Friday, October 2, 2020

One final storm in Maine

We are underway southbound in the Atlantic Ocean, more specifically the Gulf of Maine. As I projected, I am finally getting to post as we depart Portland for points south, after a week of hunkering down for weather and knocking out some projects.

One of those "projects," by the way, turned out to be catching up on two months' worth of blog comments. Sometimes it takes all the wherewithal that I have left just to get to updating the blog, and so I am notoriously bad at keeping up with the comments. Louise has informed me that this would never fly in the quilting world. In any event, I think I am mostly caught up now.

Squirrel Point Light Station on the Kennebec. "Tilted" shed in background, left, is the boathouse, with launch tracks down to the river.

When last I posted, just over a week ago, we had just tied up in Bath, on a lovely day. I did some more walking around town, stopping at J.R. Maxwell's to reserve a table outside on the sidewalk for an early dinner. On my walk I circled around the old train station, now the visitor center, and past the Carlton Bridge, which still carries the rail line that goes all the way to Rockland. The old highway deck above the rail line ends abruptly, having been replaced by the Sagadahoc Bridge right next to it.

We returned to town at dinner time and had a nice meal at Maxwell's. We were fortunate to be under an awning during a light sprinkle. While we were sitting there the weekly BLM peaceful protest marched past us chanting. On the way home I again stopped at the very convenient IGA grocery to replenish the beer supply.

Bath station, looking unchanged from the days of passenger service.

Friday was our one good outside window to return to Casco Bay, and we dropped lines with the ebb and ran downriver to the ocean. As soon as we left the mostly pot-free Kennebec I was right back to steering around floats for the rest of the cruise. We rounded Cape Small and turned shoreward at Turnip Island, making our way to a familiar spot in Potts Harbor, where we dropped the hook. We arrived early enough in the day for me to get the main engine oil changed after a brief cool-down. We opted to remain aboard rather than brave the chill to go to the Dolphin Marina for dinner, as we had on our first visit.

In the morning we weighed anchor and made our way back to Portland, dropping the hook more or less in the same spot we had vacated five weeks earlier (map). We drove through light fog the whole cruise, even getting a late start due to visibility, but we drove out of it just as we got to Portland. It turned out to be a fairly nice afternoon there, and we made arrangements to meet our friends Stacey and Dave for dinner.

The road deck ends here abruptly on the historic Carlton bridge. It still connects to ground level on the other side.

We were able to snag a nice outside table at the Old Port Sea Grill just across the street from the tender landing, and had a great time catching up on cruising Maine. After dinner they drove over to the pier to drop off our loot, which included another pair of lithium batteries, the critical replacement pump for the master head, and our accumulated mail sent up from Green Cove Springs.

Having the pump in hand meant my fate for Sunday was sealed, and I spent the day working on the head. I will spare you the gory details, other than to say that the cause of the pump jam was a portmanteau whose second half derives from "concrete," which has accumulated over several years. I spent most of the time removing those deposits before I could install the new pump.

On our way out of Bath I snapped this pic of the USS Lyndon B. Johnson, DDG-1002, the third and final Zumwalt-class stealth destroyer, being fitted out at Bath Iron Works.

The pump came with a kit of installation parts, including the gasket that fixes it to the china, as well as the weird proprietary rubber discharge tube that connects it to the waste line. Of course, the new tube is the one designed for the tall version of the head, which we have in the guest stateroom, but it does not fit the low-profile model we have in the master. The replacement pump kit is the same part number for both.

That meant I had to reuse the old discharge tube, which was not a big deal because it's in good shape and there is not much that can go wrong with basically a rubber hose. But while the included replacement tube came with a stainless hose clamp to fit it to the new pump, the original tube was affixed with a crimp-on band similar to the ones I use to install PEX fittings. These are meant as throw-away items, including whatever they are clamping. I had to carefully cut it off using a Dremel tool, taking great pains not to damage the rubber tube.

At the Maine Maritime Museum, just downriver of the Iron Works, these five flagpoles are arranged as the masts of a full-rigged ship, framed by sculptures of a bow and stern. There are docks here for visitors arriving by boat.

It was a long, drawn-out project, but once I got the new pump installed (the old one can probably be salvaged, but that was beyond my ability in the moment) everything was working again, better than it has in quite a while. Sadly, within a couple of days we realized that the obstructions have just moved further down the sanitation hose, and we're back to using the forward head until I can replace the hose entirely.

Monday I set right to work getting the new batteries installed, since they were taking up considerable room in the saloon in their packing boxes. That meant fully charging the existing bank, then cutting back over to the old AGM batteries, which are still in place. That allowed me to disconnect and remove the lithiums so I could remove more of the compartment floor with my oscillating saw, relocating a stringer for the settee in the process.

On our way back from dinner in Portland we passed this wedding limo. Mindful of the horrific outbreak from a wedding in Millinocket, now at 175+ cases and 7 dead, we wondered just how much "social distance" this conveyance affords.

The six batteries all fit quite nicely in the compartment thus modified, although I did have to connect the third pair with some wire I had lying around. The copper bar I had ordered to make new bus bars had not arrived at our friends' house by the time we met for dinner. I did have enough bar left over to at least make the series connection for the new pair. I had all the batteries in place and cut back over by the end of the day.

I had ordered a number of items on Amazon for delivery to the Portland locker. They all had delivery scheduled for Sunday, but one item somehow did not arrive until Monday. As soon as I got the notice, just as I had wrapped up with the batteries, I tendered ashore with my backpack and made the trek to the locker. The deliveries included a battery monitor for the inverter, a remote microphone for one of our radios, replacements for the carabiner we use as a chain hook, which gave up its life here in Maine, and oil filters and test kits to replace those I'd consumed in the last week.

Looking very much like a turbo for a small engine, this is actually the new macerator pump for our head. I think a turbo is cheaper.

We tendered back ashore not long after I returned with my locker packages and enjoyed dinner at Flatbreads right by the dock. They've set up a shelter on their deck and added some propane heaters and we were quite comfortable; we've been joking that we need to invest in whoever makes those heaters.

My copper bar arrived at our friends' place Monday afternoon, and we made arrangements to have a final lunch with them Tuesday. We all underestimated how busy places would be just after lunch hour mid-week, but we found an outside table at local small chain eatery Elevation Burger and had a nice time. No idea when we will run into them again, but we look forward to it. After lunch we returned home and decked the tender.

I had to carefully cut this clamp off to remove the tube from the old pump. I used a cutting wheel on a Dremel to cut through the "crimp" at right so I would not nick the rubber.

The forecast for Tuesday evening and through Wednesday was bleak: 40-50 mph winds out of the south, with 7-9' waves in the ocean, which would send considerable swell into the harbor. And so around mid-day Tuesday we weighed anchor and moved over to an anchorage called Seal Cove, off Great Diamond Island (map), just a couple of miles from where we were. We set the anchor in deep mud and paid out a lot of chain.

That committed us to eating aboard for a couple of nights, but it was calm, quiet, and reasonably scenic there. We did ultimately see winds well in excess of 40 on Wednesday, but we were mostly protected and comfortable. I continued working on projects, and, in particular, with the copper bar now in hand I could finish up the batteries.

Weighing anchor after a full day of 40+ wind -- we were well-set in thick clay.

That meant once again shutting them down and running on the old AGMs while I installed new bus bars and the new battery monitor. For the former, I basically made two more long bars identical to the first pair. It can be argued that using longer bars to bridge all three pairs would be neater and more efficient, but that would have meant buying at least another foot of bar, plus would complicate installation and future maintenance. Having two bars to cross among three batteries meant I also had to make spacers with small pieces of the same bar so that it would all lie flat.

The battery monitor installation involved installing a "shunt" (a large, high-current, calibrated resistance) and a small electronic module which communicates with the inverter-charger. This lets the charger make decisions about charge rates based on what is actually flowing into the batteries, rather than guessing based on what's leaving the charger. Some of what leaves the charger goes to the loads instead of the batteries, so the guesswork is problematic.

Finished installation. Total space is about 21" square.

Of course, there was already a shunt in there, which supplies usage data to our State-of-Charge (SOC) meter at the helm. In theory, the new shunt and module obviate that need, because the usage information can be seen on the inverter display. That said, I wanted to keep the SOC meter, because it provides more detailed readings, and also has an alarm circuit which we have connected to a very bright warning light to tell us we need to charge.

That meant having two shunts, and I needed to move some things around to accommodate both and wire them together in series. When I initially designed the compartment and installed the SOC meter shunt, I had not counted on the kit for the inverter. Only after getting it all working did I realize that the charger was working at a disadvantage without this input.

Two shunts in series. New one, left, is for inverter/charger monitor; older one on right drives the SOC meter.

Fortunately I had enough terminal lugs and battery cable on hand to put it all together. I did have to drill out a 5/16" lug to 3/8" to make it all work; the new shunt has larger terminals. I was able to get it all back together and working by dinner time on Wednesday; I am only missing a couple of terminal boots, which were on backorder. The new system is now 100% operational, with 7.8kWh of capacity, and we are very happy with how it is working.

Yesterday morning was calm and serene, and we moved back to our old spot in Portland at mid-day, hoping to go back ashore for one last dinner and walk around town. But well before dinner time, the swell had moved back in from the ocean, and the rolling became intolerable. We ended up moving back across the harbor to a slightly different spot near Great Diamond Island (map) and eating aboard instead.

Box at right, with green LED, is the battery monitor module. It connects to the inverter with a network cable.

Today we weighed anchor at the turn of the tide and headed out to sea. Seas have been three feet on seven seconds, which is brushing the edge of comfort, but it's been tolerable and we've had a good cruise. The lobster floats are unending, and it's been a challenge to try to type here while having to steer manually every few minutes to avoid them.

Update: We are anchored in a small natural harbor near Cape Porpoise, called Stage Island Harbor (map). There is but a single other boat here, a cruising sailboat that came in just ahead of us. My route originally had us going to Cape Porpoise Harbor, just around the corner, where we might have gone ashore at the small dock and eaten at the waterfront pub there. But it was 55 and raining as we approached the cape, and with no appeal to go ashore, this spot was closer to our route and a more pleasant anchorage.

We had a lovely sunset at dinner last night in our anchorage at Great Diamond Island. A fitting finish to our Portland visit.

In the morning we will weigh anchor to have favorable tide on the Piscataqua on arrival. We have reservations at the Prescott Park docks in Portsmouth for the night. The nicer, newer concrete docks were unavailable, so we'll be on the older wooden dock with no power, but the off-season rate is favorable. We should be tied up by lunch time, and my cousins will come up from Chester to meet us in the warmth of the afternoon.

That will put us in New Hampshire tomorrow, and we will be out of Maine with three days to spare on our 60-day clock. When next you hear from me, we'll likely be in Massachusetts.


  1. Why are you limited to 60 days in Maine? Is this some kind of residency issue, where you become a Maine resident if you spend more than 60 days there?

    1. As Stacey says, it's a tax issue. Actually, *every* state has either tax or registration (or both) consequences for visitors who stay beyond a certain time period. And, of course, there is no consistency: every state sets its own rules and they differ widely. Usually it is a safe bet that, as a visitor, you can stay in any state for up to 30 continuous days without a problem. After that, you need to do the homework. Some states are 60, 90, or 180 days. Some go by months or fractional years. Some only care about continuous days (spending even one night away "resets" the clock), some count all the days spent in a year (calendar or rolling, depending on state). Some want you to pay sales or use tax, some want you to pay a registration fee, some want both. In some states the tax is due if you happen to be there on January 1st. All those who lead a nomadic life, whether by boat, RV, or even just hotel-to-hotel or apartment-to-apartment like, for example, many in the entertainment industry, need to keep up with the rules.

  2. Too bad you had to use two shunts, must be they have different ratings. As I'm sure you know already, if they are both the same you can use the same shunt for both meters. I've run multiple meters off the same shunt many times, the key is they must use the same shunt resistance, 0.1mOhm in the case of the 50mV/500A shunt.

    1. These two shunts actually happen to be identical values (50 mV @ 500 amps). That makes them interchangeable, but it's not as simple as using just one of them for both meters. That's due to meter impedance, which, unlike with a high-quality multimeter, is unknown for these devices. To make a long story short, each of these meters can be impacting the reading of the other meter. The meters have been calibrated to the shunt output with the meter impedance already factored in. Adding another impedance in parallel will alter the measurements, albeit only slightly. I was unwilling to introduce even this small error, especially since the shunt was included with the meter and so cost me nothing extra to separate out. If I was tight on installation real estate I might have tried to get away with paralleling the meters on a single shunt.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!