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Running Vivarium power as a continuous cruiser


Andrew C

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3 minutes ago, Andrew C said:

Thanks friend. It's beginning to dawn on me that it's just too impractical to even try to take our tortoise on board. Looks like there's going to be upset whatever we choose to do now. Life hey, just when I was trying to escape the rat race and stress of this mad world we live in today, I'm plunged deeper into the mire. Drat and double drat. 

It's not impractical, but it won't be cheap -- see above. You'd need to really *love* a tortoise to spend that amount of money on it...

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2 minutes ago, Andrew C said:

Thanks friend. It's beginning to dawn on me that it's just too impractical to even try to take our tortoise on board. Looks like there's going to be upset whatever we choose to do now. Life hey, just when I was trying to escape the rat race and stress of this mad world we live in today, I'm plunged deeper into the mire. Drat and double drat. 

 

A middle course no-one was suggested is don't CC, get a mooring with a mains power bollard in a marina somewhere. Then you can move aboard and plan your power generation strategy without the time pressure.

 

 

 

 

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1 minute ago, IanD said:

Your problem isn't impossible to solve but it won't be cheap, you need an "electric-heavy" boat, almost certainly with a lot of lithium batteries, and the means to provide a *lot* of power to recharge them -- either really big alternators on the engine or a separate generator, and probably as much solar as you can fit, though this is no good in the depths of winter.

 

Getting this fitted to a new boat is expensive to say the least (£10k absolute minimum). Cheaper if you DIY but this needs significant time/effort/expertise, there are people on the forum who have done this and can advise you.

Thanks. Not really an option for me. I do intend to add some decent solar, but am selling up my home for a simpler and hopefully less expensive and complicated life away from the stresses of the modern world. I've got 12k to upgrade my boat, but need solar, a stove, new shower, Blacking, annodes, new flooring and some remodeling and decorating, so sadly not in the position to totally revamp the power supply. But cheers anyway 

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9 minutes ago, Andrew C said:

Thanks friend. It's beginning to dawn on me that it's just too impractical to even try to take our tortoise on board. Looks like there's going to be upset whatever we choose to do now. Life hey, just when I was trying to escape the rat race and stress of this mad world we live in today, I'm plunged deeper into the mire. Drat and double drat. 

 

 

Hi Andrew, I would urge you not to write off the idea just yet, as daunting as it initially appears. 

 

A few people have raised the possibility of not using the vivarium all the time, for example, or perhaps lowering its running temp a bit.

I've no idea personally, but it seems maybe the creatures can survive very well in normal domestic temperatures, and live long lives. 

 

In winter your stove will do the job- its the spring and autumn months where the challenge is- the weeks when your stove is not running, but there are still some cool, and even chilly mornings. 

Diesel CH is a possibility, if you have it, set on a timer- although it can be noisy, and having diesel CH kick in at 3am wont make you popular.

 

I would start asking about how well she can survive without the vivarium, as people have suggested. Maybe you could try this out now, at home? 

 

 

 

Edited by Tony1
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9 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

A middle course no-one was suggested is don't CC, get a mooring with a mains power bollard in a marina somewhere. Then you can move aboard and plan your power generation strategy without the time pressure.

 

 

Since most of the power is being used for heating, another option is to find a non-electric way to heat the vivarium. If the boat has a large well-insulated calorifier (heated by engine, or a hot water system, or solar) then you could use pumped hot water from this to warm your tortoise up, including overnight (it's easy to store several kWh of heat in the hot water). Much more efficient (starting from diesel) than using electricity, and doesn't need the mega electrical system. Think of it as extending the boat heating/hot water system into the vivarium, which is after all much smaller (though hotter) than the boat...

Edited by IanD
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1 minute ago, Andrew C said:

but am selling up my home for a simpler and hopefully less expensive and complicated life away from the stresses of the modern world.

 

Hmmm I think you might be in for a shock on that front too. Running a boat costs more than running a house in my experience, and the expenditure is very 'lumpy'. You'll go for months or years spending very little, then a few four figure bills (and possibly a five figure one) come at you, all in a rush.

 

 

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15 minutes ago, PCSB said:

Hermann's are a Mediterranean species iirc so need daytime temps of around 30c and nightime between 16 and 18c. They will hibernate (I think, again from memory) but need temps below 10c and this needs to be maintained so possibly not achievable on a boat. Most folk I knew who kept them indoors kept them active all year round. 100w of uvb seems a lot, certainly whilst its smaller a 55w tube and reflector will provide an awful lot of UV (Arcadia do a 12% D3+ tube which is likely the one to go for). Like a lot of reps they use white light to find basking spots so a light would need to be on constant 10hrs so 100w is probably about right. 

 

If the boat will be heated using a stove that could help with daytime temps, you could use a blacklight heat source or a reptile radiator on a thermastat sited next to the white light (which could be LED btw) to maintain a basking temp. Temp gradient in the viv needs tobe there too, so it will need a cool end (low 20s iirc). I used reptile rads to maintain nightime ambients ona stat set just above the minimum required, but I'd expect the latent heat fromthe stove will suffice.

 

Insulation could help, but its important that there is a good airflow otherwise the tort may well get a respiratory problem.

 

Anyway you could add additional batteries and maybe get a small genny - another can of worms but ...

 

Difficult choices Andrew. 

Thanks mate. Some solutions there worth persuing further, though even at a reduced total of 80-100 Watts continuous during daylight hours, on top of normal day to day electrical requirements, is going to destroy my batteries rapidly, and even I as a greenhorn boater recognise that good manners dictates using a generator for anything other than occasional use is only practical or considerate in the middle of nowhere, away from other boaters. Not looking positive unfortunately. 

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52 minutes ago, Tony1 said:

 

As a relatively new boater myself, I came across the issue of alternator charging power, and it seems like it'll be a key factor in your decision. 

 

I would check the engine documentation and also have a look at the alternator(s), and see if the power stated on it is what it should be (my engine starter alternator was supposed to be 70 amp model, but it was in fact a 50 amp unit when I looked at it). 

In this way you can find out what the maximum charging current is, and unless you have a Bosch (or similar good quality alternator), you can probably count on getting about 60% of the rated current (on a continuous basis). 

 

It looks as if you might need around 180-200 amp hours per day for the tortoise, plus at least 100Ah for the normal liveaboard requirements- so at least 300Ah in total. 

 

If you have an alternator that can safely put out 100 amps (and those are not too common), you could in theory generate your required 300Ah of charge in 3 hours - but what I found with my lead acid batteries was that the charge current dropped over time, and after a couple of hours it might only be half what it was at the start- so the theoretical 3 hours could easily be 5 or 6 hours.   

If you tried that, it would mean a lot more engine running hours and fuel used, and of course more frequent servicing etc. 

If you spent your time in a marina on hookup power it would be much cheaper, but as soon as you got out cruising the challenge would arise again.

 

There will be people who understand these things properly and can explain more clearly what the issues are, but I can say that generating 300Ah each day is a significant task. 

If you invested a couple of thousand quid into an upgrade to a battery and charging system like that of Nick Norman above (with lithium batteries), it would be feasible but would still take up time and fuel. 

 

Also, as Nick said above, that means you need at least 600Ah of battery capacity, because on a day to day basis you dont want to let your lead acid batteries go below 50% state of charge.

 

The day to day hassle could be significant as well. What if you got back late to the boat for some reason, and you felt that you had to run your engine at 8pm or later to keep the tortoise safe? 

I think in Winter you'll have your coal stove going most of the time, so that during the day the saloon will be very warm anyway and the vivarium wont draw much power, so that factor could reduce the real-life needs by maybe 50%- so maybe you would be needing only 200Ah each day, not 300. 

The problem is its very hard to say with any real confidence.  

 

Hopefully the experts here will give you enough information to make an informed decision, but initially it does seem a tall order.

 

 

 

you can probably count on getting about 60% of the rated current (on a continuous basis). from the above

 

No you can't. The best you can probably hope for is an average of about 50% for three hours or so, and from then on it gradually  reduces to an average over time of perhaps 10%. That is unless you have lithium  batteries.

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1 minute ago, doratheexplorer said:

Fridge?

Good call, used to use a fridge for my snakes that brumated, a decent stat and heat mat kept the temp safe. A decent poly box may work too.

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4 minutes ago, Andrew C said:

Thanks mate. Some solutions there worth persuing further, though even at a reduced total of 80-100 Watts continuous during daylight hours, on top of normal day to day electrical requirements, is going to destroy my batteries rapidly, and even I as a greenhorn boater recognise that good manners dictates using a generator for anything other than occasional use is only practical or considerate in the middle of nowhere, away from other boaters. Not looking positive unfortunately. 

I'd have thought that using a combination of efficient UV lights and LEDs for "daylight", you'd be well below 100W -- that's an *awful* lot of UV + visible light nowadays.

 

The heating is much less of a problem if you figure out how to do it as part of the boat heating/hot water system instead of electrically, it's then just a bit bigger heating load, probably only a small fraction of what the boat needs anyway.

Edited by IanD
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How about having a tiny radiator inside the vivarium and running it off the boiler on the boat.  My gas boiler system runs three radiators and is easily thermostatically controlled.  I can turn off whichever radiators I don't want.  It wouldn't be that hard to add a very small radiator to the system and just have the boiler running to that radiator.

 

Do tiny radiators like that exist?

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1 minute ago, doratheexplorer said:

Fridge?

Yes, the fridge is the go to option, but then real estate in a narrowboat fridge tends to be in short supply. We intended to choose not hibernate and especially at the moment when its recommended that only a few weeks hibernation is recommended for the initial few years

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21 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

Hmmm I think you might be in for a shock on that front too. Running a boat costs more than running a house in my experience, and the expenditure is very 'lumpy'. You'll go for months or years spending very little, then a few four figure bills (and possibly a five figure one) come at you, all in a rush.

 

 

Yep. As soon as I see the usual sentence of wanting to live aboard for a cheaper lifestyle, i immediately think the poster isnt going to last long and will probably lose a lot of money.

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4 minutes ago, Andrew C said:

Yes, the fridge is the go to option, but then real estate in a narrowboat fridge tends to be in short supply. We intended to choose not hibernate and especially at the moment when its recommended that only a few weeks hibernation is recommended for the initial few years

In a hay box, down in the locker would probably be sufficient for hibernation.

 

I use to keep red eared terrapins in a nice warm aquarium when the kids were small, today you see them in the canal thriving and also going through winter. I wonder if torty really needs to be that hot, Our boat is normally around 22 deg in winter, but not at floor level. 

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12 minutes ago, doratheexplorer said:

Do tiny radiators like that exist?

 

The smallest ordinary steel panel rad I've ever seen was about 12" square. 

 

I've an idea they only go down to about 18" square nowadays, but HST someone will now no doubt bung up a link to one half that size!

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19 minutes ago, Tony1 said:

 

 

Hi Andrew, I would urge you not to write off the idea just yet, as daunting as it initially appears. 

 

A few people have raised the possibility of not using the vivarium all the time, for example, or perhaps lowering its running temp a bit.

I've no idea personally, but it seems maybe the creatures can survive very well in normal domestic temperatures, and live long lives. 

 

In winter your stove will do the job- its the spring and autumn months where the challenge is- the weeks when your stove is not running, but there are still some cool, and even chilly mornings. 

Diesel CH is a possibility, if you have it, set on a timer- although it can be noisy, and having diesel CH kick in at 3am wont make you popular.

 

I would start asking about how well she can survive without the vivarium, as people have suggested. Maybe you could try this out now, at home? 

 

 

 

Thanks Tony. You are right, in that as a child, we kept tortoises and never heated them. Our little Shelly is my wife and son's baby and they follow modern care advice, which I presume is based upon the optimal conditions for a tortoise to be kept, but not necessarily requiring slavish adherence to. Similar to a tropical Aquarium we were given from my father in law who had all these test kits for pH balance, ammonia etc etc. I never used them and the fish seemed to thrive as well as they had in the hands of my father in law. Perhaps we need to be a little more pragmatic and take on board the amazing advice of so many of you kind neighbours and try a suck it and see approach. To give up on my long held dream of narrowboat life, for the sake of rash decisions, I fear would plunge me back into the mental quagmire that instigated my recent agreement to buy a boat for my mental wellbeing in the first place. I have to say that I'm really overwhelmed by the incredible support that all of you contributers have shown on this thread. It's the first forum, in any form, I've ever involved myself in and I can't believe the care and consideration displayed by you folks. I knew that the canal community was regarded as strong, but it's way more than that. It's just amazing and however many Floating our Boats, Foxes afloat, or Holly the Cafe Boat vlogs a person watches, the true strength of this community cannot be conveyed. U r all amazing! 

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3 minutes ago, Andrew C said:

It's just amazing and however many Floating our Boats, Foxes afloat, or Holly the Cafe Boat vlogs a person watches, the true strength of this community cannot be conveyed. U r all amazing! 

 

Do beware of all them vlogs, they present an idealised view of the waterways and generally avoid mentioning any of the sh1tty bits about canal life. 

 

E.G. like when you get home late, it's dark, freezing cold and slashing with rain, you've tramped through half a mile of towpath mud and you find the stove's gone out, the bog is full and needs emptying, the gas bottle is empty, the batts are flat and there's no water in your tank. 

 

Mind you, you will have known all this when you went out in the morning! 

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3 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

Do beware of all them vlogs, they present an idealised view of the waterways and generally avoid mentioning any of the sh1tty bits about canal life. 

I thought it was a condition of the licence for new boaters that they start a vlog on Youtube . The amount of money some are making is amazing. 

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22 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

Yep. As soon as I see the usual sentence of wanting to live aboard for a cheaper lifestyle, i immediately think the poster isnt going to last long and will probably lose a lot of money.

I knew when I wrote a cheaper lifestyle, I was leaving myself open to some wise challenging. I suppose it depends on what ones costs are on land and the cost to mental health (wow, this is moving away from tortoise care 🙃) it's a how long is a piece of string thing isn't it. My mortgage and council tax alone are 1k a month and I have 11 more years to pay before I own it, but I do have alot of equity that pays for the boat cash and gives me a substantial sum in reserve, plus a early retirement pension that covers most costs plus unforseen costs. Then my state pension kicks in after 11 years. I think if I had a loan for the boat, it would be different. Am I still being too naive do you think? We know it's not all roses but having been a caravan near for years, we are used to the small space, emptying Thetford cassettes, minding power, refilling water and unplanned for expenses, but we appreciate canal boats are on another level. I don't know. What are your thoughts? 

26 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

In a hay box, down in the locker would probably be sufficient for hibernation.

 

I use to keep red eared terrapins in a nice warm aquarium when the kids were small, today you see them in the canal thriving and also going through winter. I wonder if torty really needs to be that hot, Our boat is normally around 22 deg in winter, but not at floor level. 

Great advice. Thanks. That solves one problem

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5 minutes ago, Andrew C said:

  I own it, but I do have alot of equity that pays for the boat cash and gives me a substantial sum in reserve, plus a early retirement pension that covers most costs plus unforseen costs. Then my state pension kicks in after 11 years. I think if I had a loan for the boat, it would be different. Am I still being too naive do you think?  

 

I would be more inclined to buy another property on a buy to let mortgage to rent out and then use the released equity to buy the boat. That way you will still have a toe in property if you need to move back ashore

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25 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

Do beware of all them vlogs, they present an idealised view of the waterways and generally avoid mentioning any of the sh1tty bits about canal life. 

 

E.G. like when you get home late, it's dark, freezing cold and slashing with rain, you've tramped through half a mile of towpath mud and you find the stove's gone out, the bog is full and needs emptying, the gas bottle is empty, the batts are flat and there's no water in your tank. 

 

 

And some scrote has smashed your window in.

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7 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

I would be more inclined to buy another property on a buy to let mortgage to rent out and then use the released equity to buy the boat. That way you will still have a toe in property if you need to move back ashore

Yes. Thanks. We have considered that already and have the ability to buy the boat and a cheaper buy to let. 

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11 minutes ago, Dave_P said:

And some scrote has smashed your window in.

Funnily enough, if that's the term for it, our house boiler just packed in yesterday, so we have no heating or hot water and a few weeks ago our neighbours had 2 windows smashed by kids, and we live in an area regarded as nice. I've sold my motorcycle, caravan and car and no longer need to worry about them being damaged or stolen. But point taken friend. 

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26 minutes ago, Andrew C said:

I knew when I wrote a cheaper lifestyle, I was leaving myself open to some wise challenging. I suppose it depends on what ones costs are on land and the cost to mental health (wow, this is moving away from tortoise care 🙃) it's a how long is a piece of string thing isn't it. My mortgage and council tax alone are 1k a month and I have 11 more years to pay before I own it, but I do have alot of equity that pays for the boat cash and gives me a substantial sum in reserve, plus a early retirement pension that covers most costs plus unforseen costs. Then my state pension kicks in after 11 years. I think if I had a loan for the boat, it would be different. Am I still being too naive do you think? We know it's not all roses but having been a caravan near for years, we are used to the small space, emptying Thetford cassettes, minding power, refilling water and unplanned for expenses, but we appreciate canal boats are on another level. I don't know. What are your thoughts? 

Great advice. Thanks. That solves one problem

Excellent. Bin the house and buy boat cash and have a life :D 

Having no debt makes life vastly better. If you dont like or want to change jobs then you simply do it. If no loans to service month in and month out then you are boss, rather than the bank. You can last ages on way less income if there are zero outgoings to Mr Bank.

We adored living aboard for 30 plus years and would still be doing it other than for health reasons. Its way better living aboard and moving around over the years. If you understand the few drawbacks then the significantly better lifestyle will be for you. Must go now, more boring house stuff to do :(

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