Power systems – batteries etc

You will pick up a recurring theme – that every piece of equipment I take must be super reliable and every system must have redundancy built in. 

All my electronic equipment: Plotter, VHF radio, AIS, Autohelm, lighting and most importantly the watermaker all depend on a reliable power source. With this in mind it was an easy choice to go with Victron Energy as my power solution.

The solar panels are connected to a solar controller before they are able to charge the batteries. The front and aft panels each have their own charge controllers.

  • Solar controller/charger

Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/20  0.7kg

 

The controller constantly monitors the voltage and current output of the solar panels. The Maximum Power Point Tracking(MPPT) technology intelligently maximises the energy-harvest to achieve a full charge in the shortest possible time. The advantage of a MPPT controller is most noticeable when the sky is partially clouded and light intensity is constantly changing which are the conditions for much of my route. The SmartSolar charge controller will even operate with a battery voltage as low as 0 Volts, provided the cells are not damaged.

Another bonus is the built-in Bluetooth. I can pair it with my smartphone for real time data. I have also connected them to a Victron GX module. See more info on the GX below.

The solar charge controllers are then connected to the batteries via a waterproof 30amp circuit breaker.

  • Batteries:

Victron Lithium SuperPack 12,8V 100Ah 1280Wh 15kg 

The batteries are simple plug and play and I have two connected in parallel. They have an internal switch that will disconnect the battery in case of over discharge, over charge or high temperature. I have sealed the housing to improve the IP43 (waterproof) rating.

The most important features of the lithium versus lead-acid batteries are:

  • Weight saving of more than 50%
  • They can be discharged below 85% without any issues
  • The charge rate is much faster
  • They do not need to be fully charged. In fact service life even slightly improves in case of partial charge instead of a full charge. 

The batteries are then connected to a battery monitor and then a  waterproof 30amp circuit breaker before connecting to the switch board where the power is distributed to the various circuits. 

  • Battery Monitor:

Victron Smartshunt 500A/50mV

The SmartShunt is an all in one battery monitor, only without a display. My smartphone acts as the display when needed via the built-in Bluetooth which allows me to read out all monitored battery parameters, like state of charge, time to go, historical information and much more. The SmartShunt is a good alternative for a battery monitor with a display, especially for systems where battery monitoring is needed but less wiring and clutter is wanted. The Smart Shunt is also connected to the Victron GX module. 

  • The Venus GX:

This is the communication center of my installation. It allows me to talk to all Victron components in the system and ensure they are working in harmony. Monitoring of live data, and changing settings can be performed using my smartphone and my shore team will be able to monitor and adjust values remotely from any place in the world via the Victron Remote Management Portal.

How cool! 

Huge thanks to Bruce Robinson from Powersol for his advice, ongoing support, assistance and sponsorship along with the support from Andre Du Rand of Victron Energy.

                                          

Solar Panels

On Osiyeza I need lightweight and reliable systems.

Lightweight means better boat speed which means less time at sea and as there is only me on board to fix anything reliability is super important.
The first topic are the solar panels as they are the reason I can have electronic gear, and most importantly the reason I am able to make fresh water which makes a trip like this possible on such a small craft.

I chose the Solbian Super Rugged(SR) series of solar panels which are flexible lightweight panels, are completely waterproof and resistant to salt water. The Merlin technology monocrystalline cells have a cell efficiency of 21% which is very high compared to others. Being super rugged means they can handle me walking on them which is important should I ever need to do any rudder repairs.

The panels we chose are “peel and stick” with the terminals on the underside side. These panels have a high tolerance to cracking and bending which means they are able to bend to the curvature of the deck without any problems leaving a nice flush finish.
The back deck was made wider with “wings” to accommodate the two 160W panels.

 

                        

The two SR72 panels on the starboard side are rated at 72 watts each and the two SR186Q panels on the aft deck are rated at 186 watts each.
                                                                  

The fore and aft pairs use separate charge controllers (redundancy/backup) giving a total of 516 watts. The weight of all the panels is only 7kg.

                                      

Why are there only panels on the starboard side of the cabin?

The solar system was designed by Dr Christiaan Oosthizen from Tshwane University of Technology. He studied the last 20 years of weather and solar data along my predicted route and then used some very clever mathematical algorithms to predict how much solar radiation I should get. It also indicated that overall the starboard side would receive up to 10% more than the port side.

Thanks to Solbian Italy for their assistance and price concession.

GivenGain Foundation February Fundraise of the Month

An important accolate to have… I am honored to be GivenGain Foundation’s February Fundraiser of the Month!

So far we have raised over R10000 for Operation Smile. So far this will change the lives of 2 children who will receive life changing surgery for cleft palates. Changing the world one smile at a time

If you want to donate to Operation Smile please click on my GivenGain fundraiser https://www.givengain.com/…/richard-kohler-raising…/ or if you want to get invovled and sponsor or support my Ocean X adventure, please contact me.
Richard will be the first person to paddle a kayak solo and unsupported across the Southern Atlantic Ocean. For now, unfortunately, the big adventure has been put on hold due to the impact of COVID-19. New date will be announced later this year.

Covid-19 delays Richard Kohler’s Ocean X adventure departure

I would be lying if I said wasn’t bitterly disappointed that I have no choice but to postpone my mammoth Ocean X odyssey to Salvador in Brazil on the South American continent – this has been a dream of mine for 10 years!

My planning began three years ago, but with all the uncertainty around the current pandemic that the world is experiencing, and Brazil’s escalating Covid-19 cases, including their closure of all land and sea borders, plus many countries implementing travel bans from Brazil, I believe the risks are stacked against me.

The enforced hard lockdown last March meant that delays would be inevitable. The setback meant that I could only commence with the kayak build after initially starting my research and design ideas in July 2019. Sadly, my friend, designer and builder, Uwe Jaspersen, passed away a month into the kayak build. The emotional setback was immense, but I needed to find a solution and soldier on.

Enter Phil Southwell, who knew my original concept, understood my vision and was able to design the kayak. Obviously, Uwe was a designer and a builder, so I still needed to source someone who could build on my vision within the parameters of Phil’s design. In early-September I started chatting to Dylan Soares De Melo from Further Composites and the ball started rolling at once.

We were on track with the build – even though the hard lockdown had put me back five months – and we were ready to start the first round of sea trials in mid-December. The day after we launched the kayak in Langebaan lagoon, the beaches were closed by the government under the adjusted Level 3 lockdown restrictions.

First time launching at Langebaan Lagoon

Fortunately, that one paddle proved to be the most valuable exercise as it confirmed the need to include my original design of the keel for improved stability. This is something to be positive about and only just this week the government has allowed South Africans to be able to return to the beaches, rivers, and lagoons.

Sea trials require a minimum of a month and a half, which excludes any alterations that need to be done to the vessel. Obviously, I have a real job so 12 full days of training amounts to quite a few weekends! The Covid-19 restrictions have hampered that time frame to test out equipment and make any adjustments and improvements to the craft.

With a very tight deadline to leave within the current weather window, there is only a short time left for me to complete all my tasks. From a safety perspective it would be crazy to undertake my journey to Brazil without ticking every single box on my checklist. This does not include any uncertainty over the virus – especially with the unknown issue of a third wave.

My mate Robin Tindall testing the kayak at Century City

But for me to achieve my Ocean X dream, staying positive is of paramount importance and there are many positives to take from my decision to postpone till later this year. It gives me plenty of time to ensure the kayak is 100% and ready to go. My life depends on it!

Also, it offers my sponsors 10 months of extra coverage as I nip and tuck all my preparations to achieve my successful crossing to Brazil. But, more importantly, for everyone on this planet, the understanding of Covid-19 should be a lot clearer and hopefully the vaccines may have improved the situation considerably.

Thank you to all my partners and everyone involved on making this journey possible. Teamwork makes the dream work and nothing can be achieved without your support.

Please keep following the progress as we build towards the end of the year. Some exciting things happening soon…

Stay safe and keep paddling!

ALTSA partner with Richard Kohler’s Ocean X odyssey

We are proud to announce that ALTSA has been named as the presenting partner for Richard Kohler’s Ocean X odyssey.

Gerhard Moolman, CEO of ALTSA, is no stranger to the demands of the open ocean and is excited to be a main sponsor of Richard’s mammoth expedition of paddling unsupported from Cape Town in an eight-metre paddling torpedo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean to Salvador in Brazil.

“ALTSA will cross oceans for their customers,” says Moolman, who holds the Guinness World Record for the longest distance paddled on a Surfski. Almost 20 years ago, Moolman paddled 6,152km from Hout Bay in South Africa to Lamu in Kenya.

“From one adventurer to another I could identify with Richard’s dream and we at ALTSA are proud to be a presenting partner and help in any way to support Richard’s dream.” he added.

“When I set off on my six-month journey, I knew there were many challenges ahead of me, but I always knew that all the support I had, would allow me to achieve my ultimate goal, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to assist in Richard’s, Ocean X exploits.”

ALTSA is a leading outdoor and indoor LED lighting solutions provider based in sub-Saharan Africa and the largest lighting exchange company in South Africa. ALTSA is where innovation meets the cutting edge of lighting design.

Richard Kohler is scheduled to leave in early-2021 on an unsupported paddle in aid of raising funds for his charity of choice, Operation Smile. Sailing has always been in his blood, and he began his journey at the age of six, and has sailed at international level, including the 2007 Americas Cup for South Africa aboard the Shosholoza.

We look forward to Richard successfully completing the experience, with local corporate partners like ALTSA joining the team and being able to witness first-hand the real effect of their efforts to raise awareness and funding for this great initiative.

WIN a chance to name my Ocean X kayak

Back in 2016, Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council introduced a public contest to name a new ship. That plan backfired with voters overwhelmingly supporting a name that a British radio presenter submitted, Boaty McBoatface. Since then we have had Ferry McFerryface, Trainy McTrainface and even Horsy McHorseface and no one has gone so far to ask the public to name a boat since.

Until now…it’s South African’s turn and I am putting it in your very capable hands so don’t let me down. Now you can help choose a name for the kayak. Here’s the catch though, I will select the top three names which the public will then vote on, so we won’t be naming this vessel Kayak McKayakface 🙂

How to enter: Fill out the form on Cape Town Etc website here

The three names will be posted on Cape Town Etc’s website and social media chan
nels for everyone to vote. The person who submitted the winning name will win an exclusive experience with mwah, including an invite to the launch and the naming of the kayak, as well as an invite to the departure at the end of January – and a paddle on the boat in Cape Town before I leave.
Prize details:
  • An exclusive experience and a paddle on the kayak
  • A personal invitation to the naming of the kayak and the launch
  • A front row seat to see me depart on my journey in January

Competition Ts & Cs apply.

Paddling for Smiles (Operation Smile)

As I count down the weeks left until I set off for my Ocean X adventure to Brazil, I have chosen to support and raise funds for Operation Smile South Africa, a charity that advocates for children born with cleft lift and cleft palates in South Africa.

It takes a 45 minute life-changing surgery to provide a beautiful new smile to a waiting child. Each surgery costs just R5500 to change a child’s life forever. Please help me raise money for a cause that’s very close to my heart through my GivenGain fundraiser. To donate click here:

Lauren Bright Operation Smile’s Country Manager said “it is an honour to have someone like Richard Kohler choose Operation Smile as his beneficiary and take up such an enormous challenge, to help raise funds for kids and adults born with a cleft lip and palate – to help change lives; one smile at a time.’

9 year old Clara, female, BCL and CP, after. Clara poses for photos holding her before picture. Clara received surgery for her BCL during Operation Smile’s 2016 mission and will return to the 2017 mission for surgery on her cleft palate. Patient village. Madagascar. May 2017. (Operation Smile Photo – Zute Lightfoot)

 

Kayak build – half way there

We’ve reached the end of the third week of my Ocean X kayak build.

Last week we invited some special guests who have helped my dream come true to have a private viewing of the boat build.
Thank you to my build team Dylan from Further Composites, Phil Southwell and Richard Bertie for your time and input.
Thanks to Bruce Robinson from Power Sol, Andrew Parsons and Craig from Aerontec, Vincent and Ashraf from SMD Africa Marine and Matthew from Getaway Magazine, Highbury Safika Media.
Check these awesome renderings of the design by Southwell Yacht Designs.

Gadget review – Solar Kettle

If my cooker packed up or I ran out of fuel would this solar kettle be a viable option to heat water to re-constitute a freeze dried meal? Let me know what you think?

Phil, Richard, Dylan discussing craft design

My Ocean X kayak build has begun

Things are getting real…

Got my first look at my Ocean X kayak being built by Further Composites. Timber frames form the shape of the 8m long hull. The core material will be stripped and formed to the hull shape before laminating the first of the outer skins.

I chatted to Dylan, the boat builder who is building my kayak…check it out here.