Making the Most of a Minimal Budget. Contact me at: or on Twitter: @skintsailor

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

No work at the Weekend

I got on board Sprite for an hour on Saturday as the tide was ebbing.

I was tied up in the morning getting one of my motorcycles ready for selling, so that took up most of the day.

My bikes were mine long before I moved to the South coast and I've not ridden them since I had a major abdominal operation back in 2008 (apparently the odds were 75-25 against me surviving!) which took a few months to fully recover from (although through sheer bloody-mindedness and willpower I made sure I was well enough to get married 6 weeks after the op!). So its time to part ways. I'll put the money to good use. Did someone say auxiliary outboard motor?

Sunday was blowing quite bad and deathly cold, so I stayed in.

Today an eBay purchase arrived: I got a cheap waterproof sailing jacket for under £20. Never been worn, a little dusty and still with the tag on. Not one of the big names, but as long as it's waterproof it will do fine. My faithful old Helly Hansen jacket has started to leak after 15 years of service.

I need to knuckle down and get some jobs done. The bad news is the long range forecast for Saturday is pretty bad. It's about time these cold northerlies changed for warmer southerly winds.

High tides are around 7am and 8pm-ish on Saturday so It's not a ridiculously early time to get down there and not ridiculously late to float off the beach and back onto the mooring. Neap tides though so only 4m.

I just need a bit of a weather window.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Dues Due

Its that time of year again, I've just made my annual 5 minute visit to the harbourmaster's office and paid my harbour mooring fees. £132 for the year including harbour dues.

It's a red ticket for 2015:

I also hopped on the boat for an hour, just to check everything over. The solar charging regulator is working, the battery is currently at 13.6 volts. I've left a pound-shop dehumidifier in the cabin to see how it gets on.

I also got some stainless screws from eBay to refit on the bow roller. I might as well do a bit of upgrading while I'm doing them, so the screws will get nyloc nuts so they don't loosen, drop off and end up in the bilges again and they'll also get some bigger washers.

Hopefully I'll get that done this weekend. Or I'll do some sailing. It depends on the weather.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Waterproofing a Tablet

At Christmas I blogged about getting the Hudl2 tablet.

It's great for doing all kinds of stuff including navigation, viewing AIS info, weather reports, etc. All of that is fine, but like any other electronic device its vulnerable to water ingress. Which is not such a good thing on a boat when you're surrounded by water and it may also be coming from the skies in bucketloads!

So? Get a waterproof case for it I hear you say...

But then you have the problem of plugging a charging lead into the thing. A waterproof bag is great but waterproof usually means "anything-else-proof" as well. Which is a problem because when you're running something like a chartplotter app on a tablet, it's using a lot of processing power, as well as using the GPS and maybe the mobile network too. All of which means the tablet's battery life is pretty short when running navigation apps.

But in true Baldrick-esque fashion I had a cunning plan....

Well actually I had a series of cunning plans....

Plan A was to buy a case with a headphone lead for my phone and adapt it for battery charging. I bought a similar case months ago and didn't get time to adapt it, but then along came the Hudl.

Change of plan then. Plan B was buy a case with a waterproof headphone socket for the Hudl. Plan C was to modify a case if I couldn't fine a suitable one.

However at the London boat show there was a stall with tablets and phones in cases in a tank of water. They'd done exactly what I wanted to do and modified the headphone socket to supply power, so they could have the phones and tablets on constant display.

I bought a 10" tablet case for £20. The Hudl2 is an 8 inch tablet, but I figured I'd need the extra space for the adaptor lead. So I was on for plan B. The good thing in particular about the Seawag case I bought is that the headphone socket and plug are the 4-pole variety, which replicates the 4 wires on a USB charging lead.

The first thing was to buy a 4-pole 3.5mm jack plug and appropriate socket from Maplins. Then it was a case of cracking out the soldering iron and cutting a USB lead up. All I had to do was make sure the pin I soldered a wire to on the jack plug was replicated on  the socket, so the connections just passed through the plug and socket.

Obviously I didn't cut the lead in half, because all I needed at the "tablet" end was a couple of inches of wire. Then I'd have almost the full length of the USB lead from the case back to the charger.

So Here's how it looked once I cut and soldered:

Then to test your soldering, connect the two together and see if it works. It's probably best to try this with an old phone or something you don't mind blowing up, just in case you get it wrong! Please note I won't be held responsible if you try this and get it wrong. If you're not sure you can do it yourself, then get someone else to do it for you.

Then plug the plug into the case:

Then plug the plug in the case into the socket on the short bit of USB cable:

Then finally put the tablet in the case, Plug the charging lead and seal it all up to make it waterproof and voila! Charging while sealed in a waterproof case!

All done: sealed and charging.
So that's one on-shore job that's done.

Today's tides were a bit poor timing and height wise, so no boat this weekend.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Upgrading Dodgy Electrics

Today's weather has been mild and clear, so this lunchtime it was off to the boat to investigate and solve the problem with the electrics. It was almost like summer. To be honest apart from the recent cold spell, we've had a pretty mild winter this year. You can tell by the number of Geese that are overwintering in the harbour. The numbers are well down on last year, I assume they are haven't had to go this far South this year.

What a gorgeous day. And it's still only February!
Straight away, after checking the battery lead, I could see the problem:

That blue dust was all that was left of the main battery wire

The outer insulation had cracked, allowing damp in and the main battery lead had completely corroded to blue dust. The black sheathed wire on the right is the main battery wire and the white sheathed wire on the left is the charging wire from the engine.

So on with the job: I completely replaced the charging lead from the engine. Well more exactly I replaced the wire all the way back to the rectifier that I refurbished last year. Then I replaced the main battery lead, in the process I fitted my latest budget buy, a £16 solar charging regulator:

I think this controller shows enough operating info...

I ran a pair of chunky wires from the battery to the regulator and then from the regulator to the main battery switch. No voltage drop anywhere from the battery to the fuse/switch panel.

Once I got a decent connection to the fuse panel, I then ran a line from the charging regulator to the solar panel. The panel already has a 12v lighter style plug on it, so once the new cable was run under the bunks and round to the the entrance, I put a 12v socket on it.

Lots of spare wire, but it'll be tidied later.
I didn't have time to tidy up the wiring as by now the tide was dropping. I'd been on the boat almost 3 hours and I needed to leave. I got it all connected temporarily and then packed up.

Unfortunately The solar panel was pointing away from the Sun so there wasn't much charge. I didn't get time to sort the settings on the charge controller much, but on another visit I'll check things out. Eventually I've blog on how well the controller works.

By the time I got off the boat and dragged the dinghy up the beach the sun was almost setting:

It was still clear and warm later in the day when I came off the boat.

It was a pretty full-on day. Jim was on his boat for about an hour but I was so busy trying to get the wiring completed before the water went away. I didn't have time to really chat. I didn't even get to make a coffee on board!

But I'm happy that I've sorted one problem.

A more worrying problem is the bolts for the bow roller have been loosened in the recent storms so it all needs some attention asap. It seems this winter is generating yet more work for me!

Plus I need to get the generator on board with the dremel and cut those bolts off the winch bases so can reseal and reinstate the winches so then I can at least do some sailing. I fancied doing a bit of sailing today, but unfortunately I was stuck down below.

Ah well, it'll all keep me busy in the coming months.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Americas Cup Needs You!

The Americas Cup World Series that is taking place in Portsmouth this summer and next summer needs volunteers to help host the event in Portsmouth. They are after on-land and on-water volunteers, so there's plenty of scope for people to get involved..

Here's the email address to apply for anyone interested:

It might be a good way for people to get involved in something spectacular.

For more information on the event, here's the home page: