We've been landlubbers for something like nine months now. We've painted the house inside and out, dug up the whole front yard and re-landscaped it. Got back into stereo gear and other hobbies. We're looking into getting a grill for the backyard. Hold on just a dadblamed minute here! What am I doing? I'm stuck in the dirt and I've become totally domestic. And I'm almost enjoying it! Yikes! What happened to the boat?
OK, so life does get in the way of our dreams sometimes. No problem. Just re-boot and we're back on track.
I got out the parts for my shelved water maker rebuilding project and got back to work on that. The new membranes are plumbed with high pressure hoses and everything is securely mounted. The next challenge was to rebuild the control panel. I was originally going to just clean it up but the low pressure flow meter was the wrong scale for the new feed pump and the new one required more real estate on the panel. I also found the smaller flow meter for the product water was damaged and needed replacing. Plus I wanted to add a digital readout for the TDS (total dissolved solids) probe. Maybe the real kicker was on the back of the panel. The plumbing components were badly corroded and made of brass. Brass parts are not rated for high pressure and this in itself convinced me to completely rebuild the control panel.
I carefully removed everything from the panel with plans to clean it up and reuse it. When I got it stripped bare I found salt water corrosion that had in some places eaten through the aluminum panel. At this point I decided to build my own panel with all new components and all stainless steel high pressure plumbing. I don't know why but all my projects seem to snowball.
I went down to the boat and made a detailed drawing of the bulkhead in the aft head, the planned location for the control panel and membranes. With measurements of every protrusion and obstacle I found that things were going to be kinda tight. I considered relocating but once I toured the boat with this in mind I realized that I was severely limited and my original choice was the only realistic location. The two 40" membranes are a limiting factor but the panel itself requires some serious thought. I want a location that I can get to easily to see the meters and gauges. Most of the plumbing is connected to the panel and if there's a leak I want to have easy access to repair that too. The forward bulkhead in the aft head is my best (only) choice. There's a large mirror mounted in the way so that had to go. It'd be a shame to lose it though so I'm planning to incorporate the mirror into the control panel enclosure. Not the highest priority so we'll see how that goes.
My next step was to go on-line and find a company that would make a custom panel for me. I found one called Front Panel Express (click here). Located in Seattle, WA they offer a simple free engineering program (CAD/CAM) to work up your design. Once you have the design finalized you send it to them and within two days your panel is completed and shipped. Awesome. I set my design on a grid with 1/8" spacing and went over it a number of times before I had what I wanted. I laid a towel out on the table and folded it to the size of the panel I wanted. I laid out all the meters and gauges on the towel to verify I had the spacing correct. Just as important was the spacing for the plumbing behind the panel. I went through eight different designs before I had what I wanted. With that effort completed I sent the design off to be manufactured. Total cost was about $135 including shipping. The panel is made of 1/8" black anodized aluminum and everything is NC machined to my design. I could have had instrument labels machined into the panel which would have upped the wow factor but also would have added unnecessary expense.
Assembling the controls and components went quickly and I'm now waiting on a few plumbing parts from McMaster-Carr to complete it. The next hurdle will be to build the cabinet to mount the panel and membranes in.
It feels good to be involved in boat projects again. I can't believe I had wandered so far off course. It's kinda like Jason and the Argonauts being tempted in to shore by the Sirens. Just like that. I was waylaid by the temptations of life on the beach. That was so close. I feel much better now.