Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hot Water

Everyone takes it for granted that when you turn on a hot water faucet you get hot water. On a boat it isn’t so. It takes a LOT of energy to heat water from 65 deg in the tank to 120 deg in a hot water heater. Unless we are plugged into a dock, we would let the engine do this job. When the engine was running, hot engine coolant water ran through a heat exchanger in the hot water heater and it would heat up the tank. With the new solar panels, we don’t run the engine any more so, no hot water! To compensate, I decided to tap into our boats heating system and use it to heat the water in the hot water heater. On paper, it’s a simple procedure, remove the engine supply line to the heat exchanger and tap into the boiler lines as a source of heat. Yea, simple. Now, 6 hours later, 2 trips to the store and after taking a “spray” bath in ethylene glycol, the basic plumbing is done. Now, all I need to do is bleed the air out of the lines and give it a try but, that’s for tomorrow.
Tomorrow - Well, it works but not as well as I had hoped for. It turns out that the heat exchanger within the hot water tank does a poor job of transferring heat.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Our stove is powered by propane. We have 3 tanks, (10 lbs each) in a deck box just behind the main mast. Years ago when I first purchased Snow Goose, it had a single propane tank which sat on the deck at the rear of the boat. I figured that having the propane tank in a dedicated storage location would be safer than leaving it sit back by the cockpit. So, one of the first projects that I built for the boat was a deck box to store propane in. I wanted to upgrade from 20 lbs of capacity to 30 lbs of propane and I needed something to step on when I handled the main sail. When the project was finished, I had a nice storage box for 3 - 10 lb tanks (a 50% increase) and a place to stand on. The down side of the new propane locker was that it blocked part of the view forward from the cockpit. This is a good illustration of the positives and negatives that can result from making upgrades to your boat. In this case, good storage and better accessibility to the main sail outweighed the small lose of forward visibility. Everything on a boat is a tradeoff in one way or another.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Re-cutting a sail

The mizzen sail had to be trimmed back along the foot of the sail so as to raise the end of the boom about 4 inches. The hardest part is getting the nerve to cut up a good sail! Anna helped me mark the line on the sail that had to be trimmed. I slowly ripped the seams apart and then cut the bottom off from the sail. Then, with her help, I sewed on the new bottom edge of the sail. The new bottom corner of the sail didn’t have a hole in it any more to attach the sail to the boom with, so, I had to cut a hole in and sew a ring into place. Then I pound a brass inner ring into place to take up the strains that will be placed on the sail. I will have a whole series of pictures to show this process on the site in a few days.

Unintended consequences

I uncovered the mizzen sail today and pulled it up the mast only to discover that the mizzen boom will not clear the new panels that I have attached to the top of the biminy. What a mess! I now have solar power but, as a result, I can’t use the rear sail. Well, I could lower the biminy top (not a good option), or raise the boom. Yesterday, I unbolted the boom from the mast and moved it up the mast an inch so that it will clear the front of the panels. Tomorrow, I'll cut about 4 inches off from the mizzen sail in a thin pie shaped wedge so that I can raise the rear end of the boom, then, it will clear the back of the panels. This situation really demonstrates the unintended consequences that occur when you change one thing on a boat, that change often affects many other things in turn.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Life on the Goose isn’t all maintenance, once in a while life just gets nutty. When we stopped at Decatur Al. (back in Oct) Anna picked up bags and bags of pecans from under their pecan tree and has stored them all over the boat. At first, it drove me crazy. It seemed that every time I opened a cabinet a bag of pecans would try to attack me. But, as the months have rolled by she keeps getting them out and cracking up a bunch of nuts. Today was a shell cracking, nut picking day. In the end we had picked out about one full bowl of delicious pecans and I now, I’m looking forward to pecan pancakes, pecan toped pudding and pecan oatmeal on the cold mornings.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Used dinghy

Well, as the old saying goes, “you get what you paid for” and that’s what we got. The dinghy that we bought is a Zodiac brand which means that it is made out of PVE fabric not Hypalon. The trouble is that a PVC dinghy has a life span of 3 to 4 years down here before the heat welded seams start to come apart whereas a Hypalon fabric dinghy has a life span of 10+ years. Before we bought it, the previous owner had re-glued the entire bottom (this is where they typically come loose) but, it was still leaking at several of the corners. So, today, I found the leaks and started to patch up our patched up dinghy. It took a bit of work but now the floor has 4 more patches where there were small leaks, the transom is glued back together and the high pressure floor leak is patched. Perhaps, now we can ride in it without getting our feet wet. As for Zodiacs, I would recommend never, ever buying one unless you plan to use it for a only few years before you sell it to people from Michigan!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Panels 6

The final results are impressive (it looks ugly but impressive)! Today, at noon, the system was producing 25+ amps and the Batteries were being charged without the ‘beast’ rumbling the background. It’s like magic! The power just keeps pouring in hour after hour. By 8 AM it started with a trickle of power and by 9 AM we were making more than we were using. Hope you enjoyed this series of posts...or was it boring? Let me know.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Panels 5

This is getting to be a book. All of this power must be controlled or the batteries would fill up with electricity and boil away. The power regulator is a special type that (through electrical magic) produces up to 30% more power than the panels actually are producing! Something to do with {power = amps x voltage} formula and using a modulated step wave to play with these values.
You want the panels to be in the sunshine but you want the regulator and circuit breakers to be completely protected from the elements. So,I placed the regulator and the circuit breakers under the side deck inside of the cockpit seats! Tomorrow, hopefully, everything comes together and we can stop using the engine.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Panels 4

The top panels went on today. The hardest part was drilling the holes in the top of the wooden bimini that I had taken so much time to build. The panels had to be bolted right through the arched beams. The tight fit of the panel to the bimini prevented me from reaching under the panel to tighten up the bolts.
So, I had to make bolts using threaded rod. Once I had cut the rod to the proper size and after I had ran it through the panel, I placed a locking nut on it thereby making my own bolt. I then used spacers to raise the panels off from the bimini top (this provides an air space for cooling). Then the panels were bolted into place. This is simple to write about but it took me most of a day to do it properly.

Panels 3

OK, this is going to be a series. The “wing” panels got installed today. Their support rods and adjusters will have to wait until the rest of the parts arrive on Monday. The company that I ordered these parts from made a mistake and forgot to put some of my parts into the order when they shipped it.
The panels use hard plastic parts as pivot brackets. I drilled and bolted these onto the panels. Then I had to get into the dinghy to install them on the outside of the Goose. It was no fun standing in the dingy with the wind blowing, holding the panel over my head as Anna slid the lifeline & tube thru the brackets but we got them on and pinned and into place.
Tomorrow, the top panels go into place and then the wiring and controller. When the entire project is done we will put all of the pictures on a Picasa web album so that you can see everything that went into the installation of these solar panels.

Panels 2

Boy, are these solar panels big! We have them in the cockpit, in the stateroom and in the living area. They have already caused one “domestic disturbance” so, today I’ve been busy installing the rails that the outer panels will rotate on. The basic design is to have two of the panels bolted down to the top of the hard cockpit cover (the biminy) and the other two attached to the life lines. They outer ones will pivot upwards with adjustable supports. They will rotate around the lifelines on stainless steel tubes that ride over the lifelines. This will allow us to tilt the panels for a better angle to the sunshine. I’m not really sure if it will work but this is the third design and I think it's a keeper.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Panels 1

The panels finally arrived today! We motored the Goose into the dock to fill the water tanks and as a bonus, we also loaded the panels onto the boat without having to carry them out in the dinghy. Right now, they’re sitting on the floor in the main living area (right in the way of everything) and I hope to start installing them tomorrow.

More Painting

The only problem with a steel boat is that it rusts. You have to keep the coating in perfect shape or the salt will get to the steel and your beautiful boat will start to weep rusty tears everywhere. Over the last 6 months we have has our share of bumps and scraps with the docks and posts along the way down here and now, the hull has some areas that need to be worked on. Since I’m doing the painting up top I might as well do the hull repairs too. Repairing the hull is a bit more involved though, first you have to scrap the offensive area to get down to the steel and then wire brush off the rust.
Then, a coat of epoxy goes on to adhere to the steel and seal the hull. This is followed by a build up coat of thickened epoxy that is sanded and refill and sanded and refilled until it’s perfectly smooth. You follow this up with layers of paint until it looks good again. If things go well, I will only have to climb into the dinghy 5 or 6 (or maybe a dozen) separate times to do these patches to the hull. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


If nothing else in paradise there’s always work to do on the boat. Today’s project is to paint the top of the Biminy before the solar panels arrive and touch up the deck paint. I had been touching up the bad areas on the biminy for the last few days and yesterday I sanded the entire top in preparation for today’s paint job. This morning, I took a tack rag to the top and got out the paint. As it turned out, it was really difficult to paint the top of the biminy.
You see, you have to roll on a coat of paint and then tip the surface off with a brush before the surface of the paint begins to take its initial set and stops flowing. Normally this takes about 2-5 minutes (depending on the temperature and the wind. Today, it was down to about 45 sec. A bright sun and a strong wind were working against me. I didn’t get the beautiful smooth paint job that I had hoped for but, it is all white and looks a lot better than it did. Next… the solar panels!