Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We're not big fans of the winter here in the North so here's a little something from our summer since it's too cold to work on the coach and I'm not much on winter photography.

One of my favorite sunsets of all time.

Anchored to a mooring buoy, glassy water, party lights on, drinks poured. Heaven.

Daily bath time! No need for big holding tanks, got all the bathwater I need!

Daily nap time! Most forward berths on newer boats stick you in a dark hole. Our 1958 Lone Star is more like an RV for the water.

At night we'd crawl up on the roof and watch the stars as millions of bats flew around us eating bugs. Keeps the bugs down so we didn't mind.

This pretty much sums it up. Merry Christmas All and may all your 2014 dreams come true!
Rob and Jessica

Friday, December 20, 2013


It was finally time to say goodbye to the AFY Van. Since we switched gears and were lucky enough to score the bus, AFY was no longer needed for our future adventures. During this last week I had been negotiating a deal for the perfect service truck with a gentleman named Kevin from up near the Canadian border. After much talk and picture swapping we decided to meet in E-Burg for a straight trade. Jess and I were super sad to say goodbye to AFY so we went to Iron Horse Brewery to ease the pain. Pain was eased.

We sat at a window seat and sipped our medicine while staring out the front window......

This was our view, it reads "be freed" after some medicine right. So Kevin calls and says he's right outside E-Burg and he's having fuel filter troubles but he will be able to make it to the Kittitas Shell for a meet up and I'm thinking, " It's 19 degrees outside and we have a two and a half hour drive home in a rig with a plugged filter with limited tools, no flashlight and other complications, SHIT!"

This is when we meet Mel. Mel just ten minutes before we met him, had just purchased this truck and 53 foot trailer combo and just happened to be deadheading east.....seriously?

When Kevin finally rolled in he looked pretty beat down and apologetic about the trucks current condition and was ready for me to kill the deal and let him deal with his own predicament. Just then I pointed to the flatbed and said "No sweat! Mel with the huge trailer has agreed to haul it and us home!"

So Kevin walks over and hands Mel $100 for fuel, helps load our new service truck and we all shake hands as new friends. On our way home we learn that Mel is on his way to Clarkston to pick up a load of Phantom Jet boats to take back to Alaska, you know, the boats that they jump sand bars, logs and snow banks with. Turns out he's awesome and we put him up for the night in the WC and treated him to some "RTP" hospitality. All this on a school night!

Well here she is! 1986 M1008 5/4 ton ex Marine 24 volt turbo diesel awesomeness. Yah.
This will end up being our "toad" or towed vehicle behind our bus. Fully stocked for RV repair and ready to help fund our future adventures!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our Solar Solace

Back in November I was very lucky to be able to attend an installer workshop at  AM Solar in Springfield Oregon. I really didn't know what to expect but I had heard good things through multiple like minded nomads that these folks are a class act and stand behind their service. I am relatively new to the field of photovoltaics with my only experience being a small 100 watt single panel system I installed on our boat last year. It was that single panel that lit a fire in me to go bigger and much farther with this technology when it came to preparing our coach for long term boondocking.
I also wanted to use our coach as a sales tool for future mobile installations while we're moving across the country so when I started thinking about our system, I wanted to be able to represent what I see as a quality, properly sized, properly gauged, properly installed system. With that in mind, it took the entire week at the workshop before I was able to make what I feel is an informed and balanced decision about what and where to buy.
MPPT or maximum power point tracking technology is amazing and Blue Sky was a real winner when it came to MPPT response time which is crucial on short days or partial shading events. Hands down this was my pic for ease of programming as well as aesthetics. Although the IPN ProRemote is not required, it is needed to adjust the 3024i for custom applications.

Every time I had the chance, I was playing with the different controller remotes both Tristar and Blue Sky. I liked different things about each of them but for me, if I'm demonstrating a remote to a potential customer, the simplicity of Blue Sky was far more attractive in my opinion. "In addition to giving you the full range of operating information for the controller, it also has a full feature battery monitor when you add the optional shunt kit . By combining an advanced battery system monitor and charge controller display into a single unit, the IPN Pro Remote eliminates the need for a separate battery monitor."

Panel choice was tough. I was torn to say the least. Our curved roof begs for a thin film panel but with the current available technology, panel efficiency for amorphous thin films are inferior to modern high efficiency monocrystalline. With that being said there is also the sales factor. It's hard to sell someone a panel that you yourself are not using. I wanted a panel that is readily available so I went for three GO160's  from
 AM Solar . These panels are a powerhouse with 160 watts in the same size frame as a Kyocera 140 watt. 
With 320 square feet of roof space, we are not too concerned about running out of room with a larger panel but we are concerned with upgrading in the future with three more GO160's so placement will be with that in mind. Our total for stage 1 of our solar system will be 480 watts capable.

Much like many of you, I wanted to pick through the kit and only pay for what I couldn't build or source on my own but after learning about each and every part's quality and reason for being and then factoring in the cost difference between buying bulk and having to find things retail, I came to the conclusion that I was getting a better deal then I probably deserved.

Little details like glue filled heat shrink and UV resistant ties, stainless screws, silk screened vinyl labels, marine breakers and disconnects, oversized 4 gauge wires and high quality lugs are included in their Signature Series Kits.
Here's another example of quality. AM Solar has developed their own Rocker Foot mount system. Made from laser cut stainless steel. I used to think I would probably build my own until we mounted a set on a Sprinter Van during class. There is a lot more going on then what you can see in this photo when it comes to these little gems. All in all, I was extremely impressed with the whole operation and I hope to go back in the spring to do some follow up internship with AM Solar and the crew. As my personal installation goes, I will blog each detail as I go and hope to have the system operational by spring. Thanks and stay tuned.