Saturday 13 August the Protei team tested Protei 006 Batman fully assembled in the water for the first time.
The morning was spent preparing the boat for deployment (running dry tests, water-proofing and assembling). During one of the dry tests one of the linear actuators stopped responding and after some diagnosis it was decided that it was a problem with the motor and to fix it would make it impossible to test on time. Thus we decided to test with only the bow articulating. Transporting Protei was no joke but it was simpler than expected, we put her on the top of the van in one piece and had someone sit next to Protei and making sure we drove slowly.
After some driving we were able to find a suitable spot for the test. We deployed Protei by lowering her into the water with lines. We also had one swimmer than helped deploy the boat correctly. in the future we hope to have access to a dock so that deployment becomes easier and we do not destroy the skin of the prototype by having it rub against the stone walls when lowering it down.
The conditions for the test were actually relatively good. We had a steady state of 6-7 knots with gusts up to 10-11kts. Waves were not big (10cm absolute max).
Once in the water we successfully established XBee communication and tested both the winch and bow actuation, and they seemed to work fine. After a minute of water time, the actuator stopped responding but the winch continued to respond throughout the whole test. Because of this failure we could not really observe if the steering by articulation worked.
We had a line attached to Protei's stern in order to retrieve her. By holding this line we also had slight control of how she sailed. Because of the actuation problems most of the sailing that Protei did on the test was on a beam reach on a port tack (90 degrees from the wind with the wind on the port side). The boat was stable under these winds and did not heel over to capsize, (like when we tested the bare hull in 18-20 knots of wind). She made way surprisingly well without a rudder, the course was maintained passively and when we trimmed in the sheet, Protei would head up (turn towards the wind) as expected, not surprisingly the boat was not able to tack due to the low speeds she reached and the lack of steering.
After seeing her sail the same path a couple of times, we had the visit of a police boat (the cops were very interested in Protei and talked to us for a couple of minutes about the project). Then we proceeded to make a self righting test by putting the masthead in the water. However as we lowered the mast, the mast snapped close to the base and that marked the end of the test.
We retrieved Protei and fit her in the truck and headed back to the workspace for the diagnosis.
We opened the battery tube and it was completely full of water! However the battery kept functioning even when it was completely submerged thus why Xbee communication was maintained all through the test. Then we opened the actuator tubes and saw that they were also completely full of water. Our first guess of how this happened was that the battery tube had leaked through a pvc patching we had done. However, the tube was tested again and it seemed water tight. Our next guess is that the water cooling caused the flooding in the actuator tubes and then spread to the battery tube via the Bowden cable openings. We will do some testing this coming week to find the exact cause of the problem and fix it.