New sails

Although, in the years of our ownership, Mariadz is reasonably well travelled and often used, we have not been excessive (ab)users of the sails even if they are used whenever possible.  A number of people had told us that the sails had life in them yet but we had decided that before we go we wanted to be ready for the next ten years and that meant new sails.

We had already spoken to Dolphin Sails about new sails for number of years and originally we were quite happy with their quote until we asked them to refresh it and were told that there was a 10% uplift due to currency fluctuations (in an environment where the Pound had crashed against other currencies!).  We didn’t go back to them after that. We were also interested in combining this work with the rig work being done to make sure that these were perfectly in tune.  That led us to one sails who work closely with evolution rigging and we spent some time speaking to John Parker about our needs.

In due course, the quote came in which included three new sails and storm sails. We agreed that the existing twin headsail had hardly been used and should be fine for use, although we did identify a problem with it which needed to be addressed.

John came back with a quote which included five different options in sail cloth and cut. Maria and I pondered this for a while and eventually decided that we didn’t want the cheapest but weren’t sure we could afford the Dyneema Tri-radial sails which we assumed were more targeted at heavy users and racers. We returned to speak to John about our choices and to place an order. John is incredibly experienced and we have a rule that we always take advice from people who know what they are talking about. John is also a good salesman and convinced us that far from being race sails, the dyneema were the hardest wearing and for the length of trip we had in mind were perfect since they would retain their shape for the entire journey and wouldn’t need replacing – nice upsell! 🙂

Maria also wanted to change the UV strip as she continued her personal crusade to remove the colour dark blue from Mariadz! The new uv strips matched with the hull stripe and cockpit tent.

We decided to get these done and then to put the old sails back up for the last year in the UK.  Shortly before departure we would replace our old sails, retune the rig if required and check the sails so that we were ready to go.  For that last year, the sailmakers had offered to store our new sails.

Our flexibility meant that John was able to help us with the price and paying for them.

For our standard sails, we agreed to have a new main, staysail and headsail. The existing extra headsail, for our standard twin headsail setup, has barely been used and so we decided to keep that. The headsail was the same Yankee cut that we had originally, we had explored making this larger but in the end we agreed to stay as we were. As for the main, we did not have vertical batons in our furling main. We have seen these on other M54 but at least one had significant issues with furling the main and we were happier not adding to the risk of a sail jam potentially at the risk of a little performance. Finally, we agreed that we wanted storm sails for heavy weather, although our staysail is about the same size as the largest storm sail. It helped us define a smaller storm sail which should mean we have sails for all conditions, although we don’t expect to be out there in bad weather by choice!

The sails were ready when Mariadz was put back in the water in August 2021 and once the rig had been refreshed, more on that in another blog. We were then in a position to have a test sail. This didn’t need to be too long, just up and down the river, checking the different points of sail. John was able to confirm that the sails were performing as expected and we were looking forward to seeing what Mariadz would do now on longer journeys. Maria is famous for not being a racer but being like Gandalf in Lord of Rings, standing there saying, “You shall not pass!”, the new sails should help ensure that remains the case.

The sails came off after the test sails and were stored for the winter before being put back on for our departure from Levington. We have since had the opportunity to test the sails in normal conditions and couldn’t be happier. Mariadz is flying through the water and feels a lot quicker. The sails are a lot better and it has really demonstrated how baggy our old main in particular had become. We couldn’t be happier and they look gorgeous too!

Fixing the engine – the nuclear option

Regular readers will have known that we have had a number of attempts at fixing our 3,000 hour yanmar including a new heat exchanger, all new cooling pipes, etc etc.

We were still unhappy with it and had disconnected the heavy duty domestic alternator which may have been part of the problem. Also, with our change to lithium batteries, we needed an alternator that the hungry lithium wouldn’t destroy or worse still cause to burst into flames.

The nuclear option is not stealing an engine from a nuclear submarine but actually was biting the bullet, admitting that we would never be 100% happy with the old engine and deciding to replace it for a new engine! Eye wateringly expensive but the equivalent of taking off and nuking them from space as they said in Aliens. As they said it was the only way to be sure!

Once you have chosen this path, there are a number of factors to consider. The easy part is the engine choice: the modern equivalent of our old engine is the 4JH110 which is a 110hp, turbo, common rail engine which is smaller than our old engine, a little more powerful (10%) and being brand new likely to have all of those ponies whereas our old engine was probably working at a lot less than the labelled 100 hp. Of course, a more powerful engine can cause more problems since you need to exercise a marine engine to avoid maintenance problems later which was also why we didn’t go any more powerful than the 110. We have seen a lot of people upgrade their engines and then struggle to get the benefit especially as the hull speed of the yacht is quite a limiting factor.

Unfortunately with the larger Moody yachts, the access to the engine is through the cockpit floor which means the removal of the cockpit table, the steering binnacle and then the floor. With the setup on Mariadz, you then needed to remove the Onan generator and the table it sits on before you could access the engine. Suffolk Yacht Harbour (SYH) were engaged to do the work to remove everything to get at the engine. initially, the cockpit floor has to have its outer seal removed and then the screws holding it in place need to be removed, the photo shows where these are but once removed the floor comes out quite easily.

The East coast dealer for Yanmar is French Marine and we engaged with them to understand the costs and what needed to be done. with our recent change to lithium we decided to supply our own lithium-friendly alternator and went with the Balmar 60-series 24V70A alternator with MC624 regulator and temperature sensors. This alternator recognises when the lithium is being too demanding and shuts itself down for a while to recover. It is also able to put a lot of power into the batteries quickly, an advantage when you are hoping not too run the engine for too long.

The work started, after some delays, and everything was going swimmingly. The old engine was ready to come out and would be available to sell, something that French Marine offered to help us with.

When discussing the work, one of the drivers was to have a quieter experience within mariadz when under power. To that end, we agreed to have all of the insulation for the engine room replaced. That would improve the soundproofing and hopefully make the engine even quieter.

While the engine was out, it was also a perfect opportunity to paint the engine room bilge. Once the table for the gennie was removed, we found some corrosion so we took advantage of it being out to have it regalvanised. You start to see how one job can lead to another… all of them seem quite reasonable in isolation but soon add up when done together. The new engine was in quite quickly but as part of the fitting of the shaft a problem was found with excessive wear, not surprising, I guess, after twenty years but a new one had to be sourced and fitted. We then get to the prop which had been out of the water for a while and had apparently seized. Clearly sending that back to the manufacturer is very sensible with everything else being replaced but again not factored into the project originally. It does mean that the entire drive train has been replaced which has to be a good thing.

Unfortunately, while all this work was being done, somebody left the companionway hatch open for an entire weekend of heavy rain. Some of the interior was under an inch of water which damaged the interior wood that we had just had redone in maple. This was very disappointing and caused additional expense especially when no-one admitted liability. Josh at Suffolk yacht harbour agreed to refurbish the companionway steps which had also been damaged by people walking on them with heavy shoes and damaging the edges, not a problem we had experienced before since we are a shoeless boat. This was a kind goodwill gesture but didn’t completely sweeten the taste of having to repair a lot of interior wood in the saloon. We were already having work done in this area so it extended that project and now looks excellent but wasn’t something we were intending to do.

You start to see how these projects add up and blow budgets. that may appear to be a repeat of what I said earlier but it seems so important it was repeating!

As an example, the generator is only a few years old and doesn’t have many hours however, we had a minor interior leak from a corroded part of the generator which needed to be replaced and we decide to have the whole thing properly serviced and checked before being out back into the boat. So now we know everything to do with the generator and engine have been checked, refurbished or replaced as appropriate and we can have confidence in our setup.

Suffolk yacht harbour then started to do the reverse of the start of the project, refitting the table, putting the generator back before replacing the cockpit floor. It is important that the cockpit floor is sealed correctly, since we know of at least one other moody 54 that had a problem here which caused all kinds of problems for the engine room. SYH did a good job of refitting this, resealing and then wet testing to make sure there were no leaks.

We then needed to commission the engine which was much later once a number of other projects had been completed. Initial work on this by French Marine was great and after a weekend of testing we found a slight leak from the shaft housing which was sorted quickly and efficiently. We now have a gorgeous engine room with two fantastic and efficient pieces of kit servicing our needs.

The whole project of the engine swap was a lot of money but the new engine purrs like Clyde eating his treats. We are also impressed by the engine power and have been keen to use the whole rev range as directed by yanmar during that crucial first 50 hours of use. But what of our old engine, I hear you say. 3000 hours is nothing for a good Diesel engine and there would be others who could use it. French Marine were as good their word and introduced us to someone who needed an engine. We agreed a fair price and I was able to offset some of the cost 🙂

Unfortunately the various delays on all parts of the project meant that we were unable to use the boat as much as we expected and eventually we had to leave SYH prior to finishing the first 50 hours. This meant that we would have to get the engine serviced on our route south to Plymouth.

We hit the 50 hours as we approached Southampton since there had been little usable wind and we had a weekend to make that trip. While in Southampton we were lucky to catch up with our good friends Christian and Jennifer which was great but also got us a couple of recommendations for someone who could service our engine. The second of these was Martin Smith who was friendly on the phone and able to fit us in to a busy schedule. He came on board at the time he said, which isn’t necessarily something we are used to, and did a thorough first service for us. We were really pleased with his work, approach and the result. The bill was also refreshingly reasonable too especially when the job had been quite short notice. An unequivocable recommendation from team Mariadz for Martin’s work.

So we now have a spotless engine room with mechanical parts in perfect working order and it is quiet when running, well as quiet as any boat can reasonably be!

Electrical work

Mariadz was built in 2001, and this was when her electrical system was last overhauled. In the interim, a number of items had been added or removed from the electrical mix and this meant that the switch for a particular piece of equipment was quite random. Apparently, it is logical to switch on the navigation for the 12V charger to be live to charge your phone!  Clearly, there was a lot of duplication in the items on each switch which resulted in more power being used than was required, this would cause us problems on our blue water cruising. And we thought it looked dated! So we spoke to Ollie at Seapower in Levington and started talking about how to redesign the electrical panel.There we’re some features of the old panel we liked such as the outline of the Moody with indicators for the lights being on. However, these no longer worked when we went to LED because of the lower draw of power. A simple change however. This would also provide an opportunity to remove the extra standard horizon chart plotter as part of the navigation overhaul, discussed elsewhere, and also give us room for an SSB.

The new panel has zones to logically group related items together. On the left is power management: the control for the generator, shore power indicators, inverter charger and our victron battery monitoring. Next you have the 240v section which includes areas that can be switched on with the inverter, as well as those that require a power source. We added the water heater into the inverter section, despite its power requirements, so that we could have hot water if the solar was working amazingly. However, a good way to use a lot of power is to leave this on for any time, the bitter voice of experience there! In the middle of the panel is the outline of the moody with h light indicators, bilge pump controls and a single gauge that will show either fuel or water levels. Next up are the 12v/24v circuits including lighting and pumps and then finally the navigation and ancillaries.

Below this panel, there is a smaller panel which houses the vhf radio, navtex and eventually any satellite handheld phone. This also has the main breakers for the domestic, engine, windlass and winches. The return that faces the chart seat has the navigation, SSB and a marinised Sony stereo (our third having gone for standard car stereos previously – buy cheap, buy twice!).

The structure of the panels works well for us and it doesn’t take long to know where to look for something or the standard pattern of lights when on shore power and when sailing. The use of an indicator light and the red border on the switch to show it is on could be overkill but we were happy we would know what was on rather than suffering a power drain because we had accidentally left something on.

All this was done some time ago and the panels were recently remade to cater for the SSB and to remove some redundant kit (an old engine hours dial). So no apologies for bumping up n older blog which has been updated to reflect the current situation.