Wednesday, 30 January 2013

If you are not on the right let me know

No, not a political reference but in relation to my blog roll on the right. I have copied a load more that were missing from Waterlily so if I have missed you off let me know. More for my vicarious cruising benefit than anything else.


Monday, 28 January 2013

Always more to learn - charge controllers

My last post about my endeavours received a helpful comment from Brian off NB Harnser

My observation was about voltage of the two respective battery banks as reported via the newly installed Smartgauge. The voltages were lower under charge than on Waterlily and were lower than the output reported via my multimeter off the back of the alternator.

What I forgot was that on Waterlily there is an Adverc charge controller fitted. Plus as Brian pointed out Percy would/should have a split charging controller and suggested it may be a simple diode type. From follow up reading and as Brian suggested the diode type install does consume voltage. This would explain why more was showing on the back of the alternator than was showing into the batteries. (I am still assuming that if the alternator was giving out 14.5volts then under charge the batteries would show 14.5 volts rather than their current charge state?

So it appears at this part of my learning Percy is simple (I knew that) but never considered the electrics as I had rather stupidly assumed that they were similar to Waterlily.... Alternator charges the battery bank. I forgot the charge controller/relay/diode install on both boats.

Rightly or wrongly this is how I do my learning. I could just take it into the Streethay or Mercia and say.... fit me a Smartgauge, but where would be the fun in that.

Thanks Brian for your advice (I will add you to my blog roll, not sure how I missed you off) I will hopefully get to Percy this week and have a good look at the charge controller as to date I had paid it no attention.

Question is now I know I may have an inefficient charge controller do I look to add a Smartbank or Adverc controller? I recall on two separate occasions RCR engineers advised to disconnect the Adverc unit as it 'overworked' the alternator. Sometimes you could detect the changes to the loads the unit was applying by the alternator working harder and the engine note changing...

Problem is now I know that there is in effect a loss of charging current meaning my charging is less efficient. I feel for now I need to understand the relationship between demand and supply on the batteries, I can only really do this over a period of time being on the boat.....;-)

Friday, 25 January 2013

Many pictures of my endeavour

My efforts in the engine room are for now complete. I have fitted the engine hours counter, fitted the solar controller and fitted the Smartgauge.

As I have blogged about before, the engine room in Percy uses copper pipe as a conduit for the cable runs, this matches the copper for the engine plumbing plus other shiny bits.

So any install I do demands to be in some sympathy with what goes before....

When I took the solar panel & controller  off Waterlily I put them onto Percy via  a bit of a lash up just to keep the batteries getting some juice.

Here are a few pics of the 'initial install'

A little bit of copper, a few 3.5 mm holes drilled and some 'tapping' done it looks a lot tidier....

The 'wire' left is in fact the temp sender to a gauge on the pigeon box. I have found the drilling and tapping of the threads quite therapeutic, I even went home smelling like an engineer !

I put the cables that come from the MTTP controller into copper to get them back to the batteries, drilled and tapped onto the engine frame.

The hours counter was not essential but having brought one off Ebay for a fiver from the states it was worth doing. I wanted to find a metal box to match in with the fabricated one for the volt meter and charging light but I made do with a Maplins black plastic... easier to cut out the 2 inch hole. Good for oil changes and diesel consumption checking.

The final extra fitting was the Smartgauge.... some love them some think they are an over expensive volt meter. I would not do without so fitted one as I did on Waterlily. Same again with the black Maplins box....

I ran the engine to check the charge rate which was a little disappointing.... I must refresh my memory on what I was getting on Waterlily. It was over 14v on the back of the alternator but only getting 13.5 regardless of RPM on the smartgauge. I am sure on Waterlily the smartgauge showed over 14v . I may have blogged about it so something to check. It may be the batteries are still a little low, or the smartgauge needs a few more charging/discharge cycles to feel at home, a good reason to spend some time aboard.

I need to turn my attention to the engine next. Plenty to get to know and more to blog about.... including the manly manual.... you ladies... keep off, the manual says so !

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Less is more - batteries ?

I am trying to get my head around batteries.... we have two 110a/h on Percy and Waterlily has three x x110a/h, both plus starters.

Now I know with three you will get longer power supply, simple really, but you would then have to charge up three batteries instead of two. So whilst my smartgauge will drop to say 90% on Waterlily after an evening aboard maybe Percy's Smartgauge will drop to 80%. it used to take an hour to put 10% back into Waterlily's battery bank so it will be interesting to see what it takes to put the same 10% back into the two on Percy.

Now as I understand it batteries die based on their discharge/recharge cycles. So is it the case that taking a battery to 80% then recharging is worse that 90 % and recharging? If it is marginal then surely it is better to have less batteries as they will be cheaper to replace when the time comes.

Also I suppose there is less risk with fewer batteries of one dropping a cell and causing the others to work so much harder without the owner knowing?

I have been following a post on Canal World about smartgauges... normal pin balling around with a few insults in there but in the main an interesting thread. I think the Smartgauge is a little smoke and mirrors device, simple at what it does but reliable and users like me get drawn to its % comfort. There are other ways, many will just use instinct/experience to know how much to run the engine, others use multimeter's to alert them to 12.2 volts (is that the magic figure for the time a battery bank needs recharging?) Anyhow I like the reassurance, having been without power is not a good experience and the thought of destroying a battery bank because you are not aware of its low voltage state or a dead cell within the bank is not comforting.

I'd be very interested in what you use to monitor your power?


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Almost feel guilty...

The Smartgauge is installed. I really don't think you can do without one of these once you have had one. I am lost on the battery charging front without one. It was good to visit Waterlily recently and be able to check on the state of charge of her batteries (97%)  It is more important on Percy for two reasons
  1. Percy only has 2 batteries
  2. We only need to run the engine for battery charging now - not for hot water as was the case on Waterlily
It is a fit and forget type install, the manual says just leave it to it and it will calibrate and get more accurate over a few days. It is a very easy install three 1mm square wires. Anything on the engine to date has been easy, it's a nice place to work and potter.... but we all suspect that and it one of the upsides of having an 'engine room'.

Why do I feel guilty.... well it is tech in a very basic but well engineered install. I am sure Tony would not approve but we tend to use our boats as a floating retreat as we both work full time so don't get the chance to cruise the system yet. So how the batteries are is quite critical to us.

The install is in 15mm copper tubing to keep it looking the same as other electrical installs in this space. Next job is to complete the solar panel install into copper and hard fix the controller  - more drilling and tapping the steel bulkheads...!!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

One step forward two back

Another couple of long hard days at work as we had our two days of awards ceremonies. Made a lot harder this year by biting cold and lots of snow.

My guys did a great job. Only downside of the days was getting a call from Great Haywood telling me my buyers had had to pull out as one of them has had a health issue... no more detail, just hope they are ok.

Anyhow that puts Waterlily back on the market.

She will sell as she is a great boat in excellent order


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

CaRT doing their job... well maybe

Got a call from CaRT on my answerphone at home yesterday. I rang back today and after a little bit of answerphone chess, I spoke to a nice lady who advised me Percy was without licence and as I was the owner what was I going to do about it.

Good they picked this up, I do not like license evasion, however the fact I had sent off the transfer forms for ownership in ignorance of the fact this did not start the license application process was a questionable failing. I suppose it is my error that I was not aware I had to apply for a new license as well as send off the ownership forms. The boat does carry a license till the end of January but it is a trade license, I thought I could use that until the ownership transfer went through.

I am a little peeved as I have another boat stuck in a marina not being used, I can hardly use both boats at the same time... or rather I would not use both boats at the same time. Anyhow she is sending me the paperwork to now apply for the license.

I am also in the process of transferring my mooring over.... and CaRT have offered for me to pay the difference pro rata to keep the renewal at the same month, which is good otherwise I'd be having to pay out for both license and mooring just before Christmas.

So quite soon I will be much lighter in the pocket again for license and extra mooring, still a bit peeved I cannot cash in my old license, still the new owners will get a grace period and a little more value from Waterlily.

Now about those engine room jobs....

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The power and the glory

The boat experience is significantly impaired when you have low levels of water, gas, diesel and electricity, the only level you like to keep low is your own waste. In fact boating during this time of the year is all about ongoing monitoring and topping up..

So today has seen us improve our electricity storage with the swapping out of 2. X 90 ah batteries of unknown age with 2x 110ah batteries. On Waterlily I replaced the batteries with sealed type as getting to check and top up was near impossible unless you had some contortionist genes. The two I have just put in are normal wet unsealed types, perfect for the job in hand. I am still trying to work out if it makes more sense to have fewer batteries as they should take less time to charge, but I suppose quicker to discharge. On reflection it is about the demand you put on them.

Anyhow tonight the tv is installed albeit with a temp aerial solution and the fuse replaced after I wired the amplified incorrectly doh !

I have lashed up the hours counter as well, I need a small box to mount it into now, I may make one at home and paint it black to fit just above the box that takes the electric start key and charging meter.

I also filled the water tank in the dark tonight the last job. I was then able to calibrate the water meter I have fitted. I am pleased with the capacity, it takes some while to fill and has lasted us since I brought Percy back from Braunston. It also allowed me to take a bath, nothing better after a cold day working in and outside of the boat.

Finally the last level was reduced, that of the cassette. I don't like the camping type loo we have and can't wait to get the much more civilised plumbed in toilet from Mike.

So sitting here toasty warm, reading blogging and waiting for match of the day.... Not at all bad really !

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Seems Waterlily is sold

Thank you all for promoting Waterlily, an offer has been made an accepted, deposit paid so we are waiting on a survey. I have the original back door boards and unpainted new ones that we never fitted so I need to drop them off at Great Haywood. I also need to sort out all the supporting paperwork, bills and other documents for the prospective new owners.

Happy to be passing on a boat in better condition than when we brought her, now we can concentrate on some changes to Percy, not least the name on the back cabin !

Monday, 7 January 2013

The power of the blog gets us a bog

Oh dear, sorry about that title but could not help myself, could not hold it in you might say !!

Ok I'll stop now. The reason for the post it to comment on how good the blogging medium is for advice and in this instance mutual benefit. Mike of NB Duxllandyn contacted me after I posted about a few changes we would be making to Percy, one being the replacement of the camping loo that for reasons I'd better not expand on did not fit the bill.

Mike is in the process of having a pump out fitted and therefore has a cassette loo for sale. A few photos were supplied as it was considered  prudent when buying a second hand loo and we are happy to make the purchase with a couple of spare cassettes - essential for a cassette loo install.

Ok, here goes on the pump out v's cassette debate.

I don't like pump outs, influenced by our ownership days of smelly loos. Also one trip when the flush stuck and our guest left the tank slowly filling... whereby we lost a lot of time finding a pump out that worked on the Stratford canal (Kingswood basin as I recall) and then the card would not work properly...then there was the time on the Caldon that saw me running the towpath to get a card from the exotic animal farm .....  and the fact there is only certain items that can go into the pump out for fear of jamming up the pump out machine. And finally the cost of getting rid..... unless you have a big tank, with monthly pump outs the cost would be high. If I did ever have a pump out I'd be investing in a self pump out machine as a back up and winter life saver.... did I mention freezing in and not being able to pump out??

I don't really like cassettes if the truth be known... I prefer sewers and flush toilets.... but I like boating. If we were living aboard we would have a new style composting loo that a few have fitted, including Jaq and Les on NB Valerie. But I fear our infrequent use would result in a less than perfect and smelly (unless we left the fan running) loo.

Ok, I have done the loo debate now and you know where I sit on the matter (sorry). Thanks Mike for the trade.... I hope I have not put you off the pump out retrofit, I am sure it will be a good job(bie) oh, dear off to bed now !

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Out on the bike

Ok, I never promised it would be all boat related. Today the Pan got its first run of 2013. For the record the mileage is just over 30,000 so we will see what we do this year. The reason for the ride was to meet a friend who we will be riding into Europe with, maybe with a terminus of Colditz....

We will see, we already have a long weekend in Kent and the same in Moffet Scotland. I might get time off for good behavior for a trip to Perth and then there is Dunoon to revisit, as well as John and Carrie in Stranraer...goodness where will be boating fit in..... watch this space for that one !

Anyhow it's lager time now and food with eldest son Tom and his partner Courtney,

A good weekend all in all,

Get out there you only get one life !

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Greasomatic automatic stern greaser

Percy does not have a conventional stern tube greaser, Tony Redshaw fitted an automatic greaser called the Greasomatic 96 (great name)

The link to the supplier is here  Wymark

It seems quite simple and logical as well as useful for boaters like us who are not aboard all the time checking the stern gland. This cartridge is constantly under pressure so any demand for grease (the ones I have  ordered have waterproof grease in them) is supplied. They can be set for up to 12 months use per cartridge, I think I'll go for 9 to start with. They have a clear body so you can see what grease is left.

Biggest endorsement is Tony is fitting one to his new boat.

I'll keep an eye on it of course but seems like a good solution to me.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The excited alternator

I always like sorting a problem out.... I get frustrated when it is a problem I have previously resolved and forgotten about. The case in point being the charging system on Percy.

On New Years eve we ended up in lamp light as the batteries were giving a good impression of blocks of useless black plastic holding lots of acid and no charge. Frustrating as I had run the engine for a few hours in the day time.

So yesterday I set to with my trusty multi meter to understand what was going on. On tickover (I estimate about 200rpm...) the alternator was giving about 5 volts.... as was the case with our Shared boat Sylph, the alternator need 'exciting' to kick it into giving a charging output. So a quick wind on the speed wheel gear to cruising rpm.... 600 I estimate then about 14.5v on the back of the alternator and battery charging commenced.

I checked the three batteries 2 x leisure and 1x starter (easy to get access in the engine room) and they were well topped up.

I then set to reconnecting the solar panel and controller..... all very temporary as the final install will see all cable runs on copped tubing, so I will need my blow torch, soldering stick and flux to make the joints look as good as possible as there are no 'Yorkshires' on the job to date....The sun was doing its job as we connected up giving 16.5v in to the controller with the batteries reading a poor 11.38v. The controller is a MTTP one that has 4 stages of charging and has done a great job of keeping the batteries up to spec on Waterlily. It will be interesting to see the state they are in when we are next back aboard... very soon !

The final bit of good news was the inverter ran the Dyson.... I was expecting to have to get the genny out each time we wanted to vac up. But the excellent no name inverter ran it very well. A full deep clean will still see the genny used as the Dyson will strip the batteries quite quickly even with the engine running. As the two batteries are lowly 94 a/h of unknown age I am not too concerned about them as I have a couple waiting delivery via my neighbour Kev.

As with my other boats it is a learning curve.... but when a solution is found made more enjoyble.

I must blog about the water pump challenge and Rachel's shower testing -anyone seen the Homer Simpson episode when Bart gets a tune out of Homer by changing the shower temp with a tap downstairs.....;-)