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.

Holiday progress day 6: Making new holes

This morning was the scary task of making the new holes in the bottom of Vida (ironic given how much time was have spent filling old holes).

Fortunately, the old raw seawater intake for the engine was positioned so that it is easier to access (not tangled up with the engine bearings) and had just enough clearance to the aft bulkhead (between then motor compartment and the aft heads). So we drilled a new 60mm hole there.

Then we could dry insert the skin fitting

The Trudesign requires enough space to screw the whole seacock fitting onto the skin fitting so we needed enough space between it and the bulkhead to spin the seacock on. Phew it fits.

First one on 🙂

We are going to be removing the “bulge” in the aft bulkhead (just above the sterntube) to increase the space in the aft cabin and to make the PSS Dripless Seal more accessible. The bulge was there to give enough height for the anti siphon loop in the diesel engine exhaust – which we no loner need.

So here is the 2nd seacock dry fitted after the hole has been drilled.

This is what they look like on the outside

Before we stick them into place (3M 5200 sealant) we need to sand the paint off the outside (and add a protective epoxy layer) and fit a backing plate on the inside. The hull thickness needs to be increased so that the Trudesign meets design standards in resisting sideways force (such as if you fell and kicked it). Going to use our 10mm FR4 sheet for this. But we will continue with the dry fitting so that we can get cockpit drains connected and stop water getting into the bilge.

Preparing the motor compartment from the bottom up

So we have a clean and painted bilge below where the electric motor, batteries, motor controller, inverter, battery balancers etc are all going.

Our “only” problem, before fitting everything, is that the bilge is gradually filling with water. There are currently quite a few sources of this, none of them surprising.

First, we have disconnected the hoses from the two cockpit drains. So any water getting onto the cockpit floor drips straight in. The reason for disconnecting the hoses was that they have to be replaced (and the cockpit drains at the top plus the seacocks at the bottom). The hoses were very brittle and splitting where they were connected at the ends.

Second, the cockpit floor is not bolted down at the moment. We had to remove it to take it out to get the engine out, we haven’t permanently refitted it as a) it needs a new rubber seal b) it needs the last of the old sound insulation removing and then it can be painted (much easier when not in position). So water can get in around this and through the bolt holes.

Third, we have removed lots of bits from the sides of the cockpit (engine controls, autopilot control, pump etc) so there are quite a few holes (and they are not small).

However, none of these would matter if no water got into the cockpit in the first place. With the hardtop wheelhouse, which gets closed off at the back by the cover, when we are not there, in theory no water should be getting in. But for a long time since taking the engine out we have had a temporary bit of old ply covering the wheelhouse skylight (needed so you can see the mainsail when sailing). However, we fixed that other Friday and our new wheelhouse skylight doesn’t leak and you can see through it.

When we are on the boat we almost always have the cover off (at least partially) for easy access (it isn’t designed to be closed/opened from inside) so when we are onboard water goes get into the cockpit.

Now that all the old seacocks are filled, we can start the work to prepare for the motor, bit for access reasons it is important to start from the bottom. We are starting with the new seacocks, then the pumps. We want to do these now because they will gradually become less accessible as the propeller shaft, then motor frame and batteries go on top.

As soon as we have the new seacocks we can fit the new cockpit drains which are going to be a major upgrade. The old ones were connected with 1.25 inch hose to blakes seacocks and I think the inside of those was only about 1″. Our new TruDesign seacocks have a 2″ internal diameter. That means potentially 5.7 times more flow.

Also we are changing the drains within the cockpit. At the forward end of the cockpit we are fitting new 32mm drains. But we are adding to the aft end two 2″ drains. The design for fitting these has changed a few times. Now we plan to shorten the removable cockpit floor and add a new slightly lower floor at the aft end that the drains will be in with almost a straight run down to the seacock. We are also going to add a step going across the back of the cockpit, just above this new bit of floor, as we find the step down into the cockpit a bit too big to be comfortable.

The forward drains will come aft just gently sloping downwards and be connected to T’s on the main 2″ hoses. I still need to find a way to connect the 32mm hose to the 50mm T fitting.

We have also upgraded the hoses from the rather feeble PVC hoses that had lost all their flexibility to much heavier duty hoses that are fire resistant. We have all the jubilee clips to connect everything (2 clips at each connection as recommended).

The other task is the bilge pumps (one automatic electric one and one manual) we need to get the pipes in at least (because they go to the bilge under the motor). We hope to be able to reuse the old manual bilge pump (we think it just needs a new seal to waterproof it to the deck and new plastic ring that holds the seal in place). What we are not yet sure about is where we are going to have the pump hoses exit the boat. The old position was so inaccessible that the valve had never been closed. But wherever they exit is going to be higher than the motor and batteries so we can sort it later.

We want to get all this work done before fitting the motor stuff both to make sure we are not getting any water near the motor but also because it is going to be a lot easier access without the motor.

Oh and by the way, we have another cunning plan for our new fast draining cockpit. When we fit a watermaker we will not need to fit an extra seacock. Instead the raw water intake pipe will be able to drop right through one cockpit drain into the sea. The brine discharge will be able to drop into the other cockpit drain. Yes, it means we can’t have a fully automatic watermaker (although nothing stopping an automatic flush cycle as that doesn’t need a raw salt water input and can drain into the cockpit).

More and bigger holes in our boat

Today has been drier than forecast. So we have been getting on with hole related jobs.

First I have turned the old fitting that held the stuffing box (the not quite waterproof, old fashioned way of sealing a propeller shaft) into a clean flange for a PSS Pro dripless seal.

We have just done a bank transfer for nearly £2,000 which represents everything needed to go from the motor reduction pulley to the propeller. Nearly all of this would have been needed even if we had kept the diesel engine. Much more on this when we start fitting it.

So from this

To this

Next we have been grinding the outside of the hull around the old seacocks so that we can have a few layers of glass fibre on the outside. There will be thickened epoxy in the actual hole and more layers of fibreglass on the inside. This is the method recommended by West Systems (one of the best known names in epoxy for boats).

So far we have ground out 7 holes. With 4 to go.

The “done” ones

The to do holes (forward heads and old speed sensor).

We have only recently decided to fill the speed sensor hole. We don’t like paddle wheel speed sensors, they are forever getting clogged by weed. We can’t afford a nice, fancy ultrasonic speed sensor at the moment. We can manage with just a gps (which gives speed over ground rather than speed through the water). So rather than have a hole waiting for a sensor we may never get and which is likely to be a different size we are filling it in.

We still have a depth sensor but this is epoxied in place (so structurally it doesn’t count as a hole) and we think we can keep the old depth sounder for a while (later we can upgrade it to one integrated with the full navigation system).