Plans to extend the galley

At least being at home we have had time to come up with ideas, even if we don’t have all the dimensions available to fully complete them πŸ™‚

So we have come up with an idea to extend our galley while giving a nod to a classic Rival feature that is missing from our 38 Centre Cockpit, known as a keyhole bulkhead.

Our bulkhead is far more angular and minimal.

So our new galley is currently an L shape. Hobs with microwave above not yet in this picture (one day a front opening fridge should fit under the hobs as we won’t have an oven there).

So the plan is to reshape the bulkhead a little. The result will be a slightly longer and lower horizontal section and then to curve what is currently the diagonal – that is the homage bit πŸ˜‰

This will allow us to add a hinged worktop to the saloon side of the bulkhead. When this is in it’s up position it will be level with the other worktops and essentially create a U-shaped galley with a huge amount of extra worktop. In it’s down position it will be hidden behind the saloon cushion.

When the saloon is used as a bed then taller people might need to have the worktop in it’s up position in order to have the original full length of the berth. When the saloon is used for comfy seating or for lots of people we will fold the worktop down.

Essentially, without moving the bulkhead we will achieve most of what is shown in the drawing archive where there is a version of the Rival 38 Centre Cockpit with this bulkhead moved forward 320mm (not sure if any were built with this variation). Yet we will still have the saloon long enough to be a bed. What we don’t gain is extra galley storage (but equally we don’t have as much hard to access corner storage either).

We also think we are going to add a vertical pole/handhold from floor to cabin top at the end of the adapted bulkhead. Will be handy to string up a fruit/veg hammock or put up a shelf for mugs or spices above the bulkhead.

Whether we do something to match on the chart table side of the boat is a plan yet to be decided πŸ™‚

Watch who you watch

I watch a lot of YouTube sailing channels (especially during the COVID-19 lockdown) πŸ™‚

I do notice that if we are not careful then what we watch directly influences our plans, even our beliefs in what is is possible, especially they influence what we think we need.

I suggest that we need to be picky. Look for the channels and video’s that support your aspirations. Challenge the assumptions and justifications that people have made, often (and this is not a criticism because is normal human behaviour) to make themselves feel better about their choices.

This is going to be especially true when it comes to making choices around sustainability. When we look into it deeply and when we listen to those who have made a real commitment to sustainability, then it is obvious that the impact on every part of life and especially on the typical view of material wealth and consumption is huge and drastic.

It is easy to believe that we need what “successful” cruisers and especially perhaps “successful” cruising YouTubers have and say/believe is needed.

Fortunately, when we reflect on this a) some things are obvious and b) there are alternatives.

Some things are obvious.

If you have already taken steps towards a sustainable life then you already know that you will already not be using things that are sometimes presented as essential. Let’s give some examples:

  • Flights: If it is presented that it is normal, indeed essential to fly frequently, yet you have given up flying at all or reduced it to minimal levels then is it essential. Maybe you need to change your plans for where you cruise so that you can get to visit family without flying – that might restrict you to the same continent.
  • Radar: One of those technologies that is becoming normalised. Those who have it can’t imagine sailing without it. But essential? Easier yes, and yes it allows you to do somethings even in fog with lower risk. But is it the only option? Maybe you need to restrict where you go, or allow longer, or re-route, or have more crew, or go slower. Maybe avoiding situations that would be dangerous if the radar failed? Maybe being more cautious about reefing when you don’t have radar to track squalls?
  • B&G Instruments: It seems to have become like a graduation standard. “We are now proper cruisers because we have all B&G instrumentation”. Of course, the company are very keen for us to believe that which is why high profile channels get sponsored, get special deals etc. Yet go back to the same channels earlier video’s. Did they always have B&G, the “best”? Are there other channels also cruising but without B&G? What about the people who were cruising before YouTube?
  • Electric Motors: if you see people arguing that electric motors are not really practical for a typical cruising yacht then unpack what is behind it? What do they mean by practical and typical? Do you aspire to be typical or to be outstanding? Does practicality require you to average 200 miles a day whatever the weather? Will you only feel safe if you have the speed to avoid a storm? In which case don’t buy a boat from an era when weather forecasting, communications and boat speed made that impossible – or on the other hand embrace that. Buy an older boat that was designed to cope with bad weather because there was no option to avoid it).

So if the goal is to become “successful” meaning you can now afford a new yacht, or the best instruments, that you can choose the best between a catamaran and monohull, that discussions about the “best” boat length for cruising go up by 10 feet, or that suddenly only twin rudders are safe then no problem, look for the “successful” sailing channels.

On the other hand, if the goal is sustainable sailing then look for those channels. The ones refitting old boats on tiny budgets. The ones without the essentials, how they cope with unreliable or broken engines, no dinghy, no electrics, leaks, no fridge or freezer, stuff that had been repaired, whose boats don’t look like a showroom, who have no sponsorships, who have smaller and older boats than you think you need. For me that includes

What others do you recommend?

The number 1 and 2 best upgrade for all sailing boats

So having had a big grumble in my last post, Teak decks. The worst β€œluxury” β€œupgrade” ever, it is time for the opposite. A celebration of the best upgrade you can make to your boat.

The terrible pun in the post title probably gave away that the best upgrade is a composting toilet, the best option for all your number 1’s and 2′ πŸ™‚

Composting Toilets win the “best” accolade for many reasons. Best for maintenance is a big winner, best for environment should be another, best for safety is pretty significant too. For many best for purchase cost will be important too. However, they are also best for guests and absolutely the best for COVID-19!

That is probably why I’ve mentioned composting toilets so many times on Sustainable Sailing, more than 10% of my posts include “composting” πŸ™‚ So let’s review my claims:

Best for Maintenance

All the sailing channels on YouTube have plenty of videos which include traditional marine toilet problems. There are a lot of parts and plumbing. They get blocked, the pumps need servicing, bit get clogged with calcium deposits that need to be cleaned, hoses need replacing, seacocks servicing and of course all these jobs involve you dealing with sewage, often old sewage.

A side effect of this, that you only really appreciate after taking out all this out of the boat is how much better the whole boat ends up smelling. Especially true if your boat has a holding tank.

So how much maintenance does a composting toilet take? Very little. We have Nature’s Head toilets. If two of us are using only one of these and no other toilets then we have to empty the Urine container about once every couple of days and the solids every few weeks. If you have two toilets the solids have to be emptied much less frequently as they have longer to compost down. If you use one just for weekends then it lasts for months.

That process of emptying is really easy. Undo the latches, lift slightly and put the cap on the Urine bottle and just lift it out. No spills or smells. Depending on where you are and what your emptying options are you could just slot in an extra container and store the first until you can empty it.

The solids are also easy to deal with. Remove the seat, release the catches holding the base to the boat. Cover with an open bag and tip it up so that everything goes into the bag. At the moment we just bring the bags home and put it in a compost bin. If you are able to do this when the toilet has not been used for 48 hours then there is no smell. That is easy to manage if you have two toilets or only use the boat for weekends. Otherwise you can get a second base unit with a lid and so put the full one aside with the lid on for 48 hours.

Composting toilets vary. Some have no moving parts at all. The Natures head has a closing flap over the solids with a simple and sturdy lever to open and close it. Spares are available and it would be easy to bodge a repair. There is also an agitator which is a very simple mechanism. Spares are available and again something could easily be bodged. If both these broke it would not put the toilet out of action, you could manually sprinkle some compost on each time to cover the waste and there would be no smell.

But apart from these very simple things the toilet isn’t connected to anything else (you can connect a hose and fan, but it isn’t essential – we haven’t done so yet – it might gain you a few days between emptying as it helps dry solids more quickly). There are no sewage or water hoses, valves, holes in the boat etc.

The key reason why it is all so much less unpleasant is that the urine and solids are separated. That means you don’t get liquid sewage which is what really smells and needs treating and is potentially harmful. Also the whole unit is a solid plastic construction, it can be easily removed so that it and the compartment can be fully cleaned. It can be placed in a fully sealed easy to clean floor space, no need for access to seacocks, pumps, valves.

Best for environment

It turns out that keeping liquids and solids separate has fantastic benefits for the environment. If you have access to some land (such as weekend/holiday sailors typically do at home) then you can take both the liquids and solids home.

Urine, especially if stored for a few days and diluted with water is an excellent fertilizer, even safe on food crops. See the positive uses of Urine πŸ™‚

If this isn’t an option then emptying it into a regular toilet or urinal is easy and allows for the normal processing (while wasting very little fresh water compared to normal use).

If that isn’t possible then emptying over the side of your boat outside coastal waters will have minimal side effects, in coastal waters where you might get higher concentrations there can be side effects from too many nutrients and also from pharmaceuticals that were not fully used by your body.

If you can compost the solids for over a year then they can be used on any plants including fruit and veg. Less than that then better to not use for food crops.

If that isn’t possible then after a couple of days the solids are safe to put with normal garbage. On long voyages either store (it is not a lot of space) or empty over the side while at sea (if they have been composting for a few days essentially it is just like dropping earth into the sea).

By contrast every other toilet system leaves you with either raw sewage or chemically treated sewage. You should not be dumping this ever in a river, harbour or coastal waters (legal restrictions do vary). So you either need to find a harbour where you can pump it out (what a lovely job) or you need to pump it in the ocean and remember this is quite different from the separate elements, this is sewage and it is highly polluting and very unpleasant.

We think dumping sewage into the sea should be banned everywhere. We are old enough to remember swimming from British beaches where you could find yourself surrounded by sewage, and remember the bugs that laid us low on holidays from this. The effects on marine life and the ecosystem are obvious and well proven. The only defence is that the quantities from each boat are small but that is a very weak defence and leaves sailors looking very bad.

Best for safety

Every standard marine toilet has a couple of seacocks, flushing water in and waste out (except for the incredibly wasteful ones that have a fresh water flush). So you have two fittings that are below the water line, generally tucked behind the toilet in a small compartment making access difficult. A failure here sinks your boat. A blocked valve because something inappropriate gets flushed can mean that you can’t shut it off. The risk might be small but boats sink every year due to seacocks being left open and hoses failing. Remember that if there is a problem then you are going to be trying to fix a leak while surrounded by sewage.

Best for purchase cost

Ok, there is a huge range here. But you can build your own separating composting toilet very cheaply (a seat, a couple of containers and a separator and a box to put it all in). Loads of plans available from the people who sell the separators eg from we-pee. Some go more basic which doesn’t seem very nice to use.

The cheap ones get “flushed” by simply dropping some compost or sawdust in after use.

We did build one of these and used it at home to test using a composting toilet before committing to buying them for the boat. After that we decided to go with a more expensive option (it seems that way until you price a complete replacement marine toilet and adding a holding tank) of buying a Nature’s Head. We felt that it would seem less scary to visitors.

We buy packs of Coconut coir briquettes for Β£10. In each pack there are 5 briquettes and each expands to 9 litres. In total that gives us about 25 toilet refills or a couple of years of full time use for two people. Beyond that a spray bottle with diluted vinegar is all that is needed for cleaning and stopping a calcium build-up.

Best for guests

Trying to explain how to pump a marine toilet to a new guest is difficult and error prone which is just embarrassing and unpleasant for everyone. It is also embarrassing and unpleasant for everyone when as will inevitably happen a guest blocks the toilet.

This is why we like the Nature’s head. It is really obvious. Open the flap before depositing solids, close it after and “flush” by turning the handle. No way can they block it up. Even if they miss it is easy for them to wipe with some toilet paper with no harm done.

Only lesson to teach is to get the men to always sit down (a few big waves soon encourage that anyway).

Best for COVID-19!

We had all taken for granted that when in a marina or in a boat yard you could just use their toilets. We forgot that you can’t use your marine toilet while ashore and that if you can’t move the boat in a marina and all the facilities are closed you will not be able to pump out your holding tank.

This is no problem with a composting toilet. Wherever the boat is, in the water or out of it, you can continue to use your composting toilet without needing any facilities from anyone else. Even if nothing else were available or permitted you can store the two separate parts without any smells or problems for as long as needed.

As we look forward to Wales opening up a bit and being able to visit Vida we are at a big advantage to everyone else because we do not need to have access to the yard or club toilets. Mother Ship Adrift Family Travel and Sailing Blogs were one YouTube channels who had real problems due to being in a boat yard in Spain during the lockdown when the boatyard were told they were supposed to close the toilets. No wonder in a recent video (21 minutes in) they were so excited by Rigging Doctors composting toilet.

Conclusion

Do not spend any more money on your existing marine toilet or holding tank or hoses, valves, seacocks. Instead as soon as you can rip it out and fit a composting toilet. Best boat upgrade ever πŸ™‚

Teak decks. The worst “luxury” “upgrade” ever

Okay, time to be controversial (and that is a sad thing because I don’t think this should be controversial at all).

I believe that NO yacht should have teak decks today. They are sold as a luxury upgrade, yet they are environmentally destructive, don’t last long as GRP decks, on older boats they cause leaks, in the tropics they get too hot to walk on and they raise the temperature in the cabin, they are heavy (just what you don’t want) and they take lots of maintenance.

We are so glad that Vida doesn’t have teak decks. To reinforce that view we have recently watched a couple of videos.

On Magic Carpet, Aladino (as a professional boat builder who has beautifully rebuilt Magic Carpet from an insurance write off) shows how to properly maintain a traditional teak deck. Note that each year he spends more time maintaining his beautiful deck than Vida has had deck maintenance in 42 years. Our grp decks are original and have never been painted, so all the repairs are visible (none) and so are all the faults (cracks around one chainstay, chain damage into the anchor locker, holes from some fittings we have removed).

Then on Follow The Boat you can see the waste and cost in time, labour, materials etc when a teak deck has not been properly maintained . The cost wasn’t just the new deck and toerail needed but a complete new interior refit due to water damage from the leaking deck. Here is a recent refit revist which includes having to remove the deck (with nothing that could be salvaged). Oh and remember that Esper is 12 years younger than Vida (also note that Vida has had preventative Osmosis coatings twice and shows no signs of Osmosis now).

For us use of Teak is a key environmental concern, even though much modern Teak comes from plantations, that is not always the case (and would not have been 40 years ago). But if it lasted as long as the expectations say maybe it would not be such an issue.

Teak is incredibly expensive and so a status symbol. Yet nowadays Teak decks are so thin that they are unlikely to last much more than a decade (although at least it is glued on and not screwed on, so not as likely to be a cause of leaks). That lifetime will be reduced if chemicals are used to maintain it’s colour, also if scrubbed with the grain and also if not washed weekly with salt water.

So Teak decks are an expensive status symbol that are environmentally destructive; require lots of maintenance work; make your boat too hot inside; provide a non slip surface that you can’t walk on in the tropics (because it is too hot); and which after 42 years we would have to replace if they had been fitted to Vida, if not this year then within a few.

In summary: Luxurious status symbols like teak decks are for people with far more money than sense.

Plans for anchoring

The need.

Once we start cruising our plan is to spend the vast majority of time at anchor when we are not sailing.

Partly this is to save money πŸ™‚ For example, the nearest marinas to us at Conwy currently cost about Β£35 a night or Β£215 a week. A visitors mooring is Β£18.50 per night. Paying those prices would soon add up to very large part of our budget.

However, more than just the money is the experience. We much prefer being at anchor in a quiet river or bay than being tied up in a marina (good examples we have visited before in Cornwall would include the River Yealm and the River Fal as well as bays such as Studland).

So a lot of what we are planning is to give us the maximum freedom to be at anchor as much as possible. By being fossil fuel free we won’t need to go to marinas or harbours for fuel or energy. By having a watermaker we won’t need to go there to fill up with water. By fitting a high quality 4G antenna (up high) we will improve the mobile signal to give good Internet access more of the time, without needing to go somewhere for WiFi. As public WiFi becomes more common we can also fit a long range antenna for that too.

So for shopping, getting rid of rubbish and leisure we don’t need to be in a marina or harbour, we can use the dinghy. Probably the main use of marinas will be when we want to leave the boat unattended for family visits or whatever.

Knowing that we want to be anchored a lot of the time is one thing. However, there are very different challenges for this depending on where you are in the world (and very different costs).

In the UK the key challenge with anchoring is that much of the coastline (particularly the South Coast) is very crowded with many rivers full of marinas or moorings. This reduces the availability of places left to anchor. So often you need to anchor in a more exposed anchorage where you might need to move depending on the weather (particularly wind direction) as there are few available places sheltered enough from all directions.

In other places (like the Bahamas) there are millions of places to anchor (although again you will need to move around due to wind or swell). Other places have fewer places to anchor and more marinas (eg some parts of the Mediterranean).

What we need, therefore, is a high reliability, easy to use anchoring setup that we can trust and which enables us to easily move between anchorages then anchoring becomes the default, obvious, no-brainer choice..

That means, as with many areas, we are making plans that are significantly different to where Vida is at the moment and different to many of the boats that you typically see when walking around a harbour or marina – there you often see yachts with anchors that are tiny and very rarely used.

The challenge

Our requirements are quite different to what was the norm when Vida was built in the 1976/77. Then anchors were normally lifted on deck and stored in an anchor locker. That wasn’t too difficult as the size was limited by the capabilities of a manual windlass.

Over the years expectations, fashion and technology have all changed. Electric windlasses are now common (allowing heavier anchors and longer chain without a very fit and strong crew). There have also been really significant improvements in anchor design during the last 40 years. As a result most boats store their anchor permanently in the bow roller, ready for use and to save lifting it around.

But our bow roller was not designed to store an anchor when at sea, despite that the old CQR Anchor was clearly often stored there (and as a result has damaged the bow roller). Now our anchor locker isn’t big enough for a modern anchor (as they typically don’t pivot and lie flat). Because the windlass is in the anchor locker it requires an extra roller to change the angle of the incoming chain so that it is right for the windlass.

Old CQR anchor in the locker. Note the extra roller in the middle which lines the chain up properly for the windlass.

In the next picture you can see the bow roller and how the chain has damaged the route into the locker.

We obviously get a lot of water into the anchor locker. Despite the little drain holes it collects a puddle of rainwater and if a wave comes on deck that big slot will allow a lot into the locker. Both these have presumably contributed to the rust attack on the windlass.

When we bought Vida the chain was in very poor condition and hence wasn’t able to neatly pile into the chain locker which is under the v-berth in the forecabin.

We were looking for ways to replace the roller in the bow fitting (not only bits chipped off by the anchor but also suffering from UV degradation), but it is difficult as there is no side access to the pin.

Ok so that is the challenge. What are we planning?

The Plan

This plan has evolved a few times πŸ™‚

We start with the anchor hardware. After reading lots of tests and opinion pieces we have chosen a SPADE Anchor. It is one of the “New Generation” anchor designs (about 20 years old). I don’t think I’ve seen it outside the top 5 in any test (in one test they broke the test equipment with a SPADE Anchor).

It does disassemble into two pieces which can be convenient. The shaft is actually 3D (a hollow triangular cross section) which means it is incredibly resistant to sideways forces (such as when the boat swings round to pull in the opposite direction due to a tide change).

The pointed tip is actually hollow and filled with lead so that it is very nose heavy which helps it dig in reliably.

By just about every table of anchor sizes I have gone up one size. So this is a 30kg anchor which means that, at least in theory, it should be adequate for a full storm, if not a hurricane. It won’t be our only anchor but we are following the advice that a big anchor in your locker does nothing so make it your normal anchor.

If I wasn’t going to have a SPADE anchor then I’d probably go for the quite similar and very new Mantus M2 (which unlike their earlier anchor does not have a roll bar).

To go with this anchor I have what should be top quality Italian chain from Lofrans. 80 metres of 10mm, again oversized. I’ll add some line to the end of that should we visit the pacific where there can be some very deep anchorages. This chain alone should be good for pretty bad conditions in up to around 15m or 50 feet depth of water.

This anchor and chain is going to be far too heavy for us to recover by hand (except we would find a way to use the main sheet winches or a block and tackle in an emergency). So we have an Electric Windlass to fit.

This was really what set the limit for the anchor and chain. This was the most powerful windlass that was sensible in price and which used 12 volt. So that stopped me getting the next size anchor.

Now we come to the changes that we need to make.

The bow roller is not suitable for this anchor. It will not hold it securely when sailing. It also won’t be able to fully self launch (so if you let some chain out the anchor will just sit there until you tilt it a bit by hand). We have been thinking about a lot of options in terms of custom alterations to what we have. We might still go down that route for cost reasons. However, what we want to end up with is essentially a Mantus Bow Roller with their Anchor Mate. By removing the right hand roller and side of our existing bow roller we can fit the Mantus Bow Roller on top of the flat base of our existing bow roller.

Then the next set of connected changes are somewhat bigger (and won’t necessarily happen before we launch for our first sailing season). They are designed to address a number of problems:

  • New windlass isn’t going to fit in the existing locker using the same hole to drop the chain below.
  • We don’t really want a new electric windlass to be sitting in a pool of water and to have slat water sloshing in and taking a while to drain.
  • We want a more direct line route for the chain from the windlass to the stored anchor and bow roller.
  • We need more space for the chain and we want it further aft (back) as it is heavy.
  • We want to fit a removable inner forestay for our storm jib and need a strong-point to attach it to.
  • We love that many newer boat designs have a watertight bulkhead inside the bow so that if you hit something and get a crack or hole right in the front of the boat there is a chance that the leak will be contained behind the watertight bulkhead and you won’t sink.

So the plan (today) is to remove the lid of the anchor locker and cut out the forward section of it’s the floor. Then we will remove the interior woodwork of the v-berth to provide access.

We will then fit a crash bulkhead in several sections all the way from the deck to the bottom aft section of the anchor chain locker. This will be chunky plywood, coated in epoxy, attached on all edges to the hull and deck using thickened epoxy fillets and then glassfibre cloth with epoxy resin. It will have enough watertight inspection hatches in it, that all parts of the hull can be accessed in an emergency. The remaining part of the anchor locker floor will be joined to the new bulkhead for strength and watertightness.

I’m estimating that the gap between the watertight bulkhead and the V of the hull will be about 10cm, so not a large “crash box” but better than nothing.

The inside surface will have a sheet of slippery plastic (such as we have bought for our solar panel slider). So it will act as a shute for the anchor chain which will then slide neatly to the bottom of it;s locker which will be as far aft as possible.

Where the crash bulkhead attaches to the deck will be reinforced so that a chainplate can be fitted for the removable inner forestay.

The old anchor locker hatch will then be strengthened and permanently refitted as part of the solid deck. It will become the base for the new windlass which will sit on the deck (we will make a box/seat that will cover the windlass to give some weather/water protection when it isn’t being used).

We will fit a new chain pipe to go from the windlass down through the old anchor locker. From there the chain will simply slide down using the new bulkhead as a shute.

We will provide an opening door from the forecabin into what remains of the old anchor locker as useful storage.

Then we can reconfigure the forecabin. We don’t think we will have a fixed v-berth but instead 2 foldaway single berths with the option to use the cabin for stowage or with a bench for the sewing machine and a seat.

Finally, our normal anchoring style will be to use a bridle. If you just have the chain then in wind and waves as the bow lifts it can cause the boat to snatch at the anchor, as there is no stretch in the chain. This can jerk the anchor out of the sea bed and cause it to drag. There are examples of boats ending up on the rocks just due to the waves from passing ferries because this happened.

The bridle is made from a nylon, stretchy rope. It has two lengths joined as a V. The point of the V is attached to the chain and the two ends are cleated on the boat, one each side. The chain is loosened and now the springiness of the bridal protects the anchor and boat from snatching.

By using a bridle rather than a single line for anchoring and also for mooring balls we avoid any rubbing against the stored anchor (when on a mooring) or the chain (when anchored). The bridal also helps reduce the tendency for a boat to yaw from side to side when anchored.

That means we have a 2nd bow roller that will very rarely need to be used. So one day we hope to add a removable bowsprit to use for an asymmetric spinnaker or code zero sail to improve downwind and lightwind sailing speeds (and for the spinnaker to be easier to use).

While this might sound like a lot of work it isn’t too complicated and should make a huge difference to how convenient and easy anchoring is. It will make it much easier both to anchor and to raise the anchor, plus it will also improve the reliability of anchoring. Last but not least it will help considerably with safety not just around anchoring but also in strong winds (being able to have a storm jib) and if we ever hit anything. Now that we have the expensive parts (anchor, chain and windlass came to over Β£3,000) the rest is mostly wood, epoxy and time (only exception is sorting the bow roller).

Chainplate update

In my last post (Deck repair question) I was writing about the inadequacies of our chainplate and particularly of the backing plate that have caused the only cracks in our deck.

I shared it on the Rival Association’s private FaceBook group and got some really helpful responses. It seems that chainplates are generally seen as being a bit feeble on Rivals, although I have not heard major tales of woe, more a feeling that they are out of sync with the quality and robustness of everything else.

Having looked at some of the suggestions and had a long discussion at home. That being one of the discussions where I get into trouble for using “vague” words like strong, pull and push – comes of being married to someone who trained as a Civil Engineer.

So as we look to ensuring we get no more deck cracks, definitely no falling masts and no holes in the deck this is where we are now at.

  1. We will remove, clean and inspect the bronze chainplates (really just a bolt with an eye on the top and a flange that sits on top of the deck, while the bolt goes through and has two nuts to lock together). From others who have done this and one person who destructively tested one by cutting it through in multiple places – we expect them to be sound.
  2. The hole in the deck will be drilled larger, the core checked, any damp bits removed and then filled with thickened epoxy. A replacement hole the right size will be drilled through the middle of the epoxy.
  3. We are then going to build in situ a backing plate with knees out of 10mm FR-4 (see very professional model below)

We read an excellent article on backing plates at PracticalSailor and are completely sold on using Precast Fiberglass, frequently known at G10 although the fire resistant version FR-4 seems to be more easily available for us. This is standard glassfibre cloth with an epoxy resin but is made at high pressure so is very dense. Especially when bonded to a surface with thickened epoxy (which makes it a very even joint, smoothing out any irregularities to spread loads evenly) they say it makes an excellent backing plate. Moreover they also noted that “A fiberglass-reinforced backing plate bonded to the laminate provides considerable sheer strength; if not bonded, backing plates should be seen primarily as reinforcement against tension or compression-i.e. loads that are in-line with the bolt.”

Our understanding is that a common way to have a chainplate tied to the hull (so that the deck doesn’t lift) would be a custom length of stainless steel bolted to a bulkhead (or knee) that is “tabbed” to the hull. By tabbed we typically mean first butt jointed with thickened epoxy and then layers of fibreglass with epoxy resin creating a wide bond to the hull. That is because the epoxy fillet used for the butt joint is far stronger than the small area of fibreglass hull. So the failure point would be to for it to come away along with the outermost layer of fibreglass cloth.

We don’t want to spend money on custom stainless steel to connect our bronze chainplate to a new knee (and anyway think that mixing metals is a bad idea due to potential galvanic corrosion). We also want solutions we can work with ourselves and preferably that are not too labour intensive (we want to be on the water sailing).

What we figured is that we can take advantage of the fact that FR-4 (or G10) provides good sheer, tension and compression strength if bonded to a laminate AND that you can make strong epoxy fillets to join FR-4/G10 as the material won’t delaminate.

So we can save ourselves the mess and work of using fibreglass cloth this way:

  • Drill FR-4 backing plate for chainplate bolt.
  • Bond backing plate to underside of deck with thickened epoxy.
  • Hold tightly in place with chainplate bolt (coated in vaseline so epoxy does not stick to it).
  • Use thickened epoxy to bond a similar “backing plate” to the hull just below the backing plate (if there are lumps and bumps or bolts for the hull deck joint it does not matter, choose a spot that avoids them, the two plates do not need to touch each other). Use enough epoxy to ensure an even bond despite any hull curvature. This is going to spread the load over the hull just as would normally be achieved using layers of fibreglass cloth. But with much less labour, less mess and needing less space.
  • When it is all cured, remove the chainplate bolt and refit with sealant (either butyl tape if you want to be able to remove it or sikaflex sealant if not). Leave to set before tightening fully.
  • Trim a couple of FR-4 triangles to act as “knees” connecting the hull plate and the backing plate. By doing this last you can ensure a good fit despite the fact that in boat nothing is level, flat or parallel. Then use epoxy to butt joint these in place, one at each end of the backing plate. Once held firmly you can apply neat epoxy fillets to both sides of each triangle butt joint.

For the cost of one extra FR-4 plate and some thickened epoxy for it, you should now have a the hull and deck tied together so that the chainplate bolt cannot lift the deck causing it to crack. Plus there are other advantages

  • you have avoided any possible galvanic corrosion,
  • you have avoided needing to have any custom stainless steel parts made
  • you have a technique that you can do yourself even at sea with the normal repair materials and tools you will have to hand (spare backing plates, epoxy resin and thickener, butyl tape, hand saw, sandpaper)
  • you have saved the mess and time of fibreglass work
  • the solution is compact and adaptable to tricky spaces and difficult access.

So far we think this is a great idea. Anyone want to puncture our ego’s?

Deck repair question

We have some slight cracking around one chainplate (although “chainplate” doesn’t feel the right description for what is essentially an eye bolt).

When you look at the backing plate the reason for the crack is obvious. Two stacked backing plates and one has moved.

I’m not sure why two sheets of metal were used instead of a single thicker (and preferably much larger one). But the rotation of the 2nd sheet presumably means the single sheet has bent and this caused the deck cracking.

Fixing this is clearly a critical safety issue, we don’t want to lose the mizzen mast and at the same time have a big hole in the deck.

Most of the jobs to fix this are relatively straightforward although they don’t currently have any ties down to the hull (however they are in the thick hull/deck flange area) but they are only for the mizzen so loads are not soi great. I think probably all the mainmast shrouds have a metal strap to connect the chainplate bolt to a bulkhead or strongpoint (no deck cracks for any of them anyway). So we need to:

  • remove the chainplate
  • replace the double backing plate, probably with a much larger G10 or FR4 sheet that is bonded on with thickened epoxy. I’m thinking of a big sheet that forms a single large backing plate for both these shrouds.
  • cut out the cracks with our Dremel
  • Fill the cracks, cover with gelcoat trying to colour match to the deck.

But

The cracks extend into the non slip part of the deck. This is a moulded in diamond pattern.

So what do we do? Do we try to cut a matching pattern into the new gel coat?

Then longer term, if we decide to paint the deck what do we do about nonslip areas? I’m assuming that if we simply paint it then the diamond pattern wont be effective anymore. Do we mask the diamond areas and paint those with Awlgrip or similar non slip deck paint?

We don’t have a lot of places we need to patch on the deck (8 holes to fill from the davits, diesel tank fill points, old mast wiring glands) so a repaint isn’t urgent. But the grey is looking generally a bit faded so I’m sure we will get to that point after all the functional work is completed.

Staycation Electric Motor Progress

So we are coming to the end of our staycation. Managed several walks, one food shop, one visit to the pharmacy.

Cushions

Plus Jane has made lots of progress on the cushions. She has nearly finished all the ones we have foam for. That is all the backrests for the U-shaped part of the saloon finished. Also nearly finished the cushion that goes behind the log bench on the starboard side to make the a great sea berth.

Electric Motor

Meanwhile, I’ve continued to make progress with the electric motor frame. both end frames are complete.

Front and rear motor end plates (outside faces)
Front and rear motor end plates (inside faces)

So I have been able to attach them to the motor, add the shaft, belt pulleys and belt drive (and tension it).

Motor in the frame with the belt tensioned.
Note that the back is deliberately lower as the propeller shaft is not horizontal.

Remaining motor tasks

So just a few tasks left.

While it is already very rigid (each end frame weighs about 10kg) I do want to make sure there is no twisting or other movement between the motor and the shaft).

  • so I need to cut and drill the 4 angle lengths to attach the front and back together at the corners (all but two of the bolts already fitted to the end plates)
  • add one diagonal flat bar per side.

I need to cut a keyway in the shaft to lock the large pulley to it. Then fit both pulleys with keyways.

I haven’t got the right spanner for the big bolts on the bearings yet, that will have to wait until we can get to the boat.

Once we have sorted all that we have a much larger angle length which will be for the two cross bars that rest on the engine mounts (which we have not got yet).

Of course I’ve still got to build a battery box and do all the wiring and fitting. The box for the 4 x 300AH batteries will be positioned just forward of the pulleys. As the box will drop between the original grp coated engine bearers the batteries (2 layers of 2 batteries) will end at about the same height as the motor frame.

Weight comparisons

I’ve done a quick estimate of some of the weights. I can check what we have take out more accurately later. But

Electric Motor + Frame + Batteries (1,200AH) = approx 220kg

Diesel Engine with gearbox approx = 180kg
Two huge stainless steel fuel tanks? Guess more than 80kg (will check)
All the exhaust components, fuel filters etc etc? Guess at least 30kg
Original engine bearers (not being replaced) 20kg
Full load of fuel. Guess 70 gallons which is around 220kg
Starter battery approx 30kg

Total being replaced is over 560kg

So the new Electric motor fully fuelled is 1/3 the weight of the diesel engine fully fuelled. Even compared with empty diesel tanks the electric motor system is 1/2 the weight. And that weight is all in the centre of the hull with a much lower centre of gravity than before. So our boat trim won’t vary as much.

Space gains

Beyond all the weight comparisons there is the space issue. The entire electric motor and battery bank easily fit in just the old diesel engine compartment (with space for house batteries, inverters and solar charge controllers). So we gain 1 fuel tank plus old battery box (for 4 lead acid batteries) into the cockpit locker. Plus we gain the 1 fuel tank space at the side of the corridor to the aft cabin.

And more gains

Then there is the smell! Diesel smells horrible and inevitably over 42 years there have been leaks of fuel and exhaust soot in the boat. All that is going to end up cleaned off and painted. We can already tell the difference, by the time we are finished it will be lovely πŸ™‚

The need for Active Solar power generation

With the our commitment to Zero fossil fuel sailing we have been having to review and update our initial Solar plan. Designing our Solar Arch has been part of that.

The traditional “passive” approach to solar is not going to work for us. By that I mean the idea of putting up a few solar panels and forgetting about them. We need to generate far more electricity from solar than this approach achieves.

So what do I mean by “Active Solar power generation”. Unlike shore based like people living on boats are used to being proactive about energy use and supply. So the mindset includes managing consumption and keeping an eye on battery state. However, for a long time this has been done with the expectation that you can always charge the batteries by running the diesel engine or a generator or by going into a marina and using the shore supply.

We are making a determined effort to keep electric consumption down through a number of deliberate choices:

  • Wind vane self steering, keeping the electric autopilot only for redundancy
  • No freezer. Yup it does constrain the food you can take and keep but fridge and freezer are huge electrical power hogs.
  • Reduced Computer consumption. We are going to be minimising laptop use by having Raspberry Pi single board computers for navigation, entertainment and “office work”. They run on 12 volt.

However, by committing to Zero fossil fuels we are increasing our electric consumption significantly and reducing our energy sources.

Increased consumption:

  • Electric Motor. This uses a lot of energy and is the opposite to the norm. When we motor we will be drawing lots of energy from our batteries rather than putting it in. While we will have regen (charging the batteries when the propeller spins while you are sailing) the change is incredibly significant as the norm is to see the diesel engine as a provider of almost unlimited “free” electricity and hot water. Of course it isn’t free at all, but more a desirable side effect that has resulted in a significant increase in the number of hours the engine is used. So has become a norm to motor whenever the wind speed drops because at the same time you will charge the batteries and heat the water.
  • Electric cooking. All forms of electric cooking (Induction hobs, Microwave, Pressure Cooker) use a lot of power (although mostly for a relatively short time). The norm is to burn bottled gas (occasionally diesel or paraffin). By cutting out another fossil fuel we increase our electric consumption.
  • Dinghy Outboard. We have an electric dinghy outboard engine. So far the boats we have seen with electric motors (Sailing Uma, Beau and Brandy) have not switched to electric outboards (despite the hours they spend maintaining their petrol outboards). In part that is because they want to be able to go faster in the dinghy (see this video from Sailing Atticus for a good reason for this) but it is also about the need to charge the outboard engine battery.

Increased generation

So this is the heart of the challenge. By committing to no fossil fuels all our energy needs to come from renewable sources. We have three options:

  • Engine regen. We are hoping this is going to be significant for us. On longer passages it will do more than recharge the motor batteries from leaving harbour but will contribute something to the daily consumption. It also has the potential to provide power through the night. However, it is only available while sailing and only while you are sailing fast enough (probably won’t contribute much below 5 knots). As liveaboard cruisers typically spend the vast bulk of their time at anchor the contribution isn’t that great.
  • Wind generators. These have the significant advantage of potentially providing significant power at night and through the winter. However, there are problems. Many people complain about the noise and vibration. Fitting them without causing shading on solar panels is a challenge. They do require a lot of wind, probably more than you would normally be looking for in a sheltered anchorage. We’ve looked at the Rutland 1200 but at the moment feel the cost and installation challenges are too great.
  • Solar. The typical installation of solar has been changing quite significantly. For liveaboard cruisers the norm now seems to be to have a solar arch with between 300 and 600 watts of solar panels. That is enough for minimal electric motor use (see Sailing Uma, Beau and Brandy or Rigging Doctor) but not for electric cooking, electric outboard etc.

So Active Solar

This is where our plan differs. We are going to have to be far more active about our solar generation. That means a number of things.

Our solar arch needs to be tiltable to increase it’s efficiency (both Sailing Uma and Beau & Brandy do this but the vast majority of solar arches do not).

When sailing we will need to be active in adjusting our solar generation. Some panel positions will be pretty much setup and forget (such as covering the upturned dinghy on the foredeck with panels before leaving harbour). Others will only be possible in lighter conditions (some along the guardrails for example).

The goal will be to have enough permanent solar when sailing (solar arch and wheelhouse = 510 watts) so that with the regen and battery bank we will be able to get through a gale when we have to put all the other panels below. That shouldn’t be too hard as in those conditions you are not likely to be doing much cooking and you can put off charging the dinghy outboard.

When conditions improve we should be able to sail in light to moderate with an additional 1,050 watts (2 x 175 watts on the dinghy, 4 x 175 watts on the guardrails from the cockpit to the stern. Some of this is going to suffer from massive shading at times so we are assuming it will be about 1/2 as efficient as the solar arch.

Then at anchor we need to have lots of solar panels that come out and are positioned dynamically. We will need to have solar panels positioned above the mizzen boom, around most of the guardrails and possibly above the deck. How many of these we will need is still uncertain (it depends so much on where we sail – if Coronavirus and Brexit mean we have too stay around the UK then we are going to need a lot more solar in Scotland than the Caribbean).

So far we are planning on a total of around 2,400 watts (13 x 175W + 4 x 40W) which so far I have only heard of on large catamarans.

We will need to be active in working with these panels. We will need to adjust the tilt during the day so that as the sun and boat move their efficiency is kept as high as possible. We will need to move them if other boats come alongside or if we are in a marina. We will need to put a lot of them below when sailing.

So I’m going to be building a standardised wooden surround for each panel. This will provide attachment points so that any panel can be fitted to any section of guardrail (and be tilt adjustable) or to the supports above the boom and dinghy. The edging will provide bump protection when moving them around and allow panels to be stacked without scratching the glass. We have chosen the 175W Victron panels as our standard because they are about as large as we can lift, manoeuvrer around the boat and fit through the main hatch into the cabin.

Exactly, where we will store all the panels that need to be “reefed” (taken down) in a gale is currently not fully sorted. Some might go on the aft deck or aft cabin. Some in the corridor to the aft cabin where one of the diesel tanks was. Some in the forecabin (which is likely to be mostly storage when there are only 2 of us).

We are under no illusions that we can achieve zero fossil fuel without ongoing, daily labour to maximise solar generation. But while that might seem a lot of work remember that we won’t spend any time (or money) finding and visiting fuel docks or carrying jerrycans around in the dinghy.

In summary

We believe we can capture several orders of magnitude more solar power than is generally the norm for monohull cruising yachts. But it will require us to work at it every day.

Motor frame ends fit

Progress on the Electric motor frame is very visible now. We have both end plates finished enough to fit them (loosely) to the motor and put the propeller extension shaft in.

As the pulley on the propeller extension shaft extends below the frame I tipped the whole thing on it’s side to check that it fits.

Now just to add the angle lengths around the edges of the end panels, the angle lengths to connect the front and back plates and then the diagonals for rigidity. But that can wait for another day πŸ™‚