Is that guy drifting?

We are watching The Money Pit at anchor with the boat slowly changing direction as the wind changes.

Caroline: We have a new neighbor, that boat was not there before.

Me: Welp, I guess I can’t run the genset to top off the batteries.

30 minutes pass…

Caroline: Is that guy moving? Hey, I think he is drifting!

We hailed the boat on the radio with no response so we jumped into the dinghy to give a hand. Banged on the boat and an older gentlemen eventually came out half dressed. “What is goin’ on?”

Sir, you are drifting and are about 20 feet from the rocks. Can you fire up your engine so we can help you back to your mooring ball?

A few minutes later he was tied up.

Little bit of drama in the anchorage.

Caroline and India run everything

The entire boat is set up so India and Caroline can run everything when my job takes me someplace crazy. 

We got a super lightweight dinghy so they can move it. (Of course they have never had to because there have always been SeaGlass boys nearby).

The winches are oversized and the anchor is double stout. 

We even bought a generator after making darn sure Caroline and India could lift it. We store this generator in one of the engine compartments. 

This morning Caroline wanted to make water and do laundry. The latter requires the generator. Caroline went to lift the genset out of the engine compartment and could not get it up and out. I asked India to help without looking as I want the girls to be self sufficient. 

After lots of grunting I got up to take a look at India doing an awesome squat workout with no success. 

Me: Take the bungle cord off the generator and it’ll lift out.

The girls: glares back at me. 

We were making water a short while later. 

Geek Post: Waponi Woo Power Systems

When we bought the Waponi Woo she had 800 AH of AGM batteries. This means that we had 400AH of actual energy to use while off shore.

While 400AH sounds like quite a bit the the average household in the WA state uses around 1041 KWH of energy per month (35 KWH/day, 289 AH/Day) Coverting KWH to AH is :[Kwh = AH * V / 1000], assume 120VAC. Per <https://www.electricchoice.com/blog/electricity-on-average-do-homes/>

The batteries were also approaching 10 years of use. Most AGMs, when treated well can last 7+ years with declining energy storage. Around July of last year we had to run our small generator to get enough power into the batteries to get one engine started. We would then run that engine long enough to get the second engine started. I would usually do this in a serepticious manner as to not let the inlaws know how bad the power systems were! “I am just warming up the genset/engine etc..!”

Waponi Woo also lacked any AC power when we left the dock outside of a small inverter under the navigation station in the salon. (Translation: Under the wall of radios in the living room). This tiny inverter was not even up to the task of charging a laptop. India would howl that her electronics were ‘dead’ when we left for a sail.

With some windfall from Caroline’s business we decided to upgrade our power systems to something more complete. My goal was to be able to unplug from the dock and not have to reboot anything or even realize we were away from the dock.

Requirements

  1. Batteries. We were going lithium. Caroline and I manage a few remote radio sites in WA state. We use AGM batteries at these sites. AGM batteries have 2 advantages and a heap of disadvantages. The two advantages are no acid leaks and cheaper cost. Some of the disadvantages are being unable to use 1/2 of the capacity you purchased without doing some damage to the chemistry, the requirement that you top them off and float the batteries as often as possible, the lack of cycles available over their lifespan and their weight.
  1. Inverter/Charger. We wanted an inverter that would handle EVERYTHING AC at the same time on the boat. I wanted to be able to unplug from shore and just keep on going. Bonus: The inverter should also be a battery charger. One less component.
  1. Solar. I talk about my inlaws pretty often so most of you know they live off-grid via solar and hydro. Caroline and I love this lifestyle and I know she wants to emulate it somehow. We wanted solar. Caroline hates the generator as does everyone around us. To be honest it is not very loud but something about silent power from the sky attracts us.
  1. Monitoring. We wanted to monitor the system in an easy to grasp method. I am a geek that likes to monitor things. Caroline likes to know what is happening without having to ask me to explain what is happening. Simple diagrams and graphs help these things.

Research

I did quite a bit of research and aways went back to the Technomadia site. Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard have been geeks on the road for some time now. I occasionally binge-read their blog and have watched them move from a very small trailer being towed by a diesel jeep to a refurbished bus with all the proper power systems. Chris and Cherie; I never paid a subscription fee and I am sorry. Hopefully people reading this entry drive traffic to your site.

With all of this research and much Caroline convincing we finally decided on what we were going to do.

The parts

Batteries.

We went with a 500Ah LiFeMnPO4 lithium battery bank from Starlight Solar. The battery bank is more of a battery system than a bank. LiFeMnPO4 batteries need some monitoring to make sure individual cells don’t exceed the safe specifications of the chemicals within. To this end, each cell of the batteries has a monitoring board on top of it. This board tracks the charge of the cell and the temperature. Should anything go bad these boards tell the battery management computer (BMS) to shut down any incoming or outgoing energy from the battery bank.

We received the batteries via ground freight and I was able to install them a few weeks after receipt. During installation I removed the old AGMs and the boat lifted out of the water about 2 inches. Waponi Woo looked like a 1960’s Hotwheels car with big tires in the back and small ones in the front. I was going to carry the batteries up the dock to the truck for recycling right then but then I saw that the tide was a -6 or something. I had a soda and waited for the moon to do the heavy lifting.

The new 500AH pack also takes up less than 1/2 of the space of the 800AH AGM bank. I now have space for a watermaker on the port side of the boat.

The BMS requires that all incoming and outgoing power be on a dedicated busbar. The f-ing-french boat I own has random cables attached to random locations on the 4 batteries on the port side and 4 batteries on the starboard side. All of this wiring had to be drug to the starboard side of the boat and combined into a single busbar.

Inverter/Charger.

We went with a Victron Energy Multiplus 12/3000/120-50 Inverter/Charger 120V This thing allows us to run everything on board via AC as well as charge the battery.

One of the best features of this device is the ability to dial down the AC input. Are you at a good marina with a solid 30A power supply? Great, allow 30A of input. Are you at a bad marina with only 15A of power on a 30A plug and you keep tripping the breaker? Then dial it down to 15A. The dialing feature also allows for us to use our 2KW Honda generator without blowing it out with a demand for higher amperage.

Another cool thing this inverter/charger does is draw from battery during peak loads. If you kick on an AC motor or something that requires more power than your generator of bad AC connection allows then the inverter draws from both the battery and the shore power. It will do this for a LONG time as we discovered while at anchor one night.

Solar.

img_0567 img_0568

We waited until we got to LaPaz for solar. We wanted to place an arch between the two hulls of Waponi Woo to support the panels and the best price and artistry with a welder was in La Paz. Even with a hefty discount in the US, solar panels were cheaper in Mexico. We now have three 265W Kyocera panels sitting on top of our arch. These panels feed into a Victron MPPT 150V / 70A charge controller

Monitoring.

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-11-15-08-am

We chose to use some more expensive gear in order to safely monitor it in a user friendly way. To this end we have a 2 graphical displays in the living room. The first is the Victron BMV-700 Battery Monitor This small dial simply gives us state of charge information and AH usage stats in real time. The display can be confusing as it is so simple. Think of it as a fuel gauge with some extra options. This device also translates data from its sensors to a second, more colorful monitor, the Victron Color Control.

The Color Controller allows us to change Amperage draw settings and see with moving dots how much power each part of the boat is using and charging with. Super easy to understand.

The Color Controller also uploads data every 15 minutes to a public site so we can see historical usage. When we are off-line it stores the data until it can forward it.

All of this text demands pictures. Here is a simple schematic showing the various pieces and how they go together. Pink is control wires to let the alternators talk to each other. Green is DC power. Blue is control cabling and Red is AC power.

schematic

I also have another diagram showing pictures of each of the devices here:

images

The solar panels were hooked up about 3 days ago. We are now into our second day of being unplugged at the dock simulating what it is like out at sea. We are doing ‘ok’ even with some cloudy days. I am looking into more solar. MOAR SOLAR!

I’ll have some other geek posts coming up as I have time. I know people want to know all about communications and how we do it.

The Dangers of Mexico

My parents traveled down from Sandpoint, ID towing their Airstream with the Baja Winters caravan. The caravan disbanded in Los Barilles for about eighteen days to give everyone some free time. It was here my mother encountered one of the most dangerous tasks one can undertake in Mexico. We warned her to be careful; she was told it wasn’t safe and to keep her guard up but she didn’t listen. She was fortunate; she escaped with bruises and a broken bone. It will be six to eight weeks before she really starts to recover from the surgery; she will dance again.

What happened?

She walked on the sidewalk.

A cover was missing from a utility hole and she walked right into it. To be fair, I did the exact same thing in Cabo San Lucas and was lucky enough to walk away with just a few bruises.

After two days of futile waiting for the swelling to go down, my parents drove to La Paz to get an x-ray. Sure enough, it was a broken ankle, which required some plates and pins. The surgery was performed within a few hours in a private hospital. The quality of care was wonderful. It is now four days post surgery and she is getting around La Paz with a combination of crutches and a borrowed wheelchair.

My mom being rolled down the dock with her newly repaired ankle.

My mom being rolled down the dock with her newly repaired ankle.

Tonight we are going to view the Carnaval parade. India is trying to talk me into joining her on some upside-down rides. I am going to attempt to bribe one of our other current guests (we have multiple visitors right now) into doing this with her in my stead. She is young and recovers more quickly.

And we thought our boat was big.

Until Mr Spielberg’s* ship came cruising into the harbor.

Mousetrap’s beam is bigger than our length.

India has already informed us that this huge boat was completely acceptable to her as a means of transport.

Stats: http://www.charterworld.com/index.html?sub=yacht-charter&charter=sailing-yacht-vplp-7480

*This is a rumor and it is darn near impossible to find out if it is his or not.

The Baja Ha-Ha: We Made It!

The morning of October 31st we left San Diego for Cabo San Lucas with the Baha Ha-Ha Rally. Captain Paul Wright joined us as crew for the trip. We were incredibly grateful he was able to join us as this was India’s first overnight passage and we were quite sure how she was going to handle it. (She handled it like a pro)

The fleet leaving San Diego Bay.

The fleet leaving San Diego Bay.

Leg One: San Diego to Bahia Tortugas (Turtle Bay) 376.5nm 50hours 36minutes

There was a rolling start in San Diego due to light winds. A few hours after the official start they stopped the rolling start and everyone turned off their engines and started putting up their light air sails. We hoisted the Parasailor in light wind and headed almost directly to Turtle Bay under sail.

As the evening progressed, the winds picked up a little. The swell picked up but remained consistent and on our stern or quarter. Paul took the first watch, I took the second and Ryan took the third. When Ryan was on shift he noticed our brand-new Parasailor was damaged. He snuffed it and we continued on with white sails. The weather continued to give us a nice push all the way to the anchorage in Turtle Bay.

Anchoring in Turtle Bay was quick and easy compared to some of the places we have attempted to drop our hook. We only had to set it once. There were two Fountaine Pajots in the bay. We lowered the dinghy and buzzed over to them to ask them about their boats. It’s still a little odd seeing all the catamarans around us. We are so used to be the only cat around. After our little detour to see the other Fountaines we headed to shore.

Turtle Bay (Bahia Tortugas)

My first land fall in Mexico was on the beach in Turtle Bay. The surf was pretty mild and there was always someone willing to help you land your dinghy for a dollar or two. The rule was $1 for landing the dinghy and another $1 when we return for watching the dinghy. This system seemed to work well for each landing.

The highlights of Turtle Bay:

  1. India played catcher at the Ha-Ha baseball game.
  2. India and I landed our paddleboards on the beach in a not very graceful fashion. We were both flipped in the surf.
  3. The kid boats all went on a hike and got to know each other a little better.
  4. Paul and I went to the grocery store to purchase more fruit, veggies and bread.
  5. Ryan walked to the fuel station to get diesel.

There were a lot of restaurants in Turtle Bay which appeared to exist only for the Ha-Ha.

The morning of the November 5th we left on Leg Two.

Leg Two: Bahia Tortugas to Bahia Santa Marina 235.3nm 37 hours

Turtle Bay to Santa Maria was a partial motor. We lost our wind over the first night and kicked on an engine to push us the rest of the way. While we weren’t moving as fast as leg one, we made good time and Ryan and Paul managed to reel in a few fish.

Wahoo!

Wahoo!

Another Ha-Ha boat and a spectacular sunset as we made our way to Bahia Santa Maria.

Another Ha-Ha boat and a spectacular sunset as we made our way to Bahia Santa Maria.

Ryan enjoying the view and smooth seas.

Ryan enjoying the view and smooth seas.

Our friends from Black Watch trying to catch some wind.

Our friends from Black Watch trying to catch some wind.

The first fish was a tuna. Fish number two was a giant wahoo. (we threw him back because there was no way we could eat him) Fish three was a marlin. The marlin outran the boat, turned back and took 180 yards of line with him before we lost the line. We discovered fishing is really useful for breaking the monotony of a long passage. We also decided we are going to need more fishing gear.

Bahia Santa Maria

We approached Santa Maria at night. The bay is surrounded by shoals and fishing boats. Paul and I stood on the bows with lights to make sure we were visible and weren’t going to catch any lobster pots. This process was made more nerve-wracking by the flying fish whizzing by. After an hour we cleared all charted obstacles and dropped our hook.

Upon waking we discovered a large bay with warm turquoise blue water. I was the first to jump in. Ryan followed soon after. The water was wonderful. It felt like I was on vacation. We swam that morning before India invited all the kids over to swim. Before we knew it, Waponi Woo was overrun with kids.

The gaggle of kids swimming at Bahia Santa Maria.

The gaggle of kids swimming at Bahia Santa Maria.

The next morning Ryan replaced some zincs and we headed to shore for the beach party. India spent most of our time here making new friends. I could have stayed longer.

On the last night we picked up two additional crew members. Kelly and Bill were on a boat with some engine and electrical issues. They had a plane to catch in Cabo and were concerned they would miss it so we invited them along.

Sunset at Bahia Santa Maria

Sunset at Bahia Santa Maria

Leg Three: Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas 184nm 37 hours

Our final trip to Cabo San Lucas was a long motor with no wind. We did catch some additional fish. Fish four and five were tuna that we reeled in at the same time. Fish number five, and the final fish we caught, was a dorado. We threw the dorado back before he lost his pretty color.

haha-1-4

Tuna and dorado

Tuna and dorado

The afternoon of day two we were anchoring in nine feet of crystal clear water and white sand off the beach of Cabo San Lucas.

Cabo San Lucas is just around the corner. The water really is that blue.

Cabo San Lucas is just around the corner. The water really is that blue.

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo was like Vegas. After the first day, the anchorage became really rolly. We swam to the beach on the second day and had a very exciting panga ride back. I have bruises from getting into the panga and just about had to leap back onto the bucking boat. We decided to head out after two nights in Cabo; there was a storm coming we wanted to avoid and none of us were really impressed with Cabo.

Unofficial Leg Four: Cabo San Lucas to La Paz: 187.1nm 32 hours

We left Cabo under sail. After completing our first tack, we turned on an engine as we were headed into the wind. Our SOG was 1.8nm/h. We were going to have to run both engines to get through this; my fuel numbers had assumed we would be running on one engine the majority of the last leg. I decided we needed to head back to San Jose Del Cabo for fuel.

A few hours later we pulled up to the fuel dock in San Jose Del Cabo and filled our tank and jerry cans. The marina here was pretty quiet and empty. In just a few days the marina would be rafting boats together to get out of the weather. At this point we lost about five hours from doubling back and were ready to head out. It was also at this point the port engine decided not to start.

It was hot; there was no wind in the marina. Paul did some trouble-shooting in a hot engine compartment while a marina employee paced in front of us. Forty-five minutes and a hammer got the engine started. We headed out back into the weather. The rest of the trip was a beating.

Rover being done with passages.

Rover being done with passages.

The wind was 20-25 on the nose. Paul and India had an opportunity to become intimately familiar with bridge slap and we all battled varying degrees of seasickness. We pulled into La Paz ready for rest.

We would like to give a special thank you to Paul for all of his help!