Monday, November 25, 2013

A fun little project - red & white undercounter LEDs

'6 little LEDs, sitting all in a row!'
(OK, only 4 are visable, but they continue on for 6 total..)

Here is a fun project I did a while ago, putting up a string of inexpensive LEDs as under-the-counter lighting.  Lots and lots of LEDs are out there, these are the ones I picked up a couply of winters ago when I was back in Portland:

They cost $1.85, come in Red, White, Warm White, Green, Yellow.. What is curious is I can find ones CLOSE to this on Ebay for around $1 each, but they do not have the connectors on them - just hard wire pig-tails.

And is is the connectors that make this kind of a fun project.

See, I mixed red and white LEDs - added a two position switch and now we can selected between the Warm White glow, or eye saving Red night light! I stewed for a while trying to figure out how to make a clean and tidy installation, without a bunch of 'extra' wires running around.  (ala, one for White, one for Red, and one for return, plus lots of splices and connectors..).  Notice in the top photo how all the LEDs are daisy-chained, one right after another?  If all I had was one color that would be straightforward - wire up an on/off switch and link them one after another.  But in fact, these LED blocks alternator between White and Red.  And I was able to do with with the existing wires, by using a little electrical magic.

Starting with a DPDT - Center Off switch wired as a 'reversing' switch I am able to get either 12v normal polarity sent down the wires, or 12v reversed polarity, depending on which way the switch is toggled.  Right for White, Left (port) for Red.  Center for power-off.  LEDs being Diodes will either light up when presented with correct polarity, or will not when presented with reverse polarity. By reversing the Red and Black wire on the Female connector of each LED block as 12v is sent down the wire the polarity is 'swapped over' at each LED block.. So what was normal polarity at the 1st block becomes reverse polarity at the next.  And if the 1st block had reverse polarity presented to it, it would swap this over the normal polarity to the block after it. This is how I can 'selected' either Red or White with one set of wires.

Details.  Step one: mark your LED blocks.  They all look the same when unpowered, I turned them over and wrote WW or Red on them with a Sharpe.  Then need to reverse the wiring on the end of each LED block.  Take a look here, the LED on the top has been modified, the one on the bottom not.:

Can you see the difference?
Top one has been modified, bottom is stock.

How about now?
Notice how the holes in the connectors have swapped sides?

Here is a close up.
The top connector has been 'turned around'

To do this we simply need to release the clips holding the wires into the connectors, pull them out and then reinsert them back into the opposite holes.  To release, look on the side of the female connector with the metal showing. There is a VERY small clip that can CAREFULLY be pressed down.  Then GENTLY pull the wire out.

Using a knife tip to gently press down on the clip.

Here both wires have been freed.

After freeing both wires, inspect the clips to make sure it is not too deformed.  We want it to 'spring back' into place holding the wire in the connector.  Once ready, press the wires back into the connector, swapping Red and Black.  And that is it!  Now as power is sent down through this LED block it will reverse the polarity before sending it on to the next block.

Install a string of your modified LED blocks, alternating White and Red blocks to get good light distribution.  Finally wire the DPDT-CO (Center Off) switch as a reversing switch:

Connect the LEDs to where it says 'track' in the above drawing.

I snipped off the unused Female connector from the last LED block and used it to wire from the switch and the 1st LED in the chain, ala:
Snipped unused pigtail
off of last LED in chain
Then used it from the Switch to the 1st LED.

And there you have it.  Red and White LEDs counter lights with a two position - center-off -  switch to select which set to light up.  All with nice and tidy wiring.

Fun project!  And here are a couple of  Live Action photos:


OK, Nerd time:  In fact there is a slight problem with wiring up LEDs like this.  At least the really low cost ones.  The problem is though LEDs are a class of Diodes, they do not have very high reverse voltage properties.  Often in the 6v range (vs say 100V or more for a normal 'Diode'.)   Applying 12v to one of these stresses them.  So, why am I doing the approach above?   Well, I am kind of walking a line here.  With 3 LEDS in each block, that 6v becomes  3 x 6v, or 18v.  And we are OK.  PROVIDING the leakage current in each LED is matched (possible), or some external balancing resistors were designed in (not a chance).  So, even though there is a potential to 'stress' them when they are in reverse polarity, the risk is perhaps low.  And after all they cost under a couple of bucks each.

But, I did have one fail after almost 2 years of use.  Not sure if having it reverse biased at times contributed to that or not, after all these are cheap units, so who knows.   

I am happy with this approach, I like the cleanness of the wiring, and I am willing to take the 'engineering risk'.  But if you are looking to do this with devices other than what I have sourced, you might want to re-look at them and see if the situation is better or worse.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thank You, Richard!

One thing most power boaters don't have to worry about is climbing a mast.  Now, Viking Star DOES have a mast, but not nearly like even small sailboats.

This past week, during calm but very cold weather, our dock mate Richard climbed the mast of his sailboat, Sarita.  He needed to replace his windex.  No, not Windex, the window cleaner.  But something like this:  Birds had broken the one he had, and these devices are very useful to sailboaters.

While Richard was up there, he took the time to take a few photos!  And he sent this one over the other day.  We have not seen Viking Star from this perspective before.  We are the third boat up, and we can see that we are the smallest kid on the block!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Sultan

I just wanted to share a couple of pictures with you to illustrate why one of the nicknames I have for Al is The Sultan.  The man LOVES pillows!  He believes you can never have too many!  And no matter how many I buy, he uses them ALL!

I would prefer he leave two -- just two -- on the other end of the bench, just for visual balance as much as anything.  But he would pile higher and deeper, if there were more.

When I grew up, I was only allowed ONE pillow.  That was enough.  But now I am blessed to have TWO pillows that are 'mine'.
Until I get out of bed.  Then The Sultan enlarges his 'nest'.

Good thing I love this man!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Happier Visit

After a tough two weeks in Minnesota and arriving back in Friday Harbor late on a Friday evening, the next morning I was back on the ferry to Anacortes--but this time for a happier occurrence.  Daughter Lindsay and her four kids were coming for a visit!

We had offered previously, that if they would just GET here, we would take care of all the further expense of visiting.  And Lindsay finally found a time that would work.  The travel takes nearly all day each way, so at least 3 days were needed to make it worthwhile.  The kids had Veteran's Day off from school.  Unfortunately, that was the only weekend son-in-law Robby had to go elk hunting, so Lindsay packed and wrangled the four kids all by herself.  We appreciate Robby's mom allowing the use of her vehicle, which is more economical and reliable, for the trip!

I think we all had a great time, and the visit went way too fast!

Aboard Yakima, bound for Friday Harbor!

The big boys loved to be on the the front of the boat!  The rest of us?  Not as much.

Emrie LOVED Popeye!  She would hug her in this pose as often as we went by.  We wished the kids could have met the real Popeye face-to-face, but they will have to look for her another time.

On Sunday we rode 'the little ferry' Evergreen State around on her inter-island route, so everyone could see some of our favorite spots in the San Juans.  And Papa came along too!

Approaching the Shaw Island ferry dock.  

Lindsay helping Ranger, age 2, with a puzzle.

Emrie, age 4, took the camera for a few shots -- this is her self-portrait.

Age 9, Troy's pose for his sister.

She captured Grammie and Ranger having a snuggle.

Ryker, age 6, at the Whale Museum, in front of the skeleton of L-112, Sooke.

For just a moment, the kids were sitting still.

The view of the Port of Friday Harbor from a window at the Whale Museum.

The hotel had a swimming pool!

Papa Ron and Grammie Shel have a pool, so the kids have had practice at this.

Ryker, and Troy in the background.  The lighting at the pool was very dim, so it was hard to get a good shot of Troy, who is an independant swimmer and stayed further away from Grammie, who was sticking closer to the littler ones.

A gorgeous sunrise on their last morning.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Writer's Block

Kristi here.  And this is my third attempt to tell you about the toughest two weeks I have been through as an adult.  But I feel a need to mark this time on the blog, because it has been a very significant time in my life, and I use the blog as a bit of a diary.

My parents are both 88.  And they have been having increasingly more troubles with their health over the last few years.  Mom began having some seizures that are mostly controlled by medication, but she needs some help to make sure she gets those medicines correctly, and that she doesn't become overtired or overheated.  Dad has been experiencing congestive heart failure, struggling with fluid retention and shortness of breath.

Then came the message that one of Dad's swollen legs had 'sprung a leak' and he needed to go into the hospital for a few days.  Within hours my travel agent Al had everything arranged to get me to Minnesota to care from my Mom while Dad was in the hospital.

My younger brother and his wife own and operate the family farm, and they were still in the middle of corn harvest.  My older brother and his wife live three hours away and have some of their own health issues, and my surviving sister and her husband are stationed in Germany.

I naively thought that my help would 'make everything better'.  I'll take care of Mom, clean the house, cook, and dispense meds, then take care of Dad too when he gets out and he will bounce back quickly and everything will be hunky-dory.

I was very surprised by the flood of emotions.

We have never been a very demonstrative family, but the love was always present.  And now I was seeing it up close. The way both their eyes lit up when they saw each other, and the sadness of the little finger waves goodbye at the end of a visit.  The hand clasps and smiles.  And Dad's tears when Mom brought him chocolate and said 'Trick or Treat!'

Dad lost 16 pounds, all fluid, during his 4 days in the hospital.  I said, 'That's like tying a gallon of milk to each of your ankles!'  He was very weak, and tired.  No-one sleeps well in a hospital, but especially those who are on meds to make you pee away all of that fluid.  On the first night he said he was up every 15 minutes.  On a 'good' night, he could wait an hour and a half between runs to the toilet.  AND he was dependant on nurses to come and assist him.

That became my job when he came home.  That first night was a bit rough.  I skipped MY sleepy medicine (fibromyalgia), afraid I would not hear him calling.  But we found a ceramic bell that worked very well to wake me.  He was only up three times that first night -- THREE hours between.

A Home Health nurse came on Sunday morning, the day after his discharge.  It took her an hour to decipher Dad's meds and fill his pill boxes for the week.  I worked alongside her doing Mom's.  Then the nurse burst my bubble by noting that I was doing a LOT for Dad, and what would he do when I needed to go (that Friday).  She felt that Dad would need care 24/7 for weeks before he would be able to care for himself, not to mention Mom and the household.  She recommended he go into a nursing home.  And we knew that Mom could not be home alone, so we needed to resolve the situation for both of them.

That afternoon, while Mom napped in her chair, he and I had a very nice talk.  I rubbed the stubble on his cheeks and chin and recalled when he would rub them on my face as a child.  And he talked of money, and what he and Mom had done to protect what they wanted to leave behind for us.  And I told him how we kids would much rather see them taken care of now, than have money later.  We talked about options for the nursing care they both needed, and he said, "I can stand to go most anyplace, as long as we are together."

Then Monday morning, he woke up, we got him dressed, and sat in his chair.  But he couldn't get comfortable, his chest was 'tight'.  That was concerning, but he said he wasn't having pain.  I got the aspirin out of his pill box and had him take it immediately.  Mom and Dad had appointments at the clinic that afternoon, so I called the clinic to tell them what was going on, and they agreed Dad should come in (we wondered if he NEEDED to go, since he was just released from the hospital.  However, when I went back to Dad with this news, he said "I wonder if a guy should call 911."  And if HE wonders enough to say something, you call!

So the First Responders and the ambulance came to take him back to the hospital.  (I was a bit embarrassed to see men that I knew as children, while I was wearing my pajamas.)  Mom and I followed as soon as we could -- she needed breakfast and her meds, and we both needed to get dressed.

Dad was experiencing atrial fibrillation.  They theorized that it was brought on by dehydration.  He was improving with fluids pumped back in.  If he did not return to sinus rhythm on his own, the would try medicine to regulate his heart rate, or possibly shock his heart to 'convert' it.  He was re-admitted to the hospital, and got a room right next to the nurses station in the Cardiac Care Unit.  The doctor called for the family to attend rounds on Tuesday morning, where we learned that Dad had actually had a little heart attack.

Now we began to scramble to find somewhere for Mom and Dad to go.  Al offered for me to just stay, but how long would that last?  It could be a month, or several, and winter was coming.  Wouldn't it be better to find a facility for them for the winter?  The number one priority was that Mom and Dad be together.  It took all of Tuesday and Wednesday to work out the details, but on Thursday afternoon we moved them into a nursing home in Windom -- the town where the family does business, and my nephew goes to school, and where Dad's brother lives.

And the next day I travelled back to Al and Friday Harbor.  Al IS my home.  This was the longest we had been apart since we got married.  And I told him that I hoped he loved me as much as my Dad loves my Mom.  And I know that if we are married for 60 years, like Mom and Dad have been, we might get that close.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cost to Cruise - October 2013

For October there are a couple of 'odd' things.  First off, we came into port, perhaps a month early.  So, we have the Moorage costs (1st, and deposit) to contend with.   Boat Insurance was due ($800), but offsetting that I sold our backup Honda 2000W generator, so Boat Stuff shows a credit!

Other then that, perhaps a typical month for us.  Hopefully this winter we will not have some of the big-spendings we had last (specifically, inverters, and Kristi's eyes..)