The future of Sustainable Sailing in a COVID-19 world

COVID-19 has changed the world beyond recognition in just a few short months. So what does it mean for Sustainable Sailing in general and how does it affect our personal Sustainable Sailing Goals?

The COVID-19 just like the other global crises we face (particularly thinking of the Climate Emergency and the injustices causing the BLM movement) are tied up with inequality and injustice.

Do you remember this widely reported study from March 2020? Shining a light on international energy inequality

Among all the countries and income classes in the study, the top 10% consume roughly 20 times more energy than the bottom 10%.

Additionally, as income increases, people spend more of their money on energy-intensive goods, such as package holidays or cars, leading to high energy inequality. Indeed, the researchers found that 187 times more vehicle fuel energy is used by the top 10% consumers relative to the bottom 10%.

I’m going to assert that COVID-19 was spread fast and wide by the wealthy travelling (eg skiing holidays in Italy) and finding ways to buy themselves around restrictions on travel. Yet the highest costs have been experienced by those in poverty and in marginalised groups suffering injustice.

We see the same with the Climate Emergency. It is the wealthy who are consuming disproportionate amounts of resources with far higher carbon footprints. It is the poor who suffer the greatest impacts as they live in more vulnerable locations is lower quality buildings with no spare resources.

We see something similar in the injustices that have lead to the Black Lives Matter movement. The impact of systematic institutional racism has destroyed lives and brought whole communities, even nations down. Multiple intersecting privileges have been used by White people use to hold onto and build wealth and power. So one result is that Black Lives are more affected by the Climate Emergency while also having had a smaller impact on the Climate.

If we are to have any chance of a Sustainable Future as a world then

  • we are going to have to build better out of COVID-19
  • we are going to need to make rapid, drastic changes to respond to the Climate Emergency
  • we are going to need to address the Justice and Equality issues of BLM (and other big issues of Justice such a MeToo and LGBTQIA+ rights) or face massive civil unrest that will derail the other responses

Sustainable Sailing in general

It seems to me that providing we interpret our Sustainable Sailing goals in non-selfish ways, so that they matter for others as well as ourselves then

Sustainable: Environmentally; Financially; Mentally; Physically

is going to be helpful in all these crisis.

Sustainable Sailing and COVID-19: Slow, isolated travel has the least chance of carrying COVID-19 to destinations. Travelling on the most self-sufficient (ie sustainable) yachts reduces dependency and risk.

Sustainable Sailing and the Climate Emergency: An older yacht, refitted to use zero fossil fuels, is an incredibly low impact way of living. Sadly the trend to larger, more luxurious yachts sold with elements of greenwash is increasingly detrimental in their impacts. Claims about how low the impact is will always need to be evaluation carefully as there are so many variables. Comments about the need for luxury need to be challenged as the unequal, unsustainable, wasteful things that they are with the constant need to reflect on what actually brings fulfilment and happiness.

Sustainable Sailing and issues of equality and justice eg BLM: Sailing in the UK is clearly not inclusive. The low cost and non traditional nature of Sustainable Sailing allow for a different culture to emerge. One that is welcoming and equal. I find this incredibly beautiful picture and words from Kika of Sailing Uma on Instagram inspirational in this area.

Our personal Sustainable Sailing Goals

COVID-19, especially when combined with the deceit that is BREXIT potentially has a huge impact on our long term plans. Until there is an effective COVID-19 vaccine and a large % of the 7.7 billion population have been vaccinated travel around the world is going to be subject to risks, delays and setbacks. Once BREXIT is done our freedom of movement is drastically reduced and with the huge double hit on the economy and pension funds of COVID-19 and BREXIT so is our financial future. We might be restricted to UK sailing grounds (and hopefully after the inevitable break-up of the UK we will still be able to visit Scotland and Ireland). We might need to look for ways to supplement our pensions.

Sustainable Sailing started as a response to the Climate Emergency. That is still entirely valid although given the lack of action by government it may become more of a lifeboat exercise as a way of keeping ourselves safe in what will be an increasingly affected world.

Sustainable Sailing and issues of Justice is less direct and less obvious. Can we make any difference through attempting to live as anti-racists? Through the ways we treat others? At present it seems rather weak and disconnected from this issue.

Cabin Refurbishment: Part 4 Layout

Continuing from Cabin Refurbishment: Part 3 Interior Theme and Style

Plans so far (layout and technical)

We really love the overall layout of Vida with the small, safe, protected centre cockpit that allows for an aft cabin accessible from the main cabin and two heads compartments.

However, there are a number of ways we want to tweak the layout, for long term live-aboard cruising. A lot of these tweaks come from the benefits of switching to zero fossil fuels, we gain useable space in a number of places. For example:

  • Our cockpit locker now has more that twice the volume (removed diesel fuel tank, paraffin heater and tank, 4 x 12volt battery, water heater, water pump, fridge compressor)
  • We have gained an aft lazarette that used to be mostly filled by the gas bottles.
  • The corridor to the aft cabin is now wider on both sides (electric motor is smaller and doesn’t need the same sound and fire protection; diesel fuel tank removed)
  • The heads compartments don’t have to leave space for and access to 3 seacocks each, we are having much smaller wash basins too (although we are adding small waste water tanks and the composting toilets are a bit larger).

The original layout was rather “optimised” to sell the idea that you could have 8 berths (2 aft cabin, 2 forecabin, double using the saloon U-settee and infill, starboard settee with pilot berth above) and have all 8 sit around the table for a meal.

However, there was never going to be enough space for 8 people’s belongings (especially if they wanted you to have some food for them). Sitting 8 around the table would mean constant climbing over each other for access.

Our plan is to optimise for us as a couple living aboard with the capacity to have two guests for extended periods. In harbour we would use the aft and forecabins for sleeping, each with en-suite heads. Neither of these cabins is suited to use at sea, there the most comfortable place to sleep is a single bunk, in the middle of the boat, with a good lee cloth to stop you falling out. So we are planning for a minimum of one person on watch and so will need 3 sea berths.

That would give us the potential to have a few extra guests, for shorter visits, when in harbour or for shorter passages in good weather.

So here are some of the ideas we have at present.

We have already shared our ideas to remodel the aft cabin to make better use of the space, improving the way into the aft heads, providing a comfortable seat and easier climbing onto the bed, plus better insulation and more practical storage. We have now realised we can grab a little more space from the engine compartment from what was used to avoid siphoning with the exhaust.

I recently wrote about our plans for extending the galley. We plan for a under counter front opening fridge (where the gas oven used to be), for a microwave combo oven above and back from the induction hob. The induction hob to be gimbled but with the option to swap it for the Instant Pot or coffee machine so they can be used gimbled instead. In harbour we will be able to bring out the spare induction hob for more adventurous cooking (we think that having two individual induction hobs is a much better option than a one double hob).

We are pretty sure we want to change the chart table area quite a lot. Part of the goal will be to make the corridor to the aft cabin a bit wider as well as providing good storage (possibly large stuff such as bikes, or a watermaker, or for extra solar panels when they are not in use, or …). If we can make it work, we would like to rotate the chart table itself so that instead of sitting on a folding seat facing outwards (which blocks the corridor) you sit facing forwards. That would give somewhere that you could sit at when on watch keeping an eye on the instruments without disturbing someone asleep on the saloon sea berth.

We have an idea to turn the corridor access to the aft cabin into a single quarter berth when on passage. So essentially a pipe cot/fold down bed that you get out whenever on passage. That would provide a really secure, comfy bed in a place with little motion and easy access to the chart-table. When there are just two of us that leaves the saloon for seating/dressing etc. If we have extra crew we then have 3 sea berths without needing to have the double decker option at the saloon settee. This is only attractive because you will no longer be sandwiched between a noisy/smelly diesel engine and a smelly diesel fuel tank.

We have been exploring different options for the forecabin after we have done all the practical work to improve anchoring. One option is to keep it mostly the same, but improve it for use as a guest double cabin. The key challenges there are the height to climb into bed when it is setup as a double and the way the doors work for the heads.

The second option is to more drastically strip it out so that it functions better as a store/workshop with the option for one or two guest single berths that fold away when not in use.

Our heads compartments will both be laid out very differently, in large part, due to the composting toilets being a little larger but needing no plumbing connections. We have glass washing bowls to sit on top of worktops, so we are going to be very trendy, because they were the cheapest option at B&Q 😉 We want a very easy to clean, spacious feel rather than lots of little cabinets. As we have moved increasingly to plastic free bathroom products, you need far less space for stuff anyway.

In the forward heads we are determined to make the shower easy, comfortable and welcoming to use. We will also add an outside shower but we are British and living in Manchester so an outside shower is currently beyond our emotional imaginations capacity. A key to this will be to change the complicated multiway doors around the forward head in some way that will also replace the hopeless sliding door to the main cabin with something easier to use

We have already changed the saloon from having a big central table, the new table leg allows a table to be moved around so access is much easier. Eventually we will have a tabletop that opens out if needed. We can also use the same table and leg in the cockpit for al-fresco dining. We will make it so the U-shaped seating area can become a 2nd single sea berth.

We didn’t like the way the main settee backrest hinged up to make “bunk beds”. The lower bunk was very nice (but you couldn’t sit up in it) but it was very difficult to climb up into the upper berth. A side effect was that the settee was too deep for normal length legs 🙂 So we will add a more comfortably positioned backrest that moves right out of the way.

We really don’t like the storage in the saloon area. Every cupboard door and opening is a different size and none of them line up (which is not what is shown in the construction drawings). Many of them are so deep that you have to empty them to reach things at the bottom. So one day this will be simplified making the space look larger while being more useful.

Phew! It sounds a lot. Fortunately we won’t be doing this all at once, nor are we in any rush. These jobs will be spread over years while we are still working and using the boat for weekends and holidays. While there will always be much less volume than a modern 38 foot yacht we are very happy that we will have plenty for our needs and all in a boat design that is proven, trusted and affordable.

Cabin Refurbishment: Part 3 Interior Theme and Style

Continued from Cabin Refurbishment: Part 2 Approaches and Cabin Refurbishment: Part 1 the story so far and what is delaying us.

We want the interior to be light, simple looking, no fuss, intensely practical both at sea and living aboard on anchor, and comfortable but without any pretensions to being luxury. We want to build it from the most sustainable materials we can reasonably afford. Given that we expect the new interior to have a long life we are ok with us using some plastic in after all what is a 42 year old plastic boat that has plastic sails, plastic windows etc (Thanks Kika of Sailing Uma for that clear argument in this very helpful interview (“Electric Engines on Sailboats: A Complete Guide! | Sailing Uma Interview“)

Probably our general theme could be described as Herreshoff Style (mostly white with minimal wood trim) with some variations such as the cushions (what was on special offer for the aft cabin, recognising it is normally covered by a sheet and duvet; and in the saloon a blue because there wasn’t so much choice in the hard wearing semi recycled Sunbrella fabrics); stainless steel for the bigger handholds (as otherwise you need expensive and unsustainable hardwood) and “sophisticated” greys in the galley.

How to achieve this?

Part of the reason for choosing this style is that much of the internal timber is looking tired. There are lots of water stains, but fortunately we haven’t found any rot or delamination. So for the timber we are keeping (bulkheads for example) the best option is paint which handily should also be less work and harder wearing than trying to restore and varnish it.


This is the biggest challenge for us. As we have removed the, wet and sagging, headlining we are taking advantage of that by insulating the hull as well as under the decks and coachroof with 10mm closed cell foam (several layers where headroom isn’t an issue such as between the hull stringers). We need to hold this in place and we don’t want to look at black foam as we are not goth teenagers 😉 Our first attempt was to simply use spray contact adhesive with the idea of then painting it white. But it didn’t work.

The contact adhesive hasn’t held it in place, and so within a few days it all fell down. We have had discussions about whether being more generous with the adhesive would solve the problem, it was made clear to me that I was invited to do it myself next time with as much glue as I wanted but that it still would not stay up 🙂 More than that, the joints at corners are going to look uneven, we can’t see how to do anything approaching tidy for window surrounds, and finally if the foam is knocked at all then it gives and the paint cracks.

So we have been looking for something to hold the insulation up, give neat edges/joints and be light in colour, preferably white.

We have looked at various plastic sheets and plastic tongue and groove planks but didn’t want to introduce so much raw plastic and getting a good finish in awkward spaces is going to be tricky and time consuming especially with narrow plank styles.

We also looked at tongue and groove pine, but if it is thin enough to not cause headroom issues then it is also very fragile. We ruled out rectangular sections of timber due to the effort to fit them so that they look good (and cost).

In the end we think the best option for us is to cover it with thin plywood sections, which we will screw directly to the stringers or coachroof. Essentially this was what was there before. Now though it will have insulation behind and will be painted white rather than covered in foam backed vinyl. We will have removable sections wherever there is a bolt or fitting that we could need to access (fortunately not too many).

We can then cover the joints and edges with thin strips of softwood. Not sure what surface treatment except we will try to keep it’s natural colour, we don’t want to try to stain it to look like hardwood.


The floors are a problem. They are traditional Teak and Holly laminate so won’t match the new colour scheme. There are a few other problems too. They creak a lot, there is a hole from the old table leg and the matching plastic stuck to the slopes of the hull in various points is disintegrating.

Most of the floor boards are large awkward shapes and were screwed down, with a few loose sections for access to the water tank, speedo etc. We could do with being able to access more of it for storage, but we also need to be able to fasten every board down for safety (if we get knocked down you don’t want to be in your bunk getting hit by both floorboards and tins of baked beans).

We have seen a number of budget solutions applying standard DIY floor laminates but are not convinced, we feel they are not really going to last in the salt water environment and they are not designed for lift out sections.

For winter in the boatyard the cheap foam tiles sold in places like Halfords have been great but they don’t make access to the opening sections easy and they won’t last a very long time.

So one idea we are wondering about is cork tiles stuck down and then painted – comfortable, warm and soft while being a sustainable crop. Cutting for openings and awkward shapes is easy but edges are vulnerable.

For marinas and even at anchorages carpet or rugs can be nice but when at sea there are real problems with them slipping and getting wet.

So long term quite a lot of work to do but it will make a huge difference to living onboard (I really hate creaky, cold floors).


In Cabin Refurbishment: Part 1 the story so far and what is delaying us I had a bit of a grumble about the totally inadequate original lighting. There are very few lights, they look dated and are not in very useful places so not worth upgrading to LED bulbs.

We like a bright interior, especially in the winter but we don’t like bright point lights and shadows. So the easy solution is going to be lots of strips of LED lighting integrated into the corners of the headlining trim. We will have a red option for the galley, chart table and sea berths. But we don’t want flashing multi coloured, remote controlled disco lighting. Simple switches are much preferred as you don’t lose them and get in trouble with someone else on board 🙂

Lighting is going to be mostly LED strips that are hidden behind the trim to avoid direct glare.


We feel pretty happy with most of this and how it will be to implement (apart from the floor which feels very uncertain still). Next part will be on the layout.

Continued in Cabin Refurbishment: Part 4 Layout

Cabin Refurbishment: Part 2 Approaches

Continuing from Cabin Refurbishment: Part 1 the story so far and what is delaying us.

I’m going to generalise and say there are four main approaches to the interior of older yachts.

The Minimal: don’t change anything, don’t fix anything that isn’t a problem for you. Probably coupled with gradually reducing expectations of where you will go. This is where Vida had been for a number of years which included 2 years out of the water. Inside the layout and furnishings were essentially original with nearly all original equipment some of which didn’t work and some of which had become dangerous (eg gas installation, paraffin heater and especially it’s jerrycan). As is obvious from the speed we have taken stuff out this is clearly not something we are comfortable given our goal of preparing the boat for a live-aboard retirement.

The Restoration: There are lots of people who do this absolutely beautifully, spending hours and hours sanding and varnishing the interior woodwork, replacing like for like with beautiful care so you can’t see the joins. This is not us either, partly because we don’t really like that traditional look of so much dark wood, partly because we want to be sailing not sanding and varnishing, partly because we think things have moved on from what was a traditional yacht in the 1970’s.

The Functional: Do what is needed, very often on a low budget, so that you can get sailing. Often something by younger people who take on a project boat. Whilst Vida is definitely a “project” boat we are not yet ready to go off live-aboard cruising (which is what we see for a few years time in retirement) so we have time to do things to a more comfortable standard befitting our advanced years 😉

The Radical: a complete refit including remodelling and modernising. Obviously we are doing this on the technical side (composting toilets, removing seacocks, fossil fuel free etc). Clearly this can be done to a wide variety of standards from exquisite to utilitarian. Our preferences are more to the pragmatic and functional end of the spectrum. We are not interested in a wow factor of beautiful joinery or a “luxury” presentation so much as everything working awesomely and being very low on maintenance.

Obviously, these are very simplistic generalisations and most people will combine the different options for different parts of the boat (a forecabin might get ignored for a long time unless it is where you sleep in which case it might be first priority.

We choose to put ourselves towards the more extreme end of “The Radical” approach for a number of reasons.

  • It makes the technical stuff easier and quicker if we are not trying to make restoration as easy as possible. We save ourselves a lot of effort if we can remove things to improve access without worrying about restoring them or keeping it functional while the work is happening (so for example it hasn’t been an issue for us to have 9 or more holes in the bottom for months and months)
  • by spending some money we can save a whole lot of time (eg by buying new sinks for a new worktop rather than trying to rescue the old ones), our present lives mean we are quite time poor at present.
  • We believe that expectations and products have changed a great deal in the last 40 years. Examples include
    • what we expect to cook and eat when sailing or living aboard. Making a cup of tea or instant coffee and adding water to dehydrated food is only expected by weight watching racers. We want real food and given that our diet is almost entirely meat free we want to be able to prepare meals from fresh ingredients wherever possible. Our budget and anchorage preferences means we want and expect to cook ourselves nearly all the time rather than eat at restaurants. This affects storage, food preparation areas and galley equipment.0
    • Navigation, communications and entertainment are a whole different world with significant impacts on every part of the interior (the Internet, mobile phones, batteries, electronic charts, LED’s, TV’s, video etc)
    • Our expectations of comfort (warmth, dryness, depth of mattress, materials, ventilation)
    • Where people expect to cruise to. Yes the world but also the North West Passage was impossible for a yacht and many places would not have occurred to ordinary people, they were for the amazing adventurers only. So now we can watch people going to Greenland or the Norwegian Arctic Circle and think we could do the same.

What we are still realising is that our approach means that when we think of refurbishing the interior we are actually looking at rather more radical re-workings of the space than we had expected or realised. That seems a good place to finish this post and leave you hanging on for part 3 🙂

Continued in Cabin Refurbishment: Part 3 Interior Theme and Style

Cabin Refurbishment: Part 1 the story so far and what is delaying us

Essentially the story of our cabin refurbishment so far can be summarised as ripping out and fixing leaks 🙂

Now we are ready to make plans for how to make things both comfortable and nice looking. First the recap on where we are at

So what has gone?

  • All the old cushions! Crumbly, squashed, wet, very dirty, sticky and smelly. Also many with very heavy wood backing.
  • Removed the dinghy davits.
  • Huge clearout of sails (were damp, not properly dried and stored) and accumulated stuff. Took the mainsail and genoa down. Had the masts taken down.
  • Removed loads of old not working stuff like paraffin heater. The entire gas installation (as it had all been condemned). All the batteries (all dead lead acid).
  • All the old plumbing, apart from the stainless steel water tank (which we hope is going to be good still) has gone (and what a beautiful difference it made to smell and space – especially those toilets and hoses).
  • All the foam backed headlining from everywhere has gone. It was sagging in lots of places and in some was completely waterlogged. So the cabin sides have very visibly dried out – especially above the chart table. It has given us greatly increased confidence. So relieved we did this, it uncovered the only leaks were the windows, mast step, dorade vents, aft porthole and 3 hatches. All these had been pretty much soaked up by the headlining and cushions so had done little damage.
  • Taken out the cupboards in the aft cabin to increase headroom and allow access to sort the chainplates.
  • All the electrics and most of the electronics are gone or going. The instruments are so old that it isn’t worth rewiring them (the depth sounder is the same model as my Dad had on his boat in 1976), none of them can be connected to anything else. The wiring is going to be redone (our needs and the placement of lights and equipment is so different there is little option for re-use)
  • Obviously, the diesel engine, fuel tanks and everything related has gone (again so much sweeter smelling and so much more space now).

What we have already done includes:

  • all new windows (no leaks, much greater “glass” area, 6 extra opening portholes for better ventilation)
  • new infill and cushions for a fantastically comfy double bed in the aft cabin
  • new galley worktop with sinks (currently draining into a bucket which works well in the boatyard) and place for the induction hob
  • two Nature’s Head composting toilets (including new floor in the aft heads)
  • new cushions for the saloon
  • new Lagun table leg with temporary table top for the saloon
  • Experimented with foam insulation in the aft cabin (but hasn’t stayed “stuck” up and painting it isn’t going to be a good solution for an acceptable finish.
  • All bilges that have been fully cleared and sanded have been painted, also both heads compartments and the galley.
  • Removed, cleaned and refitted main mast foot with new bolts.
  • The rudder head has been disassembled and cleaned.

Jobs that we are planning for the immediate future.

Mainly ones that are much easier to do before doing anything to make the interior look better (and function better), quite a few of them also require summer temperatures for outdoor epoxy work

  • Fill all the old seacock holes
  • Fit the two new cockpit drain seacocks
  • Sort out all the chainplates in the aft cabin (2 each side for the mizzen, 1 each side for the main backstay)
  • refurbish the perspex deck hatches in the aft cabin and saloon plus fit new wheelhouse perspex panel
  • refurbish and refit the aft port hole in the aft cabin

Electric Motor

Then it is also a high priority to get the electric motor etc installed both because we want to see it done and because some bits will still take a fair bit of elapsed time due to ordering, thinking and doing:

  • Sort the old stuffing box flange
  • replace the cutlass bearing
  • refit the shaft and the propeller,
  • install dripless seal
  • fit a flexible coupling with thrust bearing to the propeller shaft (looking at PythonDrive or AquaDrive at the moment).
  • install the electric motor/controller/battery bank/throttle etc
  • 4 x 60watt Solar panels on wheelhouse roof to keep batteries topped up


Then there are the bits that need to be done because they will be behind the refurbishment. Mainly wiring and plumbing.

Obviously we are going to be using LED lighting everywhere. We do like quite high levels of illumination (age related no doubt) so we are not going to be reusing the existing light fittings or placements (basically one round lamp per bunk, one in the galley, one for the chart-table, one in each heads and one per corridor). So expect long strips of LED’s (we prefer wall switches to a remote control and don’t like lots of fancy changing colours, just red for night sailing and white the rest of the time is great for us Luddites). That requires house bank batteries to be fitted and the core wiring infrastructure.

We have written about the plumbing elsewhere. Installation is mostly less intrusive than wiring (goes under the lockers/floor), except in the actual heads compartments. So less of a concern in terms of getting on with the interior.


Getting to the point where we are ready to launch also comes before the whole of the interior. Aft cabin will come before much of this, partly to make it nicer in the winter in the boatyard, partly to test ideas and partly because there are going to be times when we can’t make progress outside or are waiting on supplies.

  • Rest of the chainplates removed, strengthened below and resealed (see this post)
  • Reinstallation of the rudder head and wheel steering mechanism (including new steering wheel or possibly rebuild the old)
  • Mizzen mast prepared (remove old radar, refit radar reflector, check aerial, new deck lights) and put back up.
  • That allows us to properly check and shorten the mizzen boom.
  • That allows us to fit the Hydrovane self steering and solar arch (it is a 3D puzzle)
  • Prepare main mast (new masthead light, new wind speed/direction, new deck lights, inner forestay fitting).
  • Mainmast up, fit new boom, order new mainsail, new mainsheet.
  • With the mainmast up we can hoist the dinghy up onto the foredeck for storage (Jane is currently making the covers for it. One for each way up).
  • Fit new windlass and do minimum of the work planned for improved anchoring.
  • Clean the hull and apply antifouling

In summary

I think I know why we haven’t spent much time planning the look of the cabin refurbishment yet 🙂

Continued is Cabin Refurbishment: Part 2 Approaches

Plans to extend the galley

At least being at home we have had time to come up with ideas, even if we don’t have all the dimensions available to fully complete them 🙂

So we have come up with an idea to extend our galley while giving a nod to a classic Rival feature that is missing from our 38 Centre Cockpit, known as a keyhole bulkhead.

Our bulkhead is far more angular and minimal.

So our new galley is currently an L shape. Hobs with microwave above not yet in this picture (one day a front opening fridge should fit under the hobs as we won’t have an oven there).

So the plan is to reshape the bulkhead a little. The result will be a slightly longer and lower horizontal section and then to curve what is currently the diagonal – that is the homage bit 😉

This will allow us to add a hinged worktop to the saloon side of the bulkhead. When this is in it’s up position it will be level with the other worktops and essentially create a U-shaped galley with a huge amount of extra worktop. In it’s down position it will be hidden behind the saloon cushion.

When the saloon is used as a bed then taller people might need to have the worktop in it’s up position in order to have the original full length of the berth. When the saloon is used for comfy seating or for lots of people we will fold the worktop down.

Essentially, without moving the bulkhead we will achieve most of what is shown in the drawing archive where there is a version of the Rival 38 Centre Cockpit with this bulkhead moved forward 320mm (not sure if any were built with this variation). Yet we will still have the saloon long enough to be a bed. What we don’t gain is extra galley storage (but equally we don’t have as much hard to access corner storage either).

We also think we are going to add a vertical pole/handhold from floor to cabin top at the end of the adapted bulkhead. Will be handy to string up a fruit/veg hammock or put up a shelf for mugs or spices above the bulkhead.

Whether we do something to match on the chart table side of the boat is a plan yet to be decided 🙂

Plans for anchoring

The need.

Once we start cruising our plan is to spend the vast majority of time at anchor when we are not sailing.

Partly this is to save money 🙂 For example, the nearest marinas to us at Conwy currently cost about £35 a night or £215 a week. A visitors mooring is £18.50 per night. Paying those prices would soon add up to very large part of our budget.

However, more than just the money is the experience. We much prefer being at anchor in a quiet river or bay than being tied up in a marina (good examples we have visited before in Cornwall would include the River Yealm and the River Fal as well as bays such as Studland).

So a lot of what we are planning is to give us the maximum freedom to be at anchor as much as possible. By being fossil fuel free we won’t need to go to marinas or harbours for fuel or energy. By having a watermaker we won’t need to go there to fill up with water. By fitting a high quality 4G antenna (up high) we will improve the mobile signal to give good Internet access more of the time, without needing to go somewhere for WiFi. As public WiFi becomes more common we can also fit a long range antenna for that too.

So for shopping, getting rid of rubbish and leisure we don’t need to be in a marina or harbour, we can use the dinghy. Probably the main use of marinas will be when we want to leave the boat unattended for family visits or whatever.

Knowing that we want to be anchored a lot of the time is one thing. However, there are very different challenges for this depending on where you are in the world (and very different costs).

In the UK the key challenge with anchoring is that much of the coastline (particularly the South Coast) is very crowded with many rivers full of marinas or moorings. This reduces the availability of places left to anchor. So often you need to anchor in a more exposed anchorage where you might need to move depending on the weather (particularly wind direction) as there are few available places sheltered enough from all directions.

In other places (like the Bahamas) there are millions of places to anchor (although again you will need to move around due to wind or swell). Other places have fewer places to anchor and more marinas (eg some parts of the Mediterranean).

What we need, therefore, is a high reliability, easy to use anchoring setup that we can trust and which enables us to easily move between anchorages then anchoring becomes the default, obvious, no-brainer choice..

That means, as with many areas, we are making plans that are significantly different to where Vida is at the moment and different to many of the boats that you typically see when walking around a harbour or marina – there you often see yachts with anchors that are tiny and very rarely used.

The challenge

Our requirements are quite different to what was the norm when Vida was built in the 1976/77. Then anchors were normally lifted on deck and stored in an anchor locker. That wasn’t too difficult as the size was limited by the capabilities of a manual windlass.

Over the years expectations, fashion and technology have all changed. Electric windlasses are now common (allowing heavier anchors and longer chain without a very fit and strong crew). There have also been really significant improvements in anchor design during the last 40 years. As a result most boats store their anchor permanently in the bow roller, ready for use and to save lifting it around.

But our bow roller was not designed to store an anchor when at sea, despite that the old CQR Anchor was clearly often stored there (and as a result has damaged the bow roller). Now our anchor locker isn’t big enough for a modern anchor (as they typically don’t pivot and lie flat). Because the windlass is in the anchor locker it requires an extra roller to change the angle of the incoming chain so that it is right for the windlass.

Old CQR anchor in the locker. Note the extra roller in the middle which lines the chain up properly for the windlass.

In the next picture you can see the bow roller and how the chain has damaged the route into the locker.

We obviously get a lot of water into the anchor locker. Despite the little drain holes it collects a puddle of rainwater and if a wave comes on deck that big slot will allow a lot into the locker. Both these have presumably contributed to the rust attack on the windlass.

When we bought Vida the chain was in very poor condition and hence wasn’t able to neatly pile into the chain locker which is under the v-berth in the forecabin.

We were looking for ways to replace the roller in the bow fitting (not only bits chipped off by the anchor but also suffering from UV degradation), but it is difficult as there is no side access to the pin.

Ok so that is the challenge. What are we planning?

The Plan

This plan has evolved a few times 🙂

We start with the anchor hardware. After reading lots of tests and opinion pieces we have chosen a SPADE Anchor. It is one of the “New Generation” anchor designs (about 20 years old). I don’t think I’ve seen it outside the top 5 in any test (in one test they broke the test equipment with a SPADE Anchor).

It does disassemble into two pieces which can be convenient. The shaft is actually 3D (a hollow triangular cross section) which means it is incredibly resistant to sideways forces (such as when the boat swings round to pull in the opposite direction due to a tide change).

The pointed tip is actually hollow and filled with lead so that it is very nose heavy which helps it dig in reliably.

By just about every table of anchor sizes I have gone up one size. So this is a 30kg anchor which means that, at least in theory, it should be adequate for a full storm, if not a hurricane. It won’t be our only anchor but we are following the advice that a big anchor in your locker does nothing so make it your normal anchor.

If I wasn’t going to have a SPADE anchor then I’d probably go for the quite similar and very new Mantus M2 (which unlike their earlier anchor does not have a roll bar).

To go with this anchor I have what should be top quality Italian chain from Lofrans. 80 metres of 10mm, again oversized. I’ll add some line to the end of that should we visit the pacific where there can be some very deep anchorages. This chain alone should be good for pretty bad conditions in up to around 15m or 50 feet depth of water.

This anchor and chain is going to be far too heavy for us to recover by hand (except we would find a way to use the main sheet winches or a block and tackle in an emergency). So we have an Electric Windlass to fit.

This was really what set the limit for the anchor and chain. This was the most powerful windlass that was sensible in price and which used 12 volt. So that stopped me getting the next size anchor.

Now we come to the changes that we need to make.

The bow roller is not suitable for this anchor. It will not hold it securely when sailing. It also won’t be able to fully self launch (so if you let some chain out the anchor will just sit there until you tilt it a bit by hand). We have been thinking about a lot of options in terms of custom alterations to what we have. We might still go down that route for cost reasons. However, what we want to end up with is essentially a Mantus Bow Roller with their Anchor Mate. By removing the right hand roller and side of our existing bow roller we can fit the Mantus Bow Roller on top of the flat base of our existing bow roller.

Then the next set of connected changes are somewhat bigger (and won’t necessarily happen before we launch for our first sailing season). They are designed to address a number of problems:

  • New windlass isn’t going to fit in the existing locker using the same hole to drop the chain below.
  • We don’t really want a new electric windlass to be sitting in a pool of water and to have slat water sloshing in and taking a while to drain.
  • We want a more direct line route for the chain from the windlass to the stored anchor and bow roller.
  • We need more space for the chain and we want it further aft (back) as it is heavy.
  • We want to fit a removable inner forestay for our storm jib and need a strong-point to attach it to.
  • We love that many newer boat designs have a watertight bulkhead inside the bow so that if you hit something and get a crack or hole right in the front of the boat there is a chance that the leak will be contained behind the watertight bulkhead and you won’t sink.

So the plan (today) is to remove the lid of the anchor locker and cut out the forward section of it’s the floor. Then we will remove the interior woodwork of the v-berth to provide access.

We will then fit a crash bulkhead in several sections all the way from the deck to the bottom aft section of the anchor chain locker. This will be chunky plywood, coated in epoxy, attached on all edges to the hull and deck using thickened epoxy fillets and then glassfibre cloth with epoxy resin. It will have enough watertight inspection hatches in it, that all parts of the hull can be accessed in an emergency. The remaining part of the anchor locker floor will be joined to the new bulkhead for strength and watertightness.

I’m estimating that the gap between the watertight bulkhead and the V of the hull will be about 10cm, so not a large “crash box” but better than nothing.

The inside surface will have a sheet of slippery plastic (such as we have bought for our solar panel slider). So it will act as a shute for the anchor chain which will then slide neatly to the bottom of it;s locker which will be as far aft as possible.

Where the crash bulkhead attaches to the deck will be reinforced so that a chainplate can be fitted for the removable inner forestay.

The old anchor locker hatch will then be strengthened and permanently refitted as part of the solid deck. It will become the base for the new windlass which will sit on the deck (we will make a box/seat that will cover the windlass to give some weather/water protection when it isn’t being used).

We will fit a new chain pipe to go from the windlass down through the old anchor locker. From there the chain will simply slide down using the new bulkhead as a shute.

We will provide an opening door from the forecabin into what remains of the old anchor locker as useful storage.

Then we can reconfigure the forecabin. We don’t think we will have a fixed v-berth but instead 2 foldaway single berths with the option to use the cabin for stowage or with a bench for the sewing machine and a seat.

Finally, our normal anchoring style will be to use a bridle. If you just have the chain then in wind and waves as the bow lifts it can cause the boat to snatch at the anchor, as there is no stretch in the chain. This can jerk the anchor out of the sea bed and cause it to drag. There are examples of boats ending up on the rocks just due to the waves from passing ferries because this happened.

The bridle is made from a nylon, stretchy rope. It has two lengths joined as a V. The point of the V is attached to the chain and the two ends are cleated on the boat, one each side. The chain is loosened and now the springiness of the bridal protects the anchor and boat from snatching.

By using a bridle rather than a single line for anchoring and also for mooring balls we avoid any rubbing against the stored anchor (when on a mooring) or the chain (when anchored). The bridal also helps reduce the tendency for a boat to yaw from side to side when anchored.

That means we have a 2nd bow roller that will very rarely need to be used. So one day we hope to add a removable bowsprit to use for an asymmetric spinnaker or code zero sail to improve downwind and lightwind sailing speeds (and for the spinnaker to be easier to use).

While this might sound like a lot of work it isn’t too complicated and should make a huge difference to how convenient and easy anchoring is. It will make it much easier both to anchor and to raise the anchor, plus it will also improve the reliability of anchoring. Last but not least it will help considerably with safety not just around anchoring but also in strong winds (being able to have a storm jib) and if we ever hit anything. Now that we have the expensive parts (anchor, chain and windlass came to over £3,000) the rest is mostly wood, epoxy and time (only exception is sorting the bow roller).

Chainplate update

In my last post (Deck repair question) I was writing about the inadequacies of our chainplate and particularly of the backing plate that have caused the only cracks in our deck.

I shared it on the Rival Association’s private FaceBook group and got some really helpful responses. It seems that chainplates are generally seen as being a bit feeble on Rivals, although I have not heard major tales of woe, more a feeling that they are out of sync with the quality and robustness of everything else.

Having looked at some of the suggestions and had a long discussion at home. That being one of the discussions where I get into trouble for using “vague” words like strong, pull and push – comes of being married to someone who trained as a Civil Engineer.

So as we look to ensuring we get no more deck cracks, definitely no falling masts and no holes in the deck this is where we are now at.

  1. We will remove, clean and inspect the bronze chainplates (really just a bolt with an eye on the top and a flange that sits on top of the deck, while the bolt goes through and has two nuts to lock together). From others who have done this and one person who destructively tested one by cutting it through in multiple places – we expect them to be sound.
  2. The hole in the deck will be drilled larger, the core checked, any damp bits removed and then filled with thickened epoxy. A replacement hole the right size will be drilled through the middle of the epoxy.
  3. We are then going to build in situ a backing plate with knees out of 10mm FR-4 (see very professional model below)

We read an excellent article on backing plates at PracticalSailor and are completely sold on using Precast Fiberglass, frequently known at G10 although the fire resistant version FR-4 seems to be more easily available for us. This is standard glassfibre cloth with an epoxy resin but is made at high pressure so is very dense. Especially when bonded to a surface with thickened epoxy (which makes it a very even joint, smoothing out any irregularities to spread loads evenly) they say it makes an excellent backing plate. Moreover they also noted that “A fiberglass-reinforced backing plate bonded to the laminate provides considerable sheer strength; if not bonded, backing plates should be seen primarily as reinforcement against tension or compression-i.e. loads that are in-line with the bolt.”

Our understanding is that a common way to have a chainplate tied to the hull (so that the deck doesn’t lift) would be a custom length of stainless steel bolted to a bulkhead (or knee) that is “tabbed” to the hull. By tabbed we typically mean first butt jointed with thickened epoxy and then layers of fibreglass with epoxy resin creating a wide bond to the hull. That is because the epoxy fillet used for the butt joint is far stronger than the small area of fibreglass hull. So the failure point would be to for it to come away along with the outermost layer of fibreglass cloth.

We don’t want to spend money on custom stainless steel to connect our bronze chainplate to a new knee (and anyway think that mixing metals is a bad idea due to potential galvanic corrosion). We also want solutions we can work with ourselves and preferably that are not too labour intensive (we want to be on the water sailing).

What we figured is that we can take advantage of the fact that FR-4 (or G10) provides good sheer, tension and compression strength if bonded to a laminate AND that you can make strong epoxy fillets to join FR-4/G10 as the material won’t delaminate.

So we can save ourselves the mess and work of using fibreglass cloth this way:

  • Drill FR-4 backing plate for chainplate bolt.
  • Bond backing plate to underside of deck with thickened epoxy.
  • Hold tightly in place with chainplate bolt (coated in vaseline so epoxy does not stick to it).
  • Use thickened epoxy to bond a similar “backing plate” to the hull just below the backing plate (if there are lumps and bumps or bolts for the hull deck joint it does not matter, choose a spot that avoids them, the two plates do not need to touch each other). Use enough epoxy to ensure an even bond despite any hull curvature. This is going to spread the load over the hull just as would normally be achieved using layers of fibreglass cloth. But with much less labour, less mess and needing less space.
  • When it is all cured, remove the chainplate bolt and refit with sealant (either butyl tape if you want to be able to remove it or sikaflex sealant if not). Leave to set before tightening fully.
  • Trim a couple of FR-4 triangles to act as “knees” connecting the hull plate and the backing plate. By doing this last you can ensure a good fit despite the fact that in boat nothing is level, flat or parallel. Then use epoxy to butt joint these in place, one at each end of the backing plate. Once held firmly you can apply neat epoxy fillets to both sides of each triangle butt joint.

For the cost of one extra FR-4 plate and some thickened epoxy for it, you should now have a the hull and deck tied together so that the chainplate bolt cannot lift the deck causing it to crack. Plus there are other advantages

  • you have avoided any possible galvanic corrosion,
  • you have avoided needing to have any custom stainless steel parts made
  • you have a technique that you can do yourself even at sea with the normal repair materials and tools you will have to hand (spare backing plates, epoxy resin and thickener, butyl tape, hand saw, sandpaper)
  • you have saved the mess and time of fibreglass work
  • the solution is compact and adaptable to tricky spaces and difficult access.

So far we think this is a great idea. Anyone want to puncture our ego’s?

Deck repair question

We have some slight cracking around one chainplate (although “chainplate” doesn’t feel the right description for what is essentially an eye bolt).

When you look at the backing plate the reason for the crack is obvious. Two stacked backing plates and one has moved.

I’m not sure why two sheets of metal were used instead of a single thicker (and preferably much larger one). But the rotation of the 2nd sheet presumably means the single sheet has bent and this caused the deck cracking.

Fixing this is clearly a critical safety issue, we don’t want to lose the mizzen mast and at the same time have a big hole in the deck.

Most of the jobs to fix this are relatively straightforward although they don’t currently have any ties down to the hull (however they are in the thick hull/deck flange area) but they are only for the mizzen so loads are not soi great. I think probably all the mainmast shrouds have a metal strap to connect the chainplate bolt to a bulkhead or strongpoint (no deck cracks for any of them anyway). So we need to:

  • remove the chainplate
  • replace the double backing plate, probably with a much larger G10 or FR4 sheet that is bonded on with thickened epoxy. I’m thinking of a big sheet that forms a single large backing plate for both these shrouds.
  • cut out the cracks with our Dremel
  • Fill the cracks, cover with gelcoat trying to colour match to the deck.


The cracks extend into the non slip part of the deck. This is a moulded in diamond pattern.

So what do we do? Do we try to cut a matching pattern into the new gel coat?

Then longer term, if we decide to paint the deck what do we do about nonslip areas? I’m assuming that if we simply paint it then the diamond pattern wont be effective anymore. Do we mask the diamond areas and paint those with Awlgrip or similar non slip deck paint?

We don’t have a lot of places we need to patch on the deck (8 holes to fill from the davits, diesel tank fill points, old mast wiring glands) so a repaint isn’t urgent. But the grey is looking generally a bit faded so I’m sure we will get to that point after all the functional work is completed.

The need for Active Solar power generation

With the our commitment to Zero fossil fuel sailing we have been having to review and update our initial Solar plan. Designing our Solar Arch has been part of that.

The traditional “passive” approach to solar is not going to work for us. By that I mean the idea of putting up a few solar panels and forgetting about them. We need to generate far more electricity from solar than this approach achieves.

So what do I mean by “Active Solar power generation”. Unlike shore based like people living on boats are used to being proactive about energy use and supply. So the mindset includes managing consumption and keeping an eye on battery state. However, for a long time this has been done with the expectation that you can always charge the batteries by running the diesel engine or a generator or by going into a marina and using the shore supply.

We are making a determined effort to keep electric consumption down through a number of deliberate choices:

  • Wind vane self steering, keeping the electric autopilot only for redundancy
  • No freezer. Yup it does constrain the food you can take and keep but fridge and freezer are huge electrical power hogs.
  • Reduced Computer consumption. We are going to be minimising laptop use by having Raspberry Pi single board computers for navigation, entertainment and “office work”. They run on 12 volt.

However, by committing to Zero fossil fuels we are increasing our electric consumption significantly and reducing our energy sources.

Increased consumption:

  • Electric Motor. This uses a lot of energy and is the opposite to the norm. When we motor we will be drawing lots of energy from our batteries rather than putting it in. While we will have regen (charging the batteries when the propeller spins while you are sailing) the change is incredibly significant as the norm is to see the diesel engine as a provider of almost unlimited “free” electricity and hot water. Of course it isn’t free at all, but more a desirable side effect that has resulted in a significant increase in the number of hours the engine is used. So has become a norm to motor whenever the wind speed drops because at the same time you will charge the batteries and heat the water.
  • Electric cooking. All forms of electric cooking (Induction hobs, Microwave, Pressure Cooker) use a lot of power (although mostly for a relatively short time). The norm is to burn bottled gas (occasionally diesel or paraffin). By cutting out another fossil fuel we increase our electric consumption.
  • Dinghy Outboard. We have an electric dinghy outboard engine. So far the boats we have seen with electric motors (Sailing Uma, Beau and Brandy) have not switched to electric outboards (despite the hours they spend maintaining their petrol outboards). In part that is because they want to be able to go faster in the dinghy (see this video from Sailing Atticus for a good reason for this) but it is also about the need to charge the outboard engine battery.

Increased generation

So this is the heart of the challenge. By committing to no fossil fuels all our energy needs to come from renewable sources. We have three options:

  • Engine regen. We are hoping this is going to be significant for us. On longer passages it will do more than recharge the motor batteries from leaving harbour but will contribute something to the daily consumption. It also has the potential to provide power through the night. However, it is only available while sailing and only while you are sailing fast enough (probably won’t contribute much below 5 knots). As liveaboard cruisers typically spend the vast bulk of their time at anchor the contribution isn’t that great.
  • Wind generators. These have the significant advantage of potentially providing significant power at night and through the winter. However, there are problems. Many people complain about the noise and vibration. Fitting them without causing shading on solar panels is a challenge. They do require a lot of wind, probably more than you would normally be looking for in a sheltered anchorage. We’ve looked at the Rutland 1200 but at the moment feel the cost and installation challenges are too great.
  • Solar. The typical installation of solar has been changing quite significantly. For liveaboard cruisers the norm now seems to be to have a solar arch with between 300 and 600 watts of solar panels. That is enough for minimal electric motor use (see Sailing Uma, Beau and Brandy or Rigging Doctor) but not for electric cooking, electric outboard etc.

So Active Solar

This is where our plan differs. We are going to have to be far more active about our solar generation. That means a number of things.

Our solar arch needs to be tiltable to increase it’s efficiency (both Sailing Uma and Beau & Brandy do this but the vast majority of solar arches do not).

When sailing we will need to be active in adjusting our solar generation. Some panel positions will be pretty much setup and forget (such as covering the upturned dinghy on the foredeck with panels before leaving harbour). Others will only be possible in lighter conditions (some along the guardrails for example).

The goal will be to have enough permanent solar when sailing (solar arch and wheelhouse = 510 watts) so that with the regen and battery bank we will be able to get through a gale when we have to put all the other panels below. That shouldn’t be too hard as in those conditions you are not likely to be doing much cooking and you can put off charging the dinghy outboard.

When conditions improve we should be able to sail in light to moderate with an additional 1,050 watts (2 x 175 watts on the dinghy, 4 x 175 watts on the guardrails from the cockpit to the stern. Some of this is going to suffer from massive shading at times so we are assuming it will be about 1/2 as efficient as the solar arch.

Then at anchor we need to have lots of solar panels that come out and are positioned dynamically. We will need to have solar panels positioned above the mizzen boom, around most of the guardrails and possibly above the deck. How many of these we will need is still uncertain (it depends so much on where we sail – if Coronavirus and Brexit mean we have too stay around the UK then we are going to need a lot more solar in Scotland than the Caribbean).

So far we are planning on a total of around 2,400 watts (13 x 175W + 4 x 40W) which so far I have only heard of on large catamarans.

We will need to be active in working with these panels. We will need to adjust the tilt during the day so that as the sun and boat move their efficiency is kept as high as possible. We will need to move them if other boats come alongside or if we are in a marina. We will need to put a lot of them below when sailing.

So I’m going to be building a standardised wooden surround for each panel. This will provide attachment points so that any panel can be fitted to any section of guardrail (and be tilt adjustable) or to the supports above the boom and dinghy. The edging will provide bump protection when moving them around and allow panels to be stacked without scratching the glass. We have chosen the 175W Victron panels as our standard because they are about as large as we can lift, manoeuvrer around the boat and fit through the main hatch into the cabin.

Exactly, where we will store all the panels that need to be “reefed” (taken down) in a gale is currently not fully sorted. Some might go on the aft deck or aft cabin. Some in the corridor to the aft cabin where one of the diesel tanks was. Some in the forecabin (which is likely to be mostly storage when there are only 2 of us).

We are under no illusions that we can achieve zero fossil fuel without ongoing, daily labour to maximise solar generation. But while that might seem a lot of work remember that we won’t spend any time (or money) finding and visiting fuel docks or carrying jerrycans around in the dinghy.

In summary

We believe we can capture several orders of magnitude more solar power than is generally the norm for monohull cruising yachts. But it will require us to work at it every day.