A penny for your fuse box, and much ado about nothing, with a very large downside

Very busy, full productive days, and yet at the end of each, there is always the question, ‘‘what got done today?’’

Electrical has been the main item of effort.

I’ve had the fuse box open while I sorted out an intermittent connection. As these things often go, the main feed touched a ground: a sparking sound, a burst of light and then a blown fuse.

I opened the main fuse for the panel and found… well, I sent the picture to my friend, Erwin, who opened it while I was on the phone with him. He burst out laughing:

Fuse wrapped in aluminum foil. Which would have burst into flames first, the aluminum, or the wiring.
Fuse wrapped in aluminum foil. Which would have burst into flames first, the aluminum, or the wiring?

A fuse wrapped in aluminum foil, guaranteed never to blow. S0 what did blow? An additional fuse upstream.

I replaced the aluminum-wrapped fuse with a 20 amp, and the upstream fuse with a 30 amp.

After days of delay and deliberation, I replaced the ball valve on the through hull. I bought, for $60, some small umbrella-shaped items. Push one through the open valve and the water pressure seals the hole. It sounded nice, but the price kept echoing in my head.

I spoke with marina neighbor Nate about this. He asked, ‘‘Have you ever replaced the paddle wheel on your knot meter, where you pull it out of the hole on the hull, water spurts in, then you replace it with the plug?’’

I said, ‘‘Yes.’’

‘‘Same thing.’’

And it was. After vacuuming up all the rat droppings in the basement and discovering the beginnings of a rat’s nest (He hadn’t moved in yet, apparently), I disconnected the hose from the valve, unscrewed the valve, held my hand over the fitting, and the screwed on the new valve. All done in the same time it took to read this.

I returned the $60 item.

It was very reassuring to examine the old valve and instantly see why it leaked.

The white line are where the valve will not open fully, and why the vale will not close.
The white lines are where the valve will not open fully, and why the vale will not close.

If you look at the picture to the left you can see a broken white arc. The valve won’t open all the way, and neither will it close all the way. The black in the middle of the broken arc is damage to the ball. The tolerances are tight enough that the valve can not make it’s full rotation because the damage rises (is proud) above  the ball.

The valve won’t close for the same reason.

2016-03-30 09.59.44

If you look at the top of the picture above you can see a very small gap, enough for about 3 gallons per hour

Stay tuned here, I may have blown the new solar panel. I installed the new MPPT solar panel controller yesterday, after crimping on new MC4 connectors to allow me to connect the older 65W and the new 100W.

[I lost a few hours trying to understand the optional display that I bought with the controller. That’s an article, not a post: read the manual very closely.]

I hooked the panels in series and got double the voltage as expected. Ohms law says that wattage is voltage times amperage. Amperage determines the size of the wire necessary to carry the current. Doubling the voltage halves the amperage, allowing smaller wires.

There are some potential issues with placing panels of different wattage in series, but none should have produced what I found this morning.

2016-03-28 16.07.31 SMYesterday after we connected the panels in series the voltage doubled as predicted. But this morning, when I came in about 10 am, the voltage was 16 volts. Each panel, independently produced 20 volts when connected to the controller.

Any ideas? A defective 100W panel comes to mind, it would only produce 42 watts today at full sun on a clear day. That we blew the 65W by linking to the 100W panel also comes to mind, but it can be linked with many panels… but my electronics knowledge is weak.

I changed the crankcase oil in the engine. The transmission oil is next.

Jennifer sewed her first cushions today. They came out great.

The original, blue cushions are less than half the height of the news, light green cushions.
The original, blue cushions are less than half the height of the new, light green cushions.

The picture at the right shows the difference in thickness between what we have been sleeping on and the new cushions. Of course, we lose that much headroom. We’ll see if sitting up quickly from a sound sleep is something to avoid.

Thursday’s goal is to install all the new electronics:VHF, Antenna spitter, AIS transponder with GPS antenna, and 0183 connection from handheld Garmin to VHF.*

Boat US approved our insurance, subject to us acquiring an EPIRB. We expect a rental for five months will exceed the purchase price.

Friday will be two weeks before departure. We’ll start emptying the apartment next week.

Read Jennifer’s page on Sailing with Alzheimers.

 1-APR-2016 Re: Solar panel voltage. I can only assume that only one panel was connected. I could not reproduce the problem the next day and all is working well.

*The Vesper AIS also puts out GPS info through both 0183 and NMEA 2K, so it could also be used, but then the Vesper AIS becomes a single point of failure.

Author: johnjuliano

One-third owner of Caro Babbo, co-captain and in command whenever Caro Babbo is under sail.

6 thoughts on “A penny for your fuse box, and much ado about nothing, with a very large downside”

  1. Amazing, the things you have to deal with boat ownership. Sounds like you are up to the challenges. This post almost sounded like one step forward, two steps back but that is because I have no clue that you are dealing with beings I have never owned a boat. I am sure you will get them all resolved or as a last resort, hire someone who can…..
    I read Jennifer’s post about her mother. I am absolutely amazed at the love and sacrifice you both make to provide her with a loving, caring environment. You both are examples of how the world should be, thinking of others, not just yourselves. God Bless.

    1. Don,

      Self-sufficiency is a big deal for me, so I learn.

      The panel cost about $130, so the financial risk is not high, and I bought with Amex so it is insured for three months against my stupidity.

      You are right about one step forward two steps back some days, just like anything else.

      (I didn’t mention the switch I soldered into a light fixture without first checking whether it worked.)

      The days are going well. The repair to the dinghy centerboard well is almost complete and I bought the paint for the topsides yesterday. These are full days and full days make me feel very alive.

      Thank you for following.

      About Hilary, we all play the hand we’re dealt.

      – John

  2. I’m wondering if the PV panel voltage was low because of a short through the frames.
    The aluminum frames should be electrically isolated from the wiring, but maybe
    they’re not. It is one possible explanation why they could work one day and not the next.

    1. I think this was my error. I expect there was only one panel connected and I mistakenly thought both were. The panels worked fine the next day (Yesterday). I’ll write more about this in the status post I’m about to write.

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