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.

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.

Capacity

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 3: being comfortable in a boatyard

First, some good news. All the epoxy work filling the holes yesterday worked better than we dared hope. Everything has hardened nicely, very little slumping. Going to be straightforward to put the fibreglass cloth on both the inside and outside.

As the forecast was for heavy rain from about 11am and as we felt we needed recovery time from yesterday we took today off boat jobs.

So this morning we went for a walk in a part of Anglesey we haven’t been before, apart from some tiny showers the rain held off and we went further than we planned. Absolutely beautiful area of sand dunes.

Then a quick visit to Toolstation in Bangor to collect some more holesaws (finding ones the right sizes for things seems to be an ongoing battle – this time I need a 60mm for the new cockpit drain seacocks).

Then a late lunch of eggy bread 🙂 Although we might have had to eat up some scones with Jam first to keep us going. To keep up the rest and recovery theme an afternoon nap was essential 😉

This evening we had an Aduki bean bake that we had brought from home, first time we have used out combination microwave on oven setting.

All very nice and we have sat in our saloon watching sailing YouTube channels, playing games and doing cross stitch (yeah that last one was Jane only). Meanwhile the wind has changed direction by 180 degrees and it has started to rain.

All this got us thinking about what makes a boat a comfortable space to spend time on in a boatyard. We’ve watched lots of YouTube videos of people in boatyards and so many of them find it an uncomfortable/stressful place to be. We don’t find that, even with all the jobs to do our boat very much is our own home. So what is the difference?

Climate: A lot of YouTube channels are doing boat work in very hot climates and doing dusty jobs in a lot of heat is unpleasant. North Wales isn’t that 🙂 and that is a good thing. We have found our two electric wall panel heaters, occasionally boosted with a fan heater and supported by a thick duvet have meant we have been comfortable here all year round. So an electric supply is really important.

Sleeping cabin: Having our aft cabin well separated from the saloon really helps with comfort, we can have a permanent bed and it isn’t affected by many of the jobs. One of us can be asleep while the other is active in the saloon and we don’t get disturbed.

Ladder: Obviously this is more difficult when you are not in your home boatyard but a really good ladder makes such a difference to your comfort. You will need to carry lots of stuff up and down. You will be using it in the dark and in the rain. It amazes me the ramshackle things that people use despite keeping their boat close to home and in the same boatyard every year. We have an aluminium double extending ladder, we have had it for around 30 years. We don’t have to extend it for Vida so every step is a double tread. We have a dedicated line for tying it on securely, a cloth to protect the side of the boat and we lock it up with a u-lock. All basic stuff but it makes life much easier.

Composting Toilet: A huge comfort advantage is a comfy composting toilet. No need to get dressed, go out in the rain and dark to boatyard or clubhouse toilets. Can go several days without needing to empty anything (with two urine containers we are basically good for a week). We get a toilet we can use that doesn’t smell compared to the boats with a sea toilet and holding tank who get the smell without the use.

Bucket sink drain: Ok in one sense so we only have this because we haven’t finished the plumbing yet. But our galley sink drains into a standard B&Q plastic bucket. It is easy to take outside and empty so we can use the sinks as normal.

Bike bottle taps: Ok so again we don’t have plumbing yet. But also, like many others our boatyard doesn’t have much water supply (one tap in our half of the yard and you need tokens to get water). So we are reusing 2 litre water bottles (easy to carry up ladders as they are not heavy) and during COVID we can bring water from home to save using shared facilities. Instead of a tap we use a cycling water bottle, leave the nozzle open, tip up and squeeze.

Solid wheelhouse: the combination of a centre cockpit (which is why we have that great aft cabin) and a wheelhouse with solid roof and glass windscreen is great. We have a removable heavy canvas back (and this is going to be much improved with some zips for easier access). It means we have a dry space to store stuff for projects without cluttering the cabin. It means whatever the weather we can have the main hatch open for ventilation if we want, we can get in and out without hanging around in the rain. When arriving or leaving it acts as a convenient dry staging post for all our bags (pass them all out to the cockpit, then pass them all down – saves a lot of climbing).

Electric cooking: We are using a single induction hob, a combination microwave (microwave, grill and oven) and electric multi-cooker (mostly used as an electric pressure cooker. We get far less moisture in the air than cooking with calor gas, it doesn’t require bottles to be changed (and taps to be turned off for safety), it is much faster to cook with.

Windows and hatches that don’t leak: We are in North Wales after all 🙂

What would I change/improve? Well, given that we are still in the middle of a full refit there are lots of things still on the jobs list. For living in the boat yard the ones I’m looking forward to are:

  • Zipper access through the wheelhouse rear cover
  • Doing the wiring so that we have permanently fitted lights (we have camping LED strip lights, they work but we are going to have better)
  • sort out the creaking floor boards
  • properly fit the insulation and headlining in our sleeping cabin before winter.

Holiday progress day 1

We like cheating how long a holiday feels by being able to leave the evening before. So I was working on Sunday but we were able to leave by 7pm. We were fortunate to beat the rain and get the van basically unpacked (food, clothing) and carried onto the boat before the rain arrived.

So we were able to start our holiday this morning with a nice long lie in, instead of having to drive and unpack here.

It rained pretty constantly until about 3pm but only showers since. So not worth starting on the outside jobs on the hull.

Instead we tackled some of the jobs in the corridor to the aft cabin.

We have cut away the remains of a fuel tank support, removed the last the the old bulkhead to the engine compartment, then we have cleaned and sanded it. This has given access to the outside edge of the starboard engine bearer which had acted as a dirt trap. We have scrubbed it and left it soaking with some bilge cleaner.

I’ve also put some temporary supports under the floor bearers.

So this is nearly ready for painting. Meanwhile the corridor floor is now screwed down so much quieter walking to our cabin.

It does make it clear that we are going to gain quite a lot of floor width in the corridor which will make the route to the aft cabin a lot more pleasant, especially when the boat is heeled over.

So we have now had our meal. As this photo shows we fall a long way short of trendy 🙂

Was too hungry to take a picture before eating 🙂 We had jacket sweet potato with cauliflower, falafel and a tomato sauce. Followed by scones and blackcurrant jam. With a glass of red wine.

Think we will now take advantage of a gap in the rain to go for a short walk.

Cabin Refurbishment: Part 4 Layout

Continuing from Cabin Refurbishment: Part 3 Interior Theme and Style

Plans so far (layout and technical)

We really love the overall layout of Vida with the small, safe, protected centre cockpit that allows for an aft cabin accessible from the main cabin and two heads compartments.

However, there are a number of ways we want to tweak the layout, for long term live-aboard cruising. A lot of these tweaks come from the benefits of switching to zero fossil fuels, we gain useable space in a number of places. For example:

  • Our cockpit locker now has more that twice the volume (removed diesel fuel tank, paraffin heater and tank, 4 x 12volt battery, water heater, water pump, fridge compressor)
  • We have gained an aft lazarette that used to be mostly filled by the gas bottles.
  • The corridor to the aft cabin is now wider on both sides (electric motor is smaller and doesn’t need the same sound and fire protection; diesel fuel tank removed)
  • The heads compartments don’t have to leave space for and access to 3 seacocks each, we are having much smaller wash basins too (although we are adding small waste water tanks and the composting toilets are a bit larger).

The original layout was rather “optimised” to sell the idea that you could have 8 berths (2 aft cabin, 2 forecabin, double using the saloon U-settee and infill, starboard settee with pilot berth above) and have all 8 sit around the table for a meal.

However, there was never going to be enough space for 8 people’s belongings (especially if they wanted you to have some food for them). Sitting 8 around the table would mean constant climbing over each other for access.

Our plan is to optimise for us as a couple living aboard with the capacity to have two guests for extended periods. In harbour we would use the aft and forecabins for sleeping, each with en-suite heads. Neither of these cabins is suited to use at sea, there the most comfortable place to sleep is a single bunk, in the middle of the boat, with a good lee cloth to stop you falling out. So we are planning for a minimum of one person on watch and so will need 3 sea berths.

That would give us the potential to have a few extra guests, for shorter visits, when in harbour or for shorter passages in good weather.

So here are some of the ideas we have at present.

We have already shared our ideas to remodel the aft cabin to make better use of the space, improving the way into the aft heads, providing a comfortable seat and easier climbing onto the bed, plus better insulation and more practical storage. We have now realised we can grab a little more space from the engine compartment from what was used to avoid siphoning with the exhaust.

I recently wrote about our plans for extending the galley. We plan for a under counter front opening fridge (where the gas oven used to be), for a microwave combo oven above and back from the induction hob. The induction hob to be gimbled but with the option to swap it for the Instant Pot or coffee machine so they can be used gimbled instead. In harbour we will be able to bring out the spare induction hob for more adventurous cooking (we think that having two individual induction hobs is a much better option than a one double hob).

We are pretty sure we want to change the chart table area quite a lot. Part of the goal will be to make the corridor to the aft cabin a bit wider as well as providing good storage (possibly large stuff such as bikes, or a watermaker, or for extra solar panels when they are not in use, or …). If we can make it work, we would like to rotate the chart table itself so that instead of sitting on a folding seat facing outwards (which blocks the corridor) you sit facing forwards. That would give somewhere that you could sit at when on watch keeping an eye on the instruments without disturbing someone asleep on the saloon sea berth.

We have an idea to turn the corridor access to the aft cabin into a single quarter berth when on passage. So essentially a pipe cot/fold down bed that you get out whenever on passage. That would provide a really secure, comfy bed in a place with little motion and easy access to the chart-table. When there are just two of us that leaves the saloon for seating/dressing etc. If we have extra crew we then have 3 sea berths without needing to have the double decker option at the saloon settee. This is only attractive because you will no longer be sandwiched between a noisy/smelly diesel engine and a smelly diesel fuel tank.

We have been exploring different options for the forecabin after we have done all the practical work to improve anchoring. One option is to keep it mostly the same, but improve it for use as a guest double cabin. The key challenges there are the height to climb into bed when it is setup as a double and the way the doors work for the heads.

The second option is to more drastically strip it out so that it functions better as a store/workshop with the option for one or two guest single berths that fold away when not in use.

Our heads compartments will both be laid out very differently, in large part, due to the composting toilets being a little larger but needing no plumbing connections. We have glass washing bowls to sit on top of worktops, so we are going to be very trendy, because they were the cheapest option at B&Q 😉 We want a very easy to clean, spacious feel rather than lots of little cabinets. As we have moved increasingly to plastic free bathroom products, you need far less space for stuff anyway.

In the forward heads we are determined to make the shower easy, comfortable and welcoming to use. We will also add an outside shower but we are British and living in Manchester so an outside shower is currently beyond our emotional imaginations capacity. A key to this will be to change the complicated multiway doors around the forward head in some way that will also replace the hopeless sliding door to the main cabin with something easier to use

We have already changed the saloon from having a big central table, the new table leg allows a table to be moved around so access is much easier. Eventually we will have a tabletop that opens out if needed. We can also use the same table and leg in the cockpit for al-fresco dining. We will make it so the U-shaped seating area can become a 2nd single sea berth.

We didn’t like the way the main settee backrest hinged up to make “bunk beds”. The lower bunk was very nice (but you couldn’t sit up in it) but it was very difficult to climb up into the upper berth. A side effect was that the settee was too deep for normal length legs 🙂 So we will add a more comfortably positioned backrest that moves right out of the way.

We really don’t like the storage in the saloon area. Every cupboard door and opening is a different size and none of them line up (which is not what is shown in the construction drawings). Many of them are so deep that you have to empty them to reach things at the bottom. So one day this will be simplified making the space look larger while being more useful.

Phew! It sounds a lot. Fortunately we won’t be doing this all at once, nor are we in any rush. These jobs will be spread over years while we are still working and using the boat for weekends and holidays. While there will always be much less volume than a modern 38 foot yacht we are very happy that we will have plenty for our needs and all in a boat design that is proven, trusted and affordable.

Cabin Refurbishment: Part 2 Approaches

Continuing from Cabin Refurbishment: Part 1 the story so far and what is delaying us.

I’m going to generalise and say there are four main approaches to the interior of older yachts.

The Minimal: don’t change anything, don’t fix anything that isn’t a problem for you. Probably coupled with gradually reducing expectations of where you will go. This is where Vida had been for a number of years which included 2 years out of the water. Inside the layout and furnishings were essentially original with nearly all original equipment some of which didn’t work and some of which had become dangerous (eg gas installation, paraffin heater and especially it’s jerrycan). As is obvious from the speed we have taken stuff out this is clearly not something we are comfortable given our goal of preparing the boat for a live-aboard retirement.

The Restoration: There are lots of people who do this absolutely beautifully, spending hours and hours sanding and varnishing the interior woodwork, replacing like for like with beautiful care so you can’t see the joins. This is not us either, partly because we don’t really like that traditional look of so much dark wood, partly because we want to be sailing not sanding and varnishing, partly because we think things have moved on from what was a traditional yacht in the 1970’s.

The Functional: Do what is needed, very often on a low budget, so that you can get sailing. Often something by younger people who take on a project boat. Whilst Vida is definitely a “project” boat we are not yet ready to go off live-aboard cruising (which is what we see for a few years time in retirement) so we have time to do things to a more comfortable standard befitting our advanced years 😉

The Radical: a complete refit including remodelling and modernising. Obviously we are doing this on the technical side (composting toilets, removing seacocks, fossil fuel free etc). Clearly this can be done to a wide variety of standards from exquisite to utilitarian. Our preferences are more to the pragmatic and functional end of the spectrum. We are not interested in a wow factor of beautiful joinery or a “luxury” presentation so much as everything working awesomely and being very low on maintenance.

Obviously, these are very simplistic generalisations and most people will combine the different options for different parts of the boat (a forecabin might get ignored for a long time unless it is where you sleep in which case it might be first priority.

We choose to put ourselves towards the more extreme end of “The Radical” approach for a number of reasons.

  • It makes the technical stuff easier and quicker if we are not trying to make restoration as easy as possible. We save ourselves a lot of effort if we can remove things to improve access without worrying about restoring them or keeping it functional while the work is happening (so for example it hasn’t been an issue for us to have 9 or more holes in the bottom for months and months)
  • by spending some money we can save a whole lot of time (eg by buying new sinks for a new worktop rather than trying to rescue the old ones), our present lives mean we are quite time poor at present.
  • We believe that expectations and products have changed a great deal in the last 40 years. Examples include
    • what we expect to cook and eat when sailing or living aboard. Making a cup of tea or instant coffee and adding water to dehydrated food is only expected by weight watching racers. We want real food and given that our diet is almost entirely meat free we want to be able to prepare meals from fresh ingredients wherever possible. Our budget and anchorage preferences means we want and expect to cook ourselves nearly all the time rather than eat at restaurants. This affects storage, food preparation areas and galley equipment.0
    • Navigation, communications and entertainment are a whole different world with significant impacts on every part of the interior (the Internet, mobile phones, batteries, electronic charts, LED’s, TV’s, video etc)
    • Our expectations of comfort (warmth, dryness, depth of mattress, materials, ventilation)
    • Where people expect to cruise to. Yes the world but also the North West Passage was impossible for a yacht and many places would not have occurred to ordinary people, they were for the amazing adventurers only. So now we can watch people going to Greenland or the Norwegian Arctic Circle and think we could do the same.

What we are still realising is that our approach means that when we think of refurbishing the interior we are actually looking at rather more radical re-workings of the space than we had expected or realised. That seems a good place to finish this post and leave you hanging on for part 3 🙂

Continued in Cabin Refurbishment: Part 3 Interior Theme and Style

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 🙂

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 😉

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 🙂

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.

Afternoon progress on aft cabin insulation

Jane is still busy insulating the aft cabin. Cutting the last piece now.

The underside of the side decks (which have various bolts coming through) are very wet where there isn’t a wood soffit. We are leaving these for now as we are not sure if it is leaks or condensation.

We will remove, clean and refit all these and improve the backing plates at some point. That is why we wanted to improve access. Then we will have insulation panels held on by velcro to cover them.

The insulation will be painted white (a special paint for closed cell foam which surprisingly B&Q sell). Before that we are thinking of taping all the joins. Obviously something that sticks well to closed cell foam but also the paint needs to stick to it.

We will make a nice surround for the hatch which will have a magnetic strip to hold up an insult square to cut down on condensation from the aluminium framed hatch.

Before thats we have new acrylic and seals for the hatch. So on a dry day it will come off to be thoroughly refurbished and refitted so no more leaks (the identical hatch over the saloon has been dropping noticeably now that the water doesn’t run into the headlining, so that is getting the same treatment).

Meanwhile, I’ve prepared dinner which is now on in tthe multi-cooker. Required my first full washing up in the new sinks (the clubhouse kitchen, where we have mostly been washing up, is being replaced at the moment).

Currently there seems to be an unforecasted break in the rain but it is blowing hard. Plenty of standing water in the boatyard.

Preparing to remove the diesel engine

After a long morning working on the aft cabin we started the preparation for removing the engine.

It is one of those jobs that takes ages without seeing any progress.

However, we have detached all the hoses (fuel, cooling, exhaust, domestic water heating) and electronics.

We have also removed the floor of the cockpit which is above the engine.

That was tricky. There is normally a wood grating on the cockpit floor, when we took that up there was a huge amount of dirt and debris to clear up. Then 22 bolts to remove with Jane reaching in over the engine to put a socket set on the nuts while I unscrewed the bolts.

The next step was to plan and start preparing the gantry (lots of big timber to carry up the ladder) that we will attach two block and tackles to, in order to to lift the engine. That included removing the window in the wheelhouse roof (no pics yet as it had got dark). We will take this opportunity to replace the two sheets of acrylic as they are badly crazed.

We still have gear and throttle cables plus the propeller shaft to disconnect. Then the four engine mounts.

I’ll put up the pictures of the over engineered hoisting system tomorrow if these last connections come apart ok.

Now dinner is nearly ready in the multi-cooker (aduki bean and pearl barley stew with sweet potato, carrot, swede, onion and a tomato sauce).

As soon as the cooking is done we can put the fan heater back on which will be nice. Meanwhile the saloon is extremely crowded with all the aft cabin cushions so not much space for us 😂