Equipment Update August 2013

Duogen
This blew a fuse on the Atlantic crossing when operating in water mode and the plastic gears of the wind vane needed replacing after 2 years use and after 4 years, the stator buckled causing friction and stopping the blades from rotating. Expensive to replace as the unit needed to be completely disassembled. We had good after sales service from Eclectic Energy and it produced plenty of power in water mode and performed reasonably well in wind mode but it can be noisy in strong winds. Should we need to fit a wind generator in the future we would certainly consider Eclectic Energy’s D400 model.

Duogen - Making Power!

Horizon 60 Litre Per Hour Watermaker
This has worked well over the past few years. The 4 filters need replacing every 4-6 months depending on water quality. The automatic fresh water flush option is worth having as it means the unit can be left for long periods without pickling the membrane. All the filters are available in the Caribbean except the fresh water flush carbon filter, which is special order but we bring them from the UK when we visit, as they are stock items there. After 3 years of constant use the high pressure pump failed and to replace it in the Caribbean cost over 1200 GBP including shipping from the US and import duty into Martinique.

Windlass
This is the original supplied with the boat and it gets a lot of use. It has performed reasonably well but is quite slow under load. We have had to carry out maintenance on the gypsy clutch and the solenoid earth needed replacing this year. Having controls at the helm and a remote at the bow makes anchoring much easier when shorthanded. The windlass handles our 25kg spade anchor and 40 metres of chain easily. We have 90 metres of chain but rarely use more than 40.

Calorifier
This unit was part of the boat when it left the factory and it seems the boat was built around it. In order to get it out when it rusted away 11 years later, we had to cut away a long section of the panel separating the 2 aft cabins. It was a Quick Nautic 40 litre heater with a 1200 kw 240 volt element.

Old Calorifier Being Cut Out

We replaced it with the same unit as it was on the shelf in St Lucia and we carry a spare element. Apart from needing a new thermostat when it was 10 years old, it performed well and provides plenty of hot water, keeping it hot for a long time. The new model looks to be better made and hopefully will last longer.

Shiny New Calorifier

Solar Panels
In September 2012 we fitted 4 x 135 watt Kyocera solar panels. They are wired in pairs to output 24 volts and then the Blue Sky Solar Boost 50 MPPT charge controller converts it back to 12 volts before charging the batteries. They are providing enough power to run everything including the fridge and freezer, neither of which is particularly well insulated. On particularly sunny days it also runs the watermaker. The only time we run a little low on power is on night passages when we run the nav lights and autopilot. At some point in the future we may fit a D400 wind generator as we had to ditch the Duogen as it didn’t fit under the arch supporting the solar panels.

Our Power Station

Battery Monitor
Monitoring the battery bank on Beyzano has always been an issue. The previous owner had fitted a very expensive, all singing, all dancing Xantrex Unit but I was never able to get to grips with it and nor was the electrician, so we changed it to a BEP Marine Monitor but although this successfully measures the voltage of the domestic and start batteries, the amp readings are all over the place. 3 marine electricians had a go at re-wiring it but I still don’t think the readings are correct. The last electrician spent hours re-routing everything through the shunt but the readings are still suspect, so I just purchased a Smart Gauge from Merlin Electronics in the UK. This only has 3 wires that connect directly to the positive posts of the 2 battery banks and 1 to a negative post. There is no shunt. Apparently it relies on some complex algorithms to work everything out. Watch this space for an update. If it works it will be 170 pounds well spent.

Batteries
In January 2012 we fitted 3 new 198 amp AGM batteries, costing 1300 pounds. They worked well for just over a year (1 year warranty – haha!) then 2 of them started to boil filling the boat with Hydrogen Sulphide fumes. Thankfully it set off the gas alarm. I have no idea why this happened so we have now fitted 6 Trojan 225 amp 6 volt batteries, which will give us a total of 675 amps, which is more than we had before and they were about 400 pounds cheaper than new AGMs as they would now be 1550. The Trojan batteries should be more robust but they will need regular maintenance. We will be getting an electrician to check the output from the alternator charging our domestic bank as we think it might be putting out far more power than it should. Could have been the cause of the AGM issue. After speaking to other cruisers, it seems AGMs are not well suited to the harsh environment and constant pounding they receive. Not many people have been happy with them.

SSB
Beyzano has an Icom M802 SSB fitted with a grounding plate and the backstay is used as an antenna. It works well enough and we can pick up transmissions over long distances but as with all HF radios, there is often lots of static and 1 day we can talk to someone 250 miles away and the next day the same person is unreadable. It is worth having as it enables us to tune in to various radio nets and keep in touch with other cruisers but I don’t trust it enough to have it as our only means of receiving weather information on passage.

Satellite Phone
Expensive but worthwhile. We use an Iridium 9555 phone with an external aerial. For the Atlantic crossing we used Mailasail for airtime and line rental, which was far too much, and cost £550 for 500 minutes and 12 months line rental. We have now found a company called GTC that provide a 30 day line rental and 75 minutes for £90, so we just purchase a package when we do an offshore passage so that we can talk directly to Chris Parker who provides us with weather and routing information.

Wi-Fi Booster
We have a Wi-Fi Bat supplied by Mailasail. It does pick up signals from bars and hotels some distance away but if you don’t have their password, it is no help. The USB plug corroded even though it was kept inside the boat but Ed at Mailasail replaced the complete unit free of charge. We know at least 1 other cruiser had the same problem with his unit. Most cruisers are now finding other devices to keep connected, including the new generation of dongles but we must get our heads around the available technology and sort something out for the future.

IPad/Laptop
We have an Apple MacBook Pro, which has been on board for 3 years and has been great. Some weather files are harder to configure on the Mac. Until recently we also had a small Sony Vaio, also fine. The built quality was not as rugged as the Mac though. A few months ago we bought an IPad and this has proved to be a great buy. The Navionics Chart App. Is amazing and when our Raymarine Plotter threw a wobbly, we used the IPad instead and it was every bit as accurate as the plotter. A full set of Caribbean charts for the plotter costs around 200 pounds whilst the same IPad charts cost 35 – why?? The IPad doesn’t have an USB port, which is a shame as it makes sharing information between devices more difficult. I have been told it is possible to buy an adaptor so will hunt one down.

Raymarine Plotter and Instruments
When we bought the boat in 2008 it had aging B&G instruments and plotter. Some of the screens were not working and the small plotter located below was very difficult to see in daylight. We took the decision to replace everything and as we had used Raymarine in the past, we went for ST60 instruments, a ST7002 smart pilot and an E120 plotter mounted at the helm position. The plotter is linked to the 19 inch TV/DVD we have below and a remote control enables us to use all the functions from below. (Just tried the remote and it isn’t working, so something else for the jobs list) We have been very happy with the set up and especially the AIS function. All the instruments work well together and talk to the SPX30 autopilot which keeps us on track in almost all conditions. The only downside has been the old Raymarine radar will not talk to the E120 so we have a separate screen below. Not a bad thing I suppose but it would be nice to overlay the radar information onto the chart.

E120 Plotter At The Port (Engine Controls) Helm

Bimini/Awnings
A bimini is a must in the Caribbean. We never take ours down, whatever the weather and having a clear plastic insert near the helm means we can leave it up when sailing and still see the set of the sails. Awnings help keep the cabins cool and protect the teak decks. We had a full set made in Trinidad covering the whole boat and the front awning was designed to catch water and feed it to the front water tank. The spray hood is also up most of the time but we had a central panel added, which unzips to allow air through to cool the cockpit.

Full Set Of Sun Protection

Paguro Generator
This has been great. It sits in the aft lazarette, runs for hours using very little diesel and needs little maintenance. It does tend to eat impellors if we use it when we are sailing. Advanced Yachts fitted the unit and I must say they are the most professional company I have come across in the marine industry. They suggested drilling a 5mm hole in the leading edge of the seawater intake should cure the problem. The generator is the 3000, which produces a constant 2.8-kilowatt and will cope with a peak load of 3 kilowatts. This is enough for us. It tops up the batteries when needed, heats the water and Rhian can cook the toast and use the hairdryer at the same time!

Air Con/Fans
We don’t have A/C and I sometimes wish we had but running the ducting would take up space, especially as we already have heating ducts for the Eberspacher. I guess if fitting it from new, it would be possible to get a reverse cycle unit for cooling and heating so imagine that would only need 1 set of ducting. Those that have it say it is expensive to run and maintain, you also need to run the generator or have shore power to operate it, so we will manage without it. We have 12-volt fans in each cabin and 2 in the saloon. They help but we rarely use them. We tend to open all the hatch and run around closing them when a shower comes through, which is often and boring. Best solution is to stay outside in the cockpit and BBQ.

Sail Plan
Beyzano had a main and 140% overlapping genoa as standard. We changed to 120% genoa as it was much easier for the 2 of us to manage when short tacking up and down the Solent but here it wouldn’t be a problem. We almost always sail with a reef in the main and if we had the bigger genoa it would also need a reef. By choice I would opt for the cutter rig version as it gives many more options and would be good when sailing downwind. We have a removable inner forestay for a storm jib, so it wouldn’t be difficult to rig a furler and convert to a cutter rig as many 473s have done. On the wish list but not high up.

Single Line Reefing
We had in mast reefing on our first boat and it worked well. Many cruising boats here have it. It gives great flexibility and easy reefing, however, friends of ours have seen boats which have had to cut their sails down because it jammed and they needed to get the sail down in an emergency. We have single line reefing with 3 reefing points all brought back to the cockpit. It took some practice to get the hang of doing it quickly but as we now have all the reefing lines and halyard marked it is quite easy and it allows us to have a fully battened main which vastly improves sailing performance.

LED Lights
Most of the cabin lights are now LEDs. We bought the replacement G4 warm white bulbs at the Southampton boat show for about 7 pounds each. I would like a few more but can’t remember the name of the company! They have really reduced the drain on the batteries. Now I don’t make a fuss when I find all the lights on down below as they are only using about the same amount of power as 2 conventional halogen bulbs. The nav lights are the large aluminium bulbs, which have been on the market for ages. We first used white bulbs but the green then looked blue, so we have replaced them with the correct colours. The anchor light which is the same type, blew a few weeks ago and is only 2 years old, so we have bought a more up-to-date smaller unit to replace it and hopefully it will last longer.

Bowthruster
It is essential when moving around marinas in Europe but not so important in the Caribbean, as generally the marinas have more space and we spend most of our time at anchor anyway. The helmswoman says she wouldn’t be without it as a back up, just in case of a big Caribbean gust.

Outboard & Dinghy
It is easy to spot the Brits who have recently arrived in the Caribbean. They have a small dinghy with a flat bottom and a 2 or 4 hp 4 stroke outboard, which is the norm in the UK. We started out much the same with a 3.1m Avon with an airfloor and a 6hp 4 stroke. Very soon it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be man enough. The dinghy is like the family car and gets an awful lot of use and abuse. Some trips are very long and a reliable and powerful outboard is needed. We changed to a 15 hp 2 stroke Mercury, as it is not much heavier than the 6 hp 4 stroke Suzuki we replaced. 9.8 hp Tohatsu and 15 hp Yamaha’s are also very popular. We bought ours tax free in St Martin. The Avon dinghy has not stood up well to our lifestyle. It is made from Hypalon but the airfloor was punctured in 3 places by a disgruntled local and it also now has yet another leak in the floor. It is difficult to steer with 1 person onboard as it doesn’t have much of a keel. The latest news on the dinghy is that on arrival in Bonaire we unpacked the dinghy and within half an hour the floor was flat – another puncture, so we have a new hard bottomed AB 3 metre ‘car’. We were lucky that it was available in Bonaire, only waiting 2 days for it to be shipped from Curacao. Whatever dinghy you have, if it has an outboard of more than 9.8 hp, you need to lock it to the boat, or better still lift the dinghy at night or it may be gone by the morning.

Latest Dinghy

Antifouling
We applied Seahawk Island 44 with a top up of tin last year and it has worked well enough as it should for over 220 pounds for a gallon. We use about 3 tins per coat. The International Micron Extra, we arrived in the Caribbean with, just couldn’t cope with the tropical conditions and even that is around 240 pounds a gallon over here. Island 44 is produced in America but you can’t use it in American waters! Had we known how expensive antifouling was going to be, we would have applied copper coat before leaving the UK, which seems to work well here.

Cockpit Cushions
Fitted cushions are essential as we spend 80% of our waking time outside. Ours are about 2 inches thick, double that would be better. Something to support your back is also necessary. We have individual sculptured cushions, sold in the UK as Boatsit Comfort. Force 4 sell them but they are quite expensive. Ours are now falling apart after 5 years use but we haven’t tracked any down here yet.

Freezer/Fridge
The 473 has a very large icebox which we converted to a keel cooled freezer. Penguin refrigeration in the UK do a kit and all they need is a template for bending the freezer place. It came with clear instructions and was easy to fit but what they didn’t mention, is that if you are using a keel cooler in the tropics, you need to fit a filter in the refrigerant line as otherwise the unit gets condensation in the pipes. This causes strain on the compressor and blows the fuse, as we found out after about 18 months use here. Our unit is a frigomatic Capri and can be air or keel cooled, so we can still run the freezer when the boat is out of the water. In hindsight, I would have fitted the cooler plate lower down in the ice box, because when ice builds up on the plate, it is difficult to shut the lid properly, making the problem worse. It is impossible to add insulation to the freezer without some serious cutting away of the woodwork and making it look good afterwards would need a very good carpenter. So we didn’t bother, therefore the freezer works harder, especially as we have a dark blue hull. Some cruisers hang a reflective sheet over the side of the hull near the fridge/freezer and say it works well but we haven’t tried it. The fridge is the standard front opening unit and plenty big enough unless we have guests on passage. It can also be a challenge when opening it on starboard tack. Again it isn’t that well insulated so runs about 30% longer per day than it would in the UK.

Rope Cutter
The 473 doesn’t have much space between the prop and where the shaft enters the hull, so there is only room for a disc type cutter. I don’t think it has ever been needed so not sure how well it works. Or perhaps it has worked so well we haven’t noticed! If I had a choice I would fit a stripper type cutter as I have heard good reports.

Featherstream Feathering Prop
This is similar to a max prop but has stainless steel blades. Unfortunately ours has been a great disappointment. Darglow, the suppliers, assured me the prop they supplied would do the job but it doesn’t drive the boat through anything other than smooth to moderate seas and it cavitates when the engine runs at anything over 1500 rpm, so therefore it is very noisy. We got it for the Atlantic crossing to improve the speed when sailing and to stop the gearbox from turning for 3000 miles. Darglow have said they will send a new cassette to change the pitch but they are sure what they set originally is the best option. We have put the original 3 blade fixed prop back on and all is well again, plenty of power and silent running.

Pretty - But Useless For Our Boat

12 Volt Sockets
Fit as many as you can as they are never where you need them. We have 2 in the saloon and 1 on deck but would like more above and below deck.

9 Responses to Equipment Update August 2013

  1. Barry Smith says:

    Rob,

    We have been following your blog for years and have benefited from your experiences. We also have a Beneteau 473, and just missed you in St. Lucia, which is where we are untill Friday.

    On frying you batteries, check your solar charge controller. We have two 245W Kyrocera panels, and had them hooked to a Blue Sky 3024 MPPT controller. One day I noticed the inverter (2000 w ProSine) showed over 16 +V. Since the engine was off, the wind generator had shut itself down and we were not on shore power there was only one suspect left. After returning the unit (under warranty), Blue Sky said it had been exposed to a higher voltage than it was designed for and I was SOL. I had the two panels in series to minimize wire loss, so it was my fault. I replaced it with two Blue Sky 2512ix-hv controllers (probably should have switched manufacturers, but we will see). At any rate these controllers can overcharge if they go bad.

    On your prop, we got the four blade Max Prop, put Prop Speed on it, and have been happy.

    On the 12V outlets, Blue Sea makes little dual USB outlets the same size as a normal “cigar lighter” that work off 12V power for charging all those little electronic devices.

    Looking forward to meeting you one day.

    Thanks,
    Barry

  2. Rhian says:

    Thanks for your comments Barry and glad to hear you find the blog useful, as we enjoy updating it and it is great to get feedback.

    Regarding the batteries, we also have the solar panels wired to give 24v to the controller. The controller then steps the voltage down to a suitable level for the batteries and we recently checked the manual for our solar boost 50, which specifically states that it can be wired that way. We checked the output to the batteries when the batteries were low and the sun was high and we were getting 13.2v which should be OK. We’ll see!

    Thanks for the tip regarding the 12v sockets and USB, will look into that. Sounds like the Maxprop is the way to go but we hope to sell the featherstream first or we’ll have 3 props on board!

    Hope to catch up with you one day too and have bookmarked your website. Fair winds and calm seas 🙂

  3. nigel Henry says:

    Hi both, great to read you blog. Marilyn updates me from time to time and just enjoyed an hour checking the ARC and your blog Envy is not a word I use often lol.

    Some interesting points and upgrades you have made, I am surprised about the glass mats and was just about to ask you about your freezer keel plate and found the ref.

    We were on Voyageur back in the summer and bumped into a guy that was off to do the ARC on his 44 something or other, he had a dark blue hull and had the yacht vinyl wrapped in white it looked great and will protect the blue hull and bring the temperature down considerably inside ? As for us…… still as busy as ever with students and houses, we hope we might get away late next year as Rebecca will be 19 ! how time fly’s, Have fun and enjoy Christmas. Best Wishes Nigel & Marilyn

  4. Rob Gill says:

    Hi Rob and Rhian, a quick note to thank you for your wonderful blog with the many useful shared experiences and tips. The photos really help add to your descriptions, particularly the canopies etc. We are the lucky new owners of a 2003 white hulled 473 Bonnie Lass in NZ, with hopes to cruise the Pacific and Australia, and will follow your blog with interest as the Pacific Islands and Carribean perhaps have similar delights and challenges?
    We have a 10 year old three bladed Maxprop classic fitted and protected with Propspeed (like Barry above) and a rope cutter immediately in-front of that. This works very well pared with just a Volvo 55hp. It behaves predictably in reverse with slight prop walk, needing a good kick ahead to get the bows moving. We are confident already with not needing a bow-thruster, but this may be a long term addition as we get older. Friends with a 473 celebration model don’t overtake us with their 100hp Yanmar. We cruise at 2500 revs around 7.5 -> 8 knots. The previous owner credits the Volvo/Maxprop combination with saving his bacon caught overnight in a Force 10 in the Med on her maiden voyage after she blew-out the mainsail. In neutral, the Maxprop feathers well with just slight vibration when sailing at speed, which could be the rope cutter/prop interaction. In any event the shaft is not rotating. I am selling the old 3 bladed fixed reserve prop (15 Kg) and buying a lightweight nylon prop as the reserve – probably a Kiwprop – so it can be more easily fitted by a diver without hauling the boat. Love the idea of putting the water maker in the forepeak to fill the forward tank as this keeps the weight forward. +1 for the 12V sockets. Love your work guys – fair winds. Rob

  5. Rhian says:

    Many thanks for your kind comments and for all the useful information. We will certainly consider these options for any future upgrades. All the best with your plans and perhaps see you somewhere along the way!

  6. Philip Barbour says:

    Hi both.

    We have a 2002 473 3 cabin like yours called Ziggy! We are planning to follow in your footsteps and love your site. Would love an update on your equipment !!

    Interested in your fridge set up. are you running the fridge from the keel cooler too? Or just the freezer. I can’t decide what to do about the poor insulation and thought about getting a complete fitted unit installed in the front opening fridge as I find it is constantly cycling even in Scotland in the winter!

    Regards
    Maureen and Philip

  7. Rhian says:

    Hi Maureen and Philip and thanks for your comment.

    We only run the freezer from the keel cooler and it takes about the same power as the fridge, sometimes even less. With the solar panels we find we have full power by 1400 unless it is very cloudy and that is despite having a dark blue hull and the fridge and freezer being on the starboard side, where the Caribbean sun beats down more of the day when at anchor. Our fridge doesn’t cycle constantly though. What make of fridge do you have and when are you thinking of setting off?

    All the best

    Rob & Rhian

  8. Philip Barbour says:

    Hi

    We have the standard danfoss 50 for the fridge, although we have a water cooled frigiboat 2000 series with holding plate for the freezer. Don’t think either has much in the way of insulation which makes it even more surprising yours works so well!

    We are currently getting Ziggy ready to take her to the med in 2017 ( new fully battened main and tides track system are the current activity!. Really looking forward to some warm weather sailing, although the sailing here is really spectacular!

    Regards

    Philip and Maureen

  9. Rhian says:

    One thing we thought about after the first reply. Whenever our batteries are down a bit, the fridge starts trying to power up all the time, so check the cable from the power supply is of a thick enough gauge to prevent a power drop.

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