Refit 2023


Home Refit – Refit 2023

Autopilot Commissioning – Mar 2023

The Garmin Autopilot designed to drive a hydraulic ram attached to the rudder quadrant is very sensitive to electrical connections. First the length of the 12VDC line that runs from the autopilot head to the hydraulic pump is very length sensitive. DO NOT adjust its length!

Garmin provided a software update a week or so ago and that may or may not have contributed to finally getting through the setup wizards. We were able to calibrate the electronic/ satellite compass to 92% effectiveness.

We used it for real on our passage to Curacao with mixed results. We likely have things slightly misconfigured as it struggled in high energy (wind/ wave) situations and had to be manually assisted. We also noticed some low voltage events after dark that were really surprising. – more to follow here.

We have rerun the rudder sensor calibration and will have to see if that corrects it. We also need to check the hydraulic actuator motor specs to make sure the autopilot is sending it the right currents.

Water maker – Mar 2023

The watermaker membranes are likely compromised as the TDS count is too large for the pressures being used. The 15amp breaker is also tripping at about 800 PSI, so we’ve purchased a larger breaker.

Jun 2023 – We are in Curacao now and likely have some time to kill so we will come back to this one.

Oct 2023

The new breaker allowed us to run the pump at a higher pressure – but now the original wire is likely too small a gauge – it was getting HOT to the touch – so we updated it. We can now run the motor up to over 1000 PSI.

The TDS count is still high, so we will be troubleshooting this further. Having said that, the salinity here is quite high so I will be comparing our results with other boats to see what else we may be missing.

Starlink – Feb 2023

The connections are very sensitive to corrosion. Still working towards the 12VDC power source and bypassing the Starlink Router.

Jun 2023 – Space X has updated all of the subscription plans now. Recreational Marine offshore is now accounted for and seems to work fine, although it’s a bit pricy at $250/ month. We are going to make another attempt at getting the 12VDC power source working as well as bypassing the starlink router completely – stay tuned.

Jul 2023 – We are now on the Global Mobile plan – $200/mo but we understand that maybe in Sep that Curacao will be included in one of the $65/ mo regional plans. We brought back the right POE injector on our trip to FL only to discover the power supply 12VDC to 48VDC stepup transformer was toast. Have to wait for another part. In the mean time, we did bring back the right stuff to do grounded RJ45 connections. I can confirm that all of the new terminations are now working so we just need the 48VDC power supply.

Oct 2023 – so either I didn’t buy a large enough power supply or something else is wrong. Still troubleshooting

Ships Network – Jan 2023

Replaced primary router with a new one (ASUS WiFi 6 Router (RT-AX3000)) that can host the NordVPN agent so everything on the boat can still access US based servers that are geofenced.

Jun 2023 – this is still a work in progress the ASUS WAN port is not recognizing the feed from starlink right now – it appears the ethernet adapter on the starlink side is not working, so this is on hold pending the Starlink 12VDC conversion and starlink router retirement.

Sept 2023

We repurposed another router as a wireless bridge to allow us to use the ship’s router and VPN. This is working OK – we occasionally need to reboot the bridge – especially if Starlink hiccups but we are now communicating through the VPN.

Dinghy Outboard – Jul 2023

This one is perplexing – it started leaking fuel (Mar/Apr) and the more I replaced chasing the leak the worse the motor operated. Jun 2023 – we are now in the land of 2 stroke motors and think we have someone lined up to get it back to working status once and for all.

Update: it was not cheap and included parts that we brought back from FL on our short notice trip to visit family and bring back boat parts, but it’s now working better than ever.

Oct 2023 – well the outboard has once again developed issues. Not sure if it’s the gas, or a bad mix, but it’s not shifting properly in/out of gear when it’s been running and definitely doesn’t like to start just after being stopped. More to follow here.

Fresh Water System – May 2023

This is another one that is not cooperating. Again the more we replaced the flakier it is. We think there maybe an air leak into one of the water tank return lines as on one tank the system never fully pressurizes. The 2nd tank is hit or miss. We had to install a manual valve to isolate the watermaker from the supply pump as it was drawing in air from that line. I had installed a check valve but didn’t do enough design analysis on it to realize that the valve wasn’t the right answer to the problem. Oh well. I need some serious patience and time to chase down where my system is leaking air!

Balmar Alternator

This is another disappointing situation. It worked fine on the passage to St Thomas, but once there we noticed no power AGAIN. Jun 2023 – we are now on Curacao with no need to move the boat. Just before heading off to FL to bring back parts I traced wires to make sure it wasn’t something easy and it was. Broken wire on the pigtail coming off the alternator stator lines. We were able to get a replacement pigtail while in FL and that has taken care of that issue.

We know as we motored at times from Moorehead City to St Thomas the alternator would periodically energize when the BMS recognized the batteries where not at 100%. This was likely not the desired behavior as the batteries were at 99%. So they BMS cycled the alternator many times and each time the coolant temp on the motor shot up and we could hear the Serpentine belt really load up. Although there may be cases when we are underway on motor only and need extra power, that is likely not the norm. We get plenty of power from the solar panels most of the time. So I would much rather treat the Alternator as a GenSet and activate it when we really need it and not as an automatic power source every time the motor is running.

While addressing the broken wire, I wired it up differently so I will be manually engaging/ disengaging it when we truly need it. When we need to have the extra power, we will be very aware of it, and configuring it to generate that power will be an obvious step. Once the power is no longer needed we can shut things down gracefully and then disengage the circuits so the alternator is not trying to feed full batteries or coming on when we don’t need it and overtaxing and engine we want to use for propulsion. To effect this solution, I repurposed a spare switch on the helm switch panel to be the power interrupt on the line that powers the external regulator. I confirmed this solution with Balmar and they approved of the solution. I will update the circuit diagrams to show this change.

Oct 2023 update – after receiving a replacement pigtail for the wiring harness, we finally have a working alternator! Produces about 100A when running – the ALT generates ALOT of heat so the regulator depowers it to keep it from overheating. We will be working on a source to push fresh air over it.

External Audible Engine Alarm

Mike had installed an Aqua Alarm on the motor years ago to provide an audible alarm if the engine started to get too hot. This had 2 LEDs (red and green) with green indicating that it was powered and working. Red was alarm and it was accompanied by a very loud tone. We noticed that the green LED was no longer lit and did some quick troubleshooting but as this was a backup system, we set it aside for when we had more time. Well the time has come to take this one on. After removing the control head, we found more blue-green dust and the source of no power. We reached out to AquaAlarm – (https://aqualarm.net/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=5&products_id=28) and have ordered a new alarm, this one include the sensor to also watch the raw water flow rate. The product that the above link goes to didn’t include the green LED so they are adding for us. This will enhance our backup engine overheat alarm and restore its functionality. It also comes with a MUTE button. Once this alarm goes off and we have shut the motor down to prevent damage, it takes time for everything to cool off. Listening to the alarm is very annoying. The mute button alone is worth the upgrade!

This lead us to start planning for a ship’s master alarm panel – we have lots of available dummy lights, but they are 1. not all used, and 2. are not centrally (or even available together). We like the idea of the new panel, but want to greatly expand what is reporting via dummy light. This is now very much a research project but it’s going to be installed eventually. We figure we have 10-20 different individual alarms that have or should have dummy lights that we would like to monitor beyond those that report via the Chart plotter.

Engine monitoring

We have some good news here. The AlbaCombi unit is generally a success. We think the sensors we have on the engine are not working to spec, but we are getting what appears to be usable data, so we have RPM, Coolant Temperature and Oil Pressure. We also have RPM from the Balmar Regulator when the Alternator is running.

House Electrical System (12 VDC)

When we redid the main DC panel, we reused the original cabling that was installed when the boat was made. Well we are now pulling much more power across that line and it has proven to be insufficient – it melted the insulation around the connector behind the main panel. We had to upgrade several gauges to better match it. We are not seeing the 1VDC+ drop that we were experiencing so that seems to have corrected the issue. This was causing several other issues with other house systems seeing low voltage.