Thursday, December 27, 2012

I finally finished the solar charger wiring. At the bottom of the picture you will see the display mounted in a radio shack enclosure.  The wiring is all buttoned up with Velcro ties.

Another tedious job is finished as well. The Yaesu FT-857D is mounted on a special hand-crafted shelf.  The head is mounted remotely.  The unit is fitted sideways with the important plugins for digital mode devices such as the TinyTrac 4 APRS device and the Rigblaster Plug and Play.  Neatly inset in the shelf out of view, is an MFJ Super Battery Booster to maintain the needed 13.8 volts for the radio even as the house battery bank sags with use.  In the far right are a Rig Runner Power Pole distribution panel and a 7 port powered USB I/O distribution panel.  Essentially, we are ready to clean and pack for the trip.

I even got a chance to climb Stone Mountain and see a beautiful sunset.  Brrr, it was cold near sunset.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Preparing for a Winter Trip on Belle

This is a frame for my video Sailing to the Tortugas. I placed it here as a reminder of better times on Belle.  We'll not go into what happened later the night of this video.  Sufficed to say, I was having good times aboard Belle that day.  Now I look forward to even better times.

Right now, Belle is on her trailer at New Horizons as I mention earlier.  I only hope they will "get a move on" and get the boat back to me so I can proceed with preparations for this trip.
Tentatively, my trip will be down the Gulf coast of Florida starting either at Cedar Key or perhaps at the town of Suwanee, at Millers Marina where I can have an even better place to wait out bad weather.  The date for my trip is sometime in mid to late February after income taxes are resolved.
Here are some detailed projects that I am working on.  They all seem trivial at the time. But each one has long a long-lasting impact on the success and comfort of my three month trip.
A simple thing like how much current an anchor light consumes can really make a difference in the daily budget for battery storage and replacement of electricity.  So I just spent $50 at West Marine for 31 mm festoon LED lamps for my Perko fixed mount combination all-around light.  The difference is in current use is sizable.  The two LED's draw 200 ma, while the conventional bulbs draw 1.6 amps.  With 11 hours of draw, conventional lamps would drop my battery banks by an astonishing 18 amp hours.  The LED lights on the other hand, would set me back less than 3 amp hours.
I am replacing Belle's sound system with a modern all mode player which includes Bluetooth and USB access and control.  This 200 watt unit is surprisingly inexpensive at $139.  Juxtapose that with $50 for two little LED lights. I plan on having most of the 64 gigabyte I phone 5 full of music to stream by Bluetooth.
For USB distribution, I have a 12 volt powered 7 outlet USB I/O adapter.   Next trip I hope to have a house computer system with LTE to WiFi continuous distribution. Now I will settle for a laptop and a netbook for my computing needs.  There is an LTE antenna on the mast top which should provide good coverage for my Verizon MyFi hotspot. We will depend mostly on the Garmin redundant units for navigation doing separate trip planing on laptop and uploading way-points to the mapping units.  Our software is SeaClear II which is free on the web.

Well that's enough for now.  I will provide the provisions list when as we go.  The goal is to be self sufficient in water and food for a month at a time.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


It seems like forever!  These ama's for Tridarka need to be carefully and methodically fared and filled with epoxy fairing compound.  I generally buy this from Jamestown Distributors.
It is quite hideously expensive. So far, it is the only compound that goes on smoothly and sands reasonably well.  Caveat: you must sand within twenty-four hours or it gets so hard you'd need a jack hammer.  The weather is not exactly conducive to epoxy work at this time of the year.  Although it seems like global warming is giving us longer and longer warm spells in the winter.  Last March, most of the month was near 80 degrees.
This is what the cans of epoxy fairing compound look like.  It takes a mix of A and B which color blends to let you know you have it thoroughly mixed.
So it's fill, fair, and sand until the whole ama looks good with a nice coating of paint.  I will use hi-build primer so I can get even more fairing done.  Funny how being retired makes it all take longer than ever.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Just a quick update. The solar panel controller box (by Blue Sky Energy)had two ungainly knockouts that pointed the wrong way for wire ingress.  I also wanted to make the process neat, with easy connection/disconnection of panels and battery bank.  I found this nice panel mount for eight power-pole connectors on the Powerwerks website.  The nice gentleman, Kevin at ACK electronics cut the rectangular mounting slot.  Close attention to the bottom will show I did end up using one knockout for the RJ-11 style patch cable that runs to the remote monitoring panel.

Meanwhile, Belle and her recalcitrant trailer are over at New Horizons checking out the leaking brake line and making sure the hydraulics works as advertised.  (They completely rebuilt the brake system earlier this year).  When she comes back, I will mount the controls for the solar system and button everything up.  It's getting toward time to pack for the winter trip...if nothing else untoward transpires-:).
  Meanwhile, the battery bank is back on winter maintenance while I finish the solar installation.  The smart charger just doesn't like interference from other voltage sources and interruptions.
The dinghy inventory and inspection is finished.  Here's the portfolio for getting around while traveling.  Not the inflatable kayak is an expedition grade that is my primary conveyance mode when aboard.  It stows easily under the Vee-birth  out of the way. along with the paddles and the inflation pump.  The six-foot dingy roles up into a tight small role on the fore-deck just behind the main mast, again out of the way.  The motor is so small it stows in the lazarette.
This is the Innova Sunny inflatable kayak in it's back-pack carrying case.  Ready to shoulder and go.

The dinghy roles up in a very small package for carrying on deck.
The little 2.5 hp. Tohatsu always runs well and stows out of site in the lazarette (stern beside motor-well)

Monday, December 3, 2012

The warm weather continues as I focus on getting ready for the winter trip aboard Belle.  Since I completely redid both masts, removing all hardware, painting and reattaching all hardware, it seemed only proper to check the fit of the sails.  Well they slide right up.  I on the other hand am becoming more aware of the heaviness of the masts and realize I can only do this so long.  For now, I look forward to the winter trip and am obsessing over the details of each supporting item.  

I'm checking out the dinghy and the inflatable kayak to make sure my air pumps have connectors that fit and that all the little parts I need are with me.  The dingy is a cute little six-foot inflatable that I have had for several years, but have never tried out.  It is in mint condition. The former owners never used her from new.  I did lack an adapter for the air pump so have it coming in the mail. Getting lettering to stick to the side of a folding item like this is almost impossible.  I have used dinghy stencil in the past but never was happy with the quality of the paint.  I chance upon some of that Flexi-seal, well not that brand but a Rust-oleum product costing about half as much.  The rubber sticks great and is "flexible."
  Sails are up and the solar panels are catching sun.  I guess Karen was trying to stay out of this picture.  Doesn't look like she was successful:)