Extending the pushpit

Everyone has some things they like and dislike about their boat.  There are probably two things that I can think of on Mariadz. The first is the wheel size compared to the gap in the cockpit.  The only way around the wheel is to go up on the cushions as there is no leg-width gap between the wheel and the seat.  The second is the amount of exterior storage in lockers etc.  This is minimal to the say the least and a lot less than we were used to on our previous Dufour 455.

In fact the outside storage space is the chain locker and the lazerette. We had previously partially addressed this by moving the life raft from its dedicated locker above the aft stateroom to a rail mount.  This gave us some space for the storage of flares, lines etc. Now clearly you cant go around randomly making new lockers on an old boat so we needed to get imaginative or more precisely steal others people’s imaginative ideas. One of these we saw on discovery yachts. A number of these have Fortress anchors as their kedge anchor setup, and after some research I had decided that this sounded the most sensible way for us to have a setup that could work for us with a twenty five tonne boat at cruising weight.  On the discovery boats, the kedge anchor was rail mounted which meant that it was mostly out of the way but also available quickly if needed.  The advantages were offset by the fact that you had a sharp, hard anchor that you could easily fall into but is this much worse than the pushpit rail?

FB_IMG_1505311670630However, the standard Moody 54 doesn’t have much pushpit space with two liferings, a danbuoy and, for us, a life raft already on there.  With the davits also restricting options and two two aft seats taking up more room, it is a little tight to say the least.

Another issue related to safety which was that the pushpit stopped before the clutches for the head sail and staysail. This meant that you were adjacent to the lifelines when you wanted to use these clutches. A more solid barrier would be safer.  Maria and I agreed to extend the pushpit by four feet to the next stanchion20170921_102936 which gives us more room and a safer aft area.  This would also provide more rigidity to the pushpit when combined with the reinforcement we put in the stern section previously when we added braces from the davits to the pushpit.  The final item we needed to think about was the repositioning of the ensign required by the new solar panels.  This was also intended to be rail mounted although I was keen to go back to a wooden pole rather than the stainless one we had previously.

Once again, East Coast Stainless were asked to do this wotk and once again this needed to be fitted in amongst a lot of other work that they have.  I guess that is the problem when you are good and reasonably priced.  We are happy to wait and very pleased with the result.

Unfortunately, the work was a bit more than moving an angled stanchion and joining in a couple of tubes.  This was because we found some old damage on the stanchion itself which had a large dent.  This wouldnt be easily repaired and we knew that we would always notice the damage if we had just tried to repair it.  To be fair the cost of shaping a longer piece of metal rather than joining to the existing curved stanchion was reasonably similar anyway.  pushpitThe finished job looks like it has always been there, just waiting for safety lines to be adjusted so that we can finish this part of the job.  The best part is you cant see the join between the new and old elements of the pushpit, very happy with the workmanship again!

So what will we do with all the space created? We already need to attach the ensign and putting it on the toe rail would probably cause issues with the lines running to the stern cleat so this is mounted to the pushpit.  We also have the anchor setup for the fortress and finally we have agreed, read Maria has decided (!), to add a holder for our Lotus grill so that it can be rail mounted.  This will be an adjustable mount that will allow us to stow it and then fix it for when we are having a BBQ.  More pictures to follow as these get fitted.

Swim platform fixing and improvements

In early 2016, we discovered a hydraulic leak from the rams that deploy and stow the swim platform.  After a time, this stopped the swim platform working and we knew we would need to do some work to get it fixed, as a long term fix rather than a short term bodge.  Immediately after it happened we thought we wouldn’t be able to use the swim platform and this meant that on one occasion I abseiled down the stern on the passerelle line to get to the rib, and back up again when we returned.  Shortly after this we discovered that you could open the swim platform and close it by hand, which is difficult because it is heavy but not impossible – D’oh!  You do have to remember to open the valve in the hydraulics, or you cant do it at all, and reduce the resistance, or it is incredibly difficult.

For the next year, we opened the swim platform by hand when it was required while I worked out how to fix it.  I had searched the internet and spoke to the manufacturers of the 20170829_161458original hydraulic rams, Bennetts in America.  After sending various pictures and measurements, they were able to find the rams I needed (HL12CDA).  I then had to wait for the next available transport to the UK, unless of course I wanted it delivered airmail which would be double the cost the of the rams themselves!  I waited.  The rams arrived and were ready for fitting and then I discussed with Lindsay when we could go about fitting them and getting the system working again.  In the interim, Matt, a marine engineer and very good friend of ours, was visiting and I picked his brain.  He persuaded me to do the ram swap myself and actually this transpired to be a lot easier than I imagined. I then needed to add hydraulic fluid (automatic transmission fluid) into the reservoir and bleed the system by using it and adjusting the flow to eliminate any air left in the system.

Unfortunately this uncovered another slight issue.  When the steering binnacle electrics had been changed, we couldn’t test the swim platform switching due to the failed rams and it seems that no matter which direction the switch was pressed the platform moved in the same direction.  However, you wouldn’t have thought that would be too hard to overcome!

Shortly afterwards though I was forced to recall my fathers advice – never put a new engine into an old car.  The stress of the super efficient new parts causes other items to fail further down the drive train – gearbox, clutch etc.  We were having similar problems with the hydraulic pipes after they had been re-bled with the new rams.  IMG_6448Most of the pipes are metal sheaved flexible pipes but there is one copper pipe and unfortunately the (olive) joint was faulty and hydraulic fluid was squirting out of it and making pretty patterns in my lazerette.  I took a look at this with Lindsay at Seapower and we discussed how to resolve the problem. The sensible decision was to replace the copper pipe with a new stainless steel flexible pipe. I went to the local specialists, Pirtek.  After one false start, when i pressurised the system and the new joint failed spraying hydraulic fluids everywhere, we were able to pressure test the remade pipe and get the hydraulics sorted.  I was back to being able to lift the platform but not drop it.  Most importantly, after nipping up a couple of joints, we don’t leak even a drop of hydraulic fluid.

In the interim, Maria and I had been speaking about how we can deploy the swim platform and had decided that a remote “garage door entry” would be useful for security when we are at anchor. We had also discussed about how to get on to the boat in the dark and although the spreader lights provide excellent light, we had decided to add lighting for the swim platform and the aft section onto the solar panel gantry. Again the courtesy lighting for the swim platform would be controlled remotely so that we could stay safe and secure, as much as possible.  The remote control was linked to some lighting work we were having done at the stern.  This meant a four button remote and a little bit of clever electronics since we also wanted to be able to switch these manually using buttons on the davits, similar to the ones that control the davits themselves.  Ollie was booked to fix the switch wiring and also to fit the remote.  Step one was identifying that two of the wires were incorrect at the switch and a quick swap around and these tested fine.  The remote was also a little more complex since we wanted it as additional to the switches.  We chose a bright LED light similar to our spreader lights for the swim platform and a softer light for the aft deck and we were in business.  We can now approach the boat, lower the platform and switch on lighting remotely.

So in the space of a week all of these issues were addressed.  It just took eighteen months to get to that week!

post blog note: I am outraged….I have been conned….betrayed by the woman I hold dearest!

Let me explain, Maria once mentioned that she would quite fancy underwater lights for Mariadz, similar to some of the larger motor boats.  I refused. We are talking another hole in the hull (there are already 20!) and I don’t think it is a good idea anyway.  Little did I realise that when Maria ordered her spot light on the stern it had a dual purpose. Firstly it provides a light to help you get back onto the swim platform. However, Maria suggested that we could “see what the light looks like if the swim platform is up…it will light up the water…..just like I wanted….” the sneaky so and so has got her own way (again!) 🙂


We’re getting old – Mariadz zimmer frames

Having been caught in a storm in the English Channel previously (The return from Dunkirk (part 2 of 3) – pan pan), we are very conscious of safety and making sure that the crew are never put in unnecessary danger.  I know some people think this is overkill but our view is that if one the decisions we have made saves us once then they were justified.

At times, you will have to work at the mast, as well as go up it from time to time.  On the standard Moody 54, you are quite exposed at the mast, well as much as you can be on a big boat with good deck space.  20170901_153712We wanted to have something that you could brace yourself against, for when you are working at the mast.  Although with in-mast furling, you do spend less time at the mast than you would with the lazy jack system we had previously.  An added advantage would be that this could also be somewhere that we could store our fenders, rather than on the pushpit or along the decks.  We looked at a few designs and were keen to have something that we could hold ourselves against while still being able to reach the mast and also use the winch on the mast if necessary. It would also provide a useful hand hold when walking along the deck.  I noticed this when I was walking back when they were placed there for show and naturally grabbed it for support. 🙂

Working with East Coast Stainless, we designed a frame that was in keeping with the rest of the boat.  We wanted to match this to the protective frames for the dorade vents (ventilation funnels).  The picture above shows them prior to fixing to the deck.

Once again we were very happy with the professionalism of East Coast Stainless making sure that the design worked for us and that they were fixed appropriately for safety.  Particularly with the fixing through the decks which at one stage looked like it would come through the deck exactly where the bulkhead was located.  We were lucky and the positioning that allows us to reach the mast puts the legs in places where they could be bolted through from the inside.

We now need to make a decision on whether we add anything to these for fender storage…..

Solar panel frame or downforce from a spoiler

Lots of people brag about how fast their boats are and most of the time it is light hearted banter.  We have such a conversation with our friend Stig, since we chased his boat Wild Dream 2, up the Wallet when returning from Burnham on Crouch one time.  We gave them a one hour head start before catching them up and it has been a joke shared ever since.  It is only recently that we admitted motor-sailing 🙂

So it has often been said (by us 🙂 ) that Mariadz is a fast boat (she’s not really but don’t tell her that!).  However, like a formula one car the problem with this speed is the potential for lift at the stern and therefore downforce is important if we are going to make sure that the rudder stays in the water 🙂 . Clearly the last thing you want is the stern to come out of the water when she is going really quickly! Reason number one for the work we have had done.

An alternative reason is that you have the davits at the back of the boat with your nice rib hanging from them and if the boat is your home then your rib is really the equivalent to your car.  Ideally you would want your car to have a garage or car port to protect it from the elements? So Maria may have wanted a “rib port”, a little shaded area where the rib goes and is protected from the sun like a car port protecting it from UV damage. Reason number two.

You will have seen on some of larger yachts a helipad so the billionaire can get to the boat by helicopter.  Now clearly Maria is not going to have these gin palaces having something she can’t have on Mariadz, so does the top of this structure have a large H on it for landing the Chinook? Reason number 3.

Mariadz is also famous for its parties and high alcohol cocktails and the aft deck is a perfect place for a little soiree.  Is this the high level drinks tray so that the drinks don’t get knocked on the deck? Reason number 4.

The final alternative is that if you are cruising long term you need to be self-sufficient for power, or as close as is feasible, so you need to look at wind and/or solar power.  A lot of boats create a stern arch on which solar panels can be mounted but these can look quite ugly and intrusive.  We currently have davits, rated at a high weight capacity, and these are attached to the stern with a large number of heavy duty fixings.  We therefore decided to fit a solar frame above the davits because of the chance that this area will be unshaded and hence give good power and it is out of the way. We are fortunate that because of the size of the boat, our davits are fairly wide apart which provides a good solar panelsolid base for the solar and also allows us to have three large but lightweight (240W) panels which were Panasonic – HIT N Series 240W Black Solar Panel.  We think this is a sensible amount of solar for a large, power-hungry boat although we will be also be looking at further ways to reduce our consumption.  An alternative would have been to have a small wind turbine fitted to the boat. You will see this on a number of cruising boats but to get a good charge you need some wind, normally in excess of 20knots for any meaningful contribution.  Maria and I discussed this and decided that we would generally prefer to be in an area sheltered from wind if possible.  The other disadvantage of wind turbines is that they are quite noisy and are also likely to cast a shadow over solar panels that would impact the solar performance so a mixed solution may also not be great.  So it was agreed we would go with a solar array matched in Watts to the amp hours of our batteries (720W and 880Ah of battery power). Reason number five and the best reason! although I quite like the helipad idea……

When designing the frame, we were keen to make sure that we still had access to the boat from the stern using the passerelle.  20170901_114430This would mean that we would need to have a certain amount of headroom and the frame couldn’t be mounted directly on top of the davits even if we had wanted that.  Another reason it needed to be raised would have been the console on the rib which sits proud above the level of the davits.  These reasons, and aesthetics meant we wanted to have something that felt balanced with the boat. We worked with East Coast Stainless on the design and came up with a design that we think works.  One of the design questions was about being able to tilt the mechanism, which is more efficient for solar (and creates more downforce, returning to a previous train of thought 😉 ).  However, we had concerns that this would be cumbersome, heavier and fail over time as the combination of salt water and stainless welded the tubing to itself.  We had exactly this experience with a telescopic boat hook that wouldn’t budge after it 7had been immersed in the sea and left for a few months.  As part of this work we lost the Neptune’s fork that used to be mounted here but we had already moved or replaced most of the aerials that were on this and we didn’t want this to still be in place and potentially shade the panels.  Some of the aerials were better mounted on the mast anyway.  A few were left over which are mounted on plates to the side of the panels, providing a little shading but hopefully not impacting our solar output too much.  When the fork was removed the davits suddenly looked naked until the frame went on, it was strange.

Finally on the exterior, we have added some lighting to provide a “welcome” light for the swim platform, a courtesy light for the aft deck where we quite often eat in the summer and finally relocated our aft navigation light to the far side of the solar panel.

Electrically, the work was again done by Olly at Seapower bur most of the solar power work was done when we did our refit last year.  We 20170901_114240had looked at how the power went into the batteries and had agreed with Olly on an MPPT controller which maximises the power going into the batteries by being very clever (please tell me if I am being too technical!).  It takes a high voltage as an input and then converts this to the lower voltage required by the batteries.  We went with the blue solar set up which is supplied by Victron since we had other Victron equipment and this gets great reviews.  It also comes with a Bluetooth communications module which will allow us to monitor the solar array in its own right.  All of our on board monitoring would give us a nett effect after any load had been subtracted, unless of course we switch off everything on the boat….so the ability to check the solar in isolation is useful.  But it is also useful to know whether your batteries are being charged after considering the current load as a baseline.

I will update the blog with some real world figures in differing conditions but since we will be generating our own power, we are expecting our electricity bills to also come down because of the solar array.  W9BBC4886-5594-419B-8DA2-DAC847502D88ith just one panel connected up and with rain water on the panel, which impacts efficiency, we were getting 4A going into the batteries which is all electricity we don’t have to buy off the marina or fuel for the generator.  Now you even get money-saving tips from Mariadz 🙂

So a few weeks later and having had the three panels giving a total of 720W fully working for a week, I can now see how well solar will work for us.  During the week we changed our orientation to the pontoon, facing South rather than North but I haven’t seen any noticeable drop in yield based on this move. The other key factor is the state of charge of the batteries, clearly if they are full we will not get a fair representation of how much power was available.  I have been able to ensure that the panels are in bulk charge mode most of the time by switching additional load on when necessary, mostly the immersion heater or a kettle.

One thing I have noticed is that I now think of our electrical capacity differently. We are a 24V boat with some 12V and obviously some 240V, and like the Victron I have been working on KWh since that is easy to consider irrespective of what I am looking to use. So our 880A of 12V batteries is 10KWh of battery capacity and this means we have effectively 5KWh of power available to use from the batteries before charging.

The maximum power we have had from the panels was 668W, nearly 28A at 24V and 93% of capacity. Over a full day we have had a maximum of 2.5KWh… in the UK, in September which I think is pretty good!). However, our average is 1.75KWh since we have had some cloudy and dull days.  These represent the panels giving between 22% and 31% of their rated wattage each hour.  All of this gives me confidence though that we have sized our array well.  As we get into warmer waters, the sun is better positioned and it is brighter, I would hope that we would do better than a September’s day in the UK, possibly twice as good but that is one for the future.


This is also one of the last major projects that we need to do to the boat as preparation for the big trip, so apart from rig and sails she is close to being ready to go 🙂