Clipper's Vera Cruise Build

Clipper's Vera Cruise Build

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Non Construction Continues

I figured that I had better post something lest readers think I might have given up!

No, with the holidays around the corner, and whilst saving for materials for the boat, I have been continuing to do work / research on balancing and on the electrical system.

It seems that my idea of balancing the boat was somewhat flawed in that I had to take into consideration every non structural component. But luckily for me, the boat has been designed to balance with a reasonable set of equipment and also designed to handle a range of engine weights. Additionally, because of the size of my boat, she is not as susceptible to smaller changes in weight moments like a smaller design would be.

I still have to keep these things in mind, and, if I decide to relocate the more significantly heavy items (batteries, fuel tanks, etc), I will have to try and compensate for the shift by relocating other items. I don't anticipate having to do much of this, but we will see.

At any rate, I developed a small and simple balance software program that I can use to aid in any movement. The original intention or this software was to handle a considerable number of moves. As mentioned, that may not be necessary. But the program will handle the small numbers as well. Besides, it gave me a chance to brush up on some software development skills that I don't normally get to exercise at work too often.

Developing the electrical system for this boat has been challenging. I foresee quite a bit of work to be done in this area before I have a complete plan in place that I can use for construction purposes. My experience with electricity has been confined to installing ceiling fans, and wiring up lights as well as a bit of college many years ago. I also have a small amount of experience with troubleshooting circuits, primarily in aircraft, but which I assume will work for marine as well.

There are numerous considerations involved in this process and I have only begun to scratch the surface of the work needed. There are wiring standards set forth by the Coast Guard. There are safety considerations, voltage considerations, battery management, cost,  weight, and accessibility considerations as well.

I started off by attempting to determine in a general sense what equipment I would like to have on board. Using brainstorming practices that I have used many times in the past, I came up with a long list of items. From those, I weeded out the unnecessary items and any that I felt were overkill. I organized them into priorities as well as grouped them by systems.

Using an example from another builder, I created a simple functional diagram that showed where the items would be placed on the boat. This was a top down view and served a couple of purposes. It aided me in determining how many of some items (for example, lights) that I would need. It also helped me to think up additional items that I missed when brainstorming.

I eventually plan to redraw this diagram to scale so that I can plan wire runs. One of the considerations I have is trying to minimize wire runs. I also want to make sure that I place convenient access points for future maintenance. By scaling the drawing, I can get some idea of how much wiring I will eventually need and I will know where to place them when the time comes to install.

However, before anything else, It will be necessary to design the actual circuits. I have been doing considerable reading on this. I found a book called the "The 12 Volt Doctor's Practical Handbook" by Edgar Beyn which I like because it explains the concepts and necessary work in terms that I find easier to understand. I am also referring to other books I have acquired such as Nigel Calder's "Boatowner's Electrical And Mechanical Manual".

Looking at wiring diagrams from existing designs can be overwhelming, so I elected to break the diagrams into smaller pieces as I work on them. It allows me to concentrate on specific areas without worrying about getting it to fit into the overall plan. It keeps the number of items on any given page to a minimum which makes it easier to read.

One of the ideas I had when I first started planning my build, was to create a maintenance manual based upon what I learned while building. This would include a complete description of the electrical system. I am planning on developing all these diagrams using software so that I can print them whenever needed. I will eventually combine them into a book as well.

It was the software for diagramming where I have had quite a bit of frustration. I first thought I would use a CAD program but quickly realized that the steep learning curve on this would get in my way of designing. So I went looking for diagramming software and found numerous examples of this. But the only one that was specifically suited for my purposes was a $150 piece of software, which was well out of reach for me.

I tried numerous free packages but they all seem to have limitations or difficult to use features. I have settled on LucidChart's diagramming software for the time being. It seems the least objectionable of the packages I have tried. The free version does limit you to 60 items per drawing which is a bit small, but so far I have been able to work with this limitation. I will have to eventually pay for the more advanced version when I want to create more detailed drawings, but this particular software works on a non-contract subscription basis, so I should be able to subscribe for the time I need to do the final work.

In the following image, you can see the first example of my attempt at a wiring diagram. This is still pretty simplistic, and may not be completely accurate. It doesn't use industry standards for wiring either. Some of this is a limitation of what I have available and some of it is simply my lack of experience in this area. For example, having no experience with outboard motors, I am not yet sure if this is accurate, but I will eventually determine what is accurate and the drawing will be modified appropriately.

One of the great things about using software to do this is that it is relatively easy to go back and "tweak" designs as needed. I fully expect to have to do this and I won't finish working on these until I am completely satisfied that they represent what I am after and comply with all the appropriate standards.

In other news, I have ordered the bronze hardware needed to restart construction and I expect to receive those items after Thanksgiving. I will then have enough materials to keep me occupied while saving for the next lumber purchase sometime in January.

We've had some fairly cold weather here this last week, so winter is definitely arriving and with it, the number of days I can use epoxy will be reduced. However, I expect there will be days when I can do some gluing. It will feel good to get back to hands on construction. All of this waiting has been frustrating.

So until next time, take care.

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