Brexit implications

Amidst the dark days of the catastrophic response by the UK government to the Covid pandemic, the disaster that Brexit was always going to be, continues to unfold.

Unsurprisingly, given the dire impact on so many industries, communities and individuals, little attention is being given for the implications for what is a relatively small number live aboard cruisers.

The loss of freedom of movement was always going to be a huge price to pay. Sure enough, 90 days in the EU within each 180 day period will make cruising the Mediterranean very difficult. It will also make transiting to or from the Mediterranean via the French canals almost impossible. There are several British cruisers who have been spending the winter in places like the marina and boatyard at Almerimar in Spain

It seems that the UK government chose to not agree to the right to work in the EU. This is probably going to impact many cruisers who earn money while cruising. At the moment the impact on musicians touring is in the news but there are potentially huge implications for those earning money while cruising by picking up work, doing remote working, selling or from YouTube etc. Part of the problem is going to be the uncertainty, there will be differences between countries but also between different offices and officials. I suspect that this is going to take years to find clarity.

Another area where there is potential for significant disruption is about what is taken into Europe. In the last week Lorry drivers have had sandwiches confiscated (BBC News).

Under EU rules, travellers from outside the bloc are banned from bringing in meat and dairy products.

“Since Brexit, you are no longer allowed to bring certain foods to Europe, like meat, fruit, vegetables, fish, that kind of stuff,” a Dutch border official told the driver in footage broadcast by TV network NPO 1.

This has obvious implications for cruisers, if officials check yachts for fresh food every time they enter the EU.

Beyond these issues, in terms of Sustainable Sailing, Brexit has other impacts such as reduced value of pensions, reduced value of UK currency. There are also issues related to health cover, insurance, mobile phone charges and more.

With other impacts on sustainability such as UK allows emergency use of bee-harming pesticide already happening and more expected given the views of powerful Brexit figures on employment, pay and every other aspect of life.

Over the next decades Brexit is probably going to have the biggest impact on the Sustainability of Live Aboard Cruising for UK citizens, that impact is almost entirely negative. It may well also cause an increase in the number of seeking to leave for a live aboard cruising future. Increasing demand while also reducing possibility is a pretty fair summary.

Safe, Sustainable Coffee for sailing?

Planning for live aboard cruising on a sailing boat presents particular challenges for one of the highlights of the day – especially if you are aiming for a sustainable life. Almost everything about the environment of sailing makes coffee a challenge, particularly: Availability, Space, Power, and Safety. Clearly we need to get this sorted because otherwise I’m not fit to be around anyone else ๐Ÿ˜‰

As for our expectations. I love coffee and drink a lot, Jane much less. Although we have both worked in a Cafรฉ which did include barista work we are by no means coffee snobs, so we don’t have the highest standards or expertise ๐Ÿ™‚

At home we do have a big commercial grinder (thanks to some lovely friends). We buy our coffee in bulk from TankCoffee, so get away with keeping longer than ideal to benefit from bulk buying prices by starting with great quality beans. We mostly use a Melitta Look IV Therm Timer Filter Coffee Machine. I guess that illustrates what we look for, so no hotplate (spoils the coffee) but also no manual control of temperature and no sophisticated brew cycle that includes a bloom phase.

At the moment we use a very simple plastic holder for filter paper on the boat (we take coffee we have ground at home). When camping I’ve typically used an AeroPress with a cheap Porlex hand grinder (oh look there is now an improved version II and much higher prices).

If we were to want to make Espresso coffee we would really need to have rather fresher beans than we get away with at the moment.

This video from the amazing James Hoffmann: Coffee, Climate Change & Extinction: A conversation with Dr Aaron Davis at Kew was interesting and highlights some of the challenges to coffee for the long term, meanwhile all we do, so far, is try to buy the most ethical coffee with the least big corporations involved as we can.

Availability: Getting hold of coffee and keeping it presents challenges when you are crossing oceans or cruising in remote areas.

Space: A 38 foot boat, particularly an older design has very limited storage which of course challenges high coffee standards in two key ways:
a) shortage of dry places that keep a nice even temperature for storing the coffee
b) a very small galley without much counter or cupboard space.
So that rules out a lot of coffee appliances.

Power: By sailing yacht standards we do have lots of mains electric power but the capacity is limited. That again puts constraints on the number of electric appliances.

Safety: In this video from Ryan and Sophie the dangers of making coffee on a boat were dramatically illustrated.

Our Coffee Plan

Everyone needs a coffee plan! Running out of coffee would be a very serious situation, and I don’t think the RNLI are ready to help us in this kind of emergency. So this is where we are at.

Initially we plan to stick to buying roasted beans in bulk and grinding them as needed. We should be able to carry enough for 6 months at a time without too much difficulty (we currently use between 1 and 1.5kg a month). For us that is a reasonable sweet spot between long storage between shops, quality and price. Hopefully we can buy in beans in decent quantities in most cities – one city every 6 months sounds reasonable ๐Ÿ˜‰ I admit I’m interested in exploring roasting our own beans in the future. Green Beans potentially last a lot longer (up to a year). Maybe we can fund our retirement by roasting coffee to order for the cruising community ๐Ÿ˜‰

When sailing I’m concerned that we avoid any of the (many) ways of making coffee that involve pouring boiling water or unsealed containers with boiling water in them, or free standing stacks of items that hot liquids are moving though. So that rules out all manual forms of coffee filtering, the AeroPress, French Presses and lots of others.

So it looks like a simple filter coffee machine, like we already have, where you add cold water and it puts the hot coffee straight into a non spill, unbreakable thermos flask. Our plan is to have a gimbled tray which can be used for any appliance (induction hob, coffee machine, multi-cooker) so it should be safe to make coffee when heeled or in waves.

If we add one of the higher quality, higher capacity hand grinders (needs less space, less power), then we should be good to go. These can grind to suit Espresso as well as filter machines.

We already have a number of basic thermos style travel mugs which are definitely more suited to a moving boat and drinking outside.

When it comes to making fancier coffees for use at anchor we can look at one of the manual Espresso machines such as a Flair (no power needs and they fold away for storage). There are also an increasing number of ways to froth milk without the steam wand from an Espresso machine.

I’m sure we will also carry an AeroPress as a reliable backup if the filter machine breaks, just a lot of caveats about safety if using at sea.

I’m not interested in a any of the Pod machines (Nespresso etc), while re-usable pods are now available I’ve not heard good things about the drinks they make. Anyway as I prefer a longer drink (such as a long black) you would have to add hot water to the drink.

Worth Supporting @CleanSailors

So we have been found by Clean Sailors
“Sailors who love the sea, mobilising the global sailing community in conservation of our oceans.”
#sailmightytreadlightly

A not for profit organisation who are based in one of our favourite places: Falmouth (Cornwall). We look forward to being able to sail there and meet up.

Well worth reading their pages and supporting them. We think their aims are great.

For us the issues around plastic in our Oceans are a significant set of issues within the big picture of the Climate Emergency and acting for Climate Justice.

So many of our changes to Vida, in the name of Sustainability, work towards this:

  • Shampoo, soap, washing up liquid etc We have been using Soap bars, Shampoo bars, Toothpaste Tablets and Bamboo toothbrushes for over a year now. Also I’ve been using a “Crystal Deodorant Stick” for months, which has been great. I’m still using up old stocks of shaving stuff, but have a traditional safety razor, blades and a shaving foam bar ready to go. All plastic free (packaging as well as contents). Been shopping mostly from Anything But Plastic and Ecovibe
  • Removing waste water seacocks and grey water plans. We are now going to explore adding filters to catch any microplastics before they get into the tanks. So wherever our grey water gets pumped out (ideally into a shore based sewage system), or on ocean crossings into the ocean it should be free of harmful products.
  • Toilets: I’d like to see as bit more focus on toilets on the Clean Sailors agenda. We should never be putting raw sewage into the sea and composting toilets are, in our firm opinion, the very best option. They are just about the simplest, they don’t require any plumbing, they don’t use any chemicals, they don’t require you to work with sewage pipes or tanks etc etc. I have been thinking about how we might be able to empty our solids into reusable boxes rather than plastic bags. That would enable us to store aboard until fully composted for safe use on any ground.
  • Antifouling paint. So we think we have a good solution for removal and at least one option for what to put on that shouldn’t be toxic (effectiveness is unclear though).
  • Zero fossil fuels so no diesel or petrol pollution (from the dinghy outboard, main boat engine, boat heating, water heating, watermaker)

Clothing and Laundry

Reading the Clean Sailors got me thinking further about clothes and washing them. We have mentioned Laundry before and we have been careful to move to clothes with far fewer plastics. However, I think we need to do more. In hot climates Rash tops are clearly really practical for sun protection and are easy to wash/dry. However, they are essentially plastic (more and more of them are using recycled plastic, some are made from plastic recovered from the sea) and when washed they will shed microplastics. We haven’t seen any live-aboard cruisers with any form of filtration system and many people are (very understandably) doing their washing in buckets with rainwater and then tipping it into the sea.

We will be looking for a microplastic filter that can be used with a high capacity funnel. This can then be put into a cockpit drain and all water from washing clothes filtered on it’s way into the sea (recommendations for a suitable filter are needed please). Our preference is still to combine a “WonderWash” style hand powered washing machine with an electric spin dryer (needed to stand a chance of drying warm clothes in a British winter). The water from both these can go through the filter.

I was reading that most microplastics are shed in the first 8 washes. Would seem sensible not to wear a new garment for swimming until you have washed it a few times and caught those microplastics before they get into the sea.

Using a public laundry service isn’t going to help in places that do not have efficient microplastic filtration systems in their waste water processing (does anywhere?)

Missing?

I’d like to see a bit more emphasis on improving the facilities and standards for boat users. A few examples:

  • Rather than just putting pressure on consumers to avoid single-use plastics we should be stopping suppliers and shops using them in the first place.
  • Instead of asking boat owners not to put waste water with microplastics into the sea we should be providing legislation on grey water tanks and filters, on more places to pump out, on restrictions on where we can empty tanks (as Turkey have)
  • We need more legislation on recycling at every level. On the materials used, on the places to put waste for recycling and on making sure it really does get recycled. It is pointless to put pressure on consumers if there are no plastic free items to buy, few places to put stuff for recycling and if at the end of the day it is shipped abroad into waste piles without being actually recycled.

Connections

Plus we still need to make the connections. Plastic waste is one aspect (that does need dealing with) of unsustainable living. There are many more, they all need to be tackled if there is to be any chance of a Sustainable future with Climate Justice for all people. The big picture is needed to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the need to work for Clean Oceans as well as Zero Fossil fuels as well as Healthy Soil as well as eliminating Poverty, stopping wars, protecting eco-systems etc etc. They are all important, most are highly interconnected (eg poverty, war, fossil fuels) and we do not have time to tackle them one at a time.

Brilliant English Upcycling of old sails

Today I found Sails and Canvas (in Topsham, Devon):

Lifestyle products
Made in Devon
from recycled sails

Absolutely brilliant! ๐Ÿ™‚

We will have to sail to Topsham and on the way decide which of our many very old sails are past being usable for us so they can become great new things ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks to Clean Sailors on twitter: Follow @CleanSailors and @SailsCanvas (as well as us @SustainSailing of course)

How sustainable is Dyneema rigging?

[Update] I have written a lot about Dyneema standing rigging so I now have a guide to it all in: Dyneema / Synthetic Rigging Summary[End Update]

Until recently the answer would be: terrible. A “plastic” made with petrochemicals that can’t be recycled.

However, things are changing.

There is now a Bio-based Dyneema fibre which has International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC).

What isn’t quite so clear is which companies are using this and in which products. Marlow ropes announced that they were using Bio-based dyneema in July 2020. Liros also have an announcement but I can’t find product detail. Given it is so new it might take a while to work through the supply chain.

There are also initiatives to accept “retired” ropes back for recycling, it looks like we can be fairly confident that any ropes we buy now for standing and running rigging as well as dock lines etc will all be recyclable (and some companies like Marlow are already making some ropes from recycled plastic).

I confess I’m pleasantly surprised by what I have found. Looks like this is much better than I expected. The only issue will be the microfibres of plastic that get shred into the water during the lifetime of the ropes. Not sure what can be done about that, but at least compared to other forms of plastic pollution this is a significant improvement.

[Update] thanks to twitter there is another option for Bio-based Dyneema: Gleistein

Gleistein is adopting the worldโ€™s leading role among textile rope manufacturers โ€“ being the first to switch its entire production of products made with Dyneemaยฎ to bio-based fibres. Read our factsheet: https://bit.ly/2UKFrKA

Being off-grid vs being Sustainable

During the COVID-19 pandemic there have been plenty of YouTube Sailing channels talking about living Off-Grid and talking about their Sustainable lifestyles.

However, the two are not the same. Sustainable living is well suited to being able to live off-grid but not all off-grid living is Sustainable.

Off-Grid, for sailing cruisers tends to mean living away from harbours and amenities for extended periods. Usually time is spent mostly at anchor.

However, if that extended time is achieved by large tanks of fossil fuels then it isn’t sustainable, instead it is simply bulk buying. Some versions of off-grid living will actually be less sustainable than living in a marina or harbour. For example most economies are de-carbonising their electricity supplies. So being in a marina might be more sustainable than being at anchor in a remote location if:

  • you are using a town water supply rather than fossil fuels to power a water maker
  • you are using a marina electricity supply that is at least partially provided by renewable sources rather than burning propane for cooking and/or diesel for heating & electricity generation
  • you are using shoreside toilets connected to a sewage plant rather than discharging raw sewage

By not using fossil fuels Sustainable Sailing helps reduce key limitations for living off-grid . In fact it will allow you to live off-grid for far longer, as essentially food becomes the only limiting factor (assuming you have what is needed for hygiene etc and boat maintenance).

With preparation and care (and throttling your activities to the renewable energy you store) it is going to be possible to be self sufficient for energy and water (at least in climates where enough solar power is available). By combining long life foods with standard ways of adding fresh food such as baking bread, sprouting seeds&beans, making yoghurt and catching fish it is possible to be comfortable for long periods. If you add local provisioning of fresh vegetables and fruit rather than going back to the full grid then indefinite off-grid living becomes straightforward and attractive.

Sadly, few of the YouTube channels have risen to the Sustainable version of Off-grid living. Yes, a few solar panels are now the norm but so is running diesel engines, generators, and petrol outboard motors.

If a pandemic that has encouraged many cruising sailors to go off-grid, hasn’t cured them of their dependence on fossil fuels then you have to wonder what will. Clearly their complaining about the amount of time and money they spend fixing and maintaining their engines and the money they spend on fuel hasn’t reached the tipping point towards change yet.

Avoiding engineering calculation paralysis

Two recent examples have in equal measures frustrated and amused me.

In their plans for Ruby Rose 2 Nick and Terysa have oodles of calculations but they appear to be aimed at justifying fitting large diesel engines because an all electric boat isn’t possible. They seem to have totally missed what was shown to be possible in their interview with Dan and Kika from Sailing Uma.

Then there is the subscription website “Attainable Adventure Cruising, The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site” with an article in the last week “Induction Cooking For Boatsโ€”Part 1, Is It Practical?” where I joined a discussion coming from our very different approach.

Both these present a numbers based “engineering” approach to decision making about the “practicalities” of moving away from fossil fuels. Sadly due to the initial assumptions the approach almost always leads to the conclusion that renewable energy sources cannot provide enough power for either propulsion or cooking.

The approach rejects working examples because they don’t present numbers in an “acceptable” way.

Our problem with this approach is that it is simply too easy to make assumptions about what is needed and the conclusion depends far more on the assumptions than on the calculations. In both these cases the assumptions are based on the expectations and lifestyle of a couple.

Ruby Rose have assumptions about never compromising on a luxury lifestyle with every modern convenience.

John and Phyllis have decades of experience cruising in high latitudes and strong views on what is safe and seaworthy. They have a stated goal of not considering anything that has not got a 10 year history of reliability.

Both these approaches are flawed if the goal is sustainability (or if budget constraints are tight). So if your assumptions are that you need to motor for an hour at full speed, and 500 miles at cruising speed, cook for a couple of hours every day, run a water maker, washing machine, multiple fridges and freezers, electric auto pilot, video editing laptops every day then you are going to conclude that renewable energy sources can’t cope.

Cynically if you control the list of things that you want to run all the time or anytime regardless of the conditions then you can guarantee that you will never be able to manage with renewable resources (at least until the last oil well has run dry and the Netherlands has disappeared under the sea).

Yet there is another way. One that we find most often from people with limited resources.

Embrace the limitations

Or start at the other end. Start with the resources that are possible.

  • What battery bank capacity can I afford?
  • What size battery bank can I fit (size and weight)
  • How many solar panels can I fit (and afford)?
  • Is wind generation going to fit my boat, my budget, my geography?
  • Is water power generation either from regen on an electric motor or something like Watt and Sea going to work (how much time sailing at suitable speeds)

These provide the constraints. Then sustainability becomes how you live within the constraints. There are plenty of options.

  • A vegetarian or vegan diet (as recommended as a key way of reducing our carbon footprint) can reduce the cooking energy significantly (no a roast chicken cooked for several hours is not required every week, if you want it then save your energy up first, or use a solar oven)
  • Set your passage plans according to the energy you have, probably slower (but then the whole point of sailing is surely to sail)
  • Set your cruising ground according to the season and energy available and required (so you probably can’t sail sustainably into an Arctic winter which is just a constraint, like the ones the majority of people live with all the time)
  • Have food available that doesn’t need to be cooked if you are short of energy (Huel and the like)
  • Plan to use appliances when you have the energy, keep the ones that have to be on to a minimum (eg freezers, fridges, autopilots).
  • Embrace the constraints. Do you really have to be able to do the washing, make water and cook for 2 hours on the same cloudy day – if yes then why?
  • To be honest the list is endless, we have gone in just a few years from it being normal to only use an engine in harbours to expecting to motor constantly for days at a time. From no refrigeration and basic hobs to dishwashers and ovens and drinks coolers in the cockpit.

The argument that it isn’t possible to live within the constraints of renewable energy is disproved by history. It is disproved by the examples already documenting their experiences eg Sailing Uma; and Beau and Brandy.

The challenge is to our assumptions, our privilege, our expectations of luxury. The opportunity is to open ourselves to the impact our lives have on others and to stop seeing ourselves as deserving something that our actions deny for others both now and in the future.

Opportunity for reflection leading to decisions

So we have a holiday, it being half-term, however, as Manchester is in a tier 3 Lockdown and Wales in a Firebreak, we are at home. It does mean we can take time not just to do jobs and study (including propeller shaft and RYA Yachtmaster course) but also time to reflect on where we have got to and what next.

As we have been talking through where we have go to we realise we have reached the point where we can make some changes:

Our Van.

We have realised that we have now reached the point where we can avoid big/heavy loads to and from the boat. All the major clearing out is done. The largest/heaviest stuff has already been taken.

I’ll create a Van page with details that will be updated as we prepare it for sale, it is a Citroen Dispatch panel van (65 plate), we had the back professionally fitted out with windows, floor, carpet lining, LED lighting and 3 reclining seats with 3 point seatbelts – it has been completely reliable and awesomely useful and flexible.

We had bought the VAN as we were overloading our previous Citroen Berlingo because we had our Sprint 15 Caravan on the roof, bikes inside and caravan behind for holidays. The Van was absolutely brilliant for this.

It proved brilliant when we were refurbishing a house for our sons and for carrying all the rubbish, tools, cushions, timber, electric motor etc for the boat. Several trips with the van full, often towing a very full trailer too.

But now we think we can change down. For the first time, we think we can manage without needing to tow anything. That means we can switch to a 100% electric vehicle (none of them can tow anything). It will take careful planning in what we take when and we will mostly need to cut timber to size at home.

The biggest challenge will be our RIB dinghy after we launch Vida. There is nowhere to store it securely where we need to launch it for our mooring. So we need to keep it at home and take it each time. At the moment it can either go inside the van (if we deflate it) or we could put it on the luggage trailer.

Our Sprint 15

Our Sprint 15 is what really helped us rediscover our love of sailing. We had a long gap due in part to our sons not enjoying sailing and in part my work taking us a long way from the sea. Then a short few sails on my brothers Laser 13 reminded us that we were missing out big time. We tried the Laser Pico that the boys had ignored for years and discovered to nobodies surprise that the two of us didn’t really fit in it. Plus it was really heavy to lift onto the Berlingo roof (and so much wind noise it was horrible).

Almost by chance we found the Sprint 15 and had a half day test sail/training with Windsport International. It was brilliant and unique. We couldn’t find any other dinghy that could sail with 2 adults and that we could manage to lift onto a roof rack (needed because we were going to be towing a caravan). So we bought one, and have had some fantastic times with it (see our video playlist). They are brilliant boats to sail and also have a really friendly class association. Highly recommended ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, we can’t carry the Sprint 15 on Vida and can’t tow it behind an electric car so it is also going up for sale.

Luggage Trailer

Yup, the Daxara 147 trailer is going to be up for sale too. A really useful size that has been brilliant for taking stuff to the recycling centre, and for both house and boat building projects.

The Next Car

So we have been looking and within our price range/needs there is only one option so far as we can see. It is just under 100 miles to the boat and also to our sons. We need to be able to carry 4 adults and we need to be able to put our RIB dinghy on the roof.

That means a Nissan Leaf. If we get a 30kWh model from around 2017, even allowing for battery degradation (not too much if under 50,000 miles) it should have a range of about 100 miles. We recognise that, at least in winter or with the dinghy on top, we will need to stop between home and the boat for a 20 to 30 minute recharge.

By default the roof rack load limit is not quite enough. However, a towbar can be fitted (not for towing but for bike carriers and the like). With a T-bar on this, where the top is level with the roof bars, the combined weight capacity is nearly 100kg (for a 59kg dinghy). That might be unusual and will probably attract a fair bit of attention but at least it will be within the limits ๐Ÿ™‚ It also means we can carry our bikes at other times though ๐Ÿ™‚

Looking at the alternatives, the Renault Zoe isn’t approved for roof racks, plus most have leased battery packs costing about ยฃ50 a month (for a vehicle that is roughly the same price as a Leaf that is ยฃ600 a year more expensive). Only one or two examples of anything else in our price range (so far I’ve seen one Kia Soul but ugh!)

Progress

So as soon as we can sell our van we will be going electric for the car. Obviously that fits much better with our sustainable living goals. By doing it now, as soon as we can, we will not only be cutting our carbon footprint and contribution to air pollution significantly but we will also save ourselves a lot of money each year (for the cost of about 30 to 45 minutes longer journey times to/from Vida – currently about 1h45m).

So watch for some more For Sale pages and posts. Get in touch if you are interested in the Van, Sprint 15 or Luggage trailer ๐Ÿ™‚

Holiday progress day 9: Electric Motor reliability

Well not much progress today because we nipped home last night as our old Diesel engine was being collected today. The forecast had also helped make the decision with another storm coming through.

So rain nearly all day for the time we were in Manchester, rain for the journey back to Beaumaris and rain most of the evening.

The key progress is emotional, with the sense of freedom from having an engine sitting in our trailer, waiting to be sold. As we were driving back we were remembering all the expensive work we would have had to do in order to get what was a good engine working.

  • The survey required the raw water seacock to be changed. That was bonded in so thoroughly it needed cutting out with a hole saw. Possible with the engine in (although the two cockpit drains would have been much more difficult).
  • the survey warned that the cutlass bearing was worn and that the stuffing box needed to be repacked. We found that the propeller side of the coupling to the gearbox needed to be cut off (and so would have needed a replacement). We also found that the propeller shaft is too long to slide out because of the skeg, so we would have had to lift the engine for the propeller shaft to come out under it, that would have meant cutting off the rusty original engine mounts and replacing them.
  • the survey warned of a leaking fuel filter, would we then have found that several of the valves in the various fuel lines were seized and would we have felt we needed to add inspection hatches to the fuel tanks, replaced all the fuel lines and thoroughly cleaned all the system and all the fuel? As we did that we might have noticed and been concerned about the very rusty fuel vent fittings and the condition of the fuel filler hoses.
  • In this process would we have noticed and dealt with the rusty paraffin fuel tank for the boat heater (that failed and spilt paraffin everywhere just as I arrived at the recycling centre).
  • When would we have taken out the hot water calorifier (heated by the engine or by a mains system condemned in the survey) that was buried behind the paraffin tank, under the rusty fridge compressor and under the unreliable water pump? Because when we did take it out, we found it rusty and leaking out of sight.

In short, because everything around the engine wasn’t replaced with the new engine, we would have had large costs to get afloat with this engine and far more over time to get it to a point where it would be reliable with the many problems with the setup diesel supply (particularly water in the fuel and no way to get it out, modern problems diesel bug growing due to the use of bio-diesel and no way to get it out, old sludge in the tanks causing blockages in the pipes before the filters).

We are more and more glad that we took the plunge and decided to go fossil fuel free from the beginning rather than first fixing what we had. So we have not spent any money on fixing the diesel but all on preparing for where we believe all yachts need to be going – fossil fuel free.

Again we have been watching more YouTube videos and seeing more people having problems with diesel fuel, the old idea that diesel engines are this magical safety device because they are always reliable just isn’t the case for lots of people. Also the amount of nasty, cramped, smelly maintenance and the impact that has on sea sickness and morale needs to be acknowledged more openly in the sailing community.

Obviously, at the moment we have very little to be sure of in terms of the reliability of our electric motor system, how dependable will it be. However, from all we have studied so far we are quite confident. We will have a good installation of a brushless motor, that will be in as dry a place as possible, with potential backup batteries and tools/spares for making cables.

We have come to realise that the Rival 38 centre cockpit has a number of really good features for a reliable electric motor installation.

  • the bilge is really deep and large. So even if we get a lot of water on board it is going to be a long way from the motor or the batteries, we have made this so it is visible for checking as well as making it possible to access the pumps and hoses (initially we are fitting both an automatic large capacity electric pump and updating the original manual pump)
  • the motor compartment is not accessible from the companionway steps (but instead from the corridor to the aft cabin). Very often these steps lift up for access but that also means there is potential for water to get into the motor compartment whether it be from spray or people climbing in with wet clothing etc
  • the motor compartment is large enough so that our batteries, motor and controller can be right next to each other, so short cables that we cann easily inspect that don’t go through bulkheads where they can get damaged or through bilges where they can get wet.

We are also implementing a few things they we hope are best practice to help with the reliability

  • The motor is brushless for no maintenance and high efficiency. It is air cooled to keep our moisture (we will need to monitor temperature and might need exhaust fans)
  • All our battery banks are going to be in boxes that are watertight from below with a top that means any drips from above will not make it in. Build from epoxy coated plywood with a strong timber frame that does not allow battery movement but does allow air circulation for cooling.
  • The motor frame will have a watertight undertray and a lid that directs any drips clear of the motor.
  • Our batteries that are connected in series will have automatic battery balancers to ensure they are evenly charged. Those in parallel will have huge busbars and identical cables for equal loading.
  • We are over specifying all our battery cables and have a full size professional crimping tool to make the best possible connections.
  • Most of the batteries (5 out out of 8) have a bluetooth BMS and I will be monitoring this automatically from our Raspberry Pi system
  • All our solar chargers, battery balancers, battery monitors are from Victron with bluetooth capability so we can monitor them from their app and from the Raspberry Pi system
  • The SignalK system on the RaspberryPi will allow us to add a number of sensors to monitor temperature, humidity etc of everything, so we should know if there is a problem in any battery, bearing, motor, motor controller etc
  • We are installing a dripless seal for the sterntube. This should minimise maintenance and the chance of any salt water coming into the engine compartment.
  • We are installing an Aquadrive. This absorbs all the thrust from the propeller which means the engine and the bearings are free from these loads. It also means that the alignment of the motor is not critical. Both these mean that the motor will be on very flexible mountings so there should be much less vibration in the motor frame as well as in the boat. That should help avoid things shaking loose.
  • We plan to install an automatic dehumidifier for the motor compartment so keep the air in and around the motor plus electronics as dry as possible.
  • The cockpit floor is removable for lifting diesel engines in and out. All our electric stuff is small and light (heaviest individual items under 40kg). Even the motor in it’s frame is under 70kg and we can put it in the frame in the corridor next to where it will go. So we will use a more secure sealant on the cockpit floor, it would be possible to get it up but not as easy as it has been.
  • We will have a much more sealed bulkhead between the motor compartment and cockpit locker. So when you put wet ropes, fenders, sails in there it will drain into the bilge directly and not splash through lots of holes.
  • We are re-routing the vent for the main water tank so it doesn’t go through the motor compartment (reduce chances of water ingress)
  • The boat does not have a working electrical earth at present, we will make sure it is implemented and tested to protect the systems from galvanic corrosion.
  • All new composite cockpit drains and seacocks should reduce condensation and with much higher quality hoses should be more watertight.
  • We are not in a rush and so we can take the time to build it up slowly, carefully and with clear layouts and documentation
  • As we are doing all the work ourselves we know how it is installed and how to maintain it

Despite all that there are still some risks:

  • The biggest is the motor controller, the wiring is complex (for us, fortunately we can bring in our son who is an electrician). Also they are programmable and we don’t have the tools to reprogram it (particularly for regen but potentially also for things like throttle response and max revs)
  • We don’t manage to generate enough electricity to charge the batteries enough (separate updated blog post on generation to come)
  • We do something stupid with one of the expensive components so we need to spend a lot of money replacing it (eg shorting a battery, wiring something wrong).
  • Something we have not thought of

Compared to our lack of understanding of diesel engines this feels like a comfortable place to be ๐Ÿ™‚ We think that overall we should be more reliable than diesel, better to live with and because of these be both more convenient and safer than a diesel engine while obviously being incredibly better for the planet.

Holiday progress day 2 #Epic

The weather changed our plans today, and kept changing them. We thought it was going to be wet most of the morning and then it wasn’t. So we cracked on, then it become more and more clear that from late morning tomorrow is going to be very wet. So it became something of a race.

By lunchtime we had 11 holes in the hull and I was writing “More and bigger holes in our boat” by about 5pm we had finished all the preparation. We have been following a guide from West Systems: Repairing machined holes in fibreglass

Jane had done most of the grinding the outside of the holes. The idea is to make the hull around the hole about 5mm thinner and then taper this to make a circle about 15cm diameter where the paint and gelcoat has been removed.

Meanwhile I was sanding the inside around each hole. This doesn’t need to be deep, you just want to be sure that the surface is ready for epoxy resin to stick to it.

Then I used the dremel on every hole to flare them out on both the inside and outside. The idea is that the hole becomes a bit of an hourglass shape. Then you fill it with thickened epoxy resin (resin with wood flour added to make it peanut butter consistency) and once set it is held in place by it’s shape as well as the bond with the original grp.

For the larger holes West Systems recommend creating your own resin “puck” by allowing some resin to go hard in a plastic cup the right size. We were short of time and didn’t have plastic cups the right size. So instead I used hole saws to cut pucks out of the FR4 sheet that I have bought to make backing plates from. FR4 is very dense fire resistant epoxy fibreglass.

We then cleaned around all the holes with a acetone type of liquid and washed it off.

Then an epoxy race began. Our bio-epoxy resin is a 2:1 mix of resin and hardener and it has a limited time before it starts to harden.

First task was to coat all the exposed fibreglass inside and out with standard resin mix. This ensures all the bits of fibreglass get wet with resin to improve the bond.

Jane did the inside and was rushing from cabin to cabin with her pot of resin while I followed up on the outside.

  • 3 holes in the aft heads
  • 2 holes in the motor compartment
  • 2 holes in the galley
  • 1 hole in the saloon
  • 3 holes in the forward heads.

With floorboards up and stuff cleared out of the way it was a bit of an obstacle course.

The next step was to add wood flour to the resin to thicken it up. We got a bit nervous and I don’t think we really got it as thick as would have been best.

It was thick enough for me to fill all the small bolt holes (4 around each main hole).

Then I was rushing around finding props so that on the outside each hole could have plastic (we reused plastic bags from various packaging), then a square of foam (cut from a damaged form square we have used for temporary flooring) and then a timber prop to hold it in place.

As I covered each hole in this way Jane was suffling through the cabins putting in some thickened resin, then the FR4 puck and then more thickened resin, with a short pause to mix up another batch of resin.

We finished at about 8:30pm (not the colour comes from the wood flour, the resin is clear).

Fortunately, Jane had made a lasagne at home and brought it frozen so we tidied up a bit and then sat outside in the dark eating lasagna and drinking Sainsburys ยฃ4.85 wine. Then final tidyup and showers.

We can do the inside fibreglassing even if it is raining and the outside can wait for a fine day.

Overall we are absolutely stoked that we got this much done in a day. This was a huge day for progress towards being able to float (and the work on the stern tube flange this morning a huge milestone towards getting the motor working).