"You want paradise..."
First, a little personal history:
A decade ago, in the era PB (Pre-Boat), SWMBO and I (okay, mostly SWMBO) decided that we needed to replace the shed in the backyard of Stately Jones Manor. The shed was...
... less than stately.
Hell, it was less than intact and decidedly unsafe. Although uitilized as shelter for our underused and oft-neglected lawn and garden equipment, that equipment was now doing double duty holding up the shedding shed.
Clearly, we had to do something.
We knew we didn't want an aluminum panel -and-channel nuts-and-bolts utilitarian box. We wanted a stately wood shed that would be an attractive addition to our backyard, not just a holds-our-crap blight. We also knew we didn't have the ambition or the skill set to build a shed from scratch, and didn't have the ready cash to buy a pre-fabricated shed, or hire a crew to build one for us.
So, we procrastinated and pondered, as the existing shed grew ever less square and vertical and closer to the ground.
Perusing the sale flyers in our local free throw-away newspaper, we discovered a local lumberyard had attractive affordable, stick-built shed kits available.
A shed KIT! Perfect!
I built model kits as a kid, I had assembled damn near a houseful of IKEA furniture, I could definitely build a shed from a kit!
We went to the yard, picked a design we liked from their catalogue, and were assured that our shed kit would be delivered in time for the weekend.
Perfect! We can have this thing assembled before Monday!
Friday, as promised, a truck from the lumberyard pulls up, and deposits our shed kit in the driveway of SJM.
The "kit" consisted of a big pile of lumber, three bundles of shingles,a bag of nails and screws and hardware, a door, and 2 pages of poorly photocopied plans.
"Kit", my ass.
We got it done, and it still does it's job ten years on, but it took a lot longer than a weekend, and it took more manpower than SWMBO and I.
This project taught us some skills, and taught us that we could do it
Ever since, however, I have been dubious of the ease of assembly of any DIY "kit."
Flash forward to the summer of 2015:
Karma, like Whiskeyjack before her, has an icebox. For 8 seasons, we schlepped bins and blocks of ice down the Dock, and dealt with the daily ritual of emptying catchbottles of meltwater. Iceboxes are simple systems, and do a more than adequate job of keeping food and beverages cold. It was a good system on Whiskeyjack that gave us no reason to complain.
Not so much.
First, Karma's icebox is oddly, trapezoidally, shaped.
This meant that the bins that we used to hold iceblocks and contain meltwater on Whiskeyjack didn't fit. Not an insurmountable issue, it simply means that ice blocks have to be loaded into the icebox naked, and rather than meltwater being caught in a bin, is allowed to drain from the icebox...
.... into the (shallow) bilge. Not ideal.
At the beginning of this season, i redirected the drain into a catchbottle, which required emptying daily. Again, not an insurmountable issue, but one more daily chore, albeit not onerous... unless you're away from the boat for more than a day in which case the catchbottle no longer catches and overflows onto the carpeted sole.
Again, not ideal.
Lastly, the shape of the icebox limited iceblock placement, which in turn limited food and beverage capacity.
Yet again, not ideal.
So, refrigeration became a topic of discussion. Said discussion boiled down to:
Will it fit?
Will it work?
Can we afford it?
Will it fit? Good question. An S2 8.0C is a roomy boat with lots of storage, but just as the icebox is weirdly shaped , so are many of the lockers and bins. Lots of research and measuring told me that installing a typical refrigeration system's compressor and condensor and stuff wasn't going to be simple or easy. Measuring inside the icebox, and comparing cold plate sizes online, our options were limited.
Will it work? Good question. Regular Readers know that we are off the grid on the Dock- no water, no shorepower. Our electrical needs are supplied by our solar panels- so, anything electrical that we add to our boathome has to work within the restrictions of the available battery and charging capacity.
Can we afford it? Good question. Tallying the costs, we were looking at an expenditure of anywhere from $1200 to $2200. Ouch. This would be our first four-figure boat project in, like, ever.
So, after pondering, we realized that we didn't think it would fit, weren't sure if it would work, and didn't figure we could afford it.
Then I discovered the Dometic/Waeco/Adler-Barbour Coolmatic Cooling Conversion Kit.
Note that last word.
It's dreaded kit status notwithstanding, it seemed to tick all of our boxes-
Dimensionally, it fit- instead of being a internal evaporator/external compressor/condenser set up, the Coolmatic is an all-in-one unit measuring about 10" x 12". Cut a hole in the side of the icebox, screw the unit in place, run some wires, done.
That "about" becomes important later.
It wasn't too taxing for our electrical system either- the advertised draw was 4 amps, with a 20-30% duty cycle. In theory, that means it draws less than 1.5 amps per hour, and this would be the largest constant draw on the boat- our lighting is all LED, and the only other energy use is charging electronics. so our 120 watts of solar delivering an average of 60 amps/day should keep us ahead of the charging curve.
It's not a cheap system, but at $799 (on sale), even with tax it didn't break the psychological 4 figure barrier.
So, we pulled the trigger, and ordered one up from our friends at Binnacle.com .
4 days later, a day earlier than promised, a box showed up.
Once unwrapped, our kit is revealed;