Time and Tide

Time and Tide

It’s been a while since the last blog – sorry about that. Time has been doing what it’s best at, and that is slipping away. They say time stands still for no man, or is it time and tide wait for no man.  Very appropriate for a sailor.  Robert Frost had a version also, “Time and Tide wait for no man but always stands still for a woman of 30”.  Someone should write down a list of those Murphy type laws which apply to sailboats and their owners.  Time and tide will be there somewhere, but the one that is particularly relevant at the moment is that when you start fixing something, it will inevitably lead to the need to fix something else – the “while you are there syndrome”.  Whilst the engine is out of the boat I might as well clean and paint the engine bay.  Whilst I have a nice clean engine bay , it wouldn’t be a bad idea to replace the bilge hoses as they are looking a bit manky.  The pump end of the manual bilge pump hose, the bit that goes down into the bilge needs to be sorted so that it’s in the best spot to suck up any water.  Etc etc and so on and so forth.

What turned into simply replacing the batteries, has now become a major project. The wiring on La Mouette is a bit of a rat’s nest and desperately needs sorting.  I have decided to replace everything from the batteries up to and including the distribution panel.  As the new batteries are a lot bigger than the old ones, it necessitated building a new tray for them.  Attached to the new tray is a new negative bus bar, a fuse block for the distribution panel feed and a permanently live auxiliary bus bar for things such as the bilge pump and head.  Keith, the prior owner, had the head macerator power supply wired straight to a battery, as was the bilge pump (unfused!).  Not too sure if it should go through the distribution panel, or straight to a live power source, but I have decided to wire it up that way again.  It shouldn’t cause any voltage loss when the boat is unattended, and as I am going to install a small solar panel to top up the batteries during the week, it shouldn’t matter.

Old battery tray

Okay, so I made up a new battery tray out of an old television cabinet. Yes, I know that you are supposed to use marine ply, but I used Tasmanian Oak for the runners around the edge and once together and it fitted correctly, I put on four coats of epoxy resin sealer and then two coats of varnish.  I was originally going to paint it with white paint, but it looked pretty good with the sealer on, so I decided to varnish it instead.  It’s still the pale wood colour, and maybe I should have stained it, but hey, it’s a battery tray and is stuck down in the port quarter berth locker.  I quite like the wood look as it breaks up the stark whiteness of the fibreglass.

New battery tray in situ

The dramatic departure from the original wiring setup is going to be two separate battery isolation switches along with a Voltage Sensor Relay so that the solar panel and engine will charge the start battery first, and then the house battery second. Previously, it was the old One/Two/Off/Both combination switch.  I had been using it on the “Both” setting when starting the engine and motoring around and switching it to “Two” on the house battery setting when moored or anchored.  I have since learned that starting the engine on “both” is not acceptable practice and will shorten the batty lifespan.  Going through the Mouette folder, I discovered that the previous batteries had been purchased around 2008.  So that is almost 10 years, not a bad life span actually.

The other major departure is having fuses for all the major circuits, which was severely lacking, plus a negative bus bar, or common ground.

As I type, the VSR and the three switch system is currently in the mail and heading in my direction and I hope to get them installed this coming weekend.   It’s been a long road in coming to understanding how boat electrics actually hang together.  There was no light bulb moment, but just a long slow process of gradually coming to understand it all.  Still not there by a long shot but I am finding that different people have different philosophies on how to do it.

I have found that it’s absolutely essential to have your wiring diagram and follow that. I have drawn up a few of them by now and getting quite good at it.  Still haven’t got my final diagram, but when I do, I will have on it on the dinette table in front of me, a set of crimpers in one hand and a highlighter in the other and off I go, crimping and connecting  wires from point A to point B, and then highlighting it on my diagram.  It’s worked fairly well so far, but have discovered one of those other laws of boating in the process.  Any job that is scheduled to take a certain amount of time, double that time and it will be getting close to how long it will actually take to do it.  Just measuring out your piece of wire and working out its route, crimping on the connectors, heat shrinking the heat shrink protectors and then installing the wire takes a lot longer than I imagined.  That’s just one wire!

By the next post, I hope to have actually started the engine using the new wiring and be able to read my Nigel Calder book by the glow of the cabin lights and plan what the next project will be. Hopefully, fingers crossed, and deity willing, I can do those planning sessions sitting at anchor in a quiet bay somewhere up the Hawkesbury, and not stuck at the berth in the marina.

But more of that next time.


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