Saturday, May 13, 2017

Next Project

I finally made the deck box covers.  I used plastic composite fascia boards from Rona.  They are 1/2" thick and 7"wide. I joined them together with 3/4" aluminum angle and SS nuts and bolts.  Now we can sit outside!

My next project is going to be a doghouse for the companionway.  With all the rain we've had so far this year, it has been quite apparent that we need one!  Every trip in or out of the boat so far has meant rain getting in when we open the hatch.

I intend to make it with plywood, and paint it up with the house colour.  I will make the door with 3/8" or 1/2" tinted Plexiglas framed up with aluminum.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Propane System

I finally built the deck boxes that house the propane tanks, fuel tank, gas cans, kerosene and other flammables, as well as extra storage for line, stern anchor etc.

I made them from high density polyethylene and abs plastic, fastened together with aluminum extrusion and SS fasteners.  They are screwed down to the deck and bedded with polyurethane caulking.

So just this evening I completed the whole propane installation consisting of a Dickinson BBQ and a Dickinson cooktop.  Each has its own tank, with the tank feeding the cooktop inside via a 12v solenoid valve so that the propane can be safely shut off so as not to accumulate in the hull should a leak occur.  The switch that operates the solenoid has a very bright red LED indicator so as to remind the chef to turn it off after use.

 The boxes are cut out at the bottom so any accumulated heavier-than-air gases drain overboard.  The hose leading from the solenoid goes through the deck via a galvanized nipple and flange screwed and bedded to the deck.  The hose and wire are sealed with electrician's duct seal putty to the top of the nipple.

The switches are yet to be labeled.  The far right one turns the gas on and off.  The far left is the galley light.  Beside it is the momentary contact water pump switch.

Hinged covers yet to be made

Friday, April 21, 2017

Autarkia's Pooper Part 3

I ordered some mini computer fans off Ebay a while ago and was holding off working on the head until they came in the mail.  I have them now.  Also in the meantime, I have got most of the electrical work done - having installed the batteries, solar panels and mounting the electronics.  I still have the VHF antenna to mount as well as the transducer for the Lowrance.  The stereo is installed and working along with Sirius satellite radio which now graces Autarkia's interior with the sounds of Bluegrass, Folk, Jazz and Old Time Country from the seventies and earlier.  If I find my pinkie extended while sipping tea we may even switch to classical....

Anyway, before continuing with the pooper saga, here are some self-explanatory pics of some of the work done so far:

The solar panels are 200 watts in total, and are connected to the deep cycle battery via an MPPT controller.
Nav lights are LED of course...

Oh, and one more little clarification before further pooper discussion:  I'm still going to fit Autarkia with a mast and rig - most likely junk.  But for this summer at least, we want to take her out and enjoy her.  Lorri and I have had a lot to deal with in our personal lives this year - nothing particularly bad - but LIFE nonetheless, and we need to get out and have some fun.  So with a few more little jobs completed we'll start doing that and build a rig next winter.  In the meantime we will fly kites from her deck, shoot the pellet gun at passing flotsam, fish, take pictures and enjoy.

So here is what I did with a mini computer fan.  The fitting is an inch and a half PVC pipe coupler, and I made it into a little turbo to vent the toilet by trimming the corners off the fan, wrapping the perimeter in foam tape, and squeezing it down into the fitting.  The wires got fed out a drilled hole.

I sat it over the vent hole on the toilet have since left it running:

It will exit out the front bulkhead, and per RLW's excellent recommendation, will have a bug screen.  Anyway, what I found out while leaving it running, was that over time even the very heavy plastic contractor's trash bag sucked away from the sides of the pail because everything was so well sealed.  So I will have an inlet pipe directed over the poop so we get a drying wind across it.  That will prevent too low a pressure developing inside.

Here is the pee tube arrangement:

I drilled a one inch hole in the side of the bucket for the tube to exit. 

I installed the tube on the bowl assembly...

And routed the tube out of the toilet through a hole cut in the bag, sealed with tape.

The poop pile will never reach that level; it will be emptied well before that happens.

In Part Four, which should be the last pooper post, I will detail the pee bottle, the air inlet, outside exhaust, and the peat sawdust mixture we will spread on the bottom of the bucket and sprinkle on our droppings.  We'll likely give it a couple of weeks of trial before reporting.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Call Me Crazy

Today I'm going to try and complete the wiring aboard Autarkia.  We have bought solar panels, a controller, a satellite receiver for Sirius music, and the battery box has been built and installed.  I will detail all of this in a post as soon as the  work is complete - probably in the next few days.

The fact is - Autarkia is just about ready for sea trials - sans a sailing rig.

But I have been thinking crazy thoughts.

Consider the following:

1) .  Autarkia has a very reliable and pretty much brand new engine, that is quite fuel efficient (Evinrude Etec 30hp).

2).  Autarkia also has large, uncluttered and unencumbered decks, that we are very fond of.

3).  She is low, stealthy, and sleek looking in her present state.

Given the above, you may think that we are considering abandoning wind power altogether and simply using Autarkia strictly as a power boat.  But that is not the case.

But we have long considered how we would actually SAIL Autarkia given who and what we are, our skill-sets at this stage of life, and how much effort and bother we want to put in to powering the boat with the wind.  And I have always said - probably in the blog previously, that most of our SAILING would be downwind in ideal conditions.

If that's the case (and getting closer to being sure of it) then a rethink of how we might harness the wind is in order.

Firstly, since we would sail only with the wind say - 30 degrees either side of aft - then the lateral resistance of that honkingly big and heavy off-center board I built is not required.  What IS required would be a a couple of smaller skegs (say about 2 sq.ft. each below the waterline) that I could make up with 3/4 inch engineered plastic sheet held in place against her sides with a through bolt and large wingnut to allow them to give way upon striking the bottom.  Also, a smaller rudder could be made up from the same material and of course be designed to kick up as well.  I could make all three items in very short order.

And what then would be capturing the wind in these ideal conditions?

Why THIS of course!

Or Something Like It

A pilot-lifter kite, appropriately sized, is very stable in a range of wind conditions, has a LOT of pull, and is inflatable without any solid spars.  In other words, it packs in to a little bag when not in use.  They can be readily purchased ready-made, or can be sewn up by yours truly from many proven plans that are free online.

Those of you who are so inclined, can do some research on kite-powered sailing, but in a nutshell you will find that most efforts so far employ parafoil designs that are very powerful, but are very unstable as well and must be controlled constantly.  The surfboard crowd who use them for example, fly across the water with these kites way out in front of them at a low angle - not high up - so that the force is in the direction they want to go.  Forward as oppose to up, although there are many examples of people flying up in the air with them.  But to get that forward pull, they must constantly weave the foil in a figure eight pattern ahead of them.

There are also efforts being made by a German company to use kites on cargo ships to reduce fuel consumption.  But again, these are parafoil designs that in this case are controlled with servos and computers.

Which brings us to our very stable and hands-off pilot lifter kite.  It pulls, but as the name implies, it is lifting more than pulling.  The force applied is in most cases at an angle greater than 45 degrees straight up.  A waste of effort in that direction.

But there is a low tech solution I have come up with, though I do not claim to have thought of it first, though as of yet I have not found an example.

It is best explained with this horrible schematic sketch:

Launching large kites can be challenging - especially from a boat.  However, Autarkia with her large fore deck, flat and without the clutter of lines or rigging, would certainly have an advantage over other boats.

I would also have a short mast - say ten feet or so - that could be used in some way to assist in inflating the kite (the mast could also accommodate the anchor and steaming lights).  Three inch aluminum pipe would be more than adequate, and it would be low enough that it could be fixed in place.

Let the controversy begin!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Working on the 12 Volt System

It has been a while since my last post.

The reason is that the pace of work when doing this tedious stuff doesn't provide a whole lot to write about!
Nonetheless, SOME progress has been made.  The galley area has been finished out, and the finishing work yet to do in the sleeping area is going to wait until later.

Our priority now is to get the systems in, and possibly the off-centre board installed so we can take her out and start using her under power.  I fear that her sailing rig may be next winter's project.

So, yesterday I made the DC distribution panel.  It is very simple.  I am using an automotive fuse block and readily available car fuses to protect the circuits.  Lighting, since it is all LED and requires little power, will be on one.  Another will supply the electronics that consist of a VHF, a chartplotter/depthsounder, and a stereo.  A third circuit will supply the fresh water galley pump, the propane shutoff solenoid, and the desiccating fan for the composting head.  There are three spares for later circuits - if any.

I also bought a small 450 watt inverter to run our coffee grinder, stick blender, and a small food processor.  It also can run a computer and has a USB port for charging the phones.  It will come off the battery directly using a fusible link - since it can draw up to 45 amps.  It does not go through the DC panel.

I bought a small deep cycle battery to supply everything, and it will be isolated from the motor battery.  My plan is to keep it charged with about  100 watts of solar power.  We will also be able to charge it with shore power, or a small Honda generator.

The panel itself was made up with a piece of aluminum I had kicking around.  Mounted on the front are an automotive voltmeter that is activated (along with it's illuminating light) by a small push button that will be labelled 'test'.  Below that a row of four switches - one for running lights and another for the anchor light, and two spares.  On the back side of the panel is the fuse block, and a buss bar for the negative connections.  The positive connections will come off the fuse block directly, or a switch.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Starting to Ice the Cake

Taking some time and being somewhat finicky with the mahogany trim and mouldings sure goes a long way to hide my usual wood butchery!  Autarkia is even beginning to look a bit 'yachty' I dare say!

I was pretty happy with the cabinet doors too.   I even took an extra day to make  the correct corner joints on them.  The inserts are 1/4" galvanized wire mesh that I spray painted with ivory Krylon.

Still lots to do to finish up the galley area and then on to the 'stateroom'.  There will be bookshelves over either end of the bed, high enough to sit up under, and some cabinetry for clothing under the starboard deck.

Sorry for the short post and crappy images.  The iphone doesn't do well in the dark.   When I get a good chunk more completed I'll do another video tour.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Galley Floor

Purists will freak.  Cheap laminate flooring belongs NOT on a boat.  And for most boats that is probably the case.

However, Autarkia has been in the water for around six months now, and while we have not had her anywhere other than tied to the dock in Mission, she has proved to be very dry inside, despite constant rain when it hasn't snowed this winter, and much ingress and egress with the hatch open during inclement weather.

Furthermore, it is easy not to bring any water, dirt or otherwise aboard, since we have that large deck, a substantial threshold, and ample locations to put footware, to doff raingear, and otherwise treat her interior as one would treat a nice house.

There will be exceptions of course, as is with a house, that dirty boots, wet gear and so forth will be brought in, and like a house, laminate flooring handles those infrequent occurrences quite well, with a wipe up.

So, for not too much money we went with it for the galley.  And to make laminate flooring installation purists further cringe, we installed it across stringers rather than on a flat plywood floor.

This was done after some structural experimentation, to see how the 1/2 inch or so thick laminate would span a distance of 10 inches or so.  It does quite fine we found out, at least for the kind of loads we would impose on it, namely us in stocking feet, and some furniture.  Not - as one could encounter in a house - a refrigerator or a wall unit.

The structural stringers that give Autarkia's bottom her strength were spaced too far apart to accommodate the laminate, so I had to put in some additional stringers.  I simply used two by fours I had already, notched out to leapfrog over existing structure, and stuck them in place with polyurethane caulking.  I did not want to screw anything into Autarkia's structure and avoided that.

The laminate, designed for the most part to float unfastened, WAS fastened here and there as I saw fit, and only with deck screws, and only to the new interim stringers.

All in all, it looks good, and feels good.  I need to put in some sort of baseboard mouldings to finish the perimeter.  We will likely be using some rugs as well.

I will not put the laminate in the next compartment, but will rather lay some painted plywood and put a nice rug runner on it.

Speaking of furniture, we have decided not to build any in.  We have already a really cool, old gate leg table we bought many years ago at a garage sale and refinished, that will serve Autarkia well.  It folds up and can be bungeed for security underway, and either or both leaves unfolded, and the whole table oriented as required.  Furthermore, with the furniture tucked away, this large floor can be slept on with air mattresses by grandkids, kids if they behave, and friends who 'get it'.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Autarkia's Pooper Part 2 and To Be Further Continued

Well, a little more on the ergonomics, and anatomical compliance:  We all are just not made the same!

When Yoda gave me the idea of considering a box cover for the toilet seat, my thinker went into gear.  In the process thereof, I sat down upon the deck - sans store-bought toilet seat - and low and behold!  Everything lined up!  "Could it really be this simple?" I asked myself.  "Could I incorporate a lid with some weatherstripping and keep it super simple?"

 Alas, not quite that simple, once brought up for evaluation and discussion.    But here's what we came up with for those who don't fit as well as I do on the seatless deck.  We keep a seat available that can be put on the deck and positioned by the user for the individual's comfort.

I have yet to refine said seat, but will likely glue a non skid material on the underside so it can't slide around.  Also, I will make an attractive holder for the seat for when the lid is closed.

Here are some more self explanatory pics.

I will have a Part 3 once I have the urine diverter plumbed in, removable seat detailed, ventilation completed (still waiting for some computer fans from Ebay - One for the toilet and a spare), and the whole head area set up and decorated.

Weather stripping to be yet applied to the lid.  I put some washers under the hinges on the lid to space it up a bit to accommodate the weather stripping.  Also I drilled some recesses in the deck for the screw heads.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Desiccating Head Part One

The idea of a 'composting' head on a boat - even one as big as Autarkia - is a little misleading.  The composting process usually takes a period of years under the right conditions, where the resulting material has been truly composted into harmless and fertile soil.

Marine composting heads such as the Natures Head and Air Head should really be called desiccating heads. They keep the liquid and solid wastes separate, but mix the solid wastes with a drying agent such as peat moss, sawdust or a mix of both, and further dry it out thereby reducing the volume thereof.  The resulting substance winds up being dry, relatively odour free and easy to dispose of.  But as it is not 'compost',  it may be reconstituted with water to a disgusting semblance of its former self.  Composted properly, the addition of water would just make it wet soil.

But from a practical standpoint after all said and done, on a boat it does not really matter if the poop is composted or not, as long as it is kept dry and consequently odour free.

In past posts where I have discussed having a composting head, we had made a decision to buy a Natures Head as seen below.

It is arguably one of the better products out there, well regarded by those who have them.  Apart from it being a good product that does what the makers promise, there was a secondary reason we were considering:,  and that was the 'social acceptability' - if you will - of a 'store bought' device, costing a lot of money thereby making it all right in the minds of friends and relatives.

You might wonder why that would ever be a consideration for a couple such as us, building a completely unorthodox boat to begin with, and who in other aspects of our lives often reject the values, trappings, and behaviours of mainstream society, but it was.  Go figure.

What really changed our minds though was when we looked into actually ordering one, as Autarkia is now ready for it.  What we though might be an investment of around $1000 all in, turns out to be really about $2000 Canadian with the required accessories (ventilation kit) and after taxes and shipping.  "No way!" we said,  "we're going to make one!".

It has been done before and it is not rocket science.  The key things that are of utmost importance are:

1) Urine separation and collection to keep the poop dry.

2) Ventilation - preferably with a fan that keeps a negative pressure inside the toilet (sealing must be considered here) and that assists the drying process.  A screen over the outlet to keep the bugs out (this advice from RLW of BoatBits fame, who has been using a DIY unit for a decade now).

3) A desiccating medium such as sawdust, peat or a mix of both, to be sprinkled over each deposit.

As long as the above things are considered, a successful desiccating toilet can be built.

Let's look at the first item - urine separation:

For most guys an effective but inelegant way of dealing with this is using a plain old pee bottle.  You can buy these at marine outlets - they are made of red plastic, and have one flat side (I assume because it is also a medical product that can be used in bed).  An attachment is also available for female use as well, and it works.  Not so good though for getting up in the night.  So a means of being able to sit down (for either sex) and pee while groggy or still half asleep has its advantages.  And fellows, we don't go out and hang it overboard in the middle of the night.  Unsafe.

So it becomes an anatomical and ergonomic issue to design such a collector that does a proper job of separation.  That is, to be able to collect a urine stream from either sex, directed or not.  Furthermore, the urine collection receptacle must not interfere with other biological workings further aft!  A fine line must be drawn.

So here is the problem with a factory made device:  The designers must make assumptions about the user's anatomy and design something that satisfies the needs of the many but may not meet the needs of the few.

However, if we are building our own, we can mock up, experiment, mock up some more, experiment some more and come up with something that will work perfectly for us as individuals.

Without going into too many details here is what we came up with geometry wise.  The toilet seat was supported on either side with two chairs, so that one could sit down, reach in under and explore said geometry, as well as one's own geometry in a tactile manner.  Sorry, I tried to be more delicate...

I bought the toilet seat.  The SS bowl was stolen from the kitchen.  When sitting, there is some contact on the aft edge of the bowl, confirming that both guns are on target.  The other thing that has apparent advantage is the opening is quite a bit larger than what the Natures Head provides.  When researching the Natures Head, I contacted the company and asked about 'aiming accidents' in the aft area, and was reassured that cleanup was easy with a spray bottle filled with a water/vinegar solution.  I thought that if the opening were large enough that cleaning up would not be necessary.  This looks good so far.

I used epoxy putty to put the fitting on the bowl for the urine collection hose.  The reason for this was that any kind of fitting that attached mechanically would have a lip that would dam the urine, and not allow the bowl to empty completely.  With the fitting stuck on in this manner there is no lip.  Nonetheless, after each use I think that giving the bowl a spray of water/vinegar is a good idea in this instance.

Further along in the mockup and design phase of the project we are considering the tub to use.  Many designs out there use an orange Home Depot bucket of about 5 gallons capacity.  RLW tells me that the two of them are good for a month of use with one of these, but since I had this 'muck tub' from the farm store, I thought we would use it.  It should provide many months of capacity but there are other advantages too.  The extra space makes it easier to plumb in the urine tube, and the exhaust ventilation tube (probably will be 1-1/2" PVC) can go right down one side to draw air right across the growing pile.

To line the tub, I used a heavy plastic 'contractor' bag.  It is large enough to fit this tub.  At the bottom I put a circle of cardboard.

I then cut a piece of 1/2 inch plywood to fit very snugly inside the rim.

The top deck for the toilet is glued and screwed to the round insert.  The SS bowl was installed with PL Premium glue - very solid.

This is as far as I've gotten.

The top deck is over-sized, but I left the extra material so I can fit it nicely into the boat with a suitable surround for the sides.  I still need to decide how the lid will seal.  I may put the seat itself down with silicone sealant so it can be removed if I have to replace it.  I may have to make a gasketed cover to go over the hole.  I don't think that the toilet seat lid will seal well enough, even with weatherstripping foam.

To be continued....