Friday, August 23, 2013

Electric Bluesette

An experiment in alternatives using direct current.  (Appropriately enough, there is a lightning storm going on as I write this post and power is intermittent.  Quick, Igor, to the tower!)

Water fowl depart at our approach.  Where's the jib?  Where's the forestay?

There are places along the shore of lake Hinuma at which we have wanted to take a closer look, but couldn't get close to for fear of striking the centerboard on the bottom, and couldn't linger around due to our motion under sail.  Also there are days when the air is still and "sailing" is more like drifting.

For a couple of years I have used a 14 Volt, 25 Watt solar panel to charge lead/acid batteries for LED lighting, and I started wondering about the feasibility of using an electric outboard motor on Bluesette for those windless days to be able to poke around the shoreline.

Wednesday we gave it a try, starting with removing the mast and rigging from the boat and mounting a "mighty" 54 lb thrust electric outboard on the transom.   Why such a small motor?   (54 lbs of thrust is about equivalent to having a 2 hp gasoline engine)

To drive a boat with more than 2 hp in Japan, one must first obtain a Class 2 Boating License which requires taking a four or five day course and passing written and practical tests (and spending about $1500).   No thanks.  I just want to putter, or rather hum, around the lake occasionally.

But would 54 lbs of thrust be enough?  How long would the battery last?

Here is a short video from Bluesette as she was launched on Wednesday.  Note the men in boats on the other side of the dock with long poles in their hands.  What are they doing?  Gondoliering?

As we walked out to the boat we could see what they were doing - collecting shijimi, the small clam that is often served in miso soup.   In prior years the catch was small and they stopped taking them for the last two years.   Now they are back, and the men were working their nets into the mud to scoop them up.

You can hear K talking about the shijimi clams in the above clip, and how in prior years they couldn't even get enough to cover gasoline costs.

There was more wind than I had hoped for this test and in low speed - #1 of 5 - we barely moved against the 4 knot breeze.  But at 3, 4, and 5 we could move right along at a few knots speed.   (The shijimi collectors zoom past behind us using "slightly" larger outboard motors).

I did a "doughnut" to check the maneuverability - excellent.   With 5 forward speeds and two reverse, docking was also easy.

K tried her hand at it.   A mistake that I made was not to lower the centerboard at least to the same depth as the motor.  That would have prevented the bow from wandering due to the effects of the wind, saving some energy and lowering the work load of steering a bit.
In a rash guard hoodie, K reminds me of a Cosmonaut.

We made it to the east end of the lake and on the way back, cruised in near to the shore, keeping a close eye out for crocodiles and hippos.

A cormorant was watching us and jumping fish from atop a bamboo pole.

Going down wind at the same speed as the breeze, there was no relative wind to cool us, so K broke our her parasol for some shade.

We were out for one hour and fifteen minutes.   We had used a little over 30 percent of the available energy.   I think on a calm day we could easily stay out for 1.5 to 2 hours on less than half the battery's power, but there is another parameter which will have to be met - the temperature needs to be lower.  Without a breeze or shade, it gets too darned hot on most summer days for electric "sailing" to be comfortable.

Above, Mr. Hakuta guides Bluesette up the ramp with son Yukihisa at the winch controls and K follows.

After a shower, we headed for Mama's Kitchen, where we started with a nice salad which Mama served to me without dressing on request.   She made a bowl of pasta for me using minimal oil and added lots of veggies - potatoes, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes.   K had pasta with tomato sauce and ham.

K had a dessert of fruit and orange tart, while I was brought a nice mixed fruit bowl.

By the way, did you know that "gold" kiwi fruit has a lot (3 to 4 times) more nutrients than green?  Check it out here: Antioxident Content of 3,139 Foods.

So, a successful experiment and another good day at Hinuma with lunch at Mama's Kitchen.  As some famous sailor in Santa Barbara once observed, "It doesn't get any better."

I must admit that it sure seems strange not having the sails or even the rigging on the boat.  [We took the mast and rigging off because the Lido is a loose rigged boat and the mast would have been working back and forth putting undue stress on the rigging connection points as we bobbed about. ]

Next time we'll be sailing rather than motoring, but at least we now have another (somewhat) green alternative to sail power.  What's next?  Kayaks?  Maybe.  But sailing is our business, and sailing sure is swell.  ( to paraphrase a great big band tune ).

Until next, sweet sailing.


Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

I think if he were there on Lake Hinuma, the so-called famous sailor from Santa Barbara would say that it doesn't get much better once the mast is re-stepped and sails are raised. He might also recall that the only time he was ever sea-sick was when, as a boy, he was running a 5-hp Evinrude outboard on his 12-ft Gull after a rainstorm. But then Shadow Mountain Lake is not much of a lake compared to Hinuma.

Pandabonium said...

Oh. Must have been a different famous sailor from Santa Barbara that I was thinking of! ;) Sorry.

I hope TW is doing well.

Zen said...

Nice, the Electric power ads a whole new dimension ne!

Pandabonium said...

Zen - so desu ne. Reminded me of your experience with the Aoki Zen 24.

Sandscraper said...

Interesting, I used the same propulsion system on my Marshall for many years.

Pandabonium said...

Sandscraper - as the only motor? or just for trolling?

Martin J Frid said...

"Getting better all the time (couldn't get much worse)"

I sure want to try this set up on a nice autumn afternoon. Where do I sign up?