Friday progress #21

So we have come of age 😉 21 today. Not too bad, we are still a month away from owning Vida for a year and we were unable to visit for nearly 4 months due to the lockdown.

We arrived late last night (slightly delayed by a poorly signposted diversion). We had to sneak in quietly, as another couple from the NWVYC were asleep in their motorcaravan, in the carpark 🙂 So just the essentials to carry to and up onto the boat at 10:45pm.

This time that included one of our Natures Head Composting Toilets. We took it home last time as it was getting full and we decided to continue to avoid using any shared facilities, so took it home to empty. Again Composting Toilets prove to be by far the best toilet during a Pandemic. No capacity limit. No need to use anyone else’s facilities.

Anyway, after a good sleep we got stuck into our first task. Removing the Cutlass Bearing. Really the last key piece that needs to be removed (so it can be replaced with a new one) in order to progress with the electric motor installation. This is the part closest to the propeller, it is a bronze sleeve with rubber insert that slips inside the stern tube that is built into the boat.

So I had bought these bits.

A 1m long 24mm diameter threaded rod. To go on the inside end a lock nut then two washers, one with a 24mm hole to fit snugly and then one with the right outside diameter to fit inside the stern tube but not inside the cutlass bearing. So this gets pushed in from inside the boat until the threaded rod appears and the washer is snug against the inside end of the cutlass bearing.

On the outside I have a 63.5mm stainless steel tube that goes around the end of the stern tube to push against the keel. Then a huge 70mm diameter washer and another nut.

On site I used a hole saw so that I had a piece of wood to protect the keep from the stainless tube.

Here you can see the outside nearly ready to go.

It proved to be a really hard task, we tried tightening the outside nut (had to file flats onto the threaded rod so we could use a spanner to stop it moving). Got it really tight but no movement.

Tried using our short section of propeller shaft and a hammer from the inside to knock it out. No movement.

Tried to cut the cutlass bearing lengthways with the Dremmel. Managed to cut a lot out but still it didn’t move.

Then rather than hit the propeller shaft with a hammer I used the shaft itself as a sliding hammer down the stern tube. It worked!!! Took until about 2:30pm but finally we managed to get it out.

This is the sterntube without a cutlass bearing.

This is the Cutlass Bearing, you can see where I had cut it and trimmed it with the Dremmel to try to free it.

With that done we could get on with other jobs.

First up was more cleaning of the old cockpit locker and diesel engine bay. After several hours it is now mostly clean enough for sanding and painting.

After working on part of the cleaning together I moved onto the glass windows of the wheelhouse. We have noticed a few leaks and wanted to fix those and check their condition.

The corrosion wasn’t too bad. The seals were pretty rubbish though and several of the screws rather loose. I cleaned and refitted using a neoprene strip 6mm thick. We can plan something better for the future now we know what is there.

Last job of the day was to fit the first two uprights that will become the sides of the motor and battery compartment. We wanted to add some additional strength to support the cockpit, particularly on the port side where there is a footwell for when you are steering. Plus we need uprights to fasten the sides that separate the motor space from the cockpit locker on one side and the corridor on the other.

These will be epoxy coated and fixed in place, more will added when we are sure where the motor mounts will go.

The new space for the motor and batteries is going to be a lot narrower than the old. So we can extra space in the cockpit locker and in the corridor to the aft cabin.

I’ve set them both vertical which turns out to nearly perfectly line up from the engine bearers to the flange that the cockpit floor bolts to. Now these are in place I’ll be able to remove the old corridor side which is going to make access much easier.

It is now horrible outside, the wind has got up and it has been raining hard for 3 hours. Yet we have left the cockpit floor and cockpit locker lid off to continue to air them out (yet again a significant improvement in the smell). So good that we have a wheelhouse above). You can see how much cleaner they look. Once they are painted it will make such a difference!

Eventually the cockpit floor is going to be bolted down more permanently (because we don’t need to take it out to fit an electric motor) with two new, bigger, drains fitted in the rear corners. Until then it does provide lots of light and makes it easier to get the larger timber in.

As we move to boxing in the cockpit locker we will need to build a ladder, probably on the aft bulkhead in order to get in and out.

Next a good sleep, a lie in and then back home to work.

Measurements confirm layout choices

So I recently wrote Cabin Refurbishment: Part 4 Layout, however, at that point we hadn’t been on Vida for over 3 months during which time our thinking has been evolving. So our ideas were based on memory and the drawings which are a little inaccurate for the internal layout.

So, yesterday, we took lots of measurements :=)

Galley: In order to fit the worktop extension flap we are only going to have reduce the height of the bulkhead by about 50mm. We will be able to hinge the flap so that when it is in the up position it will cover the top of the bulkhead and so there will be no visible hinge to trap food, that will make it easier to keep hygienic.

Chart Table: We do want to keep a chart table suitable for a standard folded chart. The existing chart table is much, much larger than that, but sadly not quite big enough for an unfolded chart. We have enough space for a forward facing chart table with a permanent, forward facing bench seat (with storage underneath it). We will be able to have a shelf under the chart table to fit the sewing machine, without reducing knee room. This should end up being a comfortable place to sit when you are on watch (between getting up every 15 minutes for a full look around the horizon).

Corridor to aft cabin: The space at the outer starboard side (where the fuel tank was) is long enough to store both our bikes (providing we remove the wheels first). That means we don’t have to spend money on folding Bromptons (at least initially – folding bikes are a lot easier to transport ashore and can be kept with you in shops for security). We will fit it out with shelves to maximise the storage space around the bike frames.

It means that long term we can have at least one full-size bike for use on the indoor trainer for exercise 🙂

The changes to the chart table and turning the engine compartment into the motor room mean that the corridor can be widened, enough to make it practical for a foldaway sea berth. We can also add an opening porthole to the side of the cockpit to provide natural light and ventilation to the corridor as well as easier communication from the chart table or sea berth to the cockpit.

Electric Motor Room: We need a cool name for this space that is going to be so awesome. Something that sounds like it comes from the Starship Enterprise 🙂 We have confirmed that the motor, it’s battery bank, the house battery bank, the two inverters, the MPPT Solar controllers will all fit while still having good access to the only 2 seacocks in the boat (2 x 50mm Trudesign composite seacocks) for the cockpit drains.

After further study and thinking we are probably also going to fit an electric desiccant dehumidifier in this space so that we can improve the lifespan of all the electrics by drying the air thus avoiding them sucking in salty, humid air causing them to fail. More on this in the future, a nice side effect is that the dehumidifier also warms the air (and yes we will make sure that warm air gets directed outside the boar when we are in hotter climates).

I’m working on designs for battery boxes that fully enclose the batteries and hold them in place even in the catastrophic event of the boat rolling over. With the motor bank of 4 batteries weighing a total of 152 kg the thought of these flying around is terrifying.

Critically, we are going to be able to have really short and simple electrical connections between a) the batteries and motor b) the house batteries and the inverters with all fuses and master switches very accessible. We have some really chunky tinned copper (60 x 6 mm) for the main busbars so are very confident that we can get a really efficient house battery bank (that is very critical for 12 volt batteries connected in parallel where the current is very high) with a key focus on that connection to the inverters and also to the windlass as these are, by orders of magnitude, the items needing most power.

The route to our main 12volt switch panels (everything apart from the inverters and the windlass) is also simple as the panels will be above the entrance to the corridor (above the chart table, on the starboard side of the companionway). All the busbar connections for the lights etc will be accessible behind the switch panels above the corridor (there is a narrow space inside the edge of the cockpit), we will make them so that they drop down for easy access.

Forward heads: We feel we also have a measured plan for this space. We are sacrificing some, rather inaccessible, storage space for what will be a much more generous toilet, shower, dressing space.

The composting toilet will be on the port side, sitting on a raised platform which allows it to move outwards a bit. Above and behind it will be storage space for a hand washing machine and an electric spin dryer. As we won’t have the sliding door to the saloon we will be able to fit big handholds, on both sides, for when you use the toilet in rough weather.

The two big, awkward cupboards/wardrobes opposite, on the starboard side, will be removed. On the forward side there will be a narrow hanging locker/wardrobe for guest hanging clothes. Next to that the basin with vanity storage outboard and holding tank below.

The central section will be used (with full standing headroom and plenty of space) as the shower. The toilet and basin will be protected by shower curtains (although if it is rough you can sit on the toilet to shower). The shower drains straight into a sealed section of bilge which will be pumped directly into the larger holding tank.

There will be a hinged door to the saloon (will block off the basin when it is opened).

The hinged door to the v-berth will open and expand to be able to hide the toilet. When the v-berth is used as a guest cabin you can use the shower area with wash basin and hanging locker for getting dressed (with the toilet out of view). At night, if you wish, the door to the v-berth can be closed to act as a headboard. We will add a step to the lower part of the hanging locker to make it much easier to climb up into the v-berth when it is configured as a double.

We think the small loss of storage (which is currently very difficult to access and going to be very damp if you have a shower) is a small price to pay for a comfortable shower and space to get dressed when using the v-berth as a double.

The whole of this space will also be much lighter (thanks to the larger windows as they no longer have frames) and better ventilated as both windows have opening portholes.

Friday Progress #19

Fantastic 🙂 We have had a day visit to Vida following the relaxation of the Welsh StayLocal rule this week.

With the exception of a tiny drip from the hatch in the saloon (caught by the rags we had left out for the purpose) everything was dry and no bad smells, no mould, no problems at all.

We didn’t go with a big jobs agenda today but did lots of measuring and made an inventory. Brought home quite a few tools and parts that we can work on here.

We were able to check the fit of the Electric Motor Frame 🙂

All exactly as planned. The alignment will work. Both the original propeller shaft and the one within the frame will be shortened. By putting the frame right at the aft end of the moulded in engine bearers we will have space for all four big motor batteries in front of the motor. Absolutely perfect for really short cable runs and for keeping the weight low and central.

One house battery will go each side of the motor frame with 2 more above it (and space there for 2 more if we need them).

We were able to test the extra cushions. So we now have a great single berth which will be our primary sea berth when sailing.

We are not yet sure where we want to put the backrest yet (it partially depends on when and how we tackle the cupboards above).

The settee backrests fit too (we are going to be removing the little shelf trim above them).

Left home at about 8:15am and home again by 10:30pm, a beautiful day in Beaumaris 🙂

Staycation Electric Motor Progress

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

Cushions

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

Electric Motor

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

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

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

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

Remaining motor tasks

So just a few tasks left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weight comparisons

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

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

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

Total being replaced is over 560kg

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

Space gains

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

And more gains

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

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.

Staycation Progress 1

So on holiday this week but still at home. Very much trying not to take risks or push boundaries of the rules.

So today Jane has finished another Saloon backrest:

We have also been making more motor progress. Working on 2 frame back plates, I finished drilling the end stop holes for the 4 slots that are used to attach it to the motor with it’s height adjustment.

The one end plate at a time we started using the Dremel to connect the holes into slots.

We managed to finish all 4 slots in one of the plates and do a test fit. Perfect first time 🙂 On this plate we now need to notch the edge (marked in read) to clear the control wires that come out the back of the motor.

Then repeat the slots in the 2nd back plate.

Once we have the front and back plates all done we can start adding the lengths of angle stainless steel to the edges, plus more to connect the front and back plates at the four corners. Then one flat stainless steel bar per side as a diagonal cross member.

At that point we should be able to add the bearings for the shaft that will connect to the propeller shaft, then the shaft, the belt drive pulleys and the belt drive itself.

The motor throttle is due later this month and the 4th battery (so we will have 4 x 12 volt 300AH batteries connected in series to give 1200AH in total, delivered at 48 volts.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we are able to get to the boat, at least for a day trip, so that we can collect all the battery cables and crimp connectors. Then we can get it all wired up and tested at home.

Sustainable Sailing and Human Power

I’ve been quiet on here during the COVID-19 pandemic so far. More urgent priorities and has seemed inappropriate when so many have been dying, ill or struggling in other ways. However, some countries are now starting to move beyond lockdowns and it now seems more appropriate to focus on building a better future. One that is more human in scale, more caring of people and planet, more sustainable. So here are some thoughts of another aspect of bringing Humans into Sustainable Sailing

With a goal of zero fossil fuels being central to our understanding of Sustainable Sailing there is a big gap in what we have been planning so far.

What about using human power?

I’ve come up with a number of potential uses for human power when Sustainable Sailing. Let’s see if any make sense.

  1. Moving the boat
  2. Replacing electric powered items on the boat
  3. Generating electricity
  4. Getting to/from shore
  5. Getting around on shore

Now we have a list, time to consider them in some detail.

Moving the boat

The best examples I know of for actually moving a yacht by human power come from two races. In the UK The Three Peaks Yacht Race (run to and climb the highest peaks in Wales, England and Scotland; sail between them; engines only allowed within specified areas of the ports) and the Race to Alaska (No motor, no support, all the way to Alaska.
The physical endurance, saltwater know-how, and bulldog tenacity to navigate the 750 cold water miles from Port Townsend, Washington, to Ketchikan, Alaska). There are great videos from Race to Alaska 2019

My conclusion is that if you want to be able to make any real progress with human power to move a yacht then 3 conditions need to be met

  1. You need a large crew so that you can have people who are rested enough to cope with a storm that follows a long calm where you have been using human power.
  2. The lighter and easier the boat to move the more practical it is. A racing multi-hull is the best option, a live-aboard heavy displacement mono-hull very bad.
  3. So far the most effective solutions for speed are also fragile and take up a lot of space. Neither good for long term cruising.

Therefore, it seems to me that it is better to invest in improved sailing performance in light winds to minimise the amount of time that human power could improve your speed. For shorthanded cruising (eg a couple living aboard) an electric motor is going to be far less risky in harbour situations where you don’t have spare crew or where you need to be able to cope with tides and headwinds while manoeuvring.

Replacing electric powered items on the boat

Probably the only electric powered item that we plan to have that we could easily (and more cheaply) replace with a human powered version, is the windlass for raising and lowering the anchor.

The electric windlass we are fitting can be used manually. However, having an electric windlass seems to us to be a great safety feature.

It allows us to have a much heavier anchor and chain,

it means we won’t put off moving to a more sheltered anchorage because we don’t want to manually raise the anchor,

if you need to leave an anchorage in bad conditions we won’t start sailing while physically exhausted from raising the anchor.

It raises the anchor much faster, which with the saving in physical effort makes sailing on and off anchor much easier

So we think investing in better electrical capacity is a better option here.

More and more yachts, particularly larger ones now have electric winches and/or electric sail furling. We plan to stick to manual as long as we are physically capable, possibly getting an electric powered winch handle rather than a whole winch when we need help.

Most of our other electrical systems are cooking or water related. So far no obvious human powered options (water-making would be great but falls far short of daily needs for a lot of effort).

Generating electricity

How about using a bike or something to generate electricity while we exercise? Our conclusion is that it can’t generate enough to be worthwhile (especially when you factor in a small crew). Time and money better spent ensuring maximum power from your solar by keeping it clean, shadow free and pointing at the sun.

Getting to/from shore

This is where I believe it starts to get very interesting.

We have gone for probably the most popular dinghy style (A rigid inflatable with aluminium hulls). Having inflatable hulls makes getting on and off the boat so much easier and safer with no risk of damage. An aluminium hull is both lighter than the traditional grp and much tougher for dragging up beaches (it is also fully recyclable). Ours is a Highfield Classic 290 which we should be able to store on our fore deck when sailing (just in front of the main mast), it also fits inside our van for transport to and from home (nowhere to keep it near the launching place near our mooring).

Ribs are pretty rubbish to row (the hull is too wide with too much water and wind drag, plus the seating position is inefficient. So we have an electric motor, but that means we sacrifice speed, it won’t be possible to plane (but we don’t expect to want to zoom to fantastic diving spots for example).

Could human power provide an alternative? We have looked at various “toys” to use when at anchor. SUP’s (stand-up paddle boards) are very popular and the inflatable ones easy to store. But practical and useful they are not, unless it is warm enough to wear just a swimming costume and you don’t need to go far and it is smooth water without much wind and you don’t want to carry anything. An inflatable kayak is a little better in practicality.

So instead we are wondering about carrying something designed to row well. The best option that we have found is from Angus Rowboats, they have an amazing track record (first human powered circumnavigation, rowing across the Atlantic, coming first in the under 20 feet category of the Race to Alaska). They have this beautiful Oxford Wherry available as plans or a kit. I’ve had a chat with Colin Angus and we agree it should be possible to make a minor adjustment so that the wherry can be divided into 3 nesting parts for storage on deck (we think it would fit on our aft cabin). We think that this would be the most efficient human powered dinghy that you could carry on a yacht. With a sliding seat you will be able to carry yourself and a passenger to explore rivers and harbours at a similar speed to our outboard engine on the rib.

We don’t think this would be suitable for our only tender, the key issues is that with the sliding seat you have to have outriggers for the oars and this makes coming alongside a yacht very difficult without causing damage (so instead we will use the rib as a dock/boarding platform). The lack of an engine option makes carrying large amounts of shopping or fighting the fast tide in the Menai Strait unattractive.

Getting around on shore

It amazes us how few of the sailing YouTube channels carry bikes with them to get around on the shore, particularly to go shopping. In a recent video Beau and Brandy had a 30 minute walk to the supermarket. They then had to push the loaded trolley back before an hours round trip returning the trolley.

Matt and Amy on Sailing Florence seem to be the best sorted with two Brompton bikes but we think they too are missing a key thing to transform using bikes for shopping. What they need is a trailer. For us there are two stand-out options (they need to fold and they need to be suitable for any bike and they need to resist corrosion). If we didn’t already have a trailer then the Cyclone Range from Radical Design are brilliant. The other option (and yes we have one) is from Carry Freedom We have an old Large Y-Frame but there are other options now. Here is mine in use (Cargobike sadly not so suitable for fitting on board boats, plastic box is just bolted on, anything else could be used). It works as a hand cart too for getting right to the loading point.

Conclusion

By far the most cost effective and transformative use of human power in Sustainable Sailing is a bike with a trailer.

A good rowing dinghy (probably in addition to a RIB) comes second.

For everything else your energy is better used improving your boats sailing ability and electrical generation and storage.

Friday progress #18

So we came to the boat late last night to spend time off with plenty of Social Distance. Didn’t come within 50 metres of anyone last night (apart from those in other cars). Today we spoke to Richard working on the boat next to us in a howling gale from at least 5 meters distance. I did buy one thing from the chandlery but at an appropriate distance from the staff. Now it seems we have the boatyard to ourselves. Will return home tomorrow.

It feels like slow progress today. More clearing out of the diesel engine remains (fuel pipes, exhaust, wiring) and cleaning of the space. We have managed to get the very heavy steel engine bearers out (not sure yet if we will reuse them at half the length or not need them).

The slowest part has been trying to sort out the Stuffing Box. This provides a seal around the propeller shaft. We want to replace it for 3 reasons

  • It needed a fair bit of work doing a) the “stuffing” replacing anyway as it was apparently leaking consistently b) the grease gun needed servicing c) there is a pressured water supply from the engine cooling which we won’t be able to maintain.
  • We want a modern leak free alternative to keep the area around the electric motor as dry and salt free as possible.
  • We want to keep reducing maintenance and the newer dripless seals go for years without any servicing (and without needing to take the boat out of the water to do that servicing).

We haven’t managed to do this yet. We can’t undo the last of 4 bolts holding the stuffing box outer casing in place. Thanks to the Rival Association Facebook page we think we have a couple of potential solutions to look at.

So some photos. All looking a lot cleaner and more empty but not finished yet.

Most of the fuel pipes plus assorted other engine bits
Fighting the stubborn bolt (it is still winning)
What remains of the outer shell of the stuffing box.
That last bolt, always the least accessible one is the one that won’t undo (a stainless steel bolt in a bronze shell is a recipe for getting stuck due to galvanic reaction between dissimilar metals)
Aft wall of the engine compartment looking very empty. Note also the “missing”, heavy, metal engine bearers, they are not needed for a 40 kg engine that runs smoothly compared to a 180kg engine that tries to shake loose all the time.
The cockpit locker, looking from across the engine bay. The dark stain is where the port side diesel tank was. The batteries were on the left between the engine bearer (foreground) and the fuel tank. On the right was the hot water, the fuel for the heater, the water pump and the fridge condenser.

The whole space should now be free of diesel and we have vacuumed all the worst mess out. Won’t smell properly clean until the last bits have been removed, it has been cleaned, sanded and painted. But at least until then we have 6 big holes (from seacocks, propeller, exhaust, bilge pump) for ventilation.

We didn’t get to eat until 9:30pm, so am feeling very tired now. Not sure what if anything we will manage tomorrow before heading home.

Another not Friday progress

We won’t be making direct progress on Vida this Friday as I’m working. Still we have been making some progress at home.

Jane has ordered more foam for the saloon (dinette backrests and the outboard portion of the sea berth).

I’ve been collecting a few more parts for the remaining jobs. Now that we have discovered the bilge, I’ve got a water level sensor and an electric bilge pump that it will control. That will mean that should there be a leak we can focus on finding and solving the cause while the pump keeps the water at bay as much as possible. Also if water comes in while we are off the boat then at least it will get pumped out for a while (given that the only holes below the waterline will be for the cockpit drains we have massively reduced the chances of this, unless sea lions attack us). However, there are some problems.

Firstly, at the moment we don’t have good enough access.

Secondly, it looks disgusting. We can’t allow water to get contaminated with all this yuck get pumped out into the sea.

So I’ve got some heavy duty bilge cleaner to try to get it clean enough to not contaminate any water that sits in it. Plus we want to get it clean enough for epoxy resin to stick to it, so that we have options for reducing it’s size and adding some strength (more bio-epoxy arriving soon).

Another area of progress has been towards more visible progress. We’ve ordered everything to fully refurbish our two hatches (one over thee aft cabin and the other over the saloon). Currently, the acrylic is so crazed that you can’t see through it, we had thought we would leave this until later but there are leaks between then acrylic and the frame, leaks in the seal in the frame and leaks between the frame and the deck. At the same time we have ordered a new acrylic panel for the roof of the wheelhouse, you couldn’t see through it and it was also leaking. All of that from Hadlow Marine for less than half the cost of one new hatch.

Finally, a spot of good news is that while the extra batteries are delayed due to the Coronavirus our electric motor has been shipped and we should have it in a couple of weeks (I’m by no means minimising the terrible effects of the virus and fully recognise that a bit of inconvenience for us counts as nothing).

I’ve also corrected the part of the drivetrain that I’d got wrong (maybe I’m on the way to becoming a tapered bush bearing expert) and we should have that soon. There are still some decisions to make and parts to order before we will be ready to connect the motor to the propeller but no rush as I don’t want to make mistakes.

So much space gained by switching to an electric motor

Now that our engine compartment is empty we have been able to more accurately work out where everything will go.

We can fit the motor batteries (each 300AH) at the side of the motor. By stacking two batteries each side we can have the entire motor and it’s “fuel” in about 600mm length from the end of the existing propeller shaft. Plus we could add a 3rd layer of batteries if we needed to double the motor battery capacity (while that would be higher than fully desirable the tops would be about level with the top of the existing fuel tanks so not much impact on stability). .

Forward of the motor and batteries we can fit up to 7 x 120AH house batteries within the existing engine compartment (we are starting with 4). These will be nice and low in the boat (considerably lower centre of gravity than the existing engine and tanks). Our busbars will also be mounted here.

Above the house batteries there is plenty of space for our two Victron inverters. Aft of the motor, where the fuel filters are we will be able to fit all our Solar MPPT controllers so they have short cable runs to the batteries.

All this means that we won’t need to use the original wet locker for the inverters and MPPT controllers, so we get that back.

When the fuel tanks are removed we will gain a huge amount of space in the cockpit locker (which used to lose space to 4 batteries, fuel tank, hot water tank, water pump, fridge compressor). We will also gain in the corridor to the aft cabin which we will be able to make a bit wider and have a huge storage area with shelves for boxes of clothes (maybe one day a redesign of this and the chart table will create space for our bikes).

So not only did the diesel engine fill this large space (and leak fumes out all into spaces in every direction), it also took lots of extra space for fuel, starter battery etc.

The electric motor doesn’t just bring all it’s systems into the one space it also allows a whole load of other things to fit into the same space, thus creating yet more space elsewhere.

In all this we will be able to see and reach every battery’s cable connection and LCD battery monitoring display. We will be able to remove every battery (although we will have to remove several to get to the furthest ones). We will be able to see and reach the last two remaining seacocks (for cockpit drains). We will have access to the propeller shaft and whatever shaft seal we end up with. We will also have better access to the deepest part of the bilge for the manual and electric bilge pumps that we plan to fit.

For a boat that we intend to live on when we retire all this extra space and accessibility are two reasons that alone would make going for an electric motor a great improvement. But we still have all the other benefits too.