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 😂

We’ve been doing some shopping

No Friday working on Vida this week as I’m working.

But we have been making progress spending money, some bits take quite a while to work out and source so very happy with these.

Tinned copper to make busbars 50mm x 6mm, could only order a 4m length which http://www.holmedodsworth.com kindly cut in half for me to transport it.
Sealing strips for our two deck hatches and the aft porthole. From http://hadlowmarine.com/
Replacement Dorade Vents (two of them from Plastimo). Gone for a 90mm tube which means we can hopefully cut away all the wet core around the current 75mm hole.
Fancy LED light for the top of the mast. Acts as both a tricolour (red/green/white when sailing) and an all round white as an anchor light. Can also be made to flash SOS.
Semi custom grey water tank. 51 litres with all the hose connections.
Grey water deck pump out fitting to International standard and hose to connect it to the tank.
Hose an electric pump to move grey water from the small under sink tanks to the main tank from where it gets pumped out. This is to connect the galley tank. Will add T’s and valves to switch between the other tanks as we fit them.
Contact adhesive to fit the insulating headlining
Manual bilge pump. Is going to be mounted on a board with hoses so it can be used anywhere as an emergency pump (even to pump out the grey water by hand if required)

Food progress

Now that we are confident that our multi-cooker is going to be part of our galley it opens some extra options.

So in December we joined a group making bulk purchases from a co-operative, vegetarian wholesaler. Our best bargain was a 10kg (paper) bag of dried chickpeas.

We’ve been using these in quite a few dishes in the multi-cooker. Very tasty and allows a shorter soak time and fully reasonable cooking time.

Jane has now started the next step which is making houmous (a staple favourite of ours) from these chickpeas. Latest batch is much tastier than a lot of supermarket packets and will be easy to make on board.

We have a whole load of other pulses (although sadly sold in smaller quantities that come in plastic bags).

Not forgetting grains

We want to start experimenting with sprouting some of these as a way of getting fresh stuff wherever we happen to be.

We really love the variety and taste of these pulses etc that are cheap, last for ages and with a pressure cooker are so easy to cook. They are so well suited to living on a boat as they are so adaptable (providing you can keep them dry). We think it is well worth making sure you can renewably generate and store enough electricity to be able to use an electric pressure cooker. These are so much easier to use than ones that you put on a gas stove. Plus a really big advantage is that you can put the cooker in the cockpit to avoid putting steam or heat into the cabin (steam particularly a problem in cold climates and heat in hot climates).

We find it quite amusing that one of of our favourite YouTube channels were concerned that they would have to live on lentils, we don’t see it as a negative 😉

Starting Friday

So we have arrived, getting ready for Fri jobs, but starting with food 😁

New galley worktop in use, much more spacious than our temporary solution on the chart table.

Another multi-cooker concoction tonight (using a weird cheap Szechuan Sweet Chilli sauce with sweet potato, carrots, aduki beans and peanuts).

Again going to leave the multi-cooker in the the wheelhouse to avoid all the steam in our nice dry cabin.