OptimisationsNext - EquipmentPrevious - Construction
Improving a cruising vessels charging by right-sizing the alternator
Most all inboard sailboat engines have a standard alternator size range from 35 to 55 amps and use it to top up batteries. However the modern cruising life is electrically hungry and we quickly add batteries without considering the alternators capability to charge an expansion.
A simple and effective solar panel implementation
Solar panels perform well when they are free of shade, or even in partial shadow, and the sun is directly above. However finding a position on a sailing vessel that will be continually optimised for light capture is unlikely. To make matters worse a sailing vessel is highly space constrained, and large solar panels will easily encroach upon boat operations and crew comfort. The best solution is to build a dedicated panel gantry so that the panels are clear of the deck and are in an area of relatively little shade. However this is an extensive piece of engineering, requiring some investment and specialist work, and it will dramatically alter the vessels aesthetics.
Optimising electronic automatic pilots on tiller steered boats
The most common tiller pilot on a smaller sailing boat is an electrically operated ram connected between the tiller and the side of the cockpit area. By changing the length of the ram, the autopilot changes the position of the tiller. Tiller pilot installation typically involves a simple two-step modification. First drill a hole in the cockpit combing and hammer in a brass pedestal socket for the tiller pilot base unit. Alternatively, a cantilever socket can be used to mount against the cockpit side with wide vessels. Finally, you then either drill a hole and hammer in a pin, into the top of the tiller itself or mount a bracket underneath for the pilot arm to gain purchase. The problem with this set up is that over an extended period of use the pin in the tiller or bracket typically works itself loose. The constant back and forth motion is simply too much for the timber grain to sustain, holes widen causing the pin or screws to rock back and forth and then the rate of wear increases exponentially. This causes the pilot arm to increasingly fall off and finally to become inoperable. Although the cockpit fibreglass is less subject to this wear the pedestal socket will also fail just the same as the tiller pin in time. In use, the setup is less than convenient as the tiller is down and sweeping the cockpit under the instruction of the pilot. Another problem emerged in conditions when we used the tiller pilot most, when running downwind when the wind steering gear mechanical devices are less reliable, and in this sailing condition we often had a roll. Too many times we were surprised by a roll, overbalanced and where normally we would just drop across to land on the opposite seat of the cockpit we instead fell upon the tiller with all our weight. This weight in turn transferred in a highly leveraged fashion into the controlling tiller pilot ram mechanism. Something that I am sure can only dramatically shorten the working life of our piece of equipment.
Better protection from the elements whilst tiller steering
Manually steering a vessel via the tiller invariably positions the helmsman at the middle-to-back of the cockpit as the yacht is designed to allow the forward area of the cockpit to be worked by the winch handlers. The back of the cockpit is unfortunately highly exposed to the elements and when sailing shorthanded line control jammers and sheeting blocks are just out of reach for the helmsman. You can buy telescopic tiller extensions, but these are primarily designed to add side reach, or just slightly forward of athwartship, for beamy boats and they do not allow the helmsman to come directly forward in the cockpit. This leaves the helmsman taking the brunt of the weather whilst staring at a beautiful protected section just a metre in front.
Help to keep the boom under control
We have all been in this circumstance. It is dark, conditions are rough and you are tired and not feeling at your best. You put off reefing an hour ago because it is just too much hard work fighting the main sail and you hoped it would back down. But now it is too late – you have to get it down and it is going to be a real battle. Sound familiar?
Optimising the headsail furling gears control line
Roller-reefing/furling headsails offer excellent reefing potential. They make it possible to reef the headsail to the precise amount of sail required for almost every condition by effortlessly turning in-and-out the luff of the sail. A poorly set-up control line however can make the equipment difficult to operate and unreliable.
A table arrangement for a confined cabin
Mounting a reasonable sized table in a confined cabin can be a challenge. A suitably sized table can consume a large proportion of the available space and can make accessing the fore cabin inconvenient. Yet a table that is not in the way will be too small and unpleasant to dine off.
Keeping track of battery charge levels
Most boats have analogue voltmeters to indicate battery charge levels / state-of-charge. The needle readout on analogue voltmeters is scarcely readable at any distance and small shifts are imperceptible. Yet the battery state-of-charge can traverse from a 100% full charge to 0% complete discharge in less than the movement of a single volt on the meter.
A way to get aboard from the water
Falling overboard and being out in open water is one of the greatest risks to life aboard a yacht. In almost all sailing fatalities the boat survives the incident - a well-tuned autopilot will continue on its course even if we fall off the boat.
Making sight tubes easier to read
Some older boats are fitted with transparent tubes, called sight glasses, to gauge the level of fuel or water stowed in a tank. These are by far the best systems to accurately assess the contents of a container but they have one critical downfall, sight tubes can be very difficult to read. Mounted near to tanks they tend to be situated in awkward places that are as often as not subject to poor lighting. Also, as in the case of water which is almost transparent, they are very difficult to see.