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

Dodger and Solar Power

The last three days? Major accomplishments. All with "R".

  • Restored the Dodger
  • Repaired the Dodger
  • Rebuild the Solar Panel Wiring
  • Ran the Engine

Dodger Restoration

Our big mistake was leaving the dodger windows in place. Hurricane Ian's wind pummeled the windows, ripping the entire dodger structure apart.

Three of the bases were torn out of the boat. Some of the steel tubing was pulled out of the sockets.

It weighs at least 50 pounds, possibly closer to 100.

I rigged a bridle so I could lift it with the halyard (and winch.) With some slow, careful inching it up and back -- and a lot of CA and I peering at it to be sure we weren't going to break something else -- we shifted it into position.

Dodger in Place
Dodger in Place

(I have a copy of Adkin's book Moving Heavy Things. It was helpful in thinking about using the boat's heavy-lifting equipment like winches and booms and topping lifts.)

Dodger Repair

The dodger was built by Wavestopper Dodgers in Annapolis (now out-of-business.) The top is a big sheet of 1/2" thick high-density polyethylene. It holds screws like wood. But. There are almost no adhesives that can bond to it. You have to weld it (Google "HDPE Welding".)

Here's one of the brackets holding the plastic top to the steel tubing.

Good Dodger Bracket
Good Dodger Bracket

This good one still shows original wood-screws holding a plate over the two welded legs. The pastic is 1/2" thick, so those are #8×2" stainless screws.

Here's what I did to replace the bracket that was sheared off when the dodger was blown off the mounts.

Bad Dodger Bracket
Bad Dodger Bracket

This port-side bracket is now through-bolted. I applied a wad of butyl tape to try and assure screws wouldn't drip (much.) The oval screw heads are on top, where the fabric for the Bimini cover will go.

Can't have nuts and ends-of-machine screws near Sunbrella fabric.

This failed bracket was on the port side. The dodger ended up wedged into the starboard lifelines. Your guess is as good as mine on how this all transpired.

I imagine the wind pushed it to starboard, lifting the port side. The steel tubing held by set-screws separated, putting a lot of pressure on the one port-side steel where the tubing was riveted instead of being held by set-screws.

On the starboard side, the riveted portions are attached to the board on the winch box. This board ripped out before the bracket failed.

(There are 8 brackets, total. One failed.)

We're still waiting for canvas folks to make an estimate. Every boat for hundreds of miles around has had significant canvas damage. We're remain one of a long list of supplicants.

Rebuilt Solar

Once upright, the multimeter showed the panels still worked.

Two of the four Z-brackets were a mess on the starboard panel. It had chafed against the lifelines for a while. It turns out that a little TLC with the vice grips, and the backets could be forced back into their original shape (more-or-less).

The wires all had tidy MC-4 connectors. MC-4 Connector.

These have an aluminum fitting crimped onto the 10-guage copper wire, surrounded by a weather-proof plastic case. When confronted with hurricane force winds and solar panels being yanked around, the wire and crimped-on connector can be pulled out of their plastic case.

(Yes, there's a strain relief that holds the wire into the fitting. It's good for hurricane-force winds on the wires themselves. It's not designed to keep the fitting together through the collapse of the solar array.)

Most of the MC-4 connectors had empty plastic cases. Most of the wires had crimped on metal ends. (A few crimps failed.)


I took the plastic cases apart, pushed the metal bits back into them and reassembled the cases around the wires.

(When I first installed these, I used a cheap-ass crimping tool. A few years back, I upgraded to a ratchet crimper with interchangable dies. The die for the 10-guage wire is the best. Only use ratchet crimpers. Only.)

And it looks like it works. I turned off the shore power charger. Life is good.

9.0 Amps Charging
9.0 Amps Charging

9.0 Amps is about 128 W, which is about half the capacity of the two panels. That's typical for this installation. The panels are not aimed at the sun, and the main boom often casts a shadow. Closer to noon, later in the year we'll see more.


Since Red Ranger was tipped onto her port side, and the oil dipstick is down low on the port side, as well as the starter motor, we had concerns. Did water get into the oil? Did the newly-rebuilt starter get drenched?

I tried to check the oil. Unless the dip-stick touches the bottom of the oil-pan, there's not much to see there.

The scummy stain of standing water was all over the bilge. It was all through port-side lockers under the cooker and behind the settee. But not in the engine room. It's amid-ships, and it seems like the water never got that high.

Nothing left to do but hit the starter.

Good news #1 -- Mr. Lehman cranked on the first try. Starter (and related wiring) are solid. Yay.

He didn't quite fire, though. I think I cranked him three times, maybe 5 to 7 seconds each.

This is a LOT of wear on the starter battery.

CA says "Cold start?"

Good idea. I set the cold-start device to use a little extra fuel.

Good news #2 -- Mr. Lehman turned over almost immediately.

We let it run for maybe a minute. Not much more. Enough to see that things worked.

The last bit of water in the sea chest got sprayed all over our boarding ladder. Raw water pump is fine. Some water sprayed through the shaft-seal, showing that works, also.

Next Steps

We'll go sailing with Juan on Uhane Kai.

We'll do some marina shopping and birding. We'd like to find a slip. (Hahahaha. Some marinas are wrecks. Others won't be ready for new boats for years. Others are full.)

Next job is to replace the mast-head anchor light. This is not Hurricane Ian related. This is a left-over task from about a year ago.

See Ph. IV, Day 6, Boot Key and Ph. IV, Day 12, Boot Key. In panic, I bought a new light. Then. Later. I went up the mast to see the wiring had failed.

Important lesson: don't panic buy parts "just in case." I didn't want to waste a single day going up the mast to figure out what was wrong. A mistake. I need to take the time to invest a day (or more) in root cause analysis.

While the old light works (perfectly) the new light has the on-at-dark off-at-dawn sensor. So I want to (a) inspect the rig and (b) replace the light.