Copyright (c) Marc Dacey/Dark Star Media unless otherwise indicated. Above photo (c) Marc Dacey. Powered by Blogger.

2017-12-27

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.

















3 comments:

Silverheels III said...

Are you installing a watermaker

Silverheels III said...

Watermaker?

Rhys said...

Yes, strongly considering it. Probably from this fellow as it has the combination of standard parts and reasonable production. I'm having the tanks fabbed up before spring.

http://www.cruiserowaterandpower.com/

It's well within our power boundaries and (as can be seen) can be run on a Honda 2000 if needs be.