“Watsonizing” – McGyver’ed Battery Installation

Solar power is amazing and awesome, but there has to be a place to store the power. It’s a great additional option, but you still need to have consistent and reliable power that is not dependent upon the sun. That’s where batteries come in. The Kadey Krogen 39 had 6 8D AGM batteries (2 for the bowthruster and four in the house bank. The house bank was also used as the engine starting battery. A dead give-away that the batteries are at the end of their life is when the electronics often shut down due to low voltage when starting the engine.

Four batteries needed to be replaced. 

We had battery discussions for weeks. Is it a discussion when one party can only listen and ask questions without understanding? I even watched a YouTube video on batteries to assist my comprehension. I am grateful for Anthony who would step in, over long distance, to carry this battery discussion burden for me.

What were the options? -Golf cart wet cells or golf cart AGM? 8D wet cells or 8D AGM?

Internet images of sample batteries – Golf cart wet cell, golf cart AGM, 8D wet cell, and 8D AGM. They all begin to look alike to me…….

The considerations, of course, were weight, price, and maintenance. The golf cart options are smaller and weigh less which is a major factor for a do-it-yourselfer like Al. Wet cells require the regular routine maintenance of checking and adding water once or twice each month. AGMs (Absorbent Glass Matt) are maintenance-free. The 8Ds have a deeper cycle which means they are able to hold deeper discharges and have a much longer service life. But…. and this is a big but, they weigh much more (152lbs) than the equivalent two 6-volt lead-acid golf cart batteries (each 56lbs). How’s that? Do I understand the basics of battery options now?

Decision? Get four new 8D AGM batteries or eight 6 volts golf cart batteries, Of the three considerations, the 8D’s weigh more and they cost more, but they are maintenance free and match the remaining batteries which is also an important factor. The boxes were already in place so there would be no need to build or modify those.

Making the decision was not enough to make it happen. Al had to find the batteries nearby (no shipping of these 152lb each babies) and had to make a plan for getting the batteries into the boat and in their proper functioning locations. 

My Dad always called Al “McGyver” because he could find a solution to any mechanical problems. This would be one of Al’s finest McGyver moments. The old batteries had to be removed and Al “McGyver’ed that all alone. No pictures to prove it, though. 🙁 The photos below are all from the installation of the new batteries.

Take note that all of this happened back in April, before my accident. It was also during the covid-19’s shut down so hiring young strong weightlifters was not a viable option. I was happy to help Al in this major endeavor. It also proves that I actually help with some maintenance projects!

4 big 8D INTIMIDATORS – The battery shop used a forklift to drop the 4 batteries into our trunk. Our poor car – 600 pounds!
The first battery is moved to a board on an old bar stool using a block and tackle.
I handled the line this time to hoist the battery up to Al on the swim platform.
Al maneuvered the battery from the air onto the platform and into the cockpit. Old rugs were used to push and pull across the surfaces.
Once in the salon, another block and tackle was used to lower the battery down into the engine room. Al had tested the handhold in the ceiling to be sure it could handle the weight. 
The process was repeated for the second battery in the engine room. Both are now in their boxes in their permanent home down in the engine room.
All wired and ready to provide power. The upper left is a “before” photo. The other photos are finished port and starboard views. The lower right photo is the starboard side where a dedicated engine starting battery resides. Al tells me that the new wiring (upper right) takes care of the engine battery, solar and house bank. I don’t have a clue what this all is, other than wires. I trust him!

OK. Two down, two to go. The next two batteries are for the bowthruster and will reside under the stateroom berth. The car to salon process was repeated again, but these two batteries had to go from the salon all the way forward to the master cabin.

Once the batteries were in the salon, a new set up was necessary – Board, block & tackle and humans. – Up it goes to the pilot house. Note that we reversed our block & tackle system for the second battery.
The next block and tackle system was used to lower each battery from the pilot house into its box that sat upon the plank.
It took both of us to lower the battery with the block and tackle and position it onto a board that is supported on one end by that old barstool, moved from outside to inside.
Another board was perched on the edge of the berth back to the bar stool. Al re-attached the block & tackle to hold the box as we lifted the other end of the plank to slide the batteries down to the far end under the berth.
Al muscled both bowthruster batteries off the plank, later to be moved to their final position.
Bowthruster batteries wired and in place. Look at this space. – there’s a lot of storage under here! Al painted it so it looks quite nice under there.
If you remove the rectangle hatch in the floor (photo above) you can access the actual bow thruster.

This was the most expensive project of the winter, but a necessary one. No one wants to worry and stress about battery issues while out cruising.

“Watsonizing” – Let the Sun Shine!

We love solar power. There is something quite appealing about using the free energy of the sun for power. We spend a lot of time on a mooring or at anchor so solar panels have always been a necessity for us. With solar power, there is less need to run a noisy engine or generator to charge the batteries. And let’s face it, we all have electronic devices, refrigeration, lights, etc that we want to use, even out on a boat.

We added solar panels to both the Morgan sailboat and the Mariner. Before sharing Al’s work on the Kadey Krogen, we will take a brief trip through his various solar panel adventures over the years.

Al mounted the Morgan Center Cockpit’s panels on the hardtop he built over the cockpit. Each panel was 75 watts for a total of 150 watts. It was a great location for the panels.

A view of our Morgan 43 Center Cockpit from the top of the Elbow Reef Lighthouse in HopeTown (center boat). The solar panels mounted on the hard top.
A closer view of the solar panels.

For the Mariner Orient 38, Al went with two 135 watt panels for 270 watts total. Interestingly, in the ten years since the installation of the sailboat’s solar panels, the efficiency of solar panels increased for the size, and the price decreased. Win-win! The location for the solar panels on the Mariner Orient 38 went through several iterations.

The best location for solar panels was on the flybridge. Al built a box to hold one panel and to use for storage inside.  We left for the Bahamas with the panels in this location.

In Vero Beach, Florida, Al decided the panels were getting too much shade from the bimini. While we enjoyed the conveniences of Vero Beach, he decided to change things up. The man just has to have a project at all times!

One of Al’s prototype experiments using deck chairs to test his idea of raising the box for better access to sunlight.
He attached one panel to the back rail to raise and tilt it. Next step was a trip to Walmart to purchase a folding table to raise the boxed panel up higher. The legs were cut down to a more reasonable height. Al would actually push, pull and tilt that table around to get the best sun exposure.

Finally, it was mutually decided that this table configuration, although it had made it across the Gulf Stream and back to CT was somewhat unstable. The final Mariner solar configuration was to mount both panels on the back rail of the flybridge.

The final solution! Out of the way, better exposure, and tiltable. And a whole lot better looking.

This year’s question was “where to put the solar on the Kadey Krogen 39?? The priorities were:

1) a safe location with sun exposure, 

2) find enough space for adequately sized panels, 

3) and to not be in the way.  

Top of pilot house looked like a good spot, but first Al had to remove the large 3-foot diameter satellite dome. No loss there – it had not been used in 10 years and was not functioning.

Over the winter, Al removed the satellite tv dome from the pilot house roof while under the shrink wrap

Next, Al researched solar panels for size and wattage. He made cardboard templates (of course!) to see how panels could fit on the pilot house roof without interfering with the two opening hatches.

In this photo, he is preparing to climb from the flybridge onto the pilot house roof under the shrink wrap, dragging a cardboard template.
Only one panel met the size requirements. Two 160-watt panels would fit, exactly, for a total of 320 watts. Over to the right are two flexible solar panels on loan from Magnolia to keep the batteries charged over the winter.

I try to understand the basic concepts of the mechanical and technical aspects of our boats. Al is really good at answering my questions, even when they are repeated again and again.

Let me see if I can get technical about how solar panels work. After mounting the solar panels they are wired to the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar charge controller and connected to the batteries. Our MPPT is located down in the engine room. Its job is to connect the solar panels and the batteries, regulating the battery charging process to ensure the battery is charged correctly, or more importantly, not over-charged.  The MPPT converts the higher voltage of the panels to the acceptable charge voltage of the batteries.

Down in the engine room, the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar controller is wired and connected to the batteries.
Diagram of how solar panels are connected to the solar charge controller and the batteries. In real life it is NEVER that simple.

Al added the MT50 remote screen in the pilot house so that we can view instant information about the solar panels without making a trip down to the engine room. The first thing I noticed was that this monitoring screen looked, hmmm, how do I say this? A lot “cuter” than our old ones? It has a smiley face!

The MT50 remote screen is mounted in the pilot house for easy monitoring of the system.
This is just what I needed! A little chart to explain the MT50’s icons. I hope I never see the sad face.
And there it is! 320 watts of solar panel neatly mounted, and fits perfectly between the two opening hatches.

Let the sun shine!

“Watsonizing” – Heads Up!

We have never owned a boat that did not require “watsonizing” to some degree. Our previous Kindred Spirits have been in varying conditions, but always needed an overhaul on something major or a lot of tender loving care. This newest Kindred Spirit, our Kadey Krogen 39, is certainly in the best shape of any boat we have ever owned, and yet…….. there still seemed to be a lot for Al to do. I breathed a sigh of relief. Boat projects meant that he would be happily puttering and watsonizing all winter long. He needed that.

Al’s first major project on the Kadey Krogen was the head and all of its components. We knew some work was needed to “freshen” the head, but we weren’t sure just how much would be involved. The final solution was a total overhaul – new everything.  The VacuFlush toilet and the Purasan waste treatment system were just not going to work for us. We thought that the VacuFlush toilet was too complicated and too prone to problems. Repairs and maintenance were going to cost more in dollars and aggravation than installing a new toilet would. Although the Purasan treatment system advertises that it can sanitatize “black water” for discharge into “rivers, lakes and ocean,” we weren’t comfortable with that option in light of no-discharge zones. We applaud the efforts here in the Northeast to provide free pumpouts and traveling pumpout boats to keep our waters clean. So, in the final analysis, Al removed everything – the toilet, the waste pipes, and the holding tank. And then he scrubbed, sanitized and repainted the bilge area. We do not like odors. 

The next phase was replacing everything he removed. After researching assorted holding tanks’ dimensions and capacities, Al built a cardboard prototype to see how large a holding tank he could fit down there. Winner? A 42-gallon would fit!

His cardboard prototypes we’re built at home and then brought to the boat. Under the shrink wrap into the cockpit and then down to the opening in the floor outside the head.
And then he muscled the prototype box down into the bilge area where the future real tank would be installed.

Before installing any new components for the sanitation system, the entire bilge region was cleaned and painted.

So shiny and clean you almost need sunglasses!
There sits the new holding tank and new toilet waste pipes. It is such a deep hole that Al added the step to make it easier to go “down under.”
Forward of the holding tank, is a 250 gallon fresh water tank can be seen on the left side of the photo.
The new shelf opposite the holding tank has plenty of space for storing spare parts as well as providing access to the shower sump pump.

Now for the actual head. It’s not the biggest head we have ever had, but it will suffice.

We changed the towel bar holder to the three-bar swinging version. The shower has nice folding doors so there is no need for a curtain. The VacuFlush toilet was replaced with an electrical  Dometic MasterFlush, the same model that we installed on the Mariner Orient. 
Inside the shower. Although it is smaller than the Mariner’s, it has a nice shelf for assorted necessary shower items. I have not yet decided how I feel about the teak floor grate, but we will give it a try this year.
Al installed a new Thermostatic Shower Faucet Mixing Valve. We also changed the sprayer to one that has a lever which makes it very easy to control the flow and save precious water. Even with 250 gallons, we don’t like to waste it. Just a habit from the old 50 gallon sailboat days.
The sink with a medicine cabinet above and all sorts of controls and switches on the face of it. I still have to learn what each does!
At the risk of TMI, we do not put toilet paper into our system. This little swinging lid waste basket will work well under the sink. The toilet paper holder on the inside of the door will be replaced with a stainless one .

This is not the most glamorous blog post, but I think all of us in boating would agree that the head and sanitation system cannot be ignored or underestimated. The only things left are the new towels and rug that I purchased.

Life Interrupted….3 Times

In New England, winter always interrupts the boating season. It’s the rhythm of things here and we welcomed it this year. Yes, really! With our Kadey Krogen 39 home here in Connecticut, Al was ready and eager to spend his winter getting to know the boat and making his own improvements to her. I had visions of decorating since there was considerably more space and options for those touches.

In February we flew to Florida for a warm weather break (interruption) and enjoyed several stops there, beginning with a visit to Anthony and Annette on Magnolia in Palm Beach Gardens.

We toured Loggerhead Marine Life Center and its turtle hospital.
As usual, the four of us always find places to go, places to eat, and fun to be had.
A dinner in Stuart with Al’s brother, Bill, too!
Men at work. Sanding a pull-out drawer for Magnolia’s galley.

Next stop – Delray Beach for a few days at a boutique hotel called Cranes, an oasis tucked away in the midst of the city.

Beautiful gardens and paths, two pools………
Delray Beach – beaches and town life.

From Delray Beach we headed south to the Keys for a week’s stay at Kona Kai on Key Largo, another little hotel tucked away from noise and crowds.

Kona Kai’s private beach with hammock and a lovely pool.
Kayaks to use right off the beach. Each day we went exploring we were treated to manatees swimming under and around us.
I forget their names now, but these guys liked to hang out at the pool as much as I did.
A lovely Valentines Day dinner at Marker 88.
It was a lovely and fun getaway.

We returned home on February 19th and as I look back now, it seems odd that we were so unaware of what March would bring to all of our lives and how much the world would change. Social distancing, stay-at-home orders, frequent hand washing, hand sanitizer, face masks, and no where to go even if we had wanted to leave our homes.

Fortunately, Al’s work on the Kadey Krogen could continue since it is largely a solitary endeavor. I started prepping a few blog posts about his winter boat projects, his “watsonizing” as we affectionately call them.

As launch day approached, we uncovered the boat together and began putting her back together.

Uncovered on April 28th.

And now for the third interruption of our lives. We had removed the Kadey Krogen’s name from the transom and were finishing the prep work so that she could officially become Kindred Spirit. On May 3rd, I was sitting on a stool on the swim platform and working on the transom. The stool slipped and threw me 6 feet down to the ground onto my back. It is difficult to write about this, even now, so the short version is that my spine was fractured in two places, requiring two rods to hold it together. In many ways, I was lucky; it could have been worse. After 9 days at Yale including the surgery, I was sent to an acute rehab facility for 10 more days before returning home on May 22nd. Because of the corona virus, Al and I were apart for almost 3 weeks through this ordeal. That was truly challenging.

An absolutely wonderful surprise awaited me at home. My sons and their families welcomed me back home on the front lawn.

I still have a long recovery ahead of me, but I am doing well, all things considered. Kindred Spirit‘s launch date has been pushed back indefinitely until after the neurosurgeon checks my progress in a couple more weeks. One step at a time. I am determined to salvage some of this boating season and enjoy our lovely Kadey Krogen.

And I will eventually finish the posts about Al’s watsonizing projects. I promise.