Friday, May 10, 2019

Albin 28 Solar Panel Installation

Compadre at the public dock in Long Beach
Like most Albin 28's, Compadre is fitted with a Group 31 starting battery and a single 8D house battery. This is enough reserve power most of the time, but there are occasions when we need a bit more, like when we're on the hook for three days or four days at a time. As a staunch "Keep-it-simple" kind of guy, I don't have a generator aboard so that means we've had to run the diesel to top up the batteries whenever we're anchored out for more than a couple of days. To help solve that issue I decided to install a solar panel.

I chose a 50 watt kit from GoPower. The kit includes a flexible panel, controller, wiring and fasteners.
A panel this size won't meet all of our power needs but I'm interested only in augmenting our battery power, not replacing it and this is an economical starting point that I can expand by adding another 50 watt panel if necessary.
Cost of the GoPower 50 watt kit was just under $400

The installation was straightforward. The first step was to determine the best place to locate the panel. I chose the area aft of the radar arch because it's pretty much out of harm's way there, and it would be easy to route the wiring from there to the battery. Once that decision was made I did the wiring, running the wires down the starboard cabin-side to the engine compartment, across the boat and up to the the DC panel above the galley where the controller would be located. Then came the fun part.

I wanted to fabricate a box that would accommodate the controller along with a USB charging port and a 12 volt outlet as well. We always seem to need more charging ports for phones, Pads, etc.
I edge-glued strips of 1" x 3/16" teak to make an 8"x 16" panel. The reason for this is because the controller and some of the other components could not accommodate a thicker panel. I then glued together a teak box and assembled the panel to it. The edge-glued surface made for an interesting grain pattern.

Laminated panel front.

Rear of the panel reinforced with 1/4" plywood

Box is assembled and ready for varnish.
The depth of the box accommodates the various components. 

First coat of varnish applied. The box would receive a total of seven
coats of Epifanes high gloss.
While the varnish work was going on I finished the installation of the solar panel. For safety I mounted it on 1/4" spacers. It can be a fire hazard to mount the panel directly to the cabin top. Feeding the wires through the cabin top required a custom feed-through block, which I made from Starboard.

Solar panel is 45" long and fits nicely aft of the radar arch.
Feed-through block accommodates heavily insulated wires and butt
connections to #10awg Ancor wiring. I drilled a 9/16" hole through
the cabin top and installed plastic races leading to the support pillar
to conceal the wires on the underside of the cabin top.


Wire race on the underside of the cabin top.
The wires feed through the top at the upper left end of the race.

Wires enter the cabin side here.

Installation complete.
The rocker switch on the right energizes the USB and 12v ports.
The toggle switch on the left connects the solar panel to the charge controller.

For a clean  installation, I epoxied a pair of  #10-24 threaded rods into the rear of the box and bolted it to the bulkhead from the inside.  I removed the DC panel to gain access to this area. One interesting glitch in the installation is that the bulkhead where I wanted to mount the box is not flat. It's warped about 3/8" from corner to corner. Other than that, it was a fairly easy project to complete.  We're headed over to the island soon and will find out if the 50 watt panel adds enough power for our needs.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Albin 28 Upgrades

We've had Compadre for a bit over a year and have been enjoying our Island Commuter quite a lot. During this time I've made some additions to the boat that make it more suitable for our purposes and I thought it would be good to share them.


Compadre at her home port of Two Harbors
Last spring we hauled the boat at Sunset Aquatic Shipyard and applied a new, still experimental paint called Awlgrip HT. With really great support from our Awlgrip rep, Stan Susman, the boat turned out beautiful. While it was on the hard I had the prop tuned up and repaired the exhaust thru hull, which had small leak in it.




Freshly tuned prop.

We wanted a really good tender for the boat, one that would plane. The problem is that a dinghy and motor of that size is difficult to fit on a 28 footer. The solution was an 8'-6" RIB with a 6hp outboard. When we're not using it, the dinghy rides on the swimstep and the motor lives on a custom-made bracket. To make life easier, I also built a hoist so we could store the motor in the cockpit and then swing it out over the dinghy.  But I didn't want some clunky-looking crane permanently mounted  on the transom so I made it collapsible, so it would stow in the cockpit when not in use.

The dinghy rests on the swimstep when we're underway. It's light enough that I can
pull it up on the step without any assistance.

The bracket is designed and located so nothing interferes with the bait tank, mooring cleat or fuel fill. The dinghy planes easily with two aboard the dinghy.

The frame is welded 7/8" stainless tubing and the wood part is made of varnished teak.



I added 1/4" StarBoard to protect the varnish.


When not in use, the hoist stows neatly on a rod holder.
I fabricated the upper and lower mounting brackets from fiberglass. 

The vertical part of the hoist slides through the upper bracket and fits into the
lower bracket.
After I set the upright part into the brackets, the arm pivots up to about 30 degrees above horizontal and is secured to
the top of the upright. To make it easy to raise and lower the motor I added Harken blocks to make 4:1 purchase. One of the blocks is a ratchet block for security.

The block and tackle. The rope is led to a cam cleat on the upright.
When  the dinghy is in the water, the motor swings out far enough that it lowers almost directly onto the dinghy's motor mount. The geometry is such that it works if the dinghy is situated at the stern of the boat or alongside. Very convenient.
It takes two of us about ten minutes to deploy the dinghy, set up the hoist, drop the motor into position, and connect the fuel line, and we're ready to go.

Another fun project was making a nice looking footrest for the helmsman. I glued a couple of pieces of teak together, cut it to the proper shape and mounted it with a couple of hinges. I added a second aluminum footrest because when we're socializing, we often turn the seat around to face the cockpit and it's nice to have a footrest facing that way too.

The footrest hinges up out of the way when servicing the engine.

The nonskid adds a bit of security when it's rough.

We are often at anchor or on a mooring five or six days at a time and found that fresh water can run low, especially since our boat is set up with freshwater flush for the toilet. So now we use tank water for washing dishes, freshwater rinse after swimming and, of course, flushing. For drinking water, I build a shelf in the galley that fits the 2.5 gallon water containers from the grocery store.

The shelf is mounted high enough that we can fill a tall glass of water from the spout.

I discovered the hard way that a bit of nonskid under the container prevents it from falling out of its perch when it's rough.


When we got the boat, the rubber coating on the steering wheel was a bit gummy and I couldn't find anything that would fix that. So I found a leather wheel cover kit online. Problem solved.

The supple leather cover feels great and shows no signs of wear after a year of use.

It was a bit of a chore to get the stitching right, but well worth the effort.

My next project is to add a pair of solar panels on the cabin top. After three or four days at anchor, I have to run the engine to recharge the batteries. The solar panels will make Compadre electrically independent.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Alerion 41 Review


Alerion 41 - Classic Elegance
The Alerion line of sailboats has long been one of my favorites, the first of which is the beautiful Nathaniel Herreshoff inspired Alerion Express 28, which was designed by Carl Schumacher. Sadly, Carl passed away in 2002, but the company has persevered and the Alerion 41 is the latest and largest of the line. The concept behind the 41 is a boat with classic lines above the waterline combined with a modern hullform below. Nowadays there are many boats of this type to choose from but few, very few, have come as close to that ineffably perfect balance of aesthetics, performance and comfort as the Alerion 41 does.

It all begins with the hull. The literature I received did not state who drew the lines for this boat so I will tip my hat to the entire Alerion design team.  In designing a boat of this type, we usually start with the sheer. The designer will put a lot of effort into getting the sheerline just right. Once that's done, he or she will work on the stem and stern overhangs to achieve balanced proportions.  Get these basics right and the rest of the hull design follows naturally. Freeboard on the A41 is rather low and the fairbody line is shallower than we would expect in a boat of this type. These design features make for lively performance at the expense of cruising accommodations. I think this is an excellent trade-off in view of the fact that the A41 is intended as a daysailer and coastal cruiser, and not an offshore passagemaker.






As I studied the drawings of this boat I began to see interesting similarities not with Herreshoff's designs but with Bill Lapworth's iconic Cal 40. Here are some numbers:

Alerion 41 Cal 40
LOA 40.50' 39.33'
LWL 30.50' 30.33'
BMAX 11.16' 11.00'
DRAFT  5.92' 5.58'
DISP 16,000 lbs 15,000 lbs
BALL 6,000 lbs 6,000 lbs
Bal/Disp 37.50% 40.00%
S/A 942 sf 700 sf
SA/D 23.82 18.48
D/L  252 240

I thought it would be fun to include profile drawings of both boats for comparison. While the Alerion is slightly longer than the Cal, the extra length is concentrated in the aft overhang.

Alerion 41
Cal 40
Drawing courtesy of Cal40.com

The Alerion's appendages are more modern than the Cal's but the overall proportions of the boats are, to my eye, quite similar. The Alerion will certainly be faster than the Cal due to its larger sailplan and more efficient foils, which is as it should be, but it would still be interesting to sail these boats side by side.

The Alerion comes standard with a carbon fiber mast with double spreaders and no backstay. This arrangement allows for lots of roach in the full-batten mainsail and makes handling that big sail quite easy. The optional V-shaped carbon fiber boom is lightweight and makes stowing the mainsail convenient. The jib is set on a Hoyt jib-boom which I would ordinarily not be a fan of, because they are heavy and not much fun to sail with in light air. The Alerion design team incorporated a gas spring to push the boom out when sailing with the jibsheet eased, solving that problem.

Big mainsail, non-overlapping jib and Harken electric "Rewind" winches make sailing the Alerion 41 simple. 



A large, comfortable cockpit. Notice the single helm. There is a cleverly designed boarding platform built into the transom.
Photo courtesy of Yachtworld.com


The bow roller pivots back into the anchor locker when not in use. A gas spring provides an assist so deploying the anchor is easier than it looks.


Sail controls are led to banks of rope clutches near the helm, leaving the forward part of the cockpit exclusively for lounging. Notice the beautifully varnished cap on the coamings. 


Going below, the first thing you'll notice is the exceptionally fine craftsmanship throughout the boat. Then you'll notice the refreshingly traditional layout of the interior components. This is a boat that has everything you need and nothing you don't need in terms of comfort and utility. A decent V-berth, a small but serviceable head and a couple of lockers occupy the area forward of the main bulkhead. The salon incorporates a large dropleaf table flanked by port and starboard settee berths. There is a hideaway chart table located at the aft end of the starboard settee. Nowadays, most navigational chores are handled by the GPS or tablet so a dedicated chart table isn't a necessity, but a desk is always desirable aboard. My guess is that most A41 owners will leave the small but reasonably adequate chart table in the deployed position.
Traditional accommodations plan


Aft to starboard is a quarter-cabin with a snug double berth. This will be the best place to sleep while underway. The galley is big enough for simple meals and incorporates enough storage space for local cruising.
Alerion 41 salon, a study in simple elegance. The chart table, at right, can be lowered to extend the length of the settee.
Photo courtesy of Yachtworld.com



While not a racer, the A41 could be raced at the club level but that's not its raison d'etre. This boat is as much a work of art as a sailboat, an elegant machine for afternoon cruises and long languorous weekends at the Island.  For more information contact Walter Johnson Yachts in Corona Del Mar.



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Transpac Start 7-6-2017



Records fell in the 2017 Transpac race. It wasn't because this was a particularly windy race. It was because the boats that entered this year's race were faster than in previous years. Comanche, the 100 foot supermaxi set a new Transpac 24 hour record of 484.1 NM, which works out to an average speed of just over 20 knots. Comanche finished with an elapsed time of 5:01:55:26, beating the record set by Alfa Romeo in 2009 by over 12 hours.

We took our Albin 28, Compadre out to watch the start of the big boats, and Steve Crisafulli brought a camera. The photos below are all courtesy of him.

Comanche's crew prepares to hoist the headsail.


A few minutes after the start we paced Comanche at 13 knots upwind in light air. 

I searched around the Internet and found a line drawing of Comanche. Note the canting keel, inward canted daggerboards with winglets, and twin rudders. The boat was designed by the firm of VPLP in cooperation with Guillaume Verdier.

Just for fun I did some rudimentary calculations for Comanche based on published data and came up with a Sail Area/Displacement Ratio (SA/D) of 80.4 and Displacement/Length Ratio  (D/L) of 29.50. These numbers put the boat squarely in the "Sportboat" category. Aboard Compadre, we paced Comanche at a bit more than 13 knots as the big sloop headed for the West End in a light breeze.

The other supermaxi in the race was Rio 100, which claimed the Barn Door trophy as the fastest human-powered monohull in the race, with an elapsed time of 6:17:09:09, roughly 40 hours slower than Comanche. Rio struck a UFO (Unidentified floating Object) and had to make emergency repairs while underway and finished with only one rudder.
Rio 100 a few minutes after the start. Compare the size of Rio's headsail with that of Comanche.

Fifteen years ago Merlin was brought into my shop for a refit. The boat had been rode hard and treated poorly for decades and was in bad shape. Her new owner, a rancher/business tycoon from Texas wanted to remake her into something of a luxury racer cruiser, which I thought could be a good thing for the boat. I drew a nice, low slung cabin trunk and recommended that he get rid of the canting keel which was pretty useless without a daggerboard. In the end the owner opted to keep the canting keel and wanted a cabin with full headroom for himself. He was a tall man, and wore cowboy boots and a Stetson whenever he visited my shop. So we raised the cabin trunk another six inches. We opened up the transom and redesigned the cockpit, and artist Gary Miltimore gave it a dazzling paint job. Merlin finished with an elapsed time of 8:02:34:09, making her the fastest boat in Division 2.

It was great to see Merlin back in action under the command of her designer Bill Lee





Medicine Man is another boat that has undergone a considerable amount of surgery. This Alan Andrews design started out as a 56 footer with tiller steering. Over the years the boat received a new bow, new stern, water ballast, and gained roughly seven feet of length in the process.

Medicine Man finished 4th in Division 1 with an elapsed time of 7:20:45:51.


The big multihulls put on a show, with Mighty Merloe, an ORMA 60 trimaran setting a new record of 4:06:32:30.
Phaedo looks about ready for lift-off. This MOD 70 trimaran finished second, three hours after Merloe.
Maserati, also a MOD 70 takes aim at the Transpac record.
The Gunboat 62, Chim Chim must have provided a luxurious ride to Honolulu, with an elapsed time of 7:15:01:14, which works out to an average of 12 knots for the 2,225 mile race. 

Back on the home front, Compadre has been undergoing lots of repairs, modifications and upgrades. I'll post photos soon.