Upgrading for an Atlantic Crossing

La Mischief is now pretty ready to cross 2000nm of empty ocean (I hope). To get her there we’ve done the following.

  • New Iridium Go for communications including tracking and weather down loading. We have an older hand held sat phone but I like backup.
  • New 156m2 parasailor with reinforced payedes and 100m of new lines. Going downwind  requires some careful thinking and the parasail will be the most gentle on La Mischief’s catamaran rig believe it or not. 
  • Second raymarine autopilot. We have already suffered 2 failures and hand steering 10 days at sea would drive me and the crew mad. The ARC reported that 5% of autopilots failed and there’s other rallies that have reported much higher failure rates. I reckon 70% of boats in this rally have backup automatic steering systems installed (many monohull have wind vane steering).
  • A new D400 wind generator. Power always seems to be an issue on La Mischief and with the instruments going 24×7 , and the radar and nav lights going 12×7 it’s going to be chewing up a lot of amp hours.Wind gens aren’t the greatest when sailing downwind but every little bit helps and the steady winds of the Carribean should give us a boost.
  • New Danbouy,  new charts, new McMurdo AIS MOB devices  and new trilight at top of mast.

 I’m sure there are other bits and pieces but these are the major items.

    Plans Are Made in the Sand at Low Tide

    A number of you lot want to know what our plans are for this year. Normally our plans are written in the sand at low tide only to have them changed when the tide comes in.

    But not this year!

    So now we are in Murter, Croatia getting stuff fixed.

    We then finish off Croatia with a visit to Bol on Brac Island and then Vis. We leave Vis for the south of Italy on or before 22nd June. We are in the process of getting extra crew to help us do the long sail around to first Sicily and then Sorrento.

    We need to be in Sorrento by 2nd July to pick up favourite Daughter Claire and her hairy but good-looking boyfriend, Kane. According to Kane, we will then fish our way up to Elba along the East Coast of Italy, before zipping across to Corsica and then down again to Sardinia to hang out with the glamorous people.

    Talking of Glamour, we pick up Howie and 4 of his/our friends for an overly full boat of 7 for a week of partying and mayhem to celebrate Howie’s 60th. This all happens from the 22nd to 29th July.

    After throwing most but not all of the drunken sailors overboard, Howie, Joy, Dee and I will head to the Balearic Islands, still my favourite Med islands. Some would say it’s because I’m shallow and enjoy the sight of all those topless young things frolicking on neighbouring boats, but I like to think it’s because the beaches and coves are delightful and the tapas and wine are first class. Peter flies in from his holiday in England to enjoy some sailing and frolicking (he still looks good topless) in the Balearics and we will drop off Howie and Joy whilst here as well.

    Mid August, we will head off to Algeciras in Spain (across the bay from Gibraltar), where we drop off Peter and attend to all that needs to be done to get La Mischief ready for an Atlantic crossing. Now that will be exciting.

    We then head off at the start of September down to Casablanca for a bit of “Here’s Looking at You Kid”. A land trip to Marrakesh will complete our Moroccan experience.

    Then it’s off to the Canaries to start our Jimmy Cornell Barbados 50 Rally. A week of seminars and boat preparation in mid-September then we cruise the Canaries with the Rally. In October we head down to the Cape Verde islands, which take us down to the Trade Winds.

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    We leave for Barbados on November 9th with Phil and Allan on board. It will take us 15-20 days depending on winds and weather. Hopefully it will be relatively boring.

    We then leave La Mischief in a Marina for 3 weeks and fly to California so Dee can show me off (really?). Then I go back to Perth for a couple of weeks, to catch up with family and friends.

    Then we fly back and hit the Caribbean for at least a couple of years listening to our favourite Jimmy Buffett tunes as we go. Make your bookings now. We will also head up to New York and Boston via the Inter Coastal Waterway during one of the hurricane seasons.

    Can’t be unhappy with that.

    New Batteries At Last

    La Mischief came with four 120AH Gel Batteries that were failing fast. It was disappointing to see that they lasted less than 3 years, but the first winter in Yacht Marine caused some issues. And 480AH in total was a bit undersized as La Mischief is somewhat hungry on the electricity front, often chewing through 25A of juice at times. I had increased the solar panels to 1000W to try and compensate but I was fighting a losing battle.

    After much research, I decided it was time for some Lithium batteries, LiFePO4 to be exact. I settled on four 90AH Victron LiFePO4 batteries, which we calculated to be just enough as Lithiums can be run down to 20% quite comfortably. Having now installed them, I’m still not entirely convinced  this is enough as I’m finding I still have to run the genset in the morning for 30 minutes.  its is however going into winter so the solars don’t get as much of a run as they used to. Time will tell.

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    Fitting Lithium batteries is not just a simple matter of swapping out the old Gels with the new Lithiums. Sanli and his helpers spent three days completing the job, 15 hours in total. Luckily, we managed to find a spot at the publicly owned Town Marina, rather than having to pull into Skopea Marina, which is the least expensive of the very expensive private marinas in town. They weren’t keen on Cats at the Town Marina, but Dee managed to sweet talk them into letting us have a berth.

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    The somewhat complex charging architecture.

    The Lithiums need their own Battery Management System (BMS), that controls the batteries as well as the Victron chargers and some relays to stop over charging and over loading. This BMS is a single point of failure so at some stage, I will need to pick up a spare.

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    The various relays

    The Victron Quattro Inverter/Charger needed a firmware upgrade to work with the BMS as the BMS now controls it’s charging behaviour, as well as shutting the Invertor down if the batteries get low.

    The Victron Bluesolar 70/150 Charger also needed a firmware upgrade but to do this we needed a very expensive VE.Direct to USB interface cable (part number ASS030530000 for my future reference) that Sanli didn’t have. I will need to pick up in Oz. With the right firmware in place, the BMS controls the Bluesolar charger, but for the Victron rep in Turkey recommended that we stick a BMS controlled relay in to control the charging.

    Battery monitoring is also an issue. I now have a Victron BMV700 battery monitor and associated shunt, together with a new Victron Colour Control GX Monitor. This Colour Control gets its information from the Battery Monitor and the Quattro. With the firmware update on the Blue Solar unit, I will be able to get the solar panel input on this unit as well.

    However, I’m still not comfortable with my monitoring setup. The State of Charge can be showing 100% and I still have 150A going into the batteries. In the old days, I could use the Voltage of the batteries as a fairly good indication of their SOC but not with the Lithiums. They keep their charge high right up to when they start to go flat. I’ve been through the BMV700 manual and played around with the Peukert exponent and the Charging Efficiency factor as per the manual but still no luck getting the SOC to make sense.

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    BMS and Mains Disconnect

    The other outstanding item I need to get going is the wireless interface to Victron’s VRM Portal. From here, I can get email alerts and monitor the whole setup from my phone using Victron’s android app. I bought a Wifi dongle in Fethiye, but the CCGX didn’t recognize it so I need to get the Victron dongle. I will wait to I get back to Perth to pick this up.

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    The good news was I didn’t need to change the existing (non-Victron) charging components from Christec and Mastervolt. All I needed to do was to place some BMS controlled relays between them and the new batteries, and the BMS took care of regulating the voltages.

    Because of the complexities of the new system, I took Allan’s wise words of advice and left a couple of my old batteries in place, together with a battery switch so that in the event of a failure, I can simply switch across to the old batteries until I can sort out what the problem is, rather than having alarms going off everywhere in the middle of a night passage with no power. A very sensible idea. Allan’s been a great help as he has installed Lithiums on Camelot and I’ve been lucky to pick his considerable brain power in this area as he’s very much in love with his battery set-up.

    After a few weeks cruising I’m starting to get my head around the new system. One thing I’m not sure about is the Load Disconnect function of the BMS. My understanding is that the BMS will automatically disconnect the Victron Cyrix Li-Load  Relay when a cell’s voltage drops below 2.8V. At one stage, I saw the voltage of the batteries drop to 11.9V, which worries me as I would have thought the Li-Load relay would have permanently tripped by then. The BMS should also shut down the inverter at the same time, but this was still running. Further investigation is required. In the meantime, I’ve set a low voltage alarm at 12.5V on the BMV700 battery monitor, so I can start the genie if I need to. Victron and Allan – expect a phonecall.

    Haulout Checklist

    With summer officially over at the end of this month, its time to start thinking of putting La Mischief to bed over the Mediterranean winter. I will do this out of the EU in Turkey but haven’t decided exactly where as yet.

    I’ve just come across a good checklist at http://www.nannycay.com/news/2013/6/28/nanny-cay-boatyard-a-checklist-for-boat-storage.html. I’ll use it for a basis for my own checklist. Here’s a cut and paste with some mods and additions to get me started….

    • Prior to haul out, thoroughly flush all heads and ensure holdings tanks are empty and flushed through.

    • Clean and dry bilges as much as possible.

    • Fill water tanks, treat with chlorine and close off valves.

    • Fill and treat diesel tanks.

    • Check engine oil and water, top up if required.

    • Wash and spray engine with CRC.

    • Spray all hose clamps with CRC anti-corrosion wax.

    • Check battery levels, clean terminals and grease with Vaseline.

    • Spray behind the electrical panel with CRC.

    • Remove bimini and frame if possible and stow.

    • Remove all main sail battens and then remove all sails and stow. Take down Genoa in water as its far safer to do it there than up on the hard.

    • Run mouse lines and remove all lines and stow

    • Tie boom down to deck.

    • Remove cockpit cushions and all other loose deck gear and stow.

    • Check boat for oily rags, old paint and solvent tins, lighter fluid etc. and dispose of.

    • Secure and lock all lockers.

    • Remove batteries from hand held equipment.

    • Remove all foodstuff including spices, packaged soups, cereals and tins etc.

    • Treat interior cupboards and areas with Cockroach and pest deterrents. (Max Force or Combat Roach Control).

    • Close curtains.

    • Vacuum pack clothes and linen.

    • Buy de-humidifier and turn on.

    • Lift interior cushions to allow good air circulation.

    • When in yard, remove and stow fenders and dock lines.

    • Tidy and secure all loose lines and remove flags.

    • Ensure solar panels are charging.

    • Fit instrument covers.

    • Close all seacocks????.

    • Ensure cockpit drains a are clear.

    • Turn off all battery switches.

    • Turn off propane bottles and disconnect.

    • Ensure all hatches and ports are securely locked.

    • Spray door lock and padlocks with CRC.

    • Ensure lifeline gate is closed and secured.

    Another useful website is http://www.livingaboard.net/tag/haul-out.

    Update for Mike

    I got an email from my mate Mike, and because he’s such a nice bloke, I thought I would devote a whole blog entry to his questions….

    Mike wrote
    Hey if you can add this to your blog somewhere it’ll be good.
    Engines? How did you find them?
    Steerage, any comments on the forward rudders?
    Handling in marinas?
    Sail plan, what have you got?
    Main Reefing setup?
    Rigging winch clutch / sailing control?
    Windage in windward sailing, beating AWA?
    Elevated helm access?
    Forward visibility from the helm? (through the genoa)
    Smart charger?
    Batteries?
    Inverter capacity?
    What is that thing under the floor? 13. Watermaker?
    Bridge deck clearance?
    Tender davits and access?
    Drogues and sea anchors?
    Solar panels, how did you go with those flexibles

    1. Lets start with engines.

    The 75HP engines are brilliant. Had a few nervous moments with them early on. Wasn’t used to the power in the marina. Now heavy handed Steve has become light handed Steve, its all good.
    They also take you places quickly. Can easily motor along at 10 knots.
    They got a great work out in the 60+ knots the other day. Thats when you really need them. Glad I took all the advice that said get the biggest engines you could.

    2. The forward rudder setup is no worries provided you remember to centre and lock the wheel when doing all those tricky marina moves. Hopefully they make the motors more efficient when you are motoring long distances.

    3. The sail plan consists of a bloody big square topped main and a genoa, plus a geneker. It’s a big boat and it needs pushing along. Plan is to get a parasail before we head off across the Atlantic and Pacific.

    4. The main reefing setup is something we are rapidly becoming experts on. Two single line reefs, the third needs to be clipped on at the front. Good set-up – they seem to go in and out quite easily. Getting our heads around reefing the genoa as well. It has reefing spots on it where you can furl to, so you can keep things balanced up.

    5. Rigging winch clutch / sailing control – all done back at the steering station via 3 big electric winches. Getting very lazy in our old age. The genoa furling line is a bit dicky – has a clutch thats on the pulley. Might need to look at this down the track. Line storage is also a work in progress. All those lines coming back to the one spot, can get a bit messy at this.

    6. Windage in windward sailing, beating AWA – its a cat so not great. About the same as Camelot, except it goes about a knot or so faster.

    7. Elevated helm access – I like it. Quite a classy looking wheel and instrumentation. No engine keys. The clears bothered me to start with. Need to roll them up for marina parking. Will be good when we get to warmer weather and can take them off.

    8. Forward visibility from the helm? (through the genoa) – not all that great from the helm but bloody good from inside the warm, comfy saloon. The visibility through the all round windows is awesome. Can sit at the inside forward facing nav station (with its Raymarine touch screen) and get a nice clear view.

    9. Smart charger – Two of. They work really well and the good part is that with two engines running, we get a nice cumulative effect. Pumping in 46amps at the moment on one engine. Have also put in a Victron Invertor/Charger so the genset and shorepower can charge a lot quicker. James alerted me about the standard chargers that come with Lagoon and I’m glad I did this.

    10. Batteries – Could have done this better. Lagoon only use 120AH gel batteries. I have four for a total of 480AH, a lot less than the 3 200AH batteries on Camelot. Can live with this for now because of my charging capacity. Will need more solar.

    11. Inverter capacity – Good 3000A unit. Combined with the whopping 11KVa Genset, should be able to drive my dive compressor when I get it.

    12. What is that thing under the floor – I don’t know – a hull perhaps?

    13. Watermaker – still to be commissioned by Allan and I. Now the water is a clearer we will tackle this. Runs off both 12V and 240V which is useful.

    14. Bridge deck clearance – seems really good. Only the occasional slap so far. In fact you could count them on one hand so far.

    15. Tender davits and access – old man’s syndrome drove me to get an electric winch for this as well. Still have an issue getting it balanced so that it doesn’t flip sideways when lifting it. Still work in progress. Once up, its good.

    16. Drogues and sea anchors – not yet. Still cruising close to coast where theres lots of harbours. Have a Sea Brake at home I will get brought over. Definitely need to address before heading out over the Atlantic.

    17. Solar panels – four 100W flexible panels, stuck on roof. Look good but lack of sun until yesterday didn’t allow us to see how they performed. Yesterday they were holding their own with the boat on autopilot and the Bose stereo going. No dedicated monitoring for panels like I had on Camelot. Will need to add a lot more panels – will extend bimini top over dingy with about 6 more of the same panels (not good to mix and match). Thought about a windgen but would rather stick with all solar solution.

    There you go. Hope it answered a few questions that I’m sure the sailors in the audience would like to know. For the rest of you, I hope I didn’t bore you too much.

    Commissioning

    TIME FOR SOME SERIOUS BLOGGING……

    After arriving on Thursday, we had a couple of busy days shopping for everything – kitchen stuff, tools, safety gear, everything – you name it. we had a comprehensive list from Camelot and we spent two days driving around in our hire car discovering where to buy stuff.

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    Leanne and mike from Ooroo 1 were invaluable, as they had been there from a couple of weeks already and had sussed out most of the shopping – especially the cheap (but good) champagne – €4 a bottle – how goods that).

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    We picked up Allan and Joan from the train station on Saturday and caught up with Brendan from Vicsail on Sunday morning. Then we were into it. Unpacking everything… Commissioning stuff … Checking stuff – it was full on. We managed to find places for all our shopping and the bits that we unpacked on La Mischief.

    The new Lagoons have their mast and rigging installed on the hard stand and then are put on a commissioning jetty where they are finished off. There were 8 new Lagoons on the jetty when we arrived. Commissioning has been an interesting process with all the different players and contractual arrangements. La Mischief was purchased from Vicsail (the Lagoon agent in Sydney) who orders the boat from Lagoon in France. Lagoon have a limited number of options available that can be done during manufacture but they refuse to deviate from their standard assembly line process so any extras you want, have to be done separately. Lagoon contract the commissioning work to a company called Sailing Atlantic Services (SAS) who we also used to commission some of our after market items. For the electrical / electronics after market items, we used a company call Robin Marine. Vicsail contracts with both SAS and Robin Marine for the extras that are not part of Lagoons scope of work.

    As well as getting lots of help from Brendan Hunt, the MD of Vicsail, who came over from Sydney to help us through the process, we also dealt with Olivier from Lagoon who was their Customer Relations Manager – a suave Frenchman, who was obsessed with Rugby, and was very charming. Jean-Christophe was our go to man from SAS – he was brilliant, as he worked quite hard to make sure everything was finished off before we left for Easter. Jean-Christophe has a bit of a reputation for being a bit abrupt, but he’s like a lot of techos I know – really good technically but not necessarily a smooth talker. Allan and I really liked working with Jean- Christophe – he called a spade a spade. Pierre from Robin Marine was their go to man – a really nice guy and didn’t all the girls just love him. Joan threatened to run away with him if Allan wore his new beanie to a restaurant.

    By Monday lunchtime, we were casting off the dock lines and heading out for our first sea trials. Really light winds – 5 to 7 if you were lucky. Nice gentle conditions to try out our brand new geneker, as well as the main and genoa.

    We finished by dropping our 25kg Rocna anchor and testing our 100m of 10mm chain. I think that will secure us at anchor.

    All the time, SAS and Robin Marine were finishing off their commissioning and after market items. Allan and Joan were such a huge help with everything. Al was really enjoying the process of understanding and commissioning a new boat.

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    Robin Marine needed the boat for two days whilst they fitted the smart alternators. Meanwhile someone had forgotten to fit our new outside (beer) fridge so SAS leapt into action to get this very essential item installed. How can you possibly go sailing with warm beer???

    Whilst Robin Marine were busy with the smart chargers, Allan and I took the opportunity tovisit the Lagoon factory (the girls went shopping of course). Brendan, Allan and I drove about 50km inland to find one of the eight or so Benneteau factories amongst an area known for good workers. Some of the Lagoon models are built here and transported to the coast at Les Sables DÓlonnes where they are commissioned. We followed Olivier (from Lagoon), who was auditioning for a drive in the Le Mans 24 hour race, so we had our work cut out in our Renault Scenic keeping up with him. The factory was very impressive, good processes that turned out a very well built, consistent boat. The factory seems to be full of women, the boss is a woman and they explained they use a lot of women in the factory because they are more careful with their work(wo)manship. We started at the beginning where the boats start off as a huge layered patchwork quilt before infusion. Allan said that the quality control process is as good as that used in the oil and gas industry. As we wandered through the factory, we heard Madame Rue was also visiting and we were luckyenough to meet her in person. She owns 60% of the Benneteau Group that owns the Lagoon brand. She is the granddaughter of the original Monsieur Benneteau and is treated like royalty in these parts. We left the factory thinking that these boats are great value for money for the amount of and quality of workmanship and componentry that goes into them.

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    WHEEL HOUSE

    Because of the complexities of multiple parties, the people involved and language barriers, finishing La Mischief off kept us very busy. We had test sails to do, fit the Aussie BBQ, commission equipment and shop for spares and tools. Allan thought it was a hoot, shopping for tools on my credit card. Even better for Allan was knowing that Joan’s shopping bill wasn’t going on his credit card either (Well except for a few things).

    In between we found time to have a look around Sables D’Olonne and check out a few restaurants and bars, with our partners in crime from Ooroo.

    All in all it was a great effort all round and by Thursday we were nearly ready. We had new linen, kitchen appliances, cutlery and were stocked up with food.

    Ready for our first leg to La Rochelle.

    Les Sables D’Olonne – Here we Are!

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    With three marvellous days in Paris under our belts, we braved the motorways of France and drove our hire car to Les Sables D’Olonne, 5 hours away. Our hire car was a Renault Scenic, not too bad despite having the steering wheel on the wrong side – the manual was also a bit of a challenge with everything round the other way.

    It was a lovely drive through the French countryside to the coast. We quickly checked into our room and saw a message from Leanne that La Mischief had just been put in the water. Missed its launch by an hour or so – bummer.

    But it was great to see her in the flesh. We hopped on board and had a quick look round as there were workers crawling all over it. Then we went and had a drink or three on Ooroo 1 – Mike and Leanne’s new Lagoon 450. How weird is that – two couples from Perth getting new Lagoon’s parked up in France, one behind the other.