Ice-Box Conversion to Fridge

Last year, I posted a blog about my plans to install an Isotherm Self Pumping refrigerator conversion – and this year I have finally completed the job. It works!

The ice-box, now refrigerated, is to the left of the cooker, and the compressor gubbins is to the right, in what was the trash container (that I used as a dry food store). I fitted the compressor to the bottom half of the compartment, and put a clear Lexan cover over it, to protect the unit from spilled water from the taps. I will fit a drain, to take spilled water down under the sink.

The evaporator is fitter to the ice box, which had no insulation on the engine-side, where the fridge used to be. So I fitted some closed-cell insulating foam board – the purple stuff, an offcut of which I have used to act as extra insulation for the lid. I will seal this piece to make it more durable.

Now, I need to seal the windows, to stop rain and seawater from leaking in and draining into the icebox. The great news is that a couple of cooler blocks and some bags of ice in the bottom of the icebox stay frozen, and there is no compressor noise, nor is there any pump to consume battery power whilst under sail.

Aerial Pics

I finally plucked up the courage to fly my Solo Drone to take some pics of Frank.

The goal was to take a look at the top of the mast, so I could decide where to put the Bluetooth wind instrument from SailTimer. And to get some external pics of Frank. 

Here is the video On YouTube, and here on Dropbox:Birdseye View of Frank. It works best if you download rather than stream from the link – the file is about 70mb.

Top of mast showing light, antenna and missing wind vane


Christmas Lights

Today, Corpus Christi Marina had its Boat Parade, in which Frank took part by not participating, thus keeping the average quality high. Boats motor past the assembled throng beautifully illuminated with Christmas lights aloft.

I did not watch because I have been fixing Frank’s mandatory and domestic lighting.

When the mast was stepped for the keel refit, the rigger cut the wires for lights, wind instrument and the vhf co-ax. I ran a new (thicker, better) co-ax down the mast, topped with a better antenna from Vesper Marine, a Kiwi company. The antenna is attuned to the Vosper Watchmate AIS transponder as well as supporting the VHF and AM/FM/SWB radio.

To get from the boatyard to Corpus Christi marine I rigged up a temporary connection for the VHF and navigation lights. So finally, I have fixed things properly.

The mast light that was fitted when I bought Frank was an LCD tri-light, and it soon failed. So I replaced it with a combo tri nav light and anchor light. The light is changed between modes (navigation and anchor) by reversing the polarity. Not having the right switches at the lighting panel, I jury rigged a toggle switch where the cable from the mast joined the cables to the power. In the heads. Not very elegant but it worked.

I have moved the toggle switch to the control panel, making things much tidier and easier. 

The running light and spreader light are rather odd, in that the yellow/green wire is live, as is the brown one. One for each light. I am not sure why the spreader light is so named, as it illuminated the foredeck from below the spreaders. Anyway, after some trial and error, which seemed to indicate a short somewhere either in the mast or between power switch and junction box, I wired them too. No short.

Next was the interior. One twist light (rotate the cover to turn off and on) has disintegrated inside – I might scavenge from an unused light in the locker. Another turned itself on and off at random, and I have fixed that. Both port and starboardlight circuits are now working, but I need to replace a couple of bulbs (lcd).

The Bow navigation light was another jerry rigged patch. The original had given up the ghost, and the wiring in the chain locker was rotten. So, back in Gosport in 2014 I installed a new light. The original wire is hard mounted into the fiberglass and is routed between the inner and outer hulls, so totally inaccessible, as well as rotten. So I ran a new wire to a switch that I installed in the front V berth. Not very practical but it did the job. 

Happily, I found some good, unused wires that run from the control panel to the heads – live, negative and earth. I used the earth for the mast light and the +ve and -ve ones to run power from the nav light switch at the control panel to the bow light.

I have lost power to the light of one compass, but that can be remedied later.

So I no longer need to head to the heads to set the navigation lights!

As a special treat, I polished the kettle “as new”, so it is a joy to use on the newly polished stove.

Next I have to decide what to do with the log, which is rigged above the chart desk, because I did not want to cut the co-ax cable in order to thread it through the boat up to the binacle.

Then I will tidy up the electrics at the chart desk. Lost more to do, but making progress…

Webasto Diesel Heater 

Frank has a Webasto Air Top 2000 diesel heater – it takes a minescule feed of diesel from the engine’s fuel tank and burns it, generating warm air which is ducted into the boat. 

The unit was cleaned and serviced before I left the UK, but it had a problem which caused the heater to shut down after 10 minutes, which was actually enough to warm up the boat during the winter. However, I was a tad concerned about using it, and eventually ignored it. Further south and west, I had no need of it.

This Thanksgiving weekend I fixed the wiring (corroded connections) and also fixed a small leak in the fuel supply feeder pipe.

Here is the new pipe, plus a couple of shots of the fuel tank which is in the port lazarette:

The heater seems to work, but I will need colder weather to give it an extended test.

Heads-up! Holding Tank false cupboard

To be USCG (US Coast Guard) compliant, I had to either fit a holding tank or sling the heads before entering US waters. Some Sadler 34 owners have fitted custom holding tanks behind the toilet, in the heads compartment. To get the job done simply, and more economically, I opted for this unattractive approach:

40 liter holding tank from

The holding tank is from Tek Tanks of Alton, Hants in England. They have a database of custom tanks for a load of boats, based on previous projects, but I will stick with the current setup for a year or so.

The plan is to hide it behind a wooden shell, made to look like a cabinet. This bulkhead is the driest part of the boat, so I will add a storage space to the right of the tank, (looking at it), for charts, manuals, documents etc. The loss of space would be a pain if there were four or five crew, but it is fine for one or two.

As an aside, my log was completely ruined after crossing Biscay in November 2014. It was “safely” stored in the desk, and water poured in through the leaky port above the desk, as well (I think) as through the open hatchway when a few massive waves snuck up behind me and took out the sprayhood. I then discovered plastic paper log books, which work great with pencil, and are resilient against sea, rain and flood.

I have ordered a Non-contact tank level sensor, from New Providence Marine. It means that I don’t have to fit a mechanical device inside the tank. It comes with a gauge which I will install in the heads compartment, warning people not to flush the loo if the tank is full.

The sensor has two foil strips running vertically, 3″ or 4″ apart, down the outside of the tank. I think it will have to be fitted to the rear of the tank, against the bulkhead.

[When I first bought her, I could not find the holding tank (it was a crappy hand-over). I called or texted from the Irish Sea and learned that there was none. This explained why it was backed up.]

The tank takes up valuable foot space when sleeping in that bunk, unfortunately, but it will be fine for someone 5’8″ or less. And, of course, a place at the dining table is sacrificed, but for the next year or so, it will do. Especially if it is disguised as a cabinet or cupboard!

Finding Those Hidden Rigging Problems

Standing rigging is slowly decaying. Like dental decay. Regular checkups and frequent inspection will save you from DIY root canal surgery mid Atlantic!

When Frank was out of the water at St Croix Marine in St Croix, USVI, I noticed a potential problem with one of the shrouds. A strand appeared to be kinked where the cable went into the turnbuckle.

strand to left is kinked – broken inside the swage

 Jerry The Rigger was my “local” rigger in Gosport, England, as well as for the ARC, which I had intended to join, so I knew where to check. I sent this pic to him, and he advised me to get a knife or screwdriver in between that kink and check the strand. It was broken.

I shimmied up the mast using my Aloft Alone kit to check the upper rigging. All looked fine, but I had a nagging doubt and went back up to take a second look.

Sure enough, on closer inspection, the head or baby stay had a broken strand at the swage up top. 

Problem: Selden do not have an agent in St Croix, and the swages are unique to Selden.

The marina rigger did not have the right size wire, as Frank has both 7mm and 8mm shrouds. Bear in mind that the US does not do mm, and I had to translate this into Imperial. The nearest source was in St Barts (I think – will check). So I ordered swages and wire, which was flown in via Antigua after a lot of delay.

Unfortunately, the rigger had a mishap and mangled a swage at the turnbuckle. This meant that the “T-Hook” swage for the mast end of the stay, which he had already attached, was wasted. I only had one 8mm T Hook, so had to order more. 

The old T Hook Swages

The mangled new Swage

These ended up spending two weeks going from St Barts to Antigua to St Kitts to Antigua to, eventually and many calls later, to St Croix. I ordered extra!
Finally, the turnbuckle at the forestay did not fit the deck mounting. So I had to buy a new turnbuckle from the store, which they had. 

Always do a close, visual and physical check of your standing rigging, especially at the swage – the damage will be worse just inside the swage, where you can’t see it. And carry spares!

Jerry Henwood aka the aforementioned Jerry The Rigger sold me a A great emergency repair kit from Sta-Lok for use when a shroud breaks at sea, which I did not have to use, but always carry. One set for each size.

For emergencies, by the way, rather than bolt cutters to remove shrouds in case of a dismasting or other problem, I recommend an angle grinder. It can be used one-handed, so you can cling to the boat or the shroud with one hand: you might be in heavy weather. Besides, bolt cutters are very hard to use in the best of conditions – don’t believe what you see in the movies. Bouncing around in a F10 on deck with both hands gripping a bolt cutter is not going to cut it.

Onboard tools should be rechargeable, with spare cutting wheels and spare, interchangeable batteries. I have standardised on DeWalt, so that I know I will have power for cutting sawing and drilling at sea.

For more info on ARC and crossing the Atlantic : Practical Boat Owner ran this article in March 2016.

Radio GaGa updated Sept 10 2016

(Added the name plate with callsign etc to the vhf panel – pic below)

I had to replace the old VHF, as the mic lead had disintegrated in the heat of the Caribbean. Or… Mice?

The new one was a different size profile, and I only had a Dremel, so I made a bad job of fitting it into the “cubby”, as I was just trying to get everything ready to escape before Christmas.

I have made a new frame to fit the vhf, and bought a couple of adapters, so that it is attached to the fascia, rather than to a stand. The pics will explain. 

Note that slot cut into the inner hull side – you can see light through the hull. I am guessing that the original vhf was bigger and the installer cut into the inner hull and 2″ of foam, to give space to the radio’s heat sink.

A bit of varnish makes all the difference…shame I could not match the wood. I have ordered an engraved plate with Vessel Name, call sign (Mike Echo Charlie Whisky Eight), O/N 701429 and MMSI (too long).

A bit messy – someone else before my time added the white gunge, by the way. 

All set, and it works better too!

SailTimer Wireless Wind Instrument

My new SailTimer wind instrument finally arrived today.

It is a Bluetooth wireless device, to replace the NASA Marine Clipper unit, which has a cable from masthead to cockpit, where the display unit site. The Clipper stopped working months ago, with the masthead unit having given up the ghost and, I suspect, the wire having some breaks in it.

This Sailtimer unit should transmit to my iPhone(s), iPad, etc as well as give me access to Crowdsourced wind wherever there are users – both historical and in realtime.

The Unit:

How it is supposed to look, once installed:

I will use my Aloft Alone kit to shimmy up the mast and install it – perhaps next weekend.

Frank Update

Out if the water for the hurricane season

Out of the water for the hurricane season


Westward Ho

After parking up in St Croix in March 2015, I had a couple of days to get things half tidied up and then headed to Austin Texas  for work. So this week (11-14 Oct ’15) was the first opportunity that I had to get back to Frank in seven months.

I still have to update the blog to cover the journey and stuff that has happened since then.

Quick points:

  1. Getting from Gosport to Falmouth took a long time, mainly because there was a persistent dead short which was caused by poor work by the company which removed and rebuilt the engine. The tail end of a hurricane and some other “stuff” also made it interesting to get to the jumping-off point.
  2. November 3rd, 2014 Frank finally headed out across Biscay, WestSouthWest and then south. It was bumpy in places, I lost the halyard off the main and the repaired sprayhood was shredded in a storm.
  3. Instead of heading south to the canaries, I opted for Camarinas, a small fishing port on the NW tip of Spain. I used my Aloft Alone kit to shimmy up the mast and retrieve the halyard.
  4. Further electrical problems (main earth wire glowing red, wrapped around the fuel line – good job I was not mid Atlantic) and some business issues meant that I decided to park Frank there over Christmas and head back to Texas.
  5. January 2015 I returned to find that Frank’s short had returned in my absence and the starter motor had burned itself out, the engine had been running itself until the diesel in the tank (fortunately low) ran out.
  6. I commissioned a stainless steel frame to go over the hatchway from a local firm in Camarinas; about $100 and done in 24 hours. Great! I had brought with me from the UK, “for emergencies”, several sheets of 1 inch marine ply. So I knocked up a “chicken coop”, attached it to the steel frame and put some acrylic windows in. Not pretty but very effective and the local fishermen loved it.

    Weather-worn chicken coop - did the job.

    Weather-worn chicken coop – did the job.

  7. Set off February 4th, headed to the Canaries. Lost the main halyard again trying to put in a reef in a hard blow. Replaced it with the topping lift, which then managed to get tangled up at the top of the mast.

    Main Halyard making like a python in the rigging.

    Main Halyard making like a python in the rigging.

  8. I used my Aloft Alone kit on a calm day out in the Atlantic to climb the mast. The topping lift was freed and served as my halyard until I arrived at Porto Santos. I refueled, re-provisioned and used my Aloft Alone kit again to retrieve the main halyard, which I wired to ensure that it stayed put.
    Porto Santos - a 12 hour stop-over to refuel, re-provision & recover the main halyard.

    Porto Santos – a 12 hour stop-over to refuel, re-provision & recover the main halyard.

    Frank with blue sprayhood at Portland Marina, en route to Falmouth, September 2014.

  9. My Hydrovane did not work. It kept wanting me to head to port. But my satcom did work, so eventually I emailed the company and sent them some photos. It transpired that a boat had hit my stern (probably in Gosport Marina) and bashed the Hydrovane rudder drive out of line. So with some great tech support from Hydrovane, mid Atlantic, I hung off the stern and with some nifty spanner work set things right.
  10. Before fixing the Hydrovane I had been using my Autohelm. The original one burned out in Bascay when it was deluged with water and shorted out, but I found a replacement on eBay, and fitted it in January ’15. The problem being that it required a lot of battery power, which meant running the engines, and also lengthy spells of hand steering. It is easy to lose concentration when hand steering, especially close to the wind, when a tied tiller is not so effective.
  11. I can heartily recommend a (working!) Hydrovane. As soon as I had it set correctly, it worked flawlessly all the way to The Caribbean.
  12. Instead of my first planned stop of Tortola, BVI, I headed to St Croix, USVI, and arrived just before dawn on March 8th 2015. I had a gear selector problem – no forward gear! I arranged for a tow into Green Cay Marina: after superb weather all the way across, a squall hit just as we were attaching the tow line, and all the way into the marina.
  13. At the end of June I asked St Croix Marine to move Frank for me, and to get her out of the water for the impending Hurricane season.
  14. Repairs and damage:  half way across I lost the first reefing line, and the second was very frail. The outhaul went. The chicken coop was great! No more electrical problems but there is a short between the head of the mast and the port side wiring. The gooseneck was discovered to be fractured – I had not noticed this, and it was not apparent until the boom was removed to fix the outhaul and reefing lines.Broken Gooseneck                                      The gear selector cable was replaced (the gear selector problem had fixed itself but I wanted to ensure it did not return). Poling out – the pole that came with Frank is from another boat, and would not fit into Frank’s mast fitting. So I rigged up (lashed up) a rope fitting which served me well all the way across. The power winches came and went – the port one failed. I think it is a bad power supply. This made changing tack laborious but was not a crisis.
  15. My ample supplies of Red Bull corroded through the tins and this in turn helped to rot through some of my tinned food supplies. Never mix dry and wet! I had plenty of food and water.
  16. Kit. The AIS generally worked well, but would sometimes flake out. The Garmin 750 plotter was great but would sometimes freeze. The Iridium SatCom was superb (but the email bill was horrendous!). It was impossible to get my weather report and GRIB service over satcom.The best single piece of kit was my InReach Explorer – I could send and receive text and email messages and people could track me.
  17. More kit.The log failed but I had several other systems and I also had a spare but did not want to replace it at sea unless all other systems failed.The wind measure became inaccurate. I think I will replace wind and speed measurement with wireless, because the mast is crowded inside with wires, leading to potential for shorts and water ingress.
  18. Most useless kit: the refrigerator. I donated this to a charity in Dartmouth. Every time I had a problem with the electrics or engine I had to haul it out of its home.
  19. There is an inverted U tube through which wires run from the foot of the mast and into the boat. This has sustained damage – whether on the journey or when the boom was being repaired I don’t know, but I need to get rid of some wires and fit a new gland to replace this item.
  20. Cosmetically, Frank looks unloved. I need to clean up the woodwork but that will wait. I have a perspex-and-steel design in mind for the hatchway cover, with in-built solar panels. The chicken coop was much safer than the spray hood when going forwards, by the way. The sprayhood required me to go wide, which was nerve-wracking in a big sea at night with the wind blowing a gale.I have to solve the propellor problem – why is she underpowered into the sea with 38hp of motor? Yesterday I received a maintenance kit for the rope cutter – new anode, dampers and bearing.
  21. I will have her cleaned, new antifoul applied and put back in the sea late November. I asked Judd at the yard to take a look at the standing rigging and will decide on that soon.
  22. More anon!
  23. The Old Man and The Sea

    The Old Man and The Sea

    Heading into Sunset

    Heading into Sunset

    Culet leads the way

    Culet leads the way

    Manx Red Ensign

    Manx Red Ensign

    Bearded Salt

    Bearded Salt