Sailing Mango

Boat Tasks In Mexico, AKA Solar Install

While doing boat tasks in Mexico, there are several rules one must follow:
  1. Plan the dive, dive the plan. Basically - come up with your goal(s) for the day, and then work those. Otherwise you sit on the couch all day reading a book, transitioning from coffee to beer far too early in the day.
  2. Once you have completed half of your plan, stop. You really won't get close to your plan unless you are far better and more realistic at planning than I am.
  3. Have a cut off time. This is similar to 2 above, but it directly tells you when to jump off the boat and go swimming.
  4. This is perhaps the most important rule, don't have any plans. Things change far too quickly to think too far in advance.

Let's review these rules using a real boat example.

Today my goal was to permanently install a solar panel on our stern rail. This involved:
  1. Mounting the panel on a previously configured aluminum frame.
  2. Mounting the panel and frame to the rail.
  3. Running wires all over the heckin' boat to get them to the previously installed controller, and then wire up that controller to the batteries.

That is a lot of work my friends, especially on a boat at anchor in Mexico heat.

Rule number one I hit. Once my second cuppa was quaffed, I began work. Unfortunately that is where all hell broke lose. I didn't stop midway, I got all three tasks completed. Additionally, I had not setup a hard stop time. Rules 2 and 3 out the window! Fortunately nothing on the boat changed much, so rule 4 was OK. Or maybe it wasn't, since I created plans! Arg, foiled again!

Because I so miserably failed at rules 2-4, I had to break into my precious stash of cold IPAs. You cannot buy this stuff in MX, so every time I drink a can, it is gone, gone forever. It is a sad day on the boat.

Adding insult to injury, we are generating a whole 0.6 amps with that 150 watt panel I just installed. A cloudy day plus late in the afternoon and there you go.

This is the AL frame on top of an upside down panel. We are saving about 20 lbs per panel by using flexible panels plus frame versus rigid panels, so 80 lbs all together. The flex panels also stow really well under our mattress, and they are easy to toss on top of the bimini, on the deck, where ever. On the left you can see the short dimension is made of a U shaped channel for strength. The U also provides a channel for the lashing, described next.

This is a cross section of the teak rail, brown, the aluminum U channel, dark grey, and the lashing, dark red. This is like a scissor, in that the panel can now tilt around the teak rail. We can lower the panels to make the boat skinny, or angel them up a bit to catch more sun. If this makes no sense and my pictures are gibberish, well OK, I am not so good at these things. Just trust me that it is Super Cool. Say it fast, Super Cool!!

Again you can see the U shaped support cross section on the left side of the panel.

The pair of lines on the right are part of the scissor lashing. The pair on the left holds the panel up. In the picture above this one, in the middle of the panel there is a line wrapped around the lower tube that prevents the panel from flying up in high winds, like we are having today.

The next panel I will attach with a thin dyneema line. Dyneema is stronger than steel and has very little stretch. This should be a more secure attachment. I will still use thin nylon to hold the panel up so that the stretch of the nylon will absorb some of the shock loading that wind may put on the panels. We will see which does better, the nylon lashing like I did today, or the dyneema lashing.

Finally here is my reward:

A rocking 0.6 amps. Tomorrow should be sunnier, and better.