This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life. I love it all!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Marina Shore Power Upgrades and Isolation Transformers

Cruising in the south sound last August, we arrived at the Poulsbo Marina. Calling in on channel 66A we were assigned our slip along “D” dock. We went through the usual litany of our arrival check list. All went well and after tying up we plugged in to the 30 Amp shore power service and were about to head for the harbor master’s office to check in, when we noticed our monitor indicated we were not getting power. After double checking we mentioned this to the office manager. She happened to have an electrician right there and he was sent down to our boat.

 “Your boat has a problem”, he told us. As it turned out several other boats just arriving were suffering from the same issue.  He explained that as marinas and docks upgrade their facilities, they will be adding Ground-Fault Interrupt (GFI) protection breakers to shore power receptacles. GFI breakers are designed to trip and turn-off power if it detects an imbalance in the power (amperage) going to the boat and returning via the shore power cable/wiring. In the past, marina shore power receptacle breakers have only had over-amperage breaker switches to protect the shore power wires and cables. These new GFI breakers will trip, turning off power, if the boat incorrectly leaks amperage, and will trip if too much amperage is consumed.
Upon returning to our home port I contacted my electrician and after explaining what had happened he suggested I might need what is called an Isolation Transformer. After a bit on on-line research I began to understand the situation better. Apparently, my boat along with a lot of older boats, give off stray voltage into the water and back to the shore power box.

Solution: Either spend what could be quit a lot of money searching for the source of the stray voltage aboard or, install the Isolation Transformer. My electrician advised the later for my particular situation. 
So, on a recent morning, Shawn from Pacific Marine Electric showed up with his tools and a heavy wooden crate. The crate contained a heavy metal case containing two copper coils buried in a mixture of sand and epoxy and the connectors for the wiring to the boat.  Shawn opened up both the forward hatch leading to the utility tunnel in the deck just below the main helm and the AC breaker panel. In about 3 hours he had the unit installed.                                                                                         
My unit, a Charles Marine ISO-G2 3.6 kVA Isolation Transformer weighs in at 70 pounds and costs around $650 shipped.  It must be wired within 10 feet of the shore power inlet on the boat. Wired up, it quietly (does have a faint hum) and completely isolates input power from output power for improved safety and prevents galvanic current corrosion due to direct connection to AC shore power. Basically, it isolates the boat eliminating our problem. We should also see an improvement in the longevity of our zincs. In short, we are now prepared for the coming modernization of our marinas both here and in Canada.

Shawn also noticed the plug in for shore power on the boat and the shore power cord were corroded and recommended they be replaced I had him relace the boat plug immediately and ordered a new Marinco 30 amp cord. Aside from corrosion control measures at connestion points around the boat, I can't imagine what else we can do to make our boat as up to date as possible electrically.

Repair, Clean Up and Hold the Line

We’ve been considering the purchase of a new dinghy now for a few years and keep putting it off for reasons of the cost or because we were able to extend the old dinghy’s life with a stop gap repair. The problem has been that ever since a Canada cruise several years ago when I went fishing in the dinghy, little pin holes from fish flopping around on the inflatable deck developed. Repairs at the time seemed to work but in the last couple of years either the repaired leaks and or new ones have developed so that the floor doesn’t stay inflated for more than a week or so. That’s not good if you suddenly need to abandon ship.

It was my wife who thought up the idea to just replace the floor. The outer tubes are rock solid so maybe that was a possibility. Contacting Mercury HQ I found out that there is a replacement floor available for about $450, a far cry from the cost of a new dinghy. And as every penny counts I decided to go ahead and order the part through the local Mercury dealer—Cap Santa Marine in Anacortes. More about this in a future blog as it will be about a week before the part arrives. So, the hope is that this, though another stop gap remedy, will hold off the need for a new dinghy another few years. Cross your fingers!

I have been frustrated for a long time with having to haul our heavy gas powered pressure washer down to the boat every time I need to do a heavy cleaning. In an ad the other day Harbor Freight listed their 1750 psi electric pressure washer on sale for 20% off, only $80. I took advantage
of that and the new washer is assembled and fits perfectly in our dock locker between uses. It’ll get pulled
out for its first use very soon.

Finally, we have had a problem with a canvas repair done by a local canvas shop for some time. When they replaced the windows a few years ago after sun and time had cracked them, the repair worked fine for a season or so, then suddenly the canvas shrunk so that it no longer stretched far enough to allow the snaps to meet between the boat and canvas. This allowed the canvas to flap around bouncing off the cap rail rubbing it raw in places. My fix was to purchase snap extenders which add  an inch or so to the canvas allowing it to be secured to the boat. It’s quieter in windy conditions and causes less wear and tear on the cap rails and canvas. As for that canvas shop? I found another shop which works cheaper and faster AND their quality is much better too. Interested? Try Northwest Tarp & Canvas on Holly Street.

The Key of Sea, meanwhile, made a fine show of herself on our first cruise of the season--the Shakedown Cruise to the Cap Sante Marina about 15 nm south of Bellingham. We left the harbor on Thursday, 12 April and aside from a rain squall part way there, we had a very quiet cruise.

I can't say the same for day 2. Friday dawned with gale force winds gusting to 45 MPH. It was a stay in dayand except for brief visits to other boats who had made the journey the day before and a docktail gathering around 5:30, we did just that.

Day 3 was calmer but the rains came. Still several more boats showed up and by 5:30 we were all heading down to the party barges for a dinner of BBQ pork loin and plenty of pot luck dishes.

Day 4 was time to head for home. Happily the day dawned calm and partly sunny. We went out to breakfast at Dad's Diner down on Commercial, a popular breakfast/lunch joint, with some dear friends of ours. Then headed back to the boat for our pre-departure check and farewells to neighbors. The cruise home was as smooth as Thursday's cruise south. Docking went great and we were home and in the shower by a little after noon.

Next cruise? Possibly to Blaine for the SeaSkills Rendezvous or else to points west later in the summer. We have cruises planned for the south sound and to the Gulf Islands of Canada this year.