Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Flagship Marine air-conditioning installation

It took four weekends, but Gimme Shelter now has marine heat and air-conditioning.

We went with a Flagship Marine 12000 BTU unit as we liked both the fact that the units are made in the USA and they use a modular off-the-shelf construction, so should anything go wrong, it's easy to find parts. We ordered both the unit and the deluxe installation kit, so it came with the appropriate through-hulls, ducting, hoses, vents, pump and strainer.

We weren't completely thrilled to be giving up the closet, but getting rid of the space heater and the roll-around air-conditioner that were taking up space in the cabin made it a worthwhile tradeoff. It was also the easiest place to duct. We simply had to run one duct through the bulkhead into the main cabin and one out through the bottom of the closet and back up into the bukhead of the v-berth.

We installed the programmable thermostat in the nav station. 

Of course, to run the air-conditioner we had to install a new 20 amp breaker. Unfortunately the O'day panel only had three breakers: outlets, charger, and water heater. 

We took a trip to West Marine only to find out breaker panels are REALLY expensive. We decided go browse through the Kemah Boaters Resale Shop. 


Yes, we had to install it sideways. And yes, we still had to spend $65 to replace two of the breakers, which ended up different colors. However, the panel was only $8.99, and we didn't have to cut up the bulkhead.

It turned out to be a good thing we pulled the old panel out. The cable going to the outlets was in really bad shape.

The plastic casing of the 30 amp breaker on the panel also shattered when I attempted to unscrew the shore power leads. I guess it's good to inspect your electric lines every 32 years.

After three weekend of drilling holes, running cables, and re-wiring breakers, we came to the one thing we couldn't do ourselves -- drilling the through-hull.

We fired up Gimme Shelter and putted around the corner to South Texas Yacht Services to have them drill a hole in the bottom of our boat.

I had one friend who swore to me that we could drill a hole in the water as long as we had a bunch of rags to shove in the hole while we fished the through-hull through the bottom with a string. I decided it was worth it to pay for a haul out.

Quick hauls generally last one hour, but when they install a through hull they want to give it a little time for the sealant to cure a bit, so you basically get charged for two quick hauls. All in all, our "extended quick haul," pressure wash, zinc change and through-hull installation cost us $650. It added a lot to the cost of our air-conditioner installation, but not sinking at the dock was worth it.

We were back in our slip with the professionally installed through-hull and a clean bottom by 10:30 a.m., so I went to work installing the strainer and pump.

The heavy duty blue silicone hose was a nightmare to get onto the flanges. I finally boiled a pot of water and stuck the ends of the hoses in the water for about 15 minutes to get them flexible enough to install. They are so tight, I'm pretty sure the clamps aren't even necessary. 

The pump had plastic flanges and was much easier to install.

I opened the through-hull, kicked the thermostat over to "Cool", and checked our water flow.

Voila! We have air-conditioning.

No more lifting window units on and off the deck and leaving them on the dock. No more crappy roll-around units dumping condensation all over the floor and having to be lashed up against the wall when we go sailing, No more space heaters in the walkway causing us to worry about starting a fire. 

Will it be worth the investment? I sure hope so, but I guess we'll find out this summer.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Catching up

You probably thought we’d sailed away … which is ironic since we haven’t sailed at all.

Yes, we’ve neglected the blog, but sometimes actual work has to come first. However, with the first quarter coming to a close, and one of two large charity events behind us, our schedule is getting a little more bearable.

Remember when we moved out of Marina Del Sol because we wanted deeper water, and the ability to go sailing all winter? Well, that never happened.

Despite having access to the bay all winter long, Gimme Shelter never left the dock. The few weekends we might have gone sailing, we rode along on Antares for the Icicle Series Regatta or on the Tina Marie for a trip to Redfish Island. We’re actually a week behind the past years as it was always the second weekend in March that we made our first trip out.

To be fair, it has been the coldest winter in Houston that I can remember, and I’ve been here since 1995. In fact, I think we’ve had more freezes since the beginning of 2014 than in the past five years combined. It was also a windy, rainy mess this weekend.

You’d think that there would be a long list of repairs and improvements made to Gimme Shelter since we hadn’t been sailing. Not really.

I did replace the refrigerator lid. I also fixed the leaking mid-ship hatch. Then we pulled down the warped, moldy headliner in the cabin with every intention of making a new one. That project is kind of stalled out at the moment.

Mary got me a really nice insulated French press coffee maker for Valentine’s Day. That solved our coffee with no electricity at anchor situation, so I’ve never bothered to rewire to power inverter. I’ve also still never taken any action to replace the alcohol stove with the propane oven that has now been sitting in the garage for a year and a half.

However, I have spent the past three weekends working on the air-conditioner installation. At the beginning of February we ordered a 12,000 btu unit from Flagship Marine, and I’ve been slowly piecing it together.

I wouldn’t say it’s been a smooth process. Despite multiple measurements and calculations, the unit was too big to go under the starboard couch where we had planned for it to live. That meant giving up the hanging closet. Unfortunately, the closet had no floor, so a floor to support the system and still have the appropriate holes for ducting, wiring, water and drainage had to be constructed and installed. That was one weekend of work.

The next weekend we drilled holes all over the boat. We needed holes for the air-conditioning vents, holes for the wiring, a hole for the thermostat, and a hole to send the raw water overboard. I got the thermostat installed and the wiring run the length of the boat, but not connected. Our AC breaker panel was full, so a trip to boater’s resale found a new breaker panel that would fit the space of the old breaker panel, but with an extra breaker available for the air conditioning. Of course, some of the breakers in this bargain $8.99 panel didn’t actually work, so it took another trip to West Marine to find a working breaker for the air-conditioner. That weekend ended with all the new breakers sitting on the nav station.

This weekend saw the ducts put in place, although one of the drawers in the Vberth now has to be cut in half to shut with the duct behind it. (That’s on the list of future projects.) Then I started tinkering with the wiring. When I pulled the old breaker panel off, I found the power wire to the outlets was frayed and corroded. I had to make a run to West Marine for 12 awg butt connectors, so I could cut it back and splice new wire onto it. Then I attempted to remove the 30 amp main breaker, which I needed to re-use on the new panel, but the brittle plastic casing shattered into pieces. That required trip number two to West Marine for another $65 breaker. At some point in there I also sliced open my index finger, which required some first aid because I was getting blood all over everything, and we also had to stop and re-tie the dock lines because the wind was blowing so hard the boat had started banging into the dock. However, by Sundayafternoon my AC power was restored, and the Flagship Marine unit was blowing heat. Progress!

There’s only one step left to finishing the install, and we have an appointment with South Texas Yacht Services at 8 a.m. this Friday morning to pull the boat out of the water and drill a hole in the hull to install a raw water line.

While the installation of the air-conditioner is definitely a big step forward in terms of comfort at the marina, it’s also a big step forward when it comes to de-cluttering the boat. While we did lose some storage in the closet, it rid us of both the space heater and the large roll-around air-conditioning unit. More livable space is a huge plus. We also got rid of the microwave, which was only getting used once every six or eight weeks and a ratty deck chair that was taking up space.

Less clutter and some serious climate control should make this summer aboard Gimme Shelter much more pleasant.