Lot’s more progress. We’re targeting Saturday for a shakedown cruise. Not everything will be done, but we’ll be seaworthy, with most of the Quality of Life stuff ready. We hope for 90% of the commissioning to be done by August 10th or so.

Also, just found out that I need to apply for my own MMSI number and Ship Station License from the FCC to get my AIS broadcast ID. As usual, trawlerforum has been super helpful.

Burrow does a really nice job with their furniture. It’s not high-end, but it’s modular and durable. I’m not sure how else we would have gotten a couch on a boat. Everything fit in our SUV and went together in about 10 minutes without tools.

I just found out people besides my family read this blog. Howdy, strangers! Hope it’s helpful.

I’m not sure I got all of this right. But it helped me get my head around the basic design. In most cases, the system should “just work”. The only wrinkle is when the engine has heated the water in the domestic hot water tank and the hot water heater power is off. When that happens (and the hydronic is on), we need to open the water heater solenoid manually using a switch on the panel. Otherwise, it’s closed automatically because the hot water tank is off. For the hydronic solenoid, it’s open by default and can only be closed using a breaker switch. That way, if the hydronic system is off but the domestic system is on, we can bypass the hydronic.

Use cases

Manual interventions in italic

  • Summer on shore power: No cabin heat. Water heater is on, hydronic system is off. Water heater solenoid open automatically. Hydronic solenoid closed from the panel.
  • Summer under way: No cabin heat. Water heater is off. Engine heats the domestic hot water. Water heater solenoid opened manually from the panel. Hydronic solenoid closed manually from the panel.
  • Summer at anchor: No cabin heat. Either run the generator and configure similarly to summer on shore power. Or, put the hydronic system into “summer mode”. Water heater solenoid closed automatically. Hydronic solenoid opened automatically. Diesel boiler provides on-demand hot water.
  • Winter on shore power: Cabin heat. Water heater is on. Hydronic system is on. Water heater solenoid opened automatically. Hydronic solenoid opened automatically. Water is heated by both water heater and hydronic.
  • Winter under way: Cabin heat. Water heater is off. Engine heats both water heater and hydronic. Water heater solenoid is opened manually from the panel. Hydronic solenoid is open automatically. 
  • Winter at anchor: Cabin heat. Hydronic is in normal heat mode and diesel boiler is running. Water heater is off and solenoid is closed automatically. Cabin heat and hot water both provided by hydronic. When generator is started and hot water heater is powered, solenoid opens automatically and boat is configured like winter on shore power.

The hot water and cabin heat are designed to be flexible and configurable, but it’s leading to some complexity, which we’ll need to streamline for every day use.

The domestic hot water heater runs on 120v shore power or the generator. But, it also has a heat exchanger connected to the main engine, so any time we drive it will heat up. This is a pretty standard configuration and it’s already pretty versatile and flexible.

The hydronic system is more complex. It’s core functionality is a diesel boiler that runs on the 12v system. This heats a fluid (basically antifreeze) which is pumped to five locations around the boat. Each location has a heater core (that looks like a radiator with a fan), which is controlled by a local thermostat and fan speed switch. So, each zone has it’s own heat and the whole thing can run on the batteries. The hydronic system also has a heat exchanger connected to the main engine, so the boiler can be heated while under way without having to fire it up.

So, when we’re under way, we’ll have hot water, cabin heat, and pilothouse window defrost for “free” by capturing waste engine heat.

Now, the hydronic system also has a fresh water heat exchanger, connected to the domestic hot water loop in line with the domestic hot water heater. This is designed to be an “instant on” system that delivers hot water on demand (as long as the boiler is hot). It also adds some complications. First, when the fresh water heater is off (say we’ve been at anchor for 12 hours), the hydronic system will heat water in-line and then dump it into the domestic hot water heater (11 gallons) – which will be room temperature at that point – cooling it before it reaches the faucet. The same is true the opposite way. If it’s summer and the water in the domestic tank is hot, while the hydronic boiler is off, we’d have the opposite problem (though the hydronic tank is smaller).

Dave’s solution to this is to install a couple of in-line solenoids on the fresh water hot loop. If the domestic heater (120v) does not have power, the solenoid will close and the instant hot water from the hydronic tank will bypass it. This will be closed by default. There will be a similar solenoid on the hydronic fresh water loop which will stay open by default. Each of these can be controlled by a switch in the pilot house. The only wrinkle in this system is if the fresh water in the domestic hot water heater is hot because the engine has been on, the solenoid will be closed and we’ll need to open it manually using a switch (no sense in burning diesel if we already have 11 gallons of hot water sitting in the tank). Also, when in their non-default mode, the solenoids will draw a small amount of power.

Finally, the hydronic system also has two 1500W electric heater coils, so you can heat the water in the boiler without burning diesel. But, given these draw about 15 amps each, they’re really only an option for when we’re on 50-amp shore power or running the generator.

Oh, the hydronic system also has a “summer mode” where you can use it only as an instant on water heater. You simply close the valves on the ship-wide anti-freeze system so the boiler only heats water internally.

So, on the one hand, we’re very pleased with the options for heating the boat and unlimited hot water – in particular, the option to use engine heat, diesel, 12v power, or AC power. (We don’t want to waste any heat generated by the boat if we can redirect it to heating the cabins or the hot water.) On the other, there are so many ways to use it it will be hard to optimize. I’m working on a diagram and some simple if/then scenarios.

We got the proof-of-concept blinds installed. It’s a really tight fit, up under the valence, but we made it work. This is a huge load off my mind, since the blinds were turning into a major project. We ordered the rest of them this morning and they won’t be here until September. So, we got some temporary blinds for privacy and blocking the sun for a few weeks.

The blinds wound up being pretty expensive. But, we are getting higher-end Levolor blinds and I think it will be worth it. They are cordless cell shades with both light filtering and blackout sections. Cordless means they go up and down with a simple pull. The cell shades act as insulation, keeping the drafts out, and with two modes, we can either have privacy with natural light or complete dark for when we’re watching a movie or trying to sleep up north, when the sun sets at 11 pm in the summer. They have a 10 year warranty and I hope they’re reliable, because I don’t relish the thought of trying to get them back out of there.

Very happy with the test install. Hope the rest go as smoothly. With 19 separate blinds, most with slightly different measurements, it’s an error-prone process. I’ll be surprised if they all fit.

We took delivery of our dinghy on Friday. I have been almost as excited by the dinghy as by the big boat. Our old dinghy was fine, but with an electric motor and a cruising speed of 3 kts, it was mostly ship-to-shore. Our new dinghy is the 10.5 AB “Sport” package from Guyer Boatworks. It’s a hypalon tube with aluminum bottom and concealed bilge (there’s a floor over the bilge so it’s a flat bottom and the water doesn’t pool around your feet – unless it gets really full). It has a stainless framed folding seat and helm, a 20 hp, fuel-injected outboard, power start and trim, and integrated 6-gallon fuel tank. It also has a small garmin chartplotter and depth sounder. For all it’s capabilities, it’s very minimalist and only weighs around 400 lbs.

I took it out into the bay and with two adults aboard it got to 25kts. At cruising speed (12 kts?) I expect we’ll have a range of around 30 miles, making this a game-changer for exploring and running errands. This is the “slow boat, fast dinghy” strategy and I’m super excited to try it out.

We got it athwartship, which gives us more room to use the upper deck, though we will need to find a place to store the rails.

Dave is getting ready to install the hydronic heat. The main unit will go on the port side underneath the galley. I like it there so the exhaust will vent to port (since we’re generally a starboard-tie boat) and away from the dock.

Hydronic works by heating fluid and pumping it around the boat to a set of exchangers (that look tiny radiators and fans). Each core is controlled by it’s own thermostat, so we’ll have five independently-heated zones on the boat. The system also has heat exchangers for the engine (so engine heat provides cabin heat) and the fresh water (so, if the heat is on we also have hot water – the normal hot water heater only runs off shore power or the generator). The hydronic will also provide heated defrost for the pilot house windows.

Very excited to see the system installed!

Took a bunch more random pictures of things that I didn’t recognize or wanted to remember for other reasons….

Our last boat had manual jabsco pump toilets. They did the job and were easy to repair and service, but it always felt a bit like using an outhouse. The new toilets are fresh-water, powered flush. The clicking sound is air being purged since I had just pressurized the system. So civilized!

It’s fun and interesting learning about the new boat. There are many small things I would have done differently, if I had known to ask about them. But, they’re so minor that it’s tough to worry about them. For example, the “courtesy lights” are the small LEDs at foot level all around the exterior of the boat. These can only be turned on and off all together from a single breaker on the main electrical panel. I’d have preferred to control them by zones (e.g. cockpit, bow, flybridge) using wall switches. But, at this point it’s not something I care enough about to change. Some stuff I am changing – the inverter/charger control is in a weird spot so I’m moving it up next to the solar charge controller panel. I suspect I’m going to change the layout of the helm electronics at some point, but without cruising for a while it’s hard to tell what I might want.

So far, we’ve pulled the cabinet out and we have the new anchor aboard. The other day, I flushed the fresh water system and tested all of the pumps – along with the hot water heater. It takes about 30 minutes to fill the tank from empty using dock water. I also programmed the stereo. I’ve spent hours crawling around opening every hatch and identifying every piece of equipment.

The center cabinet removed
New anchor!

There’s always weird stuff. The fresh water tank gauge reads 1/4 full when it’s empty (our last boat was like this) and for the life of me I can’t figure out which fuel tank the generator pulls from. All of this is normal boat stuff, but it’s tough to tell what I should fix now (as it will irritate me if I don’t) and what I should just get used to.

As much fun as it is monkeying around with everything, we really want to take our first shakedown cruise. Most of the work is gated behind hydronic installation, which will start on Mon, 6-Jul and last for a few weeks. This will require pulling everything apart, so there’s no point in starting some other projects. We’re hoping to take our first cruise the last week of July, but it’s too early to tell.

We also have power, now. Though, the solar panels are putting out 20 amps for a good portion of the day, so it wasn’t super critical. Dave rigged up a 30/120 – to – 50/240 smart plug adaptor cable, which will be helpful for the majority of slips in the region that only have 30-amp. That allowed me to power up the water maker and water heater, which won’t run off the inverter.