A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Monday, 17 June 2013

Power to the people

Or Loopy Kiwi anyway!

If you've been reading earlier postings, you will know that in the pre-Loop days I did a lot of research into the power supply to Loopy Kiwi to make her behave more like a New Zealand based boat as far as travelling and anchoring out were concerned. This resulted in the installation of a 3kW inverter, which was enough to run some of the appliances without having to resort to using the genset - particularly refrigeration - but certainly not the whole shebang. When we made the decision to bring LK home, the biggest issue was always going to the supply of shore power to make things work. Now, for those technophobes reading, forgive me for some of the content of this posting as it can't help but contain stuff that you will find frightfully boring, but it may be useful to those who are contemplating bringing a US boat to New Zealand, or somewhere else that has a similar power system to us - Europe, for example.

In New Zealand, the typical AC (alternating current) shore power supply is 240 V (volts) 50 Hz (hertz)  16A(amps). In the US, there are a variety of differing supplies but the most common these days is 240/115V  60Hz  50A. So....contrary to popular belief in NZ, you will notice that the USA does, in fact, have 240V like we do. However that voltage is where all similarity stops, because their 240V is a strange 240V indeed. Ours is a 3 wire, single phase system and theirs is a 4 wire system comprising 2 "hot" wires (L1 and L2 - sometimes referred to as "two phase") a neutral (L0) and an earth. Here is a drawing of the two differing systems:
Our system provides 240V between the phase and neutral wires. The US system provides 115V between either "hot" wire and the neutral (L0), and 240V between both "hot wires". This is how you can have a boat with both 240V for the airconditioning and 115V for other appliances - as Loopy Kiwi does. One important point, though, is that the two hot wires must have waveforms that are 180 degrees apart from one another, or it just doesn't work. This is why you have to be careful when connecting a 240V 50A boat to 2 x 115V 30A supplies using a Y adapter as, if they are from the same source, you don't get 240V. You may recall earlier posts where I talked about a "smart Y" adapter that I had purchased (and later sold). They are designed to make sure the hot wires are out of phase to protect the 240V equipment on the boat.

The next problem is just the electrical appetite of US boats. Loopy Kiwi, in common with many American craft, is very hungry electrically as she expects to have 50A of supply in most situations. Even then, if all the appliances were turned on simultaneously, there would be enough load to exceed this limit by some considerable margin (not that anybody ever turns everything on at once!). So here we are now faced with trying to make everything go on a measly 16A supply which, according to the laws of Physics, can't be done. What we end up with, is the ability to have roughly 3.6kW of energy, which is not a lot more than we get from the inverter. We have achieved this by installing 2 x 2kW, 240V to 115V transformers (these were off the shelf items and were cheaper than having 1 x 3.6kW one specially made). They are also wound in such a way that we get the "out of phase" hot wires necessary to give us 240V for LK's aircon - not that we will be using it much as each unit draws around 7A. Ultimately I will change the electric hotplate to gas as it, alone, uses 15A when all 3 are on (and I hate how slow electric cooking is compared with gas!).

The final issue is the difference in frequency - NZ's 50Hz vs USA's 60Hz. This does not effect things like heating elements in water heaters or ovens, but will make motors, such as those in refrigerators run slower and hotter. Prior to my retirement, my Company was involved in importing specialised fans from the USA and in the 20 years of doing so we had no problems with running them on NZ frequencies using transformers. Since we modified LK, all the appliances that contain electric motors seem to be running fine.

Loopy Kiwi came to us fitted with a "Cablemaster" deployment and storage system for the 2 x 50A shore power cables (did I mention that LK actually has TWO of these 50A supplies - although the second was dedicated entirely to the aircon for the sundeck and flybridge, and we never used that). These even had remote controls so you could easily deploy or retrieve the bulky cables with one person, usually with much envy from fellow boaters. When I told the Admiral that we were removing them she was bitterly disappointed, but they had no further purpose and took up a lot of space behind the headboard of the master stateroom, making access to some of the serviceable items quite difficult to impossible. Here's a few before, during and after pix, so you'll see what I mean:

These are shots looking up to where the vacuflush unit for the aft head is located. How you would have got to it before the Cablemasters were removed is anybody's guess!

The old power cords were 55ft long, around 1" in diameter and contained 4 cables, each with wire 16mm2 in cross sectional diameter. They have been replaced by a single cord about 3/8" in diameter and containing 3 wires each with a cross sectional diameter of 2.5mm2 each, Some difference!!!
And here's everything that came out - anyone want to buy a couple of Cablemasters c/w 55ft 50A cables??
We have made allowance for the 240V 50Hz system to be extended to the rest of the boat, particularly to replace 115V appliances if or when they fail. Fortunately, Silverton had the sense to build their boats with cabling suitable to run 240V appliances - probably because they had a reasonable export market to countries where 240V is the norm - which is not always the case in some US manufactured boats.

The next project is a liftout, bottom paint and Propspeed. We will probably give her a bit of a clean and polish at the same time to remove the rust stains etc from the shipment to NZ. The weather is pretty dismal here right now for doing this kind of work - hopefully it will improve in the next few weeks

Friday, 7 June 2013

And off we go

Charlie arrived back with the girls (and Woody) at around 10.30 on a day that was one out of the bag. The morning had been so cold that I had fired up the genset to run the heating aboard for half an hour before I got out of bed! (No shore power here yet, you see - that issue is being addressed and is another story in itself), but it turned out to be one of those superb, still, winter days. The forecast was for this to continue for the next 3 days - just the time we needed to head up the coast to Auckland, 150 nautical miles away. It was too late to leave that day, so we did some more provisioning while we had Charlie and his ute available, and hunkered down at the marina for the night after he departed. We considered visiting Phil's Place for dinner, but decided to eat aboard Loopy Kiwi instead - for nostalgic reasons as much as anything else.

The next morning dawned fine and clear, but not as cold. We unhurriedly prepped to depart and finally got underway at around 10.30. The weather was clear and the seas calm as we left the harbour and headed towards Whitianga, around 70 NM up the coast.
It was soooo good to be able to set the autopilot to a target 40 miles away knowing that you would neither run aground or run into some obstacle. The trip was mainly uneventful, with only a small stretch of uncomfortable beam sea for about an hour. However I did realise as we passed Slipper Island at about 2pm that I had not paid enough attention to the maths involved in that days travel, and that at our normal cruising speed, we would be struggling to reach our destination before dark. This was reinforced at 5pm when the sun began to fall behind the Coromandel ranges and we still had a half an hour to reach Whitianga marina. There was no other choice than to open the throttles and  make up for a little lost time but, when we did this, both engines occasionally dropped a few hundred revs briefly then recovered, I put this down to the fact that they had not had a decent "blowout" for some time. We arrived at the marina and tied up just as the darkness descended, then went ashore and dined at a local pub where we had a delightful meal and several beverages. We figured out that the last time we had been to Whitianga in a boat was 2005.

The next day was another cracker, and we decide that we would not travel so far today and head for Tryphena Harbour on Great Barrier Island to visit our son, Adam, who lives there. We got underway at 10am and figured it would be about a 3 hour trip. The forecast was good - SW winds 10 -15 knots - which would be a bit on the beam but nothing worrisome. Half an hour out, Pete's transmission dropped out, just like it did that first day out of Indiantown FL. (refer 24th March) The difference was that this time it kept recurring - 4 times in fact - and we weren't going to be on an inland waterway if it failed completely. So we anchored up and I got out the manual to see what could be done to remedy the situation. All the symptoms pointed to a fault in the connections of the electronic shift control, so I rang the local Volvo agent who confirmed that I should remove and clean the connections to the solenoids on the gearbox to see if that fixed the problem. There was also the facility to mechanically force the gearboxes into forward drive, if all else failed.

The connections were cleaned, the engines restarted, and we continued on our way on the undertaking that we would turn back if the fault recurred within an hour. As it turned out, it didn't - so we resumed our journey towards the Barrier. About halfway there, the wind picked up to around 15 knots, giving us a 3-5 foot beam seas. We rolled a bit, but it was good to test out Loopy Kiwi in typical New Zealand weather conditions, and we maintained our course on autopilot, despite the sometimes uncomfortable conditions. Even Woody, who normally hates the earth moving underneath him, showed little concern as we made our way north.

Then we reached the Colville Channel. This is the channel between Great Barrier Island and The mainland and is renowned for its treacherous waters. It is probably one of the meanest stretches of water around NZ, second only to Cook Strait, and conditions are described in the Akarana Yacht Club Cruising Guide (NZ's boating bible) thus: "The flood tide flows W and the ebb tide flows E through his passage, running at 2 to 3 knots springs and producing dangerous overfalls (ie surf) in winds above 12 knots". At the time we entered it, the wind was averaging 20 knots and gusting to 28, according to the weather station on Channel Island, in the middle of the Colville Channel. This place is a good sea test for any vessel and I have to say that I was impressed with Loopy Kiwi's performance. The beam sea was 3-5 feet, with the occasional 7, and very steep. We maintained our course on autopilot until 3 miles from the entrance to Tryphena, when I decided we would head a little further upwind to take the sea on the bow quarter, then turn for a following sea to take us into the bay. As we were heading out, my sister (Aunty Lyn) asked how LK performed in a big following sea. My response was " we will find out I a couple of minutes". As it turned out, she performed admirably, confirming what John Niemann, the sales broker, had assured us of at the time of purchase - that Silverton made a good sea boat. We anchored up in the calm of Tryphena beside the ferry wharf and spent a nice night entertaining Adam who had come down to join us.

The next day was a stunner. We departed Barrier for the "bottom end" of Waiheke Island - a very familiar stomping (and fishing) ground for us. As we passed Channel Island the weather station was telling us it was averaging 2 knots with a peak of 3 - somewhat different from yesterday!
As we neared Waiheke we could see boats everywhere, typical of a long weekend particularly with a great weather forecast. We stopped for a fish at Hook bay and picked up a blue cod and two snapper - enough for a feed for dinner. We then continued up the outside of the island to Oneroa, one of our most favourite anchorages. There were about 50 boats anchored here overnight - quite a modest number for what is generally considered the last boating weekend of the season. In the height of summer, you can get several hundred jammed into the Bay.
We spent a comfortable night and departed early for the last leg of our delivery voyage - only around 20NM. As we cruised into the harbour, I felt some regret that it was not the statue of liberty that I was so looking forward to cruising past, but the Skytower over the Casino isn't a bad substitute under the circumstances, and made me feel like Loopy Kiwi was finally home.
We arrived at our marina and onto a prearranged berth (slip), as Kindred Spirit is still on our own. We were surrounded by our friends as we showed them over our treasured possession, and there was just the right amount of envy to make all the trials and tribulations involved in bringing her home worthwhile. The next few weeks will involve making her work on our greatly reduced, and very different, shore power supply - but that is all in hand. She will then be lifted out (again) to have her bottom painted and PropSpeed applied to the running gear.

We have sold our house and by the time summer comes around we will be in our new apartment and free from the burden of owning a larger property. Loopy Kiwi will be ready and raring to go as we venture around New Zealand with our own version  of "Great Loop" cruising.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

The Eagle has landed

The preparations for arrival of Loopy Kiwi in Tauranga turned out to be as tortuous and frustrating as those for the departure from Savannah. We paid the tax and duty so all was clear with Customs (although the officer looking after us had gone on holiday for a week so we had to start over with a new guy). We sent all the docs through to the Port and were informed that Customs had put the incorrect Port on their paperwork and MPI (Ministry of Primary Produce - the agriculture folk) had misnamed the ship on theirs. So it took another couple of days to sort that out! We liaised with the Port Authority via the shipping company and were told that the ship was due in at 2pm on Tuesday 28th May and it would be off-loaded onto the wharf pending MPI inspection before being craned into the water. Thus we would have plenty of time to reattach the batteries that we were required to disconnect in Savannah (all nine of them) as Loopy Kiwi was immobile without doing so. The shipping Co said they would arrange access for us to the wharf, so the Friday before our departing for Tauranga on Monday, everything was in order.


On Sunday we got an email from the shipping co telling us we had to go through an induction course to have access to the wharf. Fortunately this could be done online and after sitting the exam at the end of the course, Charlie and I received a certificate that now enables us to enter the wharf any time for the next 12 months. On Monday we drove to Tauranga and checked in with the Port Authority guys. The ship had now been scheduled to arrive at 10am and Loopy Kiwi was due to be unloaded at slack tide at 3pm - provided clearance had been granted by MPI. However, we were now informed that she would be craned off the ship and straight into the water!!! Furthermore, we would not be allowed to be aboard when she was lifted off, and there was no way to get aboard from the ship. They said we would have to organize a "chase boat" to transport us to LK after refloating, which we hurriedly did via the marina where we had arranged to spend our first night. We also restated that she was immobile until the batteries were reconnected and were told that the stevedores would hold us in the slings until this was done, and we could get underway under our own steam.

So there we were, with everything well under control, and only a couple of hour to wait before we would be reunited with our beloved Loopy Kiwi. Charlie and I headed down to the marina and checked in to ensure the necessary arrangements were in place for our ride to LK when she hit the water. We then took a drive to the entrance of the harbor and there, right on time, was the CMA CMG MANET entering the harbor, with LK in plain sight on the deck. Unfortunately my camera chose this moment to run out of batteries, so while you see the ship coming in, you don't see LK!
We watched her till she docked, then called MPI who said they would meet us at the wharf in 30 minutes to do an inspection of the outside of the boat, and if that was OK, they would allow her to be refloated and do the interior at the marina the next day. We met him at the gate at the due time and he took us to the vessel and aboard for the inspection. To our disappointment, nobody checked our credentials that we had dutifully carried with us, including our much valued induction certificates that we had studied so hard for two days previous! The inspection passed without incident - we did notice that LK had shifted in her cradle and one of the upright supports had bent, but there seemed to be no damage. She now had clearance for the re-launch, so it was simply a matter of waiting for a few hours and we were ready to go. We did stress to the port authorities the importance of having the slings in the correct places as marked on the boat and were assured that all due care would be taken to ensure this happened. We retired to the marina, which was directly opposite the Port and watched as the containers were unloaded, waiting for a sign that LK was due to be lifted. As this had not happened at the prescribed time of 3pm we rang the Port and were told that we should come over when the container crane repositioned over LK from where it was presently operating. This happened at 3.45pm - so into the marina's RIB we got...and off we went. By the time we got alongside, LK was in plain view and, shortly after, they had begun to ready the slings to lift her off.

From the water, everything looked fine, but as she came out it was obvious that the slings were far from being in the right places.

But there she was...suspended a couple of hundred feet in the air and nothing could be done....so into the water she went. And she floated - so aboard we went and began to reconnect the batteries. Almost immediately, the stevedores (you know - those guys that were going to hold us in the slings until we got the engines going) began to whinge that they wanted to use the crane to unload containers. This is despite the fact that we had paid ten times the price of shipping a container from the USA to not be treated like one. Regardless of this, after 15 minutes, they lowered us completely into the water and basically let us go. Fortunately the marina RIB had hung around and he took us in tow around Tauranga harbour while we attached the rest of the batteries before firing up the engines (both started perfectly) and driving into the marina. BTW, by this time it was 5.15pm and, being winter in New Zealand, it was almost dark.  After securing LK, we decided a celebration was in order and we dined in the restaurant at the marina, particularly since it was called "Phils Place"
You can probably figure out that it wasn't named after me, but what you may NOT know is that it is named after its owner, Phil Rudd, who happens to be the drummer from AC/DC!

The next day dawned beautiful. Loopy Kiwi was home, albeit covered in rust from the containers, soot from ships exhaust and grease from one of the cranes that a stevedore had managed to track right around the decks and across the carpet on the sundeck while securing the slings (in the wrong places). Still she had arrived intact...nothing broken or stolen,  but I've got to say it felt strange having her over here instead of on the Loop. It was kind of weird to think that she had travelled almost 12000 nautical miles from Savannah, via Jamaica, the Panama Canal, Tahiti and even Australia since we had last spent a night on her. Charlie went home that day to bring Carolyn and Aunty Lyn down for the voyage to Auckland, our home Port. The weather forecast was looking very good for the long "Queens Birthday" weekend (not that we need long weekends to travel, us retired folk), and I will do a posting on that journey separately. In the meantime...take care y'all
Home is the sailor home from the sea