Move House Batteries

It has always bothered us that the shaft and dripless system are located under the batteries in the lazarette. It is a difficult and heavy job to remove the batteries. One of us, usually me because I’m smaller) gets in the lazarette and dismantles the top shelf just to get to the house bank of batteries.

Then the battery cables for each pair are disconnected and a rope tied around the battery box so we can lift them out of the lazarette with the lifting davit. Each battery box holes two AGM 6-volt batteries.

If there is an emergency at sea, and we needed to service the shaft it would take us a longtime, under difficult conditions, to removed the batteries and make repairs.

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The solution is to move the house batteries to the space under the quarter berth. This is a major project involving building custom battery boxes and rerouting the power and sensor cables to the new location.

So what better time than in the middle of the summer 2010?  🙄

Rick’s (LA VITA) design calls for one battery box. This would house the four (4) 6-volt batteries we now have and have room to contain two (2) additional 6-volt batteries in the future, for a total of six house batteries. Added to that is the thought that we might upgrade the batteries to some that have the same footprint but that are three (3) inches taller than our current batteries. Our current batteries are 220 amp hour capacity for each pair or 440 amp hour total capacity. That’s not a lot of battery power. By making way for two (2) additional batteries we increase that capacity to 660 amp hours. If we go to the taller batteries that are 300 amp hours per pair, that would increase to 900 amp hours. More than twice the power capacity than we now have. All of that had to be taken into account in the design and the available space.

We contract with Rick on s/v CAPE STAR (AKA Marine Services Mazatlan; formerly C & C Marine Services) to design & fabricate the custom battery boxes. As well as, move, install, and rewire the batteries cables and sensor wires.

The first step is for us to empty the quarter berth. This is a major storage area. It is filled with boat parts, spares, extra line, fishing equipment, tools (lots of tools), you name it, it’s there. It all goes on our berth.

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Next Rick (CAPE STAR) takes measurements for the battery boxes. His solution was to construct two (2) boxes and place them side by side as the space would allow. He took measurements of the space and retired to his shop. Then prototype boxes are fabricated out of door skin (thin sheets of wood). This design was different from the original design but has the feature of not having to move the Racor fuel filters from their present location. While it impinges on the water heater and some fuel hose access a bit, it appears to be workable.

In a week or so, the prototypes are ready and put in place. They fit nicely and the sides and top of the boxes are level.

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We approved the battery box design and the prototype is sent back to the shop to be fabricated out of epoxy and fiberglass.

The custom fiberglass battery boxes are delivered by dinghy in mid August.

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They fit essentially as designed leaving room to access the Racor filter system in front and the hot water heater in the back. There is less access to the fuel hoses but that can be worked around since they should not have to be replaced or worked with for several years. (Knock on wood!)

Support tabs are fiberglassed to the hull and the boxes bolted to the tabs. The two (2) boxes are also bolted together for additional support.

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All of the batteries are removed from the lazarette, the house bank and well as the start battery. The house bank goes to the new location under the quarter berth. The start battery goes back in the lazarette. Rick (LA VITA) will build a wood box to protect the battery and the box will serve as a step into the lazarette, also.

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We stay out of the way by reading on the foredeck in the shade.

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The power cables and sensors are routed to the new location and connected to the batteries.

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We thought the fiberglass battery boxes would have lids, but that was not the case. Rick (LA VITA) builds a cover for the battery boxes. The tops of the fiberglass boxes are uneven, so the lids are difficult to fit, but in the end our custom lids do the job.

We run cargo straps and buckles around the batteries to add extra security to the batteries.

When Rick (LA VITA) is in the lazarette working on the start battery box, he notices one of the wires to the house bank has been extended because the run to the house bank is longer. The original shorter wire is 10 or 12 gauge, however, the electrician used 18 or 20 guage, much to small to do the job.

Julio, the electrician on the project, comes back to rerun the wire with the correct gauge. Believe it or not, but here is a picture of Julio and Rick (LA VITA) both in the lazarette! We gained a lot of space when the house batteries were moved to the quarter berth.

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The start battery is returned to it’s original location the lazarette. Rick (LA VITA) builds the wood box to enclose the start battery. The box is solid enough to be a step. Now it is much easier for me (and others) to climb in and out of the lazarette.

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