Thursday, 31 January 2019

So here's to blogging and a bit of a challenge

Sarah from NB Chertsey recently hit her blog a day target for January. No mean feat to be able to find a topic to write about each day. My life and my brain have limited content so not something I could achieve.

Sarah did make the same observation I have previously blogged about regarding the change from blogging to vlogging with the conclusion blogging was becoming 'old hat' heading for the the history bin containing typewriters, cassette tapes, Airfix kits  etc etc. I have written many times I blog for my personal record. I regularly look back and see what I was doing one year ago, so blogging by year to the closest day....

Jan 31 2018  I was blogging about C&RT borrowing ££'s and the impacts for the future...

Jan 24 2017 I was blogging about the sad death of Les from NB Valerie...

Jan 30 2016 I was blogging about my near death experience in relation to the stove in the back cabin...

Jan 31 2015 I was blogging about canal coal deliveries (I was living on board that winter)...

Jan 30 2014  I was blogging about the first snow of that winter (timely based on the snow we have recently had)

Jan 30 2013 Ironically I was blogging about my blog roll on the right and asking for links to add new blogs !

Over to Waterlily blog now and it seems I was running two blogs for a while  - hardcore  !!

Jan 24 2013 I was blogging (advertising) Waterlily for sale

Jan 30 2012 I was blogging about trips to Waterlily to keep the boat warm.

Jan 31 2011 I was have a mini blog rant about money and political correctness (I think)

Jan 29 2010 I was blogging from the river Nile at Aswan (a lovely holiday and lovely people)

Jan 28 2009  In some contrast to the above I was blogging about how long is a piece of string !!

Jan 31 2008  Despite being the Waterlily blog I was blogging about our first fully owned boat Comet

Two final points to this post....

In a curious and timely connection on the 27th January 2008 I was linking a post to Sarah's warrior blog (about drying colanders - now I am starting to see why blogging is in demise !!)

... and finally if you have got this far Jan 2010 saw me posting 26 blog posts  - so close to Sarah's impressive 31 for this January.   As I said at the start of this post I could not manage this number but my new personal challenge is to beat each of the preceding years monthly posts - thereby guaranteeing beating my 2018 blog total that was one better than my 2017 blog total.

January is done with 4 in 2018 and this one makes 7 in 2019

So dear reader and diary,  hold tight for some really interesting and insightful posts about stuff I have no idea about yet !!

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Redundancy... of equipment and oil or diesel heating observations

There is a boating connection in this post....

So the coldest snap of the year and on Monday morning we (or rather Rachel) woke up to a cold house and cold water out of the hot tap.... our oil fired boiler had broken down.

So I went onto  and was able to book an engineer for the next day, which was not too bad based on the time of year. I did a bit of reading around and the type of heater on my boiler is a standard fit on a lot around the globe  - a Riello RDB. The internet hive minds consensus was to investigate the photocell first as this can be a common cause of the type of lockout failure I was experiencing.

I was not confident enough to remove the sensor, not being able to pull it out without forcing ... so I left it for the engineer and lit the fire here at the cottage and put the Rayburn on 24/7. Apart from having to strip wash it was quite comfortable and not dissimilar to being on the boat. We could not decant to the boat  as the engine is still in bits.

Anyhow the engineer arrived in a snow storm and as the boiler is an outside unit I worked with him by holding my fishing umbrella over the workspace. This did allow me to get a workshop on the workings of the furnace aspect of the burner. He basically tested the oil flow (good) then cleaned the photocell (was dirty but wiped it clean) Replaced the nozzle, nope Tried the fuel pump, no difference, replaced the solenoid - no difference so rounded back on the photocell ! Good news (not) was it was the only  part he did not have on his van.

After a few phone calls we found a merchant who had three on the shelves but closed in a hour and as the snow was coming thick and fast I opted for another no boiler night. Skip to today and I drove to Stoke to find the three on the shelves were not the correct type. More calls and I find one on the shelves of a merchant in Crewe !

Long story short, this is my boiler in the 'putting back together' stage and pleased to report my learned skills from Peter the engineer got me back up and running. As a belt and braces approach I have ordered a second photocell on the basis this is the part that fails the most.

I also sorted a small leak on a pipe while I was at it. 

Ok, so whats all this go to do with boating. Well simply put 'power' draw for this type of system. A lot of smaller scale Webasto wet boilers  are fitted to boats. I can see on my home boiler there is a fan to supercharge the flame and a large capacitor to no doubt provide a decent ignition source for the oil. On my home boiler its not an issue as I have a direct connection to the grid... but as we know on a boat all this comes from the batteries  - or a hook up if marina dwelling. 

If you are a cruising boat then it has to be the batteries and I can only assume such systems have a half decent power draw. I have a 'no power' stove with thermo cycling circulation and have in the past considered a Webasto or the like but I like KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) so my learning is if I was to have an oil heating system it would be of the drip type and with a gravity fed supply (no pump) 

However I need a working engine first then some batteries so this post is really a record of my woes and how having secondary systems is always useful !

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Generator charging - those in the know give advice

Many times I have gained valuable insight into a subject pertaining to the boat - and my last post here and on the Facebook 12v group (closed, but easy to join and some very level headed and valuable advice given, with no judgement ) has delivered more sage advice on the issues around charging your batteries via a generator.

So with the gratitude to Phil who set up the 12v boating group, Brian off Harnser who has given me good advice in the past and Tom ex of Waiouru all the way from very hot Australia here is the advice. 

I have deliberately put it into one post so I can refer to it when eventually getting onto my mini electrical adjustments.... that I'll blog about of course. 

So Phil says....

The size charger will depend on the depth of charge you take the batteries to. The shallower you cycle them the less charge current they will take. 

In terms of alternator size for that bank the general rule is 20% of capacity so 60A however this will not charge at this rate for long unless batteries are quite low. In terms of a charger I would probably be looking for around 50A. 

You don't need to worry about great 'intelligence' on the charger, in fact you will be better off without any as these university educated chargers are really designed for long term landline operation and can easily undercharge in a sporadic mode of operation. 

You will be wanting to turn off charging as soon as possible so a float setting isn't even needed. Your battery monitor will be able to tell you when the batteries are full by monitoring the charge current and when less than about 1.5% capacity, 4.5A in your case, they are full. 

Don't ever rely on the monitor's battery percentage reading to stop charging as they are usually wrong and will often say full when they aren't. 

If you have AGM batteries then they can take a higher charge. You could use more than one charger if 2x30A are cheaper than 1x60A

Tom Says...

My suggestion would be to start with the size (or intended size) of your battery bank. Then establish how many amps (on average) you need to put back into your batteries. Remember to allow approximately 50% on top of that (you have to put more in than you took out!) 

Let's assume you have a battery bank of 200ah and your average use is 100ah. You will need to put 150ah back into the batteries. Your recharging rate should be approximately not more than 30% of your total capacity. So the maximum recharging rate would be 60amps. The batteries will take up to 60amps until they are 80% charged (Bulk Stage) 80% of 150 is 120amps. The maximum charge rate is 60amps, so it will take 2 hours to Bulk charge the batteries. The remaining 20% charge is the Absorption Stage where you are attempting to squeeze the last of the charge into the batteries. This will take quite a long time and the batteries will only accept a low number of amps. Solar panels are very useful for the Absorption stage.

In the above example we needed to put 60amps back into the batteries for 2 hours.
Roughly convert that to Watts (V x A) 14.4V charging rate and 60 amps = 864 Watts. so a 1000W generator would probably Bulk recharge the batteries in two hours. After that you're burning petrol for not much recharge and would probably be better to use solar panels for the Absorption Stage.

We had a 450ah battery bank on Waiouru and when we weren't cruising sometimes used a 2000kva inverter generator to recharge the batteries. The generator would run for 2-3 hours on full power (Bulk Stage) and then you would hear the generator RPMs drop as the batteries went into the Absorption stage. The generator supplied 240V to a Victron 3KVA Inverter Charger.

...and Brian says 

If you are using a genny you don't need a multi stage charger as once your batteries are charged you will turn the dam thing off, so it wont ever go into float. You just need a big basic one to get your batteries up to full charge so you can turn it off, unlike a shore supply where the volts are going to keep coming after the batteries are full.

Thanks also to Andy who confirmed my thinking about splitting the charging and inverting  - his advice comes from experience,  the best sort of advice in my book.

So I know more and will now need to think more seriously about batteries  - I know I have waffled on about them a few times and I think I know what its between now but that'll wait. 

Also some news about the donk's head and the need for a couple of parts, nothing critical and understandable  - but thats for another post !

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Generator charging ?

When talking to Richard the marine engineer the other week we were discussing charging batteries. His sage advice for older engines is to use a generator and decent multistage charger on the logic servicing generators and ultimately replacing them is a dam sight cheaper than the boat engine.

He did not comment on the respective fuel consumption but I'd guess a little genny is more frugal than a three litre boat engine.

So that bit makes sense - plus you don't get the same noise in the boat while the genny is running on the side  - just have to be aware of the neighbours I guess.

One think that is needed of course is a decent charger. I have one on the genny of course but I expect its low amps and is not clever multi stage to get the right volts into the battery at the right time. What a decent charger obviously does do is flex the volts for the best charge, unlike the basic charging system on the (my) boat.

That's all well and good but I do not have a charger on Percy. I have a 20 amp car charger but that does not seem to work off the genny and is basic. 

It gets more complicated then if I start thinking about putting one in the boat. As there are inverter charges or just charges. Now I have a 1kw inverter - quite old bit I rarely use it in favour of a little 125 w job that runs the tv and laptop charges as needed and I'm aware running an inverter at low demand to its capacity is inefficient.

Then there is the redundancy aspects - if an inverter charger dies you loose both at the same time and more expensive to replace. However I like the tidiness of an all in one unit.

So what do you have and why?

Monday, 21 January 2019

Bits to fit ...

Like most well done jobs there is a sequence for best results. The cylinder heads from Percy's donk should be back fitted soon - will detail that when it happens. I have the Victron 712 battery monitor to fit and most likely new batteries. However it occurred to me the the day one of the reasons I am fitting the monitor is to see how I am charging the batteries so I think I'll lash it up on the old batteries to get a feel for how they are taking and giving out their charge. If for no other reason it'll be interesting to see how worked they actually are. I am still expecting to have to replace them and still not sure with what. I read about some peoples massive battery banks over 600 A/H, that would be close to 4 days all stuff going on my boat between charges.

I guess of you are a liveaboard CC'er that sort of capacity would be ideal, every three or four days cruising on elsewhere while topping up the next 3/4 days of use - not a bad regime.

So I hope to have news to report soon.... plus the 2019 cruising plans  need to be thought through....

Saturday, 5 January 2019

A cheeky topless shot !!

No flesh involved in this blog post thankfully. Percy's CS2 is having an eight year check over ready for the real hard work to come.

An overheated engine is never really good news for the head gasket. Having said that the general consensus from all the off grid lot who tend to use these engines across America is the heavy cast heads are quite robust.  However with the engine getting hot and it having about 1500 hours on it plus there was evidence of some very slight weeping on both cylinders I took the decision to wring my wallet out once again (see the end of the post for thoughts on this) and organised a top end strip by Richard the marine engineer who's mooring we took at Shebdon.

I used Richard as he was local, I was going to ask Paul at Tony Redshaws who has been helpful to date on a couple of parts and advice on the gaskets (thanks Paul) but the distance was a decider plus Richard had pretty much left us his mooring intact with all the plants and willow weave hedging, even down to the rotary airer ! We were so glad to be able to take this mooring after the break in at the end of the mooring so it just felt right for a bit of payback.

The original plan was for me to stay aboard after our New Year break but the flatteries put paid to that so in minus temperatures I met Richard and got the genny out to run the little heater fan to make the engine room semi tolerable plus coffee when the tap had defrosted.

It was interesting to chat to him as he has a lot of experience of all engine types and lots of stories to tell of breakdowns and other interesting stuff.

A couple of hours in and it was all done. The heads will go off to be checked, valves and guides included. The injectors might as well be checked also while the engine is in this state.

So Percy's donk is getting a bit of TLC - I'm pleased I did not try this, I maybe could have but to be honest I doubt I'd have had the confidence. I know my limits, plus I have a motorbike in bits at home, a service on my car, a service on Rachels car and new brakes on Rachels car....!

A real minus 4 type frost overnight 

Rocker covers off, rockers and pushrods removed...

Fuel lines off and injectors removed. I really want to get rid of that starter battery box !

 First cylinder head off 

Quite some size piston and not as much water cooling as I expected 

Topless donk. 

No hurry. I'll clean up the edge of the block where the paint has been removed by the coolant leak. the heads will get a repaint in mid Brunswick green as will the edges of the block. Hopefully by the end of Jan it'll be all back together and then I can set to on the batteries.

Now the bit in brackets above...boat costs. This will not be cheap, but I have to expect to pay if I cannot or dare not do it myself. I have to be pragmatic about it, I save on costs on my cars bikes and boat where I can by doing it myself. I recon I may have saved close onto £400 on the bike service  and half that on car services and repairs over recent time.

However when many come onto the forums asking about costs to live aboard and how much cheaper is it.... they really need to think about LTM as we used to call it at the University. Long Term Maintenance, it will need doing, so it needs to be planned for and saved for. I put £250 a month into a savings pot for license, insurance mooring and  maintenance, this year it'll need topping up despite the reduction in mooring fees with the move.

Then there is PPM - Planned Preventative Maintenance - the service on the cars, bikes and boat (and house - painting for one !) I used to save for this but now it comes out of the hole in the wall as and when necessary and is part of a wider household budget I have.

Finally reactive maintenance, the stuff that needs doing immediately as it is unforeseen, the water dripping onto the solar controller being an annoying but relevant RM cost !

So these things are not cheap. It would be cheap if it was just this boat as there is no council tax, water rates or duplicate heating and maintenance costs. Having lived on a boat for a couple of periods I know its not for me, I can spend long periods but I need the security of bricks and mortar and am lucky we can afford (just) both.

So look after your assets and don't think it'll never happen, these things are mechanical and need attention, even if it is a good old service that'll keep the money in your wallet just a bit longer.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

I blame Jono

Despite being an avid Blogger (and blog reader) I do follow a few of the hip people on YouTube. One such is a fellow called Jono. I met him at Fradley in the summer of 2017 and appeared in all my glory on this video - click me  about 3.30 in if you just want to fast forward to the star of the show !

So why am I telling you about Jono... he is an avid Victron fan and is fitting Alice out with Victron stuff - including Lithium batteries. In fact I think he now works in some capacity for Victron !

Anyhow he has a code that gets 15% off all Victron stuff at Onboard Energy click here I got a solar controller that I have already blogged about and have just ordered the first part of my new battery set up  - the BMV 712 battery monitor. Done some homework, for a lazy man wanting quality stuff this is the one. The Bluetooth works for me and I can see down the line me getting an inverter/charger from them also as I continue my enlightened journey to all things power  - charge and use etc

I'll not fit it (the BMV) until I have my new batteries and I'll not have them until the event that starts tomorrow is over - yes its boating and it'll be interesting   (well it will for me) so keep reading  !