Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Back home for now ...

We are back in Toronto for several months while Ainia is out of the water in Fort Pierce, Florida for hurricane season. The forecasts are for a bad hurricane season so if one comes to the Fort Pierce area we will have to rely on the fact that the boat is well away from the water on a concrete base tied down to four two-ton blocks of concrete. Our plan is to return there in mid-October to finish getting ready for the new season (more on that latter).

This entry will have two parts:
1. reply to questions asked in previous comments
2. more equipment ratings

A report on our trip from Georgetown, Bahamas to Fort Pierce will be posted in a few days.

Answers to Questions
Steve, who has remarkably good taste in boats - he has a Bristol 45.5, wants to know:

Q About having windvane steering and davits
A (Or at least my take on it) - I don't see how you could do it. Even if you only wanted to use the davits for short trips and not use the vane, the davits would have to extend a huge distance aft to allow the dinghy to clear the vane. The sense we had in the Caribbean is that boats had one or the other with perhaps 80% having davits. Many of these folks complain about their electronic autopilots though. Long distance (monohull) cruisers basically always had vanes. Monitors were most common but there were lots of other brands like Hydrovane and Wind Pilot. Satisfaction with vanes of all types was very high.

As for the dinghy, a 3.1 m air floor, we did three things with it depending on the distance we were going and the severity of the winds and seas to be encountered. We often towed it, with the motor and all loose gear take out of the boat. If the conditions were worse we lifted it onto the foredeck with a spinnaker halyard (not at all hard to do) and tied in down there inflated. We tied it slightly to port to provide a wider passage down the starboard side (where the windlass controls are). For longer trips and for shorter trips in really crummy conditions we would bring it on board, deflate it and tie it down forward of the mast in the cradle for the old life raft (new raft is mounted on stern pulpit)

Q About how hard it is get the sail in with the new Schaeffer furler
A I think that once I had to use the winch to pull it in (heavy air and with the furler wrapped very tightly. I have no reason to think that a similar-sized furler from another maker would have been worse to use. I think it just works well because it is new and because the drum is much bigger than the Hood so there is much more mechanical advantage. I have a Harken ratcheting block at the aft stanchion that the furling line goes through and it has helped a great deal, although it is not very robust (forget the model number but it is the one they sell for this purpose with a clamp to go around a 1" pipe. The ratchetting bits broke off inside and I had to replace the block (I had a spare). I think I will replace the one that is there with the next size up ratchet block which is metal inside rather than plastic.

The furling line was led to the stanchion that is the forward part of the gate. To pull the line I would sit with by butt on the edge of the cabin. From here I could also release the starboard jib sheet gradually if I did not want too much flogging. I also could use my strength well (back and shoulders) from this spot and not have to rely only on my arms.

Q About energy use at anchor
A We have 12V refrigeration (replaced the 110V Grunert that was common on big Bristols) but still have 110v watermaker. The three week period was in Grenada and we jerry-canned water from the marina that was the local social center (we were in there just about every day anyway). The water was quite inexpensive and it seemed like it was cheaper this way and saved wear and tear on the genset and watermaker.

I would very much recommend solar panels over wind generation in the tropics. The solar panels were fantastic and we never even thought about energy use with them.

More Equipment Report Cards - in No Particular Order
- As I mentioned above, the ancient refrigeration system on Ainia was replaced. The boat has separate compartments for fridge and freezer on opposite sites of the cabin so I decided to go with individual units for each rather than one big unit. The price was similar. After a lot of thinking and reading, I decided to keep it simple and go go with air-cooled 12v units from Technautics in California. They use a standard Danfoss compressor but use holding plates instead of evaporators. They also have an 'intelligent' control unit that is supposed to lower power consumption. The refrigerator unit has worked very well indeed and power consumption has not been very much. The freezer unit has never really worked well and is now back in California for repairs under warranty. It has leaked refrigerant slowly but steadily. When it was working, it did keep the freezer box at a temperature where ice cream was quite hard but that is of little consolation. Grade for the refrigerator -- A (defrosting the holding plates is a bit of pain); grade for the freezer -- E

- Air Marine wind generator is also back to the manufacturer for repair. It proved to be noisy, had a brake that did not work properly (would start and stop with a crunch rather than turn slowly) and worst of all, did not seem to generate a great deal of power. If you need to buy a wind generator I would choose a different brand than this.
Grade -- F

- I have mixed feelings about the Walker Bay Air Floor inflatable. It seems to do its job very well and planes very well with two people and 6 hp (you can have 8 hp but I can't imagine why one would need that much). Also it is easier to lift, deflate and store than a rigid bottom boat. On the other hand it does not seem to be terribly well made. We have had the bow towing eye come off and a piece of fabric that joins the two floor sections (not one that holds air) start to come off. Grade -- B

- We bought a 6 hp Mercury outboard to power the dink. This is a 4-stroke engine and we use it a lot. In general it has worked pretty well but we have had ongoing problems with the carb flooding leading to starting problems. In general it has been OK but I wonder if I had paid the premium (and dealt with the extra weight) if I would have been better off with a Honda. Grade -- C

- Ainia came with an ICOM 710 SSB unit and it has worked very well indeed. I am the furthest from being a radio expert but it has met all of our needs - mainly accessing weather resources of various types. We replaced the cable going to the backstay antenna and we seem to be able to hear Chris Parker (for example) at least as well as any of the boats in our vicinity.The user face is not the best designed I have seen but this seems to be nature of SSB. Grade -- A

- We have been very pleased with JV Comm weather fax software. This German product is available for download on the internet so you can try it before you buy it. I tried a couple of similar products and they either did not work or did not work as well. This one seems to work just fine. You need a cable to go from the SSB radio to your computer. This was a bit hard to find since you need a 1/4" RCA jack on one end and a 1/8" RCA jack on the other. Took some looking. The only problem we found was that the software you use to pay for the program (only fair since you get a chance to test it) did not work. We will try again to pay. Grade - A

More of these to come later ...