KatieKat 2007 Cruise Chapter Eight

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GoBackTo 2007 Chapter Seven
1 October, 2007Cruising Suspended
1 October, 2007Mainsail Repair
1 October, 2007Sail Cover Modification
10 October, 2007Solar Addition Performance
10 October, 2007Mixed Battery Performance, Rev. Nov. 2007
10 October, 2007Watermaker Performance
1 December, 2007Year-End Summary

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1 October, 2007 -- Cruising Suspended - Technical Follow-Up

We returned home to San Francisco Bay a month ago and have temporarily suspended our cruising lifestyle. KatieKat is in Brisbane Marina, and the list of possible upgrades and refurbishments is growing. This webpage will first talk about some minor sail and sailcover repairs, then will address the performance of the technical enhancements I made a year ago (solar, battery, and watermaker), then will provide my annual assessment of our cruise and the boat itself, and thereafter will provide an insight into any boat changes I'll be making. I'm trying to finish writing this before becoming completely immersed in overwhelming home-related activities. :-)

1 October, 2007 -- Mainsail Repair

Immediately after returning home I removed the mainsail and the sail cover for some much-needed maintenance. Remember, these are still the original seven-year-old sails with over 25,000 ocean miles on them! The following repairs were expertly made to the mainsail (and I'm sorry that I forgot to take before/after photos) by Joe Rushka of Leading Edge Sails in San Mateo - nice guy to work with and a reasonable price.

Otherwise, the sail was in amazingly good condition after seven years and 25,000 miles and still retained an excellent sailshape (as evidenced by the boat's great performance in the Seawind Rally Race). I never let the mainsail touch the shrouds and reef early which may also have something to do with it. I'll try to remember to take some photos of the sail the next time we're out to highlight the problem areas.

1 October, 2007 -- Sail Cover Modification

The relatively-new Seawind sailcover needed some redesign in two areas. Recall, the Australian sailcover is held up with lazyjacks and after the sail drops inside the cover a full-length zipper is simply pulled with a continuous line, starting from the closed aft end. Wonderfully simple and the sail is stowed and covered in seconds! Nevertheless, there were two problem areas with this new sailcover (just as there had been with my first sailcover):

So far, so good, and I'll try to remember to take some photos next time I'm on the boat. I had sent a note to Seawind advising them of these issues, but perhaps the problem only occurs with KatieKat because I have a non-standard third and fourth reef - recall that I've removed the outhaul line and have the second, third, and fourth reefing lines permanently reeved and going through those turning blocks at the end of the boom (click here to see an old photo with the sailcover lowered - that loop in the topping lift is what the sailbag attaches to and I haven't changed it since we purchased the boat). My first reef reefing line is external to the boom and goes through its own external turning block right at the end of the boom (I almost never use it and instead have a carabiner attached to that line for possible use to pull up a MOB - click here to see an old photo with the previous sailcover in place).

10 October 2007 - New Solar Panel Performance - Technical Follow-Up

I made two significant changes to KatieKat's electrical system before we set off for Mexico last Fall: added two solar panels with a highly-efficient regulator and paralleled an AGM battery with my existing flooded-lead-acid battery. The following discussions are intended for TechieYachties, as otherwise they're quite boring :-)

As I described here last Fall, I added two 130-watt Kyocera solar panels and placed them over the cockpit where the fabric cabintop extension was previously located. After a year's experience, I can say that the new panel/regulator combination performed wonderfully! The panels are very susceptible to shadowing meaning that an individual panel's output drops disproportionately (much more) relative to the amount of it's surface area being shaded; however, on average, this simply does not matter because our total power-generation capability is now over 500 Watts (as rated by the panel manufacturer) and usually at least one or two of the four panels is receiving full unobstructed sun exposure.

Normally, our batteries are fully recharged well before noon each day - in the morning we would typically be down by about 60 Amp-Hours. The worst I've seen this past year was down by 130AHrs after a long night of watching DVDs and the fridge running while at anchor with the anchor light on. Even running the watermaker during the day leaves us with more energy available than when we started. Unlike so many other boats, we never run our engines just to recharge the batteries - primarily attributable to the extremely efficient refrigeration system on the Seawind 1000. When we're anchored or at the dock, and I want to speed up the recharging process, it is a simple matter of moving the boom and allowing more sun exposure to the solar panels.

Finally, a plug for Kyocera (the maker of the solar panels used on our boat): I finally notified them that one of the original (seven-year-old) 120W panels had a deficiency and not only did they offer an immediate free replacement but they also asked if I wanted to replace the other one (I declined)! I received a new 130W(!) panel soon thereafter with a pre-paid shipment for returning the original. Now, that's service!

[Solar Regulator reading 14amps in and 15.7 amps out] This photo shows that the solar panels are producing 14 amps but the regulator is converting this and actually pumping 15.7 amps into the batteries! The brand name has since changed and these same Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) regulators are now made by Blue Sky.

10 October 2007 - Paralleling Dissimilar Batteries - Technical Follow-Up

Remember, I've heretically paralleled my old flooded-lead-acid 225AHr bank (two 6v batteries) with a 198AHr AGM 12v battery - violating the recommendations of most battery salespeople. Click here for more than you ever wanted to know about this subject.

When paralleling batteries the main question is how the two very dissimilar battery banks share current - either a charging current or a discharging current. I've taken over 100 photos of the two battery ammeters at different voltages indicating varying states of discharge. I then took these readings and plotted % of the current being drawn or absorbed by each battery vs. voltage - sufficient data to be able to draw some conclusions. After a year of performing beautifully, here are the trends and associated photos (BATTERY ONE is the flooded bank and BATTERY TWO is the AGM):

When operating under a steady-state heavy load (microwave oven through inverter pulling roughly 60A) the batteries will start off sharing current somewhat unequally (the flooded battery contributing more current) but within about 15 seconds they settle down and (surprisingly) each contributes roughly 50% of the current! This is really good news because when the going gets tough they share the load equally.

[Ammeters showing 32.2 amps being drawn from the flooded battery and 27.9 amps from the AGM] Dramatic proof that the two very dissimilar battery banks happily share a heavy load almost equally.

After overnight use when the partially-depleted system is either charging or discharging a few amps with the voltage a little under 12.5v, the flooded battery contributes/absorbs roughly 65% vs. the AGM's 35%

[Ammeters showing 2.4 amps being drawn from the flooded battery and 1.3 amps from the AGM] With a light load and the battery bank partially discharged, the flooded-wet-cell battery (Battery 1) is working a little harder.

As the batteries charge and the voltage rises and is in the range of 13.2v-13.7v the two battery banks absorb current roughly equally.

[Ammeters showing 8.5 amps being supplied to the flooded battery and 8.6 amps to the AGM] Battery balance happiness is equal charging currents.

Now, as the voltage gets up over 14v the AGM battery stops drawing current whereas the flooded battery bank keeps absorbing. Eventually, the charging current drops to the point where the regulators go into FLOAT mode.

[Ammeters showing 6.7 amps being supplied to the flooded battery and 1.7 amps to the AGM] Nearing the end of the charging cycle, the AGM battery (Battery 2) stops absorbing current while the flooded-lead-acid battery is still charging.

As soon as the system draws more than the solar panels provide then the voltage drops relatively quickly down to around 12.7v and then slowly proceeds to go down from there. Initially, the AGM battery will provide more current, but as the voltage drops further then they cross over and the flooded battery works harder.


Paralleling a flooded-lead-acid battery with an AGM battery of similar capacity works extremely well, the only caveat being to ensure that the charging system voltage regulator keeps the voltage below the AGM's upper limit.

Update November 2007 - here are some photos of the latest battery configuration.

Now that we've suspended cruising, I've simply opened up the circuit breaker for the two additional panels and their regulator and opened up the circuit breaker for the AGM battery and have left the refrigerator ON but only being supplied by the flooded-lead-acid battery bank and the two original solar panels mounted on top of the targa bar (stock location). Also, I've removed the large Victron Energy 30-amp charger (never used it!) and replaced it with a small 5A charger made by Battery Tender which I have yet to plug in. The only routine maintenance of the batteries is to check the fluid level of the 5-year-old flooded-lead-acid batteries.

10 October 2007 - Watermaker Performance - Follow-Up

Last Fall I described our new Spectra Ventura 150 installation here. We activated it when we left San Francisco Bay in October and I deactivated ("pickled") it in June in Southern California. We ran it every 2-3 days for 3-6 hours at a time - Spectra recommends running the watermaker for a long time less often rather than more often for short periods of time. Maintenance consisted of replacing and cleaning the filters, probably more often than necessary as I replaced them when they "looked dirty" even though there wasn't a significant change in pump pressure which would signal filter blockage. The unit performed wonderfully the entire time and I rarely carried more than a 1/2-tank of water, thus saving about 400lbs in boatweight.

The quality of the water was excellent, but TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) varied with water temperature. The lower the temperature, the lower the TDS - in any case, the stuff was better than the usual tap water. In fact, the city water in Santa Barbara was so high in TDS ("hard water") that I fed the city water into the inlet of the watermaker and only then put the watermaker's output ("product") water into my tank (it was almost equivalent to distilled water!).

Having cruised without a watermaker for six years, it was quite a change to now have virtually an unlimited water supply. We took lots of showers and no longer were stingy with our water use - to the extent that I even used water from our water tank to hose off the boat a few times. Most comforting was the absence of the nagging thought that we needed to continuously be on the prowl for fresh water - I never realized how much of a subconscious effect that had on our previous cruising lifestyle.

The Spectra watermaker is one of the most efficient on the market, which is another reason I bought it. Ours produced between 8-9 gallons per hour at a nominal current consumption of 9 amps, and with our huge solar panel system we normally had more energy in the batteries at the end of the day than when we started.

Since mine wasn't a permanent installation, it was a little bit of extra trouble to pull out the various hoses and plug them in (using quick-disconnects) and then coiling and stowing them after we were through for the day. No big deal. More troubling is that my transportable installation restricted the use of the starboard forward berth when we had guests aboard. It would be relatively straightforward to install the watermaker underneath the starboard forward settee, but I wanted to be able to remove the unit from the boat for possible use elsewhere.

When we were in the Sea of Cortez and doing the Baja Bash and were holed up in some anchorages we provided water to a few of the boats that were running low.

After we returned, I took the watermaker home (after pickling it) but left the pre-filter assembly installed onboard. After a few weeks, when I accessed the compartment where it is mounted a pretty bad odor emanated from the unit. The hoses I guess are somewhat permeable and the smell of all the decaying critters in the stagnant saltwater got out. I subsequently removed the entire pre-filter assembly and simply capped off the thru-hull.

The adjunct to the watermaker that I had purchased and completely independent of it is a $300 three-stage water filter with a UV-sterilizer. I only used it in Mazatlan because their city water was not good - but I could have just as well used either the watermaker or else purchased bottled water. Here's a picture of it (scroll down). Just handy to have around in case the drinking water is questionable.

Could we have done without a watermaker in Mexico and saved ourselves a lot of money? The answer is yes, because either marinas had good fresh water (e.g., Marina Costa Baja in La Paz has their own R.O. waterplant) or else bottled water was readily available and is very common throughout Mexico; nevertheless, if we ever cross oceans again I'll be very happy to have the watermaker along. The adjunct to cruising comfort is the feeling of independence, and having one's own water supply certainly does that.

So, there you have it - a follow-up to my techie tinkering. If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email.

1 December, 2007 -- Year-End Reflections

This year saw us cruising a little of the west coast of Mexico, the Sea of Cortez, and then in Spring the Baja Bash up to San Diego. In the summer we had KatieKat lengthened, participated in the Seawind Rally on Catalina Island in August, and in September sailed KatieKat home to San Francisco Bay.

First off, our annual summary, for this year -

Boat Perceptions Update
Again, I will repeat myself after having visited many more cruising boats this last year: THE distinguishing characteristic of our Seawind 1000 that sets it apart from almost all other boats and that is priceless is the comfortable main saloon integrated with the cockpit and with unrestricted completely-sheltered 360-degree visibility. We are uniquely sheltered and protected while sailing, and this was further confirmed when we compared ourselves to all the other accompanying boats doing the Baja Bash.

Cruising Suspended
I'm sad to say that for the forseeable future our cruising is suspended due to many distracting issues at home. We may continue this website as our personal 'blog', but for the near future there are simply too many more pressing things going on and thus I'll let the website go dormant for a few months. Please do check in occasionally, as I might cover topics such as further boat upgrades or my recent electric car mods and home solar-electric system and I still hope to produce an in-depth "lessons learned" writeup after seven years and over 25,000 miles of cruising on a sailing catamaran. Who knows, we may well "run away to sea" again to get away from this hectic life back home. I always respond to my emails, so do feel free to continue pelting me with questions - I'm happy to chat about boats, especially multihulls.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Kathy and I do realize how incredibly fortunate we were to "live the dream". We wish you all the best for Christmas and a safe and peaceful upcoming year, and thank you all for allowing us to share our lives with you for the past seven years. Joe Siudzinski

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