Looooong Month of Projects

What the salon has looked like for most of the last month…

We’ve been more than a little slow about a new post. I kept intending to make a post with some wrapped up projects, but it’s hilarious how many projects we’ve been progressing on in parallel, and just starting to wrap a bunch of them up this weekend. I’ve basically been either working, eating, sleeping, or projecting every waking hour for the last month, with a very few exceptions to go have some fun out and about with Hannah. I’m definitely excited to almost be through the meat of the list and soon being able to take a night off without feeling like I’m going to get screwed on shipping new parts.

I’ve been digging into projects, but Hannah’s been getting some decent pole time in between the seemingly endless windstorms

We bit off a huge list of stuff to get through while in Cocoa, knowing that this was going to be our only shot to get long-lead-time items shipped for basically another year, short of maybe shoving more crap into poor John and Joan’s garage while we work our way up the coast. With one week to go until our departure, I’m happy to say that we’ve gotten through most stuff, and, more importantly, everything ordered ended up arriving in time!

All of the ground tackle (anchoring equipment) that came with the boat was undersized. Fine for calm weekends in the Bahamas, but on a boat of this size, riding out a substantial storm scared us. We ended up swapping out the anchor chain from 5/16″ to 3/8″ G43, which required also swapping out the windlass chainring. The anchor itself was also undersized, so we swapped out for a much bigger unit. We loved the Rocna we got on the last boat, but my research indicated that the Mantus was at least as good as the Rocna for everything, with some better holding characteristics in a few bottom conditions, so I ended up grabbing their 105 lb anchor. It comes in a flatpack box and requires assembling, which feels a little weird, but if it saves a couple hundred bucks on freight shipping, I’ll take it. After assembling everything and test deploying, we found out that the 3/8″ chain hilariously doesn’t quite smoothly run through our anchor lock, so we ended up having to upgrade that too. Finally, we decided to try these Imtra colored link centers for marking how much chain we’d put out instead of spray painting. We’ll let you know how they work out this spring.

The dinghy did end up coming back a few days after our last post, but it kicked off a whole bunch of work/rework. They had no idea what to do with the electronics I’d sent them and left everything in a half-finished state, so I had to take a long day and rework a bunch of the wiring, installing the NMEA 2000 stuff and other electronics. It’s possible that we got what we paid for, trying out the v1 version of a new dinghy company. Then our mounts on the swim step were very misaligned to the dinghy, which kicked off a long iteration cycle to re-drill a bunch of holes to get it sitting nicely in place. Then we have no idea how anyone ever “secured” a dinghy to this platform, since there’s only two tiny eyelets in very weird places, so we custom ordered some beefy SS ratchet straps and installed four beefy eyelets to keep our precious dinghy secure under the high seas we know we’ll encounter in the next several years.

Lots of the various panels on the boat were questionably wired up with modifications since it was created, and I’ve been fixing them one by one. The boat had two different stereos for three zones, with super wacky wiring, so I just consolidated everything to a single stereo that managed all three zones. Then we figured out that half the speakers on the boat were blown or also miswired. I had to diagnose and fix the wiring for all of the lights on the back of the boat. We had to contact the maker of our watermaker to figure out how to properly connect it to a NMEA 2000 network since it was wired up backwards and I couldn’t tell whether it was intentional or not. I added a bunch more lights to the office since it was set up as a bedroom before, which required a remarkable amount of tearing apart of things. The boat came with whale pumps for the showers, which required you manually managing a button mid shower for when you got tired of water being up to your ankles, so we quickly tired of it and switched out for shower boxes with float switches. Now our showers are delightfully not gross mini-baths.

The toilets came with an idiot light for when the holding tank was full, but no gauge, so I had to come up with a way to put external gauges on the tanks that I could view over the network, and ended up installing a little Maretron DSM410 NMEA 2000 monitoring screen. We installed a grill, which the boat never had before. New (non-broken) window covers finally came in for the bedroom (the previous owners ordered them in December), and we installed them today, so we can finally have proper blackout in the morning. We got the boat pumped out last week and were told that one side didn’t want to clear, so I jumped down into the hold and popped the vent tube off, and suddenly it pumped out. So then we got to spend a long afternoon removing the vent system and debugging — ended up hogging out the clogged vents while everything we own smelled like poop for the day. Lots and lots of little awkward and time-consuming projects that mostly required a bunch of research.

The biggest, and still ongoing, project has been the power system conversion. The boat had mostly original factory stuff, which was a very basic inverter and fairly limited house capacity (four 4D AGMs), with some other stuff really poorly hacked in over the years. I decided that the current system was basically throwaway for our purposes and to go absolutely bananas. I started by ordering a ridiculous amount of LiFePO4 batteries (30 kWh), which had a 6 week lead time from China. More absurdly, I decided that I wanted to try moving to a 48V house system, due to all of the ways it makes wiring simpler, increased charging speeds, increased conversion efficiency to AC, etc.

Once it’s all finished, I’m going to be writing an enormous post about it and all of its trials and tribulations, but for now, we’re up and running on a 48V house system, with 100% of our AC loads going through two Victron Quattro inverters. We’re alpha testing a new bidirectional DC-DC converter/charger from Wakespeed to power the 12V loads (the vast majority of the boat), so that will be an ongoing exercise. I can happily run multiple air conditioners on the boat overnight on battery power, which is both pretty sweet, and also wildly absurd. But mostly, without being ridiculous, we can both work on computers for days straight, even with no solar, before having to run the generator.

After forgetting about needing to do it for much of the month, we finally found a local vinyl fabricator who could make the transparent logos we needed, and they installed our first round of decals. We’re finally legal! (since we registered as Highwind, running around as Salty Paws was … questionable.)

Since I still had the St. Patty’s Day suit on the boat, I had to bust it out for zoom calls all day on Wednesday, and then we went out and got dinner and dessert in Cocoa for the evening

The last major project of the month has been getting a new radar tower for the boat. We needed a good spot to put all of the internet and wifi extending equipment, as well as a pile of other misc instruments, all of which need to be quickly removable to clear low bridges. After researching options, I talked to Seaview in January, and they actually had a really great custom fabrication wing. A few rounds of iteration later, we designed a hinged system that can hold everything we currently need, with a little room for expansion down the line, with ~5 weeks of lead time for the custom build.

This week, it showed up, packaged incredibly well, on a pallet that took a lot of sledgehammering to disassemble! Of course, like all of our other freight shipments, YRC literally dropped it on the street in front of the marina and drove away, so, you know, screw those guys. Prepping for the mast install, I’d been ordering parts for a while — metal plates, bolts, all of the electronics to go on the mast, etc. Hannah’s been carefully navigating a giant pile of boxes upstairs for weeks, and will be unbelievably excited for the pile to finally go away instead of invading her yoga space.

Today’s primary job was disassembling the old, smaller, hinged mast, and un-running all of the wires to the old Glomex TV antenna and Raymarine radar and GPS system. The old system used wires run straight through the roof instead of through the mast, so there were a lot of holes to dig out and later fill up with 4200. The mast itself was attached to a weird extended plate that turned out to be made out of fiberglass, and was very very securely glued to the roof, so removing it ended up taking a bunch of gel coat off with it. Oops. At least I finally ended up getting to use my new oscillating multitool, and damn is that a great toy.

After spending basically the whole day on it, we got the old system completely off, filled up the old holes with filler and sealed it all up with 4200 to dry overnight, measured up and drilled holes in all the appropriate layers and plates, and finally bolted up the new hinge base. There’s now a nice 2″ hole clear from inside the skylounge up into the hinged mast setup, and it’s bolted down with 1/2″ bolts with a foot square aluminum backing plate. And there’s a tube and a half of 4200 slowly drying around everything. I gotta say it was a weird feeling digging straight through the ceiling into the upstairs room with a 2″ hole saw. Tomorrow, if all goes well, we’ll get all of the electronics up on the new mast and wired into the dash and the router setup.

We have a bunch more smaller projects to finish up this week, but we’ve scheduled our departure from Cocoa for next Saturday, the 27th. So hopefully we’ll be heading north, and with any luck, the boat still drives. After how much crap I’ve changed this month, you never know.

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