Friday, April 24, 2015

Necessity is the mother...

We are currently enjoying traveling along with a couple of "kid boats". It really is quite a nice thing to meet other families out here who have kids of a similar age -- both for the kids to play together, as well as for us to have other adults to relate to. We find that most other cruisers we meet -- even if they've had children in the past -- sort of don't get it when we say we can't go out for dinner, or that we need to be back to the boat for a mid-day nap. It's great to be with other parents in the same situation who really understand the way things are.

As it happens, the kid boats were are currently with are both Italian families! One is the boat "Kiribati" with Marco and Deborah, and their son Nicolas. In an amazing coincidence, Nicolas was born the exact same day as Tessa, and we are planning a joint 3rd-birthday party in a few days, on 28 April. The other boat is "Flamenco", with Filippo and Jasmine, and their kids Mathilde and Oliver.

We are again out of cell phone range, and therefore no internet. It's a bit weird to not have that connection to the world that we have all become so accustomed to. I've realized that, in the past, almost every evening I would spend some time looking at stuff on the web.

But we still have our wonderful SSB radio that allows us to get simple emails, weather info, talk to people hundreds of miles away. We can even use it to make this blog post, but with only very limited pictures (sorry, no pictures of Tessa and the other kids, or any other normal pictures ... this time I am trying a simple diagram to see if that works).

One ever-present hassle with the SSB radio is that some of the electrical equipment on board interferes with the radio signals, causing static or weird chirps and hums. One of the offending items is our refrigeration system. I have to resort to flipping off the circuit breaker for the fridge when I want to use the radio. As you can imagine, I am less than perfect in remembering to turn the thing back on when I'm done with the radio. I've tried setting a timer to remind me, and Jolanda even resorted to putting post-it notes all over the place! Finally, after thawing all of our frozen food one time too many, I decided to take an engineering approach to resolving the problem.

[By the way, in case you are wondering -- a radio expert in San Diego convinced me that it's basically impossible to install EMI filters to eliminate RF noise caused by refrigeration systems. He advised to give up on that battle and just turn the thing off when using the radio!]

What I wanted to make was a gizmo that would monitor the refrigeration circuit. If it saw that the power was off for more than 20 minutes or so, it would sound and alarm. After looking through the various electronic parts I have on board, I came up with a pretty simple circuit, shown in the diagram. I won't bore you all with describing it in detail (anyone really interested can read the notes on the diagram). It took a couple of evenings to put the thing together. But it was well worth the effort... it has already saved my butt half a dozen times, avoiding a total melt-down of our frozen stuff! When I hear a strange "beep ... beep ... beep" I suddenly remember "Oh crap, I forgot to turn the fridge on again!".

9 comments:

  1. This is why I think engineers are born, not made! Remember the intermittent wipers you built for my car??? I am always so glad to hear about your family's adventures.

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    1. I do remember. I'm an ever restless tinkerer, and fan of useful gizmos. I guess I'd have to agree that engineers are born, not made.

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  2. Jolanda I did not know this about you - that you have an inner engineer! I love reading this story. I have deep admiration for people who can fix problems like this. I'm quite good at taking things apart, but not much at putting them back together :) It's great to hear about your day-to-day life too. Sail on sailors.

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    1. I wish Jolanda had an inner engineer! But, actually, I marvel at her inner manager ... keeps us on track for the important things. Only occasionally do I engage in some frivolity such as this project!

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  3. Ha! We just burned up our new Charles battery charger with the Honda 2000 generator (smoke, ugly smells). Lucky I was aboard! Why do we need so much juice? The fridge. Gonna look into this.

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  4. Try a 3 position switch; off, frig, ssb...size it right...Sorry if multiple posts come up...PC issues

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    1. Hi Greg,
      Not a bad idea! But, the drawbacks I can see: the radio needs up to 40-amps, and a 40-amp rated 3-position switch might be pretty tough to locate in Baja! (Even back home I would probably need to order one from Newark.). Plus, I still would sometimes likely just turn the power button on the radio off and forget to turn the switch back to fridge mode! I know myself!

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  5. Happy Birthday to Tessa! So hard to believe she is already 3 -- or, that she is 'only' three. Love from Bezerkely, P&A

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    1. Yes, pal, amazing how the time flies! Tomorrow is her big day and we are in a fun town to celebrate !

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