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Our Scandinavian challenges part 1

For a while now we have been watching YouTube Videos that have made us want to sail the Norwegian Atlantic coast and visit some of the thousands of islands and Fjords, we have also long fancied visiting the Baltic. Particularly:

  • Juho with Alluring Arctic has spent two years spent entirely above the Arctic Circle, his experience and videos are amazing. We are not tempted to believe that we can become expert with skis (or even want to) or that we would want to spend a winter so far North. But there are so many places he has shown that would be wonderful to visit, even without going as far as Svalbard
  • Erik Aanderaa with his No Bullshit Just Sailing slogan. His video Sailing Haugesund to Lofoten- Around the Norwegian Sea pt.1 is a particular favourite.
  • MJ Sailing spent last summer sailing up to Lofoton (see their Northern Europe playlist)
  • Sailing Uma are wintering in Norway at the moment (I don’t know how they have managed the 90 days in 180 Schengen rule). Their videos are exceptional quality.
  • Ran Sailing have spent the year a little further south around Sweden and it too looks beautiful (both the Baltic and Atlantic coasts).

The challenges for us

In many ways we would love to plan for a couple of years of our eventual retirement cruising the Baltic and Atlantic Coast. There is so much beauty to see, so many places to explore. We could imagine needing a couple of summers to explore both coasts, while retreating some considerable distance South for the winters.

However, this is going to be a huge challenge for us. In this first post I’ll tackle one of those:

First, Schengen

We are living through the nightmare that is the tragic national self harm that is Brexit, and especially the appalling choices made by our government to go for such a hard Brexit. It is obvious that they never thought through (or maybe are capable of understanding or only care about their own pockets) the implications for Northern Ireland, for the Fishing Industry, for UK citizens who have retired to the EU, for musicians touring etc etc. If we were 5 years older and had been retired a few years we could have spent unlimited time exploring Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the rest of the Baltic.

Now, we will need to tightly plan 3 month summer cruises. Options to cope with bad weather are going to be a lot more difficult, at the end of your 90 days we have to be somewhere where we can leave direct to somewhere outside Schengen. That needs to be somewhere we can stay for another 90 days without going back into Schengen (or it needs to allow us get to other places outside Schengen until the 90 days are up). While attractive to visit, 90 days in either the Faroes or St Petersburg doesn’t really appeal (safe wintering also being a factor).

90 day cruises means more summers will be needed if we are to get to the countries and beautiful cruising grounds that we have seen are there without rushing.

MJ Sailing got as far as Lofoten from the UK in one summer, mostly using coastal hops. However, they didn’t get to spend much time there or have time for the amazing cruising grounds to the north. What is more to stay within the 90 days they spent hours and hours motoring to make fast enough progress.

Our situation is different. We have a more powerful electric motor than most electric boats, and a large battery bank, however, we need that battery bank for everything, not just for the electric motor. Coastal hopping with lots of motoring is possible for us, but only if we moor-up with mains power to charge the batteries for more than 12 hours between trips (realistically probably safer to assume 2 nights if we have pretty fully drained the battery bank). Anyway, we don’t want to spend our time motoring, we want to sail. We also want to anchor rather than always need to get a shore-power hookup. It isn’t just about a preference for remoteness, we can’t afford to pay harbour fees every night.

This probably means that if we want long enough to explore a Schengen cruising ground in some detail we will need to make long direct passages. Then we only check-in to a country as we arrive at the area we want to cruise in, then our 90 days are all spent where we want to cruise rather than getting there. That has significant implications for the boat, our skills and passage making. The difference between getting to somewhere like Lofoton using coastal hops (much of it protected by islands) or a direct passage from the Faroes is huge.

So for that beautiful area of Norway north of the Arctic Circle we could, perhaps, sail from the UK to the Faroes (not part of Schengen) and then onward towards the Lofoten Islands. We then would have to depart Norway within 3 months, again potentially doing this as a long passage rather than coastal hop south. Part of the significance of this option and what increases the challenge, the difficulty is that is just not what cruising yachts have been doing. Everything works on the assumption of getting somewhere like Lofoten by coastal cruising with occasional overnight passages.

We are very attracted to longer passages and to spending a larger proportion of our time actually sailing than seems the norm. We have a boat that is well suited to it but are very short of experience. An estimate of 90% of time anchored rather than sailing is often quoted by live aboard cruisers (not sure if they all count hours or if they mean nights). So this is a big deal which will require a lot of preparation and be a significant challenge.

Generally, if cruisers are forced to switch from coastal hops to direct passages to cruising grounds then this is going to change things for many people – but maybe few want to visit these places. Or maybe they are happy to spend a lot of time and money motoring to meet the schedule. Or perhaps they will pay others to deliver their boat for them. That is not an option for us a) financially b) where would we live while someone is delivering our home and c) we don’t want to fly due to trying to be Sustainable.

When it comes to the Baltic I’m not sure. A first summer route via Copenhagen (one of my favourite cities in the world), up to the Stockholm archipelago, through the Göta Canal and back to the UK would make a great 3 months summer cruise. But what about if we want to spend the summer in the Eastern Baltic? Could we get as far as Finland before starting to count our 90 days? Is it possible to sail into the Baltic without checking in at either Denmark or Sweden? Still Denmark, Finland, the Baltic States, even Russia and then back to Denmark in 3 months is possible, even if tight.

So we could be looking at needing 4 summers to explore a significant amount of Scandinavia. Something like:

  • Denmark, Stockholm archipelago, Göta Canal: winter in the UK, maybe based near Falmouth
  • Norwegian Coast and Fjords towards Lofoten and back: winter in the UK, maybe based around the Solent for a change
  • Eastern Baltic: winter West Coast of Scotland/Northern Ireland
  • Faroes, Lofoten, Northern Norway: winter head south and onwards to the Caribbean

But there are other options. You could include an Atlantic circuit. So instead of a UK winter head down to the Canaries, then the Caribbean for December, then the East Coast of the US before crossing back but keeping North of the UK to get to Norway but it would be a rush to arrive for any summer in Norway.

Obviously, these Schengen rules are not new for people from countries outside Europe. However, I suspect these cruising grounds have not been so frequently visited by non-Europeans. I’m very interested in different experiences and views as well as ideas for reading and research

In part 2 I’ll look at the other key challenges these cruising grounds have for us (particularly heating and renewable energy).

Recycling Plastic Progress

Following our post Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling we have made some progress.

Our son is going to build-up the machines we need and get the processes for shredding and injection moulding sorted for us. That will include getting some products built for sale with Sustainable Sailing branding. The idea is to get everything sorted for us to take onto the boat when we retire as a fully functioning system.

So we have now bought a stainless steel shredder with a stainless steel hopper from Reading Shredding (a Precious Plastic version 3.1 design). We are buying a second-hand electric motor with gearbox on eBay (just waiting for the final invoice reflecting us collecting as it is pretty local). The jury is out as to whether on the boat we will end up with a dedicated electric motor for the shredder or power it by a belt drive to our main boat motor.

We think we have found the right injection moulding machine as a kit, also made in the UK by Recycle Rebuild. We will probably replace some of the bolts with more quick release options and will look for a way to attach it to the boat rather than use it’s stand. They also make lots of modular moulds which will give us lots of things to make for use and for sale (being able to make tiles for our galley and heads from our own waste plastic is super cool).

Our lovely friend Jules is helping us with a version of our logo that can be used with these modular moulds 🙂

We are also working on how to get a mould created for our rigging tangs. Likely that we will start by making a cylinder (maybe 60mm or 70mm diameter and 20mm long) and then working with hand tools to create our prototypes. Basically it needs a slightly angled and beautifully rounded groove in the top so that the dyneema eye splice doesn’t slide sideways or chafe. I’m wondering about making a separate “hat” that will stop the dyneema jumping out of the groove when you are installing the rigging or lifting the mast on or off the boat. If it is a full “hat” it will also protect the main tang and dyneema from UV damage as well.

It would be possible, to make inner and outer chafe protectors for the chainplates. We could rout out a section of the G10 plates between and around the holes for the dyneema lashings. Then a piece of hdpe could fill that with “tubes” to extend into the holes to make them very chafe resistant for the dyneema. As all the sizing and angles would be very custom it is probably something we would hand carve after making an hdpe “brick”. A good thing about working with recycled plastic is that you can collect all your shavings and off-cuts and put them back into the process. So no extra waste 🙂

We have got a few other boat specific products in mind such as cleat boots (slot over each end of a mooring cleat when it isn’t in use so that you don’t stub your toes on it). Also clip on parts for fairleads to reduce the chafe on mooring lines.

If you can think of other products that we could make out of recycled plastic and sell to other cruisers please let us know.

Boat envy?

We watch a lot of Sailing channels on YouTube, watch boat reviews and boats for sale as well as reading lots of articles.

So as we look at so many different boats the questions comes to mind: Do we feel Boat Envy? Or if we were choosing again would we choose differently?

For the most part the answer is no. We don’t see many boats that would give us the freedom to change so much to support Sustainable Sailing. But let’s look at some specifics.

Interior

Modern production yachts are a world apart from more traditional yachts such as our Rival 38 with acres of space, hull windows and light colours. The tradition of boats of a similar age also have a very different feel to the Rival with their dominating dark teak and mahogany. We see the potential for a real good hybrid of a modern light colour scheme yet matching the practical, tough, no nonsense, almost workboat feel, of the exterior of the Rival 38 (industrial rubber bulwark cap, grey deck and coachroof etc).

When people feel that the inside of their boat is pristine and beautiful we see them feeling restricted in making improvements and obliged to keep things the same. Or they feel they have to invest long hours restoring timber to it’s former glory. For us it was immediately obvious that much of the timber had too much water damage and wear for us to imagine trying to restore a beautiful teak interior (which is not a style we particularly like anyway).

If you feel the interior isn’t at the end of it’s life (for example our headlining was hanging down in many places and clearly past any sensible end of life) then big changes to major systems (moving tanks, changing the engine, switching from gas to electric cooking etc) are all much harder to achieve as you don’t have such easy access.

That freedom has allowed us to see significant things that have advanced a great deal in the past 45 years, we can learn from them, adapt them and, we believe, end up with a really big step forward from what we started.

We think that the improvements will be really obvious in the reworking of our heads compartments. The composting toilets are a huge improvement (and fitting black water tanks and all the plumbing would have been a technical nightmare as well as very expensive), in the forward head we will end up with a much better shower plus changing space for the forward cabin even though we don’t have the space for separate shower.

While our stern is so much narrower than modern boats (which we think we are going to be very grateful for every time it gets rough) we have been able to learn from the newer designs and our new aft cabin layout will provide a better bed (not quite as silly large at the head end as it is now) and a nice seat. Structurally we think it will support the mizzen mast better (since removing the mizzen mast the cabin roof has definitely gone up a bit and the bulkhead needs improvement). By cutting back the cupboard and the engine room we gain more space for changing and the rather tight passage from the main cabin will be a bit more spacious but also visually more open. We also gain a bit more space for our knees on the loo and wider doors for carrying the loo outside for emptying. The passage will always be a crouch and

Already we feel our new galley worktop is a big improvement and by the time we have finished with the flexible gimbled shelf, the microwave, fridge and folding extension to the worktop (making it a true U shape when in port) it will be functionally as good as most modern yachts. It inevitably it is smaller than a more modern boat, but as yet we wouldn’t find many with all electric cooking.

Exterior

We love having a ketch rig (especially without a triatic stay connecting the masts) and a centre cockpit. They are rare in new boats. We definitely didn’t want in-mast furling or the need to rely on electric winches or furling systems. Compared to modern boats our cockpit is very small, but there is enough space for two of us to lie down. We don’t have a bathing platform and getting in and out of the dinghy or the water is going to be much harder. We are quite happy that the combination of our narrow stern shape and ketch rig mean that we are not tempted to try to use davits to carry a dinghy (instead we will lift it up onto the foredeck).

Cruising Features

So some of the things that we see as essential are. A full length skeg for the rudder, an encapsulated keel, a hull shape without a flatish bottom so it won’t slam in waves, good sea berths, space to have an additional couple for extended periods either in coastal cruising or passage making. A design that was intended for live aboard world cruising rather than can be adapted for it.

Beyond that we love having a fully separated aft cabin with access from the main cabin, the tightness of that passage doesn’t really concern us at all.. We love having two heads compartments and one with space for a pretty reasonable shower (much better than our last caravan had and we used that a lot without any problems).

We do love the ketch rig, certainly our first choice for safety, comfort and ease of handling (even more so as we gradually convert to a full cutter rig on the foredeck).

Possibly the only downside to the Rival 38 Centre Cockpit for us is the position of the steering wheel which I feel leaves your sense a little less connected to the sailing experience, but that is really only an issue for day sailing or racing.

Sustainable Issues

We still feel that refitting a solid older boat, that hasn’t been updated much, gives the best options for sustainable sailing. By giving an older GRP boat new life we avoid it becoming plastic waste for many more years (and hopefully by the we will have improved the ways we deal with waste at the end of it’s useful life). There is no reason why Vida shouldn’t last another 50 years and out live us by several decades.

The only better option would be an Aluminium boat, but I don’t know of any with zero fossil fuels yet. That gives you an easily recycled hull, plus better safety if going to very high latitudes where you might expect to encounter ice.

Conclusion

We haven’t seen a single boat that approaches the capabilities and features of our Rival 38 for anything approaching the total budget we will have ended up spending on the purchase and refit of Vida. Not a single boat. We could have spent less but would have had far more boatbuilding to do and probably fewer of the features we hoped for.

There are many beautiful boats out there but you have to go so much larger and so much more expensive to see really significant benefits in terms of the accommodation space. A separate shower would be nice, but having two heads is more important to us. A bathing platform would be nice but not at the expense of a hull shape that won’t get slapped by every wave, won’t track well and doesn’t have full rudder protection. Standing headroom walking to the aft cabin would be nice but not if the whole boat costs 3 to 5 times more. A bigger guest cabin might be nice but they might want to stay too long 😉 All those features though come at considerable costs in purchase price, in maintenance costs and in mooring costs.

So at the end of the day we are still convinced that we are so fortunate to have absolutely the right boat for us, one that allows us to be as sustainable as possible and to be our future retirement home that we can go almost anywhere in.

If you were to give us £10Million to choose any boat then just maybe we would spend £1.5Million on a custom electric Garcia Exploration 52, keep another £0.5 Million to live on for the rest of our lives and give the rest away. But really would we be happier? I can’t see why and I can see lots of areas with less satisfaction about what we can achieve ourselves. Would our environmental impact be lower? – no way. So probably a good thing we are not going to be in that position.

Simplifying guardrail solar panels

From the beginning we have been planning Solar panels fitted to the guardrails. We have seen lots of boats with Solar Panels attached to the guardrails. However, as we are wanting to have zero fossil fuels we need more solar than most.

We have gone for Victron 175 watt panels for the guardrails and will start with 2 each side (as a centre cockpit we have more length available without blocking our view).

Later we plan to add more, although the extras will probably only be put in place when we are anchored.

The goal is for the panels to be:

  • removable (so we can take them down and put them below in a storm)
  • foldable (so we can let them hang down alongside the guardrails when we are docking etc)
  • tiltable (so we can improve efficiency by improving the angle to the sun). This will also allow them to compensate for the boat heeling so we can keep the ones on the “downside” out of reach of waves.
  • stackable (we want the edges to provide protection so that we can stack them on deck or below without damaging the actual panel sections).

We have been through lots and lots of ideas for attaching the panels looking at all the examples we can find while trying to keep the costs and amount of work to a minimum.

The existing stanchions are too widely spaced to be used to directly attach the panels (and a little too low). The wires between them will not be rigid enough (and neither are designed for these loads in addition to the load if someone is thrown against them). So we looked at adding legs to support them panels but then everything was getting very complex, heavy and time consuming.

Currently we have just one stanchion between the pushpit and side gate. That length is plenty for two solar panels.

So the current plan is to remove the one stanchion and replace it with four. Two per panel.

The panels will have two wood beams across their underside and these will bolt to the top of a stanchion. The panel can hang down from the stanchions in it’s stored position and a dyneema guy-line going up to a low fiction ring attached to the nearest shroud will be used to lift the outer edge of the panel to adjust the tilt.

The aftermost of these stations will be very close to the pushpit. We will use dyneema lifelines and as these stanchions are taller than the rest we will have 3 lines at this point (top one goes up from the pushpit and down to the gate).

To remove a panel we just need to undo the two bolts and disconnect the dyneema.

It looks like it will be cheaper to buy carbon fibre tubes and make our own way of attaching them to the deck than to buy stainless steel stanchions and bases. Plus Carbon Fibre tubes won’t need any bolts through the deck but it will be a bit more time consuming to fabricate. However, it is something we can put off for a while – we don’t need this to launch.

Chainplate and Mast Tang feedback

Today I have had a couple of really helpful and thoughtful comments from Jacob. So much that I think it worth responding with a post.

In Dyneema Termination and Chainplate update Jacob wrote:

Having extras in the case of the DIY tangs, is a good idea. I do not mean to discourage your idea, but the tensile strength of UHMWPE will surely make the tang the weak link. On another note, if stainless steel sailmakers thimbles will work you, USStainless.com has a 12 mm (M12)

So things have moved on a little. Currently we are looking at using recycled HDPE (see Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling) so we should be able to make new tangs anywhere in the world from waste plastic. I think HDPE sounds better for this application than UHMWPE eg creep under load. They can be made by melting the plastic in a grill or oven or using a hob (use a pyrex bowl in a bath of oil to get the temperature high enough) and then a simple home made mould (eg a drainage tube with a clamp to provide pressure to a a plug sliding inside the tube).

My idea to make the tang out of plastic is intended to have a number of advantages over my first idea of stainless steel tube and washers( see last but one paragraph of Termination of Dyneema Shrouds. The most contentious issue?):

  • Cost (especially if we make them from recycled HDPE)
  • Reduced chafe of the Dyneema Eye splice due to smoother transition to ears which will stop the eye splice sliding sideways off the tang.
  • Increased strength of the eye splice due to the larger bend radius

I’m now thinking of a further refinement. We could put a 25mm Stainless Tube onto the bolt. Then a 25mm hole in the HDPE tang which fits onto the tube. This way the HDPE can’t be “sawn” through by the bolt thread and there is a much larger bearing surface for the HDPE. If the HDPE does wear through then the dyneema will still be around a smooth 25mm tube.

Then on Simpler Dyneema Chainplates Jacob wrote:

I really like your idea and have thought of doing a similar set-up on my boat, too, a Southern Cross 31. I was thinking of using 10 mm Dyneema with a stopper knot through the bulwark, with an aluminum bronze or G10 backing plate running the length of the bulwark that would have my shrouds holed through. This is for distributing the load a bit better. Then eye splicing the other end around a frictionless ring or sailmakers thimble. I am worried mostly about the load on this part of the boat that previous had a different/lesser load on it. Are you worried about this? That is the bulwark maybe not having the structural integrity to deal with the greatest loads your boat might need to withstand.

This is really helpful. I do think the application is going to need to be customised for every boat as there are such wide variations in the positioning of the chainplates and the structure of the hull/deck joint and bulwark, if there is one.

The chances of a stopper knot slipping worries me, also how much weaker a knot is than an eye splice. Yachting Monthly found the Dyneema strength reduce to 35% of the original by an overhand knot.

So if using a knot I’d put it through an eye splice to stop the slipping, as in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jU_mmdbQeCQ

However, I think my solution is easier and stronger. A length of dyneema with an eye splice at each end. First eye over the low friction ring. Then out of the bulwark through one hole, back out through another and put the second eye over the low friction ring (I’ve thought I’d go around the low friction ring and out/in the bulwark one extra time). The ability to get a larger low friction ring that can take two eye splices is a key reason for me moving from a Stainless Steel thimble.

As for the bulwark backing plate, this is where construction varies such as lot as does the height of the bulwark and the position of the chainplates. I included a sketch of our thinking in my Dyneema Rigging Summary post.

My understanding is that bonding the plate with thickened epoxy is going to distribute loads much more evenly than bolts ever will (providing the material behind it is well bonded together). Also that having two holes for the lashing to spread the load is better. Also a horizontal spread shares load better than vertical, however, I would have thought that the load will reduce very quickly with distance from the hole, so a lot of the full length backing plate won’t be helping at all.

We have a “decorative” rubbing strip quite close to the hull/deck joint. This means a full length backing plate would be very thin and a bit high. So we will cut sections out of this for more triangular backing plates.

I’m pretty happy that due to the construction our bulwark is strong. However, between internal and external backing plates I think it will often be possible to get the strength you need. If in any doubt about the quality of bonding to the hull a bolt or three should make a very strong connection between inner and outer backing plates (but at a cost for inspection and potential waterproofing and corrosion issues.

If you are concerned about moving away from a chainplate bolted to a bulkhead transferring the load down to the hull then maybe look at internal G10 knees bonded to the hull and bulkhead.

As for the material of the backing plates. My preference after reading a Practical Sailor test of backing plates if for G10 epoxied into place (also easier to process to get a really smooth path for the dyneema).

Hope this helps 🙂

House Battery Bank: Should we go 48 Volt?

While we wrote Going 100% electric: the “house” after Going 100% electric: the Motor we had in fact made most of the decisions around the house electrical system before we made the decision that we would go straight to an electric motor instead of the diesel.

Now we are thinking about making a change. The things prompting us to consider a change include:

  • The high cost of 48 volt battery chargers. We do need the option of charging our battery bank when in a marina or harbour (or even ashore in the boatyard). We can imagine spending sometime alongside in winter or even popping every so often just to get the batteries fully charged (the expectation of needing to live in colder climates in Winter is influenced by both Covid and Brexit which might limit our options for where we spend our time).
  • We think our house battery bank has ended up a bit small (4 x 120AH) and so are going to be needing to charge it from the Motor bank (4 x 300AH) quite often.
  • Having two battery banks at different voltages ends up creating quite a lot of extra complication.
  • With one exception (the anchor windlass) we have realised that our 12 volt usage is relatively low (LED lighting, boat instruments, water pumps).
  • While we have specified really thick cabling with big busbars and fuses, it is challenging to power 2 x 2,000 watt inverters from a 12 volt battery bank. The current that we need to safely pass is huge and this is where the vast majority of our house consumption will be (induction hobs, microwave, multi-cooker, watermaker, water heater).
  • We didn’t understand enough about how you can power 12 volt systems from a 48 volt battery bank. We thought they were too inefficient but have now realised that we either incur that inefficiency when charging a 12 volt battery bank from the 48 volt bank for all house uses OR when using a 12 volt house appliance (but not a mains powered item from a 48 volt inverter). The total losses are much smaller if we incur them only as we need the 12 volt power rather than to keep a whole batery bank charged.
  • We deliberately chose 4 batteries for the house bank that had enough output so they could be re-wired to be a 48 volt battery bank for the motor if the main bank failed. However, it would take ages to do. So a bigger 48 volt bank with two sets of 4 batteries wired in series and then the sets connected in parallel gives immediate access.

So a little maths about the issue with power over 12v cables.

P = power in watts (W)
V = voltage in volts (V)
I = current in amps (A)

Power = Current x Voltage or P = I x V

Switching it around we have I = P / V
So 4,000 watts from 12 volts = 4,000 / 12 = 333 Amps
Whereas on a 48 volt system we have 83 Amps

More amps = thicker cables and lots of care to avoid melting connections or high losses.

The disadvantages of changing from a 12 volt hour battery bank

Our current thinking

  • As we install them, we will configure all 8 batteries as a single 48 volt battery bank. This is pretty straightforward.
  • We will sell our unused 2 x 2,000 watt Victron Phoenix inverters (get in touch if you are interested).
  • We will use our Victron Orion 48 volt DC to 12 volt DC converter to power all our 12 volt appliances. We can always add extra Orion’s to run together if we need more power (eg for the electric auto-pilot)
  • It would be very expensive to add enough Orion’s to provide all the 1,500 watts at 12 volts for the windlass. So we will add a 12 volt battery close to the windlass. When the windlass isn’t being used we can charge the battery through the standard 12 volt system.
  • We will add 2 x 48 volt 3,000 watt Victon Multi-plus charger/inverters (2 of them to provide redundancy, we can run appliances with some limitations off one of them).

The Multi-plus inverters are smart. They provide mains power to the boat circuit and they automatically take that power from a shore power connection or if that isn’t available from the battery bank. When connected to shore power they automatically charge the battery bank. Two of them can put a total 70 amps into the battery bank.

We will have a 48 Volt battery bank with a total capacity of 1,680 AH (4 x 300 plus 4 x 120). Suppose we arrive at a marina with it fully depleted (ie down to 10% charge). That means we need to put in 90% of 1,680Ah which is 1,512 AH. At 70 Amps charging we are talking about 21 hours to fully recharge the battery bank (realistically we would expect many marinas to be limited to either 16A or 32A supplies so this will be a lot slower). Gradually we would expect marinas to upgrade their electric supply as the number of electric boats increases.

While there are costs to this change it does simplify a number of things, particularly with cabling and charging. All our charging goes into the one battery bank without having to switch solar panels between banks or do inefficient bank to bank charging.

It gives us much simpler use of the battery capacity as we can choose how we allocate the available power between house and motor. For example if we are not going anywhere and expect some sunny days in a while we can use all the capacity for the house. Or if we are motoring up a river to a marina all the house capacity is available for the motor.

In the long term we would expect more boat appliances to be available in 48 volt versions which will gradually reduce the need for DC to DC converters.

We haven’t made a final decision on this yet, but it does look like we are heading this way at the moment.

Easier anchor recovery

I recently found this product: The AnchorRescue II which looks like an excellent option for being able to trip your anchor if needed without all the problems of using a traditional trip-line to a buoy (tangles, other people picking it up etc).

It is good that it is a 2nd generation product, there have been others using somewhat similar concepts but this seems to have lasted longer and been improved. I like the fact that once setup you can ignore it until needed. Also that in the latest version it has re-usable velco strips to hold the trip chain to the anchor rather than leaving plastic cable ties at the bottom of the sea.

Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling

In a number of my Dyneema rigging posts I’ve referred to using HDPE to reduce friction and chafe where dyneema comes into contact with the mast or the deck.

I’d found a straightforward supply of HDPE as rods and sheets at Direct Plastics. However, we have just discovered a much better option. It turns out that it is relatively straightforward to turn our rubbish into new bits for the boat.

There are a ton of videos on how to turn HDPE waste into new products, even on a tiny scale (see Brothers Make on YouTube).

Therefore, we could potentially collect all our waste on the boat that is marked with this symbol:

into chafe avoiding parts for our rigging as well as lots of other useful boat bits for example:

  • Cleat boots (stop you hurting your toes on the rope cleats around your deck)
  • Chafe pads where ropes cross the deck or toerail
  • chopping boards
  • gratings for the shower room, for the cockpit
  • soap dishes
  • plastic carabiners for hooking light things up around the boat
  • chocks to hold things in place in lockers

Then we started to go further. Storage and disposal of waste is a real problem for cruisers. Supposing all plastic waste is washed, paper labels removed, sorted by type and colour and then shredded on board. Because with the exception of PET (1 in the recycling symbol) most plastics can be shredded and used to create new things (with varying properties). Suddenly all you have to store is tiny plastic pellets, which at any time can be made into things you can use or sell. You can even melt them into moulds to create dense “bricks” for the most compact storage – which can then be carved or melted to be used in other projects at a suitable time.

Then we went a bit further. While we won’t have the space or energy surplus for machines that have the capacity to run a full-time recycling business that collects and processes rubbish from a whole community, we would have enough capacity to be able to help out other cruisers with their waste.

Beyond that one of the common struggles we see many cruisers having is with the plastic they find on every beach. No cruiser has the capacity to store the plastic waste they can pick up very quickly every time they visit a beach. Plus even if it is collected then the small remote communities have no way of dealing with the waste (and cruisers often have to pay to leave rubbish). Of course, as we know, few large communities anywhere in the world are properly recycling much plastic waste. Too much gets shipped abroad, incinerated or buried rather than recycled.

So the goal becomes to find the right scale machines for the key tasks of shredding and injection moulding. The larger pieces can be created by either melting and pressing into a mould that we can make from wood (or possibly thickened epoxy); or by cutting/shaping as you would a piece of wood.

It looks like the Precious Plastic Universe is a potentially fantastic resource. Although their latest V4 machines are too big for us, there still seems to be a lot of support for their older/smaller machines. And it is all Open Source and Free.

We are loving this idea. Being able to make things to repair/upgrade our boat from our own rubbish is Sustainable heaven 🙂 But far more the chance to reduce the footprint of our cruising as well as that of others – in fact by being able to clear rubbish from beaches we end up with a really positive impact.

Wheelhouse plans

I said I was going to write this in my post “In the works“, just taken a bit longer than I thought.

This is what our wheelhouse looks like at the moment. The blue cover is really designed for use when Vida is ashore, or left on a mooring. It doesn’t have any windows and is almost impossible to do up fully from the inside. It is also all one piece which means you have no way of accessing the mainsheet or jib sheets when sailing.

Yes, we know that it definitely cannot be described as pretty!! The slab sections rising up from the cabin clash with every other line on the boat and it is too angular and too high.

However, we have a few more urgent concerns (although if we can make it look better while working on these then all to the good).

Ventilation: Even with the boat ashore in North Wales it got very warm under the wheelhouse on a warm summer day. It would quickly get unbearable to be at the steering wheel in the tropics.

Structure: the windscreen windows have vertical aluminium tubes between them. The stainless steel window frames are screwed to these on their sides and to the GRP at the top and bottom. This has caused corrosion between the different metals. Plus so far as we can tell the aluminium poles are not fixed in place by anything other than the window frames. That seems inadequate if a person gets thrown against it by a wave or a big wave hits it. Fortunately the poles at the aft end are very securely fitted.

Visibility: from our reading we are concerned that there are times when it is important to be able to look out directly rather than through glass (we have never sailed with a windscreen before so haven’t yet experienced the problems of rain and fogging).

Steering wheel: this has been repaired/strengthened before, it still doesn’t feel very strong. We are looking at replacing it with a slightly larger one (we can fit a 600mm wheel without hitting the side or blocking the hatch) should be nicer to use.

Seat: The original plans show a removable seat for the person helming with a backrest. Fitting one s1hould make it much more comfortable to be on watch for several hours.

Our plans.

We are still developing these, so still subject to a lot of change.

First, remove the existing glass a bit at a time and fit new supports that take the weight of the roof on their own. Probably use square section tubes of either stainless steel or carbon fibre. Possibly take them to the coachroof rather than to the existing windscreen base (to provide a bit more slope for better looks). That might allow us to change those big grey slabs at the the front of the wheelhouse so that they are slightly curved to blend in better (attach shaped rigid foam and cover with a fibreglass, then layers of epoxy fairing before paint).

Second, refit the glass (or switch to acrylic to match the rest of the windows and hatches except not tinted) but only go high enough to see through it when seated. So it would look much more like the fixed windscreens of a a Najad (see below). The effect would be a but like a windscreen with solid bimini above it. The key advantage is that when you stand to steer, you look out above the windscreen with your 360 degree view unimpeded by anything. This is a bit like what the Amel’s have (see Delos videos) but the dimensions are more horizontally squashed as Vida is 38 feet and the Amels 50 feet long. One other difference is that we would like to fit the glass/acrylic so that it can be hinged open or easily removed for maximum ventilation (this is one reason for switching to Acrylic rather than cutting toughened glass and sourcing new frames).

The next job will be to create a connection between the windscreen and the “bimini” (existing wheelhouse roof) that can removed/opened for ventilation and closed in cold/wet weather. One option is to simply continue with the lines of the windscreen to the roof, attaching to the support struts. Another option is to cap the windscreen with a shelf that extends into the wheelhouse (we need to do careful measurements to see if this is possible without always banging your head on it when coming in or out of the cabin). We could then have small, nearly vertical opening windows to fill the gap to the wheelhouse roof. The front of the wheelhouse roof would then be an eyebrow giving rain protection to the upper windscreen making it easier to see out in the rain. We have seen a number of boats with a soft fabric “window” in this position (although generally the bimini is further back and these removable sections are quite gently sloping (we just don’t have the cockpit length to do that).

Then we will create “curtains” or side walls for the back and sides (we have toyed with the idea of some of the sides being rigid acrylic). Unlike the existing blue cover we will have multiple sections that can be zipped in and out independently. They will also be mostly transparent (with protective drop down covers on the outside). We will be able to remove them and have mosquito mesh when appropriate. When not tacking much we should be able to sail with the windward side and 1/3 of the back in place if needed for warmth or sun protection. This will allow us to easily zip open (or closed) “door” shapes from both inside and outside making access easier whether at sea, at anchor or ashore.

At the moment we don’t think there is any point in replacing the wheelhouse roof for something a little shorter that might look better with some of the windscreen options. We certainly don’t want to “downgrade” from a solid roof to a fabric bimini that won’t last very long by comparison. If you want to sit fully exposed to the elements then by all means use the aft seat of the cockpit or sit on the cabin roof.

While this is quite a bit of work, the costs should be relatively low. Certainly it is far more sustainable to work with a 44 year old boat rather than buy something new. Improving the looks is the hardest challenge due to the space constraints (and the need for standing headroom). However, if we can improve strength, ventilation, visibility and access with much the same look then that will be a significant improvement for us.

Dyneema / Synthetic Rigging Summary

I have written a lot on rigging your boat with Dyneema and thought it was about time I provided a overall guide to what I’ve written. So I’m going to try to give a coherent guide to what we have explored so far.

First, the obvious question: Why Dyneema standing rigging?, that is more thought through in relation to specific challenges on our boat, than our first mention back in October 2019 was. That was less than 2 months after buying Vida and I mentioned Dyneema standing rigging as a longer term possibility in Starting to sort out sailing. Of course Covid has changed our perceptions of time in a far too many ways. We also explored the progress on sustainable dyneema.

Our Chainplate journey

The main learning since those early days been about the problems we face with our chainplates. That continues to evolve (so in my posts be aware that when I write “we plan” those plans may have changed more than once since. Even in the last few days we have learnt of a Rival 38 who had a chainplate (similar to ours except in stainless steel so presumably a replacement set from the original bronze we have) fail during a recent Atlantic crossing. So as we explored these issues I’ve written:

My thinking on chainplates was also affected by thinking about attaching a Jordan Series Drogue in a new simpler way. That reflects my dislike of custom stainless steel solutions. There are the corrosion issues (stainless steel corrodes in the absence of Oxygen – such as where a bolt is sealed as it goes through a deck or hull, and potential electrolytic pitfalls with dissimilar metals). They require someone to build them for you (not always possible in remote places and never free [or even cheap] or immediate). They can have problems that do not show up even with a careful visual inspection.

That has brought me to a new idea for Simpler Dyneema Chainplates. I have even produced a sketch (you can see why my Dad realised when I was very young that I would not follow him into architecture):

As I think about this solution, I realise that it can probably be adapted for most situations with chainplates that are close to the outside edge of the deck. Our bulwark should allow the holes to be drilled between the two sheets of G10, without coming through to the inside of the boat. However, if there is no bulwark the holes could be drilled and then the inside corner of the hull/deck joint could have a large fillet of thickened epoxy and the hole re-drilled through that.

My previous idea should still work where the holes can’t go external as it allows you to waterproof the dyneema loop below the deck.

Using G10 (above decks) or FR4 (below decks as fire resistant) that is bonded to the hull/deck should distribute loads much more effectively than a typical stainless steel chainplate without any corrosion/electrolytic risks.

Attaching Dyneema

Another big issue is what ends you fit on a dyneema shroud. I first wrote about that in Termination of Dyneema Shrouds. The most contentious issue? I stand by my conclusion, that if you can afford it then Colligo Marine have the widest range.

For us, I realised that our masts make it relatively simple for us to make and fit our own DIY/budget version of a Colligo Cheeky Tang for a fraction of the cost see Dyneema Termination and Chainplate update. Also our latest chainplate idea and conversations with Rigging Doctor mean that we will at least start with Low Friction Rings (sized generously) for both the chainplates and the low ends of the shrouds.

Using HDPE: learning from Free Range Sailing again we are looking at using HDPE to create our tangs for connecting the shrouds to the mast and for reducing friction/chafe on the chainplate connections. We are now looking at recycling and creating these components ourselves: see Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling.

I’ve added a post “Chainplate and Mast Tang feedback” to answer some really helpful comments from Jacob.

Sizing Dyneema

This is another area that has taken a lot of research and thinking. So I wrote a long post in The mysteries of sizing Dyneema standing rigging.

Sail plan and stays

In Dyneema forestays and backstays I sorted out Dyneema for all the mizzen shrouds and stays. Also for the main mast backstays and inner forestay.

The forestay for the main mast will need to remain stainless steel due to our use of a roller reefing genoa. Possibly in the very long term a roller reefing system might be developed that works with a dyneema forestay.

Another option (which is what I understand the Vendee Globe yachts do) is to move from a single genoa that is roller reefed to having multiple genoas/jibs that can be furled. So when the wind speed increases you furl (roll up) your current genoa, lower it to the deck and hoist another smaller job in a furled state.

With enough halyards you can hoist the new sail (and potentially even unfurl it) before furling and lowering your original sail. The headstay that the sail furls around can be dyneema and it can be structural (ie it holds the mast up and you leave the sail up while it is furled). Or you could have a forestay in front of the sail that is used to hold the mast up. I’m not sure how tensioning these works. Presumably you don’t have the forestay so tight and you put a lot of tension in the sails headstay.

It would also be lovely to fit a small, retracting bowsprit to be able to hoist larger sails such as a code zero (for going upwind in light breezes) or an asymmetric spinnaker (for downwind sailing) out in front of the forestay.

However, all these are expensive options. So we will hope to maintain the existing roller reefing setup for a long time with the inner forestay mainly use for the storm jib if needed. These options also require a lot more working on the foredeck which definitely has it’s disadvantages to offset against better performance and reducing the number of single points of failure.

Where to start?

We don’t think it is a good idea for your first dyneema splices to be for the shrouds that hold your mast up. Instead both dyneema lifelines and soft shackles seem like much more sensible places to learn to splice dyneema. Billy and Sierra did a good video on this.

We have some ideas about our lifelines to solve potential leaks, some problems with bent stanchions and even to make mounting our tiltable, removable, side solar panels easier. More on that in the future.