Sunday, August 4, 2013

Summer Project–Polishing the Hull

Our hull is painted with AWLGrip paint over black gel coat. The color is a mix of AWLGrip dark green and black and you can only see the green if it’s in direct sun light. Over the last 5 years in Mexico the hull had developed a grey smear on it from the hard water, particularly in Ensenada where they have the most brackish dock water we have ever seen. You might as well be washing your boat with sea water. We’ve tried scrubbing the hull with no luck and were afraid that the only solution might be to have it repainted. You can’t wax the paint, the wax will turn yellow over time.
I started searching the internet for help and found a thread on the Cruisers Forum on AWLGrip paint and it was recommended to use AWLCare polish on the paint to seal and restore it. I ordered some, at $60 per quart, but when we used it it only seemed to make it worse. Smearing the grey rather than removing it. After that I contacted the AWLGrip rep in California and sent him some pictures of the hull. He suggested that we polish the hull first with 3M Perfect-It rubbing compound to remove the water spots and dirt and then apply the AWLCare to seal the paint. We hired a local young man in the marina, Luis, to do the job and the results were fantastic. It looks like new paint! Here’s some before and after pictures.

Before -


Half and Half -


After -


Hopefully from now on all we’ll need to do is apply the sealer every 6 months to keep it looking this good.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Water Maker Rebuild


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When we bought Discovery it had a water maker that was constructed out of Village Marine (VM) parts. It's what they sell as a 'bare bones' system. They sell you all the parts in a box and you install it to fit in your boat as opposed to a system that comes all assembled in a frame and you just connect the water, electricity, and control panel and off you go. It's the difference between having a water maker 'appliance' , the pre-assembled unit, and having a piece of equipment that takes a little more work. We like our water maker, it has provided us with 6 years of good service producing over 30 gallons of water per hour and Linda has learned to keep it humming along for all that time, but it has been showing it's age. We have rebuilt the high pressure pump, replaced some valves, and tried to chase and fix leaks as they occur but water production is falling, the membranes are getting old and need replacement.

VM membranes are 38" long in 40" vessels (the tubes holding the membranes) and VM wants $500 each (we have 2) to purchase new membranes. The end caps are made of some sort of plastic and are cracking where the fittings screw into the caps. Screwing brass high pressure fittings into plastic just isn't going to last too long and I don't know why they do that. So now that it's time to replace the membranes we decided to replace the vessels also with ones with metal end caps and to use industry standard 40" membranes, not the VM 38" shorties.  Plus you can get the standard 40" membranes made by DOW for $187 each, not $500 that VM charges for their 38" models.

We looked around and decided to buy all the parts from Cruise RO Water and Power. Rich and Charlie use industry standard parts, know what they’re doing, and don't try to rip you off on the price. We got the parts from Charlie in Escondido and put them in ourselves. The new membranes fit exactly where the old ones were and with the new vessel, metal end caps, and two new hoses there are no leaks! A first for our system. And with the true 40" membranes we're getting 40 gallons per hour water production.  An increase of 8 gallons per hour over the old system.

Village Marine seems to be like many high end marine suppliers. They take what should be industry standard parts and systems and customize them not to improve them but to lock you into buying their overpriced parts and service. A water maker is actually a simple system and can be made with widely available parts. There is no need to buy a non industry standard system. If you are a weekend warrior with deep pockets and don't care to learn how to assemble and maintain your boat systems then go ahead and buy a high priced system and when something goes wrong pick up the phone and call the supplier for service. If you are a serious cruiser on a budget, spend some time learning your systems and buy simple items that you can service and get parts for anywhere.

Just because we own a Nordhavn doesn't mean we own a bank.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mexican Nautical Charts – this is getting fun

We’ve always been interested in nautical charts and in particular, electronic charts. When we first came to Mexico we had Maptech charts on the PC running Coastal Explorer (CE) and C-Map charts on Furuno. Both are based on surveys done around 1890. That’s right, over a hundred years old. Here’s an example of these charts in CE -

Raster Chart

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see that our waypoints where we anchored are up on land with this chart and there is a dreadful lack of detail.

Fortunately the Mexican Navy has been doing a new survey since 2005, using borrowed US equipment they say, and have published new vector charts that while not up to the standards of US NOAA charts, are a substantial improvement over the older charts. Here’s the same area using the new vector charts -

Vector Chart

At least the land is in the right spot. Now we can add a third type of chart to the collection, charts from Google Earth satellite images. I’ve started playing with a program ChartAid that makes it very easy to capture images from Google Earth and geo-reference them so that chart plotting software like CE knows where to place them. Here’s the same spot with the addition of the photo chart -

Photo Chart 2

These Google Earth photo’s are not perfect, they don’t show depth for example, but outside of the US, Canada, and Europe they might be a great improvement over existing charts. They certainly enhance areas in Mexico. Will we rely exclusively on photo charts? No, but they are another tool, along with existing charts and guide books, that we can use to stay out of trouble.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Icom 802 Upgrades

Over the summer we did some changes to our SSB installation trying to improve the radio's reception and transmission and reduce radio frequency interference (RFI).

Here's a summary of what we did -

Installed 6/2 AWG wire from house bank to pilothouse for use by the HF and primary VHF radios, we have 2 fixed mounted VHF radios. This removed some of the RFI but not all. One of our depth sounders still causes a chirping sound but the hum from the pilothouse 12 vdc refrigerator is gone.

Installed a TG Electric N8XJK Boost Regulator - see here
This item claims to perform two tasks; 1) outputs up to 15 vdc from any DC input down to 9 v and 2) Eliminate RFI and cleans up your power source. It does a good job on #1 but not so much on #2. I set the output at 14 volts which it maintains no matter the state of charge of the house batteries but I have not heard a lot of RFI reduction.

CLRspkr DSP radio - West Mountain Radio - see here
This is a replacement speaker for the Icom 802 radio which has built in digital signal processing, DSP, to reduce background noise and static. It uses a process where it converts the analog audio signal to digital and then filters out any repeating noise, such as static, but not voice. The filter is adjustable from none to max in 4 increments and it works great! This unit turns receptions of signals that are difficult to understand to near clear. But I have had 2 problems with this product. The first unit I bought at the Ham Store in San Diego went dead after about one hour of use. I then exchanged it for a new unit just one day before we left on the boat to cruise south and the second unit has the volume 'clipping' indicator light on when ever there is sound present. It seems to work all right in reducing static but if I were in the States I'd return it. Returning items from Mexico to the US is very difficult and problematic so we will wait until next summer and try to return it then.

Our solar panel controller, a Blue Sky 2000E, was creating a constant click, click, ... static on all frequencies and after discussing this on the SSCA forum, the best place for info and advise on marine communications and solar panels I have found, we decided to replace the 2000E controller with a Blue Sky 2512ix controller. Many people reported very little or no RFI with this model. The 2512ix will also be a better model for us in the long run because we plan on adding 2 more panels next year and we'll be able to network the 2512ix controller with another 2512ix and a central control panel located in the pilothouse. The 2512ix model does seem to have less RFI noise in our case and we feel it was a good change.

Combined, these changes have improved the RX and TX of our Icom 802 a great deal. The dedicated power line actually delivers less voltage to the radio, about 2/10 of a volt less than the voltage at the panel but I'm assuming that it's cleaner power. The Boost Regulator then ups the voltage to 14 volts which makes the 802 transmit better. The 802 is very sensitive to voltage under 12.8 volts so it's a good thing to add a power booster. The best change was adding the DSP speaker. DSP audio processors are common and built into many new Ham radios but the CLRSpkr is nice because it builds the DSP circuits into the speaker case so you don't have to contend with another box.

We also discovered that the Danfoss compressors in our refrigerator and freezer cause noise on the 8 meg frequencies which happens to be where the Southbound net is located, 8122.0. We have started turning off the frig and freezer at the panel before the net along with our depth sounder and we have been very happy with the clarity of the reception. So far we have not forgotten to turn the refrigeration units back on, knock on wood.

I also reprogrammed the 802 to is a more logical frequency layout to my mind. I have not been happy with the channel layout design from when I first got the radio and I finally found an internet site that sold the programming software and interface cable. I reprogrammed it to match Gordon West's latest "full load" program layout. I did make a couple of small changes to Gordon's layout because of the Net's in this area but it is a much more logical layout to me.

I also got my Ham General license over the summer taking the Tech and General exams in San Diego. The exams were not easy for me but I did pass both exams on the first attempt and it was an enjoyable experience. We can now participate on the Sonrisa net which is a Ham only net.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ok, this got too hot.

This is the shore side end of our power cable that we used to power our air conditioning. It has obliviously gotten way too hot. The receptacle that it was plugged into was old and worn out and destroyed both of them. I had to cut back 10' of cable before I found clean wire that was not heat damaged.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Good Vector Charts for Mexico

I finally have found some electronic charts of Mexico that are at least of 'good' quality. The MapTech electronic raster charts of Mexico are unusable outside of the major port areas. The C-Map that our Furuno chartplotter use are better than MapTech but not that good. We have use Coastal Explorer for our PC Chartplotter for many years and when we upgraded to their latest version they noticed that they added the capability to use Navionics S-57 vector from ChartWorld in Germany. These charts have special copy protection and are referred to as S-63 format. In the US, NOAA distributes all of the marine charts for free so the ChartWorld charts are only for areas outside the US. After some research and concern that these vector charts would not be any better than the old raster charts I finally purchased the set of charts for western Mexico. The cost is EURO 150, about $213 dollars US. Coastal Explorer has worked with ChartWorld to make the install process easy. I did have a little problem with the install because I had changed the chart directory settings but CE support was very helpful in sorting it out. The difference between the raster and vector charts are amazing, see photo's (Vector on left, old Rasters on the right). I've read that the Mexican Navy has done a new survey of Mexican waters in the last few years and it's that survey that these charts are based on.
I don't know what other software supports the ChartWorld vector charts but if you are going to Mexico these charts are worth getting a copy of Coastal Explorer 2009 for just to be able to use these charts.

Links -
ChartWorld GmbH
Coastal Explorer 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

Solar Panels

Today we finished adding solar panels to Discovery. We bought 2 Kyocera KTM 130 panels and a Blue Sky 2000E Controller. Discovery has a dinghy davit where we store the dinghy except for ocean passages and the top rails of the davit are a natural place for the solar panels. We ran the 6/2 gauge wire inside the davit upright tube into the lazarette and then into the engine room where the controller is located. At anchor we use 300 to 320 amps per day and we hope to get at least 100 amps from the panels which will reduce our generator run time by an hour or more. We purchased the panels and controller from Northern Arizona Wind & Sun