Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Shore Power Conversion & Electrical Ramblings

Lifted out of the water and propped up on the hard stand here in Trinidad, we find ourselves for the first time having to deal with 110 volt / 60 hertz AC power. Yes, we're in a USA influenced part of the world, but Crystal Blues is a 220 volt / 50 hertz vessel. It's been kind of amusing getting things sorted out, without blowing anything (or anybody) up. Most amusing is the fact that right now we have three (yes three, count 'em) separate shore power cords connected to support our quasi-camping life style here on the hard stand.

Three Different Sockets, All 60 Hz, Some 2-Phase 220v.
First, The Shore Power Supply

Our regular shore power lead is now plugged into a 30 amp 110 volt 60 hertz supply. On-board the boat, this is passes through a Mastervolt Ivet-C isolation transformer to raise the voltage to 220 volts, though it is still at 60 hertz frequency. The transformer provides voltage matching and isolates us from the marina electrical ground system.

Most of the time we can operate from this shore power supply, as (surprisingly) much of the equipment on-board is quite happy with a 60 hertz supply.  We can use our battery charger, power tools and vacuum cleaner, home appliances, hot water heater, media and computer equipment, all without problems.

Only the galley microwave, the refrigeration and the boat's central air conditioning will not run on 60 hertz. This is not a big problem right now - when we need to use the microwave we switch over to the inverter and run it off the batteries. The refrigeration and central aircon are both sea water cooled, so they cannot be run while we are out of the water anyway...

Second, Real Time Conversion

Our second connection is direct to the battery charger only.  In the long term, once we are back in the water, most of our needs in this part of the world will be met by the real time conversion process.  Shore power will go only to the Mastervolt Chargemaster 100 amp battery charger. That charger works from almost any shore supply frequency to feed the batteries up to 100 amps of (nominal) 12 volt DC power - this equals happy batteries.

At the same time, the Mastervolt Mass Sine inverter uses this DC supply to create a clean 220 volts / 50 hertz sine wave power supply (at up to 2000 watts) that will run most of the boat's systems. Once we're out of the boat yard, living afloat again, that process allows us to run even our big water cooled refrigeration compressor - the inverter starts and runs that compressor easily. In fact it will also run the central aircon, but I do feel guilty even contemplating that type of decadence at sea. Also a little embarrassed to admit that I've even tested it (which I have) ... but then again, a Tesla car runs air conditioning from a battery supply - why shouldn't we do the same ? Maybe when our batteries are bigger.

At this point we should really give thanks to Bob Wisniewski who initially opened my eyes to real time conversion and who clearly simplified our life in the 60 hertz world . Back in the year 2000, when we were refitting Crystal Blues for the first time, Bob owned and managed Power Protection Solutions in Queensland, Australia. We wanted to buy a new (single combi unit) Mastervolt Inverter/Charger from him, but Bob asked me some pertinent questions and then recommended against it.

He said that if we were staying in the Australian / Pacific / Asian region then a single unit "Combi" Inverter/Charger would be just fine. However, if we planned to cruise further afield, entering the area of 60 hertz power supply, then installing a stand alone inverter and a separate charger would serve us better - and he's right. Real Time Conversion keeps our systems running at all times, and we don't need to worry about the voltage or frequency of the shore supply. So a big thanks from us to Bob Wisniewski, whose vision is keeping our beer cold in this 60 hertz world! Note : Bob is now working with BLA in Queensland, the current Mastervolt distributor in Australia.

Third, The Air Conditioning

It is damn hot here. Power cord number three is for a rented A/C unit, provided by the boat yard, that operates on that quaint 220 volt dual phase 60 hertz system that pollutes US society.  It has no neutral conductor, so is considered kind of dangerous by us purists. It should be protected by dual pole circuit breakers at all times, but you can guess correctly that it rarely is in practice. In fact the power supply poles here do not have any circuit protection at all - no breakers, no earth leakage devices at all - yoiks. So the boat yard provides the AC unit to sit on the deck, a fiberglass housing to direct the cool air down below and the necessary 220v / 60hz cabling. That's cord number three, keeping us cool while out of the water, but definitely not plugged into the boat thank you very much.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Dirty, Dirty, People - Again - Removing The Antifouling Paint

Photo courtesy Peter Laine

Early This Morning, Speckled Progress Is Measured

Crystal Blues is looking like a speckled hyena, sitting awkwardly on the hard stand in Trinidad. We in turn are looking like wet and bedraggled coal mine workers.

Six years of accumulated paint is coming off, as we sand back to the yellow tie coat layer underneath. The black antifouling paint is quite toxic, also incredibly tough, so we're using an air powered random orbital sander and wet sanding under a water spray to eliminate the dust.

Along the way we're repairing some deep gouges caused by the (very) nasty net we hooked up off the coast of Suriname. That net dragged paint of the boat in about 20 places, initially around the waterline and then lower on the hull when the propeller twisted it up tight. In two places it went back to the steel, so we're repairing the epoxy base coat as well.

Andy Sanding With Ley On Hose Duty

After the first full day of sanding we hired someone with younger shoulders to share the load.  Our local friend Andy works freelance boat jobs in the yard here and is a practiced hand when it comes to this work.  We rotate ourselves on and off the air tool, totally dripping wet at all times, and gradually the black color is removed and the speckled hyena look takes over.  

The hard stand area here (yard web site here) is not really hard - it's a sandy soil that looks like dredging spoil. Each time it rains the entire area is boggy and soft, and in the tropical downpours there is two or three inches of water under the boat. The only positive side of all this is that we are cool, which is a pleasant change in this hot and humid climate. One more day should see the job completed and we'll move on to less onerous tasks. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

Northern Lights - Exhaust Injection Elbow Blues

Looks Good On The Outside, But Completely Rusted Out On The Inside
Our first maintenance job in Trinidad was to investigate why our Northern Lights generator was not coping with larger loads.

Valve or injector problems was the local agent's opinion (and mine), however the freelance mechanic they referred us to knew better. After asking some well focused questions he said he would pull the exhaust injection elbow off first.

I'm glad he did - it was found to be almost totally blocked by corrosion and accumulated soot.  The poor little diesel had been working against enormous back pressure for some time - no wonder it was feeling over loaded.

Now I was warned about this - my friend Dana on the sailing yacht Villa G had a similar experience. It seems that these generators are shipped from the factory with a - wait for it - cast iron injection elbow.  These just have to rust out very quickly and I think we were lucky to get over 1700 hours of service.

We did have a spare injection elbow on board, this one made from shiny cast 316L stainless steel - I'm told it will last three times as long as the cast iron version.  They just cost a little more, which is why they are considered "optional" - not standard equipment. With the new elbow fitted the machined returned to full power immediately, and we breathed a sigh of relief. This was the first part failure on our Northern Lights generator since new, we're still very impressed with the reliability.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Wildlife At Chagauramas, Trinidad

While the water at the docks in Chagauramas can be very polluted, we can still see turtles swimming in the lagoon just a few hundred meters away.

Better still, the local pelicans are very friendly and Ley was able to track and photograph this Iguana right next to the local lunch spot - the Roti Hut.

The birdlife is also prolific in this part of the world, and we'll have to work hard to stop them nesting in our boom and under our sun covers whilst we are hauled out of the water.

Mosquito Bites

At the micro end of the scale, mosquito's are evident though not really bad here.  The dreaded Zika virus is here of course and Ley was unlucky enough to catch it. However it is not as common as in nearby Grenada, where it seems that every second cruising sailor has had it. Ley is fully recovered now, after a week of discomfort, tiredness and high temperatures.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Onward To Trinidad - Preparing For Haul Out & Refit

Afternoon Thunder Storms Welcome Us To Trinidad
After two weeks in Grenada we moved onward to Trinidad, just 80 nautical miles away, in theory.  In practice that distance grew as we first sailed east and then south, avoiding an area known for robbery and occasional attacks on cruising boats - it appears that the desperate social conditions in nearby Venezuela have turned Venezuelan fishermen into opportunistic robbers.

Peaceful Conditions At Power Boats A Dock
Not a problem, we can go around it - so we sailed a large dog-leg of almost 120 nautical miles and arrived in Trinidad relaxed and looking forward to our new home.

Up until this arrival we had assumed that booking a marina berth was like booking a safe, comfortable place to berth our vessel. Not so in Trinidad it seems. Yes we had a berth, but it was a pile berth exposed to the ocean from the south. Waves would break right over the dock we were tied to in any decent southerly wind.  Hmmm - all this and it 'aint cheap my friends. No floating docks, no sea wall - but hey, it's the Caribbean, just chill man. Add another few fenders and every spring line we have, then you can sleep at night. Specially if you drink enough rum.

Tropical Storm Matthew Passes North Of Us
Some two weeks after our arrival here hurricane Matthew passed to the north of us, then unfortunately grew to Category 4 status and proceeded to tear up the island chain and threaten the US south east coast.

Local advice was to leave the dock when southerly winds were possible, so we did just that and anchored up in nearby peaceful Scotland Bay, for a relaxed evening as Matthew (thankfully) turned north and accelerated away from us.  Bless his very dark, black and stormy Force Four heart.

Trinidad is below the accepted hurricane zone, which is why we're here - however, big rotating storms passing just 100 miles north of us tend to focus our attention somewhat. Jeez....

In The Slings, Michael Driving Crystal Blues To Ground
Two days ago we hauled out of the water - at predictably great cost to the management, Crystal Blues was lifted by a sixty ton travel lift using double slings at each end. I felt good, specially after I dived in the filthy dock water to check the sling positions myself. "No Sir, we don't have divers" was the boat yard response - so in I went.

I pumped detergent into the water for a minute or so before diving, just to break up the oil slick on top. Not a tropical paradise here at the dock ....

Ah, but now we're really here - propped on the hard stand in a nice position, immediately adjacent to SV Tegan, friends from more than 12 years back.  Only problem is that they (Janet & Joe) are not here ... they're home in Canada ... so we'll watch both boats.

The daily regime is now up at 6:00am, and get into the work before the heat arrives. Breakfast and coffee are handled quickly, as we contemplate a job list that is probably too long to be completed in the time we have available. Such is the cruising life.