Monday, September 5, 2016

Lithium Battery Presentation

We've been happy enough with our Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) battery installation that I volunteered to do a presentation at the Annapolis Sail & Power Squadron meeting, Sept 1, 2016. The powerpoint slides may (or may not) be self-explanatory. If you're interested, a PDF of the presentation can be found here:

I later did a revised version of the talk to the Marine Trawler Owner's Association. This version contains a few more details. It is 29.2MB.
Lithium Batteries as a Marine House Bank


Saturday, August 13, 2016

A New Trampoline

The original trampoline on LUX had seen better days. The grommets were pulling out of the material that around the edge and the lines that held the tramp in place were chafing on the grommets and squeaking loudly when we stepped on the tramp. Parts of it had ripped right in front of each of the hatches, which we repaired by adding a small patch piece and threading small line through the holes.
Lagoon Netting Tramp

Lagoon Tramp Edge Detail

We had been looking at other tramps and rather liked the designs that used a bolt rope around the perimeter. A 40 ft Lagoon at one boat yard had a netting tramp that was done this way and we took some photos.

Web Overlap Stitching
Carol ordered replacement tramp material from Manart-Hirsch, a wholesale supplier of boat canvas materials. We decided on the same material that was originally on LUX, a webbing that is 1/4 inch strips on 1/2 inch centers. It doesn’t let water and air through as readily as the netting that we’ve seen on other boats (like the Lagoon). But it feels a lot better under foot or lying on it. If we were sailing in waters where we would have the possibility of green water on the tramp, then we’d have considered the netting.

The material doesn’t come in a width that can do the tramp in one piece, so Carol and Mike thought about how to best couple two pieces together. The final result was to use 3M 5200 to glue the two pieces together, then stitch it. A strip of plastic was laid down first so the adhesive wouldn’t make a mess on our work area. The two pieces were carefully aligned with the 5200 adhesive, then more plastic was put on top. Boards topped with with bricks were used to press the two pieces together. Then we waited several days for the adhesive to set. The adhesive made stitching a lot easier. The Consew industrial sewing machine was loaded with Gortex thread, which doesn’t deteriorate from UV light. This means that we won’t have to restitch it after a few years. Carol stitched each of the seven webs that overlapped (see the red arrows at the top and bottom row of stitching).

Tramp Edging with Stamoid binding
The tramp was folded over along the edge, using an outline we had made from the old tramp. The outline also matched the plans that we found online. The two sides bow slightly in the plans, but there is so little curve that the tramp can be built with straight sides. The edge overlap is covered with Stamoid cloth and several rows of stitching.

Tramp Edge Detail, Top Side
The edging was done much like that of the Lagoon we saw. There was some discussion about what type of bolt rope to use and its diameter, before settling on 3/8 inch three-strand twist. It is easy to splice and would work well for our purpose.

The tramp was tied to the bows and beam with 1/4 inch dacron line. It is important that the stitching have two lines at each corner and in the middle of each side so that if any single line breaks, the tramp integrity keeps crew members aboard.

Completed Tramp

An unexpected benefit is that the tramp is much quieter than with the grommets. It is more stable and less bouncy. This was another great sewing project by Carol.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Big Project: Genset Installation

LUX is an ex-charter boat, with a four cabin layout popular in the BVIs. As such, she came without several things that make life much better along the US east coast, such as a powerful inverter, air conditioning, and a genset. 

We caution that a genset install is a lot of work and requires experience with 12v and 120v electrical systems, engine cooling water supply, fuel systems, and exhaust. It isn’t an installation to be taken lightly. This project has been our biggest so far because it touches almost every system on board. Planning and preparation took a long time and installation was done in phases.

The Most Critical Step: Planning

We decided to use a small genset along with a Victron MultiPlus 3K inverter that provides power boost to allow starting large loads such as air conditioner compressors. This allowed us to use a 3.5KW genset instead of the normal 5KW-6KW unit that most L40s contain. The advantage is that the genset runs at a higher continuous load, which is better for the diesel engine. Note that some owners create larger engine loads by turning on multiple loads like hot water heaters, water makers, battery chargers, and air conditioners. See our prior posts about the Victron Multiplus installation and its setup.

We investigated a variety of gensets, looking for reliability, ease of maintenance, readily available parts, light weight, and capacity of 3-4KW. The Northern Lights gensets fits all these characteristics except capacity. Their smallest is the M673LD3 at 5KW (60Hz) and 377 lb. We found the NextGen 3.5KW at 160 lb, which would be about 200 lb by the time we added muffler, exhaust, and sound enclosure. It uses a common Kubota engine and the 5KW generator head that's on the NextGen 5.5KW.
Laying out the pieces

Then we planned how the different systems would work (fuel, exhaust, 12V, 120V, cooling water). The most logical installation location was the port forward locker, keeping the existing water tank. There is sufficient space to service the engine. We hope we don't have to service the water tank - it may not come out in one piece. We would likely replace it with one or two 50 gal tanks if we had to make a change. If a watermaker is ever installed, replacing the water tank with a 50 gal tank and using the remaining bulkhead space for the water maker seems like the right approach.

We researched installing the exhaust between the hulls and couldn’t come up with a definitive answer that said that it was ok. We found a brief reference to running exhausts as far aft as practical. We found that most factory installations used a water separator in the forward locker to separate the water from the exhaust. But that requires another hole in the hull to exhaust the water, typically under the water line to minimize noise. All factory installs we examined had the exhaust run all the way aft, regardless of whether a water separator was used. Since the exhaust hose can be run with a gradual slope all the way aft on the L40, we stuck with the simple water-cooled exhaust design. NextGen says that this small engine can work with the required length of exhaust hose. No anti-siphon is needed in the exhaust line since the genset is always significantly above the water line.

For more thoughts on genset installations, check out a great article in Professional Boatbuilder by Steve D’Antonio: Generators Done Right.



Locker floor leveled and measuring installation
We decided to encapsulate a piece of 3/4 inch plywood with epoxy and through-bolt it to the floor of the locker. The locker floor isn’t exactly flat, so we added epoxy with micro balloons to level it.

The sound enclosure is mounted on engine mounts to the plywood. The genset itself is also mounted on engine mounts inside the enclosure, making the system double isolated, reducing vibration induced noise. The double mount also raises the engine enough to safely feed the muffler without risking water backing into the engine cylinders and causing hydro-lock.

The sound enclosure engine mounts are through-bolted through the plywood and the floor of the locker. Finishing nuts were used on the exterior. Two of the bolts went through where the hull takes a turn, so we constructed two custom fitted fiberglass extensions that we coated with gelcoat so they would match the hull.
Through-bolts with finishing nuts

Fuel, Exhaust, and Cooling Water

Exhaust fitting
The fuel supply was with a Tee connection off the main engine filter, using a small 12v diesel fuel pump to push the fuel to the engine. We tried without the pump and it wouldn’t run reliably. The return is a Tee connection into the engine return to the fuel tank. 

The engine connection to the muffler uses two 90-degree silicon adapters to make the S-curve that was needed. The muffler was installed next to the genset. 

The exhaust hose runs all the way from the muffler to the stern, with no breaks or couplings to cause problems. Running the hose was a challenge because there was a small triangular opening at the bulkhead into the engine compartment. This opening could not be reached from inside or outside. So we used a GoPro camera with WiFi to an iPad to see the hose and guide it into the opening. It just fit! We wanted an exhaust fitting that matched the Leopard engine exhaust fitting. We finally found one from Buck Algonquin.  

Thru-hull, filter, manifold, raw water pump
The fuel hoses fit into the remaining spaces around the exhaust hose at the engine compartment.  The fuel filter and heat exchanger cooling water overflow bottle are mounted on the bulkhead in the fwd locker. 

The engine is about four feet above the water line and the little Johnson water pump wouldn’t pick up water that far. So we installed a low head 120v cooling water pump in the port hull bilge to supply water to the water pump. Power to this pump is provided by a tap off the genset 120V AC output. It first goes to a fuse, then to a GFCI outlet that powers this pump whenever the genset runs.

For cooling water, we increased the size of the thru-hull in the port hull, connected to a Forespar Marelon filter, to a Groco manifold that feeds the port head, the port air conditioner pump, and the genset water pump. This arrangement allows us to use one through-hull for all raw water supplies on the port side. We took this opportunity to upgrade the seacock and provide a stronger mount.

Cooling Fan and Wiring

The enclosure cooling fan was installed right on the cabinet and vents out via a clamshell vent mounted in the oval space in the windlass locker. Its power comes from the 12v control connector block on top of the generator head. It is the black hose running up from the back left (inboard end) of the genset in the Installation Complete photo.
Installation complete

Genset control in upper right
Starting power was taken from the windlass cables since we don't anticipate running the windlass and starting the genset at the same time. There is already a 100A circuit breaker in this circuit. This eliminated a battery and its associated weight, charging, and maintenance. The 120V AC wires are routed to a relay that automatically switches the boat input from shore power to genset whenever 
the genset runs.

The control panel is mounted above the 120V Shore Power panel. Power to the 12V diesel fuel pump is supplied from this panel instead of running a wire from the genset all the way aft.

Storage shelf

The Shelf and Service Access

Since the genset consumes a large amount of our forward storage locker, we 
built a shelf that mounts above it. The shelf is good for 
relatively light things like the spinnaker. There is space forward of the muffler and genset to hold a folding bicycle, two plastic storage tubs (that's where we have the extra snorkel gear) and the grill.

The shelf unscrews and is easily removable to allow access to the engine. 

With the shelf removed, the sound enclosure can be easily removed from both sides of the engine to allow for full servicing.

Open for service

Our Experience

It took some experimentation to refine the installation. We initially tried running without the fuel and raw water lift pumps and found that they were needed. It is surprisingly quiet. It is so quiet that we can't hear it start if the main engines are running. It isn't obtrusive even at anchor. The little splash of raw cooling water lets us know that it is getting properly cooled.

We use the genset to quickly recharge the batteries after a couple of days of not motoring. We don't (yet) have solar and the genset can quickly put 100AH back into the LiFePO4 battery bank.

We have used this system in hot and cold weather to make our travels more comfortable. In the hot, humid Chesapeake summer, we often use it to cool the boat in the evening before going to sleep. Simply reducing the temperature a few degrees and removing a lot of the humidity makes it much more comfortable. Our cool spring and fall trips on the ICW give us an opportunity to use it to warm up the cabin.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Home Once Again!

It's 2:15, and we are back at the dock in Whitehall. We are so fortunate in our friends. Denise and Lars met us at the dock with champagne! And, we are glad to be home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On the Dismal Swamp Canal

Each year that we have done this journey, Mike has wished for perfect timing to show the change of seasons. Up until now, that wish has not been granted. This year, it is different. We are here at the birth of spring.

It is a beautiful spring day. Terry is on the front deck, and he has shed his fleece jacket! Turtles are out basking in the sun. Ducks and geese continue to scatter as we approach. Of course, they like to wait until we are really on top of them before they take flight. Unfortunately, they fly only a couple hundred feet before resettling in the water- just in time for us to attempt to run over them again.

The news is that we have passed the sign that says, "Welcome to Virginia." And, it is still warm. The other news is that it is so warm that Terry's GoPro decided to go swimming. It hopped right off the boat, and it jumped into the canal. And, it appears that it promptly sank. Those owners of GoPros are now thinking that should not happen- the case should float. It appears that the suction cup stand is heavier than the float can manage. We believe that it pulled the GoPro down into a watery grave. Alas. Peggy, on a positive note, did point out that Terry has been eying up the newer model. We sense a birthday gift in the offing. Out of tragedy....

If you are keeping score, that makes 2 hats and 1 GoPro lost to Neptune on this trip!

A Great Day in Elizabeth City

If you find yourself in the area, you should make a trip to Elizabeth City. It's a cool little town making a big effort at revitalization. If boating, your first stop will be the FREE docks downtown.

The town has provided both slips and side ties, so any size boat can feel free to stop by. And, the view out into the harbor is lovely.

After that, find the Visitors Center. There you will get maps and all sorts of ideas for fun ways to spend the day. This is the first time I have seen little booklets of walking tours. The one for the business district, for example, describes the buildings as well as giving some history. AND, they have treats. At least they did on the day we visited- free candy and cookies.

We had already planned our day, though. We wanted to go to the Museum of the Albemarle.

This is the lobby. Hanging over your head is a full sized model of the official boat of the state of North Carolina. The best part of the museum is the hall containing the history of the area. It is done in a timeline fashion with incredible artifacts to illustrate. My favorite was the picture of an old document.

Cool! Maryland used to be a province of Virginia! Actually, there were lots of great artifacts. Elizabeth City is home to one of the largest Coast Guard stations. In fact, that station goes all the way back to the beginning of the Coast Guard. Our favorite was the early pfd on display.

It's nice to know that we have made some progress.

The museum also had a special exhibit featuring the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. Unlike many exhibits on this man, it did not just feature a bunch of stained glass. It delved into the history of the man and all his works. Don't get me wrong. There were stained glass artifacts.

But, there was so much more. The exhibit showed how the lamps were made. Imagine stained glass by numbers instead of paint by numbers, and you have a good idea. And, yes, jewelry was on display. Not a lot, but enough to showcase the talent. The exhibit also featured some works by other artists influenced by Tiffany. It's a small exhibit, but it is so dense with artifacts and history that you could easily spend an hour just casually examining everything.

After a small break back at the boat... Oops. Let me rephrase that. I took a nap. Mike and Terry worked on the boat. Peggy and Carol passed the time by reading and doing some embroidery.

We ended up at Cypress Creek Grill for dinner. 

This restaurant was literally just across the street from us! It looked like a little storefront operation, but that was deceiving. The inside was much larger than it appeared on our approach. And, it was simply wonderful from start to finish. There are no food pictures, Dear Readers, because it is a slow food restaurant. Everything is made fresh. By the time the food arrived, I was too hungry to stop and take pictures. But, oh was it so yummy. An interesting side note- it is the first place any of us had ever been where they asked you how you want your oysters fried. Peggy's choices were light, medium, or crunchy. She's happy she ordered medium because they came out perfectly done for her. 

After dinner, we headed back to the boat. Here's a shot of LUX that I took from the sidewalk in front of Cypress Creek Grill.

No telephoto lens. LUX really is just across the street. We did move the boat to anchor out because it was going to be windy. No one wished to spend the night bouncing against the sea wall. Still, it was a beautiful - if somewhat chilly - night.

The cold air just reminds us that we are getting closer to home. Tomorrow, we will be in Virginia.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Alligator River Marina

Our travels have brought us close enough to home to make it feel like it. Yesterday, it was sunny again. We did not miss the cold, raw feeling from the previous rainy day. But, Dear Readers, it is still cold. We have been reduced to hunting out our sweatshirts and socks! Actually, that would be most of us. Mike is still resisting the socks. But, you can tell it is cold, even for him. This morning, he has on a flannel shirt AND a flannel lined jacket! He also has his hands in his pocket. For us, this is a greater predictor of the temperature outside than even the thermometer.

And now, it is time for our sad tale of woe. Yesterday, we set off for one of our favorite spots- the Alligator River Marina.

We do so love our gas station/marina/restaurant. And its proprietor, Miss Wanda, is quite the character. Others have spoken unkindly of her, but we do not see that. She runs a nice marina, even if the pump out stays broken! Annette, her cook, makes fabulous fried chicken and shrimp. It is our sincere belief that others may be getting back only what they give. In other words, Miss Wanda does not tolerate rudeness or inappropriate behavior.

Our taste buds were all set for the fried chicken and shrimp with the accompanying hush puppies. We arrive. Logan, Miss Wanda's son, greets us. He gives us the bad news. It appears that the gas station/restaurant side of the business is closed for the winter. It will not reopen until Easter weekend! OMG! No fried chicken! No fried shrimp! We were distraught. We were going to have to eat more of Gee's cooking! Would these trials never end!

Actually, we were fine with it. There's lots of food still on LUX. We just had to decide what we wanted. But still, the idea of the fried chicken lingered. Then, a break occurred in our gloomy clouds. Miss Wanda showed up at the boat to ask if we wanted to go to the grocery store. We demurred, having enough on board. Miss Wanda persisted. "I thought you would want to go for a ride," said Miss Wanda. So off went Peggy and Gee. It was more than worth it.

Miss Wanda took us - and another boater- on not only a trip to the grocery store, but a tour of the town of Columbia. The tour was ably narrated by our hostess. My favorite tale is that the locals claim to have two malls - the north mall and the south mall. The north mall consists of a Dollar General store. The south mall has the Family Dollar. Yes, it is a small town. At this point, we figured out why Miss Wanda laughed when we asked if there was a KFC in town. It is a small town. The biggest chain business is the large (and new) Food Lion. The biggest private business appears to be  the winery/coffee shop. We were privileged to hear tales about the buildings as well as the local characters in Columbia. And, we bought fried chicken for dinner. A good day for everyone.

This morning, we are taking a short hop to Elizabeth City across the Albemarle Sound. The great news is that it is a good day on the Albemarle Sound. We are barely rocking. That is not generally the case with this section of the trip. The Albemarle Sound has a reputation for turbulent waters. We are glad to miss that today.

A final note about the Alligator River Marina: Although we were ahead of the season, the marina is gearing up. The pump out is supposed to be fixed this week. The marina itself is going to be dredged to fix some depth issues. And, the delivery trucks with goods and foodstuffs for this season were arriving. In fact, the new tee shirts were already hanging up.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Breakfast in Belhaven

We ended up at River Forest Marina here in Belhaven last night. This morning,  we went adventuring!  We took golf carts into town to have breakfast at the Gingerbread Bakery. Yummy! A great way to start the day.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Beaufort- North Carolina

We moved yesterday morning to the town docks here in Beaufort. We had some worries about our day in town because the skies were somewhat ominous.

But, it gradually cleared up, the sun came out, and it was a beautiful day.

Beaufort, NC is one of our favorite towns. It offers so much for the boating community. The little souvenir shop, The General Store, not only has incredible ice cream. It also has a laundromat. Yes, more than three washers. A veritable pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the average boater. It's clean, and the machines are well maintained. We spent the better part of the morning there. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it's midtown. You can set the timer and go wandering for a bit.

After laundry, we wandered about town. Mike bought another sacrifice for Neptune, God of the Sea. In Mike's case, that would be a hat. He generally loses one most voyages. Yes, he has already done so on this voyage. We did find a replacement in one of the many shops, and it was even on sale. As we like to say, "It had Mike's name on it."

We ended up at Clawson's for dinner. It's our favorite place in Beaufort. They have excellent food at very reasonable prices.

This morning, we woke up to a different weather pattern.

It appears that we are getting closer to home. On the other hand, it means we'll be baking more! There's always a positive, if you but look for it.

Friday, March 18, 2016

On the Hook

Last night, we anchored out behind Figure Eight Island- north of Wirghtsville Beach. It was a great place to spend the evening.

There was very little wind, so it was very calm and peaceful. There was just one little strange thing.

YES! There was an X in the water. A real, live X marks the spot moment. I do not know how that X came about. And, I must admit, we do not know if treasure lies beneath it. We did not get the dingy out to inspect it. Those treasure hunters among my readers are free to try to find it at their leisure. However, I doubt that it remains. Some secrets do not easily reveal themselves to everyone. It might be that nature was just marking out an excellent anchorage for us for the night. It was, indeed, a treasure of a spot.

Today, we continued our push north. We made it to Beaufort, NC late this afternoon. Once again, we are anchored out for the night. And, it is another beautiful evening here on the water.

In the morning, we will head to the Beaufort Town Dock. Once snugly in a slip, we will spend the day enjoying town. It's one of our favorite stops.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day from LUX.

We are traveling down the ICW this morning through the Myrtle Beach area. They have already been great wildlife sightings- including an Orca that jumped out of the water right at the edge of this canal.

Oh...all right. It's not a real Orca. Instead, it's one of a collection of things on a restaurant site near the water.

It is a very still morning - so still that the water acts as a mirror.

Tonight's goal is the Wrightsville Beach area.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


We had a great day in Georgetown.  We visited the Kudzu Bakery - and we probably bought way too much. We visited the great museums here. And, we had a wonderful dinner at the River Room Restaurant.

Morning in Georgetown

It appears to be a quiet morning here in Georgetown. The sun is rising, and it promises to be another lovely day. Not that I want to make you jealous, Dear Readers, but it is forecasted to be 82 degrees today.

As mentioned, it appears to be quiet here. In actuality, Georgetown is quite the industrial town.

You might not be able to tell from the pictures, but there are three definite factory buildings to be seen from the deck of LUX. At the end of the anchorage here there is a steel mill. Unfortunately, the mill shut down last year after numerous efforts to keep it going. The paper mill, however is still going. It runs all day. AND, it runs all night. Here in the harbor, there is a continual background buzz from the factory.

The town also has an active shrimping business. Independent Seafood, right down from us, is continually written up as a great place to stop and buy shrimp. Indeed, Dear Readers, we now have three pounds of fresh shrimp in our refrigerator for dinner tonight.

Today, we will continue heading north. Right now, members of the crew are busy preparing for the journey. Peggy has cleaned up the galley. Carol is studying charts and guides. Mike is doing some boat maintenance.

Yes, he is washing windows. One can only hope he retains that skill once we arrive back home! :-)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Targa Support Repair

After buying LUX, we started to see cracks forming at the top of the hard top targa supports. (See Google for a definition of ‘targa’.) Some unexpected jibes seem to have taken a toll on the supports. We found a blog by Mike Boyd in which he described repairing a similar set of cracks.

The cracks were growing in length and were becoming a concern. Each of the supports had cracking, with the starboard a bit more than the port. We did our repair during the summer 2015.

We started by removing the gelcoat along the crack so we could more closely examine the crack, using one of our favorite boat working tools, the Rotary Tool (Dremel). One concern was creating a repair that would not concentrate loading of the structure and create “hard spots” that would subsequently fail in a storm or emergency jibe. So we extended the repair about eight inches beyond the bottom of the crack.

It was possible to insert a small screw driver into the crack. Interestingly, the screw driver came out sticky!? We ask Troy Bethel about the cracks and stickiness. He indicated that sometimes the mixing gun isn’t set properly, resulting in a resin mix that doesn’t set correctly. It looks like the cracks started in the uncured resin due to the stresses that the mainsail put on the hard top. Looking closely, you may see a difference in color running down the center of the support flange. The targa supports are built of two C-shaped fiberglass halves that are nested inside one another with resin to glue the two pieces together along the flanges.

The resin is less than an inch deep along the joint. So we used a set of drills to remove most of the uncured resin. Different size drills are necessary as the flange gap isn’t constant. The drills easily removed the resin easy and minimized the chance of damage to the flanges.

The rotary tool with a large fiber disc was used to remove the remaining pieces and to clean up the edges of the fiberglass flanges. Once the flanges were clean, we mixed West Epoxy, thickened with microfibers and colloidal silica (also known as cabosil or fumed silica). Measuring the gap allowed us to determine the approximate amount of epoxy to mix.

The mixture was put into a caulking tube and slowly squeezed into the gap, making sure to wet down the sides of the flanges in the process. Tape was applied over the result and pressed down slightly to form a concave surface along the length of the cut. The tape keeps the epoxy from sagging out of the gap and creates a nice shape for finishing.

When it cured, the tape was removed and the epoxy surface was cleaned with acetone and lightly sanded for the next step. Finishing was done by mixing epoxy with colloidal silica to thicken it to mayonaise consistency and adding some white epoxy tint. The tint imparts a translucent white color to the epoxy because the recommended mix is a maximum of 10% tint by volume. This nearly white mix was put into the groove left by the tape and smoothed flat. This provides a base white coat for the final gelcoat.

The final step was to clean and lightly sand the white epoxy coating, then apply a layer of gelcoat. We used the Everlast gelcoat, which we’ve found doesn’t need an air barrier coating. As an experiment, we used a foam brush to apply it while it was still thin. We worked quickly so that the brush didn’t collapse. Just like applying varnish, brush back onto the wet surface. It worked like a charm and didn’t need a second coat. We didn’t even need to touch up the edges! You have to look very closely to notice the difference in gelcoat color.

The whole job was done over the course of four days, one step at a time. It is now early spring 2016 and there is no evidence of cracking. On to the next project...