Category Archives: Michael

Moving Stuff… The Malone HandiRack

Recently we decided we should unload our boat, as we were just plain carrying too much “stuff”. You’ve all seen the George Carlin bit “Stuff” right?  When you are leaving to go cruising you are not quite sure what will be important, so we spent a few hours going through every storage space in the boat and removing the things we don’t use or need. All told, we were able to remove 902 lbs from the boat, yup we weighed it as it left. Turns out our boat is more sensitive to excess “stuff” than our house was and I wanted a sense of the performance change a 1000 lbs buys you. Lucky for us, friends James and Deena will be transporting our “stuff”, in their RV to north of the border. But first we had to get the “stuff” to their RV in Guaymas, 750 miles away.

The Hobie Mirage Adventure IslandOne of the larger things we were trying to get rid of was our Hobie Mirage Adventure Island Kayak. We enjoy sailing it but we just didn’t use it enough because it was a little too much work to rig and launch from the deck of Footloose. This single item was responsible for 250 lbs of weight and would also give us the advantage of a less cluttered deck. But how to transport this beast?

A local company in Bucerias (which we recommend) was the Gecko Agency. They have all kinds of vehicles with roof racks and such and specialize in catering to the windsurfer market. People who fly in and want to experience surfing at remote beach breaks in and around Banderas Bay. They were pretty adamant that their vehicles needed to stay in Banderas Bay. As a local company, they had no way to support a vehicle that was out of the area if something went wrong.  We decided that the kayak might or might not go, but we would continue to pack and remove as much “stuff” as possible. Anyway we kept calling, looking for a trailer or something.  We found a cab company willing to do it but we needed to provide a roof rack, couldn’t get that figured out, but we developed a pretty big pile of stuff ready to go.

Finally we give up. The kayak will stay on the boat, but one more call to Gecko just in case we can talk them into an exception… No NO and NO.” It’s the one rule we never break”, gotta be able to support the vehicle…… But we do have these inflatable roof racks…. Whaat? How can that be. Yah, look em up. The Malone HandiRack attaches with straps that pass through the door openings and the passenger portion of the vehicle. The soft inflatable bladders don’t slide around and they distribute the load over the roof to prevent dents. They should not be inflated super hard. But should be sort of soft to maximize the surface area, and also to allow for increasing pressure in the hot sun.

Rental day arrives, we get a fabulous, sparkling, brand new, 3000 miles, totally shiny and perfect suburban.. Argh, why not a two-year old almost outta here rental full of nicks and dings? We load it up with our boxes plus two old anchors, and head over to Gecko to check out those racks. We go for it. But take four instead of two because it’s a big load and 750 miles. I really, really, really hope these don’t mess up that vehicle… We get a couple of cruising buddies, George and Kurt, and load up the kayak in the sweltering heat.

20180522-cellWe drive the loaded beast to Los Mochis and then Guaymas. Nervously easing her over each speed bump… Mexico loves speed bumps..Topes. They are somewhat random in nature and not always marked. The roof makes a kind of “crunkling” noise if you hit them too fast……

Finally we unload. No marks, no dents. We love the Malone HandiRack, and while it it would not be our first choice for what we did…. A solid roof rack would be much better. We think the Malone HandiRack would be great for someone that wants to use their Accord to take a SUP board to the lake, or pick up a new ladder or a couple of 2x4s from home depot.

If you think the HandiRack might be for you. You can buy one here, and help support our Blog.

Lisa will share more about our road trip in an upcoming blog, while I focus on making some recommendations of products we really like. Thanks for your support!

Recommendation – Vibratite VC-3

Screws pre-treated with Vibratite

Screws pre-treated with Vibratite VC-3

Boaters all need to change their zincs, an important item that prevents corrosion of underwater parts. Screwing a piece of zinc to your prop shaft or propeller has issues. This stuff is moving and subject to vibration, but how do you keep things from falling apart?
Often a diver will squirt a little blue Loctite onto the screw, and quickly install the zincs under water. But read the Loctite product description and you learn that the parts should be dry and clean.
Sometimes you buy parts with a blob of red stuff in the threads. The thread locker is already on the fastener. But what is that red stuff?
On Footloose, we use Vibratite VC-3 Thread locker to reduce the risk of premature loss of underwater parts. The product is applied and allowed to dry, then installed even underwater. Per the instructions you can even re-install the fastener…  Great for zincs, but how about your motorcycle, cars, or lawn mower?  I might even try it on my eyeglass screws.
Wanna give it a try? Purchase Vibratite Here, and help support our website.

 

Improving the Quick Rider Anchor Windlass

For a cruising sailboat the anchor windlass is a very important piece of equipment that ranks with engines and sails.  The anchor windlass hoists the anchor when it is time to leave, and needs to operate reliably. Our boat has a primary anchor that weighs 88 pounds.  The anchor is attached to a chain that weighs about 1.4 lbs per foot.  We often have 100 to 125 feet of chain out.  The point of all that is that the deployed anchor and chain weigh a lot and are beyond the ability of an old guy like me to lift with my back.

The anchor windlass hoists this load at the push of a button, but as a key piece of equipment it needs to operate flawlessly.   Before our departure we replaced the anchor windlass as a precaution against any trouble.

The windlass has an electric motor and gearbox that drives a part called the capstan.  The capstan has depressions in the edge that grab every other link in the chain.  As the chain passes over the capstan it should release and fall into the anchor locker.  To help with this the windlass has a chain stripper that helps the chain off of the capstan.   We have damaged this stripper 3 times so far. This happens because  every once in a while one say every three months or so one of the links would pass the stripper arm bending the arm and damaging the base of the capstan.   After making this repair several times, we had a Mexican welder add a small tee shaped piece of stainless cut from one of our damaged strippers to a brand new stripper.   We had this done at the La Cruz Shipyard near Puerto Vallarta (ask for Peter).  Cost about $10.00.  What a difference.  The windlass actually soundsbetter.

Before

Before

After

After

 

SundownAs the sun goes down, we set up the boat for night time.  Turning down the brightness of the chart plotters and switching on the red cabin lights to preserve our night vision.  We brew a thermos of coffee.

Night Light

Night Light

At midnight, the clouds are low, obscuring a crescent moon.  There are no stars.   The running lights illuminate the boundaries of the boat, but beyond that lies darkness.  The boat is rampaging down the faces of the steep chop. The larger waves slap the bridge deck, sometimes with so much force they sound like a gun shot.  Lisa wants to know about a new radar target that is not showing on AIS.  We use the radar system to determine that this target is probably a sport fisher on a parallel course moving at about 14 knots.  We slow the boat a little and the ride smoothes out because we are no longer overtaking the waves.

Three Freighters line up on the right half of the screen

Three Freighters line up on the right half of the screen

As we move down the coast towards Zihuatanejo, the wind lightens and the chop subsides.  A bright light off the port hull comes on within 100 feet of the boat.   Unseen on radar, a Mexican panga fishing boat has flipped on its running lights.   It zooms by our stern and as soon as it’s clear the lights are off again.   International law says use running lights, but the almost invisible Pangas rarely do, unless you are a threat.  Perhaps they are trying to preserve their night vision, so they can see the end of a miles long fishing line supported by transparent soda bottles.

The sky clears and moonlight shines through gaps in the clouds, creating bright streaks on the water.  We hurtle on, and the streaks seem to be getting brighter.  Staring ahead they begin to look like a sandy beach in the distance.  The streaks are too bright to be moonlight from this waning crescent moon. This looks like I am getting ready to run aground.  I look at the chart plotter which says 4000 feet deep under the boat and eight miles off shore,  but my brain says I’m about to beach the boat.   I slow down and call Lisa to see if she might have an opinion.  Meanwhile I grab the camera and try to take a picture… this is really strange.   In the magnified image I see the sunrise peaking through a narrow gap between the clouds and the horizon.  I am in fact headed into more water, 4000 feet deep.

Is it a Beach?

Or a sunrise?

Or a sunrise?

Our friends Rich and Laura crewed with us from San Carlos to Mazatlán, here’s what they have to say about night watch.

Lithium Battery Install Using Manzanita Micro Components

After hearing of other successful installs, I decided to replace our 1200AH golf cart battery pack with Lithium Ion batteries.

Since Lithium battery packs are capable of 80% discharge, by my calculation an 800 Amp hour pack was the equivalent of my  lead acid system.  We plan to never discharge more than 640 amps.

My system consists of two 400ah packs with 4 cells each of CALB (Chinese Aviation Lithium Battery) cells which I purchased directly from CALB USA.  We had one defective cell about six months after installation and this redundancy proved itself at this time, as we were able to operate completely normally but with half the capacity.  The defective cell was covered under warranty.

I fabricated a housing for each pack out of Aluminum Plate with pieces of steel all thread holding the plates together.  The bottom is a piece of boat board with grooves in the underside to slip over the all thread. The all thread is covered with pieces of black irrigation tubing to keep the all thread from abrading the cell cases.  A bracket is fitted over two pieces of the all thread to mount the regulators. This thin piece of sheet metal helps to dissipate heat from the regulators which can get very warm when they are dissipating current to bypass a fully charged cell.  A small fan is also mounted that is thermostatically activated when the regulators get warm.

A clear acrylic cover was fabricated to prevent accidental shorting of this very high amperage system.  As a Navy Electrician, I saw a man blow the head off a crescent wrench shorting out a larger diesel starting system.  This system has greater discharge capability.

Each pack has an isolation switch, which allows you to disconnect the pack from the system or bypass the disconnect relay in the event you are willing to risk the pack for navigational concerns.

Components of the Manzanita Micro System are connected in a buss formed with standard telephone cable.

The Manzanita components are:

The regulator board mark 3x4SMT:

The regulator board has voltage taps for each cell of the “battery”.  Temperature sensors are also available.  I have not installed these because the pack does not fluctuate in temperature at all when charging.  With our system we rarely charge at more than 200 amps and this pack will absorb 800Amps/hour. The board has a telephone jack that allows it to connect to other components of the Manzanita system.  The regulator is programmed through the display.  The interface is pretty clunky but once you’ve done it, you will never be back.

The Robb II  Regulator relay output board:

This Black box, it’s aluminum actually, plugs into the telephone buss system and provides a low current set of normally open or closed contacts that will actuate in the event of high or low voltage. These contacts are used to trigger a high current relay opening the battery circuit in the event of High or Low Voltage.

Rudman Buss Display:

A pair of monitors, one for each pack independently, is also connected to the buss.  This product is discontinued.  Theoretically one display can monitor both packs, but I was unable to make that work, so I have one display for each pack.  There is also a USB Dongle available which allow you to monitor the pack with a computer.  Per the owner, Rich Rudman, these monitors are replaced with a system that uses a cheap Android pad as a Monitor.  In my last conversation with Rich, I think I finally understood that one monitor could be used by renumbering the cells, 1-4 for the first pack and 5-8 for the second pack.  Since I want each regulator to turn off one pack only, I have two independent BMS systems so that only the failed battery is disconnected.

In addition I used 2 Gigavac GXL14 high current latching relays to open the battery circuit in case of High or low voltage state… These guys are expensive $400 each give or take.  And on first reading of the ROBB manual you might think you need two, one for the high voltage state and one for the low voltage state.  Making 4 if you have two packs.  Luckily, if you access the regulator board, you can set up the high voltage ROBB contact to act for both high and low voltage states.

Clock wise from upper Left. Fuse, Gigavac, Disconnect, display, ROBB, Regulator, Voltage Leads

Clock wise from upper Left. Fuse, Gigavac, Disconnect, display, ROBB, Fan, Regulator, Voltage Leads

The connections for the 400 amp CALB cells are very large. I had difficulty finding a termination that would fit over the bolt and provide a solid High current connection at this high torque connection.  I made my own termination by soldering the voltage sensor wires to pieces of copper ground strap.  I then punched a hole of the size necessary for the battery bolt.  If you use this method you should be certain that your copper connector is small enough that it cannot short to an adjacent post….. (Don’t ask how I know this). During the assembly each connection was cleaned with fine sandpaper and then immediately coated with antioxidant grease.  Oxidation or poor connections will adversely affect the regulator operation.  It is also a good idea to complete all connections to the pack before plugging in the voltage sensor plug as the Regulator board is very sensitive to voltage surges.

Before final assembly, each pack was balanced.  The cells were connected in parallel with a digital power supply.  I used a BK Precision 1688B set at the individual cell charge voltage of 3.4 volts.   Interestingly, the pack took the max current for about 40 hours and then quickly tapered to nothing over the course of an hour or so.

Starboard pack is not balanced

Starboard pack is not balanced

My system works great although I haven’t seen any failure modes.  The battery temperature is always at ambient.  The batteries charge at full current with a short taper at the end perhaps one hour.  On the gen set, I don’t usually complete the cycle.  Another great feature is that it took about 500 lbs. out of my cabin.  The waterline raised about an inch in the bow…

Manzanita Micro is closely managed by Rich Rudman, an early innovator in Electric Vehicle performance components.  His interest is in extracting as many watts as possible from a smaller pack.  To meet this need, his system provides a high level of adjustability and monitoring.

From a boaters perspective, however, it is needlessly complex.   As a boater, I want a big pack charging and discharging at less than 1C to provide a long time between charges.  I also want redundancy, so 2 packs, to allow me to isolate a bad pack.  Trouble tends to come in batches so I want a safety for a dark night in a crowded foggy channel, like the time my radar stopped in the mouth of San Francisco bay with heavy traffic and fog.

I have encouraged Rich to develop a boat-specific product.  To me this is a single card/box with the following features:

  • Thermal sensor
  • Voltage sensor
  • Normally open contact to disconnect the pack from the buss via a latching relay
  • An appropriate contact to shut down a charger
  • USB or wireless output to a computer
  • Conformal coated
  • A piece of software
    1. Should be able to recognize multiple regulators say up to four.
    2. The software should allow the user to set voltage limits for the specific cell type in use.
    3. Settable alarms would be good.

Rich believes this market is too small for the investment required.  I paid about 6000 dollars for my 800 AH Lithium pack with all the bits and pieces.   The current West Marine catalog shows a 12v 180 AH Mastervolt pack at about $5000 and a 360ah at $9000.  I would think there is a little room for profit in that mix.  If you are interested, I think Rich would entertain an investor.

Michael Cope is a fellow Catana owner. He used components from EV Power.  Doing it again I might consider this method simply because the Manazanita system is more “geeky” than necessary for boats.  With that said Manzanita Micro gave me excellent support, delivered components quickly and were a pleasure to deal with.  Rich is a fountain of knowledge regarding Lithium power.  I had originally planned to follow in Mike’s footsteps, but in 2014, when I called EV Power to order, the owner (These seem to be small companies) told me he was switching to a surface mounted design and had no inventory, and no product availability date.

That is my experience to date.  It is not a recommendation, in that you should proceed at your own risk, but hopefully my experience can help others with their process. I would certainly do it again.

Michael Britt

Footloose

Catana 471 #28

Replacing Ram Seals on a Lecombe and Schmidt Steering Ram

This document describes my method of rebuilding a steering ram.  The boat is a Catana 471 and actually has two rams.  If you have ever rebuilt a car master cylinder,  you will find this to be an easy task.

Remove the Cylinders

Open the bypass valve to allow you to adjust the cylinder position to conveniently remove the bolt through the steering Quadrant.

Close the shutoff valves to allow you to drain just the cylinder, while keeping fluid in the rest of the system.

Bleed the cylinders into a pan, by pushing the ram in and out several times.  Note that the socket used to hold the tubing ends in the pan.  This will keep the tubing in the pan and mess at a minimum.

Disconnect the ram hydraulic connections and finally remove the ball joint cover at the other end of the ram cylinder.

Replace the Seals

You will not be able to remove the end cap without removing the ball joint.  Before removing the ball joint, it’s a good idea to take a measurement so that you can create the same pushrod length when you reassemble the RAM.

 20171128Elph-11-Edit

Remove the four nuts and washers at one end of the ram.  Pull the end cap off.   Push a clean rag through the cylinder.  The walls should be shiny and smooth.

Remove and replace the o-rings and seals being careful not to damage the adjacent machining.  On the ram rod is the Bypass seal.  This seal has two parts, a flat tough ring that is much less stretchy than a typical O-ring.  Underneath that is a standard O-ring that lies in the same groove.  I was able to stretch the new seal into position with a little hydraulic oil for lubrication, but without the use of tools.  A tool might damage the sealing surface.

Note that the shaft seals in each endcap are installed with the concave surface facing in towards the cylinder.

Reassemble the Cylinders

 The key here is to keep it clean.  Lubricate all the rubber bits with fresh hydraulic oil and gently reassemble the ram into the cylinder.  You may have to compress the bypass seal to get it into the cylinder without jamming it into the edge of the cylinder. Finally, replace the endcaps.  Before tightening the nuts, be certain that the cylinder is rotated such that you can read its label when the ram is installed.

Reinstall the pushrod ball joint at the appropriate length.

Bleed the System

Close the bypass valve and open one of the disconnect valves and its bleed screw. Turn the wheel in the appropriate direction until no bubbles are seen coming from the bleed screw. Close the bleed screw and repeat for the other half of the ram.  I repeated this a couple of times to be sure.  While bleeding it’s a good idea to have another person keep an eye on the fluid reservoir to be certain that you do not introduce new air to the system by letting the reservoir run dry.

Be certain that your cylinder operates properly from stop to stop, and for catamarans that your rudders are synchronized per manufacturer’s specification.

Other Thoughts

 The seal kits are available through PYI in the United States. The kits are pretty expensive If memory serves $109 each.  If you were dissecting your system in a large city, I might find a shop that repairs forklifts and see if they can match up the seals.

My kits included an additional pair of seals that are replacements for a different vintage of Ram.

Unused Seals

Unused Seals

Finally, of course this document is meant to help you decide if this project is within your abilities.  If you are in doubt, you should seek professional assistance.

20171128Elph-47

Kings Day

KingsdaySM (5 of 11)

In Mexico, El Dia de Reyes’ (Three Kings Day) day marks the end of the Christmas Season. This is the 12th night of Christmas when the three wisemen or Magi arrive at the manger. Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, traveled a great distance to pay homage to the Christ child. They brought with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In Mexico, this is the night that people exchange gifts…. Santa Claus, not so much.
Another tradition is the Rosca del Reyes (Kings cake) which is full of significance. The cake is  is round with a hollow center and decorated with fruits and nuts to decorate the cake which represents the king’s crown. Baked into the cake is a small figure that is an effigy of Jesus. It is hidden in the cake because the birthplace of Jesus was hidden so that Herrod’s men could not find him. The person who gets the figurine in their piece of cake is obligated to throw a party on Dia de la Candelaria’ (Candlemas Day) which occurs each year on February 2nd….. Another reason to stick to your New Year’s Resolution and avoid sweets.
At La Cruz, the cruisers draw the names of children from the local orphanage and do their best to fulfill the children’s gift wishes. It’s a great event sponsored by the La Cruz yacht club and organized by Katrina Liana from Marina Riviera Nayarit.  A sweet moment for every one involved.

A Funky Mexican Town – Chacala

20171213-5DS-28

Before our arrival at La Cruz, we spent two days anchored off the little town of Chacala.  This is a very cute town and we would have stayed longer except the anchorage was pretty lumpy and a lee shore, meaning that the boat would drift onto the beach if the anchor lost its grip…  One of the differences being in “Pacific” Mexico, is that the pacific swell comes into many of the anchorages.  Many boats use a bow and stern anchor here to keep the boat more comfortable.

We had a great day walking around the town and enjoyed a meal in one of the Palapa’s on the beach.

Beadwork

Beadwork

Lisa bough a cute necklace in this shop where the woman is busily creating these beadwork masterpieces.  I couldn’t believe how fine the work was.  I kept wondering if she was highly nearsighted.

Hector

Hector

If we were planning a land trip to Chacala, we would stay here at Casa Pacifica. We haven’t seen any of the rooms, but suspect they are somewhat funky.  The owner is an American woman who has lived there for 19 years.  She is clearly a bird aficionado and told us that the best time to see birds was before 9 am, and that almost 300 species visit her piece of paradise at various times of the year.

The hotel operates as a B&B and Breakfast is served on the roof top in the Mauna Kea Café with a view of the ocean.   Hector the cook has been in the US and worked for Whole foods for nine years.  As an exemplary worker, he was promoted many times within the organization and finally Whole Foods sent him to the Culinary Academy in SF.  A few years later he was deported……

If I wanted a week or two of peace and quiet in a funky off the beaten path place in Mexico with a beautiful beach, I would really consider Chacala as an interesting and safe place to visit…..

 

Happy Holidays from Footloose

HappyHolidaysBeing a cruiser makes the holidays a little more difficult than you might expect.  We miss getting together with family and friends.  Savoring, that quiet space between the years.   We don’t however miss the zoo of shopping, cards, newsletters, post-office, and UPS.

As a cruiser, the friends you are with change literally with the tide.  Here today and gone tomorrow.  We feel best trying to maintain traditions.   While you can always have a holiday meal at a hotel or restaurant we prefer doing things on the boat… It’s our home.

We decorate with lights, put up ornaments, invite friends to share a meal.

Here’s a funny video from our Thanksgiving dinner.

We are thinking of you and wish you the happiest of holidays surrounded by Peace, Love and Harmony.

Lisa and Michael

Tovara River Tour

After a few days at Isla de la Piedra we left for San Blas and anchored at Ensenada Matanchen. On the way we anchored for a few hours at Isla Isabel but felt that the conditions were too unreliable to stay overnight.

Here are a few pictures from Isla Isabel famous for its birds including thousands of Frigate birds and the famous Blue Footed Boobie.


After a few more hours of boat time we anchored at Ensenada De Matanchen just three miles south of San Blas. We spent one day taking the Jungle Tour on the Tovara River….. Ever seen a wild crocodile? In the middle of the trip there is an optional stop at the crocodile farm. Here huge American crocodiles enjoy snacks while basking in concrete ponds. Also at the crocodile hatchery are 5 jaguars. Both the Jaguars and the alligators are a little sad in their captivity, Your entry fee to this small zoo contributes to help save these endangered species.

Why does everyone think I'm a Dentist

Why does everyone think I’m a Dentist

We put a lot of work into our blog and as a result we have discussions with other cruisers about blogging. The consensus seems to be that the most popular sailing Blogs feature Bikinis, Videos, and How to articles. I’m not about to put on a Bikini, but here is a first attempt at creating a video to showcase the Tovara river tour. Let me know what you think. We are also planning some how-to articles on fascinating topics like rebuilding your steering ram, and designing a lithium Ion Battery system. Stay tuned.

Land your dingy on the beach and it’s a short walk to the River tour, but along the way there are many vendors selling of all things banana bread and fruit empanadas. The huge volume of baked goods present didn’t seem to match the number of customers. At any rate, warm banana bread with chocolate chips on top. Empanadas with a fruit filling but not too sweet. Warm with Vanilla Ice Cream OMG.
The next day we ride the bus to downtown San Blas, 14 people in a packed minivan, 60 pesos for 4 people. I ride backwards sitting on a hump in the floor behind the front seat. Seat belts…whatever. We tour the Mercado. The church in San Blas is right next door to its predecessor which is almost falling down. I wonder to myself about how the transfer of “churchdom” would have occurred. Was one building consecrated then the other deconsecrated…. In what order. On the same day? It must have been a big deal.


We hike up the hill to visit the fort from 1790, the “Contaduria”, a fort but also a counting house for the Spanish. Leave it to the occupiers, to make their conquered laborers haul all their loot up a steep hill for counting.
At the fort, having walked 13000 steps and feeling a little sweaty we call a cab. 80 pesos (less than 5 dollars) for 4 people back to the beach, where we launch the dingy for a ride to our floating home.