Pachuca Circumnavigation

This blog began in late 2006 with the planning and preparation for a circumnavigation of the world in my 39-foot sail boat Pachuca. It then covered a successful 5-year circumnavigation that ended in April 2013. The blog now covers life with Pachuca back home in Australia.

Pachuca

Pachuca
Pachuca in Port Angeles, WA USA

Friday, July 14, 2017

Hull Maintenance

Annual hull maintenance has seemed a waste because I kept finding the antifouling and anodes in reasonably good shape, so this time I decided to forego the springtime hull maintenance and see what an 18 month span would be like.

I decided to take the club's wintertime offer of the first 5 days at the hardstand for free and booked the boat for haulout on Monday with splashdown in Friday.  This may appear to look like 5 days but it yields closer to 4 working days.  It was going to be a tight schedule and given the vagaries of the wintertime rains it was likely that I would have to extend the hardstand time.

The hull was in remarkably good shape, given that the boat had been in the water for 19 months.  I asked the yard worker who had pressure cleaned the hull if it had been a particularly difficult job and he said No, the marine growth had not been unusually bad.  He also commented on how good the anodes looked.  The propeller had also been in good condition.  Two days earlier I had put the engine into forward and reverse in the pen to ensure that the propeller was not too fuzzed up with growth to provide drive and found it to be OK. 

The schedule was tight.

On Monday afternoon I took the propeller and shaft back to bare metal using a wire brush attachment on my angle grinder then had a good look at the anodes.  They looked remarkably good after 19 months.  The yard man who had pressure washed the hull had commented on how good they looked and this was confirmed by a fellow sailor who commented on the generous number of anodes protecting the propeller and shaft.  I removed the large circular anodes protecting the metal part of the skeg, wire brushed it, and found that they had plenty of weight and heft - at least 80% of the original material, by my reckoning.  On that basis I decided to wire brush the other anodes and put the boat back into the water with the same anodes.  This saved me about $140 and perhaps 2 precious hours of work, largely in drilling the center holes for the big skeg anodes.  I finished the day by beginning the unpleasant and dirty job of scraping down the hull.
Large anodes being inspected

All anodes retained (notice anode at rear of shaft)

Primer on propeller and shaft.  Dynaplate ground shoe for HF radio above

Ready for splashdown

I spent most of Tuesday scraping down the hull.  The water pressure cleaning does a marvelous job of removing most of the self-ablating antifouling, but there is no substitute for scraping down every square inch of the lower part of the hull to remove lose flakes of old antifouling and tiny surviving barnacles.  I used a respirator and finished the day with blue hair and a blue face.  I also managed to put the primer coat on the propeller and shaft.  It was important that I do it on this day so that I could lay down the top coats on Wednesday and Thursday.  And I masked out upper part of the hull using two types of tape.  I had been lucky with the rain but I knew that showers were expected overnight and was concerned that the tape would deteriorate in the moisture.  (Fortunately it didn't.)

On Wednesday I rolled on the first coat of antifouling using a 10 liter can that I had purchased at Yacht Grot for $450.  That job took 6 hours because the hull has hungry, the antifouling was thick, and the rolling had to be done very slowly.  I also put the first topcoat on the propeller and shaft.
(The metal primer and Velux Plus topcoat are by Marlin Yacht Products out of Trieste.  It is very expensive but goes a long way, four years so far and enough for another two.  I highly recommend it.)

On Thursday I rolled on the second coat of antifouling, with two new 4-liter cans at hand (at $200 per can).  The second coat always requires less material and rolls faster, so I managed to finish that job in about 4 hours.  I also put the second (and final) topcoat on the propeller and shaft.

Friday morning was a very busy time for me.  The boat was scheduled to be hoisted on the slings at 12 noon and be held there for 30 minutes while the crew had lunch and I worked frantically to put 2 coats of antifouling on  the parts of the hull that had been covered by the props holding the boat up.  I arrived early and used what time remove the masking tape around the hull, replace the DOT boat registration sticker on the side of the hull (I had not displayed a current DOT license in about 3 years, risking a $500 fine.), polish the stainless steel bowplate, and remove the marks left on the upper part of the hull by the lifter straps when the boat had been hauled out.  Cleaning those strap marks is not easy with an old paint job but in a timely visit by Kim from Mandalay, next to my pen, to see how I was doing, he introduced me to "Scuff Off", a liquid cleaner that its works like magic.

At about 11 AM when I knew that I was about ready I visited the office to confirm my splashdown.  The yard manager had no idea that I was going back into the water.  I told him that I had made the booking over a month earlier and that I my boat was supposed to be hung on the slings over lunch time. He did some creative scrambling and managed to get me into the water as planned. 

I had not had time to visit my pen to make sure that the ropes were in correct position and telephoned Brenda who on short notice came to the boat to pick up a short boat hook in order to pick up ropes out of the water and when I arrived at the pen there she was ready to pass over the bow ropes, fended off the bow which was about to touch the jetty, the stood by while I attached the springers and stern lines that she had set up. 

For the record, I used about 16 liters of antifouling.

I got home tired but very satisfied that everything had gone to schedule.  I had been unbelievably fortunate with the rain, which seemed to happen at night then magically stay away during the day.









HF Antenna Cable

Removing the solar panels presented an opportunity to tidy up the connection between the HF radio cable and the backstay, which acts as the boat's antenna. 

The connection is a crude one, with bare wire held tightly to the backstay using universal clamps.  Crude but effective, because I was speaking to South Africa twice a day until I reached Cape Leeuwin at Australia's southwest corner. 
Connection above insulator

Spacers in place


I removed the clamps, cut off the partially corroded bare wire, exposed fresh wire by cutting back the insulation, sanded the backstay, then clamped the wire to the backstay. 

I then replaced some of the separators that maintain a gap between the HF cable and the non-antenna part of the backstay.  This gap minimizes the leaching of the transmission energy from the antenna cable to the backstay, presumably through inductance.  The spacers are sections of fuel hose and everything is held in place using thick plastic cable ties.  Very effective.

Holes Drilled

Late last week I drilled 6 holes to accommodate the new solar panels, which for me was a very big deal that had been worrying me for a while.
Hole template on rickety platform

Each side of the cockpit frame has three straps running athwhartships upon which a solar panel rests.  Each strap has a hole at each end through which a bolt passes through to the panel frame, giving a total of 6 bolts per panel.

The new panels are narrower and slightly longer than the old ones, meaning that the distance between the holes on each strap would have to be reduced slightly.  The task that I dreaded was drilling through the thick and very hard stainless steel material which for me has as always been a challenge at the best of times, and more difficult now because I would be working aloft.

To minimize the drilling I decided to use three of the existing holes for each panel, thus there was the choice was between fixing the panels near the center line of the boat or spreading them out and leaving a bigger gap at the center.  I decided that the result would look better with the panels spread out.  That meant that I would use the existing holes on the outboard edges of the straps and drill new holes on the inboard side.
New holes on right side (inboard) side of straps

New hole at left

The first problem was to find a fast and fool proof method of marking the distance between the new holes.  In the garage I found an aluminium strip of suitable size and at the boat cut it to span the panels.  I then drilled a hole at one end of the strip, fitted it to the panel using a bolt, then with a pencil carefully traced out the other hole on the aluminium strip.  Drilling aluminium is easy and I was able to drill the hole to within 2 mm of the required span.   I now had a template and used the same procedure to trace out the hole locations on the cockpit frame.

Then Stephen and I visited a tool shop where I got good advice on the drilling technique (very slow speed, no lubrication) and the best drill brand.  I suggested a second, smaller bit for a pilot hole and the salesman agreed.  I would need to center punch the material to avoid my drill bit dancing around so I also purchased a new punch.

On the day when I had everything ready Stephen arrived at the boat with a heavy wooden block.  His job was to use the block as backing while I center punched.  This was necessary to avoid bending the straps or, worse, breaking the welds that held them to the frame.  In order to raise myself to working level I set up a rickety system using the boat's boarding ladder with a small foldout ladder on top.

Once the hole centers were puched and I had partially drilled the first hole to make sure that the punches were deep enough I thanked Stephen for his help and proceeded to work on my own.

After 3 hours of patient work spread over two days I managed to drill the holes without breaking either of the bits.

Fitting the panels should be easy.  Each panel has 3 pre-drilled holes on each side.   I'll bolt one of the center holes of the panel to the center inboard hole on the cockpit frame and when the panel is orientated correctly I'll drill the other 5 holes on the panel through the holes on the stainless steel strapping.

There is no substitute for good planning.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Solar Panels Removed

I spent two days at Fremantle with the modest goal of removing the 65 watt solar panels that had served me faithfully for 9 years.  I achieved that and was able to begin exploiting opportunities that presented themselves.

On Friday afternoon I visited the boat and disconnected the solar panels, documenting the wiring and taking great care to avoid damaging them, because Stephen was looking forward to  my gift of the panels and controller.  I then used an 11 mm and a small adjustable spanner to loosen each of the 6 small bolts  holding down each panel. 

Frame after removal of bimini and solar panels.  Note rusty Rutland tail.
While doing that work I noted how much easier it would be to remove the rusting tail of the Rutland wind charger now that the panels and bimini were out  of the way, allowing me to work from inside of the boat rather than hanging from  the stern of the boat as I had been forced to do in Argentina.  And ah, oh yes, I would now be able to clean the connection of the HF radio antenna cable above the frame, about two meters up the backstay.  These would be what Arnold would term "piggy back" jobs which would provide great yield at the cost of a modest lengthening of the solar panel  project.

Before leaving the boat I lashed down the panels with rope.  The wind was gusty and I hoped that it would be calmer the next day because otherwise I would have to postpone the removal.

I arrived at the boat at about 9 AM on Saturday morning and by the time Stephen arrived at 10 AM there were only two partially loosened screws holding down each panel and they were ready for extraction. The gang plank was in place for easy movement between the boat and the side finger jetty.  The wind had calmed down to a steady breeze. 

The planning and preparation went well because the operation went like clockwork.  We slide each panel forward off the frame then carried it to my X-Trail.  Two  hours later Stephen was on his way home in his car to await the arrival of the panels.
New Panel
Specifications

I returned that afternoon and spent several hours polishing the upper reaches of the cockpit stainless steel platform that were now easily accessible.

On Sunday morning I removed the tail of the Rutland wind charger.  This proved to be more difficult than I had expected because the area where the mild steel tail interfaced with the stainless steel shaft of the wind charger had swelled with corrosion and I had to work hard using liberal amounts of WD-40 and a hammer to break the seals.  Had I waited another year I would have been in big trouble with the removal.

Back home that afternoon I spent more than an hour using a wire brush on the angle grinder to remove the paint and rust from the mild steel tail then laid on a coat of Wattyl Killrust metal primer.
Rutland tail cleaned and primed

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Different Solar Controller

I investigated on the net the Powertech MPPT solar controller that I had purchased and was disturbed by the adverse reviews.  I then did more investigation and began to wonder if I really wanted the latest MPPT rather than the older PWM technology. The issue was reliability.  It appeared to me that the MPPT techonogy involved a lot of clever technology that rendered, using my term, high-strung equipment that was more likely to fail than the staid old PWM equipment.  MPY was fine for $700 equipment, but would be OK for $250 equipment?


This afternoon I visited Jaycar requesting a refund and I explained to Daniel the manager my reasons. referring to my simple Arrid controller that had supported me through my 5-year circumnavigation through many gales and storms and was still working well.  I told him that far out at sea I valued reliability more than glitzy performance.   He conceded that PWM controllers are more reliable because they rely more on hardware and less on electronics.  After some discussions I agreed to have a look at the Powertech MP-3722 PWM controller and accepted it with a $40 refund.  The controller has only a 1-year warranty but Daniel told me that he would make things good beyond 1 year.

One advantage is that the PWM version is smaller than the MPPT version and might slot in physically nicely in place of the Arrid.

Back at the house I googlesnooped Powertech the company and found it to be a serious Taiwanese company of world wide stature.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New Solar Panels and Controller

For a while I've been seeing signs that solar panel (photovoltaic) technology has been getting better and better and I thought that it was time to upgrade Pachuca's solar panels in conjunction with the battery upgrade.  I did some googlesnooping (new word) and found that Battery World sold panels that were slightly narrower and longer than the existing panels but would fit comfortably on the boat's cockpit frame.  I ordered two of the panels during my next visit to Battery World and they were  delivered to the shop a few days later.

The panels have about the same area as the current panels but they are rated at 150 watts each compared with the 65 watt rating of the current panels.  This is significant: more than doubling the amount of solar power on a cruising boat is a very big deal.  Noel Brennan the Franchisee offered me a generous discount and I got both of the panels for $700.
Note Dimensions on box

A few weeks later I realized that I would need to upgrade the boat's solar panel controller to take 30 amps, given that the rated 300 watts of the pair of panels would deliver 25 amps (Yes!)  After some research I visited Jaycar in Midland looking for a particular Powertech model and was lucky to have a very switched on man attend to me.   He recommended a solar charge controller with the relatively new MPPT technology, given that it would deliver 30-40% more power to the batteries.  He explained how this magic worked and it made sense to me, thus seemed worth the extra $30.  So I purchased a Powertech MPPT solar charge controller, model MP-3735 for $259.

Later I had another googlesnoop and read the following:

The most recent and best type of solar charge controller is called Maximum Power Point Tracking or MPPT. MPPT controllers are basically able to convert excess voltage into amperage. ... With a PWM charge controller used with 12v batteries, the voltage from the solar panel to the charge controller typically has to be 18v.
New Controller

So the magic is attained by utilizing the excess voltage to amperage, something an ordinary controller cannot do.  Another web site confirmed efficiency gains up to 30%, and the following site specifies gains in the range 10-40%: https://www.victronenergy.com/blog/2014/07/21/which-solar-charge-controller-pwm-or-mppt/

I am not absolutely sure that MPPT will be useful for my 2-panel setup but at an extra cost of $30 it is worth the shot, particularly if I am correct in thinking that the panels are wired in series.

I'll begin the installation of the new solar system in the next few days.

Strapping Down the New Batteries

The batteries amidships in below the seats are strapped down with strong webbing from my old lifelines and for good measure a board securely fastened using hinges.  The batteries cannot slide around because they rest inside perimeters of wood.

Starboard Battery

Port Battery

Under the cockpit I was able to use the original strap down system but had to put rubber packing above the shorter Fullriver battery aft, under the autopilot linear arm.
Under Cockpit

Closeup under cockpit with Fullriver battery aft under linear arm

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