Laundry Excitement and How to Manage a UK Boat on NA Power

December 11, 2019

Do you remember back when you did laundry in a washing machine by hand? Yeah, I am that old. Okay we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up so modern laundry facilities were not a feature of my tween home. Last night I emptied the water out of my on-board laundry twice. It brought back memories.

While trying to run a couple of quick loads before departure this morning, the machine would run, but not drain. Luckily the machine has a mini drain hose that allows draining the machine into a pot or similar. I tried two loads (launder, wait for failure of the drain pump, drain by hand, spin, drain again and because I am trying to diagnose what’s wrong, repeat. 😏) before coming to terms with the idea that my washing machine has broken.

That meant a very late night for me.

As usual, my brain kicked into gear as I was half asleep, long after going to bed, and I considered what had changed. As I mention this it is quickly obvious, but consider that the washer worked. The dryer spun (although it didn’t seem to be drying well), and the only obvious failure was the drain pump on the washing machine.

What changed is that I am now connected to NA power. That is 60hz, not 50hz. As usual, I will back up and describe more of the boat in case you want enough detail to help you get to sleep.

Home Free has a lot of electrical bits, and the complexity of the boat requires a diverse set of power supplies. The vast majority of the systems are 24V (DC). Then there are 12V (DC) systems and 220V (AC) systems. It gets a bit more complex than that. The AC systems are divided into three groups.

The ‘house systems’ are divided by (essentially) how much power they need. So for example the refrigerator, and electrical outlets are part of the ‘standard’ systems. These will run from battery power when the boat is disconnected from shore power and the engine is not generating electricity. It runs them from batteries aboard. Further, the electricity is conditioned by taking energy from the onboard 12V batteries, sending it through an inverter that produces 220V at 50hz.

The heavier loads (like laundry, water heater and water maker) require more power and only work when the boat is connected to shore power or the generator is running. Finally, there is a separate group for the air conditioners. They also require being plugged into power or a running generator. This group cannot run from the batteries, at least the way my boat is wired.

One of the the concerns when we were buying the boat, when we were planning our return to North America and still when I pulled into the dock at North Palm Beach, was ‘how do we plug into power in the US?’

The broker we used when we bought the boat was James Knight who owns YachtTech. His marketing name is ‘NordhavnOnly’, so it goes without saying he and his team know something about my boat. Well, actually, way more than me.

James went through the equipment on my boat just after I arrived in North Palm Beach to make sure I wasn’t going to fry anything. More importantly, he custom built a cable for me to plug my EU boat (32A, 250V receptacle) into US shore power connections.

So the boat can be plugged into a 50A pedestal now. My batteries will charge, I can run almost everything because the batteries store energy that is pushed through the inverters to drive the systems.

Except those heavier loads. They are driven directly off of that shore power connection so they need to be able to handle 60hz power. The secret is knowing what will work with 60hz power and what won’t.

Back to my laundry story . . . My washing machine and dryer work on 50hz AND 60hz. Well, except for the drain pump on the bottom of the washing machine. It clearly doesn’t work on 60hz.

As I lay in bed I realized that the big change was running off of 60hz (US shore power) and that I should try again with the generator running!! This morning I ran another load of laundry with the generator providing the power and all worked as normal.

As my regular readers know I write this post as much for my memory, as for your mirth.

To end I would also like to share another awesome sighting from my adventure. Not from the boat but still a memorable sight. Probably very common here in Florida, but unusual for me.

Andrew and I are now on our way North to Toronto and as we drove along i95 a large bird of prey (I say eagle but it could be a hawk) dove into active traffic, claws extended, to grab some carillon from the road way. I was able to see the puff of feathers or fur or whatever as the bird hit the road kill and lifted it in a flash. Amazing to watch from a car going 120kph in the opposite direction.

After driving through the night (thank you for the help Andrew), we are home and preparing for Jinhee’s office Christmas party.

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