After the novella that I turned last week’s post into I will change the pace for this week and write about something else I get asked about a lot and that more people can likely relate to than last week’s Tech Talk deep dive into fuel maps and CPP props. And a lot shorter!
Hope you enjoy and let me know in your comments either way.
Green Grass Prototyping
In one of my former lives I was a drafting and CAD teacher and in the architecture classes I taught I showed my students the value of what I referred to as the “Green Grass” approach to prototyping.
I took this title from a practice that I had first run into when I was attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and they were doing some major construction projects on this hugely awesome 400 hectares/1000 acres campus.
When it came time to put in the many sidewalks and pathways around the campus rather than do the typical set of engineering studies to determine minimum walking distances, foot traffic density and the like, they instead just planted all these areas in grass for the first year.
After being used that first year they went back and simply put in sidewalks and walkways on top of all the well trodden pathways had been made by all the people walking on them for the past year. I thought this was a brilliant method that I admired for its humbleness of seeing that the users were the true experts and that “we is smarter than me” type of approach. I have gone on to use this approach for the rest of my life and applied it conceptually to most of my many “build” projects over the past 50 years, the latest of which is the design and building of our new boat Möbius. Hence this week’s title.
Seemed all quite apropos that I should come across this perfect example on my walk to the bank yesterday in the small town of Finike Turkey where we are currently docked and working on Möbius at the Setur Finike Marina.
Pretty clear proof that the civil engineers who did this recent renovation miscalculated and forgot to put in this section of walkway that more people than me thought should be there!
I find this Green Grass Prototyping to be one of those concepts that is so simple and easy to understand, yet ever so smart and powerful. I thought it was worth writing about both because I get a lot of related questions about some of the ways we have used this on Möbius and I also hope that it is a concept than many of you will find useful and powerful in some of your own projects. Here are a few examples we have right now on Möbius.
Shading & Cooling of Super Salon
After living aboard for over seven months now, we are eXtremely pleased with the 360 degree views we have through the 26mm/1” thick glass that surrounds the SuperSalon or Pilot House. It is a thrilling place to be both day and night.
We knew that all this glass would require some additional attention to control the heat coming in from the sun as well as the heat going out at night and we have quite a few options as to how to control both of these. As with most parts of boat design it is all about juggling the various pros and cons of each option and deciding which one will be the just right, just for us, Goldilocks choice.
In many cases this is exacerbated by the fact that in order to evaluate many options you need to live with it for awhile and experiment with different arrangements before you will know how each possible solution works and how well it does or does not fit you. For controlling the PH windows we have options that include applying some of the amazing new films that are being made, using blinds on the inside or using shade cloth on the outside.
This is where the Green Grass prototyping really shines and so we have been applying it to the shading of the SuperSalon glass. For the past few months we have had this nylon mesh garden shade material draped around the sides and front of the SuperSalon.
We bought a 20m length of 2m wide shade cloth that is readily available from home improvement and hardware stores as it is used extensively for everything from shaded overhangs on cafes to semi-privacy screening on link fencing.
And I used some of these plastic spring clamps in my Workshop to clamp the unused width of the cloth to the AL pipe handrails running all around the roof overhang.
This has been working really well as it allows us to lift it up out of the way entirely in a few seconds and so we can experiment with how much of a difference it makes in the morning vs afternoon sun, etc..
One of the unexpected things we’ve learned is that in addition to reducing the amount of UV and sunlight getting through the glass, this draped material keeps the glass itself much cooler and also forms a bit of an air insulation pocket in the large space between the cloth and the window glass. Being loose and not attached at the bottom seems to also help in that there is a natural breeze blowing through this space keeping it from trapping hot air inside.
It looks completely blacked out from the outside but when you are inside there is still reasonably good visibility so you know what is going on around you.
Still early in our prototyping phase with this but our current thinking is that we will still likely go ahead and put in some film on the outer surfaces that will reduce the UV and heat transfer without adding much tint or colorization. But we think we will also do a more finished installation of this shade cloth by putting in some tracks or fasteners around the top and bottom and sewing up a strip of the shade cloth to attach to these. Right now we are enjoying the HUGE difference this has made to the inside temperatures in the hot up to 40C/105F we’ve had this summer.
Another place where we have been applying the Green Grass approach is with the furniture in the large area up in the SkyBridge. We purposely left his large area open and then Christine found some inexpensive patio furniture that fit just right into the dimensions of this area.
It is all loose and easily moved about so we are trying out different configurations of these furniture pieces for a month or so at a time while we enjoy it each breakfast and evening sundowner’s. We pay attention and talk about what we like, what’s working, what’s not with each configuration and I will use these when it comes time to build in a more permanent solution.
A good example of where this prototyping really pays off is that I’ve realized that the AL frame running around the circumference of the windows where they transition from fixed tinted glass to removable panes of clear acrylic, ends up being at the same height as our eyes when we are sitting down. This gets in the way as you are looking out and showed us that we will want to install a raised platform for this area where the furniture will sit. This will also make it easy for me to convert the table to a pedestal style that can be raised and lowered and will give us some easy to access storage under the platform. I will build a prototype of this platform as well using PVC pipe and fittings for a framework and some plywood for the raised floor so we can Green Grass the platform as well and figure out the best shape and height.
Media Filter v2.0
I’ve also been doing some Green Grass prototyping with the media or sand filter that does the bulk of the work filtering the sea water being pumped into our Delfin 250L/hr watermaker.
Apparently my first attempt with this plastic tank pool filter wasn’t quite up to the job as the 45PSI feed pump pressure proved too much for the seam and it split.
So I found a more robust model that I could get shipped in here which is no easy task let me assure you, and spent 2 days getting this bad boy installed. As you can see it is wrapped in glass fibre to withstand much higher pressures.
Unfortunately the only size that would fit moved the six position valve (black plastic bit on top of the white watermaker) from the top to the side so it took me a bit longer to figure out how best to re-route all the hoses and get everything to fit.
It was close but I ended up being able to get it to fit just nicely behind the Blue filter body and still allow me to see the various pressure gauges I have on the plumbing and to fit all the hoses coming in and out.
The low pressure (45 PSI) Feed Pump first pushes the sea water from the sea chest through the Blue media filter which removes almost all of the algae, dirt, etc. and then it goes through the 25 micron filter on the Right here before going through the final 5 micron filter.
All in all it worked out very well. These media filters are not commonly found in marine Watermakers but they really do dramatically reduce the amount of filter cleaning and maintenance. Without one of these I would typically need to clean each of the 5 & 25 micron filters before each use and replace them about once a month. In my previous boat, adding a media filter reduced this to changing these two filters about once a year and even then they were still very clean.
Inside the big Blue filter body, I first fill the bottom 10cm/4” (similar to the “Grade 2” in this illustration) with crushed rock about 20mm / 3/4” in size
These rocks cover the spokes or laterals in the bottom of the filter and prevent the mesh surfaces from clogging with the sand above.
Super simple in operation, no moving parts, the water enters at the top and the water pressure pushes the seawater through the full height of the sand and then exits out the bottom outlet.
Rather than typical pool sand, I use what is called Zeolite which is far superior to regular pool filter sand in that it traps MUCH more and much finer particles and it cleans out much easier when back flushed. From what I read Zeolite is a natural mineral formed millions of years ago in volcanic ash flows that settled in seas and lakes.
Zeolite a filtration area of about 1,000 times greater than sand media beds and the key to the truly amazing performance of this all natural Zeolite is in its molecular structure which looks like this. Much more surface area to trap finer particles in much higher volume than grains of sand.
After each run of the watermaker it takes me about 3 minutes to backflush the media filter with fresh seawater by simply moving the handle on the filter valve to “Backwash” and then about 30 seconds at “Rinse” and it is all clean and ready for the next run.
The mechanical pressure gauges and Maretron pressure sensors make it easy for me to monitor any clogging of any of the filters and know which one is clogged.
I could argue that fresh water is ultimately even more critical than diesel fuel for us in order to live the completely self sufficient and eXtremely remote life style we do, so having these extra layers of filtration and dramatically lowered maintenance tick of all four of our SCEM priorities of Safety Comfort Efficiency and Maintainability.
Self Sufficient Freedom
This is especially relevant when we are at the very tiny remote islands we so enjoy which often have very limited fresh water for themselves. This is one of many favorite such spots we’ve been to, here in the Lau Group of islands in Fiji with a total of about 120 residents ashore when we were there in 2015.
In several instances in our past experiences our watermaker proved to be quite the relationship builder wherein we were able to add value to the lives of those ashore by providing them with more fresh water rather than showing up wanting to take it from them to fill up depleted fresh water tanks onboard. This is the Aur atoll in the Marshall Islands when I was there in 2012.
Having a watermaker is also a key factor in our #1 benefit of this lifestyle which is Freedom. Without a watermaker, passage making boats often have their schedules dictated by the range of the supplies they carry. This applies to electricity needing to recharge batteries with shore power, diesel fuel when your tanks are too small to allow greater range and to fresh water as I’ve outlined above.
Being able to make all the electricity and water we need and having enough fuel that we only need to fill up about every 18 months allows us to travel the world with an eXtremely clean and minimal wake of disruption of the world around us.
It means that when we reach our next destination we have no demands often constrained shoreside resources and no stress from desperately seeking more water, fuel or electrical power.
Thanks for joining me again this week, hope it was enjoyable and you learned something. Please add your comments, what you learned, what you are still curious about, in the “Join the Discussion” box below.
Sorry that I wasn’t able to write up this weekly update and get it posted on my “regular” schedule of each Sunday and I’ve kept you waiting till now but hopefully the wait will have been worth it as I take you on a deep dive into the DC charging system on Möbius.
On Sunday, Christine and I took the afternoon off to go explore some of the area around our new “home town” of Finike, which is something we should do more of I’m sure as boat and book work completely consumes us otherwise. We have rented a little Fiat minivan for a few weeks so we wanted to take advantage of that and my super researcher partner had found a cool sounding little restaurant on a river about 20 minutes drive away from the coast here.
It was a wonderful treat for us both and we spent the whole afternoon sitting at this table for two at this tiny little restaurant on the riverbank in an equally tiny little village off a side road. You can see that I timed the shot to catch one of the kids jumping into the cool waters that the village had created with a small rock dam to slow down the flow. We have found several of these little riverside restaurants during our years here in Turkey and this one was the Goldilocks just right, just for us being so small and remote.
Fresh roasted trout dinner with the full compliments of fresh salads, fries, Turkish baked bread and sauces plus a well chilled bottle of Merlot made for the perfect getaway afternoon for us both. Total bill was an exorbitant USD 30 but heck, we’re worth it!
We weren’t the only ones chillin’ ourselves waterside as Barney enjoys his very own pool on the aft deck where he can survey his Kingdom while staying well hydrated.
Yes, that’s the bow of our Tender “Mobli” which when on deck serves double duty in providing the shade for Barney’s pool.
Möbius’ Charging System Trifecta
Back in September 2019 I wrote the first Tech Talk to outline the overall design we came up with for the Electrical System and this is an updated version of the schematic I created of the overall system.
As per this week’s title I believe that we have put together the perfect trifecta of components to make our Goldilocks 24 Volt charging system consisting of;
24 x FireFly Carbon Foam 4v cells
Just 10 of them shown here and these have been well covered in many previous posts.
2 x Electrodyne 250A @ 24V AC PowerHead E250-24 alternators with remote rectifiers mounted out in the Workshop (see photo below)
2 x WakeSpeed 500 Smart Regulators with the 2 red remote Electrodyne rectifiers mounted alongside
I have written several articles in the past as these components were being installed and if you’d like more details on that here are links to some of those past postings:
NOTE: Just to be clear for anyone who might wonder, Christine and I have purchased all of the equipment I’m discussing here and none of this has been sponsored or otherwise paid for. indeed this is true for ALL of the equipment on Möbius and covered in this blog. We are simply BIG fans of companies who produce products that really work in our eXtremely real world and especially the people at these companies who stand behind their products from the beginning of our work with them to design systems, install them and all the way through to their support as we move into commissioning and putting all these systems to work.
So we are delighted to feature such products and the people behind them here on the Möbius.World blog.
Meet Big Red #1 & #2
As I wrote in those past posts, I’d known Electrodyne alternators since I was working as a HD construction mechanic in my youth and Electrodyne alternators were the ultimate choice for large construction and mining diggers, railroads, trucks, busses, emergency vehicles where they often ran 24/7 for weeks or months. They are literally built like tanks and each one weighs 40kg/90 lbs!
I had initially worked with Pete Zinck until he retired in 2018 and turned things over to his Production Manager Dale Gould and who could not have been more helpful and responsive to my many Emails and requests.
As you can see Dale is also a very hands on guy! Here he is making the final checks and tightening the remaining nuts on finished alternators awaiting packaging.
Dale continues to be super supportive as I commission the whole charging system on Möbius and I can not recommend Electrodyne and Dale highly enough.
What we ended up choosing are two identical Electrodyne E250-24 models which are de-rated down to 250Amps @ 27.5V @ 3750RPM which would give each one a maximum output of almost 7kW (6.875) for a combined output of almost 14kW. As I covered in last week’s posting about the drive systems for these massive alternators, I chose some ratios for the pulleys such that their max speed will be about 3200-3400 RPM for even longer life.
These “PowerHead AC alternators” have several unique characteristics that made them just right for me and Möbius:
- Brushless so no brush springs or brushes to wear out
- One moving part (rotor)
- Everything other than the rotor is external; No built in regulators, No built in rectifiers.
Why go to such extremes? In a work; HEAT, which is the largest factor in shortening an alternators output and lifespan. Rectifiers can produce more than half the total heat within an alternator so by removing these and going with industrial grade 3 phase bridge rectifiers I can reduce the internal head of the alternator by more than half AND control the heat of the rectifier bridges outside the ER and with their own fans.
With only one moving part, the spinning rotor so MUCH better airflow through the alternator stator windings and rotor. The Goldilocks alternator for an XPM; consistent high output with low heat and low maintenance.
Each PowerHead is “double headed” housing two separate AC Alternators inside, one on each end. Having two of these Electrodyne units means we have 4 alternators in total.
With no rectifier or regulator built into them, each PowerHead only puts out AC current, everything else to convert this AC current to DC is external.
As you can see in these photos, there are six large cables to carry the AC output out of the Engine Room and over to ……
…… these two red external rectifiers which are mounted outside the Engine Room under one of my AL Workbench tops with thermostatically controlled fans to ensure they are always running nice and cool and at maximum efficiency. All the heat Mr. Gee generates stays in the Engine Room which is why I designed the ER to be just that; and ENGINE (only) Room.
Q&A with Dale Gould from Electrodyne:
** Feel free to skip to the end of this section if you are not interested in a deep dive into the inner workings of how these Electrodyne alternators work.
For those of you interested in more details on the unique way these Electrodyne PowerHeads work, I asked Dale a series of questions and he kindly answered them as follows. I’ve added some photos I took when I was taking these alternators apart and painting them, to help illustrate these Q&A.
** Before you ask, Yes, of course I took these Electrodyne alternators apart! When I don’t understand how something works or I am otherwise curious, this is what I do.
Wayne’s Q: In working with the two Electrodyne E250-24 PowerHead alternators you built for us, I’ve noticed that they are built quite differently that any other alternators I’ve worked on. Can you tell me a bit more about how you build these and why?
Dales A: When looking at the inside of an E250-24 you will notice that the Electrodyne’s are built completely opposite of a normal alternator. The rotor spins around a stationary stator rather than the rotor being inside the stator (Claw tooth design). The reason we do this is to achieve more power. By having a larger stator inside the unit that can hold larger sized wire we can achieve higher outputs. We have fine-tuned the size of the magnet wire to the amount of turns per coil to achieve certain outputs at various voltages. We also use an individual lamination stack made up of either 54 or 64 laminations depending on unit and voltage. This helps us reduce eddy currents and allows us to dissipate heat more efficiently. This method is also used in our rotor lamination stacks.
Wayne’s Q: I understand that these are permanent magnet or PMA alternators so can you tell me why there are still Field Coils and what their role is?
Dales A: The field coil is essential to all units as it works in tandem with the stator to achieve the voltages, output, and current desired. Each field coil has also had extensive testing with different turns of wire at different thicknesses for the highest performance. Even though the rotor has magnets in it a field coil is still necessary.
The field coil is what supplies the magnetic field in the alternator. On certain alternator applications such as yours, Electrodyne will add permanent magnets to the rotors to aid in additional magnetism to achieve higher outputs and a lower turn on speed.
Wayne’s Q: Most alternators, even high output ones I’ve used in the past, their cases are typically made from aluminium and are much smaller and lighter than these beautiful cast iron beasts you make. Can you explain the reasoning behind this?
Dale’s A: The housing we use is cast out of ductile iron for two reasons. Extreme durability and magnetization. When the unit is first powered on and magnets are introduced to the rotor, we magnetize the housing. This also contributes to higher outputs as the whole housing now acts as a magnet itself. Electrodyne uses an insulated grounding method for its alternators so nothing goes to ground unless specified by the customer. Having an insulated ground system allows for the Electrodyne’s to be either negatively or positively grounded.
Wayne’s Q; I chose to go with your Electrodyne alternators largely because you not only removed the regulators but the rectifiers as well so I can mount these as separate units outside of the alternator cases and outside the Engine Room. The rectifiers like this one here also have their own thermostatically controlled fans. This dramatically reduces the amount of heat being generated inside the alternator cases but there is still some, so how do you keep these PowerHeads running even cooler and for so much longer than other makes?
Dale’s A: The rotors of an Electrodyne alternator act as two large fans. There are holes plotted along the casting of the housing that act as breathers.
Photo Dale provide from the Electrodyne factory showing the rotors being machined.
The fan spinning will pull air from outside and cool the two major components of the alternator (stator & field coil), simultaneously ejecting that air out and keeping the inside free of excess heat buildup.
Another way the alternators deal with heat is by switching the field on and off (pulsing the field). This turns the field of the alternator off to allow free spin when a load is not required. The rotors are also bi-directional. They will cool the unit with either directional rotation an engine uses.
Finally, on a remote rectifier system like yours, we remove the diodes from the top of the alternator and give them their very own fan cooled housing. The E-2281 is mounted with a fan that keeps the diodes cool while under load. The diodes used on Electrodyne’s are extremely important and need to be able to withstand constant abuse. The diodes act as a check valve for electricity, turning the AC current the alternator produces and eliminates the back and forth alternating current to a straight-line direct current. Our diodes are rated to a 900-ampere capacity and offer a high load dump capacity as well. Ensuring that electronic equipment such as regulators are not damaged when the unit is powered down.
Wayne’s Q: As I looked more closely I can see that these PowerHeads are not just heavy in weight they are truly Heavy Duty as well. With our focus on Maintenance (Lack thereof) and longevity this was another big factor in my choosing to go with Electrodyne alternators so can you give me some details of how you have designed and built these alternators to be so long lasting?
Dale’s A: The Mechanical parts Electrodyne uses are made for longevity. The bearings used are class 3 ball bearings and needle bearings that have a 20,000-hour rated life. The reason we use such long lasting mechanical components is for duration of life for the alternator. When an Electrodyne is purchased peace of mind should go along with it. Minimal failure rates are key to the Electrodyne advantage. With a brushless design we can eliminate parts from wearing over time.
Mounting the Red Monsters:
If you read last week’s post you know all the details of how I’ve designed and mounted each Electrodyne to be driven differently so here is a quick summary.
Big Red # 1 is up top, resting on the large flat mounting surface cast into all Gardner 6LXB Crankcases and then driven by a cogged tooth rubber belt being driven by the crankshaft pulley. This drive setup has a 2.15:1 ratio, meaning that the alternator rotates at 2.15 times the RPM of Mr. Gee’s crankshaft.
Big Red # 2 is down lower where it is bolted directly to the side of the AL crankcase to align with the gear driven PTO or Power Take Off on the bottom front corner of all 6LXB engines. I modified a jack shaft to connect the two very solidly together as you can see here. The drive ratio for this alternator is fixed by the internal gears driving the PTO shaft at 1.80:1 so this alternator #2 will spin a bit slower than #1.
No Generator = Best Generator?
I am often asked how Möbius can be completely self sufficient electrically without having at least one if not two stand alone diesel generators as would be typical of most other passage making boats and trawlers. First part of the answer is that the 4.48kWh from our 14 solar panels is enough to keep our 43.2kWh battery bank fully charged most days and the second part is that if not, the combined output of these two Electrodyne alternators are able to add up to 12kWh of their own.
Designing our charging system this way eliminates the need for a separate generator and aligns perfectly with our SCEM priorities of Safety/Comfort/Efficiency/Maintenance to give us the best generator of all; none!
To be fair and technically correct I guess it can be said that we do in fact have a generator onboard, and a 12kW one at that! Just not in the traditional sense nor with all the traditional cost, noise and maintenance.
Electrodyne Output Details:
I’ve received quite a few questions about the numbers behind our charging system so let me provide the following info to help answer these:
Here is a scan of the graphed results of the test runs that Dale did at Electrodyne of our E250-24 PowerHead alternators.
(Click to enlarge this or any other photo)
Using this graph I can see the output of each alternator when they are spinning at any RPM as well as how much power they need Mr. Gee to provide to do so.
Using those numbers, I have put together this simple spreadsheet to show the output of each Electrodyne alternator when Mr. Gee is spinning them at different RPM’s and the combined total output at the bottom.
For example, when Mr. Gee is running at 1000 RPM, we have a total output of 363 Amps @ 24 Volts or 8.7kWatts and at our typical cruising speeds he is running at about 1500 RPM and there is up to 478 Amps/11.5kW available from the two Electrodyne alternators. Hence, anytime Mr. Gee is running, we have more charging power than we would ever need whether we are in tropical climates or the polar regions.
The Secret Sauce: WakeSpeed 500
I very purposefully refer to our charging setup on Möbius as a SYSTEM and each of the three components of our system are important and neccessary members of the team.
But what I think has really turned this into an eXtremely good system is the “brains” of the system; our two every “smart” WakeSpeed 500 Regulators. It is not at all hyperbolic to call these regulators “advanced” as they do on their cover and let me explain a bit more about why these are the true Goldilocks factor for our charging system on Möbius.
And don’t take just my word for how truly revolutionary and smart these WakeSpeed regulators are! Here are some reactions from others MUCH smarter and more qualified than me as to how well these worked when they installed WS500’s on their boats:
“The notion of using current, as well as voltage, to regulate charging has always been the holy
grail for intelligent battery charging. With WakeSpeed Offshore’s new WS500 Advanced alternator
regulator, we now have that ability.”
Rod Collins — from www.marinehowto.com
“The WS500 also has a bunch of whiz bang features, but the cool thing is all most of us have to
do is install a shunt (if not already present) and replace our stupid regulators with this smart one
— and the even cooler part is that because this regulator is designed right — measures and
acts on net charge current — we don’t need to spend hours reprogramming it to get around its
John Harries — from www.morganscloud.com
Just as with Dale at Electrodyne it was the people more so than the electrons that mattered most. From the beginning, I was able to work directly with the two brains behind the smarts of WakeSpeed, Al Thomason and Rick Jones who created this amazing product. Al and Rick are both veterans of the marine charging world and are founders and inventors of WakeSpeed. Even better, Dale, Al and Rick all teamed up and worked together with me to do more testing on the combination of Electrodyne alternators being controlled by WakeSpeed 500 regulators charging FireFly Carbon Foam batteries! Does not get any better than that and I can’t begin to thank these guys enough for putting up with my incessant Emails and questions. Thanks guys!
The key features that make these WS500 regulators such a Goldilocks fit in our charging system are that they monitor and use a combination of system voltage, current in/out, alternator and battery temperature and alternator RPM to continuously adjust the Electrodyne’s to be the Goldilocks output for the FireFly Carbon Foam batteries at all times. Until WakeSpeed came along all our previous regulators could only use voltage to monitor and adjust the output of the alternators whereas the true indicator of what’s going on battery charge wise is the current (amps) going in/out of the batteries.
It was also not lost on me when I first started researching them several years ago, that WakeSpeed had already created custom profiles for FireFly Carbon Foam batteries and this was one of the examples that told me that these Carbon Foam batteries met my Tried & True test that I require for all our critical systems on Möbius or any XPM.
The other Goldilocks factor for our installation is that both my WS500 regulators can be “daisy chained” to work together and automagically synchronize the outputs of both Electrodyne’s by using both WS500’s to perfectly meet the needs of our FireFly house bank and everyone plays nicely together.
Sound difficult? It normally would be and would require additional relays or switching devices, but not with the WS500’s. All I do is plug a standard ethernet cable (white cable in this photo) into the RJ45 jacks in each WS500 and they become one big happy charging family.
Without going into too much detail here as there is lots available elsewhere that I will link to in a moment, it is the use of current (amps) going in/out of the batteries that adds the previously missing secret sauce to ideally optimized charging systems. Prior to these WakeSpeed 500 units, regulators were correctly called Voltage Regulators because that is what they monitored to control the charging output of an alternator. This obviously works because generators and alternators have been using voltage regulators for over 100 years to do their job. BUT, voltage by itself is not a very accurate way of determining the state of a battery and what we really care about is the amps flowing in/out of a battery to provide a truly accurate and just in time determination of what the batteries need from the alternator which ranges from everything they’ve got to nothing at all.
Some other great people have done a MUCH better job than I ever could at not only explaining their perspective on WS 500 regulators, they do so having installed these on their and other boats so they are speaking based on my favorite kind of knowledge; eXperiential. Here are links to these great resources so you can learn more from these others:
WakeSpeed Setup: Have it Your Way
These WakeSpeed 500’s not only have the electronic smarts to do all of this, they have been put together in a package that I think is just brilliant. It can be as simple or as complex as you’d like to configure these regulators. For example, if you want to KISS the setup to your system, there are a set of 8 DIP switches inside each WS500 case and you just flip these to a pattern of On/Off and you’re done.
Rick and Al and their crew at WakeSpeed also get a gold star from me for their documentation. NOT an easy award to get nor one that I am able to hand out very often I can assure you. For example, how well done is this Quick Start card?! Clear, concise, colour coded and shows you everything you need to know to connect and configure on one page! Connect the wires, set the DIP switches once and you can leave it at that for most installations.
Adding to this already impressive feature list, WS500 regulators also provide me with these very valuable benefits that would otherwise not be possible or not easily obtained:
- Adaptive Idle Technology™ which allows me to set the WS500 to control alternator loads based on
engine RPM. We can use this at both ends of the spectrum; when getting underway, doing close quarter manoeuvring and such we would typically have Mr. Gee at lower RPM’s and want all of his available power for moving the boat and don’t want or need any loads from the alternators. But if/when we want to add the output of the Electrodyne’s to our solar charging when at anchor, we can turn on our “Gardner Generator” by dialing up the loads on Mr. Gee at lower RPM’s to produce high outputs from the alternators to charge the batteries faster. This keeps both the batteries and Mr. Gee very happy.
- Zero Output Technology™ enables the regulator to limit output to
loads when batteries require discontinued charging. This is particularly valuable for Lithium battery installations but this will be very handy with our large solar outputs when we don’t want or need any output from the Electrodyne’s when we are on passages.
More Goldilocks Gold
At the opposite end of the KISS spectrum, for those of us who might want to “geek out” more and really customize our charging system to be a truly Goldilocks setup, the WS500 regulators have more than 100 parameters that can all be adjusted and tweaked to get that just right, just for your boat’s charging setup. While this an get you “into the weeks” of minute details of charging systems there are several tools and utilities to make these adjustments relatively easy and quick to do. WakeSpeed is also to be commended for doing everything with open standards and being equally open themselves and we are already seeing a rapid growth in the number of companies making batteries, alternators and other components who are building custom profiles with all the specific settings for the WS500 to use. This method of having profiles, which are just small text files, that can be freely shared and easily uploaded into any WS500 via SD cards, USB cables, WiFi interfaces, etc. makes these WakeSpeed regulators a truly Goldilocks solution. You can see a list of some of these profiles and other technical documents HERE on the WakeSpeed web site.
Real World Data Coming Soon
I am still finishing up the final wiring of the WakeSpeed 500’s and the Electrodyne alternators so I have not been able to run this charging system and gather the real world data of all this at work; yet! But do stay tuned as I get this and the other critical boat jobs finished so we can take Möbius out on more trial runs and start to log all the data from this charging system and put some real data behind all this work to design and build our Goldilocks charging system. I’m waiting on some parts for Mr. Gee to arrive from the UK and complete a few other jobs that are keeping us tied to the dock here in Finike but I’m hopeful that we will be able to head out by the end of September and as soon as we do I’ll be posting updates for you that provide the proof of how all our systems are performing, including the charging system you now know all about.
Hope it was worth the wait of an extra few days for this week’s Möbius Update and that you found this latest posting to be of interest and value. Either way, I would be most appreciative of any and all questions and comments you can provide in the “Join the Discussion” box below.
Your Feedback Wanted: More Q&A type content and more Video?
On a related note, I’ve received some good suggestions that I start doing some Question & Answer sessions in some of these blog posts so if you have some questions that you would like to see me cover in a Q&A section, please type those into the box below and I will start to gather them together and post some answers to them in future blog posts.
I have also been receiving more requests to also start creating more video based content to cover the boat now that it is more finished and to consider including some Q&A sessions in those videos so let me know your thoughts on that and if there is enough interest, Christine and I will do our best to start creating more video content to post here and on YouTube.
But Wait!!! There’s more! Speaking of video content, if you have not already seen it, be sure to check out the great little video segment “The Drone Report” which Christine just published last week based on her first solo test piloting of our DJI Mavic Mini 2 drone. She’s a fabulous story teller in any medium and you can see that clearly in the suspenseful context of her first drone flight. You will also get a great hi-rez aerial tour of the Finike Marina and Möbius so it will be well worth a few minutes of your time. CLICK HERE and enjoy!
Another hot and busy week onboard the Good Ship Möbius here in the Finike marina as we continue to work on the seemingly endless ToDo list of jobs we need to complete to get Möbius fully ship shape to the degree that we can be confident to go to sea on her. Weather here continues to be wonderful although the daytime temps have been creeping up to the mid 30’s (mid 90’s for those who are metric challenged) but we have the AirCon working very well now and use that to cool down Christine’s office during the daytime, the SuperSalon for dinners and our Master Cabin just before we head off to bed. The “eXcessive” EPDM insulation we installed throughout the boat is really paying great dividends now as it keeps the heat out and the cooled down temps in so the loads on our AirCon chiller system are minimized.
This great weather, which is normal for us in this part of Turkey, also inspired Captain Christine to take to the air as she started to log more hours with our DJI Mavic Air 2 drone. We’ve had it for quite a while but have both been so busy with boat work that we just have not had the time to fly it and become familiar with it. Christine will put together some videos she took with it and post these a bit later for you to enjoy and I can give you this aerial view of Möbius as a teaser.
This is where we are tied up at Finike Marina and will give you a different perspective on what Möbius looks like from above. Easy to see the 14 solar panels from this viewpoint.
Flying a bit further away to give you this view looking back at Möbius to help orient you as to where we are within the marina. You can Click to enlarge this or any other photo.
This pano shot from a bit further out will give you a better sense of our surroundings and where we go for our evening swim after quitting work every day.
You may recall that back in June we drove up to a big hardware store north of us to pick up a new air compressor for the Workshop and after testing it out and thinking over the best location, I got around to permanently mounting it this week.
Reminding you that this is a WORK shop, so a bit messy, but you can see the white Kuletas compressor mounted underneath the Aft end of my Port/Left side workbench.
This is one of the newer types of compressors that has two motors each with two compressors so four compressors all together. This enables each one to be smaller and run at lower RPM’s and run eXtremely quietly! I can hear it come on when I’m in the workshop but it doesn’t interrupt a conversation and you can’t hear it at all outside of the workshop.
This air compressor is a super handy bit of kit to have and in addition to using it to power some pneumatic tools, clean tight passages out and blow up inflatable kayaks and the like, we use this to provide air to breathe using our Hookah or Snuba gear to work underneath or dive down to about 20m/65ft up to 100 feet around the boat.
It was definately a shoehorned fit with less than 1cm to clear at the top but this location keeps the compressor out of the way, easy to service and uses an otherwise not so usable wedge shaped space.
And of course we continue to have some “infant mortality” jobs on the list such as when this seam in our brand new sand filter burst and started spraying seawater all over the Workshop.
While I hunt down a newer and better version I have just bypassed this for now and run the seawater supply to our Delfin 200L/hr watermaker through just our primary and secondary sediment filters for now. These “media” or sand filters are most commonly used for swimming pools so many of you will recognize this. However they are the secret weapon for dramatically reducing the maintenance of a watermaker by filtering out almost everything down to about 5 microns prior to going to the two sediment filters. We would normally need to clean those filters every 10 hours of use and replace them every month or so whereas with the media filter in front, the sediment filters last for over a year.
What I will do for the rest of this posting is go through the belt drive system I designed and built to power the seawater pump and Electrodyne alternator mounted on the front of Mr. Gee. I’ve been reminded by several of you that I promised to do this many months ago so my thanks for your patience in waiting until now. Hope the wait will have been worth it.
To put this all in context, I had a relatively large seawater pump and two very large alternators that I needed to mount on Mr. Gee our Gardner 6XB and then drive them both from his crankshaft.
The seawater pump weighs about 7kg/15lbs and each of the Electrodyne 250A @ 24V alternators weigh 40kg/88lbs so the mounting system needs to be eXtremely strong and solid. Both the pump and the alternator require a good bit of power to drive them so the drive system needed to be equally as tough and to be up for this task of years of trouble free service.
I won’t go into much detail on this but the seawater pump pulls seawater direct from the sea chest in the Engine Room and then pumps this water through three heat exchangers/coolers, one to cool engine oil, one to cool the engine’s water/antifreeze coolant and one to cool the Nogva gearbox oil before it finally and perhaps most importantly gets sprayed into the exhaust elbow to cool down the exhaust gas and then exit out of the boat.
If this pump fails for any reason, the engine would overheat quickly and cause some extreme damage. Both of these bits of kit are therefore very critical to keeping the boat running, the seawater pump in particular so I needed to come up with a design that would be as bullet proof as possible.
There are two of these big red Electrodyne brutes which have a de-rated output of 250A @ 24V and each one weighs in at 40kg/88lbs and can take up to 20HP to drive at maximum output so their mounting and driving systems have to be equally as eXtreme.
However this essentially gives us the equivalent of a 12kW “generator” whenever Mr. Gee is running so these ensure that we never have any shortage of amps to keep our batteries fully charged and power all our electrical systems whenever we are underway.
Of course we are at anchor much more than we are underway so our 4.4kWp solar array keeps the batteries fully charged the majority of the time.
But how to mount them and drive them was the big question?
Direct PTO Mounting for Electrodyne #1
Mounting one of the #1 Electrodyne alternator was relatively easy as Gardner LXB engines have a dedicated PTO driven system for driving one alternator. I had a short jack shaft in my spare parts that I was able to machine some adaptors for that connect the end of the jack shaft to the PTO output and the input shaft of the Electrodyne.
Then I was able to machine some other adaptors for these ribs where the alternator body bolts directly to the side of the Gardner crankcase.
Using this Black metal band strap to hold it all together. KISS and eXtremely strong, what’s not to like?
As you can see this was quite the shoehorned fit but was relatively straightforward to do compared to coming up with a way of mounting the second Electrodyne.
Mounting Big Red #2
Physically mounting the second alternator was actually not too difficult thanks to the nice large flat mounting pad that the Gardner 6LXB’s have on their front Left corner. This was originally used to mount things such as air compressors on the automotive version of LXB’s used in trucks or to mount water pumps on the marine versions. I had another place in mind for the seawater pump so I used this mounting pad for the second Electrodyne instead.
Pretty straight forward, I machined two 25mm thick AL plates and drilled them to match the spacing of the four threaded holes that were already in the mounting pad.
Then I machined and drilled the riser for the through bolt on the bottom of the Electrodyne and welded this all together.
This created a super solid mounting system for this second Electrodyne. Then I fabricated a SS bar that connects to the red tab you see just in front of my knuckles here, which holds the alternator in its final position and it was now fully mounted.
But how to drive this second Electrodyne AND the sea water pump was the big question!
Mounting the Jabsco 6400 Series Sea Water Pump
Having used the Left side mounting pad on the Gardner for Big Red #2 I now needed to come up with an equally robust mount for the Jabsco seawater pump.
As you can see the pump has a simple flat mounting pad on the bottom with four bolt holes to fasten it down and wanting to KISS (Keep It Simple & Safe) I decided to go with an equally simple flat bar of 25mm thick AL which I could quite easily mount vertically over on the Right side of Mr. Gee.
Didn’t take me long to fabricate this mounting bar, bolt the Jabsco pump to it and create some simple mounts for this bar to bolt onto the front right side of Mr. Gee.
As with the Electrodyne alternators, the mounting part of this puzzle was relatively easy, now on to the bigger challenge of driving both the water pump and the alternator.
Designing the Drive System
I spent a LOT of time sketching out ideas on my favorite medium; old cardboard boxes! I would sketch up very rough ideas of every possible drive system I could imagine and pulled lots of dimensions off of Mr. Gee, the Electrodyne and the Jabsco sea water pump as I refined the design.
As my idea took shape I started searching for the components I would need for the actual drive components such as the pulleys for the belt and what their requirements were for power, RPM, etc..
I knew this was going to be a rubber belt drive system but traditional V-belts were just not up for the job even if I used two or three of them and they tend to slip quite easily if the belt tension is not just right and very tight. They also require very close alignment or else they start to wear and through black rubber dust all over the engine room.
Ask me how I know all this?!!
For a long while I thought I was going to use a multi V serpentine belt drive setup, As per this nice lineup of different V belt types of pulleys, you can see that these multi rib belts and pulleys are able to handle much bigger loads and are more durable. These are used on millions of cars and trucks around the world to drive their alternators, water pumps, etc. so they are well proven.
Better yet, I already had two of these as they came with the Electrodyne alternators I already had on hand. You can see one inside the white rectangle on the left.
However, this still left me with having to custom build a multi V groove pulley to drive all this off of the front end of Mr. Gee’s crankshaft and one to mount on the keyed shaft of the Jabsco water pump. Not a big deal in and of itself, BUT if I was going to have to build custom pulleys, why not go for an even better belt drive system?
Good – Better – Best
Traditional V belt drives are good and serpentine multi groove V belts are better but cogged belts are THE best when it comes to driving high power shafts. My Harley Davidson motorcycles used these instead of chain drives so I was very familiar with them and how well they worked.
Many of you might know of these and refer to them as “timing belts” as they are used in millions of gas and diesel engines in cars, trucks, busses and boats around the world to very accurately drive the camshaft in those engines. In that job they are required to have zero “slip” or else the timing of the valves opening and closing won’t work and they need to be eXtremely long lasting as replacing them can be very expensive due to all the labour required to remove and replace them on most engines.
Once I got onto that line of thinking the choice was simple. Amongst other benefits these cogged belts gave me the following benefits:
- Tried and True having been used for decades in millions if not billions of exiting engines
- Readily available to buy new ones around the world if ever needed. (I of course have two spare on hand already)
- Zero slip = zero belt dust = super accurate tachometer sensing on the alternator
- fast, easy, tool-less belt changing
- automatic tensioning with readily available spring loaded tensioners used in those millions of other engines
- low axial (sideways) loads on the bearings of the alternator and water pump which in my experience is the #1 cause of failure.
- Dead quiet operation; no belt squealing or squeaking
As you can see, this decision was easy, now on to designing a way to make this all work and find the cogged belt drive pulleys I would need to buy or make.
McMaster-Carr to the Rescue!
Where do you go when you have these kinds of needs for mechanical parts?? THE best source I know of, which also happens to have one of THE best designed web sites I’ve ever used; McMaster-Carr.
Within seconds, I got to this page that had eXactly what I needed.
A full range of these beautifully machined cogged belt pulleys. Took me a few more hours playing around with different sizes for the three pulleys I needed to get the RPM just right for the outputs of the water pump and the alternator;
* one large 142mm pitch diameter for the main drive off the Crankshaft,
* one medium size 142mm pitch diameter to drive the Jabsco pump at its sweet spot of output when Mr. Gee is at 1400 RPM cruising speed
* and one smaller 66 Pitch diameter pulley to drive the Electrodyne at its Goldilocks RPM.
In addition to the three pulleys; I also ordered the just right sized cog belts made by Gates. Only one belt is needed but I ordered 3 so I have two for spares in the unlikely event that one belt breaks at some point.
The real Pièce de résistance though came when I happened to notice down at the very bottom of the McMaster-Carr page you see up above, these “quick disconnect bushings”.
Took me a few minutes to realize just how ingenious this design was and the short story is that the smaller diameter of the quick disconnect part in my hand has a slight taper to it which fits into the matching inner hole of the cogged pulleys.
This allows the Quick Connect to slide all the way inside the cogged belt pully and you’ll notice that these Quick Connects are slit on one side opposite the keyway.
Holding the two parts together you tighten down the three bolts which forces the tapered QC to expand and jam itself tightly onto both the keyed shaft and the outer cogged pulley.
You will be forgiven for not sharing my eXcitement but for me this mounting system to attach the cogged belt pulleys to just about any size of keyed shaft was was like a gift from the mechanical gods. I quickly added three to my order and it was on its way to me.
Putting All the Puzzle Pieces Together
I now had all the pieces for this fun puzzle but still had to design it all up so that it could be installed on Mr. Gee. So I turned to my favorite 3D modeller, Autodesk’s Fusion 360 and was able to convert all my cardboard sketches into 3D models of each of the pieces and then accurately position them.
McMaster-Carr provides 3D model files for everything they sell so I could quickly download the three pulleys and three Quick Connect fittings. Took a bit longer to create the 3D models for the Jabsco pump and the Gardner parts surrounding the crankshaft but with those on my screen I could then try out different positions within the constraints I had from Mr. Gee.
This was additionally challenged by the fact that I had also designed a custom version of the Gardner chain drive hand starter system which is the black line diagram you see overlaid here.
Things were particularly “interesting” and close fitting down around the crankshaft where I needed to fit the red chainwheel for the hand starting chain and then come up with the Blue AL adaptor for it to spin on which in turn would be just the right spacing for the cogged belt pulley mounted on the custom Olive Green adaptor to attach the cogged pulley to the crankshaft.
As you may have figured out by now I don’t throw ANYTHING away and so I had kept the original 4 V belt pulley that came with Mr. Gee, even though it had a large piece of it broken away. But this gave me the center piece that was already machined to just right fit on the keyed end of Mr. Gee’s crankshaft so I cut it out with a plasma gun and used it ….
….. to quickly machine it into this part which is the Olive Green part in the 3D model above.
After making a few more parts, I could now dry assemble everything to see how well my 3D modeling transformed into the real world on the front of Mr. Gee.
Now to test how the belt fit and if all the pulley’s aligned with each other in all three planes so the belt would run true and free with no binding or chafing.
Worked out great!
BUT, there was still one critical part missing.
Can you figure out what that missing part is?
Correct! I need to add in that spring loaded automatic belt tensioner!
To mount this onto the front of Mr. Gee in just the right fore/aft position so that the black idler pulley rides exactly in the center of the rubber cogged belt, I needed to space it out about 38mm so I quickly used by drill press/milling machine to build this solid AL spacer.
Next I made up a template for the 10mm thick AL plate that this would mount onto.
Bolted that to the Gardner cast AL support bracket supporting the cast AL cooling water holding tank, held the spring loaded tension wheel out of the way while I slid the cogged belt into lace and released the tensioner.
Et Voila! It all came together and works like a charm.
Final piece of this multipart puzzle was to add in the chain drive hand crank system to make sure all the many players in this very busy front end all played nice together.
You can see just how tight some of these clearances were in all this but it worked out just as I had modelled it, all the belt pulleys and chain wheels aligned with each other so they were all happy and it has been running like a charm for the past few months now.
Whew! Sure glad I was finally able to put this all together for you and for those who were brave enough and preserved to get to the end of this long and winding explanation. Congrats to all of you who did and for the smart ones who just skipped to the end.
I’ll leave you with one parting shot from Christine’s recent photo shot with the drone. It is a bit distorted with such a wide angle but this is looking across the entrance to the marina where Möbius is a bit left of center along that stone breakwater.
Thanks for joining me here again and don’t forget to add your comments and questions in the “Join the Discussion” box below.
Last week in the post called How & Why do we make all our Decisions on Designing, Building and outfitting XPM78-01 Möbius? I covered how we developed and use our set of four founding or first principles to base all our decisions upon. We refer to these four pillars as SCEM which stands for Safety, Comfort, Efficiency and Maintenance (lack of).
We don’t use SCEM as filters per se, we use them to keep us on track, keep our priorities straight, by reminding us of what our fundamental values are for this boat. When doing our due diligence and research on some potential piece of equipment It is all too easy to get attracted or distracted by things like cool features or just the sheer number of choices and so as we go through our decision making we are constantly circling back through SCEM to make sure these fundamental requirements are being met.
This week in this Part 2 of our decision making process, I will do my best to summarize the more specific criteria we use to ultimately make our final decisions upon. I will cover this as a series of the following questions that we ask and answer to our satisfaction at least, as we evaluate each bit of kit and then use these to make our call.
- What problem is this item attempting to solve?
- Is the problem/item a want or a need?
- Consequences of adding this item? Domino effect?
- Does it pass the Goldilocks test?
- New vs Tried & True?
What problem is this item attempting to solve?
Might sound like a silly question at first but it is surprising how often answering this question provides the most help in in our evaluation of a design decision or of a given piece of equipment. Let me use our decision of what battery type to use for our House Battery Bank to illustrate but one example of how valuable this question was.
To put this question into context, keep in mind that Möbius is a completely Battery Based Boat, meaning that ALL of our onboard electrical power comes from our House Battery Bank and therefore this is one of THE most critical systems on the boat and one that in some cases our lives can depend upon. For an XPM or any true eXpedition boat that is going to be able to carry us safely and comfortably to locations across the full spectrum of eXtremes of climate and remoteness, we need to be as self sufficient as possible and so our onboard electrical power rates right up there alongside diesel fuel and fresh (potable) water as a critical requirement. An XPM type boat is designed to spend the majority of its time at anchor or at sea, in our case often for months at a time, so in all our design and equipment decisions, we assume that we will have no shore based resources such as shore power, stores, shipping, airports, etc..
Finally, for a bit more context, let me add that we have also chosen to not have an independent generator onboard so ALL of our four voltages, 12 & 24 Volt DC and 120 & 230 Volt AC, come from our House Battery Bank. Most of the time we keep our batteries charged via our 4.48kW array of 14 320W Solar Panels and when underway we have 12-14kW available from the two eXtremely robust 250A @ 28V Electrodyne alternators which Mr. Gee keeps spinning.
One of the very first decisions we needed to make to chose our batteries was what type or chemistry of batteries would be the Goldilocks just right, just for us House Batteries? I’m not going to go over this in any detail here but these are the five battery types we had to chose from:
- FLA; Flooded Lead Acid
- AGM: Absorbed Glass Matt
- Carbon Foam
Many of you and others we talked to, thought for sure that the choice was obvious; go with Lithium and we did consider them, and all the other types, very thoroughly. But it was that question of “What problem is this trying to solve” that made it clear that Lithium was not the best choice for us and that’s the story I’d like to elaborate on here a bit.
Our battery decision making started at the very beginning of our design process, around 2016, and in some ways we designed and built the boat around the House Batteries. For the first few years, we thought we would go with GEL based OPzV batteries such as this one.
These OPxV type batteries are eXtremely robust and often referred to as “traction batteries” as they are used in things like all electric forklifts in warehouses so they had good cycle life and good resistance to sulfation and other features that wold make them a good choice for Möbius.
During this time we were reading more and more about Lithium batteries and we were seeing more and more people who were choosing to go with them so we also spent a good bit of time researching the various types and makes of Lithium, primarily LiFePO4 or Lithium Iron. This relatively new type of battery was said to have a lot of amazing features with the top ones being longer lasting (more cycle life), ability to accept much higher charging rates thus take less time to charge, but perhaps the biggest feature was their much higher energy density. This means that you get much more usable Watts from the same amount of space and weight compared to what you would get from other battery types. Said another way, you could get the same amount of energy out of a much smaller size and lighter battery bank.
As the months and years went by, these claims were validated more and more and we saw the steady increase of Lithium Iron being the batteries of choice for more and more boats so it seemed like the choice was clear right? However when we applied our criteria and use case and asked the “What problem is Lithium trying to solve?” question, we realized that we didn’t have the same “problems” as most of these other boats such as size and weight of our House Batteries.
My earlier comment that we had designed the boat around our House Battery Bank is not that far off as we had designed the hull to take maximum advantage of the characteristics of our original consideration of OPzV batteries which were very large and very heavy. Each OPzV 2/4V cell measured 215mm/8.5” Wide x 277mm/10.9” Deep x 855mm/33.6” High and weighed 110kg/242lbs each, and we needed 24 of these!
As we often do, we turned this “bug” into a feature and built four large battery compartments into the framing of the bottom of the hull such that each compartment straddled the 25mm thick x 350mm high keel bar running down the centerline of the hull. By positioning these battery compartments on the very bottom and center of the hull, we effectively turned the lead in our batteries into a proxy for some of the lead ballast we needed. This is a photo from last year of one of our four battery compartments.
The point here if you are following along with me is that for the use case and design of an XPM, the “problem” that Lithium batteries would solve with their high energy density for a given weight and size just wasn’t a problem we had; we had the room and we wanted the weight. So the search for our Goldilocks batteries continued.
For awhile we continued to think that OPzV Gel batteries were the best fit for us, however, just as we had been following the developments of Lithium batteries we had also been tracking the growing use of Carbon Foam type batteries from FireFly.
They ticked all the boxes on our list of criteria, most notably these were proving to be eXtremely robust and several attempts by test labs trying to purposely destroy these batteries failed and they proved to be almost indestructible which is a huge factor for us and our use case.
These Carbon Foam batteries are also able to work and charge in much lower temperatures such as those we expect to have when we are in polar regions of the world and they are one of the only battery types that don’t suffer from sulfation. and are happy, even recommended, to stay at Partial State of Charge for long periods of time which would normally be the death of most other batteries.
Near the end I found real world installations of these batteries, some of which had been in place for more than ten years and so just before placing this large order of batterie we changed and ordered 24 of these 4V L15+ size Micro Carbon Foam batteries which now make up our 43.2kW House Bank (1800Ah @ 24V) made by FireFly and they have been working flawlessly for the past six months.
Let me be clear that I am NOT saying that Lithium batteries are not a great choice for many boats, nor am I saying that Carbon Foam batteries are “the best”, I am just hoping to explain how and why we made our decision to go with Carbon Foam and why they are the Goldilocks just right, just for us choice. All thanks in part to the question we regularly ask near the beginning of our decision making process; What problem is this trying to solve?
Is the problem/item a want or a need?
We often put each item we are trying to decide on into either the Need to Have or Wish/Want to Have category. Pretty self explanatory I think, Need to Have are items that we feel are mandatory must haves in order for us to feel confident in going to sea and living full time aboard Möbius. Examples for us include things like;
- our high output watermaker,
- Furuno Radar and other navigation equipment,
- eXtremely high amounts of acoustic & audio insulation,
- comfortable Helm Chairs,
- that little FLIR One thermal camera I used to find the overheated wiring a few weeks ago,
- great HVAC systems
- Global communication capability (right now via our Iridium GO)
- and items like this.
The Want/Wish to Have category can be subdivided into groups such as;
- buy as soon as the budget allows
- later when it is ready for real world use (ours)
- nice to have, perhaps a gift to ourselves or each other
Current examples on our Wish/Want list includes things like:
- second Furuno Radar with NXT technology,
- forward facing sonar when it is has been in more mainstream use and is robust enough for our use case
- active stabilization, most likely Magnus Effect type
- kite sail with autopilot to add to our propulsion and reduce fuel usage
- Portland Pudgy, Christine’s long time wish for a small, light sailing dingy
- affordable high speed internet such as that being promised by 5G and satellite based systems being developed.
We also have a third category worth mentioning which is the Don’t Want Onboard category which is sometimes the best choice. Items on this list would include things like;
- anything that requires propane (too much of a pain to fill around the world)
- anything that requires gasoline (too short a shelf life these days)
Consequences of adding this item?
As a good friend and fellow world sailor likes to say “Everything needs” and so we spend time trying to imagine what the needs and other consequences will be if we add this bit of kit to Möbius. Our primary prioritization of Maintenance, lack thereof, would factor into this for example and hence decisions such as;
- no paint/wood/SS on the exterior,
- being single fuel boat with no propane or gasoline,
- no generator
but it could also be other consequences of adding this item to our boat. An XPM is complex by virtue of needing to be so self contained and as we often say Möbius is like a floating village in that we have to look after making all our own water, all our own energy, dealing with all our own waste and so on, but we do strive to apply the KISS or Keep It Simple & Safe philosophy to all our decisions by finding the simplest solution possible. Examples of this would include:
- manual roll attenuation with our fully mechanical/manual Paravane A-Frames
- manual Tender Davit system vs hydraulic
- Gardner engine (no turbo, no electrics, low revs, etc.)
The Domino Effect is perhaps a branch of the consideration of the Consequences of any decision as I just outlined above and is when the result of a decision has follow on effects to other systems on that boat. This can work both ways; sometimes these dominos are positive ones and in other cases they are negative or undesirable consequences. For example, installing the eXtreme amount of EPDM and acoustic insulation throughout the boat has a domino effect;
- stabilizes the interior temperatures and makes them more temperate in both very hot and very cold climates
- this reduces the energy required to cool/heat the boat
- this allows us to install smaller capacity and less expensive HVAC systems such as Air Conditioning and heating
- this lowers the demand on our House Batteries and HVAC systems so they run with less loads and last longer
An example of when the Domino Effect can work the opposite direction might be the option we considered of installing fin type active stabilizers. These work extremely well to reduce the roll in many conditions when on passages but they would also introduce a Domino Effect of consequences that took them out of the running for us, such as;
- their protrusion from the side of the hull reduces the safety factor when in areas with uncharted rocks, coral heads and the inevitable groundings on these.
- not suitable when ice is present in polar waters
- unlikely but possible if a fin is hit hard enough to create an underwater breach of the hull
- are extremely complex and often top the lists of most maintenance problems we read from other global passage makers.
- most require a significant hydraulic system to operate which adds yet another whole system onboard to maintain and repair.
I might add that having gone through this Domino Effect as we considered active fin stabilization, it also helped us see that we could find a different type of active stabilization if we should ever want that, and one that eliminates most of the dominos I listed above. This would be stabilizers that use the Magnus Effect which is offered by several different manufacturers now.
Does it pass the Goldilocks test?
We essentially answer this question by virtue of having gone through all the questions and priorities I’ve already listed. Because we have highly personalized our overarching principles of SCEM and articulated much more detailed specifics of our use case, our decision making helps us ensure that we are making choices and decisions that are by definition, Goldilocks, just right, just for us.
However, this is such an important factor for us that we do keep coming back to to this “Goldilocks Test” to make sure we are avoiding the tendency to “go with the flow” of following what others are doing or “the way its always been done” and are staying true to ourselves and our preferences. I will site a more “meta” example here which is our decision in the design phase to “upsize” the length of the boat from the 18-20m / 60-65 ft that we initially imagined and then at the same time “downsize” the interior to have just 2 cabins and 2 heads.
Our decision to extend the length to 24m/78ft was driven two factors; simple physics that hull speed is a factor of Length on the Waterline and our discovery that contrary to popular opinion there is not very many restrictions on boats that are over 20 meters whereas there are some very significant changes to the rules governing ships that are over 24 meters. With our prioritization of efficiency, we pushed the length to just under 24 meters. With our infrequent use of marinas the increased docking fees do not affect us very much. Furthermore, with more and more catamarans being purchased, many marinas are changing their dock rates to be calculated based on overall area of each boat, LOA x Beam and so our slender 5m Beam reduces our overall area and we are often cheaper or about the same as much shorter but wider boats.
Our decisions to “downsize” the interior and thus reduce maintenance and costs was based on the fact that 99% of the time Christine and I are the only two people living onboard so we wanted to make the interior fit us and our needs. Our Master Cabin is very spacious and luxurious for us. Our Guest Cabin works very well when we do have guests onboard but most of the time it is a very purposefully designed Office for Christine Kling, the Captain’s nom de plume when she is working on her next book and running her growing book business. Our SuperSalon is indeed living up to that name the more we live in it. And my very full size Workshop and Engine Room is that of my dreams.
There are many other examples of how the Goldilocks Test has driven our decisions such as;
- Manual Paravane system and Tender Davit that is KISS and as former sailors handling lines, winches and clutches is second hand.
- Though we designed and built the cabinets, electrical and plumbing for them, we chose not to install either a Dryer or a Dishwasher as we are just not fans of either one and prefer washing and drying by hand.
I could give countless more examples of how we have applied the Goldilocks Test to almost every decision we have made during the design and the building process but I think you get the idea. We have now been living aboard Möbius since she first launched in February and we are finding that our continuous use of this Goldilocks Test has worked eXtremely well for us in designing and building Möbius and we can and do recommend it highly for almost all decisions and choices you make.
New vs Tried & True?
Christine and I are self described nerds and geeks so we have a great fondness for technology that is on that well named “bleeding edge” and we have a full compliment of devices to show for it. However, when it comes to equipment for Möbius, and especially all of it that is on that Must Have list, it must be remembered all those decisions must be made within the context that Möbius is an XPM type boat that is designed and built to live up to that acronym for eXtreme eXploration Passage Maker. So when it comes to deciding on equipment, materials, construction and design of these items, they must, all be Tried & True. To us this means equipment that has been in regular use on boats, ideally with similar use cases as ours, for several years and has stood that test of time.
Some examples of this for us include:
- we delayed our decision to go with FireFly Carbon Foam batteries until after we had been able to find enough examples of these batteries being installed in other people’s boats in large numbers for many years.
- We chose to go with all Furuno for navigation because it is so widely used by commercial boats in fishing fleets, government agencies and the like and hence this equipment is designed and built for continuous 24/7 use in some eXtremely harsh conditions. They also have an excellent reputation for their continued support of even their oldest equipment.
- Our decision to go with a Gardner 6LXB engine that is still one of the most efficient diesel engines ever produced and is still in use in thousands of commercial boats worldwide. It is also perhaps one of the best examples of the KISS approach to design and engineering which adds to how well it passes the Tried & True test.
- individual MPPT controllers for each of our 14 solar panels as this has been well proven to be the most efficient combination for both overall efficiency, least affected by shading and highest redundancy.
Let me end with a final example of the value of taking this Tried & True test for mission critical ships and equipment from no less than the US Navy!
A recent article caught my eye a few weeks ago where even the us Navy has learned the folly of installing untested equipment on their ships. This link to the article USS Gerald R. Ford Problems: The Navy Admits Its Big Mistake (popularmechanics.com) provides a brief but telling story.
as outlined in that article the Chief of Naval Operations, Mike Gilday, says the U.S. Navy built the aircraft carrier USS Ford with too many new technologies. such that now, the Ford is several years behind in its life cycle because of problems with many of those new technologies.
- The last of the Ford’s four advanced weapon elevators, the most glaring example of the ship’s tech gone wrong, should enter service later this year.
- When the Navy first built the Ford, it incorporated nearly two dozen new technologies, some of which are still giving the service headaches 4 years after the ship entered the fleet. Those delays meant the Navy only commissioned the Ford in 2017, despite laying it down in 2009. Even then, problems lingered, especially with the electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) and the advanced weapon elevators (AWEs).
- The ship’s first full deployment, originally scheduled for 2018, is now set for 2022.
I think this unfortunate real world example does help to make the point that for XPM types of boats with use cases to match, all the “mission critical” equipment onboard MUST have passed the Tried & True test.
Bubble Bubble, Toil & Trouble!
Leaving you with the latest bit of kit that Captain Christine just approved and installed onboard, a fully manual sparkling water maker! Especially in these hot summer months, Christine particularly enjoys her cold sparkling water and I do too but we don’t like having to buy it in cases of plastic bottles. We have our watermaker for similar reasons for our regular drinking water. Initial tests have elicited the same smile you see here so this item has now passed the all important Captain’s Test and has been welcomed aboard.
Thanks so much for making it this far if you have and I do hope that this slightly different format and content is of interest and value to most of you. Let me know either way with your comments in the “Join the Discussion” box below and I’ll be back with more for you same time next week.
I’m going to depart from the usual Show & Tell weekly update posting here today and do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time and continue to get requests for. It will be less Show/photo based and more Tell/text based than usual so it may not be your cup of tea and please feel free to skim and speed read accordingly.
Over the 5+ years of designing and building what is now XPM78-01 Möbius, I have very gratefully received a lot of recommendations for our followers and others we meet, for equipment and bits of kit they think we should install.
This always leads Christine and I to researching and learning as much about each item as we can and that in itself has been eXtremely valuable and helpful. Many people have been surprised at our decisions as to what bits of kit we do decide to use and those that we don’t and have been curious as to our reasons and our process for making these decisions which by now, likely run into the thousands.
I have done my best to answer these questions when they appear here as comments on the blog or ones I receive via Email or text messages and these have often led to valuable exchanges in the discussion section. However, I’ve been meaning to write a better response that outlines our decision making process for a long time and that is what I’m going to do my best at today.
For more details than you probably want with the background and context of our thinking around these topics you can refer to THIS blog post from back in April 2018. In that post you will find two summative points I made that will provide some context to this article;
- the byline of our purpose to be “Wandering, Wondering and Pondering the world one nautical smile at a time”
- and that we were setting out to; “ design and build an exceptional long range Passage Maker that is strong, safe, fast, fun and efficient, serving as our full time home along with the infrequent guests who join us on expeditions exploring the most remote locations of the world in exceptional safety and comfort.”
Lastly, let me be sure to be clear that ALL of what you will read below is framed within the context of two primary points:
1. Our only application here is for an XPM type of boat that is going to be used as intended to live up to that moniker of eXtreme eXploration Passage Maker.
2. This is all about our pursuit of what we called “Project Goldilocks”, wherein we set out to design and build the just right boat, just for us to live and learn on for the indefinite future.
All our decisions are made within this Goldilocks concept of just right, just for us and while we hope and hear that the sharing our our thinking and our experiences is of some use and value to other cruisers, please don’t misconstrue any of this to be what is “best” for any other boat or sailors.
Decision Making Process:
As with most decision making I think, ours is not a linear step by step process and is more of an ongoing series of discussion, mostly between Christine and myself, which cycle and loop through many different categories but for the sake of this explanation, let me outline the basic categories that we cycle through.
Over the combined years and nautical smiles that we’ve both logged while sailing the world, a set of “first principles” emerged and during the very early days of designing Möbius, after a LOT of discussions between us, we synthesized these down to four: Safety Comfort Efficiency Maintenance or SCEM for short.
Oxford defines First Principles as;
“the fundamental concepts or assumptions on which a theory, system, or method is based”
It was a long and winding but very fun and rewarding effort to boil the results of our discussions down to a “reduction sauce” of SCEM and then articulate what each of these meant to us, but these first principles proved to be invaluable throughout the entire design and build of Möbius and has been generating growing dividends ever since as we continue to use them almost every day.
I don’t think it makes sense to try to put SCEM in any order as they are all important but it would also be true to say that Safety ranks up at the top of our decision making. Safety is also somewhat synonymous with confidence which is a value that we MUST have before we will ever head out to sea or even “just” be on anchor in our floating home.
Safety in this context is primarily the safety of ourselves and our passengers as well as those around us. Whenever we find ourselves in some kind of severe unexpected situation at sea one of us literally asks the other “Is anyone going to die?” and that bifurcates the discussion and our decision making from there. Given our use case of having Möbius take us to some of the most remote locations in the world where we often find ourselves quite totally alone and in some very eXtreme environments, it is not any exaggeration to say that our lives do quite literally depend upon our boat and our ability to use her and it is within this context that safety factors into every decision we make and every bit of kit we install.
It isn’t a “bit of kit” but this first principle of Safety also influenced our very purposeful design of Möbius to be easily mistaken for a military, coast guard, police type boat with a “don’t mess with me” vibe. This all relates back to our use case of being in eXtremely remote locations and locations where conditions ashore are unknown and possibly have people who might be motivated to approach us with mal intent if they see a bright and shiny “superyacht” off their shore.
Two other very quick and different examples, out of hundreds at least, to illustrate our safety based decisions;
1. Anchoring and ground tackle.
We prefer to anchor rather than use mooring fields or marinas and SWAN or Sleep Well At Night becomes of paramount concern every night, and day we stay anchored. Our basic tenants for choosing anchor and ground tackle might be summed up as “go big or go home” in that we go with the largest and most bulletproof anchor, chain, windlass, etc. that we can carry.
We only want one main anchor on the boat such that EVERY time we put the anchor down we know our best bit of kit is holding us in place be that for an hour’s lunch stop or for weeks or more through storms and all that Mother Nature can test us with.
In keeping with another theme in our decision making of only going with “Tried & True”, for our anchor we went with a Rocna, the same brand of anchor that had served us flawlessly through over 12 years of sailing our 52’ steel cutter “Learnativity” and just upsized it to about the largest one they make at 110kg/242lbs. This is attached to 120m/400’ of 13mm / 1/2” G4 galvanized chain and a Maxwell VWC 4000 windlass.
2. FLIR One thermal camera.
In last week’s post, you saw a vivid example of the value of this small bit of kit that I used to identify the faulty wiring that had severely overheated and could have easily resulted in a fire and further damage. An odd item that you won’t find included on too many other boat’s list of Safety Equipment but I think last week’s use alone will explain why this is on our list of Safety Equipment.
Comfort in this context is somewhat synonymous with Safety because if we don’t have a boat that allows us to do what we do without being beat up when conditions get rough, or there is equipment that is not comfortable and convenient to use, then we won’t be as likely to use it.
Comfort takes on an eXtremely important role as it encompasses what keeps us wanting to sail further, go to more places, stay longer in those we enjoy and so on. You will often hear those of us who are full time live aboards or spend most of the year living on our boats say that “we are not camping”! For us, this is our home and our life and most of our days so designing and building a boat that will “… take us on expeditions exploring the most remote locations of the world in exceptional safety and comfort.” as I noted in the old April 2018 post I linked to above.
Examples here would include some of the obvious such as eXtremely comfortable Helm Chairs as one of us usually needs to spend most of our waking time on passages sitting in them and when conditions get rough these seats need to keep us comfortably in place and able to fully control the boat while seated.
Less obvious Comfort related items would include things like our paravane stabilisers which dramatically reduce roll both while at sea and on anchor and make life aboard both much more comfortable and safer.
Lack of comfort on an global passage maker such as Möbius would also result in fatigue, aches and pains which would lead to poor and possibly dangerous decisions at sea.
We use Efficiency in an all encompassing way here as it applies to everything from fuel efficiency to cost efficiency to time efficiency. These are often very interrelated to themselves as well as to the other three First Principles of SCEM. Fuel efficiency is obviously related to cost efficiency but less obvious perhaps is the efficiency of things like insulation of the hull and all our bulkheads. This high degree of insulation adds to our overall efficiency in multiple ways such as reducing the energy requirements of our HVAC systems (Heating Ventilation And Cooling) to keep the interior of the boat as cool or warm as we wish. Better insulation also makes the whole boat much quieter, keeping each cabin sonically isolated from both the sounds of others in or on the boat as well as some of the sounds of the sea in big storms which can add to the stress of the situation and which in turn can compromise safety.
Less obvious perhaps are things such as electrical efficiency with sizing everything from wires and cables to batteries, inverters, chargers, refrigeration, HVAC and indeed almost all of our electrical equipment. We have to produce all our own electricity and therefore efficiency in producing every watt and then using every watt most efficiently allows us such “luxuries” as being able to be at anchor indefinitely.
We must also produce all our own Potable water for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc. as this is critical to our self sufficiency and health. Therefore being able to produce all our own fresh water most efficiently in terms of the energy our watermaker requires and the time it takes to do so, factors into our decision making and thus another example of the key role efficiency plays in our decision making and equipment selections.
Actually this should probably be LM as it is all about LACK of Maintenance, but this First Principle also drives a lot of our decisions in the design and building of Möbius. Pretty much everything on a boat, no different than a house or a car, requires maintenance to keep all their bits and pieces working properly, looking good and lasting as long as possible. On a boat, and especially on an XPM boat, the conditions we operate in are much more severe and harsh. Imagine if your home was constantly being shaken, sometimes quite gently as in a swaying tree house, but sometimes shaken quite violently as if it were perched atop the Disneyland Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Add to this being immersed within salt water and humid salty air and you can begin to appreciate why cruisers often joke that their life is spent moving from one exotic repair destination to the next!
What raises Lack of Maintenance to being a First Principle for us though is what we call the “two hand rule” which we illustrate by holding up our two hands and saying “See these? If something breaks or stops working, these are the only two things that can fix it”. For most of us, doing our own maintenance is the only way we can afford to life this life and for the less sane of us, we actually enjoy working on our boats. Up to a point at least. On a more serious note, in our use case we NEED to be able to fix our boats ourselves by having the neccessary tools, materials, parts and skills because we are often in places or out at sea where we are the ONLY people present. There is no one else to call for parts, tools or expertise and even if there was they couldn’t get to you. In this context then, being able to do your own maintenance and fixing can become something your life depends upon.
In our case examples of decisions we have made that are highly influenced by the Maintenance or lack thereof principle, are things such as deciding to build an aluminium boat and to leave it all raw and unpainted. Aluminium naturally forms a thin almost invisible layer of Aluminium Oxide on the surfaces exposed to air which therefore creates an eXtremely hard inert protective coating that requires zero maintenance on our part.
Lack of Maintenance also drove other exterior decisions such as having no paint, no stainless, and no wood. In addition to the significant reduction in Maintenance, these decisions also go towards cost efficiency as repainting a boat, keeping it all clean and shiny and varnished, is also eXtremely eXpen$ive so the benefits start to multiply.
Another good example of this decision making process and how our first principles often multiply each other is our choosing to go with Carbon Foam FireFly batteries. We literally live off our batteries as we have no generator (also less maintenance and more comfort) and these Carbon Foam batteries are about as bullet proof as batteries get, require almost no maintenance, have extremely long cycle life and are eXtremely cost effective.
Whew! As usual, your brevity challenged author has yet again applied his mastery of neverasentencewhenaparagraphwilldo to make this go much longer than originally intended and so I’m going to stop here and follow the lead of the truly talented author onboard, Captain Christine Kling, and turn this book aka article, into a multi part series.
Here are some examples of topics I will cover in the next parts of this series about how and why we make the decisions and chose the equipment that we install on Möbius:
- What problem is this item attempting to solve?
- Is the problem/item a want or a need?
- Consequences of adding this item? Domino effect?
- Does it pass the Goldilocks test?
- New Tech or Tried & True?
- Valuation? Is it the best value?
Perhaps the most important reason for stopping here and turning this into a series of articles is to pause to ask YOU if this is the kind of content you want and find useful???
I’m not suggesting that this will become the new form for all my future articles as I think it only fits a few topics and I will continue to produce the Show & Tell articles as the work on finishing and then cruising on Möbius continues. However I would be eXtremely appreciative if you would add a short comment in the “Join the Discussion” box below to let me know your thoughts on this type of content, and the Show & Tell ones as well so I can get a better feel for what’s working best for you and what’s not? What would you like more of/less of? What topics would you like me to address that I have not so far?
I can’t promise that I can or will do all that you ask but I do promise to take your suggestions into account as I continue to write and post here on the Mobius.World blog. My thanks in advance to all your feedback and assistance in improving my writing. As you’ve clearly seen I can use ALL the help I can get!!
Hope to have you back again to join me next week.
Our first week back aboard the good ship Möbius after our 3 week fun packed time being Gramma and Grampa with our two Granddaughters Brynn (beside me in Red) and Blair beside Christine in Green. Their parents, Lia & Brian joined us as well of course and we are all still savoring the latest batch of memories we created during our time with them exploring Turkey.
I’ll let the photo and the smiles tell you all you need to know about what a great time we had.
If you’d like to see and know more, check out THIS post that Christine put up last week with a few more photos and explanations.
After that MUCH needed break, it was back to work for Christine and I this week and we were soon ramped right back up to our typically busy selves onboard, me getting back to the still growing list of jobs needing done to get Möbius seaworthy and Christine getting back to working on her next books.
For those interested you can check out all of Christine’s best selling thriller novels HERE on her Author’s Page on Amazon.
And boy has it been HOT here in Finike!
Lest some of you should think, for reasons I can’t fathom, that I’m eXaggerating about the weather here, check out this snip I just grabbed from Accuweather.
See for yourself, daytime highs of 43C/110F and night time lows down to 22C/72F
Where is Möbius??
Speaking of Finike, some of you have asked about where we and Möbius are now located so here is a quick set of maps to show you,
Starting with this bigger picture to give you a sense of where Finike and Turkey is relative to the countries and seas surrounding us.
Zoomed into the coastline between Antalya where we started in the upper Right corner and Finike just around the coastal corner in the bottom Right. Distance by sea is about 70 nautical miles which would be 130km/81 miles.
We were originally tied up on the inner harbour wall where you see the two larger boats in the bottom center here. However, this was just outside the Setur Finike Marina itself with several very nice restaurants right behind us that featured very lovely live music every night, but a bit too loud and a bit too long (2 AM) for our liking.
So last week we moved over to the docks running along the sea wall breakwater that is in the upper Right in the photo above and we are now snuggled in between these two sailboats. A bit tight, but no one living on either boat and it is only a short walk to go for a swim over the other side of the sea wall, which we look forward to every night.
Here’s our view looking NNW across our bow at the rest of the marina with the town of Finike spread out behind and some of the surrounding mountains.
All in all a very nice spot that will be Möbius’ Home Port for the rest of this year as we eXplore more of the beautiful Turkish Turquoise Coast.
The Whack-a-Molomino games begin!
I’ve created this portmanteau “Whack-a-Molomino” in an attempt to articulate how my week has been going as I find myself playing this new game that combines;
the thrill of the hunt of playing the arcade game of Whack-a-Mole ….
…… that has been infused with the intrigue of the Domino Effect.
Read on and you will soon see what I mean.
Cooling Down Heats me up!
Let’s start with this riddle; “How can Air Conditioning heat you up?” The technically correct answer is that this is a feature of some AirCon systems which can run in what’s known as Reverse Cycle model which heats up the air going into the rooms instead of cooling it down. This is a very welcome feature in cold climates and the Webasto AirCon system in Möbius does indeed have this Reverse Cycle feature. However, this week it was a “bug” not a feature when things went pear shaped and the game of Whack-a-Molomino began while trying to get our AirCon system to cool down the cabins on Möbius in these very hot days and nights we’ve been having. Here’s how that went.
We have been anxious to test out the extensive Air Conditioning system based on a Webasto BlueCool V Series 77k BTU Chiller located in the Workshop which provides the chilled (or heated) water that is piped to ……
…… the four A Series Air Handlers; one 12K in the Guest Cabin, one 18 K in the Master Cabin and two 12K units on either side of the SuperSalon.
Each Air Handler is controlled by one of these MyTouch display panels in each Cabin and then there is a similar controller mounted on the Chiller in the Workshop. All these MyTouch control panels are networked together so you can control the whole system from anywhere on the boat.
A marine AirCon system uses the readily available sea water that is continuously pumped through the Chiller’s water to water heat exchanger which cools the antifreeze/water solution down to about 2-4°C.
This chilled coolant is then pumped through well insulated plumbing to the small water to air heat exchangers (mini radiators) in each Air Handler with a thermostatically controlled fan that blows fresh cold air into each Cabin.
I was primarily anxious to get some real world data on the energy consumption of this AirCon system and as you might imagine, these hot days provided all the more incentive. So Monday morning I went through all the pre-start preparations for this brand new and new to me set of equipment and controls. After re-reading the Webasto product manuals, checking that all valves for sea water and coolant were open, all the 230V circuit breakers were on, the five MyTouch displays all came to life and were ready for testing. I started with the Guest Cabin aka Christine’s Office where she is anxiously awaiting cool calm place to work on her books. At first I had a problem getting the Chiller unit to go into Cooling mode but it was stuck on Heating mode, but I worked with the two head technicians from Webasto to both design this system and then when they were commissioning it and so I was able to get in touch with them on WhatsApp and they were very fast to respond and show me the “trick” to get into the second settings menu by holding down the main screen for 3 seconds which then gave me the option to change the mode from Heating to Cooling and set it to be Automatic in the future.
All was going well as the Chiller fired up, brought the water temps down from 32C/90F which believe it or not is the sea temperature here, to about 3-4C and then the Air Handler in Christine’s Office came on and had cold air blowing in which put an eXtremely big smile on my Captain’s face! As I scurried about setting up the other three air handlers, checking for and fixing the leaks I found, and keeping an eye on the Amps/Watts meters I started to notice the very unsettling odor of burning wires! Yikes!
My nose quickly led me to the AC Main Panel in the Basement which is behind the now open Grey door at the far Right end in this photo. This is the Main AC panel for all the 120 volt and 230 volt circuits we have onboard.
Fortunately I had caught this early and there was no fire, just the unmistakable and unsettling smell of overheated insulation on electrical wires.
Everything looked to be fine when I first opened up the door of this Main Panel but the smell was clearly coming from somewhere inside. Almost all the wires are neatly tucked away inside plastic wire chases like this which do a great job of tidying up all the individual wires and keeping them tucked out of the way BUT you also can’t see what’s going on inside so I started to quickly unclip the tops on all these chases so I could see the wires inside.
In the literal heat of the moment I didn’t have the time to take any photos to show how it looked with the covers all in place but a few minutes later, with all the covers removed, I snapped this shot and at first glance all appeared to be well.
However, as I scanned all the wiring I realized that this jumble of Black wires in the middle above the row of gray plastic DIN rail junction blocks had not been there the last time I had looked over the AC wiring, though that was a year ago now at least. As I took it all in I was more and more puzzled as to what all these Black wires were needed for as most of them seemed to be just jumpers from one junction block to the next.
This is very puzzling because these DIN junction blocks have built in slots in the middle where you can insert proper copper jumpers that you press in place between any two or more terminals you want to interconnect.
The closer I looked the more strange it became and as I carefully moved some of the coiled up wires and found that multiple wires had been jammed into single terminals?
I quickly found the culprit when I burned my fingers on the wires jammed into terminal # 24 (Green arrow) and saw the melting plastic in the middle of that block which the Red arrow is pointing at.
I quickly and carefully pulled the sticky hot wire out of the the melting terminal and you can see the wire inside the White oval.
Again, lest any of you might think I’m eXaggerating how hot these wires had become, I submit as Evidence #1, this thermal image taken from about the same vantage point as the photo above. The thermal camera I use has this nifty feature of not only color coding the temperatures as well as overlaying actual temperature reading of key spots. As you can see the “White hot” wire I have removed from terminal #24 is at 101.1C / 214F
For those of you wondering about this photo and my thermal camera, here are some quick details of what I regard as, for now obvious reasons, one of my most important Safety devices I carry onboard Möbius and would not be without.
My ever so handy and well used Flir ONE Thermal camera plugs into the USB C of my Pixel 5 phone and displays the thermal images overlaid on top of the phones camera image where I can control the degree of transparency to see more or less of the thermal image vs the actual image by varying the degree of transparency.
As you can see in the photo above and relative to my hand here, it is a very compact little device which normally lives inside the protective hard shell “Otter box” case it comes with until I need to use it for situations like this.
I have this camera out at all times on passages and we use it on our hourly engine room and ship inspections to scan things like all the wiring panels, the Gardner and any other places where changes in temperature are not a good thing.
Not particularly cheap until you consider the consequences and expenses of NOT having one!
As a less dramatic and more positive example, I was also able to use my Flir ONE to check the temperature of the air vents in the Salon window sills when the AirCon unit was running and see precise temperatures which I could compare with the other vents and get precise readings to know how well the air was being cooled or not.
After this first round of Whack-a-Molomino my AirCon job had turned into a major AC wiring job so this was my “office” for the last four days as I used that plastic crate as my seat perched in front of the AC Main Panel removing all the wiring and replacing it with new and properly connected wires.
Wiring any boat can be challenging but on any metal boat boat and especially so an aluminium boat, this is eXtremely important as the consequences of incorrectly wired, especially AC and DC grounding wires range from accelerated corrosion from stray electrical currents to eXtremely rapid corrosion if current is traveling through the hull or other conductive components such as the prop shaft and propeller. For reasons that most of us AL boat owners can’t understand, this is an area that many professional and certified technicians seem to not understand and as a result many boats suffer unnecessary damage and shortened life spans.
It became worse as I tested and traced each of the existing wires and discovered that in several cases wires had be simply cut or disconnected in order to prevent things like the RCB safety circuit breakers from tripping. As I continued by drawing out a schematic of the current Main Panel, I discovered that the electrical diagrams I had been supplied with had not been kept up to date during the build process and given the importance of getting this right the best thing to do was to remove ALL the wiring and start over.
So I started with a literally blank piece of paper and drew out the schematic of how the AC wiring inside this Main Panel needed to be wired.
They are what they are, quick hand sketches, but they work for me and I have found that by drawing out each wire in every circuit and then tracing out each wire with colored highlighters it pretty much forces me to get it right. Red is the AC Hot/Load wires, Blue is Neutral and Green/Yellow is safety grounding “PE” wires.
I won’t belabour this any further and just provide these few shots I took along the way or the rewiring.
Here is the newly wired middle set of Gray Junction blocks with all the Black jumper wires you can see in the original photo up above now gone and proper DIN junction jumpers now in place where needed.
One of the most critical parts of AC wiring on boats is the Green/Yellow grounding wires which must be fully isolated from both the hull and the Blue Neutral wires and be connected at one and ONLY ONE connection point on the boat. This too had been missed and so here you can see the set of Green/Yellow wires I have separated from the other grounding bus bar a the bottom and added to their own set of Gray junction blocks above.
This is where I left off last night, all wires now properly connected and fully tested with both Shore Power connections and Inverter connections to ensure the grounding is correct and that the RCD (Residual Control Devices) are tripping immediately with the least bit >30mAmps of imbalance between the Neutral and the Load wires in each AC circuit.
Tomorrow morning I will finish up by reconnecting indicator lights, tidying up all the wires and putting them neatly into the wire chases for added safety. I’ll try t show you that in next week’s update.
And thus ended round one of this week’s Olympic Whack-a-Molomino games. I’m not sure who “won” here other than Möbius being the winner of now being both a better and a more seaworthy boat that puts us one step closer to being able to head out to sea with the complete confidence that is mandatory for doing so, or is at least for Christine and myself.
I’ll be back with more next week as I hopefully get back to what I originally set out to do; get our AirCon system working!
Thanks for taking the time to join me for this week’s tournament and PLEASE do add your comments, questions and suggestions in the “Join the Discussion” box below.