It’s alive…or….. is 7 am and where is your elektrikitie?

well it really means..the boat is self sufficient with no shore power.   This morning I disconnected shore power, so we are solely running on solar now. And ate 6 am the sun peeked around and started providing free energy.   Now does this make the sun a socialist, or just a nice entity?   I wil post usage screen shots on this page over the coming weeks.    Jan-Kees was on shore power, just as extra precaution, since there was a period last year where there was not enough energy to keep up with standby demand.   the inverter uses 25 watts for standby, plus the batteries always consume some trickle charge.  The batteries always discharge a bit, and need to be charged to full at least once a month.

Since we arrived we have been floating all by ourselves. Not connected to the atom eating nuclear energy creators, or the coal from Limburg eating fossil fuel plants.  Mr or is it Mrs Sun ( because she is so fierce?) has been filling the batteries of Jan-kees with her cheerful bright energy.  At 7 am the batteries were ‘down’ to 97%.  We consumed 2.2 Kwh yesterday and the sun refilled it .

7_20_am

Wen I looked at the Venus this morning at 7:20 the sun peeking from just above the horizon and was providing more than we are using.  showing a small charge current of 3.7 A.   This reminds me that I need more coffee and I need to clean the panels today.  Btw today will be a ‘scorcher’ 28C . (which is 83F for the non-metic people) . After this 2 days 25 and then back to the 21 -19C . (71-68F)
For energy use we use about 5 hours/day for generation from about 10:00 – 15:00

 

8_30_am.png

11_30_am.png

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And they keep ticking and running, ran the wetvac a few times,  did some power sanding.

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Nearly 18:00 and the solar still keeps the batteries up and fills al our other energy needs, like Coffee, vacuuming the top deck after part of it was sanded

So today it started with an overcast sky.   We are still on mainly battery at 07:45.  As you see the sun is providing some free energy, but the darn clouds act as a border wall patrol.  Yesterday, about the same time we had about 150 Watts of solar already.  BUT it is still early.

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now more drizzle @lunch time

drizzle.png

But charging a little

Friday 8th, an overcast morning

grey_sky.png

 

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The Sun is peeking around the corner

sun_waking_up.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daemons…..

No not DEMONS..daemons………are small processes running in the background of a computer, doing all kind of tasks, like the teenager mowing the grass, the mailman delivering your mail.  Well there are some of these running around in the Venus.  They keep an eye out many things, especially the digital inputs.  One of the nice items built into the Venus.  The Venus has 5 of these inputs, which can be used for a bunch of tasks.  The first ones which come to mind are bilge alarm (Ok/Alarm),  smoke alarm (Ok/Alarm),  fire alarm(Ok/Alarm), door alarm (Open/Closed), Pulse Meter (water volume pumped), generator (Running/Stopped), etc.   And these ‘states’ are all visible on the screen.

The good thing about the Venus, just these 5 digital input alerts wil pay for the unit by itself, if you compare them to other boat monitoring systems, who have the ‘get rich scheme’ of charging monthly fees.

Now how do we get these to work?
We need to get the different signals to the Venus input, which is a RJ12 input, which is also used in multi line phone system, and had 6 wires.  OHH you said 5 inputs, why 6 wires.  Well wire #5 is Ground.   (we will come to the why later)

The first thing we need to do is get access to these wires.  Now the McGiver way is to get a RJ12 .phone cord, grab a big hunting knife and strip all the wires.  A more ‘civilized’ way is to order a RJ12 Breakout board .  ($5.99 to $12 on Amazon and Ebay)

RJ12
RJ12 Breakout

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rj12-connection
RJ12 connected to Venus

 

 

 

 

 

 

With this setup we can already trigger alerts.

The pin out is

Pin 1-4 and 6 Inputs
Pin 5 Ground.

 

So lets configure Pin 6 as High water alert and connect a float switch.  The float switch just makes a contact, thus to simulate that we just use a wire and connect pin 5 and 6 on and off and see the results.

 

Simple is it not?  Let’s walk through the set up steps.  Connect to the console, via smart phone, tables, or web browser when you are local through the Venus wifi.  Later you can always connect to the console via VRM.

Digital inputs > set up > show name change, show difference  inverted . on / off

These alerts can be triggered by just connecting the input to the ground.  BUT not all alerts can be done that way !!  Now Venus is kind of sensitive about the voltage it wil take. Yes I know the power input can be 8-70VDC, but that regulates it down to 5V and 3V3, the two voltages used with sensors and digital inputs.  So we need to protect the Venus.  We can do this 2 ways.  A relay, where the input is 12DC or 24DC or 110Ac or 220AC and then close a contact, which connects the Venus signal port to ground.  Most of these solid state relays are used to get a 110 or 220V connection triggered by a 5 – 12 or 24VDC input, so I have not tried these.
Otherwise an Optocoupler, one like this 4 channel one from Ebay for  $12.  This is a 24V DC Optocoupler, because Jan-kees runs on 24V DC.

optocoupler.png

 

RJ12-Opto-Gnd
Now one thing which worried me, was the voltage on the output side.  I know the Venus is built on a heavily modified Beagelbone, which is a version or a Raspberry Pi.  These units just like 3V3 DC as signals.  Putting a 5VDC signal on there, even though it says so in the manual of the Venus, it had me worried.  You are talking to person who in 1980 by sheer “mmmm I’ll show you how this works” blew up one of the first optical disk readers costing close to $10,000 by using the wrong input voltage.  The good old laserprinter research at OCE ( Now Canon).  But, since we are switching to GND only the input voltage matters.   As you see the Opticoupler has on the output side GND and VCC, which is 5VDC here.  BUT we ONLY connect the GND.  so when the input gets “high”  the Venus tells me there is an alert.    This optocoupler has a 5VDC output, but the Venus wil also work with the 3V3DC output optocoupler, because we are ONLY using GND.  NO I wil not make the Victron Engineers a compliment, they already know they are brilliant, selecting a very safe way.  (Now you know why line 5 of the RJ12 is GND)

 

The settings for this input are…so check it a bilge alarm

bilge1.png

Then via the main screen go to the bilge alarm and go to the setup screen and click invert ( when there is a voltage on the input of the optocoupler, the alert will go on.   Because the normal ‘on’ state for the Venus is connect the signal to ground)

bilge2.pngbilge 3.png

 

Now when I put 24VDC on my optocoupler input, the Bilge alerts jumps immediately to ALERT and the next screen is the ALERT screen and the buzzer goes off.

Here the bilge alarm is OK Bilge OK  at 7.25.06 PM.png

The bilge pump goes on and 24VDC comes on the opticoupler input

bilge alert.png

And before I can blink twice the alert screen shows

Bilge alert screen 7.25.17 PM.png

 

 

More to come with the pulse counter

 

Do these alerts show in VRM…not yet, but they will, by Christmas…:)

Follow the electrons

Remember we had the big storms in January ( see Yes dear we do have storms in Holland) .  Right around that time the Venus warned me that the shore power was AWOL.  Well no Biggy was my reaction, the batteries are full , 800 AH 24V batteries ( yes Mastervolt, because I could get them really really cheap.) . so that is 25.44 * 800 = 20.35 KWH.  That would keep the bilge pump and Venus going long enough.

So mid March a friend goes to Jan-Kees,  they had a terrible flight, well they did book United!  Had no luggage and then NO 220V.   So some frantic texting ,  I suggested to look to the shore power , shore breaker, shore cable, breakers.   Well after a lot of work , they found out it was only the 220V primary outlet breaker who kept tripping.  Unfortunately, the shore breaker flips just before the panel breaker, so the harbor master was called a few times.   All what had to be done, was, uncouple shore power and test it while on inverting.  they exchanged breakers on the panel, but the problem persisted.   Perhaps some condensation water.  They gave up, did not wanted to listen to advise, because they knew how it all worked, and stayed on Jan-Kees without 220V for a month.

Then 3 weeks a Dutch friend goes to Jan-Kees, to do some cycling in the area.  Marius was in the same research department as me in the 1980’s so I knew he would find the problem.  We discussed it could be the Fridge or the outside light or outside motion light.   When I got a notification of the Victron Venus that there was no shore power, I knew Marius was testing.  the first thing he did was turn the outside motion light off, and VOILA…..Electrons were coming out of outlets. the Fridge got a shiver, and got cold.   Marius went outside and inspected the light and yes during the storm it must have shorted.  That is what you get with a cheap Chinese Led Motion sensor light in the mast.

lamp

Instrument panel

So besides a breaker panel, we also need some switches to turn things on and off.  We are using Carling Series IV switches

We need the following ones….

Cruising

  • Engine Fans
  • Nav Lights ( Running/Anchor)
  • Wipers
  • Horn
  • Search Light
  • USB port

Every day use

  • Battery Switch
  • Bilge (test)
  • Bilge (test)
  • Fresh Water
  • LED lights cabin
  • Rear deck lights
  • Apero Bell
  • USB port

The head  pump, pump out pump and the shower pump switches will be in the head itself, just as the switch for the motion light on the mast is next to the front steps.

Instead of routing out each switch opening it is easier to just buy a semi pre-made panel and mount it on the the wheel house console (newwiremarine.com)

I decided on 2 sets one for ‘every day use’, like pumps and lights , and the other for ‘cruising’, navigation lights, instruments, vhf , engine fans etc.  So I found these panels with newwiremarine.

 

 

 

Now because we all like clean surfaces, Roy came up with the idea to make them ‘hidden’ so he drew a nice recessed way to mount them, and on top are two little lids with hinges, so only when you need to use the switches wil they be open/visible. I really liked his idea, but I also wanted these panels to be ‘laid in’ so they looked as if they were really part of the set up.  Roy worried about not having the correct router, so I educated him him in how to handle a client in such a case…..subcontract that action, or charge enough to rent or buy the equipment. Which advise Roy followed and……

Roy made following

paneel1paneel2paneel3

 

So all that was left is to mount it in the steering wheel panel and put a little hingeon it..   BUT WAIT…just like in the commercial………there is more.  Roy came up with the idea that if the hinge opens, he might as well use the triangular space under the hinged panel to make a resting spot for an Ipad or Iphone, to be used with the Victron Venus, or Navigation

maten1maten2

Here are the measurements.  No the ‘stand’ is not done yet.  Roy needs to take care of his study first!!  But we have a few weeks to do this

Lost of sun energy and dinner with Astrid and Marjan

Friday August 4

During the day the solar panel reached a new record…

800pluswatts

As you can see from the Victron Venus readout we are getting 823 Watts ..free sun energy !!!!!

Late afternoon Astrid and Marjan came for tea and dinner, which was lovely.  One point which was brought up was the egg scare in Holland.  We found out that each egg had their unique code, showing what kind of egg is, and which company it comes from

eggs

 

1 means free range chickens

eggs
0 .                                      1                                     2                                 3

here is the article on egg codes in europe

 

Ghosts with Victron? Sanding, visitors, and movies

So the first thing I checked this morning was emails from Victron, if they knew anything new what to do with the Venus.  At the same time I logged onto the Venus own wifi and saw the Multi visible…..what …I emailed to Victron and asked of they could see it also ….. we are blaming it on ghosts!

Since we were getting guests I had to clean up everything, make the visible part of the boat presentable.  And before the guest were coming we had to get more milk and treats, especially for Timmy and his crew.  At the grocery we found out they were out of  celery salt ( for the cheese) so we bought celery and salt to make our own mixture.

I found out it was only Bep and Jesse ( who after 20 + years living in Holland stil does not speak Dutch, he understands it perfectly, but he keeps replying in English . “everybody speaks English in Holland” is his typical reply).   With some spare time available I started to tackle the sanding of the wheel house, and after sanding applying  ‘ontwerings water” . ( dewatering agent) . to get the water stains out.

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Finally got a text from Bep, that they were lost but at the local Praxis, so jumped in the car and brought them to the boat.

A nice afternoon with coffee and coffee and coffee, and Bep & Jesse had to go back home.
While we were having coffee, a nice 40 feet ‘yacht’ came in and I noticed the name “miles Ahead”,  reminding me of the movie Miles Ahead, about Miles Davis, which starred Mike Dennis our waiter from the Pacific Kitchen in Cincinnati.   ( Or as he is known in the restaurant “mike dentist”.  Mike plays the racist downtown cop.   So I had to get their attention, yes they named their boat after Mike Davis, but NO they did not knew about the movie, and would go get it.  So Mike D thank us for making you earn  royalties !

We decided it was time for Pannekoeken,  so we walked to the Wilhelmina sluis ( lock), which just opened and a big sailing scooner with a gaggle of holiday kids motered by.  I stopped in to ask the water height and it was on 2.75 Meters.  TOOOO low for Jan-Kees.

Deb decided a Mexican Pannekoek and I had a Shoarma Pannekoek

pancakes

Bottom is the shoarma Pannekoek, right top is the Mexican pannekoek

 

travel and work

Tuesday July 25

So we decided that we needed more life preservers, since we were expecting Wilma and Timmy and a school load of his friends. Timmy wanted to show off, who can blame a teenager, that he had friends with a big boat, or any boat actually.

We drove off to the second hand boat place in Vinkeveen and were quickly frelled up by  a NO go sign.  The A10 was being worked on till Sunday August 13.  So no biggy for our departure date, but of course Homer our trusty voice on the TomTom kept directing us the wrong way,  with “make a U-turn” . or ” go right on the round about 3rddddd exittt”
When we finally got onto the road to Utrecht, he was able to guide us there.  We got 2 more life preservers and a throwing horseshoe shaped floater, some grease for the gland (totally illegal in the USA, but so much cleaner bilge). I also was able to find 2 led 24 V bulbs for the navigation side lights and we grabbed a pole to use with mooring lines).   Cost E 95.90

Since we were close to Vinkeveen, I decided that we should grab coffee and watch some of the boats on the water.

coffee_chic_chip

When we took the Vinkeveen exit, the sign read “pannekoeken” so yes we were ready, even though it was only 11:15.  When we walked up, it seemed closed/deserted. and yes they don’t open till 12:00, but the door was open. So we were able to get coffee, with a chocolate chip cookie. The waitress forgot the magnifying glass.  The cookie fit in the one open filling I have !!

 

By the time we finished that it still too early for service, so off we went to IKEA.

At Ikea I needed some food, but Deb was not that hungry.  I got the entrecote, and deb got tomato soup and a panini.  We went to Ikea to get a step stool to climb the boat, because of the batteries and the new fuel tank the bow has come out of the water a few cm’s.  We also looked for bungee cords, to mount the Horse shoe floater on the railing, but no success.

After Ikea Deb put on her ‘honey-do’ voice and got me to drive her to one of the thrift stores in Zaandam . ” then you can go to McDonalds and download the movies you wanted” . ( since we only have 20 GB cell data, we have to watch what we do, compared to home) .  Well McDonalds wifi was slower than frozen molasses, jumped in the car and drove to the boat to start working drilling a hole in the metal under the pilot house top, so I could mount a 220V outlet on the port top corner, and run the conduit from there to the top starboard corner.  Halfway through the hole Deb was done with the first Thrift store, and texted me.  Unfortunately the traffic lights had a long wait, so by the time I got there . I saw a new text,”started walking to the boat” . a few text later and she was on her way back.   yes the Dutch geography of shopping centers is dictated by canals, not logic.  We drove to the next Thrifts store and I just went to the little snackbar, run by the Chinese guy who described us last year as the foreigners.  I reminded him I was “ham Sap Lo” and needed a beer and a Kroket. Deb’s treasures today, a  summer beachy ice cube form, a blue plate and a little more plastic wares

bier_krojket

Once Deb was done it was back to the boat and drilling the conduit hole and the outlet hole.

Because the venus control unit was not showing the inverter, I tested the CCGX and it showed the inverter, so some emails back and forth and now they want to send a new unit.  I told them to wait and see if there were others things I could do to check.

I also filled the grease pot, which was delightfully messy and greasy, but we should be good for a few hundred km’s, plus I vacuumed the bilge and the little leak we made in April was popping in some drops of water, so I grabbed some liquid metal and pressed it in lets see how ling it will hold, just need to make sure the bilge pump wil be installed this time.  Now time for coffee and eierkoek . ( egg cake)

Saturday July 23

A fresh start of the day with a stroll to the Saturday morning market.  The fresh vegetables, fruit, the smell of cheese and fresh baked bread.  We are in heaven.  So after a first round we came around for the second time, got some nice cherries, great small strawberries,  aalbessen ( small tart berries, great on top of Yoghurt or Vla).  Then at the cheese stall we got 500 Grams of old cheese, and the final stop the baker, some great bread and some Cocos Cookies.

Picture of Aalbessen

Then just a few minutes after we stepped on the boat Daniel arrived, and we went over all the things that we stil want to accomplish and the trips we cn take these coming weeks.

He also brought the connectors for my Victron Venus control unit, which I forgot to bring from the USA.

 

 

 

 

PROBLEM – serenity: Low battery L1 on VE.Bus System

So I get this email around 23:00 Monday the 26th..  from the boat in the US ( Serenity ) who uses the Venus for Jan-kees.

Darn what is going on on this boat ?    So I quickly jump online and log into the VRM ( Victron) website and see that the BMV shows 12.3 V……so what the frell?  Ok I’ll drive there Tomorrow morning.

Tuesday morning I arrive at the boat and find out, no 110V on any of the outlets, the fridge is dark.  OH dear Oh dear.  Open the hatch to the battery/ inverter bilge and the multiplus ( Victron 12/3000 inverter/ charger) is hiding all quiet and dark.  OH darn …an inverter on the blink.  I cycle the switch on/off and it starts humming and a led comes on….I see a charge current on the BMV and poof . …silence, the inverter goes back to the “You don’t see me mode”

Ok so I start testing……yes 110 v is there, yes, polarity is correct, yes 12V is there, so I have declare a code and pronounce the unit dead.

I call the US Victron rep, Justin, I get directed to voice mail jail. Fire off an email to him, and wait.    I get a call back and Justin tells me to try a few other things, like DC connections.  Well I already checked them, but to go with the flow, I disconnect them and reconnect……Same issue…Inverter turns on, a little bit later, a few seconds…..poof…”I go in hiding” the Inverter whispers.    I share another email with Justin with screen shots of the Venus, and go home.

The next morning I get an email to please make sure the DC connections are ok, and if they are, Justin will second my medical opinion and declare the Inverter dead, and it needs to be sent to an authorized repair center to be fixed.   Who says inverter can”t rise from the dead?   Now having guests coming over for the 4th, the chefs family of the Pacific Kitchen, I kinda complain gentle to Justin and putting American customer service he hints that he can get me a  temporary replacement unit, before that time.  Darn such a guy deserve a beer or more.   And an hour later, Justin calls…” I am trying to get it shipped today, so you have it Friday, worst case Monday. Plus you can either keep that unit, or you can get your original back”

Friday bright and early there is it a nice blue Victron box with the replacement, so Saturday morning we drive the hour to the marina, but via The Pacific Kitchen to have Dim Sum with Lam.

Arriving at the boat I decide to hook up the unit first temporarily with some longer cables.   I flip the switch and what happens, the same  !!!!!!   I get worried, check the correct connections….YES…I run out to get a plug and box, so we also have a 110 V load. But same issue.  Ok the only thing I have not changed is the 110V so I plug into another dock pedestal.  Same problem.  Well it means I have to schlep all home to see if the 110V at home is perhaps correct.   The vacuum cleaner works, the fridge works, so I have no clue.   Then it struck me, the only thing left is the cable to the Venus.  I quickly get one of our friends to take one with them.   I unplug the original RJ45 cabe and …the inverter comes alive…….ALIVE….it’s alive……I wait a bit and it runs perfectly. after 30 minutes I accept the unit is NOT dead.    So it might be the Venus..  I log in and reboot the Venus with the previous Firmware.   Inverter crawls starts playing dead again.   I look to the release date and it shows the previous version is from the time the trouble started.  So I make a setup with JUST the Multi, the Venus and a 12V battery and .a 110V lamp as load.  With the Venus plugged in the Multi plays dead.  Without the Venus the multi is alive and cheerful.   I made a few pics to sent to Matthijs, and requested to install an older version of the firmware.  Yes that will teach me to be one of the first ones.  More to come….

Well on July the 4th I got the official word…”There was indeed a bug in the communication with Multis, which we fixed and it will become available as v2.08~8. Thanks for reporting!”   So now we wait for the software upgrade and then see how it work, and take it to Holland.

On July the 6th Matthijs emailed the following :

Good evening all,
Today we have released v2.08~9 for testing. The change log:
v2.08~8 and ~9
– Add ModbusTCP parameter to read & write the ESS minimum SOC setting
– Fix a few bugs in the communication with VE.Bus devices (thank you Shannon and Jan for reporting). The main issue fixed is that it was impossible to switch the devices on or off, in certain configurations. These issues were introduced in one of the v2.08 test versions.
If you see any new issue, let me know.
Best regards, Matthijs

So now we have to insert the cable and see how or what, then we have to take it out and take it to Holland to install it in Jan-Kees.