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.
The challenge is patience and being willing to learn – a back and fourth dialog between experience and hypothesis. IMO experience without hypothesis is chaos, hypothesis with out experience is phantasy.
This is not a technique which appeals to “action people” and those who are “absolutists”.
Never confuse action with progress. Image of car stuck in the mud madly spinning its wheels and making no progress!
Never heard the term you used, but I did know about the incident which is widely quoted. always believed in it BUT it was and is difficult to convince people to take the patience and thinking to forward the process. Sometimes focusing and moving things around like you are doing with the shade helps the action people, BUT waiting as year while the kids stomp on the grass. I applaud the people “in change” who had the courage to have the patience to wait
Glad you enjoyed the post and you put your finger on one of the characteristics of prototyping in general being that it might often take more time to get to the final solution and thus requires some human discipline to be patient and allow time for this process. However, I would liken it to the destination vs journey priority in that for me and others who like prototyping, part of the fun and value of this approach is the “journey” protoyping takes you on as much or more so than the destination of the final solution. Definately not the approach that will suit everyone and not a good/bad type of comparison, just different approaches and ways of solving problems.
What I like about the Green Grass type of prototyping is that you are part of the experiment and you are actively using the prototypes as you create them. So we are using our prototype SkyBridge furniture every day, using water from our watermaker every day, staying cool behind the shade cloth and so on. Therefore my mental processing of all this is that we are making constant progress, we are not “waiting” or delaying the solution, we are just in constant search of getting it just right, just for us and that Goldilocks state I write about so much (perhaps too much?!).
Thanks as always for your thoughtful comments and questions and please keep them coming as they are a critical component of this blog providing more value to more people.
Your water filtering discussion was of GREAT interest to me because I have spent the last month or so trying to remove iron from our pool house water that badly stains the toilet and shower. (I just replaced the whole bathroom with a new shower, toilet, etc.) We have no problem in the house where we have a salt water softener, but the pool house is directly from our iron laden well water. I am currently using 3 whole house water filters with a 1 micron sediment filter and an iron reduction filter that has the same media bed as a salt water softener but a 2 year throw away approach in lieu of back washing. So far it seems to be about 90% efficient, but NOT 100% at iron removal. So many products on the market with a lot of overpriced ones, so it takes a lot of research to get close to a solution. Your boat makes it much more critical.
Loved your comment about being able to supply others with fresh water on some of your past remote island stops.
Hi Elton. Really pleased to know that some of what I write about here on the very boat centric Möbius.World blog has applicable value in many other worlds such as your home water situation. I don’t know enough about Zeolite or Iron in water to advise you but I do recall reading some research papers about “modified” Zeolite done one of two ways; with coatings or by magnetizing the Zeolite. You may already be familiar with this from your research but if not a quick search on modified Zeolite and other terms will get you started.
In the case of the water on Möbius we have our own “policy” of no shore water allowed or said another way watermaker produced water only. We don’t do this out of any significant concern for shore water in many countries and locations and here in Turkey for example we have done chemical tests to determine the contents of the water and found pretty much nothing, no chlorine, fluoride, bacteria, etc. but with water being so critical to our health and comfort why take any chances when we have this option to readily produce more “pure” water than we ever need for our own consumption. This policy of watermaker water only onboard also helps us SWAN in terms of knowing that additives or contaminants in the water in our all aluminium tanks are not present and therefore there is virtually no chance of any chemical reactions between the water and the tanks. I also have a somewhat related “no coatings on any aluminium” policy as getting any coating to stick to aluminium is nigh on impossible over the long term. Putting any coatings such as exterior paint on the hull or internal coatings on the insides of our tanks, sets you up for the inevitable failure of the adhesion when the coating starts to separate and now you have a whole new and very nasty to solve problem of getting it all off and doing whatever it is you are going to do next to those surfaces. With my strong emphasis on Maintainability aka Low Maintenance as one of our four fundamental principles for the boat, we therefore chose to have this “no coatings allowed” policy and thus the added importance and value of the media filter and watermaker.
Also pleased that you enjoyed the other big benefit of being self sufficient on the seas wherein you place no demands or needs on the shore based resources wherever you go. Kind of the inverse of the “leave a clean wake” perhaps where we want to ARRIVE in a new destination and cause no disruption and have as close to zero impact as possible on the local people and their resources. Even better when we can in some cases as I mentioned, add some value to our visit to these remote places by providing them with things they need and value, so a definite win-win situation to be sure.
Best of luck with your pool water iron problem and do let me know how you eventually resolve it.
Hi Wayne, From plant nursery production experience (30M+ plants), I’ll chime in to point you in the direction of considering white-colored knitted shade cloth as it has much better heat rejection (reflectivity) than black, and regardless of color, keeping the cloth from touching the glazing vastly improves cooling efficiency. The degree of shading available is a function of the knit density and white is available in 20%, 40% and 50%, but the visibility factor is inversely proportional. Another option is Alumet shade cloth, which is even more reflective. Easy to do your own research. I’m curious if you can drink your RO water without sanitizing treatment? Its been very fun and instructive following your build! Jim
Hi Jim and thanks so much for chiming in with this fabulous first hand experience with shade cloth. We are thinking that going with cloth to supplement the build in shading film in our side windows is likely the best fit for us and Möbius so I really appreciate your recommendations. For now I think we will continue using the dark green shade cloth we have now as I showed in the blog, as our prototype to continue to experiment with more. If I can find some time might try to come up with a proper method of attaching the cloth to the boat such that it is quick and easy to put up and take down and stands up to winds. Then next year when we are more likely to be in countries with much better shipping options, we can look at ordering either White or Aluminet shade cloth and switch over to that.
The one thing I’m curious about with Aluminet that I couldn’t find much good info on is the “visibility factor” as you accurately described it. I understand the inverse relationship between shading and light transmission so 70% shade allows 30% light transmission for example, but light transmission is different than visibility I think. I’d be curious to know how you would compare the visibility factor of Aluminet vs “regular” White mesh cloth? I know visibility doesn’t apply to the most common use which is in your business of nursery and other agro business, the factor there is indeed % of light transmission, but in our use case we would like to find the right balance between as much visibility when we are looking out from inside the SuperSalon and yet the most reduction in heat and UV transfer into the boat. We have some experience with standard meshed shade cloth but none with Aluminet so just wondering which one offers the best visibility/shading ratio or if they are about the same?
Regarding our watermaker, I’ve never been sure that watermakers use “Reverse Osmosis” as this is a purely mechanical process of forcing salt water under very high pressures to pass through a semi-permeable membrane that won’t allow the larger sized salt and other molecules pass through so you get close to pure H2O as a result. I think the confusion in terminology comes in due to the fact that these membranes are very universal in use for lots of different applications and one of those is for actual reverse osmosis treatment of water such as ones in homes that use the chemical process of reverse osmosis to “pull” the raw water through the membrane and filter out unwanted minerals and other molecules to create clean water on the other side of the membrane. My understanding is that high quality membranes such as those from DOW and Parker, only allow particles smaller than 0.0001 microns to pass through so very little other than the H2O molecules themselves can make it through.
Whatever the terminology though, Yes we drink all our watermaker water without any further sanitation. Some people do add additional treatments ranging from actual RO devices to UV devices but we feel that these are superfluous. Both Christine and I have been drinking watermaker water for decades with no known side or ill effects so we are very comfortable with this. However, we do also have a 210L/55USG polyethylene tank that we also keep filled at all times. We did this as a redundant backup type of system and a bit of a “belt & suspenders” approach for that critical to life commodity of potable water. This tank is completely independent with its own pump, faucet in the galley sink, etc. and as with all our aluminium built in tanks, it too is ONLY ever filled with water from our watermaker. Therefore even if we were to somehow loose the supply of all our other potable water in the six aluminium tanks welded into the hull or their pumps or plumbing, we would always have about 200L to tide us over until we could fix the watermaker or the potable water system. We do use this plastic tank every day as literal drinking water from the faucet in the galley sink, but we do this just to keep this tank, pump, lines, etc. in good working condition, not because of any concern for the quality of the water itself and we regularly drink the water from all the other faucets as well.
I have read mixed reports of concerns that watermaker water is “too pure” in that the “good” parts such as some minerals and vitamins but we have always had a daily regime of multi vitamins, vitamin D & E, Omega 3, etc. as a “just in case” we might be short on any of those with our regular eating so these would more than make up for any lack of minerals and vitamins in our onboard potable water.
If anything, the only slight downside of drinking watermaker water is that it is pretty much tasteless and we do notice that when we are travelling or eating at other people’s homes that there is more “taste” to the water, which of course can sometimes be very good and othertimes not so much so!
Well, another way too long answer to your simple and good questions from your brevity challenged author, but hope it helps answer your questions and if not fire away with more please.
Thanks again for the recommendations on the shade cloth and you will see in future blog posts what we do next re shading of the windows.
You know a post is going to be good when you are reading along and suddenly there it is … “molecular structure” !!!
These “in the weeds” posts are fantastic, literally nothing like it anywhere else. The previous one that honed in on exhaust gas temps was also fantastic.
Now STOP that Andrew! You’re very over generous compliments are making me blush! 😉
Seriously though, thanks very much for your kind words as this kind of feedback is critical for guiding me as I am writing these kinds of more in depth articles. In all our virtual environments that we are writing and communicating in these days the lack of feedback from one’s audience makes it very challenging to gauge how well or how poorly the blog posts are being received.
I very much treasure the huge diversity of the people who follow along on the Möbius.World blog, and I never cease to be amazed when I learn the background, location and expertise of someone who is reading these posts. However, that also makes it a challenge to write effectively to such a wide range of people. My hope is that by adding the different categories or tags to all the posts and trying to write different kinds and styles of articles for each blog post, that Christine and I are able to please most of the people most of the time.
Certainly glad to include you as one of those Andrew!