Electrical; busy weekend

Finally had a weekend on the boat without having to move things aboard or do too much organizing.  That means this is the longest entry ever!

Friday night at around 3:30 AM it rained while I was aboard for the first time.  I’d left open a bunch of hatches so as soon as I woke up enough to realize it was raining I hopped up and shut them all.  I found that the galley hatch was really not very functional when wet, for whatever reason, and really struggled to get it closed, while getting rained on.  I may use that as a pretext for replacing all the small hatches on the boat (galley, 2x saloon, head).  Of course there’s also the fact that they are all so crazed that very little sunlight gets through, which makes the cabin pretty dim and is also pretty ugly from the outside.  The low profile hatches from Lewmar look nice at first glance, but I need to do some measuring and other research first.  Maybe I can find a local chandlery that stocks some hatches and will let me try fitting one before buying.

Saturday morning I met Charlene for breakfast at Vivocity, and we did a little shopping, mostly for cleaning materials.  Finally found some “Pledge” to help clean the cabin floor and all the various teak fittings.

We zoomed back to One 15 and I quickly tore apart the cabin to get at the engine, alternator, and house battery bank; and tore up the port side cockpit locker to get at the starter bank.  Here’s the cabin, with the engine compartments, the electrical cabinet (top left), and the companionway crawlspace (top center) all opened up:

Here’s the starter battery bank from above the port side cockpit hatch:

Neo from Best Electrical arrived around 1 PM and looked over the electrical system.  He immediately agreed it’s kind of a mess, particularly the “core” wiring around the breakers and battery banks.  For example, here’s the wiring in the electrical cabinet behind the starboard side breaker panel, which also contains the house battery bank posts:

(That’s an old, probably dead inverter at the bottom of the cabinet.)

While we’re at it, here are some pictures of the existing electrical panels, on both sides of the boat behind the companionway steps.  The port side panel is all DC, although above it is the AC shore power switch and voltmeter:

The starboard side panel is uglier: a mix of AC and DC.  A lot of extraneous stuff is attached to circuits on this panel; for example, the GPS at the nav station is on the Cabin Lights circuit, for some bizarre reason.  There are a couple cabin lights that are directly wired to the batteries, too, and aren’t part of the Cabin Lights circuit at all.  Above the panel is the main battery switch to switch between house or starter banks, or combine them for more juice:

While I’m at it, here’s the engine key and stop, which are just above the battery switch:

Neo suggested I continue using the old, partly but not completely dead batteries for now and save the new ones for installation as part of other major electrical work.  We managed to get the engine started: he pulled the shutoff toggle a few times, I think superstitiously, and raised the throttle a bit while I was cranking the engine, which I think helped.  Checking the alternator, we found it was only producing around 12.3V, not nearly enough for charging (should be around 14.2V at least).  I’ll be removing the alternator this week and handing it off to him for repair or replacement (or maybe, having someone else come and remove it so I don’t screw anything up, although it shouldn’t be too hard).  Here’s the alternator:

We spent some time talking about larger scale overhauls of the electrical systems.  A complete bow-to-stern rewiring of the boat would cost S$10-20k, take a long time, and be kind of incompatible with my living aboard during the work.  Instead we settled on the idea of replacing the panels, gauges, charging system (currently a portable charger, solar panels, and alternator clamped to the house bank posts, with a diode to pass current to and isolate the starter bank, generally a poor solution), and all of the wiring near the panels.  We’ll probably connect the “satellite” wiring to the new wiring with some nice, organized new bus bars.  He also suggested (and I agree) that we should move the breaker panels, switches, and gauges to the front of the current “electrical cabinet”, rather than in their current hard to reach location behind the companionway steps.  Finally, he suggested the starter battery bank should be moved into the crawlspace behind the companionway, next to the house bank, and that the six batteries should be centered in the boat as best as possible.  We can get a carpenter to build a “pseudo” battery box in the crawlspace: he suggested plywood rails about 2″ high, sheathed in fiberglass, with straps to hold down all the batteries.  The downside of that approach is it doesn’t protect from spills or overflows, but it’s a lot easier than installing a proper “box” in the tightly confined crawlspace.  He left me with some equipment catalogs to research.  His rough estimate of the whole job was 2-3 weeks of labor, and S$4-5k, which is about what I was expecting, so not too bad.  Now I just need to do some research and decide more precisely what I want to do.

While I was taking pictures and crawling around in crawlspaces, I snapped some more photos of hard to reach stuff.  Here’s the house battery bank, looking to starboard in the crawlspace behind the companionway:

Looking to port in the same crawlspace, you can see the main house freshwater pump, which provides pressure to the galley sink, head sink, shower, and toilet (when it’s set to use freshwater); and also various plumbing hoses, wiring, and a random jug which I should throw away:

Directly behind the companionway crawlspace is access to the larger space underneath the cockpit, which can also be reached through the cockpit lockers:

Back there is all sorts of interesting stuff.  Here is the compressor for the fridge, an Adler Barbour Cold Machine that works like a charm, although I haven’t used the fridge yet since I moved aboard:

The steering system is a chain-and-wire rig:

The autopilot drive system (a Raymarine, although I haven’t twisted my way in far enough to find the model number):

After Neo left, since I’d opened everything up I took a look at the electrolyte level in all the batteries.  The house batteries were fine, but the starter batteries were completely empty, and I realized when Duke topped up the batteries enroute from Langkawi, he probably didn’t know about the starter bank.  It’s a bit hard to see, but here’s (vaguely) what a completely empty lead-acid battery looks like:

Since I am already planning to replace these batteries it’s not the end of the world.  Still, as I’m delaying installing the new batteries, I filled up the starter bank with distilled water and ran the charger; maybe they’ll take enough charge to reliably start the engine until it’s time to install the new batteries.

Here are just a couple more photos of the cockpit lockers that I took while they were open yesterday.  The port side locker is mostly full of life vests, various parts of my not-yet-installed wind vane, and some cleaning and polishing materials:

The starboard locker is stuffed full of my spare sail inventory, spare lines, sailing equipment, and a whole bunch of rags:

Did a whole bunch of other stuff Saturday — it was a busy day:

  • Refilled the port and starboard freshwater tanks.  The port tank was in use for my morning shower, and of course it ran dry as soon as I’d covered myself in soap.  Each tank is 100 gal.  It took a long time to fill up the port side tank from empty, like 45 minutes at full blast of my hose.
  • Took a quick ice cream break with Charlene.  Attention ice cream magnates: marinas in the tropics are really great places to put your ice cream shops!
  • Randomly ran into the guy who’d processed my port clearance docs.  Paid him back the S$30 I owed him and followed him to Hye Seas I to pick up the docs and my boat stamp.
  • Dumped out the rainwater that had collected in the dinghy, then plopped it in the water and went around the boat to do a little cleaning.  I’d noticed the transom had a lot of oil splatters from the exhaust; scrubbed most of that away.  Hosed off the hull and then hosed down the deck while I was at it.
  • There’s a wooden plaque with a router engraving of the old SVG registration number on a step in the main cabin.  Tried to remove it but it’s both glued and screwed on, so I opted to leave it for another day.  I still need to get a plaque made with my Langkawi registration info; technically I’m few weeks late in doing so.
  • Walked around the marina for a while in the evening with Charlene.  It’s really pretty picturesque; I’ll take some more photos eventually.  We grabbed dinner at Harry’s, a bar/restaurant just next to the marina.  There’s also an O’Brien’s (a sandwich shop) and a 24h 7-11, which is pretty nice.
  • Noticed the evening condensation from the air conditioner in the V-berth hatch was dripping down into the V-berth.  Need to figure out a solution for that.

Today was much less accomplished: in the morning, we did a couple loads of laundry.  The marina has two decent washers and one decent dryer, with each load running S$4.  It adds to the whole idea that living aboard is kind of like living in a dorm room, as Rachel pointed out.

I also wandered into the chandlery shop and talked with an employee there for a while.  Turns out they do West Marine orders every two weeks.  Asked them if they could order a couple inflatable life vests (with harness) at a reasonable price.  Probably they can do a lot better than the S$450/piece another company offered me recently.

Finally, the upholsterer dropped off the new V-berth sheets, mattress protector, and a few curtains at Charlene’s house today.  The V-berth stuff looks great, and I’ll try it tomorrow.  The curtains I’m less sure about — I think they’re sized wrong — but we’ll see.

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