Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Damage Control Kit

Captain Rodriguez asks "what's in your damage control kit?" Mine's similar to his - toilet-ring wax and spray foam - but I also have a tube of epoxy putty.

I worry about the can of foam rusting through so I put it all in a Seal-A-Meal bag. The foam still might burst the bag but maybe it won't rust as fast. What a mess that would be. Actually, if I let it go that long without inspection I get what I deserve.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mmmmm, Small Bodied Guitars

This is my latest "boat guitar." It's a Fender "Global Design" GDP 100 Parlor Guitar. It's a very cheap instrument, plywood, less than $200, but it sounds fine. Intonation's good, action is surprisingly good, and it looks great.
Small bodied guitars usually have good punch and this guitar is really snappy. It has a full 25.3" scale (that's Strat sized) and is very comfortable to play. It would probably sound better with upgraded saddle, nut, and bridge pins, GraphTech perhaps, but I'm in no hurry.
Sitting in the cockpit at sunset is exactly where this guitar belongs. It is small enough so that it doesn't get in the way and it hangs perfectly on a coat hook so it's ready to go whenever a little inspiration hits me.

New Batteries and Charger

Earlier this spring I swapped out two group 31 lead-acid batteries for an AGM 8D and an AGM group 24. Scamper's DC system is wired so that one battery is dedicated to starting and one battery is dedicated to the house. Not a bad setup but, since they're dedicated to different jobs, both batteries don't need to be identical.

What I had was essentially 100 amp-hours for the house and 100 amp-hours for starting. Scamper doesn't use all that much power - no fridge, no water system, all LED lighting - but 100 AH is pretty low if you want to anchor or sail for several days without running the engine.

Further, a group 31 battery can supply around 700 cold cranking amps (CCA) but Yanmar specifies that the 3GM only needs 200 CCA max. So there was a lot of excess capacity in the start battery.

The two group 31s weighed a total of about 145 pounds. The AGM 8D and group 24 together weigh about 205 pounds. So for 60 pounds I was able to more than double the AH capacity of the house bank - 100 to 245 AH.

In order go gain space for the 8D I needed to not use a battery box. AGMs can be fastened down without a box since they can't leak. You just have to insulate the terminals. I really like the idea that the batteries can't spill in a knockdown.

All in all it was a great upgrade. The hardest part was lowering the 150 pound 8D down the companionway. I used a tackle from the boom.

In order to keep all this electrical storage full I needed to replace the old Guest 10 amp charger. I went with a Xantrex Truecharge 20 amp model. The 40 amp model would have been a little better specification for the size of the house battery but the 20 amp model fit the space better, didn't require me to add active ventilation to the space, and was a bit cheaper. Accessories for the 20 amp model are a little cheaper too and I got the remote panel pictured above.

It is nice to be able to see what the charger is doing but the AGM setting on the device uses a lower range of voltages for bulk and maintenance charges. This puts the voltage indication on the remote panel at the very lowest end of its range so it's not as much fun as it could be.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Standard Horizon HX850S

The new Standard Horizon HX850s is a handheld VHF radio with a built-in GPS. This allows the digital (DSC) portion of the radio to always have a position to send to other DSC-equipped radios. The Coast Guard in the Pacific Northwest (Sector Seattle) can receive and act on DSC distress alerts so this radio seems a pretty useful piece of safety gear. To get all this to work you need to get a free MMSI number (from BoatUS if you are in the US).

After using an HX460s for many years the HX850s seems a bit bare. It works well - the radio sounds good, seems to have a sensitive receiver and an adequate transmitter, the GPS acquires quickly, and certainly seems accurate. The 460 has so many bands though that it's like cable vs. regular broadcast TV.

The HX850s display is large but compared to the HX460s it seems somewhat lo-res. The available display modes are useful but the available GPS info will take you back 15 years to units that only had lat/lon, COG and SOG. That's exactly as advertised and perfectly adequate for the intended use. After all this is a radio with a GPS and in an emergency the position is what is useful.

The unit has a strong magnetic field. It affects the steering compass much more than the HX460s and any other handheld VHFs I've had. Gotta be careful where you set it down. This is probably due to a large speaker magnet which is responsible for the unit's great sound. Too bad it doesn't get more bands like the 460 which I sometimes use as a portable AM/FM radio.

I ordered the optional AAA battery pack. I'll load it with lithium batteries and will keep the HX850s in my ditch bag. Makes a lot of sense there.

Update: the AAA battery pack arrived and, oddly, it takes five batteries. Not a problem but you either have to buy 10 batteries or tolerate one left over. I got 10 and vacuum-packed the whole lot and have it stored in my ditch bag.