Holiday progress day 9: Electric Motor reliability

Well not much progress today because we nipped home last night as our old Diesel engine was being collected today. The forecast had also helped make the decision with another storm coming through.

So rain nearly all day for the time we were in Manchester, rain for the journey back to Beaumaris and rain most of the evening.

The key progress is emotional, with the sense of freedom from having an engine sitting in our trailer, waiting to be sold. As we were driving back we were remembering all the expensive work we would have had to do in order to get what was a good engine working.

  • The survey required the raw water seacock to be changed. That was bonded in so thoroughly it needed cutting out with a hole saw. Possible with the engine in (although the two cockpit drains would have been much more difficult).
  • the survey warned that the cutlass bearing was worn and that the stuffing box needed to be repacked. We found that the propeller side of the coupling to the gearbox needed to be cut off (and so would have needed a replacement). We also found that the propeller shaft is too long to slide out because of the skeg, so we would have had to lift the engine for the propeller shaft to come out under it, that would have meant cutting off the rusty original engine mounts and replacing them.
  • the survey warned of a leaking fuel filter, would we then have found that several of the valves in the various fuel lines were seized and would we have felt we needed to add inspection hatches to the fuel tanks, replaced all the fuel lines and thoroughly cleaned all the system and all the fuel? As we did that we might have noticed and been concerned about the very rusty fuel vent fittings and the condition of the fuel filler hoses.
  • In this process would we have noticed and dealt with the rusty paraffin fuel tank for the boat heater (that failed and spilt paraffin everywhere just as I arrived at the recycling centre).
  • When would we have taken out the hot water calorifier (heated by the engine or by a mains system condemned in the survey) that was buried behind the paraffin tank, under the rusty fridge compressor and under the unreliable water pump? Because when we did take it out, we found it rusty and leaking out of sight.

In short, because everything around the engine wasn’t replaced with the new engine, we would have had large costs to get afloat with this engine and far more over time to get it to a point where it would be reliable with the many problems with the setup diesel supply (particularly water in the fuel and no way to get it out, modern problems diesel bug growing due to the use of bio-diesel and no way to get it out, old sludge in the tanks causing blockages in the pipes before the filters).

We are more and more glad that we took the plunge and decided to go fossil fuel free from the beginning rather than first fixing what we had. So we have not spent any money on fixing the diesel but all on preparing for where we believe all yachts need to be going – fossil fuel free.

Again we have been watching more YouTube videos and seeing more people having problems with diesel fuel, the old idea that diesel engines are this magical safety device because they are always reliable just isn’t the case for lots of people. Also the amount of nasty, cramped, smelly maintenance and the impact that has on sea sickness and morale needs to be acknowledged more openly in the sailing community.

Obviously, at the moment we have very little to be sure of in terms of the reliability of our electric motor system, how dependable will it be. However, from all we have studied so far we are quite confident. We will have a good installation of a brushless motor, that will be in as dry a place as possible, with potential backup batteries and tools/spares for making cables.

We have come to realise that the Rival 38 centre cockpit has a number of really good features for a reliable electric motor installation.

  • the bilge is really deep and large. So even if we get a lot of water on board it is going to be a long way from the motor or the batteries, we have made this so it is visible for checking as well as making it possible to access the pumps and hoses (initially we are fitting both an automatic large capacity electric pump and updating the original manual pump)
  • the motor compartment is not accessible from the companionway steps (but instead from the corridor to the aft cabin). Very often these steps lift up for access but that also means there is potential for water to get into the motor compartment whether it be from spray or people climbing in with wet clothing etc
  • the motor compartment is large enough so that our batteries, motor and controller can be right next to each other, so short cables that we cann easily inspect that don’t go through bulkheads where they can get damaged or through bilges where they can get wet.

We are also implementing a few things they we hope are best practice to help with the reliability

  • The motor is brushless for no maintenance and high efficiency. It is air cooled to keep our moisture (we will need to monitor temperature and might need exhaust fans)
  • All our battery banks are going to be in boxes that are watertight from below with a top that means any drips from above will not make it in. Build from epoxy coated plywood with a strong timber frame that does not allow battery movement but does allow air circulation for cooling.
  • The motor frame will have a watertight undertray and a lid that directs any drips clear of the motor.
  • Our batteries that are connected in series will have automatic battery balancers to ensure they are evenly charged. Those in parallel will have huge busbars and identical cables for equal loading.
  • We are over specifying all our battery cables and have a full size professional crimping tool to make the best possible connections.
  • Most of the batteries (5 out out of 8) have a bluetooth BMS and I will be monitoring this automatically from our Raspberry Pi system
  • All our solar chargers, battery balancers, battery monitors are from Victron with bluetooth capability so we can monitor them from their app and from the Raspberry Pi system
  • The SignalK system on the RaspberryPi will allow us to add a number of sensors to monitor temperature, humidity etc of everything, so we should know if there is a problem in any battery, bearing, motor, motor controller etc
  • We are installing a dripless seal for the sterntube. This should minimise maintenance and the chance of any salt water coming into the engine compartment.
  • We are installing an Aquadrive. This absorbs all the thrust from the propeller which means the engine and the bearings are free from these loads. It also means that the alignment of the motor is not critical. Both these mean that the motor will be on very flexible mountings so there should be much less vibration in the motor frame as well as in the boat. That should help avoid things shaking loose.
  • We plan to install an automatic dehumidifier for the motor compartment so keep the air in and around the motor plus electronics as dry as possible.
  • The cockpit floor is removable for lifting diesel engines in and out. All our electric stuff is small and light (heaviest individual items under 40kg). Even the motor in it’s frame is under 70kg and we can put it in the frame in the corridor next to where it will go. So we will use a more secure sealant on the cockpit floor, it would be possible to get it up but not as easy as it has been.
  • We will have a much more sealed bulkhead between the motor compartment and cockpit locker. So when you put wet ropes, fenders, sails in there it will drain into the bilge directly and not splash through lots of holes.
  • We are re-routing the vent for the main water tank so it doesn’t go through the motor compartment (reduce chances of water ingress)
  • The boat does not have a working electrical earth at present, we will make sure it is implemented and tested to protect the systems from galvanic corrosion.
  • All new composite cockpit drains and seacocks should reduce condensation and with much higher quality hoses should be more watertight.
  • We are not in a rush and so we can take the time to build it up slowly, carefully and with clear layouts and documentation
  • As we are doing all the work ourselves we know how it is installed and how to maintain it

Despite all that there are still some risks:

  • The biggest is the motor controller, the wiring is complex (for us, fortunately we can bring in our son who is an electrician). Also they are programmable and we don’t have the tools to reprogram it (particularly for regen but potentially also for things like throttle response and max revs)
  • We don’t manage to generate enough electricity to charge the batteries enough (separate updated blog post on generation to come)
  • We do something stupid with one of the expensive components so we need to spend a lot of money replacing it (eg shorting a battery, wiring something wrong).
  • Something we have not thought of

Compared to our lack of understanding of diesel engines this feels like a comfortable place to be 🙂 We think that overall we should be more reliable than diesel, better to live with and because of these be both more convenient and safer than a diesel engine while obviously being incredibly better for the planet.

Holiday progress day 8: saw day

Had a quiet day with another storm due tomorrow. So we didn’t do much apart from rest and a nice gentle walk.

The only thing job was to cut up as much of the wood that we have brought to make it easier to store.

This is what the results are, all sized and named. Nearly all of them are for around the motor compartment. Motor battery boxes, new bulkheads separating off the corridor and the cockpit locker from the motor compartment.

Some are going to be very tricky to get into position!

Going 100% electric: the “house”

I recently detailed where we are at with the Electric Motor, now for the domestic “House” side.

The House power supply

I have started building the battery box which will sit above the motor and motor batteries in the motor compartment.

We have 4 x 120AH Lithium (LiFePo4) batteries from KS Energy KS-LT120B. These have Bluetooth BMS’ which I have been able to connect to from a Raspberry Pi (so one day will be able to monitor and control from the integrated navigation system). Their high continuous current rating of 160 Amp and 30 seconds surge at 250 Amp means they are easily able to power our inverters. It also means that we could rewire them in series to replace the motor batteries if we needed to.

These batteries are going to be connected in parallel so they act as a 12 volt, 480AH bank. This is one decision we agonised over. An alternative would be to have a 48volt house battery bank (and even have a common battery bank for the motor and house – such as Sailing Uma have). The biggest advantage of a 48 volt system would have been for the inverters. However, there are also disadvantages, particularly if you want to add additional battery capacity (you need to add four 12 volt batteries at a time).

Powerful 12 volt inverters require a lot of current, they therefore need very thick cables and short cable runs. Ours are going to be very short and so on balance we have gone for the simplicity of running everything on the house side at 12 volts.

So our batteries are connected in parallel using a massive 60mm x 6mm tinned copper busbar. We will be using very short 95mm2 cables to connect the batteries to the busbar. All 8 cables will be the same length. This form of connection is one of recommended ways (simplest of them in our opinion) of making sure that the battery use is balanced equally across the batteries.

From the battery box +ve busbar we will have doubled 95mm2 cables to a fuse. Then doubled 95mm2 cables to a shunt (used so that the Victron battery monitor sees everything). Then again doubled 95mm2 cables to the main battery switch. Finally the doubled 95mm2 cables go to a +ve secondary busbar at the forward end of the battery box.

From the battery box -ve busbar we will have doubled 95mm2 cables direct to the -ve secondary busbar at the forward end of the battery box.

The reason for doubling the 95mm2 cables is twofold. First, our inverters could potentially draw more current than one 95mm2 cable can carry. Second, the inverters are very sensitive to any voltage drop over the cable (it can cause fluctuations which can damage the batteries). By doubling the cables and keeping the lengths very short we should avoid both problems.

We will have 4 connections from each secondary busbar. All of them will have circuit breakers or fuses on the positive and all of them will have 95mm2 cables to the circuit breakers/fuses.

  • Inverter 1: a Victron 12V inverter giving up to 2000 watts (95mm2 cable)
  • Inverter 2: a Victron 12V inverter giving up to 2000 watts (95mm2 cable)
  • Lofrans Tigres Horizontal Anchor Windlass windlass 12v connected via 70mm2 cables (thicker than the 50mm2 specified by the manufacturer)
  • Distribution busbar for Main 12volt switch panel (busbars situated above the corridor to the aft cabin, switch panels on the bulkhead above the entrance to the corridor)

The 230volt AC systems

The Victron inverters get connected together into a single mains supply. So we have a 230V 4000watt mains supply via a standard circuit breaker box. The main purpose of having so much 230 volt power is the galley. In the galley we have

  • 2 x single induction hobs (max 2000watts each)
  • Microwave/combination oven/grill (max approx 1000watts)
  • Multi-cooker (max 900watts)

And no doubt we will be adding coffee machine and a few other gadgets.

So we will be able to run any 2 of these devices at full power at the same time (and to be safe we won’t run both hobs on full power at the same time).

Beyond the galley we have

  • 230volt water heater to supply sinks and shower
  • Device like our current laptops which only have 230 volt power connectors.
  • Two wall infrared panel heaters.
  • Power tools (most of them are now cordless but the batteries are charged from 230volts)
  • One day in the future a 230volt watermaker

Our electric outboard motor for the dinghy has a 12volt charger as well as a 230volt one.

4000 watts should be plenty with some simple house rules

  • only one cooking device while using the windlass (why would anyone be cooking when you are either raising or lowering the anchor?)
  • if using two cooking devices then turn off most other mains devices (possibly via the circuit breaker?)

The 12volt DC systems

These are mostly very normal for boats with lights, instruments, electric autopilot (we mainly want to use a windvane anyway), fridge (not planning a freezer), windlass (a lot of current but not for very long).

However, we are also going to be building our navigation, entertainment and office systems around 12volt Raspberry Pi computers and 12 volt screens. This will include WiFi to our phones etc. We will be fitting a hi power/long range 3G/4G antenna that will make it’s connection available via WiFi to everything else.

The Raspberry Pi’s will be used for navigation (we have a touch screen for the cockpit) with OpenCPN as well as for general use (everything from NetFlix to general office to video editing) on a TV screen in the saloon.

We will be using a SignalK server to connect the Raspberry Pi systems to marine instruments (AIS, Radar, WindSpeed/Direction etc). Anyway that is a whole lot of other posts.


While it is perfectly ok for us to plan the system so that we can deliver 4000watts for cooking at full power on two hobs or run all these other devices the fact is that we still have a battery bank with limited capacity.

Here we admit there are a lot of unknowns and variables. However, we think that being able to monitor our battery use very accurately will allow us to modify our behaviour to suit the available battery charge (eg no hot showers or minimise cooking power use).

The next key part of the picture is how we recharge our batteries, both house and motor banks). That will have to be a separate blog post.

Holiday progress day 7: miscellaneous

So today we picked up a few jobs, none of which got completely finished. However, we did succeed with selling our Diesel engine (and have got paid this time!).

First job was to create FR4 backing plates for the new seacocks (the TruDesign fittings need a minimum thickness which is greater than the hull at that point. Before that we had to grind off some of the hull around the hole in the port side (it had been thickened for the old raw water inlet seacock but wasn’t very smooth). Made a huge mess as with a 40 grit flap disk the grinder creates loads of dust and sends it flying off at high speed so having the vacuum trying to suck up the dust as we went didn’t help a lot. Hopefully the last grinding needed in the engine room.

Cutting the holes in the FR4 was the final straw for the cheap 60mm hole saw, so I had to finish using the jig saw. Seems to be a good fit though. Next task will be to bond these in place with thickened epoxy (we will put a fillet around the edges to so there are no sharp transitions or edges).

Then I had to empty everything out of the Van (using it as our storeroom) to get to the timber, plywood and saws. Here is the start of my temporary woodworking shop.

I’ve been working on two projects.

First a box for the new house battery bank. That is 4 x 120AH Lithium (LiFePo4) batteries to be wired in parallel.

We are trying to combine some gaps for air circulation with both holding the batteries so they can’t move and fully protecting them (from moisture and also from anything/anyone touching the terminals or busbars).

This is all test assembly at the moment. Sanding still needed and I’ll be glueing the joints and coating all the wood in epoxy. The box will be above the motor and motor batteries, hence the depth of timbers, as it will need to span a fair distance to allow access underneath it.

Here you can see the batteries in situ with the busbars resting in position, next to them. The busbars are very much oversized (60mm x 6mm) to maximise efficiency.

I will be notching the timber under each busbar bolt so that there is easy access to tighten them.

The battery box cover will keep any water off the batteries and busbar, it will include a retaining bar to hold the batteries in place even if we invert. It will also protect the busbar from anything touching it.

The batteries will be slid in one at a time from the right hand end of the box (in this picture).

This is the box in approximate position. It will be higher, fixed to horizontal beams between the uprights that are not there yet. I am going to cut away the extra length of side at the left of this picture so that the batteries can be slid in and the rightward in the box. I have left the box length beams over-long to give me options for exactly where it and the uprights go.

I also started preparing the timber for the new cockpit floor corners (where the new drains will be) no picture though.

Tomorrow, should be a combination of epoxying all this stuff and maybe some other woodwork tasks.

Holiday progress day 6: starting top end of cockpit drains

Having got the seacocks dry fitted we started on the top end of the new cockpit drains. Another scary job as we have had to cut the cockpit floor (removable section) and the supports for it.

The shows marking out the cut in the cockpit floor which is where this drain will be. That cockpit floor is pretty heavy and unwieldy to lift off and on the boat in these strong winds, so we were glad to manage it without incident.

Not only is it scary to contemplate cutting bits of the boat up, it is also scary to see how quick it is to do so. Here are the two aft corners of the cockpit floor cut off. No going back now.

Next was to cut the supporting “lip” in the boat. Here you can see the removable floor put back in position to mark the cuts.

Again very quick to cut.

And now you can see how the water will drop into the corner where the drain will be,

At this point rain stopped play as the plywood we need to fill these holes (into which the skin fitting will go) is right at the bottom of our van with tools etc piled on top.

Eventually, the new cockpit floor, in the corner with the drain in it, will be level with and smoothly integrated with the lower lip of the corner. It will have an upstand under the cockpit lid and the cockpit lid will have a new edge over that upstand. So the whole thing will be watertight and stronger than it was before, but the cockpit will have two nearly straight, large diameter drains.

We have to cut the original forward drains out of the cockpit to put in new skin fittings. Then hoses from these come back under the cockpit floor to connect to “T”s in the main drains.

For us this is just one of those areas where design standards have been forced to be updated. One of the learning points of the Fastnet Disaster of 1979 (2 years after Vida was built) was the importance of cockpits that drain quickly. Doing a full refit like this allows us not just to replace like with like but also to upgrade where standards/expectations have moved on. That is true of the size of drains but also in the quality/strength of hoses that we are going to be using, the use of double jubilee clips holding the hoses onto the fittings etc.

Selling Yanmar Diesel 3JH5E on eBay (Sold)

Update: now sold

Unfortunately our last attempt to sell our diesel engine on eBay was attacked by a scam and the buyer never paid. So it is for sale again on eBay This time with a starting price of £1,900

See Details of Yanmar Diesel 3JH5E for sale for all the details. You can see back to when we lifted the engine out of Vida here, how we kept it boxed in safe under the wheelhouse cover during COVID-19 lockdown, and how the boatyard lifted it off the boat for us.

Please free up our trailer by buying our engine.

We would prefer you to collect it from us (Wythenshawe, Manchester. Only a mile or so from Manchester Airport).

We are willing deliver it to you providing the distance is under 100 miles, you pay fuel and all we have to do is lift it off the trailer and place it on the ground.

Due to the previous attempt to scam us we are only accepting payment by PayPal through eBay and we will not agree to any attempts to work around eBay as these are apparently often used as parts of scams.

Holiday progress day 6: Making new holes

This morning was the scary task of making the new holes in the bottom of Vida (ironic given how much time was have spent filling old holes).

Fortunately, the old raw seawater intake for the engine was positioned so that it is easier to access (not tangled up with the engine bearings) and had just enough clearance to the aft bulkhead (between then motor compartment and the aft heads). So we drilled a new 60mm hole there.

Then we could dry insert the skin fitting

The Trudesign requires enough space to screw the whole seacock fitting onto the skin fitting so we needed enough space between it and the bulkhead to spin the seacock on. Phew it fits.

First one on 🙂

We are going to be removing the “bulge” in the aft bulkhead (just above the sterntube) to increase the space in the aft cabin and to make the PSS Dripless Seal more accessible. The bulge was there to give enough height for the anti siphon loop in the diesel engine exhaust – which we no loner need.

So here is the 2nd seacock dry fitted after the hole has been drilled.

This is what they look like on the outside

Before we stick them into place (3M 5200 sealant) we need to sand the paint off the outside (and add a protective epoxy layer) and fit a backing plate on the inside. The hull thickness needs to be increased so that the Trudesign meets design standards in resisting sideways force (such as if you fell and kicked it). Going to use our 10mm FR4 sheet for this. But we will continue with the dry fitting so that we can get cockpit drains connected and stop water getting into the bilge.

Preparing the motor compartment from the bottom up

So we have a clean and painted bilge below where the electric motor, batteries, motor controller, inverter, battery balancers etc are all going.

Our “only” problem, before fitting everything, is that the bilge is gradually filling with water. There are currently quite a few sources of this, none of them surprising.

First, we have disconnected the hoses from the two cockpit drains. So any water getting onto the cockpit floor drips straight in. The reason for disconnecting the hoses was that they have to be replaced (and the cockpit drains at the top plus the seacocks at the bottom). The hoses were very brittle and splitting where they were connected at the ends.

Second, the cockpit floor is not bolted down at the moment. We had to remove it to take it out to get the engine out, we haven’t permanently refitted it as a) it needs a new rubber seal b) it needs the last of the old sound insulation removing and then it can be painted (much easier when not in position). So water can get in around this and through the bolt holes.

Third, we have removed lots of bits from the sides of the cockpit (engine controls, autopilot control, pump etc) so there are quite a few holes (and they are not small).

However, none of these would matter if no water got into the cockpit in the first place. With the hardtop wheelhouse, which gets closed off at the back by the cover, when we are not there, in theory no water should be getting in. But for a long time since taking the engine out we have had a temporary bit of old ply covering the wheelhouse skylight (needed so you can see the mainsail when sailing). However, we fixed that other Friday and our new wheelhouse skylight doesn’t leak and you can see through it.

When we are on the boat we almost always have the cover off (at least partially) for easy access (it isn’t designed to be closed/opened from inside) so when we are onboard water goes get into the cockpit.

Now that all the old seacocks are filled, we can start the work to prepare for the motor, bit for access reasons it is important to start from the bottom. We are starting with the new seacocks, then the pumps. We want to do these now because they will gradually become less accessible as the propeller shaft, then motor frame and batteries go on top.

As soon as we have the new seacocks we can fit the new cockpit drains which are going to be a major upgrade. The old ones were connected with 1.25 inch hose to blakes seacocks and I think the inside of those was only about 1″. Our new TruDesign seacocks have a 2″ internal diameter. That means potentially 5.7 times more flow.

Also we are changing the drains within the cockpit. At the forward end of the cockpit we are fitting new 32mm drains. But we are adding to the aft end two 2″ drains. The design for fitting these has changed a few times. Now we plan to shorten the removable cockpit floor and add a new slightly lower floor at the aft end that the drains will be in with almost a straight run down to the seacock. We are also going to add a step going across the back of the cockpit, just above this new bit of floor, as we find the step down into the cockpit a bit too big to be comfortable.

The forward drains will come aft just gently sloping downwards and be connected to T’s on the main 2″ hoses. I still need to find a way to connect the 32mm hose to the 50mm T fitting.

We have also upgraded the hoses from the rather feeble PVC hoses that had lost all their flexibility to much heavier duty hoses that are fire resistant. We have all the jubilee clips to connect everything (2 clips at each connection as recommended).

The other task is the bilge pumps (one automatic electric one and one manual) we need to get the pipes in at least (because they go to the bilge under the motor). We hope to be able to reuse the old manual bilge pump (we think it just needs a new seal to waterproof it to the deck and new plastic ring that holds the seal in place). What we are not yet sure about is where we are going to have the pump hoses exit the boat. The old position was so inaccessible that the valve had never been closed. But wherever they exit is going to be higher than the motor and batteries so we can sort it later.

We want to get all this work done before fitting the motor stuff both to make sure we are not getting any water near the motor but also because it is going to be a lot easier access without the motor.

Oh and by the way, we have another cunning plan for our new fast draining cockpit. When we fit a watermaker we will not need to fit an extra seacock. Instead the raw water intake pipe will be able to drop right through one cockpit drain into the sea. The brine discharge will be able to drop into the other cockpit drain. Yes, it means we can’t have a fully automatic watermaker (although nothing stopping an automatic flush cycle as that doesn’t need a raw salt water input and can drain into the cockpit).

Holiday progress day 5: Holes fully filled

Today was another windy day, fortunately it had been quieter overnight so we had a better night’s sleep.

All the fibreglass that we did on the outside of the 11 holes yesterday had hardened nicely, no visible air bubbles. We are going to wait until we strip off all the old antifouling paint before we fair it (no point in making it fair to paint that is coming off).

Today we decided to tackle the inside of all the holes, knowing that first we would need to create a whole lot of dust in every single cabin. Our orbital sander has a dustbag which doesn’t work brilliantly but we don’t have the right adapter to connect it to out workshop vacuum cleaner. In the end I found it was still work vaccuming around the sander as I sanded. Needed two hands as there mostly isn’t space for two of us to get at the job.

We managed to get the sanding and washing/wiping clean done before lunch.

Then we ran our little production line for the grp work. Jane was mixing the resin, then cutting and wetting out the fibreglass cloth in the cockpit.

Fortunately, it was dry so we were able to move some bits outside and some to the van to make space.

Meanwhile, I first put some thickened epoxy in each place to fill where there had been some sagging when we first did the thickened epoxy work. Then two more layers of the 280g 2×2 Twill Woven Glass cloth. So that is 2 layers on the outside, 2 on the inside plus thickened epoxy between them (and for all the larger holes a 10mm FR4 plug in that).

This too seems to be setting nicely.

and so our first GRP work on Vida is done. Now feeling more confident about tackling the other jobs that need it:

  • 3 holes above the waterline (old diesel exhaust, old bilge pump and old shower waste).
  • 1 chainplate where a slipped backing plate as caused stress cracks in the deck.
  • filling the bolt holes and some stress cracks where the davits were inadequately secured.

That is a very short list for a 43 year old boat!

Now we can move to the next job. Cockpit drains so that we can make sure the motor room stays completely dry. So this includes making new bigger holes in the bottom of the hull as well as cutting up our cockpit floor. The excitement never ends 🙂