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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Contruction, week 22.

Another two weeks have passed by and construction continues at a nice pace.  Outside down below the water line, you can see the rudder shoe along with the prop shaft hole

Rudder show and prop shaft hole

This is the grounding plate for the SSB radio, and below that you can see the pocket where the main engine keel cooler will be installed.

Grounding plate and pocket for keel cooler

The cockpit appears to be the preferred storage location for building supplies, but you can still see the opening above where the stairs go up to the boat deck.

Cockpit with stair opening
In the salon you can see the space really starting to take shape.  The stack in the middle shows the finished teak which will ultimately be throughout the boat.

Salon with finished stack
The stairs up to the pilot house are a little more finished than before, and you can see the runs of conduit that carry cables from one part of the boat to another.

Stairs to pilot house

Below is the main settee in the salon with curved corner.

Salon settee

It's just a start, but in the galley the cabinet dividing walls start to define the layout which will ultimately be filled by appliances, drawers, and cabinets.

Galley cabinet partitions

Here is one such cabinet showing another hint of the finished teak

Cabinet with finished interior

The main stateroom is really taking shape.  In the foreground is the bed, with a dressing table and drawers behind, along with two hanging closets and the bed side cabinet.  Far right is the doorway to the forward stairwell, guest stateroom, and office.

Master stateroom cabinets

Here's another view of the master stateroom with bed, side cabinets, and windows behind.

Master stateroom

Lots of progress on the guest vanity and surrounding walls.

Guest head

Looking aft, you can now see the office desk and recessed book cases

Office desk and shelves

Looking up the forward stairwell, there are additional recessed book shelves going in.

Forward stair well

In the pilot house, the lower console is now framed out

Pilot house console

Book shelves on the starboard side of the pilot house

Pilot house shelves
Here's the boat deck, and you can see the opening where the stairs come up.  There is an extension to the boat deck that isn't installed yet, so there will be even more room up here once completed.

Boat deck without extension

On the Portuguese bridge, we now have openings for a locker in the foreground, wing station beyond and above, and a vent below.

Locker and wing station

Looking aft in the pilot house, the settee is taking shape along with the doorway into the head.

Pilot house settee

Back on the Portuguese bridge, pumpout and other fittings are starting to appear.

Pumpout fittings

And down in the utility room, the cabinets for the laundry are frames out, including an access panel in the back of the left cabinet to access the stabilizer

Utility room cabinets

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Construction heats up again - Week 20

We are now at week 20 of construction and the swarm appears to have descended once again.  Lots has happened over the past 4 weeks which is encouraging since very little happened over the previous 4 weeks.  But I'm told this is normal and that the boat is on track.  Let's have a look at what's happening:

The first thing you might notice is that the boat deck is on, including the back of the pilot house and the pilot house roof which is also the deck of the fly bridge.  Even though these large sections of FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) are in place, they may very well get removed later on to install the engines.  I saw pictures of 6058 being built and the boat deck went on just like this, but was later removed to provide easier access to lower the engines down through the opening in the salon floor.  I'm also told that sometimes the engines are passed through the doorway we are looking at, then lowered down without removing the boat deck.  It will be interesting to see how this boat ends up being built.  But for now, the boat deck is in place.

Boat deck, pilot house aft walls and roof in place.

In the Salon, you can see that the teak and spruce floor has been installed, including all the access hatches.  It also looks like the veneer wood is on the stack as well.   And see the stairs going up into the pilot house on the right?  I don't think those were there before.
Teak and spruce sole installed

Here's the galley with teak and spruce installed as well.  The missing sections around the perimeter is where the cabinets will be.

Teak and spruce sole in galley

From the galley looking back towards the stairs, you can see various cabinet openings that weren't there before.

From galley looking towards stairs
 In the master stateroom you can see cabinets starting to take shape on the right.  There are also glimpses of the teak and spruce, though most of it is covered by protective plywood.

Cabinets started in master stateroom

Here's a much better view of the cabinets, along with the doorway that separates the master stateroom from the stairwell to/from the pilot house.

Master stateroom cabinets

Here's the office space coming to life.  Cabinet on the left, desk in the center, and recessed shelves on the right.

Office cabinets and desk

Here's the vanity for the guest head (bathroom), with the shower on the far left.  That looks like shelves built into the shower stall, but I don't remember them from looking other boats.

Vanity in guest hear
 Lots of progress in the pilot house is visible in this picture.  On the left is the settee where people can hang out while underway, along with a bunch of drawers and other storage spaces.  The raised platform in front of the settee will house a table.

Pilot house settee

Here we are looking forward in the pilot house and can see edges of the flooring though most is covered to protect it.  You can also see more of the teak paneling that will ultimately be throughout the boat.
Looking forward in pilot house

Here's a view aft in the pilot house showing the settee along with the windows through to the captain's cabin.

Pilot house

This is the captain's cabin though it's hard to really tell what's going on.  The flooring is down and cabinets are going in.  The space we are looking at in the background is where the bunk will be.

Captain's cabin

Here's the stairway down to the utility room.

Stairs to utility room

Down in the utility room there has been lots of progress on the cabinets.  This is the port side where there are over/under cabinets with the dryer on the upper right.  Or maybe it's the washer.  I can't remember which is on which side.

Utility room, port side

In the center of the utility room is where the freezer chest will go.

Utility room, space for freezer chest

And here is the starboard side with the drier space on the left.

Utility room, starboard side

And there is no shortage of activity up on the Portuguese bridge.  You can see openings for lockers, the wing station, and I think a vent.

Portuguese bridge
And here's a view of the boat deck from up top.  The curved opening is where the stairs come up from the cockpit, and the section in the foreground is the back of the captain's cabin where the foot of the bed tucks under.  Yet to be installed is a further extension of the boat deck so it covers the whole cockpit.

Boat deck

Build Progress - Week 16

Progress has been slow over the weeks leading up to these pictures which were taken week 16 (June 3, 2013).  Things have been done, but there is very little visible progress.  Here's what we have:

The so-called "forward basement" is a set of compartments forward of all the tanks and under the staterooms.  It's used for miscellaneous equipment with the remainder available for storage.  I hadn't seen any pictures of that area yet, so I asked Mike Jensen (our project manager) to snap a few when he was at the yard that week.

This picture shows one of the compartments in the basement.  The stepped shelf is for the hot water tank and the water pump.  The framed section behind I think is just to support a cover panel that will dress up the interior.  You can also see a couple of hoses hanging there, and just to the right of the vertical hose you might be able to make out the ends of 4 or 5 PVC pipes.  These run throughout the boat in different locations and serve as conduits for wires, pipes, hoses, etc.  If you have every tried to fish a wire through a boat to install some seemingly simple device, you will quickly appreciate these conduits.  At times I've spent an entire day just installing a single wire when there is no conduit.

Shelf in basement for water heater and pump

The Lazarette, or Laz for short, is the space underneath the cockpit.  The cockpit, by the way, is the aft-most outside area of the boat.  The laz is another storage and utility space housing the steering gear, batteries, inverters and chargers, dive compressor, and the boiler for the heating system.  They always end up full of other junk too.  I hadn't seen any pictures of the laz since the deck went on, so Mike snapped a few.

One of the things I'm really enjoying is seeing the construction process and techniques.  It's been full of surprises.  None of it bad, just very different from what I would have imagined.  The laz is an example.  The finished space has a molded deck to make up a  nice, finished floor.  But it's a big piece and isn't going to fit in through any hatch, so it has to be installed before the laz ceiling/cockpit deck is installed over it.  Since that upper deck has been in place for a while, I expected the laz floor section to be in place.  Nope!  It's in there, but is suspended from the ceiling.  The picture below is looking through the door from the engine room and you can see the floor section hanging there.  It looks like an elevator that stopped between floors.  This provides the necessary access to get the prop shaft and tubes installed before the floor goes down.

Looking into Laz with floor suspended from ceiling

Below is a peek into the laz looking under the suspended floor section.  The white structure in the center is for all the steering gear, and you can see the holes below and in the foreground where the prop shaft will run.

Laz, looking aft with floor suspended overhead

Other parts of the boat are showing progress, but it's been very little.  Down in the utility room you can see the rough stairs have been built and some of the walls are going in.

Utility room stairs

Utility room

From galley, looking down stairs to utility room
Other parts of the boat show similar levels of progress.  The pictures below show the salon and master stateroom where the wood sub-walls have been installed throughout most of the space.  These plywood sub-walls form the structure of the walls, but are not the finished surface.  Later on a thinner sheet of veneered wood goes over all the exposed surfaces to create the finished teak surface.  In this and the next picture, you can see the conduits that I mentioned earlier.  In the Salon they are visible under the window on the right.  And in the following picture they are under the windows behind the worker.

Salon with sub-walls installed

Master stateroom with walls and conduit

In the next picture you can see the guest stateroom and office starting to take shape.  There is a sliding door divider that separates the two spaces, and you can just see the header for it between and above the two doorways.  And for the first time we have two doorways.  Each provides an entrance to the forward head, and allows access without disturbing someone in the other space.

Guest stateroom/office, looking forward to head

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Diesel Heating System

This post a a bit of an historic memoir looking back at a topic that consumed most of my time from shortly after we contracted the N60 until about a month ago.  It's another subject that you would think would be easy, but ended up being another exercise in landing the boat on the moon.  The subject is heating the boat in cold weather.

When we contracted the boat we included the optional air conditioning system.  It is what's known as a reverse cycle system which means that it can both heat and cool.  You may be familiar with heat pumps in houses?  It's the same thing.  When cooling the boat, the system is moving heat from the boat's interior and dumping it in the ocean water.  When heating the interior, it is pulling heat out of the ocean water and dumping it in the boat.  But there is a little twist.  When the ocean water temp gets too low - somewhere in the 40's - there is no longer enough heat in teh ocean water for the system to extract and it shuts down.  But wait, there is a solution for that.  Each air handler (there is one in each living space) also has an electric heater coil that can be used when the water is too cold.  We figured this system would meet our needs so we signed on the dotted line and went off to enjoy the xmas and new years holidays.

But as I read more about other boats, I started to think our system wouldn't be enough, or at least was sub-optimal.  We plan to do a fair amount of high-latitude cruising where heat will be essential, and where the water temps can be quite low.  One guy had run up through the Canadian Maritimes and his heat crapped out on him.  Later he discovered that the system was fine and that he had just encountered water that was too cold.  We were up in the same area last summer and regularly saw water temps in the 30's and 40's, and that was in July!

Another worry was that running the heat would mean running the generator, and in colder climates it would mean running it all the time.  That's not our favorite was to cruise, and seems particularly nutty while underway when the main engine is producing gobs of waste heat and dumping it in the ocean.

And this is why many boats have hydronic heat, which is just a fancy word for circulating hot water heat like you find in many homes.  It's also commonly known as diesel heat since the main heat source is a boiler that burns diesel.  By the way, diesel and home heating oil are the same thing, plus or minus some additives, so these boilers are really no different in principal than a home oil boiler.  And, with a little bit of engineering and forethought, the system can be linked to the main engine and utilize the waste heat to warm the boat without having to fire the boiler.  That means free heat while underway.  And even when running off the boiler, the electric load is light so you don't need to run the generator.  Plus, it's a much more efficient use of diesel.  A generator is around 20% efficient when you look at the energy content of the fuel consumed versus the electric power available to heat the boat.  Most of the energy goes out the exhaust pipe and out the cooling system as heat.  A boiler, on the other hand, is about 85% efficient, i.e. 85% of the energy content of the fuel burned ends up as heat in the boat rather than heat dumped in the ocean.  It all sounds like a much better fit for our cruising plans.

All this convinced me we should add diesel heat, so the question became how and what kind.  PAE offers a wide range of "standard" options, all of which are engineered, priced, and ready to include with the check of a box.  The reverse-cycle air conditioning system is an example, but unfortunately diesel heat is not, so it becomes a custom option of one sort or another.  Some of these customizations PAE will engineer and build, and others they turn to various industry suppliers and specialists to provide.  Diesel heat falls into this later group.

Step one involved getting a proposal from an outfit in So. Cal. that PAE regularly works with.  The turn around time was good and within a week or two I had a sketch of a system design and pricing.

In parallel, I started talking to other boat owners, collecting names of suppliers and recommendations, and started calling the vendors who came most highly recommended.  This first big thing I discovered is that there are two findamentally different approaches to designing an AC+heat system for a boat.  The first appraoch is to build two independent systems, one the heats and one that cools.  With this approach I would proceed with the AC system currently planned, and build a completely independent and separate heating system.  The proposal that I had in hand was for this type of an independent system.  The second approach is to build an integrated system with a single set of air handlers in each room, and run either hot or cold water through the loops to heat or cool as needed.  Water chillers would cool the water, and a diesel boiler and/or engine heat would heat the water.

The engineer in me was immediately drawn to the integrated system.  I liked the idea of a single set of pipes run through the boat, and single set of air handlers ducts and vents, and a single set of thermostats and controls.  It seemed simpler and easier to build, but over time I became aware of the downsides too.  The challenges are:

  1. More complicated controls.  Some suppliers said they were never able to get these systems to work well.  Others said I need a $20,000 control system to make it work properly.  This greater expense is probably why integrated systems generally appear only in larger boats where the control system is a smaller portion of the total cost.
  2. Temperature limit problems with equipment.  The chillers typically used have a water temp limit of 140F, but boilers are typically run at 180F.  That means you either need to have a valve bypass system to keep the hot water away from the chillers, or you need to run the boiler at a much lower than normal temperature.  And since the boiler is also typically used as a source for domestic hot water, in the cooling season you will be running both hot and cold water that needs to be directed to the right places, and only the right places.  This is an example of why the control systems get complicated.
  3. Cooling vents are ideally located high up in a room since cold air drops.  This helps mix up the air and create even cooling.  Conversely, heat vents are ideally located low in the room since hot air rises.  With a combined system, you need to favor one system or the other and cannot optimize both.  I've experienced this on our Grand Banks when running the reverse cycle heat.  That system is optimized for cooling with all the vents high up in the rooms.  When heating, there is very distinct stratification of the heat.  Stand up and walk around and it's very warm, but sit down and you are quickly cold again.
The net result is that other that the duplication of certain components, the separate systems let you optimize each.  At the same time I was finding out that it would be much more difficult than ever imagined to find someone to build the stand alone system, let along an integrated system.  Dividing and conquering was sounding wiser and wiser.  I could let the ship yard build the AC system which they can do in their sleep and do it well.  And that system could serve as a backup heating system if I had trouble with the diesel system.  So after much fretting I relented and focused on a stand-alone diesel heat system.

I mentioned that finding someone to supply the heating system turned out to be much harder than I ever imagined.  I'd say it ranks right up there with finding monitors - perhaps even higher.

PAE, for very understandable reasons, wants suppliers for a system like this to provide the whole thing, soup to nuts.  It's the old one-throat-to-choke addage.  They want someone who will design the system, provide sufficient documentation for the yard to build it, supply all the parts, complete the installation at commissioning time, inspect fire and test the system, then stand behind it.  The proposal I had from the outfit in So. Cal. provided all that.  It's no wonder they are a prefered supplier for PAE.

But the more I studied the proposed system, the more concerned I became about its suitability for our needs which will involve some pretty cold places.  And this became more pronounced as I compared it to systems proposed by firms up in the Seattle area.  As an example, the So. Cal. system called for a 50kBTU boiler where the Seattle system called for 85kBTU.  That's a pretty big difference.  I also had at least one boat owner from the Seattle area assert that a 50kBTU system would not cut it up there.  And quite frankly, Seattle is not that cold.  If you want cold, go to Vermont in February.  Fortunately my boat can't, but THAT's cold.

Confused, I decided to try getting to the bottom of things and went to calculate the heat loads for all the spaces in the boat, then compare that against the heater sizes each proposal called for in those spaces, and to look at the total heat load which is what drives the boiler sizing.  Doing this is easier than it sounds.  There are guidelines for how many BTU you need per cubic foot of space, and it's easy to figure out the room sizes from the boat plans.  The results were interesting.

In both propsals there were heaters which were not optimally sized fro teh room, but far more were off on the So. Cal. proposal.  But that's not a huge problem.  After all, that's why we have thermostats.  But it is reflective of the attention paid to creating the design.

Second, both propsals totalled up to the same overall heat load which was about 95k BTU.  Since the per-room heaters tend to be slightly over-sized and compensated for with the thermostats, you would size the boiler to match the room loads or be slightly less.  Something like 85kBTU?  But not 50kBTU.  This was confirmation that the 50kBTU boiler was too small.  And a little research revealed that 50kBTU was as big as that vendor offers.

By this time it was March and I had pretty much decided to go with the Seattle proposal based on the more appropriately sized boiler and better domonstrated knowledge, but wanted to see some examples of these system installed in boats.  I was already signed up for the ABT hydraulics course in California, so decided to make a tour of the west coast visiting PAE in Dana Point to see an example of the So Cal. company's work, take the ABT course, then make a run to Seattle to see an example of their work.  It was time very well spent.

The visit to the So. Cal boat confirmed my concerns, and surfaced a few more.  Several of the aux heat exchangers weren't plumbed in the way they should be.  I had also noticed this in the drawing they provided with their proposal, but I chalked it up to a simple mistake that would be corrected on review.  The order that things are plumbed on  aheat loop matters in some cases to ensure you are picking up and dumping heat in the right order.  I asked about it and the guy said they do it both ways with some people prefering one over the other.  On that one I have to disagree.  It's thermodynamics and physics, not opinion and preference.  What they had would work, sort of, but was clearly suboptimal.  I also found a couple of air handlers that had no returns and were relying solely on air leakage around drawers and hatches.  Not good.

The Seattle visit was much more satisfying.  Not only did the drawing that they provided in advance correctly show how everything should be plumbed up, the example boats were well done too.  And I got a little bonus out of the deal too.  I was there over a weekend with time to kill so I took a drive up to Anacortes.  On one of the docks was an N60 - exactly the boat we are building - and there were a few people rummaging around on it.  After a while my staring made them nervous so I said Hi and introduced myself along with my adventure to build a replica of their boat.  Pretty soon Cameron Kemp was my new friend and I was aboard for a trial run to experiment with some autopilot adjustments they had made.  And guess what?  His boat has the exact diesel heat system that I was leaning towards, so I got a tour of that too.

Decision made.  Or at least so I thought.

On return I followed up with the Seattle company to get a complete quote, and to link them up with PAE to be sure it was clear what they needed to do, when, and where.  One of the challenges is that we are commissioning the boat in Dana Point, not Seattle.  There are a lot of people who will say Yes to something, but their actions communicate a different answer.  This turned out to be the case.  They became very difficult to pin down, and when I asked them questions that I expected them to answer, or get the answers, they sent me off to other people to get the answers.  That's not reflective of someone who is going to be the single point of contact to make a heating system come to life.  And PAE was having trouble connecting with him too.  My conclusion was that if the boat were being commissioning in Seattle, he would have been all over it, but that the Dana Point Commissioning was not a deal he was very interested in.  I could understand that, but prefer more direct communications.  No is the prefered answer when you mean No.

At this point I was really getting frustrated.  I had one guy who was stepping up to the plate as needed, but proposing a system that didn't cut it.  Then I had another guy with the right system but an unwillingness to step up to the plate.  Meanwhile, as part of this whole process I had done schematics showing the system the way I wanted it (the samples I had been given were for slightly different boats), I had run all the calculations, and had created a wiring diagram to match the plumbing and place the thermostats where I wanted them.  I had reviewed the whole package with Sure Marine who are the equipment distributor/supplier and who essentially provide all the design services to the installers anyway.  I had also reviewed all the heater placement with PAE and made adjustments at their suggestion.  The system design was 80%-90% done and in hand.  With a little touch up it would be suitable documentation for the yard to build to.

So, I think much to PAE's horror, I told them I was sick of all the running around (not by them, but by others) and that I was going to be the "general contractor" for the heating system.  I would provide the design and documentation, I would field any questions, I would provide the bill of materials along with who to buy from, I would get it all shipped to China, and I would commission it.  I would even buy all the equipment myself rather than doing it through them if they prefered.  After some more back and forth, we had a plan.  After talking to Sure Marine, PAE agreed to use my build plans and buy through Sure.  They also added a few more things that they wanted Sure to supply to make the build easier in China, and Sure was able to do that.  Then PAE give the plans to the yard to get a build quote.  All this got rollup up into a full quote to me with all the appropriate mark ups and mark downs with a satisfactory end number.  The only missing piece is the commissioning, and we agreed that we would select and hire someone at commissioning time to do that work.  Both the So Cal. and Seattle guys are candidates, along with a few others.

In the end I'm happy with the results, though the journey was long and frustrating.  I attribute most of the trouble to commisioning a boat in a location where there is not a wealth of heating experience, but it is what it is.  My other wish is that PAE would make diesel heat one of those pre-engineered, check-the-box options, and obviously offer a truely cold weather capable system.  They do offer an easy path for customers to add diesel heat, but I don't think the product is up to snuff.  And it's otherwise an exercise for the reader to figure out an alternative.