Monday, April 17, 2006

WOW! Simply WOW!

First, let me say this: I've been sadly derelict in my blogly duties. Sorry. There's much to report, and since I had to participate in these things, I didn't really have the time to write. Well, not strictly true. I was too tired.

That said, here goes. First, April 8th was the big opening of the City Island Yacht Club's kitchen for the year. So the club put on a wine tasting (mmmm...Wine...) and of course you could have dinner. My friend Laura came along, and we had a terrific time! The food was good and very reasonably priced. I don't believe I'll have any problem meeting my $500/year minimum. None at all.

It was amazing - when I visited in February, the place was a total disaster - walls torn apart, holes, general confusion. Yet Saturday last, it was beautiful! Newly painted, and absolutely fantastic! I can't say enough. I suspect I'll be helping out this year. It's a club to be proud of, and I believe I made absolutely the right choice!

From the sublime to the mundane. Two projects needed finishing, the LED lighting with a red nav station light, and permanent mounting of the solar panels.

The nav station light was the hardest, believe it or not. First, I had purchased a red 19 LED single contact bayonet bulb for the purpose. Needless to say, I should have researched lighting first. The only manufacturer of bayonet socketed flexible gooseneck lights is Sea Dog, and theirs is a double contact socket. Ok, so I called them and no, they can't make one with a single contact. Feh!

Most of these new lights are xenon bulbs or high intensity bulbs with red filters. The sockets are nothing like anything useful for my purposes. So I purchased the light I wanted and ripped it apart. I epoxied an automotive single contact bayonet socket in it, and wired it all up. Great. The only thing I don't like is that the bulb is proud of the reflector, but you know what? if it becomes a problem, I'll think of something else.

Next, I've been struggling on how to mount the solar panels permanently. It has to be strong enough to support my weight without flexing, and preferably maintenance free. My choice for maintenance free material is HDPE (High Density PolyEthylene). It's essentially Starboard, but cheaper because it's generic. It's easily machinable with either woodworking tools or machine tools, and it is totally inert. I mean really, really inert. So inert that the only method of joining is mechanical.

So, with my friend Leigh's help, I built a platform with wedges under to make up the curve on the sea hood over the companionway hatch. Because the HDPE is not dimensionally stable (it does expand and shrink some) I attached it centerline to the hood. that way it can expand and contract.

The panels slide under an aluminum angle mounted on the forward edge, and are screwed into the mounting at the other end. Originally I wanted to be able to move the panels when at a dock, but I don't really see the need. They're fine where they are.

Wedges underneath in milled slots make up for the curve in the seahood. I can stand on them if necessary although I hardly ever walk right there. Laura was impressed. She said it looked as if they belonged there.

We went sailing Easter day when it was sunny. The panels provide enough power in bright sunlight to power the stereo, autopilot in standby mode, depth and speed instruments and still charge the batteries. I haven't yet tried them on the chartplotter or autopilot in active mode, but I hardly ever ust the chartplotter, and autopilot only long enough for food and head breaks. More on this later, of course. So far, though, I've been able to get a little over 2 amps out of the panels.

Finally, yesterday the wind was 20 to 25 knots out of the northwest. I wanted to try the new yankee, so I wrestled down the big jib, and set it. Wow! Holy Smokes! I can see this becoming my favorite sail! With just that sail we tooled along at 4 to 6 knots! The boat was totally controlable, and the sail and rig hardly stressed at all. It's perfect! I am thorougly impressed! If you need sails - call Martin at Somerset Sails. Mention my name. I don't know that will help, but it can't hurt.

This summer I'm going to get my friend Lou to take pictures of Inertia under sail. That's how tickled I am with her.

I hope to see you on the water - soon, too!

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