Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Killer cat

Marilyn flew to Kelowna this afternoon on a mercy mission.  This morning before she left she took the furball to the vet.  She wanted to have his papers up to date because we plan to take off on an extended adventure as soon as she gets back from tending to her brother.  Our adventure will start out with the yacht club lobsterfest and will likely include a trip to Port Angeles where we have a haulout scheduled for early March.  Evidently the furball wasn’t keen on visiting the vet.

When the two of them arrived back at noon Marilyn’s lip was bleeding.  Apparently when she attempted to extract Bonehead from under the backseat of the Exploder he came out swinging.  She said the vet had to attend to her dripping lip before he could deal with the cat.  She was a lot more understanding and sympathetic towards Nimrod than I would have been.  I’ve generally found that if you grab them by the scruff of the neck and control the back end with the tail they are pretty willing to accompany you but her methods are more “humane”.

After getting Marilyn to the ferry I tracked down a welding shop.  Ever since we installed the davits on the swim grid last year I have wanted to extend them higher.  We can carry the dinghy clear of the water with no problem but I’d like it to be higher off the water.  I also have a vision of mounting solar panels on top of the davits but that too requires that they be higher off the water.  Its also been a long term goal of mine to learn to use some kind of CAD software.  I’ve gone through several flavours of software – nothing on the calibre of Autocad but some pretty good stuff nevertheless.  And every one of them has been a frustrating disaster.

About 18 months ago I downloaded Google Sketchup and went through the same head-banging series of attempts to learn to use it that I had suffered on each of the preceding attempts.  My pattern was that I would try to use the software, get frustrated, quit and leave it for several months and then after I had forgotten how frustrated I had been I’d start the cycle all over again.  After we got back on the boat I took another run at Sketchup and ran into that old familiar wall.  The difference this time was that I had watched Marilyn use Youtube to learn how to paint and we have a pretty decent wifi connection here this winter.  So I did a few searches and eventually came up with a 5 minute lesson on Youtube.  That gave me enough initial confidence to bootstrap my way into further learning.  My first attempt turned into the following drawing:

base - top

That’s not my first pass at the drawing by any stretch but it was remarkably easy to get to a reasonable representation of what I had in mind.  Bolstered by the confidence that I could master the damn software I carried on:

Davit extension

The vertical wall represents Gray Hawk’s transom.  We currently have two St. Croix davits mounted to the swim grid which corresponds to the bottom of the drawing.  My intent is to raise the davits as depicted in the drawing.  In the 2nd drawing the base from the first drawing appears toward the top of the support frame.  The davits will rest on that new base rather than on the swim grid where they currently rest.  They will be supported at the top by some ties back to the top of the rail around the rear deck.  I haven’t drawn that portion yet because it is still fermenting in my mind but I’m confident that I can draw it.  What you can’t tell from these flat pictures is that all those surfaces are 3-D and I can rotate the drawings in 3 planes to look at them and work on it from any angle.  For anyone who uses CAD software regularly what I am doing is no doubt trivial but for me it has been a major breakthrough.  A MAJOR breakthrough.

Today I took the drawing of the base to a kid who runs a nearby welding shop.  He seemed to think he could build me a couple but he needed some time figure out what the stainless steel was going to cost him before he gave me a price.  That’s OK by me because I’ve got a lot of drawing ahead of me before I’ll be ready to start bolting things together.

Tonight I finished up installing the new regulator on the engine alternators.  When we bought Gray Hawk she came with a Link 2000-R control system on her Freedom 25 inverter.  That’s the same inverter that we have on the frenchy-bus but on the bus we have a Freedom control panel to run the inverter, a Trimetric 2025 monitor to tell us how the batteries are doing and the alternator looks after its own voltage regulation.  The Link 2000-R claims to combine all those functions into one bit of plastic.  Leaving aside how needlessly complex that makes the display panel, I didn’t like the thought of having all those functions dependent on one piece of plastic.  And sure enough, when we got back onboard, the system started charging at too high a voltage.  It still goes back to a 13.65 volt float but along the way it takes the batteries up to 17 volts which will eventually boil them dry.  The problem of course is that it does that on the charger as well as when we’re underway because both systems are tied together.

So I got busy and started ordering parts to convert the system back to exactly what we have on the bus.  I think we have a really good system on the bus and duplicating it on Gray Hawk will make it easier to switch back and forth between our two homes.  The Freedom inverter is an exceptionally rugged piece of equipment – its just the control system that George had set up that I object to.  Today I disconnected the engine regulator from the Link system and hooked up a Balmar 614 regulator to control the alternators.  I hope that the Freedom control panel will arrive in our UPS shipment on Friday but I may wait until I have the Trimetric in hand before I tear into the balance of the system. 

In addition to using Google Sketchup I have been using something called “Dia” to draw electrical and plumbing schematics.  Its Freeware but really powerful stuff which makes it dead simple to draw flowcharts or schematics.   I’ve found that drawing the schematics forces me to understand the systems completely in a way that I didn’t before.  Today I finished up a drawing for the fuel plumbing.  Eventually I will diagram the entire electrical system but that will take a long time.  I expect when I’m done that I will be able to pull about 50 pounds of surplus copper wire out of Gray Hawk because over the years successive owners have just added new wiring whenever they added some equipment.  Even though they were likely concurrently removing old equipment the old wire stayed in place.  Only by doing a detailed schematic will I be able to tell what I need and what can go.

No comments: