Friday Progress #19

Fantastic 🙂 We have had a day visit to Vida following the relaxation of the Welsh StayLocal rule this week.

With the exception of a tiny drip from the hatch in the saloon (caught by the rags we had left out for the purpose) everything was dry and no bad smells, no mould, no problems at all.

We didn’t go with a big jobs agenda today but did lots of measuring and made an inventory. Brought home quite a few tools and parts that we can work on here.

We were able to check the fit of the Electric Motor Frame 🙂

All exactly as planned. The alignment will work. Both the original propeller shaft and the one within the frame will be shortened. By putting the frame right at the aft end of the moulded in engine bearers we will have space for all four big motor batteries in front of the motor. Absolutely perfect for really short cable runs and for keeping the weight low and central.

One house battery will go each side of the motor frame with 2 more above it (and space there for 2 more if we need them).

We were able to test the extra cushions. So we now have a great single berth which will be our primary sea berth when sailing.

We are not yet sure where we want to put the backrest yet (it partially depends on when and how we tackle the cupboards above).

The settee backrests fit too (we are going to be removing the little shelf trim above them).

Left home at about 8:15am and home again by 10:30pm, a beautiful day in Beaumaris 🙂

Preparing for Friday progress

Wales have now lifted the restrictions on day visits. So in the morning we will be heading for Vida. First time since 21st March.

We are taking the motor frame.

I’ve slipped the motor out. 4 bolts each end of the motor attaching it to the frame. 3 frame bolts undone and 2 loosened was all it took.

It did mean I was able to check the weight of the completed frame. 21kg plus the two cross bars that will rest on the flexible mounts.

So we have got the motor frame and saloon cushions all loaded ready for the morning 😊

Hopefully there will be a Friday progress post tomorrow!

Remember the best sustainable examples are attainable

Sustainability it a topsy turvy journey where contradictions abound and it turns out that this is good news for those of us trying to be more sustainable.

The loudest voices come from the privileged and wealthy, but they have least to teach us about sustainability. That is good news because most of us can’t afford what they are selling whether it be electric super yachts or anything with luxury in the description.

Those loud privileged voices who are desperately trying to hold onto and increase their wealth and power need to tell us that you can’t do what people have been doing for decades. They want you to forget about the Hiscock’s, and the Pardey’s with their multiple circumnavigations (without the benefit of so much modern technology – including reliable diesel engines).

The need to to tell us that our fantasies, our desires are essential needs (while selling what those fantasies are). That life without lightweight carbon fibre everything, without freezers, air conditioning, huge island double beds, space for large numbers of guests is impossible.

They believe that “sustainable” is a poorly defined term that they can throw around with impunity. They believe adding a solar panel or two to the options list makes hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on exotic materials, most often taking advantage of low labour rates and lack of rights, protections for labour and the environment, in some way sustainable.

Their business model depends on selling us more because they can’t compete on any other terms. Their only understanding of value is lower in sticker price than something that is massively overpriced. They run out of ideas other than bigger is better, most expensive is best.

Yet the reality is that none of this is sustainable, none of this is accessible and very, very few people can do it for long.

But the beauty is that now it is easier to find the stories from people who don’t control the media, who can’t buy exposure, who are not trying to sell us something we don’t need.

This is where we find the really inspiring stories of innovation in sustainability. Pretty much, all rescuing old project boats. So often choosing electric because the diesel wasn’t working and couldn’t be rescued. Often needing to work their way round the world (as the examples from the past often did). Fixing things with local materials, supporting local economies far from exotic resorts.

Look for the people who really engage with local people, watch for the way they refer to them and to their countries, customs, laws etc.

Look for the people who have bought boats for as little as $1. Who learn to be better sailors either because they don’t have much range with their electric setup or because they can’t afford to spend money on diesel – so they actually sail their boats.

There is plenty of good news. When we were looking for our boat, there was a huge choice of potential project boats to suit different preferences. There were boats whose sister ships have sailed around the world for under £5,000.

Of course you could spend more than 10 times that for newish boat the same length (but with more space and less weight carrying ability). You could buy something new enough that the teak decks will look beautiful for another 2 or 3 years before you have to replace them. You can find boats with more spent on the electronics alone than the value of the whole boat.

But if we want sustainable, then find the boats that need your love. Make sure it costs less than a new car to buy (good tip from Free Range Sailing).

Ignore the people who try to persuade you that time refitting a boat is lost compared to time working to pay for boat or that it is better to strive to pay for luxury for a couple of years rather than be out there into the future in something you and the planet can afford.

If we allow the privileged and wealthy to get into our minds and sell us their dreams then they get to enjoy the fruits of our labour without us, and to add insult to injury they will do so at great cost to the planet.

Oh and you don’t have to be the typical young couple with beautiful bodies and successful YouTube channels. It works well for us oldies too. While we refit we get to stay onboard in a beautiful place and not have to pay for holiday accommodation or campsites. We can look forward to a more secure retirement through needing less not worrying about finding more.

But on the other hand we looked at about 1/2 dozen project yachts within a few miles of Vida, ready and waiting for new owners to join the sustainable sailing revolution. Come on in, the water is lovely, accessible, affordable and you can help make it cleaner too 🙂

Should people convert yachts to electric motors?

In this generally good and fact filled interview (“Electric Engines on Sailboats: A Complete Guide! | Sailing Uma Interview“) there is the statement “If you have a working diesel, keep it” (at 40:30).

Of all the conversions of Yachts to electric motors, Kika and Dan of Sailing Uma, are possibly the most inspiring, they have more experience than pretty much everyone. They have built multiple versions, done some amazing DIY to get things working in ways they were not designed for and used them over years of cruising (20,000 miles I think they said). Their whole channel is full of brilliant and inspiring stories that spring from their characters which are lovely, positive, empathetic and so full of energy. Their videos around tourism and the environment in Haiti, of accessible sailing catamarans, of their responses to huge unexpected boat problems such as the keel nearly falling off the boat in the early days are great. We also find the way they have reworked the interior of Uma over the years really encouraging, it has helped us be much more adventurous with out own layout decisions.


I totally disagree with this statement “If you have a working diesel, keep it”.

I fully accept several of their arguments

  • the key restriction of electric motor installations is the range
  • many people are wedded to the idea that their diesel engine is a significant safety feature (I think they are wrong to do so but they do think that)
  • that an electric motor would force significant changes on many people who cruise to a timetable

Yet, I think they have missed the key reason that nearly everyone with a yacht should be encouraged to switch to an electric motor. We have to stop using fossil fuels and do so fast. So the UN says:

Increased commitments can take many forms but overall they must serve to shift countries and economies onto a path of decarbonization, setting targets for net zero carbon, and timelines of how to reach that target, most typically through a rapid acceleration of energy sourced from renewables and a rapid deceleration of fossil fuel dependency.

I think by now most people reading this blog are aware of the problems with fossil fuels, if not here are a couple of introductions.

So I’m saying switch away from Diesel Engines because we need to stop burning fossil fuels and I recognise that will have an impact on how you can use your yacht. I’m sorry about that but it is tough. We have to change and the way of cruising with a powerful, pretty reliable (especially if we ignore the very common fuel problems) diesel engine has to come to an end as a rather short time period in the history of cruising yachts.

My rule of thumb is to replace your diesel engine with an electric motor if any of these apply to you:

  • Your diesel engine does not work
  • Your fuel system needs money spending on to solve problems with diesel bug or other sludge or water
  • Your diesel engine needs signifiant work doing on any aspect
  • Your diesel engine needs taking out to do work on your stuffing box, cutlass bearing etc
  • You use a lot of diesel

If after this you have a working diesel engine by all means sell it to someone who will use it less than you.

The impact of switching from a diesel engine in your boat to an electric motor is far more significant than just the reduction in fossil fuels. It has massive symbolic value to others. It causes a big, positive, shift in our own expectations and our commitment to change in every part of our lives. As such it is a step everyone should be considering.

The future of Sustainable Sailing in a COVID-19 world

COVID-19 has changed the world beyond recognition in just a few short months. So what does it mean for Sustainable Sailing in general and how does it affect our personal Sustainable Sailing Goals?

The COVID-19 just like the other global crises we face (particularly thinking of the Climate Emergency and the injustices causing the BLM movement) are tied up with inequality and injustice.

Do you remember this widely reported study from March 2020? Shining a light on international energy inequality

Among all the countries and income classes in the study, the top 10% consume roughly 20 times more energy than the bottom 10%.

Additionally, as income increases, people spend more of their money on energy-intensive goods, such as package holidays or cars, leading to high energy inequality. Indeed, the researchers found that 187 times more vehicle fuel energy is used by the top 10% consumers relative to the bottom 10%.

I’m going to assert that COVID-19 was spread fast and wide by the wealthy travelling (eg skiing holidays in Italy) and finding ways to buy themselves around restrictions on travel. Yet the highest costs have been experienced by those in poverty and in marginalised groups suffering injustice.

We see the same with the Climate Emergency. It is the wealthy who are consuming disproportionate amounts of resources with far higher carbon footprints. It is the poor who suffer the greatest impacts as they live in more vulnerable locations is lower quality buildings with no spare resources.

We see something similar in the injustices that have lead to the Black Lives Matter movement. The impact of systematic institutional racism has destroyed lives and brought whole communities, even nations down. Multiple intersecting privileges have been used by White people use to hold onto and build wealth and power. So one result is that Black Lives are more affected by the Climate Emergency while also having had a smaller impact on the Climate.

If we are to have any chance of a Sustainable Future as a world then

  • we are going to have to build better out of COVID-19
  • we are going to need to make rapid, drastic changes to respond to the Climate Emergency
  • we are going to need to address the Justice and Equality issues of BLM (and other big issues of Justice such a MeToo and LGBTQIA+ rights) or face massive civil unrest that will derail the other responses

Sustainable Sailing in general

It seems to me that providing we interpret our Sustainable Sailing goals in non-selfish ways, so that they matter for others as well as ourselves then

Sustainable: Environmentally; Financially; Mentally; Physically

is going to be helpful in all these crisis.

Sustainable Sailing and COVID-19: Slow, isolated travel has the least chance of carrying COVID-19 to destinations. Travelling on the most self-sufficient (ie sustainable) yachts reduces dependency and risk.

Sustainable Sailing and the Climate Emergency: An older yacht, refitted to use zero fossil fuels, is an incredibly low impact way of living. Sadly the trend to larger, more luxurious yachts sold with elements of greenwash is increasingly detrimental in their impacts. Claims about how low the impact is will always need to be evaluation carefully as there are so many variables. Comments about the need for luxury need to be challenged as the unequal, unsustainable, wasteful things that they are with the constant need to reflect on what actually brings fulfilment and happiness.

Sustainable Sailing and issues of equality and justice eg BLM: Sailing in the UK is clearly not inclusive. The low cost and non traditional nature of Sustainable Sailing allow for a different culture to emerge. One that is welcoming and equal. I find this incredibly beautiful picture and words from Kika of Sailing Uma on Instagram inspirational in this area.

Our personal Sustainable Sailing Goals

COVID-19, especially when combined with the deceit that is BREXIT potentially has a huge impact on our long term plans. Until there is an effective COVID-19 vaccine and a large % of the 7.7 billion population have been vaccinated travel around the world is going to be subject to risks, delays and setbacks. Once BREXIT is done our freedom of movement is drastically reduced and with the huge double hit on the economy and pension funds of COVID-19 and BREXIT so is our financial future. We might be restricted to UK sailing grounds (and hopefully after the inevitable break-up of the UK we will still be able to visit Scotland and Ireland). We might need to look for ways to supplement our pensions.

Sustainable Sailing started as a response to the Climate Emergency. That is still entirely valid although given the lack of action by government it may become more of a lifeboat exercise as a way of keeping ourselves safe in what will be an increasingly affected world.

Sustainable Sailing and issues of Justice is less direct and less obvious. Can we make any difference through attempting to live as anti-racists? Through the ways we treat others? At present it seems rather weak and disconnected from this issue.

Cabin Refurbishment: Part 4 Layout

Continuing from Cabin Refurbishment: Part 3 Interior Theme and Style

Plans so far (layout and technical)

We really love the overall layout of Vida with the small, safe, protected centre cockpit that allows for an aft cabin accessible from the main cabin and two heads compartments.

However, there are a number of ways we want to tweak the layout, for long term live-aboard cruising. A lot of these tweaks come from the benefits of switching to zero fossil fuels, we gain useable space in a number of places. For example:

  • Our cockpit locker now has more that twice the volume (removed diesel fuel tank, paraffin heater and tank, 4 x 12volt battery, water heater, water pump, fridge compressor)
  • We have gained an aft lazarette that used to be mostly filled by the gas bottles.
  • The corridor to the aft cabin is now wider on both sides (electric motor is smaller and doesn’t need the same sound and fire protection; diesel fuel tank removed)
  • The heads compartments don’t have to leave space for and access to 3 seacocks each, we are having much smaller wash basins too (although we are adding small waste water tanks and the composting toilets are a bit larger).

The original layout was rather “optimised” to sell the idea that you could have 8 berths (2 aft cabin, 2 forecabin, double using the saloon U-settee and infill, starboard settee with pilot berth above) and have all 8 sit around the table for a meal.

However, there was never going to be enough space for 8 people’s belongings (especially if they wanted you to have some food for them). Sitting 8 around the table would mean constant climbing over each other for access.

Our plan is to optimise for us as a couple living aboard with the capacity to have two guests for extended periods. In harbour we would use the aft and forecabins for sleeping, each with en-suite heads. Neither of these cabins is suited to use at sea, there the most comfortable place to sleep is a single bunk, in the middle of the boat, with a good lee cloth to stop you falling out. So we are planning for a minimum of one person on watch and so will need 3 sea berths.

That would give us the potential to have a few extra guests, for shorter visits, when in harbour or for shorter passages in good weather.

So here are some of the ideas we have at present.

We have already shared our ideas to remodel the aft cabin to make better use of the space, improving the way into the aft heads, providing a comfortable seat and easier climbing onto the bed, plus better insulation and more practical storage. We have now realised we can grab a little more space from the engine compartment from what was used to avoid siphoning with the exhaust.

I recently wrote about our plans for extending the galley. We plan for a under counter front opening fridge (where the gas oven used to be), for a microwave combo oven above and back from the induction hob. The induction hob to be gimbled but with the option to swap it for the Instant Pot or coffee machine so they can be used gimbled instead. In harbour we will be able to bring out the spare induction hob for more adventurous cooking (we think that having two individual induction hobs is a much better option than a one double hob).

We are pretty sure we want to change the chart table area quite a lot. Part of the goal will be to make the corridor to the aft cabin a bit wider as well as providing good storage (possibly large stuff such as bikes, or a watermaker, or for extra solar panels when they are not in use, or …). If we can make it work, we would like to rotate the chart table itself so that instead of sitting on a folding seat facing outwards (which blocks the corridor) you sit facing forwards. That would give somewhere that you could sit at when on watch keeping an eye on the instruments without disturbing someone asleep on the saloon sea berth.

We have an idea to turn the corridor access to the aft cabin into a single quarter berth when on passage. So essentially a pipe cot/fold down bed that you get out whenever on passage. That would provide a really secure, comfy bed in a place with little motion and easy access to the chart-table. When there are just two of us that leaves the saloon for seating/dressing etc. If we have extra crew we then have 3 sea berths without needing to have the double decker option at the saloon settee. This is only attractive because you will no longer be sandwiched between a noisy/smelly diesel engine and a smelly diesel fuel tank.

We have been exploring different options for the forecabin after we have done all the practical work to improve anchoring. One option is to keep it mostly the same, but improve it for use as a guest double cabin. The key challenges there are the height to climb into bed when it is setup as a double and the way the doors work for the heads.

The second option is to more drastically strip it out so that it functions better as a store/workshop with the option for one or two guest single berths that fold away when not in use.

Our heads compartments will both be laid out very differently, in large part, due to the composting toilets being a little larger but needing no plumbing connections. We have glass washing bowls to sit on top of worktops, so we are going to be very trendy, because they were the cheapest option at B&Q 😉 We want a very easy to clean, spacious feel rather than lots of little cabinets. As we have moved increasingly to plastic free bathroom products, you need far less space for stuff anyway.

In the forward heads we are determined to make the shower easy, comfortable and welcoming to use. We will also add an outside shower but we are British and living in Manchester so an outside shower is currently beyond our emotional imaginations capacity. A key to this will be to change the complicated multiway doors around the forward head in some way that will also replace the hopeless sliding door to the main cabin with something easier to use

We have already changed the saloon from having a big central table, the new table leg allows a table to be moved around so access is much easier. Eventually we will have a tabletop that opens out if needed. We can also use the same table and leg in the cockpit for al-fresco dining. We will make it so the U-shaped seating area can become a 2nd single sea berth.

We didn’t like the way the main settee backrest hinged up to make “bunk beds”. The lower bunk was very nice (but you couldn’t sit up in it) but it was very difficult to climb up into the upper berth. A side effect was that the settee was too deep for normal length legs 🙂 So we will add a more comfortably positioned backrest that moves right out of the way.

We really don’t like the storage in the saloon area. Every cupboard door and opening is a different size and none of them line up (which is not what is shown in the construction drawings). Many of them are so deep that you have to empty them to reach things at the bottom. So one day this will be simplified making the space look larger while being more useful.

Phew! It sounds a lot. Fortunately we won’t be doing this all at once, nor are we in any rush. These jobs will be spread over years while we are still working and using the boat for weekends and holidays. While there will always be much less volume than a modern 38 foot yacht we are very happy that we will have plenty for our needs and all in a boat design that is proven, trusted and affordable.

Cabin Refurbishment: Part 3 Interior Theme and Style

Continued from Cabin Refurbishment: Part 2 Approaches and Cabin Refurbishment: Part 1 the story so far and what is delaying us.

We want the interior to be light, simple looking, no fuss, intensely practical both at sea and living aboard on anchor, and comfortable but without any pretensions to being luxury. We want to build it from the most sustainable materials we can reasonably afford. Given that we expect the new interior to have a long life we are ok with us using some plastic in after all what is a 42 year old plastic boat that has plastic sails, plastic windows etc (Thanks Kika of Sailing Uma for that clear argument in this very helpful interview (“Electric Engines on Sailboats: A Complete Guide! | Sailing Uma Interview“)

Probably our general theme could be described as Herreshoff Style (mostly white with minimal wood trim) with some variations such as the cushions (what was on special offer for the aft cabin, recognising it is normally covered by a sheet and duvet; and in the saloon a blue because there wasn’t so much choice in the hard wearing semi recycled Sunbrella fabrics); stainless steel for the bigger handholds (as otherwise you need expensive and unsustainable hardwood) and “sophisticated” greys in the galley.

How to achieve this?

Part of the reason for choosing this style is that much of the internal timber is looking tired. There are lots of water stains, but fortunately we haven’t found any rot or delamination. So for the timber we are keeping (bulkheads for example) the best option is paint which handily should also be less work and harder wearing than trying to restore and varnish it.


This is the biggest challenge for us. As we have removed the, wet and sagging, headlining we are taking advantage of that by insulating the hull as well as under the decks and coachroof with 10mm closed cell foam (several layers where headroom isn’t an issue such as between the hull stringers). We need to hold this in place and we don’t want to look at black foam as we are not goth teenagers 😉 Our first attempt was to simply use spray contact adhesive with the idea of then painting it white. But it didn’t work.

The contact adhesive hasn’t held it in place, and so within a few days it all fell down. We have had discussions about whether being more generous with the adhesive would solve the problem, it was made clear to me that I was invited to do it myself next time with as much glue as I wanted but that it still would not stay up 🙂 More than that, the joints at corners are going to look uneven, we can’t see how to do anything approaching tidy for window surrounds, and finally if the foam is knocked at all then it gives and the paint cracks.

So we have been looking for something to hold the insulation up, give neat edges/joints and be light in colour, preferably white.

We have looked at various plastic sheets and plastic tongue and groove planks but didn’t want to introduce so much raw plastic and getting a good finish in awkward spaces is going to be tricky and time consuming especially with narrow plank styles.

We also looked at tongue and groove pine, but if it is thin enough to not cause headroom issues then it is also very fragile. We ruled out rectangular sections of timber due to the effort to fit them so that they look good (and cost).

In the end we think the best option for us is to cover it with thin plywood sections, which we will screw directly to the stringers or coachroof. Essentially this was what was there before. Now though it will have insulation behind and will be painted white rather than covered in foam backed vinyl. We will have removable sections wherever there is a bolt or fitting that we could need to access (fortunately not too many).

We can then cover the joints and edges with thin strips of softwood. Not sure what surface treatment except we will try to keep it’s natural colour, we don’t want to try to stain it to look like hardwood.


The floors are a problem. They are traditional Teak and Holly laminate so won’t match the new colour scheme. There are a few other problems too. They creak a lot, there is a hole from the old table leg and the matching plastic stuck to the slopes of the hull in various points is disintegrating.

Most of the floor boards are large awkward shapes and were screwed down, with a few loose sections for access to the water tank, speedo etc. We could do with being able to access more of it for storage, but we also need to be able to fasten every board down for safety (if we get knocked down you don’t want to be in your bunk getting hit by both floorboards and tins of baked beans).

We have seen a number of budget solutions applying standard DIY floor laminates but are not convinced, we feel they are not really going to last in the salt water environment and they are not designed for lift out sections.

For winter in the boatyard the cheap foam tiles sold in places like Halfords have been great but they don’t make access to the opening sections easy and they won’t last a very long time.

So one idea we are wondering about is cork tiles stuck down and then painted – comfortable, warm and soft while being a sustainable crop. Cutting for openings and awkward shapes is easy but edges are vulnerable.

For marinas and even at anchorages carpet or rugs can be nice but when at sea there are real problems with them slipping and getting wet.

So long term quite a lot of work to do but it will make a huge difference to living onboard (I really hate creaky, cold floors).


In Cabin Refurbishment: Part 1 the story so far and what is delaying us I had a bit of a grumble about the totally inadequate original lighting. There are very few lights, they look dated and are not in very useful places so not worth upgrading to LED bulbs.

We like a bright interior, especially in the winter but we don’t like bright point lights and shadows. So the easy solution is going to be lots of strips of LED lighting integrated into the corners of the headlining trim. We will have a red option for the galley, chart table and sea berths. But we don’t want flashing multi coloured, remote controlled disco lighting. Simple switches are much preferred as you don’t lose them and get in trouble with someone else on board 🙂

Lighting is going to be mostly LED strips that are hidden behind the trim to avoid direct glare.


We feel pretty happy with most of this and how it will be to implement (apart from the floor which feels very uncertain still). Next part will be on the layout.

Continued in Cabin Refurbishment: Part 4 Layout