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Muffin tin cookies

9 Jul

Our muffin tin makes great chocolate chip cookies in the solar oven…even in Seattle!

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Have I mentioned how much I love my solar oven? One of the best galley purchases ever! Today before the cookies we roasted pumpkin seeds from the bulk bins at Whole Foods. Mmmmmm…

Some work and play

5 May

This weekend we began prepping Tango for her voyage by cleaning out storage holds in our forwards (stuff like tracking down suitcases buried under mounds of gear), tearing down the dinghy, washing the cockpit and cushions, and other tasks on the list. The more important items, like taking down the sails and canvas, will have to wait until the last moments because we can’t figure out where to stash them. Last minute flurry…

All was going well until a big rain storm moved in and stopped our scrubbing activities…but then no need for a fresh water rinse! Guess we shouldn’t put in too much effort on this side either, since the real work will be to scrub off all the travel grime in Victoria. We packed it in for the day and decided to visit the nearby mall. Those places are a bit overwhelming!

With some boaty mischief managed, Peyton whipped up some solar german chocolate cake. Her friend Lilly aboard Whistling Cay had made some german chocolate cake back in Warderick Wells, a new cake flavor for Peyton, and she had been dying ever since to make some of her own. Very yummy post scrubbing snack, thank you Peyton!

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Mmmmm

We also discovered a beachy park about a mile away on Lake Worth, so we spent Sunday afternoon enjoying Florida a bit more before we say goodbye for good.

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Speeding boat wakes make for good wakeboarding too

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Best solar snack ever!

13 Sep

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Our new boaty addiction…sun roasted, salty almonds!

It’s getting hot in here

28 Aug

Today Robin’s new solar oven came in the mail (a birthday gift from her mom and mother in law). Thank you!!

We set it up on deck, and within 30 minutes it was up to 260 F! Now we have two mini pizzas heating up for lunch. Yum!

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Will a watched oven bake?

 

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It could have been crispier, but Peyton was too hungry to wait any longer

Bring on the bread and cookies!

Our Solar Life

25 Apr

I am a solar addict. Specifically I am a solar power addict. We have two 250 watt solar panels strapped to the back of Tango and I am enamored with them. I know that photovoltaic panels have been around for quite awhile but I still get chills when I think that a hydrogen fusion reaction on a star 93,000,000 miles away is making it possible for me to write this blog entry right now.

Since we are now attached to a mooring ball in Biscayne Bay we have not had access to shore power for well over a week now. I was a little nervous because our solar panels and batteries have never been tested to this extent. Since leaving Maryland we have had only single night anchoring opportunities. The rest of the time has been spent marina hopping where we always had shore power to keep us warm/cool/entertained. I am happy announce that the panels are performing beyond my expectations.

The sun has been shining every day now and our batteries are usually charged up to 100% by around 1PM. This means that from 1PM until the sun drops low enough on the horizon to become ineffective for power generation, we have a surplus of energy. If we had more batteries we could store that energy for later use. Since we only have room for two twelve volt batteries at the present time, this means that afternoons are filled with extravagant power usage. Right now the girls are taking a break from their studies to play an hour or so of “Little Big Planet Karting” on the Playstation 3. I am charging up all of my i-Devices, my Nike FuelBand, and this here MacBook. The refrigerator is doing its thing. Robin is running all of her things for work, including her laptop, charging her phone, powering our wifi hotspot(s), and our cell phone booster. Pretty cool I’d say.

Beyond all of this though, I have learned to humble myself to the concept that energy is nothing to be wasted. One of my favorite comedians, Louis CK, made a humorous observation about the way things used to be that seems apropos. He reminisces about how we used to have to actually go to the bank to get money. Remember that? He also accurately states that when you would run out of money you would just say “well I just can’t do any more things now.” I am finding that, in my own life, I need to get back to those days. I have spent the last 20 years spending money that I didn’t have to buy things that I didn’t need. Energy usage is kind of the same deal. Being independent from the grid doesn’t allow one to “spend” energy that you don’t harness.

This position is really one that should be practiced on a global scale, but I’m not going to speak to that right now. On a local scale (the boat) we all pay careful attention to the State of Charge (SOC) of our battery banks. We also monitor the weather closely. If, like today, the sky is blue and the sun is doing its thing, we can “afford” to go a little crazy with the power. When the weather turns to the dark and stormy side, (especially for multiple days in a row) we have to cut back. It’s as simple as that.

The weird thing is that the cloudy days don’t really bug me anymore. I no longer feel a sense of dread when the power is not flowing into our batteries. To me, it’s the way things should be. It’s natural and it’s right. When it gets cloudy, we take a walk, watch the other boats, read a book, or, heaven forbid, we talk to each other. I say this tongue in cheek as we Becks talk all the time.

Always one to look towards the future I am already thinking about our lives back on land. You can bet that wherever we end up will have an abundance of energy saving features such as LED lighting and multiple sources of energy generation, be it solar, wind, and/or whatever technologies come down the pike. I promise to never fall into the trap of “spending what we don’t have” again, money, energy, or other.

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This is what the State of Charge looks like at dawn.

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This was taken at dawn. By 11AM we are usually pulling in about 500 Watts on clear days.

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The sun is out! Time to play!

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Love it!

Can You Solve a Solar Mystery?

17 Apr

OK…let’s see who’s the quickest and the smartest when it comes to troubleshooting. We already know the answer but it took us several hours and a call to technical support to finally nail down the problem. Here are the components of our problem.

  1. Before we left Maryland in November we installed two 275 watt solar panels on an arch hanging off the stern of our boat. The solar panels feed through a 15 amp circuit breaker and into a controller that distributes power to out batteries as needed.
  2. Today at around noon I noticed that the batteries were draining even though the sun was blazing in the sky. I looked at the situation and discovered that the 15 amp circuit breaker was tripped and the sun’s energy was not reaching the controller.
  3. After resetting the circuit breaker I discovered that it would work for a few minutes but would trip whenever the sun would come out from behind a cloud.
  4. After fiddling with different components and finding no solution we called technical support.
  5. Technical support did some calculations and discovered that our circuit breaker was not sufficient for the wattage of our solar panels.

The question is this. Why did this start happening after we have been using these panels without fail for over 6 months?

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Come on Sunshine…Do Your Stuff!

16 Apr

We are safely moored at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club’s mooring field in south Miami. It is lovely here and we spent the better part of the afternoon exploring the myriad of shops and restaurants in the area.

When we arrived yesterday there were some pretty big thunderstorms in the area. The bulk of the afternoon was overcast and as such our battery levels were only at around 80% by the time sunset rolled around. Since we have been using marinas for the bulk of our journey we haven’t really been tested as far as energy consumption because we were always hooked up to shore power. We decided to just live life as normal and see what state the batteries would be in the morning.

Well, I’m happy to report that as of sunrise we are at 55% charge. Unfortunately the voltage has dropped off enough so that our inverter is no longer turning DC into AC so we will have to wait a few hours to run anything that requires it. (Looks like Robin get’s stovetop French press coffee this morning!) The refrigerator is the only real draw as far as DC goes and it’s still working fine.

It’s supposed to be a sunnier day today so we should be in great shape by this afternoon. I’m going to try real hard not to fire up the engine to charge the batteries. I will not be defeated!

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Our new arch getting assembled

5 Aug

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