Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hatch Board Storage

On SummerPlace, there is no convenient place to store the hatch boards while sailing. Usually, I bury them under the pillows in the forward stateroom for a day sail. When we go out for a few days on a cruise, they're often under foot and have to moved from time to time. I could just toss them into the cockpit locker but want to keep them looking good and not all scratched up. This project addresses the issue by giving them a proper and secure home for all occasions.

A flat, narrow box was constructed from plywood. Hinged at the bottom and mounted in the port cockpit locker, the box tips out for loading the boards and then folds up and out of the way for storage. A divider built into the box, keeps the boards from banging into each other. The outside dimensions are 25w x 22h x 2.75d

The setup is secure, quick and easy to use, and will likely replace the bed pillows if it ever stops raining long enough to actually go sailing.

Update: Since the photos were taken, I added a latch to secure the box in the upright stowed position. The bungee cord is eliminated.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Batteries

SummerPlace came to us in 2009 with four group 27 wet cell batteries, their history unknown. Last year, they didn't perform very well. After an overnight at anchor, the bank couldn't deliver enough power to brew a pot of coffee using the inverter. The inverter shut down due to low voltage. The decision was made to replace the batteries this spring.
I considered the options including use of four 6-volt golf cart batteries wired in series-parallel to create a 480 amp hour bank and addition of a fifth starting battery.

I finally decided on four 12-volt AGM (Absorbed Glass Matt) maintenance-free batteries with 3 of them wired in parallel for 315 amp hours and the fourth reserved for starting. Even though the capacity of the installation is less, it fits our needs, eliminates maintenance hassles, and total cost was about the same. I also reasoned that a fifth battery to increase capacity could be added later.

I checked West Marine and found a cost of $307 per battery. Reading internet forum posts on the subject. I discovered that West Marine AGM batteries are made by an outfit called East Penn. They sell exactly the same battery under the "Deka" brand for $237 each - a project savings of $280. for exactly the same part.

Today, I drove over to the East Penn office in Portland and picked up four of the Dekas. While at the will-call door I smiled seeing pallets of batteries with the West Marine Label on them.

It pays ($280 in this case) to do your homework and shop around.

To complete the project, new battery boxes were built and the battery cables rebuilt to remove excess length and replace the end terminals

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Winch Upgrade

Summer Place has an electric winch. Its really an anchor windlass/capstan mounted and used as a winch -- a nice amenity when sailing single-handed or sending someone up the mast. The one on Summer Place however, had a very awkward placement (see photo) of the switch forcing you to stand on one leg while (trying to) depressing a very stiff foot switch on the coaming with your toe as you tail the winch. Its a very finicky switch too and must be pressed just so. It'd probably work fine if mounted on the floor so you could stand on it with all your weight. But not here...

I decided a foot switch on the floor was the way to go and bought a waterproof one on Ebay for 20 bucks. Its the kind used for electric trolling motors.

As I dug into the matter, I realized that the winch draws about 50 amps and uses 4 gauge wire to the battery with no solenoid. The entire 50 amps is running through the switch meaning the 2 ounce foot switch is going to have two 4 gauge wires running to it. Not good.

Back to Ebay for a solenoid. I chose one rated for 80 amps continuous duty. Another 17 bucks. With a solenoid, the switch will handle less than 1 amp allowing for use of a small and flexible wire. I chose to use 16 gauge.

Next, I fabricated a StarBoard housing for the foot switch, installed the cord and a cigarette lighter style plug on the end. The plug has a fuse built into it to prevent any short circuit.

The foot switch plugs into an existing outlet on the sidewall of the cockpit just below the seat. The plug is wired to the solenoid which dutifully activates the winch when you step on the switch.

Now, you can use the electric winch from any position in the cockpit to raise the sail, go up the mast, or retrieve the dinghy. Afterward, the switch can be disconnected and put away so its not underfoot.