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).


















Thursday, July 20, 2017

FINAL TOUCHES TO GO

THE FINAL TOUCHES

The Most Minor of Mods Truly Make Her Right

There is a saying that makes far too much sense to ignore and is best summed up here...


Our take on his comment is that the fewer the lines (ropes or fuel) the better time the ship's occupants and captain will have. This becomes especially apparent when the lines are low voltage cables, electronic modules, basic batteries, few switches, safe fuel (Sun), engines (motors) the wife can lift, no oil smell, exhaust and a litany of 'less stuff' for which to care. Oh, and all at a leisurely sailboat speed.

The three Torqeedo motors are very small but their 12 inch diameter props are highly efficient for the 40 foot Totally Electric Powered Solar (TEPS)tm boat, as shown here in a still picture from a video.

An example might be that the new power drive system, at this time, is by Torqeedo electric outboards. Similar horsepower inboard motors are also available from the company but our affinity for really shallow 18 inch water then beach the boat, seems to indicate 3 kickers instead of fixed propellers and rudder stock.


Totally Electric Powered Solar (TEPS)tm boat is gracefully aground to access remote beaches with an 18 inch draft. The forefoot is protected by a unique planking while the bottom is protected by twin robust keels.
All three motors applying considerable reverse thrust to the stern while the additional securing bolts on the jack plates transfer the tension evenly to their jack plate assembly.

The motors are powerful enough to drive the boat at her max hull speed of 8 miles per hour (7 knots) yet removable at the end of the day so that all three can be stowed away in 20 minutes without raising a sweat.

Details such as bolts that further secure the motors after the clamps are tightened are provided as well as a simple method to insure that the stainless steel wing nuts do not inadvertently join the briny deep by fumbling fingers. Simple wire retainers such as pictured keep the owner and captain very calm and cool during placement and removal.

Shown are the three jack plate inserts which hold the outboard motors, provided with extra bolts
to hold the motors firmly to the plates during reverse. The jack plate can stay in place while removing the motor or the motor and the jack plate can be removed as a single unit. Motor assembly weight is 42 pounds with an additional 8 pounds with the plate attached.
There is more to do to get ready for this summer's contribution to logging more miles on the Great Loop adventure. Most of the miles will be close to Wilmington as we test the system further and go even farther in North Carolina waters. 


Monday, May 15, 2017

TRIPLETS!!! UPDATE

The Selection Made & Mounted

And a launch tomorrow June 15, 2017

A long process



All systems ready for launch sequence.

has been brought to a happy conclusion after much due diligence. I, as were a few others, was somewhat surprised at the selection of Torqeedo, made in Germany. Even though I was the main decider, there was a bit of history, support issues, technical information and pricing.

The bottom line, pricing, was dealt with by actually paying more than the Torqeedo competitors. The Torqeedo Cruise 2.0 RL is not a cheap build, it is fully EU compliant with a host of firsts. Not only a first rate motor but an entire systems approach has been launched that can knit two units together with a single binnacle having GPS speed, health, charge level, distance and time remaining.

The first edition of this boat had only two 5 hp electric motors that yielded enough power to push the boat at the hull speed of seven knots. Just one of those motors weighed more than all three of these. The three shown provide 18 hp,  That is 8 hp more than needed for hull speed. Actual power trials and maneuvering  will commence about the last week of June 2017.

To compliment that technology is their unique optional battery pack with seamless integration.
Even though I will not be using all of that tech by using my own flooded cell lead acid batteries, I can still use a great deal of the tech with a future option to add on their Li battery system at any time... plug and play.

The purchase was for 3 of the motors, 3 spare propellers, 6 extensions for the forty foot boat and three individual speed/direction controllers. The three diminutive motor's size belies the power that is packed into a submerged 24 volt power torpedo mounting an advanced propeller of a whopping 12' diameter. That diameter is 2 inches more than the powerful custom conversion outboards I have made for the boat.  In fact they are as big and more power efficient than the original 12" Michigan Wheel props originally selected for the first version of the MOG.

Gone is the 60 hp gasoline engine and 2 large electric outboards. Can you spot the electric motors peaking over the transom?
The clutter of two gasoline tanks, gas hoses, starter cable, shift cable and throttle is gone. 


The testing will begin in late June after the relaunch. All of the cabling and switches were also a part of the Torqeedo package, saving many hours of creating custom cables and affixing terminals of correct size to the ends, a thankless task.

What is even more fun is that even at forty feet of boat, it all fits as if a 12 foot boat. Because of the boat length of nearly 40 feet, I added 6 extra helm controller cables to the order, that was it.

Now the mounting

This is where the electricity hits the water. The motors I had custom built were lighter than any on the market, powered by only 24 volts but at significant amperage. The same 24 volts was key to be kept and the new motors function from the same low voltage system used previously.

To say the least, Torqeedo has made the setting up quite easy. At a final weight (including the heavy duty twin 5 foot copper wire) of just 42 pounds, lifting them onto the transom was easy.

Stowed on the aft salon sole are the 3 motors, very powerful and compact, with remote hand controls.

All three motors can therefore be set into position, powered and ready for throttle in less time than a coffee break. No huffing and puffing required.

More to come

Getting a few snapshots of the transom decked out in its new garb was nearly effortless on a very warm day, an absolutely grand exercise.  More about which to write in a few weeks but this should get you up to speed with what is in the works.