Why Dyneema standing rigging?

We know that our decision making process can seem strange to others. 🙂 For example why would we remove a working diesel engine to go for an electric motor. We imagine there will be many who will also be wondering why on earth we are switching from “normal” stainless steel rigging to Dyneema (just to be clear not all at once though).

Vida has a Ketch rig. So two masts and they are entirely independent of each other (no Triatic stay connecting them). We think we are the only Rival 38 with a ketch rig (one other has been converted from ketch to sloop). It is something we like, not just because ketches look great.

We love the safety features of a ketch, obviously having a spare mast to get you home if one breaks is a big one. Having more but smaller sails makes things lighter to move, hoist, reef, and trim. There are more sail plan options when the wind gets up (or if something breaks). The mizzen can be used to stabilise the boat both when sailing and when at anchor.

Against that there is more stuff (to buy, inspect and maintain), more weight, generally slower performance (particularly upwind where the mizzen doesn’t help much and adds windage).

When it comes to the rigging the costs are clearly higher (not quite double because while there are about twice as many components they are smaller sizes than they would be with a sloop rig).

Current condition

The mizzen mast is a replacement (not sure when or why it was replaced). The main mast is sound although it has had quite a few changes made to it over the years and needs some freshening up. We have removed the mainsail roller furling which had been fitted to the back of the mast and got a new boom with slab reefing.

The rigging is about 8 years old (but some of it is original) and insurance only provides cover for the first 10 years.

So we know we need to be working to refresh the rigging before we end up living aboard and crossing oceans in a few years time.

Staying with Stainless Steel

When it comes to refreshing the rigging the obvious choice would be to get a professional rigger to do the job and stay with stainless steel. We would have to change a lot more of the rigging if we did it ourselves as the stainless steel wires go into swage fittings and that isn’t a DIY option. Alternatively at considerable cost when changing the stays we could switch to Sta-Lok fittings which we could fit ourselves.

As we are refitting with the goal of living aboard and world cruising in a few years we are taking a long term perspective.

As you replace more things to achieve longer term peace of mind and reliability the cost of staying with stainless steel grows. At the moment it is all a bit of a mixed bag of original and replacement parts. We don’t have detailed records of what was changed when. So we have a mixture of stainless steel (main mast) and original bronze (mizzen) turnbuckles. We have a mixture of stainless steel and bronze toggles. Some of the bronze toggles have stainless steel pins and some still bronze. We have all original bronze chainplates which have not been removed and checked (I have written several posts about the issues and our solutions, start here). Some of the connecting plates etc at the mast are starting to rust and there are mixtures of stainlesss steel and aluminium components where there is some galvanic corrosion.

We would be looking at thousands of pounds to completely re-rig in stainless steel and that would probably need to add having custom made stainless steel chainplates that would have a known condition and be long enough for better backing plates.

So Dyneema?

Dyneema has been used for boat rigging (in small numbers) for about 20 years. See this: DYNEEMA RIGGING Q&A PETER GREIG which includes:

Insurance companies are accepting Dyneema rigging. It has been around for 20 years and there is no recorded failure anywhere in the world from professionally done splicing. However stainless steel cases have a huge amount of claims

Dyneema rigging potentially will outlast stainless steel. Only severe chafing from something very sharp could affect it, but the same way it would affect wire anyway. I have recently worked on a boat that I rigged 15 years ago and which has done 6000 miles in that time – there was absolutely no deterioration visible.

Advantages

  • Weight. Much, much lighter than stainless steel. This reduces the loads on the boat and reduces heeling making sailing faster and more comfortable. This has driven the adoption on racing boats.
  • DIY. Dyneema line is easy to work with using very basic tools. So it is perfectly possible for us to do all the work ourselves.
  • There are no special components (especially to connect and tension wires), so a cruising boat can easily carry the spares needed to re-rig the entire boat anywhere in the world. Potentially all you need is line, thimbles and low friction rings. Not only can you carry everything but it is small, light and won’t rust.
  • Stronger. Dyneema rigging has to be sized for stretch which means that when you size for the same amount of stretch you have many times more strength.
  • Inspectable. There are no hidden parts, all the Dyneema can be seen and checked. The two forms of damage (chafe and UV) are very visible long before failure.

Disadvantages

  • The line itself is expensive (100m of 8mm 1×19 Stainless Steel £576 vs 100m of 11mm Dyneema £1,360)
  • Dyneema is stretchy compared to Stainless Steel so you have to fit larger sizes (eg as per above 11mm instead of 8mm).
  • Dyneema is vulnerable to chafing (rubbing) wear. However, problems are very visible and it is possible to protect it with sleeves or seizing.
  • Dyneema is vulnerable to UV degredation. Again this is visible when it happens and most chafe protection will also provide UV protection.

Conclusion

We are switching to Dyneema first for our Mizzen mast and then for the main mast (except the forestay) for the following reasons:

  1. We can do everything to switch to Dyneema rigging ourselves which saves a lot of money.
  2. We can sort our concerns with our chainplates to solve the weakest link in the rigging with something that is stronger, that we can inspect, repair and replace ourselves.
  3. We will save a lot of weight which will improve our sailing performance and comfort.
  4. We can carry everything to be able to re-rig everything, anywhere.
  5. We will not have to rely on others expertise to properly check the condition of the rig.

In return we recognise that we are likely to have a few hassles

  • We might have to hunt more carefully for surveyors and insurers
  • Tuning the rig will be a slower process (we are going to be using lashings to tension the shrouds and they are slow to untie, tension and tie up).
  • More work to get us afloat the first time because we are not “just managing” with the problem chainplate.

Outstanding Issue

We will not be able to replace the forestay with Dyneema as we have a roller furling system. This includes an aluminium extrusion which covers the forestay and rotates to roll up the genoa sail. This would quickly chafe through the Dyneema. We don’t plan to review this until either the genoa sail or the roller furler need replacing.

Plans

Mizzen mast first due to the problem chainplate. Making the smallest changes to the mast that we can, so reusing the existing connections as much as possible.

Sail for at least one season.

If all has gone well then do the same to the Main Mast.

At some point in the future upgrade the mast connections to use Colligo Cheeky Tangs for simplicity, strength and weight saving (but this will cost a couple of thousand pounds). The good news is that this change wouldn’t require any changes to the rest of the rigging (just slip the top thimble out so the eye splice goes over the Cheeky Tang. This will shorten the shroud/stay a little but the lashing will be able to cope with the change.

Chainplates. We are going for a radical dyneema option

In my last post “Chainplate update, more challenges” I linked to a whole bunch of YouTube channels where people have switched their rigging from Stainless Steel Wire to Dyneema Synthetic rope.

I’m going to write more on why we plan to switch to Dyneema, fully recognising that this is not yet seen as the norm. Also on the connections that are needed at the mast end of each shroud/stay.

Here though, I’m focusing (again) on the chainplates. I’ve detailed the problems we have with our chainplates, although it is worth noting that these problems are not typical of other designs. We don’t see many boats with bronze chainplates and we don’t see many boats where the chainplate is basically just a bronze eye bolt through the side deck with a backing plate (the chainplates for our main mast cap shrouds are bolted to right angle connection from a plate bolted to the bulkhead rather than just a backing plate).

Normally on boats this age, there is a long stainless steel plate that goes down into the cabin with multiple bolts either to the hull of the boat or to a main bulkhead. This plate sticks out of the deck for the shrouds to attach to it. With newer, higher performance boats the engineering of these has to be much more sophisticated as rig loads are greater and the general material in the hull much lighter and thinner.

What we have seen is that it is very normal to need to refurbish or replace the chainplates on boats that are over 40 years old especially when there are plans to cross oceans. So we have seen Tula’s Endless Summer, Beau and Brandy, Kittiwake, and others who have had to do this work. There have been a variety of solutions from upgrading to Titanium, direct replacements, or switching to through bolted external chainplates.

Going Dyneema.

We however, are not looking at a refurbishment (doesn’t solve the problem of the thread being too short for a thicker backing plate) or a replacement with similar (cost and not ideal attachment point for Dyneema shrouds).

When thinking about our chainplates while planning for Dyneema rigging one of the practical issues to sort is the attachment points. I will do a separate post about our plans for the ends at the mast. At the lower end you need a means to tension the shroud and a way to attach it to the chainplate.

As I have been reading about Dyneema rigging it has struck me that lots of people have multiple extra fittings to adapt the connections at the ends. It allows existing chainplates and mast fittings to be reused, essentially via adapters.

So if we have got to do work on our chainplates anyway I started wondering if it would be possible to end up with a chainplate which we could directly connect the tensioning lashing to. The only solution on the market is the Colligo one but that would cost hundreds of £ per shroud and would not solve any of the problems with the chainplates themselves.

Then as I was searching I found these Soft Padeyes

These are not generally being used as chainplates for shrouds, but for sheeting, temporary attachment points, removable inner forestays and the like. Most boats won’t be able to consider these for their chainplates because

  • they only make sense for dyneema shrouds
  • they only make sense if you are tensioning your rig with dyneema lashings, not turnbuckles
  • I’ve only worked out how they can be used to replace chainstays like ours that are in the side deck and that don’t have engineered ties to the boat

But for us, I have realised is that it should be simple for us to make these ourselves, using the backing plates we have already designed. Not only that, but they will be easy to inspect at sea and even replace at sea ourselves if needed.

Making and fitting the dyneema chainplate

I don’t think it is going to be very difficult – but don’t hold me to that 😉

  • Remove the existing chainplate and old backing plate.
  • Drill out a significantly larger hole where the chainplate bolt was. This is to make sure that we get to clean dry deck core. Later it will be filled with thickened epoxy and then a hole drilled in the epoxy for the dyneema loop. This way the deck core will be protected from damp by the epoxy. It also means we will have the option to angle the hole so that it is aligned with the shroud (currently they are not).
  • Now fit the backing plate using thickened epoxy so that the hole in the deck is in the centre. We might apply pressure from below or drill a small hole in the centre to allow a light line to pull it up tight through the deck hole.
  • If this is one of our more heavily loaded chainplates (eg main mast backstays or cap shrouds) then we will add the additional bracing to the hull.
  • With the backing plate fitted we can now fill the hole in the deck with thickened epoxy.
  • Drill from the deck through the thickened epoxy and through the backing plate. Hole should be big enough to thread a doubled dyneema line through from below. I’m going to use dyneema one size up from the size used for the shrouds and I’m going to cover it with a chafe sleeve.
  • Round and smooth the edges of the hole at both top and bottom to minimise chafe when the loop is tensioned.
  • Make a dyneema loop. I’m going to follow a simplified version from the video below. It uses a very simple overhand knot which can’t slip because the loop is passed through eye splices that stop the knot from slipping. It seems to have a lot of advantages for this (easy to create, large knot, very strong and tested). Mine doesn’t need the soft shackle eye which makes it even simpler. It will just be a loop, closed by the knot at the open end. This probably needs to be about as short as I can make it because we want to keep the loop above the deck as small as possible, just suitable for a low friction ring or stainless steel thimble.

At this point we could just thread the loop up through the backing plate and deck, then put the low friction loop in it (and if we wanted a padeye on top of the wheelhouse roof this would be fine).

However, it will leak.

Stopping Leaks

One option for a waterproof version is to buy this complete solution from Colligo for about $80 (for the waterproof version), but they only go up to 5mm with 5,000 lb breaking strength.

Alternatively we can make our version waterproof while still keeping it easy to replace ourselves.

For this we need a “washer” made from the same material as our backing plate. The outside diameter should made to just fit inside a short length of plastic pipe. Choose a pipe that is large enough for the knot to easily fit inside it, also a pipe that we can get a waterproof end cap for.

Epoxy the washer onto the backing plate so that the hole lines up. So that the knot fits well against the washer. I will make a large countersink around the hole in the washer (making sure it is nicely rounded and smooth). We are consideing lining the countersink with a thin hard rubber to spread the load a little more evenly over the knot.

Now we fit the length of pipe over the washer so that it is long enough to hide the knot (a marine sealant should be enough to attach it). Any water seeping down the dyneema will be caught in the pipe and you can remove the end cap whenever you wish to drain the water and inspect the knot or even replace the dyneema.

We will put some silicone sealant around the loop as it comes through the deck to reduce the amount of water that can seep down and stop debris slipping down and damaging the dyneema.

If the loop sticking out of the deck is quite long, I’ll put a whipping around it to hold the friction loop/thimble in place.

The results

We will now have a dyneema chainplate. It will be a lot stronger than the dyneema shroud connected to it (because it is made from the next size up dyneema). It will be a lot lighter than any other solution.

There is nothing to corrode, there is nothing we can’t keep spares for and nothing that we can’t replace at sea.

Compared to all the other ways of attaching a dyneema shroud there are fewer components so cheaper, lighter and keeps the lashing much lower to the deck for improved looks and less chance of chafe or snagging on anything.

For improved looks, UV protection and chafe protection we will make covers for the lashings. Probably rectangles of Sunbrella material held on with velcro and ties.

Tensioning

Both Rigging Doctor and Tula’s Endless Summer have videos on how to tension dyneema shrouds with just lashings. Colligo themselves don’t suggest that for boats over 30feet. However, both Wisdom and Adreneline are much longer than Vida and as we have a ketch rig our masts are a lot shorter. We might have a slight advantage as our low friction ring will be so close to the deck that we don’t have to worry so much about it being pulled out of alignment as we tension the lashing.

Summary

Compared to every other solution for improving our chainplates and connecting dyneema rigging this seems much cheaper and easier to fit. Plus it is lighter, stronger, tidier, and more functional than any other solution I’ve found. Finally, we can inspect it, maintain it and replace it ourselves, even at sea which is fantastic.

What do you think?

Lessons from the Vendee Globe and other trends

We are really enjoying watching the Vendee Globe (single handed, non stop, no outside assistance round the world race). Our key sources are the official website tracking and their YouTube Channel but we are also enjoying the content from Sea Wolves.

The weather has clearly been unusual and fits with this article about Jimmy Cornell where the guru of sailing routes around the world writes:

In 2010 I sold my Aventura III and, as I was 70, felt that the time had come to call it quits. That didn’t last long and by 2013, with accelerating climate change increasingly making the news for those who were prepared to listen, I decided to get another boat and attempt to transit the Northwest Passage. Described by scientists as the “canary in the mine” of global climate, whatever happens there eventually spreads to the rest of the world. I did manage to transit this once impenetrable waterway, now opening up as a consequence of climate change. I also saw the consequences of global warming affecting the local population. With mission accomplished, in 2017 I sold Aventura IV, and that was it. But not for long, as three years later, with climate change surpassing the worst predictions, I decided to put retirement on hold for a bit longer and try something completely different. Like sailing around the world on a fully electric boat along the route of the first circumnavigation 500 years previously.

It is good to see so many of the competitors in the Vendee Globle are working to raise awareness of climate, ocean and water issues. Many are also contributing to scientific research on issues such as plastic in the oceans, water salinity & temperature etc.

There are also a number of competitors using electric motors (they have strict standards of being able to motor at a set speed for a number of hours) and renewable energy charging of batteries (solar and water generators being the most common).

However, it does highlight for us that planning to sail around and about the planet in a few years time that conditions will not be as people have come to expect. Trade winds are not as reliable, both big storms and large areas of doldrums are becoming more frequent and more extreme.

We think we are starting to see some trends in the responses to this. Some get a lot more coverage than others. These are most obvious where people look for their own balances between safety, comfort (and for some luxury) and cruising area.

The trend that has been going for a long time now is to bigger boats and towards catamarans. There is a significant industry push with lots of publicity towards 45 foot plus fast catamarans. This is typified by the Sailing La Vagabonde channel and approach. To cross oceans safely (and cruise around the Bahamas during hurricane season) they use the very latest weather reporting which they access while at sea (Predict Wind) plus they get professional routing advice (such as when the crossed the Atlantic bringing Greta Thunberg back to Europe a year ago). They rely on the combination of up-to-date weather routing (in some cases with shore based professional forecasters giving individual routing advice) and a fast 48 foot catamaran to avoid the worst storms.

Another approach, is again for large catamarans but with the focus shifted from lightweight high performance towards luxury. A good example would be the choice of a new Seawind by Sailing Ruby Rose. Their focus has been on a mid performance catamaran designed to be spacious and luxurious while at anchor to fit with an approach to safety which avoids risks. So while faster than their existing 38 foot monohull they will be staying out of danger though a more cautious approach about timing and planned routes rather than on speed and dynamic routing. It does mean long periods in marinas and anchorages waiting for good weather, it does mean a lot of motoring to keep to passage timetables and it does limit the cruising grounds somewhat. It remains to be seen how far that will continue to be possible as the climate emergency continues to disrupt the weather patterns that have been stable for hundreds of years.

Of course a question is where that leaves everyone else who has neither £0.5 million to buy and the money to maintain a large catamaran.

Many will continue to follow the popular US market of slower, cheaper catamarans, many of them ex charter boats (such as Gone with the Wynns) and for the most part cruise in the Bahamas, Caribbean etc. With significant upgrades some will still cruise the world but for the most part need to make careful downwind passages and expect to motor or motor sail a lot.

We believe that another option, for years popular among those without lots of money, is for a well found older monohull. These can come from an era when you had neither the weather information nor the speed to route around storms, so they needed to be able to cope. With modern improvements such as Jordan Series Drogues for survival in the worst storms and better weather information they provide a more cost effective option and one that should allow cruising to continue as the weather becomes ever more unpredictable.

As the older systems such as diesel engines on these boats fail, sustainable conversions will become more common – as we see on Sailing Uma, Beau and Brandy, Spoondrifters, Learning the Lines and so on. They don’t get the publicity because there is not the same amount of money to be made from them, by the industry. They are not aimed at the wealthy wanting luxury. However, as an option to be able to go cruising in the face of climate change and be part of the solution rather than the problem they are a great option (the only option other than a DIY build?)

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 🙂

Holiday progress day 15: the end

Just eating a black eyed bean curry from our multi cooker. Then heading home.

The cockpit floor is fitted, the main drain hoses are test fitted. We just need some hose adapters 32mm to 50mm and then we can connect the forward drains.

With very straight 50mm drains the cockpit should drain superfast, we are slightly concerned that small children might get sucked out with the torrent 😉 So we will add a small step halfway up back of the cockpit. That will also help our knees a lot.

We also had a big sort out of the forecabin which had become a messy dumping area for tools and bits. That allowed us to check our anchoring plans (and happy they will work). So we removed the very old, rusty, anchor windlass and a couple of other bits.

We also did some measuring for our aft cabin plans and again happy that they will be an improvement.

So, despite all the named storms, and the impact of COVID-19, we have had a good holiday and made a lot of progress towards being ready to launch next spring.

Holiday Progress day 12: more cockpit drain epoxy

Pretty horrible weather today until about 3. With the wind from the North and heavy rain it meant that the cockpit wasn’t a good place to try doing epoxy work. Especially as work was on the floor that needed to be out of position.

So this is where we are at with the drains. I got the lip a bit wrong so will fix that tomorrow.

This is the floor which has to end up being sealed from water by the lips .

I’m pretty happy with how this is turning out. By the time it is finished I think it will look like it was always there.

Holiday progress day 10: New cockpit drains

Wow, a dry day! So we made excellent progress on our cockpit drains.

First, we fitted the TruDesign through hulls, which the TruDesign seacocks will screw onto. We have followed their advice and epoxied them in (so in theory they are as strong as the hull itself). We sanded back to the gelcoat all around then hole. There is thickened epoxy under the flange and around the thread as it goes through the hull. As the “mushroom” sticks out from the hull we (again as advised) used the thickened epoxy to create a fairing to smooth the water flow. It isn’t brilliant but we have a lot of work to do later and will improve it then.

On the inside the backing plate was epoxied in at the same time.

Then we started on the drain from the cockpit. First, Jane was clearing off the remains of the sound insulation from the bottom of the cockpit floor.

Then I cut away the wood reinforcement so that we can add lips to seal around the new corners.

These are the lips that will be fitted to the cockpit floor.

Then I was making progress on the new corners that get the new drains fitted in them.

These will be both bolted and epoxied into place and around the drain it will be filed to level with the old edge with thickened epoxy. This is roughly what it will look like when done. (but coloured consistently and I’ve now rounded/smoothed the cockpit cutouts.

So, we just have to do all the epoxy work (which will depend on how bad the rain is tomorrow).

Then we can remove and replace the original drains from the front of the cockpit (which will end up connected to these under the floor). They are very solidly glassed in so that won’t be quick and easy to get them out and not have to do a lot of rebuilding.

Holiday progress day 9: Electric Motor reliability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite all that there are still some risks:

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

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

Holiday progress day 7: miscellaneous

So today we picked up a few jobs, none of which got completely finished. However, we did succeed with selling our Diesel engine (and have got paid this time!).

First job was to create FR4 backing plates for the new seacocks (the TruDesign fittings need a minimum thickness which is greater than the hull at that point. Before that we had to grind off some of the hull around the hole in the port side (it had been thickened for the old raw water inlet seacock but wasn’t very smooth). Made a huge mess as with a 40 grit flap disk the grinder creates loads of dust and sends it flying off at high speed so having the vacuum trying to suck up the dust as we went didn’t help a lot. Hopefully the last grinding needed in the engine room.

Cutting the holes in the FR4 was the final straw for the cheap 60mm hole saw, so I had to finish using the jig saw. Seems to be a good fit though. Next task will be to bond these in place with thickened epoxy (we will put a fillet around the edges to so there are no sharp transitions or edges).

Then I had to empty everything out of the Van (using it as our storeroom) to get to the timber, plywood and saws. Here is the start of my temporary woodworking shop.

I’ve been working on two projects.

First a box for the new house battery bank. That is 4 x 120AH Lithium (LiFePo4) batteries to be wired in parallel.

We are trying to combine some gaps for air circulation with both holding the batteries so they can’t move and fully protecting them (from moisture and also from anything/anyone touching the terminals or busbars).

This is all test assembly at the moment. Sanding still needed and I’ll be glueing the joints and coating all the wood in epoxy. The box will be above the motor and motor batteries, hence the depth of timbers, as it will need to span a fair distance to allow access underneath it.

Here you can see the batteries in situ with the busbars resting in position, next to them. The busbars are very much oversized (60mm x 6mm) to maximise efficiency.

I will be notching the timber under each busbar bolt so that there is easy access to tighten them.

The battery box cover will keep any water off the batteries and busbar, it will include a retaining bar to hold the batteries in place even if we invert. It will also protect the busbar from anything touching it.

The batteries will be slid in one at a time from the right hand end of the box (in this picture).

This is the box in approximate position. It will be higher, fixed to horizontal beams between the uprights that are not there yet. I am going to cut away the extra length of side at the left of this picture so that the batteries can be slid in and the rightward in the box. I have left the box length beams over-long to give me options for exactly where it and the uprights go.

I also started preparing the timber for the new cockpit floor corners (where the new drains will be) no picture though.

Tomorrow, should be a combination of epoxying all this stuff and maybe some other woodwork tasks.

Holiday progress day 6: starting top end of cockpit drains

Having got the seacocks dry fitted we started on the top end of the new cockpit drains. Another scary job as we have had to cut the cockpit floor (removable section) and the supports for it.

The shows marking out the cut in the cockpit floor which is where this drain will be. That cockpit floor is pretty heavy and unwieldy to lift off and on the boat in these strong winds, so we were glad to manage it without incident.

Not only is it scary to contemplate cutting bits of the boat up, it is also scary to see how quick it is to do so. Here are the two aft corners of the cockpit floor cut off. No going back now.

Next was to cut the supporting “lip” in the boat. Here you can see the removable floor put back in position to mark the cuts.

Again very quick to cut.

And now you can see how the water will drop into the corner where the drain will be,

At this point rain stopped play as the plywood we need to fill these holes (into which the skin fitting will go) is right at the bottom of our van with tools etc piled on top.

Eventually, the new cockpit floor, in the corner with the drain in it, will be level with and smoothly integrated with the lower lip of the corner. It will have an upstand under the cockpit lid and the cockpit lid will have a new edge over that upstand. So the whole thing will be watertight and stronger than it was before, but the cockpit will have two nearly straight, large diameter drains.

We have to cut the original forward drains out of the cockpit to put in new skin fittings. Then hoses from these come back under the cockpit floor to connect to “T”s in the main drains.

For us this is just one of those areas where design standards have been forced to be updated. One of the learning points of the Fastnet Disaster of 1979 (2 years after Vida was built) was the importance of cockpits that drain quickly. Doing a full refit like this allows us not just to replace like with like but also to upgrade where standards/expectations have moved on. That is true of the size of drains but also in the quality/strength of hoses that we are going to be using, the use of double jubilee clips holding the hoses onto the fittings etc.