Friday, December 26, 2014

Seasons Greetings and Emails from

Seasons Greetings to all from Kristi and Al.

I am prompted to post this as I noted again there are Emails    
being sent out under Viking Star's name with a simple 'click    
 here' link.  
THESE ARE DANGEROUS EMAILS AND                                  

A spammer has been sending out a blast of Emails almost each month forging Viking Star as the 'sender'; they often contain only a single URL link to some web site and nothing else.  Those who know me know there is no way I could create such a simple Email - just too hard to not use lots of words.  These Emails are forged, are not sent via Viking Star, and are dangerous.  Hopefully your SPAM trap will remove them, but if not:

               DO NOT CLICK ON ANY EMAIL WHICH                
                        CONTAINS AN ODD URL IN IT!                                   

There is nothing we can do about these, sorry.  One of the facts of the Internet is it is so simple to spoof things.  I only know about them as I get some 'address undeliverable' messages returned back to me.   And looking at the real sender, they very from Romania, Africa, with the latest being from the UK - bouncing around the world, so no way to shut them down via their internet service provider.

Going into the new year, we wish you a bug free existence, do hope you do not block ALL emails from us, but also hope you take appropriate precautions in the Digital World...

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Evan met his 'GreatPapa' in August when his mama, brother and sister came to Minnesota.  His GreatGrammie had just moved into a nursing home and we were on the way to meet her too.  At the entrance, GreatPapa asked if anyone would like a ride.  Madalyn and Milo were too shy, but Evan loves EVERYone and was just the right size for GreatPapa's lap.

Oh what joy, for Dad to meet some of 'The Little Ones' he never failed to ask about. 

But GreatPapa lived only six weeks beyond this time.  And GreatGrammie only four weeks beyond that.  

When Al and I arrived at Evan's house nearly two weeks ago, Evan had just had his 6th birthday. There were still cupcakes left over from his family party and he was very eager that we each have one, which we did.  He had especially asked for mini cupcakes, and his mom is a good baker and had piped on a thick bloom of frosting.  They were very good.

After a short visit it was time to go, and Evan very lovingly and generously asked 'Do you want to take one to GreatPapa?'

Oh my heart.

Not knowing if he had been told of GreatPapa's death or not, I merely said 'He's not here anymore'.  I managed not to cry until Al and I were in the car and I asked Al if he had heard, and I told the story.

I asked my daughter later if she had told the kids -- she had come to MN again for the funeral -- and she said that she had told 7-year-old Madalyn, who got very upset, so she hadn't said anything to the boys.

On my next visit to their house, Evan was very concerned.  He asked 'Is GreatPapa all alone?'  Of course he would be worried that, since Al and I were back in the Northwest, GreatPapa would be all alone in his house.  No, GreatGrammie is with him.

Oh how I love this boy, and his love of family.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cost to not cruise - November 2014

And here we are, November.  Kristi and I are out of Minnesota (but still talking with the folks about the -3 and -11 temperatures - not to worry, it did get over 20 for a few days..), and making our way back to Washington and Viking Star.  The Cost to Not-Cruise for November looks like this:

(Click for larger view)

November was 'Move Month' for us, and this is reflected in almost all the line items:
  • Groceries are low - we eat out a lot while traveling across country.
  • Dining Out is high - we eat out a lot while traveling across country.
  • Personal is high - we spent 4 days in San Fransisco!
  • Transportation reflects the gas for the car to drive cross country
  • Misc reflect costs for Hotels, as well as $135 or so for shipping of our items back to Washington.
  • Misc also contained the Utility bills while we were in Storden.

What can I glean from the above?
  • Well, 1st - the categories selected for life afloat do not align well with life on land.  (Utilities, hotel, etc all in Misc). 
  • Dining Out, despite being costly, is not THAT much more so vs. purchasing groceries for each day??
  • Access to Shopping is a BAD THING!  (But then we already knew this, as we noted a spike in our costs when ever we anchored near a city)
 We will do one more month of Cost to Not Cruise; and start the new year back in the Blue so to speak. And at that point will do some thoughts around the whole "How do costs on land vs. what it costs to cruise full time" - well, at least for us.


And now here is the standard explanation: If this is your 1st time looking at costs on our blog, and want some more background on why we are reporting what it costs to not-cruise on a cruising blog - well, we took a break by moving back to Minnesota to help out Kristi's folks January of 2014.  And we thought it would be interesting to be able to compare our costs on Land vs. on Sea., see more here:

For reference here is a summary of what it did cost us to cruise last year:

For Reference, Costs for Cruising in 2013
Again, following the link above will give you access to more details, or you can click on the Costs label to the right for even more cost data.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yesterday Kristi and I caught sight of the Sea for the first time in many months -- 11+ for her, perhaps only 3 or so for me, if you count my week back at Viking Star in August.  But I will say, it feels like 11+ months..

We not only saw the sea, we did the right thing - tossed our shoes and took a walk.  

After a day of driving, we arrived in time for the sunset.

There we go!

Happy Faces...

All around!

And there we are - back on the West Coast in Santa Barbara, CA.   These days we have tossed our coats (it was -11f this morning back in Storden MN, yes.  MINUS 11. . . .)  We are working our way slowly up the coast.  Monterey tonight, San Francisco tomorrow - will figure the rest of the days as they come.  Today, not wanting to lose sight of the sea, we took Hwy 1 up the coast.  After an hour or so Kristi managed to let go of the passenger seat (and she was not even using her hands!) long enough to take some pictures, might post some soon (or check out her Facebook page).

And FWIW, I was 10 years old the last time I was on California Hwy 1.  It is a great trip.  We played Old-person-mode, just driving nice and easy.  Well, not quite Old Person mode  - we pulled over several times to let traffic pass, even an RV - and maybe a VW at one point :-)

But be clear -North we are pointed!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Open source MPPT controller

OK, this is somewhat boating related :-)    As part of the other battery charging projects I have been doing (ala, DC generator, Alternator Regulator), I have now turned to three new areas:
  1. Solar MPPT controller
  2. Battery BMS
  3. CAN based network connecting all charging sources together...
I started doing this after observing some interesting interactions between different charging sources.  For example on Viking Star we have Solar + the mains alternator, and our little Kubota DC generator for energy sources while away from the docks.  Ideally one would like to see each of these sources (and yes, they CAN be all enabled at the same time) working towards the same goals; e.g., all having the same idea what target voltage should be, or when the battery is ready to move from Bulk to Acceptance phase.   In practice, each has their own idea and I can at times see undesirable interactions between them.  The target battery voltage from the Alternator might be a bit higher then the solar panels - and when things get to the final stages of recharging, the solar panels enter Float mode early, while leaving the mains alternator still charging.  Would be better if it was the other way around, turn off the mains alternator and let the the solar panels finish things up.

There are ways to 'work' around this, assuming equipment has the flexibility and configuration options.  Example, could set the Solar controller to a higher target voltage.  But that can leave the battery undercharged if working only on mains alternator (ala on a cloudy day) as the Alternator would need to be set for a lower voltage.  My vision is a 'systems' approach, a device installed on the battery would decide what the battery needs and communicate those needs to all charging sources.  This way everyone is working towards the same goal.  And it can reduce the wiring mess as well - we have 6 devices sampling battery temperature and voltage on Viking Star.  Those 12 sets of wires can be replaced with one CAT-5 cable.

I am just getting started on this, and have been working on a couple of hardware developments:

Each of these will communicate over a CAN network via CAT-5 cables.  Once I have those two working, will revise the Alternator regulator to participate in this system, and the DC generator as well.

Still have a lot of work to do, the two developments + the CAN protocols (am hoping to leverage on of the existing protocols out there), but today I just posted up the 1st cut hardware design for the solar MPPT controller.

Like my other projects it is open source and I have posted all the CAD files; will add the firmware as it gets developed.

Another reason I kind of think this is Boat Related: more then one of these controllers can be used on your boat and act in a coordinated way (due to the CAN).  For example, on Viking Star we have two solar panels.  At times one panel gets partly shaded.  Depending on how things are wired up, a partial shaded panel can either constrain the output of the whole system,  drop the whole panel out of participation, or some combination in between.   A separate MPPT controller dedicated to each panel should be able to fully optimize each panel, allowing the shaded panel to participate as much as it is able to, without impacting the other panel.

Design calculations look that this could come in under $100 in cost, and operate in the 98-99% efficiency range.  Am just now ordering hardware to build one up and look forward to trying it out next year on Viking Star.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Basking in the Warmth of Colorado Springs!

It was a nice, but long, 14 hour drive from Storden, MN to Kristi's sister house in Colorado Springs CO.  We have enjoyed good company, sharing stories and memories, and the nice warm weather of Colorado in November.  (Today is forecasted for a high of 49f, NOAA is thinking Storden will make 16...)

Not too much more today, will perhaps do a reflection of the past year sometime soon.  Right now our thinking is head South say Monday, then over the California coast to the land of 'Happy Cows'.   Do a slow drive up the Pacific coast highways to Portland for the Christmas holidays; stopping for a few days in San Franscisco.  Then some time around New Year make our way back to Friday Harbor.  

But who knows, we do not really have any 'plans' these days :-)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tuesday it is...

Weather reports (aka, 'weather WAG')  tells us Tuesday is the day.  
  • We will finish up our 'business' - helping Dean tidy up Maynard and Ellen's financial affairs -  Monday (I hope).  
  • The Cat has gone to a new home,  a couple of weeks ago.  Kristi and I still expect to see 'Kit' at the door as we come in.  
  • DISH shut off the satellite service a few days early, and I was not able to enjoy 'CBS Sunday Morning' with my cup of coffee, fresh baked Cinnamon rolls, and my wife.

Yup, all stars are aligning - and we will look to be hitting the road Tuesday.  Bright and Early, 12-14 hour drive to Colorado Springs to spend a few days with Kristi's sister and brother-in-law.  Then looking to head to San Fransisco to visit Pip the Cat  ( ) for Thanksgiving and a slow drive up the coast to Portland for the Christmas holidays.

New Years on Viking Star.

These past days have been a mix:  Visiting, packing, sorting, remembering, mourning, 'planning'.    Now will begin a time for transition.  Looking back Kristi and I are clear - we have no regrets taking this year off from cruising, with all its ups and downs.  And we do hope we brought something to Maynard and Ellen as their lives came to a close.  We think we did.

I put the Cruising Lifestyle label on this post because much of the 'lifestyle' is about Family.  Those we take with us and those we leave behind as we depart on our 'craziness'.  What will happen to them? Will they forget us?  Will we ever be able to truely go back into a 'normal' life?

"The whole idea is Freedom . . ." 1 begins a famous quote from an admired cruising couple, freedom to make choices, to follow where life takes us.

And we did.  Now its time to start another chapter.

 1  "The whole idea is freedom.    Go simple,  Go cheap,  Go now."   -  Lyn Pardee.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cost to not cruise - October 2014

As with September, October had a funeral in it, and with that a bit more on the Dining Out and Transportation costs.  Other than that, not too much different.  We are winding down this 'Not Cruising' phase of our life, looking to get on the road Tuesday or Wednesday of next week making our way back West.  Likely will finish out the year as a 'not cruising' summary, and then do some comparisons with the prior year.

(Click for larger view)


And now here is the standard explanation: If this is your 1st time looking at costs on our blog, and want some more background on why we are reporting what it costs to not-cruise on a cruising blog - well, we are taking a break by moving back to Minnesota to help out Kristi's folks.  And we thought it would be interesting to be able to compare our costs on Land vs. on Sea., see more here:

For reference here is a summary of what it did cost us to cruise last year:

For Reference, Costs for Cruising in 2013
Again, following the link above will give you access to more details, or you can click on the Costs label to the right for even more cost data.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Proper wiring of batteries in parallel

This topic came up on one of the Emailing lists I subscribe to:  How to connect up batteries which are wired in parallel. The person has 12x  T105 batteries and wanted to make up 2 sets of 6 batteries in a 2x3 arrangement (2 in series for 12v, then 3 sets in parallel per bank).  His question was around the size of the jumper wires.  I offered some ideas and also suggested he make sure to connect to the 'opposite corners' of each bank.

In my attempt to find a photo to share I searched the web - boy, I am SO SURPRISED how many places just get it wrong, and how few (if any) really get it right...  In fact, the 'Do it this way' photo I sent actually had it wrong..  ARG.   So, rather then spend more time searching the piles-of-wrong, I made up this photo myself. 

There are three key points in this photo:
  1. All the serial jumper wires (S) need to be the same size and length.
  2. All the paralleling jumper wires (P) need to be the same size and length, though the can be different than the serial jumper wires (S).
  3. The main feed wires are connected to opposite corners of the bank.

Why do this?   The idea here is to better balance heavy current draws.  By connecting at opposite ends we 'distribute' the losses equally.  E.g., the bottom battery gets no loss on the + side, but gets 2 jumpers worth of losses on the neg side (Need to remember both sides of a complete circuit).  The middle gets 1 jumper loss on both the pos and the neg, and the top battery gets 2 losses on the pos side and none on the neg side.  Note how each adds up to 2.  Contrast to these drawings:
In each of these cases there is an imbalance.  The example on the left with the heavy feed wires connected to the middle will overdraw the middle battery (it has no paralleling jumper losses), while the upper and lower batteries will each have 2x worth of losses.  (one + and one - paralleling jumper).  The example on the right is even worst, the middle battery still gets two losses, while the top batteries get 4!
Extending this concept further, if there are two 'banks' of these series/parallel batteries, again make sure the connecting wires are the same length to each bank, ala:

In actuality, it is the total length of each banks B+  combined with its GND wire that need to the the same.  Example you could put a 2' B+, and a 4' GND wire to bank #1, and then reverse things using a 4' B+, and 2' GND wire on bank two;  in each case the total length of the heavy feed wires will be 6', so both banks will see the same amount of loss. 

One might say:  But the losses are small and not worth dealing with.  I have been surprised just how much voltage drop one can have under high amp loads, ala at 220A our alternator creates over a 1/4v drop between the battery and the alternator - even though the main cable is MCM370 (3x sizes larger then 4/0 wire).  

True there are oh so many other things that will cause imbalances between batteries in a large parallel deployment.  Connectors crimped to the jumper wires, corrosion between connectors and battery terminals.  Battery variances themselves.  And losses are small - example:  a pair 16" - 1/0  jumpers at say a 100A will give only a 30mV loss.  Reality is most house batteries will dies for many other reasons then a small imbalance.  But I counter:  As we have a  choice in wiring, why not remove one contributor?

Should add here:  I am not a fan of placing several individual batteries in parallel, issues like the above  just come up.  I much prefer series connection of larger cells, ala replace the 12x - 6v T105 batteries above with 6x L16 form factor 2v cells all in series.  One would get the same capacity, longer life, and eliminate all these paralleling issues.

But if you must (and I know there are physical space limitations that come into play here as well), the above is how I would suggest connecting the banks up.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Changes afoot..

With the passing of Maynard and Ellen - Kristi and I have finished our reason for putting the Cruising Life on hold over the past year.  This week has been full of family, sorting through memories, sorting through stuff, crying, all of it.  Going forward we are looking to start making our way back to the West Coast the week of November 17th.  Likely stopping along the way to visit family and friends (including perhaps Pip in SF), Christmas time again in Portland and then to Friday Harbor to rejoin Viking Star.  From there we will start putting our wandering lifestyle back in place.

Many folks have commented how hard the last year must have been.  And to be honest there were times it was.  But both Kristi and I are in full agreement: it was the right thing to do, we have no regrets, and would make the same choice in a heart-beat.  That we could spend time with these two wonderful folks, who have modeled in their everyday living a way to be; no question our lives have been enriched - pain and all.

So boating fans - keep a watch, things will be a changing!  We will getting back into the Floating life, even changing the costs report back into Cost to Cruise :-)   Plus we will be leaving what has become known as the 'Coffee Desert'!  Stay tuned for more to come.

Maynard and Ellen, thank you for sharing your life with us this past year.

Hang in there Viking Star,
we will be back soon!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ellen Johnson

4 weeks to the day after the passing of Maynard, Ellen has rejoined him.

Ellen, Kristi, and Maynard earlier this Fall

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cost to not cruise - September 2014

Wow, more than 1/2 way through Oct and still have not posted Septembers results, well - here it is:

(Click for larger view)

The passing of Maynard perhaps accounted for additional grocery and dining out costs - with all the Family arriving and such.  It also accounts for the increased transportation costs - driving around a lot, including a trip to 'The Cities' to fetch folks from the airport.

Medical/insurance, well - have been on my soapbox enough about that already...  Will just continue to note it is by far the largest single expense we have - 25% of our spending at this time.

Things are changing. Kristi and I may well be leaving Minnesota at the end of November - a bit of time in the Portland OR area for the holidays and then back to the Boat and resuming our wandering life.  But do not take this as a PLAN, it is perhaps a thinking at this time.


And now here is the standard explanation: If this is your 1st time looking at costs on our blog, and want some more background on why we are reporting what it costs to not-cruise on a cruising blog - well, we are taking a break by moving back to Minnesota to help out Kristi's folks.  And we thought it would be interesting to be able to compare our costs on Land vs. on Sea., see more here:

For reference here is a summary of what it did cost us to cruise last year:

For Reference, Costs for Cruising in 2013
Again, following the link above will give you access to more details, or you can click on the Costs label to the right for even more cost data.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

And the answer is: PowerPulse to the Rescue!!!!

Well maybe:  Update Jan 2015 - Seems the 'rescued' battery was not able to make it through the cold Minnesota winters, and again failed.   But who knows, if I had been able to leave the PowerPulse on what would have happened - -      To my amazement, that dead battery was brought back to life, but perhaps that life was a short one..  Bottom line: I have no idea if this technology really works or not in the long run.


After almost 4 weeks on the PowerPulse I had to take it off for my trip back to Viking Star.   Here is the last 'installment'.

 The At Rest (48hrs at rest) voltage is now 12.60v, indicating a fully charged battery!  .  And a scope capture from 8/19:

Final scope photo on 8/19/2014

Compare this to the initial (7/24)  12.45v at-rest voltage when I 1st hooked things up:

July 24, first attached
Notice the difference?  In addition to a measurable difference shown above I noted another difference - perhaps more a 'feel', is the cycle of pulsing.  When 1st attached there was a pulse about every 4-5 seconds.  Now it is around one a second.

Hum. . . .  Timing is different, At Rest voltage is different.  Pulses no longer show ringing.   Clearly something has changed.

But did it work?  Did it 'restore' this abused farm starter battery?

The answer is Yes!!!  Today I installed the battery back in the same truck, and it started!  Now, this is even after setting for a month (I took the battery off the PulsePower before heading the Viking Star in August).  Not only did it start the truck, it started it three times.  It started it after turning on the headlights for 10 minutes.  And it started it after I let it set for 6 more hours.

Bottom line:  This Group 31 battery was unusable, would in no way hold a charge.  After a bit over 6 weeks on the Pulse Power I was able to see noticeable changes in its waveform, and in fact the battery is usable again.

Go figure.

Here are links to other posts in this series:

We left this 'restored' battery in the truck and will see how it holds up.   But in this ONE example, I have to say PulsePower did work...

So - there

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Is the Prairie in Southwest Minnesota . . .

. . .  about as far from the sea as a licensed USCG Master (aka, Captain**) can get?  The answer is no, at least not until he is snapped driving  a Combine and bringing in the beans:

Hey, did we get the Spring Lines tossed yet?

It is Harvest Time here in the land of the Jolly Green Giant, Little House on the Prairie and field after field of mostly corn or beans (Soybeans that is).  Last week the beans ripened up and all were 'in the fields' bringing in the crop. All the roads had a wild mixture of Semi's and "wagons" behind  tractors, plus a few smaller ones pulled by pickups, moving beans to either storage bins or the elevator.  (Don't be fooled - some of those tractor carts can hold the same amount of product as 2 or 3 semis!).  And 'Captain Al' ** helped out Dean on his farm by prepping the combine, and then mostly running the two carts between the field and the elevators as well as storing some on a neighbor's farm.  But I also logged a couple of hours behind the wheel, keeping the machine running while Dean was having Dinner, or doing another task on the farm.

Me  in Action!

Filling a wagon

Almost full!

This smallish cart still tipped the scales at almost 20,000lbs.  You should see some of the monster ones the 'combining teams' use!

Dean and I check-in while off-loading into the other cart.
This one had the 'nice' pickup pulling it!

Using the PTO auger to move the beans into a neighbor's bin
for storage.

In all it was a great experience to do.  And one that folks outside of true farmers likely would never get an opportunity at!  I am glad not only for the experience, but to be able to help Dean out during one of the busiest times of the year.  He does not have that many acres planted, sufficient for his use and some extra to sell, but it took a good part of the week for the two of us to bring the beans in.  And it did not go unnoted by all how I was in effect filling in for Maynard this year - even to the point of picking out stray bean stalks from the cutter head and dumping them into the hopper.  "Dad would be proud" Dean said, along with "This will be a year to remember".

Yes it will.

**  Captain:  Yes, I hold a USCG Masters Mariner ticket.   But one that I call a 'Baby License'.  Though more than one of the lowest grade 6-pack licences, as a 100-ton holder I do not try to pretend to stand next to the real 'Captains' who work day in and day out moving massive amounts of commerce on the waterways.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Cost to not cruise - August 2014

August brought a couple of notable events:  I traveled back to Washington for a 10 day 'work on Viking Star' session - and Kristi's folks both moved into a local nursing home.   Here is our cost summary for August:

Viking Star cost to NOT cruise - August 2014

Transportation was large, reflecting my trip (Car Rentals, Airline fees 'Oh, you wanted Ox on the plane?  Did you bring your own??') while Maintenance reflects local purchases as needed.  And of course, medical..

As a reminder Kristi and I took a '1 year' break to help out her folks, and it looks like that might be winding up.  Going forward things will be a bit dynamic for the next few months as we start to return to the Cruising life.  Likely we will be moving back in a couple of months, perhaps taking a 'road trip' to visit family - esp over the holidays.  But then it will be back to 'Normal' - what ever that is :-)


And now here is the standard explanation: If this is your 1st time looking at costs on our blog, and want some more background on why we are reporting what it costs to not-cruise on a cruising blog - well, we are taking a break by moving back to Minnesota to help out Kristi's folks.  And we thought it would be interesting to be able to compare our costs on Land vs. on Sea., see more here:

For reference here is a summary of what it did cost us to cruise last year:

For Reference, Costs for Cruising in 2013
Again, following the link above will give you access to more details, or you can click on the Costs label to the right for even more cost data.

Friday, August 29, 2014

. . . and 8 more.

Getting ready to head back to Minnesota, and though I would post a bit about what all happened these past 8 days.   Mostly I puttered around re-installing the generator (just short a pipe tap/plug and two fan belts to be done).  Fixed a couple of rot spots, more on that later.  Watered the plant (Aloe Vera , it was doing well despite being left alone for so long), serviced the battery and sprayed for ants (arg..).  Plus other small things - really Viking Star held up well on her own.  Also had a chance to talk with more 'locals'; the back story always help people feel a little kinder towards the Dock Queen :-(

Oh, and I visited some of our favorite places:  the Bean, the Crows nest, Sweet retreats (Great deli sandwiches), San Juan Bakery - pizza by the slice..  Stopped by to say 'Hi' to Juanda the Mermaid, caught up on some of the drama over the past 8 months or so in town.  And even made it out to Roche Harbor for fresh made plain-old cake doughnuts and coffee (Hum, see a trends in this list???)

Best doughnuts and coffee in the islands!

After over a week I will be happy to get back to Kristi, and am also sad I was not able to have time to get down to Portland...  Tomorrow catch the early ferry, figure will be about 20 hours total travel by the time I get back to Storden.

And true to my life, everyone here commented 'Man, this has been a GREAT summer - long, dry, low 80's.  Best one in years'. Missing that does match up well with what folks in Minnesota are saying 'Uff-da, this last winter was so bad - worst in 35 years'.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

212 days...

According to some magic online date calculator, Viking Star had been sitting patiently for 212 days from the time I left her back in January to when I returned late Wednesday night.

212 days.

Not sure how she has been passing the days, but you can see how I have been by looking over the entries for the past several months.  Mostly Arduino battery stuff, and helping with Kristi's folks.  (and pushing all the 'But, the boat' thoughts out of my mind).  I have been here going on 3 days now and thought it was time I posted something.  First off, it is surprising to me how easily I slipped back into the Floating Life.  Usually when away I do not sleep well, but that has not been a problem here.  It must have been foggy this morning as I could hear the fog horns as the ferry made its way to and from the islands.  By the time I got out of bed at 9:30am the sky was clear.

Clear, 70's, and low humidity.   Ah...

I was also taken back by how quiet it is.   One might think it would be oh so quiet on the prairie in Minnesota, but perhaps that is not the case.  Between the constant wind, the sound of ACs running, and traffic (pew - a Pig hauler), the lack of sound here was almost disturbing to me the 1st night.  (Kristi's note:  My parent's house is 'on' a state highway)

Enough about me, how was Viking Star?   Not bad.  I only have one page of 'to-do's, and is a small 6x9 page to boot!   Though some of those entries are multi day, ala "Install Generator".  Batteries only took 1.75 gal of water, am happy about that.  Bragger gauge shows only 35kts peak windspeed..  About the only surprise I found was the deck lights have decided to short somewhere and pop the breaker, the one place where we were successfully invaded the summer before last by Flying Ants seems to still have residents, plus our stuffing box bilge pump physically broke - meaning there is a bit more water in the boat then I would normally have as the 'next in line' pump did the duty and it can only get down to perhaps 1/3" or so...

I also have been taking the time to talk with folks on the dock who are so happy to see someone at the Dock Queen (being this is the summer, as opposed to January, there are more folks out here - who I can pass on the back story to)

Now, a couple of photos, perhaps for Kristi -

The Islands welcoming me back...

And COFFEE + my Bad Cat mug.
 Life is good!
I know, Peets Coffee is not really local.  But still beats the pants off anything I can buy back in Storden Minnesota, where our only selection is Folgers or grocery store Starbucks, SOME times...  Plus I was limited to pre-ground as our grinder is back east with Kristi.

I am hoping to get things done here a few days early and get down to Portland.  Targeting Wednesday as the travel day, but will see.  I still need to track down the box of supplies I ordered a couple of months ago - so I can get things done.  Till then, I have enough to do, I think.


(Another note from Kristi:  The pictures made me cry...)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dead battery / PulsePower update#2

Today I checked how the sick Group 31 battery was doing on the Power Pulse.  I had re-attached it to the Wall Wart a couple of days ago and the voltage has risen to 14.68v.   Here is a photo of the 'pulses':

July 24, first attached - note the ringing

August 12th, ringing has diminished.

Today - Not too much change, but am noticing the width of the pulse is slightly greater
Today I pulled the Wall Wart off and will let the battery settle to its rest voltage.  On Tuesday I will need to take the Pulse Power away as I will be taking it with me Wednesday when I fly out to Viking Star for 10 days.  Will also walk the battery over to the corner garage and ask them to load test it.

On today's update I noticed three things:
  1. Battery Voltage has risen to highest yet while on wall-wart, 14.68
  2. Width of pulse is increasing. 
  3. Frequency seems to have increased.
The pulse width has been increasing.   Today it is 75-100nS, while a week ago it was only 50-75nS.  It started out not much greater then 50nS.  I also noticed the pulses seem to be coming faster, perhaps every second or so.  When I 1st connected it, the pulses were perhaps 3-4 seconds (IIRC) apart.  Not real sure on the times as I did not record them, but can safely say the pulses are faster today - maybe twice as fast..

Again, I have no idea what all this means, and perhaps there is a relationship between higher voltage and more energetic pulses?  Who knows.  To me, will be most interesting to see if the battery can start the truck after spending almost 4 weeks on the Pulse Power.  Stay tune for further developments!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dead battery / PulsePower update

It has been almost 3 weeks that the Pulse Power unit has been chipping away at a rather new (but abused) farm tuck group 31 starter battery.  For the back story, click here:

Over the past weeks the battery voltage slowly increased to 14.5v where I disconnected the 'unregualtord - 12v' wall-wart and let the battery rest for two days.  It settled to 12.45v and here is what the scope looks like today:

After 19 days

Contrast this to what the waveform looked like when I 1st connected the Pulse Power unit:

First connection

 Both show a 4v / 100nS pulse - but I do notice the ringing after the pulse has reduced vs. when 1st connected.

So what does this mean?  I have no idea...  It is clear something has changed - but what I can not say.  The 12.45v settled battery voltage is indicative of a 80% charged state - but then this is the exact same place the battery was before doing any of this 12.45v (abit, after only a 3hr rest which is a little short - so this is a bit of Apples and Oranges here).

I will keep the battery on the pulse power unit, and connect and disconnect the wall-wart to keep Vbat under 14.6, for another week.  Then I am taking the Pulse Power unit with me back to Viking Star for my 10 days work session.  If I have time before leaving, will see if we can give this battery a test in the truck - the starter test.  Cause remember, it was hopeless when I 1st got it..


Friday, August 8, 2014

Cost to not cruise - July 2014

July had nothing special in it, except perhaps the medical invoices from Dr. Visits continue to work their way 'through the system'.

Click for larger view

There is a bit of consistency between June and July, August will have my costs associated with my travel back to Viking Star for a week of maintenance and preparation for the coming winter.  Kristi and I are still looking to remain in Storden MN - at least until Christmas time; things are a bit dynamic here these days and we may be returning earlier then our 'planned' end of March 2015.  See, the 'P' word just does not work - even on land :-)


And now here is the standard explanation: If this is your 1st time looking at costs on our blog, and want some more background on why we are reporting what it costs to not-cruise on a cruising blog - well, we are taking a break by moving back to Minnesota to help out Kristi's folks.  And we thought it would be interesting to be able to compare our costs on Land vs. on Sea., see more here:

For reference here is a summary of what it did cost us to cruise last year:

For Reference, Costs for Cruising in 2013
Again, following the link above will give you access to more details, or you can click on the Costs label to the right for even more cost data.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dead Battery? - - - PowerPulse to the Rescue!!!!???

Last nights news said Super Heroes are the rage this summer.   So in that light:  What does one do with a classically 'dead' battery?  One that will not start the car, will barely hold the lights up, and will not take a charge?   Why, you use the a Battery Super Hero - PowerPulse!   - PowerPulse - Can leap tall Cells as well as squat batteries in a single pulse.  Fights sulfating with one lead clipped off.  Continued use will bring years of life to your battery, yourself, your dog.  Your Volts will be taller, your Amps stronger, teeth whiter, breath smell better.  All for the one time payment of . . . .

OK, having a little fun here I know.  Pulse technology of batteries seems one of those 'buy now, and get one free' type of things.  There are those who swear by them, and those who do not.  Myself, I really do not know.  I can say I installed a battery pulser on our  old L-16's temporary house batteries when I purchased them.  5 years of use (more correctly abuse), and they still would carry us over a weekend - supplying 300+Ah.  When I upgraded to the industrial cells I moved that pulser over and it has been purring away sense.

The other night I had an opportunity to talk with Arild Jensen (noted contributor to the T&T mailing list) and the topic went to Pulsers.  He talked very favorably about the PulseTech brand, and mentioned many of the 'clones' do not work - but this one does what it says.   So I ordered one: with the idea of replacing the existing pulser on our house battery.

As it would happen, last week my brother-in-law had a newly dead starter battery in an old truck  (Yup, Farm truck).  Though it was under 3 years old, it has been 'flattened' 2-3 times and would no longer start the truck.  So I thought, why not hook up the PowerPulse and see what happens?  And I did:

Dead Battery, PowerPulse, and a small 12v power source (Wall-wort)

 Over the next few weeks will leave it hooked up, along with a small wall-wort 12v power supply to provide make up current.  If all goes well, plan to pop it back into the truck and see what happens.  Will do some posts and update everyone on the progress.

Now, a BIG WORD OF CAUTION:   PulseTech, the makers of PowerPulse are up front that 'recovering' batteries may or may not work.  If this does, wow.  If not - I still plan on hooking it up to our house battery when I get back to Viking Star.  So, though this will be fun - if in the end the battery is still dead there is no way I am saying this is downtalking battery pulsers...

But will be fun to see what happens.   OK, here is kind of a log of the subject:

Name:      Battery
Gender:   Group 31
Age:        2year, 6 mo.
Condition:  Poor.  Overnight on charger followed by 3hr rest shows 12.45v  Applying 5a load (running lights) drops voltage to 10.5.  Unable to start truck.  Acceptance rate per charger amp meter under 5a.

7/23/2014:  Applied 16.6v / 800mA 'wall-wart' DC transformer to subject.  Acceptance  rate of 390mA at 13.5v.  Installed PowerPulse device with wall-wart connected.  O'Scope shows 3.5v p-p pulse
7/24:  Vbat 13.6v, acceptance not measured.  O'Scope shows 5.4v p-p pulse


So, what does the PowerPulse do?  It sends out a voltage pulse every second.  Google will give up lots of info, and for fun here is an O'Scope photo showing it on 7/24:

PowerPulse at work.
 The ringing is typical of a charged inductor being set up and discharging.  And I can say something is changing.  The p-p of the pulses are up almost 2v higher after 1 day, and battery terminal volts are up 100mV.

A final thought for now.  I am under the impression that PulseTech kind of invented these devices, and word is they have the best.  Plus they are very reasonably priced.  Easy to find under $40.  So, if you are interested in one - why not get the original?  Heck, even the cheap in me would not try to recreate one for this price.

Make sure to check back to see how this story unfolds.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Arduino, Alternators and Generators - An update on the 'family'

With the current break at hand I have been down in the Man Cave working more on my Arduino based controller for a DC generator.   I also finished pulling out the alternator regulator portion of that design into a standalone external regulator.  Over the past few months there has been a 'group buy' of both of projects and I thought I would post some photos.

First off, the External Alternator Regulator.

It does what most external regulators do, regulator voltages in a 3-step approach (Bulk, Acceptance, Float) to quickly and efficiently recharge a battery - specifically house storage batteries.  As also expected, temperature of the battery is monitored adjusting target voltages, and the alt temp is also monitored to protect the alternator.  Other features like soft raping, the ability to reduce alternator output (help prevent burning out small frame alternators), equalize mode, round out the 'as expected' features.  But these are available today, so why (outside of boredom) create yet another external regulator?  One simple reason:
Many  have had problems with existing external regulators in that they too quickly stop charging the battery - leave Acceptance phase early -  and hence chronically undercharging the house battery.

Not only do we not get the capacity of the battery, but repeated undercharging leads to shorter battery life.  Adding the ability to measure the current entering the battery allows this regulator to measure the batteries state of recharge (via its acceptance rate) and following battery manufactures charge profiles accurately determine when to exit Acceptance and move into float. Contrast this to regulators which use a fixed amount of time in Acceptance, or perhaps some function of the time spent in bulk - problematic to know the actual battery state of recharge, esp in a real world with other factors such as varying engine speed, and different house loads being applied randomly.  

Another use of measuring amps can be to limit an alternators output, either to match the capability of the driving engine (ala, a small DC engine), or to protect the alternator.  Along the lines I added a few other capabilities:
  • Measures and manages battery or alternator current (Well, already said that).
  • Support P or N type alternators with only one jumper during installation.
  • Support 12v, 24v, 36v, or 48v systems w/no change to hardware or software.
    • (Can support 32v systems with changes in source code)
  • Optionally support 4-stage charging, adding an 'overcharge' step specified by some battery manufactures in their charge profiles.
  • Includes 8 default charge profiles - selectable by DIP switches.  FLA, AGM, GELL, LiFeP04. . .
  • Reports out complete status via ASCII text over the service cable and/or Bluetooth.
  • More advanced capabilities and full customization of all configuration parameters can be done using ASCII text commands send via service cable, or via Bluetooth.
  • Based on Arduino, fully customizable if you wish.

Arduino Alternator Regulator

  Parts costs are under $100, add in $25 if you want the Bluetooth capability.   More details are here:

Next, the fully integrated DC generator engine and alternator controller

This is what started these whole open-source Arduino projects:  An integrated controller for our Kubota based DC generator / watermaker.   It started out as just the alternator regulator with the goal of better matching the power delivered to the capabilities of the small Kubota engine, but then grew into an integrated engine controller + alternator regulator.  Taking care of starting, monitoring, stopping the engine as well as adjusting the throttle / speed to match the needs of the alternators.  The controller can interface with an optional remote LCD display for nearly full automatic operation (no more into the rain to fire up the generator for me!).  It features the same technologies for the Alternator regulator as above, so all the above features (with the exception of the ASCII text configurations and Bluetooth) are here as well.  This is the 3rd revision of the controller board.

Newest revision of Controller Board.
And remote LCD display board

Now same size as LCD.

The system manages and monitors the generator.  It can be configured to turn itself off when the battery is fully recharged, includes a 'quite' mode - limiting RPMs when you don't want to upset the neighbors.  And a  built in RTC clock can be used to enable time/date based auto-starting, or blackout periods (time based code is not fully flushed out).   Fully customizable using the Arduino programming environment.  Want to add a feature to monitor outside temperature, and start the Generator when conditions fall below freezing to keep the generator house warm?  Maybe you are doing a co-gen project and want to be able to fire up the engine when hot-water is needed..   A expansion connector brings out unused ports and the I2C bus.   The sky is the limit.

Parts cost for the controller w/o heatsink and remote are around $150.  Controller will function w/o the remote if you wish just local switches to control things.  More on the integrated engine and alternator controller here:

Both of these projects are based upon the Arduino IDE, both are released using the CC 'open source' licensing agreement  for non-commercial use, and both are fully documented (source, design, parts list, etc) in their respective blogs.  Have just completed a group build of both the Alternator Regulators and the Controller sets to folks looking to install them.  I have had a lot of fun doing them, and do like to see others taking advantage of the work I have done.  As I am just wrapping up coordinating the group-buys, I am a bit behind in updating the two  web sites with details and documentation.  Will be working on that over the next few weeks.