Tuesday, February 26, 2013


We are coming to the end of another week of house-sitting for our friend Samantha.  I has been a wonderful chance to stretch out, relax, and enjoy the view.  Even the 'chores' are a pleasure -- caring for a diabetic cat and an arthritic dog who obviously enjoy our company and attention.  And cleaning such a lovely house really isn't a chore at all.

Thursday morning sunrise on the Olympic Mountains, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Sunday afternoon visitors moseyed through the yard

Shadow is a big lump of cat.  Al alternately calls him Chewbacca, or Jabba the Cat.  It is a warm sunny day, but Shadow seeks the shadows, the sun being too hot on his black tuxedo.

He's out!

Until he hears the clicks and whirs of the camera.  'What!?'

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The New 'Us'!

In a recent post, Then and Now, I didn't have a 'new' picture of the two of us.

Well, yesterday I had my second cataract surgery, and I am now 'glasses free', at distance.  Now I have to work on a decades-old habit of nearsighted people:  If I can't see something well, I bring it closer.  That doesn't work any more!  In fact, I now need help to see at arm's length and closer -- some people call that help 'cheaters'.  And I now have 4 pair:  a lighted pair for the nightstand, a pair in the kitchen, a pair in the backpack, and my red pair that stays near my red laptop.

I was very excited to remove the tap from my eye four hours after the procedure, to clear vision!  What a relief.

We are house-sitting for a friend, and I got to enjoy the first clear, glasses-free sunset in many decades!

No glasses!  

And the new 'Us', NOW.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Compatibility issue between MS2000 inverter and Splendide 2100XC Washer/Dryer

In January we installed the new Magnum MS2000 inverter, replacing the failed ProSine 2000.   You can read more about all that here: http://mvvikingstar.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-peek-inside-magnum.html .  All had been well, until we did a test run  of the our Splendide Washer/Dryer running on the inverter - and it failed.  And if you want to get your propeller hat a spinning, read on.  If not, just know I have found some special case where there is a problem and still need to give the parties involved a chance to resolve it.  This post is just talking about what is failing...

OK, if you are reading on - here goes:  About 1/3 of the way into the wash cycle the Splendide starts moving the wash back and forth, mixing things up I guess.  And when on the Inverter it really goes nuts - lights flash, and the washer motion becomes jerky.  Clearly things are not happy.

Searching the internet found an obscure reference to a 'Known issue' between the Magnum inverter and Splendide washers.  An Email to the support department of both did get a quick response,  with each pointing the finger to the other :-)  (More on that to come I am hoping).

Always the inquisitive, I wanted to try to understand a bit better what was happening, so I broke out the Tek 222 O'Scope and started taking some 'pictures'   And here are some pictures of those pictures.  Sorry, I have not yet gotten the O'Scope connected to the Computer to directly download images, so we are doing it Old School - with a Camera.  (Ok, maybe not Old Old School - I am using a Digital Camera, not a Polaroid).

Here is the waveform of shore power, what a good True Sinewave inverter should emulate:

A 'Pure' Sinewave

Now TO BE FAIR - I have seen lots of waveforms from the Magnum that look what is above.  So lets not get the idea that this post is about an overall problem with the Magnum.   I am thinking it is really a case of when all the stars align that things go wrong.   And here is a picture of when things go wrong:

Failing Combination
Notice that kind of Hook circled in red?  What I believe I am seeing here is a problem with how the Magnum handles reactive loads, namely the inductive load of the washer / dryer drum motor.  That hook is when the machine fails.

Here is another picture, notice we still see the same flat-spot, but no hook?  Here the washer/dryer carries on:

This one seemed to work OK.

And here you can see the two images overlayed:

The Good and the Bad!

OK, so what is this all about?   Well, it appears to me there is a limitation in the Magnum inverter with inductive loads. Inductive loads are a special type of load known to cause Reactive Power to be drawn (as opposed to Real Power).  It is a major issue for shore-based power companies to deal with.  The problems, causes, and solutions are all well know.  But the application of this all is rather a dark art.  You can learn more here if you wish: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AC_power#Real.2C_reactive.2C_and_apparent_powers

Back to Viking Star.  When looking at  how the Magnum handles other inductive loads (refrigerator, drill motor, drill press, vacuum)  the waveform shows a little distortion, but nothing dramatic -  and more important, no hooking.  So I am wondering what is special about the Splendide in the load it draws.  Maybe because the washer motor is on/off so much?   Maybe there is one too many corners cut in the Splendide power supply design? .  Another idea:  All the other inductive loads I tried were much larger overall then the Splendide - perhaps the problem is only when a rather light inductive load is placed on the Magnum.  Who knows, but all of this info I am sending to Magnum to see what insight / suggestions they have.

How to move forward, as we do need our washer/dryer working (and always using Shore Power is not an option!): 
  • Overwhelm the Reactive Power with a much larger Real Power load.   Turning on a Space Heater to Low does this (tested and confirmed).  But it also uses a LOT of  power.  A 100 or 60w light bulb might do the same, need to experiment.
  • Use a different inverter:  We know the Prosine works just fine - as long as it works at all.  It is reported that several 'cheap Chinese Sine-wave' inverters will also.  (This would be a sad situation where the Prosine and Chinese ones best the US Magnum...)
  • Splendide to make their washer less susceptible to waveform distortions.
  • Magnum to research this and improve their design (or perhaps I have a failed unit??)   Will see what happens next week.
  • Add Capacitance to the load to counteract the washer's inductive load and reduce the waveform distortions.
A light bulb might work (can one still buy 40 or 60w bulbs these days??), but again it is wasteful of energy.  The last point holds the most promise.   I will try to secure a motor Run Capacitor - the key here is getting just the right value and that might need experimenting.   A more advanced version is using a 'synchronous condenser', in effect an inductor motor (no, really) driving no load.  This CAN be more energy efficient than just a light bulb or heater, and has the advantage of in effect looking like a self-adjusting run capacitor.  I tried experiments this morning using the unloaded motor on a drill press and a vacuum  - both worked great. (In fact, the 3rd photo above is the 'failing' waveform de-hooked by the unloaded drill-press motor.)   A try with a small box fan that I pulled the blades off of did not work - just too small to have any real impact.

There is a 'Treasure Shop' on the Island here, and will be picking up a car Monday.  I will go there and see if I can find a small motor and/or some run capacitors to try.  I think in the end this will be the real answer.

Will post the conclusion of this invention when get more info.  Till then:  Wow:  Boats and Systems.  SO much more than the house!


Friday, February 15, 2013

A Beautiful 'Spring' Day!

After three 'techie' posts by Al, he said I needed to do a post.  Today the sun came out, and we decided to walk to the animal shelter and pet cats!  According to the calendar it is still Winter, but I took my coat off at one point today.
Mt. Baker peeks over the ridge, and a breeze plumps the wind sock at the Friday Harbor Airport.

Lots of cats have been adopted, but there are still kitties galore at the animal shelter!

There's a view of Griffin Bay as we leave the shelter.

And an airplane coming in for a landing.  LOTS of traffic at the airport today!

And at a pond off busy Mullis Street, an eagle keeps his eyes on us.

The first crocus of the season!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Trial run of the Arduino generator controller

OK,  Last one for a while.  But this is such a colorful graph!

Today I did a full cycle run of the Kubota Generator using the new Arduino based alternator regulator and throttle controller.  And here is a graph from the debug log data that was produced:

Two things to notice:
  • See how flat the Watts line is during Bulk phase?
  • Likewise, notice how the Amps line drops during the Bulk Phase?

This is the result of the key goal for the project - maintaining a constant load on the driving engine.  As the battery voltage increases we need to lower the Amps delivered in order to maintain a constant Watts load delivered (and pulled from the Kubota engine).  Almost without exception, no alternator regulator is able to do this.  (I only know of one other, and it costs a LOT of $$.  Like a couple $1,000).   I want to maximizing the the capabilities of the generator when it is running, and hopefully reduce overall run time.

One can also see the engine RPMs being managed - as the battery approached full charge, the amps dropped off quickly and the resulting load on the engine was reduce.  So we slowed the engine down.  Need to work on that fuzziness in the Field PWM on the right.

You can see more here:  http://smartdcgenerator.blogspot.com/

Saturday, February 9, 2013

1st trial run of Arduino based Generator Control and Alternator Regulator!

Ya, cross posting.  But today was a major milestone in the Kubota DC Generator automation project - hooked it all up and did a 1st run!

Boring Video:

See more details here: http://smartdcgenerator.blogspot.com/2013/02/1st-live-run.html

Along with a description of what is happening in the Video.

And to learn more about the intelligent regulator / automation project go here: http://smartdcgenerator.blogspot.com/

Friday, February 8, 2013

When FETs go bad

This has not been the winter for Inverters.  Yesterday I wanted to pump up the air compressor and blow out our small space heaters.  So I flipped on the appropriate breakers and switches and the compressor started to start, and then stopped.  I am guessing I had not payed attention to the water heater and block heater, both of which need to be turned off in order to allow enough power for the compressor 

Oh Weill  no worry.  That is what we have fuses for, right?   And yup - the control panel for the Heart 2.5kW inverter was dead - sounds like a blown master fuse.  Given it was late I put it off till this morning.

Well, when replacing the 300A class T fuse (the correct one one needs to use between a battery bank and large inverters) I had expected a little sparking - always is while the caps recharge, but this was a LOT of sparking.  So, before fully installing the new fuse I took off the cover of the inverter and . . .

Here is the FET driver board, with its rows of FETs (24 in this case).  Notice anything wrong?

How about this photo?  (See the cracked case)

Or, here or here....

Yup.  FETs are blown.   Sigh.  But that is OK as this happened before (in fact, it is how I got this inverter, free for the fixing).  And I carry spare FETs!

 Maybe this shows how overboard I am in the Spares department?  I carry spare FETs for our inverters...  Actually, they were left over from when I re-FETed the inverter the 1st time.  So, will just be a matter of getting out the soldering irons and working the magic.

Life will go on, inverters will be back on-line.  Great I am able to deal with this, but does also highlight the idea of KISS. . . .

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cataract Surgery

Wow!  What a journey!  At present I feel I am in the midst of 'the worst of it', but I am looking forward to that final procedure on the second eye.

I got my first pair of glasses at age 11.  In 4th grade, classmate Dena got glasses, and of course EVERYONE in the class had to try them on.  And when it was my turn I was AMAZED!  When I got home from school that day I told my Mom,  and explained how when I put Dena's glasses on, I could SEE!  Of course, Mom believed I just wanted glasses because my friend got them (I'm a mom now too, and I can understand that now).  But I was quite frustrated, and spent 4th grade moving closer and closer to the front of the room to see the blackboard.

Several weeks before 5th grade started, Mom did take me to the eye doctor.  What a fascinating experience!  I still love eye exams -- SO much more than visiting the dentist.  And glasses were prescribed.  A couple of weeks later, we picked them up, and I vividly remember that drive home.  'Wow, Mom!  There's a jet up there, and it's RED!  Hey, the trees have BRANCHES!  There's a WIRE on that fence!'  My mom looked at me and said "I'm sorry."

I am sure that this experience contributed greatly to my journey through optical education and employment.  I have had regular eye exams ever since that first one, even annually while working in the field.  So, I was greatly surprised when I found Dr. Chris White in Friday Harbor in November of 2011, and he told me 'You have a cataract.'  WHAT?!  I hadn't expected to hear that word for 20 years or more!  He said I'd probably want to do something about it in 5 years or so.  Boy, we were both surprised when I picked up the glasses he prescribed two weeks later, and I said I couldn't see.  Several rechecks ensued -- my vision was very changeable!  We finally believed the change had stabilized, and had a new lens made.

But last summer, my fuzzy vision became more than annoying!  I was still able to see 20/25 using both eyes, but the left eye by itself could not be corrected better than 20/40.  For this Virgo perfectionist, this just was not acceptable!

Cataract surgery has changed so greatly from the time when my Grandma Freda had those 'bubble glasses'.  The materials and procedures used now-a-days often leave the patient able to be free of glasses.  I was excited about this possibility.

BUT, I knew that if I had the procedure in ONE eye, I would want to do BOTH eyes.  My prescription is such that the difference between the eyes would be so great that it would induce double vision.

Tuesday, Al and I made our way to Pacific Cataract and Laser Institute in Bellingham, WA.  (Thank you, Samantha, for lending us a vehicle!)  Pre-tests were done, and I was told that my right eye 'did not meet criteria'.  Insurance would not cover this eye.  That's okay, since we have such a high deductible, being a catastrophic policy, we would be paying the cost ourselves anyway.  But, repeating the glare test after dilation, I did meet the criteria in the right eye also.

A doctor came to take a look, and said that, while my cataracts themselves were maybe only a 4 in left, and 2 in right (out of 10), that they were both centrally located, which makes them seem worse.  Location, location, location!  (Dr. White called them 'beam-splitters'.)

So, we go forward.  I wonder if my optical background makes me more nervous.  My blood pressure reads higher every time they take it.  I know there is a needle involved, but the anesthetist assures me that I will not be able to see any of the procedure.  There IS just a fleeting pinch, and then a sensation of pressure, and some burning, but he does slow down when I indicate it is a bit too much.  When he is through, he says that the worst is over, and he is right.  A rubber ball is mashed onto my eye and held in place with an elastic band, which helps the medication distribute.

An added plus for a believer -- the surgeon and team prayed over me before beginning.

The whole cataract removal takes only minutes.  It's the preparation that takes the most time.  Before I know it, I stand up and get walked out to meet Al and get my after-care package and go home!

My eye is taped shut.  The anesthesia immobilizes the eye, so I would not be able to blink anyway.  And it would not move WITH my right eye, which would give double vision.  The attendants warn that taking the tape off too soon often freaks people out.  They say an average of 3-4 hours, but it could take up to 6, before my 'eye wakes up'.

We have some errands that I feel just fine doing, as long as I can keep my sunglasses on to cover up my taped eye, and Al can offer me an elbow to guide me.  My depth perception is NIL.

By the time we get back to Anacortes, I feel ready to take the tape off.  Wow.  My eye is all bloodshot and goopy.  The cornea is kind of foggy, but covering my right eye....I can see!  I can read signs and more.  It's kind of achy around my eye, but Advil helps.  As warned, I see halos and glare around lights.  Just for curiosity, I remove the left lens from my glasses.  That SHOULD, and does, allow for a clear image to be seen by both eyes.  BUT the two images I see are now of very different sizes, and my brain cannot fuse them.  As expected, DOUBLE VISION!  Not expected, instant NAUSEA!  I put the lens back in.

Yesterday morning, 24 hours after surgery, I visit Dr. White, and he says that I can see 20/25 uncorrected!  As I am now, until I have the second eye done, one of my eyes is greatly blurred regardless of what I do.  With no glasses on, my left eye is now clear!  With glasses on, my right eye is clear!  What to do?  It's kind of confusing to switch back and forth.

Dr. White instructs me to begin my transition.  I should wear no glasses for distance, and get +2.00 readers to help that left eye see close up.  Now I begin to be like Al -- who is always asking 'Where are my glasses?'   and I will be wearing my newest accessory -- eyeglasses as a headband, or neckwear.

And I am getting by.  Yes, it IS quite uncomfortable to have my dominant eye being useless right now.  (It's similar to the before-surgery situation, but worse.)  But I know it will be resolved in two weeks!  Oh happy day!

For the first time in almost exactly 40 years, I will not be dependent on glasses or contacts!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Today I did a Boat Project!


Today I actually did one of those Boat Projects that has been hanging around for a LONG time (ok, from when we packed it all up and left Portland - that is how long).  I installed new dummy's onto some of the hydronic radiators.  Here is an after:

And a before,

This last one is adjacent to the shop and I had wanted to do it as well.  But the dummy's only came with sufficient brackets to do 3 short radiators, even though there was plenty of metal covers left...   And of course - one can not purchase only the brackets.  Guess if it bothers me enough I will send off an order to Grainger and get another 5' section.

These 4 radiators had lost their covers some time over the years, and came to me 'bare'.  I had been wanting for a LONG time to make them look nice, and today they are!   Plus, and here is the real big news, it got rid of 2x 5' long boxes that had been stuffed into the engine room when we did the Pack-n-go a couple of years ago.


Back to Normal? What's That?

After 72 very full hours of the company of a daughter and her three kids, a new day has dawned without them here.

No more dealing with car-sickness, bickering, runny noses, whining and fingerprints.  But also no more smiles, hugs, and kisses.

Today I wipe away some precious physical evidence left by grandchildren, but we hope that the memories we made together are lasting.  We even discussed this, and shared our OWN four-year-old's memories.

But, 'normal' will be postponed for a little while.  Tomorrow I travel to Bellingham for cataract evaluation, and probable surgery.  And the day after, to Eastsound for a follow-up check.  I am a little worried about how my eyes will work together until I get the second surgery in two weeks, but I am excited to be through with the whole process, and hopefully only NEED glasses to read.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


I just want to acknowledge the passing of a couple 'blogging' milestones!

We have passed 30,000 pageloads, and now have 50 followers!

Thank you, ALL of you!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Guest Photographers

Casey is here with her kids, so we have been having a grand time showing them 'our town'!

Today we rode Evergreen State, the inter-island ferry which is free to foot traffic, around on her loop.  Six-year-old Madalyn wanted to take a picture, so I handed over the camera.  She was shooting away, and when I checked to make sure she was pressing the shutter down all the way, I saw she was getting some good shots!  It appears she has mastered MY trick of taking LOTS of shots -- you've got to get a FEW good ones.

These are ALL from Madalyn, with no coaching!

Friday Harbor from the ferry 

Mom and Milo 

Another ferry coming!

The water


We stopped for coffee at The Crow's Nest

We saw lots of other boats


Grammie and Evan

And the title of this post was Guest Photographers.  Madalyn's little brother, four-year-old Evan wanted a turn.  He needs a little more practice.  We'll work on that.

How did this happen? Cost to Cruise Jan 2013

Take a look at January's Cost to Cruise, notice anything funny about it?  How about the total being UNDER $4000!  Something we have not seen since August of last year.  Oh Wait, it is really under $3000!  Again, something not seen since last August.  And that included the once-every-3-years re-cert of the life-raft in Boat Maintenance!

Wow, get away from the Marina, get out of the USA (and its health care costs),  and we just might be able to approach that magic $2,000/mo.   Ok, Kristi and I are going to have to look at this a bit - see what we did in January, and try to repeat it again.  Often...

And Solar was off again this Month, we produced 21 Ah's/ day average and the model predicted we should have gotten only 11Ah!   Think that makes up for under shooting the mark by 2Ah last month :-) ?

Note from Kristi:  First response upon hearing the good news, and Al wondering what happened -- We've been eating out of the freezer, we haven't bought any meat.  And Al answered back -- And we bought our booze in December.  So there's AN answer --  become tea-totalling vegetarians!

Some features of our boat's DC and AC Electric system

In this post ( http://mvvikingstar.blogspot.com/2013/01/living-on-30a.html ) I talked about how we are able to service 63A of devices with a single 30A shore power cord.  There are a couple of other features baked into Viking Star's electrical system.  Perhaps these can be useful to others.

A few items of note:
  • 25A Shore-power Circuit Breaker.  Idea here is we pop this breaker before the 30A one on shore pops.  (Cause you know that one on shore will only trip when it is dark.  And Cold.  And Raining. . .)
  • Isolation Transformer:  Rather uncommon , but absolute solution for galvanic isolation.  This one has taps to compensate for low dock-voltage situations as well as being able to be serviced by a 220-250V sources (ala, outside of North America)
  • Dual inverter/chargers:  Redundancy.  Allows for the 63A/30A magic.  Can be used to service the boat / batteries from a 50hz service while providing 60hz power on the boat.
  • Dual DC system:  Engine and House.  Each totally independent with their own charging sources (alternators on Mains).
  • Split DC distribution and A/B switch:  House panel serviced directly by the House battery, while the Navigation panel can pull from House or (as a backup) the Engine battery.  This same A/B switch allows for bridging of the two DC systems in case of a fault say in one of the alternators or a need for a 'boost' in starting.
  • The fusing on the 270A house alternator:  It is rather common to just connect alternators directly to batteries w/o any fusing.  Much like how the starter alternator is done on Viking Star.   However I do have a fuse here primarily because of the distance from the battery compartment to the engine compartment.   The fuse is located at the battery and is there in case some short happens to the wire on its way to the 270A alternator.  Yes, does present a risk to the alternator when (if) the fuse blows - but that will be the lesser of two evils if some failure mode occurs which cases the fuse to go. . . .

Of these I would say I like the 25A mains breaker and the dual DC system w/the A/B switch on the Navigation panel the best.