All of the various officials, offices and agencies all needed to collect their “pound of flesh” and ample Euros which took longer than the actual installation of the new engine! Last but not least, we completed a quick sea trial by doing a big loop outside the harbour with the engineer aboard and we finally had the green light from him and then went through another round of approvals and payments to all the agencies in town but by end of day on 29th of October, 2022, almost four months after we first arrived, we were cleared to depart Kalymnos! We treated ourselves to one last “date night” on this lovely island of Kalymnos that had come to feel like home and reminded ourselves of just how fortunate we had been to have had the opportunity to get to know this small Greek island and so many of her wonderful inhabitants who had become so familiar and were all so kind and generous to us.
Thanks for the memories and Bye Bye Kalymnos! We feel SO privileged to have had this extended time to get to know you.
Thanks to Christine and some tech support people at our web host provider, we now have all those technical problems worked out and I am able to post updates again. Yaaayyyyy!!!
My apologies for any annoyances you may have experienced with the test post and notification Email that went up here on the site instead of posting as a hidden draft only. I appreciate your patience and happy to be able to post this quick update on what’s been going on aboard the Good Ship Möbius the past two weeks.
Best thing that happened for me last week was that my Captain returned!
As you may recall, back on the 1st of the month, Christine flew over to Miami for some much needed Gramma time with our Grandson Liam, some visits with her family and friends and to look after a few medical appointments.
She had lots of fun outings with Liam, seen here goofing it up with a selfie of him and his Dad, Christine’s son, Tim. And timing was perfect for Liam’s first day in First Grade. Yayyyy Liam!
Meanwhile, over on the opposite coast near Los Angeles, our two Granddaughters Brynn (left) and Blair were also starting their first days of the new school year as well so school year 2022 is off and running!
Christine landed back here in Kalymnos on this ferry from Kos to Kalymnos on Monday (19th) evening after a two day marathon of travel. Being on this tiny Greek island adds several legs to the journey with three flights to get from Miami to Dulles to Athens to the neighboring island of Kos and then the ferry from Kos to Kalymnos. Oh, and did I mention that she was schlepping over 55 Kilos/120 Lbs of new bits and bobs for the boat and ourselves?! However, very happy to report that all went amazingly smoothly, checked bags went all the way from Miami to Kos without any intervention or loss, but it still requires lots of energy and time with not much sleep in between. She has slept VERY well the first two nights without any real sense of jet lag and we are both very happy to be back together and home.
One of the many bits of kit for the boat Christine lugged back with her, and one of the heaviest, was this Super Hole Hawg as Milwaukee calls their monster HD right angle 18V drill. Weighs in at 8 Kg/17.6 Lbs, has two reversable speeds and over 1000 FtLbs of torque. It is quite the beast and I was able to get a very good deal buying it through Home Depot with three of these super sized High Output 6Amp 18V lithium batteries which enables long continuous use between charges.
This is part of our style of doing prototypes of systems on Möbius that allow us to try out different ways of doing things and allow us to find out what is the Goldilocks just right way for us. In this case we are trying out this way of converting several of our manual winches to electric. I ordered this SS adaptor that fits into all our winches. Almost all winches no matter the brand, use this same star pattern for their manual winch handles so this adaptor enables us to try out this powered winch handle on any winch we have so we can see which ones would make sense to convert to full built in electric systems. As an added benefit, this power winch handle will also give us an emergency back up for any failure of our already 24V powered electric winches such as this hefty Lewmar 65 on the Aft Deck. Two of the currently manual winches we are most interested in trying this out on are these horizontally mounted winches on the Tender Davit which we use to raise/lower the Tender in the Davit Arch. Up to now we have been using the manual winch handles for this job which works well but we like to bring the Tender onboard every evening so this makes it much more convenient and faster. I will let you know how it all works out once we have tried it out a few times.
Much lighter and put to immediate use unfortunately, were six of these classic Victor rat traps which I was able to get delivered to Christine hours before she flew out of Florida. A few days earlier I discovered that I had a new and uninvited guest aboard and these traps are the best way I know of to get them to leave. Ruby and Barney donated a piece of their kibble for bait which I upgraded with a bit of peanut butter and had had several set out a few hours after we were back onboard Monday night. A few hours later we heard the distinctive and loud SNAP! of the trap under the sink and I escorted dead Rat #1 off the boat. Turned out he had two other buddies which were shown the same exit the next night and the traps have all remained undisturbed ever since. Whew!
Super Synthetics on Sale
For most of the lines we have onboard we use synthetic braided line such as Amsteel or Dyneema as they have SO many advantages such as higher strength that same size SS wire rope, very light weight, easy to handle and they float. As you might know or guess they are also quite expensive, especially when you buy them from Marine suppliers. But a tip I can share with you is that the same synthetic line is also now being used extensively in applications such as power winches for off road vehicles, emergency response teams and the like and buying these lines through those outlets is a fraction of the inflated marine cost.
So these two 30 meter/100ft lengths of 13mm/ 1/2” Dyneema also found their way into Christine’s checked luggage. These two are made for electric winches on the fronts of 4×4 and Overland vehicles so they come with a SS thimble on one end and a crimped on fitting for the end that bolts to the winch drum but it is easy to cut these off so I can tie my own eyes, loops or whatever ends I need. These two are going to be used for some of the rigging on our Paravanes which I now have everything I need and we can start testing out when we get underway again.
One of the other heavier items Christine brought back with her was this new stator coil for one of our 24V @ 250Ah Electrodyne alternators. Due to a manufacturing error, there was a short in the external rectifier and as you can see every third one of the copper coils was burned out. There are two of these coils in each alternator which produce the high AC current which then runs through the thick cables out of the Engine Room over to the external rectifier where it is converted into 24V DC current. Electrodyne quickly sent a new replacement coil several months ago and this was our first chance to get it brought over to Möbius. Fairly straightforward process to remove the old coil by first removing the aluminium Rotor that holds the permanent magnets for the alternator at this end. The holes in this Rotor provide good air flow to keep the alternator cool. These Electrodyne units actually have two individual alternators, one at each end of the Red housing but only the one on this end needed replacing. Once the old Stator windings are removed the trickiest part is fishing these three large gauge solid copper wires through the hole in the body of the alternator but just takes some time and holding your tongue just the right way.
Then I could bolt the new Stator windings onto the body. Rotor is bolted back on next and then all the wires inside the junction box up top can be attached to their respective studs.
This upper alternator is driven by a cogged belt system I installed, driven by the crankshaft and also powering the bronze sea water pump you see on the far Left. Further down, the second alternator is driven directly by the PTO shaft from the front Left of the engine.
Each of our Electrodyne alternators can provide up to 6kW of power and so with the pair mounted on Mr. Gee we effectively have a 12kW generator whenever he is running. Each external rectifier is connected to a WakeSpeed 500 Smart Regulator which automatically look after balancing the two alternators and keeping the 1800 Ah House Bank fully charged.
Speaking of Mr. Gee, I am eXtremely pleased to let you know that I am flying up to the Gardner works on Tuesday to be there when the new engine is put through its paces on the dynamometer for the initial breaking in and to create a full data sheet and graphs of torque, horsepower, fuel consumption, etc. I will be sure to take lots of photos while I’m there and be able to share those with you in next week’s update.
The new engine is due to start its return voyage back to us here in Kalymnos next Friday and hopefully will take “only” 3 weeks or so to get here. Given that the shipping up to Gardner took over six weeks, that will actually be quite fast! Everything is relative right? Once the new Mr. Gee arrives here I will be able to provide you with more details of the installation and most excitingly the results of the initial sea trials so do stay tuned for that.
Thanks for all your patience with the change of pace the past few months and please do keep your questions and comments coming in the Join the Discussion box below.
As many of you may have seen in your various news feeds, Friday August 26th is/was International Dog Day. Based on my observations of our dogs, it seems to me that EVERY day is pretty much Dog Day, but apparently the 26th makes it official. Ruby is our 14 year old “Spoodle”, a mix of Cocker Spaniel + Poodle and Barney is our 10 year old Yorkshire “Terror” as Christine affectionately calls him. They have been with us from the very beginning of their respective lives as well as ours as a couple.
As you can see, they have become quite the couple themselves. Happy International Dog Day to all the dogs in our lives!
Going to the Dogs is a bad thing?
I’ve always been curious about the origin of all the various sayings we have in our language and years ago I was quite surprised when I looked up “it’s a dog’s life” and found it defined as “a difficult, boring, and unhappy life” and that “going to the dogs apparently means “: to become ruined : to change to a much worse condition,The economy is going to the dogs.” All my experiences with dogs had been quite the opposite and as you can see in the photos above, Ruby and Barney certainly seem to have a life that many would envy.
However, I must admit that of late things aboard Möbius do seem to fit the dictionary definition of “going to the dogs” with the various problems that have cropped up with our FireFly batteries, Kabola diesel water heater and the list goes on. Latest addition this week was finding that the Bow Thruster was not working and I’ll use that example to highlight my contrarian perspective wherein I regard all these as challenges to be taken on and resolved and that in the end they turn out to be good things.
That’s not a Bug! That’s a Feature!!
Another common phrase we often hear is that when life deals you lemons, make lemonade. Along similar lines, one of the more profound and transformative concepts I synthesized during my decades working with software and technology, was that rather than “problems”, such challenges present me with the opportunity “to transform bugs into features”. I have come to realise that it is largely a matter of perspective. If you look at things differently, things look different. In addition to the new understanding and skills I learn by fixing things and resolving these challenges, they also present me with the opportunity to improve and make things better after they are fixed than they were originally. The problem with the Bow Thruster “challenge” this week is the most recent example I can use to illustrate how I apply this “bugs into features” approach.
After spending time with my multimeter tracing all the wiring for the Bow Thruster, the issue turned out to be caused by very poor electrical design by the manufacturer, in my opinion, for the way the fuse and wires from the controller joy sticks at both helm stations, are placed and connected to the Bow Thruster motor in the Forepeak. The four wire connector on the Left and the 5Amp ATC fuse on the Right are located on the outside of the 24V motor of the Bow Thruster and thus completely exposed to the damp and often salty air in the Forepeak.
Not surprisingly then, these exposed copper connections had suffered from severe corrosion.
This is the four wire connector with the 24V positive connection being completely corroded and making no connection to the Red wire it joins. The ATC fuse holder and the 5A fuse itself were in even worse condition. Compared to the new Orange fuse on the far Left, you can see that both of the spade terminals on the factory fuse have completely corroded into dust.
Not much surprise then that the Bow Thruster wasn’t working. Quite surprising and disappointing to me to find such an obvious design fault in what is otherwise a very high quality bit of kit, and it made no sense to just clean up the fuse holder and redo the four wire connectors as the same thing would just repeat itself, presenting me with the “opportunity” to not just fix the problem but to improve the whole wiring setup.
My apologies that I forgot to take photos as I was working and hope these generic images will still help you understand what I did to transform these bugs into features.
I carry a good supply of these sealed ATC in-line fuse holders for just these kinds of situations and so I replaced the original factory Black plastic built in fuse holder on the Bow Thruster with one of these. I also extended the wire length so that the fuse holder was located up higher in a more protected spot which also provides better access if/when this fuse ever blows and needs to be replaced.
√ Fuse now fixed and working
√ Sealed fuse holder
√ Better protected location
√ Easier to access for future fuse replacements
For the four wire connector, I replaced it entirely with new wires that I spliced directly to the wires on the Bow Thruster using these crimped butt splice connectors that have adhesive lined heat shrink coating that completely seals the connection.
√ No more exposed connections
√ No more corrosion
Hope this helps illustrate my perspective on how to transform bugs into features.
With the above as context, I have a much bigger and much better example of my latest transformation; Mr. Gee 2.0! Here is a brief (consider the source) overview of what’s been happening with Mr. Gee lately.
Several months ago, after Mr. Gee had about fifty hours of run time, I began to hear a metallic “ticking” noise when he was running. It wasn’t very loud and sounded very similar to when there is too much clearance between the end of an exhaust or intake valve and the rocker arm. I had previously done the recommended valve adjustment after about the first five hours of running and all the metal parts have been through multiple heating and cooling cycles. Shortly after hearing this new ticking sound I checked the valve clearances again and found them all to be spot on but the ticking noise continued.
After that I kept my ear attuned to the ticking and it seemed to stay the same, not changing or getting any louder so I thought it was perhaps just a normal Gardner sound and just kept listening closely on every engine room inspection while we were underway. I do one of these ER inspections every hour or two when we are underway and record all other engine data such as RPM, fuel consumption, SOG (boat speed over ground), oil temperature and pressure, coolant temperature, Exhaust Gas Temperature EGT and temperatures at various parts of the engine and the air in the Engine Room. Reviewing this spreadsheet allows me to see what all these readings should be and makes it easy to spot any changes.
Everything stayed the same until we about ten hours into making our way from the Greek island of Rhodes to Athens on the mainland. I began to notice some increased temperatures in the area of the cylinder heads by cylinder #3. All the other temperatures of oil and water and metal parts elsewhere remained the same but I also noticed that the ticking noise was getting louder. More like a slight metal on metal knocking sound. Always hard to tell with sounds inside an Engine Room if this is just your imagination or if the sound really is changing but I shut the engine down and did a much closer inspection of every part of the engine but found no visible signs of any leaks or other changes. So I restarted Mr. Gee and we continued.
You know where this is going! Sure enough the heat around the exhaust and intake ports of cylinder #3 continued to rise, the ticking noise got louder and the engine ran more unevenly. Not a condition that could be allowed to continue and so we rerouted ourselves to the closest island of Kalymnos where I would be able to take on this latest challenge and figure out how to transform this bug into a feature. This would have to wait for a month or so because we now had our granddaughters and family onboard followed by some other dear friends so not much time to work on Mr. Gee.
Eventually though, I was able to do some deeper testing and dismantled the engine enough to find that the exhaust and intake valves on cylinder #3 were defective and no longer sealing on their valve seats and hence not getting cooled down. Valves, the exhaust in particular, live in a very nasty high heat environment and they mostly are cooled when they are tightly closed and can transfer their heat through the valve seat. If they don’t seal tight they don’t work as a valve bringing the air/fuel mix into the cylinder, sealing it completely on the compression and then power strokes and then letting all the burned mixture out the exhaust port. And without the contact to the valve seat, they rapidly start to overheat and would eventually likely crack. I am very fortunate to have some of the best experts there are when it comes to diesel engines and Gardner’s in particular. I have the Mr. Gardner himself, Michael at Gardner Marine Diesel GMD, the home of Mr. Gee and all Gardner engines and my long time friend Greg who I’ve known since we were in University and trade school together and who is the best expert on diesel engines I know. I spent a LOT of time texting and talking with Greg and Michael and they were both eXtremely generous with their time and patience. After going through all the possible scenarios and reviewing all the data and photos of what I was able to see, the problem and the solution became quite clear.
I had begun the restoration of Mr. Gee when Christine and I were house/pet sitting for some dear friends in Portugal and had a machine shop there do all the machining of the cylinder heads and block and install the new valve seats, valve guides and cylinder liners. Michael at GMD remembered this and he noted that installing new valve seats in these LXB engines is quite particular and he has seen problems in the past when other machine shops have installed new valve seats and valve guides, so this cast some doubt on whether these had all been installed correctly by the machine shop in Portugal. While we won’t know for sure until a more detailed examination of the valves, seats and heads improperly installed valve seats became the most likely suspects as to what was causing the problems with Mr. Gee and making that ticking noise.
It was possible I could remove the cylinder heads, order in new valves and seats and find a machine ship in Athens or somewhere to properly install all new valve seats and guides, but this would not be easy to arrange and would not be a shop that had experience working on Gardner engines so we quickly ruled out this option. To be completely sure that all the valves, seats and guides on Mr. Gee were 100% correctly installed, this work needed to be done at the Gardner works at GMD. Our attention thus turned to how best to do this?
30 Horses Gallop into the Scene…..
I should also note at this point, that I have been having a completely separate conversation with Michael all this year about converting Mr. Gee from the 150HP @1650 RPM he is currently at, to the 180HP @ 1800 RPM option which the 6LXB can be configured for. The 150HP setup is a Continuous or 100% duty cycle which means the engine can be run at this speed and HP 24/7 which many 6LXB’s are. The 180HP version has a lower duty cycle which means that you can run them safely at full power and RPM for shorter periods of time and then continue at lower RPM. Almost all diesel engines have this range of RPM/HP they can be configured for and on mechanical fuel injection engines such as the Gardner LXB, this involves physically changing the fuel injection pump setup to inject a higher volume of diesel fuel on each intake stroke and adjusting timing of the injectors and valve advance. Not that difficult but requires specialized tools, equipment and expertise from Gardner than what I am comfortable doing.
In our trips this year, about 80 hours total run time, we have been finding that the Goldilocks or sweet spot for the best combination of loads, EGT, speed and fuel economy is about 1400-1500 RPM so why am I interested running Mr. Gee at up to 1800 RPM? Simply put, I would like to have the option to call on those additional 30 HP, a 20% increase, in an emergency situation when that extra power could mean the difference between getting out of a situation vs loosing the boat. One example of such a situation is when you are at anchor and find yourself on a lee shore when the conditions change unexpectedly such that there are high winds and seas trying to push the boat onto the shore. Of course this always seems to happen at O’dark thirty and you are in the dark with every second counting, so being able to start your engine and call on every pony the engine has can make all the difference.
Lest this should sound a bit farfetched to some of you, just this past week we were vividly reminded of how fast and unexpected this type of lee shore situation can develop when a very high wind storm swept over the island of Corsica in France. You may have seen this in video on the news you watched and seen these winds gusting up to 224 km/h (140mph) pushing hundreds of boats onto the shore.
I had therefore wanted to do this conversion to the 180HP setup before we start venturing out on our longer passages and later in the season and was going to remove the fuel injection system from Mr. Gee and ship to GMD to do the conversion and then ship back so I could install it and we could continue our travels. The trick was going to be when and where to do this as Möbius would need to stay in one place while the fuel injection was off being reconfigured. Now that we found ourselves with such a rare and ideal side tie dock arrangement we serendipitously stumbled upon here in Kalymnos, this latest challenge with Mr. Gee’s valves and the repowering all seemed to converge into a perfect storm kind of situation and here is how this all came together.
Go BIG or Don’t Go!
As long time sailors, we have come to understand how critical it is that you have complete confidence in your boat before you go to sea. When you find yourself in those rare but inevitable situations where things have become very nasty and every decision is critical, having ANY doubts about your boat, or yourself, can be crippling and life threatening. Mother Nature can be an eXtremely effective teacher and you soon learn the hard truth about how critical such confidences is and that if you don’t have full confidence, then you don’t go to sea.
Given the high dependency we have on Mr. Gee for our propulsion and the fundamental requirement to have eXtreme confidence in all the critical systems on Möbius, it was not difficult for Christine and I to decide that we needed to go “all in” on this situation and transform all these “bugs” into features resulting from us doing everything possible to ensure that Möbius is the most seaworthy boat we could create.
I’m sure you can see where this is all headed. Rather than send just the fuel injection system to GMD to convert it to the 180HP version, go Big and send all of Mr. Gee to GMD. Michael made this decision even easier by kindly offering to do a full exchange of Mr. Gee for a new 6LXB that they would put together at the Gardner Works there at GMD. We send them Mr. Gee, they send us a new 6LXB we will now refer to as “Mr. Gee two point O” or Mr. Gee 2.0 They will transfer over a few of the external bits such as the items I have already polished such as the rocker covers, GMD side covers and the custom brackets I’ve designed and built for things like the sea water pump and hand crank system but these can all be done right after Mr. Gee 1.0 arrives at GMD and after the new Mr. Gee 2.0 has been built.
Michael will also put the new engine on the Gardner dynamometer where they can run it through its paces, do the initial break in and create a full HP/Torque/Fuel graph directly from the readings on the dyno. I don’t have a photo of their dyno yet but this one will give you a rough idea. The engine is mounted to the dyno with flywheel connected to the measuring devices that read horsepower, torque, fuel consumption, etc. and plot this out onto a graph. This will add to our confidence that we know for sure what these outputs are and will make it a relatively straight forward process for me to lower the new Mr. Gee 2.0 into the ER, connect him to all the mounts, Nogva CPP, hoses for coolant and exhaust and electrical and we will be able to get back out to sea and set our sights on destinations West. I hope that all of the above does not come across as me being flippant or suggesting this was all easy or without a good share of sadness and frustration along the way. It was all of those things and I do have thoughts about “Why me?” from time to time. But as I’ve often found with the big decisions in life, these were also very clearly Goldilocks decisions being just right, just for us and in that sense they were easy to make. The harder part has been dealing with all the time and logistics it has taken to do all this from a small remote island in the middle of one of the busiest and most disrupted summers in the EU and now waiting for the new Mr. Gee to get back here.
Out with the Old
As you might imagine it was rather hectic here going through all this testing, making the arrangements with the local crane truck to remove Mr. Gee 1.0, securing him to the pallet and arranging to get him trucked from Kalymnos to Athens and then onto two more ferries to get him all the way to the GMD in Canterbury in England, so I don’t have too many photos but here is a quick summary of all that.
Gee, I wonder why it doesn’t take me too long to disconnect everything and get Mr. Gee ready to be lifted up? Oh yeah, lots of practice! I enlisted the help of two local men to help extract Mr. Gee from the Engine Room and ….. ….. then over to the concreted dock we are side tied to. All the openings sealed and taped off and engine strapped onto the shipping pallet. Shipping labels attached under Shrink wrap to keep him clean and protected for his long journey home to GMD. And just a few hours ago, I received this photo of Mr. Gee in the storage warehouse of the trucking company outside of London waiting to be make the final leg of his journey over to GMD in Canterbury on Tuesday as Monday is a national “Summer Bank Holiday” in the UK.
Don’t even think about asking me how long this whole journey has taken! Let’s just say that all you’ve been hearing about disruptions to supply chains and shipping, record high tourist traffic this summer in Europe and how the whole EU tends to take their holidays in the month of August, is so very very true. Leaving me with a very sadly empty Engine Room and a lot of greasy hand prints to clean off the walls.
She continues to be very self disciplined with her daily physio routines after her knee operation and been taking full advantage of her “Freedom Machine” aka her eBike, to explore this fascinating island we have been living on since July and finding new beaches for her in the water exercises. Click the link above to see all her photos and explanation of how this island is literally a dynamite place to be!
Back to where I started this posting, I will let Barney send us off into a new week as he wistfully enjoys another sundowner and contemplates what it truly means to live a dog’s life Thanks for joining me again this week and hope you’ll be back for more next week. I will!
We have spent this past week in the relatively small but very marine based town of Marmaris. For orientation, here is Marmaris relative to the others nearby islands and coastline around us. You’ll recall this map from previous posts and we started out in Antalya where Möbius was built and have been slowly making our way West and North along the Turquoise Coast. We spent the winter in Finike and left there to begin our cruising season back on May 17th. As you have read in the previous weekly updates since then we have stopped in Kekova, Kaş, Fethiye, Göcek and now Marmaris. We have spent the past week here in Netsel Marina in Marmaris and the arrow shows where Möbius is docked. The city of Marmaris itself isn’t that large but as you can see the marina is literally part of the city. Netsel is one of the 10 Setur Marinas along the Turquoise Coast that we have access to as part of our annual contract with Setur Marinas. If you click to enlarge you can all the red Setur Marina pins. Antalya is the most Eastern Setur Marina and then the other 9 marinas are spread out as the coastline moves West and North to Istanbul.
Christine’s Knee Update
This is a very large and very full marina and not usually our cup of tea but as I mentioned last week, Christine had torn her meniscus in her left knee and getting that fixed became our #1 priority and Marmaris was the best place to put in to. After several appointments with doctors in several other ports we stopped at along the way we decided that the best course of action was to go back to the same hospital in Antalya that we both had outstanding experience with while living there. Sunday morning Christine made the 6+ hour ride on a very luxurious bus that she said was more like an airline than a bus and on Monday morning she met with the surgeon who specializes in arthroscopic knee surgery at 9:30. After going over all the specifics of Christine’s history with this knee, their consensus was that arthroscopic surgery was the best choice. The surgeon asked “When would you like to have the surgery done?” and when she said as soon as possible he said “OK, how about tomorrow?”. Fifteen minutes later Christine was in a hospital bed being prepped for surgery on Tuesday. As amazing as this might sound to many of you, this is our experience with hospitals and medical care in Turkey and makes it easy to understand why Antalya in particular is such a popular destination for medical tourism.
Good news is that the surgery went very well and both the surgeon and Christine were very pleased so I rented a car on Wednesday morning, packed the pups and was in Antalya by noon to pick Christine up and bring her back to Möbius. She has been confined to the boat since then which has been challenging for her but as per the title of this week’s update, one of the ways in which “The Pressure is ON” is that she has been able to put more and more pressure on the knee as she hobbles around Möbius a bit better each day. While not something any of us would want this has been one of those good reminders of just how important our health and mobility is and as Christine soon remarked “I had no idea we had so many steps on this boat!”.
The surgeon wants to see Christine again in about two weeks so we are now thinking that it may be best to motor our way back East and get closer to Antalya for her follow up and to make sure that she has her knee well looked after. Stay tuned for updates on where we decide to go next.
Oil Pressure is ON too!
You may recall from the great oil pressure hunt with Mr. Gee, I had installed two oil pressure gauges after discovering that the original one had been falsely reading 20 PSI too low and causing me a LOT of angst until I discovered this. Mr. Gee now has over 40 hours of run time and has been purring along with a steady 35 PSI of oil pressure just as a healthy Gardner 6LXB should and so one of my jobs this week was to create the more permanent setup for monitoring Mr. Gee’s oil pressure. Here is the cleaned up and likely permanent setup on the four port bronze oil pressure manifold on the side of the oil filter. Moving down from the liquid dampened oil pressure gauge on top, the other three ports are:
1. black pipe that takes pressurized oil over to the valve rockers on each head,
2. Silver fitting that takes oil pressure through a flexible hose over to an electric oil pressure sensor mounted on the opposite side of the black oil filter housing
3. Low Oil pressure warning switch which will also provide power to the engine hour meter anytime Mr. Gee is running The silver canister is the electric oil pressure sensor which sends its analog data over to ……… …… this Actisense EMU-1 engine monitor which converts all the analog engine data such as oil pressure, oil & coolant temperature, CPP oil temp & pressure, into digital signals and sends these onto our N2K network that is used to communicate ALL the boat’s data to the boat computers and onto any of the six monitors we have on the Upper and Lower Helm stations as well as broadcasting this wirelessly to our phones, tablets and any other monitors we chose. This is an example of the kind of dashboards that Christine is building using our Maretron N2K View software which allows us to create virtual gauges, switches, warning lights, alarms, etc. We are slowly learning our way around this eXtremely powerful and diverse tool but we have a long ways to go and there really is no end to the different screens, gauge types, switches, alarms, lights, logs, graphs and other info we can display using this Maretron N2K View software. There is also a free Maretron N2K View mobile app which we have on our phones so we can also see all this data on these screens as well. Not something we use a lot as the larger screens provide a much more comprehensive collection of data on their larger real estate at each Helm but the phones are super handy when you are somewhere else on the boat and just want to check how things are working. I also tend to use this while I’m working on some system somewhere else on the boat and can use my phone to show me what’s going on as I adjust things in the Engine Room or down in the Basement where most of the Victron electronics are located. eXtremely handy and powerful and will only get more so as we learn to use these tools better over time and create all the Goldilocks displays that each of us prefer. Now that we had Mr. Gee’s oil pressure on the N2K network via the EMU-1, we were able to create the virtual oil pressure gauge you see here and with a bit of tweaking we were able to configure this so that the pressure shown on this gauge matched the PSI shown on the liquid filled gauge on Mr. Gee. Having all this data able to be displayed on any screen on the boat is a huge benefit while we are underway keeping us fully informed as to how everything on the boat is functioning. We have a LOT of work to do to build out all the various screens we want for different contexts but this is a good start for now.
Configuring the Auto Pilots
While I was in configuration mode I decided to also finish configuring our two Furuno 711C Auto Pilots. The 711C display head you see on the bottom Left of the Main Helm provides all the data and controls for our Auto Pilots and there is a duplicate setup at the Upper Helm on the SkyBridge. To the right of the 711C AP is the Furuno Jog Lever which is the second way we can steer the boat by simply moving that Black knob whichever way we want the rudder to move. The rotary switch to the Right of the Jog Lever is used to select which of the two helm stations is active. The two silver levers on the far Right are how we control the throttle and the pitch.
Took a few hours but all of these are now working properly and next trip we will do the final tweaks to the Auto Pilot while we are underway and can dial in the actual zero rudder position. These Furuno AP’s have the very great feature of “auto learning” and so as we use the boat more the AP system is learning the specifics of how Möbius handles, turns, rolls, etc. and uses this to dial in all the settings better and better over time.
Of course this being a boat, there were plenty of other little gremlins and “moles” to whack back down like the house water pump that I just spent the past 5 hours replacing today, but that’s how our start to yet another new month played out and I hope that yours was equally productive.
How can it be another month already and almost half way through 2022?!? However, with our recent reminder as to how precious time is we continue to be grateful for every day that speeds by and can only hope to have many more to come and enjoy each one as it passes.
Hope you will join us again for next week’s update and till then please be sure to add your comments in the “Join the Discussion” box below.