Solar power system upgrade

Like with alot of my technical gear, it was time to look into upgrading my solar charging equipment fro the upcoming coastal paddle.

Powerfilm R14

For my 2014 coastal paddle I had concocted a frankenstein monster of a solar charger. A Rollable Powerfilm R14,  14 W panel joined with a US-military ammobox which held all of the electric chargers, batteries, cables etc.  The system worked well during the trip, plenty of juice. However towards the end of the 7 week paddle I did notice some loss in efficiency in charging despite the fact the days were sunnier than in the begining of the trip! On the panel, there was a patch in one corner that showed signs of possible delamination, which may have had something to do with the power loss?  The biggest draw back in the system was the bulkyness of the set up. The panel was long, and even if it was waterproof and could be strapped to the back deck of the near 6 meter kayak, it did add more surface area for the wind to grab, not to mention the added weight AND bulk of the ammobox itself ! Another minor problem was that despite what the manufacturer claimed, the “inbuilt diode” DID not prevent reverse charging, ie draining the batteries during lowlight conditions!

This system was nice because it could be used while on the water and it was pretty robust (apart from the rollable panel),  but due to the bulk AND reverse charging  a definite NO-NO for future kayaking trips!

R14 Specs
– Operating Voltage 15.4Volts
– Wattage: 14 Watts
– Current: 0.9Amps
– Width (mm): 368.3
– Length (mm): 1066.8 unrolled
– Weight: 0.445 kg

Powerfilm F15-300N
2 foldable Powerfilm panels, with cigarrete lighter adapter USB charger

The next system I used was solely “use on dry land”. This basicly consisted of two 5 W , foldable Powerfilm F15-300N 5W panels, daisychained and charging whatever devices thru the cigarette lighter adapter plug.  Using the panel was limited to daylight hours and on land only, so available charging hours were more limited. The same problem of reverse charging was also present in this set up. After use during two paddling seasons the loss of efficiency has also been noticed with these panels!

For whatever reasons, the powerfilm solarpanels do not seem to be long lasting, least in my use…

F15-300N Specs
– Operating Voltage: 15.4V
– Power: 5W
– Current: 0.3A
– Size unfolded: 620mm  x 267mm
– Weight: 0.20 kg

Exibel 10W
The Exible 10W charger opened up in its nifty folder

Marko had acquired a 10W Exibel foldable solarpanel “folder” from Clas Ohlsson, a local “sell it all” store. Not normally known for particularly high end products, I thought “Sure , whatever!”  But after comparing my 2 x 5W powerfilm panels side by side with Markos single 10W exibel panel I had to admit that the Exibel panel worked more efficiently and in lower light conditions than the pair of Powerfilms ! In the field the Exibel continued to charge via USB cable smart devices long after the Powerfilm had stopped charging and begun draining the batteries/device.

The Exibel and 2 x Powerfilms side by side..

On paper the Exibel boasts upto 1.5 A charging in optimal conditions while the Powerfilms  single 5W panel  tells a max output of 0.3 A!  Sizewise the Exibel is (unfolded)60 cm x 27,5 cm whereas the the single Powerfilm panel , unfolded is 62 cm x 26,2cm. So not only is the Exibel more efficient, its also half the size of the 2 Powerfilm panels! The specs for the Exibel do not determine voltage at which the charger works, but since it has a dedicated USB charging port I would make an educated guess that the panel is a 5 V system..?

Then there is the price.. I’d paid 198 Euros back in the day for the set of two Powerfilm panels, and they have been on that same discounted price for more than a year now.. Meanwhile the price for the Exibel panel now on discount is 49.95€ !!!

Exibel charger folded. Mobile phone for size reference
Reasonably slim folder

I will try the Exibel panel. I will buy an extra A-3 sized waterproof mapcase where the charger will fit, and have the whole set up on the kayak backdeck during the day. Will get atleast some recharging done… hopefully?

The Exibel fits easily into an A3 sized Ortlieb and NRS Hydrolock mapcase

For now the initial impression for this is very favourable. How long lasting will this be? Dunno, time will tell.  This price range products generally have quality issues. One model may be top notch quality and work for a loongwhile, while the next one on the shelf may not be as efficient or then it may work only for 3 weeks! This panel will need to work for the one paddling season and it will have beat the Powerfilm counterparts in the “bang for buck” – department. Ofcourse it would be nice if it were to work longer than that. 😀

Utö

Utö is a small island located approx 85 kms southwest from Turku, Finland. It is quite “far out there”, away from most things, located at the edge of the open sea. Despite being far away, it really is a very nice place to visit!  The small isle community living its peaceful existence at the edge of a dark  and often stormy sea really defines the term of ‘haven’. Migratory birds are often being spotted and photographed by avid birdwatchers. Bird species rare to this area sometimes get lost and are found there first! There is something about the place, that words fail to describe, something just waiting to roll of the tip of ones tongue, something universal, yet unexplicible!

To give some idea where Utö is!
To give some idea where Utö is!

Getting there with a kayak can be an operation of “touch and go”, and does require co-operation of the weather gods as well as fluent seakayaking skills! Not for the beginner. However one can get there also via a regular ferry service. There is a hotel and some rental cottages as well as a B n B.

There is a nice website about Utö, with lots of useful information about the place.

One of the most prominent features of Utö, is the lighthouse, built in 1814 surrounded by the houses of the small community. A lot of history relating to this small place. Much of it fascinating.

These pictures are from a recent “non-kayaking” trip. I first visited Utö by kayaking there in 2012.. then I promised I would visit the place another time, with more time, which eventually I did! After the second visit I realized that I will have to visit Utö yet a third time!

Enjoy!

 

Modifiying the new camera..

I had an old packet of that wonder goo called Sugru, the best before date had passed by a coupla months ago and then some.. It was coloured black!

My new waterproof pocket camera, a Olympus Tough 860 was ok, but I had noticed that the gripping “handle” was abit on the small size. With wet fingers it wasnt very “shure” fitting..

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This is the itsy-bitsy teensy-weensy, gripping notch to hold onto the camera.. already have slipped and dropped the camera…

So.. I decided, what the hell.., might as well try it..

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Enter the magic of Sugru!!
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The new added grip! .. time will tell…?

Now I have a Sugru Customized camera.. As this is the third time during the past 3 months that I have used Sugru, I cannot  say anything about how well it works on the long term.. thus far shows lotsa promise!

The extended “Sugru ramp” feels a bit better gripping the camera and thus far hasn’t hindered any of the other functions. So its an improvement!

Laying out the Sugru was simple. Easy Peasy! Some thin rubber gloves to keep the fingers clean, a coupla small “spatulas” (ice-cream sticks) and a lead pencil to help shape and mold the “sugru ramp”. After that wait 24 hours and presto!

New camera

Before kayaking, I was an pretty avid photographer. That involved lugging and loving  a DSLR, with all the clunky, heavy and bulky lenses wherever I went. After all I could fit everything into a backpack! Thats not much ? Or is it?

The first summer of sea kayaking I faithfully lugged my DSLR with a couple lenses wherever I paddled. All was packed under deck in a waterproof Ortlieb camerabag.  For on the deck, on the water action I had a small Olympus waterproof PHD camera (Press Here Dummy). All performed sort-of-nicely. The PHD camera worked when wet.. but it was sloooooow to do anything other than use up the battery! The DSLR was great but I daren’t use it on the water. So while things were great on paper, things were’nt really working on the water.

“Ahhh what fun!” that first summer of lugging everything! I had waken up to the realization that a DSLR just wasn’t very practical when seakayaking. Sad but true.

I decided to minimize.. rely solely on the small PHD camera. Soon I learned that action photography was out. Taking pictures of the grass growing, rocks resting and when things got really wild: The sun going down was the best I could manage with the PHD!  And since I had no choice, I suppose I was happy, kinda like a average marriage?

Many years passed with this sad, passive existence, one camera followed the other. I went thru two Olympus waterproof PHD cameras in 7 years. All of them performed somehow. Low light image quality wasn’t that great.. actually piss-poor. Fine for FB postings and general documentation.  Camera start-up/Focusing speeds were low. Only enough time to get a quick snap shot of grass growing on a cloudy day! Batteries drained fast until one learned to switch off most redundant “helpful” settings! The only thing that these Olympus PHD cameras excelled in was that they remained functional in adverse wet conditions and careless handling!!  And they took better pictures than what I could draw.. so I was satisfied!

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A separate camera carrier is available for the camera, this can be strapped onto a backpack strap, PFD, whatever. The carrier seems solid yet the camera can be picked out reasonably quickly for picture taking! The plastic/spiral  safety leash however isn’t very convincing!

 

On preparation for this years kayaking trip I realized that my semi-crappy-yet working olympus tough model…?? something something was getting slow and some of its buttons were getting a bit sticky, so I went out asking my trusty camera dealer if they had something to sell?

Shure enough, just like the previous two times, they sold me a demo model of a camera that was being discontinued! Wuhuu!  I bought a 12 month old, discontinued camera model, that had had limited demo handling and for a cheap price!

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The camera in its “carrier” . The bungee cord is out of the way of the lense so the camera could be recording video while on the carrier!

Like the previous two times, this was a Olympus. Model Tough 860.  An added bonus was that it works with the same battery model as the previous model!  Size was about the same. Startup speed was quite a bit better than anything I had used uptil now, also it had a nifty “selfie” button and a tilt preview screen, which can be nifty in certain cramped photo situations. Whats best it has a “ULTRAwide angle” lense which is perfect for on the water photos!

As the model is a discontinued model, I won’t use more time to go through the characteristics, other than its:

A.) waterproof and pretty robust
B.) Takes pictures…
C.) Reasonably small
D.) Came be remotely controlled via smartphone
E.) ULTRAwide angle lense
F.)  Has a  nifty camera holder (sold separately) from which it can be taken out faster than a pocket..

These are the features I appreciate in this particular model.

What could be improved on? Well, startup speed could be yet faster . as well as focusing speed. But what REALLY REALLY bums me, is that during the 12+ years I’ve used Olympus cameras, they have been unable to do anything to clearly improve the lowlight image quality, ie. NOISE! Using ISO  settings above 400 is reminiscent of film times! Image is Noisy / grainy!  I don’t know if Olympus does this as a “retro” thing or what?

These are minor gripes because at the end of the day, the most important feature that I appreciate in a camera for seakayaking is that the darn thing keeps working, taking pictures even if its been wind and waves for 2 weeks in a row!

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Camera carrier installed onto my PFD. Now I more room in my pockets for Snickers bars!!

Downside for the moment is: NO RAW capability.. but for the moment I can live with that…

Time will tell how long lasting this one will be?

 

 

Beaufort: First longer outing

For the upcoming finnish coastal paddle, Marko and  myself took our new Beauforts for a ‘spin’, or more seriously a trial run. A couple night trip with basic camping loads to figure out how these kayaks work, how they should be loaded, how we perform, how new bits of kit work, what we forgot, what we won’t need  and also.. just for the fun of it! 🙂

We logged some 100 km’s total trip. The weather was beautiful! Not so much wind, = very little sailing. The sun and warm more than made up for the lack of the wind.

Overall the kayaks worked VERY well ! Both were pleased. On smooth waters and a semi-full load paddling @ 6.5-7 km/h daily average speed was surprisingly easy for day trips of 36-38 km. We could have improved that average quite easily if we felt like it. But being the first trip of the season, we took it easyish.. Nothing fell off, nothing broke so all in all a VERY good trip!

A more complete or review of the kayak will follow after this summers trip!

Got a couple semi-decent pictures along the way. Trip took place in the Lake Saimaa system, mainly:  Yövesi, Liittokivenselkä, Varissaarenselkä, Pajusaarenselkä and Hietasaarenselkä

Enjoy!

A new prototype: SUP paddle – Part I

A friend had taken up on Stand Up Paddling. After some time she asked if I could make her a wooden SUP paddle. I’d never made a wooden SUP paddle and was kinda bored or atleast looking for something different to tinker on , so I promised to try to make a paddle for her.

Making something out of bits of wood wasn’t a problem. The challenge in this case was the basic design, shape and dimensions. I had no clue. I’d tried SUPping  awhile ago in Portugal, but I was having such a fun time at the time that I didnt really pay any attention to the details of the paddle. Thank ze gods for the internet!

After googling for about 45 minutes, I more or less had some basic shaky idea what I was going to attempt.  Online, I found a basic template of a paddle blade shape (I’ve lost the link for the moment from where I found the template, sorry about that!) and some possible dimensions as well. Also I had a book (yeah, I know, such an ancient concept and with no wifi either!),  about canoe paddles!! So I was all set to go.@

The idea was to make a bent shaft paddle. My plan was to make the shaft from laminated strips. Partly for visual effetct and partly to make it .. well stronger. I fashioned a glue press with a 10 degree bend. The materials for the shaft were 3 strips of nordic pine sapwood @5.6mm thick and approx 40mm wide. Length at this stage was unknown so I built the shaft about 2300mm long. The remaining 2 strips I decided to use Mahogany of same dimensions. Mahogany may not be the smartest choice , as it is on the heavyish side.. but boy does it look great!

SUP paddle shaft in Glue Press. The shaft consists of 5 wood strips 5.6mm thick each. 3 strips of Nordic pine and two of mahogany. Glue used is Polyuretahne glue . Water spray bottle to ensure the glue ahrdenin process
SUP paddle shaft in Glue Press. The shaft consists of 5 wood strips 5.6mm thick each. 3 strips of Nordic pine and two of mahogany. Glue used is Polyurethane glue . Water spray bottle to ensure the glue hardening process.

To keep it all together, I decided to use single-component polyurethane glue made by Wurth. I’ve used it previously on a couple canoe and kayak paddles with good results. At the moment I dont trust it as much as 2-component epoxy, which I’ve used on several occasion previously, but I think it’ll do the job sufficiently. besides my finances were in the dumps.. polyurethane is soo much more cheaper than epoxy.

Polyurethane glue foams nicely when "drying". Due to this foaming tendency the press needs to be solid and no looseness can exists. otherwise the foam can push laminate startips apart!
Polyurethane glue foams nicely when “drying”. Due to this foaming tendency the press needs to be solid and no looseness can exists. otherwise the foam can push laminate strips apart – leaving pockets filled with foam, which arent structurally sound! Angle of the bend at the paddle thrat is 10 degrees.. a number I  settteld on after googling stuff online. I have no idea if it is suitable… Time will tell! Lotsa exprerimentation in what I do!

After some gluing, pressing, planing I had the shaft ready after which I glued the “cheek pieces” of the blade, ie. the parts that make up the majority of the paddle blade area. For my Prototype #1 which will probably end up being a wallhanger anyway I used some scrap pieces of walnut I had lying around.. yeah, I know. not smart choice = too heavy and probably not very durable in the longterm.. but I had a hankering to work on walnut and I was going for looks at this stage.

After the glue has dried, the shaft blank is removed from the press and planed to correct width, in this case its about 28mm
After the glue has dried, the shaft blank is removed from the press and planed to correct width, in this case its about 28mm. Next step is to glue the blade cheeks.

Prototype#2 is basicly the same as #1 but the blade cheeks are nordic pine-sapwood, and 100mm longer. Should be quite a bit ighter than the shorter walnut version.

The paddle blade cheeks being glued on. The blade template visible in the background
The paddle blade cheeks being glued on. The blade template visible in the background
The paddle blade outline has ben marked and the excess cut off. The blade cheek materil in nordic pine of relative "light" growth. ie. not so dense+heavy
The paddle blade outline has been marked and the excess cut off. The blade cheek material is nordic pine of relative “light” growth. ie. not so dense+heavy
The paddle blade outline has ben marked and the excess cut off. The blade cheek materil in nordic pine of relative "light" growth. ie. not so dense+heavy
Paddle face side
The handle knob has been glued on and paddle is at its final length, approx 195cm.
The handle knob has been glued on and shaped to its rough outline. Paddle is at its final length, approx 195cm. This is the lighter version made of NordicPIne/Mahogany
Walnut planes really nicely!, even with a slightly dull blade.
Walnut planes really nicely! Even with a slightly dull blade. Here am in the process of shaping the backside
Slowly geting there.. and the pile of shavings grow! Its hard to imagine that there is approximately 80 €uros worth of walnut in this picture!
Slowly getting there.. and the pile of shavings grow! Its hard to imagine that there is approximately 80 €uros worth of walnut in this picture!
A handy tool for concave planing
A handy tool for concave planing! I decided to make the powerface of the paddle blade concave. Not sure if it has effect and what it could be? looks cool, plus need to lighten the paddle every which way possible!
Concave section is begining to show
Concave section is begining to show
10 degree angle
10 degree angle, (and a pair of work shoes marked “Left” and” Right”, incase non-finnish speakers were wondering?) 😉

The paddles still need to be sanded down to their final size and shape and varnished and then at some date tested! Follow up posts will follow….

 

 

 

Some tent addons

I had some time to make a couple modifications on my tent. The Marmot Trailite 2P tent has served well the past 3 seasons and for the moment looks like it should well for the unforeseeable future. No fault there.

There are a couple additions that I have been hankering for quite sometime. These aren’t tent specific, just little addons to add versatility.

The first add on

Many a times along the rocky Finnish coast the ground is well, Hard! Granite tends to be that way. Even though the tent is self-supporting, it often needs to be anchored down, especially where its windy..  Short of having a diamond tipped drill bit and/or a power drill/jackhammer.. tying a tend down on a rock is next to impossible.

Many a times I’ve filled a plastic bag or an Ikea bag with rocks  to make anchors for the tent. Plastic bags don’t last that long and I don’t carry around 8 Ikea bags.. So clearly this wasn’t the solution to be.

A friend who had seen another friend using something that is apparently called in the mountain climbing circles a “parachute” ! A lightweight but sturdy fabric that can be  buried under snow and packed over with snow for guy lines for tents!!! These things aren’t very common in Finland, at least outdoors stores don’t advertise them at all.. so IF they were available in Finland, then I would surmise that a specialist product like the “parachute” would cost and arm and a leg plus your firstborn.

Bricks simulating rocks.. Rocks need to be BIG! Not sure if the fabric square is big enough (30 cm x 30cm)?
Bricks simulating rocks.. Rocks need to be BIG! Not sure if the fabric square is big enough (30 cm x 30cm)?

After seeing what these devices looked like I realized that they wouldn’t be too hard to fabricate ones self!

Here I must confess , despite initially planning to do the sewing work meself, I opted out to order the sewing work done by the seamstress students at the local vocational college. That was easy!

Following pictures hopefully are self explanatory:

Sturdy fabric squares (30 cm x30cm each). Tunnels for line sewn at two opposing sides of each square. 1 line /square, line length approx 150cm. 1 plastic snap shackle/square. I decided on 8 parachutes for my current tent..
Sturdy fabric squares (30 cm x30cm each). Tunnels for line sewn at two opposing sides of each square. 1 line /square, line length approx 150cm. 1 plastic snap shackle/square. I decided on 8 parachutes for my current tent..
Fabric used was some sort of nylon/cotton mix, workclotchs farbic, plenty sturdy, but might be a bit on the heavy sde, especially when it soaks up water. But beggars can't be choosers!
Fabric used was some sort of nylon/cotton mix, work cloths fabric, plenty sturdy, but might be a bit on the heavy sde, especially when it soaks up water. But beggars can’t be choosers!
To tie the line end together I decided to try the Reever hitch. It holds better than the typical square knot (on this slippery type of line) and is lower in profile, plus it was inneresting to learn to do! :)
To tie the line end together I decided to try the Reever hitch. It holds better than the typical square knot (on this slippery type of line) and is lower in profile, looks nice plus it was inneresting to learn to do! 🙂
After tying the line ends, I slid the knot into one of the tunnels.. to make appearances neat.
After tying the line ends, I slid the knot into one of the tunnels.. to make appearances neat.
The second add on

Keeping stuff organized in anyway at all inside a tent is /has and probably will always be mission impossible or the next best thing. Many a time I have wistfully gazed at neat and tidy tents at camp, usually someone else’s! What most of these neat tents had in common was a nifty organizer pocket hanging from the roof! Now just about most of the major brand names usually offer one of these organizer pocket doodads for the price of your second born…

Being  a stingy sort and once realizing I had some left over deck netting and some 2mm bungee cord I decided to make my own organizer pocket! Hah! That made me feel good for a bit! Time will tell how this mod works out?

Some stretchy deck netting, 2mm bungee cord and sgharp scissors!
Some stretchy deck netting, 2mm bungee cord and sharp scissors!
Voila! And there she is! Took less than 10 minutes to rig it up! Now its just a matter of testing how it works!
Voila! And there she is! Took less than 10 minutes to rig it up! Now its just a matter of testing how it works! A good place to store random items and dry those wet socks etc.

So.. If the above add ons work nicely this likely be the last post.. If they don’t then.. this likely be the last post on the subject matter! 😉