Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ceramic filtration

After a couple of false starts, Steve on s/v Siempre Sabado has a working 5-micron water filtration system aboard.

As I was walking back to Siempre Sabado yesterday afternoon, it seemed to me that she looked like she was listing a bit to port. Down below, a glance at the inclinometer confirmed that we were indeed leaning to the left. Not a lot, but some.

Since we haven't changed what's on board, haven't added or subtracted fuel, etc., this can only mean one thing: the water tank is getting low. I had been kind of hoping this wouldn't happen until Lulu returned because she's bringing me some plumbing to make the filter installation neat and tidy. But, she won't be back until Sunday so I decided to bite the bullet and jury-rig the filter setup so I could fill the tank with filtered water.

As I explained in an earlier post, mounting a ceramic filter at the point of use didn't work very well since the foot pump just didn't have the oomph to suck the water through the 0.9 micron pores in the filter element. Pushing the water through the filter with the foot pump was even less satisfactory. However, I also knew that I didn't really want to run every drop of water from the dock hose through the ceramic filter to fill my tank with ultra-filtered water because, if the dock water had any suspended solids in it, it would take forever to fill the tank because the ceramic filter would plug up so quickly. You might remember that I went through a similar experience with fuel filters.

So, here's what I ended up doing...

All the water going to the tank is first run through a Rotoplas 1 paper filter. In the earlier post I referred to this as a 5 micron filter. It isn't. It's a 50 micron filter which is still pretty freaking small. I connected this in series with my new TurMix ceramic filter. The Turmix doesn't have nearly as much information on the ceramic element as the other ceramic filter I bought, but I'm assuming (hoping) that it is as good or better. One thing it has that the other unit didn't is an active silver element in the center for control of pathogenic bacteria. Nice touch.

Here's what the system looks like:

Notice the belt and suspenders approach here? The little squirt bottle is BacDyn, a local product with an active ingredient of colloidal silver for disinfection. We give the tank fill tube a few squirts of this prior to filling. Then, from the right: white supply hose carrying dock water; black Rotoplas filter housing containing 50 micron element for removing most of the suspended solids from the water; bright and shiny TurMix ceramic filter with silver element for removal of very small particles as well as most bacteria; and then the clear hose into the tank.

From the tank, we draw water through another Rotoplas filter housing. The difference is that this one uses an activated charcoal element with yet again, more colloidal silver and, presumably, a finer micron count than the 50 micron filter.

This water goes from the tank, through the filter, through the foot pump and out the faucet. This secondary filter is just protecting us from anything that might have already been in the tank before we started filtering our incoming water.

I just checked my stash and I see that we have tons of the 5 and 10 micron filter elements I bought in the US for the unit that filters our watermaker's backwash water and they will fit the Rotoplas housings quite nicely. It should be a few years before we have to buy any new filter elements.

This is what the new filters looked like before I started running water through them today

And here's what they looked like after filtering roughly 50-60 gallons (a scientific wild-ass guess) of water:
You can see that the primary filter doesn't show much of anything but the ceramic is coated all around with a light coating of brown stuff. This stuff washed off easily with just a wet dishrag. For the record, it took me 3X as long to fill the tank with filtered water as it did with unfiltered but, fortunately, I didn't have to stop partway through to clean the filter to restore flow.

So that's our filtration system. When we're making water with the watermaker, the only filter that will matter is the final one. But, I'll let you know in a few months how everything is panning out after we have a little experience under our belts.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Smart plug

Over at s/v hello world, Jason gives a nod to a product that is pretty new to the market, and one which you may want to consider:
We have a few safety rules on Hello World. Somewhere in the top five is: DON'T LIGHT THE BOAT ON FIRE. We had a few incidents here and there (for the record, melting butter in a plastic dish on top of a burning diesel heater is not a great idea), but by and large, the biggest risk right now while we're in a marina full time is our shore power cable.

Our marina is full of stories of boats either lighting on fire or almost lighting on fire from shore power cables working loose and heating up from the electrical resistance in a loose connection. Standard twist-lock shore power outlets are notorious for this.

I finally got around to installing a Smart Plug. Smart Plugs replace the shore power outlet on the boat and boat connector plug on your shore power cable. They provide a much stronger physical connection between the outlet and cable than the ordinary twist-lock plugs. And they have a thermostat inside that will cut the power if the connection ever starts to heat up. [emphasis mine -Ed.]

No going back now.

Relieved to find clean copper wiring inside our shore power cable.

Half the plug installed.

After many F-bombs and a couple bloody knuckles, I finally got the old shore power outlet out of the boat.

Wired up the outlet.


I did some forensic analysis after I was done. I found signs of overheating on the old shore power plug I cut off. There was some discoloration on the plastic and some melting. I have no idea how long before that would have manifested into smoke and fire and OH THE HUMANITY but I'm pretty relieved I headed off the problem before the boat caught fire.

Disclosure: I have a friend that works at Smart Plug. And yeah, I'd really like to see the company take off and for them to make cement trucks full of money. However, what I'd like more is for my boat to not catch fire. Whether I knew anyone at Smart Plug or no, I'd be all over recommending this product.

Seriously, if you have a boat, buy one of these things.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Maintenance flowchart

(Credit where credit is due... seen originally on s/v Estrellita's facebook page)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sheep: 1; Barnacles: 0

Mike of s/v Chalice has a simple tip for keeping your prop clean.  Given Washington State's recent banning of all copper-based bottom paint, we may be smearing this over our entire hulls.

Do you hate cleaning barnacles off your propeller?

Once cleaned, just cover with anhydrous lanolin. It's fairly cheap and stays put. It can be applied under water and is totally Eco-friendly. If you use your boat you will have to reapply. Not sure how long it will last, but it's fairly cheap and it only takes a little. It is grease made from sheep's wool. Just warm up the container to make it easier to apply. Side benefit is that it will make your hands nice and soft.

Example of someone else that uses it.

Example of where to buy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sticky Stuff That Unsticks Other Stuff

Over at Dock 6 Brian has an old boat which he is dismantling for its parts: DonorBoat.  But that task has its problems...  He's found a product you probably need in your toolbox:
   DonorBoat destruction has meant unbolting and unscrewing hundreds of, er, bolts and screws.  And nuts.  And washers. All bedded just as they left the factory.

   Stainless screws and bolts installed through aluminum cleats and tracks, all bedded with caulking that was still tenaciously goopy all these years later.

   All of it was removed without a single stripped fastener.
  Not one.

   I'd love to be able to take credit for this fortuitous feat of fixture and fastener finesse, but it weren't skill.  It was Screw Grab.

Screw Grab® - Woodworking

   I am not a chemist or an engineer, and I have no idea what the actual secret ingredient or process is, but, in simple terms, Screw Grab Friction Drops is a grip enhancer.  Got a recalcitrant screw?  Squeeze a drop or two onto the screw head, insert the tip of the screwdriver and turn.  It is that simple.  And it really works.

   A little goes a long way.  I bought a bottle of Screw Grab from Lee Valley Tools  almost a decade ago, and  have more than half the bottle still remaining.  It might be the best $6 you invest in your toolbox.

   There was one casualty of the Fabulous Fastener Follies- one Phillips screwdriver.

Busted the tip unscrewing backstay chainplates.

Like I said, this stuff GRIPS.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Best portable bar. Ever.

Brian over at Dock 6 has an offer you cannot refuse...
So there you are, invited for vittles on a boat across the bay.  Being the good guest you are, you load a bottle or two and  some cheese and crackers in a bag , jump in your tender and get gone.  You arrive, climb aboard, and share out your lukewarm bottle, sweaty cheese and broken crackers.


    Or say you want to go for a day sail with friends on your Siren.  You can load a cooler and a grocery bag, and wine glasses and ice and cutting board and cutlery and then you don't have room for your friends.

     Oooooh, dilemma- do we sail with our friends and leave the booze on the Dock, or take the booze and leave the friends?  It's an awkward choice.

     Here on the Dock, we've found the solution, thanks to the coolest cooler company ever, California Innovations .


    Meet Product #78124-90-09, or, as we know it here on the Dock, The Porta-Bar.  The Porta-Bar is a rigid soft-side cooler/picnic basket hybrid loaded with features.

  Open the front facing zippered "lid", and the first feature you notice is the thin plastic cutting board cleverly attached to the inside surface of the lid with stretchy elastic bands at each corner, making it both secure and removable for cleaning.

  Inside are three adjustable compartments.  The walls are easily removed and reinstalled thanks to the velcro tape fasteners.  Nestled inside these compartments are a tall bottle carrier,(Warm Bin) an insulated ice box/topload cooler (Chilly Bin), and a plastic bin with lid (Cool Bin).

   The Warm Bin will fit as many as three 40 oz bottles of rum, or two 2 litre soft drink bottles, or a vodka bottle and a Clamato juice bottle or  a bottle of wine, a couple of glasses and a baguette.   This baby is versatile!
  The Chilly Bin is cleverly designed.  Inside the soft bag is a plastic tub, perfect for holding ice cubes in addition to up to 12 soft drink cans.  To maximize cold life, the lid has a small velcro sealed hatch, perfect for quick soft drink extraction.
       Above the Chilly Bin is the Cool Bin, perfect for storing lemons, limes, cheese, sausage, sandwiches, all sorts of snacks.

    The handles are sturdy, the stitching reinforced and the fabric is easily cleaned.  The only quibble, and it is  minor, is the lack of a carrying strap.
      All in all, this is a pretty impressive package, especially at a retail price point south of $40. Like it?  Want one?   There is only one problem...

    According to California Innovations, Product #78124-90-09 is No Longer Available.  If enough demand is generated, they will consider putting it back into production.  Fire them an email, let 'em know you saw it here and you want one, bad.  Service@ca-innovations.com

Barring new ones rolling off the assembly line., my local Canadian Tire still has a few in stock.  If anyone wants one, drop me a line, and I'll set you up.

UPDATE:  I have sourced about a dozen of these, which I am happy to move on at $35 each plus shipping costs.

You know you want one (what a great gift!). If you send me mail at SmallBoatProjects at gmail dot com, I'll forward it on to Brian (note that he is in Canada - not sure how that complicates things...).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Low-Buck Dinghy

Over at Dock 6, Brian set out to design and build himself a beautiful stitch 'n glue dinghy, with design targets of:
  • under 25 hours total working time
  • a $250 budget
Did he make those targets?  Read on...
Here's one from the vault- originally published on Anything Sailing back on 2009, this is the tale of "Chirp."

Alright, get your minds out of the gutter- SWMBO has already made all the Viagra jokes and vastly amused herself when I laid out my plan. (Okay, I guess i set myself up with that last sentence. BTW, anyone know of a good place to buy AA batteries? We seem to be running short around the house.)

*ahem*  Be that as it may, after pricing inflatables at the boat show, thinking about the pros and cons of inflating/deflating, storage, actual use, etc., I have decided to spend the rest of this winter, or at least the non-drinking portion of my spare time, building a dinghy.

My goals are thus:
  • Multi-purpose-  sail, row, outboard propulsion.
  • Short- I don't want the length of my dinghy to exceed the 8' beam of my boat. I plan to build davits to accommodate it while at dock, to keep the marina nazis happy, but will tow it while underway.
  • Weight- I want to stay under 75 lbs. for the basic hull- engine and sail rig additional.

I am figuring on a 3'8" beam, 7'6" LOA, 1/4" thick hull, 3/4" thick transom, 14" freeboard. Doing the math, I think I am looking at about 1 and a 1/2 sheets of 1/4", so I should be able to meet my weight projection, and if i do the math right, I am looking at a capacity of roughly 450 lbs with 6" of freeboard.

The plan is to be able to get this bad boy built in under 25 hours total working time, on a $250 budget. Here's how it's breaking down so far:

Hour 1: Alright, I got on the tools today and started making sawdust. Scoured my scrap lumber stash and found a likely victim to be made into a transom, a 3' x 3' scrap of 3/8" ply. I lofted my transom plan, cut the carcass, and ripped the offcuts into 3 " sections which I laminated to the carcass, clamping and weighting the bejesus out of it to give me a 3/4" thick transom, suitable for a small outboard.

Hours 2 and 3: Grabbed a motley assortment of castoffs and built a strongback. Laid a 4x8 sheet of 1/4" luan on the 'back, and lofted the sides of the hull. I have decided to go with a traditional bow for a couple of reasons- I think it may tow better behind the boat while underway, and it also means one less piece to lay out and cut. Laid out and cut the frames for spreading and shaping the hull.

Hour 4: Cut stem piece and very, very simple temporary frames, then cursed, sweated, grunted, pushed, pulled, nudged, wiggled, and screwed the chines, frames, stem, and transom together:

After pouring some more coffee, I will figure out the rocker, shim the strongback and form the bottom of the hull.

The chines are secured to the transom and stem with #6 wood screws and Gorilla Glue. The frames are temporary and are only screwed in place. Once all the pieces are cut and fitted, then the whole mess will be stitched and glued together, epoxy filleted, sanded, inside seams fiberglassed, and I will probably cloth the whole outer hull, just for durability's sake.

Total cost so far:
  • 2 sheets of 1/4" luan @ 14.70/sheet = $29.40
  • 3 8' lengths of 2x2 @ 4.30/ length = $12.90
  • 1 bottle of Gorilla Glue $5.95
  • handfull of screws @ 3.75/lb. $1.00 (approx.)
  • Assorted scraps and off cuts from other projects: $0

So, so far I am $49.25 into this fiasco. If I didn't have scraps for the strongback and the transom, figure another $20 or so.

Hour 4.5: Shimmed the second 4 x 8 sheet on the strongback to conform to the rocker of the chines. This sheet is the bottom of the hull.

Once I had the shims in the right place and there was no daylight visible between the chines and the bottom of the hull, I traced around the hull, then grabbed my jigsaw, closed my eyes and pulled the trigger. Voila-

Here's a selection of the tools used sitting in the bottom of the dinghy:

I am NOT a woodworker. My tool selection for messing around with tree-based construction is barely at the home handyman level, but so far I have not run into any real issues. The biggest problem I have is space- my workshop is really designed for building engines and general automotive futzing- I am working in a space that is approximately 7 x 10, with sheets of 4 x8 ply. Space is so tight I have to leave the room to change drill bits. To cut the hull once it was traced, I had to shuffle the chines to port, cut the starboard side, shuffle the chines to starboard and cut the port side. Now that the big pieces are cut, I've got a little extra room whicgh will speed the process and lower the frustration level. okay, coffee is ready, time to get back to it.

Hours 5- 7: Tied the bottom and chines together. Instead of the traditional tied-wire method of stitching, I decided to make use of the big-ass grande size tub of zip-ties I bought at Costco 8 years ago and have never used. Then I laid in the forwardmost frame, and spent a frustrating hour and an alarming amount of wood cutting the breasthook and quarter knees. the compound bevel angles damn near made me give up. I did prevail however, by remembering the mantra, "filler will cover it up, filler will cover it up."

I am surpised at how quickly the basic hull took shape. I am further surpirsed that i have gotten this far with all major and minor appendages and digits still intact. Now that the major cutting and fitting is out of the way, i am sort of at a standstill untill i can pick up some West System supplies and start messing around with harmful chemicals. I gotta say, so far it has been pretty damn enjoyable, and i am kind of kicking myself for not picking up enough treestock to build two or three at one whack. Aside from workspace limitations, the material lends itself to mutliple simultaneous builds. I could have lofted and cut three or four hulls at the same time, with judicious use of clamps. Of course, I have no use for three or four dinghies, but this small indoor mid-winter boat-building stuff can quickly get addictive.

BTW, I just ran the numbers through a hull design program i downloaded. If this program is to be believed, I am looking at a payload of nearly 1000 lbs. before she swamps. That is a lot of beer, and beats almost all other dinghies of similar length i have looked at.

Hours 7 - 11: Tore out the breasthook and started again. Rather than trying to get an acceptable result with 3/4" ply, I decided to carve some cleats and install a small spreader frame, then use 1/4" ply for the breasthook itself.

Rethought my thinking, and realized there was a lot I could (and should) get done before pumping epoxy. I built the mid and aft frames, and installed them: Here's the bow frame I installed yesterday and today's midframe:

To be continued...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Putting a lid on it

With the construction of an insulated lid, Jason aboard
s/v hello world completes his freezer project.  I did not include the insulation of the freezer box itself here on Small Boat Projects, because I thought it was too big to be considered, well, Small.  Because Jason does everything right, even building just the lid is almost too big.  But boy, his fiberglass work is spectacular!  You gotta see it...

Our original fridge had two lids side by side. There was an air gap between the lids so there was never any reasonable way to seal the lids. The lids also were held open by those collapsible springs that always seem to collapse when my head or fingers were in the way. So we decided to build a new lid and ledge for the lid to sit on.

The original lid was covered in a laminate that matched the galley counter top. We stood no chance of finding a match for that laminate and were not going to re-laminate the entire galley. Instead, we decided to make the fridge lid out of a butcher block material. We found a eucalyptus butcher block counter top material from Wood Welded. It was not cheap but looks pretty cool and matches the teak interior well enough. We could only get the butcher block in 24"x36" sections - which cost $200 - so we made sure to use up the off cuts. I made a matching cutting block that drops into the sink.

The matching cutting board built from the off cuts from the fridge lid.

The R-value of hard wood is negligible so we had to insulate the underside of the lid. I used the same extruded polystyrene (XPS) insulation that I insulated the fridge with. XPS (or blue board) foam cuts and shapes really well. I was able to shape a reasonably complex piece out of the foam. After getting the shape I wanted, I fiberglassed over the foam with 10 oz. cloth.

The blue board insulation cut down to the shape of the lid insulation. The piece of foam that's cut out is where the gas spring attaches to the lid insulation. I dropped some marine ply in there so the screws were going into wood, not foam.

After fiberglassing and fixing some sanding mistakes with thickened epoxy. Our fridge is composed of approximately 35% thickened epoxy.

We also had to build a new ledge for the lid to rest on. Our new lid was a different depth than the original and I had cut away the original lid ledge in the early days of this project. I built the lid ledge with the same process as the lid insulation. I added a few more layers of fiberglass on the lid ledge since it had to withstand the weight of the lid and whatever else I drop on it.

Assembling the foam to create the lid ledge.

Fiberglassing the lid ledge.

Dry fitting the ledge along with the freezer bin.

Both the lid insulation and lid ledge were finished the same way I finished the interior of our fridge box. I mixed West Systems epoxy along with a white pigment and coated the bejeezus out of both pieces. After the 10+ coats of epoxy cured, I faired the surface down and sanded it smooth. Then I wet sanded it with every grit of paper I could find between 400 and 1200 grit. Then hit the pieces with rubbing compound followed by 3M Glaze and a shot of carnuba wax.

Working on the epoxy finish.

The last piece of the lid puzzle was how to hold up this lid that weighs 20lbs without dropping it on my fingers or head. I installed a gas spring on the lid to give an assist in lifting the lid and keeping it open while I rummage through the bottom of the fridge for the just the right can of beer. Calculating the dimensions of the gas spring was a bit more complicated than I originally planned on. It involved trigonometry, Excel spreadsheets, and a dash of wild ass guesses. In the end, the spring I used worked great. It lifts the lid with virtually no effort, holds it open, and lets you effortlessly close the lid.

The gas spring attachment to the lid insulation.

The gas spring attachment to the fridge box.

The lid insulation.

Actual food actually being cooled by our actually operational fridge!

I still haven't put a gasket on the lid. That's on my list, just haven't gotten to it yet. I will also add a blog shortly on the refrigeration system we chose and how we installed it.

Phew, good times right?
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