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2016-05-31

Getting the lead in, part 1


I need specs to read these specs.
After extensive mulling over and research, and incentivized by a decent sale price ($400 Canadian and zero freight costs versus $341 U.S. and the shipping of lead was no debate), I've purchased the future house battery bank of the good ship Alchemy.
It's slightly weird to me that I understand all of this now.
Thanks to Jeff Cooper for his van and back muscles.
Meet 732 pounds (or 332 kilos) of acid-drenched lead. Named Crown 6CRP525s, these are deep-cycle six volt DC (6 VDC) batteries commonly found in off-grid solar powered homesteads and in recreational vehicles, although they are sturdy enough to use in golf carts and other small electrical work vehicles. I decided on flooded lead-acid batteries for ease of servicing; they will not be buried but rather in the middle of the boat. Under the saloon steps, in fact.
The idea was that a sudden stop would be arrested by the front seats. Hmm.

With the help of stalwart friend and fellow sailor Jeff Cooper, these ridiculously heavy boxes were obtained in the nearby suburb of Woodbridge and carefully (because the extra weight affected braking) transported to my yacht club. Of course, the rolling carts all had flats yesterday, and it was blazing hot. Nonetheless, with plenty of heave and a touch of ho, Jeff and myself muscled them aboard and into the pilothouse. They are deployed so that they are less likely to impart heel to the boat, nor move around should the weather start the boat to rocking.
Yes, as a temporary fix, I chopped down the engine bay lid.
I labelled the batteries 1 through 6 so that I can keep track of maintenance and trouble-shooting down the (sea) road. I also took an initial volt reading to discover the state of charge (SOC):



6VDC 525 #1: 6.21 v
6VDC 525 #2: 6.24 v
6VDC 525 #3: 6.32 v
6VDC 525 #4: 6.34 v
6VDC 525 #5: 6.23 v
6VDC 525 #6: 6.34 v


I was told by the battery salesman that three were on hand and the other three needed to be shipped in from the States. I think I know which is which. I will test the specific gravity of the electrolyte and top them up as needed before I give them their first charge, which I want to be sooner than later as we are effectively tied to the dock until I finish this phase of the refit.
Yeah, I won't miss that nasty carpet stuff. It's all heading for the bin at some point when I move onto "amenities".
Moving downward and upward, so to speak, I disassembled the saloon stairs after checking out the batteries. Pulling this apart revealed the (loose) access plate to the aft 50 gallon keel tank; the fuel manifold/stopcocks; the standpipe with its various seacocks to engine, head and A/C; the Clark pump that supplies the A/C; and the venerable West Marine 20 amp charger that keeps the sole Group 24 start battery charged when the engine isn't running. That last bit isn't a big deal, as only the VHF, the bilge pump and the fuel filter assembly are powered; we don't even have the running or steaming lights attached. Those connections await the installation of the house bank.
The same picture as above with my intended changes.
In the above overlay, the yellow dashed line represents the new bottom of the steps from the pilothouse to the saloon, under which the batteries will live. This location is both on the centerline and very close to the CG of the hull, which means the boat rolls and pitches more or less around the mass of the batteries. This is good for them and good for the boat and is about the best place we could put 732 pounds without actually dropping it a further few inches atop the fuel tanks. The yellow line does impinge slightly on the galley space, but the former lowest tread did as well, without contributing any stowage space.

The red line is 27 inches, or the width of the former treads. In my research, I learned something I have rarely seen implemented, which is securing the batteries in "port and starboard" orientation in order to keep the lead plates covered more effectively in order to increase battery life. It's a touch of an esoteric topic for those not boat-crazed, but the logic is sound: the best way to install the batteries is side-by-side in pairs. Guess what? I can get away with this. With 11/16ths of an inch to spare.
Sharp, it isn't. Effective, I can live with.
The idea would be to have the four L16 batteries' box to be on the bottom, directly on the floor (which I would remove and reinforce to take the added mass), with a higher "tier" of two L-16s in either two single-battery boxes or a made-by-me box. The "upper tier" would be lashed to a steel "L-bar" riser, bolted to the hull, while the lower four would be strapped down with through-bolted padeyes. Nice! 
Yes, and of course I will clean everything.
Certain obvious changes will be required: a) I will have to remove the existing charger and relocate the fuel manifold, probably to the aft bulkhead in the above photo, to create the necessary width for the upper tier; b) I will have to create a partition between the upper tier (see the green dashed line two photos up) and the standpipe that allows full access to this area; c) I will have to consider access to the aft tank's plumbing problematic, as it would involve. at the very least, the removal of the top tier of batteries. Of course, that's an incentive to make this tank's plumbing bulletproof!

Lastly, over all this, I will have to rebuild and secure properly new and somewhat shallower saloon companionway stairs, the treads of which will need to be hinged to gain access to the tops of the battery bank for service and wiring needs. Where the charger/inverter will go is a topic for the near future.
The future resembles this. Photo (c) http://www.kbtechworks.com








2016-05-30

Trial by sail

In very weak wind, the "new sail creases" still show.
One thing a boat refitting blog tends not to emphasize is actual sailing of the boat. This is a pity, of course, because that's the point of all the learning and labour. Anyway, we had been asked by our splendid neighbours, the Dulmages, for "a boat ride" before they move to Vancouver shortly.

Well, of course. We'd love it.

First, however, we needed a sea trial of the new main. Before the actual day of Having Guests Aboard, we went out in frankly miserable wind of perhaps five knots, all the better to diagnose and repair our line reeving and our sadly decayed sailing skills.

After only a few embarrassing if trivial incidents, more involving the role of heavy fenders in trapping sheets and furling lines, we declared the boat Fit for Minor Sailing. Minor because there's still loads of gear, tools and mysterious fluids only semi-secured and the head is filled with painting supplies and the beer is warm off dock power, as neither an inverter nor a 12 VDC power socket is installed. They're aboard, but not installed.
Cabin Boy in a rare moment of unmoody teenager.
Frankly miserable went up a Beaufort scale to mediocre, fitfully from the ESE, so out we went. We we reminded of a few things, such as a) the hydraulic steering quite unlike the tiller of dear old Valiente (still unsold, make an offer), both in terms of reaction time (hydraulic is slow and I feel as if I'm oversteering) and feel (hydraulic has none). Still, when Alchemy's steering is "dialled in" and we are on a beam reach or slightly aft, the boat pretty well self-steers, which bodes well for the bypass plus windvane proposition.

That's more like it.
I left the sail rather flat as I didn't want to develop speed and spilling the main would get us standing up quicker if I started to hear items shifting overmuch down below. Even so, the boat's undeniably as lightly loaded as a steel behemoth can be, and we did heel a bit. It felt good, actually, even if it was at best five knots in 11 knots true.
Haven't decided whether I should take the topping lift off entirely when sailing.
Anyway, a hot day on shore was cool gliding over the still chilly Lake Ontario, and one of the kids needed a blanket to keep warm. Luckily, we've had that sort of thing aboard for ages, given that sometimes I'm reading a manual in the dead of winter and a tiny heating fan does very little.
Sometimes shots like this remind me we sail a fairly big boat. Well, big to me.
Of course, some errors were made. We are still getting used to the fact that Alchemy needs to make a far more assertive tack, and, once tacked, needs to be helmed equally assertively, lest the Yankee jib backwind and you have to start all over again. While typical and in fact expected, it's different from an IOR design where the tacks are as little as 65-75 degrees. Nothing broke or complained, however, just a slight bit of sailorly muttering. There were children present, after all.
Mrs. Alchemy at the helm. Maybe I'll restore the tiller for her birthday in three weeks.
 All in all, a pretty nice sail...we were out nearly four hours, even in the light air. Helming from "below", however, at the pilothouse helm, with well-meaning if view-obscuring crew on the coach house, made me think that I want to get that second throttle/shifter at the outside helm....where I can see. The pilothouse is great for reading dials and playing with the radio, but I could use a better field of view. And dudes in dinghies should not sail out when I'm coming through the gap in the sea wall, please. It's nerve-wracking to see a headboard on a triangle of Kevlar going by at pipe-rail height, really closely.
Not pollution, but mist from the warm air over the cold lake.