Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rumpus Room Media Center

Michael & Melissa on s/v Galapagos turn their V-berth into a media center. (And I must confess that it was this post which convinced me to get a label maker.)
In previous posts we have reported on our progress in updating the V-berth.  With a new cushion and upholstery, the space is really comfortable and has become like a second salon.  We will use the V-berth as a guest cabin when company is aboard but when it is just the two of us, we call this the space the Rumpus Room.

Patrick chillin in the Rumpus Room
Patrick chillin in the Rumpus Room

One of the more decadent projects I have been planning is to have a TV and DVD player on the boat.  We watch more movies on the boat than we ever do at home and it is has become a bit of a ritual to save up a season of some show to binge watch when we are out on a cruise.  For example, we have season six of Downton Abbey unopened and ready for our Memorial Day South sound trip.

In the past, we have used a laptop to watch movies which is okay but not optimal.  The speakers aren’t too great and since the battery life on our laptops is pathetic, we have to plug in to the inverter to keep the juice flowing.  It works but the whole setup seemed a little cheesy.

So, for some time I have been ruminating on how I would install a small entertainment center on the boat.  With the Rumpus Room all but complete, now seemed like a good time to stop thinking and start installing. Alas, as with every other boat project, installing one thing means you must drill, move, re organize and generally tear the boat apart, twice.

One of the most important criteria for designing this  system was to have it be entirely powered from the 12 volt system.  There are a few small TV and TV/DVD combos which are set up for 12 volt. Long Haul truckers use them and there are some marine grade systems as well.  But the units I found seemed really expensive relative to their size.

So last year (I ruminate a long time) I was looking at a TV or computer monitor and noticed that it had an AC to DC power supply (commonly referred to as a brick).  So, just like your laptop, you plug the brick into an AC outlet but the TV is actually running on DC. However just because the TV uses DC does not mean it will work with the 12 volt system on your boat but the seed was planted and more research ensued.

Finally, after a bit of googling, I went to Best Buy and looked at the smaller Insignia brand LED TVs.  Most of these use a AC to DC power supply and one, the Insignia 24 inch LED TV.  actually uses 12 volts.  Be aware that Best Buy sells a few 24 inch TVs in this size and brand.  This model was the only one I found in the store that used a 12 volt power supply. If you want to attract attention at Best Buy, start moving their TVs around and unplugging the power supplies so you can read the voltage and current values for the output. Also it is quite fun to try and explain a project like this to someone that is not entirely sure that TVs even use electricity.

Model: NS-24D510NA17 $140!

With a TV secured, I also wanted a DVD player that could also run off the 12 Volt system.  This was quite a bit easier since the players are small and I could look at the power supplies without too much trouble.  I ended up buying a Sony BDP-S3700 for $80.  You can buy a cheaper DVD player that will work well on 12 volts for about half the price but this unit is WiFi capable.  At home, the only TV we ever watch is via NetFlix or Amazon. I doubt we will be doing much streaming of video away from the marina but we might stream from a networked hard drive at some point.

Sony BDP-S3700 $80
Sony BDP-S3700

I wanted to mount the TV on the bulkhead both to keep it out of the way and to improve the viewing angle.  For this task, I bought the $40 Rocket Fish Full Motion TV mount.

The Rocket Fish Full Motion TV mount

I was and still am a bit worried about the security of this mount and will continue to monitor this.  The TV only weighs 6 pounds but in a bouncy sea way the stress could be higher than the attachment points were designed to stand.  I will also install a bungy cord to hold the TV snugly against the bulkhead when not in use.

So, with the main components secured, I still needed to run wiring to the bulkhead and create outlets for the the TV and DVD player.  That’s where tearing the boat apart comes in.  I ran 30 feet of 12 gauge marine wire through the forward head, salon, galley and into the DC distribution panel.

I hate drilling holes anywhere on the boat. These two are out of the way.

Dual 12 volt outlets from West Marine.  I soldered all connections.  I just feel better soldering.

Whenever I run new wire or hose in the boat, I like to label it at a few locations along the run.
Whenever I run new wire or hose in the boat, I like to label it at a few locations along the run.
Probably the moment of truth to this whole project is when I cut the DC connector off of the bricks for the TV and DVD player.  You are committed when you willfully destroy part of the equipment you just paid good money for.  I could have bought adapters for each of the electronics and made new wiring harnesses for them but I don’t intend to use the TV anywhere but on the boat.  I did keep the bricks and could always splice the wires back together.

After cutting the wires and checking the polarity three times, I soldered the the wires onto the fused DC Accessory plugs I picked up for the purpose.  And Finally the moment of truth.

I have Open CPN on my laptop and it displayed beautifully on the TV. I could see using this display for planning a day’s journey with Melissa.

Both units worked perfectly!  After a little fussing, I was even able to stream Netflx with the DVD player. The audio quality is quite good for such an inexpensive TV and the Rocket Fish mount makes it easy adjust  the viewing angle.  I think that will be particularly important if we use the TV as a computer monitor.

With the Wifi enabled DVD player, we can stream Netflix if a signal can be found. Foss Harbor marina recently added a really nice Wifi system to our dock and it worked beautifully.
With the WiFi enabled DVD player, we can stream Netflix if a signal can be found. Foss Harbor marina recently added a really nice WiFi system to our dock and it worked beautifully.

The power supplies that came with the TV and DVD player both had an open voltage of about 15.5 volts DC, well over the charging voltage that any of the charging sources on Galapagos provide. Still I will probably just unplug these devices when not in use to be on the safe side.  A low voltage condition might cause problems as well and I will have to monitor that as we go.

So far, I am quite pleased with how well this project turned out.  I love not having to turn on the inverter and trying to make the tinny laptop speakers loud enough.  All in all, a nice addition to our Rumpus Room.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ratty Port Replacement

This post originally appeared on Windborne in Puget Sound

One of two failing ratty fixed ports

Last summer while doing gelcoat repair, I mentioned that the ratty fixed ports on Eolian's aft-facing cabin house were long overdue for replacement. Well, now is that time.

Even Plexiglas eventually falls prey to the relentless UV from the sun, tho it lasts far, far longer than Lexan - this port is 38 years old.  If it had been polycarbonate, it would have looked much worse after only 5 years.

Tho there are no leaks (yet!), the bedding is overdue for replacement, as well as the port.
Removing the port was easy.  Back out the screws on the inside, and then push it out.  No, that bedding was definitely NOT firmly holding the port in place.  Tho it was clearly not leaking, there appeared to be no reason for that except for habit.

The next problem was that the new port is a little larger than the old one (well, I guess that's better than the reverse...).  First I taped over the entire area with some white duct tape I had on board to protect it from the vibrating sabersaw table.  Then I used the outer trim ring of the new port as a stencil, and marked a cut line.  My trusty (but crummy - I gotta get a better one) saber saw with a grit-edge blade cut thru the 1" thick sandwich of fiberglass, foam, fiberglass with relative ease.  To constrain the mess, Jane was  inside with a shop vac positioned to catch the dust and chips.

(Note to self:  Next time, just tape some plastic over the inside and clean up afterwards - that will be more effective and easier.)

The new opening port is a little larger than the old one.
Before the final installation, one more step was necessary.  Because we often sit on the back deck and lean against the bulkhead that has this port (and a second one, which will also get replaced), it was necessary to trim the spigot to a minimum projection - for comfort.  So I installed the port, held the trim ring in place, and traced around the projecting spigot with a ballpoint pen.

Then I removed the port and laboriously cut off the extra spigot length with a hand hacksaw (the same one I used to cut the exhaust hose...).  I preferred to use a hand tool for this job because, tho it cut slowly...  it cut at a speed that permitted me to maintain a uniform 1/8" from the pen marking.  After cutting, I used a fine file to smooth off the saw cut markings, and break the resulting sharp edges slightly.

Trimmed and ready for final caulking
Before final installation, I carefully sealed the exposed foam core in the opening with the same silicone that Beckson requires for bedding the port*.  If there was any leakage in the future, I didn't want it to get into the core.  Then I injected silicone into the gap between the port and the deckhouse, and smeared a little on the back side of the trim ring.  Press the trim ring into place, some clean up, and it is done!

Now, one more to go, and then all the fixed and opening ports on the boat will have been replaced, giving us a total of 11 opening ports.

* I hate the use of silicone on a boat, but this is one of the few places that I will use it.  In this case, it is because Beckson specifies it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Renovating a LifeSling

Once again, Drew over at Sail Delmarva tackles a safety issue with his usual verve:
A reader wrote into Practical Sailor that his LifeSling had basically fallen apart, the result of UV exposure. The blue webbing straps tore under hand pressure (a write up in PS will certainly be forthcoming). The age was uncertain (probably more than 20 years) and I believe it may have been stored upside down, since the straps should be on the bottom, completely protected from UV.

But the other issue is that the LifeSling cases are notoriously UV sensitive, or rather parts of them are. I bet the failed LifeSling was in a failed cover. The coated polyester itself is pretty durable, but the stitching goes and all of the Velcro fastenings go at about year 5-10, depending on the latitude and whether it sits on the rail year-round, like mine does.

Packing. Packed according to the instructions, all of the critical parts are well protected. The line (VERY vulnerable is in a tube in the center, with the sling over it; triple protection. After 19 years, mine is still pristine. The tail of the rope that attached to the stanchion base is covered with webbing. Although the webbing is sunburned, the rope is fine.

I cut a section open to look. Note that there are a few failed strands on the lower left, where sun must have peaked in. Polypropylene is touchy stuff.

Velcro Top Closure. I dislike the UV vulnerability of Velcro, so I replaced it with a tubular webbing and pin system, something like a door hinge. Just pull the red flag. This endured for 10 years without damage, so I left it alone this time. Durable, secure, and fast.

Velcro Ties. Really, a stupid application, when a knot will do better and last forever. Again, the Velcro fails in 5-10 years, I cut the remaining stitches, attached a 2" x 4" webbing strip on the inside with Sikaflex, a 4" circle of Sunbrella on the outside with Sikaflex, and punched a pair of holes. I was going to install grometts, but the laminate was too thick, about 1/8", so I simply threaded webbing.

Stitiching. Some of the seams had gone at 10 years, where they rubbed on the rail. I hemstitched them 10 years ago using whipping twine, and they are still fine.

Paint. I had some white vinyl inflatable paint left over, so after a good TSP scrubbing I painted the whole thing to provide some sunscreen (I masked off the instructions--that section seemed OK and has no seams or stress points). I have used Kilz primer plus house paint on projects like this before, through, so don't run out and by special paint.

I will 20 minutes work I should get another 10 years from the cover. Since the initial cover needed repairs at 10 years, I'm OK with that.
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