2023.09.16 - Continuing the Solar Panel Installation

For once I didn't leave home at stupid o'clock but rather after I had got up at my normal time, fed the cats and horses and brewed a coffee. I arrived at West Mersea around 08:30, just after Low Water so had to run the dinghy all the way down the hard to the water's edge. Having then returned the dinghy trailer to its accustomed place I went back to the dinghy and rowed it over to the Hammerhead, returned to the car with a trolley, put all the bits and bobs on the trolley, went back to the hammerhead, put all the things into the dinghy and finally rowed out to Naiad.

The task today was to install the solar panel on the coachroof and to leave Naiad around High Water. Since the deck and coachroof were slightly damp from the morning dew, I carried out a few other tasks before starting on the panel.

This is the view of the slot through which the line for raising and lowering the centreplate runs.

And this is a close up of the top of the slot where you can see that the rope has started to wear away the wood and the same has happened to Shoal Waters.

This is a photo of Charles Stock in Shoal Waters taken quite a long time ago. I would guess some 35-40 years ago judging form the youthful look of Charles. However, down at the bottom of the photo you can see three groves where the line has worn through the wood.

The bottom section of the photo cropped and expended to show the three worn slots. Obviously from where the rope had been pulled from either side of the cockpit and from the centre. It seems that the rightmost slot is deeper than the others indicating that the centreplate was hauled up from the starboard side of the cockpit more than anything else and from the centre least of all.

Still, this wear is a problem that I had resolved to fix in Naiad.

I took along a thin copper sheet that I had left over from rebuilding Naiad and some tin snips and cut out a length of the copper and bent it into a U-shape which just fitted over the wooden batten that I wanted to protect. It will stay there all by itself but on my next visit I'll bring along some Stockholm Tar and copper nails to bed the copper into place and fix it. The tar will prevent water from getting behind the copper and causing the wood to rot and the copper nails will hold the copper firmly in position.

I did a few other tasks such as putting the rudder back in place, putting the filled bottles in the new lantern oil bottle box, now there's a mouthful of a name for something, put the 2 x 2 bottle holder into the crate in the cabin.

Once thing I did try out on this visit was an idea for a new cockpit tent. I had set up Naiad to be like Shoal Waters and she has a traditional arrangement for the tent. Two spreaders on either side of the cockpit over which the canvas tent is spread.

Here is a photo of Shoal Waters with Tony Smith in the cockpit taken by him shortly after he took over custodianship of the boat. I've pixelated his face since I've not been able to contact him for permission to show this photo despite it being freely available on the InterWeb. Tony, if you'd rather I didn't show this photo, then please contact me and I'll remove it.

It does show quite clearly the problem that I have with the "traditional style" cockpit tent. It's that wooden bar that you can see just behind Tony's head. It's right in the way! And if you need to get out of the boat with the tent up, it's a real squeeze and I've broken the spreader legs trying to do this.

Now, I've replaced the cockpit cover with a lighter one made from the fabric taken from an old spinnaker that I had lying around and so far, it has proved to be good enough for the job. My next thought was to replace the canvas of the cockpit tent with spinnaker fabric as well. It's light, easy to handle when wet and cold, packs down to a small bundle and lets a lot of light through. You can see from the photo above that it's very dark in the cockpit inside the tent, another drawback of the traditional style.

My next thought focused on the word 'tent'. Modern tents have fibreglass or aluminium poles that flex alarmingly to my eye but are sufficiently strong to hold up quite large tents in quite appalling weather. My researches suggested that the aluminium pole were lighter and better for tents since if they are over stressed they bend rather than shatter, but they are more expensive that the fibreglass ones and the biggest drawback of all, aluminium and salt water really don't mix well.

So I bought a couple of replacement fiberglass pole kits and a few angled connectors and tried this idea out on Naiad. I put six lengths together with an angled piece in the center, braced one end against the toerail at the stern in line with the boom crutches and bent the pole over the boom to the other side. It worked really well and seemed not to have a great deal of bend that would over-stress the pole. I tried the pole in several positions on the boat and found that this was a feasible way to support a lightweight cockpit tent.

I shall work on this more at home.

Once I'd sorted that out I set to on the solar panel. No photos of the various parts of this, it was only drilling large holes, filling large holes with epoxy, drilling smaller holes through the cured epoxy, bolting a side entry deck gland in place, screwing down the frame, running the cables through deck glands, screwing the panel in place and reconnecting the power leads to the controller.

And here is the result of the work. You can see the two side entry deck glands just aft of the solar panel and it all looks good. There were one or two mistakes along the way but nothing that couldn't be fixed. I still have to run a bead of sealant around the deck glands and the frame where each meets the coachroof, but I was running out of time and will do that on my next visit. I also didn't have time to route the cables in the cabin and that will also be a task for my next visit.

For now I am happy with the rest. Time will tell if it is good enough.

So, I packed up and rowed ashore. With the tide really high I didn't need to go to the Hammerhead since the dinghy was beached on the road rather than the hard, yes the tide was that high. I took the bits from the dinghy up to the car to put them away and then realised that I'd left my sporran on Naiad which contained, amongst other things, my car keys.

It was quite hot at this point and apart from my early morning coffee I'd not had anything to eat or drink all day and I really didn't want to row back out again. However, it was just after high tide so the club launch would be able to get out to Naiad and that's what I did. The launchman hung around for the two minutes that it took to retrieve my sporran and close up Naiad again and we returned to shore.

Now I could pack the bits away into the car, change back into my kilt, stow the dinghy and trailer and finally go to the Blackwater Pearl Café for a drink.

I had been in contact with a family who owned and had owned a Fairey Falcon for around 30 years and I offered all the dinghy bits that I'd taken off Naiad back in 2015 if they could use them. I had taken all these parts down to West Mersea where we met up at the café. They live in Colchester so it was an easy visit for them. We had a great chat about things Falcon and they took away the dinghy parts for use where possible on their Falcon which was being refurbished after 30 years of hard work. Anything they don't use they will pass on to someone else if they can.

I was very pleased to be able to do this, and I look forward to seeing a third Falcon on the River Blackwater next year.

All in all and very good day but man, was I tired when I got home !

I had two cups of tea back to back.