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

Holiday Gifts 1 - Cold

One of the great gifts from our kids was good reading material for the boat. The Oxford Press Very Short Introduction books are a delight. Well written. Small format. Another great gift was a West Marine gift card, good for lots of boat goodies. (There were more... magazines, coffee, tea, bucks at Amazon... our kids spoil us.)

The pictured piece of gear is the spring that holds one side of the fridge open. The other side of the fridge doesn't have this flexible door-holding spring from Moonlite Marine.

Here's a picture of the fridge door being held open.

The "Hatch Holder" is a densely-wound coil that snaps out straight to hold the door open. When you close the door, the spring flexes (or buckles) and is pushed down inside the fridge.

Without the spring, it takes one hand to hold the lid open while the other hand roots around. This is ineffective since the fridge is deep (3 feet) and finding something at the bottom requires at least two hands.

The Gift of Information

The fun part of this job was getting a good picture of the Moonlite Marine sticker on the spring mounting bracket. A bit of fiddling with the camera and the angles and—eventually—a serviceable picture that showed precisely what we had.

Now that we know what to order, we can get a second hatch holder and install it on the other fridge, making it easier to use.

This is just one step in rebuilding the whole system. Currently, we have an complex (and ancient) Crosby rig that we think should be replaced. There's a reasonable probability that it can be recommissioned. But a new fridge will be simpler and can be more efficient.

The existing fridge system is big: there's an 8 cu. ft. fridge and a 6.6 cu. ft. freezer. This is slightly smaller than a household fridge; they vary from 18 to over 30 cu. ft. The issue is that household electricity is plentiful and (superficially) cheap. [I say superficially because electricity prices are held down by the lack of an effective accounting for the environmental cost of creating electricity.]

The Gift of Energy

On a boat, energy for the fridge can come from a number of places.

  • The fridge compressors can be driven directly by the engine. We have this. We're taking it out. It's a mandatory 45 minutes of engine time (3/4 gallon of diesel) per day to freeze the three holding plates (one in the fridge, two in the freezer.) At $4.00 per gallon, that's $3/day, $90/month. It's also a bunch of engine parts and plumbing.

  • The fridge can be driven by 110V shore power. We have this. We never used it, and can't see the point. It's a bunch of wiring and plumbing and another compressor. Some folks swear by using a gasoline-driven AC generator to run this compressor. Some folks don't like carrying all that gasoline. But we already carry gasoline for the dinghy. Back and forth; pro and con. We don't like the complexity.

  • The fridge can be driven by 12V power from the batteries. The batteries are charged by the engine (for now). This, too, is an hour of engine time to recharge the batteries. It's slightly less efficient than direct engine-driven compressors. But. Here's the big win: batteries can be charged by wind or solar sources. That changes things. Many folks report that the fridge power use is recharged entirely from the solar panels.

In addition to propping the door open safely, we're going to remove the old Crosby, it's two compressors, and the resulting complex plumbing. We're going to install just one new 12V compressor (and evaporator) for the fridge side. Something like an Isotherm or Adler Barbour system that draws about 5.5 A and runs for only a few hours each day.

We'll use the freezer side as more dry storage. The space occupied by the old fridge compressor can be used to hold a second, spare alternator to help charge the batteries.

The Gift of Simplification

Removing the old fridge is arduous. The cold plates seem to weigh close to 50 pounds. They have plumbing as well as a bunch of awkwardly-placed mounting screws. Also. They're almost inaccessible.

That's CA with a screwdriver in her right hand only slowly backing out each of the 14 screws that had to be removed. Oh, and, that last screw is a bitch and a half because all 50 pounds of cold plate is hanging from it. Did I mention that my arm still hurts from loosening just one of those screws?

We actually resorted to stuffing the camera down in there to confirm that it really was an ordinary square-drive screw that was defeating us.

The picture is looking under the cold plate to a screw we could only feel. Or see with a mirror. But it was impossible to see it and put a screwdriver into it at the same time. I would estimate that we spent at least an hour on this one screw. Maybe longer.

The other 13 took a total of perhaps 15 minutes. None of them were easy, but none were as painful as that one.