Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wires and smoke

Crimp, solder, shrink

I spent an evening last week wiring the cockpit GX2150 VHF radio to the loud hailer speaker and the new dedicated antenna, and adding an NMEA183 data link between the radio and our HDS-8 chart plotter.  The VHF now gets GPS data from the chart plotter so all of the AIS and distress functions finally work as expected.  In all, there were 3 cables with 18 connectors and, since they are fairly exposed to the sea air, each connection got the full treatment: crimp the terminal, then solder, then heat shrink the connection.  While I have slacked off the 3 stage process for many of our interior connections, I did not want to have to revisit those in the cockpit.

The GX2150 VHF radio includes all of the functionality of Automated Information System (AIS) in the radio and uses the existing VHF antenna.  It has a small display showing a top down view centered on our boat with all commercial ships and any AIS equipped pleasure craft at relative range and bearing.  For each, you can see who they are and the speed and direction they are travelling.  An alarm can be configured for minimum Closest Point of Approach (CPA).  An added benefit is: to Digital Selective Call (DSC) a specific boat is as simple as highlighting a vessel on the display and pressing the CALL button.  None of that built-in functionality is available until the radio has a GPS position, hence the need to tie it to the chart plotter.  A big benefit is that the AIS vessel information is now also overlaid on the chart plotter making it even easier to determine who and what you are seeing around you.
VHF radio with AIS screen
Triangle is an AIS vessel

Batteries and smoke

I was under the weather for a couple days last week but Friday afternoon we had far too much activity.  In hindsight it would have been much cheaper to have stayed sick.  In the early afternoon we called to order the four Trojan T-125 batteries from, the folks who had the best delivered internet price.  After taking our order the salesman told us he could deliver but their local distribution point was right near us if we wanted to just pick them up.  Long story longer, we hopped in the car and drove to Clearwater for them.

The next morning I had a hearty breakfast then started moving the 3 old batteries out of the engine room and moving the 4 new ones in.  I had to make some new battery cables but the swap went relatively problem free.  Then I remembered the battery charger ... in hooking up the very last ground wire for the charger, it slipped from my hand and brushed across a terminal on the "wrong" side of the circuit breaker for the almost new Blue Sky solar controller.  A small flash was followed by the dreaded smell of burning dollar bills.  When reattached to power, the controller powered up and the display showed battery voltage, but the solar panel current showed 0.0 even though the input voltage was 30 volts.  Sigh.  Got a return authorization number and the controller is now winging its way back to California.  I hope the panels are okay.

Luckily, the factory drawings for the batteries were accurate.  Inside the existing in-build fiberglass battery box, the height of the new batteries leaves about 1/8" free and I think there is a whopping 1/4" free at the end of the box.  It sure is nice to see Trojan didn't fudge their numbers!  We kept one of the original 12V batteries, now strapped into a separate battery box, for use as a spare starting battery.

Ice cream!

The other event that made Friday busy was an evening phone call from a guy jockeying an 18-wheel semi through Demens Landing Park trying to find our marina.  We hoofed it out and found he was delivering the Isotherm DR-55 drawer freezer we had ordered only days before from  Now that was fast service!  On Sunday, Julio helped with the install and we now have a huge (for a boat) frost-free drawer freezer that will make long term provisioning much easier.  We had chosen that unit because it (just) fit the available space and is very energy efficient - it only draws 1.5 Amps average from 12V maintaining 0 degrees internally in 75 degrees ambient temperature.
The ice cream carton fits perfectly!

Final portholes

The rest of Sunday was spent getting the last two portholes in.  It took almost 2 years, but we now have replaced 15 of the original 16 30-year old plastic portholes with new stainless steel ones from New Found Metals.  The 16th porthole, the one in the galley, is not going to be replaced.  It would take too much deconstruction of the galley to gain access and is so far removed it really would not admit any useful light or air flow anyway.  We will leave that plastic one dogged and stow the last new porthole as a spare along with the drilling template just in case.  The RotoZip cutter will be a gift to Julio when he comes back to install the aft deck box he is building for us.

A hidden seacock!

Yesterday a minor leak at the galley sink drain turned into a very wet problem.  I found we had a seacock I didn't know about lurking behind the refrigerator compressor under the shelf beneath the galley sink.  Since I didn't know it was there, I did not exercise it when we were hauled out and, of course, it refused to budge now :(  Working on the sink drain was a very wet process with the water line just below the bottom of the sinks, but we got new seals on all the leaky bits.  Now we have to give all the salt water soaked wood and things a fresh water bath then let everything dry.

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