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Two Steps Forward, One Back

It's been another long week, but we are making headway despite some considerable headwinds. Sometimes, I'm tempted to burst out with a recollection of Handel's Halleluja Chorus when it all works as expected. What progress this week? 


We discovered an issue with our shore power charging in that the Victron We installed Victron Skyla with a factory-set 50 amp charging limit. Given we feed into 21kWH of lithium batteries, this was rather lamentable. A software fix to the 160amp setting and bingo, we now charge at 4kW, plus satisfying the deficit between machinery demand and solar arrays. Solar energy remains an issue; it is not performing to snuff, as one may say. We made further progress on shore power in completing our 3-phase charging and commissioning of the Inverters. By Thursday this week, we were absorbing a huge 12kW of shore power to charge 200kWh of power and 21kWh of house batteries. Our power reserve came down to the wire without engines, but we fixed it quickly. God loves a sinner, as one may say. 

Victron Cerbro Charing

Inverters, generators, and batteries are cooled using a 50/50 water-glycol mix. This system was commissioned after a major rebuild covered in a previous blog. Now up and running, we continue to tweak the flow rates to limit pumping losses, but that can wait for another day, overshadowed by more pressing issues.


We powered up the HVAC system. It's a Webasto Blue Cool system that is stand-alone from everything else on board, a blessing given the weather locally. It was a little noisy to start. Slowing the fans to a sensible setting cured that issue. This resulted in some load-sharing imbalance between the three-phase bus bars that we need to relieve, but for now, we have cool!


Steering also saw attention. We noticed that the rudders felt spongy when out of the water and would move by hand at about 5 degrees. That is not acceptable and positively worrisome in a following sea. The culprit was air in the manual helm pump. With the assistance of a very helpful Wills Ridley, we managed to bleed it under pressure using the hydraulic pumps and some slight mechanical modifications, knowledge for future reference. The attachment of the rudder angle indicators was also subpar and improved to tighten the linkage connections and repair the built-in hysteresis errors. Rudder controls were then re-synchronised and working from the helm. Que that chorus for the oil-soaked Engineer! 

Varifold Props

Drive trains were next on the list. We tested the E Motors while out on the water, which was also a good opportunity to see how the new Bruntons Varifold propeller worked in practice. Anyone rarely sees a sail drive working, so a video of what happened is enclosed below. The max shaft speed in this test was 288 RPM (shaft) and 750 RPM (engine), while the design max for the E Motors is 380 RPM (shaft). 


We tested E-Motors in generator mode, and the proverbial hit the fan! Kipling has a line of verse: "When you can keep your head and all about are losing theirs ....." Something quite serious was afoot, so we stopped, investigated, and removed the E-Motors to find an improperly installed and misaligned coupling on both E-Motors. Motor shaft splines were not seriously damaged, but one-half of the couplings were probably beyond repair and had been modified (butchered) in the fitting (see photos). I've said this before and will repeat it here, "Read the bloody manual." It's fixable and with luck won't delay us.


Engines were connected to the Praxis throttle control system. It took a little time to debug, and the Praxis Engineer, Marco, was a very cool and calm customer throughout the process—the value of experience. 

And that's a wrap for now. Hopefully, today, we will have a way forward for the E-Motors. Praxis is calibrating the rudders and tank gauges, so they have enough to keep them busy for now, at least. 

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