Monday, October 18, 2010

Sailboat goes electric

A number of people have said I should write to you about our experience converting our 1974 C&C 35 from the old Atomic 4 gasoline engine to an electric motor. A number of mechanics and sailors thought we were crazy as nobody seemed to know anyone else who had done the same. Would it have enough power? Wouldn't you run out of battery juice? Wouldn't it weigh too much? 

Well, after an attempt at repairing the old Atomic 4, and several attempts to learn the complexities of a gasoline engine system, we (by the way I should mention that "we" refers primarily to me, John Wilson, and my Dad, Ian Wilson as we've bought the boat together) gave up and made the decision to switch to electric. I should mention that this seems a little less crazy to me than perhaps most people as I live in a "eco" house that has grass growing on the roof (free air conditioner), solar panels covering the south side (earning me big profits on the Ontario MicroFIT program that pays 80.2 cents per kilowatt hour), a wind turbine, and some ten year old deep cycle batteries in the basement. We actually generate more electricity than we consume in the house and it seemed to me we ought to be able to make the switch to electric on the boat for the hour or two max that we ever use the motor going in and out of the dock.

So, after a quick google search we found Electric Yacht ( ), run by Bill and Scott down in the Minnesota, in the United States. A run through their conversion stories and YouTube videos convinced me that we could do this. If a guy in Malaysia can order the system, get it hooked up and say it works well, then surely we could do this. So, we talked to a few boat mechanics, most of whom were less than interested, and then found Lorne at Genco who is young and eager to try to make this kind of new challenge work. So, we ordered the 10 kW brushless electric motor (sized by Bill and Scott based on some of the boats dimensions). The electric motor system, which we were assured is flexible enough to fit in the same location and mount where the Atomic was, came with everything we need including a monitor system (percent charge remaining, volts, amps, rpms etc), a throttle, power controller and the motor. The only other parts we needed to buy were some deep cycle batteries, heavy gauge wire and a charge controller for the deep cycle batteries. So, we all did some research and then went with the Odyssey batteries that Bill and Scott recommended combined with an Analytic charge controller that Lorne thought would suit our needs the best (military grade, sealed to prevent getting wet). The four large, rack mountable Odyssey batteries we ordered each cost about $700 and weighed in at about 130 pounds each. When all the new components, motor, and battery were combined we figure it weighs about the same as the Atomic 4 with a full tank of gas. All the new equipment including batteries would also fit nicely where the old motor and gas tank were removed retaining the same weight and balance in the boat.

Once everything had arrived Lorne followed the installation manual, and made a few calls to Bill and Scott, to get everything wired up, aligned and ready. Lorne had to design a solid wooden box system to hold the batteries in place. We cleaned out all of the old gasoline and oil gunk and painted the engine compartment white before putting the electric in. Finally the big day had arrived and we took her out (Initram is the name of our C&C sailboat) for a trial run. All systems worked flawlessly...better than expected. Simply push backward and she reverses out of her slip, quietly, with the simple hum of the electric motor. Out on the water in forward we take her slowly up to 2000 rpm. We get up to about 5 knots and all systems are looking great.
Around the Toronto Harbour we motor, enjoying the ability to talk to each other as we move around (so nice not to be yelling over the sound of the gasoline engine). At about 80% of the rpm max the Electric Yacht control monitor system says we've got about six hours of run time. At full throttle the system suggests we have about two hours of run time.

We've now been out many times and always seem to come back with essentially 100% charge remaining. For most of our sailing we take her out of the slip and once out in the harbour we put the sails up. Same thing coming back in so we had not really used much of the juice in the batteries on any outing. Finally, we decided to make a more substantial trip, going from Toronto to Port Credit. 

On this day we had some strong winds out of the north. We motored for about twenty minutes across the harbour to pick some people up. We then motored for another ten minutes in the harbour putting the sails up. Off to Port Credit we sailed. We enjoyed some good sailing speeds up to 9 knots while riding some big ten foot waves.

Once we'd arrived in Port Credit (my first time sailing to a destination and my first time going to Port Credit), we were unlucky enough to have to surf in on those big breakers (or lucky depending on your perspective). The adrenaline was pumping as we rode a big one in and behind the break wall. Once fairly close to the wall, in the deeper part of the port I thought we were safe. Not on this day. The waves were still going up and down about six feet from top of the crest to the bottom of the wave. As we thought we were getting close to the public docks we were startled to realize we had become stuck on the bottom as we dropped down in the trough of a wave. As the next wave raised us up we were able to move again but this was not good. I immediately began to worry about the new motor and how the heck we were ever going to get out of this mess.

Reverse, someone said. Yes, don't fight it, let us back our way out of here. Full reverse on the new electric. Two thousand rpm...and nothing. Then a wave picked us up a bit and we started moving backwards. The next wave the same thing. Finally on the third wave I was able to have full control of the boat in reverse, full power. So I kept her on full throttle for about five minutes taking us back into the bigger waves wondering all the time, would she have enough power to keep us out of the break wall. She did and then some. We got tucked in behind Port Credit Marina break wall and finally I switched her back to full forward going to the right into the Port Credit Marina. We found an open slip and took about half an hour to catch our breath and come down from the thirty minute adrenaline rush.

Now it was time to get back on the horse and get back out into those big waves. We'd used a lot more power from the batteries than I had ever expected to. Still, the monitor still indicated we had about 90% remaining battery power. So, we put the nose back into the big waves and started motoring back into those waves. Would she have enough power to make way against those waves and the strong wind coming against us? She sure did. We made some good progress out into the lake and got the sails up going directly into those ten foot waves and a heavy 20+ knot wind. 

Approaching Toronto we decided to motor through the western gap and across the harbour instead of sailing for another hour or so to get to the eastern gap where the QCYC entrance is as the sun was starting to set. We motored through the western gap and across the harbour as the sun set at about 80% power, moving nicely at around 4 knots. We had about 69% battery remaining when we got back to the dock. We packed everything away and I plugged in the batteries so they'd be ready for another fun filled day of sailing. Electric motors for sailboats have arrived. Just think how much sense it makes. A gasoline engine has an electric motor, batteries for that starter electric motor, spark plugs, pumps, cooling systems, and who knows what else. With electrics, you are down to one of those basic systems...a large version of the gasolines electric starter motor. Talk about making things easier and simple to understand, never mind reliable. Add to that the ease of maintenance, ease of fueling (just plug her in), and ease of use. The more time we spend with the electric the more I have no doubt that this is the future of boating.

For more information about our electric motor conversion see:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Initram is lightning fast and sails like a dream

This morning we were up early to watch the sun rise, say goodbye to Leigh (who is off to NY for work and a little fun), and then out to the Toronto Islands for some sailing. After a quick look at a bilge pump that is acting up we rigged up the boat faster than ever. With Dad (Ian M. Wilson) at the helm, we motored quietly with our electric motor out into Toronto Harbour. Claire and her friend Tiffany raised the main and then jib in a very gentle breeze. Then we made directly for the eastern gap at a slow, some would say glacial pace, under very slow wind speeds. Towards the south end of the channel we got some wind, made a quick tack around south-west and started our slow sail through the gap out onto the lake.

The sun was shining, it was fairly warm, with a gentle breeze as we chitty chatted our way out, complaining mildly about how slow we were going, with other sailboats motoring by us in a hurry. Not us. We mostly kept to our sails and even if we did use a bit of electricity to drive the motor nobody would have known as we were pretty much silent. Rounding the second green buoy we caught some decent wind and starting making good steady progress towards Port Credit off somewhere in the distance. What a sight. Hundreds of sailboat out on the lake racing, a gentle light blue sky and sun. Nobody on the nude beach...perhaps a tad cold for no clothing.

We passed a couple of other larger sailboats on our way out feeling pretty cheeky. Then lunch at 12:14 as our stomachs started growling. You could actually hear them as the airs were light and the boat sailing smoothe and quiet. We enjoyed our Turkey sandwhiches and salads, with lemonade and iced tea...perfec! A few pretzels for veggies, then some delcious Aero chocolate balls for desert. 

About half way to Port Credit we decided to head back for port just before passing some more larger sailing boats...didn't want to embarass them. So, we did a quick tack right around and started heading east back to the islands. Half way back Claire Wilson took the helm with confidence and a subtle smile on her face. Up ahead was a beautiful forty footer under full sail making progress in the same direction as us. Hmmm, a race perhaps? Claire and crew, despite making any trimming of any sails started making good progress at making up the distance. As we neatly passed the larger vessel you could see the other helm looking in disbelief, up and down his sails, then back at could Initram that young girl at helm be zipping past? Claire maintained a stern face, looking ahead mainly, not wanting to gloat, as we passed and then made more and more progress. Wow, Claire, you are doing great! A smile...yes, yes, she was.

Right into the eastern gap Claire maintained helm. Just before the turn in as John took helm, we made a perfect running jibe and under a beam reach zipped through the channel, lowered sails and were at the dock in no time. Ian M. Wilson took helm for the final docking procedure which was done to perfection. We even remember to put down the bumpers (no....actually they are "fenders" why can't I remember that?). 

A perfect day of sailing the likes of which I've been dreaming of for years. Get out and sail it is pure wonderous freedom.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to convert your sailboat from gas/diesel to electric

Sailing is a beautiful way to travel. It is fast, quiet, and fun. If you are like me there is a great feeling when you are able to turn off the motor (which is typically very noisy) and start sailing. Naturally the idea of a quiet motor that doesn't need to be filled up with fuel would be appealing to any sailor, at least in our dreams. So, does the option of a switch to an electric motor offer this dream up as reality?

First, let me explain that at first blush you might ask why even consider this option since I could find no other example of anyone in this area doing something like making a switch to electric motor for their sailboat? Surely, if it was such a reasonable idea somebody else would be doing it. Secondly, if there are no others doing it then surely it must not be a very good idea? And yet, it may be the case that nobody has tried it because the answer to the first question has prevented anyone feeling comfortable enough to move forward to try it to verify whether it is a good idea or not.

In my own case I've been using renewable energy (solar PV and wind turbines) to generate electricity at my house for the past ten years. In fact, we have no furnace, no gas/oil bill, and only use renewable energy sources for all our needs in the house (for all the details see So, given my own personal experience, achieving this objective with our forty year old 35 foot C&C sailboat seemed like a reasonable possibility.

With a few mouse clicks and a google search I found Electric Yacht (  After reviewing a few of their conversion stories and youtube web videos I was convinced we could make this work on our boat. In addition, since our forty year old Atomic 4 gasoline engine was in need of some expensive repairs and a steep learning curve for us novice sailors, the switch to electric would make the task of managing the maintenance and up-keep of the motor much easier. Of course, it has always been clear that there would be limitations in switching to electric. The battery system and their cost would be limiting factor on how far we would be able to travel using the motor. I could see very little chance that it would match the distance a full tank of gas would allow. However, I also understood that 90% of the time we would be using the motor primarily to get on and off the dock. Still, in an emergency and during longer passages we'd need to be sure we understood the limitations of the batteries ability to deliver power, for instance in a storm. Also, the question of sufficient power was also a concern, although the choice of electric motor (larger or smaller) could largely alleviate this concern...although with the connection that a larger motor, drawing more power, would affect run time limitations with the battery.

Working to determine the best solution for our boat we came up with the selection of a 10 kW (roughly 17 hp) electric motor as a reasonable replacement for the Atomic 4 for our particular needs. Of course we could have selected the 20 kW motor for additional power. For batteries, we ended up selecting four high quality Odyssey AGM deep cycle batteries. Although lithium ion batteries are an option that may provide substantially more storage and far less weight, their cost is currently two to three times that of AGM. As electric cars enter the mainstream we can expect the lithium batteries to become the cost, weight, and storage option of choice.

A few things that make electric motors more interesting than you might think for longer journeys with a sailboat. While underway sailing a fixed prop will turn the electric motor making it a generator that will charge your batteries while you sail from port to port. In addition, as in our case, by adding some solar panels (and wind turbine), as well as a backup biodiesel generator, it is quite easy to create a system with run times the equivalent, if not superior, to pure gas/diesel options.

So, then, how much does it cost? Well,  our 10 kW brushless electric motor kit (includes controller, throttle, motor, and mounting brackets) from Electric Yacht was US$4,995 plus shipping (from the US). The 4 large Odyssey 1800 rack mountable AGM batteries were about  CAN$3,300. An Analytics charge controller was about CAN$2,200. Finally, the installation, done by Lorne Spence from Genco was approximately $3,400 (roughly 40 hours). So, it certainly is more than a new gas or diesel engine. However, we have essentially zero fuel costs for the life the motor and we expect fewer maintenance costs as electrics tend to be very reliable.

As for how the system performs in the real world...for that you'll have to read earlier blog entries and keep an eye out for future updates. In a word...the system works beautifully. She is quiet, powerful, and has enough run time and then some for all of our needs thus far (trips across Toronto Harbour and back, and we think enough to do a couple hours at 3-4 knots). Hope this helps get you thinking about an electric as viable alternative if you are thinking of replacing your aging gas/diesel engine on your sailboat. If you have question I'd be happy to try to answer them. Just send me a note at

For a fellow sailors view of the experience with our electric powered sailboat check out his excellent blog: Ian Hoar - Wind and Sail.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Electric motor and setting sail for the open waters

Yesterday we rigged up Initram for an afternoon sail to watch the QCYC regatta. It was a perfect day for a run with the new Electric Yacht electric motor on a beautiful sailing day. Leigh and I were joined by Kim who we did our basic sailing course with. The skies were pretty clear. We had a good 10-15 knots of wind. Lots of boats were heading out. So, after BBQed burgers for lunch we set sail.

The electric seems to be running more and more smoothly. As we go by the QCYC dinghy garage Steve yells over "turn on your motor" as we silently glide by with our electric doing about half speed. Out into the Toronto Harbour and we swing out wide to put the boat into the wind to raise the sails. Up she goes without a hitch as you'll see in the video clip I've added to this blog entry.

Out through the eastern gap and what a sight. Thousands of sailboats sailing around off in the distant for the regatta and fun. The channel is busy but we sail through confidently with the electric motor at the ready. Our boat seems to make very good way as we pass several boats sailing alongside us on the way out. We confidently move ahead of the old tourist boat jammed packed with tourists.

Out on the open lake we enjoy the view and some great sailing in good winds. We each took turns at the helm and various crew positions. We are finally sailing as we've been dreaming of doing for months and years. What a wonderful feeling of freedom. Where should we go now...Nova Scotia, New York, Tahiti, or Kuala Lumpur? The world beckons.

On our speedy sail back to the club docks we take the sails down with a minimum of fuss. The jib lines somehow break free at the clew. Somehow the locking pin has allowed the lock to come undone. Hard to imagine how. In any case, we grab the sail, pull it down and plan to fold it up when we get to dock. The main sail comes down okay except once again the topping lift clip comes unclipped and is saved by the figure eight knot in the end as it catches on the pulley system. Again, not a problem, I simply reach up and reset the clip properly and we bring the main sail down.

Now we race in with five or six other sailboats to the clubhouse. On our starboard side just behind us a fellow sailor coming in to dock yells out "you've got a problem, there is no water coming out of your exhaust". I think for a couple seconds. Ahh, yes, if we had the old gasoline engine you would expect water to be coming out of the exhaust as the water is used to cool the engine down. I yell back "we're electric". A strange look from our fellow sailor.

What a wonderful day of sailing. Thanks to our friend Kim for sharing this wonderful day with us and many more to come.

Electric motor performs well in high winds

Now that we've run the electric motor through a number of trials it turned out that it was time to see how things performed in rough weather and high winds. Braving gusts up to 30 knots, with steady winds in the 20 knot range we began our sail in lighter winds earlier in the day. Reversing out of our slip on this windy day meant thinking about the last time we had winds coming in hard from the north. In preparation I had told the crew, Scott and Paul, that we may need to turn south rather than north as the bow might get swung around to the south before we could make any headway and get any steerage. As you may recall this is what happened when we had a mishap with our dinghy motor attached. I've learned you want to try and work with the wind especially when it is blowing hard.

So, with a our boat out into the QCYC lagoon and the bow quickly being blown to the south I decided we'd loop around south with the wind, do a U-turn and then head out into Toronto Harbour. This monoveure worked well and we began to head for the high winds out in the harbour. The electric motor provided good steady thrust as the wind began to hit us harder and harder rounding the corner out into open waters. With the extra winds I maintained extra speed to ensure we had good steerage and momentum goind directly into the wind.

With all of this being a new system I wondered if we'd have enough power to drive into the wind so we could raise our sails without being driven in reverse by the waves and wind. To my pleasant surprise we made good progress forward and were able to raise the sails with ease despite the two to three foot waves and heavy winds. I took some care to keep us moving directly into the wind as would be expected. All went well. I kept the motor ready as we sailed for the eastern gap to head out onto Lake Ontario. At one point the wind completely died for a minute or so. I ran the electric for that time to keep steerage and progress especially as I knew the wind would come back hard as we passed the southern edge of the gap. It did start moving very vast  once we passed the southern end of the gap. Off we went at full steam. We got her up to about 8 knots sailing. It was a great steady hard wind with some really exciting gusts that got us really heeled over.

After sailing out on the lake we made our way back into the harbour to drop Paul off city side. This was another first for me and the electric motor. We lowered the sails in even heavier winds...apparently getting up to the 30-40 knots either during or shortly after we brought down our sails. The main sails topping lift that is clipped onto the end of the boom popped off as we lowered the main sail. Fortunately the figure eight knot caught on the pulley that attached to the topping lifts line and it only fell a foot or so. Still, we got the main sail down okay and repaired that problem at dock. With the electric going about 80% we powered towards the city in the heavy winds and waves. Fortunately the city buildings provided some shelter from the winds out of the north as we neared the public dock behind the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel. With fine control I pulled up to the dock, used heavy reverse to bring us to a full stop, Paul jumped off and up onto the main land, and off Scott and I went back to QCYC to pack up for the day. All went very well and the Electric Yachts motor felt very sure and steady in these rough conditions.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Electric Yacht, electric motor, trial run

The smiles on our faces says it all. Lorne has done a wonderful job of completing the electric motor installation with the help of Electric Yacht who have supplied the motor, controller, and monitoring system. With the final throttle mechanism supplied by Electric Yachts installed and the monitor screen installed where the old ignition system controls were we were ready to head out for our first trial run.

Up and down Toronto Harbour we go at 4-5 knots, keeping pace with the other sailboats motoring out for race night. She handles beautifully and easily coming out of the slip. The throttle mechanism is responsive and easy to use. For our trial run I pull the release on the throttle and ease it back in reverse. Ian (Dad) and Lorne release the dock lines and off we go. Once we are out of the slip moving nicely backwards with full steerage I make the switch to forward. I first slow reverse and it then clicks into neutral. The boat is silent as we continue moving backwards. I then pull the release and easy the throttle forward. She responds quickly and powerfully forward with great steerage. We pull quickly out of the QCYC docks and out into the Toronto Harbour at a medium speed.

As a part of our trial run Lorne is checking the sounds and vibrations below in the motor room, reviewing the RPM/Volts/Amps/Hours Remaining/Charge Level as we go. All looks good. We make 4-5 knots at full power. Lorne thinks we will do better once we change the propellor (it is currently a small retractable one that is not correctly sized to give us optimal power nor charge when under sail). Quite astonishingly we are talking and discussing the wonderful experience without having to shout and yell above the engine noise. There is a whirring noise from the electric but it is certainly nowhere near as noisy as a gas or diesel engine...something we will no doubt now take for granted.

After a forty five minute cruise we are still with 95% charge. The monitor on the port side near the helm is amazing. It constantly updates us with the critical "hours" remaining so that we can determine how far we can go under the current battery state. Of course the number fluctuates as we increase and decrease speed. By slowing down we significantly increase the hours we can run the electric motor. Of course the slower speeds means we'll make less distance. The quick calculations we do then is to say how many knots are we doing and then with the battery monitor telling us remaining hours on the batteries we can determine how far we can go. We think the optimal speed with the current prop which needs to be changed is about 3-4 knots. We should be able to get around 3 hours of run time with our 4 AGM batteries with the current setup at that say 3 knots speed. That should take us around Toronto Island for instance.

All and all a great trial run. What a thrill to have worked through all the details and have this wonderful system working. Lorne from Genco as well as Bill and Scott from Electric Yacht have done a fantastic job. Actual hours to install the electric motor system, batteries and electronics looks to be about two or three days. According to Lorne installing the new electric motor system was far easier than rewiring the 40 year old boat.

Well, now it is time to go sailing. See you out on the lake this weekend folks...we'll be the quiet boat motoring out of QCYC. Thanks again to Lorne, Bill and Scott. Great work and a wonderful project. Well done. This is the future!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Batteries installed

Dad has done a beautiful job of painting the engine mount and engine room to get rid of the old gasoline and oil smells and grime. It smells like a new home with a fresh coat of paint. Now we are ready to start mounting the batteries and electric motor.  It might not look like it in this picture but relatively speaking we've gained a fair bit of space with the removal of the old Atomic 4 gasoline engine and the fuel tank. Removal of both of these takes out about five hundred pounds. The batteries and new electric motor combined get us back to about the same weight. If we could afford Lithium batteries we'd be much lighter than the gasoline engine/fuel tank combo. In future no doubt Lithium batteries will be more affordable as the electric cars start deploying them around the world and large scale distribution and R&D kick in to develop this technology even further. For now we'll stick with the old lead acid AGM batteries.

The week before last Lorne and I spent the afternoon wedging the new Odyssey lead acid AGM deep cycle batteries into place on a custom platform Lorne has designed. Lorne has built and secured a base with edges to hold the batteries in approximately the same location as the old fuel tank. This will ensure that batteries are equally distributed in the centre of the boat and near where that same weight was for the old gas tank/Atomic four engine. The Odyssey PC1800-FT are a beautiful industrial, sealed battery system, designed to be rack mounted if need be. The positive and negative leads are on the front face of the batteries for easy connection in series (see earlier blog entry with diagrams of configuration) to get to 48 volts.

Although one person can lift and move these batteries, they are 130 pounds each, it is much easier and more reasonable with two people. So, Lorne and I got it down to quite a system of sliding the batteries through the side panels, lifting them in place from the top, and then inching them over the rails in the box designed to keep each battery in place. Each one fit like a glove. These batteries are sealed and are very sturdy. They can be placed in any orientation. In our case they sit as though ready for a rack. Once all the wiring is place Lorne will put a cap of plywood, like the base, on the top and secure with steel rods.

Next week, we do the electric motor installation and we should be ready to rock and roll with our electric motor system. It'll be interesting to see how far we can go on a full charge and at varying rates of speed. Next spring we'll switch the propellor to fixed blades (our current prop has retractable blades, good for racing, but not so useful for recharging our batteries). Things are looking good.

One other thing we did was to remove the red propellor shaft coupling device that was used for the Atomic 4. The red circular plate has been on the shaft for 40 year and so did not want to leave. Lorne said we needed a prop remover. So, off I went to the QCYC shed where Andy said we might find one. Sure enough, there it was in the back, behind some stuff. Incredibly the old fused connector finally gave way as Lorne and I used an extender and a bit of elbow grease to get the old thing moving. For the new connector we've found that the prop shaft is a slight bit smaller than the connector so we'll need a rubber filler band to fill the gap to make it secure. We are ready for the electric motor!

Stay tuned.

Port Credit Boat Show, Learning from Others

Quick update on the electric motor conversion...we have the electric wiring and new panels in place. We are getting close now. We plan to finish up the electric motor installation this week so we can enjoy sailing this coming long weekend. Lorned has done a beautiful job here. The AC and DC systems are now easy to manage and meters show what is going on. On the right side is a Xantrex charge control monitor system for the two house batteries. Looking gooood!

Now on to the Port Credit Boat Show we attended earlier today. We've been talking a planning quite a bit lately and we've got a few things that are coming together as we plan our circumnavigation on the future catamaran.

We've all agreed now that we will sell the house next spring. This will provide the base financing we need to get our Sun Challenge solar sailing expedition off to a start as well as provide some funding for the kids next phase in life in post secondary education and adventure. So, we've started attending boat shows to learn as much as we can to plan our own voyage.

First up was a tour of a new 2010 Lagoon 38 catamaran. It was beautiful. The deck had a wonderful seating area under a canopy when you get on the stern. Inside the cabin is a spacious dining table and kitchen. The starboard hull had the owners quarters with a large double bed in the stern and spacious bathroom with full standup shower. The port side hull had two wonderful spacious berths. Walking around the deck was easy and safe. This is the type of sailboat for me.

After looking at some monohulls we listened in on a families experience building a 65 foot power catamaran that they lived on and voyaged across the Atlantic, through the Med and finally down through he Suez canal.

What did we learn...

- need a team for fundraising with the right people, sponsor special things.
- $300 for 12 months of sailing in US. Don't forget check in with homeland security at each port or you could get a $5,000 fine.
- When planning stays in port stay for a month for lower rate and then anchor for the next month to cut costs in half. Cost is about $10 per foot per month in the US.
- Have lots of backup systems, two or three GPS systems...etc
- Build up experience by increasing challenges and implementing changes to improve.
- By being patient and waiting for good weather you can avoid bad storms.
- Ditch kit is mounted on deck. Satellite phone, medical kit, several communication systems.
- Virgin has a $40 per month 3G wireless Internet option for communicating, using Skype, Facebook and email.
- It took eight months to outfit the boat from bare hull full time.
- Free charts are available from OAA. Can use your computer and printer with these.
- 1% of hull cost for insurance including hurricane.

That's about all we can remember for now. Time to working the plans for making this happen.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pieces of the electric motor puzzle

We've now received all the parts we need to assemble the electric motor system. Electric Yachts sent us the 10kW electric motor and controller system. Lorne from Genco has obtained the deep cycle batteries from Odyssey. The charge controller has been semi-custom made for us by Analytic a supplier of heavy duty and advanced charge control systems. Lorne has also supplied all of the heavy duty wiring for the 48 Volt battery system.

Our plans from this point are as follows:

Remaining internal wiring work - Lorne:
1. 2 x GFI for AC, wiring done, just need to put in to GFI outlets
2. DC panel installation, fixture for galley, electrical to fridge (test if it works)
3. House batteries - we've agreed to buy one additional Deep Cycle Lead Acid battery approx. $130.
4. Battery boxes installed, existing house battery location. - we've agreed to buy 2 battery boxes for approx. $30 each for house batteries (use one of the existing Nautilus plus new Deep Cycle)
5. Bonding / Grounding - complete a few more connections to metal through hull connections
6. (NEW) Automatic bilge pump reconnection and switch to exit through exhaust system through hull.

Electric Motor Install:
1. Paint motor compartment with bilge paint (prepare by sandpapering area) - Ian Wilson
2. Transfer batteries and motor kit to boat by Monday evening, August 16, 4pm. - Ian/Ianito/Claire/John
3. Electric motor battery box assembly and battery box custom made. Receive charge controller for motor batteries. Design and schematics. Current hours documented. Remaining hours and completion dates. Monday August 16. - Lorne
4. Battery box materials. Plywood - 3/4 inch (marine grade mahogany), bolts, washers, hinges, threaded rods, primer waterproofing paint, etc. from Home Depot. Wed. Aug. 17- Lorne
5. Build battery box at Port Credit site. Wed. Aug. 18 - Lorne
6. Install electric motor. Battery box where fuel tank was. 4 Odyssey batteries in series connection for 48 volt system. Electric motor on electric motor mount. Aug 19/20. - Lorne
7. Figure out shifter/binnacle removal and replacement with electric motor throttle system. - Lorne


Once we pull the boat out for this season.

1. Review motor mount leakage issue. Is it resolved once the electric motor is installed? Reinforce area that is of concern.
2. Review exterior hull scuffs and issues. Determine what repairs/painting/cleaning is required.
3. Prepare batteries for storage with full charge. Consider a solar panel to keep charged.

Before launch for next season:

1. Lighting and radio cable for mast.
2. Switch to a fixed propeller optimized for charging boat batteries when sailing.
3. Rolling furler.
4. Depth, windspeed/direction, GPS installations.
5. Radio for nav station/desk.
6. Review fridge requirements.
7. Determine solar panel (4 x 40 watt) setup and installation, Bimini design.

1. Both charge controllers will be installed in the storage closet near motor. House battery system charge control system is already installed there on the left side. Analytic charge controller for electric motor batteries will be installed on the right side of the storage compartment. All done to minimize chances of these ever getting wet.
2. Keep an eye on the leak near motor mount.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Learning from our mistakes

Tough week. Following on the heels of such a wonderful week of sailing for the first time on our own boat, this weekend was all about having things go wrong. We tried to get out sailing Sunday which was looking like a dream day. We are getting quite handy at the rigging and things were all set for a quick push off the dock, and out for some sailing on such a clear and beautiful day. Waiting for everyone to arrive found the wind coming in stronger and stronger from the north especially after noon.

Looking back I can see that the wind coming in from the north meant that as we came out of our slip pointing east/west, our bow would be pushed heavily to the south away from the direction we wanted to go. It certainly was. Our neighbours powerful boat was, after two attempts able to power through the turn, which was the technique I decided to follow. As it turned out, the wind was too much for our temporary dinghy electric motor mount. The wooden mount failed as I thought I had to up the throttle to try to make ground forward into the wind. I should have worked with the wind and swung south, using the wind, rather than having fought it.  Our sister boat, a 25 foot C&C, with our other neighbour at helm, demostrated just minutes after our failed attempt, just how easy it could be done with a low power dinghy motor by just looping around to the south using the wind to advantage. 

When the mount broke in half I, fortunately, had thought to attach an emergency line to catch the motor from sinking after the failure (I had even looked at the mount earlier and said to myself it looks like it might be warping...and surely I should have known it would fail sooner or later). Everyone remained calm. I asked crew to prepare to fend off as we began to drift for a couple seconds in the dock area. A familiar face happened to be motoring by in a dinghy, so, calmly, I asked for some help to get back into our slip as our motor had failed. They quickly agreed and began pulling our bow line around. Seeing that assistance was required, our neighbours helped us come in to dock without any further mishap. We also had another member come in as a backup to make sure all was okay. Help others when they are in need as you will surely need their help one day. 

Despite the safety line catching the motor, it looks like the battery may have been damaged by the water...what a sick feeling knowing that. Hopefully the motor system is still okay...I think it will be. I'll get a replacement battery and we'll be back on track with a significantly beefed up temporary dinghy motor mount (ideally, that will not be needed) and a great deal learned about the way to work with the wind especially if your boat is working under less than ideal mechanical repair.

Hard as this has been, and as hard as it is to have to take all the feedback from those that know better, this is what it is all about. Learning from the school of hard knocks is painful and hard to deal with at the time, but the kind of thing that expands your knowledge of the situation deeply and memorably. People will tell you, "I told you so", and they will be right, but they are the same people that would not have tried and would not have learned from those same mistakes. How do you deal with your boat when/if it loses power when going to dock...been there now. How do you deal with high winds coming across your port side when exiting your with the wind, and feel comfortable looping around to the south rather than always fighting the difficult conditions. Build repairs beefier and with better back up systems than you might initially conceive of. Like in baseball, anticipate what each component will do in a failure situation so that the backup systems handle them better. Think of the forces that will impact any and all of the systems on the boat, from lines, halyards, buckles, shrouds and pulleys, and imagine how well they will hold up under the worst possible weather conditions, not fair/average weather. Obvious stuff but particularly real once you've made mistakes.

When it rains it pours. Our home solar system is being held up from being turned on by the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) which leaves me holding the bag on an expensive system that is supposed to generate income to pay for itself. After two months of waiting for our supplier/installer to work it out with ESA, still no resolution. Today our electrician has proposed a voltage transformer to try to address the concern. The waiting and not knowing is hard to deal with. You want to do something about it to move things along, you try to push, when things aren't moving, and you instigate a little forward motion, and then you wait some more. Hopefully we'll hear soon, that this will resolve their concern which my installer is telling me should not be a concern. Familiary story.

Similar story with the electric motor for the boat. Much of the current frustration with the electric dinghy could have been avoided had things simply moved along with fewer hurdles and difficulties. Life isn't like that though. Certainly we made mistakes in this process and we'll learn from them as well. Good things take time and they are hard, especially when they are the road less travelled. We are learning more than I could have imagined about things I had not even thought of. I know that all of this will become the backbone of what gets us through the tough stuff up ahead.

My Grandma used to say tough times don't last just tough people. These things will be overcome and the extra difficulties will make them all the more satisfying once accomplished. Sometimes you just have to take it, take it from everyone as best you can, take it from yourself when you are harder on you than anyone else and come back out fighting harder than ever to make it happen. Dreams don't just happen, you have to fight to make them real, and they don't happen without mistakes. Kick yourself and tell yourself to do better next time. Your dream is worth it. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sailing is such a joy

Last evening we went out for a sail around Toronto inner harbour with some future sailors. Ian and Claire Wilson, my wonderful crew, easily fell into their roles, helping their cousins  David and Cassie (and aunt Kathleen), get into the swing of raising the sails, tacking and jibing. Such a wonderful warm evening to let each of the younger kids take a turn at helm. Seeing that twinkle of wonder as these youngsters commanded our 35 foot sailboat around the harbour, tacking with just the touch of their fingers. Claire's friend Andrea also took a turn at helm and was handy around the lines and sheets.

With just two or three knots of wind we were able to start raising the main sail on our way out of the dock area at QCYC. Our small electric dinghy motor only needed about a minute of run time before I was able to shut it down under main sail power as we exited the club dock area. A beautiful gentle cross breeze took us directly out of the club, into the harbour area on a close reach. Initram is such an easy boat to sail under light winds, she calms her skipper, and allows her junior mates to learn quickly and safely.

Tacking back and forth across the harbour was such a joy, my heart leaps at the thought of how we so elegantly slice through the water in our steady and solid boat. Silently gliding through the water, on a gentle breeze, a slight churn of water off our stern proving she makes excellent headway even under these light winds, the beautiful view of the city on our tack north, the quaint Toronto islands on our southern tack, and the odd propeller plane gliding in over our heads towards the island airport. Freedom. The mere thought that at any moment we could make for the eastern gap, exit out of the harbour onto the expanse of Lake Ontario, and head out, and one day, out to the oceans, through the St. Lawrence, to the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific from the Panama Canal, South China Sea, Indian Ocean, the Med, and back to the Atlantic, all by the power of the wind, and the idea, that yes we can, and we will head out around the world one day soon enough.

Dream. Always dream. And then make your dreams happen. Happiness. Find your happiness. (Have been reading Slocums book about sailing around the world on my iPhone)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

First sail on dinghy electric motor

We finally "got off the dock". Today, son Ian, Dad, Leigh, Claire and I went out on our sailboat, Initram, with the dinghy electric motor, a Torqueedo electric outboard, rigged to the back of 35 foot C&C. This is the first time in a few years that Initram has been out for a sail. What a great feeling after so much waiting.

Last Thursday night I spent a few hours jury rigging the Torqueedo, lithium battery powered electric motor to the back of our C&C 35. I basically clamped some hard wood to the swim ladder. We've been using the dinghy with this amazing well built German electric motor for a couple weeks. It has lots of power. I'd read that it could push 14 foot boats and perhaps bigger ones. So, since our Electric Yacht kit is still another week or two away from being fully installed, and we have been aching to get out and sail, we decided to try this temporary solution.

First of all, the boat is new to us so we had to figure out how to rig up the jib sail for the first time. I've worked the main sail up and down a few times at the dock so that was ready to go. We did a double check on all safety equipment, reviewed our plan for taking the boat out, and off we went.

Silently I reversed with the Torqueedo motor jumping a bit as I didn't have the ladder held down in place for reverse. Still, she moved slowly back quite nicely, sputtering a bit but kept moving. Once we'd pulled into the middle of the lagoon, between all the other boats, we hauled in the fenders (not wanting to have to buy everyone at the bar a beer on our first run out), and engaged full forward thrusters captain! Away she went, quietly past our neighbours, to the right of a few sailors coming in to dock, and past the Wards Island ferry dock. A few butterflies churned in my stomach, as I hoped that we would not run out of battery power until we were well clear of the docks and some fellow sailors who have said I am crazy.

Once we'd gotten past the entrance to QCYC, our club, we put the bow into the wind and began hauling up the main sail. After futzing with a double winched line, we got the main sail nicely up and started plowing through the water. I turned off the forward thrust on the electric Torqueedo, to conserve as much battery as possible for our return to dock, and we began hauling the jib up.

She sails beautifully. Smoothe as silk. Feels so well balanced you can hold course with just a finger on the wheel. We had fair winds and so were moving along very well. What a joy to be out in the Toronto Harbour, at last, sailing in a good breeze, with all the other sailors.

After some high fives, hand shakes and self-congratulations we enjoyed a couple hours of sailing. While at the helm the crew mutineed the idea of taking her out through the eastern gap for some open lake sailing. Not yet, apparently not everyone felt ready. What a great feeling just to tack back and forth on this beautiful speedy boat. We all had a blast taking turns at helm.

Finally, we got the word, time to go in. I was a bit worried about whether we'd have enough juice in the batteries to get us back to the dock under some kind of propellor driving power. I was prepared to use the main sail a bit in case we ran out of electric engine power. I kept the throttle in maximum distance setting and we slowly came into the QCYC docks under slow speed, red buoys on the right of course. What a day! The adventure continues. Soon we should have the full blown big 10 kW electric motor kit from Electric Yachts and Odyssey batteries (AGM, 1800 series, rack mountable), and the Analytics super military/marine grade charge controller. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ready for electric motor

We've cleaned out the engine compartment with some "green" cleaner that Leigh found in the pile of cleaners on the boat. That, and some extra elbow grease, and the boat is starting to look and smell like roses. Okay, so maybe I washed down the grease in that engine room, all 40 years of it. And now, here you can see Leigh actually cleaning it. Now we are ready to mount the new electric motor. We are hoping to see it arrive this week some time.

You can see that the water is a couple of inches higher on the water with the gasoline engine removed. We'll see how the battery and electric motor weigh in. 

I also went around the entire set of lifeline railing on the boat and tightened up all the uprights as some were actually popping out of their hold fittings. 

To the left are pictures of before and after the engine compartment was cleaned. What a relief to get that old crud out.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Gasoline goes, electric is on the way

Today we removed the Atomic 4 gasoline engine that had given our boat 40 years of service. This paves the way for cleaning up the space for our electric motor. Thanks to Paul and Lorne, the process went very smoothly. Paul used his dinghy to push us to the crane. We then hooked up the cranes hook to a special U shaped piece of metal for pulling engines out of boats recessed engine compartments. We hooked up a steel chain to the old Atomic 4 engines circular hole in the center on top. Up she went and then out. What a relief. Now the fun begins. We'll clean up with sunlight and then paint to get ready for the electric motor that should arrive this week.

Dad (to the right) did all the hard work of cranking the cranes hook up and down, as well as side-to-side. Lorne, in the top picture, takes care to keep the engine from going astray as we move it onto shore. With the old gasoline engine out of the boat we can now see what 40 years of burning gasoline leaves behind (see photo below).

We're getting close on the choice of batteries. Getting quotes from my solar system provider and a local distributor of Odyssy batteries as recommended by Electric Yachts. Lorne is narrowing in on a military grade charge controller. New elelectrical work is being completed by Lorne to upgrade AC and DC wiring to latest requirements as required for our insurance. Lorne has new electrical panels ready and will do final hookup shortly. Lorne has also got a plan for a battery bank platform and box to ensure the batteries are firmly secured. We are looking at a fairly heavy set of 4 x 12 volt batteries that may come in at about 500 pounds. So with the electric being about 200 pounds lighter than the gasoline engine and removal of gas tank we should be about even on the weight.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Electric motor conversion

Now comes the hard but exciting part. Replacing the forty year old Atomic 4 gasoline engine. We are replacing it with an electric motor to be provided by Electric Yacht. The plan is to haul the Atomic 4 out with the clubs crane, along with the fuel tank and other elements related to the gasoline engine.

Once removed we'll clean up the space, prepare it for the electric motor and batteries. While at it we'll be upgrading the electrical systems on the boat in order to comply with requirements for insurance. In order to do this our survey suggests several areas that need work including re-wiring the AC shore power systems, adding a GFI outlet, updated wiring that complies with marine code, a new electrical panel, updated DC systems wiring, and electrical wiring and systems to support the new electric motor, battery system and house DC power systems.

The future systems making our sailboat a truly "green" transportation option and vision for the future of electric powered boating include:
  1. Electric Yacht 10 kW, 200 Amp brushless electric motor
  2. Eight deep cycle (Trojan?), rechargeable batteries (upgradeable to 16 in future if required)
  3. Charging systems from AC shore power.
  4. Charging system support for propeller driving electric motor as a generator while under sail.
  5. Four solar panels (4 x Siemens 40 Watt solar photo voltaic panels) mounted as a bimini on the back of the boat. Charging for electric motor battery or house batteries (switchable or automatic).
  6. Two deep cycle batteries for house power separate from electric motor. Switchable in emergency to be able to provide electric motor power.
Future Add Ons:
  1. Wind turbine for charging electric motor battery system.
  2. Small gasoline generator for backup/long haul electric motoring.
All of these systems are designed to test and learn how well electric motor systems work for sailing. What we learn will be used to design, plan and eventually build a system for a future 36-40 foot catamaran sailboat we'll be upgrading to sail around the world on 100% renewable energy from solar and wind (gasoline generator will be for emergency use only). Catamaran upgrade to electric motors will require the use of two motors mounted in replacement of two diesel motors.

Here is a video showing an Electric Yacht conversion story:

Here is a 40 foot sailboat conversion story from Electric Yachts web site, check it out:

It was a fortunate day in February 2008. Fortunate because hull number 82 of the legendary Cal 40 came my way and fortunate too because she came without an auxiliary. The diesel had expired and lay ashore somewhere waiting for yet another rebuild and more. Having had a couple of less than pleasant experiences with diesel motors in previous boats I had developed a phobia, an allergy even, to those belching complications. Normally I would go engineless or clamp an outboard on the stern but the Cal 40 was somewhat large and I did not want to remove a very useful Monitor vane to make way for an OMC. What to do?

I had heard of electric motors for sailboats but the task seemed daunting because I am a mechanical klutz and also with the boat in Malaysia and the electric units available only overseas, it appeared a mission impossible. Anyway, I plugged away on the Internet and on an off chance, sent an email to Electric Yacht and as they say, "the rest is history."

Scott McMillan immediately came to grips with the complication of installing an electric motor in the Cal 40. The motor needed to sit backwards and down into the pan which housed the v-drive. It would be tight. Measurements and details went back and forth for a while. Amazingly all my concerns were addressed, all emails were answered and I knew this guy was several steps ahead of me. But was it doable? Scott thought the dimensions might work but was concerned the 48 volt system was too small for my boat, being 15500 lbs displacement on a 30'04" waterline length. The decision was mine. I knew I was in good hands and put trepidations aside and mailed a check for the deposit. It was done.

There was a delivery backlog which gave me time to remove the old tank and its 110 litres(29galls) of diesel, get rid of forty years of crud and grime and cut out the v-drive with an angle grinder. White paint followed and the bilge shone. Scott sent me a photo of my unit with the super short shaft and pretty soon a hefty parcel arrived at RLYC Langkawi. Duty free, of course.

Custom built motor, throttle, percent meter, master switch, 48 to 12 volt converter, custom cableing for the batteries and the controller which Scott had built separately so it would'nt get wet at the companionway foot, detailed instructions ; it was all there. He'd even upgraded me to a dual 48/72 volt system, in case I should need it.

Often times things just fall in place. My South African friend, Faith offered to help. A piece of 2 by 4 drifted by and made a stong back from which to hang the motor on a handy billy and within a week it was all hooked up. No engineering, no dry dock.

Fortunately Trojan T105 batteries are available in Langkawi and with the help of a two young and strong Burmese workers we placed them in the space where the diesel used to sit. Not exactly level but secure and unable to come adrift at sea.

Now for the results:
Conditions; no wind, flat calm, runs up and down tide and averaged. GPS speed.

1.1 knots @ 4 amps,
1.93 knots @ 11 amps,
4.0 knots @ 72 amps.

Cal 40
LOA ----------------------- 39'04"
LWL ---------------------- 30'04"
BEAM ----------------------11'00"
Long fin, spade rudder, flat sections.

The motor limit comes on at 75 amps. The pitch is not quite right. It should go to 100 amps which may deliver another half knot and give a little more torque. The extra pulley Scott sent along for the 72 volt system may do the trick and I will swap it around soon. Otherwise I will have to adjust the Max Prop (self feathering) at next dry docking. Manoeuvering with the electric motor is a snap. Plenty of torque and of course no noise, no smoke. I charge up the batteries from shorepower at the marina via a battery charger. It's only pennies.

I have been in and out of the marina twice and the batteries are down 10%. When I extrapolate the data I come up with an endurance of 20 miles to a 50% discharge level and 30 miles to a 75% discharge level. Underway I will charge the batteries from the Air Marine wind mill; solar panels via Zahn's 12 to 48 volt optimizer. Another option is to change to a fixed propeller which would let the regen work on passage but the price is high; 15% loss could add up to a 30 mile a day deficit. There is a good chance I can do it all without buying a generator.which like the diesel is a step in the wrong direction.

Weight comparison might be of interest:

Perkins 4.107, Walter v-drive, full lube oil and bunkers, 4 Trojan T105, 1 starting battery, exhaust/cooling paraphanelia
Total approx weight…………………………555kgs(1228lbs)

Electric Yacht motor complete, 8 Trojan T105 batteries, Battery charger.
Total approx weight…………………………258kgs(567lbs)

That's it. I wish you, "Good sailing". With emphasis on sailing. Ben Lexcen's famous edict, "Fast is fun" got it right. Sailing is; motoring is not. Electric Yacht is a happy compromise.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Main sail rigging

Decided to unwrap the main sail and start getting it rigged. Still don't know if we have a boom vang, so will continue to research that but in the mean time, need to get the main sail on so it feels like it is ready to go. The biggest sail bag I could find seemed like the right place to start. The top bit seemed right, with a ring that I could attach the halyard to. The bottom stern end of the sail also had a wring that I could attach to the out haul. The bottom of the main sail slipped nicely into the rail on the boom, which I pulled out until it was completely threaded onto the boom. I then attached the main sheet halyard and began to tug the sail up the mast putting the plastic bits into the slide rail as I went. Up she goes. Got about half way up and noticed that we have some pockets for battens. Went down below and found four battens. The smallest one fit perfectly in the top batten pocket. The next largest was next and so on. The last pocket was too small for our last long batten, so not sure whether we're missing one or it isn't used.

With Leigh helping, we then lowered the sail flaking as we went, just like in the basic sailing course and our Guadeloupe trip. We did a reasonably handsome job of folding the sail on the boom, about a foot on each side, pulled nicely towards the stern as we went in order to keep the sail from overlapping with the mast. Once we had about half the sail down we wrapped and tied, with a reef knot, the first half the the sail. Next we brought down the rest and tied up the middle and front end of the sail. A beautiful dark blue sail cover fits snuggly over the sail, wrapping around the mast and protecting our big main sail. She is ready to sail...just need to ask about the missing batten at the bottom, as well as rigging up some reefing line to the sail.

Feels good to have that sail ready to go. Still working on the engine and electrical systems. Hoping to get out soon. Also need to pull out the jib and genoa sails and see what kind of shape they are in.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Oops, now the boom

So, a couple important things. First, we had the main halyard and the topping lift (the line that holds the stern (back) end of the boom) on the bow (front) side of the boat. That means it was looped over the spreaders and needed to be moved to the stern side. We must have made a mistake when raising the mast and left these two lines on the wrong side...note for next time, keep them on the stern side before raising the mast. This is THE way to learn, the hard way, one that makes it hard to forget.

Soooo, how to get those pesky lines on the  correct side of the rigging? Bosuns chair, apparently a device that allows one, with some help, to be raised up the mast to do work such as this. Don't have one yet. A little nervous of the idea. Would have to learn this whole rig-a-ma-roll (sounds like that little expression came from sailing?). Think. Try out every line, see what pulls what, could one of the lines haul up the messed up lines and then drop them on the correct side and return...not likely? Interesting, the topping lift has no line to raise it up. Only the main sail halyard has a line that can raise it. So, we try raising it with the topping lift line goes up, but doesn't feel like it'll have enough weight to come down...too much friction. So, I start tying various tools on to give it this required weight...wrench, spanner, another wrench. Getting heavy enough to come down once lifted up. Then I see that when it hits the spreaders it get stuck...won't go higher as the spreader is blocking the path.

Attach another thin line to the weight and use this to pull the whole thing towards the bow as we reach the spreader, then, as the boat rolls a little I pull and let the weight swing towards the stern and at the moment it is past the spreader heading further towards the stern I quickly lower the weight, bang, into the mast, but nicely below the spreader, now on the correct stern side of the boat. so many ways. Imagine, as I had visions of, a large set of steel tools up at the spreaders, stuck, dangling and clanging at everyone, look over here at this bozo. Fortunately, this time this ridiculous work-around has a pleasant ending.

With the topping lift and main sail halyard now on the stern side of the rigging, we are ready (or at least so I think) to attach the boom to the mast. We (my Dad and I), attach the topping lift clip and line to the loop and cleat, adjusting it to the height that ensures the pin goes through the connection at the mast. I slide the boom into the gooseneck, drop the large think long pin down into the hinge, pop a cotter (someone mentioned I spelled this differently in a past blog, and perhaps even in reference to a different piece of, learn, try, forget and learn again) pin in to hold the large pin in place. She holds nice and fast, providing a boom that appears to be in the correct place, and the right way up.

I'd gotten the few block and tackle gizmos and lines that looked like the right pieces for holding the boom in place. Was trying to get the boom vang as well, which I thought I had, but turned out to be the main sheet (think rope with pulleys for hauling the boom in and out through tacks, know). Review some similar C&C boats, for ideas, and then hooked up the main sheets that clicked right into place towards the stern end of the boat on the boom. This also clipped in nicely to the slider system in the cockpit. A nice pull on the main sheet and the boom tightens up nicely into place. It swings back and forth when pulled in and out (useful for performing the necessary tacks). We then lock it into place in the centre of the boat so that it holds the boom in place right down the middle for now (some people clip it in to the side opposite the dock so that there is lots of room in the cockpit when docked).

It wasn't elegant and there was some thinking that perhaps we should wait for others to tell us how, but this attempting, trying and learning through every little mistake is quite a thrill. For today, the story ends well. I am sure there will be many ups and downs through this process. In fact the downs make the ups feel that much more exhilarating once accomplished.

Next hurdles include boom vang (no idea on this one yet...may just be some of the line and some pulleys). Then the sails need to be mounted and adjusted. Also, the electric motor is still on order and we will need to work through hauling the Atomic 4 gasoline engine out, clean the area and replace with the electric and batteries.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Raising the mast

Since our Atomic 4 gasoline engine would not start we got a tow to the area where the crane can hoist the mast onto the boat. Preparation for this maneuver included first getting about seven guys to lift the heavy long mast down off the storage racks. Once down and sitting on four horses spread about twenty feet apart we began hosing down about four years of dust, dirt, bird crap, spider nests and who knows what else. After the initial hosing down we began scrubbing with sponges with an abrasive scrubber side. The slide rail needed an especially thorough cleaning to ensure nothing would cause it to get caught on the sail slides going up but especially when bringing it down. We ran our hands along all of the standing rigging which is made out of steel cable to make sure there were no burrs that might be a sign of damage and potential hazard for the sails to get caught on.

Once everything was thoroughly washed and cleaned we were told to use an acid wash to get the mast even cleaner. Also, all the rope (lines) had to be cleaned as they had accumulated a lot of dirt. At the bottom of all the standing rigging are turnbuckles. Each of these was thoroughly cleaned with water and then WD 40 was used to lubricate them to ensure they would turn easily without jamming. It was important to ensure that the steel rigging did not get bent improperly as this could permanently damage them. The sailboats chainplates and shackles were checked with cotter pins and split rings placed ready in these fittings to which the shrouds will be attached to secure the mast forward and aft (front and back), starboard and port (right and left). We were missing one on the starboard side. Keep spares available. Lubricate all moving parts so halyards are turning pulleys smoothly, check for abrasion and replace as necessary. Check all the clevis pins. They should be secured and ready to be taped so they don't damage the sails.

The boat was positioned close to the crane so that the mast, once raised would be directly under the mast seat and deck hole for the mast. The mast was positioned with the rail side up so that as the mast was lifted and moved over the boat it would be facing the stern (back) of the boat where the main sail will be mounted on that slide rail. A bowline was used to secure a very thick (1/2 inch) line (rope) to the middle of the mast, about eight inches below the spreaders. This was then tied down at the base (bottom) of the mast so that the loop in the middle would not slide up into the spreaders. The spreaders were attached with some screws and then taped with white electrical tape. The upper shrouds were then attached to the spreaders, plastic caps placed over them, and these then taped with white electrical tape on all three side to ensure it stays on and protects the sails. It is very important to ensure that the standing rigging from the top of the mast are all on the right sides and that they are not going to get wrapped up by the rope or crane. All standing rigging required on the port side was placed on the part side and all rigging required on the starboard side were placed on that side. The essential point is to ensure the upper rigging does not get trapped on the wrong side of the rope being used to raise the mast. Be sure the halyards are not entangled with the spreaders. Tape spreaders ends to ensure they won't damage the sails.


We should have tested all the lights with a portable 12 volt batter and labeled the wires. We didn't know this at the time.

The cranes hook was lowered into position and secured on the loop tied with a bowline at the centre of the mast just below the spreaders. The key is not to allow the substantial weight of the mast to be held by the the tied roped at the base of the mast must be secure and no stretch or loosening of the loop in the middle should allow for this.With at least three people, but ideally with four or five, the mast can then be raised.

The crane winch is first used to slowly start lifting the mast with the hook attached to the loop in the middle of the mast. The base of the mast must be held by someone as it will want to swing back towards the crane and lake. Keep the base of the mast down towards the ground and the mast will then start to stand upright as it is lifted higher. Keep an eye on all the shrouds and rigging to ensure it isn't getting caught on any of the horses. The cranes hook cables should also be secured so they don't twist s they will have a tendency to do. The manned positions are an operator of the crane winch, someone strong and heavy to keep the base of the mast down and guided, a crane rotation operator, and someone ready on the deck of the sailboat prepared to guide the mast into the mast base hole and the seat once it goes through the hole in the main cabin. With the mast hanging directly over this mast base hole, get the mast perfectly vertical and position the boat so that the hole is directly under the mast by shifting the boat in the mooring back or forward. Slowly, very slowly, lower the mast into the hole, with the hand on deck guiding it into place, keeping all the electrical wiring (for lighting and radio antenna) well clear of getting caught or pinched. Adjust the boat and crane as required to keep the mast coming straight down into the hole.

Once the mast is in the hole a foot or two the deck hand can go inside the cabin to prepare to lower the mast onto the base plate shoe. Here it is critical to get everything positioned perfectly so that as the mast is lowered it will sit right in the shoe. Move the boat six inches at a time back or forward until the mast appears to be ready to meet the shoe, the mast should be within an inch or two of the shoe to make these adjustments. Check the vertical positioning as well. Once things look like they will meet when lowered, lower away SLOWLY, muscling the mast into the shoe. Once sitting in the shoe, secure the standing rigging, starting with the forestay, then the backstay, then the upper shrouds on both sides of the boat, and then the lower shrouds on both sides of the boat. Secure with codder pines and split rings. Codder pins are pushed through towards the bow of the boat. Insert all clevis pins with heads forward or outboard, and tape over the bent cotter pins to protect the sails.

The hook was then lowered using a pole to ease the loop over the steaming light on the forward side of the mast.

We still need to place the wedges around the mast at the collar where the mast exits the cabin. We also still need to lead running rigging to the appropriate blocks and winches and connect light wires.

Bring the mast down simply reverses this process.