Sunday, 3 February 2019

Winter Maintenance in London #4

Hi everyone,
Maintenance continues!  Since our last post we've been working on two main projects.

Liferaft inflated
Liferaft Service

Our Australian-purchased Great Circle 4-person liferaft went out of service in May last year.  We needed to have it serviced, and also wanted it in a canister instead of a valise.  Great Circle helped us find a service centre able to do the work in the UK.

SeaGo Yachting based in Sussex did the work and provided a helpful set of photos.  We opted for a 24-hour equipment pack.  The air cylinder had to be pressure-tested due to its age but the liferaft itself is in good condition.

24-hour pack contents

24-hour pack container
Liferaft sealed and in canister base
Liferaft in canister
We changed from a valise to the canister to allow relocation of the liferaft.  Previously it has been strapped down in the aft part of the cockpit.  This was fine except that it consumed useful cockpit floor area.  Our plan is to have a stainless steel frame manufactured to hold the liferaft canister.  It will mount on the transom or outside the pushpit.

Toilet Replacement

When we bought Zen Again she had a TMC electric toilet.  We've never been big fans of electric toilets but it has served us well.  We refurbished the unit in 2012 while in Darwin, replacing the electric motor, seals etc.

In Thailand in 2013 we replaced all sea cocks.  Just before leaving Fremantle in 2015 we had to haul out the boat and replace the two head sea cocks.  Both weren't closing properly and the discharge hose was almost blocked.  We always open and close both head inlet and head outlet sea cocks at every use.  That's about 3000 cycles per year!

TMC Electric Toilet
Recently we have noticed water leaking into the toilet.  Investigation suggested both head sea cocks were leaking.  Further, the inlet vented loop and the toilet outlet check valve were malfunctioning.  We decided it was time to "bite the bullet" and replace the toilet system - everything except the sea cocks which will have to wait for a haul-out in the Spring.

The old system came out easily enough.  We left the hoses from the sea cocks in place, held up above the water line so no water ingress was possible.

Old toilet homeless 
Old toilet removed
Our previous boat Degrees of Freedom had a Blake's Lavac toilet.  Lavacs are manual toilets using a vacuum system.  On one memorable occasion we used a "wandering hose" plugged into the Lavac to pump 1.5 tons of water out of the boat.  We like Lavacs and so we chose one as our new toilet.

The Lavac uses a 1.5" Henderson pump.  We mounted the pump in the head locker above the sea cocks.  We fitted vented loops in both inlet and outlet hoses, with reducers to/from the 1" hoses to the sea cocks.
Lavac pump in the locker
New hoses on the sea cocks
1" inlet vented loop with reducer to 3/4" for Lavac
(note the Japanese "waterline" label)
1.5" outlet vented loop
The main challenge in installing the new toilet was fitting the new hoses, particularly to the sea cocks and the Lavac.  Fitting new hoses to the sea cocks was particularly exciting since they were leaking!  Our usual method of softening the hose in hot water didn't work in the cold weather here.  We borrowed a hot air gun, which did the trick easily.  We now have one of our own aboard!

Lavac toilet installed
Lavac Head with pump handle socket at left
Later this year we plan to refurbish the head compartment.  We'll replace the original GRP sink with a stainless steel unit and repaint the entire compartment.  We'll also tidy up the very "holy" wall on the left of the picture above.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Winter Maintenance in London #3

Hi everyone,
Since the New Year we've had several spare days in which to concentrate on maintenance.

Jobs Done (HF/SSB at left)
Here's the list we attacked...
  • Refurbish instrument panel facia
  • New HF/SSB
  • Autopilots Networking/Location
Instrument Panel

When we originally bought Zen Again (Zen at that time) instrument panel was small with a book case aft.  The nav table top was in two halves with instruments taking up a lot of space...

NavStation 2010
Over the next year we transformed it into this...

NavStation 2011
Since then various instruments have come and gone.  The original polycarbonate panel was modified to accommodate the changes.  Empty cut-outs were covered with laminex patches which eventually created an ugly patchwork.

The first step of the refurbishment was removing the backup autopilot controller and the solar panel regulator from the panel.  The former was to move to the cockpit and the latter moved below the panel to a spot previously occupied by a speaker.  We now use bluetooth speakers aboard.

Relocated Solar Panels Regulator
The next step of this job was removing the laminex patches, exposing the ugliness beneath...

Initially stripped instrument panel
We then made a template for the new instrument panel facia.  Happily we had enough laminex aboard to make it up in two pieces.  Cutting them to shape used a drill, three different saws and our marvellous Dremel.  The latter is fantastic - every boat needs one!

With the laminex fitted over the polycarbonate the panel was looking a little sparse!  So we attached a couple of pictures.  For future passages we'll probably attach relevant reference material.  By the way, the two boats shown are (left) Critical Path, a Viking 30, and (right) Degrees of Freedom, our lovely one-off Runnalls 38.  Over the years Zen Again has become Degrees-like in so many respects.

Refurbished instrument panel
While working on the NavStation we also updated the labels documenting the travels of Shirahae / Zen / Zen Again...

Updated Zen Again Story

When we initially fitted-out Zen Again for Bluewater cruising we fitted an Icom M802 marine HF/SSB.  This replaced an Icom IC-7000 amateur radio which we'd had prior to buying Zen.  The M802 proved to be a great radio as shown on this blog at various times...
Over the years we've also blogged on general HF topics...
A little background is worthwhile here.  The M802 is a marine radio primarily designed for the "rest of world" market.  The EU mandates more exacting standards, and Australia even more exacting.  So Icom produces the M801E for Europe and a special variant of the M801E only sold in Australia.

On arrival in the UK in 2016 we decided to sell various items.  We sold the M802 since it commanded a good price on eBay and we knew we wouldn't be Bluewater cruising for several years.  So deciding to buy a new HF radio is an exciting step - we're thinking about returning to Bluewater again!

We've been researching options for some time.  We decided to fit an Amateur radio since they are generally much cheaper but also offer much greater control.  Many more buttons to play with!  We decided on an Icom IC-7300

Happy New Year to Zen Again!
Installation was straight-forward.  We had left the antenna feed and antenna tuner control cables in place, running from the NavStation aft to the lazarette.  A few weeks ago I reconnected the antenna tuner output via the thru-deck to the backstay - it had been disconnected since the standing rigging renewal last winter.

Happily our Icom AT-140 antenna tuner (which we kept) is compatible with the IC-7300, only needing rewiring to a larger connector.

Up,  Running & Tuned for the Shipping Forecast
Last night we tried out the radio's reception.  On the 40m/7MHz amateur band stations were booming in from all over Europe including Austria and Spain.  Very nice.  I tried tuning up the radio but didn't try to join the party.  Transmitting out of St Katherine Dock will be challenging (like any marina) since we're surrounded by masts and also high apartment buildings.

Some of you may have noticed from the top photo above that the radio isn't readily controlled manually from the NavStation.  That's OK since Icom provide software to control the radio from a computer.  That's how we plan to drive it at sea.  In harbour I can play with the radio while sitting in the saloon - perfect!


We have two entirely redundant Raymarine SPx5 autopilots.  These have previously been connected into our NMEA0183 network.  The latter is rapidly disappearing as we migrate to NMEA2000.

Although the SPx5 supports NMEA2000 it does not use a standard connector.  Instead it provides bare-wire connection.  Initial testing shows it works just fine.  The only trick was that the power/ground pair must be connected as well as the data pair.  The chartplotter can now see the autopilots.

With the networking accomplished we fitted the backup autopilot ST-6002 controller in the cockpit.  It replaced the VHF speaker previously installed there.  We want both autopilot controllers in the cockpit so we can "even up" their use.  There's a switch in the NavStation which selects which drives the ram.  A stock of rams completes our autopilot redundancy.

SPx5 autopilot in NMEA2000 device list
Twas great to get so much work done.  We're not cruising again yet, but we are doing "boat maintenance in an exotic location".

Trust all's well where you are!

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Winter Maintenance in London #2

Hi everyone,
Season's Greetings!  Hope everyone's having fun.  Here aboard Zen Again in St Katharine Docks we're keeping warm - just!  It's 3C outside and raining.  Below it is a cosy 17C.

Saloon with new cushions and Christmas decorations
Our latest winter maintenance has involved replacing our upholstery.  We now have new forepeak and saloon settee cushions which are marvellous.  We chose Shipshape Bedding to make them after talking with them at the 2017 Southampton Boat Show.

We're unsure how old the previous cushions were - we suspect at least 15 years.  The forepeak cushions were disposed of in 2013 when we were in SE Asia.  The quarter berth cushions went last year.  The former weren't being used and the mould was becoming hard to control back then in the humid heat.  The latter are unnecessary since the quarter berth is now a stowage area not a berth.

The project started in the autumn when we began measuring up for new forepeak cushions.  We knew we were soon going to be moving back aboard.  Sleeping in the two saloon settee berths was fine at sea but not when living aboard in a marina.

Template for the two forepeak cushions
(on a double-bed)
The forepeak has two fold-down, canvas-covered aluminium-frame pilot berths.  We wanted to bridge the gap between them to make a queen-size berth.  Shipshape Bedding suggested various ideas.  We decided to fit a triangular marine plywood board inside the main cushion, with the foam rebated for the board.

We had the board cut to size when in Cowes this year.  The two forepeak cushions were ordered in October and delivered on time in November.  It was great to have a nice comfy bed again!

Forepeak cushions
(note board location on underside)
In November we did templates for the saloon settee cushions.  We added details for the seat backs but are holding off having them made - cushions might be sufficient.  Each template was sent to Shipshape, checked by them, bill paid and then they started work.

Settee template in-situ
Saloon settee cushion - perfect fit
Last Wednesday evening we attended the Cruising Association's Christmas Dinner.  It started with mince pies and mulled wine at the club in Limehouse.  Next we walked to nearby St Anne's church for a Carol Service.  Finally back at the club we had a very nice Christmas meal.  All in very good company.

Zen Again sporting a Christmas Wreath

Trust all's well where you are!