Three Months and Counting!

We are feeling like the end (of the first phase) of “project Befur” is in sight – we have set a goal of having her on the water in April – the remaining 90 days appear to be passing at some speed.

This time I wanted to document the final work to get the engine and boiler ready for installation in the boat, the electrical system and Louise’s work on fitting out.

Boiler & Engine

Having completed the bench test, I disassembled the plant, making sure we dried everything out to stop the boiler corroding while in storage and ensure any frost did not cause damage. We put the sensitive bits (gauges and lubricator) in-doors to keep warm. However, a week or so later it became obvious that there was some corrosion occurring in the engine as it became very stiff to turn. So pumped some oil into the inlet, and ran it on compressed air for a few minutes to free things up and ensure everything was covered. (need to keep an eye on this over the next few weeks).

The small ball races in the scotch crank could not cope with the strain!

Also, as we cleaned up, we discovered a collection of “bits” in the sump, which revealed themselves to be the remains of a set of small ball-bearings from the “business end” of the scotch crank driving the pumps – I had worried about their small size, and testing proved this concern to be correct! (There were a lot of bits!)

I remade the crank pins in silver-steel and hardened the running part and fitted small needle-roller bearings which hopefully will survive the loads better – time will tell.

Boiler with cover, and engine ready to be lifted.

The remaining task was to make an outer housing for the boiler, to keep the hot bits at bay, and look a little nicer. So it was back to the woodwork!

In my hurry (and cheap-skate mindset) I decided to make the cover from ply with wooden cladding – and purchased a bundle of the cheapest battening from the local builder’s merchant. The first job was to get the ice and snow of this and then chop it into appropriate lengths, ready to plane to size – the planer didn’t like the ice! So the timber got put in the boiler house to dry out for a few days.

Then it was planed to size and epoxied into place on the ply, and varnished. Of course I was hurrying things too much, and the wood continued to dry out while it was in the house being varnished – so the end result has some rather “rustic” warping and splits, but given that this is not a structural component, it will have to do for now!

Following on from Lou burning herself on a hot funnel a few years back, I also decided to fit some handrails to the boiler to encourage people not to catch hold of the hot bits. I was quite pleased with these. I had purchased some bronze castings for the ends of the handrails (at and SBA auction), and nickel plated these (along with some of the valve-gear components on the engine) in the same way as previously done for other engine parts. These matched the A4 (316) stainless tube for the rails and make the finished job look quite nice. (click pic for larger version)


So while some members of the SBA are firmly of the opinion that electrics and steam boats should not ever be seen together, Befur is having a complete set for the following reasons:

  • The boiler is fired by a standard commercial pressure-jet burner which needs 240VAC to drive it.
  • The composting loo requires a small fan operating continuously to keep it running cleanly (i.e. not smelling, no flies etc.).
  • As Befur is going to spend her life in the water  (as opposed to on a trailer), we need automatic bilge pumps and navigating lights.
  • As (in the end as a sailing yacht) we aim to do some coastal sailing we are fitting her with VHF radio.
  • As we are aiming to “camp” on the boat we also need cabin lights and the ubiquitous USB charging points!

Electrical Panel

So the plan is to have batteries to drive a 240v inverter for the burner (which also provides the USB sockets), and drive the other ancillaries. When running the batteries are recharged via the alternator on the engine, but when moored solar panels on the cabin roof are designed to keep the batteries topped-up and replenish power used for anchor lights, bilge pumps and loo.

After a lot of thinking and head scratching, we eventually concluded that a 100amp-hour AGM leisure battery should provide enough capacity (remember the inverter draws about 25amps to run the burner, and it might take about 10 to 15 minutes to get steam to run the engine and steam pumps before the alternator can take over).

The burner only consumes about 300watts when running, but as the fan/pump motor is an induction one the start up currents are much higher. After trying several inverters I eventually settled on one rated at 1,500watts which seems to do the job.

As to the solar panels, it is quite hard to guess the size needed. The only continuous loads are the loo fan (which is v small ~150mA) and overnight LED anchor-light (5w). So in the end I opted for a pair of 10W semi-flexible panels.

These will be wired in parallel (to help overcome the loss of power resulting from one being shaded by a mast or rope), and we have fitted a PWM power controller. This prevents overcharging, and also has a function which provides switched power for navigation lights which automatically turns on/off at sunset and sunrise.

Testing Electrical System, although Cumbria December sun didn’t appear to be bright enough to generate a measurable charge!

These controllers are not the most efficient – MPPT controllers do a better job of extracting power from the solar panels, but cost ~£100+.  The Chinese  controller I purchased is called “MPPT T40” in an attempt to fool the purchaser, as it is actually a PWM one! – come-on eBay!

I built a control panel to hold all the switches, inverter, controller and fuses (the controller is not fitted in this pic.)

Testing 100+AMP thermal breakers is a challange – even the welder would not make the largest ones trip out before the breakers in the house decided the workshop looked like it had shorted out!!!


Lastly, we should include some pictures of Louise’s efforts in producing the first cushions for the cockpit – she has quite a lot of work ahead of her, as we also need cushions for the beds in the cabin – a cover for the boat and eventually sails when we fit the mast and sailing rig next year – they look very posh!

Louise and Cockpit Cushions




2 thoughts on “Three Months and Counting!

  1. nick pilbeam

    Good luck with the target for launch. Some pretty hefty electrics needed for the engine which i would not have guessed.

    1. sybefur Post author

      Yes the peaks are larger than one might expect. The inverter really takes some current on start up. At its rated power it draws over 125A. The alternator is capable of generating over 70A when initially charging and powering the plant. I really did not want any false trips, so it’s thermal breakers and heavy cable.


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