Alone Like a Rolling Stone

Mrs. Doctor Busse-Stahl

 "Always pull the thread through to the back!" cries Mrs. Doktor Busse-Stahl. Since many things have changed pedagogically in the school system in recent years, I am spared cane strokes on the fingers. I am currently doing my fourth sewing apprenticeship and am trying to push our Persenning fabric through the sewing machine with a reasonably straight stitch. 

Nähen auf der Katinka

There is the voice of Mrs. Doctor Busse-Stahl again, "Langes Fädchen faules Mädchen" Long thread lazy girl), except that I am not a girl at all. Mrs. Busse-Stahl probably inherited the doctor's title from her husband, and since I never met the lady, I have to rely on Gaby's stories. Mrs. Doctor Busse-Stahl was Gaby's home economics teacher and seems to have been a resolute woman. At least she has remained in Gaby's memory, and since I don't follow Gaby's sewing instructions exactly, I now have to deal with Mrs. Doctor Busse-Stahl. We have an old Bernina sewing machine, inherited from Gaby´s mother. So it's already very old, but through years of care it still works perfectly. Only with four layers of fabric do you have to help a little by hand. What Mrs. Doctor Busse-Stahl would have said in this case, we will probably never know, since the good woman is passed away. But I think she would be proud if she knew that after all these years, she once again had someone sitting in front of her for training. The tarpaulin or the enclosure of the cockpit is slowly taking shape and after what feels like 100 times of assembling and disassembling, cutting and re-sewing, the project is entering the final phase. Only the windshield was not finished this week. Admittedly, a few finishing touches, such as shortening threads or sewing zipper are also still to do and there I will still have to listen to some saying of Mrs. Doctor Busse-Stahl.

The cockpit gets a tarpaulin

Danilo from Nordest has kept his word and has completely replaced the standing rigging this week. The two backstays were done at the beginning of the week and with two decent insulators we now also have better shortwave reception. Most exciting is the replacement of the forestay. We brought the boat from our previous place alongside the pier and I stand next to Katinka and hold the aluminum profile of the furling jib away from the boat while Ariel gymnastics around in the top of the mast and loosens the bolt. Secured with a halyard, of course. Slowly the end is lowered and I place the profile on the pier. Meanwhile, the mast is braced forward with Dyneema rope. I get to know the inside of our furling system and immediately start cleaning and re-greasing it. Meanwhile the two guys from Nordest cut the wire rope and set the fitting. The flex has a loose contact and I say to Ariel "give it to me and I'll fix it". Quickly the cable is shortened by ten centimeters and the flex works again without problems. The profile is hoisted back into the mast and secured at the top with a bolt. The threading also works without problems at the bottom. The forestay is adjusted to the correct tension using the shroud tensioner. Finished! In the evening we get our new lithium batteries, which we will install the next day.

The forestay is replaced.

"The early bird catches the worm" this saying is not from Mrs. Doctor Busse-Stahl but could well be from her, at least according to the stories. When replacing the batteries, you can't start early enough in the day, because you never know exactly what impassability awaits you, after all, we would hate to spend the night without light. We replace three 210Ah gel batteries in three 200Ah lithium batteries, so-called LiFePO4. The batteries with built-in battery management system (BMS) can be replaced one-to-one.

New lithium batteries on the Katinka

However, there are a few small things to keep in mind. We charge the batteries via a wind generator, solar power or via the alternator. If we are in a marina, the batteries are charged via shore power. Under no circumstances should the batteries be connected without a charge controller. The built-in BMS is not suitable for charge control. Also, if not already in place, care must be taken to separate the starter battery from the house battery. The charge controllers have a selector switch for the respective battery type. This must of course be changed to LiFePO4. With older controllers, it is possible that the LiFePO4 battery type is missing, in which case it must be replaced. The temperature sensor of the charge controller of our wind generator has to be replaced with a 2k Ohm resistor. The MPPT controller on our solar array has a battery switch, as does our shore connection. For the alternator, I selected a charge controller, alternator to battery. This has the function to separate starter and house battery and to protect the alternator by diodes. Furthermore, an optimal charge of the battery is guaranteed. 

Katinka at the pier

In any case, you can clarify these things in advance, then it also works with the relaxed change. Well, relaxed is different. Each gel battery weighs 78 kg. They have to be brought up from the basement. After I have disconnected the power supply and the cables from the batteries are separated we try to lift the first battery up the companionway. Gaby was standing at the top with her hands hanging in the battery's handhold, gravity alone is stronger and she comes towards me in the companionway, complete with battery. "Stay up there" I said, "these things have to come out". With a tremendous effort we hoist the three batteries out of the boat, so that our backs will hurt, probably for weeks. But the next trouble is already waiting in the wings, because the two battery types have different pole sides and connections. The old terminal pole does not fit on the new screw pole and plus-minus are reversed. I took care of everything, outer dimension, pole distance and now this. But the early bird catches the worm. With a little patience and effort the bridges can be rebuilt and the installation of the new batteries can begin. With 26 kg, the things are light as a feather and after everything is prepared, the wiring goes quickly and the batteries can be stowed. 

Our projects are gradually coming to an end

A new era of energy supply on the Katinka is now dawning. It should even be possible to cook with induction. We will try this out little by little and report on it when the opportunity arises. All in all, these were two busy weeks, so we will take it a bit easier next week. Thank goodness Mrs. Doctor Busse-Stahl will not be aware of this. In this sense we wish you, as always at this point, fair winds and keep a stiff upper lip.