Started other 3 motor frame end panels

I’m really pleased with where we have reached today.

I took the plunge and started the other panels for the motor frame. Both the front and back panels are made up of 2x 3mm panels as I couldn’t find 6mm sheet stainless steel. Turns out that was probably a good thing as I don’t think my tools would have coped with 6mm sheets.

So the most critical task was to get bolt holes through all 4 sheets so that I could ensure that the bearings for the shaft are perfectly aligned along the full length of the frame. These were tricky as the 16mm Bosch drill bit I just bought really couldn’t cope with stainless steel. These 4 are the only 16mm holes on the whole frame so I used a 13mm and then widened it.

I’ve also drilled the two holes for the top bar that is used to lift the motor for belt tensioning. Again straight through all 4 sheets so that everything can now be held perfectly aligned.

Here you can see the result.

This photo is a slight cheat as the bearings are temporarily positioned on the wrong side of the plates. What you can see here is the outside face of the front and rear panels. The bearings go on the side face.

The remaining really critical task is marking and cutting the motor bolt slots on the back panel. Not only are the 45 degrees rotated ie NE, SE, SW, NW instead of N, E, S, W but the bolts are 1/2″ instead of the 3/8″ that are used on the motor front face (life would be a lot easier without those differences, but I assume that it is probably for situations where the motor is only bolted to a frame at one end).

Cutting the slots in the 2nd front sheet is straightforward as we just draw round the ones in the first sheet.

Once all the slots are cut we can make the holes for the rest of the angle framing which goes all the way around the back panels. The front panel framing is a bit trickier as it has to avoid the motor and pulleys.

Once the panel edge framing is done we add 4 lengths of angle to connect the front and rear panels at the corners.

Then one diagonal brace per side.

At that point the frame itself is complete. We can then take it to the boat (without the motor in so it is easier to lift) to sort out where the big angled steel lengths need to go (across the frame and sticking out the sides) so that they can rest on the engine mounts with the lower frame shaft perfectly aligned with the propeller shaft.

We still need to source the engine mounts and the coupling to the propeller shaft.

Before we can fit the motor into the boat we need to properly sort everything for the propeller shaft and propeller.

So when we can get on the boat again the biggest part of this still to be sorted is removing the old, stuck, bronze mount for the stuffing box. We think we will need to get a replacement custom milled piece of bronze that will have a flange bolted to the boat and a suitable smooth tube that a modern dripless seal can be fitted to the outside of with the propeller shaft coming through the middle.

As I look at the photo, I’m wondering if we might be able to reuse this. If we can get the last bolt out then maybe I can grind off the flange with the 2 bolt holes that the stuffing box was attached to. That would give a smooth tube to attach the dripless seal to (albeit maybe a rather large diameter difference between it and the propeller shaft). If we can do this it will be fantastic, saving a lot of time and money.

The propeller shaft exits the boat though a cutlass bearing. Ours is worn but there was a new spare on board that we will use. Hopefully as reasonably straightforward job to swap that while everything else is out of the boat.

I think we need to add an internal bearing for the propeller shaft between the dripless seal and the coupling to the motor. The old stuffing box would have supported the propeller shaft in a way the dripless seal won’t. If aligned perfectly, and fixed very rigidly to the hull, it should reduce the wear on the cutlass bearing.

Before the fitting of the motor frame we still have the 2 new composite seacocks to fit for the cockpit drains and the old engine cooling water intake to fill.

Beyond all these mechanical/physical elements to the motor install we have all the electronics and controls to sort out. We have got nearly everything for this area of the work (last battery due in a couple of months, throttle assembly due in a month). So plenty of work still to do.

First motor frame front panel nearly finished

The front panel is coming along nicely. We have been able to check the positioning of the lower pulley and start the preparation for fitting the shaft that will connect to the propeller.

Here is the front panel resting on top of the motor. All the bolts fit in the slots and this video clip shows how the height of the motor will be adjusted so that the belt can be replaced and tensioned.

Here you can see what it looks like with pulleys and belt resting in place.

We hope that the 2nd front panel will be nice and quick to cut the slots in as we know what we are doing 🙂

The back plates are simpler as they don’t need a big oval cutting out for the shaft and surround. The tricky bit is getting the motor bolt holes in the right place as they are orientated at 45 degrees to the front ones (otherwise could drill straight through which would be much simpler).

Then we will need the angled strips to connect the front and rear of the frame so that the belt drive can’t twist anything. After that the remaining challenge will be to correctly position the big cross angled stainless steel which will rest on the engine bearers. They need to be at the right height for the lower shaft to be exactly aligned with the propellor shaft (or there will be lots of vibration and noise and it will all break itself apart).

More motor frame progress

We have got to use the new Dremel, it turns out that Jane manages to cut about 10x as much as me with each cutting disc. This is the first of two identical front panels. It needs 5 slots cutting in it (4 for motor bolts, 1 for the motor shaft) so that the motor height can be adjusted to tension the drive belt. It also needs a hole for the drive shaft and 2 holes to attach the bearing for the drive shaft.

At this point on Thursday evening we had a bit of a production line going. I was drilling the bolt holes in the lengths of stainless steel angle that make the frame around the end plates. Jane continues to cut the slots in the end plate.

Initially the drilling and cutting were not hopeless. Each drill bit was only lasting a little longer than one hole. Since then the casting of the support for my drill press platform broke and I have bought some WD40 cutting oil. With my big old hand drill and the cutting oil my latest drill bit has lasted for about 10 holes.
The dremel is slow but clean and precise for cutting the sheets.
I’ve used my cross cut mitre saw for cutting the lengths of angle stainless steel which is pushing it pretty hard, it needs a new blade, but it is a big time saver compared to cutting them by hand.

Top and bottom frames for both front and back end plates. The two with extra bolt holes in the middle are the tops, the holes are used for bolts that lift the motor in the slots.

This shows a first dry fit of the front motor panel. The top pulley is attached to the motor drive shaft. The lower pulley to the output shaft that will connect (behind the motor frame to the propeller shaft.

At this point we have 2 slots ready for finishing (which will make sure the alignment is close to perfect). The central oval is for the motor drive shaft and it’s surround, it is about 50% cut so far.

This is the front end of the motor showing the drive shaft and raised surround that will come through the oval.

This is the lifting mechanism for the motor so that the belt can be tensioned.

So while it is quite time consuming it does feel like we have what we need to get this done.

Electric motor frame progress

After a very slow start trying to drill through 5mm thick Stainless Steel I’m making better progress now. Still taking it very slowly to try to avoid mistakes.

In these images you can see one of two Stainless steel sheets used for the front of the motor. I could only source 3mm sheets so I’m doubling them up for better rigidity. Two x 3mm sheets at the front and two more at the back.

The sheets are going to be framed on all four sides by stainless steel angle 30mm by 5mm. Then more of the same 30mm will be used to join all four corners front to back, making an open sided box.

I also have some flat bar to add a diagonal brace to each side.

Then two length of 50mm angle to go across the front and back, sticking out of the sides. This will then be bolted to the 4 flexible engine mounts.

The whole lot is going to be bolted together. Lifting it onto the boat will be easier a bit at a time and it will make any future changes easier.

One of the complications is the belt drive that connects the motor to the drive shaft (to provide the reduction in rotation speed needed to match the motor speed to the propeller).

We need to be able to adjust the belt tension between slack when fitting it and the right tension when running.

To make the alignment to the propeller shaft as straightforward and consistent as possible the belt driven shaft is going to be in a fixed position in the frame and so fixed in relationship to the engine mounts and propeller shaft.

So the motor position itself needs to be able to move up and down within the frame to provide the belt tensioning. That means the end frames need slots for all four motor bolts, at each end. I’m using a bolt (between the top motor bolt and the top frame angle) to provide precise vertical tensioning.

Two things make it more complicated.

First, there is a bulge around the motor shaft which will need a larger slot cutting in the end plate.

Second, the bolt holes on the back of the motor are at 45° from the front. That means there isn’t a single top bolt to lift for tensioning. So I’ll connect the top two with a bar and lift the centre of that.

Anyway, most of the angle lengths for surrounding the ends are mostly cut. I’ve got the first slot cut in the drive shaft end and the tensioning mechanism for the front ready.

Sustainable Sailing and Human Power

I’ve been quiet on here during the COVID-19 pandemic so far. More urgent priorities and has seemed inappropriate when so many have been dying, ill or struggling in other ways. However, some countries are now starting to move beyond lockdowns and it now seems more appropriate to focus on building a better future. One that is more human in scale, more caring of people and planet, more sustainable. So here are some thoughts of another aspect of bringing Humans into Sustainable Sailing

With a goal of zero fossil fuels being central to our understanding of Sustainable Sailing there is a big gap in what we have been planning so far.

What about using human power?

I’ve come up with a number of potential uses for human power when Sustainable Sailing. Let’s see if any make sense.

  1. Moving the boat
  2. Replacing electric powered items on the boat
  3. Generating electricity
  4. Getting to/from shore
  5. Getting around on shore

Now we have a list, time to consider them in some detail.

Moving the boat

The best examples I know of for actually moving a yacht by human power come from two races. In the UK The Three Peaks Yacht Race (run to and climb the highest peaks in Wales, England and Scotland; sail between them; engines only allowed within specified areas of the ports) and the Race to Alaska (No motor, no support, all the way to Alaska.
The physical endurance, saltwater know-how, and bulldog tenacity to navigate the 750 cold water miles from Port Townsend, Washington, to Ketchikan, Alaska). There are great videos from Race to Alaska 2019

My conclusion is that if you want to be able to make any real progress with human power to move a yacht then 3 conditions need to be met

  1. You need a large crew so that you can have people who are rested enough to cope with a storm that follows a long calm where you have been using human power.
  2. The lighter and easier the boat to move the more practical it is. A racing multi-hull is the best option, a live-aboard heavy displacement mono-hull very bad.
  3. So far the most effective solutions for speed are also fragile and take up a lot of space. Neither good for long term cruising.

Therefore, it seems to me that it is better to invest in improved sailing performance in light winds to minimise the amount of time that human power could improve your speed. For shorthanded cruising (eg a couple living aboard) an electric motor is going to be far less risky in harbour situations where you don’t have spare crew or where you need to be able to cope with tides and headwinds while manoeuvring.

Replacing electric powered items on the boat

Probably the only electric powered item that we plan to have that we could easily (and more cheaply) replace with a human powered version, is the windlass for raising and lowering the anchor.

The electric windlass we are fitting can be used manually. However, having an electric windlass seems to us to be a great safety feature.

It allows us to have a much heavier anchor and chain,

it means we won’t put off moving to a more sheltered anchorage because we don’t want to manually raise the anchor,

if you need to leave an anchorage in bad conditions we won’t start sailing while physically exhausted from raising the anchor.

It raises the anchor much faster, which with the saving in physical effort makes sailing on and off anchor much easier

So we think investing in better electrical capacity is a better option here.

More and more yachts, particularly larger ones now have electric winches and/or electric sail furling. We plan to stick to manual as long as we are physically capable, possibly getting an electric powered winch handle rather than a whole winch when we need help.

Most of our other electrical systems are cooking or water related. So far no obvious human powered options (water-making would be great but falls far short of daily needs for a lot of effort).

Generating electricity

How about using a bike or something to generate electricity while we exercise? Our conclusion is that it can’t generate enough to be worthwhile (especially when you factor in a small crew). Time and money better spent ensuring maximum power from your solar by keeping it clean, shadow free and pointing at the sun.

Getting to/from shore

This is where I believe it starts to get very interesting.

We have gone for probably the most popular dinghy style (A rigid inflatable with aluminium hulls). Having inflatable hulls makes getting on and off the boat so much easier and safer with no risk of damage. An aluminium hull is both lighter than the traditional grp and much tougher for dragging up beaches (it is also fully recyclable). Ours is a Highfield Classic 290 which we should be able to store on our fore deck when sailing (just in front of the main mast), it also fits inside our van for transport to and from home (nowhere to keep it near the launching place near our mooring).

Ribs are pretty rubbish to row (the hull is too wide with too much water and wind drag, plus the seating position is inefficient. So we have an electric motor, but that means we sacrifice speed, it won’t be possible to plane (but we don’t expect to want to zoom to fantastic diving spots for example).

Could human power provide an alternative? We have looked at various “toys” to use when at anchor. SUP’s (stand-up paddle boards) are very popular and the inflatable ones easy to store. But practical and useful they are not, unless it is warm enough to wear just a swimming costume and you don’t need to go far and it is smooth water without much wind and you don’t want to carry anything. An inflatable kayak is a little better in practicality.

So instead we are wondering about carrying something designed to row well. The best option that we have found is from Angus Rowboats, they have an amazing track record (first human powered circumnavigation, rowing across the Atlantic, coming first in the under 20 feet category of the Race to Alaska). They have this beautiful Oxford Wherry available as plans or a kit. I’ve had a chat with Colin Angus and we agree it should be possible to make a minor adjustment so that the wherry can be divided into 3 nesting parts for storage on deck (we think it would fit on our aft cabin). We think that this would be the most efficient human powered dinghy that you could carry on a yacht. With a sliding seat you will be able to carry yourself and a passenger to explore rivers and harbours at a similar speed to our outboard engine on the rib.

We don’t think this would be suitable for our only tender, the key issues is that with the sliding seat you have to have outriggers for the oars and this makes coming alongside a yacht very difficult without causing damage (so instead we will use the rib as a dock/boarding platform). The lack of an engine option makes carrying large amounts of shopping or fighting the fast tide in the Menai Strait unattractive.

Getting around on shore

It amazes us how few of the sailing YouTube channels carry bikes with them to get around on the shore, particularly to go shopping. In a recent video Beau and Brandy had a 30 minute walk to the supermarket. They then had to push the loaded trolley back before an hours round trip returning the trolley.

Matt and Amy on Sailing Florence seem to be the best sorted with two Brompton bikes but we think they too are missing a key thing to transform using bikes for shopping. What they need is a trailer. For us there are two stand-out options (they need to fold and they need to be suitable for any bike and they need to resist corrosion). If we didn’t already have a trailer then the Cyclone Range from Radical Design are brilliant. The other option (and yes we have one) is from Carry Freedom We have an old Large Y-Frame but there are other options now. Here is mine in use (Cargobike sadly not so suitable for fitting on board boats, plastic box is just bolted on, anything else could be used). It works as a hand cart too for getting right to the loading point.


By far the most cost effective and transformative use of human power in Sustainable Sailing is a bike with a trailer.

A good rowing dinghy (probably in addition to a RIB) comes second.

For everything else your energy is better used improving your boats sailing ability and electrical generation and storage.