August 11, 2014

Getting to know Wrangell Alaska 99929

Since we don't have one of our [land] vehicles in Wrangell yet, we mostly walk everywhere.  This has provided us with opportunities to see the town at a slower pace, and meet people.

The census says that Wrangell's population is 2300, and the 3 harbors have 1500 slips. The commercial fishing fleet is alive and well.  We walk to the main street, which is about a mile away to go to the hardware store, the grocery store, and the post office.  We found out that the grocery store will give us a ride back to the harbor with our purchases.  How cool.

Post Office and Totem

Chief Shakes Island and Tribal House
Just out of town, the petroglyphs...

Killer whale?

We have had fun reading the signs, seeing the sights, and enjoying the local sense of humor.

Drug Store [Green sidewalk billboard advertises Little Burro, one of our favorite places to eat]
Lupé, proprietor of Little Burro- Best Mexican food in Wrangell! [Just to the right of the Drug Store photo, above...]

Halloween Day in Wrangell

Protecting property?

We rented a car one day, and drove out on the logging road as close as we could get to our property. After parking, we hiked till we reached an un-fordable creek, and had to hike back.
logging road

Our property is down in the grove of trees.
We have a small bay in front of us, so we went around by water in Denali Rose, to see what it looks like from the water side.
Almost to our bay.

Our neighbor on the far left side of the bay.

Our property up into the woods on the right side of the bay,  but before the clear cut area.
We had fun exploring nearby bays and waterways in August.
Madan Bay
I tried my hand at fishing for the first time in Madan Bay, and I really wanted to catch a halibut. I had just put in my line with a piece of herring as bait, into the water, and I could feel something bumping into it.  I jerked on the pole, in order to set the hook, and started reeling it in.  I saw that it was something white, and thought "oh yay, I have a halibut."  It was not to turned out to be a baby shark, and he had wound the line around his tail as well as being hooked.  Bill went to get his gloves and a knife to release him, but by the time Bill got back, the shark had bit the line and released himself.  Big problem.... he still has the hook in his mouth connected to the halibut rig, and the large weight.  The shark went right to the bottom with $15.00 with fishing gear, and probably died there due to all of the gear. Sorry.
Best picture I could get while hanging onto the fishing rod.
Berg Bay:
There is a public use cabin in the woods on the right.

Looking out towards Eastern Passage

Looking East at Wrangell from Zimovia Strait
...and the reciprocal view from Wrangell (looking West)

Looking South down Zimovia Strait from Wrangell

Alaska State ferry at dock on left, and small eco-cruise ship on right.

Painted mural on water front.
Heritage Harbor looking West (Denali Rose's mast appears tallest- center of photo...)

Even though I haven't spent much time in town yet, I have really enjoyed meeting the warm friendly people.  I look forward to learning more about my new home port.

August 2, 2014

New Batteries (with a built-in watering system!)

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Out-of-date original post follows: [2-Aug-2014] The text is aged parchment color to remind you this is the old version...
Battery: Electrochemical storage device capable of lighting an incandescent lamp of wattage about equal to that of a refrigerator bulb for a period of 15 minutes after having been charged for 2 hours...    (Sailing Pocket Dictionary by Henry Beard & Roy McKie)

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When we were evaluating the boat for purchase, we learned the broker had once forgotten to plug the boat into shore power after moving it to a different dock. This resulted in the battery bank draining completely, killing two of the eight 6 volt Trojan T-105 [lead-acid] batteries [which were ~6 years old...] Instead of replacing all batteries, only those two were replaced (contrary to everything I have ever read, heard, or understood about maintaining battery bank integrity. i.e, all or nothing…)

Therefore I figured we would soon need to replace the entire bank. After cruising a couple of weeks, this became evident; the batteries were barely getting us through the night at only ~120 AH consumption [from a 900AH initial capacity bank.] Due diligence lead me to verify the charging systems were working correctly, and they were. I also equalized and load tested the battery bank the next time we were in a marina with shore power. (Ketchikan, Alaska) My suspicions were confirmed: the bank was down to ~50% of its original capacity. Time to go shopping.

Fortunately the local Crowley fuel depot in Ketchikan is a Trojan dealer and stocked the T105 batteries (and at competitive pricing!) They even agreed to deliver the 8 new batteries [~500 lbs] to the boat, and cart off the old batteries for no charge. Done deal.
Update Aug-2016: I recently learned Trojan has introduced their 'Smart Carbon' technology for their 'RE' [Rural Energy] battery line. And they offer a direct replacement for the T105 battery we are using; the T105RE . These Smart Carbon batteries are purported to tolerate not always reaching a full state of charge better than the standard battery line, yielding a longer useful lifetime. [~15%]
I will be researching this further, and watching for first-hand accounts. In the meantime, were I ordering new batteries today, I would probably go this direction assuming pricing is not out-of-line... 
However, before committing, I needed to decide whether to change over to AGMs ["maintenance free"] or stay with wet cell batteries that require the routine addition of distilled water. This was especially important because the location of all 8 batteries is a vented, custom locker under what remains my tool and spare parts storage area. That means all that heavy stuff needs to be moved and temporarily relocated every time I inspect and water the batteries. 

AGMs offer other advantages as well, but I was most attracted to the “maintenance free” aspect. AGMs also came at a ~50% premium, so I researched ‘remote’ [single point] methods of watering lead-acid wet-cell batteries. That is when I discovered Trojan (and Flow-Rite) offer just such a system for a lot less than the price difference between the battery types (and it will fit future batteries next time they need replacement…) 

Enter the Trojan HydroLink™ Watering System (I chose the Clampless Tubing option…)
[I also investigated the offerings from Flow-Rite but stayed with Trojan in this instance due to the lower profile, seemingly more robust design-including purported spark and flame arresting capability- and availability at the time...]

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Trojan HydroLink™ Watering System with clampless tubing
Trojan HydroLink™ Watering System with clampless tubing. (Photo from sales literature.)
The quick-disconnect [with internal check valve] is the large black fitting. The orange rubber caps cover unused connections on the T's, and the T's floating to the sides of the batteries [not on battery caps] must be for illustration purposes since they came pre-installed on the manifolds...
HydroLink components replace the stock single battery caps [3 on a 6 volt battery] with a single cap [manifold] that covers all 3 cells, has a built-in pivoting T fitting for the clampless tubing [which strongly resembles heavy duty 1/4” ID fuel hose…] a visual indicator [fiber optic] of water level, and small float valves in each cell that allows new water in only if below a prescribed level (and acts as a check valve to prevent electrolyte from entering the watering manifold plumbing.) 

The whole job consumed about 4 hours of my time [including polishing the battery and cable terminals.]  The most demanding portion was lifting the old batteries out and carrying them to the dock for pick-up. (Bringing in the new batteries was mostly downhill…)

I re-used the well thought-out 4/0 cables Jack [the previous owner] had fabricated for the last set of batteries, and finished the installation by figuring out the most efficient way to route the rubber Clampless Tubing between batteries. That took all of 5 minutes... [Trojan is a bit stingy with the tubing; I had 6" left over...]

I put the single quick-disconnect [with built-in check valve] for watering all the batteries in the engine room. The Hydrolink kit I purchased came with an outboard motor style fuel bulb with a clear hose with check valve on the intake end (for dropping into a bottle of distilled water) and a quick disconnect fitting mating with the one on the end of the battery watering hose I terminated in the engine room. 

I fully charged the batteries overnight [Trojan warns to only add water to fully charged wet-cell batteries because the liquid level increases slightly as the cells charge...]  The next day, while the batteries were still out in the open, I grabbed a bottle of distilled water and dropped the check valve end of the hand pump into the bottle. I next purged the fill line of air by pumping it until it was full of distilled water (holding the quick disconnect over the jug of distilled water- effectively recycling the water) then attached it to the battery fill quick-disconnect fitting. I squeezed the bulb a few times (~4) until is wouldn’t squeeze any more. I checked for leaks and found none. I squeezed the bulb pretty hard again just to make sure, and all connections remained dry.

Wow. I just watered my 8 new batteries from my engine room in less than 30 seconds- including set-up time. It took longer to put the bottle of distilled water and the pump hose assembly away…

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Lessons learned? 

  • Do your own research. The Trojan dealer, while great to work with, admitted no knowledge of remote watering systems. If I hadn't pursued this on my own [and I had no idea if such a system existed at the time...] I wouldn't have discovered these watering systems. 
  • This experience seems to reinforce the all-or-nothing strategy when it comes to replacing weak batteries in a bank.
    • In a pinch [e.g., this happens 'out there' where new batteries are not readily available...] removing the weak battery(ies) (in proper numbers- pairs in this case) would reduce bank capacity but also prevent the weaker batteries from weakening the entire bank.
  • If I could have it would have been great to take delivery of the batteries with the HydroLink manifolds pre-installed instead of having to order the kit from a different supplier and install them myself. While the installation is trivial, they do snap tightly into place giving the impression there is a possibility of breaking a manifold component if you aren't cautious when applying the required pressure.... 
    • Don't take this wrong: the manifolds are very sturdily constructed...
    • On the other hand, perhaps it makes sense to install the manifolds yourself after the batteries are placed into position- eliminating the opportunity to break a manifold while handling the heavy battery.
I can highly recommend this single-point watering system for anyone who desires to use wet-cell lead-acid batteries. [Total cost of the watering system for all 8 batteries was just under US$200 including shipping to Alaska in summer 2014...]

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Additional information and resources:

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Photos of our project:
Dry fit of new Trojan T-105 batteries for Denali Rose's house bank
Looking down into Denali Rose's battery bank right after the new Trojan T-105 batteries were placed into position. [Showing original battery caps.] The HydroLink watering line with the quick disconnect will be lead through the hole the battery cables go through in the upper right of this photo, terminating in the engine room.

Completed installation of new Trojan T-105 batteries for Denali Rose's house bank
Here is the same view showing the finished installation of the HydroLink battery cap replacements plumbed with the small diameter black tubing and red rubber caps on all unused T connections. 

Also showing are the 4/0 battery cables wiring 4 pairs of 6 volt batteries in series (yielding 12 volts DC) and then paralleling those 4 pairs into the 900 amp-hour house bank we enjoy.

Note the through-bolted blocking securing the batteries in place.

All that remains to be done after this photo is to install the top of the battery locker and re-stow the tools and heavy parts boxes on top of it.

I can't figure out why the boat has a slight list to this [port] side... 

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