Simplifying guardrail solar panels

From the beginning we have been planning Solar panels fitted to the guardrails. We have seen lots of boats with Solar Panels attached to the guardrails. However, as we are wanting to have zero fossil fuels we need more solar than most.

We have gone for Victron 175 watt panels for the guardrails and will start with 2 each side (as a centre cockpit we have more length available without blocking our view).

Later we plan to add more, although the extras will probably only be put in place when we are anchored.

The goal is for the panels to be:

  • removable (so we can take them down and put them below in a storm)
  • foldable (so we can let them hand down alongside the guardrails when we are docking etc)
  • tiltable (so we can improve efficiency by improving the angle to the sun). This will also allow them to compensate for the boat heeling so we can keep the ones on the “downside” out of reach of waves.
  • stackable (we want the edges to provide protection so that we can stack them on deck or below without damaging the actual panel sections).

We have been through lots and lots of ideas for attaching the panels looking at all the examples we can find while trying to keep the costs and amount of work to a minimum.

The existing stanchions are too widely spaced to be used to directly attach the panels (and a little too low). The wires between them will not be rigid enough (and neither are designed for these loads in addition to the load if someone is thrown against them). So we looked at adding legs to support them panels but then everything was getting very complex, heavy and time consuming.

Currently we have just one stanchion between the pushpit and side gate. That length is plenty for two solar panels.

So the current plan is to remove the one stanchion and replace it with four. Two per panel.

The panels will have two wood beams across their underside and these will bolt to the top of a stanchion. The panel can hang down from the stanchions in it’s stored position and a dyneema guyline going up to a low fiction ring attached to the nearest shroud will be used to lift the outer edge of the panel to adjust the tilt.

The aftermost of these stations will be very close to the pushpit. We will use dyneema lifelines and as these stanchions are taller than the rest we will have 3 lines at this point (top one goes up from the pushpit and down to the gate).

To remove a panel we just need to undo the two bolts and disconnect the dyneema.

It looks like it will be cheaper to buy carbon fibre tubes and make our own way of attaching them to the deck than to buy stainless steel stanchions and bases. Plus Carbon Fibre tubes won’t need any bolts through the deck but it will be a bit more time consuming to fabricate. However, it is something we can put off for a while – we don’t need this to launch.

Chainplate and Mast Tang feedback

Today I have had a couple of really helpful and thoughtful comments from Jacob. So much that I think it worth responding with a post.

In Dyneema Termination and Chainplate update Jacob wrote:

Having extras in the case of the DIY tangs, is a good idea. I do not mean to discourage your idea, but the tensile strength of UHMWPE will surely make the tang the weak link. On another note, if stainless steel sailmakers thimbles will work you, USStainless.com has a 12 mm (M12)

So things have moved on a little. Currently we are looking at using recycled HDPE (see Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling) so we should be able to make new tangs anywhere in the world from waste plastic. I think HDPE sounds better for this application than UHMWPE eg creep under load. They can be made by melting the plastic in a grill or oven or using a hob (use a pyrex bowl in a bath of oil to get the temperature high enough) and then a simple home made mould (eg a drainage tube with a clamp to provide pressure to a a plug sliding inside the tube).

My idea to make the tang out of plastic is intended to have a number of advantages over my first idea of stainless steel tube and washers( see last but one paragraph of Termination of Dyneema Shrouds. The most contentious issue?):

  • Cost (especially if we make them from recycled HDPE)
  • Reduced chafe of the Dyneema Eye splice due to smoother transition to ears which will stop the eye splice sliding sideways off the tang.
  • Increased strength of the eye splice due to the larger bend radius

I’m now thinking of a further refinement. We could put a 25mm Stainless Tube onto the bolt. Then a 25mm hole in the HDPE tang which fits onto the tube. This way the HDPE can’t be “sawn” through by the bolt thread and there is a much larger bearing surface for the HDPE. If the HDPE does wear through then the dyneema will still be around a smooth 25mm tube.

Then on Simpler Dyneema Chainplates Jacob wrote:

I really like your idea and have thought of doing a similar set-up on my boat, too, a Southern Cross 31. I was thinking of using 10 mm Dyneema with a stopper knot through the bulwark, with an aluminum bronze or G10 backing plate running the length of the bulwark that would have my shrouds holed through. This is for distributing the load a bit better. Then eye splicing the other end around a frictionless ring or sailmakers thimble. I am worried mostly about the load on this part of the boat that previous had a different/lesser load on it. Are you worried about this? That is the bulwark maybe not having the structural integrity to deal with the greatest loads your boat might need to withstand.

This is really helpful. I do think the application is going to need to be customised for every boat as there are such wide variations in the positioning of the chainplates and the structure of the hull/deck joint and bulwark, if there is one.

The chances of a stopper knot slipping worries me, also how much weaker a knot is than an eye splice. Yachting Monthly found the Dyneema strength reduce to 35% of the original by an overhand knot.

So if using a knot I’d put it through an eye splice to stop the slipping, as in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jU_mmdbQeCQ

However, I think my solution is easier and stronger. A length of dyneema with an eye splice at each end. First eye over the low friction ring. Then out of the bulwark through one hole, back out through another and put the second eye over the low friction ring (I’ve thought I’d go around the low friction ring and out/in the bulwark one extra time). The ability to get a larger low friction ring that can take two eye splices is a key reason for me moving from a Stainless Steel thimble.

As for the bulwark backing plate, this is where construction varies such as lot as does the height of the bulwark and the position of the chainplates. I included a sketch of our thinking in my Dyneema Rigging Summary post.

My understanding is that bonding the plate with thickened epoxy is going to distribute loads much more evenly than bolts ever will (providing the material behind it is well bonded together). Also that having two holes for the lashing to spread the load is better. Also a horizontal spread shares load better than vertical, however, I would have thought that the load will reduce very quickly with distance from the hole, so a lot of the full length backing plate won’t be helping at all.

We have a “decorative” rubbing strip quite close to the hull/deck joint. This means a full length backing plate would be very thin and a bit high. So we will cut sections out of this for more triangular backing plates.

I’m pretty happy that due to the construction our bulwark is strong. However, between internal and external backing plates I think it will often be possible to get the strength you need. If in any doubt about the quality of bonding to the hull a bolt or three should make a very strong connection between inner and outer backing plates (but at a cost for inspection and potential waterproofing and corrosion issues.

If you are concerned about moving away from a chainplate bolted to a bulkhead transferring the load down to the hull then maybe look at internal G10 knees bonded to the hull and bulkhead.

As for the material of the backing plates. My preference after reading a Practical Sailor test of backing plates if for G10 epoxied into place (also easier to process to get a really smooth path for the dyneema).

Hope this helps 🙂

House Battery Bank: Should we go 48 Volt?

While we wrote Going 100% electric: the “house” after Going 100% electric: the Motor we had in fact made most of the decisions around the house electrical system before we made the decision that we would go straight to an electric motor instead of the diesel.

Now we are thinking about making a change. The things prompting us to consider a change include:

  • The high cost of 48 volt battery chargers. We do need the option of charging our battery bank when in a marina or harbour (or even ashore in the boatyard). We can imagine spending sometime alongside in winter or even popping every so often just to get the batteries fully charged (the expectation of needing to live in colder climates in Winter is influenced by both Covid and Brexit which might limit our options for where we spend our time).
  • We think our house battery bank has ended up a bit small (4 x 120AH) and so are going to be needing to charge it from the Motor bank (4 x 300AH) quite often.
  • Having two battery banks at different voltages ends up creating quite a lot of extra complication.
  • With one exception (the anchor windlass) we have realised that our 12 volt usage is relatively low (LED lighting, boat instruments, water pumps).
  • While we have specified really thick cabling with big busbars and fuses, it is challenging to power 2 x 2,000 watt inverters from a 12 volt battery bank. The current that we need to safely pass is huge and this is where the vast majority of our house consumption will be (induction hobs, microwave, multi-cooker, watermaker, water heater).
  • We didn’t understand enough about how you can power 12 volt systems from a 48 volt battery bank. We thought they were too inefficient but have now realised that we either incur that inefficiency when charging a 12 volt battery bank from the 48 volt bank for all house uses OR when using a 12 volt house appliance (but not a mains powered item from a 48 volt inverter). The total losses are much smaller if we incur them only as we need the 12 volt power rather than to keep a whole batery bank charged.
  • We deliberately chose 4 batteries for the house bank that had enough output so they could be re-wired to be a 48 volt battery bank for the motor if the main bank failed. However, it would take ages to do. So a bigger 48 volt bank with two sets of 4 batteries wired in series and then the sets connected in parallel gives immediate access.

So a little maths about the issue with power over 12v cables.

P = power in watts (W)
V = voltage in volts (V)
I = current in amps (A)

Power = Current x Voltage or P = I x V

Switching it around we have I = P / V
So 4,000 watts from 12 volts = 4,000 / 12 = 333 Amps
Whereas on a 48 volt system we have 83 Amps

More amps = thicker cables and lots of care to avoid melting connections or high losses.

The disadvantages of changing from a 12 volt hour battery bank

Our current thinking

  • As we install them, we will configure all 8 batteries as a single 48 volt battery bank. This is pretty straightforward.
  • We will sell our unused 2 x 2,000 watt Victron Phoenix inverters (get in touch if you are interested).
  • We will use our Victron Orion 48 volt DC to 12 volt DC converter to power all our 12 volt appliances. We can always add extra Orion’s to run together if we need more power (eg for the electric auto-pilot)
  • It would be very expensive to add enough Orion’s to provide all the 1,500 watts at 12 volts for the windlass. So we will add a 12 volt battery close to the windlass. When the windlass isn’t being used we can charge the battery through the standard 12 volt system.
  • We will add 2 x 48 volt 3,000 watt Victon Multi-plus charger/inverters (2 of them to provide redundancy, we can run appliances with some limitations off one of them).

The Multi-plus inverters are smart. They provide mains power to the boat circuit and they automatically take that power from a shore power connection or if that isn’t available from the battery bank. When connected to shore power they automatically charge the battery bank. Two of them can put a total 70 amps into the battery bank.

We will have a 48 Volt battery bank with a total capacity of 1,680 AH (4 x 300 plus 4 x 120). Suppose we arrive at a marina with it fully depleted (ie down to 10% charge). That means we need to put in 90% of 1,680Ah which is 1,512 AH. At 70 Amps charging we are talking about 21 hours to fully recharge the battery bank (realistically we would expect many marinas to be limited to either 16A or 32A supplies so this will be a lot slower). Gradually we would expect marinas to upgrade their electric supply as the number of electric boats increases.

While there are costs to this change it does simplify a number of things, particularly with cabling and charging. All our charging goes into the one battery bank without having to switch solar panels between banks or do inefficient bank to bank charging.

It gives us much simpler use of the battery capacity as we can choose how we allocate the available power between house and motor. For example if we are not going anywhere and expect some sunny days in a while we can use all the capacity for the house. Or if we are motoring up a river to a marina all the house capacity is available for the motor.

In the long term we would expect more boat appliances to be available in 48 volt versions which will gradually reduce the need for DC to DC converters.

We haven’t made a final decision on this yet, but it does look like we are heading this way at the moment.

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.

Wheelhouse plans

I said I was going to write this in my post “In the works“, just taken a bit longer than I thought.

This is what our wheelhouse looks like at the moment. The blue cover is really designed for use when Vida is ashore, or left on a mooring. It doesn’t have any windows and is almost impossible to do up fully from the inside. It is also all one piece which means you have no way of accessing the mainsheet or jib sheets when sailing.

Yes, we know that it definitely cannot be described as pretty!! The slab sections rising up from the cabin clash with every other line on the boat and it is too angular and too high.

However, we have a few more urgent concerns (although if we can make it look better while working on these then all to the good).

Ventilation: Even with the boat ashore in North Wales it got very warm under the wheelhouse on a warm summer day. It would quickly get unbearable to be at the steering wheel in the tropics.

Structure: the windscreen windows have vertical aluminium tubes between them. The stainless steel window frames are screwed to these on their sides and to the GRP at the top and bottom. This has caused corrosion between the different metals. Plus so far as we can tell the aluminium poles are not fixed in place by anything other than the window frames. That seems inadequate if a person gets thrown against it by a wave or a big wave hits it. Fortunately the poles at the aft end are very securely fitted.

Visibility: from our reading we are concerned that there are times when it is important to be able to look out directly rather than through glass (we have never sailed with a windscreen before so haven’t yet experienced the problems of rain and fogging).

Steering wheel: this has been repaired/strengthened before, it still doesn’t feel very strong. We are looking at replacing it with a slightly larger one (we can fit a 600mm wheel without hitting the side or blocking the hatch) should be nicer to use.

Seat: The original plans show a removable seat for the person helming with a backrest. Fitting one s1hould make it much more comfortable to be on watch for several hours.

Our plans.

We are still developing these, so still subject to a lot of change.

First, remove the existing glass a bit at a time and fit new supports that take the weight of the roof on their own. Probably use square section tubes of either stainless steel or carbon fibre. Possibly take them to the coachroof rather than to the existing windscreen base (to provide a bit more slope for better looks). That might allow us to change those big grey slabs at the the front of the wheelhouse so that they are slightly curved to blend in better (attach shaped rigid foam and cover with a fibreglass, then layers of epoxy fairing before paint).

Second, refit the glass (or switch to acrylic to match the rest of the windows and hatches except not tinted) but only go high enough to see through it when seated. So it would look much more like the fixed windscreens of a a Najad (see below). The effect would be a but like a windscreen with solid bimini above it. The key advantage is that when you stand to steer, you look out above the windscreen with your 360 degree view unimpeded by anything. This is a bit like what the Amel’s have (see Delos videos) but the dimensions are more horizontally squashed as Vida is 38 feet and the Amels 50 feet long. One other difference is that we would like to fit the glass/acrylic so that it can be hinged open or easily removed for maximum ventilation (this is one reason for switching to Acrylic rather than cutting toughened glass and sourcing new frames).

The next job will be to create a connection between the windscreen and the “bimini” (existing wheelhouse roof) that can removed/opened for ventilation and closed in cold/wet weather. One option is to simply continue with the lines of the windscreen to the roof, attaching to the support struts. Another option is to cap the windscreen with a shelf that extends into the wheelhouse (we need to do careful measurements to see if this is possible without always banging your head on it when coming in or out of the cabin). We could then have small, nearly vertical opening windows to fill the gap to the wheelhouse roof. The front of the wheelhouse roof would then be an eyebrow giving rain protection to the upper windscreen making it easier to see out in the rain. We have seen a number of boats with a soft fabric “window” in this position (although generally the bimini is further back and these removable sections are quite gently sloping (we just don’t have the cockpit length to do that).

Then we will create “curtains” or side walls for the back and sides (we have toyed with the idea of some of the sides being rigid acrylic). Unlike the existing blue cover we will have multiple sections that can be zipped in and out independently. They will also be mostly transparent (with protective drop down covers on the outside). We will be able to remove them and have mosquito mesh when appropriate. When not tacking much we should be able to sail with the windward side and 1/3 of the back in place if needed for warmth or sun protection. This will allow us to easily zip open (or closed) “door” shapes from both inside and outside making access easier whether at sea, at anchor or ashore.

At the moment we don’t think there is any point in replacing the wheelhouse roof for something a little shorter that might look better with some of the windscreen options. We certainly don’t want to “downgrade” from a solid roof to a fabric bimini that won’t last very long by comparison. If you want to sit fully exposed to the elements then by all means use the aft seat of the cockpit or sit on the cabin roof.

While this is quite a bit of work, the costs should be relatively low. Certainly it is far more sustainable to work with a 44 year old boat rather than buy something new. Improving the looks is the hardest challenge due to the space constraints (and the need for standing headroom). However, if we can improve strength, ventilation, visibility and access with much the same look then that will be a significant improvement for us.

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.

Our Chainplate journey

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.

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.

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.

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.

Simpler Dyneema Chainplates

[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]

When I was coming up with the design of through deck dyneema chainstays and the update I had referred to this video from Free Range Sailing.

The key bits are are at 1m30s and 16m30s.

Since then I have had another idea, this should work for any boat that has strong bulwarks

I had ruled out exactly copying Free Range Sailing Sailing solution as it relied on being able to drill holes that went through the transom without going inside the boat. Therefore they didn’t need to worry about a waterproof solution. However, I have already adapted their solution for a drogue attachment. Now I am bringing the two ideas together.

I had another smaller concern, they have lashed the Low Friction Ring on with 4mm Dyneema and used knots to secure the lashing. Knots are not a good option for Dyneema, they are weak and can slip.

So I have a new design. Rather then keep the existing chainstay positions I am going to move them all slightly outboard to the bulwark. In this photo you can see a couple of shrouds attached to chainplates (circled in red).

Note that the bulwark here does not have the toerail cap fitted (and it still isn’t fitted). The bulwark is part of the joint between the deck and the hull. It is built really strongly and part of the problem we have at present is that the loads from the shrouds are not transferred into the hull but instead can lift the deck which is what has caused cracks (only in one place). Here is the a snippet from an original drawing showing the chainplates but we don’t have a drawing for the ketch rig and the mizzen chainplates are further inward away from the hull. Note that only the main mast cap shrouds (one per side to the top of the main mast) have the stainless steel strip bolted to a bulkhead for much greater strength.

So my new idea is to:

Preparation:

  • Drill 2 holes through the bulwark for each chainstay. They will slope down as they go from the inside and they will not go through to the inside of the boat. I’m thinking 25mm diameter at the moment.
  • On the outside of the hull for each chainstay I will fit a 10mm G10 (outside so no need to use the more expensive for fire-resistant FR4 version) backing plate. This will be attached to the hull with thickened epoxy.
  • Smaller holes will be drilled in the backing plate in line with the centre of the larger holes through the bulwark (large enough for 3 strands of 5mm Dyneema line).
  • I’ll plug the holes in the G10 and fill the holes in the bulwark with thickened epoxy.
  • Then I’ll drill the smaller holes from the outside through the middle of the thickened epoxy.
  • Next I fit a G10 backing plate to the inside of the bulwark with thickened epoxy (this is so the shrouds will clear the edge of the toe rail cap).
  • The holes are drilled from the outside through the inner sheet of G10.
  • The holes are very carefully smoothed, especially the entry/exit points which will be very rounded off (in the direction the load will pull the line)

The Chainplate

To avoid knots and to make for a quicker installation I will have a length of 5mm Dyneema with a locked eye splice at each end (4mm plenty for the Mizzen). Also one generously sized Low Friction Ring (suitable for a 5mm line to go 3x around the ring).

  • On the inside of the deck one eye splice is looped over the low friction ring (a reasonably tight fit but not very critical).
  • The other loop is passed through a hole to the outside, along the backing plate and back in through the other hole.
  • It goes around the ring and back out through the bulkhead then back through the second hole
  • The other eye splice is now looped over the low friction ring which is now held in place by more 3x the strength of an eye spliced 5mm Dyneema Line. That is approximately the same strength as a 12mm Dyneema line (but as our Dyneema Shrouds are sized for stretch rather than strength this is plenty to spare).
  • This Low Friction Ring is now lashed to the bottom of the appropriate shroud to hold the mast up.

If we feel that we can’t get the G10 and thickened epoxy smooth enough to avoid chafe on the lashing we could either line the holes with HDPE as Free Range Sailing did, or fit chafe sleeves to the Dyneema.

Conclusion.

Compared to the previous design this solution has a number of advantages:

  • No holes in the deck
  • No waterproofing challenge
  • Even easier to inspect and replace
  • Moves the shroud mounting points slightly outboard which
    • reduces loads as a more favourable angle
    • makes walking past on the side deck easier
    • moves them further from the sails reducing the potential for chafe
  • Less work to fabricate
  • Stronger and no need for any knees to connect the side deck chainstays to the hull.
  • With G10 backing plates epoxied to the hull on the inside and outside (so connected to both hull and deck) with the loads spread widely, the chainstays should be massively stronger.

Plus for anyone needing to re-rig the boat without taking the mast down then the new chainstays can be fully prepared and fitted with the original shrouds in situ.

This is one of the plans I said I was working on the other day.

In the works

At the moment we are working on two sets of ideas.

Chainplates. Following up on a merger between our through deck synthetic chainplates and our Drogue attachment we are looking at whether through Bulwark chainplates might work well.

Wheelhouse. We have been having some conversations on Attainable Adventure Cruising which is making us think about changing our wheelhouse a little for extra strength, improved visibility, more comfort in the tropics as well as better protection in bad weather. Plus it might look better 🙂

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 😉

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

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 😉 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 😉

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.