Cabin reading lights

You don’t need to be on Mariadz very long to know that there is very little compromise if something isn’t working quite right.  We have a theory that the last thing we want to be doing is to be fixing something in the middle of the Pacific or on a remote island if there is any chance of avoiding it.  Other items just don’t look how we want them to.

A perfect example of this later case were the reading lights in all the cabins.  These were original fit and so 15 years old, tarnished, held together with tape and just not what we wanted.  I had already swapped these to replacement LED bulbs but they were still not what we wanted for the place that will be our home for ten years.

But we couldn’t find what we wanted. None of the standard chandleries had the combination of quality and features that we wanted.  We stumbled upon Calibra Marine Equipment at the 2013 Southampton Boat Show.  The first time we looked we loved their selection but they are not cheap.  The lights we liked were LED, touch control (so no prominent switches), adjustable for brightness and looked very nice and modern.  However, we decided to keep looking and couldn’t justify the cost. A year went by with no luck in our search, we returned to the Southampton Boat Show the following year and met the charming South African lady we’d met the year before.  Once again, these were the only lights that we liked.  IMG_3943This time, we decided to bite the bullet and buy a couple for our bedroom. We would have to find a cheaper solution for the other cabins.

The following year we returned to the boat show and bought two more for the fore-peak, but showing lip-service to the concept of a budget bought cheaper units for the bunk room. We are really pleased with the results, although anyone who has been on the boat will also know that the above picture has a glaring omission….where’s Bonnie! One other thing about these pictures, we have to say a big thank you to Anna Chatburn for our gorgeous Mariadz pillow.  As you can see it always has pride of place on the bed. The blue pillows get a pirate and RNLI teddy, Anna’s one gets a cat!


Maria’s disco lights…

Maria has the full standalone karaoke setup but of course needs all of the lighting too…not quite. This was us trying to be sensible about the likelihood of having to work in darkness at the mast.  The Moody comes with a forward facing deck light which works quite well on the foredeck.  But for working at imagethe mast or the boom we wanted to add some lighting.

So so as part of the electrical refit and moving of various aerials up the mast, we decided to add LED spreader lights (HELLA LED Black Sea Hawk).  These are unbelievably bright and I guess may even work as a security deterrent too 🙂

Honey, we’re home

How good does that feel. We’re back on the boat. Olly has done an amazing job, and Lindsay and Stevie…., everything is back together (nearly) and the boat is ready for us to come back aboard.  Now we start to see some of the benefit of the work we have done.  The navigation will have to wait for our first trip out of the season in a few weeks but the electrical system is ready to go.

One thing we learn straight away is that the electrical changes have transformed our way of life,  in the past, we have been heavily restricted by the capacity of the shore power.  This is at 16A which isn’t bad for a marina but is 4kW of available power. A decent electrical fire is at least two kW. Put a kettle on, with background power usage, and suddenly you are taking a walk down the pontoon to reset the power or, if you are lucky, you are resetting a trip on the electrical board.

All these issues are a thing of the past, we have a 5kw invert charger which can provide 20A of power when we need it.  imageThis is taken from the batteries, so it isn’t long term, but can take care of short term peaks.  What it does mean that you can run an aircon unit, maybe a couple of fires, hair straighteners, hair dryer, fancy a cup of tea – no problem. 🙂

After this, the charger part of the victron takes over and puts power back into the battery.

We are loving the new system and it makes living the boat on the pontoon less constrained.

Battery monitoring

As we go round the world we want to be self sufficient for power and that means understanding what power is coming in and going out of the batteries. The main type of battery monitor available is an amp hour counter which counts the amps going in and the amps going out. tbs_product_table_batterymonitor_expertlite We went with the e-xpert lite based on Olly’s recommendation.  Over time, these type of monitors become less accurate though and need to be reset but they do provide useful data about what is happening right now such as amps in or out. However, anyone with an understanding of our approach to the refit will not be surprised that we would not be happy with a single way of measuring these things which could become inaccurate. There is another type of battery monitor which has a very complex algorithm within it and measures the battery itself to calculate a percentage of charge in the battery bank. imageThis system actually gets more accurate over time as the algorithm helps it to tune it’s settings to “learn” about the batteries it is monitoring. The combination of these two monitors gives us a powerful way of understanding our power use and state of charge. This will allow us to manage our power use much more effectively.  We can monitor and adjust our power use and it will also help us to understand the effectiveness of our charging mechanisms: engine, shore power, generator and solar power. We will report on how well this works in practice in future posts.

Of course the decision making process was difficult and involved a lot of research and expert impartial advice from Oliver at Seapower who also installed all the equipment for us.

Inverter charger and generator

As part of the original fit of the Moody, it had come with an inverter, long since removed by a previous owner, and an HFL generator, which had been scrapped soon after our purchase because it didn’t work and was uneconomical to repair. The entire cooling system had corroded on the original 10.5 KVa generator and although it had a little over 700 hours, it had clearly always been problematic. It was also very noisy with ill fitting sound proof panels and we knew that we would have the same level of problems as the previous owners.

So the generator was removed and we considered our options.  The generator had been sized to allow for all three air conditioning units to be on at the same time without causing an issue. We don’t expect to be running these very often at all and certainly not all three! We suspect what had happened to the generator apart from inadequate maintenance was that it had always been run at a low load hence causing problems with the engine that forms the core of the generator.  Now despite the fact that we still have all three aircon units, a large microwave, watermaker and several other potentially high energy use items, we didn’t think this justified over-specifying the generator. But of course, we would need to cope with higher loads at times…..

A quality inverter charger was a good solution since it would seamlessly top up the power output from the batteries.  This works fine when the high load is for a short period but needs to be watched if this lasts a long time.  No-one wants to drain the entire battery bank in an hour!  This allows the generator to be specified as a little lower power output which means it will more often be used at a reasonable load for the generator. I also means that you need to have good battery monitoring in place and more on that on another post.

Looking at a ten year timescale, we knew we needed to buy a quality product and two in particular stuck out for us: the studer, which had been bought by some good friends of ours ( Clare and Vic on Njord) and the Victron. imageThe victron had some good features but the Studer seemed to have a better reputation for quality.  The clincher for us was the global support network.  They are both good but there are several times more dealers and repair centres for Victron, so in the unlikely eventuality that we had a problem, it would be easier to repair.

Then we started looking at the generator.  We did a lot of research on line and came down to a short list of Northern Lights, Kohler and Onan. There was little to choose between these but the supplier of our electrical systems were also Onan dealers and this helped to sway our minds.  The fact that the generator was a difficult install which required it to be taken apart and taken in pieces to the engine room before being rebuilt was an added complication.image By choosing Lindsay at Seapower who works closely with Ollie, meant that this could be done without invalidating the warranty on the generator.

The install is incredibly neat with a remote digital panel on the flight deck that Maria considers our new electrical panel to resemble.  Having spent some time with Lindsay, I have to say we are happy both with our choice of generator and supplier.  Lindsay has taken care making sure that our install will be trouble free for as long as we have the boat. One additional feature we added was to have the hot water from the cooling system feed the hot water boiler.  The generator creates a lot of heat and it seems a shame to throw that away into the sea when it could be used o provide a useful source of hot water for us.  It also means that we have redundancy in the hot water if the heating element breaks.

Sorry the pictures are all a bit boring, the key here is that everything is done under the surface so that the boat is powered well at anchor, at sea or in a marina with limited power.

Actually, an advantage we have found straight away in the Marina is that we no longer need to worry about switching off the electric fire when we want to boil the kettle.  Previously this always tripped the switches but now the boat can support this for a short time from the batteries and then recharges the batteries later.  We think this will be quite useful when we are away for small intense loads like the kettle or microwave although we need to be careful about the rate that we deplete the batteries as well as the amount of power we take out.

New navigation

The original electrical panel was still in place on the Moody and this had various additions added to it over the years. imageOn the left hand side there were two chart plotters. The Raymarine was original fit and was linked to the similar unit in the cockpit.  Around about 2010, AIS had been added and rather than upgrade the navigation a decision was taken to add an additional plotter to show the AIS information. Personally the thought of going below to check the AIS track of a large ship that may be on a collision course sounded like madness.  Also with our plans to go round the world we didn’t expect the original navigation to last 25 years without trouble.  So the decision was taken to upgrade the Raymarine navigation and remove the redundant setup. We considered other manufacturers but we have been comfortable with Raymarine equipment and so decided to stay loyal to the manufacturer, also thinking that it should be quite easy for us to understand how it worked since it would be an evolution from the equipment we were used to. imageOf course an upgrade from that period meant that the existing radar set up would have to be replaced.

Thats when the fun started, so firstly there was a deal where we could get the fish finder add on for the cost of the sensor – anyone who knows Maria’s fishing ability will know that this is money well spent….we will never see any fish on it!

We were also thinking about our plans to travel and the knowledge that the likelihood the charts will not be accurate.  For that reason we thought it would be worth looking at IMG_3569Forward Facing Sonar (FFS) so that we can see exactly what is in front of us and hopefully therefore avoid hitting it! Now on the East Coast, where we have very shallow water and mud, there is an unwritten rule that if you haven’t touched the mud you probably aren’t really trying ;). We are very careful these days having touched the bottom once in the Dufour but I am guessing that running into a reef will be no laughing matter so FFS it is.  It looked like the Echopilot was the best fit for us and integrated with everything else. imageWe have combined that with a 7inch plotter which will show this view to Maria at the helm. I am led to believe that the purchase of this equipment was no reflection of a lack of trust in my ability to tell Maria if we are going too shallow but a niggling doubt remains… 🙂

Anyway, we also took the opportunity of another trade in deal with Raymarine to modernise our autopilot. We are hoping that the new equipment will help us to have fewer breakdowns and repairs in the future or at the very least have spare parts available. I wouldn’t fancy finding a spare part for a 20 year old plotter on a small desert island. So we have three plotters: nav station down below, next to the companionway and a smaller display on the steering binnacle for Maria to see her FFS as well as all the other functionality.

Finally, we changed all of the small instruments above the companionway to complete the modernisation.image

None of this would have been possible without the excellent advice and work of Oliver from Seapower Marine. He has been wonderful and I think has kept the cost down as much as possible while making Mariadz as fault free as is humanly possible.  He has even identified and rectified water damage from the fresh water used to put out the fire in the galley all those years ago.