Sunday, December 29, 2013

Docking the MOG solar powered motor yacht

Visit for more details about the MOG Canal Boat.

December 21, 2013 was a definitely warm 75 in Wilmington, NC. The day was also a bit threatening with a decent tide flow and winds of about 12 mph, with a sailboat's anchor and pulpit extending six feet into the fairway........  what the heck, I will take the boat out anyway (to the wife's protestations - the camera lady) single handed. So what is the big deal here? I am sure that thousands of boats around the Mog's size go in and out of slips all over the world and do not submit a video to YouTube, as if it were the Apollo 11 Moon landing. However, there are a few similarities to Moon landing. The Mog's motors were locked in place (only in this particular test sequence) and not steerable by tiller or wheel. Only thrust was used to maneuver the boat to port or starboard and also in reverse with no bow thruster. Also similar was the fact that there was no additional help, one pilot, single handed and a not helpful environment. Certainly not in the league of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin's monumental commitment. Not unlike them, I feel vindicated in the trust I have for the plan, the machine and the technology afforded me by the grace of God.

All in all, everything went fine and Hillary did a great job of keeping her balance on the floating docks, anticipating the shots, fighting white knuckles and getting it all on video. The system of differential steering is used very effectively by all boat pilots to assist close quarters operations in conjunction with the wheel at the helm. Some pilots include the wheels use and some do not. Few have operated a 40 foot yacht with only two 10 hp electric motors in a wind and close tidal fairway. The test was most pleasant, gratifying and clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of the powerful little electric motors in a critical situation.

If there are those that view this video who have piloting skills (any would be far beyond mine) please feel free to comment on what you have seen. I will offer no excuses, I want to learn more through your unbiased observations. Thank you,
George McNeir

Sunday, December 15, 2013

MOG and Ferrari are both engineering marvels

Visit for more details about the MOG Canal Boat.

Borrowing from Enzo to resolve the Forward/Reverse issue.

Our story to date: The propulsion system on the MOG prototype had a glitch deep within a product purchased for the craft. In a quick change from forward drive to reverse, the system required a short (milliseconds) pause. Without the pause, the motors did not get the message to reverse direction. The MOG continued under power in the same direction contrary to instructions from the remote control. Potential disaster loomed with every outing. Imagine docking a 40 ft motor yacht with no confidence that the boat would respond as directed. (See last post for details.)
The solution involves a gate on the remote control that allows a pause when shifting from forward to reverse (or vice versa).  Please note the progression starting with the genesis of the idea (Ferrari gear shift plate) and images of the prototype with cardboard and then the
culmination in a simple and elegant fix.

 Stick shift gate for a Ferrari Testarossa (nice but it is not remote control)

 The port (left side) of the RC w/o a gate and the cardboard mock up on the starboard (right).

 Final product works for application of an RC to control throttle and drive direction.

In addition to the fix of the persistent direction, there was the nagging issue of hearing the twin electric motors and whether they were in forward, neutral or reverse. Eureka ! ! ! ! Another simple solution that really works.

Head Phones. And not just any head phones but ones that are stupid cheap too. Like $8.99 from Harbor Freight.

The remote transmitter for the headphones is also equipped with a microphone that will easily pick up the difference in sound of each electric motor and if they are in forward, neutral or reverse.
 It is very easy to tell the difference between the port and starboard motors, each one's speed sound and in what direction it is rotating. Each motor has a distinct and unmistakable 'voice'.

And, if one is tired of listening to the motors during a long straight run, the headphones can be switched to their own internal FM antenna so that music or talk radio is brought to the ear.

All of this for under $9, for me, the hearing impaired yacht pilot.

I might also add that the microphone picks up any conversation on the aft deck (or wherever placed) to my hearing enjoyment..... such as,  "honey, the bar-b-que ribs and hard cider is ready."

Wireless Headphones


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Moving forward even when we want to go backward!

Visit for more details about the MOG Canal Boat.

The continuing saga of designing and building a unique solar powered motor yacht…

Among the unique properties of the MOG is the joy stick guidance system. The joy stick does double duty. It controls both direction and speed. The MOG has encountered an unusual phenomenon when shifting from fast forward into reverse (or vice versa). It seems this is ALSO an issue for others that use the equipment from our motor manufacturer and the people that make the electric motor controller. It is a problem that occupies the 'users' domain...... both companies do not feel they should solve the use problem, it is the province of the user.

SOoooooo,   If you remember the old stick shift 'on the floor' before the Hurst straight line shifters, there was a 'gate' (plate of metal) with a slot pattern for the shift lever to follow. Some were H patterns, Z, W, I and virtually all Italian cars had beautifully crafted, polished metal gates through which the shift lever was slid by some ne'er-do-well, aspiring Juan Fangio.

Stumble over a few score and ten years, zap, electro-mechanically a similar scenario. In order to make the rapid change of motor rotational direction appear as an acceptable command to the electronic motor controller, one must give the motor time to pause (mere thousandths of a second) but pause it must. Without the miniscule pause, the electronic motor controller and the logic board on the actual motor will not see the request for direction change. Instead of accelerating in the new (opposite direction) it again accelerates in the same (previous) direction. This has the unintended consequence of making unavoidable far objects appear a lot closer, faster and scaring you to death at twice warp speed. Beam me up Scotty!

So it becomes a 'user fix'. A physical gate must be designed that allows the correct amount of 'jiggle' for start up (prevents the motor propeller from being 'in gear' upon initiation of power) and also have a joystick dwell area (joystick slides sideways a bit before continuing its directed path) without creating a sloppy feeling gate. For now, this is the way it gets fixed. Once the fix is deemed to work, a board equivalent is built, tested and then made into a program that is effective in the motor logic and/or motor controller. 

Also, when the motor(s) change direction, the direction change must show over thirty feet away at the helm. The helm, where the steering and direction commands issued, is inside the front of the yacht. The motors are so quiet that the pilot has no other clue as to what is happening in speed or direction. Certainly not like a car that will feel like it is going backward or forward. So a method for sending and displaying these signals by wire or wireless is needed to confirm the pilots intended orders to the engine room.

This will take time and a number of frustrating failures, none of which is new to me on this 25 year sojourn through the la-la land of solar electric things. I have already made some simple thumbnails of the 2-1/2" diameter gates to be imposed over the port and starboard RC control joy sticks.

The yacht is being prepared to be hauled out of the water for a month for a spruce up of the bottom paint and some clean and detail topside. The MOG, called ALGEMAC II, will go back into the Cape Fear River, Wilmington, NC near the end of March 2014 for the close of sea trials. God willing the trials go well, Hillary and I will once again launch into continuing the Great Loop adventure.