Sunday, May 22, 2011

Frustrations with Arithmitick-Amps, Watts, Volts and Hours

The new motor is a game changer. I slid out of the harbor several times after spending a while playing with it. On the way back in from the 3rd load, the battery quit. It is an 80 amp hour deep cycle marine battery charged by a 20 watt solar panel.

So the new motor is a game changer as long as I only want to work about an hour and a half a day. I started doing some remedial algebra in hopes of monkeying the variables. Batteries hold amps. Solar panels deliver my beloved photons turned electrons in watts. The battery gives volts. Motor draws 50 amps at full speed. The unhappy conclusion of my math exam was that a full charge takes days for the solar panel while the motor only takes an hour and a half of full time operation to drain the battery. Then there's the winch that also needs photons.

'Twar the winch who deceived me at the outset. The winch growls and generates huge torque for easily pulling traps up to the boat. I used it for many full days last summer and never seriously dented the photon bank. The battery never registered more than about 25% depleted. I figured that if the winch could work that hard and not run the battery flat, then the motor would perform similarly because it is so quiet and turns in the water, rather than growling up traps. Not so.

Now I have to either have at least a couple batteries charging and swap them, bring the main one in and charge it on household current-losing my zero carbon credibility- or not run the motor much. Too bad, 'cause it's so fun. And easy.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Breaking the Logjam

I'm going to post the actual progress for a while and stop trying to find meaning. I've gotten things rolling with setting traps out for the season. I'm up to 35 after being at it a day and a half. That would take an hour or so in a conventional boat. The weather, tides and other circumstances have made it a challenge.

The good news is that the new electric motor, charged via solar panel, is a game-changer. It is very handy to slide along with a load of traps and not need all the space that 8 foot oars require. I found it strange to get places and not exert myself. I feel like I'm riding an aquatic powered skateboard. It is to my liking.

The less good news is that the same company that sells the motor also sells a "trolling motor power center"- basically a box to keep the battery dry and provide external electrical connections. The problem is that the box is wired with components that stand up to salt water about as well as do wheat thins or kleenex. The works were highly corroded- inside the supposedly waterproof enclosure, from last year. Clayton helped me rip out the rotted tissues and replace a circuit breaker. The other problem is that the external posts corrode together miserably, requiring pliers and threatening to shred the wires attached to the post.

The end result is that the motor can't get power out, and the solar panel can't get photons turned into electrons. I really need photons! They're very helpful to me. Some marine grease is probably called for. LPS 5 or something.

The other report is that solar-electric boats work, at least so far. It's a little early to tell how well the panel will keep up with both the winch and motor.

There's a hummingbird outside the slider. The feeder is empty. I need to find out how much sugar, water and red stuff to put in.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Held Over: The March Hare Show

I want to work. I've waited for good conditions. I've stewed til the stew is stuck and blackened on the bottom of the stewpot in my soul. The mortgage is coming due. The rain, fog and wind seem eternal. My family and I have been away for most of the last month with one thing and another.

This morning there was a 20 minute window of favorable trap setting conditions. That's been it for the last I don't know how long. Unfortunately, I showed up at the harbor after that period expired. As a result, I got a grand total of 5 traps in the water and got thoroughly drenched in the process. It's pouring. I've got other commitments in the afternoon.

Many other frustrations leapt at me. The inner harbor is pretty well useless unless one is parking large skows there and running lines in every direction from them. I installed my mast, sail and radar reflector yesterday and discovered, as I was trying to load traps in the rapidly filling and very congested inner harbor, that I can't get a load on with the mast in. Take it out and hurl the whole business on the banking, along with many verbal unpleasantries.

All the variables are aligned perfectly against me being productive. If you see me, stay clear. I am mad as a March hare when there's been three months' worth of March.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Return of Sweet Pea

It's a good thing we've had two Marches and swapped May for an extra April. The very tardy transition to warmth, sunshine and calm waters around the island would be making me crazy except that I've had so many other crazinesses and obstacles and unexpected opportunities- yes, let's call these little surprises "unexpected opportunities"- that I hardly noticed that everything is a month behind. I have no traps in the water yet, which puts be behind last year, when I knew not me arse from me stern. The gardens aren't going in. The blossoms aren't coming out. There's hardly any recreational firearm discharge at all coming from the isolated ends of the island.

Among the UO's was a chance to visit at the Carpenter's Boatshop for several days last week. I got to play with boats, recharge in the spirit, and be extravagantly well fed by the same organization that made the whole project possible by delivering Sweet Pea into my family here on Matinicus.

Less fun last week were unexpected road trips, appointments, gambling on being able to stuff the family into a Cessna between fog and showers, and how, right in the middle of the crazy scheduling and coordination, out falls a big chunk of one of my molars.

I found out yesterday that photons take years to escape the sun's core from whence they are liberated. They have to bounce, get absorbed into and then escape many, many times from nuclei of other atoms before they head to earth to jump into my solar panel and charge my system aboard Sweet Pea. The 96 million mile commute is apparently no big deal after ten years inside the sun. I feel as a photon this year, having to collide with and then extricate from all manner of things that take me off the island or away from my work.

It is no small wonder, then, that Sweet Pea is actually ready for salt water. While Lydia was home week before last, she helped clean, sand and refinish the interior. We put a bit of bottom paint on and now just need to borrow a trailer and something to pull it.

There can be no more optimistic smell than linseed oil, turpentine and pine tar on thirsty wood at the beginning of the season. The before and after video appears below.

Me and my photons are outtahere! Pretty soon. I'm figuring. Depends, I guess.