The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

Retire early, be passionate, don't worry, die poor

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Installing a Solar Panel

"I am plagued by the simplistic ideals in a world where simplicity is mistaken for lack of ambition" ~ Martello Mateus 

Installing a solar panel is a piece a cake...at least that's what it said in the installation manual. And it would be true, if I weren't installing it on a boat!

It took only about one hour to install the 80 W Bosch solar panel on its pole mount. That part was easy. I basically used the old wind generator pole with a modified mounting frame made at a local metalworking shop.

solar panel pole mount
Not the best summer day, but good for testing the solar panel output.
Then came the wiring. The solar cables are thicker than the ones I used for the wind generator, so I had to find another hole to feed them into the boat. After much head scratching, I finally removed an old tiller pilot power socket (previously used for my ruined windvane) and fed the wires through that.

Attaching the charge controller to the bulkhead in the dungeon was also easy - 4 small screws and that's it. Next, you'd think that it would be a simple job of using the old wind generator wires to the battery. But for one reason or another, nothing is easy on on a boat.

Although the wind generator wires ran right over the house battery, I needed an extra 1.5 meters to lead them down to the battery terminals.

The problem was that they snaked through mysterious places - bunched up with lots of other wires - all the way to the engine room where they were hooked up to the wind generator controller and then to the alternator splitting system.

Tracing those two wires and pulling them out from the spaghetti mess in impossible to reach places was a good yoga workout.
Boat wiring schematics
The old wind generator wires ran all the way to the engine room seen on the far right. I needed to pull them out in order to run a direct route to the house batteries shown on the bottom left.
After copious cursing, sweating and ranting to myself, I sort of got it done...for now.

I finally got the wires hooked up and, even on a cloudy day, it didn't take long for the 180-amp house battery to hit 14.7 volts. Yes sir, it was worth the money and sweat. It felt good reading the voltmeter, real good I tell you.

PS. If I were smart (IF!!!), I would have used the old wires to charge the engine battery and installed new wires to the house battery. Now I have to run a new set of wires to the engine battery along the same path as the wires I removed. Did I ever feel stupid when I realized this. But then again, if I were smart, I'd be living the life I dream about.

That's enough for today. In my next post you'll be hearing about the biggest F#$%&! screw-up the F%&/#$ marine shop made that's making my balls hiss. Incompetent pukes!!!!! Almost as stupid as me.

The good news is that July 26 remains the planned date of departure to the Algarve.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kobra Anchor

You lose plenty during your lifetime; it can be frustrating and sad but you shouldn't dwell on it for too long. When you lose your life, you won't even give it a second thought. ~ Martello Mateus

Kobra anchor II
My new mistress...the others are history.
Over the years I've had enough anchors to become a semi-qualified expert on the matter, at least on how to lose them.

I lost my first anchor - a genuine and brand new 45lb CQR the first time I took Jakatar for a sail on Lake Erie, Canada. An anchor-roller pin was supposed to hold it in place, but it didn't...and, no, it wasn't attached to any chain or rode. I was really clueless back then.

Years later, I lost an almost brand new 35lb CQR at the marina in Peniche. I had two anchors on the roller, the 35lb CQR and a knock-off 45lb CQR. I assume a transient sailor decided that two anchors was one too many and pinched the genuine one. Either that or it worked itself free and swam back to Canada.

Last year, I lost a nearly new Rocna 25 plus 150 feet of excellent chain in the bay of Sesimbra on my way to the Algarve. It's a long, long expensive story.

Last year I also cracked the hinge on a 55lb Chinese no-name anchor when it got stuck in a rock. The damn thing was useless anyway, total crap, good for scraping the ocean bottom. It's in my garden now as a decorative piece.

So now I bought a new 25 kg Kobra II and 60 meters of calibrated 10 mm chain, plus 50 m of 10 mm line for my third reefing lines. All for a cool 1,003 euros.

plastimo chain
Painting the chain depth markers in funky colors.
Kobra vs. Rocna - I chose the Kobra for a number of reasons:
  1. It's half the price
  2. According to tests, it has almost the same holding power and sets quickly
  3. In thick mud it doesn't bring up a ton of black goo like the Rocna. Tests reveal that the Rocna may not reset quickly because of all this mud sticking to it, while the Kobra will. Since I leave the boat anchored in the muddy bottom of Culatra, this may be a big advantage.
Anyway, if I lose this anchor and chain, I'm going to sell the boat and buy a horse that knows how to swim.

I also picked up my solar panel mounting pole from the metal shop. I adapted the Rutland wind generator pole, and it looks pretty good, I think. The job cost 60 euros. Not bad.

solar panel pole top mounting

Now I have to find the time to get all this metal aboard, scrape the propeller, put in the 3rd reefing lines, wash the boat, buy some groceries and untie the lines on July 26. I'm motivated.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pussy Sailors


Yesterday, in a very popular sailing blog I read that sailors who lead all their lines into the cockpit are mostly pussy sailors who don't venture more than 5 miles from the marina. The "expert" blog also listed all the merits of keeping the halyards and reefing lines at the mast. It sounded good in theory, and maybe it really is good, but I like my system better, only from experience you understand.

Except for the topping lift, I lead all my 17 lines into the cockpit:

  • 3 halyards
  • 4 reefing lines
  • 4 sheets
  • 2 preventers
  • 2 running backstays
  • 1 boomvang line
  • 1 mainsail downhall

That must make me the biggest sailing pussy ever!

Corbin 39
Sailing upwind during a regatta.
I'm no sailing hero. And to be honest, I didn't even learn much when I crossed the Atlantic from New York to Portugal, which included a rough 3-day storm (9 m waves). On the other hand, I have learned a few things on my annual sailing cruise from Peniche to the Algarve (12 times/years), either solo or with relatively inexperienced crew.

It's not the notorious Portuguese northerlies, the fog or the fish-net buoys that make sailing this coast challenging - no, it's the damned capes. In summer the wind near the capes can pipe up from 5 kt to 40+ kt winds while you're having a pee in the head. 

But after a few trips, hopefully you learn exactly when, where and at what time to reef and prepare for the fury. I say "time" because a cape can be sleepy calm in the morning and furiously wild in the afternoon on the same day.

The problem is when you're expecting bad and, instead, get a taste of hell.

Almost every year I sail solo from Alvor to Sagres in late August. It's only a 20 mile trip, and by the time I have breakfast, go ashore and get ready, it's nearly lunch. Normally there's no morning wind in these parts, so it makes no sense to leave early anyway.

So you leave with a nice north-northwest breeze all sails up, go past Lagos between Ponta da Piedade and the fish farm sipping on a cup of coffee and enjoying the view. Later, as the air over land starts to warm up and rise, the cooler ocean air rushes in to fill the gap, picks up speed and blows a stiff breeze down the cliffs on the southern side. The wind increases progressively and you start feeling uneasy as the boat shoots forward under sails drawn hard and tight.


That's when I go through the paces of putting in the first reef in the main and then roll in a third of the big genoa. As I sail toward Sagres, it gets even hotter and and more windy. Soon I've put in the second reef and also furled the genoa to half its size.

Sooner than expected, and without warning, the shotgun blast comes thundering down the cliffs making the water boil. The mast creaks tight, the boat heels sharply, and my ears are full of wind as the boat picks up even more speed. I'm sailing a Corbin 39 and it's built for the fight.

When the hydraulic autopilot starts struggling against the weather helm, I ease out the main and then slowly roll in the genoa all the way while slacking the sheet. The hank-on staysail always stays up no matter what.

I pull in the main a touch to keep if off the spreaders. I've still got weather helm, but it's manageable. Then I cross an invisible line into hell and the blast rips the hat off my head, the boat lunges over and, shit, you know its going to get worse. I ease out the mainsail, this time to the spreaders, and manage to roll in the genoa all the way. My ears are full of howling wind and I'm gritting my teeth and curse for never having installed the third reef line...and I probably never will.

In the distance I see a sailboat motoring toward me with no sail up and heeling, and I also see the surface froth over the dark ripples. The Rutland wind generator is whining insanely like a low pitch siren, then breaks into a loud free-spin swisssssh when the thermal cutout is triggered, only to repeat the whining-swisssssh cycle over and over. When the wind generator does that you know you're in over 40 knots.

My mouth is dry and I have to act fast. I tap on the autopilot "+10 button" 3 times, the boat slowly turns toward land, stabilizes, and I tap the "+10 button" once more. I release the mainsheet and the main sail almost goes limp, the boat straightens to nearly normal and my mouth is getting drier than dust.

I release the main halyard clutch, pull on the downhall line until the sail is nestled in the lazyjacks, not too neatly but good enough, and I cleat it off. Now I press the autopilot "-10 button" 4 times and continue sailing toward Sagres with my staysail and hardly heeling.

I relax in the spaghetti-filled cockpit which I haven't stepped out of and cross paths with the sailboat that is motoring. I can't help notice that they have winches on the mast and no sail up at all - pussy sailors!










Friday, June 5, 2015

Mid-life Crisis - Unfaithful

I'm not a rock star blogger, but I'm rock solid. ~ Martello Mateus


That's the best I can say about my sailboat too - rock solid. 

I was looking at Jakatar from the transient dock and sadly noticed that it's dirty below and above the waterline, has a ridiculous mast rash, looks naked...abandoned. Besides, I fell in love with a cute Frances 26 that is not only rock solid but also beautiful, cheap, and easy to please. I think I'm going to have a mid-life crisis!
Corbin 39
Naked, dirty and peeling...and check out the "no parking" sign.
Corbin 39
Even the fenders are beginning to look like trash.
Then there's the Frances 26. I can see it's small. I realize it's cramped inside. I know it's not as fast. Yes, the water tank won't last 2 or 3 weeks, or the diesel for a year, like Jakatar. But look at it; it sets my boat hormones on fire.

Frances 26

The FRANCES 26 is a classic cruiser with a traditional profile built in hand layed-up fiberglass using the best materials and craftsmanship. She is the ultimate combination of comfort and sailing ability in a pocket cruiser for coastal or offshore sailing.

The original FRANCES was designed and built by Naval Architect Chuck Paine for his own use. He decided to reduce the size of the well known Colin Archer double ender and, as such, also reduce the problems (crew requirements, maintenance costs, original cost, restrictions to cruising waters due to deep draft) inherent to larger blue water cruisers. But the features that have gained acceptance, as necessary for safety and comfort at sea - heavy displacement, a double ended design, and sufficient ballast - were retained. The FRANCES is an alternative for sailors seeking quality and economy in a modern yacht.

Morris Frances 26

Small is beautiful. Small and beautiful is even more beautiful. Small, beautiful, practical and affordable is incredibly beautiful.