Thursday, September 27, 2018


HURRICANE POWER

Be power fully prepared 

With just 24 volts, this small solar panel controller made our lives normal when all else, except Wilmington city water pressure and natural gas availability failed. The electricity was conditioned and regulated in this black box from a panel of photovoltaic modules atop the boat that had weathered the storm. Our batteries were charged daily for AC, microwave, water, fridge and cook top, under a cloudy sky. Wonderful.
Our hearts go out to fellow neighbors who have died, been hurt and or displaced by hurricane Florence. We have witnessed first hand the devastation of such storms since a few years prior to Hazel in 1954. Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington, NC have been hit many times but folks never fail to pull together.



Looks can be deceiving. These three boats are really not smiling. All took a real beating and managed to stay afloat.
Our boat the ALGEMAC II had the least damage of the three but it will still need to be hauled and surveyed for
the amount of damage sustained.
How can one be prepared when the terror is that the season and seasons to come are not over? That answer for us has begun to take shape but is not fully developed. However, there are some very important events through which we have endured with Florence that point toward a unique solution, the MOG which we named ALGEMAC II. A true Net Zero machine (subject of our next blog).


All three boats sustained damage from a 40 foot sailboat that broke from her dock at another marina and entered our fairway. Our bow was raked, the next neighbor's bow was completely hacked through and the sailboat next to him had its stanchions, toe rails and hull raked. The erant sailboat then exited to ramble over the waterfront.
To be so fortunate as to have three places locally to stay during the hurricane and following days, was God sent. Unique to that is the ability to compare each of the places as to robustness, safety, security, power, conveniences and food availability.

The options are as follows 1. A 1935 2 bedroom 1 bath Craftsman style house just 2 miles outside center city Wilmington, 2. An eighth story 2 bed 2 bath modern condo, centered downtown on the waterfront of the Cape Fear River, 3. A 40 foot Totally Electric Powered Solar boat at Cape Fear Marina on the Cape Fear River in her wind & wave swept berth. The distance spanned is just three miles. Boat to condo 1 mile and condo to house 2 miles.


The Craftsman house before the hurricane Florence, where we stayed
during the storm while the boat was in the water at Cape Fear Marina.

Our condo on the eighth floor of the waterfront at Water Street Center
fared very well with no leaks at all.

The 40 foot solar electric MOG became the most amenable  
of all the places to stay, with lights, TV, AC, fridge, etc. 
Shown here with extra white shrink wrap tape over any possible 
leakage points. Handles and hinges can often fail to stop wind driven 
rain at over 80 miles per hour.


An initial summation is that over the ten day period of approach to departure of Florence, we lived in all three places. Each will be discussed for its reasons that attracted us. The bottom line is that although we were inconvenienced, we suffered no harm. Some of the structures did but no drastic rework will be needed.

1. The 1935 house has been through Hazel and storms prior and after. It is well built with yellow pine 'real' 2x4 dimension lumber and a bird mouthed roof clad with t&g pine boards. It rests on a two foot high brick base with brick piers beneath the hard pine doubled floors. The water and natural gas worked throughout the storm for the watertight house. The only drawback was the lack of air conditioning and the critical need to empty the fridge of all food. The fridge was emptied and cleaned immediately after the hurricane winds stopped.
Sandwiches were made and milk transferred across town to the boat whose fridge functioned tirelessly from the solar electricity. We left the house having one night with the storm and one additional night before it got too warm and humid without AC.

2. The condo was visited but had no AC or appliances functioning. As it is up for sale, we did not want to risk habitation without the AC and appliances powered. So we skipped #2 for a later revisit.

3. After checking on the condo and seeing all was well, we proceeded to the boat. All the sandwich makings, milk, cereal, bread and sodas were put aboard when the sun had popped out. Temperature inside was about 100 degrees F. After packing the fridge and stowing food, we mounted one of the two AC units and went for a two hour drive while the AC cooled down the aft salon. That night and several more nights were cool enough to put a cover on the bed. 


In minutes the AC unit of only 5 thousand BTU is installed in any of the 'slide down' windows just like the window opened next to the AC unit. Plug it in to the inverted 24 volts DC to 120 volt house voltage and it starts to cool. Just one of these units in the salon and saloon will keep the boat cool. The more sun beating down, the more electricity  available to cool the boat. Absolutely counter intuitive. Pretty cool, huh?

In the case of this hurricane the boat's unlimited range was redirected, having all the solar electric power to afford us a most comfortable stay without issuing noise and deadly carbon monoxide from a generator running in a slip (illegal in quite a few marinas I might add).


Only the six main modules were kept for the hurricane. Five of the eleven were removed to our van for safe keeping during the event.
Rains returned day after day as we sat aboard and watched local TV using an antenna that picks up 21 broadcast stations in the local counties. There was plenty of news, weather and commentary with good entertainment both old and contemporary. The AC stayed on while we made coffee in the microwave, cooked food, washed up and were able to perform all the tasks of living at home with only our Sun replenishing the large 21kwh battery storage. Please note the morning cup of java next to the TV.


Florence's gusts, rain and clouds cannot stop the morning cup of coffee and the latest TV broadcast (no cable availability).
So we put our feet up, mug next to the TV, AC cranking out the cool air while drinking in the view. An exceptional boat.
There was no electric, phone, cable or internet service at the docks because of storm damage. Our sinks and shower and commode worked as they would at home. In fact with all the misery being caught by many, we two old folks counted our blessings. We were able to comfort loved ones with a few texts gotten during a short drive through a few cell hotspots. The marine radio gave us contact with the USCG and others if needed and was of additional comfort.

After several great nights on the boat, we moved to the condo when its power returned. Having spent two nights at the condo we returned to the little 1935 house getting things ready for the return of its power. No power, it was a let down followed by another night at the condo with dinners out at KFC, Waffle House, Hardees and The CookOut (the only places open and with very limited fare).


Although the fiberglass and top coat were ground away by the loose
sailboat, the structure was not compromised as could happen to a
fiberglass hull. The stem and knee of our quarter century old boat
is well over 5 inches thick of epoxy laminated and coated marine
plywood. The white tube across the bow floats in the water to
fend off tide driven debris strikes.

Looking at the whole ordeal, it was more like a hate/love vacation. The cost of the MOG boat was no greater than a 32 foot Island Gypsy back in 1994. In return we have had nearly 30 years of uninterrupted free solar power. She is not fast and not heavy ocean going but has made it through 7 named hurricanes on her own hull in the water, this being the first in an actual slip. All the other 'canes have been on the hook in Pages Creek estuary Wilmington, NC.


'Home no sweat home' with air conditioning when all the power in
the county is completely out. With the aft salon queen bed folded
in the up position, there is room to move around besides the saloon.

Please do not think we are ignorant of being blessed. Of all the places we stayed we can definitely say that the Totally Electric Powered Solar (TEPS) boat was the most unique and unexpectedly satisfying of all.


Three folks who stayed aboard their bots at Cape Fear Marina had first hand
views of the offending sailboat grinding into the boats in our fairway. There
was little they could do to fend such a large object and best that they not
place themselves in even greater peril.
The concept of the MOG was a sailboat speed trawler type boat for two people with no range limitation. Efficiency prohibited using any conventional craft because the roof's solar electric collection area was the key design element. The design was a clean sheet monohull that included an extreme shallow draft of 18 inches for a forty foot boat with electric drive motors. Everything is custom.

People often ask how much do we save on fuel? Our answer is actually "the fuel came with the boat" and a 25 year warranty on the solar electric modules atop the boat. In effect, we do not save anything, it is just that other boaters pay more to travel with powering payments for maintenance, repairs, oil, filters and fuel requirements never ending for them. Our downside might be speed but we are retired and time is not as precious as the ability to loiter in deep or knee deep waters.


Yep, purposely aground with the ocean over the dune.

After the ALGEMAC II (MOG) gets her nose (bow) fixed, placed back in the pond and electric motors remounted, we will continue in the Carolinas to put more miles beneath her hull to fulfill our continuation of the Great Loop adventure. What a beginning year for us that this has been!


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

NOWHERE SLOW

Holding Pattern

Priced now at $650k
A collage of dining area, bedroom's city view, river traffic, one of the two waterfront covered balconies and
a look at the eighth floor balcony from the pedestrian perspective. Yes that is the USS NC across the river.


The continuing saga of remaining in the slip

This was to be the summer of making short to medium trips around North Carolina while adding miles to the Great Loop. The one hangup left has nothing to do with the boat, instead it is with the land base known as our condo on the Wilmington, NC waterfront. It is still for sale and we intend to sit tight here in Wilmington during the sales process.

Eight story 7 mile water view

Built to be incomparable, it has remained true to the word. There will be no actual comps (comparable condos) for another nearly two years. Next door to our condo are the diggings for River Place condos that should be finished in 2020. They had a number of fits and starts but are now sinking support piles deep into the ground.


The main difference is that our two bedroom, two bath 1,200 SF condo has both river and city views making it more expensive than the condos that are on their way. With no comps it is more difficult to sell but the reward for the buyer is again, incomparable.

Down sizing for the two years+ of the Great Loop experience is now almost completed, no small task. Neither the wife or I want to be miles away only to get a phone call that some item at the Water Street Center (our condo building) needs attention and personal involvement. Water, sunshine, swimming and food are all I want on my mind, not houses, farms and condos, all except one that are now off our sell list.

In the meanwhile

Half a dozen well vetted potential buyers have come through the unique condo. Not a one has been anything but impressed and generally using the words jaw dropping. The problem is that they too are downsizing. The condo is the right size, two car free parking, in the middle of the city life, etcetera but people have to make decisions to discard stuff, stuff that kids, relatives and friends do not want.
However, people are grinding through for their Great Loop experience or a final 'just the right size' retirement place.

Our listing info
https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/106-N-Water-St-Ste-810_Wilmington_NC_28401_M56006-17461#photo1

Thirty feet of waterfront, eighth floor, 7 mile view balcony with a 180 degree view of the Cape Fear River.
The entrance balcony on the City side of the condo is just as sweeping.

Other mentions

We have entered the Create the Future Contest using a different point of view. At the insistence of a few boat and land folks, we placed the Totally Electric Powered Solar (TEPStm) boat in the competition classification as Sustainable Technologies. Our take is that it is a superb Bug-Out destination, which happens to be a boat. Please take the opportunity to see the entry through the link attached and also the link to become a CR4 Engineering 360 forum member if you want to vote.

Competition entry Bug-Out Boat

CR$ Engineering 360 forum registration

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

WINTER SUN TEST

A RUN OF 2 HOURS


During the winter, the January-February months at about 34 degrees latitude, provide a low sun for the solar modules atop the boat. Even on a very clear sunny day at this latitude in Wilmington, NC, the electrical capture rate is low. In the summer the sun light is more directly over head, yielding a much better rate of electrical collection.

The winter sun test was to help us understand how to find and use the balance point between incoming sun energy to simultaneously replenish the drive motor(s) usage under water travel conditions.  Except for the three motors being used for exit and entry to the slip, just one motor was used, with the other two dragging in the water. Later, the two draggers will get lifted, just not this time out.

It is quite ordinary to use math to indicate usage in watt hours but those numbers do not give the captain a realistic feel of how tide, wind, clouds, humidity and seasonal sky position directly effect boat control. Just as with a wind sail boat, a solar sail boat takes practice getting use to the interplay of the many facets of power usage.




On the road (um) on the river again to probe a bit deeper into how the boat handles and refuels with a winter sky.


TIMES IS FUEL


Our battery bank system is comprised of standard flooded lead acid batteries of deep cycle design, similar to a car battery but having the ability to provide a longer duration of power than a car battery's brief high load for engine starts. We have finally gotten a good sunny winter day with low wind with reduced tidal flow in order to set a base line of drive power needed to make the boat move with control and maneuvering capability.

Once out of the slip/fairway and into the river, there are no protections from wind and the mix of river & tide flow. Eddy currents near and around the marina and especially at the center of confined bridge water flow tend to shove boats around, requiring the capain to increase the drive power to offset swirling water conditions.




We found that a speeds of 3 to 5 miles per hour were needed to keep the boat on desired headings in average river & tide conditions, require 300 to 500 watts of continuos power.
In order to keep the batteries from being depleted, the solar modules atop the roof had to replace such an amount. That amount was provided, allowing operation that although comparetively slow for other boats, was suitable for rudimentary navigation.



Around the bridge, very squirrely currents require a bit of steering. Awaiting the closure and reopening is rewarded with an addition of energy to the batteries. We were definitely not rocketing along at 3 to 5 mph but there is no range limitation. If you are retired, as we are, time is more than money, it is fuel.



Taking a close view of the underside of the Cape Fear Hilton railroad bridge on the return leg of our brief sojourn.


Awaiting the bridge opening, having a snack, reading, taking pictures or conversing makes use of the  sun. Quite amazing that a few minutes with a large enough solar array, will top off the battery banks. After a quarter century of collecting the sun's energy this way, the fact that we are actually doing such is still impressive to me.


The bridge and the batteries are up, continuing the equilibrium of power in, power out.


There will be only a few more nice days such as Tuesday February 6, 2018. These videos will serve to remind us of how we got out and back, at what level of energy, distance, time and ease of control.


Heading back to the slip with grins and more knowledge about solar sailing.

Once back in the slip we just became another 40 foot boat. However, until you have piloted such a boat, just using the sun, no fuels, no wind, no sails, no noise and no smells, you will have missed the power of nothing.

More to come.







Thursday, February 1, 2018


MOG is Uplifting

Making light work lighter   

Although the Torqeedo Cuise 2.0 is very light weight at only 36 pounds, we have attached it to a motor mount jack plate of nearly 20 additional pounds. The plate easily slides into and out of the jack plate receiver bolted to the transom, making it possible to remove the motors when leaving the boat for a long period or to change a propeller while in deep water. 

A small permanent strap will be added instead of a lasso around the motor's top.
The lift strap must be made in such a way as not to cover the GPS antenna
 inside the the black plastic motor head cover


The idea of performing the task (with or without the heavy jack plate) can easily become precarious if the wind and water gets rough. I have placed and removed the motor with and without the jack plate, alone, with just my bare hands. It is easy enough but should there be a departure from calm conditions, I want a much more controllable rig. 

A single sheave pulley is used for the lift or a double sheave pulley can be used.


With some 2 by 2" wood, cardboard and tape, a prototype was cobbled together to fit onto the existing jack plate assemblies (typically used for 300 hp outboards of about 600 pounds). With some diligent effort, the design emerged into 2 by 2" square aluminum tubing, pulley set, attach/detach plate all to be TIG welded together. 

Torqeedo was very smart in providing the outboard with a reinforced rubber skeg.
The skeg allows one to rest the motor on the transom before lowering it to the cockpit floor.

The result is a lightweight, storable, easily deployed, simply used and quick operating lift for electric outboards of about 100 pounds. The current Torqeedo motors are about 36 pounds and with the jack plate attached, is about 56 pounds. The new lift is a most desirable addition to the onboard tackle and can serve a few other services to boot.


At this point the lift line would be unsnapped from the lift motor lift strap, to
stow the outboard inside the cabin.

Lift removed from center mount and attached to the port motor jack plate receiver.

Then the lift is removed again, simply snapping onto the starboard jack plate receiver.

Inside cockpit view.




Sunday, December 31, 2017

Practice, practice

Some additional brief outing video


The weather in Wilmington, North Carolina has become quite a bit colder as the last few days of 2017 turn to 2018. With the sun very low in the late afternoon winter haze sky,  Hillary pilots the boat on the Cape Fear River. 

While she drives, I assess the amount of power generated on the roof to replenish the battery banks used by the electric motors. We will be performing this same task many times during a wide variety of weather conditions at different times of the year. The worst time of year is winter. 


                              
Hillary at the helm on the Cape Fear River, getting the feel
of the difference between a Grand Banks 42 and the MOG 40.

The cold actually helps the collection on a sunny day due to cooler photovoltaic (PV) modules  and more clear air without humidity. Problems arise from a shorter winter day time and the sun being low on the horizon, thus not directly shining on the PV modules. The result is very poor collection of available energy. The reasons for the tests are to gather experience in handling reduced collection while dealing with water flows , wind and traffic. 

Marine Off Grid, elegant & quiet travel in deep or shallow waters.

We will endeavor to keep you up to date as our schedules and weather permit. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and do have a prosperous New Year.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

HATS OFF

to Solar Boat Cpt. Jim Greer




Serene progress sliding across clam waters in the final version of RA, the solar powered boat.

We have been following the progress of RA and the solar electric boat's challenge to the Great Loop from its very inception as noted in this early adoption of a Roost USA, Inc. folding top.


Persistence is the hallmark of a champion and Jim has it in spades. His raw determination has served well to change, quite literally, the course of modern boating power. I and many others alike, doff my hat to the man whose dream to sail the Suwannee River went quite afar to complete the Great Loop on solar energy alone. Over 7,200 miles are claimed by the dauntless sailor of RA, a totally electric sun powered boat.

The face of determination, persistence and a nice set of whiskers, Jim Greer.


From comments made throughout his sojourn he often alludes to the fact that the boat is basic transport, not built for luxury accommodation. However, if you want to be the first to complete the Great Loop with the sun as your gas station in the sky, his boat, RA, definitely got the job done.

Monday, November 20, 2017

SMALL MOTORS, LARGE PUSH

The Quest for Light Might

The test day

November 17th marked the Mog's first brief foray into the swift moving Cape Fear River. The Totally Electric Powered Solar (TEPS)tm boat, driven by just one of three diminutive Torqeedo 6 horsepower electric motors, clearly demonstrated both strength and agility. Utilizing no dockside personnel for the single handed operation of the 40 foot boat would be a concern for anyone, especially departing or entering a slip in flowing water, the response and dependability of the motors was completely up to the the task. No resulting drama or bumps were encountered during all the testing.


All three motors in full reverse

Several different combinations of the 3 motors were tested to determine how the boat could be maneuvered best while leaving the slip, located inside the marina fairway. The departure was challenged by a light wind and the river's noteworthy flow. The best method was by using the port and starboard motors to steer the boat in the close confines of the fairway's moving water. The levers of the forward/reverse controls at the helm made the task logical and most intuitive with the added convenience of displaying the electricity level (fuel) while under way. 

After clearing the slip and exiting the fairway, only the center motor of three was used, the port and starboard motors being switched to the off (neutral) position. The two stopped motors were left to their full immersion depth while all drive and steering was performed by the single 6 hp center motor. A 60 horsepower internal combustion engine (ICE) had previously occupied the center jack plate, now used by a Torqeedo electric motor. Although much less power by ICE standards, the new electric motor was actually an improvement in both operation and handling. The selection of the motor's drive direction at the electric motor controller (binnacle) was not the choppy response to inputs that the ICE demonstrated. Also absent with the electric motor, was the raw overspeed accompanying direction change with attendant engagement clunks in the gear box. Also of note was the lack of noise, fumes, and most appreciated, the smooth transition through forward, neutral and reverse.



A longer duration full throttle test was made while out in the river.

Full power was very briefly used just to get an idea of the reserve capability. As shown in a previously made video, there is no lack of drive from the 3 twelve inch high efficiency motor propellers. More tests of that sort will be performed a bit later when all the photovoltaic modules are once again returned to the roof. The recent test was made with only half the usual solar array size as evidenced by the unused modules secured to the bulkhead in the aft cockpit.


The future

Although all the drive electricity comes from the batteries, the solar array atop the roof replenishes some battery deficits during full throttle operation. The array wattage output at this time of manufacturing is not great enough to run the boat at full throttle for extended periods but does provided the capability to bolster the battery reserve when high demand is needed. Keep in mind that a somewhat typical trawler carries about 300 gallons of diesel fuel weighing in at about 2000 pounds. The Mog has been making all of its runs on less than half that weight with just conventional lead acid batteries.


This battery replacing our 18 batteries would be 3X the power
at the very same weight with no complex cell balance electronics.

We have batteries in the near future that are safer, faster charging, as long life, quarter the cost and simpler than Li systems. We also have a new solar array a fifth the current weight with better roof conformity, more watts at a low price per watt of energy. To top those pluses, all of the system elements are quick to stow or move at the owners desire. Moreover, the systems, including drive motors, are able to be dismantled and shipped by ground or air delivery for upgrade or replacement. Try that with some of the other power devices and storage systems. 


This 11 module 450 pound 2.5 kW array will be replaced with 4 kW at 100 pounds.

The Mog, our boat named ALGEMAC II, has a power and drive system being designed to be fixed as consumer serviceable modules with online wireless diagnostics at a factory into the boat. 


Now you see them,

Now you don't. Unlock them, 15 minutes they are stowed inside.

The following are short videos made by the captain during single handed sailing. More in depth videos will be upcoming after the solar roof is reassembled as used in 2016.



Only one of the 3 electric motors, at about half throttle powered the boat against the tide flow with the solar array keeping the batteries at a constant 24 volt system level. The slip and fairway test was navigated by two motors with the center motor off (neutral).