To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

Big Upgrades: Tank Monitor, Inverter, Shot Glasses

Most of Red Ranger's refit has been to replace out-of-date systems. Our logs include a lot of "Replace" activity. True, we've done some small adds: a bilge pump, a bilge pump cycle counter, two galley lights, a water filter, two solar panels and the stays'l tracks. But most of the hugely complex jobs (recovering the cushions, rebuilding the charger and alternator) are replacements.

We've turned the corner on "replace" vs. "add"; we're no longer toiling down "replace road"; we're accelerating down "upgrade avenue".

Shown above is an important addition: the shot-glass holder.

And yes, we're serious that it's an important addition.

Without a shot-glass holder, the little bastards have to roll around on a galley shelf. This leads to several things: (A) they clink, (B) they take up precious square inches that could be devoted to something we use more frequently, (C) they break up the harmonious symmetry of "galley" vs. "saloon". They're barware, right?

The Poop Tank Issue

Red Ranger has a 40-gallon holding tank armed with a simplistic "Don't Flush" light. The tank monitor has a float switch and a red light to indicate full. The don't flush light—while helpful to prevent damaging the tank—isn't very informative.

See "Frankenpillow II and Tank Monitors" and "Tank Monitors II" for more gory details. Also related: "Yes, it's a bucket of Poo" and "DelMarVa Circumnavigation—Days 10 and 11".

This weekend, we finished the wiring for all three tank monitors (poop, port water and starboard water).


With a flourish, a trumpet fanfare and an announcement of Voilà, I hit the power switch on the display panel and... Nothing.

Not nothing nothing.

Two black bars nothing. And the green power LED. But otherwise nothing.


I must have done something wrong. I checked the input voltage and ground continuity. I disconnected tank sensors one at a time. Eventually, everything's disconnected and still nothing.


What to do? Take a couple of pictures; email Ferriello Sales, LLC; hope for advice sometime on Monday.

The Wow Factor

About two hours later, I get a phone call from Mr. Ferriello. He gives me instructions on boxing it up to send back to the factory for diagnosis, repair or replacement. Wow. He suggests that a serious over-power (i.e. nearby lightning strike) can pop one of the power regulator transistors.

In the process of removing the control module, I tried (for perhaps the third or fourth time) to power it on with no sensors connected.

Hey Presto! It worked.

Whatever I had jiggled out of place, was now jiggled back into place.


What to do?

  • Assume the worst. Remove it for repair or replacement.

  • Assume the best. Leave it in place until if fails for real.

It's not "mission critical": we still have the "don't flush" tank monitor.

And we can also do what other people do: pump into the holding tank until it oozes out the vent. (Ick!)

So. There it sits until it breaks. Next up: calibrate the water tank sensors and move the fuel sensor to here. Indefatigable suggested a cool calibration technique using a bucket. We've decided instead to post a little check list of calibrations to be accomplished. When a tank is emptied (or filled) we'll set the calibration and check it off the list.

More Power

The other big upgrade completed was the inverter. I found a pure sine wave inverter at It's smallish, but hard-wired. The advertising copy says "1500 Watt Power Inverter with Transfer Switch". It's called a "Cotek ST Series 1500 by Samlex". 1500 watts means we're limited to about 10A; the shop-vac ("Mini-Me") is just under the limit. The heat gun is right at the limit.


The sewing machine (165 watts) can be run for about 16 hours on the inverter before we must recharge.

The transfer switch means that it's hard-wired into the A/C system. It has no outlet of it's own. This also means it can engage and disengage automatically when shore power is disconnected. While nice to have, that's not a feature we expect to make heavy use of.

The hard-wired connection is the real objective. Once away from dock power, we can simply turn it on and plug in A/C appliances without worries.