Friday, March 28, 2014

And now for something REALLY different!

Well, perhaps not so much different...  this is a Tech Posting :-)

Integrated Engine Controller + Alternator Regulator
A couple of years ago I developed an integrated Engine Controller and a tightly coupled Alternator regulator for our DC generator.  A key feature of it was the ability to manage the alternator to a point of assuring the batteries were truly fully charged (by MEASURING, not guessing as most all 'smart' regulators do) combined with tight coupling to the little Kubota diesel engine to make the most of any run time.

It has been working very well for us; was a fun project to do.  It have released under the Creative Commons 'open source' licensing, so all the design work and code is available for anyone to use (in a non commercial way).  There are currently 4 other people in some stage of installing this controller on their DC generator.

  I have another blog which covers this design and all the details:

1st stand alone Alternator only regulator
Along the way someone asked if  I would want to break out the Alternator Regulator portion of that project - retaining the major benefit of its ability to fully recharge batteries.  Despite a LOT of press to the contrary, it is not hard to find people whose batteries are routinely left undercharged by the mass-steam 'smart' regulators.  Though not a problem from day to day, such continuous undercharging will dramatically shorten the life of batteries.    If one is a typical 2-3 week a year boater, this is not really an issue.  But if one depends on their batteries for months and months out of the year, it is a sad thing to see $2-3,000 worth of batteries only live up to about half their lifespan.   So, about a year ago I started a 2nd project - still open sourced, still based around the Arduino development environment.  And yet another Blog with its details:

 To top it off, it has Bluetooth!    After all "Everything is better with Bluetooth":


So why this post here?   Well, being Land Locked, I have been working away in the Man Cave, revising the hardware and the firmware.  Last summer we mostly ran the regulator with good results and I am at ready to place an order for what looks to be the final hardware.  Now - I have been hand-soldering these, kind of a PITA - esp the smaller parts.  I also have a few folks interested in having one of these for their boat.  Last week I googled up a bit about short-run assembly houses, and it seems that if about 25 sets of these are made I can have them professionally assembled for under $20 each.  The resulting total board costs (PCB, Parts + assembly) would be around $85 (Maybe $60 w/o the Bluetooth).   Hence, if anyone is perhaps interested in investigating a short run of these check out the link above for more details on the features  and drop me an EMail.  Even if I only get say 15 or so folks to 'sign up' I might just go ahead and do a run of 25, holding back some of the high cost $$ components for later hand soldering...

Want to make some type of decision over the next few weeks - no big rush, but if I do go down the assembly house path I need to start changing over to SMT parts vs. the existing through-hole components.

Anyone interested in one of these???

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Who ISSSS It?"

(Said in my best SNL voice).

Ok a side note.  We added a Statcounter demon to our web page many years ago, long before Google had a stats capability built into   Not that we manage this kind of stuff, but it is kind of fun to see how many folks read the blog, and what pages they are interested in (FYI, WiFi for a boat beats all others hands down).

We generally run about 30-40 'page hits' a day (Wow, are we in the Big Times now??), and if Kristi makes some type of advertisement on Facebook about a special post, or I do on one of my Email lists I follow - we can get that number up to 100 or even as high as 200 or 300! 

What fun!

Well.  Last Sunday something happened.  And we are not sure what it was as neither Kristi nor I made any "Hey, we might have something fun to read about here in our blog" advertisement.    But something happened anyway.  Just look at this:

A spike on Sunday, and it appears to have keep most of the week!   Looking at some of the details (at least details available for free, remember we are not really 'working' our blog) has given no insight into why.  No special page, no one special part of the world.   But still this increased traffic.

Are YOU one of these new readers?   How did you come to this little space in the bit-world?  And to you, and everyone, we hope you find some helpful - or if not helpful, at least entertaining - insights!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Feeling anxious - and think I figured out why...

  1. 1.
    experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
    "she was extremely anxious about her exams"
    synonyms:worried, concerned, uneasy, apprehensive, fearful, perturbed, troubled,bothered, disturbed, distressed, disquieted, fretful, agitated, nervous,edgy, antsy, unquiet, on edge, tense, overwrought, worked up, keyed up, jumpy, worried sick, with one's stomach in knots, with one's heart in one's mouth;
  2. 2.
    wanting something very much, typically with a feeling of unease.
    "the company was anxious to avoid any trouble"
    synonyms:eager, keen, desirous, impatient

And that has described a feeling I (al) have had for the past week or so.   But I was not sure why, till it dawned on me last night.  I was up at 3:30am, could not sleep, and was surfing the web.  I went to some San Juan update sites, along with the Washington State ferries updates to check in on how things were going 'back home' when I realized the root of my anxiety...  Its the water!  (And yes, there is a double meaning there - for those who remember the tag line 'It's the water', given it is St. Patrick's day, and I am here in a largely dry part of the country. . .)   But the core meaning - it is the water drawing me..

I think for people who adopt the cruising lifestyle, at least those who do it for more than a couple of years and more than a couple of months out of the year, there is a lifelong tug deep inside them.  I know for myself I have been attracted to the water as early as grade school.  And as I grew older I would be more than content sitting at the beach and watching the water,  just watching it.  There was always a draw, a calling to me - from the water.  And it is again calling me this Spring.

Our 1st winter in Friday Harbor I became antsy in January, to the point that we pulled out in February. The following spring we delayed our departure for family reasons, and here the 3rd spring I am feeling the pull again.  All without the visual indications back on Viking Star: "Kristi, there is green growing on the dock lines - time for us to get underway"  (was always surprised she did not start a covert bleaching campaign just after new years...)

So, here it is early Spring (late Winter actually), and my core it telling me it is time to pull away. to "... throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."   But I think it is more than that, more than Explore, Dream, Discover.  It is a pull from the water that can only be heard by those who can hear it.  Can only be known by those with this calling to get out there - away from the safe harbor, the high energy of the town - any town.  To feel the water and nature around you, to connect, and become at peace.

It took me 40 years to make it there, and I will make it back again.  Do not want to give the impression I am so bummed about our current year break, doing what Kristi and I are doing has so many +++ it is the right choice.  But I also feel the pull, as I have for most all of my life.

At least now I understand the cause of my anxiety.  Perhaps those who often visit this site (and others) can understand it too.  And hence this post is a boating post, and gets the Cruising Life tag.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Taste of Nostalgia

Being in my parents' home, which has a full-size stove and OVEN that does not require three hours to reach usable temperature and heats my living space to over 80 degrees,  AND with access to the most beloved cookbooks in the house, I have been taking full advantage.

For the first month here I frequently stepped on the scale, and even though I have not seen it change, my pants began to get tighter.  I partly blame it on the lack of exercise we get here.  But I also acknowledge the drastic change in our diet since arriving.

At the end of our second month here, I am now afraid of the scale.

God Bless church ladies! 

My mom's contribution.  In the family, this is known as 'Grandma Davis's Marshmallow Cake'.  (That's my mother's grandmother, by the way.) This is the cake I ALWAYS requested for my birthday.  Best frosted with 7-Minute Frosting , or Betty Crocker's Fluffy White Frosting, then sprinkled with coconut. Another helpful hint, if you want to try the recipe:  let the eggs reach room temperature first.

Family favorites were handwritten onto empty pages left for that purpose.  Jackpot!  Three of  my absolute favorites!  I have made all three since arriving.  Click the picture to view full size.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cost to Not Cruise - February 2014

Continuing our comparison of costs to cruise vs. costs when we are not cruising (during this 1 year break), here is February.

Viking Star 'On The Dry' in February 2014

Highlights this month include:
  • Moorage has started for Viking Star's actual home until we return to her :-(
  • Kristi's restocking of Orange Branded Girlie Stuff.
  • Air and Land travel for Al to get to Minnesota
  • 1st month of Obama Care insurance, plus catching up on invoices left over from December physicals.
  • Communication costs associated with setting up new Internet and phone service here in Minnesota
  • Misc:  Boat renewal in Washington, and Driver Licenses in Minnesota.

Do hope after these 'setup' costs we will start to see things settle down a bit.  However, will have additional medical in March, will see how that plays out.

If this is your 1st time looking at costs, 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:

And for reference here is a summary of what it did cost us to actually cruise:

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.