Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Maggots and guts for dinner


Brains all around

We had tonight's specialty drink-brains!

Tonight's Dessert

Tonight, in honor of Halloween, we will have these tasty witches' hats. Yummy looking, right?

Where are we going to end up tonight?

As you can see, the answer to that question is very much up in the air. Our navigators are trying to figure out a place to anchor tonight. At present, the sun is shining and we are motoring along. Hopefully, the two of them will figure out something before dark. Then again, they always do!

Halloween Lunch

So, here are the tasty snakes we'll be eating for lunch.


Wow! Those spiderwebs look mighty tasty. Chef Michael creates another yummy masterpiece!

It's Halloween!

We are starting out the morning just right. It is maybe 60 degrees here- if I am lucky! Peggy and I are wearing our Halloween tee shirts with our turtlenecks on underneath. Carol, who cannot resist the lure of a real shower in a bathhouse, is down below showering on board. When she comes up, she will be wearing her tee shirt with her turtleneck! Meanwhile, Mike is making our breakfast- spiderwebs (otherwise known as pumpkin pancakes poured onto the griddle to look like spiderwebs). Mike, as you can see, is dressed as a happy island vacationer. Could that be that his only pair of long pants are now in the wash?

We will spend half a day here in Beaufort. Laundry will get done. Some shopping will happen. And we will do some partying. We will have snakes for lunch. Our dinner speciality is maggots & guts. Drink of the day is brains. And, for dessert, we will have witches' hats!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Yes, it is cold

Just in case you could never believe this, check out Mike. He is dressed in THREE layers. Yes, even Mike is cold today!

On the waterway

Last night we made it to Charleston. It was another chilly night for us. We are so thankful that terry got the heat/ac set up in LUX. It made the night ever so much more comfortable. It is so hard to believe that we are in South Carolina and that it is this cold. Today, the high was barely 65. But, no rain for us.

Last night, we met up with George, another Leopard owner. He met us at LUX, and we showed him all our improvements. We then all went out to dinner at the restaurant nearest the marina. Even so, it was a cold walk back to the boat. Believe me, they do not call it the Megadock for nothing. It was a LONG walk. And it was cold. And it was windy. But, we had a lovely evening. Today, we have been on the water since 9 headed for Beaufort. We plan to be there by 6. Or so.

Safe and Sound in Georgetown

We had a lovely day motoring down the ICW today. It was hard to believe that Sandy was off harassing other states. It started out cloudy, but the sun kept working to come out. By the end of the day, it was actually sunny for us. We are trying to make good time, so we pushed on to Georgetown, SC in the dark. That will give us enough time to leave early tomorrow and get to Charleston in time to wander around. On another note, we had a great dinner tonight- even if I say so myself, since I cooked it! We had chicken stir fry, which was not the best part, but it was tasty. What was really tasty was dessert. Our dessert tonight was inspired by my friend, Susan. When we sailed with her this summer, she introduced me to poor man's cheesecake. It's cream cheese and fruit on a graham cracker topped with whipped cream. I took her idea and made pumpkin cheesecake. Let me rephrase that-- everyone made their own. We had ginger snaps and the new pumpkin flavored cream cheese. No whipped cream- a girl has to cut back somewhere! But, boy was it good! I really recommend it for a quick after dinner treat.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Safe and Sound

As you can see, we were in a great marina for the storm. We are surrounded by trees at the opening as well as a ring of condos! Better yet, we had the big cabin cruiser right beside acting as a gigantic wind break. We definitely had wind last night. But, we felt safe and secure. Hopefully, you can tell from the pictures that the sky is already clearing here. Several boats have already left. I certainly hope they are going south! We hope to be headed that way ourselves be lunch time. But, it is a boat. We'll see what happens as the morning progresses. The goal for the day is to reach Georgetown.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Quest for Cool

LUX didn't have Airconditioning when we bought her. It is seldom needed in the BVIs with the trade winds there. But now that we're in Annapolis with the hazy, hot, and humid Chesapeake weather, A/C is now a requirement. Looking at Leopard 40s of various vintages, we found that the early models and the plans showed two 12,000 BTU units. Later models have two 16,000 BTU units. We wonder if experience showed that 16,000 BTU was more appropriate.

The layout drawings in the owners manual show the two units located under the main salon settee, port and starboard. Fortunately, we had pictures from other Leopards and were able to learn a few key tips about the installation. We considered having someone else do the installation, but the cost of nearly $13,000 plus haul-out put us off.

Several weeks later, we have two EnviroComfort 16,000 BTU units installed and a set of nice looking supply vents and return vents. We did the installation ourselves instead of having an installer hack on Lux, putting things where it was easy to install instead of where it made the most sense. The parts were ECD16K-HV 410A w/passport I/O Display, 16000 BTU, 115v Dometic/Marine Air, 6"MR, 15' display cable and March AC-3CP-MD 115V Sea Water Pump 630 GPH.
Unit Installed

We had several installation requirements. We wanted to limit the number of holes that had to be drilled or cut. We didn't want the salon vents to use precious shelf space. We also wanted to consider the option to have one A/C unit provide cooling to all four cabins (LUX is the 4-cabin, 2-head model). We also wanted to use the electrical system design, which looked very good. So we decided that we would do the installation ourselves and we are happy with the results.

The two units went under the main salon settee, just as in the original R&C plans. A 3/4-inch plywood base was put under the units to raise them slightly and to bridge the gap in the bases that already existed.

Cooling Water Plumbing

One of our goals was to limit the number of through-hull holes, we connected the cooling water supply to a Tee off the 3/4-inch raw water supply for the marine toilet, using a one-way valve on the head supply feed to keep from sucking water out of the head. Our reasoning is that the head use is infrequent and it doesn't use much water. On the starboard side, we created a 4-way manifold which we can use to supply water to an anchor wash-down pump as well. The cooling water exhaust goes to a Tee on the galley sink drain and the condensation drain goes to a Tee on the drain for the cooler that's outboard of the sink.

The cooling water exhaust is also ganged together into a 1-inch hose that goes to a Tee with the galley sink drain. That causes a bit of running water noise if the sink drain plugs are not in place, which may annoy some people. The condensation drains are ganged together on a 1/2-inch hose that goes to the cooler drain that is adjacent to the galley sink. One suggestion that we found is to not combine the cooling water drain with the condensation drain so that if the cooling water drain gets clogged, it doesn't pump water back up the condensation drain hose. Both hoses were wire tied to bases that we glued down with 5200. The condensation hose is particularly important to have a smooth run to make sure it drains easily.


Cabin Supply Vent
The ducting was the biggest challenge, particularly to the forward cabins. We found that Marine Systems Inc makes a nice set of vents that can be custom ordered. A variety of distributers handle their products at a wide range of prices. We ordered ours from Marine Discounters. Lux was built when the trim was beech, so we ordered soft maple, which is a reasonably close match to the beech wood.

Salon Supply Vent
The vents arrive unfinished so we used Minwax Polyurethane gloss finish and it did an excellent job. Finishing inside the vent requires a steady hand and a small artist brush. The vents in the aft cabins are close to the bunk because they have to avoid the wiring, tubing, and hoses that are behind the panel.

All vents except the return air vents have built-in dampers, which helps with directing the air where we want it. The additional directional blades in the front of the vents allow us to direct the air within each cabin.

We had to build custom venting to the forward cabins. Tech foil (available from Farm Tech and other suppliers - bubble wrap with aluminum foil backing) was used with 3M 77 spray adhesive to build insulated ducting between the forward cabin wall and the built-in shelving that's inboard, behind the cabin door. The Tech Foil will also keep the shelving from collecting condensation from the cool air on its back.
Plenum Box with Salon (to the left) and Starboard Cabin Feed

A 7-inch plenum box tops the A/C unit, with 6-inch hose adapters to feed to each side. The outboard feed goes to a 655 Y. The two 5-inch legs of the Y feed each cabin. The aft cabin gets fed by a long piece of 5-inch insulated hose purchased from Home Depot (only available via order - we couldn't find it in stores). We wished that we could find 5-inch plastic hose with 1/2-inch insulation like the foam pipe insulation that we found in Home Depot.
Hose End with Foil Cover Taped Inside
Passport Control and Return Vent, Stbd Hull

The second 6-inch feed off the plenum box feeds a short 6-inch duct that uses the space behind the R&C logo box as its plenum. We used the Tech Foil again to line the box. We made sure to not foul the electrical connections to the masthead. With both units running, anyone sitting in front of the salon vent gets a lot of air on the back of his/her head. The dampers and vents can be directed to minimize the wind tunnel effect.

A tip for running the 5-inch duct: Fold the external foil cover over the duct hose and tape it. This holds the hose, insulation, and cover all together and makes it much easier to handle. Also watch out for the random hose clamp or wire tie end that will rip the foil cover when you're pulling the duct into place.

The end result was a nice looking system.

It's Freezing In There!

The Saga of the SeaFrost refrigeration system.

When we visited LUX in March 2011 for a week-long cruise around Tortola, we found that the refrigeration system wouldn't stay cold enough to keep our food safe. Unfortunately, we were there on a holiday and the local charter management staff found Alfred, who supposedly knew how to diagnose and repair refrigeration systems. Well, Alfred didn't know a lot. We wound up with a completely broken compressor that wouldn't run. Our temporary solution was to use an ice chest for our food. Upon return to Nanny Cay, another refrigeration person quickly diagnosed a bad compressor, which is what we had diagnosed as well. The new compressor and installation cost about $1400 (ugh!) It then worked correctly.

When we went back in May to bring LUX back to the Chesapeake, the refrigeration system was working, but not as well as we wanted. It was ok for keeping food safe, so we decided to investigate further when we were home.

What was clear is that there was a slow leak. We bought a gas detector and a refrigeration gauge system from Harbor Freight Tools to help us diagnose and repair the source of the leak. We found several suspect connections and were able to tighten them, vacuum the system, and recharge it with 134R refrigerant. The gas detector hasn't indicated any leaks more recently.

The collective wisdom of the Leopard catamaran mailing list on Yahoo was to add refrigerant slowly. The lines should frost all the way through the system. During the discussion, it was funny to hear someone else with a story about Alfred at Nanny Cay, with similar results. If you get any refrigeration system work done on Tortola, be suspect of anyone named Alfred.

After about a month, we found that we needed to add more charge. The loss of refrigerant (i.e. cooling) seemed to correlate with the number of times that the system was fully defrosted. Warming up the entire system to ambient temperature seemed to accelerate the loss of refrigerant. We checked the resistor that determines the run speed of the compressor and there is already a resistor in place that causes it to run at high speed.

An infrared thermometer shows that the exhaust air is 20 degrees warmer than the intake air. We reversed the fan so that air is first drawn over the condenser, then over the compressor. This seems more efficient than the default configuration, though we don't have any actual measurements to back it up.

On one of the recharges, we noticed a small "Pfftt" sound when the low pressure service port cap was removed. The schrader valves are deep in the fittings, so we had to make a trip to the local HVAC supply shop to get a tool to replace them. There is a nice tool that allows replacing the valve without discharging the system, but unfortunately, it didn't fit the Sea Frost system. However, the schrader valve tool that is part of it could be used to tighten the valves. We found that they could be tightened about 1/10 to 1/8 of a turn. So far, so good, but the system hasn't been running long enough for us to know for sure. The freezer is working well, but still runs all the time. We think it should be running half the time.

Door Gaskets

Refrigerator Door, Door Liner, and Taped Refrigerator Opening
We also thought that the door gaskets could be replaced, perhaps providing better seals than the gaskets that are now eight years old. We ordered gaskets that looked like the proper cross-section (number P-2099-8) from Exact-A-Line Gasket, Inc, in Canada. The gaskets arrived and are very nice. We let them sit out for a few days to resume their normal shape after being twisted in the shipping box.

The inner fridge door and gasket are held in place by pan-head screws, which don't seem like the right kind of fasteners to use. It seems to us that flat-head fasteners, countersunk into the door liner would be better. Surprisingly, the door itself isn't fully insulated. The insulation is concentrated in the inner liner. We used plastic taped over the door to keep the cold air in the refrigerator while the door surgery was under way. All three are shown here.

The new gasket fit the refrigerator door extremely well. Unfortunately, when we reassembled the door, we found that it didn't compress as much as the old gasket and that we could only shut the door by sitting on the floor and pressing the door closed with a foot. The door wouldn't stay latched. And in addition, about 1/8 of the gasket was not making contact with the door facing, which is really not good.

Off came the new gasket and back went the old gasket, after it was thoroughly cleaned and inspected. The old gasket is still in good condition. It is flexible and seems to seal all around. The replacement was to eliminate the seal as a source of air leakage, more on the freezer compartment than the freezer compartment. As a result of the work, we replaced the screws with counter-sunk flat-head screws, which should help the lay of the gasket on the door.

There are other gaskets available from Exact-A-Gasket and we'll be contacting them to discuss options and see which one works best for us.

Update 2/22/2013

We have since found, and their profile 702 looks like an exact replacement for the existing Leopard 40 refrigerator/freezer door gaskets. Another option is their profile 494, which is about 1/16-inch shorter in height and has a 5/8-inch wide face. The wider face would have a lower pressure (lb per sq in), but may seal better due to the larger mating surface. Both of these gaskets are gray, not white. One of the cruisers is going to try this gasket to see how well it works. We won't be able to try new gaskets until June 2013, when we bring LUX back from the Bahamas to the Chesapeake. 

Our door measurements are:
Freezer: 15.0 in wide X 23.25 in high
Fridge:  17.5 in wide X 23.5 in high
George on Matador said that he measured the Freezer as 15.25 wide, and the other measurements the same as ours. John on 2AWESOME was able to get our Exact-a-line gasket for the freezer to work, but had the same problem that we had on the fridge door. So the 15.0 in measurement worked for John's freezer (we had not tried the freezer gasket after the fridge door didn't work).

Additional Update on 8/2/2017

We found that the refrigeration system would gradually lose effectiveness after a period of not running it. After some discussion, we decided that there was a leak in the low pressure side. When we turned the system off, the higher pressure in the low pressure side would leak refrigerant. So we called Nate Horton (Horton Marine Services in Annapolis, MD) to take a look. He quickly found a leak at the brazed connection of the low pressure (blue) maintenance connector by pressurizing the system with nitrogen. It was a quick fix and it worked well for a couple of years. This spring (early 2017), we noticed that it wasn't working as well as it had in the past. It sat all winter without running, so maybe there's still a slow leak somewhere. We had some left over refrigerant in a container with a fill hose, so we added it - about 1/3 of the can. That restored the operation and the plates get frosted again like they used to.

We have also lined the refrigerator and freezer with double sided TechFoil. It's like bubble wrap with aluminum foil on both sides. Inexpensive insulation and it doesn't consume much space. We lift it to allow it to dry underneath when we defrost the freezer.

We also added the digital control, which seems to have made a big difference in how well the freezer performs. It runs a bit over 50% of the time.


New Shower Heads

When we acquired LUX, she had the stock shower heads. After a week cruise, we determined that replacement shower heads were an essential upgrade. The original Grohe shower heads used a lot of water and were showing their age and evidence of their hard life in the tropics. Mike and Gee had found a really nice shower head for use at home - Oxygenics. It uses little water and yet you feel like you're showering with a larger water flow. The Oxygenics incorporates a shut-off valve in its base, but due to where it is located, it generally requires two hands to operate - one hand to hold the shower head and the other to twist the knob at the base. We bought the white model, which is also a bit less expensive than the chrome model. It matches the Leopard 40 shower quite nicely.

We prefer single-hand operation, so we also installed a separate 1/4-turn valve at the mixer output on the shower wall (it is the little knob between the shower hose connects to the mixer output). It is easy to find and adjust even when our eyes are shut while shampooing.

The parts even go together without tools.

Here are links to what we bought:
Oxygenics Shower White

Shower Shutoff Chrome



LUX has been equipped with a couple of small DC to AC inverters to allow for charging of small devices. We could run the blender off one of the inverters, allowing us to make frozen drinks. However, we couldn't use anything as powerful as a microwave.
Design Sketch
In preparation for our trip to Marsh Harbor, I wanted to install a more powerful inverter that could handle all the AC outlets and that could run a microwave oven. LUX also had the original Dometic Sentry battery charger which was not a multi-stage charger. I had adjusted the set points on the Sentry to keep from overcharging the batteries, but the result was that the batteries were never fully charged. After doing research on various systems, I decided on the Vectron Multi 3K, which would fit in the space where the Sentry had been located, provide us with 3000 watts of inverter power, a four-stage battery charger, and could also augment the AC output for starting surge loads, such as one of our 16,000 BTU A/C units. It has two AC outputs, one of which is only active if the AC input is active. So I designed the installation to run the outlets all the time from AC Out 1 and run the A/C system from AC Out 2 (the switched output). The design is shown in the first picture. The top drawing is the conceptual design, showing the addition of a 5KW generator in the future and how the system will be connected. The lower drawing shows the details of connections for the current installation. I worked with Peter Kennedy at PKYS to purchase the unit, the supplies I needed, and to review the design.

The installation took about 24 hours over 3 days. The AC cables need to handle 50 A, so that means working with 6 gauge cables (ugh)! The battery connections are specified to be two 1/0 cables for both positive and negative.
Victron to Stbd Under Galley Sink
I had also previously purchased the Victron BMV600 battery monitor and wanted to install the shunt at the same time. Getting the AC cables led to the terminal blocks was a chore. I removed the screws that held the bottom plate in place to provide more working room to bend the wires. Upon the advice of others who have installed the Victron, I installed the wires before mounting the unit. I couldn't have installed them otherwise. Victron should take a look at making it easier to run the wires into the system.
The DC wires are easy to install. Peter helped make up a few 2/0 cables that are needed for the case ground and for the connections to the battery monitor shunt. I have a Greenlee crimper that handles up to 1/0 cable (I should have bought the larger crimper that could do 2/0). The resulting Victron installation is shown here, with all the cables connected. It is located to port under the galley sink.

DC Cabling to Port Under Galley Sink
The DC wiring is to starboard under the galley sink, so the battery cables are short. I used a short 2/0 cable to jumper from the battery negative fuse to the BMV-600 shunt, then bolt the negative cable bus bar to the other side of the shunt, shown below. The inverter battery connections were made to a terminal post that I added, which is connected to the battery switch load terminal. The positive cables were upgraded to 2/0. The BMV-600 shunt is polarized, so it has to be installed such that the load side is down. The connection to the display head faces aft, making it easy to access. I did have to modify the fiberglass cover to fit over the modified cables, but the modification didn't affect the safety. I also added wire ties after the photo to secure the cables.

The AC panel is behind the port, aft cabin access panel. There wasn't enough room on the existing panel to install the required terminal blocks, so I mounted the plywood that I cut out for the A/C return air duct to the back of the panel. The 6 Ga wires come in on the left and the connections to the panel are on the right. A piece of lexan was cut and now covers the terminal strip to prevent accidentally touching a live wire connection.
AC Wiring Section of Wiring Panel

There is a nice conduit that runs from behind the electrical panel to under the battery connections. It was easy to run the wires using a snake. I also removed the old house bank charging wire and will be removing the starting battery charging cables. A pair of Blue Sea Systems Automatic Charging Relays connect the house bank to the starting batteries when the house bank is being charged and the voltage reaches the relay trigger voltage.

The system is running well, giving us a good battery charge. The BMV-600 shows the state of battery charge and the amount of current going into the battery bank. The microwave and outlets are usable. They are still protected by the existing GFCI outlets in the main salon, which was one of the key requirements.

Friday, October 26, 2012

In for the night

We made it with time to spare! We are safely tucked into a berth here at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club. We arrived just around 6. It was still light out, so we were able to comfortably set up in our transient slip. No sign of bad weather other than clouds, so we went off to dinner at the Officers Club- the marina's own bar and grill. The food was really good- all homemade. Four of us had the chicken pot pie. Peggy, though, was in 7th heaven. They had liver and onions on the menu! She had it, and said that it was really tender and tasty.

Our dinner was a great way to end a day that had started at 6 a.m. and saw us do 80 miles on the ICW. Most of us were just plain tired. We showered and went straight to bed. Mike and Terry stayed up and read for a while. Where do they get that energy? So, gentle readers, I guess you are asking what I am doing up at 11:30 p.m. blogging if I had already gone to bed at 8:30. Well, I really liked my chicken pot pie. But, it did not like me. So, while I wait for my stomach to decide to calm down, I thought I would drop you a line! On a final weather note-- predictions had the rain starting here around 9. So far, we have some wind gusts, but no rain. I, for one, would be pleased to have Sandy just pass us by!

Fishing Terrorists! we are trying to make time down the ICW when these crazy fishermen started waving us off. Believe it or not, they were dropping a net down mid channel-right across the channel! AND, they wanted LUX to back off while they fished! So, Mike had to do a quick stop/reverse. We had to carefully creep around the whole mess only to find another fishing boat ahead of us doing the same thing! Terry got on the radio to warn the power boat behind us. A conversation ensued which mostly consisted of, "They are doing WHAT?" We made it through with no damage to anyone. But, boy, it sure woke everyone up!

And the lucky marina is....

We know that our kind readers have been worried about our travels during Sandy. Never fear. We are currently headed for the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club. We have reservations for two nights. We'll sit out the storm there.

On our way

We left bright and early this morning. We plan to get to the Cape Fear River as quick as possible. Once there, we will recheck the weather and make a decision about the rest of our day. In the meantime, you can see from the picture that we are being followed by our new friends aboard Soundwave.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

We host a dinner party!

As we were coming down the ICW today, we kept meeting up with Sound Wave, a Gemini from up north. As we wound down our day and approached our anchorage for the night, Terry suggested that we invite Sound Wave's owners over for dinner. So, Rich and Jane came over to check out LUX and to enjoy tonight's experimental dish - stovetop Shepherd's pie. The dish, a riff on a recipe using Hamburger Helper, was a success. Our guests said they enjoyed it. Of course, the meal was enhanced by Jane's offerings - a lovely fruit salad and really great cole slaw. We had a great time eating and talking here at Topsail Sound. We are 30 miles north of Cape Fear right behind Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Tomorrow, we hope to get even further south. We are looking at several places that would be good shelter in a storm. Speaking of shelter, it would have not been such a fun evening without Carol's big mosquito net. She pieced together two of the nets used for outdoor umbrellas to make an easy to use cover for the back of LUX. We put it up tonight, and we had a lovely bug-free meal!