Friday, April 29, 2011

New home for Lecti the Lectra-San

Started on one of the last projects, installing the Aft head.  Am going to run it onto an on-board treatment system.  The existing forward head goes into a tank for subsequent pump-out to shore.

Photo here shows where the treatment unit will be placed, a bit under and to one side of where the head will go.

Now just need to build up a platform and box around it to mount the actual head on.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Have 14 working days left before the scheduled haul out.  This is all the time left to complete all projects, clean out the garage and apartment, dispose of the car, and get on our way.  Of course, there will be a few extra days after the haul out, but that should be reserved for cleanups.  OK, have been making progress.  Hard to list up all that has been done, some highlights:
  • Completed the devil seams!   Can wash the boat now in prep for painting.
  • Completed the cabinet for the AIS and WiFi.  Looks really nice, no more wire hanging all over.
  • Put up the TV receiver, again, no more wires all over the dash this time.
  • Installed a Paragon JR water pump – looking like a great solution, and am surprised to see it is much more quiet than the other pumps we have used!
  • Cut out the mounts for the main motor heat-exchange, to allow for it to SAFELY be added into the hydronic heating system.
  • Have mounted the Hurricane Heater and connected all the water pipes.  Pressure testing indicates a small leak somewhere, need to chase that down before charging the system with water.
  • Mounted the water maker high pressure pump.
  • Built a protective cage around the steering gear – to keep things from jamming the rudder at the wrong time.
  • Repaired forward framing on port side.  Still have three more to go and would like to get it done before we paint.  But this forward one was more important as it was allowing all the water that rained on the forward deck to ‘drip down’ into the hull.

Projects in flight, and am hoping to largely finish up in the next week:
  • SSB, complete wiring for Power as well as antenna tuner and Pactor modem.
  • Cork Floor in aft cabin:  trim is all in, need to level the floors and cut/fit the cork.  Then an overcoat.
  • Hydronic heater:  Pressure test, connect fuel and power lines.  Install exhaust system.  Create control box and install thermostats throughout boat.
  • Watermaker:  Start assembling components I have on hand, decide placement and get remaining hoses to connect all.
  • Rain Gutter around lazaret hatches – not started.
  • Procure and install radiators into aft cabin – not started.
  • Install aft head and treatment system – not started.
And of course, paint boat cabin before the haul out.  Haul out has its own list of work to do!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Things that . . . . Don’t really Work: Jabsco Sensor Max water pumps.

We have now gone through two of the Jabsco Sensor Max Variable Speed water pumps.    The first one would at times seem to drop one of more of the pump chambers causing excessive pulsing in the water flow.  This would cause the tempering valve in the shower faucet to hammer loudly.  Even after disassembling the pump head and inspecting the valves to look for damage and/or debris the pump would just never work correctly all the time.    So late last summer I installed the Backup pump.  Today this one seems to have given up.  After powering the pump down for a short time to connect the feed-water into the hydronic system the Jabsco would not stop pumping upon re-pressuring the lines.  I tried adjusting the pressure sensor, and that worked for a while – but it soon went back to the same no-stop issue.

So, 0 for 2.

Too bad.  These are nice pumps.  Deliver a fair amount of water, and vary the pump speed to match water demand.  Slow for brushing teeth, fast for a nice shower.  However they are also pumps designed for the Recreational boating market.

This is one thing we have noticed on Viking Star – you need to be careful with equipment for boats.  See – a typical recreation boat might see several nights use a year, a few weekends, and perhaps a couple of weeks Vacation.  This is markedly lighter usage than full-time live aboard.  A key example is indeed the Hydronic heating system:  Many of the boilers are designed for light usage, and even the Hurricane boiler is perhaps on the fence.  For the rest of the hydronic system on Viking Star I have chosen to use an residential / light industrial components.  Example: 120v AC circulation pump and 24v  remote valves as opposed to the typical 12v ones more commonly used on boats.

Oh, and one more thing:  I actually violated a basic rule I have for backup components – I try (where possible) to purchase from a different supplier for my backups.  We have one Xantrex inverter and the backup is an old Heart.  Idea here is if there are any basic design issues which cause a failure, and identical backup will have the same fault.

Back to the Jabsco pump.   I need to look around and see what else we can use; a quick Google search is not promising.  Am thinking there might be a Paragon JR pump in the local 2nd hand store.  If so, that might be the answer.  Will see.

Friday, April 15, 2011

More progress, one ‘photo’ and Things That . . . Work: AIS

It has been raining and cold here the past few days, so I have been focusing on ‘inside’ jobs.  Mostly electronics.  Over the past few days have connected the AIS unit, and made lots of progress on the SSB – pulling cables to the radio head and connections to the computer.   Replaced the steering ram as I was unable to keep seals in the old ram  (thank you Rick for the artwork stainless coupler, it works great!)  Mounted the Hurricane platform, heater is next.  Got a couple more coats of Varnish. And cut up some Purple Heart to make a protective cage around the steering gear.  I have always been concerned about the open steering gear, and what would happen if something shifted in the back and jammed things up.   The guard will help prevent this, but will have to reconsider how to attach the emergency tiller.   Still making progress, but also noting April is half over!   ARG!

AIS is a newer technology  I am excited to have on board.  Boats and Ships equipped with an AIS transponder will transmit information about themselves via the VHF radio frequencies.  These can be picked up by anyone having an AIS receiver (or transponder).  The information transmitted includes vessel ID (Name, MMSI number, size) as well as course and speed.  Great technology IMHO.    Larger systems (ala on ships proper) will use this information, course and speed to automatically calculate the probability of a collision, providing one more way to avoid being hit.  From our side we can see a boat's actual name!  This way we can hail them by name as opposed to ‘The push boat inbound at Kelly point’.

Here is a screen capture from our navigation computer (using Sea Clear software on an industrial PC running WinXP).  If you look closely you will see some lime-green Boat Shaped Things.  These are all plotted boats that have an AIS transponder!  Clicking on one of these will pull up an information window like that one in the lower left.  And as this system is based on the VHF radio technology, it means we can see boats around us for about 10 or so miles away – even around bends!  Very useful on Rivers where Radar cannot see around the bend.

The AIS system has Classes of vessels.  Larger craft being Class A and smaller boats being Class B. Class A systems have been required worldwide for several years now; Class B are just starting to appear in the USA.  Which brings up an issue -  Clutter - as AIS transponders (units that send a boats information as well as is able to receive, as opposed to receive-only units) are being adopted by pleasure craft.  It is rumored that larger ships will often filter out Class B signals, and I am not sure I blame them in busy harbors.   The issue will be if they do not turn off this Filter once away from the congestion.  So we cannot DEPEND on a ship receiving our Class B signal.  Watchful Eye needed as always!  Our Class B transceiver has one feature I like:  the ability to disable transmission.  If you look at the screen capture, all the vessels you see are at moorage, happily announcing their presence to the world while not going anywhere!   OK, so we will be able to turn off our transmitter while still being able to receive singles.  Not all AIS units have this ability.

Now here is something interesting:  A network of shore-based AIS receivers worldwide connected to the internet!  If you click here: you will get to a web page that shows AIS traffic along the lower Columbia river.  Zoom in to see detail, and more so – this system allows you to see AIS information almost anywhere in the world!  A delivery Captain I talked to says he using his laptop tethered to a cell phone to get some level of AIS reception on the vessels he delivers, even if the vessel itself does not have AIS capability.  What Fun.

OK.  AIS, much like MMSI numbers, is one way advanced technology is being brought to the marine world.  To be honest, though there are some advantages, these technologies do not replace time honored approaches to safe navigation.  And for Viking Star, AIS will help us (mostly with the vessels name) to some extent – but it is only one tool..

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More progress, NO photos!


I commented to Kristi yesterday it seemed I was really making progress on things.  Just feels like it, but I do worry I am being optimistic.

Overall, we are targeting the end of May for the Haul Out.  BTW, the dates for No Rain have shifted a bit to May 23..30th.  The basic idea is at that point we will be 100% on the boat.  Projects completed to the point they are, or are not.  We will release the garage, and give away the car.  Fully Committed - so to speak.

It is with this in mind that I look at what still needs to be done, and actually at times feel like might be able to accomplish this.  To this end, I set in my mind to the end of THIS month for a timeline.  This lets some things slip over into May.  But I always would rather be done early than rushing at 11:58 on the last day.   So, what has been done this week?

  • Drilled and installed the hold downs for the Dinghy - Gravity has been the only thing keeping it in its storage spot on the aft cabin.  Now we can lash it down!
  • Meet with the Heater Guy to talk about placement and Exhaust routing.  Drew up a custom exhaust water-trap and am having it built locally.  Should be ready by end of Month.
  • Cut and placed the mounting platform for the Hurricane Heater.  Just need to cut some all-thread and fit it into place.  Then hook up all the wires and pipes!
  • Placed and started drilling holes to mount an impeller pump on the DC generator, to replace the 12v raw water pump I have been using.
  • Ordered the RO (Water Maker) membranes and housings.  This will allow me to place them and get the custom hoses made up.
  • Yesterday Chris (a fellow Boater we meet last Summer) and I pulled down the overheads and insulation in the main cabin.  Drilled and pulled signal wires for the AIS, TV Antenna cable, remote Horn button (more below) as well as a spare wire for potential use on future AM/FM speakers.  This was a MESS, and am glad Kristi did not see it.  Biggest mess was the drilling of holes, and the insulation fuzz that always comes off.  But am excited to get these wires pulled as it allows me to get the TV receiver off the bridge area, and will allow for installation of the AIS!
  • Cut and laminated Mahogany panels for the area to place the AIS receiver, along with the WiFi repeater and potential AM/FM auto radio.  Also glued in the mounting tabs for these panels.
  • 1st Coat of Varnish on the above panels, as well as the trim strips for the aft soles in prep for installing the remaining of the cork flooring in the aft cabin
  • Filled and placed into storage the Electrical overflow storage container.  This got about 3 boxes out of the garage!
  • Pulled one of the heads that came with Viking Star to see if a friend of Chris's could use it.  Sorry to say, it was in ruff shape (I had not looked at it for 10 years - it was the head originally in the aft cabin). So we all agreed it was better suited in the dumpster than anyones boat.  But ONE MORE box out of the garage!
  • Cut (still need to trim and fit) a covering board for the window frame that contains the steering and motor control cables that route to the upper steering station.
  • Cut a Mahogany panel to install next to the Refrigerator.  Will look a bit nicer!
  • Re-glued a small piece of Formica that was popping off.  BTW:  I accidentally picked up a can of contact cement that was in 'Gel' form.  What junk!  I tossed the can after using it for a few strips, all of these have popped off.  JUNK!

Last year Viking Star was boarded twice during the night.  By young folks wanting to do ??    The 1st couple we think we know - at least what HE wanted to do :-)   Not so sure about the lone Girl, though she seemed to have good support from the docks..  In thinking about potential reaction, am installing a remote set of switches above the aft bed that will allow the deck lights to be turned on.  This should help inform folks they are not alone.  AND if that does not work, am also are going to install a switch for the air horn!  That is the wire Chris and I pulled yesterday.

And want to pass on some info for the water maker / DC generator I am making.  Have not talked much about the RO water maker to date, and will add more details as I finish it.  But in short, there are lots of resources on the web for these.  And they are really not that complex.  The two biggest costs are the pressure pump, and the RO membranes / housings.  This week I contacted Rich Boren from Third Day (  They have been out cruising for a couple of years now, and not finding enough drama in his life refitting boats, sailing with teenagers, and fighting starter fires, decided to start  Cruise RO Water and Power ( .  This company focuses on simple and field tested solutions to water making and energy production.  I asked Rich if he would be willing to sell me just the housing and membranes, and the answer was YES!   A blatant plug: his prices were competitive, we spent about a half hour talking about things (I hope he was using Skype), and it is good to support a fellow cruiser.  So, with this I have the last major components for the water maker.   Am planning on placing them and getting the hoses made up by the end of April.

And there are No Photos, the boat is way too much of a mess and I do not wanted it documented!

Monday, April 4, 2011

We are Booked!

Just booked the lift dock for May.  After talking with Phil at Tomahawk Island Marina  we put in for a block of time from May 18 .. 25.  Will  adjust the actual haul-out during those days to accommodated for weather.

We haul Viking Star every two years for normal maintenance, and she is due now.  At this point have just a few things to take care of:

  1. Replace 3x plywood butt-blocks starboard side a bit forward of mid-ship
  2. Inspect all seams, service as needed.  I typically end up doing about 20' or so of re-corking.  this year will pay special attention to the seam compound.
  3. Install SSB grounding plate
  4. Pull shaft and shorten it - current prop overhang is a bit longer than recommended.
  5. Inspect / replace cutlass bearing while shaft is out.
  6. Bottom paint.
  7. Paint topsides.
  8. Adjust Boot-strip
  9. Replace all zincs, likely unusable do to long term fresh-water exposure.
  10. Replace rudder box and stuffing box packing (as these will be removed for shaft service giving easy access)
All and all a busy, but not excessive schedule.  The Shaft work is perhaps the biggest outlier when it comes to time.

BTW:  I have used T.I.M. for my haul outs for some time now, and very much can recommend them.  Great facility, right across the street from Sexton's Chandlery.  Phil who runs the marina is a great guy, knowledgeable about what he does, and easy to work with.  Also check out the photo sections looking for Viking Star during a prior haul out!

And everyone has a homework assignment- get out your best magic, we need NO RAIN from May 18..25 in Portland this year!!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Quick update on progress.

 Have been wrapping up loose ends on a few projects, and starting a new ‘batch’.

  • Battery relocation.  Completed all the wiring, motor, generator, etc.  Even completed the battery cover!  We are FINALLY back to the point we were at the end of December.    Wow…
  • Storage in forward engine room.  Have completed installing shelving in the location of the old battery box.  Now just need to decide what to store there :)
  • Search Light converted to new bulb, works great.  In fact  - when I stand on the dock in front of the boat,  I can feel the heat from the bulb.  Good for warming the hands on cold days!
  •  Air compressor all ready to go again.  Also cut off the un-used handle that intruded into the space set aside for spare hull plank storage.
  • New Navigation Sub Panel.  All installed.  Nice to have labeled breakers.
  • Glued and bung-plugged a board to cover the gap at the top of the new door to the aft cabin.  Noticed it now is a bit low and I can hit my head on it, so rounded the sharp corner with a hand plane and some sand paper.  Still hit my head, but now the risk of cutting my scalp is lower.

Hydronic Heating System:
Have been back onto the heating system.  Started to install the PEX tubing connecting the copper segments I installed last summer.  If I were to do this all over again, I would have home-ran all PEX based zones.  Have only made ONE PEX connection, but wow – was that easy!

Speaking of copper,  cut off excess pipe and soldered on a new end cap to the end of the forward radiator segment.  That is now all sealed up and ready for leak-test, and I have a bit more scrap for the metal run.

Have also been spending time designing a control panel – ala how to enable main motor pre-heat, as well as the ability to use waste heat when the motor is running.  And as I am using commercial zone valves and pumps (for improved reliability), I need to add some extra relays to match the control signals from the Hurricane heater control box to these valves and pumps. 

Kubota DC Generator
Have spent a little more time working on this again.  I am in the process of installing an impeller pump driven from the motor to replace the temporary March DC raw water pump.  This will improve reliability greatly.  At the same time will be mounting the Cat pressure pump in preparation for installing the water maker.

I spent a little time looking at the RPMs of this motor vs. output capability.  Until now I had no idea what RPM I was running the EB-300, just that it was about 20% slower than the Max speed based on the throttle stop.  What I found out is I was running at around 1900 RPM, which explains why I could get only around 100A before overloading or stalling the motor.  1900 RPMs gives about 4HP continuous.  At the original stop speed of 2200 RPMs I am producing  4.75 HP and at that speed am able to draw 125A  with no observable issues. 

This is a big 'Aha!', as one sees commercial examples of these DC generators which advertise driving a 150A or even 200A alternators.  I will tell you, at 150A I can easily stall this small Kubota, even when running 2200RPMs.  Now, it may be they have the faster turning, higher HP version (3200 RPM).  But this brings in issues of noise and reliability.  I am happy with a 125A goal, and will continue to see how this shapes up.  Stand by on this one as the total amps/volts will be a key balancing point for this DC generator, as well as rolling-back when the water maker pump is enabled.  Am not sure if I will need to design a custom regulator in the end,  will see.


Finally, cleaned up the Lazzerate a little – vacuumed it well, put a coat of paint on the rudder upper bearing framework.  Also cleaned and primed the backup tiller gear.  Tuesday am meeting with someone to talk about the exhaust system for the Hurricane heater, as well as final placement of the boiler.  Once that is decided will decide on how best to reinstall the aft bilge pump through-hull.