Category: Launching and Preparation
Busy, Busy in La Rochelle
Well, we’ve now been in La Rochelle nearly two months, the weather is warming up, and we seem to have been incredibly busy despite not having moved on board as yet.
We are very comfortable in our 2 bedroom apartment, overlooking the old port where I docked 8 years ago after La Mischief’s maiden voyage from Les Sables D’Olonne to La Rochelle. It’s a great location, 5 minutes walk into the old town, and 15 minutes to Les Minimes Marina where the new boat is now located.
La Rochelle is a fantastic place to wander around, even in the times of Covid. We have a 6pm curfew so all the wandering has to be done during daylight hours only. We’ve gone a little crazy with all the good French food and wine and the Market here in the old town is one of the best in France. Mussels, Scallops, Razor Clams, Prawns, Fish, cheese, cheese, cheese, plus all the fresh fruit and veg. And I almost forgot the French Pastries and Crepes. Top shelf Yum!
One of the key things about buying a new boat is that picking your dealer is almost equally important as picking your boat. And one of the great things about Multihulls Solutions, our agent, is their man on the ground in La Rochelle – Romain Cruzon. Roms (Australian like to shorten everyone’s name) speaks both Australian and French, with a bit of USA thrown in for good measure. Nothing is too much trouble for Roms and he’s been able to act as our interpreter, guide and problem solver extraordinaire.
The first “problem” Roms had to sort out was how to get us into the commercial port without the necessary passes. There was no way we were not going to see our new baby, especially since it was Dee’s birthday, and Roms delivered, picking us up and driving us to the Commercial Port to see her. Having spent several months in a working port, she was covered in port dust, but we saw past that and enjoyed our first look at her.
Then it was down to work. There seemed to be lots to do. Getting a new boat ready is an exercise in both project management and solutions design. To Do lists, Actions and Issues logs, sourcing items in France (as opposed to Florida where it would be a lot easier), and filling in all the fine detail to allow Uchimata to keep on track with their aftermarket work.
We also needed to add some items to our aftermarket options and we quickly found out that Uchimata were up to their armpits with a lot of boats that needed to be completed and there was no room in their schedule to add other projects. So we need to find other ways to complete the boat.
One of the biggest things we needed to address is the Pit layout, which was woefully inadequate with no clutches for the genoa sheets, topping lift or spinnaker halyard. Reefs 2 and 3 were also performed at the mast rather than back at the helm. Luckily a number of other Sabas and a Saona 47 had run into this problem and so there was plenty of help on hand to come up with a suitable design to make it as manageable as our previous Lagoon 421. Plus a few tweaks – a new outhaul and reef 3 back to the helm station. Thanks to Quest, Ghost and SY8 for all their help. Uchimata finally told us they couldn’t do it, so it was off to the Chanderlies to order a whole lot of Spinlock clutches, deck organizers and new line.
Once again, Roms was extremely helpful in organizing us a VAT free account at two of the Chanderies, and helping translate all our orders into French. He also checked with a number of other service providers and in the end we are getting Loic to help us with this installation, as he comes well recommended by other cruisers and knows his way around Fountaine Pajot catamarans.
We also got our head around the Power monitoring provided by the Garmin Smart Cruising solution on Fountaine Pajots. I liked my old Victron GX solution so we are replicating this (albeit with newer tech – Cerbo GX and new touchscreen GX Colour). Once again, Roms organized for Pochon to do the install, as we were not allowed to work on the boat until we had taken ownership.
We are anxiously waiting to do Sea Trails and Final Inspection, hopefully next week when Uchimata is finished. We are getting Hans and Kirsten to help us with this task, on the recommendation of John, another Saba owner. The timing is great because they are working on acceptance for two other Sabas immediately before ours. The French are keen for us to use locals for this final inspection but using Germans will keep everyone on their toes, Lol. Our aim is to find any and all problems before we leave La Rochelle, where they are much easier to address.
I’m sure we are driving Romain mad with all our requests to do this and do that. Putting on a new custom swim ladder and patching the Flexiteek became an exercise in multiple back and forths with the French supplier. Dee doesn’t easily give up and Roms was great in his role as middleman and his customer focus allowed us to (eventually) get a solution that we can live with. It’s certainly an adventure completing a boat in France, when you don’t speak French and we’ve enjoyed fighting through our frustrations to get things happening in the right way (a la the customer is always right).
But its not all work and no play. The weeks are fairly busy, but we’ve managed to sneak away on weekends to Perigord, Cognac, Blaye Castle, Ile De Re, Rochfort and Sables D’Olonne for the finish of the Vendee Globe. This weekend we will explore the Island of Oberon.
Pierre from Uchimata is the other key player in our journey and from what I’ve seen so far is that Uchimata don’t take shortcuts and seem quite professional in their work so far. Time will tell no doubt. Most of the time, Roms deals with Pierre in his role of middleman, but the times we have met with Pierre he has told us how difficult it is to do what we have asked and then has found a way to get the job done. One thing we are finding about the FPs is that a lot of panels are glued down and getting access to run cables etc., is not easy. I suspect this is a trend in a lot of the new production boats and not just FP as Pierre complained about Lagoon as well.
Good examples of where Uchimata have provided us with very comprehensive solutions are the second Autopilot install where we have a completely separate system, including a second head unit. The Parasailor fittings had jammers for both guys and sheets, going back to dedicated winches looks like a good well thought out solution as well. Where we have found issues, they have been good in remedying the situation so far.
Brexit and Covid are both raising their head up from time to time. Our upgraded Harken Batten Car system was delayed and delayed, which meant the mast was delayed and delayed. This had flow on effects with regards to the 2000W of solar panels and the lightning protection (which will require us to be parked up on the ramp for the anodes to be installed 3-6 inches above the waterline) and even the saloon door that needs to be adjusted with the rigging in place.
But we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Uchimata’s work is coming to an end. Roms is having the boat detailed and sea trials are going to start hopefully next week. Alsino arrived last night on the train via Amsterdam, where he flew in from Curacao. The lucky bastard has a Dutch Passport. Wish we had one of those. It was great to see him again and we will have lots for him to do.
We still haven’t sorted out Schengen and we only have to April 11th to sort something out – or not! We are about a month short as we have decided to give the Med a miss as Europe and Covid won’t be able to organize a divorce before the end of the cruising season I suspect. Instead we will head to Bonaire and get some good diving in.
Topsail UK have granted us dispensation to go to the ABCs for Hurricane season, and after lots of to’ing and fro’ing, we have decided to sign up with them. Besides handing over lots of money to them, we also need to upgrade a couple of our bilge pumps to 25GPM. Having 4 bilge pumps doesn’t count.
We’ve also been busy sorting out our Cook Islands registration. We found a deputy registrar in Malta, named Gary Miller and he has been great. Same time zone which makes it easy.
From here, we are looking forward to doing sea trials and Final Inspection; undertaking some training with Alain; upgrading our pit layout; installing our Keenan Fuel System and Automatic Fire Extinguishers in the Engine Rooms; moving our 60 boxes of stuff that is currently sitting in the garage onboard; buying some more stuff from the chandlery; paying our bills and then heading off on a shakedown cruise over Easter. Then back to La Rochelle for any warranty issues and off across the Bay of Biscay heading for the Canaries and then the Caribbean before Hurricane season. Then Bonaire! Sounds easy if you say/write it quickly.
Voila La Rochelle!
We made it. Now sitting in our very nice apartment overlooking the old port of La Rochelle. 10 minute’s walk into the old town and 15-30 minutes to the Marina (depending which part – with 5000 boats, it’s the largest in Europe).
Yesterday, we managed to sneak into the Port and see our new boat. Very exciting! She will be down there until next week, getting all the necessary holes drilled into her hulls for underwater lights, forward facing sonar, watermaker, salt water deck wash and lightning protection. The antifoul will need to be applied on a clear day – a bit of a challenge with the rainy weather here. Then onto a truck again over to the travel hoist and into the water – next week hopefully.
Then she gets motored across to Uchimata’s dock by Uchimata’s staff (we cannot do this “maiden” voyage because of Covid restrictions), where her mast will be stepped (after mods – new halyard, automatic anchor light, new Harken C batten car system (for downwind reefing), lightning protection mods, Mikrotek Wifi extender).
Uchimata will spend 2-3 weeks doing all their aftermarket work, and then around early to mid February we will do our handover and sea trials. We will contract Julien Dagorn to undertake a final survey before we make our final payment. Then she will be ours. Alain Girard will give us some training and then we need to get to work ourselves.
We have 60 boxes coming from our old boat and our apartment has a lockable garage where we can store them before we cart them down to the new boat. These contain our new BRNKL security system, cabin fans and a Keenan Secondary Filter System, as well as all our gear from our old boat. And then we have all the stuff we managed to pack in our airline luggage on the plane and train. These all need to be installed along with a whole heap of other mods.
New dining table, automatic fire extinguishers, Pepwave LAN components, more Jammers for Jib Sheets and Reef lines as per S/V 8, new passerelle, Gas Detection and Shutoff Valves, Dinghy extras, etc, etc, etc, etc
When we are finished with our boat jobs, we want to head up to the Brittany Islands and possibly Vannes on a shakedown cruise. Any problems we find will be fixed by Fountaine Pajot on return to La Rochelle.
Then it is off across the Bay of Biscay, and down to the Med, Covid restrictions allowing. We will do a season in the Med, before heading off to Madeira, and across the Atlantic via the Canaries and Cape Verdes. From there we will head to the ditch and into the Pacific early next year in preparation for the Galápagos Islands and French Polynesia.
On The Move
Well she is out of the factory and safely on the hard in La Pallice, where she will stay until we get there in a few months. Disappointed not to be able to drive behind her as she was trucked. Roms from Multihulls Solutions got us some video footage but its worth watching Out Chasing Stars video of their boat being trucked from the factory at https://youtu.be/REohRp_5X6k.
First Photos out of the Factory
We were excited last night to see the first photos of our new baby as she emerged from the Fountaine Pajot factory. Disappointed not to be there – but we are still working on getting into France.
It will stay in the factory yard until 20th October, getting its finishing touches. It will then be lifted onto a truck and transported to a secure hardstand in La Pallice. Here it will be vinyl wrapped, and have some of the aftermarket items we ordered installed by Uchimata. It will sit here until we fly in, hopefully in January (or before). Then it will be splashed, its mast and rigging attached and taken around to the marina at Port Des Minimes, the largest marina in France. This will give us a couple of months to get ready for our departure in April next year.
SECURITY, SECURITY, SECURITY
I was reading a Delos post the other day about their BRNKL Security System and this prompted me to do something about Spec’ing up our own system. In the past, we’ve used Jeff’s Pirate Lights system, which gave us excellent service, but this time we wanted to include a more comprehensive set of requirements and find an integrated system that met all our “must haves”.
So this is the requirements we’ve come up with broken down into “Must Haves”, “Nice to Haves” and “Not Really Required”.
- I’ve often felt a level of anxiety when we have anchored our boat and gone to shore. Whilst we use an Anchor Alarm when we are on board, we really do need an Anchor alarm that works whilst we are away from our boat. One that uses geofencing on a map displayed on our mobile phones. We originally thought we could use our PEPWAVE system to do this but it turns out that this is really more suited to Fleet Management of the land variety rather than the marine environment..
- IN the same vein, this needs the ability to track our boat if it is ever stolen.
- The system needs to works internationally everywhere we cruise.
- Like Pirate Lights, it needs to sound a Siren and turn on Strobe/Deck Lights if an intruder gets on the boat, with motion detectors in both the cockpit and the saloon.
- We also need to be able to track the dinghy if its stolen (we will probably use SPOT Tracker for this).
- We need to monitor Engine Room Temperatures and raise an alert and sound an alarm when too high. Our house batteries are also in the engine room so we need to be able to monitor engine room temperatures for the health of these babies.
- We want Cameras to capture videos of the bad guys.
- We want to monitor Fridge and Freezer Temperatures and alert if high – both whilst on the boat and off the boat. We lost a freezer full of meat in Cartegena whilst we were on a trip to Medellin .
- We want to monitor the Automatic Bilge Pumps when away from boat, so that we can detect any problems.
- Whilst on land, we want to receive alerts to our mobile if the house batteries are low.
- We need to keep the Insurance Companies happy so they give us discounts from having a security system installed.
Nice to Haves
The following requirements are ones we felt would be nice but we could live without.
- Battery backup if power is cut
- Ability to turn on deck lights when dinghying back to boat.
- Collision Detection (0.5G or higher impact) whilst boat is on anchor and we are ashore.
- FOBs to arm and disarm system (otherwise will need to use phone).
- NMEA2000 Integration for engine and tank monitoring.
Not Really Required
We’ve decided we can do without these:
- Shore power monitoring. Charging and power management done remotely with VRM.
- Remote monitoring of starter batteries.
- High Water Monitoring in Bilge. The extra cost is not really warranted given we are already monitoring the bilge pumps (see must haves)
- Motion Detectors inside Hulls. Just in cockpit and saloon.
With this in mind, we have narrowed it down to two suppliers that were reasonably priced, and did the following SWOT analysis. It feels good to be back in Solutions Mode…..
- The BRNKL Mate add-on helps future proof the system – can use Samsung SmartThings and other appliances built for home security, which is a bigger market than marine security.
- Therefore, adding Additional Sensors and Accessories is cheap (not paying BOAT Dollars for marine componentry).
- Comes with a FOB to arm and disarm system (as well as using the Mobile App)
- Can get detachable motion detector for front of boat
- Subscription Plan is more costly that Siren Marine’s.
- SmartThings aren’t necessarily manufactured for Marine environment.
- Can connect up sensor pads for intruder detection.
- Can connect up to an Iridium satellite solution.
- Smaller Company run by founder = usually equals more Personalised Customer Service
- Motion Detector False Alarms from Cockpit Sensor.
- Small Company risk.
- Sensors are manufactured for marine environment
- Has satellite comms option for where mobile phone access is not available. It is also good to use satellite, as professional boat thieves sometimes use blockers to disable cellular tracking.
- Subscription service is cheaper ($180 per year for international coverage)
- Have internal backup battery (48Hours) for when power is cut.
- Bigger company – sells through West Marine, Hodges etc., and partners with other marine suppliers.
- No Camera (coming in Winter)
- Extra Sensors are expensive (marine pricing)
- No FOB – everything turned on and off with phone app.
- No Water Proof Motion Detector for front deck .
- Can buy through West Marine Port Supply for an extra discount.
- Siren Marine are releasing their new Siren 3 Pro next month, which is their latest and greatest.
- Siren Marine are working on having a beam sensor which is supposed to be better suited for outdoors but they do not have any more information at this point as it is still in development
- Motion Detector False Alarms when installed outside (see above).
As usual, I wanted to get this out there so I can get some good feedback. There’s a bit more work and research to do to come up with a decision and place an order, but I need to do it next month and have it sent to East Coast Shipping who will include it in our shipment to France.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.