Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The new heat pump

The dust is settled.  The tools are put away.  And once again Eolian is warmed by a heat pump.  So which one did we choose, and how did we settle on it?

Our old heat pump was a 16,000 BTU model.  This size was just about perfect for Eolian, as confirmed by the past 5 years of comfort.  This is also about the largest size available to work with 110V (larger units require 220V, which we do not have).

In choosing a replacement, I wanted a unit that provided more protection for itself against failures, in particular a seawater delivery fault.  This could happen as the result of a valving error, a seawater pump failure (happened to us), or a blockage of the discharge (happened to us; it caused the failure of the previous unit).  These are the 16,000 BTU units I considered:


This is the brand of our previous unit.  The new version appears to be essentially the same.   The only protection provided is against freon high pressure.    Allows the use of a conventional thermostat.  Condensor not over the condensate pan.  Starting inrush current works on a 20 amp circuit, as confirmed by our old unit.  1.700

Webasto FCF

Physical dimensions too large for us.  Huge inrush current of 38 amps - Webasto recommends a 40 amp breaker.  Must use supplied controller.  This unit is not suitable for boats with 30 amp panels.  1.564


Similar to the MarinAire, but without the shroud, gauges.  Also has a different compressor - inrush current requires a 40 amp breaker, like the Webasto.  Not suitable for a boat with a 30 amp panel.  Must use supplied controller.   1.825


Their units come by default with electric resistance heating.  Ummm...  this is no different than using space heaters.  They would build me a reverse cycle unit for, if I remember right, 2.300.  Also, the only protection provided is against freon high pressure.  Allows the use of a conventional thermostat.  Rugged-looking units.


This is the unit we settled on, 1.565.

What I like about it:
  • Very well packaged:  sturdy box with polyethylene foam pieces completely filling the voids, multiple strapping, and then the entire thing was shrink wrapped. 
  • Supplied from the factory with liquid-filled high and low pressure refrigerant gauges
  • Extremely low starting current: 17 amps. 
  • The condensate drain pan is stainless.  And it is insulated against sweating.  Three drain locations are provided.
  • The condensor coil tube-in-tube heat exchanger is mounted over the condensate pan.  For a heating application this is critical, since the condensor will be quite cold and will sweat.
  • The fan can be rotated so that the discharge can be pointed in any direction.
  • The fan housing is insulated against sweating
  • The fan is very easy to remove - just loosen a hose clamp and disconnect a Molex connector.
  • With the fan removed, the unit is only 8" wide - it easily fit thru an existing opening in our under-settee location.
  • I see other signs of quality construction.  For example, that fan Molex connector is a locking connector, yet it was also secured with a snap tie, and then secured again with an industrial strength twistie.
  • The unit protects itself against damaging operational conditions with the following sensors:
    • Evaporator coil temperature (freeze up, overheating)
    • Freon high pressure
    • Freon low pressure
    • Provision for insufficient water flow protection
    • Abnormal operation protection (not sure what this entails, but the unit is microprocessor controlled, so it could be almost anything...)
  • Very flexible mounting options. 
  • The unit is entirely covered in a molded shroud.  This protects the delicate plumbing from damage and provides additional sound insulation.
  • The unit is very quiet - really, all you can hear is the rush of air into the cabin.
  • Fan speed is automatically controlled, rising and falling as conditions dictate.
  • Condensor tubing is internally grooved, improving freon heat transfer
  • Evaporator is coated with a hydrophilic coating so that moisture condensing on it (in air conditioning mode) does not bead up but instead runs off in sheets, improving heat transfer from the air.
  • COP of 4.5.  That is, for every kilowatt-hour drawn from the ship's supply, 4.5 kilowatt-hours of heat are delivered.  More simply, the heating efficiency is 450%.

What I don't like
  • No provision for a conventional thermostat - you must use the supplied unit.
    • The supplied unit is not a thermostat; it is a controller.  It is powered from the main unit, with no battery backup.  While its eePROM retains previous settings, the display is off when there is no shore power.  In particular this means that when we are at anchor we have no reading of cabin temperature.
    • The supplied unit only has a single temperature setpoint - there is no provision for having the setpoint automatically drop at night and rise in the morning.  In particular, with this unit I must get up in the cold to turn up the heat.
    • Temperature is not measured at the controller as you might expect.  Instead it is measured at the return air entrance, and reported at the controller.  If the air in the boat is well-mixed, this makes little difference.  If not, the controller needs to be set to a lower temperature to prevent over-heating the boat.
    • The lowest temperature setting that can be set in heat mode is 61°.  With our previous unit, when we were away from the boat I set the temperature to 55°.
Meh items
  • The unit has a humidity management mode.  If we were in a humid climate, this might be important.  But not here in Seattle.
  • The unit comes with a remote control. 
[We also considered diesel-fired heaters, like the Webasto.  These would have had the advantage of supplying us with the same heat at anchor that we have at the dock.  But with diesel at $4-5/gallon, a diesel-fired heater cannot compare cost-wise with a heat pump that delivers roughly 5 kwh heat for every 1 kwh purchased.  The break-even cost would be about $0.76/gallon diesel.  Also, there was the problem of where to run the stack.  Finally, neither of us like the jet-engine noise of the diesel heaters.]

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fill'er up

So, you have a beautiful, bright-finished teak and holly sole. And your brother-in-law brought along his favorite piece of heavy steel 3" angle iron when he came aboard to spend the night (not telling you of course). And he dropped it when getting his jammies out of his duffel.

Now you have a big ugly gouge marring your beautiful sole.  What to do? 

I can tell you that it is possible to fill such a gouge with varnish - our Previous Owner had a TV fall onto the sole - came off of the mount in a seaway.  Not a flat screen... remember those big heavy things with the big cathode ray tube?  Yeah, one of those.  It made a gouge about 1" x 1" and perhaps 1/4" deep.  I did manage to fill it in with varnish - a little at a time.  If you put in too much, it will skin over and not cure.  It took weeks and weeks, all the while with an upside down margerine tub taped over it to keep us from stepping on the work in progress.

I now have a better way.

Use 5-minute epoxy.  It fills the gouge without shrinking, and it cures in, well, 5 minutes. 

Here is an example from the sole in our forward cabin, which I am preparing to refresh.  The example is of a bung that chipped out when the sole was installed 36 years ago.  It has been varnished over many times, but there is still a hole there:

5-minute epoxy applied
After the epoxy cures, it will need to be sanded flush.  To do this without sanding thru the adjacent areas, first tape around the epoxy:

Tape (and a sticky note, lower right)
Now you'll be able to sand it flush to the floor, minus the thickness of the tape.  I used 150 grit open coat aluminum oxide paper from Norton.

Use a sanding block - something to keep the sandpaper flat.  A short piece of a paint stirrer stick works well for this small work.  Only use light pressure on the sand paper.  If you press hard, the paper will conform to the contour of the bump you are sanding - you don't want this.  Instead, you want the paper to cut down the high spots, and eventually the entire bump.  If you find that you need to press hard to make the sand paper cut, then it is dull - it is time for a fresh surface or a fresh sheet.

When you have the repair down as far as you can get with the tape in place, remove the tape (it will probably be partly sanded thru), and carefully take the repair down the last couple of mills until it is flush.  Then remove the 150 grit scratches with 220 grit paper.

Ready for varnish

Your brother-in-law been here?
Here's a big gouge that was also in the area being refinished.  Sadly, I didn't have the foresight to document the process using this one.  It too is now ready for varnish.

I imagine that the correct way to handle the big gouges would be to dutch in a small piece of teak.  I may give that a try in the future.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Jet City redux

(click for a larger view, as always)
I've written before about Seattle's place in the aircraft industry.  Here's something passing by the marina that you probably don't see in your city... those are 737 (?) fuselages on specially-designed rail cars, heading from Boeing's plant in Everett to, well, umm, Boeing field I presume (Doug, correct me if I'm wrong here).

They are covered in some kind of green film - film that even stays on when they are in the air, as they sometimes are with the film intact.  Presumably to protect the exotically expensive aluminum aircraft skin until it's painted - skin which we manufactured at the Kaiser Trentwood rolling mill where I used to work.  There's a whole story about aircraft skin sheets - a story for another time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On the other side

It's funny how some events can strike a bright line in your life, dividing it into "before" and "after".

Our new heat pump arrived on Saturday, and Angela made it possible for us to pick it up at Dockside Solutions office on Sunday morning (thanks Angela!).  We managed to get it down the dock and onto the boat in between bouts of cold, pouring rain, tho as it turned out, protecting it from rain was probably not as necessary as I had anticipated, due to its superb packaging.

With the background of the electric space heaters' whine, and the fan we have to circulate the heated air the Dickenson produces, I worked most of Sunday to disassemble the unit, get it into place under the settee seating, and reassemble it in place.  I also made inventory of what would be required to permanently mount it and hook it up both electrically and plumbing-wise.

On Monday we made a foraging expedition to various marine stores in Seattle to get the miscellaneous fittings and parts required.  As usual, our trip would have been shorter if we had just gone to Fisheries Supply first.  And then I crawled under the settee once again and got to work.

By Monday afternoon, we had water running out of the boat once again, and blessed heat streaming into the saloon.  I shut down the Dickenson and the space heaters, and there was...  peace.  The heat pump is very quiet.  Very quiet.  The only thing you hear is the rush of air entering the saloon, and even that will be diminished when I complete hooking up the ductwork so that heat is delivered to the whole boat, not just the saloon.

This morning, having slept the whole nite under the aegis of the heat pump, I perceive yesterday afternoon, when I turned on the heat pump for the first time, as one of those bright line events.

And we are on the other side of it.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Dump

One of my favorite blogs to watch, especially this time of year, is written by Cliff Mass, an Atmospheric Sciences professor at my old workplace, the University of Washington.  On February 12, Cliff predicted the formation of the famed "river of moisture" that occasionally flows straight from the tropics to us.  For those of us here in the PNW, the moisture that it brings is welcome, but for those in Oregon and even more so California, the arrival of the moisture is critical.

Ah, but for skiers, this is heaven on a stick.  This year's ski season has been disappointing.  Essentially no skiing before Christmas, and alternating periods of rain and wet snow... or nothing at all...  since.  In fact, The Dump started out with some decent snow (which we missed), followed by rain.

[At this point I think I should point out to the non-skiers that read this blog, that when it rains on the snow, it turns that snow into a solid block of ice once the temperature falls below freezing again.  The ski areas refer to this ice euphemistically as "base".  For skiers?  Well, we have to wait for more snow to cover the "base".]

Ah, but look what is coming:  This is the forecast from Stevens Pass, our chosen ski area, as of Saturday evening (sorry for the formatting problems - I didn't copy their style sheets)...

Weather Forecast


Low:  22°F
Snow showers. Low around 22. Breezy, with a west southwest wind 22 to 29 mph, with gusts as high as 38 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 6 to 10 inches possible.


High:  26°F
Snow. High near 26. South southwest wind 16 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible.


Low:  23°F
Snow. Low around 23. Windy, with a west southwest wind 24 to 33 mph, with gusts as high as 44 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 10 to 16 inches possible.

... and like that into the foreseeable future, Cliff says. Woo HOOO!

Sadly, we will not be able to take advantage of The Dump while the snow is fresh (more on that later, related to this).


Monday, February 10, 2014

Here and gone

One of my favorite things

You know what one of my favorite things about this part of the Pacific Northwest is?

Rain.  (No!  He didn't actually say that!)

On a Saturday nite outing, Jane and I felt snow on our faces as we walked down the dock to shore.  And by the time we got home again, the dock and everything else was white.  By Sunday morning, there was an inch or two on the ground, and of course the roads were not plowed.  But there had been enough traffic that the main streets were pretty clear due to traffic.  And it wasn't long before snowmen popped into existence, at least three to every block.  Snow in Seattle is not a common thing, so when it happens, it is a real treat for kids, young and old alike.
But we have lived in other parts of the Pacific Northwest too, 300 miles or so to the east.  And over there, the first snowfall of the year, perhaps in late October or early November, is a treat too.  But by this time of the year it has become pure drudgery.  Shovel the driveway, again (where will I put the snow?).  Is the weight too great up there - do I need to shovel the roof?  The roads are all corduroy from the snow plows' chatter as they are pushed over the permanent pack of snow and ice on the road.

So yes, the snow was here Saturday nite and Sunday morning.  It stayed long enough for the child in all of us to delight in it.

And now the rain has washed it all away.  No shoveling required.


Thursday, February 6, 2014


Uh oh...
We've been going thru a cold spell here in Seattle...  several days where it never got much above freezing, and nites in the low 20's.

Tuesday morning when I got out of bed, it was 49° here in the cabin.  That's pretty cold - a few more degrees and we'd be talking about the temperature inside your refrigerator.  I lit the Dickenson and thought about it.  The heat pump was running its little heart out, but it was delivering cold air.  On the other hand, heat pumps are not known for their great temperature rise, so it could have been that the air was so cold going into the heat pump that it wouldn't be much warmer coming out.

But I had a really bad feeling about this.

I stuck a thermometer in the heat pump's air discharge - it was actually colder than the cabin!  Whoa.

Now, I need to note an event that happened in the middle of November.  It was very windy out, and the wind had a lot of easting in it.  That had Eolian shoved against the dock, hard.  And she was surging back and forth, rolling the fenders.  And as it turns out, the outlet for the water which is the heat source for the heat pump is right there by the fenders.  On that morning too, we had awoken to a cold cabin.  I surmised (correctly, it turned out) that the boat's motion had rolled a fender over the water outlet and held it there long enough for the evaporator in the heat pump to freeze up.  I waited a couple of hours and tried the heat pump again, and it worked normally.  At the time, it seemed that that was the end of it.

Thinking that the same thing might have happened on Tuesday, I shut down the heat pump and waited a couple of hours before trying it again.

But when I turned it on, it pegged the ammeter and tripped the breaker.   

<engage engineer's grey cells>

I surmised that the early December freeze-up had cracked the inner tube in the tube-in-tube heat exchanger where the freon is heated by the circulating seawater.  And that it took this long for the freon to slowly leak out.  And that when it was finally all gone, seawater got into the freon tube, made its way to the compressor and hydrostated it.

This morning (Thursday), after having had enough time to get used to the inevitability of things, I pulled the heat pump.  At the moment of truth, I cut the small copper freon line going from the evaporator to the compressor, and was rewarded with a stream of seawater.  Nailed it.

Crap.  It's junk.  But I should be able to sell that copper heat exchanger for maybe $25 as scrap.  That'll at least cover the beer that this incident has required.

So now we are heating with the diesel Dickenson and a couple of space heaters, in what is turning out to be the coldest part of this winter.  But they're keeping up; it's 70° in here.

And I've ordered a new heat pump (ℬ1.565).  This one comes with safeties for:
  • Overheating protection
  • Freeze protection
  • Insufficient water flow protection
  • Abnormal operation protection
  • Low pressure protection
  • High pressure protection
Our previous unit had safeties for:
  • High pressure protection
That's it.

The lack of low pressure protection, freeze protection, and/or insufficient water flow protection was the reason the unit started the slow-motion self-destruct sequence when the water flow outlet was blocked.

Once bitten, twice shy.  It should be here next week.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shape changing

Eolian's masts are canted aft.  This means that, if the booms are to be aesthetically and pleasingly level, the angles between the foot and the luff of the main and mizzen sails must be less than 90°.  Our mainsail was correctly built, but the mizzen was not.  Whether it was incorrectly built for the boat (unlikely), or it was an adapted mainsail (more likely), the cut of the mizzen sail was such that the boom drooped.

Further, flying where it does in the dirty air behind the main, the mizzen needs to have less draft than the mainsail so that it will fill properly.  In another indication that our mizzen is a re-purposed mainsail, it had a lot of draft.

One of the reasons for our acquisition of our Sailrite LSZ-1 was to reshape the mizzen.  And in particular the "Z" part, since this model does the zig-zag stitching that sails use.  So, an afternoon's project: recut the mizzen.

Before removing the sail from the boat, I measured (using a steel, non-stretchy tape measure) the leech of the sail when sheeted in.  Then I raised the boom to where I thought it should be and remeasured the leech.  The difference was about 7".

Next, with the sail on the floor at our cabin, I arranged it so that I could take a wedge-shaped piece of cloth out of the lowest seam, one that had no "complications", like a batten pocket or a second clew for reefing.  This was non-trivial - even tho it is a mizzen, the sail is pretty big, with a luff of 32 feet and a foot of 11 feet.  It just barely fit on the floor, with all the furniture moved away.

Tight squeeze
Next, I struck a chalk line from where that first seam met the luff to a point 7" below where it ended on the leech.  Then with the reference mark in place, I took apart the triple-stitched seam.

No going back now.

Then, allowing a 1" seam allowance, I trimmed away the long wedge-shaped piece of cloth from the lower panel.

Now all I had to do was put it back together.  My first attempt failed.  I simply could not manage all that cloth and keep the seam lined up.

A cloth management problem
So I ripped out my first attempt and I got out my sticky basting tape and stuck the seam together with it.  This is not the crap they sell in sewing notion stores, the stuff that is designed to wash out.  This is 3M stuff I got from Sailrite - it holds like, um, glue.

And this time I spent more time to carefully line things up.  I found that the draft in the sail was created on the bottom of the upper panel - the top of the bottom panel (to the right in the pictures) had been straight, and remained so since I used the chalk line.  But when lining things up with the basting tape, I did not honor the 1" seam allowance I had granted myself, since that would have recreated the draft.  Instead I just pulled the seam straight.  In the center of the sail, it turned out that I had 2.5" of seam.

The only tricky part was at the leech, where I had to be very careful to handle the triple-folded surface and keep the leech line from getting sewed in place.  Well that's not quite true.  Managing all that cloth is a real problem.  You can see that my carefully-flaked upper portion of the sail did not long survive.  It is important to allow the sewing machine to move the fabric, and that requires two handlers, one on each side of the seam, to keep a little slack in front of the presser foot, and to move the sewed section away from the back of the presser foot.  The sail is heavy and bulky; keeping that little bit of slack was not easy.

I triple-stitched the seam using Helios thread.  I see no reason to use anything but the lifetime-guaranteed teflon thread for any kind of outdoor work.

With the sail back on the boat, the boom hangs where I had hoped, and the sail is a lot flatter.  Now all I need is for the seasons to advance enough to take it out on the Sound and see how it looks when it is full of wind...


Monday, February 3, 2014

Best in show

We've been to a lot of boat shows since our first, in Chicago, in 1971.  From one year to the next, you see mostly the same gear.  But every once in a while, you see a new product that is truly new and innovative.  This was one of those rare shows, and The Anchor Buoy is one of those rare products.

When we anchor here in Puget Sound, we always try to be as far from other boats as possible.  Most times that works our for us, but on busy weekends the anchorages are crowded, and then there is always that yahoo who drops his anchor too close.  We have experimented with using an anchor buoy, but managing the buoy and its line while retrieving the anchor was just too big a job.  And then, with our tidal range here that can reach 16 feet, how much line to put on the buoy?  Too little and the buoy will be submerged at high tide; too much and the buoy no longer marks the location of your anchor.

The Anchor Buoy addresses these and many more issues...
  • First, it self-deploys.  There is an encapsulated microprocessor inside it that knows when it is submerged, and reels out more line to compensate.  Therefore no action is required to deploy it - you just drop your anchor.
  • There is a tilt switch inside that detects when the buoy is no longer upright, indicating that its mooring line is slack - it then reels its line in until the slack is removed.  This accommodates tidal changes, and it also means that no action is required when retrieving the anchor - the buoy reels itself in.
  • It holds 100 feet of mooring line internally - That should cover the vast majority of anchoring situations.
  • There are two LEDs on the upper surface that automatically illuminate after dark, so your anchor position is visible even at nite.
  • It's all solar powered via an encapsulated solar cell and LiPO battery.
  • It's made right here in the USA, in Garden City, Idaho.  This is important to me, as whenever possible I try to support American workers and the American economy.
What more could you want?  Well, in our case, I'd want a bowsprit/anchor roller that would accommodate the Anchor Buoy.   It remains to be seen whether it will fit under our bowsprit. 

Oh yeah, the bottom line:  boat show price is $249.

If it'll fit, we will have one.

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