More Power

One casualty of winter’s heavy boot stomping at the doorstep here down under were Aluna’s house batteries. Yes, they are called house batteries, even though they are sitting in a boat! We’re clinging on to planet Earth at 35˚ South of the equator and by now the sun must be inching close to its most northern declination over the tropic of Capricorn. So at noon it barely rises to 40˚ above the horizon. Add to this the short days and the fact that at such low altitudes any hill or forest blocks out a big chunk of the remaining daylight. So the solar panels, which usually provide more than enough juice for our humble electricity use, just can’t keep up with the demand. The two 100Ah batteries in each of Aluna’s hulls were getting seriously depleted!

Fortunately up here in Opua my friend Ted, who lives on a Trimaran in the mooring field behind Ashby’s Boatyard, took them under his wings and reconditioned them in his shop. But the situation did make me remember the long overdue project of assembling a wind generator, the parts of which had been sitting idle in the many bilge compartments of Aluna. There’s the Ametek permanent magnet motor acquired a long time ago on Ebay. Those are reclaimed tape drive motors from a time when computer components were hefty and sizable hardware. Since they have their proper magnets they can serve as motors or as generators. The rotor blade I got from a guy in Half Moon Bay who ripped them out of a slat of hard, vertical grain pine wood along lines of a NASA aerodynamic profile. A sizeable piece of 3mm aluminum was one of the many kind donations of my friend and generous landlord during the building of Aluna, Mario Mendoza. Add to these principle components a handful of screws, washers and nuts and all the ingredients are now laying in front of your mental eye.

Ted’s shop and especially the heavy vice inside his neighbor’s barn was of big help to make it all happen. A couple of his pals also came by during the day and each had his say about a particular phase of the project. By the end of the first day the 10cm wide aluminum strip had finally resigned to be coached into the shape of a tall hat section with holes drilled into the top part to attach the motor’s front face to it. The second day I spent aboard Aluna refining the design. It was a beautiful sunny day and by the time the sun was setting, the generator sat up on the main mast waiting for the electrical connection and of course desperate for some wind to show off its capabilities. Aluna suddenly took on the looks of a small airplane ready to take to the air!

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