Hindeloopen – First attempt at box berth mooring

We had a nice sail in great conditions from Enkhuisen to Hindeloopen.  Force 3 and flattish water until the last few miles.  Of course we were close hauled all the way because (like every day for the last few weeks) we were trying to go NE and the wind was from that direction.  Luckily Catherine likes helming upwind – the boat powers up and heels over, and it and feels like you are going fast.

There were loads of people out sailing because it was a sunny Saturday afternoon, but no sign of the commercial barge traffic that we saw on weekdays further South.

We arrived in Hindeloopen in mid afternoon and pulled over at the quay by the harbourmaster’s office.  Our new temporary mooring technique of motoring forwards against a stern spring worked well, and I went in to talk to the harbourmaster.  He directed us to a box berth in the marina.

Box berths are a common feature of the Baltic and the tideless parts of the Netherlands, but so far we’d managed to avoid mooring in one.  You moor your bow against a quay and tie your stern to a post on either side.  All the local boats have a wooden rubbing-strip around the outside so that they can slide against the piles as they enter without scratching their paint, which made me suspicious that mooring neatly in a box berth might not be trivial.

There was a strong crosswind on our designated berth, but luckily no boats on either side.  Lizzie is much narrower than most boats, so it would probably be impossible to attach both lines as we entered the berth.  We managed to put a line over the upwind post and made it into the berth ok, but I failed to tighten the line fast enough to stop the bow from crashing into the quay.  Oh well, only a slightly bent bow-roller.

Catherine quickly got the bow lines on and then were at least attached to dry land in a stable position.  It took several more minutes of manoeuvring before I was able to lasso the other post.  Then I realised that the posts had little ledges on to stop the lines falling into the water, but managed to retrospectively poke one of ours up onto the ledge with a boathook.

I’m not looking forward to trying to leave – Lizzie doesn’t manoeuvre well at the best of times, and the outboard motor doesn’t put any prop-wash over the rudder which means that she doesn’t turn until she is moving quite fast.  Hopefully there won’t be too many neighbouring boats to hit.

Anyway, Hindeloopen seems nice.  Mini canals and old buildings.  Very twee and full of German tourists.  Lots of nice cafes selling good pancakes.

 

Amended Plans

The osmosis treatment has overrun by several months, but hopefully now the end is in sight and we might have Lizzie back in the water in a few weeks time.

Because we have already missed a big chunk of the sailing season we have decided to postpone installing the exciting electric propulsion system until the winter.  Instead we are planning to buy a petrol outboard, which should be a lot quicker to install, meaning that we can set off as soon as possible.

Our new cruising chute from Kemp (e-sails.com) has arrived and looks great.  We are in the process of making a snuffer for it.

Dog Travel Rules

We are planning to take our dog with us on our sailing trip.  He has an EU (Irish) pet passport and is fully rabies vaccinated, so most of the border crossings should be simple.

Our intended route is something like:

  • UK
  • Netherlands
  • Germany
  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Back to the UK from one or more of the above countries.

This page summarises the rules as I understand them, and gives links to the information sources that I have used.  Please don’t rely on this without checking on the official websites for yourself!  In all cases, these rules apply to non-commercial transport of up to 5 dogs accompanied by their owner.

Netherlands

From another EU country this is simple: just need to have a passport and valid rabies vaccine.  The original vaccination must be at least 21 days ago, but it is ok if a booster was given more recently than that.

https://www.government.nl/topics/animal-welfare/question-and-answer/can-i-bring-a-pet-from-another-country-to-the-netherlands

https://english.nvwa.nl/topics/travelling-to-the-netherlands-with-your-dog-or-cat/travelling-from-eu-member-states-to-the-netherlands

Germany

Seems like there are no rules other than the standard EU ones if you are moving between EU countries, except that there is a list of banned “dangerous dog breeds”.  This list includes Staffies and Staffie crosses.

http://www.zoll.de/EN/Private-individuals/Travel/Entering-Germany/Restrictions/Dangerous-dogs/dangerous-dogs.html

Denmark

The same EU rules apply.  You do not have to enter at an official “Traveller’s Point of Entry” unless you are coming from outside the EU.

If you stay longer than 4 weeks you must register your dog.  There is also a list of banned dog breeds, like Pit Bulls and American Staffies.

https://www.foedevarestyrelsen.dk/english/Self-Service/Guides/Pages/How-to-travel-with-your-dog.aspx

Sweden

Usual within-EU rules apply.  If you are coming from Norway the rules are similar.

“The animal must enter Sweden at a customs station, where you must report to a customs officer that you are bringing a pet animal.”  Note that this is not the same as having to enter at one of the two “Entry Points” (which are airports in Gothenburg and Stockholm).

http://www.jordbruksverket.se/swedishboardofagriculture/engelskasidor/animals/import/dogscatsandferrets/bringingadogcatorferretfromaneucountryoraneurelatedcountry.4.295b2341134f64e5d6280001082.html

Norway

You need all the usual passport and rabies stuff.  However, unless travelling direct from the UK you also need to have a certificate from a vet showing that the dog has recently had tapeworm treatment.  This can either be:

“given in the country of departure no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours before entering Norway”

or

“regular treatment every 28 days and the dog has been treated minimum two days before entering Norway”

This applies even for Norwegian dogs that have been on a day trip to Sweden!  The first option is the most common one.

If you are coming from Sweden and your papers are in order then you are allowed to use the green channel at customs.

As usual, there is a list of banned breeds.

https://www.toll.no/en/goods/animals/travelling-with-pets-to-and-from-norway/

https://www.mattilsynet.no/language/english/animals/travelling_with_pets/travelling_with_dogs_cats_and_ferrets_from_eucountries_to_norway.23686

Back to UK

This is the hard one.  The main problem is that you not only have to enter at one of a handful of official entry points, you also have to arrive on a registered carrier.  So you are definitely not allowed to sail back from Europe with your dog on board.

The general consensus seems to be that the lowest stress option is to fly to Paris and then cross the channel in a car on the Eurostar train.  There are companies which will come across the channel in a dog-transport van to collect you and the dog.

Preparing for a summer away

Catherine has handed in her notice and only has 2 weeks left at work.

We have sold our car, which was about to need lots of expensive work and insurance anyway.  Since then we needed a car for a couple of weekends, but managed to rent one for £25/day.

We are going to plant the allotment up with low maintenance crops which won’t be ready until the autumn, like potatoes.  Hopefully that will keep the allotment inspectors happy and we won’t lose the plot (so to speak).  We still might need to persuade someone to come and weed it occasionally.

We have got all the parts ready to convert Lizzie to electric propulsion, and built a wind-vane self steering gear.  Now we are waiting for Fox’s (the boatyard) to finish the osmosis treatment on the hull so that we can start our work on the boat.  They were supposed to have finished weeks ago, and have had the boat since November, but they took ages to get started and left her outside in the rain “drying” for several months before we found out and asked them to hot-vac the hull instead.

Self Steering Build

I’ve been working on the self steering system quite a lot over the last few weeks.  It is taking quite a lot of time to build!

I have built the adjustment dial and corresponding lever out of 10mm RG1000 (recycled ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) sheet.  This involved drilling 60 holes (giving 6-degree adjustment increments) and then finishing the slots with a knife:

I shaped the trim-tab rudder out of 18mm exterior plywood:

The wind vane is 3mm plywood on a hardwood stem.  The base of the stem is mounted in a block laminated from several sheets of plywood.   I have left the vane a lot larger than the original, but will probably have to trim it down to clear the transom and pushpit.  I don’t have access to the boat right now, so I’m not sure of the measurements.

I painted the whole wind vane assembly in white gloss.  The original Quartermaster vanes had  the stem part varnished, which would have looked better but would have taken a lot longer to make and would have been annoying to maintain because the vane is glued and pinned into a slot in the stem.

I started out using some water-based gloss paint but the brush marks were terrible so I switched to a spray can that I found in the shed.

Display for Electric Propulsion System

As I design control and monitoring systems for a living, I decided to build a custom display for the electric propulsion system we are installing.  Eventually it might combine data from the battery management system (BMS), motor controller and solar charge regulator, but initially we can get most of the information we need from the BMS.

I bought an e-ink display module and programmed a Seeeduino (an Arduino clone with 3.3V power option) to drive it using the GxEPD library.   Getting suitable fonts and icons to fit in the available storage space on the chip took a bit of customisation.  I added a tiny 12V-to-5V PSU module and installed it all into the casing of an old Clipper compass display.

Prototype
Fits perfectly into the case (with a small gap at the bottom)

The initial software is complete, though I have only tested it with simulated data because I haven’t powered the real BMS up yet.  The hardware worked in prototype but I need to solder it all together properly and add something to reduce the voltage on the incoming serial line from the BMS down to the 3.3V that the Seeeduino wants.

Battery Modification

The 16 LiFeYPO4 cells for the propulsion bank were actually bought as four 12V batteries rather than sixteen separate cells.  This reduces the amount of wiring required, and makes them easier to mount securely.

Unfortunately, the battery management system (BMS) requires a small wire to each individual cell to measure the voltage and balance the charge.  This meant I had to remove the glued-on lids from the batteries to access the individual cells.  A video on youtube gave me the confidence to attack my €2000-worth of batteries with a knife and hammer, and I managed to smash the lids off without too much damage (though the knife wasn’t much good afterwards).

The power connections on the top of each cell are made with M8 bolts, so I used a ring terminal to attach a monitoring lead to each cell.  As I wasn’t sure how the batteries were going to be mounted I didn’t want to have these new cables protruding from the sides, so I brought them out through a hole that I drilled in the centre of each battery’s lid.

These wires (obviously) aren’t fused so I’m being very careful about loose connections and chafe.  The bolts all have spring washers and are done up nice and tight.  I’ve added a thick piece of adhesive-lined heatshrink tubing around the cables as they exit the hole in the lid.

Once the lids were reinstalled I added a 6-way connector to each set of wires, and added mating connectors on the BMS harness.

Completed battery mod
Wiring harness for BMS

Later on I started removing the lids again to add a bead of silicon sealant around the join that I’d smashed open.  I was hoping to reduce the ingress of salty air and hence corrosion.  However, on the second battery the nut on the outside terminal cross-threaded really badly so I’ve given up on adding sealant now – I don’t want to damage any more.  The nuts are made from quite soft alloy, but to be fair I guess they are not really intended to be undone multiple times.  Luckily this doesn’t affect the inside thread which is the one which I need to connect the power cable; the damaged nut is really just holding the lid on.

Damaged thread on outside terminal

Electric Propulsion Part 2

A summary of the design:

The motor mount has arrived and is with the boatyard who are going to glass in some suitable engine mounts for it.  The batteries, BMS and charger have also arrived (great service from GWL Power in the Czech republic).  We are awaiting the rest of the kit from Lynch, which is due in a few weeks.

So far I have added the cell-balancing cables to the cells, built the wiring harnesses for the BMS and built most of the display (more details in future posts).

Electric Propulsion Part 1

We have removed the old broken diesel engine from our Contessa 26 and are replacing it with an electric motor.  This post discusses how we came to that decision.

We sailed all last year without a working engine, which was fine as we were based on a swinging mooring out on the river Orwell.  Picking up the buoy with shallow water, flukey wind and lots of other boats around was sometimes exciting, but we survived.

The main thing which held us back without an engine was being unable to manoeuvre in small spaces like marinas.  This also put us off visiting some places like the river Deben where there are (apparently) strong tides and narrow channels.

What Are Engines For?

Sailors basically use their yacht engines for four different things:

  1. Manoeuvring in and out of harbour.
  2. Going along when there is no wind.
  3. Motoring or motor-sailing when the wind is unfavourable.
  4. Generating electricity.

People’s definition of “in and out of harbour” varies wildly.  Some people seem to arrive off Harwich and think “well, that’s the real sailing done, lets just motor the last five tedious miles up the river Orwell,” whereas we sometimes spend an afternoon just sailing up and down those same miles!   For us, the final manoeuvring under power is only likely to be a few hundred yards in most places.

Being able to go a long way when there is no wind is occasionally useful.  We once motored all the way from Falmouth to the Scillies at the start of a long period of high pressure, which meant we got a great week of settled weather once we were there.  If we’d had no engine we would have missed out on this.

Even when we had a working engine, we didn’t tend to motor into wind much, partly because we like the sailing and partly because the engine was so feeble (even once we’d fixed the overheating problem) that sailing was faster and more comfortable than motoring.  Our boat is definitely from the days when yachts had an “auxiliary engine” rather than a motor which would power you through anything.

Charging batteries is a useful by-product of running a diesel engine.  Virtually no-one sails without a host of 12V powered equipment these days, including lots of safety-critical items like navigation lights and radios.

The Plan

We are installing an electric motor powered by a 4.2kWh bank of Lithium batteries.  Data on how far this will get us is hard to find, but it should give us at least an hour of motoring at a decent speed, which should be sufficient for manoeuvring in and out of most harbours.

For longer passages (like motoring to Scilly in no wind, or traversing the Kiel Canal) we will run a small petrol generator which will power a battery charger.  This should allow us to run almost indefinitely, although the noise will be annoying.  Depending on how much power is being drawn by the motor, we may be able to stop the generator periodically every few hours and motor on silently from the batteries for a while.

We will charge the batteries from:

  • Mains power in marinas.  We should be able to go from empty to full in about 3 or 4 hours.  Maybe we’ll start visiting marinas more often!
  • The petrol generator, while motoring along (or if we are away from everyone in a remote place, or in a really noisy port I guess).  Again, should charge the batteries completely in 3-4 hours unless we are motoring hard at the same time.
  • Solar panels.  When we are sailing for the weekend every couple of weeks this might be enough by itself.  If we are living on board and sailing every day, it will probably need supplementing.

Our 12V lights and instruments will be powered from a separate 12V battery, charged by the existing wind turbine.  We will also be able to switch over to power everything from the propulsion bank as a back-up.

Man Power?

Before committing to the electric route, I built a Yuloh (sampan-style oar) which pushed us along ok for short distances, but we only really used it once.  It was very long to store on deck, and the mounting pivot got in the way of the tiller.  We decided that it wasn’t very practical as a means of propulsion, particularly as we are planning to transit the 100km-long Kiel canal, so the yuloh sadly became firewood.

Outboard?

We were originally planning to use an outboard motor for the long passages rather than a petrol generator, but:

  • A decent long-shaft outboard costs nearly £1000, whereas a petrol generator costs about £250.
  • The outboard motor would have been very heavy to lift on and off the transom, dangerously-so in any sort of sea.  It would therefore probably have lived installed on the transom where it would stick out getting in the way and incurring extra berthing fees.
  • The outboard would have required a large bracket to cope with our very overhanging transom.   The push-pit was also in the way of any motor-tilting mechanism.
  • The outboard’s propellor would have been quite shallow so wouldn’t have worked very well in waves, and it wouldn’t push any water over the rudder like the built-in propellor does.
  • The petrol generator will be a lot more flexible -for example we could use it to recharge the batteries in a remote anchorage if required.
  • The noise of the petrol generator will probably not be much different to a petrol outboard.
  • We’ll arrive with our battery bank full rather than empty.

Conclusions

We’re really looking forward to motoring silently into harbours under electric power.  We’ve already enjoyed the amount of engine-related plumbing, exhaust piping, seacocks, grease and spares that we’ve been able to remove along with the engine.  I’m looking forward to having a clean engine bilge with no grease and no stink of diesel.

There isn’t much information out there about this type of project, and it is all fairly experimental so we don’t know how practical it is going to be.   It is hard to estimate how far the batteries will take us, and how annoying the petrol generator will be.  But we survived all last year with no motor at all, so hopefully it will be an improvement on that!

Self Steering Part 1

I am attempting to build a wind-vane self-steering gear based on the “Quartermaster” design from the 1960s.

This is probably the simplest class of self-steering gear: a trim-tab on the main rudder actuated directly by a vertical-axis wind vane.  It was designed for a Folkboat, which our boat was derived from, so hopefully it will work on Lizzie.  This report from 1966 includes a description by the original designer, H K Wilkes who seemed very pleased with the performance.

One of the nice features is that it all just clamps onto the rudder stock, so you can remove it when you don’t need it without leaving lots of ironmongery sticking out of the back of the boat like most self-steering designs.

I’ve come up with a design based on the above report and two photos that I found on the internet.  I’m having to guess all the dimensions and some of the inner workings, so I expect that it might require a few iterations to get right.

So far I’ve ordered the following parts:

  • 10mm diameter 316 stainless rod for the main shaft
  • 25mm x 1.5mm square-section aluminium tube for the shaft housing
  • Plastic end plugs for the housing, which I’m going to drill out as shaft bearings
  • A sheet of 10mm RG1000 plastic for the adjustment dial
  • Fibreglass to cover the water vane, which I’m going to carve out of plywood

The plastic arrived yesterday and I’m now waiting for the other parts.  I just received a very unhelpful text from Fedex saying that they are going to deliver something today, but no indication of what, when or from whom.

In case it is useful to someone trying to Google Quartermaster wind vanes, the “Building Your Own Vane” section on this page is basically describing a Quartermaster vane without using those actual words…