The Money Shot

Everybody I know who sails into Belize’s famous Blue Hole ends up posting some dramatic drone footage. So why should we be any different? Thanks to Alsino, we got some great footage and I’ve finally got around to editing it.

Last year in November, Dee, Alsino and I left the Rio Dulce and headed up to Belize. After a couple of weeks of cruising and land travel, we headed out to Lighthouse Reef, one of only a few coral atolls in the Caribbean (you have to head to the South Pacific to get a good dose of coral atolls), and dropped anchor at Half Moon Caye, after spending most of the day sailing out from Cucumber Marina (Belize City). Next morning, we picked our way across shallow water to the Blue Hole, 5nm away. And there we stayed until the next morning, secured to a marine park mooring ball.

The Blue Hole was first made famous by Jacques Cousteau, who declared it one of the top five scuba diving sites in the world. In 1971 he brought his ship, the Calypso, to the hole to chart its depths – 124m for the record.

The Money Shot – La Mischief in the Blue Hole.

Flying the Flag

But which flag?

Now that its not an option to have an Australian Flag with the name of my Footy team (Fremantle) on the back on the boat, we need to have a good think about where to register our new Saba 50. Australia is not an option as Dee and I will be jointly owning the boat and for it to be an Australian boat it needs to be majority owned by an Australian. 

So we need to look around for an alternative. And there are a few that spring to mind. 

But there’s a few factors to consider: 

  • Cost – Initial and Ongoing Year to Year
  • Risk – Can we use a US Limited Lability Company or do we need to set up a Company in Country. And how much does that cost?
  • Radio License and EPIRB Registration
  • Insurance options for the various flags. 
  • Reputation and Coverage.  
  • And finally….Do we like the actual flag? Does it have an annoying Union Jack in the corner?

USA Flag out of Delaware is the easiest and cheapest solution – we can set up a jointly owned Limited Liability Company in Delaware and have Wilmington as our home port all for $947USD (using http://www.boatandyachtregistration.com). However, I’m not so sure I want people to think I’m from the USA. 

As far as a homeport goes, Bikini from the Marshall Islands sounds rather cool. However, we would need to set up a Marshall Islands company. Every Marshall Islands LLC must appoint a registered agent and maintain a local office address. Not 100% sold on either an LLC in a far-off land; or the flag for that matter, but at least it doesn’t have that annoying little Union Jack in the corner.  Interestingly, the Marshall Islands Registry permits private yachts to be chartered out for up to 84 days per calendar year, provided that some additional requirements are satisfied. Fees are: $2800.00 Year 1 (Company setup and Boat Registration) and then $1800.00 (Year 2 and onward – Company and boat renewal).

A good looking flag is important and we really like the Maltese Flag. However there is a requirement to set up a Maltese Company that would own the yacht. Registration Fees are 115 Euros, plus an annual fee of 425 Euros plus VAT. To this we need to add costs for a Radio license and an MMSI number. Plus the cost of setting up and maintaining a Maltese company and local representation. 

Multihulls Solutions are very experienced with registering boats in the Cook Islands and Captain Cook is pretty much up there when it comes to sailors. Fees are $800 for one year, $2100 for 3 years. The easiest way to register a boat in the Cook Islands is to join The Cook Islands Yacht Squadron (CIYS).  Members of the Cook Islands Yacht Squadron (CIYS) are eligible to have their yacht registered in the Cook Islands without having to register a company. The definition of person includes companies and trusts as well as individuals or partnerships of individuals. In this way foreign corporation can become a member of CIYS without having to register that corporation in the Cook Islands. However the Cook Islands flag has that annoying little Union Jack in the corner. Cook Islands is the only option that my current insurer, Topsail Australia (who I am very comfortable with) will cover, however interestingly they can’t provide cover when we actually sail into the Cook Islands because of some strange licensing quirk.   

We saw a lot of boats with Jamaican flags and again Montego Bay has an air of the exotic as a home port. Jamaica also has a Private Limited Charter option where the yacht may charter up to 84 days per calendar year where permitted. Ownership can be with any legal entity in good standing or an individual.  There is no requirement to create a new owning entity in Jamaica. Fees are The Private Yacht Only (PYO) option is $1950.  The Private with Limited Charter (PYLC) option is $2500 (plus $4100 for a survey).  Ongoing annual fees are $750, and if chartering an annual charter survey is $3,575.   These fees include vessel registration, radio license, tonnage, registered agent, all documentation, and a flag.

Quest, a fellow Saba 50, went with a Cayman Islands flag and that’s not a bad choice (except for that annoying little Union Jack in the corner once again).   A USA LLC can own a Cayman Islands Registered Vessel so that’s a tick. However, a foreign LLC must appoint a representative in the Cayman Islands (at an additional annual cost no doubt). Like the Marshall Islands, the Caymans also have a Yacht Engaged in Trade (YET) program for yacht operated privately that provides the option to charter their yacht for up to 84 days per year. Costs are $1200USD for initial registration and $530USD for each year after that (according to https://www.cishipping.com/feesandcalculators).

Having digested all this, I’m not sure there is a clear cut option for us, so some more thought is required. Once again, all suggestions and further information will be gratefully received. 

Its a Wrap

Now that we are reduced to watching sailing videos on Youtube, Delos pointed out that there are 50 people who called Delos home; and that got me thinking about how many people stayed on board La Mischief during her time on the high seas.

So I started to count them up….

  • 2013 (Sables D’Olonne to Marmaris, Turkey)

Countries/Islands Visited: France; Spain; Gibraltar; Balearic Islands, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey

Total On Board: 16

  • 2014 (Marmaris to Leros)

Countries Visited: Greece, Turkey

Total On Board: 14 (New 11)

  • 2015 (Leros to Cyprus)

Countries Visited: Greece Turkey Cyprus (South and north)

Total Persons on Board : 11 (New 9)

  • 2016 (Cyprus to Barbados)

Countries/Islands Visited:Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, Balearics, Spanish Morocco, Gibraltar, Canaries, Cape Verdes, Atlantic Crossing, Barbados

Total People on Board: 16 (new 9)

  • 2017 Barbados to Florida

Countries/Islands Visited: Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua, Monserrat, Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, St Martin, St Barts, St Eustatius, St Martin, Saba, St Barts, Anguilla, BVIs, Bermuda, USA (Newport, RI to Maine to Florida)

Total People on Board: 16 (New 9)

  • 2018 (Florida to Colombia)

Countries/Islands Visited: USA, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Culebra, USVI, BVI, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, Bequia, Mustique, Mayreau, Tobago Keys, Union Island, Petit St Vincent, Carriacou, Grenada, Tobago, Guyana, Trinidad, Bonaire, Curracao, Aruba, Columbia.

Total People on Board : 13 (New 6)

  • 2019 (Colombia to Rio Dulce to Mexico)

Countries/Islands Visited: Colombia, San Blas Islands, Panama, Panama Canal, San Andres, Providencia, Guanaja, Roatan, Rio Dulce, Belize, Mexico

Total Persons On Board: 7 (New 2)

  • 2020 (Mexico to Florida)

Persons on Board : 3

Grand total 73

  • 34 Aussies
  • 22 US
  • 1 Slovenian
  • 3 Germans
  • 4 Canadians
  • 1 Polish
  • 1 Curacao
  • 1 Cypriot
  • 4 Poms
  • 1 Vietnamese
  • 1 Uruguayan
  • 1 kiwi

Music to Our Ears

Listening to music is a really important part of our boat life. On our old boat we used to download music to our phones or tablets using Google Play Music so that we could access it offline …internet or no internet. We also had an old iPod with music downloaded on it that was connected to our Fusion Stereo. But most of the time we would connect up our phones or tablets and play the downloaded Google Play music.

The biggest problem with this was bluetooth’s short range. Quite often we would sit out the back and suffer poor or no bluetooth connectivity. With the Saba being a lot bigger this was going to be even more of a problem.

Enter Sonos with its capacity to play music over a much better (than bluetooth) Wifi connection (provided by our Pepwave router). Our Saba comes with the same Fusion Marine Stereo as before and our plan is to hook up a Sonos Port unit to the Fusion and voila…we can use Sonos to play all our Google Play music over Wifi from ANYWHERE on the boat. Likewise our guests will also be able to download the Sonos app and hook into our system so we can listen to their music as well. And finally, we can download all our music that sits on our hard drives to a NAS that sits on our boat network so we can access this from Sonos as well.

I loved my previous Sonos system from my time as a dirt dweller, and I’m keen to use it once again.

The Sonos Port is an upgrade from the Sonos Connect and I should now be able to turn the Fusion Stereo on and off from the Sonos system – how cool is that. And it will also control the volume of the Fusion as a whole, but I don’t think it will control the volumes of the individual Fusion Zones.

The other purchase will be a Sonos Move, the new Sonos outdoor battery powered speaker, that has got rave reviews. The Fusion System that comes with the boat only comes with speakers in the saloon and the cockpit. The Sonos Move (or maybe two for proper stereo) will fill in the sound gaps – the upstairs lounge and the front deck in particular. And we won’t have to drill holes in the boat to provide for additional wired speakers. As the Sonos Move uses both Wifi and Bluetooth we can also take it to the beach where there is no Wifi.

The final piece of the puzzle is a Sonos soundbar for the TV downstairs. Upstairs in the saloon, we will have a Bose system (same as before) and I need to think about whether I hook this into the Sonos system via another Sonos Port or just leave the Bose as a standalone movie and TV system. Kim suggested that Music sounds so much better with a subwoofer, which the Bose system has, or is our money better spent just buying a Sonos Sub? And do I need a Sonos Playbar upstairs with the Bose system for watching movies? Ummm. A little bit more to think about. Especially since I need to consider battery draw in the equation.

Even with the Bose System upstairs, TV sound was always a problem downstairs and a good soundbar will make movies much more enjoyable. Plus we can use Google Assistant or Alexa for voice controls.

The beauty of using an all Sonos solution is that we can play the same music throughout the boat across both the Fusion stereo, the Sonos Playbar and Sonos Moves.

I’ve just ordered a Sonos Move to use at home so it will be interesting to see how the first piece of the puzzle goes. The rest of the Sonos components will be sourced from the Sonos dealer in La Rochelle.

Living in a Connected World

Connecting to the world wide web and the boat wide web is an important part of our cruising life. The Badboy system we had on La Mischief is no longer an option, a victim of Covid19, but we were never really a great fan and believe we can both do a lot better, whilst at the same time broaden the scope of our next solution. 

Our Requirements

First things first, we needed to understand our complete requirements, which are documented as follows:

  1. Extend the range of our mobile devices for when sailing or anchoring away from cell towers. 
  2. Connect to Wifi Hotspots whilst at anchor or in marinas.
  3. Provide a network in the boat to hook up computers, phones, tablets, security cameras and TVs, with network attached storage to store movies, music, personal photos and video. 
  4. Play movies from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube etc as well as from network attached storage.
  5. Play music from phones and tablets as well as the web and network attached storage. 
  6. A GPS system that can track the boats position, when at anchor, with alerting to show if it moves when it shouldn’t. 
  7. Use Alexa or Google assistant for voice controls. 

I’m quite happy with using a combination of Iridium Go and InReach for Satellite.

I’ve also thought about integrating the boats ethernet network into the MFDs – mainly for Cameras – as there is a few blind spots when backing a big cat into a tight slip but I think just using a tablet to view the cameras is good enough. I use OpenCPN on my Tablet also but don’t think I need to integrate Radar and AIS onto OpenCPN as I use it only when navigating around reefs in poorly charted areas.

Components

I had originally thought Glomex’s Webboat 4G LITE COASTAL INTERNET would be my Badboy replacement but I hadn’t really done much research. Thanks to Gilbert from Vent d’Ailleurs who suggested that this was probably a bad choice, and his advice turned out to be spot on. So I needed to get serious and ramp up my research in an effort to at least become a youtube expert. Special thanks to Jeff from SV Quest, a fellow Saba 50, who shared the details of his gold standard solution for his boat. I also found some great information and advice from Steve on www.seabits.com. Finally, there are a lot of RVs out there who are trying to do the same thing and there are some excellent videos on how they are set up.

Armed with enough information to be dangerous, I was able to distill our requirements down into a list of components, that in total will meet our requirements. These are as follows:

  1. Either a cell booster or an external antenna that can boost or reach out to remote cell towers. 
  2. A Wifi Shore Extender (a la Badboy)
  3. A Router in which we can insert a SIM card for LTE Wifi access, when away from shored based Wifi hotspots. This router needs GPS capability and an app to track the boats movements.
  4. A network switch that is 12V, which we can connect TVs, Network Attached Storage and SONOS. 
  5. A Network Attached Storage unit to store music, movies, photos, video and security camera images. 

LTE Router

Now for some decisions. 

The heart of the system has to be the LTE Router. Everybody that I talked to or watched on youtube seemed to use Pepwave routers. Pepwave have several price points with varying levels of functionality, but I’ve settled on the Peplink Pepwave MAX BR1 MK2 at around $599US. This is an enterprise grade solution offering redundant SIM slots with automatic switching between Shore based Wifi and SIM card Wifi, 12V DC power capability, advanced GPS tracking (anchor alarm?), and remote management, all packed into a durable metal enclosure. The downsides of the BR1 are that you cannot bond the 2 sims for better throughput where the cell data speeds were not great; and the BR1 has a 400mb backplane, not gigabit speeds. We decided we could live with this given we don’t get great throughput from shore based Wifi anyway and we don’t chew up out Google Fi Wifi with movie downloads, etc that need lots of streaming bandwidth. We tend to download movies offline onto my tablet using Netflix, Youtube or Amazon offline functionality, when we are hooked up to free shore Wifi.

The Peplink Pepwave MAX BR1 MK2I will be connected to the separate MikroTik Shore Extender and the Poynting LTE Antenna, both of which will be mounted on the spreaders. I will plug in a Google Fi SIM, which works all over the world (provided Google don’t disconnect our service because we are out of the USA too often), and maybe use the extra slot for local SIM cards if this makes sense in a particular country. This Pepwave router will provide access over Wifi throughout the boat as well as Cat5 connections to TVs, Network Attached Storage and the SONOS system, via an attached network switch. 

Wifi Shore Extender

The choice of a Wifi Shore Extender was a bit more difficult. Badboy was out so I started looking at the Wave Rogue Pro at $633 US. This seemed like an ideal solution except for the pricetag. I had a look at Ubiquiti airMAX Bullet M Range at Simon’s suggestion, but the problem here is that Bullet has either a 2.4Ghz model or a 5Ghz model that you need to choose between, rather than one unit that does both.

Steve from Seabits uses the MikroTik solution at around $100. It was encouraging to see Someone else on the Internet pointing out that the Rogue uses the MikroTik solution under the covers. The downside of the MikroTik is that its complicated to set up;  but hopefully the Seabits Step by Step instructions will get me through this. Plus I have all the time in the world to get this sorted. 


LTE Antenna

The next step was to find a solution to give me better wifi when there was a weak signal from cell towers. This came down to using either a cell amplifier or an external antenna or both. The WeBoost Drive Reach cellular amplifier was the unit that most seemed to use and recommend. This was around $500 and you needed to leave it off most of the time, only turning it on in remote situations. Leaving it on when there is good signal was detrimental and therefore I decided that spending $500 on something that could turn out to be a pain in the rectum was not where I wanted to go. So that meant using an external LTE antenna on the spreaders to give me the extra range that we require. The Poynting Omni 0402 was the gold standard but at $400 US I kept digging. Seabits used a Wilson Antenna at $200, but Steve did a review of the Poynting Omni 400 at $209, which he rated higher than the more expensive 0402 unit. $200 seems a reasonable amount of money to get better internet access when hopping along the coast or nearing a new country. 

Other Components

To round out the solution I will need a Gigabit network switch, to allow good streaming of Movies from the NAS to the TVs. Could go with one from Trendnet that Seabits recommend, but will do a bit more research first. A Network Attached Storage solution also requires a bit more research. I also researched security cameras and are honing in on the Reolink Lumus cameras as they don’t require a base station and work over Wifi direct to a tablet or phone.

Next Steps

 The next step will be to get back some feedback from you lot; and then go ahead and order all the above components and build out the solution on land before packing them up in our luggage and carting them off to France, where we can install them on our new boat. This should be a fun little project to keep me amused and get me ahead of the game.  

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

In buying our new Saba 50, there are lots of decisions to make. We used the configuration of our old Lagoon 421, La Mischief as a baseline, trying to make sure we weren’t going backwards on any items and by and large we have managed to do this.

The big exception is the batteries. In the end it just didn’t make sense to go straight to Lithiums given that Fountaine Pajot don’t offer this as an option and this meant throwing out a perfectly good set of AGMs (600AH). Instead we are purchasing one additional AGM to bring the house bank up to 750AH (12V) and hopefully with 2000 watts of solar out the back, these batteries will keep their voltage up and the beer cold. We will still provision a Victron Colour Controller and a Victron BMV-712 Smart Monitor to keep a good eye on the state of the batteries, both when we are on the boat and remotely when we are on shore.

Continuing on the power theme, we decided against going Victron Quattro invertor/chargers because of a space issue in the engine room. Instead we will supplement the supplied Victron Multiplus 2000W with a second unit of the same spec; in parallel; to give us enough oomph, together with some redundancy (albeit with some manual reconfiguration). What we lose is the seamless cutover from genset to shorepower and vice versa that the quattros provide, but I think I can live without that. I haven’t been able to find out what else I’m doing without by going down this path; but one of the reasons I’m writing this blog post is to get feedback from people that know a lot more than I do. 

A larger cat means we can have a larger dinghy. We wanted something a bit more comfortable – maybe we are getting old. The Saba 50 allows for a 3.8m dinghy, which meant the Highfield Ocean Master 390 was 10cm too long. New Zealand’s OC Dinghy looked interesting but it’s too small and does not offer a centre console. We kept coming back to a Highfield as Uchimata is an agent and Uchimata can get us stuff VAT free. We came down to either a Hypalon Highfield CL380 Deluxe tender (181kg) with a Yamaha 40 HP (97kg); or the Classic CL380 tender (80kg) with FCT console and Yamaha 30HP. Even with the extra weight, we are leaning towards the Deluxe version because its a bit more comfortable and is drier with a self draining floor. Yamaha seems to be the logical choice for an outboard based on the availability of parts around the world.

Coupled with the dinghy decision is choosing the right hydraulic lift platform for the dinghy. We look like we will go with the Tenderlift platform rather than the one that Fountaine Pajot offers, because:

  • it supports a heavier dinghy. This is even after we found out the FP model supports considerably more weight that its spec says, based on feedback from Quest who have a similar Highfield CL380 Deluxe dinghy with a Evinrude 40HP outboard (we will go a Yamaha 40HP) on the FP Platform.
  • It has a grab bar that we can use in rough anchorages to steady the dinghy.
  • It offers the ability to ride up in the dinghy (we saw a video suggesting you need to get out of the dinghy before lifting it with the FP Platform. The video shows that you need to stand on the submerged platform – something that doesn’t thrill me coming back after dinner).
  • We also suspect it might be better built.   

The downsides are the significantly extra pricetag and the fact it will not be factory fitted, meaning another contractor to manage – albeit Robin Marine who we are familiar with from our Lagoon commissioning days in Sables D’Olonne.

Wifi on a boat is very important to us and we wanted something better than the Badboy system on La Mischief. SV Ghost put us onto Glomex’s Webboat 4G LITE COASTAL INTERNET, which is both a Wifi extender a la the Badboy; and a 4G booster, where we can insert a Google Fi SIM and get Internet further out to sea than just with a phone. 

One of the most important items is a watermaker. We liked our Dessalator watermaker on La Mischief, but this time we have decided to go with an Aquabase 12V 105l/h Watermaker. They come well recommended from other FP owners; and it is the brand that FP offer as a factory option. However we didn’t like either of the two factory options (the 60l/h unit was too small and the larger unit was only 230V – we like to make water using the solar panels). So we opted for the 105l/h model that Lady Roslyn has and as a company called Uchimata is doing a lot of our aftermarket items and they are an Aquabase reseller and installer, this made sense. We will get the Auto Flush feature as well. 

Manoeuvring a much larger cat got us thinking; and I have asked for a quote for an extra set of throttles to be installed on the rear deck to help me back into marina slips. These don’t have to be electronic (expensive) as Lady Roslyn has a second set which are mechanical. Lets see what the quote comes back.  I will also pick up and install a Garmin GC100 wireless camera, interfaced to the chart plotter to help with backing into tight places. 

Other aftermarket items include: 

  • Replacement swim ladder 
  • Stern (sugar scoops) grab rails 
  • Fuel Polisher/Fuel Transfer System 
  • Passerelle/gangway 
  • Additional European 230V Outlets 
  • Isolation Transformer
  • Automatic Anchor/Tricolour Light
  • Automatic Fire Extinguishers – Engine Rooms
  • Fresh and salt water Washdown pumps 
  • Fans in Rooms. 
  • USB Outlets
  • Filtered fresh drinking water 
  • Fortress FX55 Secondary anchor 
  • Jacklines
  • Liferaft 
  • Genneker
  • Ladder at base of mast and Mast Steps
  • Five 400W Sunpower Solar Panels and Controllers
  • Starboard Winch for coloured sails
  • Parasailor – 170m2
  • Ultrasonic Antifouling
  • Second Autopilot
  • Dive Tank Holders and Compressor
  • Dockwater inlet
  • BBQ
  • Third Electric Winch at Helmstation
  • 40kg Rocna Primary Anchor 
  • Propane gas detection system
  • 12mm Dyneema Main Sail Halyard
  • New Bed for Master and Bed Slats
  • Underwater Lights
  • Garmin Charts
  • Spares
  • Forward Facing Sonar
  • Propeller Anti-Fouling
  • 70%  Phifertex Vinyl Mesh for Window Shades
  • All around Sunshades

All input welcome!