After 20,000 Miles
Part 2 - Steve and Linda Dashew tell why they chose for their new boat a W-H autopilot, Furuno radar, Raritan toilet, and even why they prefer 3M duct tape.
In Part 1, which appeared in the August 1, 1997 issue, we described Beowulf, our 78-foot aluminum cruising boat that my wife Linda and I recently sailed to New Zealand and back from California. In that article, we talked a good deal about the rig, hardware, electrical and refrigeration systems. Here, we discuss some engine accessories, electronics and hatches.
There are PAR diaphragm bilge pumps in each of Beowulf's three watertight compartments. These are expensive, and only pump 7 gallons per minute. However, we do not feel comfortable with submersible pumps (a stray current in the bilge would create an electrolysis problem with the aluminum hull) and the large PAR pumps have proven reliable over the years. They are controlled by reed switches made by National Magnetic Sensors, which in turn operate a solenoid for powering the pump. We have found that if you use the float switch to just trigger a relay or solenoid and not for the full pump current, they will last much longer.
On the electronic front we consider the most difficult piece of gear to buy to be radar. After all, how can you tell if the receiver will do a good job in rain, sea clutter or with other radar interference until you actually use a unit for a while? What we are most concerned with is target definition—the ability of the radar to pick out a weak target under adverse conditions. This time we went with a Furuno #1941, 48-mile radar with an open array antenna and 4 kW of output power.
It is the first of the modern radars which we have found to have good target definition. In fact it is far superior to the analog 10KW sets we used to fit. We were able to pick up low lying atolls, like Takaroa, Ahe, and Rangiroa at 30 to 36 miles (our antenna is just 15-feet above sea level). With the screen off centered we picked up high islands at 55 to 70 miles. Medium sized ships were visible as strong targets at 16 miles and could be seen, with care, to 22 miles. The target enhancement and automatic sea clutter controls actually worked very well.
Once again we went with WH for our autopilot. Although we have a 1/-hp. pumpset fitted for driving the rudder, we average less than 40 watts of power consumption. In the one strong gale we encountered on our trip we had a steady 45 knots of breeze from well behind us. Sailing with main and mizzen (no headsail) the WH unit handled things nicely. The new "storm pilot" rudder gain control works wonderfully when steering in large, breaking seas.
Things have surely changed on the communication front. First, we installed an SGC2000 SSB/ham combination rig in conjunction with SGC's automatic coupler. We liked many of the features on this set but were not happy with the lack of a tuning knob (their latest models have rectified this problem).
When we left California, our passage to the Marquesas was during hurricane season. We wanted 100% reliable, easy-to-use communications for weather data. We also wanted our family to be able to contact us easily. After reviewing the possibilities we decided to try a Trimble Sat-C modem for e-mail. This has proven to be a boon, allowing automatic reception of messages without having to worry about radio schedules, band conditions or picking the correct frequency. Since charges are about three quarters of a cent per character we quickly learned to use short-hand. Our average message costs about $2. When you consider that these sets work as an EPIRB, have a built-in GPS, and provide you with free notices to mariners and weather data, they begin to make sense for serious voyagers. Another feature we liked is automatic position reporting. The modem can be set to send a message at pre-set intervals to a shoreside e-mail address, letting the folks back home know where you are. In the case of an emergency, this could be valuable data. These messages cost around 25¢ each. We sent ours to our daughter, Elyse, four times a day when we were at sea.
We are not big fans of fancy performance instruments for general cruising. A Windex at the masthead, some woollies in the rigging, and a depth finder will get the job done nicely. However, from a design standpoint we need to know how our boats are doing compared to the performance polars we create during the design process. We looked over the available equipment and once again went with Brookes and Gatehouse. The gear has worked without a hitch, and the computer software interface is not that difficult to master. From a cruising standpoint, the one really important piece of information is true wind direction (in magnetic degrees). This feature is invaluable, especially when combined with the barometer,for getting an early handle on what the weather systems are doing.
Our fridge has 14 cubic feet of capacity and is insulated with 4" of isocyanate foam. The freezer is 11 cubic feet and has 6" of insulation. Both have holding plates built into a stainless inner liner. The fridge uses the ultimate eutectic solution—freshwater, while the freezer has a special non-corrosive solution that is a true eutectic as well. Both fridge and freezer plates have 50' of 5/8" copper tubing, brazed in direct contact with the plate surface. (This direct contact allows a more efficient heat transfer between fridge/freezer boxes and refrigerant during cool down.)
We use Glacier Bay compressors and 134a refrigerant. The fridge system operates within the parameters we would expect from past experience with Freon 12. The freezer, however, is about 30% less efficient than we've seen in the past (Freon 12 is still available throughout the tropical South Pacific). This may due to the Glacier Bay compressor (which is really an air-conditioning unit designed for higher temperatures) or the lower efficiency of the 134A refrigerant at freezer temperatures. We've gone back to a Grunert system (based on a true freezer compressor) for a sistership and are using a new refrigerant, 409, which has better characteristics at freezer temperatures. We've found that the Grunert compressors are substantially quieter than the Glacier Bay units.
To heat the boat and make hot water we installed a 30,000 Btu Teledyne diesel boiler, supplied by Sure Marine. It is microprocessor-controlled (which makes me nervous) and has all sorts of electronic indications of problems, if they occur. So far it has run without problems and is quieter than the Webasto we've used in the past. We pump hot water around the interior to a number of 5,000-Btu fan-augmented heater coils. In warm weather a Y-valve is thrown and the heated water stays in the engine room, between the domestic hot water cylinder and Teledyne boiler. The hot water tank has three cupra-nickel finned heat exchangers mounted, each of which is approximate 20' long. These are connected to the Teledyne boiler, the main engine and the genset. It takes an average of 15 minutes to bring the 12-gallon heater tank from ambient to a temperature that is comfortable for showering. Once this point is reached, you have a continuous supply of hot water available (if the Teledyne unit is left on). Waste heat from the genset or main engine can also be used to heat the boat with this system.
The question of deck hatches is a compromise between watertight integrity and cost. Most builders use extruded aluminum hatch frames with a single, large piece of acrylic glazing, held in place with hardware that penetrates the glazing, sealed by an O-ring. Almost without exception, cruisers who cross oceans find that this type of hatch eventually leaks. The only alternative of which we are aware are cast aluminum hatches made by Bomar. In these, hardware is attached to the hatch frame, so there is no penetration of the glazing. These hatches do not leak, but cost three or more times as much as the extruded aluminum models. How much is a dry bunk worth?
While we are talking about watertight integrity, we should mention the Cascade Design line of watertight bags (widely available in sporting goods stores). Made for campers, whitewater rafters and canoeists, they have a wide variety of sizes and construction. We use several for our abandon-ship bags. What we found most useful, however, was a watertight backpack that makes a great carry-all for our camera gear when going ashore in the surf.
We installed six Guest fans throughout the boat. Two of the six worked satisfactorily. The other four are so noisy as to render them almost useless. We have found the two Hella fans that we installed much more satisfactory.
We consider our ground tackle to be the single most important category of equipment. We feel strongly that the anchor should be chosen for the worst conditions . For years now we've used Bruce anchors. Granted they do no hold as well as a CQR or Fortress in hard mud or sand, but we have found the Bruce far superior in rock and coral. The obvious answer with the Bruce is to kick the size up a notch or two so that it will hold as well as the lighter anchors in the good bottoms (Beowulf carries a 240-pound Bruce). The net change in weight to the anchoring system is small, and you will sleep much, much better on those blowy nights. We attach the anchor with 3/8" schedule 7 Acco high-strength chain. This material has a breaking strength of 26,000 pounds, yet weighs just under 2 pounds per foot. Our Nilson V3500 windlass has performed satisfactorily, although I prefer the old style folding clutch handles to the newer removable clutch bar. We have used this type of anchoring system for some years now and in 50,000 or so miles of cruising have yet to drag.
Although we have specified many Force 10 stoves, this is the first time we have lived with one. They are easy to clean and the burners are quick to light and have good control. However, the oven is not thermostatically controlled. Rather, there is a temperature gauge that you observe while adjusting the flame. This less-than-precise control leads to some surprises when baking. We would not use this type of stove again.
Over the years, we have found the Raritan PH2 manual toilet to give excellent service, be easy to maintain, inexpensive and lightweight. One of these was fitted in the forward head. In the aft heads, adjacent to the engine room, we installed SeaLand Vacuflush systems. If you want an efficient holding tank system these may be the anwer. On our way down to New Zealand we fed them with salt-water (which is much harder on maintenance) without a problem. On our return voyage, with a larger watermaker, we fed them with freshwater. So far, they have been trouble-free.
We have tested two Village Marine watermakers. The first is their Little Wonder, a simple DC system that makes 5 to 6 gallons an hour for about 170 watts of power. Several times we tested its output (measuring the water produced rather than relying on the gallons per hour meter) against Recovery Engineering (PUR) units and found the Village Marine water maker slightly more efficient. It has been trouble-free. We also have one of their no frills modular units mounted on the genset. This unit is rated at 50 gallons per hour (GPH), but has produced closer to 60 gph since new. If one has a choice, we'd go with the higher capacity of an engine-driven watermaker.
Duct tape is a necessary evil on any sea-going vessel. This is the first time we ve used 3M brand and it is clearly superior to any we have used in the past. We've been able to get six months of usage before the flags started to fly where it used aloft for chafe protection. Self-almagating tape (nornally used for waterproofing electrical connections) also works well for chafe protection, especially to provide UV protection for duct tape. You can buy this in electrical supply stores for one third of what the marine stores sell it at (3M works well).
Contacts- Force 10. Flow Scan, 206/524-6625. Raritan. SeaLand. Sure Marine (Teledyne Diesel Heaters), 206/784-9903, fax 206 784 0506. Glacier Bay. Grunert. Village Marine Tec. WH Autopilots, 206/780-2175, Fax 206/780-2186.