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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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 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
We already have 2 x 2,000 watt Victron Inverters which we would need to replace.
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.
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.
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
gratings for the shower room, for the cockpit
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.