So we were able to travel earlier today which meant a relaxed journey, no rush carrying stuff onto the boat and plenty of time to prepare a salmon stir fry for a normal dinner time which we were able to eat in cockpit sharing in a beautiful quiet evening.
Only downside is that there has been a bad fire in a telephone exchange that seems to be affecting all Anglesey. So the live Internet stream I did for work at 8pm was through my tablet hot-spot and hence rather slow.
But now back to chilling in our comfy saloon. Jane is doing cross stitch and I’m playing Dominations while we listen to random downloaded music on YouTube Music 😁
The first is that working in tight spaces is uncomfortable. I’ve tweaked something behind my right knees while working in the aft cabin. It has been painful overnight. So more caution today.
The second is that there is a problem with making comfortable beds in a snug boat. We enjoy staying in bed in the morning, especially when there was a rain shower, bed seemed even more attractive. So another late start 😂🛏️🛌😴
We are getting very close with the cockpit after today.
The epoxy work for the aft cockpit drains is nearly finished. After drying overnight we should have just a few little bits to fill with thickened epoxy to make sure that the lower lip if fully sealed (where it tucks under the old grp lip and flange).
With the lip bits are now fixed in place (to both the cockpit floor and to the drain area) and the area around the white skin fitting filled with epoxy so there should be nowhere for water to collect.
As you may be able to see our resin has gone a bit jelly like and so isn’t mixing as smooth as it was (don’t know if this is shelf-life or temperature or what). We are nearly at the end of a big bottle, so as it seems to still set hard we will use it up on areas where the finish isn’t too important (and hopefully ones not critical to safety).
I have managed to get both of the old drains out ready for new TruDesign skin fittings.
If we can’t finish them this holiday we will simply seal them up for the moment.
We also had a big delivery of shiny bits today (sadly FedEx left only parcel 1 of 2 so not everything).
Here is the PSS Pro dripless seal and the refurbished bronze flange it will fit to.
Here is the Aquadrive (thrust bearing and CVT that allows for the motor to be on a different alignment to the propeller shaft).
Then we have our motor mounts.
This evening we had a really nice socially distanced BBQ on the beach with the members of the NWVYC we cheated slightly as we don’t have a BBQ. So we ran a power extension cable from the boat and setup our Induction Hob on our workmate 🙂 It was very effective 🙂 Anyway it was lovely to see people and chat about boat refits (and other topics were permitted).
Hoping dry weather continues so we can get the cockpit watertight.
We would prefer you to collect it from us (Wythenshawe, Manchester. Only a mile or so from Manchester Airport).
We are willing deliver it to you providing the distance is under 100 miles, you pay fuel and all we have to do is lift it off the trailer and place it on the ground.
Due to the previous attempt to scam us we are only accepting payment by PayPal through eBay and we will not agree to any attempts to work around eBay as these are apparently often used as parts of scams.
Among sailors, diesel engines have become so ubiquitous that few seem to be able to imagine any alternative. Yet, of course, that hasn’t always been the case. However, during my lifetime we have seen them steadily increasing in power and boats becoming more dependent on them, not just for moving but also for charging batteries.
In part that is with busier, more complicated lives, diesel engines have become a way of feeling more in control and able to keep to a fixed timetable.
However, a key thing we love about sailing is the process of sailing. We love making even the slowest progress in light winds. Even in the worst weather we are going to be drier on Vida than we have been on our Sprint 15 and Rivals have an outstanding reputation for going to windward in heavy weather, so we are not looking to motor to avoid sailing to windward or reduce the time spent doing the very thing we want a sailing boat for – sailing.
But not everyone is like us – phew, I hear you say 😂
So why would anyone choose an electric motor instead of a diesel motor? Are there really any advantages? Well we think so, this isn’t a punishment for us but a really positive life enhancing choice.
The advantages of electric power:
Fossil Fuel Free
An obvious point. The climate emergency absolutely requires us to stop burning fossil fuels. If politicians acted in our bests interests then we would already see diesel being phased out rapidly for new boats and a not too distant deadline for replacing all fossil fuel engines in boats. It is going to be essential and given our agenda of Sustainable Sailing it is hard to justify not making this change now.
But hopefully we can demonstrate here that stopping fossil fuel use (at the least direct fossil fuel burning) doesn’t mean taking away life, freedom and joy. In fact quite the opposite.
Trading initial expense for reduced running costs
Because this change means taking out something that works (probably, we haven’t been able to fully test it yet) and replacing it, there is considerable initial expense. The electric motor and controller is cheaper than a new diesel engine but the batteries alone are probably a lot more than upgrading fuel tanks (so they can be inspected and cleaned) and fuel system (so that it can be accessed and cleaned if it gets blocked by sludge). That is a bit of a guess as we haven’t priced doing that work to the current system (because we are just not interested in spending that much time and effort on it).
The electric motor also needs various the connecting bits (solar panels, mountings, chargers, etc etc), but almost all these benefit other systems too such as power for electric cooking, so hard to treat completely separately.
However, once installed we will have essentially free fuel (we might need to pay for an electric shore power connection occasionally, and we might carry a small portable petrol generator for power shortages if we decide to go to Northern latitudes in winter). Given that we have seen YouTube liveaboard cruisers who are spending $500 a month on Diesel when cruising in countries like Norway the free fuel savings add up quickly.
The diesel is not the only cost saving, there are other consumables as well (fuel filters and oil for example). Electric motors don’t need any of these.
So we would expect to recoup the purchase cost within the first 4 years – and that is just going to be holidays and a sabbatical. Sooner if we cross France via the canals which would require maybe a month of motoring nearly all day everyday.
However, the initial cost of an electric system also needs to be compared to what we would have to pay if we kept the diesel engine. That needs quite a bit of work: a full service, new filters, tanks to have inspection hatches fitted, fuel lines to be replaced (because there is no access to unblock the current ones if sludge gets in them, some of the valves are broken and some of the copper pipe is pretty corroded), water cooling inlet seacock to be replaced and a new starter battery. By changing now, without doing any of this work we are already significantly cutting into that extra initial cost.
Much less maintenance
We have chosen a brushless electric motor. There are no parts to wear out in daily use. It is air cooled so there is no water cooling system to maintain (no seacock, no salt water to corrode anything or leak). There is no gearbox, just a long lasting toothed belt with pulleys to act as a reduction gear. No oil to change, no fuel system to ensure is clean and free of water or other contaminants.
When you watch the YouTube channels of people with electric motors (eg Sailing Uma, Beau and Brandy, Rigging Doctor) and compare then to those with Diesel engines (eg Sailing La Vagabonde, Saling Yacht Salty Lass, Tula’s Endless Summer) you will see orders of magnitude differences in the amount of time spent working on diesel engines compared to electric motors.
This drawing shows just how much space we are going to gain in our cockpit locker and corridor to the aft cabin. All our batteries will fit (along with the electric motor and both inverters and our solar controllers) in the existing engine compartment. In fact it seems to me that the fuel tanks are higher than shown in the drawing, taking even more space.
We are not yet sure what we are going to use the corridor space for (maybe bike storage) but the cockpit locker is going to be massively bigger and should take most of our sails, fenders and ropes. That is a huge gain for us as this boat design doesn’t have a huge amount of storage space. The only other storage on deck is a lazarette (locker at the back of the deck) that used to be used for the gas bottles. We will probably use that for the electric outboard engine and other bits we don’t need when on passages.
As we know from electric bikes and cars, these motors are almost silent. Life inside a boat cabin is pretty unpleasant when a diesel engine is running, far louder than a car. So we expect to really enjoy this benefit. We might even end up motoring more as it will be free and silent. Slipping gently and silently up a still river while not disturbing the wildlife sounds beautiful.
As we have been removing the old headlining it has been startling to realise just how much dirty air was escaping the engine compartment into the cabins. All around it, behind the headlining is a black sticky residue. Yuck! No wonder so many people feel seasick if they go below when motoring.
This one is going to be contentious 😁
We believe that becoming dependent on a powerful engine being available all the time and expected to be able to drive you at hull speed for hours at a time whatever the conditions is dangerous. It leads to taking risks and being unprepared if the engine fails. For example it could be a skill shortage or just not having been bothered to get the sails (and anchor) ready for immediate use or to be somewhere where you couldn’t sail out of danger. The RNLI stats I shared in an earlier post support this.
While we will have more limited range and not be able to run at full speed for hours at a time electric motors have other safety advantages. No fuel to get contaminated or blocked (and remember if your electrics fail you won’t be able to start your diesel engine either). Full torque at all revs so doesn’t stall and has more usable power at low speed. Also unaffected by being tossed about by the waves.
Diesel is nasty stuff, it gets everywhere, it is hard to clean and it smells. But a diesel engine also requires you to store smelly oil and change dirty parts. It puts out smoke and pollutes the water you will want to swim in.
Freedom from supply
This is a big one. No need to go anywhere to refuel (and there are no fuel docks at Beaumaris, or at lots of remote places). No need to go ashore with the dinghy to hunt for fuel and carry it out to the boat. No worrying about the quality of fuel that you are able to get in remote places. No need to carry extra fuel in Jerry cans on your side decks.
Far fewer spares to carry or have to find a supplier for. In fact if you are paranoid you could take a whole spare motor in a smaller space than the spares and engine tools that lots of people carry (even wrap the spare in layers of tin foil and it will probably survive a lightning strike – try that for a diesel engine). No waiting to ship parts specific to your engine to remote places.
Electric motors, especially when powered from renewable energy generation, are incredibly more efficient than a diesel. Even an electric motor powered by a diesel generator is now more efficient than a diesel engine itself (because you can always run the generator at its peak efficiency rather than than it be set by the speed you go at).
The efficiency difference is made even greater by using the electric motor to generate electricity when you are sailing rather than just sitting there as a dead weight just slowing you down.
Enough for now
I’ll write a separate post about the disadvantages which won’t be as long 🤣
We expect to see huge growth in the number of electric boats over the next few years because these advantages are so huge.
Last weekend we have placed the first set of orders for what will become a complete Electric Motor system on Vida.
We are going fully fossil fuel free as we just couldn’t face the thought of spending money on an existing diesel system that is so against our hopes for the future and so destructive to the future.
And we want to clearly stand for an alternative that needs to become the norm. No bost that uses fossil fuels can be considered green.
This means that we will be removing our existing diesel engine, tanks etc (everything will be properly recycled or sold or given away rather than thrown away). In the short term this is going to be very helpful and will allow us to do some important jobs which are currently inaccessible:
remove condemned seacock from engine water inlet and fill hole (buried under engine)
replace cockpit drain hoses and seacocks (difficult to access around gearbox and propeller shaft at back of engine). These will be the only holes under the waterline (yippee)
cut away engine drip tray to gain access to the very deep part of the bilge (an area that is apparently a weak point that we will be able to strengthen).
fit new electric automatic bilge pump and new hose for new manual bilge pump (getting rid of the port fuel tank will make that much easier)
temporarily remove the propeller shaft and replace the cutlass bearing (survey found some movement). Either clean and repack the traditional stuffing box or fit a new dripless seal.
Preparing for the installation
As parts arrive (and some have fairly long lead times) we will be creating a frame for the new electric motor and a reduction drive so that it matches the design speed for the propeller. Working out what parts we need for this has been the hardest part so far (more on what we are actually installing later). So we will be able to get to the point where the motor is fully connected and tested at home before taking it to the boat (as the motor only weighs 38kg this is an easy operation).
When we install it in the boat we will using a flexible coupling to connect it to the existing propeller shaft. That means we won’t need to get perfect alignment and it also means we can use flexible engine mounts to reduce vibration/noise.
The tricky bit: The most difficult step is going to be removing the existing engine! With the gearbox it weighs over 185kg and it will need lifting up through the floor of the cockpit. Normally and currently the wheelhouse roof is above that so a crane can’t just lift it straight out. Also at the moment we are blocked in behind other boats, so until they are launched a crane can’t get to us. Not quite sure how we are going to do this yet. In any event there are a lot of things to be drained and disconnected before we get to the lift the engine out. However, lots of the other jobs depend on getting the engine out so if we are able to do it sooner then that will be great. I’ve some ideas for getting the engine out onto deck but without a crane or one of the yards high lifts I can’t figure how to safely get it over the side of the boat and lowered to the ground.
My cunning plan is that once the engine is out I’ll set it up in our luggage trailer so that we can demonstrate it working when putting it up for sale. So if you know anyone interested in a Yanmar 3jh5e please get in touch.
Also if anyone knows what I should do with the red diesel currently in the tanks. I’ll be filtering it into a Jerry can so it should be safe for any diesel allowed to use red diesel.
First job has been to fit our 2nd Radiant wall panel heater. This is 320 Watts and is in the main cabin (no printed image at the moment). Again using a radio thermostat and timer that controls the 13 amp socket that the heater is plugged into.
Of course when not posing for pictures the thermostat isn’t tight next to the the heater.
We won’t know for quite a while whether we can generate enough electricity to use this when afloat. However, even if we are only able to use it when in the boatyard it is still a cost effective way to heat the boat.
Of course the real benefit is when the electricity comes from renewable energy. We have no control over the boatyard electricity supplier, which is why running it from our own system would be preferred.
I’m working on long term plans to automate the maximum use of our renewable energy when the boat is unoccupied. Even in winter our full solar panels (when installed) will be far more than is needed to keep the batteries fully charged. So normally a lot of the solar power will be thrown away.
Our Victron solar panel controllers (MPPT) have an open interface and tools so that a computer can talk to them. So does our Victron battery monitor.
How can we use that? Well I’ve started playing with Raspberry Pi zero w computers. I’ve used bigger Raspberry Pi’s before, but these are tiny. I can connect temperature (and humidity) sensors. I can control mains sockets and I can get information from the Victron systems.
So eventually I should be able to have a Raspberry Pi in each cabin measuring the temperature and knowing roughly how much energy can be generated each day. It can then control the heaters to use exactly that much energy so that the boat is as warm as possible while still fully recharging the batteries each day.
I’m also going to be able to use Raspberry Pi’s to run our navigation systems (using something called OpenPlotter), act as a media player, general purpose computer for Internet browsing, wordprocessing etc. All with a far lower power need than a PC or laptop and no moving parts. Plus very much cheaper and more reliable.
[UPDATE] The heater is keeping the main cabin at 19 degrees C, even with the hatch open (the cover for the wheelhouse is nearly fully closed). And we can see snow on the mountains 😍