Low down progress

On Saturday we managed a few jobs that are about as low as we can get.

Water getting low in the wrong places

During the heavy rain on Friday we discovered a key source of the water in the (very deep) bilge at the aft end of the keel. I’d left a few holes in the floor of the anchor locker when we had removed the old windlass and chain guide. So water getting into the anchor locker was falling into the chain locker, from there it flowed down a hose (so that it gets past the shower sump) onto the front end of the keel (where we had cut the old hose so for the first time we could see the water coming in, when we had the floor up).

So I filled the holes and we went down in the depths (currently about 1m below the electric motor frame) and pumped out 5 buckets of water (we had removed a lot more with a temporary bilge pump a few weekends ago).

Battery storage on the keel

With a dry bilge we did some cutting and planing of the battery box we had started months ago (when the 120AH batteries were going to have to sit above the motor). It now fits on the keel under the companionway and saloon floor.

It just needs ply ends, epoxy coating and the batteries installing. A battery box for the 4 x 300AH will sit on top of it (one of these batteries will be behind this and a bit higher as it is behind the ladder and the space is not wide enough at that point).

Fortunately all the lower 120AH batteries and the 300AH at the aft end have bluetooth enabled BMS (battery monitoring systems) as these will be quite inaccessible. The other 3 x 300AH will be easily visible to check.

We will make these boxes as watertight as we can and they will be fixed in place so that there is no danger of a couple of hundred kilo’s of battery smashing everything and everyone should we ever be rolled over.

We have also done some detailed design work for how we plan to connect the battery banks. We are (seemingly unusually) planning to keep them entirely separate as it isn’t a good idea to combine different sizes of battery into a single bank. We want the flexibility of using each bank for either house or motor depending on need. However, never both connected to either house or motor at the same time. We also want to be able to direct the solar panel charging to either bank according to need. The 70A mains charger built into the Victron MultiPlus II will always go to whichever bank is connected to house (so when we connect to mains we always put the most depleted bank as the house to get charged first) .

Water in the right places

We think we can fit a 70 litre water tank in front of the batteries and an 18 litre one in front of that. Plus another 18 litre tank under the aft most 300AH battery. Finally one more 18 litre tank in the forward top half of the bilge under the motor.  That makes 124 litres nice and low down that will all be fully plumped in (you get a set of taps to choose which tank the water comes from for a tap or the shower).

In addition we think we can fit 4 x 25 litre portable water tanks above the propeller shaft aft of the motor. As well as taking us to 224 litres in total, these will be convenient for collecting water in the dinghy (providing we take a trolley to save carrying them by hand).

This should be plenty of water for coastal cruising but we still need more (and would like a watermaker) for ocean crossings.

Dave not getting stuck in the bottom

Using a temporary “ladder” I went into the cockpit locker to check the setting on the dehumidifier and the position of the forward mizzen chainplate.

Low on money

Well not so much low as actually sitting down to price all the things we need to be able to launch in March 2022 (in time for a 3 month sabbatical). It is a long list, however, it looks manageable and there are not so many unknowns now. Actually a bit of a confidence builder.

Lower Mast

Next will be back to tasks to get the mizzen mast (the lower one) back up but with dyneema rigging. In part that is to prove the chainplate and rigging design but also so that we can sort out the windvane self-steering, pushpit and aft solar panels. We still need to finish the new supports for the foot of the mizzen mast, cut and fit the backing plates for the forward stays and running backstays. Also need to finish repairing the pillar drill to make the tangs (and order the bolts for them). Then we can add the FR4 backing plates (and the on deck “mushrooms”, do the drilling for the chainplate dyneema loops and then make all the chainplate loops and shrouds/stays.

All that will allow us to finish the aft cabin, at least for the moment. The bed head needs finishing as it is part of the mizzen mast foot support. We need the step onto the seat to get to the bed, cabin sides need insulating (ceiling etc can wait as can the headlining). Then a quick paint and we can move back in (hopefully the work Jane is doing at home to remodel the bed mattress will be finished).

A restful wet day

We had a wet journey here and it continued to rain until mid evening.

In fact as we parked several puddles decided to flow into the area we parked in, close to the boat. So after trying to jump to get to the boat with dry feet I simply swapped trainers and socks for crocs are bare feet by that time it was ankle deep.

So after a very busy and physical week it has been good to rest, to update our budget and check a few things.

The battery box we built thinking it would go above the motor will fit as a waterproof battery box on top of the keel right in the centre of the boat. So 4 x 120AH Lithium Iron Phosphate weighing 56.8kg as low as possible.

Above that will go another waterproof box for the 4 x 300AH LiFePO4 batteries. They weigh 150.8kg. They wouldn’t fit in the same orientation if they were the bottom layer which means there would be a lot of wasted space.

Instead of the wasted space there will be room for a smaller water tank in front of the battery boxes. We will need to add extra water tanks elsewhere so that we have enough capacity even for a Pacific crossing.

This evening we have been watching YouTube videos and relaxing. Now high tide so will be lulled to sleep by the waves breaking on the beach.

Short and Longer term plans for Instruments, Navigation, Communications, Safety

True to form we are going to be ripping out all the original instruments, after 44 years they are all well past their useful life. Both the speed and depth sensors used holes in the hull (and we are determined to minimise holes!). Nothing is connected to anything else and their were no updates to technologies such as DSC on the VHF radio (allows private direct calls between radios), AIS (potential to receive and transmit details of your boat, location, speed and direction for warnings of potential collisions), or GPS (position). Even the compass has problems as it’s light doesn’t work and there is air inside it instead of oil.

Later we need to get onto other essentials such as navigation lights, as the current ones are all either broken or very UV damaged and none of then are LED.

When thinking about instruments and navigation there are almost an infinite number of options available and the choice can be bewildering. Hence, a very common choice is to fully equip with a range of sensors and multi-function displays from a single manufacturer connected using (for new systems) NMEA 2000 (a wiring and data standard). However, this is way beyond our budget (probably by at least an order of magnitude). The biggest names supplying everything are B&G, Raymarine and Garmin.

Obviously, there are significant advantages in buying a complete set of instruments, and electronics from one company. Principally it should all connect and integrate seamlessly. Installation should be simpler and the learning curve should be reduced.

However, there are disadvantages besides the cost.

  • With a fully integrated system you can only see the output from a sensor (for example the depth) if the sensor, the network, the system cpu and a multifunction display are all powered and working. That is a lot of potential points of failure and potentially a lot of power consumption.
  • Another disadvantage is the extent to which you get locked (literally or emotionally) into a single ecosystem. That means when you decide to add something new (for example connecting to the boat systems using your phone over the Internet) you might find yourself waiting for the one supplier to add this feature or unlock it for others to connect to.
  • Until you start connecting items from other manufacturers you can never be quite sure how standards compliant the system is. So if a sensor breaks do you buy what is available locally or wait until you can get something from the same manufacturer?

At the other end of scale are the cheap but not connected products. For example you can have  standalone depth sounder (sensor and display), a GPS, a VHF radio with AIS that doesn’t share the data with anything else.

In the middle are options to buy individual items that can be connected using a standard interface (most commonly now NMEA 2000). This way you can start with specific paired sensors and displays (such as wind speed and direction) that can later be connected to other things. With some skill and luck you can mix and match from different manufacturers.

Once you have fully integrated instruments and navigation you can have a big chart plotter screen that doesn’t just show the chart and your position but adds radar overlays and AIS targets and predictions based on wind speed/direction (current as well as forecast), even camera views can be added. But at this point you have gone beyond the data speed/capacity of NMEA and are needing to look at using WiFi.

That brings us to some leading edge developments that are starting to bring in new competition and disrupt the marketplace. Principally Bluetooth LE, WiFi, 4G and solar.

An obvious example is to have a solar powered, wireless wind sensor for the top of the mast. This is potentially much simpler and more reliable than running data and power cables in the mast. The traditional companies now have these. However, they typically wirelessly connect with a proprietary protocol to a little black box that is physically connected to the NMEA 2000 network. As far as the rest of the system is concerned it appears exactly the same as a wired sensor. An alternative is skip a few technological steps and use other standards, such as Bluetooth. This means you can have a solar powered, wireless wind sensor that connects directly to your phone which displays the data using your choice of app. No NMEA network, no other devices needed.

Also there are more options than just the proprietary NMEA standard. For example there are black boxes available that connect to NMEA 2000 and make the data available over open Internet standards (both WiFi and wired). The Bluetooth sensor companies are also adding black boxes that connect their devices to NMEA.

Another development is to bring the Internet culture of Open Standards and Free Software, that can run on a variety of different hardware, to the marine instrument and navigation arena. Two notable examples are SignalK (an open standard that replaces NMEA and runs on Internet standards) and OpenCPN which is a free/open navigation tool (runs on many operating systems and also phones).

At this point these are not really mature consumer options, they require a fair bit of DIY (potentially to the level of soldering circuit boards), some familiarity with system setup & administration and even programming.

Given the constraints of our budget and time, the lack of anything to build upon, we have decided to get afloat with the things we see as essential, have them mostly standalone with goals of low cost, reliability, simplicity, low power consumption and the ability to add more DIY functionality later.


Compass: New bulkhead compass to replace the original “Big Ben”. Not connected to anything but a light (at the end of the day a compass, a watch, a sextant and paper charts make a safe fallback situation that should be available even after a lightning strike)

Depth: Our first choice would be an in hull depth sensor (no hole in the boat needed) with a dedicated screen (with features such as a shallow water alarm) plus interconnection potential so that in the future  we could check the depth on our phones while ashore (in case we have miscalculated the tides and we are about to go aground, could also be that the wind changed and blew you into shallower water). Unfortunately, I haven’t found this combination so we will probably go for the Nasa Clipper Depth (approx £130) which doesn’t have any connectivity options at the moment.

Wind Speed and Direction: We want a wind instrument that uses a solar powered, wireless sensor at the top of the mast – that means one less wire in the mast, and one less hole in the deck to leak (hence a much simpler installation). This eliminates one of the most common causes of problems (the wire or the connections) and must surely reduce the chance of lightning taking out all your instruments. We want it’s own dedicated display for installation simplicity and to increase reliability by keeping the number of points of failure down. However, we also want the option to be able to connect it to other devices in the future. That allows better information on the chart plotter. Much more than that, by connecting NMEA to our Raspberry Pi systems (probably via SignalK) we can connect phones locally using wifi and remotely via 4g over the Internet. Not only does that let you to display things on your phone such as a graph of wind direction and speed over say 24 hours, but it also lets you pick that up while the boat is anchored and you are shopping. Then you can see if there might be a problem coming (is there a wind increase that will make it harder to get back in the dinghy? Or might your drying laundry be about to blow away?). The Clipper Wireless Wind (True) looks a good initial option (but only Nasa themselves seem to be selling the True wind version at the moment at £373) . While we would not have the true wind display initially, it would be available once we connect it to NMEA with a GPS device also connected. An alternative would be the innovative OpenWind.de solar, Bluetooth LE but it is over £100 more and we would have to use a phone as the display until we have a connected computer display.

No speed: We are not going to have any measure of speed through the water. It always requires a hole in the boat so we are ruling it out. We will rely on GPS (and there are going to be multiple GPS systems). These can now use multiple satellite systems which improves reliability. They don’t allow us to directly see the effect of tide or current but we feel this is something we can live with for reliability (the paddle wheels used in the ones we could afford are vulnerable to damage and growth) and safety (look at the Sailing Zingaro where he nearly sank his Oyster because the speed sensor leaked and note that he should have also had a working bilge water alarm and automatic bilge pump as we already have ready to install).


Initially we are going to use our phones and Android tablet. There are plenty of apps that we can use. I’d like to start with OpenCPN which is what we eventually plan to run on Raspberry Pi computers.

While I have most of the stuff to setup the Raspberry Pi navigation system (and there will be lots to write about that in the future) I doubt I will have time before our first launch. Maybe it will be a project whilst we are out sailing on my sabbatical – but I don’t want it to be something we rely on without a lot more time to develop and test it. Even then I’m not planning to have it as the only way to view instruments or navigate – just too risky.

In the long term though the plan is for a “chartplotter” in the cockpit that can be seen and controlled when steering. It will be powered by a Raspberry Pi 4 below decks controlling a 15.6″ touch screen (with the option of bringing out a wireless keyboard and mouse in suitable conditions). This will display a chart with the boat position and AIS overlay. So it will be used primarily for live navigation.

We will have another Raspberry Pi 4 below, using a 21″ TV as it’s display (again a wireless keyboard and mouse). This will be able to function as a chartplotter (principally for planning, backup and keeping an eye on things when nipping below when on watch). It will also run our entertainment, office and editing software. We will have a 3rd system (with a more basic screen) pre-configured and up-to-date that will be wrapped with a battery in multiple layers of foil and plastic that will act as a Faraday cage so that it should survive a lightning strike.


We do have a basic handheld VHF radio which we will keep for emergencies and dinghy to boat communications (bit with mobile phones likely to be the preferred option if there is a signal).

We will add a fixed VHF radio with DSC and a new aerial. Possibly something like a basic ICOM IC-M330GE for around £200

We will setup a WiFi network for the boat and eventually we would like to add a full 4G mobile connection to that using big aerials to pick up a mobile phone signal several miles offshore.


AIS: We will install a minimum of a full Class B AIS system that both transmits and receives. We are looking for models from Digital Yacht that provide a WiFi interface (simplest for both our Android devices and Raspberry Pi’s). So at the budget end an iAISTX for £522.00

I think that if we upgraded to the iAISTX plus version (£642) which has an NMEA interface then it should be possible to connect the AIS to the VHF DSC system allowing you to pick a target and directly connect to them on the VHF using DSC. So if the AIS tells you that a ship will collide with you 5 miles ahead then you can call them to ask what they plan to do about it. Without this you can find the call details on the AIS and manually put them into the VHF (tricky if it is rough and you are stressed/tired and the wind is changing etc).

If we could afford it I would like the Digital Yacht Class B+ device as it transmits at twice the power. Hence, we would be detected by ships at a much greater range than 8 to 10 miles as well as more reliably in very busy areas with lots of signals. However, the AIT5000 with WiFi is £1,074.

Whichever AIS we get, we will add a Man Overboard alarm and Man Overboard devices to our life jackets. That means if we fall into the water an alarm automatically goes off on our boat (and any others within range) and the chartplotter will show the position of the person in the water so that you can find them again.

The AIS will probably use an aerial splitter so that it can share the aerial with the VHF radio.

Radar: For the foreseeable future radar will remain on our “would be nice to have” list. Cost is approaching £2,000 for the radar dome, mounting bracket etc. OpenCPN already includes support for a growing number of Radars so you can see the radar scan on top of the chart (makes it easier to work out if the radar image is showing land, rain, a ship or a buoy). For collision avoidance we think AIS is much cheaper, it gives much more accurate and detailed information, however not all vessels have it. Radar is great for fog, rain squalls and navigation in busy waters at night. Radar is much better for detecting fishing boats (who frequently don’t want to advertise their position on AIS).

At first launch

So we will have the following before we launch:

  • Compass
  • Depth with dedicated display
  • Apparent Wind speed and direction with dedicated display
  • 2 phones and a tablet all with chartplotter software and charts (with waterproof cockpit mounts and USB charging)
  • AIS class B (displaying on the phones and tablet) with MOB alarm
  • AIR MOB transmitters for our life jackets
  • VHF radio

Medium term

  • connect the devices that support it, with NMEA 2000 (gives true wind on the Clipper Wind, AIS integration with the Radio (including MOB support)
  • Raspberry Pi 4 powered chartplotter in the cockpit
  • Raspberry Pi 4 powered chartplotter, office and entertainment in the saloon
  • Spare Raspberry Pi system in Faraday cage

Long Term

  • Long range 4g connection for the whole boats WiFi
  • Additional sensors and monitoring through a web interface on all our devices anywhere as long as boat and we have an internet connection (battery state, solar, motor temperature, tanks levels, bilge pump alarms, lots of environment data such as temperature and humidity etc)
  • Mast mounted forward looking camera with night vision for watch keeping
  • Security cameras
  • Radar
  • Long range WiFi connection for the whole boat (as free WiFi comes to more places)
  • Extra Raspberry Pi powered screen in the cockpit for a customised dashboard next to the chart (wind, depth, battery, solar, cameras, AIS text).
  • Automation (alerts to phones, full management of solar power including control of dump power – eg heat water, run dehumidifier, electric blankets, boat heating)
  • Add PyPilot software to control original electric autopilot motor

That should be enough to keep us going for a while and also plenty to spend our entire living budget for several years  – which gives an idea of how much of it will happen 🙂

Sailing Florence preparing for crossing the Indian Ocean

We really enjoy the video’s from Amy and Matt on Sailing Yacht Florence. Here they are preparing to cross the Indian Ocean, far from any boatyard facilities, having been trapped in Indonesia for over a year.

Their rig check show some of the challenges that have led us to our dyneema rigging plans and long-term sail plan.

First, as Matt checks the rigging he comments that he doesn’t know what they will do if they find a problem as they can’t buy replacements for any of the rigging where they are. By carrying some spare parts that are not heavy and don’t take much space ie

  • dyneema line of a few sizes and some seizing line and chafe protection sleeve
  • low friction rings
  • FR4 board and some epoxy
  • a few bolts (sized for our mizzen and our main mast)
  • some sunbrella fabric and stuff to sew it
  • a few basic splicing tools

With that little lot (which we admit isn’t cheap for a ketch as we need so many dyneema line sizes) we can replace any part of the standing rigging. And we really mean any, it is enough for us to replace any chainplate, any shroud, any mast tang, any shroud tensioner or change the chafe/UV protection anywhere in the rig.

Second, as Matt tries to inspect the forestay and the roller furling but demonstrates that it isn’t possible. As with Vida when we bought her, the forestay and it’s end fittings are all hidden inside the roller furling. That has to be a worry. especially as they have been unable to get the mast down for an inspection in a lot more than a year. Our plans remove this problem. We are going to have a dyneema forestay that will only be used for a sail when sailing downwind with 2 headsails. Our yankee (which is smalleer than a genoa with a higher clew because we are switching to a true cutter rig) will be on a continuous furler and will be lowered to the deck when not being used. This means that our forestay can be fully inspected at all times. If we have a problem with it that we need to fix then we can use the inner forestay, the yankee halyard and the code zero halyard to support the mast while we fix the problem.

I don’t think we are anything like as adventurous as Amy and Matt 🙂 Especially when it comes to exploring so much of Asia and staying around the equator for so long. However, being able to inspect our whole rig and both carry replacements and be able to fit them outside a boatyard is very important to us. Not only from a safety point of view but also a financial one. By spending some money up-front (at least before the first ocean crossing) our budget is much more predictable.

Old water tank removed

We took a long time to decide that we would take out the original stainless steel water tank. As with lots of jobs it was daunting. However, in fact it was relatively straightforward. Using the man overboard block and tackle I was able to get it out whole.

Very glad we have done this. It was sitting in a bit of a puddle (looks like it blocked the last bits of water running into the deep section of the bilge).

We already knew the inspection hatches were grungy. We had seen some rust on internal welds. Now we can see that the welds for the baffles are rusting on the inside and outside.

So very happy we have done this.

We can see that we will be able to fit all our batteries in the aft part of this space, that keeps them together and the weight very low). Very happy with that.

We can then have a smaller water tank in the forward end (we will have other water tanks elsewhere). Having multiple water tanks is also a good safety feature. If there is a problem with one you haven’t lost all your fresh water in one go.

So very happy 😁 Jane is going to attack it with bilge cleaner now while I rest my back, that is mostly precautionary but I have had a few more twinges.

A day for Sustainable health

The past few days working on the aft cabin have been hard on my back and knees. It is a confined space, the floorboards had to be up which means you are always standing on a slope and stepping over beams while crouched over. Plus lots of ladder climbing.

So I ended up with a very stiff and achy back and a pulled something behind my right knee.

Today has therefore been about recovery. We had a nice brunch, lots of sleeping and a lovely walk along the “Swellies” which is the stretch of very fast moving water in the Menai Straits with lots of rocks and islands.

This evening we spent some time in the NWVYC reading pilotage and charts and it all made a lot more sense. With our plans we can be sensible and cautious which basically means

  • From the North East, go through the Swellies 2 hours before high tide Liverpool. (this direction seems a little more forgiving)
  • From the South West go through the Swellies 2.5 before high tide Liverpool
  • Make sure we have updated your chart very recently before crossing the bar at Caernarfon, the channel can move by a mile in winter storms. Also check that all the channel buoys are in position as they frequently drag.

Absolutely no need for us to ever go through the Swellies at less than ideal tide time, we have nothing to prove.

As with our cruising from Chichester Harbour in the past, crossing a bar like Caernarfon is a chalk and cheese issue. In good conditions you wonder what all the fuss is about. Try to push it in bad conditions and you can easily be utterly terrified at best and lose your boat at worst. When it comes to these choices we are pretty risk averse. So we would divert or heave to, waiting for safer conditions. This is the kind of thing that puts me off racing. So while taking part in the Three Peaks race appeals in many ways, I’d also be useless at it 🤣

No way am I going to cross a bar or go through the Swellies, even in a race, except at the right time and conditions. We would probably lose 24 hours just from my caution by the time we were past Beaumaris 😊

Aft cabin new bed is usable

Nearly 11pm and our new bed is usable to sleep in. Actually apart from the new “entrance” with the mattresses on it looks almost the same.

However, underneath it is very different. We just need to do some adjustments to the bed boards, finish the step and adjust the mattresses (to create the seat) and we are ready for painting, insulation and headlining.

My phone camera flash isn’t very good but here are a few pictures of the progress.

The underbed support is functional rather than pretty, however, it is a lot more rigid than before and the boards much better supported.

We have a huge new storage space that isn’t subdivided so it can be used for large stuff. Also the possibility of a small amount of quite inaccessible new storage that can be created without getting in the way of the steering mechanisms.

Fitted our dehumidifier, an Ecor Pro Dryfan DH1200 INOX

I’ve fitted our dehumidifier. We bought it during lockdown.

It is all stainless steel and capable of removing 10 litres of water per day at 27°C. It has a built-in humidistat and is set to only come on if the humidity is outside the desired range (can be set to on or off or between 10% and 90%).

We figure it should keep the inside of the boat very nice in the boatyard. However, what we really hope is that we can extend the life of electronics, clothes and food if we can keep the boat drier while cruising. You don’t have to save all that many things from mould, mildew or corrosion to recover the £640 purchase price.

It does give off warm dry air (a nice feature normally in the UK, less so in the tropics) into the cabin. The “waste” is warm damp air (like a tumble drier). We have chosen to have this blow into the cockpit, at least for the moment, hoping this minimises the chance of sea water getting into it.

We will see how well it works, I’m tempted to put one in the forward heads where we will shower and dry clothes.

There are disadvantages

And two come to mind this morning.

The first is that working in tight spaces is uncomfortable. I’ve tweaked something behind my right knees while working in the aft cabin. It has been painful overnight. So more caution today.

The second is that there is a problem with making comfortable beds in a snug boat. We enjoy staying in bed in the morning, especially when there was a rain shower, bed seemed even more attractive. So another late start 😂🛏️🛌😴

A slow day, mostly preparation

Or in other words, we didn’t achieve much today.

I managed to tidy up the two ex-wardrobe bulkheads. Then we collected some tools and blades from Screwfix, got some timber from B&Q and got some shorts because it has been hot.

So hot that I had a quick swim. About 20 metres and then I decided I was about to die of hyperthermia 😂

We’ve started preparing to rebuild the aft cabin bed and the new seat. However, we are waiting for some longer screws to arrive (using stainless steel Torx – can’t find A4 so these are A2).

As it is so warm I installed the extra Lagun table mount in the cockpit.

With our Comfort Seats and wine it is very pleasant.

Once we get the longer screws we should be able to finish the dry fit fairly quickly, then we can epoxy all the joints and get the aft cabin ready for a) the cushions to be adjusted b) painting, insulation and headlining.

It will be good to get that all done so we can start sleeping in there again which makes it easier to work on jobs elsewhere.