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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rudolph Jr

Few weeks of looking at the energy management plan on board, it comes as no surprise that power storage is the bottleneck of the system. A bank of four batteries is almost a minimum number of batteries that needs to be carried on board of Victoria. In order to safely start auxiliary the bank is broken into two separate banks in order to have a fresh set of batteries available after running electronics and lighting all night. With all navigation, communication and lighting running at the same time the two-battery bank holds up until sunrise; batteries need either constant recharge maintenance or expanded battery storage; neither seems to fly too well. 135 Watt solar panel charges the batteries, but in reality it only averages about 5 amps; thus 60 Watts, not 135 and only during the daytime. On Victoria an answer comes from another source. Victoria has a 5kw Northern Lights marine diesel generator set with a M643M 1800 RPM engine. Lower RPM makes it quiet and supposedly more lasting (Lt. Howard: Whiskey! thins down the mix for another 50 RPM). TF-276M generator puts out 50 Amps at 110 Volts in 60 Hertz intervals. Genset charges batteries easily while allowing to run “luxury” 110V items onboard: teapot, microwave, water maker, water heater etc. The genset comes into light as an integral of the entire energy system. The M643M was my nemesis for a while mainly due to the fact that it is seemingly hard to get to - most sailboats have very limited space for something like this. Greg Ward must be given a fair credit for getting it going originally. Exhaust elbow was in non-working order due to heat and saltwater (very common fault judging by the fact that the replacement part comes in stainless steel) - until now this genset is nothing but a big saltwater fountain – a “small-guy” job to get behind it to fix it. The fuel delivery system is already upgraded from earlier with an addition of a new filter and fuel shut-off valve, an important safety item. The genset itself is built with close quarters marine environment in mind. The key to working on the unit is its ability to rotate on one mount with three-mount attachment system, a major benefit the newer M673 version lacks due to an added fourth engine mount. Luckily the service side has a clever design allowing for nice all-in-one maintenance access. 

Brief notes while working with unit are as follows:

Performing overhaul of most cooling and pumping components of the system is quite easy and is part of the task to make sure the unit runs well. Standard panel has automatic high temp/low psi shut-off but no gauges. Installing analog temperature and pressure gauges directly onto the engine avoids wiring mess and is cool-looking - I love solutions such as this. Oil, coolant, filters and belt parts, gasket sealer, touch-up paint are available in local auto store. Impeller, zinks salt-off, ss harware are available in local marine store. Northern Lights “drop-ships” specialized parts very quickly. The unit is very well designed and is built to last. Northern Lights has excellent manuals to download and tech support is also very helpful and quick. Time estimate was about 20 hours plus waiting/ordering for parts; it took 30, as usual. Material cost for the minor overhaul is about 10% of original engine cost. In retrospect, after a major rebuilt on Victoria’s auxiliary and minor overhaul on genset I slowly learned the following to be true on re-powering: when considering rebuilding engine vs buying a new engine, the cost doubles to do the later; fair installation will right about match your initial engine cost or cost of a rebuilt; for new engine: consider access points and dimensions before buying, go for the best engine, best warranty and professional marina installer; on a rebuilt engine: save old parts before the new one is installed and tested to work; double check everything and add a factor of 1.25 to 1.5 on time; in a rebuilt or new engine weakest link is usually not the diesel engine itself; break-in new or rebuilt diesel engine at the dock with transmission engaged – during the first 100 hours at least one thing will go south; Getting parts for older engines is much easier, but just as expensive as for new. Double-check all advice with professionals. This is always a learning process: this is what I live for, DBF!

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