Adding more simplicity :-)

We have been busy with the rest of life this month (September is always a very busy time at work for us both).

However, our thinking has been progressing and we have been finding lots of inspiration from very small boats and from other people’s projects. So for example this video from Sailing Magic Carpet

It ties in with our Foredeck and Forecabin plans update or at least it confirms that we are making some different choices.

Our chain lockers were quite similar. We totally agree on the need for more space for chain and for the weight to be further aft. Initially our plans were quite similar (see Plans for anchoring). However, this is where we have been able to simplify things a lot.

A combination of things have meant that we are completely changing our forecabin, it will be a lot simpler in many ways. We started that thinking in Foredeck and Forecabin plans update but we can now go further.

The two key things that have led us to a simpler solution are Water and Beds.

Water

When we decided to remove the stainless steel water tank and use some of the space for our batteries we have been through a number of ideas for water tanks. Now we have realised we can build them into the hull and this gives us huge advantages:

  • far greater capacity as no wasted space
  • much safer. They strengthen the hull and create extra crash boxes

We also realise that we can use the same technique for the batteries (rather than a drop in box build it into the bull), for the chain locker and for storage/crash boxes.

Beds.

Already we have reduced the number of beds by removing the fold out pilot berth above the starboard settee (it has saved weight and created a much more usable space). We have also replaced the “V” berth in the aft cabin that worked best as a 2 singles with one double Pullman style berth.

When we realised that the “V” berth in the forecabin wasn’t actually long enough for an adult, let alone 2 it simplified things a lot. It also means that we have a chance to create a much better chain locker than Magic Carpet 2.

So.

The key limit on the “V” berth length was avoiding having the chain pipe come down through the middle of the bunk. By moving to one single bunk we can move the chainpipe slightly to starboard so that there is plenty of space for the single bunk to extend past the chainpipe on the port side. Not only does this make the bunk full length and a good width it also means that we can use the chainpipe to drop the chain vertically into the chain locker despite moving it aft. That is a huge advantage over our original plans and what Aladino can do on Magic Carper 2 where the chain slides into the chain locker almost at the bottom – the chain can stack better, be further aft and have a deep crash box forward of it.

I’m now planning 4 watertight areas under the original”V” berth height. Each of them will be considerably higher than the waterline and all of them will be able to have a removable, watertight lid.

At the very forward end there will be a proper crashbox that we will probably fill with foam (there will be another forward of this beyond the foot of the bed that will also be filled with foam). These crashboxes will mean the whole bow from below the waterline to the bow roller will not be able to flood the boat if damaged.

Aft of the crashbox will be the chain locker. When at sea we will disconnect the chain from the anchor and attach a line between a deck bung for the chainpipe and the chain which will drop down to the locker. That will allow a watertight lid to be fitted over the chain locker. The bottom of the anchor locker will drain into a much smaller locker aft of it. This will have a pump to remove any water that comes in to the chain locker with the chain. This small locker will also have a watertight lid so that the two act as another crashbox.

Aft of this will be a full width built in water tank. The top of this will be the “footwell” when sitting on the bunk. It too will act as a crash box so a hole in the hull here will contaminate this water but not flood the boat.

The doorway into the forecabin will no longer be full height. The bottom will be level with the top of the water tank with a step in the heads compartment so that you can get up and into the cabin (no standing headroom but full sitting headroom on the bunk). The heads compartment will be your dressing area. There will be a door for this cabin, separating it from the heads.

Additionally, I want to learn something from the older Amels (like Delos). So we will carry a sheet of wood that can be bolted over the doorway on the forward side of the bulkhead. It will have a rubber seal so that the whole forecabin can be turned into a watertight crashbox. I can imagine that when sailing with only the two of us we might put that in place quite often when at sea (and just use the forehatch for access to the forecabin as a storage area.

Simpler

By embracing the limits on the size of the forecabin which mean a V berth for two adults isn’t practical we end up with a much simpler, stronger and safer boat that will suit our needs much better. We don’t need to be able to sleep 3 couples and 2 singles on board, but we do need to carry enough water and would like extra protection from potential damage caused by debris floating around our oceans.

Thinking about this has also helped us think about simpler supports for the Bow Roller, Anchor Windlass and Inner forestay. So we can hopefully progress them soon.

Once I can get the companionway steps removed, this approach of watertight compartments built into the hull is going to make the battery boxes much simpler and more compact. I think the outcome will be larger water tanks and being able to move the Inverter and Mains Galvanic Isolator into the motor room so that we can keep the wet locker behind the steps.

It takes a long time to simplify things, but the results are well worth it.

Mast preparation continued

With a beautiful day we had a nice slow morning with family and then got back to preparing our main and mizzen masts for painting (well we also washed the dinghy and equipment).

We now have all the wiring out of the main mast.

We have put messenger lines in for them all.

We have removed both winches (a single speed Lewmar 8 and a double speed Lewmar 16, neither self tailing) and all other fittings showing any corrosion.

I was a bit annoyed by the winch mounts. The winches has been fitted with bolts that were too long and so instead of beinfg simply bolted to the winch mount some of them has gone into the mast itself. That has caused more corrosion and extra holes.

So everything is off and the masts have had a wash including a wash of the inside with a hose.

We have decided we don’t have to do a perfect job immediately, so we have not removed anything that we still need and that isn’t showing any corrosion eg spreader roots, spinnaker pole track. Similarly we have decided not to remove winches and cleats from the mizzen (upgrades can come later).

Tomorrow, is clean with acetone, sand, clean and get a coat of primer on. Then we can fill holes we don’t need to reuse with thickened epoxy, then we can sand and clean before a 2nd coat of primer. That then buys us some time for the rest of the work as the aluminium won’t be able to oxidise.

Another task has been looking at all the hardware we need to fit to the masts.

We are now looking at re-purposing the existing Lewmar 16ST for our mainsail reefing. Then 2 Harken 20ST for the halyards. If we can find something suitable secondhand then we will go for that instead.

We are only going to fit 3 actual halyards and supporting hardware at the moment (Yankee or Genoa, Staysail, Main) but with messenger lines for 2nd headsail, trysail and spinnaker.

We are also going to upgrade from cleats to Rope Constrictors for these halyards, skipping all the generations of clutches. Rope Constrictors are about twice the price of a standard clutch but they don’t damage the Halyard at all. But a replacement Halyard is about three times the extra cost. We have found 2 sources Ronstan and Cousin Trestec.

We are going to replace the tired halyard exit sheeves with the newer, simpler plates (and go from 2 to 5 of them so we have support for all the halyards we will ever need.

We have decided to simplify the lighting. We don’t have a simple way to fit lights to the spreaders and get the cables into the conduit at the front of the mast. That means keeping the deck light and the steaming light on the mast Deck light is lower than the spreaders, steaming light is above. However, it looks even simpler to get a combination LED steaming and deck light. One less cable to run up the mast.

Anyway, painting and filling is the first priority. All the fittings can wait for a while.

Battery bank installation progress

Today has included a huge amount of lifting and moving. A large part of that was lifting all 8 batteries on board. You can see the preparation for this in Low down progress

First battery bank has a nearly finished box (needs final epoxy coating and painting plus a lid).

The second battery bank will sit on top.

We need to make some changes to the floor supports. We will fit a new central floor board that will be the watertight lid of the top battery bank.

The top bank will also be 4 batteries and is both longer and wider than the lower bank. The hull shape means the batteries take up a lot less space this way round. Fortunately we have bluetooth access to the BMS of the lower batteries (and the top one that will be under the steps).

We are going to make sure that even if the bilge filled with water our batteries would not get wet (and there will be no exposed battery connections under the water at that point).

Anyway the bilge that water flows into is nearly a metre deeper that where the batteries are, that bilge will have an automatic electric bilge pump, a high water alarm and a manual bilge pump.

Building a “sofa”

The other day we made Lee Boards for our starboard saloon berth. Today we’ve started the process of making them adapt to their other role which is to be a backrest.

It isn’t finished yet. I need to find a way to retain the back rests so they can’t fall forward. Also add a brace to the middle of the length. We might also reduce the gaps between them as it is higher than needed.

Once we are happy then Jane will add padding to them.

It might not be obvious from the photos but I have lowered the bottom Lee Board so that your legs don’t touch it.

It was a bit of a damp day today but we made a bit of progress outside. We worked with Steve to move an unclaimed mast out of the way. It has been alongside us for ages but had recently been moved a bit and was blocking a often used route to the clubhouse. Now it is completely out of the way. The boatyard also cut down all the grass and weeds growing up around our main mast so we were able to a small amount of work on it.

The parts we need to refurbish the masts have started to arrive. More in the next few days. We are currently thinking about the wiring we need to install and how we can ensure they don’t rattle or chafe inside the mast. The mizzen mast doesn’t have any conduit or any means of protecting/controlling the wires. We don’t yet know what the main mast has.

A lot the work on the masts is going to be weather dependent so we will progress it when we can. Meanwhile there are plenty more things we can do inside 😊

Heavy weather sailing tick box exercise

So I’ve just added the classic “Heavy Weather Sailing” 7th edition by Peter Bruce to our library.

Very interested to note how well our choices fit with the various chapters:

Chapter 1 on boat design could have taken the Rival range (although never mentioned) as a model. So we see the great designer Olin Stephens recommending:

  • balanced hull shape (Tick)
  • low freeboard (Tick)
  • small well drained cockpit (Tick)
  • two masts (Tick)
  • not too wide (Tick)
  • deeper rather than shallow hulls (Tick)
  • higher cabin sides (Tick)
  • strong keel (Tick)

In Chapter 2 on stability in breaking waves by Andrew Claughton we also tick lots of boxes

  • Our keel being a fairly long fin with a good skeg
  • balanced ends
  • lower freeboard with high coachroof
  • everything we see implies a Rival 38 should have a pretty good stability curve, we have heard that Peter Brett was very aware of the angle of vanishing stability (a point where the boat no longer tries to turn the right way up after being knocked over)
  • There is a table summarising the design influences on capsize and a Rival is pretty much solidly in the safer spectrum for them all.

The Jordan Series drogue gets it’s first mention, and they are all positive.

Chapter 3 on design trends by Peter Bruce

This puts the Rival in what seems to us to be a sweet spot after the development of fin keels but before dish shaped boats with small fins and spade rudders. This is a sweet spot for short handed cruising as faster, more modern designs tend to need to follow more active tactics. We are not going to have experienced racing dinghy sailors or surfers who can actively surf down huge waves safely so better have a design that doesn’t favour such tactics.

This is the first chapter to note the negative impact of roller furling sails on a boats stability (due to the extra weight up high when the sail is furled). That is one of the features of our desired long-term sail plan.

There is a concise but comprehensive list of questionable design features and we seem to be clear of them all (except I think we might want to strengthen our cockpit locker and we already know we need a way of securing our hatch boards). All the work to remove seacocks and only have composite ones fits too (although that post is now a bit out of date, with the electric motor we have only 2 seacocks below the waterline which are the e cockpit drains, we won’t have holes for the fridge or depth sounder and the 2 seacocks will be protected by a coffer dam so that a failure won’t cause us to sink).

Chapter 4 on Spars and rigging by Matthew Sheaham and Harry James

One point is the expectation that composite rigging such as Dyneema will one day be used universally with the weight reduction being a very significant gain for stability.

Another is more concerns about the weight of roller furled sails and the dangers of a failure. With slab reefing there are concerns about friction for systems brought back to the cockpit (ours are not).

Chapter 5 on Storm Sails by Peter Bruce and Richard Clifford.

Here we score well for plans although we haven’t got as far as implementing them. So adding our inner forestay to be used for either a staysail or a storm job is good.

We haven’t got as far as thinking much about practicalities for a trysail. We don’t currently have a track, a sail or anything. With a mizzen that can be reefed we do have an alternative so it isn’t quite as urgent.

Chapter 6 on preparations for heavy weather is mostly for the future but it does reinforce the desire for a Hydrovane. The section on fires adds weight to my plan to fit fuses at the battery terminals and to make sure the battery boxes are watertight. Having no fossil fuels aboard is clearly a significant safety feature.

Chapter 7 on the use of drag devices has clearly been updated with details on the Jordan Series drogue which are very positive with the only downside being the difficulty of recovery until conditions have moderated significantly. So nice to see our thinking reinforced.

That is all I have read fully so far, I can see from the “Storm Experiences” section that we are going to feel good about not having davits for our dinghy – but we think that is pretty obvious. We know we have a lot of experience of actual heavy weather that we need to build. However, I am reassured that much of our thinking is already validated by this highly respected book.

Electric Motor one thing that is not covered at all is having an electric motor. There is quite a lot on the advantages of a reliable diesel, but with the recognition that there can be significant problems (lines around the propeller after a rigging failure, flooding through the exhaust or engine room ventilation, extreme angles of heel causing problems, dirty fuel especially with sediment from the tanks. We have to make our plans with the assumption that we will not be able to use the electric motor for long enough to make it a viable tactic for anything but manoeuvring assistance. As we have written before we think this is better than an over dependence on a diesel, in particular a false sense of security that it will always work see Another example of why to switch away from Diesel and Losing a diesel engine for safety

Autopilot progress

On Friday, while preparing to fit the backing plate in the cockpit locker we decided to remove the drive unit for the  original Neco autopilot.

This is a beefy electric motor that uses a chain drive onto one of the shafts of the Whitlock steering system. From all we can find out about this it is definitely worth keeping. It seems to be highly regarded although it predates the availability of small affordable permanent magnets, that have transformed electric motors.

The bracket it sat on had a lot of loose rust on it. This mostly seems to have come from elsewhere, probably the old fridge condenser. A bit of sanding shows that all it needs is cleaning and painting (and new bolts).

However, the controller is in much poorer condition.

Also it doesn’t fit what we want from an electronic autopilot. For us there are three key missing features.

  • Click on from standby to continue on the current course. Something has happened and I need my hands to do something (adjust a sheet, do some navigation, take a cup of coffee from below, move to get a better view under the sails). This should be a one button press and be almost instant. With this unit you first have to turn it’s compass setting to your current course and then turn it on. That means looking at the compass then looking at and adjusting the compass dial on the Neco and then switching it on (except currently there is no on/off switch so you had to go below and turn it on at the circuit breaker).
  • Tack. When sailing singlehanded we can’t reach the genoa sheets from our steering wheel (and certainly will need both hands to tack the genoa). With a good autopilot you click the on button and the the tack port or tack starboard buttons. The autopilot does the steering to tack the boat while you sort out the sheets for the sails. With the Neco you have to work out what course you want to be on after the tack and turn to that (quick what is 47 degrees less 90? – which is what you have to work out if you are on starboard tack steering 47 degrees and need to tack. The answer is 317 degrees).
  • Steer true course rather than heading. Due to tides and leeway, the actual direction a boat goes in is rarely exactly the same as you are steering. The Neco doesn’t handle this well. All you can do is enter the heading. Modern autopilots can do either and they generally have quick buttons to adjust the course a degree or 10 at a time. Again with the Neco all you can do is turn the compass rose to the heading you want.

So what are we planning?

Our plans are changing a bit. Ideally we would be fitting a Hydrovane Wind Vane for self-steering before our launch. However, at nearly £6,000 it will have to wait for a bit. So the cheapest solution to having some self-steering is to use this existing drive unit with a new controller.

The controller we are looking at is essentially a DIY system using the PyPilot software running on a RaspberryPi Zero W with various boards and sensors attached. It can have a screen and be controlled by a keypad, a remote control device or a mobile phone. It can also integrate with the OpenCPN chartplotter software that we intend to use.

There are people who have got PyPilot working with Neco drive units so whilst it isn’t a small, simple task it is perfectly doable.

This isn’t a replacement for the Hydrovane (that has big advantages in not using any electricity and providing an emergency rudder).

Eventually we want to end up with a whole range of steering options (sorted by preference when cruising):

  • Wind vane (probably a Hydrovane) which is independent of everything else and steers us at a constant angle to the wind.
  • Neco drive unit controlled by a Raspberry Pi running PyPilot.
  • Standard hand steering using the wheel (primary choice in confined spaces)
  • Emergency tiller steering. We have a two part metal tiller that is stored under the aft cabin bunk. By lifting the cushions and opening a hole in the deck we can put the emergency tiller on top of the rudder shaft and steer from the aft cabin roof. Useful if if any part of the connections from the steering wheel fails.
  • Emergency tiller attached to the wind vane for hand steering (built into a Hydrovane and an optional extra for a Cape Horn wind vane).

We have also considered adding a tiller autopilot attached to the wind vane. Both the HydroVane and Cape Horn vane steering allow an electric tiller autopilot, designed for smaller boats, to steer the boat via the wind vane system. However, if the Neco unit can work we probably don’t need this (at least for a long time, we might like the extra backup on very long ocean crossings). Meanwhile it saves us another £1,000 or so.

This feels like a good project for winter nights, and if we can’t find time before the launch I can do it on the water providing I have bought the bits.

Progress from home

We haven’t gone to the boat this week. Jane had to work today (Covid cover) and I’ve got work tomorrow.

However, I have been able to complete the repair of my pillar drill (satisfaction of mending tools).

Having done the repair I went straight on to use the pillar drill to finish the holes in the motor mount brackets. This is a great example of where a pillar drill with a good drill bit and cutting paste is so much better than a normal drill. It had taken hours to do 6.5 holes and had destroyed a couple of drill bits. Today less than 2 hours to do the remaining 9.5 holes without ruining any drill bits.

Low down progress

On Saturday we managed a few jobs that are about as low as we can get.

Water getting low in the wrong places

During the heavy rain on Friday we discovered a key source of the water in the (very deep) bilge at the aft end of the keel. I’d left a few holes in the floor of the anchor locker when we had removed the old windlass and chain guide. So water getting into the anchor locker was falling into the chain locker, from there it flowed down a hose (so that it gets past the shower sump) onto the front end of the keel (where we had cut the old hose so for the first time we could see the water coming in, when we had the floor up).

So I filled the holes and we went down in the depths (currently about 1m below the electric motor frame) and pumped out 5 buckets of water (we had removed a lot more with a temporary bilge pump a few weekends ago).

Battery storage on the keel

With a dry bilge we did some cutting and planing of the battery box we had started months ago (when the 120AH batteries were going to have to sit above the motor). It now fits on the keel under the companionway and saloon floor.

It just needs ply ends, epoxy coating and the batteries installing. A battery box for the 4 x 300AH will sit on top of it (one of these batteries will be behind this and a bit higher as it is behind the ladder and the space is not wide enough at that point).

Fortunately all the lower 120AH batteries and the 300AH at the aft end have bluetooth enabled BMS (battery monitoring systems) as these will be quite inaccessible. The other 3 x 300AH will be easily visible to check.

We will make these boxes as watertight as we can and they will be fixed in place so that there is no danger of a couple of hundred kilo’s of battery smashing everything and everyone should we ever be rolled over.

We have also done some detailed design work for how we plan to connect the battery banks. We are (seemingly unusually) planning to keep them entirely separate as it isn’t a good idea to combine different sizes of battery into a single bank. We want the flexibility of using each bank for either house or motor depending on need. However, never both connected to either house or motor at the same time. We also want to be able to direct the solar panel charging to either bank according to need. The 70A mains charger built into the Victron MultiPlus II will always go to whichever bank is connected to house (so when we connect to mains we always put the most depleted bank as the house to get charged first) .

Water in the right places

We think we can fit a 70 litre water tank in front of the batteries and an 18 litre one in front of that. Plus another 18 litre tank under the aft most 300AH battery. Finally one more 18 litre tank in the forward top half of the bilge under the motor.  That makes 124 litres nice and low down that will all be fully plumped in (you get a set of taps to choose which tank the water comes from for a tap or the shower).

In addition we think we can fit 4 x 25 litre portable water tanks above the propeller shaft aft of the motor. As well as taking us to 224 litres in total, these will be convenient for collecting water in the dinghy (providing we take a trolley to save carrying them by hand).

This should be plenty of water for coastal cruising but we still need more (and would like a watermaker) for ocean crossings.

Dave not getting stuck in the bottom

Using a temporary “ladder” I went into the cockpit locker to check the setting on the dehumidifier and the position of the forward mizzen chainplate.

Low on money

Well not so much low as actually sitting down to price all the things we need to be able to launch in March 2022 (in time for a 3 month sabbatical). It is a long list, however, it looks manageable and there are not so many unknowns now. Actually a bit of a confidence builder.

Lower Mast

Next will be back to tasks to get the mizzen mast (the lower one) back up but with dyneema rigging. In part that is to prove the chainplate and rigging design but also so that we can sort out the windvane self-steering, pushpit and aft solar panels. We still need to finish the new supports for the foot of the mizzen mast, cut and fit the backing plates for the forward stays and running backstays. Also need to finish repairing the pillar drill to make the tangs (and order the bolts for them). Then we can add the FR4 backing plates (and the on deck “mushrooms”, do the drilling for the chainplate dyneema loops and then make all the chainplate loops and shrouds/stays.

All that will allow us to finish the aft cabin, at least for the moment. The bed head needs finishing as it is part of the mizzen mast foot support. We need the step onto the seat to get to the bed, cabin sides need insulating (ceiling etc can wait as can the headlining). Then a quick paint and we can move back in (hopefully the work Jane is doing at home to remodel the bed mattress will be finished).

A restful wet day

We had a wet journey here and it continued to rain until mid evening.

In fact as we parked several puddles decided to flow into the area we parked in, close to the boat. So after trying to jump to get to the boat with dry feet I simply swapped trainers and socks for crocs are bare feet by that time it was ankle deep.

So after a very busy and physical week it has been good to rest, to update our budget and check a few things.

The battery box we built thinking it would go above the motor will fit as a waterproof battery box on top of the keel right in the centre of the boat. So 4 x 120AH Lithium Iron Phosphate weighing 56.8kg as low as possible.

Above that will go another waterproof box for the 4 x 300AH LiFePO4 batteries. They weigh 150.8kg. They wouldn’t fit in the same orientation if they were the bottom layer which means there would be a lot of wasted space.

Instead of the wasted space there will be room for a smaller water tank in front of the battery boxes. We will need to add extra water tanks elsewhere so that we have enough capacity even for a Pacific crossing.

This evening we have been watching YouTube videos and relaxing. Now high tide so will be lulled to sleep by the waves breaking on the beach.