Opportunity for reflection leading to decisions

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

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

Our Van.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Sprint 15

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

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

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

Luggage Trailer

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

The Next Car

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

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

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

Looking at the alternatives, the Renault Zoe isn’t approved for roof racks, plus most have leased battery packs costing about £50 a month (for a vehicle that is roughly the same price as a Leaf that is £600 a year more expensive). Only one or two examples of anything else in our price range (so far I’ve seen one Kia Soul but ugh!)

Progress

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

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

Into 2nd wave lockdowns

So a quick update on where we are at. The situation for Manchester is still chaos without agreement between the national and local governments regarding the level of lockdown we should be in. However, we are expecting to be more restricted soon (bearing in mind that Manchester has had it’d own lockdown for months anyway). As for travelling to Wales it is hard to find clear guidance as to whether the Welsh government have now made it illegal to travel from either tier 2 (High) or 3 (Very High). We took the view that it would have been wrong to go on Thursday when a ban was expected from 6pm on Friday (still unclear if that has happened). There now seems to be an expectation that a Welsh “Circuit Break” ban for a few weeks will be announced in the morning. We are working on the assumption that we might not be able to get to the boat again this year.

Fortunately we left her in good shape, the most watertight yet. So we are not worried about any problems on board.

We have some jobs we can do at home, while many of these are not urgent as far as launching is concerned they will at least allow us to feel we are making some progress while we can’t get to the boat.

Propeller Shaft: I wrote about the pitting issues in my last post. As none of the pitting is where bearings or seals go we decided to try to tackle it. Where there is pitting which is probably caused by electrical currents – either through poor earthing (electrolytic) or by currents between dissimilar metals (galvanic) – we are going to remove it. Pitting encourages more corrosion. The best way to avoid corrosion in stainless steel is a bright mirror polish and to have not used any other metals (eg saws or files) to achieve it.

So I have started removing the pitting using the angle grinder with a flap sanding disk. None of it is deeper than about 1mm. So far I’ve done about half of it (starting with the worst bits).

Once I have used the 80grit flap sanding disk to remove the pitting the shaft is no longer perfectly round and is definitely not smooth or polished. So I have 50m of a 25mm wide strip of 80 grit Emery Cloth. Using a strip of this wrapped around the shaft it should be possible to get it pretty smooth and round. I then have finer grades to remove the scratches before using a paste with a cloth to polish it as smooth as possible.

That should keep me busy for hours. A new propeller shaft would be a simpler solution but this should be perfectly serviceable for a few more years and saves waste.

Motor Mount brackets: I have the 4 angle brackets that will be bolted to the original engine bearers and which the flexible mounts will be bolted to. Just got another 10 or more holes to drill in them (10mm). That will leave only the 4 holes in the motor frame for the flexible mounts (not quite sure what size they are and the position isn’t finalised yet).

Domestic Battery Box: I’ve got to make some cut-outs in the timber for the nuts where the leads bolt to the busbar so that the busbars can be fitted. I can also make a lid (and adjust the design for a new expectation that the batteries will be lowered into it via opening the cockpit floor).

Motor Throttle Our motor throttle has a 6mm square shaft and I need to make or find a control lever for it. Trying to find something that doesn’t cost much, is reliable and doesn’t look clunky.

Motor Controller Heatsink: I want to get a really big and effective (and cheap) heatsink for the controller (because apparently they get really hot). My idea is so mount this through the (to be built) bulkhead between the motor compartment and the cockpit locker. This way the heat gets put into the cockpit locker while the controller is away from it in the motor compartment.

Dinghy: Jane has nearly finished the cover for the dinghy. I need to get and fit removable launching wheels to get it over the mixture of rocks and shingle where we will launch it.

Solar Panel mounts: I should be able to make everything I need to mount the solar panels to to the boat both on the wheelhouse roof and at the guardrails.

Propeller: We have the propeller at home and it still needs a lot of cleaning. One day money permitting we will replace it with a Bruntons Autoprop Ecostar, until then cleaning it is.

Emergency Steering: The two part emergency tiller (if the wheel steering breaks) has probably been in storage under the after cabin bunk for the whole life of the boat. There has been a little corrosion which means the parts no longer fit together. So we will fix this.

Consumer Unit mount: We now have a consumer unit for the mains power. We have a place for it which will allow us to access the trip switches. It is quite large as we have one switch for each of the 13 sockets we will have around the boat, we are running a separate wire to each rather than a ring main. However, it will need to be lowered for full access so I’m making a wooden frame for it to slide up and down in.

Navigation and control systems: I have plenty of fun planned getting Raspberry Pi computers sorted to run the chart plotter and other navigation software. I want them to interface with all our instruments, with the battery management systems, the solar charge controllers etc. We will have an indoor and an outdoor Pi so we can see everything when steering or when below. The indoor one will also be our entertainment centre and office computer.

Propeller shaft pitting

So I’ve started the cleaning up of our propeller shaft. It had some brown gunk (like a dried muddy residue from corrosion) but no rust of itself.

However, in a number of places it has uncovered pitting. This seems to be concentrated on the bits that were just outside the various bearings etc. So the taper for the propeller itself is clean. The section where the cutlass bearing goes is clean although it looks as if the pitting at the inboard might have been made worse by a worn cutlass bearing causing some damage. There is also pitting around where the stuffing box was, fortunately the dripless seal will be in one of the cleanest sections.

So far I’ve used a strip of 150 grit emery cloth. I’ve got 3 other grades upto 400 grit, so we will go over it with all of them. In all cases we are sanding round the shaft not up and down the length which is apparently important for the seal.

Just wondering whether we need to do anything about the pitting. Chemicals? More sanding? Or what?

Also what caused it. Was it the poor grounding causing galvanic/electrolytic corrosion? Is it something to do with the bearing?

Anyway here is a gallery of pictures of the pitting. What do you think?

Friday progress 28

Today, thanks to help from one of our sons, we got the motor in its frame onto the boat and into the motor compartment.

That means we have been able to measure all the holes for the motor mounts and the holes to fit them to the brackets and the holes in the brackets to fasten them into the boat.

We managed to drill 6 1/2 holes of 20 before the drill bits gave up. We can now finish the rest at home.

Then we took out the bulkhead between the aft cabin and the motor compartment (to make the cabin larger and improve access to the drive train). The new bulkhead will be lined up with the support for the Aquadrive.

We also removed the door to the aft cabin. That removes an awkward trip hazard and will allow us to fit a wider door, easier for my shoulders and also to get the toilet through.

Motor ready for installation

At last the electric motor is in it’s frame with reduction gear and extra bearing to support the coupling and Aquadrive connection.

Just got to fit the motor mounts into the boat and drill the holes in the frame for them.

That does mean 20 more holes in 6mm stainless steel. Best not to think about that too much.

Also got to lift this beast onto the boat. Best not to worry too much about that either.

Friday progress 27

We haven’t gone to Vida this week. Jane is busy on an essay and has first aid training.

So I got some work on done on the extension to the motor frame. This is to support the 400mm length of shaft that connects to the aquadrive. That has several kg of couplings and CV joint hanging on the end of it.

Made reasonable progress but I’ve run out of 10mm drill bits. The 6mm stainless steel is tough to drill. I’ve done nearly 10 holes which is less than 1/3 of this job. Not just hard on the drill bits but also very tiring. Still I can see how it is going to work, but you will have to wait 🙂

Draught proofing

So we decided it was about time we made some temporary improvements to our comfort as it is getting colder, especially when there is a North wind (colder and blows straight into the cockpit from behind).

So we have repurposed a sheet of the shuttering board, that we had boxed the old engine in, to block off one group of 5 holes in the cockpit side (Engine throttle, autopilot, bilge pump, two fridge vents).

Plus we have repurposed a spare bit of foam floor tile to block up where the engine electrics were and at the same time provide a better route for our boatyard electric supply (yes it does have an rcd).

Sitting below now, for lunch, and the difference is very noticeable. Much quieter and warmer 😀

We have also ordered a couple of “Hotties”, safe, microwavable hot “water bottles”. With those and remembering our thermal layers next time we should be ready to continue work through the winter without too much discomfort. 🥳

Friday progress 26

With winds from the North and arriving late on Thursday in the wet it was a pretty cold boat to arrive to. So we are not ready for the major upheaval of removing the bulkhead between the aft cabin and the motor compartment. It will make our cabin a bit larger and provide better access to the drivetrain. However, our wall heater is mounted to that bulkhead and we still have holes in the sides of the cockpit (from where we have removed the engine controls, plus temporarily the auto pilot and bilge pump). The combination of draughts and no heater isn’t attractive.

Besides we have some special bolts on order to refit the stern tube flange and that will be easier before we build the replacement bulkhead.

So we will wait until the bolts have arrived and we have boxed in the motor compartment, plus better sealing of the cockpit before doing that job.

So instead, as Friday turned out to be dry and fairly warm (out of the wind), we decided to tackle some more holes.

We have had 8 holes in the aft deck (covered with tape) ever since we removed the davits. That was one of the first jobs as they were poorly fitted and were causing cracks in the deck.

The first part of the job went well. We got the sticky residue off and it clean. I then chased out all the cracks using the dremel and they turned out to only be in the gel coat, not in the grp below it.

Then we did a similar job for holes in the wheelhouse roof. These come from the wood handrails we removed (they felt rather flimsy and are in the way of where the solar panels will go) and from an unused GPS aerial.

Then we mixed some thickened epoxy. We have filled the wheelhouse holes nicely. However, the aft holes were more tricky. Access to the underneath is terrible. I can just reach with an arm but can’t see what I’m doing. Jane can sort of get in the locker but not reach properly. So our attempts to block the holes with cardboard and tape failed and the epoxy has mostly dripped through into the locker.

We will have another look in the morning to see what to do next. Then home before lunchtime.

So not a lot of progress but despite the failure there is some comfort.

a) these were the biggest looking cracks in the deck. We now know how to fix them all, and it isn’t very difficult.

b) the wheelhouse roof is looking good for being able to progress our first solar panels.

c) these holes in the aft deck are the only places we have to do any hole repairs with such bad access. The mess we have made of these isn’t going to be visible or cause any long term problems.

Another Saturday

One of the advantages of a boatyard with a 4G signal is that we could stay on and still fit in an AGM on zoom.

So we managed to finish the cockpit drains. Well except that I ran out of the larger Jubilee clips. As you need 2 on each hose end we needed 8 smaller and 24 larger ones but I only had 20 of the large ones so one segment will need them adding later.

So we have 38mm drains from the two forward drains which come aft to the 50mm aft drains. We tested them and no leaks 🙂 Once we complete the sides to the motor compartment we will fix the hoses to them so that they don’t wobble around or chafe anywhere.

We have brought the motor frame home now that we have sorted all the measurements to complete it. So to make that easier we have fitted a couple of lifting eyes in the wheelhouse roof. These wouldn’t have been any use for the diesel engine but our electric motor and frame is less than half the weight. We will also be able to use it to lower the big batteries into the compartment.

It was nice that when I created the backing plates for the seacocks I cut out two circles that made perfect backing plates for these lifting eyes. By the time they have been painted and the solar panels fitted you won’t see them.

We used our man overboard lifting tackle to get the motor out and then were able to use it to lower the frame down the ladder too. To get it up I’ll temporarily add a wood side so it slides more easily.

After a night to reflect on it we ended up a bit less daunted by the tasks remaining to get the motor and drivetrain fitted 🙂

Saturday extra

So we had an extra day this week.

The house battery bank box got the last bits coated in epoxy.

I finished the vertical posts that the corridor and cockpit sides will fasten to. These got coated in epoxy and fastened in with thickened epoxy. They will also support the horizontal beams that the house battery bank will sit on.

Finally, we put the first coat of paint behind the saloon cushions.

Very pleased with the progress this weekend.