Friday, December 9, 2016

Let the Sun Shine

It was another late start at the boatyard today as Dawn and I spent time making calls, doing paperwork, and working on our Global Entry applications this morning. We've been meaning to apply for a while, as we've typically gone abroad together several times per year for the last ten years, plus I'm now flying internationally for work as well. But now it makes even more sense as having Global Entry will smooth our application for the CBP's Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS), formerly Local Boater Option, which allows you to clear into the US & territories with only a phone call (sometimes...sometimes they still want to see you face-to-face). I figure that'll be useful next year going between the DR, Puerto Rico, USVI and BVI. We're waiting to actually submit our applications until we have our South Dakota drivers licenses, which we'll be getting next week on our Christmas visit home.

Once we got to the boatyard we got busy right away. Today's main project was replacing our lightning-fried Trace C12 solar controller with a new Victron 75/15 MPPT solar controller. It's mounted in the electrical cabinet, which is a somewhat strange place for it as it involves long wire runs forward from the solar/davit arch and back to the battery bank under the aft berth. My eventual plan is to move the solar controller(s) to under the aft berth and install a charge monitor that'll track both wind and solar charging, but I'll wait to do that until we buy new solar panels next spring. Our 2-panel array is currently only about 170 watts; there's room on the davits for about 300W of new, more efficient Sunpower panels, and I plan on adding 200W in flexible panels to our bimini as well. Those will be subject to shading from the boom/sail so I plan to use small MPPT controllers for each half and a single larger controller for the stern arch array. As you can see, it'll be a pretty major change to the system that will nearly triple our solar production, and will involve some pretty complex setup. Until then, I'm keeping it simple by installing the Victron 75/15 right where the Trace was. It only took an hour or so to remove the Trace, mount the Victron, and reroute, strip and insert the battery and PV cables. It was a sunny day, so we turned off shore power and the wind and solar easily kept up with our scant on-the-hard loads (refrig is off, that's the big consumer). 


This morning I called Atlantic Boat ACR and left a message inquiring about having them replace our lightning-fried air conditioning control panel. To my great surprise, they called back within about 30 minutes, had me text them a few photos, came up with a potential solution right there, and two hours later had one of their technicians on our boat to confirm our current installation. Thus far in my boat ownership experience I've found such responsiveness among marine service providers to be extremely rare...normally, getting anything done is like pulling teeth. Hopefully this continues to be the exception.

This afternoon Dawn sanded the cockpit caprail and companionway hatch; it appears that we narrowly avoided moisture-borne disaster yesterday and will be able to continue varnishing without completely sanding the whole thing back down to bare wood. We'll see whether we get the next coat of varnish on tomorrow; it largely depends on how quickly it warms up from a very chilly overnight. We don't want to wait so long that there's no afternoon sun left to dry the varnish, which was our problem last time.

While Dawn sanded, I replaced the raw water strainer under the V-berth. This is the intake for the washdown pump and the forward head, and the strainer was a bit on the small side so I replaced it with a more robust unit. In doing so I noticed that most of the hose clamps in that area were old and several were badly corroded, so I replaced them all with Skandvik Marine ABA clamps. I got a 48-piece cruiser kit from Defender a few weeks ago and have since been replacing clamps every time I see degraded ones in safety-critical spots (which, it turns out, is most everywhere there are hose clamps in the first place!). I'm already nearly out of several popular sizes and will be reordering a bunch before we take off. They're pretty expensive for clamps, but this is one place it's stupid to be cheap. It doesn't take very long at all for salt air, heat and vibration to turn cheap hose clamps into rusty, brittle timebombs. I like saltwater but have a rather profound interest in keeping it outside of my boat!

After our $1100 order with Jamestown Distributors yesterday, we dropped $550 with Amazon tonight. Frighteningly easy to do, but zero impulse purchases; it was all stuff we knew we needed and had been researching and considering for a while. Several more items on the "before heading south" list have been checked off. The nice thing is that because I've continued working full-time and we're living relatively cheaply, we've been able to pay for most of the boat stuff out-of-pocket without dipping into our refit fund. That's good because the boatyard will be taking a BIG chunk of it when this boat is finally done!

Not entirely sure what we'll be doing tomorrow - probably early stops at West Marine and Ace Hardware. Not quite sure if I'll work on our teak deck or not. I'm really trying to psych myself up for it but it may be too cold for the epoxy to kick. I'll have to read up on it tonight, it's been ages since I've worked with the stuff.


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