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Fiat lux redux

Those wires will be tidied up when I can get the right connectors. All will likely go down the starboard "helm pipe".
I took advantage of some clement weather (well, clement enough for February in Toronto) to do a reinstallation of our to date benighted solar panels. I say "benighted" because until the recent fabrication to put a bracing set of pipes on the leading edge of the solar arch, these four 135W panels haven't popped a single electron into the batteries.

In addition, fabricator/welder Andrew B. also put out supports to take the outboard pair of panels...well, slightly further outboard. Now the gap necessary for the two backstays (which I stupidly failed to consider in the original design) can be seen. What remains to be seen is how or even if I will bridge the gap. The original plan was for these largish panels to act as a solid bimini to protect the aft deck from sun and rain; I'll need snap-on Sunbrella panels or even rainwater-troughs to do that now. Still, the beefed-up solar arch is easily strong enough to support that weight.
The part you can't see is the slushy hummocks on the deck.
As for getting the light to do useful work, the wires on the outboard and inboard panels on either side will be "Y" connected and dropped down below decks to a junction box below, and then to an MPPT and hence to charge the house bank. That will wait until launch, I think, because I have a lot of work to do in the aft cabin to route it properly as we redo the berths to athwartships and put in the AP. I want a free hand with that process.

An unknown is the state of the port outbound panel. While I was moving on deck to take it below in a gale, it blew out of my hands and was damaged on contact with the ground. I was only moving it because Mrs. Alchemy had expressed concern about it blowing off the pilothouse roof. If it no longer outputs, this model of panel is still made (or, at least, its form factor is made) and, as is the way of things (and why I now buy some gear as late as possible), it is considerably less expensive than when I first bought them.

The next three days, paying work permitting, are going to be both warm (again, for February) and rainy, so it's "indoor work" for me. Which is fine: I get to listen to podcasts and can swear freely.


I ♥ my new radar

She's a big 'un.
As the snowy weather, some welcome work and a minor surgical procedure have me sidelined this week, I thought to unbox the new Furuno 1815 4 KW radar I intend to bolt to Alchemy's mast in late April. The kids seem to like it.
Always good to know.
Furuno gear is as well-packed and organized as any higher-end Japanese gear I've encountered. The "important information" is undoubtedly online, but it's a nice touch to include the info in the box, because it would be HUGELY ANNOYING to get the radome up the mast, attach all the requisite wires and then get nothing, or the wrong thing.
Do NOT unwrap prior to installation.
The default power/data cable is 10 metres in length. This may well be enough to go two thirds up the mast, down to the deck and into the pilothouse, but I'm going to have the seller exchange this for a 15 metre length (it's coming in next week or so in another shipment) and I will hand this one over. I would rather have too much than too little cable; for instance should I for some reason wish to take the radar display aft to the outside helm, I'd use most of that 15 metre length.

There's a packing list and templates for each compartment in the 25 kilo box.
The chunkiest part, of course, is the 4 KW radome, which appears to be of the 19.2 inch form factor. The other model I was considering, the Furuno 1835, has a 24-inch dome that's heavier. The range is similar, however, and the power rating is identical. The difference between the radomes, for those of a technical bent, is as follows for the 1835: a horizontal beam width of 4.0 degrees and a vertical beam width of 20 degrees. The equivalent numbers for the unit I've purchased are 5.2 horizontal and 25 on the vertical. Both units work from 0.0625-36 NM in range, although the higher, the better, if you want that distance range. You may calculate your own potential range here.

These numbers break out in interesting ways: the higher the horizontal beam width, the lower the discernment or "sharpness" of the display. The vertical beam width, on the other hand, should be desirably high to account for the typical pitching of a sailboat at sea. The heeling, on the other hand, is dealt with by a self-levelling radar mount. I'm getting this one.

The main use for our radar will be twofold: seeing marine traffic on passage and seeing weather around us. I'm more interested in distance (hence the 4 KW radome, although the draw is reported as just 38 W) than I am in spotting a stick in the water a mile ahead. The nature of the sort of sailing we intend to do is largely high seas: radar buys you time. That said, this radar can be tuned to a pretty tight standard of seeing canoes and geese at 3 AM in the fog 1/2 NM ahead, should that be necessary. But I have seen radar used to steer between thunderheads and localized downpours, and I think this radar will excel at that.
I expect great things from you, radome.
There was no need to unwrap this radome prior to installation: this was just a check. 
Thorough, aren't they?
The 1835, which a few ocean folk have recommended to me, is a pretty sweet unit, but the 1815 debuted in 2017. It "paints" AIS targets more readily and has visual clues, such as "True Trail" mode, which visually suggest the speed and vector of objects of interest, such as radar targets that are also AIS targets.
The AIS info at the bottom of the cursored vessel is smoothly displayed with the radar return.
Rain and storm clouds and squall lines provide variable returns, although they are often gratifyingly tall enough to  be seen beyond the nominal distance limits of the radar. The same can be said of masthead-mounted AIS: it would not be ridiculous to "see" the AIS data of a fast-moving container ship at 50-60 NM given that its own antenna might be 60 metres off the surface of the water. AIS is also in the VHF band; certain atmospheric conditions can cause "skip" and multiply the occasional reception by several times. I once heard, for instance, the U.S. coastguard in Cleveland, OH in Toronto...on my handheld. It didn't last, but it was an example of skip. I wonder if an AIS target, ported to the radar display from my Vesper transceiver, would show up on the screen not as a "blip", but just as a contact on the lower half of the display? I'll enjoy playing with this, I can tell you. Someone else will have to sail!
It's possible to avoid a lot, but if you can't, it's good to have some warning of heavier weather approaching.
Above is the "weather" use of radar. The 1815 has a full manual mode, which, having fiddled with older radars and radios, I'm accustomed to using. I look forward to this as well, because I want to see if radar can spot certain phenomena, like "clear-air squalls", I've experienced at sea. Or maybe it was a microburst. Anyway, a bit of warning would have been nice, if that's possible.

The wires that go into the display. I have to run right-sized wiring to the display unit, but the draw is pretty low: 3.2 A
The plan is to have the display at the helm. While this unit is supposed to be either helm-mounted on a pivoting base, or flush-mounted into a nav station bulkhead, I am going to try to mount it on a strong armature from the pilothouse roof. That way, it can be tucked away and secured when not needed.
More fuses and covers and literature.
My plans to do this, however, might have to change if the radar display affects the helm compass, which is actually pretty accurate (locally, at least; it will almost certainly have to be swung in the Southern Hemisphere).
I was concerned this unit would be too small. My hands are large: I need not have worried.
The display unit itself is 8.4 inches top to bottom. That seems small, but I had a good look at it, as did Mrs. Alchemy, dragged over from her Boat Show gig as temp worker at a chandlery, and while there's a lot of information on the screen, it's easy to read. Again, this is most likely going into the pilothouse and will be closer to our eyes, should we wish, than the plotter will be, and it's only seven inches wide.
Sorry for the focus; I should've used the flash.
The back of the unit is pretty simple and robust. I'll post about it again after it's installed and running.
Oh, the places you'll go and you'll see their outlines first!
In the meantime, insurance survey time has come around again and there is much to do aboard prior to that expensive but necessary exercise.


I can see clearly now: here comes the rain again

Several years of research, opinion-seeking and review prepared me for the moment at the recent Toronto International Boat Show when I turned a somewhat less-travelled part of the vast floorspace and saw a Furuno booth. I had been assured that Furuno "wasn't at the show this year" and Mrs. Alchemy had confirmed that they were not listed in the official show guide.

So even when I saw the modest booth in question and saw the Furuno 1815 4kw radar unit on display, I recognized it right away. I've been lusting after it for over half a year. Thanks to the endorsement of sailors (including John Harries and Andy Schell) whose opinions I respect, I was going to go Furuno; but this very new model has the same reach and the feature set I desire of the twice-the-cost 1835 model. It's just about 4 cm. smaller. Seeing it "live", however, put my mind at rest on that score, as it will be perfect in the pilothouse and will be closer to the eyeline of the helmsperson than, say, at the outside binnacle. Some of my choices of equipment are in fact driven by my disinclination to have much of anything "outside" at the sailing helm, save for a compass or possibly a dimmed-down tablet wirelessly repeating plotter info from below. But that evolving preference is perhaps left for another day.

The people I bought the Furuno from gave me a good deal predicated on the production of U.S. dollars. This was because I quoted the price from Defender Marine, a big U.S. firm with mostly attractive prices. Aside from doing a few deliveries, heavy weather races and trips abroad to take RYA training, probably the most beneficial thing I ever did to advance our cruising plans was to convert a respectable sum of Canadian dollars into U.S. currency, which I keep in a separate account here in Canada and for which I have a "U.S. Dollar VISA" card. I did this during one of the vanishingly rare times when the Canadian dollar was worth more than the U.S. in relative terms (it's worth about 0.80 U.S. at present) and it's come in very handy when I've found a significant difference in price (even taking the dollar difference into account) between buying locally or ordering online.

The problem arises when customs fees (what's NAFTA now?) and shipping enter the picture. Not much of what I tend to need is particularly light; the last item I ordered was a diesel starter motor at about 15 kilos, and shipping (as it was for the SPADE anchor that came last summer) can be a brutal top-up that erodes any price advantage I've secured through foreign currency. But it's better than nowt, as the Yorkshiremen say, and when the Maplesat fellows, whose business is rather farther ranging than just being Furuno dealers, offered a price in U.S. dollars that allowed me to avoid shipping and customs, I went for it. Such are the extingencies of the frugal cruiser.
May I be of service? (c)

Rather than list the attributes of the particular unit I've acquired (and which are easily searched, for the technically disposed), I'll focus on those elements once I go "live" in the spring. Running the various cables and connections safely and securely through the mast will be a bit of a job, and the Scanstrut self-levelling mast radome mount looks like it will provide a stable place to loft up the business end of the new radar. Combined with the recently acquired Vesper XB8000 AIS unit I am also installing prior to launch, I do believe we will be able to see and be seen to a far greater and more accurate degree than standing on the foredeck with a bell and horn.

Hydraulically dampened to remain level when the boat is not (which is most of the time on passage). I like hydraulics. (c)

Of course, we will keep the bell and the horn.


Getting a charge out of Christmas thanks to arch angles

A sort of star to guide a refitter in the very short days of December.

Another unconscionable gap between posts, but I have the excuse at least of plenty of paying work and plenty of work paid for. Behold welder/fabricator and fellow club member Andrew Barlow remedying an owner error of a solar arch with too little space to accommodate the backstays.
The scene of the scrim prior to the snows. My job, aside from design and disbursements, was to shield the welding from the wind gusts, which made the TIG job tricky.
Andrew, who is very good at what he does and, moreover, has access to equipment I do not, fabricated the engine hatch and the companionway door to my designs and has also reinforced the existing stainless steel solar panel arch with a couple of uprights and a cross-piece, again to my crude crayon-like drawings. I measure, he cuts (and then bends and welds). It's a good system, because he's far better at it than I am, having been a welder/millwright for decades.
The Cabin Boy is now a hairy, lofty teenager. My mission plan has long been adrift in time.
Speaking of decades, this refinement has been a long time coming. This shot was taken in 2009, when the arch was first constructed to the wrong design (mea culpa), but, to be fair, it would be a repower and a few more seasons before the error became obvious. The actual goal of a solar arch originated in 2008.
The idea was to have a bimini of silicon, not Sunbrella.
After the discovery that I had neglected to visualize the backstays' role in this scheme, refinement followed, necessitating both alterations and improvements in the form of reinforcement at the front and at the panel supports. 

What I lack in artistic ability I retain in measurement.
The two center panels stayed put. They were never "wrong"...the outer panels were.
The two uprights have oval ports underneath through which the solar panel conduit can be run.

The job started with me alarming myself by cutting two holes in the deck. "Alarming" because steel boat owners tend to avoid putting fresh holes in the plating: no good will come of it. In this case, however, it was unavoidable, because on one side, the new arch supporting pipes would route all the solar panel output wire runs, while on the other, the Morse cables for the second throttle/shifter would descend. Ah, yes, there's always more than meets the eye aboard Alchemy.
The two "doublers" which would form the base of the new support pipes and the means through which cables and wires would go below deck.
I needed a couple of dry days for this. The hole drilling I did after a round of measuring and taking out some insulation in the ceiling of the aft cabin.

The "reversed" traveller control lines have given no issues to date, by the way.
The welding of SS to the mild steel 10 gauge plate of the deck went quickly, although I was equally quick to lay down galvanizing paint on top and bottom to avoid rusting.

Yes, I know the binnacle box is beastly. It's heading for retirement in the spring once I migrate an instrument pod and other goodies up on deck.
The dry fitting of the forward support pipe, which, like all the other elements of the arch is not welded to the boat should it become necessary to remove all of it (it's held in with dimples and Allen bolts) revealed more bending was needed.
The cutting board made a good shield to keep welding bits from melting that beautiful Dyneema control line.
 So the correct bending was done.
The power of hydraulics compels you!
The man's a genius for freehand trimming.
This was about making the curving divots necessary to weld the top of the pipe to the existing arch.
Generally, because I'm paying for things I have insufficient skill to do, I try to be educated enough to anticipate what the job will need, so I can hand the right tools (F-clamps, vise-grips, spirit levels and rubber mallets for this job) or rig the right purchase when called upon to do so. In this case, rachet straps came in handy to keep the uprights under a bit of tension for the crosspiece, on which will be mounted plotters/displays/extension mics.
Behind is the big piece of panel I used to screen the welding from the wind-ing.
Almost all of this was done at twilight or later, as December closes down daylight too early in my opinion.
All the enlightment an ancient 75 W work lamp can cast.
The last fixes, done just before Christmas, were to extend the mounting plates and to reinforce them with welded in struts to take the outboard panels, which were stashed on the pilothouse roof for the operation.
The reason they wouldn't go here in the first place (for the curious) is that the boom and mainsail would shadow them too much.
Yep, welding in snow is a thing

Andrew got his Christmas tot for finishing this up under such trying conditions.

The second major job of the recent refittery involves the replacement of the Xantrex RS 2000 charger/inverter with a new Victron Multiplus 3000 charger/inverter, obtained from the capable staff of Ontario Battery Service. This was necessitated last summer by the failure of the Xantrex unit, which otherwise has continued to both charge and invert, to talk to its own control panel, which I tested at another installation and which worked properly. Basically, the network light on the Xantrex front is off and it's well out of warranty, meaning I can't get it fixed.

In addition, the size of the battery bank I actually ended up installing was nearly twice the size of the bank I anticipated having when I bought the Xantrex many boat shows ago. So, the loss of the network interface meant that while I could charge and invert, I couldn't tell if I was doing so to the factory defaults or to the last defaults I input from the control panel...well, short of clapping voltage meter leads on the batteries. I also could not equalize the batteries and this is an important part of getting maximum lifetime and charge cycles out of them, both of which are important for my wallet and my back, given the weight of the things.

So a new inverter was called for. After a fair bit of research, I chose the Victron. Those interested in why can peruse the link above, but it is considerably more flexible a device than the Xantrex was, and, as an inverter, can handle greater loads which my battery bank can supply. For instance, we can have heating and airconditioning at anchor, assuming a nice, full charge. Another aspect I like is that I can hook in a small genset (such as my Honda 2000) and the Victron can integrate it as a shorepower-like feed to ease the battery drawdown of typical inversion.

Lastly, it was considerably cheaper in 2017 and about 15 kilos lighter than the Xantrex of 2008, which was appealing to the skipper who does most of the lifting aboard. Now, being a prudent (read: cheap) sailor, I will open up the Xantrex and attempt to fix it; the network "card" could simply be loose or corroded or otherwise amenable to repair. If I can fix it, it can go forward to act as a charger/inverter there and to keep the windlass battery full. It's good to have options.
Hey, kids, it's Cap'n Sparkwell.

Removing the old charger involved some disconnection, of course, and some improv on the safety front to avoid bridging the fearsome 4/0 ga. battery leads. One does what one must to avoid accidental welding.
Holey moly.
I have several mounting holes to fill and cover in the head bulkhead, but I decided to improve the mounting with the use of nylon shoulder washers, aka "flanged bushings". I got a load from McMaster-Carr last year, and I like them for dissimilar metals or just better anti-chafe and load-distribution tasks.
The previous holes will need filling

The Victron, while not a featherweight, mounted perfectly on attempt number one, and through-bolting at its base it went easily. It is monitored in two ways and (mostly) controlled by one. The first is via a remote panel connected by a CAT 5 cable to the charger. There's a further refinement involving a shunt I will complete a little later.
Just the basics of how the charge is going and whether the inverter's needed.

The second way is via a network cable to USB "dongle". This allows, after the downloading of the appropriate software, to review a bewildering array of configuration and reporting options for the charger. Yes, I have downloaded the manual! This thing was designed by Dutch engineers and it shows in the documentation. Good thing I'm from the distant past.
Still life of dongle and Bluetooth speaker.
The reporting can be saved to a file or even broadcast via Wi-Fi to the net, allowing Victron service people to diagnose issues "live". I will never again need to wonder "are my batteries charged?" As long as I have a smartphone, that is.
Only some of the information the unit conveys to my little netbook. Gosh, I'd best be careful.
So, a busy time and much accomplished. The Toronto boat show approaches: more on that next post.
Damn right it's bulk.


A very moving process

Our agent, besides being an excellent dancer, is also a sailor.
I haven't posted in some time, as for some time, it's been a very busy time. Haulout happened, and with a dodgy repair on a cracked pipe stub, I was fairly cautious about driving the boat even the short distance from our dock to the sea wall for its bi-annual appointment with the concept of flight.
The stick is keeping the boat off the wall . The human is awaiting instructions as to the sling positioning.
Boats are supposed to have "sling marks", bits of tape or paint that indicate where the sling straps (as seen above) ideally go so that the boat is hoisted skyward in a more or less level attitude. The problem with the good ship Alchemy is that I am frequently in the course of our refitting moving fairly significant weigh forward, aft or , as was the case with about 200 kilos of lead shot in bags serving as "trim ballast" in the forepeak workshop, off.
The first attempt suggested my old sling marks had migrated. Photo (c) Frederick Peters
The effect as seen from the water seemed, at best, "bow down".

So we tried again.
The "level best" was eventually located
The reason for the migration of the sling marks was that, despite moving a large number of tools and line to the workshop, I also removed several surplus anchors stowed forward and took off the new 30 kilo SPADE anchor, as there's no persuasive reason why it should remain in place while the boat's cradled on the hard for the winter. The net effect was to raise the bow about seven centimetres, or about a finger's width above its waterline stripe. My old bits of tape were no longer in full effect. Any new bits of tape may also not be correct, if I get the windlass on deck sorted this winter.
An added wrinkle was that Alchemy, having a full keel, requires a "cinch belt" to keep the slings from sliding on the angled leading edge of the keel. But all (eventually) went more or less well, save that the full keel interfered with the sling belt removal more than usual...
Padding about the cradle in this case isn't sinister
...and involved some extra chunks of wood to both support the cradle's keel board and to make a space to draw through the sling. Some crunching of 4 x 4 meeting 16 tons of steel was heard, but she settled nicely.
Done. Onto the next one.
As can be seen, the weather was calm and bordering on warm, which was nice as I had spent the previous day on the club work boat with other stalwart members of the Mooring Committee doing tows and other haulout-related tasks.
Tight to get a ladder and a man of substance up here, but perfefect for those needed to walk to the next boat.
As can also be seen, it's a bit snug to get the boarding ladder up, but on the other hand, I can wedge mystelf most of the way to the top, at which point I can tie up before I tip over. Such is the life of the land-bound sailor.
I always like this angle. It looks...purposeful.
Three days after haulout, I learned from my nephews that my younger sister, Dany Dacey, had died in her sleep at age 54. While this was not unexpected as she had been on the decline from liver disease (and not the self-created kind, either), it still came as a blow, although her two sons, Sean and Ryan, both in their 20s, have been coping well, or as well as can be expected.
She was 19 here, in happier days.
She was very supportive of our plans, although she doubted she would live to see them realized. I am missing her very much. When we started this journey to journey, althought my mother had died, my father (the original sailor in the family) and sister were still alive. I'm now the last one. Certainly, the "do it now" notion is top of mind.

Which brings us back to the enigmatic "For Sale" sign that doesn't actually say that. It's for our Toronto house, in which we've lived for just over 19 years. It's a semi-detached, three-storey "Vic-brick built in 1900 and sits on a typically narrow (19 feet) lot that, thanks to the park directly behind it, has an unusually long (165 feet) lot for the middle of a city. There's also a large (18 by 22 feet and 12 feet high at the double doors) former brick stable being used as a garage, but as we don't own a car, it's full of boats, bikes and mancave appliance, including a radar I'm trying to fix.
Which is not the radar I think I'll be buying this winter. This one is.

The house has a great location. The park behind us has been a huge plus and even allows cooling breezes (thanks to dozens of transpiring trees) in the summer. An enclosed porch at the front keeps most of the traffic noise out of the house; we rarely hear the streetcars passing. If we weren't doing this trip, I'd probably live out my days here, but we are, and to be blunt, selling up, even if we buy a place elsewhere in Canada (save Vancouver) could convert a "five-year passage" to "just keep sailing". It will give us options simply renting it out while we are off sailing in search of the edges would not.

"Exclusive", as the sign says, means we're not having an open house and will instead attempt to sell it to a person or person(s) who will meet our (slightly discounted compared to the surrounding market) price with the intention of doing a full renovation, like every other house in our vicinity has undergone, the curious fashion in which one buys a Victorian style townhouse, guts it and turns it into a skylit, pot-lighted, vaguely Scandinavian art gallery. Putting on the open market, or "listing it", in the real estate jargon, would require about $20K of scraping, painting and plastering/drywalling to get it to a faux version of vaguely current. Also, cheap by chic furniture would have to be brought in to "stage it". Then 200 people tromp in. We and our tatty inherited glum furniture would have to be can't live in a house that's been staged, because it must look as if the next owners already tastefully live there, not the grubby peasants selling up. There's no use in doing a cheap paintjob if the walls are getting replaced, particularly if we are still in residence and it's winter, so we're seeking someone who can picture the place gutted and who has the coin to redo it to her taste.

We are living, again, in interesting times. Next, a fresh round of welding things.