March breaks through 1,000 views

Very happy to see that March has been the first time that we have had more than 1,000 views in one month. That was over 420 visitors. Plus we now have 130 followers spread out between email, WordPress and social media. Good to see some consistent growth.

So if you are following us then welcome! If you are new here then also welcome

We are on a journey that hopefully will return to more practical progress in a couple of weeks when lockdown restrictions are due to relax. It will be good to get out of my head a bit.

Next week we hope to be setting our son up to get the plastic shredding started. We have a new stainless steel shredder and a second hand electric motor which he is going to connect and sort out. The injection moulding machine and moulds is all on order. We will be taking our shed to re-purpose as a workshop. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we have some recycled plastic products to sell.

DIY Washing Machine for Sailing

There are some things that (nearly) all Sailing Channels on YouTube have in common. One is the significant costs in time, money and hassle of maintaining Diesel Engines. Another is the pain of laundry, that is one I want to look at again.

I’m going to group the approaches to laundry into three categories: Electric Washing Machine; Laundromat; Handwashing.

All these have problems.

Electric Washing machines:

  • Purchase cost
  • High power requirements (almost certainly going to require a generator)
  • High water requirements (almost certainly going t require a watermaker)
  • Large space required
  • Not designed for a marine environment so don’t last very well
  • Potential to fit a filter to catch microplastics

Laundromat:

Well summed up in this video from Ryan and Sophie:

  • Quite expensive
  • Very time-consuming
  • Requires access to large enough town (in much of Europe now only common in marinas)
  • Unlikely to have filters to catch microplastics

Handwashing

  • Available everywhere (but not attractive in a cold/wet climates)
  • Drying laundry is a real challenge anywhere apart from the tropics
  • Unlikely to have anyway to filter out microplastics

Our approach

In the past we have considered a WonderWash, but at the moment getting one in the UK seems almost impossible (most sellers specifically not exporting to the UK, others might but shipping would double the cost).

There are a number of washing machines being marketed at campers, however, they look very flimsy.

So we plan to build our own, very simple and very robust washing machine. We will start with a watertight plastic key such as this from Solent Plastics

If we make a frame so that it can be rotated with a handle then it is just a matter of putting in the washing, some water and some form of reef safe detergent, then rotating it. We would need a keg large enough for the largest thing we need to wash (our duvet cover). We can use it to store our dirty clothes when we are not doing the washing. When clothes have been washed, all we need is a large funnel into a microplastic filter and we can pour the water away without dumping microplastics directly into the sea.

A side benefit is that we can easily use the same system to wash plastics before shredding them as part of our plastic recycling.

Drying. We think we need the combination of 3 things to be able to dry washing whatever the climate.

Spin dryer: However, you end up getting laundry to fully dry it is much faster if you first use a spin dryer. We haven’t seen a really effective human powered spin dryer. So we think a mains electric spin dryer is the best option. There are not very large and they spin out most of the water (which is easy to collect to pour through the microplastic filter).

Obviously in a suitable climate the simplest option is to hang laundry outside dry. That is not possible all year round in the UK and many places. So to allow drying inside we plan the combination of heating and dehumidifying.

We will have a dehumidifier in the motor room. We wrote about this in Sustaining Electrics and are still planning for something like an Ecor Pro Dryboat 12. Running this should help ensure that laundry dries quickly and without causing damp throughout the boat.

When we need heating it will be via a Refleks diesel heater that will not just provide direct heat but also distribute hot water through radiators. This is a dry heat which is important, we don’t want to introduce more damp into the air. We will have a radiator in our forward head with the shower drip tray and plenty of hanging space for our washing so that it can dry reasonably quickly. The water from the shower (like all our grey water) will go through a microplastic filter before leaving the boat. Obviously having a shower won’t be possible while laundry is drying and access to the forecabin will be inconvenient. However, while there are just the two of us we can use the en-suite heads in the aft cabin and so it won’t be a problem.

Summary:

We think the combination of a diy manual washing “machine”, a mains electric spin dryer, a dehumidifier and radiator heating will

  • be cheap to buy, install and maintain.
  • be good for collecting microplastic
  • be a good combination of low hassle and low cost laundry
  • take little space and not use much electricity or water
  • provide a good basis for washing plastic for recycling
  • work in a wide variety of climates and weathers
  • allow us to be off-grid for long periods of time

Our Scandinavian challenges part 2

In Our Scandinavian challenges part 1 I covered the time/permission complications of getting to spend time in the fantastically beautiful (and remote) parts of Scandinavia and the Baltic given the impact of Brexit.

I ended with “In part 2 I’ll look at the other key challenges these cruising grounds have for us (particularly heating and renewable energy).” so here we are.

We are not (definitely not!!!!) planning to spend winters where the sea freezes unlike some of those crazy YouTubers I linked to in the last post 🙂 However, we are going to be spending time where some heating is going to be needed, whether that means wintering in the UK or being further north in the Spring or Autumn (either heading towards to back from a summer in or close to the Arctic). As we are going to be living aboard full-time in or retirement we want to give ourselves as many options as possible.

It should be no surprise that when it gets cold an electric boat that is aiming to have zero fossil fuels gets hit by a double whammy.

If the weather is cold enough to need heating then it is almost certain that you will get very little energy from solar panels (even on those bright sunny winter days the sun isn’t very high in the sky for very long).

If it is cold then you are going to need to heat the boat and all forms of electric heating use a lot of electrical power. Plus of course we tend to prefer hot food and drinks when it is cold and on a n electric boat that too will use lots of power.

So we generate less power but need more power. Ouch.

If we stick with a zero fossil fuels target then there are a number of options to help out but no magic solution:

  • Sail the boat to somewhere warmer 🙂 Given Schengen I suspect Turkey, Croatia, Cyprus and Algeria will be more popular for UK cruisers than they used to be. But the weather in the Mediterranean is no picnic, if anchoring you can end up moving often to find shelter from different wind directions. Winds can be very strong coupled with large waves that might come from a different direction. Another option is to go further south for example to the Cape Verde Islands, but then you could continue across the Atlantic to the best season in the Caribbean 🙂 But we do want the option to be able to winter in the UK so that we can visit family and friends.
  • Insulate the boat better. This is an obvious improvement that miraculously helps in both hot and cold climates 🙂 We have been working on going from zero insulation to a minimum of 10mm closed cell foam. See here for our first attempt to fit the foam – it didn’t stay up. Next plan is here but probably we will put more layers of foam to increase this to at least 20mm and reckon the purchase cost will be worth it in increased comfort and reduced energy use.
  • Heat locally. So rather than heat the whole boat do so in zones (we already have not heated the forecabin at all, in very cold conditions we could close off the aft cabin and stay in the saloon) and also use thicker duvets, heated blankets and hot water bottles (yes we won’t use a hot water bottle with an electric blanket!!) to avoid heating the cabin as much.

However, these are not going to be enough when it gets very cold.

We do have electric heaters (both wall panels and fan heaters). I think we will try some of the low power “greenhouse” style tube heaters under the bunks. That will give us 3 options to compare for warmth, control, comfort and energy use.

Despite all these efforts we are sure that in winter, despite all our solar, we will consume a lot more battery power than we can generate.

That leaves us with two more avenues to pursue. a) what other options are there to recharge the batteries b) what else can we do to make the battery bank capacity last longer.

What other options are there to recharge the batteries

One strategy that solves the problem is to spend time connected to shore-power. We have seen many cruisers on YouTube spend the winter in Marinas (Salty Lasses, Uma, MJ Sailing, Sailing Fair Isle are all examples). This way you get a permanent connection to mains electric. You can keep your batteries charged, have all your electric heaters running and stay warm.

But there are disadvantages. In the UK this quickly becomes costly (a winter marina berth for us will range from maybe about £1,500 for 4 months to £2,500 for up to 6 months that without going to the more expensive parts of the country where £800 a month would be a starting point). More than just the cost is that we want to live aboard our boat so that we can go sailing not sit in a marina for half the year.

So we want to explore options where we extend the time we can manage on batteries and go into marinas/harbours for a night every so often to get the batteries fully charged (and maybe have groceries delivered). It looks like we could expect to pay up to about £40 a night. One option would be to spend a winter along the South coast of Cornwall and Devon. There is beautiful sailing along that coast, lovely harbours, rivers and towns to visit. There are very lots of rivers with good shelter and many where you can anchor (eg Helford, Fal, Percuil, Fowey, Tamar, Yealm, Dart). Then you have a wide choice of marinas and harbours when you need to charge the batteries. If we can keep that under 10 days a month in marinas then not only do we get the sailing and beautiful views we also save money.

One obvious strategy will be to invest in wind generators, given that cold and windy weather often come together. They work out at between £1K and £2.4K per generator (remember we need 48volt ones). Calculating how much difference this can make is difficult, it depends how sheltered a spot you find and the weather conditions. We have a few options for where we might install one or more wind generators. It is important that we don’t end up casting shade onto our solar panels from the wind generators as that would have a dramatic impact on the solar performance. Also, as with the solar panels I would prefer to be able to take them down and inside if we are expecting a storm. If the demountable option works well then potentially we could have a position at the side of the mizzen mast that could be used when sailing. Then we would only put them wind generators up when the gain will be greater than the loss in solar due to shading.

As a starting point I’m thinking one wind generator using a demountable pole fitting towards the bow. With that we would only have the wind generator up while at anchor and it would be as far away from the solar panels and where we sleep as possible so that neither the shade nor the noise will be a problem. That will let us properly evaluate how much difference it makes. If we think it is enough then we could explore other options.

With our ketch rig the only option for that won’t cause shading and can be used both at anchor and when sailing is a permanent mounting on top of the mizzen mast. That doesn’t excite me. The top of a mast is the last place you want to add weight. It will also be moving around a lot in waves which will affect it’s performance. Finally, the foot of the mizzen mast is above the head of our bed. I’m concerned about noise and vibration disturbing our sleep. However, it would be out of the way and (until it breaks) very convenient. If we want that option to be available we need a generator that can be remotely braked (manually or automatically) if the wind strength is too high.

It is very hard to estimate how many nights in a marina having a wind generator would save us. We would have to save about 40 nights to recoup the cost. We could achieve that saving over a couple of winters if we could reduce the need to get shore power to once every 10 days instead of once every 5 days (both are guesses and will be very weather and location dependant). Of course it would also help avid the need for shore power a bit in other seasons, particularly if permanently mounted.

What else can we do to make the battery bank capacity last longer?

The most obvious answer is to install another form of heating that does not use the battery bank. All the YouTubers who have visited the Arctic Circle or Scandinavia in the winter have some form of heating that is not electric. They all say they can’t manage long at anchor otherwise. While our goals are not so extreme (the midnight sun is attractive to us but the sun not rising above the hills at all is not) we would be crazy not to learn from them. So what do they have besides electric heating (that they all only use when connected to shore power). There is a great video from Alluring Arctic on this, our takeaways from what we have seen are:

Wood burning stove

Uma have one of these and we have seen a few others. However, recent reports that we have seen on the high levels of pollution they release into the boat (mainly ash whenever you refuel it) and the air pollution from the chimneys mean we have ruled this out.

Diesel powered hot air

Probably the best known brand is Eberspächer, these install out of sight and burn diesel to heat air. Then then use a fan to blow the heat through the ducts around the boat. They are a more modern replacement for the paraffin heater we removed. The provide lovely warm dry air all around the boat. However, the ducting takes up a lot of space in lockers and they use quite a lot of electricity. Ran Sailing for example can only use it for one night or so before needing shore power to charge their batteries. Sailing Yacht Salty Lass have one and it is clear that these also require regular, quite time consuming maintenance to keep the insides clean and efficient. Obviously they need a diesel tank (and would normally take it from the main diesel engine tank which we don’t have).

So we are ruling this out for the loss of locker space, the significant electric use (which is what we are trying to avoid) and the amount of maintenance needed.

Drip fed diesel heaters

The brand that seems to offer heaters most suitable for us is Refleks. Their 66MW would fit neatly to a bulkhead which would be safe and not get in the way much. However, there are other options. The 66MV is insulated so it only heats the boat by hot water radiators, we could position that in a custom locker out of the way. The 66MK includes a stove top for kettles etc which would really help cut out electric consumption but I’m not sure where we could fit one. It seems some models can provide hot water for domestic use such as showers but I’m finding the information about which models do that a bit hidden.

As they are gravity fed they don’t use any electricity (I don’t think they even need a pump for the radiators?) and they are supposed to be very low maintenance.

We think at the moment a Refleks heater would be a good option. Whilst it does mean some fossil fuels it is far more efficient to directly heat the boat rather than run a generator to charge batteries to then heat the boat. It also gives a backup heat source should we have a catastrophic electric failure.

Conclusion

By combining lots of these options we hope to get to the point where we can cruise in Arctic summers, stretched Scandinavian sailing seasons and British winters while stretching out the time we can go without needing to connect to shore power.

We will work up to the full combination of insulation, localised heating, wind generation and a Refleks heater (hopefully for radiators in all cabins and hot water for showers) with the goal of being energy independent (with care and some help from the weather) for a couple of weeks at a time. Only time will tell. If nothing else works we can sail to the middle the Azores high pressure and bob around for a few weeks to warm up 🙂

Our Scandinavian challenges part 1

For a while now we have been watching YouTube Videos that have made us want to sail the Norwegian Atlantic coast and visit some of the thousands of islands and Fjords, we have also long fancied visiting the Baltic. Particularly:

  • Juho with Alluring Arctic has spent two years spent entirely above the Arctic Circle, his experience and videos are amazing. We are not tempted to believe that we can become expert with skis (or even want to) or that we would want to spend a winter so far North. But there are so many places he has shown that would be wonderful to visit, even without going as far as Svalbard
  • Erik Aanderaa with his No Bullshit Just Sailing slogan. His video Sailing Haugesund to Lofoten- Around the Norwegian Sea pt.1 is a particular favourite.
  • MJ Sailing spent last summer sailing up to Lofoton (see their Northern Europe playlist)
  • Sailing Uma are wintering in Norway at the moment (I don’t know how they have managed the 90 days in 180 Schengen rule). Their videos are exceptional quality.
  • Ran Sailing have spent the year a little further south around Sweden and it too looks beautiful (both the Baltic and Atlantic coasts).

The challenges for us

In many ways we would love to plan for a couple of years of our eventual retirement cruising the Baltic and Atlantic Coast. There is so much beauty to see, so many places to explore. We could imagine needing a couple of summers to explore both coasts, while retreating some considerable distance South for the winters.

However, this is going to be a huge challenge for us. In this first post I’ll tackle one of those:

First, Schengen

We are living through the nightmare that is the tragic national self harm that is Brexit, and especially the appalling choices made by our government to go for such a hard Brexit. It is obvious that they never thought through (or maybe are capable of understanding or only care about their own pockets) the implications for Northern Ireland, for the Fishing Industry, for UK citizens who have retired to the EU, for musicians touring etc etc. If we were 5 years older and had been retired a few years we could have spent unlimited time exploring Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the rest of the Baltic.

Now, we will need to tightly plan 3 month summer cruises. Options to cope with bad weather are going to be a lot more difficult, at the end of your 90 days we have to be somewhere where we can leave direct to somewhere outside Schengen. That needs to be somewhere we can stay for another 90 days without going back into Schengen (or it needs to allow us get to other places outside Schengen until the 90 days are up). While attractive to visit, 90 days in either the Faroes or St Petersburg doesn’t really appeal (safe wintering also being a factor).

90 day cruises means more summers will be needed if we are to get to the countries and beautiful cruising grounds that we have seen are there without rushing.

MJ Sailing got as far as Lofoten from the UK in one summer, mostly using coastal hops. However, they didn’t get to spend much time there or have time for the amazing cruising grounds to the north. What is more to stay within the 90 days they spent hours and hours motoring to make fast enough progress.

Our situation is different. We have a more powerful electric motor than most electric boats, and a large battery bank, however, we need that battery bank for everything, not just for the electric motor. Coastal hopping with lots of motoring is possible for us, but only if we moor-up with mains power to charge the batteries for more than 12 hours between trips (realistically probably safer to assume 2 nights if we have pretty fully drained the battery bank). Anyway, we don’t want to spend our time motoring, we want to sail. We also want to anchor rather than always need to get a shore-power hookup. It isn’t just about a preference for remoteness, we can’t afford to pay harbour fees every night.

This probably means that if we want long enough to explore a Schengen cruising ground in some detail we will need to make long direct passages. Then we only check-in to a country as we arrive at the area we want to cruise in, then our 90 days are all spent where we want to cruise rather than getting there. That has significant implications for the boat, our skills and passage making. The difference between getting to somewhere like Lofoton using coastal hops (much of it protected by islands) or a direct passage from the Faroes is huge.

So for that beautiful area of Norway north of the Arctic Circle we could, perhaps, sail from the UK to the Faroes (not part of Schengen) and then onward towards the Lofoten Islands. We then would have to depart Norway within 3 months, again potentially doing this as a long passage rather than coastal hop south. Part of the significance of this option and what increases the challenge, the difficulty is that is just not what cruising yachts have been doing. Everything works on the assumption of getting somewhere like Lofoten by coastal cruising with occasional overnight passages.

We are very attracted to longer passages and to spending a larger proportion of our time actually sailing than seems the norm. We have a boat that is well suited to it but are very short of experience. An estimate of 90% of time anchored rather than sailing is often quoted by live aboard cruisers (not sure if they all count hours or if they mean nights). So this is a big deal which will require a lot of preparation and be a significant challenge.

Generally, if cruisers are forced to switch from coastal hops to direct passages to cruising grounds then this is going to change things for many people – but maybe few want to visit these places. Or maybe they are happy to spend a lot of time and money motoring to meet the schedule. Or perhaps they will pay others to deliver their boat for them. That is not an option for us a) financially b) where would we live while someone is delivering our home and c) we don’t want to fly due to trying to be Sustainable.

When it comes to the Baltic I’m not sure. A first summer route via Copenhagen (one of my favourite cities in the world), up to the Stockholm archipelago, through the Göta Canal and back to the UK would make a great 3 months summer cruise. But what about if we want to spend the summer in the Eastern Baltic? Could we get as far as Finland before starting to count our 90 days? Is it possible to sail into the Baltic without checking in at either Denmark or Sweden? Still Denmark, Finland, the Baltic States, even Russia and then back to Denmark in 3 months is possible, even if tight.

So we could be looking at needing 4 summers to explore a significant amount of Scandinavia. Something like:

  • Denmark, Stockholm archipelago, Göta Canal: winter in the UK, maybe based near Falmouth
  • Norwegian Coast and Fjords towards Lofoten and back: winter in the UK, maybe based around the Solent for a change
  • Eastern Baltic: winter West Coast of Scotland/Northern Ireland
  • Faroes, Lofoten, Northern Norway: winter head south and onwards to the Caribbean

But there are other options. You could include an Atlantic circuit. So instead of a UK winter head down to the Canaries, then the Caribbean for December, then the East Coast of the US before crossing back but keeping North of the UK to get to Norway but it would be a rush to arrive for any summer in Norway.

Obviously, these Schengen rules are not new for people from countries outside Europe. However, I suspect these cruising grounds have not been so frequently visited by non-Europeans. I’m very interested in different experiences and views as well as ideas for reading and research

In part 2 I’ll look at the other key challenges these cruising grounds have for us (particularly heating and renewable energy).

Recycling Plastic Progress

Following our post Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling we have made some progress.

Our son is going to build-up the machines we need and get the processes for shredding and injection moulding sorted for us. That will include getting some products built for sale with Sustainable Sailing branding. The idea is to get everything sorted for us to take onto the boat when we retire as a fully functioning system.

So we have now bought a stainless steel shredder with a stainless steel hopper from Reading Shredding (a Precious Plastic version 3.1 design). We are buying a second-hand electric motor with gearbox on eBay (just waiting for the final invoice reflecting us collecting as it is pretty local). The jury is out as to whether on the boat we will end up with a dedicated electric motor for the shredder or power it by a belt drive to our main boat motor.

We think we have found the right injection moulding machine as a kit, also made in the UK by Recycle Rebuild. We will probably replace some of the bolts with more quick release options and will look for a way to attach it to the boat rather than use it’s stand. They also make lots of modular moulds which will give us lots of things to make for use and for sale (being able to make tiles for our galley and heads from our own waste plastic is super cool).

Our lovely friend Jules is helping us with a version of our logo that can be used with these modular moulds 🙂

We are also working on how to get a mould created for our rigging tangs. Likely that we will start by making a cylinder (maybe 60mm or 70mm diameter and 20mm long) and then working with hand tools to create our prototypes. Basically it needs a slightly angled and beautifully rounded groove in the top so that the dyneema eye splice doesn’t slide sideways or chafe. I’m wondering about making a separate “hat” that will stop the dyneema jumping out of the groove when you are installing the rigging or lifting the mast on or off the boat. If it is a full “hat” it will also protect the main tang and dyneema from UV damage as well.

It would be possible, to make inner and outer chafe protectors for the chainplates. We could rout out a section of the G10 plates between and around the holes for the dyneema lashings. Then a piece of hdpe could fill that with “tubes” to extend into the holes to make them very chafe resistant for the dyneema. As all the sizing and angles would be very custom it is probably something we would hand carve after making an hdpe “brick”. A good thing about working with recycled plastic is that you can collect all your shavings and off-cuts and put them back into the process. So no extra waste 🙂

We have got a few other boat specific products in mind such as cleat boots (slot over each end of a mooring cleat when it isn’t in use so that you don’t stub your toes on it). Also clip on parts for fairleads to reduce the chafe on mooring lines.

If you can think of other products that we could make out of recycled plastic and sell to other cruisers please let us know.

Boat envy?

We watch a lot of Sailing channels on YouTube, watch boat reviews and boats for sale as well as reading lots of articles.

So as we look at so many different boats the questions comes to mind: Do we feel Boat Envy? Or if we were choosing again would we choose differently?

For the most part the answer is no. We don’t see many boats that would give us the freedom to change so much to support Sustainable Sailing. But let’s look at some specifics.

Interior

Modern production yachts are a world apart from more traditional yachts such as our Rival 38 with acres of space, hull windows and light colours. The tradition of boats of a similar age also have a very different feel to the Rival with their dominating dark teak and mahogany. We see the potential for a real good hybrid of a modern light colour scheme yet matching the practical, tough, no nonsense, almost workboat feel, of the exterior of the Rival 38 (industrial rubber bulwark cap, grey deck and coachroof etc).

When people feel that the inside of their boat is pristine and beautiful we see them feeling restricted in making improvements and obliged to keep things the same. Or they feel they have to invest long hours restoring timber to it’s former glory. For us it was immediately obvious that much of the timber had too much water damage and wear for us to imagine trying to restore a beautiful teak interior (which is not a style we particularly like anyway).

If you feel the interior isn’t at the end of it’s life (for example our headlining was hanging down in many places and clearly past any sensible end of life) then big changes to major systems (moving tanks, changing the engine, switching from gas to electric cooking etc) are all much harder to achieve as you don’t have such easy access.

That freedom has allowed us to see significant things that have advanced a great deal in the past 45 years, we can learn from them, adapt them and, we believe, end up with a really big step forward from what we started.

We think that the improvements will be really obvious in the reworking of our heads compartments. The composting toilets are a huge improvement (and fitting black water tanks and all the plumbing would have been a technical nightmare as well as very expensive), in the forward head we will end up with a much better shower plus changing space for the forward cabin even though we don’t have the space for separate shower.

While our stern is so much narrower than modern boats (which we think we are going to be very grateful for every time it gets rough) we have been able to learn from the newer designs and our new aft cabin layout will provide a better bed (not quite as silly large at the head end as it is now) and a nice seat. Structurally we think it will support the mizzen mast better (since removing the mizzen mast the cabin roof has definitely gone up a bit and the bulkhead needs improvement). By cutting back the cupboard and the engine room we gain more space for changing and the rather tight passage from the main cabin will be a bit more spacious but also visually more open. We also gain a bit more space for our knees on the loo and wider doors for carrying the loo outside for emptying. The passage will always be a crouch and

Already we feel our new galley worktop is a big improvement and by the time we have finished with the flexible gimbled shelf, the microwave, fridge and folding extension to the worktop (making it a true U shape when in port) it will be functionally as good as most modern yachts. It inevitably it is smaller than a more modern boat, but as yet we wouldn’t find many with all electric cooking.

Exterior

We love having a ketch rig (especially without a triatic stay connecting the masts) and a centre cockpit. They are rare in new boats. We definitely didn’t want in-mast furling or the need to rely on electric winches or furling systems. Compared to modern boats our cockpit is very small, but there is enough space for two of us to lie down. We don’t have a bathing platform and getting in and out of the dinghy or the water is going to be much harder. We are quite happy that the combination of our narrow stern shape and ketch rig mean that we are not tempted to try to use davits to carry a dinghy (instead we will lift it up onto the foredeck).

Cruising Features

So some of the things that we see as essential are. A full length skeg for the rudder, an encapsulated keel, a hull shape without a flatish bottom so it won’t slam in waves, good sea berths, space to have an additional couple for extended periods either in coastal cruising or passage making. A design that was intended for live aboard world cruising rather than can be adapted for it.

Beyond that we love having a fully separated aft cabin with access from the main cabin, the tightness of that passage doesn’t really concern us at all.. We love having two heads compartments and one with space for a pretty reasonable shower (much better than our last caravan had and we used that a lot without any problems).

We do love the ketch rig, certainly our first choice for safety, comfort and ease of handling (even more so as we gradually convert to a full cutter rig on the foredeck).

Possibly the only downside to the Rival 38 Centre Cockpit for us is the position of the steering wheel which I feel leaves your sense a little less connected to the sailing experience, but that is really only an issue for day sailing or racing.

Sustainable Issues

We still feel that refitting a solid older boat, that hasn’t been updated much, gives the best options for sustainable sailing. By giving an older GRP boat new life we avoid it becoming plastic waste for many more years (and hopefully by the we will have improved the ways we deal with waste at the end of it’s useful life). There is no reason why Vida shouldn’t last another 50 years and out live us by several decades.

The only better option would be an Aluminium boat, but I don’t know of any with zero fossil fuels yet. That gives you an easily recycled hull, plus better safety if going to very high latitudes where you might expect to encounter ice.

Conclusion

We haven’t seen a single boat that approaches the capabilities and features of our Rival 38 for anything approaching the total budget we will have ended up spending on the purchase and refit of Vida. Not a single boat. We could have spent less but would have had far more boatbuilding to do and probably fewer of the features we hoped for.

There are many beautiful boats out there but you have to go so much larger and so much more expensive to see really significant benefits in terms of the accommodation space. A separate shower would be nice, but having two heads is more important to us. A bathing platform would be nice but not at the expense of a hull shape that won’t get slapped by every wave, won’t track well and doesn’t have full rudder protection. Standing headroom walking to the aft cabin would be nice but not if the whole boat costs 3 to 5 times more. A bigger guest cabin might be nice but they might want to stay too long 😉 All those features though come at considerable costs in purchase price, in maintenance costs and in mooring costs.

So at the end of the day we are still convinced that we are so fortunate to have absolutely the right boat for us, one that allows us to be as sustainable as possible and to be our future retirement home that we can go almost anywhere in.

If you were to give us £10Million to choose any boat then just maybe we would spend £1.5Million on a custom electric Garcia Exploration 52, keep another £0.5 Million to live on for the rest of our lives and give the rest away. But really would we be happier? I can’t see why and I can see lots of areas with less satisfaction about what we can achieve ourselves. Would our environmental impact be lower? – no way. So probably a good thing we are not going to be in that position.

Easier anchor recovery

I recently found this product: The AnchorRescue II which looks like an excellent option for being able to trip your anchor if needed without all the problems of using a traditional trip-line to a buoy (tangles, other people picking it up etc).

It is good that it is a 2nd generation product, there have been others using somewhat similar concepts but this seems to have lasted longer and been improved. I like the fact that once setup you can ignore it until needed. Also that in the latest version it has re-usable velco strips to hold the trip chain to the anchor rather than leaving plastic cable ties at the bottom of the sea.

Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling

In a number of my Dyneema rigging posts I’ve referred to using HDPE to reduce friction and chafe where dyneema comes into contact with the mast or the deck.

I’d found a straightforward supply of HDPE as rods and sheets at Direct Plastics. However, we have just discovered a much better option. It turns out that it is relatively straightforward to turn our rubbish into new bits for the boat.

There are a ton of videos on how to turn HDPE waste into new products, even on a tiny scale (see Brothers Make on YouTube).

Therefore, we could potentially collect all our waste on the boat that is marked with this symbol:

into chafe avoiding parts for our rigging as well as lots of other useful boat bits for example:

  • Cleat boots (stop you hurting your toes on the rope cleats around your deck)
  • Chafe pads where ropes cross the deck or toerail
  • chopping boards
  • gratings for the shower room, for the cockpit
  • soap dishes
  • plastic carabiners for hooking light things up around the boat
  • chocks to hold things in place in lockers

Then we started to go further. Storage and disposal of waste is a real problem for cruisers. Supposing all plastic waste is washed, paper labels removed, sorted by type and colour and then shredded on board. Because with the exception of PET (1 in the recycling symbol) most plastics can be shredded and used to create new things (with varying properties). Suddenly all you have to store is tiny plastic pellets, which at any time can be made into things you can use or sell. You can even melt them into moulds to create dense “bricks” for the most compact storage – which can then be carved or melted to be used in other projects at a suitable time.

Then we went a bit further. While we won’t have the space or energy surplus for machines that have the capacity to run a full-time recycling business that collects and processes rubbish from a whole community, we would have enough capacity to be able to help out other cruisers with their waste.

Beyond that one of the common struggles we see many cruisers having is with the plastic they find on every beach. No cruiser has the capacity to store the plastic waste they can pick up very quickly every time they visit a beach. Plus even if it is collected then the small remote communities have no way of dealing with the waste (and cruisers often have to pay to leave rubbish). Of course, as we know, few large communities anywhere in the world are properly recycling much plastic waste. Too much gets shipped abroad, incinerated or buried rather than recycled.

So the goal becomes to find the right scale machines for the key tasks of shredding and injection moulding. The larger pieces can be created by either melting and pressing into a mould that we can make from wood (or possibly thickened epoxy); or by cutting/shaping as you would a piece of wood.

It looks like the Precious Plastic Universe is a potentially fantastic resource. Although their latest V4 machines are too big for us, there still seems to be a lot of support for their older/smaller machines. And it is all Open Source and Free.

We are loving this idea. Being able to make things to repair/upgrade our boat from our own rubbish is Sustainable heaven 🙂 But far more the chance to reduce the footprint of our cruising as well as that of others – in fact by being able to clear rubbish from beaches we end up with a really positive impact.

Dyneema / Synthetic Rigging Summary

I have written a lot on rigging your boat with Dyneema and thought it was about time I provided a overall guide to what I’ve written. So I’m going to try to give a coherent guide to what we have explored so far.

First, the obvious question: Why Dyneema standing rigging?, that is more thought through in relation to specific challenges on our boat, than our first mention back in October 2019 was. That was less than 2 months after buying Vida and I mentioned Dyneema standing rigging as a longer term possibility in Starting to sort out sailing. Of course Covid has changed our perceptions of time in a far too many ways. We also explored the progress on sustainable dyneema.

Latest Situation:

Chainplates: Final Dyneema Chainplate design
Attaching Dyneema Shrouds to mast: Currently planning diy tangs made from FR4 board which is an update to dyneema termination and chainplate update the shroud will have an eye splice which will loop over the tang.
Tensioning Shrouds: We are now planning to use a 6mm dyneema lashing between a Low Friction Ring at the bottom the shroud and the low friction ring at the top of the chainstay. We can use the same line for our guardrails.
Dyneema Rigging size: We have just ordered a 100 Metre Reel of 9mm DynIce Dux to replace the 6mm stainless (sizing up for caution)
Sail Plan: We have decided what we are aiming for and how to get there, see long-term desired sail plan

Our Chainplate journey

[Update] after visiting Vida for the first time in 6 months we have a Final Dyneema Chainplate design [end update]

The main learning since those early days been about the problems we face with our chainplates. That continues to evolve (so in my posts be aware that when I write “we plan” those plans may have changed more than once since. Even in the last few days we have learnt of a Rival 38 who had a chainplate (similar to ours except in stainless steel so presumably a replacement set from the original bronze we have) fail during a recent Atlantic crossing. So as we explored these issues I’ve written:

My thinking on chainplates was also affected by thinking about attaching a Jordan Series Drogue in a new simpler way. That reflects my dislike of custom stainless steel solutions. There are the corrosion issues (stainless steel corrodes in the absence of Oxygen – such as where a bolt is sealed as it goes through a deck or hull, and potential electrolytic pitfalls with dissimilar metals). They require someone to build them for you (not always possible in remote places and never free [or even cheap] or immediate). They can have problems that do not show up even with a careful visual inspection.

[Update we have a better idea of like for like replacement see Chainplate cost update.]

An updated design now completed see Next generation Dyneema Chainplates.

That has brought me to a new idea for Simpler Dyneema Chainplates. I have even produced a sketch (you can see why my Dad realised when I was very young that I would not follow him into architecture):

As I think about this solution, I realise that it can probably be adapted for most situations with chainplates that are close to the outside edge of the deck. Our bulwark should allow the holes to be drilled between the two sheets of G10, without coming through to the inside of the boat. However, if there is no bulwark the holes could be drilled and then the inside corner of the hull/deck joint could have a large fillet of thickened epoxy and the hole re-drilled through that.

My previous idea should still work where the holes can’t go external as it allows you to waterproof the dyneema loop below the deck.

Using G10 (above decks) or FR4 (below decks as fire resistant) that is bonded to the hull/deck should distribute loads much more effectively than a typical stainless steel chainplate without any corrosion/electrolytic risks.

Updated design now completed see Next generation Dyneema Chainplates.

[Update] after visiting Vida for the first time in 6 months we have a Final Dyneema Chainplate design [end update]

Attaching Dyneema

Another big issue is what ends you fit on a dyneema shroud. I first wrote about that in Termination of Dyneema Shrouds. The most contentious issue? I stand by my conclusion, that if you can afford it then Colligo Marine have the widest range.

For us, I realised that our masts make it relatively simple for us to make and fit our own DIY/budget version of a Colligo Cheeky Tang for a fraction of the cost see Dyneema Termination and Chainplate update. Also our latest chainplate idea and conversations with Rigging Doctor mean that we will at least start with Low Friction Rings (sized generously) for both the chainplates and the low ends of the shrouds.

Using HDPE: learning from Free Range Sailing again we are looking at using HDPE to create our tangs for connecting the shrouds to the mast and for reducing friction/chafe on the chainplate connections. We are now looking at recycling and creating these components ourselves: see Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling.

I’ve added a post “Chainplate and Mast Tang feedback” to answer some really helpful comments from Jacob.

Sizing Dyneema

This is another area that has taken a lot of research and thinking. So I wrote a long post in The mysteries of sizing Dyneema standing rigging.

Sail plan and stays

In Dyneema forestays and backstays I sorted out Dyneema for all the mizzen shrouds and stays. Also for the main mast backstays and inner forestay.

The forestay for the main mast will need to remain stainless steel due to our use of a roller reefing genoa. Possibly in the very long term a roller reefing system might be developed that works with a dyneema forestay.

Another option (which is what I understand the Vendee Globe yachts do) is to move from a single genoa that is roller reefed to having multiple genoas/jibs that can be furled. So when the wind speed increases you furl (roll up) your current genoa, lower it to the deck and hoist another smaller job in a furled state.

With enough halyards you can hoist the new sail (and potentially even unfurl it) before furling and lowering your original sail. The headstay that the sail furls around can be dyneema and it can be structural (ie it holds the mast up and you leave the sail up while it is furled). Or you could have a forestay in front of the sail that is used to hold the mast up. I’m not sure how tensioning these works. Presumably you don’t have the forestay so tight and you put a lot of tension in the sails headstay.

It would also be lovely to fit a small, retracting bowsprit to be able to hoist larger sails such as a code zero (for going upwind in light breezes) or an asymmetric spinnaker (for downwind sailing) out in front of the forestay.

However, all these are expensive options. So we will hope to maintain the existing roller reefing setup for a long time with the inner forestay mainly use for the storm jib if needed. These options also require a lot more working on the foredeck which definitely has it’s disadvantages to offset against better performance and reducing the number of single points of failure.

[Update] See our new post on our long-term desired sail plan and how we intend to get there.[End Update]

Where to start?

We don’t think it is a good idea for your first dyneema splices to be for the shrouds that hold your mast up. Instead both dyneema lifelines and soft shackles seem like much more sensible places to learn to splice dyneema. Billy and Sierra did a good video on this.

We have some ideas about our lifelines to solve potential leaks, some problems with bent stanchions and even to make mounting our tiltable, removable, side solar panels easier. More on that in the future.

The relationship between Convenience and Sustainability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Applying this in other areas is tougher.

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

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

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