LiFePo4 batteries, at last

What do you call the stage between bleeding edge and early adopter? I don’t know, but we spent the day there… after buying 16 lithium battery cells two years ago, their installation got started today. There’s been a lot of learning, planning and fretting for months. Anton has built electric vehicles and complex land battery systems, so we listened carefully to his practical advice and I thank him greatly for the encouragement to tackle building a lithium system from scratch. This morning he told me to wrap the lug wrench handle in electrical tape to avoid any mistaken arcing. Let’s not make any short circuits with a 400 amp hour system!

A few months back we made these straps from a sheet of copper. That took longer than expected but at least saved some $ for quality (lowest resistance) balanced power across the cells.

The battery tray was built back in Santa Rosa. Today we built out component mounting spaces around it.

After mapping out parts locations it was time to make all the custom length cables. No fancy hydraulic crimpers here; just old school compression.

Here’s a progress view as the parts go in.

You’re looking at the 16 three-volt cells that have been made in to 4 twelve volt batteries (via parallel strapping). They are resting as separate groups overnight so that the individual cells within each of the four batteries balance among each other. Tomorrow hopefully we’ll find that the four groups have very close voltages to each other (ideally about 13.2volts based on how they were stored). If not we’ll balance them manually with a charger.

Ravenswing is coming out of the water this weekend so we can trim the daggerboard exit slot at the bottom of the hull to match the new daggerboard shape. I thought we could get away with not having to adjust down there, but when the v.2 dagger was slid home last month, it didn’t make it out the bottom. Oh well. Silver lining is the opportunity to finally get some artwork on the float hulls.  Hope you like it next week.

Who really ever finishes, anyway?

Dad, Joe and I stood on the Federal dock in Sausalito, joining thousands of fans watching the launch of the Matthew Turner. IMG_4319

Pretty sure we showed you this build in progress a couple years back, and it was truly amazing to see the community coming together to create a tall ship the old fashioned way. They recorded something nuts like 150,000+ hours of volunteer labor. We visited the build shed many times, but I always had to sit on my hands and not pick up a tool, because if I had, Ravenswing would have taken ANOTHER few years. So it became a quiet little footrace in my head instead. Gotta Launch Before the Turner. And it turns out to be another example of best intentions, but we put our boats in the water before they’re really done. Something about that expensive shop rent generally creeps in…

The Call of the Sea Foundation will have an incredible flagship soon, with the Matthew Turner as a working classroom. Check out this organization, what an amazing way to spend some vacation days.


We used the rainy season to tackle the ‘bolt-on’ things that needed finishing and painting. Our damaged, empty house has become a paint studio. First we splattered orange highlight all over, and most recently it’s been grey and white for the interior redo of our little Nash travel trailer. The tree fell on the house exactly FOUR MONTHS ago and reconstruction has still not begun. Damn you, State Farm, for dragging the builders through a painful bidding process. But, complaining aside, decent looking boat parts have finally emerged for installation. First up tonight is the bow sprit.


That’s the extreme forward end, with Keith’s beautifully machined and anodized aluminum doughnut. The spinnaker tack is exiting from inside the pole, and the ridge surrounding it holds the two whisker stays and bobstay.   Here’s the to-the-boat end:


Spin. tack exits the pole and runs along the deck. The little blue line wraps around the delrin receiver at the bow. Drew was right, this small line did not hold up to the windstorm last week, and was replaced today with a bigger piece of dyneema. Finally installed this afternoon:


Keith, the bobstay is perfect – thank you! I like the luggage-tag bottom end, and we’ll keep an eye on it for chafe against the bow stem. The delrin receiver at the bow definitely needs to be pinned to stop unwanted rotating; need to do that before we hoist the sail. I’m very concerned about how we’re going to get the reacher furler installed and removed underway. Farrier’s plans call for this pole to swing to the side, but it’s unlikely the setup will reach far enough for handling the extreme end. Eager to test this soon. Thinking of adding a centerline bow cleat dedicated to the two adjustable whisker stays, so we can easily move the pole tip side to side while standing on the bow. There’s a built in backing plate just above the captain’s forward berth, itching to be used.

Mrs. Carter called the ball on the hard top paint, and the orange highlight rocks!


Sharp eyes saw six little dyneema loops sticking out of the orange top. Those are attachment points for a solar panel. No bolt holes needed now. The bits of rope were pulled through drill holes then flared out on the underside, and epoxy sealed.

If you go back to the February picture of us driving bundled up, you see the original height of the radar. Which would have sent microwaves into our brains. So thanks again to Sewell Mt. Bob for the windsurfer mast offcut that became a radar tower extension. Got it all painted and delivered to the marina. I set it down on the pavement while getting other things out of the pickup, and a little zephyr knocked it over. Nasty ding in the foam core and fancy paint:

IMG_4304That photo is the next day, back at home for touch up, interrupting work on the Nash (aka tinyhouse). A few days later, it was back to the boat, this time carried carefully.


Just under the radar we’ve mounted two LED deck lights, which really flood the place with great work illumination. They can also be pointed up at the sail for visual signaling at sea.  It’s a lot of light for small power burn.


Seeing the engine gauges reminds me we figured out how to change the motor oil with the outboard leg lowered down into the dinghy and a bucket. But suzuki does NOT make it owner-serviceable to change the oil filter. Argh. going to need to research that one, as I couldn’t find it poking around the various powerhead components (20hp 4 stroke EFI).

The steering is officially finished with the simplification project. Just a big ‘ol orange tiller now, with molded in receiver for the extension handle.


The helm is extremely responsive and direct-feel. Time will tell if we’ve made the right choice, compared to all of the elegant, elaborate steering systems on the other F36/39’s.

For the note-to-self file, our new orange color (steering, bowsprit, dodger) is equal parts of these two Interlux colors. The Brightside one part is much softer and will wear out faster than two part Perfection, so next time we’ll look to see if the better paint comes in red and yellow.


For my friends out there who will still be building F36/39 float hulls, perhaps you can make your center compartment soles early in your process. There have been many painful sessions doing various jobs finishing the floats, painful because of squashing ones feet and legs into the sharply pointed float bottoms. We have now built proper floors, and will enjoy them for a long time. I just wish we had done it BEFORE the big chainplates, beam sockets, hardware prep, etc. jobs.

We had to clamp up a 2×4 extension to the 8′ lamination table in order to make 99″ x 16″ floor sections. IMG_4305

Then in the hulls we ripped some of the leftover original cedar planking for 35-degree flooring sills. Puttied and taped those down and let them cure for an afternoon. IMG_4359

Note how they’re asymmetric to the hull shape. If we had done this job back in the build shop, we probably would have made it all parallel. But in the floating boat, we realized, hey, let’s make the soles level for user-comfort! We’re not going to permanently install these big boards. They’ll just rest on the stringers so things can be easily cleaned underneath, or even removed if we’re crazy about racing weight someday. And yes, we took a little more time to make bilge-access panels (that still need some primer).IMG_4360

Unfortunately, you’re seeing some mold spots on the right side of that photo. The floats get excessive condensation buildup, so we’ll add some solar-powered vent fans to the hatch covers this summer.

OK, that’s the update. Hopefully we’ll get back to more frequent posts including more sailing action reports. Congrats to Drew for driving his F27 Papillon to WINNING the Doublehanded Farallons 2017 multihull fleet. After hearing his great story, he suggested this year’s Delta Ditch be Raveneswing’s racing debut.  That’s a fine idea, Mr. Scott! Time to apply for that PHRF rating…

I know I promised the lithium battery system description – stay tuned, as Anton edited my schematic today and it’s not quite ready for prime time. Getting close.

Locals, let’s go sailing next week, once the rainstorm clears out. Maybe Thursday afternoon. Let me know if you can make it.

Look Ma, no hands!

As kids in Sonoma, we’d try riding bikes with no hands on the bars all the way down Denmark street. It helped if the tires were pumped up firm and your core was tuned up (from pulling weeds). Fast forward a few decades, and Charlie’s demonstrating what we finally got right with the rudder balancing! We’ll do some by-millimeters shim adjustments on the water this weekend to bring back just a touch of weather helm, then take the cassette home one more time for bonding in the new part. Phew.


Also in that photo note the radar is missing. The stern tower is working out great, but the radar was too low. Joe the electronics guy immediately scoffed, noting the radar beams that would hit us in the cockpit. So it’s getting a 4′ extension pole made from VA Bob’s windsurfer mast offcut he kindly sent over. img_3870

That’s the top plate, sitting on the table a few evenings back. Tonight we bonded on the lower disk that will bolt on the tower where the radar used to mount. The top plate has an extra lip on the front to mount a couple of LED deck lights.

The jib deck bag got it’s final sewing job; recall that it didn’t quite button up around the forestay because someone (the builder) didn’t allow for enough sail bulk up there. So it got these earflap looking things:


and now it’s fine. We’re happy with the open mesh bottom, especially now that it’s been raining and this is free to drain.


Electricity supply in the boat is still the tiny lawnmower battery, but we’ve finally called-the-ball to begin the Lithium Iron Phosphate battery pack build. The order went to, an electric-car conversion company in MO. This topic is extensive, and a lot of people are interested in just this, so we’ll do some dedicated posts coming up on the battery system install. For now, it’s the physical challenge of mounting the 16 cells in a spot that was originally built for just a couple of car batteries. This tray mold was done based on dimensions provided by the battery dealer, before the crate arrived.


And yesterday just before closing time, UPS Freight called to say our crate had arrived at their dock. Y’all can guess what Greg got for Christmas this year!


Took two of these blue cells and the tray to the boat last night, and it’s not going to fit standing up as planned – just not enough clearance on top for the wiring. But it’ll work with the tray tilted back about 40 degrees, with the battery back edges resting against the curve of the hull. So tonight was also some surgery to trim away the front of the tray and add height to the back side for this new mounting configuration. That’s enough to whet your appetite on LiFePo4…

Now, back to that sail the other day with Charlie smiling. After five months in the water, I FINALLY got an actual performance sail-tuning, get to know the rig day! Carlos was aboard, and it was a joy to get F27 Papillon captain Drew Scott out for the first time. Drew is a talented racing sailor with an intense eye for sail trim, and I really needed to get him aboard to help assess this new boat, new mast, new sails combo. we’re all in love with this big, powerful, easily adjusted main (and so far the Leneman Vee mainsheet / no traveler hardware ROCKS!)  The Hydranet fabric (spectra & dacron weave) is holding shape like a fixed wing.


The jib had been sailed reefed through the summer and fall because of high winds and the mast & steering issues we were sorting out. So here was it’s first real use day. We’ll start with Inspector Scott checking things out.


The sail appears to be cut to allow for a big full belly in light winds.


I’m concerned the transverse mounted cars aren’t far enough aft for this size sail. Here are the light wind shots (around 5 kts as we were leaving the Richmond breakwater area)


In the third photo, as we start to point higher, the sail is rubbing on the upper diamond wire. A half hour later we’re out in the main bay, with wind up in the 10-12kt range.


The headstay tension is light and it’s bending off to leeward, which helped keep the sail off the diamond wire, but that’s not a real solution. The second shot shows the effect of the jib car placement – the sail is not balanced top to bottom in terms of airflow. So we tried various temporary sheeting angles to get the sail drawing equally at each set of telltales. img_3866img_3867 In retrospect, I’ve realized there’s more overlap of the mast with this sail than I had wanted, and we have to solve for the diamond wire interference. Hopefully we’ll be able to solve this with local support, rather than the jib having to travel cross country again. Stay tuned.

CALL FOR CREW = local folks, would you like to sail Ravenswing this Sunday?  Weather forecast is down to 20% chance of rain, and 10kts of wind from the west. We’ll aim for a late morning start. Please call, text or reply back here if interested. 707.486.3954

You wanna be like this guy. He knows the drill :)




No hairdryers please

Part of the ‘keeping it simple’ plan is to skip power-hungry appliances and a big inverter to go from the boat batteries to 110volt household circuits. So we’ve kept shore power completely separate from the 12volt system, including its own mini panel in the equipment room.

First we bring a 30amp cable to the boat, with the plug just ahead of the aft beam, in the port cockpit coaming.

These new cords have clamping jaws instead of the old spinning rings. Plus a handy flashlight to help with night maneuvers.

Next was running a 10awg/3wire conductor in plastic conduit thru the coaming box, the lazarette and down into the equip room.


You can see the pass-thrus for water and diesel in front of the conduit; they will get hoses that run just like the electrical path.
The 110volt panel has built in ELCI. This is the next step beyond GFI ground fault interruption. See the ELCI components – the black ring – on the back.

This thing will shut everything down in milliseconds with any problems of the incoming juice, bad grounds, wires in the surrounding water, etc. And it all comes pre-wired with these BlueSea panels.
We screwed the panel in place and plugged in – the system did its job and warned of a reverse polarity problem in one of the workshop’s power outlets. We moved the cord and got all green (good) lights.


Just two branch circuits – one for the battery charger which will mount close by, and a second for two household plugs (one in photo and another in galley). That’s it, but could be expanded later if needed.
This finished the primary wiring job. There are follow up items – more light fixtures are coming this week as the galley, equipment room and over the dinette weren’t bright enough with the original purchased fixtures. And we still have all the wiring inside the stern tower to run, after the exterior paint job.
All of the smaller wire terminals were applied with a new ratcheting precise-fit crimper. Anyone doing 12volt work should get the positive-stop ratcheting tool. But with the heat shrink fittings you need a single-crimp jaw. I couldn’t find a single-style under $75, so we bought the more common double crimp for $25 delivered free from Amazon.

Made sure it had removable jaws, so they could be popped out and hit with the grinder, throwing big sparks all over. A few minutes later we had single-crimp capability that didn’t mar the heat shrink portion of the terminals.

With the wiring done we’re attacking the finishes needed inside the toilet and shower compartments. In a moment of clarity we decided to return to Leneman’s original suggestion of a below-the-waterline sewer tank drain (at sea only), which drastically simplifies the toilet plumbing runs, including closing up some previously made bulkhead and cabinet holes. This also finalized the thru-hulls locations, so that’ll be the next posting for you.

It’s alive!

Honey, why are your hands so dry and scratchy?, she asked. Might have something to do with using this about two hundred times this week.

So a few hours after burning the prints off one finger (don’t grab for the heat gun without looking Greg!) the last lamps and pumps were connected and it was time for the moment of wiring truth. But first we needed juice. A visit to the Winglet (travel trailer you saw here two months back) to borrow the battery and it’s ready to throw the main switch.

And just like that, 50 or so hours of wiring paid off.




Everything works as it should, including the two ‘big ticket’ items currently installed, the refrigerator and the windlass. We’ll detail those with more pictures soon. It was very satisfying to stand in the cockpit by the remote switch and make the windlass go up and down! The boat is coming to life.

The wiring plan includes AWG 2 size conductor for the battery-to-panel runs and the windlass circuit. There’s a 100amp fuse between the battery and the panel. The windlass has its own 70amp breaker and a direct cable to the battery switch. All of the branch circuits from the panel, plus the direct-to-battery bilge pump circuit, are AWG 12. That’s a bit of overkill for some of the lower draw circuits but overall it’s safer and was easier to pull everything from one 500′ roll. There’s about a dozen feet left (the very rough calcs did the trick). The 12/2 cable presented a challenge, as most terminals for stringing small lights etc. don’t deal with that big wire. A new item in the Ancor electrics line became the mainstay of the lighting system.

They are sized for one input wire and a pair out, so these allow pigtails, or highway off ramps, down to individual light fixtures. Not cheap at about $1.75 each, but it seems bulletproof for a long time.


And for Cap’t Holway, I am eager to show you how EVERY wire on the boat is easily traceable and accessible beyond covers and dedicated chases.

Here’s the back of the main panel now fully loaded. BlueSea’s product is great, although I made it all more challenging by mounting on a swinging door. It was tricky sizing each conductor to do a proper loop or bend for opening / closing. There were many hours fiddling around in here…


The small black box on the left is a sub / fuse panel just for the electronics branch circuit. The 15amp feed and return are the top and bottom wires that go to breaker #11 on the panel. Then this distribution box allows each electronic item to get its own size fuse. E.g. VHF has a 7amp, propane sniffer has a 0.5amp

Some people don’t like the LED lighting for a boat. But low power consumption, less generation worry and less battery weight is the goal for sailing fast. Tonight we switched on a bunch of the LEDs plus the radio – look at the ammeter in the panel barely registering an amp. A very good start!


Best wishes for dry skies and crisp breeze to all our friends in tomorrow’s Three Bridge Fiasco. Looks like America’s biggest sailboat race has hit another entries high this year. Have fun guys!

Crimp my style

Throughout wiring the boat we’re guarding against voltage drop – the problem when too small of a wire gauge impedes the juice by excess resistance (heat, if bad). The anchor windlass has a big motor under heavy load pulling spikes of 50 amps so it needs a big thick cable run back to the batteries. BlueSea electrics, and many others, provide handy wire sizing charts based on electrical load and distance. Our windlass circuit is about 50′ out and back, times the 50 amps = 2500 ‘ampfeet’ on the chart, pointing to AWG 2 conductor wire. That’s also the appropriate size for the 15′ circuit from the batteries to the 100 amp main circuit breaker panel. So with about 35′ each of red and black AWG 2, we got busy cutting and crimping.


After fretting over who to bug for big lug crimpers, we finally remembered squirreling away these swaging clamps, and they do a great job with the cable lugs. These two 23′ cables for the windlass added another 7 or 8 lbs to the boat.

Then we have a number of runs between batteries, ammeter shunt, main fuse, the panel, etc. Some of those in process:


Overall the wiring is clipping right along, except that back orders on the many sizes of various fittings are causing lots of stalls. All in good time I suppose. The nav station is coming together with the VHF, the propane controller, a USB port and a cig-lighter style port. The battery switch and windlass breaker got some of those big red jumper cables shown above.


Up on the bow we trial fit the windlass foot switches, which have waterproof housings around their wires, protruding below deck. So they need a pass-thru. Bonding in tubes is a great way to go. These are cheap carbonfiber pieces from Tap Plastics. If the hole is for bolts, use G10 glass tubes for strength.



We’ll show you the windlass switch wiring after the deck is painted and we come back for the final install.
Tomorrow we’ll continue with interior lighting.

Here are hundreds of cell phone lights behind Bruce Springsteen on Tuesday night in Chicago as he sang a tribute farewell to Glenn Fry. We were taking bets on what he’d pick. I won – ” Take It Easy”. Standin in a corner in Winslow Arizona, such a fine site to see, it’s a girl my Lord in a flatbed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me… (You can take it from there :)


Reds and yellows

American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC) electrical standards call for 12volt positive + feeds to use red cable and negative returns – to use yellow. That’s what’s inside the 500′ spool of 12AWG we saw a few posts back. With the right ‘terminators’ in hand (the rings MUST be sized to fit the bolts they slip over, and we have 5 different bolt sizes in the system!), we attacked the panel on Thursday night. Here is 7:30pm

And 10:30pm…

Then after another hour Friday eve of clipping the casings, adding zip ties and aligning the bundle for door swing

The board glued inside that cabinet today will get a distributor block for all things in the nav station, plus the panel feed cable shunt (which provides the ammeter reading). Last night we also cut the big 2AWG battery cables to feed the panel and return to the batteries, service the main fuse and the windlass needs. Altogether it’s about two dozen lugs that need heavy duty crimpers which we’ll try to rent or borrow. We’ll show you all the primary feed wiring once those lugs are solved.

Returning from an East Bay business meeting, I was fortunate to catch Bay Area Multihull Association veteran Bill Roberts at his amazing new boat that just arrived in Richmond.


Bill has a great story finding this barely-used but INCREDIBLY outfitted luxury performance Dragonfly 1200 tri in Canada thru Gary Helm’s brokerage. The quality of the Quoring group’s fit and finish looks superb, and the Roberts family gets to enjoy high end carpentry, still-unused appliances and bunks, forced air furnace, etc. (did you catch the bow thruster?) Bill and the Bay Marine staff will hustle to step the 65′ (!!!) mast, lace the nets, and bring all systems out of winterized mode in time for Three Bridge Fiasco day. BAMA folks, it’ll be hard to miss this blue beauty out there. For me it’s fascinating to look at the different design approaches: this 1200 looks like it will power through any seas with authority, sailing fast and carrying a sense of beefy security (big Volvo 4cyl diesel, substantial SS fittings, etc). Our F36 is the same length and a bit wider, but only 40% of the total weight, “Spartanly” finished and a 15′ shorter rig. Should be very interesting to sail and cruise these two side by side.

Ok, back to the wiring tools for a rainy NorCal weekend.