Very happy to see that March has been the first time that we have had more than 1,000 views in one month. That was over 420 visitors. Plus we now have 130 followers spread out between email, WordPress and social media. Good to see some consistent growth.
So if you are following us then welcome! If you are new here then also welcome
We are on a journey that hopefully will return to more practical progress in a couple of weeks when lockdown restrictions are due to relax. It will be good to get out of my head a bit.
Next week we hope to be setting our son up to get the plastic shredding started. We have a new stainless steel shredder and a second hand electric motor which he is going to connect and sort out. The injection moulding machine and moulds is all on order. We will be taking our shed to re-purpose as a workshop. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we have some recycled plastic products to sell.
All these designs and the process is for us to work out what we are going to do on our boat. We are happy to share to give you ideas for your own boat, but you need to check your plans with appropriate professionals as we can take no responsibility for whether they will work for you.
Although our previous design was significantly stronger than what our Rival 38 has had for the last 43 years, we have come up with big improvements (with a lot of conversations, especially with Simon T who has a Rival 32). Specifically these are:
More flexibility in deck position so they can be closer to the original chainplate position
More flexibility in the positioning on the outside of the hull to avoid rubbing strakes, coving strips etc
Simpler to build
Ability to have tie connections down into the hull (as Rivals should really have had)
Reduced possibility of chainplate lashing line chafe.
Reduced friction when tensioning the rig, making it simpler to tune
The previous design already met these requirements, but they are worth repeating:
A chainplate design ideally suited to synthetic shrouds, that eliminates the need for deadeyes and toggles to reduce the number of potential points of failure.
A chainplate that is much stronger than the original Rival implementation. See Deck repair question and note that Cherry Ripe had one chainplate fail on a recent transatlantic trip (their YouTube videos haven’t caught up with that point yet).
A chainplate that cannot leak, fully sealed with epoxy from the inside of the boat
A chainplate that could be fully repaired with parts that can be carried on board
A chainplate with minimal chance of hidden problems causing a sudden failure
We really need to define our own terminology so
Chainplate structure: the permanently bonded structure between the hull and deck that the Chainplate Lashing will thread
Chainplate Low Friction Ring: A standard Low Friction Ring that is the point to which the shroud is attached by a tensioning system.
Chainplate lashing: a light (we are going to use 4mm) dyneema line used to hold the Chainplate Low Friction Ring by being routed through the Chainplate structure. At a minimum the strength of the total lashing needs to exceed the strength of the original stainless steel shroud.
Tensioning system: we will be using a simple, thin dyneema line to lash the bottom of the shroud to the Chainplate Low Friction Ring. It will loop around multiple times to give a mechanical advantage and the end will be attached to more mechanical advantage (can be done with a winch or other means) to get enough tension into the shroud.
Knee: a shaped piece of material (we are going to use 10mm G10 or FR4) that ties the underside of the deck down the side of the hull. It helps stop the tension of the shroud on the chainplate structure breaking or distorting the boat shape.
They have an unusual situation for their backstays, when drilling the holes for the lashing they don’t go into the interior of the boat. A key design goal was to find a way to have a similar lashing for the low friction ring in places where it isn’t possible for a hole to go from the desk to the outside of the hull without going into interior. Also I didn’t want to have to add GRP matting to the outside of the hull. Finally, I was unhappy with the lashing as it relied on knots which is a problem with slippery dyneema.
Key Design elements
First we have a permanent structure to be built
For each shroud two plastic pipes will go through the deck (approx 40mm gap between them – scale as appropriate). On a Rival they can be in approximately the same place as the existing chainplate. They should line up with the shroud (following both the fore/aft and athwartships angles). Below decks they will curve to exit through holes in the side of the hull (still the same distance apart and level with each other). The pipes end approx 50mm above the deck.
A “backing” plate on top of the deck will provide reinforcement. It will make it easier to keep water out of the holes in the deck.
A “backing” plate on the outside of the hull will spread the loads and can be shaped to allow a very smooth curve for the chainplate lashing between the two pipes.
Inside the boat a knee will be fitted between the pipes. It will tie the deck to the hull and will extend down far enough to spread the loads over a large area of the hull.
Inside the boat the pipes will be encased in thickened epoxy. The will prevent any water intrusion. It will also create a single solid structure of deck, hull, pipes and knee to ensure loads are widely and evenly spread.
Second we have the connection for the shroud tensioning system
The permanent structure allows a lashing to attach a low friction ring above the deck. The shroud can be directly tensioned to the low friction ring using a lashing. As the low friction ring is lashed directly to the chainplate structure we eliminate a deadeye (with two thimbles) and a toggle – so removing several of single points of failure.
The chainplate lashing line starts at the low friction ring. Then it loops several times going through one pipe, across the outside of the hull, back through the other pipe and around the low friction ring. When there are enough turns for the maximum load the lashing terminates at the low friction ring.
Rather than use knots to tie the lashing at each end (which lose a lot of strength), terminate each end with an eye splice. These both loop over the low friction ring. Eye splices retain approximately 80% of the line strength. As all the loops of the lashing go over the “rim” of the low fiction ring the shroud tensioning lashing is held captive by the chainplate lashing. Therefore if the low friction ring breaks the shroud is still held captive. We can use eye splices rather than lashing knots as there is considerable flexibility as to how high the low friction ring ends up above the deck.
Third we have chafe and UV protection
The pipes extend approx 50 above the deck, their ends should be slightly flared. As they are slightly flexible they will automatically align (in a gentle curve) with the tensioned lashing so that chafe is minimised. The lashing can be easily inspected for chafe as it enters the pipes.
Extending the pipes above the deck also prevents dirt, particularly gravel, being washed into the pipe as this could quickly cut through the lashing.
The up-stand of the pipes allows a fabric sleeve to be secured at the deck so that everything from the shroud to the deck can be protected from dirt, chafe and UV. If the sleeve is a basic rectangle, with Velcro along it’s length, it can be easily removed to inspect both lashings and the low friction rings.
On the outside of the hull the backing plate can be filed and sanded to provide a smooth rounded route for the lashing to go between the two pipes.
Rather than rounding/smoothing the backing plate on the outside of the hull a plastic pad could be added to provide a lower friction, smoother route for the lashing.
A pop-on plastic cover for the hull backing plate would protect the lashing as it goes between the holes. This would protect it from being damaged by docks, dinghies and the sun. It could be removed to inspect the lashing.
Instead of a single low friction ring for the chainplate lashing it would be possible to use 2. One for each pipe. The two rings would not be directly connected together above the deck but only by the lashing going down through the pipes. The advantages are a) alignment with pipes would be slightly improved as the lines from the pipes only come together at the bottom of the shroud rather than at the chainplate low friction ring. b) two rings so each has half the load c) each ring will only have half the number of turns of the shroud tensioning lashing, so a little less binding and friction.
Rather than a single chainplate lashing line, for each shroud, it would be possible to use several, each would act in parallel. The first eye splice on the low friction ring, through one pipe and back through the other before the other eye splice goes onto the low friction ring. Each “turn” of the lashing would be a separate line. If one line chafes through, it will be very visible but the shroud won’t suddenly become slack. This method would require very consistent splicing so that the lines are very equal in length (although even the small amount of elasticity and creep in dyneema will tend to equalise small differences over time).
All the key potential chafe points for the lashing are easy to inspect as it is highly unlikely that the lashing will chafe first in the hidden but smooth run inside the plastic pipe. Instead chafe will come first a) where it exits the hull, b) where it exits the pipes at the deck, c) where it loops round the low friction ring, or d) where something rubs against it.
Replacing either the chainplate lashing or the shroud tensioning lashing should be straightforward, even potentially possible at sea on the appropriate tack.
The most difficult task will be replacing a pipe when it wears through (although plastics such as hdpe should be very wear resistant). There are a few options
start with an oversized pipe so that a smaller pipe could be inserted through it later as a replacement (or have an fixed outer pipe and a floating inner pipe from the beginning)
coat the pipes in a mould release agent during construction so that they can be removed (some ingenuity may be required to ensure that they don’t move during use)
if the pipe fails then use a dremel with a flexible attachment to sand the route through the thickened epoxy so a pipe isn’t needed (a short length of pipe could be inserted at the top to provide the gravel protection).
Our construction details
We are hoping to use HDPE pipes, they should be low friction and hard wearing. However, the smallest I have found them is a 20mm external diameter. Maybe inserting a smaller sacrificial tube inside them would be a good solution or a different type of plastic?
I’ll use a heat gun to flare the top of the pipe to make sure the lashing doesn’t get damaged by the edge.
We will use the same dyneema line for both the shroud tensioning and the chainplate lashing to reduce the number of items we need to buy and carry.
Our main mast cap shrouds are the only ones with a chainplate that has a connection to a bulkhead. So some detailed thought will be needed (one pipe each side of the bulkhead?)
Our chainplates are in the deck and are close to the bulwark so the internal intrusion will be small. This solution may not be the right one if you have very inboard chainplates. In that case look at my original “padeye” design.
I’m going to use 10mm G10 for external chainplates and 10mm FR4 for the knees (I want first resistance inside the boat).
All holes in the deck and hull should be sealed with thickened epoxy (drill oversize hole, fill with thickened epoxy, when cured drill correct hole through the epoxy).
When drilling the final holes angle the drill to reduce the curvature of the pipes.
Our holes and backing plate in the hull will be a bit lower so that they are below the rubbing strake. You might want to miss things like cove lines.
Our cap shrouds have a piece of stainless steel bolted to the bulkhead that has a bent over top that sits under the backing plate. It has a hole fitted over the chainplate bolt and so when the nut is on the chainplate bolt is connected to the bulkhead. This will be replaced (on all our chainplates) by the FR4 knee. The top edge of this shaped piece of sheet material will be fitted to the underside of the deck and the long edge will fit vertically down the inside of the hull. In our case it will go down far enough to “hook” over the first horizontal stringer. The inner edge of the knee doesn’t have to be a straight line but can be cut away as a nice organic curve. The best place for the knee is between the two pipes. It should be glued in with thickened epoxy with good fillets along all the edges that touch the boat.
It is going to be tricky to fill around the pipes and knee with thickened epoxy so that there are no air pockets. My current plan is to create an enclosed space that I can fill (using thin plywood held in place and “sealed” with epoxy fillets). So the plywood is creating a kind of mould covering the pipes and part of the knee. Before I fit the deck backing plate, I will drill some extra holes in the deck and inject into them slightly runny thickened epoxy, until it is full to deck level. Once they are filled these holes will be covered by the backing plate. I can remove the plywood to confirm that the space has been properly filled.
The strands of the chainplate lashing are going to be under a lot of tension between the two holes on the outside of the hull. So it is vital that the route out of one hole and into the other is very rounded and very smooth. That transition from pipe to backing plate is going to be the key load point of the lashing, so it is vital that it does not chafe through here. We are going to carve a solid plate of hdpe (we will make ours as part of our plastic recycling work) that will sit on the G10 plate and be a very low friction, smooth, curved surface for the line. We will also fit a removable hdpe cover plate to protect the chainplate lashing from being damaged by docks or anything else.
Fitting the lashing
When you are ready to lash the Chainplate Low Friction Ring into place you have a choice. You can use a single ring per chainplate structure. Or for slightly higher cost you can use two. Having two improves the alignment of the chainplate lashing slightly and makes tensioning a little easier. If you use one then you need to size it so that the outer sheave can fit 3 turns of the lashing line rather than 2 (the number of turns depends on your calculation of loads and the line you are using – I’m planning to have 6 of 4mm, 3 per pipe, which is quite a lot stronger than my shroud).
Whether you use one ring or two your chainplate lashing needs a eye splice at each end designed to loop over the exterior of the low friction ring.
If you are using One Low Friction Ring then:
With the low friction ring above the pipes fit the eye splice from one end of the lashing. The other end goes down one pipe to outside the hull. Then in the other hull hole and back to the deck. Now loop it over the low friction ring and go down the first pipe again. From the hull outside return as before. Repeat for another loop through the chainplate structure. At this point the low friction ring should have one eye splice and two loops. Each pipe will have 3 lines through it. The outside of the hull will have 3 lines between the holes. Now slip the eye splice from the loose end onto the low friction ring (4 lines in total on the top of the low friction ring). While holding up the low friction ring up, tidy all the lines so that they don’t cross over outside the hull and as little as possible in the pipes. You can now use the tensioning system to connect the chainplate low friction ring to the shroud.
If you are using Two Low Friction Rings then:
With the first low friction ring above the pipes fit the eye splice from one end of the lashing. The other end goes down one pipe to outside the hull. Then in the other hull hole and back to the deck. Now loop it over the second low friction ring and return down the same pipe again. From the hull outside return up the first pipe and over the first low friction ring. Back down the first pipe, outside the hull and up the second pipe. Now slip the eye splice from the loose end onto the second low friction ring. While holding up the low friction rings up, tidy all the lines so that they don’t cross over outside the hull and as little as possible in the pipes. Each low friction ring should have 1 eye splice and one loop of lashing line. Each pipe should have 3 lines. Each low friction ring should have 3 lines all going into the same pipe. The outside of the hull should have 3 lines. To tension the shroud the tensioning lashing should start from one of the chainplate low friction rings, go up to the shroud and down to the other chainplate low friction ring. Continue to add more turns, alternating between the two chainplate low friction rings.
There are some things that (nearly) all Sailing Channels on YouTube have in common. One is the significant costs in time, money and hassle of maintaining Diesel Engines. Another is the pain of laundry, that is one I want to look at again.
I’m going to group the approaches to laundry into three categories: Electric Washing Machine; Laundromat; Handwashing.
All these have problems.
Electric Washing machines:
High power requirements (almost certainly going to require a generator)
High water requirements (almost certainly going t require a watermaker)
Large space required
Not designed for a marine environment so don’t last very well
Potential to fit a filter to catch microplastics
Well summed up in this video from Ryan and Sophie:
Requires access to large enough town (in much of Europe now only common in marinas)
Unlikely to have filters to catch microplastics
Available everywhere (but not attractive in a cold/wet climates)
Drying laundry is a real challenge anywhere apart from the tropics
Unlikely to have anyway to filter out microplastics
In the past we have considered a WonderWash, but at the moment getting one in the UK seems almost impossible (most sellers specifically not exporting to the UK, others might but shipping would double the cost).
There are a number of washing machines being marketed at campers, however, they look very flimsy.
So we plan to build our own, very simple and very robust washing machine. We will start with a watertight plastic key such as this from Solent Plastics
If we make a frame so that it can be rotated with a handle then it is just a matter of putting in the washing, some water and some form of reef safe detergent, then rotating it. We would need a keg large enough for the largest thing we need to wash (our duvet cover). We can use it to store our dirty clothes when we are not doing the washing. When clothes have been washed, all we need is a large funnel into a microplastic filter and we can pour the water away without dumping microplastics directly into the sea.
A side benefit is that we can easily use the same system to wash plastics before shredding them as part of our plastic recycling.
Drying. We think we need the combination of 3 things to be able to dry washing whatever the climate.
Spin dryer: However, you end up getting laundry to fully dry it is much faster if you first use a spin dryer. We haven’t seen a really effective human powered spin dryer. So we think a mains electric spin dryer is the best option. There are not very large and they spin out most of the water (which is easy to collect to pour through the microplastic filter).
Obviously in a suitable climate the simplest option is to hang laundry outside dry. That is not possible all year round in the UK and many places. So to allow drying inside we plan the combination of heating and dehumidifying.
We will have a dehumidifier in the motor room. We wrote about this in Sustaining Electrics and are still planning for something like an Ecor Pro Dryboat 12. Running this should help ensure that laundry dries quickly and without causing damp throughout the boat.
When we need heating it will be via a Refleks diesel heater that will not just provide direct heat but also distribute hot water through radiators. This is a dry heat which is important, we don’t want to introduce more damp into the air. We will have a radiator in our forward head with the shower drip tray and plenty of hanging space for our washing so that it can dry reasonably quickly. The water from the shower (like all our grey water) will go through a microplastic filter before leaving the boat. Obviously having a shower won’t be possible while laundry is drying and access to the forecabin will be inconvenient. However, while there are just the two of us we can use the en-suite heads in the aft cabin and so it won’t be a problem.
We think the combination of a diy manual washing “machine”, a mains electric spin dryer, a dehumidifier and radiator heating will
be cheap to buy, install and maintain.
be good for collecting microplastic
be a good combination of low hassle and low cost laundry
take little space and not use much electricity or water
provide a good basis for washing plastic for recycling
The size, rig and layout is by far the closest we have seen to our Vida although the Rival is 3 years older.
They are a little longer, wider and deeper. Their cockpit looks a bit larger and their wheelhouse/fixed dodger is prettier. But our aft cabin has a standing area and an ensuite heads.
Their galley is a bit larger than ours was but lacks a bulkhead to lean against. When we have finished we will have larger worktops.
Our remodeling of the forward heads is going to give us a much better space and a good shower.
Their mizzen mast is easier to access in the cockpit but we don’t have a Triatic stay connecting the two masts at the top (big plus for us, if one mast falls it shouldn’t bring the other down with it).
Really nice to see, very encouraging to see how comfortable it will be.
One of the arguments for switching to Dyneema chainplates has been cost. Today we got a more concrete idea of the costs of replacing roughly like for like. So Cherry Ripe a Rival 38 (but aft cockpit cutter) (see Sailing Beyond Borders) has had to have custom replacement chainplates made in Antigua after one failed while crossing the Atlantic.
So now we know. $1600 USD for their chainplates (made from Stainless Steel rather than the original Superstron).
We have twice as many chainplates (ketch so two masts instead of one). So to replace our existing chainplates would probably cost over $3000 USD, they would be a bit better as we could have them longer to allow better backing plates. But we would probably need to replace some turnbuckles as the mizzen mast ones are original bronze and the main mast ones are crimped onto the existing shrouds so at least part of them will need replacing.
By comparison we should be able to buy everything we need to re-rig both masts with synthetic rigging and synthetic chainplates for the cost of just replacement chainplates. That is going to be a really significant saving for us.
Plus we still get rigging that we can carry spares for and that we can replace every part ourselves anywhere in the world.
Plus it saves a huge amount of weight up high which will improve sailing performance.
With downsides of slower tuning and needing to watch for chafe and UV damage.
Last night we decided to make some plans for where we want to cruise when we start living aboard after retirement in a few years time, after all that was the goal right from the beginning of this journey with Vida and Sustainable Sailing.
I will be writing those dreams up, but we realised that they will need a bit of an introduction. Otherwise they will look like a whole lot of crazy non-stop random passages.
Our situation and our plans are very different from pretty much all the YouTube channels we watch, which is ironic given how much we enjoy watching them 🙂
The move to living aboard
One of the key differences for us, is that it will be a very abrupt change from preparation to off we go. Unlike most jobs, I will know, at least a year in advance, almost to the day when I will retire. I already know that it will be in a July and that after I finish work and have the farewell we will need to moved out of the house within a month and onto the boat. This will be in an absolute minimum of 2 1/2 years from now but could be quite a years longer than that
So it will be a dramatic and rapid change, we and the boat need to be ready for it. If we are not ready it will immediately start costing us retirement money, eg if we have to pay for removal fees or storage if we haven’t already downsized to what we will have on the boat.
Once, we have launched Vida her normal home, until we retire, will be a swinging mooring in the Menai Strait. Mostly convenient (and cheap) for the next few years. But not so good for living aboard as it leaves you very car dependant (the road between Beaumaris and Menai Bridge is busy narrow and not very cycle friendly) and we will be getting rid of the car ASAP. Whilst the mooring is convenient when we are going for odd nights or to start holidays from it isn’t somewhere we will want to be based at when living aboard.
Also the mooring is not somewhere we would want to spend our first winter living on the boat. It isn’t just the lack of convenience for shore (and shipping) access, it is also too exposed and the wind/waves really funnel through the Menai Straits. We could easily end up spending days at a time when it will be too rough to or from the shore in the dinghy.
The intention behind all the preparations, getting the refit finished and Vida properly ready is that we also don’t want to move aboard for retirement and then soon after bring her out of the water for the winter. So after a settling in period we will be sailing off to somewhere more suitable for the winter.
So, let’s imagine that by the September we are settled aboard and ready to sell the mooring and head off.
As we started making our plans, building on what we started thinking about cruising in Scandinavia, it was very obvious that we are looking at very different pace to cruising life to most YouTube Channels. So the plans will seem crazy if you are used to watching them. But then there are a whole bunch of things we won’t be doing:
We won’t need to spend 30 hours a week editing videos
We don’t want to go skiing each day
We don’t want to climb every mountain on every Caribbean island
We don’t want to fill everyone’s freezer by spear fishing everyday
We won’t have a baby to care for
No pets that will need frequent access to land (well none that don’t need frequent access either)
While we will be doing repairs and maintenance (after a refit designed to minimise both) but we won’t be trying to refit the boat as we sail
We won’t be spending much time in marinas to go exploring the land (in part to keep our costs down, but also because we want to see more places by boat)
Plus, of course, we will be at a different stage in our lives with different goals. Two critical impacts from that are a sense of urgency. We will be starting at around 60 years old and we want to see lots of the world while we can. So we don’t want to “Sail around the world as slowly as possible” (Sailing Magic carpet) but we want to begin by rapidly ramping up our experience on this boat, longer passage making and so on. Sitting in a marina or doing day sails with lots of time at anchor isn’t what we want to be focused on. Nor does sitting in a marina fit with our budget.
So we know we will be looking at our first winter being one where we can get lots of sailing practice in, to build our skills, gain confidence in poor conditions and check that we are comfortable with passage sailing for multiple days. AFter that, our plans might change a lot and we are quite ok with that. So when we start sharing plans remember that they are more dreams than anything else and we would be shocked and stunned if we kept to them 🙂
Note that there is no way we will actually follow this “plan” accurately, there are so many variables in our health, boat repairs, weather, changing preferences, changes in visa rules etc that will happen before we even start.
So take this with a huge pinch of salt. Do not book your train tickets or places on cargo ships to come out and join us assuming that we will be where this plan says we will be.
Also note that we have tried to build in some flexibility. For example we might have allocated a month to get from Beaumaris, North Wales to South Cornwall. The reality is that it doesn’t take that long to sail direct but it could take longer if you stop in harbours each night or if you have to wait a week for a storm to come past.
We are generally assuming that we will choose longer passages rather than day sails. There are several reasons for this:
Initially, we need the practice and we need to make sure that we are going to be happy doing it before setting off across oceans.
When it comes to the UK coast we have visited huge swathes of it over the years. So we don’t need to explore it in detail.
When it comes to other countries then longer passages direct to cruising grounds will allow us to spend more time in specific areas we want to visit given the constraints of Schengen visas (see this post)
Making passages can reduce stress of timing into harbours (daylight, tides, finding a spot to anchor) as you don’t do it so often
Making passages is hugely faster. You are sailing 24 hours a day (even if slowly when the tide is against you). The distances are much reduced (diverting into a harbour will add lots of miles and time to the route).
Making passages is cheaper, you can spend more time in places that are free to anchor and less time paying (because you need a shore-power connection to charge your batteries that you depleted motoring into the harbour).
We have not fully/properly taken into account the best timings for some of these longer passages to fit with prevailing winds (strength and direction) and currents. Also until we get going we are not sure what actual daily average speeds we will achieve.
We’ve organised this into fairly arbitrary sections and put them into rough calendar years.
The last winter of maintenance/refit should be completed by April, after that she will be on our mooring in the Menai Strait for us to visit, a gradually move stuff to her as our new home to be.
July – August: move to one of the marinas at Conway to shorten the journey and make it easier to move everythign on board. Leave house, everything needs to be given away, sold or moved on board. Sell the car. Go for plenty of test sails and make sure all is ready and working.
Preparing for first winter
September: Sail to South Cornwall. If the weather is great then include visiting the Scilly Isles. Include some multi-day passages to start building skills before the weather gets too bad.
From October until about March along the South coast of Cornwall and Devon. Lots of rivers that we already know. Places like Falmouth that are safe to enter in any weather and any state of the tide. So we have (West to East) the Helford, loads of places around Falmouth/Carrick Roads (but potentially quite expensive), Penryn, Fowey, Plymouth (possibly the best option for free anchorages), the Yealm, Salcombe and the Dart. This will be a learning and testing time to checkout heating, how long our battery bank can last between needing shore-power top-ups and to get as much sailing practice as we can. We will be looking to build our experience in stronger winds so definitely won’t be staying hidden away far up a river all winter. In the past we have had great sails on our Sprint 15 catamaran on New Years Eve and New Years day so will be looking for more of that. Hopefully also a fair bit of catching up with family too.
Move to the Solent/Chichester for April. Good for visiting family and friends. Gives us a nice length of passage from our winter haunts and by making it a single passage allows us to stay well clear of the dangers/discomfort of Portland Bill and St Albans Head.
English South Coast to Aberdeenshire
In preparation for our first Baltic cruise and because we haven’t sailed so much of the East coast make our way to Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire during May. We won’t be visiting London (adds so much distance, lots of motoring and we know it well), but will probably visit some of places such as Ramsgate, Harwich, the Humber, Whitby, Berwick-upon-Tweed, and Edinburgh on the way. Stonehaven is a good stepping off point for crossing the North Sea to the Baltic.
First Baltic Cruise
So as out first “foreign” trip we think the Baltic will be a good choice for gentle learning. Some timings are critical. We want to end by crossing Sweden back to the North Sea using the Göta Canal from Mem to Göteborg during the cheaper end of season period (mid August to end September). As we will need sometime left on our Schengen 90 day limit for later in the year, we need to arrive at our first port (Copenhagen) about 75 days before we plan to exit from Göteborg.
Travelling the Göta Canal in the end of the season means a fixed 5 itinerary with a group of boats and a dedicated lock keeper to get to Sjötorp, on Lake Vänern. From there 118km across the lake!!! and 80km of canal to Göteborg, so maybe 5 days.
So we would be aiming to arrive at Copenhagen no earlier than about 10th June. We want to spend some time there to catch up with friends and enjoy one of my favourite cities in the world. Then we get about 1.5 months to cruise up the Swedish Coast and some of their fantastic archipelagoes.
[Update] Jane pointed out that if we reverse the route around the Baltic we can get the same discounted tickets for the Göta Canal while starting a bit earlier. If we then reduce the number of days slightly we are able to stay in the Canaries a bit longer and therefore get there a bit sooner, closer to the preferred time of year for that passage.
Baltic to preparing for an Atlantic crossing
We started with a dream of getting to the Arctic Circle and the Lofoten Islands and area for the next summer. However, spending another winter in the UK wasn’t that exciting. So we came up with a rather more interesting option.
Can we get from Göteborg at the end of August to the Canaries in time to use them as a launch platform for crossing the Atlantic? Can we fit this in within the remaining days left on the Schengen Visa? The timing is challenging.
The very strong recommendation is not to arrive in the Caribbean before end of November or early December in order to miss hurricane season. So working backwards we would leave the Canaries around mid November. With 15 days of Schengen left we can’t arrive in the Canaries before the beginning of November.
That means we have September and October to get from Göteborg to the Canaries which should be plenty of time, although later in the season than ideal which means we will have to accept the chance of stronger winds and gales on passage (which is why we will make sure we practice during our first winter).
From We would like to get to the Canaries from Göteborg by crossing to Inverness and then using the Caledonian Canal. On the way south from there we would love to pick up some of the wonderful cruising area of the West coast of Scotland before heading to Northern Ireland, the Isle of Mann, saying hi to Beaumaris, then back to Falmouth as a departure for the Canaries. Then about 1,400 Nautical Miles to the Canaries which will be our longest passage to date.
First Atlantic Crossing
So mid November would be the time to set off from the Canaries to Antigua, again that would step up the passage distance to nearly 2,700 Nautical Miles but it would mostly be trade wind sailing downwind.
Ending Year 2
So December will be a first month to enjoy the Caribbean.
By this point obviously things are incredibly vague 🙂 We might have decided we hate passages and stay around the Bahamas and Caribbean for the next 10 years, that won’t be a disaster!!! 🙂
However, the possibility we thought of for this year, starting in the Caribbean is to complete a clockwise Atlantic circuit so that we end up in the Shetlands ready to get to Lofoten (Norway, Arctic Circle) for the summer.
That means a route heading north through the Caribbean and Bahamas for a few months before going up the North America coast so that we can leave Newfoundland in June for a, yes another, longest passage of over 3,000 Nautical Miles to the Shetlands (possibly with a stop off in Iceland).
That allows us a couple of months (July and August) around Lofoten and the Arctic Circle 🙂
Then it will be time for another “sprint” south to avoid a cold winter. We would live to visit the Faroe Islands on the way. We would hope to have some Schengen time left to call in at Madeira, this time on the way to the Cape Verde Islands to prepare for a 3rd Atlantic crossing but this time intending to continue onwards to the Pacific.
So year 3 might end in Brazil or Suriname after crossing the Atlantic (and the Equator) in November/December.
This would begin with the big decision. To get to the Pacific by going North and through the Panama Canal (the easier route but getting very expensive now). Or take a roundabout route that ends up getting to the Falklands in their summer and then crossing to Patagonia and the Pacific by the Magellan Strait, the Beagle Passage or going south round Cape Horn. If we have gone south then there is beautiful cruising in the archipelago along the Chilean coast.
So maybe a year crossing the South Pacific with all the amazing island groups to visit?
Then a year in New Zealand and Australia?
From there probably heading home via Cape Town (and bizarrely essentially crossing the Atlantic nearly twice more as the best route from Cape Town might take us close to Brazil before calling in at the Azores and then heading back towards Europe
That might be about 5 elapsed years which is what we have initially wanted to achieve. I will still be short of the official retirement age, so we could come back to the UK for a part-time appointment. Everything depends on health, family and finances.
However, after all that there will still be plenty of places to go. Maybe about time we visited the Mediterranean? If longer access to Schengen is possible then the French Canals would be wonderful, maybe on the way back north to cruise the Finnish archipelago in the Baltic which is supposed to be amazing.
Maybe we want more cold so we could go to Svalbard. By then due to climate change the North West Passage across the top of Canada and Alaska will probably be clear enough for us at a reasonably low risk. Plus of course we will have missed all of Asia.
Putting together a route for long term cruising is like a jigsaw without fixed pieces or a picture. Except that you can “cheat” so for example Jimmy Cornell has quick summaries eg for a 2 year circumnavigation from Europe you can do:
Northern Europe – Canaries – Caribbean – Panama – Galapagos – Marquesas – Tahiti – Tonga – Fiji – Vanuatu – Torres Strait – Darwin – Mauritius – South Africa – Brazil – Eastern Caribbean – Azores – Northern Europe
Or you can be a bit more flexible while recognising that there are constraints based on seasons, prevailing winds, hurricane/cyclone seasons, ice etc.
The beauty is that there is an infinite number of ways to put the jig saw together. If almost nothing of this happens and we spend 5 years cruising around the UK with occasional cruises to other nearby countries that is fine.
So where have we missed 🙂 Should we go faster and do an 11 month non-stop zoom around the world. Should we slow down and take twice as long? What do you think?
In Our Scandinavian challenges part 1 I covered the time/permission complications of getting to spend time in the fantastically beautiful (and remote) parts of Scandinavia and the Baltic given the impact of Brexit.
I ended with “In part 2 I’ll look at the other key challenges these cruising grounds have for us (particularly heating and renewable energy).” so here we are.
We are not (definitely not!!!!) planning to spend winters where the sea freezes unlike some of those crazy YouTubers I linked to in the last post 🙂 However, we are going to be spending time where some heating is going to be needed, whether that means wintering in the UK or being further north in the Spring or Autumn (either heading towards to back from a summer in or close to the Arctic). As we are going to be living aboard full-time in or retirement we want to give ourselves as many options as possible.
It should be no surprise that when it gets cold an electric boat that is aiming to have zero fossil fuels gets hit by a double whammy.
If the weather is cold enough to need heating then it is almost certain that you will get very little energy from solar panels (even on those bright sunny winter days the sun isn’t very high in the sky for very long).
If it is cold then you are going to need to heat the boat and all forms of electric heating use a lot of electrical power. Plus of course we tend to prefer hot food and drinks when it is cold and on a n electric boat that too will use lots of power.
So we generate less power but need more power. Ouch.
If we stick with a zero fossil fuels target then there are a number of options to help out but no magic solution:
Sail the boat to somewhere warmer 🙂 Given Schengen I suspect Turkey, Croatia, Cyprus and Algeria will be more popular for UK cruisers than they used to be. But the weather in the Mediterranean is no picnic, if anchoring you can end up moving often to find shelter from different wind directions. Winds can be very strong coupled with large waves that might come from a different direction. Another option is to go further south for example to the Cape Verde Islands, but then you could continue across the Atlantic to the best season in the Caribbean 🙂 But we do want the option to be able to winter in the UK so that we can visit family and friends.
Insulate the boat better. This is an obvious improvement that miraculously helps in both hot and cold climates 🙂 We have been working on going from zero insulation to a minimum of 10mm closed cell foam. See here for our first attempt to fit the foam – it didn’t stay up. Next plan is here but probably we will put more layers of foam to increase this to at least 20mm and reckon the purchase cost will be worth it in increased comfort and reduced energy use.
Heat locally. So rather than heat the whole boat do so in zones (we already have not heated the forecabin at all, in very cold conditions we could close off the aft cabin and stay in the saloon) and also use thicker duvets, heated blankets and hot water bottles (yes we won’t use a hot water bottle with an electric blanket!!) to avoid heating the cabin as much.
However, these are not going to be enough when it gets very cold.
We do have electric heaters (both wall panels and fan heaters). I think we will try some of the low power “greenhouse” style tube heaters under the bunks. That will give us 3 options to compare for warmth, control, comfort and energy use.
Despite all these efforts we are sure that in winter, despite all our solar, we will consume a lot more battery power than we can generate.
That leaves us with two more avenues to pursue. a) what other options are there to recharge the batteries b) what else can we do to make the battery bank capacity last longer.
What other options are there to recharge the batteries
One strategy that solves the problem is to spend time connected to shore-power. We have seen many cruisers on YouTube spend the winter in Marinas (Salty Lasses, Uma, MJ Sailing, Sailing Fair Isle are all examples). This way you get a permanent connection to mains electric. You can keep your batteries charged, have all your electric heaters running and stay warm.
But there are disadvantages. In the UK this quickly becomes costly (a winter marina berth for us will range from maybe about £1,500 for 4 months to £2,500 for up to 6 months that without going to the more expensive parts of the country where £800 a month would be a starting point). More than just the cost is that we want to live aboard our boat so that we can go sailing not sit in a marina for half the year.
So we want to explore options where we extend the time we can manage on batteries and go into marinas/harbours for a night every so often to get the batteries fully charged (and maybe have groceries delivered). It looks like we could expect to pay up to about £40 a night. One option would be to spend a winter along the South coast of Cornwall and Devon. There is beautiful sailing along that coast, lovely harbours, rivers and towns to visit. There are very lots of rivers with good shelter and many where you can anchor (eg Helford, Fal, Percuil, Fowey, Tamar, Yealm, Dart). Then you have a wide choice of marinas and harbours when you need to charge the batteries. If we can keep that under 10 days a month in marinas then not only do we get the sailing and beautiful views we also save money.
One obvious strategy will be to invest in wind generators, given that cold and windy weather often come together. They work out at between £1K and £2.4K per generator (remember we need 48volt ones). Calculating how much difference this can make is difficult, it depends how sheltered a spot you find and the weather conditions. We have a few options for where we might install one or more wind generators. It is important that we don’t end up casting shade onto our solar panels from the wind generators as that would have a dramatic impact on the solar performance. Also, as with the solar panels I would prefer to be able to take them down and inside if we are expecting a storm. If the demountable option works well then potentially we could have a position at the side of the mizzen mast that could be used when sailing. Then we would only put them wind generators up when the gain will be greater than the loss in solar due to shading.
As a starting point I’m thinking one wind generator using a demountable pole fitting towards the bow. With that we would only have the wind generator up while at anchor and it would be as far away from the solar panels and where we sleep as possible so that neither the shade nor the noise will be a problem. That will let us properly evaluate how much difference it makes. If we think it is enough then we could explore other options.
With our ketch rig the only option for that won’t cause shading and can be used both at anchor and when sailing is a permanent mounting on top of the mizzen mast. That doesn’t excite me. The top of a mast is the last place you want to add weight. It will also be moving around a lot in waves which will affect it’s performance. Finally, the foot of the mizzen mast is above the head of our bed. I’m concerned about noise and vibration disturbing our sleep. However, it would be out of the way and (until it breaks) very convenient. If we want that option to be available we need a generator that can be remotely braked (manually or automatically) if the wind strength is too high.
It is very hard to estimate how many nights in a marina having a wind generator would save us. We would have to save about 40 nights to recoup the cost. We could achieve that saving over a couple of winters if we could reduce the need to get shore power to once every 10 days instead of once every 5 days (both are guesses and will be very weather and location dependant). Of course it would also help avid the need for shore power a bit in other seasons, particularly if permanently mounted.
What else can we do to make the battery bank capacity last longer?
The most obvious answer is to install another form of heating that does not use the battery bank. All the YouTubers who have visited the Arctic Circle or Scandinavia in the winter have some form of heating that is not electric. They all say they can’t manage long at anchor otherwise. While our goals are not so extreme (the midnight sun is attractive to us but the sun not rising above the hills at all is not) we would be crazy not to learn from them. So what do they have besides electric heating (that they all only use when connected to shore power). There is a great video from Alluring Arctic on this, our takeaways from what we have seen are:
Probably the best known brand is Eberspächer, these install out of sight and burn diesel to heat air. Then then use a fan to blow the heat through the ducts around the boat. They are a more modern replacement for the paraffin heater we removed. The provide lovely warm dry air all around the boat. However, the ducting takes up a lot of space in lockers and they use quite a lot of electricity. Ran Sailing for example can only use it for one night or so before needing shore power to charge their batteries. Sailing Yacht Salty Lass have one and it is clear that these also require regular, quite time consuming maintenance to keep the insides clean and efficient. Obviously they need a diesel tank (and would normally take it from the main diesel engine tank which we don’t have).
So we are ruling this out for the loss of locker space, the significant electric use (which is what we are trying to avoid) and the amount of maintenance needed.
Drip fed diesel heaters
The brand that seems to offer heaters most suitable for us is Refleks. Their 66MW would fit neatly to a bulkhead which would be safe and not get in the way much. However, there are other options. The 66MV is insulated so it only heats the boat by hot water radiators, we could position that in a custom locker out of the way. The 66MK includes a stove top for kettles etc which would really help cut out electric consumption but I’m not sure where we could fit one. It seems some models can provide hot water for domestic use such as showers but I’m finding the information about which models do that a bit hidden.
As they are gravity fed they don’t use any electricity (I don’t think they even need a pump for the radiators?) and they are supposed to be very low maintenance.
We think at the moment a Refleks heater would be a good option. Whilst it does mean some fossil fuels it is far more efficient to directly heat the boat rather than run a generator to charge batteries to then heat the boat. It also gives a backup heat source should we have a catastrophic electric failure.
By combining lots of these options we hope to get to the point where we can cruise in Arctic summers, stretched Scandinavian sailing seasons and British winters while stretching out the time we can go without needing to connect to shore power.
We will work up to the full combination of insulation, localised heating, wind generation and a Refleks heater (hopefully for radiators in all cabins and hot water for showers) with the goal of being energy independent (with care and some help from the weather) for a couple of weeks at a time. Only time will tell. If nothing else works we can sail to the middle the Azores high pressure and bob around for a few weeks to warm up 🙂
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
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:
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).
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.