Category: How-to

2

Panbo(at) gets more stable: Seakeeper 1 install in progress

It’s been over six years since I got involved with Ben Ellison and Panbo. When I first started working with Ben E. timelines were one of my biggest struggles. I figured, the longer I do this, the better I’ll get at pacing things out, knowing how long a review and article will take, and scheduling things. Well, six-plus years later, I’m no better. In fact, my current project, the installation and on-boat testing of a Seakeeper 1, might be the longest in the making of any I’ve done.

2

Boat Building School Enhances Hands-on Program with Nigel Calder’s BoatHowTo Electrical Courses 

The Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding (NWSWB) and the online course platform BoatHowTo.com announce a strategic partnership for technical education. All students of the NWSWB Marine Systems program get free access to the marine electrical online courses and resources at BoatHowTo. The BoatHowTo team and Ritz share a commitment to technical accuracy and keeping abreast of the rapid changes shaping the boating industry. According to Ritz, the BoatHowTo courses offer…

26

Maximizing solar production with Victron GX

After the loss of Have Another Day, my primary DC test platform is Harvey, my family’s RV. Over the winter we upgraded from our previous 35-foot coach to a 43-foot Newmar Dutch Star. With that upgrade, I’ve added 1,350 watts of solar to the new RV. With all that solar, I wanted to ensure I was taking full advantage of the potential production. That sent me diving through the settings in my Victron system to figure out the best way to manage my system. Currently, I’m using a Virtual Switch in the inverter to manage DC power sources and it’s working quite well.

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Airmar DST810 Multisensor, really smart

Airmar trail blazed the NMEA 2000 “smart” sensor about fifteen years ago, building a microprocessor right into a transducer so that a single rugged N2K cable can both power the sensor and deliver Depth, Speed, and Water Temperature to almost any display, regardless of brand. And while the company deservedly dominates the world of water-related smart sensors today, they were a tad slow to adopt the now-common technique of including a Bluetooth app for the detailed calibration that many of the display manufacturers fail to provide. But after initial testing, I think that the relatively new DST810 Smart Multisensor is a thoroughly modern N2K device…

15

NMEA 2000 network troubleshooting with Digital Yacht, Actisense, and DIY Tools

NMEA 2000 networks are pretty reliable but when there’s trouble it is often unclear where to start. Digital Yacht and Actisense have both brought out new products to help ensure the health of a network and better understand its operation. But, even if you don’t have any specialized tools onboard, you can still do some basic but effective troubleshooting of the health of your network. Let’s explore Digital Yacht’s NAVDoctor, Actisense’s A2K-TER-U smart NMEA 2000 terminator, and the troubleshooting you can do with an NMEA 2000 breakout cable and a multimeter.

23

Victron’s Venus OS on a Raspberry Pi, install and configuration

The Victron Remote Management (VRM) portal and their Venus OS monitoring software deliver best-in-class access to information about your boat (, RV, or fixed solar) electrical sytem. But, running one of these systems has typically required Victron hardware which starts around $300. Victron has a long history of embracing the open-source community and they’ve continued that effort by supporting Venus OS on a Raspberry Pi. But, many people hear Raspberry Pi and either think dessert or that it’s over their heads and too complex. This guide walks you through the steps required to get Venus OS up and running on a Pi and sending data about your electrical system to VRM.

7

Dymo XTL labeler, premium quality labels at a premium price

Several weeks ago I shared a few pictures of me working in an engine room with Ben Ellison. He used those pictures in his recent entry and in a caption asked, “Wait, is that yellow/black thing an exotic cable label machine or what?” Well, it is indeed a (somewhat) exotic label machine, the Dymo XTL 500 and I think it’s definitely improved the quality of my installs. The XTL series of labelers print on a broad range of labels including several very well suited for work aboard a boat.

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DIY LiFePO4, build completed and testing underway

My first installment of this series introduced my build of a 280 amp hour LiFePO4 battery using cells purchased from China and a 120-amp battery management system (BMS) from a reputable U.S. supplier — though the BMS is still made in China. I left off in the very early stages of the build while I was giving the cells an initial charge to get them ready to join into a 12-volt battery. Although the process took longer than expected, it’s done and I’ve made a 12-volt battery. But what about the big question of capacity and performance of this homemade battery? I’ve got some early answers…

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DIY LiFePO4, the build begins

In the last couple of months I’ve installed two of the three main types of lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries. In March I installed Mastervolt’s system integrated MLi batteries on Have Another Day and just last week I finished up the installation of Battle Born’s 8D drop-in batteries on another boat. With two out of three types covered I figured it was time to get my hands dirty with the third type, a do-it-yourself build of a 12-volt battery from four cells and a battery management system (BMS).

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Helm ergonomics #2: Gizmo’s pilothouse

“Your boat should fit like a glove!” yacht designer Dave Gerr wrote in the 1990’s, and the 2020 refit of Gizmo’s lower helm is the closest I’ve gotten to that excellent advice yet. The ergonomically arranged array of displays and controls above are also a somewhat experimental mix of PC and tablet navigation tools with dedicated marine electronics and oodles of monitoring in the background. I could talk for hours about the gear choices and install details, but the focus of this entry is how well this helm layout works