These pages have a motley collection of practical stuff for boats. It all comes from hands-on stuff on our boats that gets tested in the real cruising world and on those wet salty passages where you find out what works and what doesn't.
KISS keep it simple stupid
If you wander around the boatshow as I did this year, you could be forgiven for thinking that somewhere between the good old days and the glittering arrays on the stands at the boat show that we seem to be missing the point about going sailing and cruising. The basics have got mixed up with the toys that have a by-line like ‘essential for every cruising boat’ or ‘don’t leave port without one’. Its all for your convenience and you would be a fool not to have one on board.
There is a grand complication between the salesman’s patter about the integrated, PC or Mac compatible, talking to the instruments, gee-gaw that you must have and that simple old fashioned concept of capturing the wind in those white things and gliding over the sea to a destination.
In fact most of the equipment we need is low-tech and it needs to be reliable. We run all sorts of complicated gizmos in Skylax: a couple of chart-plotters, integrated instruments and autopilot, radar, lap-top navigation and routing software, all sorts of stuff. The nub of it all is whether you need to continually be repairing all this stuff or whether you keep cruising and repair or replace a piece of equipment when you can. I see all sorts of boats stuck in a harbours around the world waiting for a spare part or replacement gear. In fact most of what we need to keep these sailing dinosaurs going is simple basic stuff and a lot of what enhances cruising is low-tech or at best intermediate technology.
KISS. Below are some simple things that make your cruising more enjoyable and also some caveats on things we use.
LED Nav lights
of people living on a boat I'm always trying to cut down on electricity
usage on board. In fact I'm known as the amp miser. So this year we are
trying out LED's in the tri-colour and anchor light. I went to an
Australian supplier mostly because his price (incl. postage) was good,
but also because his website offered a bit more information on LED's
than many others. According to the specs the Bay15D he supplies with
staggered pins will fit our Aquasignal tricolour and anchor light and
is USCG 5 mile approved - nothing about EU regs here but I notice the
same Bay 15D is being offered for sale in the
The website has a few tips for neophyte LED'ers like me including something about looking for the yellow dot in the LED. This means it is a 3 chip LED as opposed to clear LED's which are single chip. Apparently 3 chip good/1 chip bad for marine applications.
Anyway this LED uses just 3W so 0.25 amps. Sounds better than the 2 amps the filament bulb currently uses, though I'll keep the old one as a backup.Supplier www.ledshoponline.com
LED nav light update
29 June 2007, 07:00:00
When I arrived back at the boat with my new LED bulbs to go in the tri-colour and the anchor light several people in the yard gravely nodded their heads and said: they don't work. Apparently I'm not the first to try this but anyway we replaced the bulbs, flicked the breaker on, and the pessimists were right, they didn't work.
I thought about it for a bit and then - bingo - most LED's are polarity sensitive. Changing the wires around at the masthead was going to be a fiddle so Lu swapped the circuits around where the wires emerge from the base of the mast. The only problem here was that the combined tri-colour and anchor light had only the single earth wire and two positives running to the breakers. No problem. We got an on-off-on rocker switch and now the lights are controlled by a single breaker and the rocker switch sited on the side of one of the saloon seats.
OK so its a bit of a palaver, but given that the lights appear brighter than the old filament bulbs and draw just a tenth of the amps (0.2 as opposed to 2 amps), then I'm quite happy to pop down into the saloon if we need to swap from tri to anchor light.
One other thing. There are
apparently some LED's which are not polarity sensitive and which
continuously switch poles. The reported problem with these is that they
can interfere with radion aerials, most commonly VHF aerials, mounted
next to them om the masthead. In one case the user changed these
non-polarity sensitive LED's for polarity sensitive LED's and viola,
the problem was sorted.
From the Skylax blog 19-02-09
Its a gas gas gas
Getting cooking gas around the world
We’re talking cooking gas here. One of the problems that doesn’t usually get a lot of thought when arriving in a new country is how easy, or not, it is to get gas bottles filled. In a significant number of countries you effectively need to get a new gas bottle that conforms to the regulations in that country so you can have gas on board. The reason for that is that to get an old bottle certified can be next to impossible and even if you manage it, the cost of certification will often be more than the cost of a new bottle.
Most cookers will run happily on propane or butane. Propane cookers running on butane will give out slightly less heat than when on propane, but for the most part you won’t notice the difference. Butane is stored at a lower pressure than propane so you should never fill a butane bottle (such as Camping Gaz bottles) with propane. In lots of places,
Once you have a new bottle then there is the matter of connecting it. The fittings for bottles in different countries vary and the chances are that you will not have a fitting for the local bottle. We have just bought the kit that
Skylax is in NZ at the moment and we have bought a new bottle there ($NZ50) because they won’t fill any bottles we already have. The regulator to fit on the top of the bottle would cost $NZ40 so we have saved that much already, or should I say it’s gone towards the
All the components of the kit are sold separately so the thing to do is get in touch with Will Hayward at the email above and tell him where you are going. We have the ‘world’ kit and the marinised regulator which comes out at:
Universal gas system.
The adapters in the kit 4018 @ £85.99 connect to one end of a 22" or 33" high pressure hose 4017 @ £10.99 the other end of the hose connects to our 4006 bulkhead mounted regulator @ £20.99 which has a 1/2" BSP low pressure outlet.
There are six adapters in the kit.
20mm clip on
Primus swivel valve
Camping gaz swivel valve
BSP male Propane pol.
NPT male pol
G4-8 left hand EU
2 X Stainless steel spanners.
of the questions I’m often asked, or often one of the things people
tell me, is that you are required to have a holding tank in most
Mediterranean countries. Well not yet. At least private cruising boats
don’t legally need a holding tank in the
Although legally you don’t have to have a holding tank fitted in Mediterranean countries, a number of countries, in particular
Although there is no legal requirement at the moment, I suspect some countries will introduce a law in the near future.
My favoured design and one I have fitted in most my yachts keeps it simple without long pipe runs or a macerator pump to pump the holding tank out. This design is a well-tried one that many charter yachts use and can be connected to a deck-fitting for pump-out as well. I have just had one fitted in Skylax using a ready-made polypropylene Vetus tank of around 60 litres. The toilet continuously pumps through the tank and when you want to use it as a holding tank you simply turn the outlet sea-cock off. To empty it out at sea (MARPOL requirements are 3 miles off the coast) you simply open the outlet sea-cock and pump a bit more water through the toilet to flush it out.
To clean the loo I use some dilute vinegar (white preferably as red seems to leave a stain) which both cleans and gets rid of smells. I also put a dribble of olive oil down the loo every now and again to lubricate the valves.
Diagram from my RYA book of Mediterranean Cruising (Adlard Coles) with the waterline mod.
Diagram from my RYA book of Mediterranean Cruising (Adlard Coles) with the waterline mod.
I wrote this in response to a letter in one of the yachting magazines which stated that a watermaker was an essential bit of equipment for ocean passages. At the time we were waiting for spares to arrive for our watermaker. The magazine obviously decided to file it away, presumably in the file called rubbish, as it didn't appear. Perhaps the contents didn't fit in with the ethos of flashy yachts equipped to the gunwhales with complicated equipment.
While a watermaker is a useful bit of kit on board, it is not essential and large numbers of yachts make long passages without one. There are drawbacks to watermakers.
Water on a long trip is liquid gold and you need to hoard it. On a three week trip from the Red Sea to
can justly ask how smelly were we at the end of the trips? Well not
that bad. Watching the water consumption you do get to shower now and
again, but there is no way you are going to shower every day without
very large tanks or a watermaker. Most people don’t and the saving
grace smell-wise is baby wipes. We always have large economy packs on
board and a wipe over with several of these does a pretty good job.
Moreover they can be used when the boat is too uncomfortable to shower
which is more often than you think, especially crossing to the
While a lot of yachts carry watermakers, it is not necessary for a long trip – after all yachts were crossing oceans long before watermakers were around. And they are not always reliable as per my comments above. In most places in the world you can find water and you can also collect rain to augment your supplies. Either let the main down a bit so it has a bag at the bottom and after it has been washed off for a bit to get salt and silt out of it, lower the boom a little (or tighten the kicker) and use a large funnel with a piece of hose to collect it in a jerrycan or directly into the tanks. One idea I saw in a NZ magazine is to fill a pastic bag with water and use it as a dam to direct water directly into the tanks off the side decks - once they have been washed clean. And anyway in an age where water poverty is going to become THE issue, perhaps we need to learn how to be frugal with our water - on land as well as at sea.
Atlantic squall - with rain!