Friday, May 30, 2014

New frig/freezer looks like a winner

Our new Engel Fridge/Freezer and all my fancy blocking to get it securely hung by the corners.
Son-in-law Tony got a long list of wiring projects completed over the Memorial Day weekend and a couple of good starts on others. In between playing electrician's assistant, I checked off a couple projects of my own, the most exciting was installing our new Engel MB40V Fridge/Freezer.

Engel has been popular for years with truckers, RVers and boaters for their excellent line of 12-volt portable frig/freezers. Many blue-water cruisers count them as one of their top-10 favorite pieces of kit. The Totem crew among them. Finding a spot for a portable frig/freezer on a sailboat is a problem, but most crews figure something out.

A few months ago, while perusing Engel's web site, I noticed a new offering in their line: the MB40V, a 40-quart capacity, top loading model made to be permanently installed in cabinetry. This would fit perfectly in an otherwise underutilized space in Oceanus's galley. The inside measurements are 15-inches deep by 17 by 10.5, or about a 40-quart capacity.

West Marine carries several portable Engel frig/freezers in their catalog, but not the MB40v. I could have just ordered it from the Engel site, but where's the fun in that? So a couple of weeks ago, when we were in the Portland West Marine, store I ask a helpful associate if he could special order one for me. He checked the computer and said he could, so we told him to go for it.

I got a call from the Portland West Marine store about 10 days later saying it was in. Virginia picked it up on Friday while Tony and I worked on the boat.

I've got to hand it to West Marine, they made the whole transaction easy. I also paid no shipping, used a $15-off coupon I had and will get cash back for my purchase because I'm a Gold Card member.

I wish the installation was as easy. The tricky part was that the MB40V is designed to hang from four little tabs at the outside corners of the top. So I had to devise a system of corner braces and a partial bulkhead to suspend the unit under the countertop, which I, of course, had to remove. It also had to be mounted below the underside of the countertop by exactly the thickness of the insulated top. All this was complicated by having to hold the 45-pound unit in place with one hand, while measuring with the other.

I devised several complex methods of installing the unit in my head, but in the end I started at one corner, got it right, then fitted the next corner and finally made up the partial bulkhead with one corner block already attached, glued and screwed it in place. Finally, I glued and screwed the last corner block in with the unit in place. There is a hole in each corner for screws to hold it in place, but they are largely redundant in my installation: that baby ain't going nowhere.

Now I just need to cut out the section of countertop over the lid of the frige/freezer, install some hinges and a pull ring. That's one of this weekend's projects.

Before installing the frig/freezer, Tony temporarily hooked it up. It got cold almost instantly and was nearly silent. He was also impressed with how little amps it drew. It has three temperature settings: +5 degrees C, -10 degrees C and -15 degrees C. Pretty impressive. It will be the perfect complement to our Isotherm 4.6 cubic foot refrigerator.

Our trusty Isotherm refrigerator has been working like a champ for about a year.

Tony finalized some wiring in the head and installed three 12-volt sockets: one in the forepeak, one in the master stateroom and one in the saloon. They will be useful for 12-volt fans as well as charging electronics so as to bypass the inverter. A recent article I read said you lose about 40 percent of the juice from your battery converting it from 12-volt DC to 120-volt AC and then back to 12-volts, which is what most cell phones, laptops and tablets chargers use anyway.

Tony ran wires directly from the battery to the Air Head fan. Since it should run continuously, there's no need to run it to the panel and have it switched. We protected the little fan with an in-line fuse, which I can easily disconnect if I need to swap out the fan.

The new ship's bell finds a place on a repurposed BBQ bracket.


While Tony wired up the VHF, I installed the antenna in a temporary location on the bimini. At Englund Marine, I spotted an aluminum BBQ mounting bracket for one-inch tubing. The VHF antenna will eventually get mounted at the top of the mast. The bracket will stay put, however, because it is the perfect place to mount the ship's bell.

I looked long and hard for the ship's bell. I rang dozens of bells in Portland and Newport to find one that sounded good to me. I finally found one in a little brass shop in Depoe Bay. It was the last one of its kind in the shop, so the old guy who helped me unscrewed it from the wall. Besides the tone, I really like the wonderful shape and that it's chromed. I'm hoping the chrome will make it easier to keep shiny. The U.S. Coast Guard requires a bell on a vessel the size of Oceanus.

The VHF seems to be working fine, but the West Marine stereo wouldn't turn on, even though it was getting power. Virginia gave me this for Christmas, but I'm sure West Marine will replace it. Still, I was hoping to crank some tunes this weekend.