First boat stay in 2022

We arrived yesterday evening and are here for a couple of nights. It is very cold! Snow in Manchester before we came, snow visible on the Snowdonia range. So, too cold to do any epoxy work. Fortunately, the two panel heaters and two fan heaters can keep the cabin nice and warm.

Instead of working on the starboard backing plates for our main mast dyneema chainplates , we have recorded video footage describing our latest idea for external dyneema chainplates. Could be a great option for lots of older boats who are switching to dyneema rigging and want to avoid expensive fittings or who are concerned about their metal chainplates.

We also recorded progress on redesigning the bilge under our saloon for battery storage, water tank and for the first time some thinking about lightening protection. That involved taking the main companionway steps down, wasn’t as bad as I feared. We now have our batteries stored much better in approximately the right place.

We have also done some more detailed planning for the galley stowage and space for the fridge.

The weather is expected to be wet, windy and cold in the morning so we have some jobs planning work on everything in the motor room.

Coming up next week will be big news about our transport for getting to and from the boatyard.

All very exhausting 🙂 so an early night is next!

The end of our saloon or end of half term or both?

We ended with a day of better weather and real progress.

We were able to test the bow roller with the anchor despite not having been able to do any outside epoxy work all week.

Our 30kg Spade anchor fitted nicely.

And the remodelling of the saloon went through a further destructive stage.

In the process we have made progress towards a new layout with slightly reduced seating in return for a better guest double bed; a much larger galley, more comfortable seating and a better table position when there are only two of us; more storage space and considerably more structural strength.

At least that is what we are hoping to create. Stay tuned to see if we can achieve all this!

Mixed bag progress

Today was definitely another no outside jobs day. So we went to Aldi in the morning and got soaked as we came out.

In the afternoon we worked on different things.

Dyneema Chainplates

Jane started learning Dyneema splicing and after a practice, she produced our first real Mizzen chainplate:

This works in this way. The knot stays below the backing plate. The eye (with the low friction ring removed) goes up through a hole in the backing plate and the deck above it, to emerge above the deck. The hole is, of course, lined with epoxy and will have been sanded and rounded off so it is very smooth. The low friction ring is then put back into the loop. This is now your chainplate. Our shrouds will end with another low friction ring and they will be attached to the chainplate with a dyneema lashing. This lashing will be used to tension the shroud (and take out any creep).

Once the chainplate is fitted we have two issues to address. One is protecting the Dyneema from damage and the second is to stop water running into the hole and wicking down the dyneema so that it drips into the cabin.

First we need to stop the dyneema chainplate from being damaged. There are three main ways damage is likely:

  • dirt washing into the hole in the deck and cutting into the Dyneema.
  • ropes rubbing against the Dyneema where it is visible above the deck and causing chafe.
  • Sunlight causing UV damage which weakens the dyneema.

We have a two part solution to protect against all these forms of damage.

On the deck we fix a “mushroom” around the hole, with the hole extending through the middle of the mushroom. This stops water running down the deck going into the hole. Then we have a Sunbrella fabric sleeve that fits around the chainplate and lashing. At the bottom this is drawn tight around the base of the mushroom, at the top it is a close fit around the shroud above the lashing. The fabric stops larger waves getting into the hole and reduces the amount of water that will wick all the way down. It also protects the lashing and chainplate from UV and chafe.

Below deck we create a simple watertight “box” around the knot. This catches any water that wicks all the way down and can be easily removed to empty it and inspect the dyneema chainplate knot.

The whole chainplate can be removed for inspection by taking off the fabric sleeve, slackening the lashing and pulling out the chainplate from below. With a 2.5m dyneema line and a few minutes work we can make a replacement which can be fitted anywhere in the world, even at sea.

Navigation destruction

Meanwhile, I tackled removing the plywood soffit from the underside of the deck above the navigation table. The vinyl headlining had fallen off this very early on due to being very wet from the window above leaking. As expected the hidden side of this plywood showed a lot of water damage.

Then I removed the vinyl from the side of the hull and cut out the plywood that it was stuck to. This was much thicker than the plywood lining has been elsewhere, presumably to provide a good surface to fit instruments to. Now we can reach the bolts for the genoa track and for the gate stanchions – both hidden and unchecked for 44 years.

As you can see the actual chart table has significant water damage. Long term our plan is to remove the whole chart table. We will do on passage navigation and pilotage from the wheelhouse (which we will be able to pretty much fully enclose) so the chart table won’t be needed.

Overall, quite a bit of rubbish removed from the boat:

We haven’t fully decided what to put in this space. The current favourite idea is a comfy forward facing chair with small desk. It should be comfortable to sit in when sailing and also suitable as a quiet place to sit and do computer work. We will wait to see if we do want to fit a Refleks diesel heater, if so then that will go alongside the desk.

We have realised that we can simplify our galley if we can use the electric “Instant Pot” (actually a KingPro branded version) in the current navigation area. At the moment it can just sit on the navigation table (as can an electric filter coffee machine). However, eventually we want a gimballed shelf that we can put up over the desk whenever we want to use one of these appliances at sea. This means that our galley can have a permanent gimballed shelf for the microwave and for one of the induction hobs which is a lot simpler than our original plan.

So we ended up quite happy with today’s progress. Hopefully better weather tomorrow so we can make easier progress.

Wet day planning

Today (Saturday) was forecast to be heavy rain all day. So we started with a duvet morning which was very welcome. After lunch we did a shopping trip to Aldi.

Then the only practical progress was to improve the double (pullman style) bed in the aft cabin. So the bed base now has fewer gaps and is fully secured (I do need to sort out simpler access to steering without taking up huge boards which would be difficult in any kind of rough sea). The edge board to the seat is now much higher which hopefully will stop it trying to escape over the top. Now that the layout is fixed (and working really well) we also adjusted the mesh that is under the mattress (stops condensation/mould) to fit properly.

Then more planning of what jobs to do next.

The sizing and availability of bolts is a constant challenge. When we are changing things we are rarely able (or want) to reuse 44 year old bolts for critical tasks.

The latest issue are the bolts to attach the bow roller. Three bolts have captive nuts in the bow and these will have to remain imperial (5/16ths). The two big bolts down into the anchor locker were 1/2″ diameter and 4.5″ long with a weird half countersink, half hexagon head). I can’t get either 1/2″ or 14mm long enough in A4 stainless steel. So I think I’ll have to get Keith to drill and countersink them for 16mm bolts. Then two more smaller bolts which go through the stem, still to size these.

We have ordered another nice upgrade. New acrylic washboards and hatch top to match our other windows (and wheelhouse rooflight). The hatchtop is hinged (no space for a forward sliding hatch) and at the moment has a middle hinge that leaks if we have rain blowing in from behind. Also the thumblock to hold the top up is a pain to use (literally if you don’t tighten it and the hatch falls on your head while climbing in or out). The wood is all in poor condition.

We have ordered from Hadlow Marine again. The new top is one piece and will have a gas strut. We will have 2 instead of 3 washboards. I’m sorting out a new locking bar which should be simple, safe and secure.

Besides the two major jobs when we have good weather (masts and foredeck) I also have a few jobs inside. Adjustments to the starboard settee back as it is too high. Shelf in the galley. Test install batteries and design/build boxes. Refit floorboards without any creaks.

We have decided to create little wooden boxes for the inside of the chainplate loops (where there is a large dyneema knot under the backing plate) to catch drips and allow inspection/replacement. But that can be done indoors which is why the mast and foredeck work take priority as we need dry weather suitable for curing epoxy.

That’s it for now, looking forward to big and visible progress over the next few days.

House Battery Bank: Should we go 48 Volt?

While we wrote Going 100% electric: the “house” after Going 100% electric: the Motor we had in fact made most of the decisions around the house electrical system before we made the decision that we would go straight to an electric motor instead of the diesel.

Now we are thinking about making a change. The things prompting us to consider a change include:

  • The high cost of 48 volt battery chargers. We do need the option of charging our battery bank when in a marina or harbour (or even ashore in the boatyard). We can imagine spending sometime alongside in winter or even popping every so often just to get the batteries fully charged (the expectation of needing to live in colder climates in Winter is influenced by both Covid and Brexit which might limit our options for where we spend our time).
  • We think our house battery bank has ended up a bit small (4 x 120AH) and so are going to be needing to charge it from the Motor bank (4 x 300AH) quite often.
  • Having two battery banks at different voltages ends up creating quite a lot of extra complication.
  • With one exception (the anchor windlass) we have realised that our 12 volt usage is relatively low (LED lighting, boat instruments, water pumps).
  • While we have specified really thick cabling with big busbars and fuses, it is challenging to power 2 x 2,000 watt inverters from a 12 volt battery bank. The current that we need to safely pass is huge and this is where the vast majority of our house consumption will be (induction hobs, microwave, multi-cooker, watermaker, water heater).
  • We didn’t understand enough about how you can power 12 volt systems from a 48 volt battery bank. We thought they were too inefficient but have now realised that we either incur that inefficiency when charging a 12 volt battery bank from the 48 volt bank for all house uses OR when using a 12 volt house appliance (but not a mains powered item from a 48 volt inverter). The total losses are much smaller if we incur them only as we need the 12 volt power rather than to keep a whole batery bank charged.
  • We deliberately chose 4 batteries for the house bank that had enough output so they could be re-wired to be a 48 volt battery bank for the motor if the main bank failed. However, it would take ages to do. So a bigger 48 volt bank with two sets of 4 batteries wired in series and then the sets connected in parallel gives immediate access.

So a little maths about the issue with power over 12v cables.

P = power in watts (W)
V = voltage in volts (V)
I = current in amps (A)

Power = Current x Voltage or P = I x V

Switching it around we have I = P / V
So 4,000 watts from 12 volts = 4,000 / 12 = 333 Amps
Whereas on a 48 volt system we have 83 Amps

More amps = thicker cables and lots of care to avoid melting connections or high losses.

The disadvantages of changing from a 12 volt hour battery bank

Our current thinking

  • As we install them, we will configure all 8 batteries as a single 48 volt battery bank. This is pretty straightforward.
  • We will sell our unused 2 x 2,000 watt Victron Phoenix inverters (get in touch if you are interested).
  • We will use our Victron Orion 48 volt DC to 12 volt DC converter to power all our 12 volt appliances. We can always add extra Orion’s to run together if we need more power (eg for the electric auto-pilot)
  • It would be very expensive to add enough Orion’s to provide all the 1,500 watts at 12 volts for the windlass. So we will add a 12 volt battery close to the windlass. When the windlass isn’t being used we can charge the battery through the standard 12 volt system.
  • We will add 2 x 48 volt 3,000 watt Victon Multi-plus charger/inverters (2 of them to provide redundancy, we can run appliances with some limitations off one of them).

The Multi-plus inverters are smart. They provide mains power to the boat circuit and they automatically take that power from a shore power connection or if that isn’t available from the battery bank. When connected to shore power they automatically charge the battery bank. Two of them can put a total 70 amps into the battery bank.

We will have a 48 Volt battery bank with a total capacity of 1,680 AH (4 x 300 plus 4 x 120). Suppose we arrive at a marina with it fully depleted (ie down to 10% charge). That means we need to put in 90% of 1,680Ah which is 1,512 AH. At 70 Amps charging we are talking about 21 hours to fully recharge the battery bank (realistically we would expect many marinas to be limited to either 16A or 32A supplies so this will be a lot slower). Gradually we would expect marinas to upgrade their electric supply as the number of electric boats increases.

While there are costs to this change it does simplify a number of things, particularly with cabling and charging. All our charging goes into the one battery bank without having to switch solar panels between banks or do inefficient bank to bank charging.

It gives us much simpler use of the battery capacity as we can choose how we allocate the available power between house and motor. For example if we are not going anywhere and expect some sunny days in a while we can use all the capacity for the house. Or if we are motoring up a river to a marina all the house capacity is available for the motor.

In the long term we would expect more boat appliances to be available in 48 volt versions which will gradually reduce the need for DC to DC converters.

We haven’t made a final decision on this yet, but it does look like we are heading this way at the moment.

The relationship between Convenience and Sustainability

I’ve been thinking about the relationship between these two concepts. Unfortunately, in my view, both concepts have been manipulated by unscrupulous businesses so that they have been undermined. Recently I saw an ad for composting coffee pods that drove that home for me. Coffee Pods have long been marketed as the most convenient way to get real coffee, but sustainable they are not!

The convenience of just dropping a pod into a machine is hard to deny and they have proved popular in homes, offices and conference rooms. However, they demonstrate three really common problems with buying convenience.

  • Price: A lower purchase price for the machine might seem attractive but just as with Inkjet Printers the real cost (and profit for the manufacturers) is in the consumables. I’ve looked at a number of articles and the cost comparison per “espresso” of buying pods is given as between 2.5 and 10 times more than buying roasted beans. Selling something as “Convenient”, almost without exception, means paying more for it.
  • Quality: I have limited experience of pod coffee. A few friends have had them and several places I’ve been for meetings. I’ve tended to prefer the “Mocha” pods as I’ve generally found the plain coffee pods rather bitter to drink black. They seem to attract opinions at both extremes from brilliant to terrible which makes it hard evaluate. Generally it seems to be accepted that the quality is lower than a reasonable automated espresso machine and considerably lower than a crafted espresso. However, it also seems that many people are completely satisfied with the quality.
  • Sustainability: It is very, very hard to say anything positive about using a disposable pod, even if it is compostable. Packaging such a small quantity is always going to be wasteful at every stage of the journey.

Other attempts are being made to improve the sustainability of pods including reusable metal pods. These do impact the taste (a metal filter changes the taste) and they are a lot less convenient (so even worse coffee that isn’t convenient).

This very negative view of convenience works over many different products that have been developed as and sold as “convenient”. However, I want to suggest that it does not need to be true of all moves towards convenience.

My thinking is that for something to be both convenient and sustainable it will need to be developed in a different way. This will affect

  • the leadership: doing more thinking and planning for yourself so the convenience is very customised to your situation
  • the community: solutions developed by and for a community are likely to be more sustainable (not motivated by profit) and more convenient (because they scratch an itch the community finds).
  • the lifespan: something that lasts and can be adapted overtime tends to increase sustainability. By adapting to circumstances it remains convenient.

So sustainable convenience (for me) implies creative work as a community over an extended period of time. An area that I have experience this in over the last couple of decades is Free Software, particularly everything related to Linux. My first encounters and work in free software communities dates back to the late 1980’s (tools for a software development package called Dataflex). Within 6 months of starting our own software business in 1998 we moved all our servers and development computers to Linux. I’ve used Linux exclusively on servers, desktops and laptops ever since. In that time I have contributed (in small ways) to a dozen or so projects and released our own software as free software. Successful free software can be widely used for decades and in that time can make money for multiple individuals and companies while also being great value and game changing for users. As the code never gets lost it can resurface and be repurposed in new ways throughout it’s life.

Applying this in other areas is tougher.

However, there have been many communities supporting each other over the years and more forming around YouTube channels, social media and blogs. We see sharing of ideas, tools and loads of practical help.

Otherwise, I think there is a lot that can be done to subvert the “system”. As one example we think our ideas on Laundry subvert the selling of electric washing machines for boats as essential conveniences while avoiding the issue of microplastics with handwashing. We hope that we can share many other experiences of practices that really make life more convenient without them being sold as “convenient” (Multi-Cookers on boats for stews etc as a safe, quick and energy efficient are one for us). We can find new conveniences (not needing to buy or carry diesel or petrol or gas) that are missed by the profit seeking companies.

To end. We suggest that the quality of life that is possible sustainably is far greater than the quality of life provided by the conveniences needed to allow you to burn up yourself and the planet unsustainably.

More safety from moving to fossil fuel free Sailing

In my post Safe, Sustainable Coffee for sailing? I made the point that using an electric filter coffee machine is safer because you do not have to pour boiling water. Especially you do not have to pour boiling water onto a tower of things resting on each other (eg V60 filter holder balanced on a mug).

What I didn’t emphasise is that this safety aspect is only possible (or at least far easier) with a switch away from fossil fuels. Many yachts are now fitting small inverters to use small mains electric gadgets. However, unless you design a higher capacity system in terms of renewable generation, batteries, wiring, inverters etc and implement it with gimbled surfaces for extra devices you are not going to be able to make the switch to an electric filter coffee machine (unless you run your engine to recharge your batteries a lot).

Unfortunately, there are few good options for making coffee without mains electrical appliances. A moka pot is probably the only option, but you don’t see many people using them with pan clamps to hold them securely on a hob at sea (and very often see them perched quite precariously on pan supports that are designed for much larger pans. Anyway they are not preference for coffee when sailing, I want a longer drink to provide warmth and comfort rather than a quick shot.

The same comes to other cooking options. An electric multi-cooker (on a gimbled tray) seems a lot safer option for cooking a stew or soup at sea (well most one pot meals) than either a pan or a stovetop pressure cooker. The advantages include:

  • they cook at a lower pressure/temperature than a traditional stovetop pressure cooker.
  • there are fewer exposed hot things to touch and handle. An advantage when cooking is done but it also means that unlike a stovetop pressure cooker or pan it can be held down in place not just clamped to avoid sliding. So should be safer in more violent motions.
  • Unlike most pans they have a securely fitted lid and don’t need to be stirred while cooking. Reduces the chance of hot food going flying around the cabin (several examples from the Vendee Globe this year).

While we don’t plan to fill the boat with lots of electric devices for cooking, these two seem to us to have significant safety benefits that have not been widely recognised. The main safety concerns that have been addressed in past regulations mainly relate to gas explosions or burning fuel.

Safe, Sustainable Coffee for sailing?

Planning for live aboard cruising on a sailing boat presents particular challenges for one of the highlights of the day – especially if you are aiming for a sustainable life. Almost everything about the environment of sailing makes coffee a challenge, particularly: Availability, Space, Power, and Safety. Clearly we need to get this sorted because otherwise I’m not fit to be around anyone else 😉

As for our expectations. I love coffee and drink a lot, Jane much less. Although we have both worked in a Café which did include barista work we are by no means coffee snobs, so we don’t have the highest standards or expertise 🙂

At home we do have a big commercial grinder (thanks to some lovely friends). We buy our coffee in bulk from TankCoffee, so get away with keeping longer than ideal to benefit from bulk buying prices by starting with great quality beans. We mostly use a Melitta Look IV Therm Timer Filter Coffee Machine. I guess that illustrates what we look for, so no hotplate (spoils the coffee) but also no manual control of temperature and no sophisticated brew cycle that includes a bloom phase.

At the moment we use a very simple plastic holder for filter paper on the boat (we take coffee we have ground at home). When camping I’ve typically used an AeroPress with a cheap Porlex hand grinder (oh look there is now an improved version II and much higher prices).

If we were to want to make Espresso coffee we would really need to have rather fresher beans than we get away with at the moment.

This video from the amazing James Hoffmann: Coffee, Climate Change & Extinction: A conversation with Dr Aaron Davis at Kew was interesting and highlights some of the challenges to coffee for the long term, meanwhile all we do, so far, is try to buy the most ethical coffee with the least big corporations involved as we can.

Availability: Getting hold of coffee and keeping it presents challenges when you are crossing oceans or cruising in remote areas.

Space: A 38 foot boat, particularly an older design has very limited storage which of course challenges high coffee standards in two key ways:
a) shortage of dry places that keep a nice even temperature for storing the coffee
b) a very small galley without much counter or cupboard space.
So that rules out a lot of coffee appliances.

Power: By sailing yacht standards we do have lots of mains electric power but the capacity is limited. That again puts constraints on the number of electric appliances.

Safety: In this video from Ryan and Sophie the dangers of making coffee on a boat were dramatically illustrated.

Our Coffee Plan

Everyone needs a coffee plan! Running out of coffee would be a very serious situation, and I don’t think the RNLI are ready to help us in this kind of emergency. So this is where we are at.

Initially we plan to stick to buying roasted beans in bulk and grinding them as needed. We should be able to carry enough for 6 months at a time without too much difficulty (we currently use between 1 and 1.5kg a month). For us that is a reasonable sweet spot between long storage between shops, quality and price. Hopefully we can buy in beans in decent quantities in most cities – one city every 6 months sounds reasonable 😉 I admit I’m interested in exploring roasting our own beans in the future. Green Beans potentially last a lot longer (up to a year). Maybe we can fund our retirement by roasting coffee to order for the cruising community 😉

When sailing I’m concerned that we avoid any of the (many) ways of making coffee that involve pouring boiling water or unsealed containers with boiling water in them, or free standing stacks of items that hot liquids are moving though. So that rules out all manual forms of coffee filtering, the AeroPress, French Presses and lots of others.

So it looks like a simple filter coffee machine, like we already have, where you add cold water and it puts the hot coffee straight into a non spill, unbreakable thermos flask. Our plan is to have a gimbled tray which can be used for any appliance (induction hob, coffee machine, multi-cooker) so it should be safe to make coffee when heeled or in waves.

If we add one of the higher quality, higher capacity hand grinders (needs less space, less power), then we should be good to go. These can grind to suit Espresso as well as filter machines.

We already have a number of basic thermos style travel mugs which are definitely more suited to a moving boat and drinking outside.

When it comes to making fancier coffees for use at anchor we can look at one of the manual Espresso machines such as a Flair (no power needs and they fold away for storage). There are also an increasing number of ways to froth milk without the steam wand from an Espresso machine.

I’m sure we will also carry an AeroPress as a reliable backup if the filter machine breaks, just a lot of caveats about safety if using at sea.

I’m not interested in a any of the Pod machines (Nespresso etc), while re-usable pods are now available I’ve not heard good things about the drinks they make. Anyway as I prefer a longer drink (such as a long black) you would have to add hot water to the drink.

Holiday progress day 13: yes more cockpit work

We are getting very close with the cockpit after today.

The epoxy work for the aft cockpit drains is nearly finished. After drying overnight we should have just a few little bits to fill with thickened epoxy to make sure that the lower lip if fully sealed (where it tucks under the old grp lip and flange).

With the lip bits are now fixed in place (to both the cockpit floor and to the drain area) and the area around the white skin fitting filled with epoxy so there should be nowhere for water to collect.

As you may be able to see our resin has gone a bit jelly like and so isn’t mixing as smooth as it was (don’t know if this is shelf-life or temperature or what). We are nearly at the end of a big bottle, so as it seems to still set hard we will use it up on areas where the finish isn’t too important (and hopefully ones not critical to safety).

I have managed to get both of the old drains out ready for new TruDesign skin fittings.

If we can’t finish them this holiday we will simply seal them up for the moment.

We also had a big delivery of shiny bits today (sadly FedEx left only parcel 1 of 2 so not everything).

Here is the PSS Pro dripless seal and the refurbished bronze flange it will fit to.

Here is the Aquadrive (thrust bearing and CVT that allows for the motor to be on a different alignment to the propeller shaft).

Then we have our motor mounts.

This evening we had a really nice socially distanced BBQ on the beach with the members of the NWVYC we cheated slightly as we don’t have a BBQ. So we ran a power extension cable from the boat and setup our Induction Hob on our workmate 🙂 It was very effective 🙂 Anyway it was lovely to see people and chat about boat refits (and other topics were permitted).

Hoping dry weather continues so we can get the cockpit watertight.