Saturday, December 27, 2014

Marine Air HVAC - an Aqua-logical wonder of the World

During the process of renovating a sailboat, so many things take longer than expected and cost more than the estimates.  I read about it all the time - browse any sailor's blog, and you'll inevitably read about such-and-such taking 3 times longer than they thought and costing double what it should have.  And while getting our A/C's up and running it did cost a bit more than I would have liked, the fact that we even have a system that functions and operates is a blessing. 

The two 16,000 btu Marine Air condensers
During the survey, we couldn't get it to work, so we weren't sure if we had a few extra boat anchors on board or a bad-ass HVAC system...but lucky for us, it was the latter.  Situations like these are the main reason we got a boat for almost half the going rate - we took a chance on a lot of systems that weren't operational during the initial inspection and rolled the dice that we could get them up and running for a reasonable amount of money.  The watermaker and the a/c system are two great examples of high dollar pieces of equipment that were in-op at the purchase, but only required a small investment and a little work to have perfectly functioning, and important, items on the boat that makes living on one a little easier and a lot more enjoyable.

As suspected, this boat has an extremely expensive a/c system on board.  There are two 16,000 btu "chiller" condensers in the forward starboard locker and five air handlers - one in each cabin and one in the saloon.  The "chiller" condensers are supposedly the more expensive and more energy efficient kinds to have - Shawn over at S.A.L.T. told us that each one would cost around $4k to replace.  And to top it off, each air handler has its own digital thermostat to control the temperature having both a "heat" setting and a "cool" setting as it acts very similar to a household heat pump system.

Digital Thermostat in each cabin and saloon
The saloon control and vent
But here is the cool thing about this system - the condensers work together in a series to chill the fresh water that circulates between all five of the air handlers.  They chill the water down to a cool 48 degrees, but when the water gets down to about 54 degrees, the second condenser shuts down while the first continues to run until it reaches that set temp.  Once it does, it will also shut off and if all of the five zones have reached their set temps, the whole system will shut down until its needed.  But if the chilled water that circulates gets above say 54 degrees, the sea-water pump kicks on and the condensers continue to chill and circulate the water.  So what you can do is turn on the circulator pump a little while before you need it, that way, as soon as the air handler is activated, it will have already pre-cooled the water and cold air blows instantly. The other awesome thing about the system is that each air handler has an extremely strong blower that has three levels of blowing strength.  When I first turn on a particular cabin, the handler blows on high until it gets closer to the desired temperature at which time it slowly decreases strength until the unit shuts off completely.  As we sleep throughout the night, we barely even notice when the unit turns on and off because it only comes on in low strength because it can maintain the desired temp with just activating on low intermittently.  

Part of the control boxes that house system circuit boards
There are also two white control boxes in the condenser locker, and one in each of the five zones throughout the boat.  They house circuit boards and control every aspect of the system.  The ones in the cabins are attached to and control the digital thermostats.

The saloon air handler (before installing a new filter) - each cabin has one of these nicely installed
The odd thing about having only a 3.5 kw generator and such a massive air conditioning system makes a little more sense once we understood the a/c system better.  If we had to, we could run just one condenser and it would have to carry the burden of getting the chilled water down to 48 degrees all by itself - it would take a little longer, but it could eventually do it.  But yesterday, we did a little research - we cranked up the genset and began turning on the a/c system.  It carried the load of both condensers and a few of the air handlers that were powered up with no problem.  Seems that maybe such a small genset might be able to power the whole system if it needed to.  We probably won't ever run the generator all night long just to power the a/c system, but its nice to know that it could if we needed it to.  And while I do have about $1,500 in the repair, I'm told that to install a complete system like this in a boat today would cost in excess of $18k - so its worth keeping this system functioning and operational.  

Here's the break-down:
New circuit board and labor:  $1100
Complete recharge of system with 407c:  $400
Sleeping in a cold cabin on a hot and sticky night:  PRICELESS!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Video: s/v Catchin' Rays goes Sailing for the first time!!

Watch the crew raise the sails on Catchin' Rays for the first time. On this video, we take care of a couple small projects and then head out to sea for a perfect day of sailing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

We raise the Sails for the first Time!

Today, Ralph from s/v Lasata was nice enough to join us on our maiden shakedown SAIL.  And just as when we launched Catchin' Rays, this was just as important of a day in the life of this boat because we know its been years since this sailing vessel has been powered by nothing more than the wind, so it was a pretty monumental day for us and for her.

The day was perfect - it was warm with winds steady at 8 to 10 knots with gusts up around 14 knots.  Ralph and Cassey arrived at 11:00 am, jumped aboard, and we untied the lines for a nice mid-day sail.  Justin took us from the dock and out the channel; soon we were heading towards the tip of Key West and it was time to finally raise the sails and kill the engines.  I still can't figure out if I was surprised that she did great, or if its exactly what I expected, but even though there were only light winds, she was still making about 6.2 kts.  For those who haven't experienced what its like to have a 16,000 lb. catamaran move along at 6 knots by a light breeze... its truly something that has to be felt and witnessed.  There wasn't any violent and overbearing wind to distract us or big waves that constantly crash the was just the peaceful sound of the water kissing the hulls as it went by. And for us, to see Catchin' Rays glide through the ocean by only the power of the wind was a proud moment for all of us.  

The engines did great too - we replaced both mixing elbows so the engine rooms were nice and dry.  Even when we ran them up to over 3000 rpm, they were barely getting warm - at 2500 rpm, she was cutting through the water at 7 knots.  We also played around in the marina just a bit doing a few 360's before backing her back into her slot at the marina.   Ralph suggested that we have a celebratory beer due to a successful sail - so we bullshitted at the picnic table overlooking our boat and toasted to a bad-ass little day sail.

View through the port ocean hatch
Ralph from s/v Lasata giving a little instruction

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Living in a Marina - beats the hell out of the 'burbs

Since the launch almost 3 weeks ago, we've sat quietly here at the dock in our new marina as we wait on a few things.  The first thing is paperwork - its a long story and I'll save you the gory details, but needless to say, we need it.  The second thing is our Captain - he plans on joining us at the end of December to help us embark on this adventure.  Works out pretty good with the first thing we are waiting on, and gives us some time to get the very last things in order before we shove off.  And lastly, we are kinda waiting on Tami's foot to finally heel up - not that it will ever be the same, but at least there won't be an open wound to deal with.  We thought it would be closed 2 months ago, but it is being very stubborn - but she still sees a podiatrist twice a week.

So, in the meantime, we take care of a few projects here and there.  Today we got Brandon's 12 volt television mounted and powered - that finishes the project from a couple of days ago where we ran a new 110 volt plug to power both his Xbox 360 and his Xbox One.  We also got the watermaker up and running - and its has been performing rather well although we ran into a little setback when we first fired her up in the form of about 10 leaks.  It seems weird to us that when we were testing it with fresh water we had not one leak, but push some salt water through it and it looked like we turned on a sprinkler.  But after Justin chased down and fixed all the leaks, we were making over 13 gallons per hour with a TDS reading of around 250 - so we were really proud of that.   All totaled, we spent about $1000 on the watermaker rebuild including motor, fuses, relay, belt, pulley, booster pump, and membranes.  

12 volt 24" television
110 volt plug I added for the gaming systems
We also exchanged this one with a plug that has two USB's
We've also got to try out our dinghy that I rolled the dice on.  We take it out and putter around - we go over to s/v Saltrun to make sure his boat is still in place and that nobody's messing with it (his boat is parked about a stones throw from ours.)  We also give it the throttle and up on plane out in the channel just so she can stretch her wings a bit - and it gives us an excuse to jack around for just a second.  But the results are in:  while it is a nice little boat, and should carry our scuba gear ok, it is a little splashy and a little water does come up through the open transom when going in reverse or when loaded down.  Can I recommend it?  Probably not, but it should work for us for awhile.

But what about actually living in a marina, especially when compared to a boatyard?  The sad fact is, it doesn't even compare.  I knew living in a boatyard was tough - I read it everywhere - when a cruiser goes from living on the water and/or a marina and has to put their boat on the hard, it seems to make life suck.  But it was all we knew prior to the splash.  First of all, the view is much better - I am surrounded by water (who would've thought?)  And its clean here - the docks are spotless, the bathrooms smell good, the showers look brand new.  But most of all, its the people.  You would think that in the boatyard we just left, that the people there would all be friends and there would be a sense of community.  At least in that boatyard I would have thought because so many are residents there - from the longtime cruisers who aren't planning on going anywhere, to the workers that live there.  But its not the case - everybody sticks to themselves.  They're not mean or nasty, they just mind their own business and go on with their day - but maybe we were guilty of the same thing too, I don't know.  

But as I just read one of This Rat Sailed  posts, I identified a lot with it.  Its true, we have socialized more with the people here in this marina (or at least they have socialized with us) more than we ever did in our last three places we lived on land.  I didn't even know what any of my neighbors did for a living, or even their names.  But in a marina its different - and everybody has their personal "business" cards to hand out (they're actually called "boat cards") - we've already collected several of them.  And what's so odd about the whole thing, is most of the cruisers we've met are only here for a short time - one boat is heading to Tampa, another is going to the Abaco Islands, and others are heading to Belize.   But I'm anxious to actually start running into some of the people we've met here in far away places - its going to be great trading stories about the adventure each of us had in getting there.  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Video: the launching of Catchin' Rays and a Sea trial

Here is the eagerly anticipated, long awaited, critically acclaimed launch video.  It has been a long time coming and massively overdue.  This video also includes our first ever sea-trial.  

But along with the launching comes a few additional items to add to the to-do list in which work has already began.  

Take a look at this proud family basking in the joy of a successful sailboat renovation and getting a small taste of operating their restored vessel.