“Watsonizing” – McGyver’ed Battery Installation

posted in: Transforming the Trawler | 1

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.

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