The Catamaran Adventures of Noel and Ceu
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Home Improvements Made to Life Part 2

Life Part 2 was bought out of a charter fleet. That means it was pretty basic in its equipment – but its price reflected that. Now, chartering for a week or two is one thing, but living on a boat is very different. It is, after all, HOME!

So like any self respecting home owner, I have been doing some Home Improvements! And, in case you are thinking of buying your own yacht, I thought it might be of interest to list the stuff we have done. So here it is.

As you will see, this stuff adds up. Are they all essential? Most of them, no, but fortunately we are in a position where we can make life a bit more comfortable, easy, and fun by having them. Bear in mind that the cost of installing stuff is often about the same as the cost to buy them. Or a fair bit of work doing it yourself. Usually crawling under some tiny space, upside down. Count on any job taking about three times as long as you expect it would.

Also bear in mind that on top of these you also have the normal costs of maintenance – stuff is forever breaking on yachts. True, if you buy brand new you won’t have to replace as much stuff straight away – but you will be paying way more in the initial price. Also, a new boat comes with pretty basic specs too, so either you buy all the additional options, or you add them on later. Personally, it seems to make sense to buy a boat that is a few years old so that all the steep depreciation is passed already.

Item Reason Approx Cost
New Sails & Cradle Cover 

New cradle cover







Actually, the sails weren’t too bad, but I figured I would have to replace them in a year or two for sure, and so I might as well get new ones now, so that I can enjoy them. Especially since I got a good deal on them $3,500

Life Part 2 and her new spinnaker






Very rarely part of the charter specs as it is too easy to get it all messed up – as we saw with our Dominica episode back in July. But in those calm airs am I glad to have it. Without it we would be motoring, with it we can still do 3 – 4 knots. Get the ATN sock – it makes it dead easy to hoist and lower your kite. See our post on flying a spinnaker on our cruising catamaran.
Bimini top and sides 

New bimini cover for leopard 42 catamaran

Our new bimini cover withdrop down sides for both rain and sun






The bimini top was old and patched. So we had it replaced with a nice grey vinyl one. And we also had some clear plastic sides, plus sun-scrren mesh for both sides and back. They are expensive, but does mean you can use the cockpit even when it is pouring. Or when the sun is shining through the stern, as it does in the afternoon when we are anchored nose into the easterly trade winds. Here you can see the aft side sun screen is down. Also when sailing in foul weather, helps to keep the crew somewhat comfortable. $10,000
Jordan Series Drogue 

Jordan series drogue – you can see some of the little cones on the right




The ‘Rolls Royce’ of drogues to slow you down when running before a storm. We bought the one made with Spectra line as it is a third of the weight of the standard line – ie 25 lb instead of 75lb. It consists of about 140 small cones, all in series along a 150 ft line. When dragged behind the boat, the cones act as little brakes, with the net effect that you slow right down to a knot or two max. It also keeps you pointing straight down wind. Plan is, of course, to never have to use it, though we have done a practice with it. $3,500
Epirb, Life raft servicing 

Epirb mounted just next to the door, above the radios




Essential safety equipment. Actually, it turned out that our life raft was soaked with water and badly corroded! So just as well we had the inspection done! $2,000
Radar & AIS 

Lef to right: Radar, chartplotter (with AIS display), authelm (top), depth and speed, and wind






Helps us to see and be seen – especially useful at night or fog, and in crowded areas such as the English Channel. Our speed log exaggerates, the GPS tracked us at going about 8knots, not 8.99 as shown here! The little blue kitchen timer reminds us to write in the log each hour.
Handheld VHF & spare & Iridium Satelite phone 

VHF radio and Iridum 9555 satelite phone





Actually, I only just got the spare as the first one has died – it won’t receive, though transmits fine. Very odd. At least it is on a 3-year warranty. $1500
Fortress Anchor 

Fortress anchor ready to go





You can never have too many anchors if a storm comes by. The Fortress is just like it says, the strongest setting in just about all tests. I have it rigged ready to drop over the starboard quarter at a moments notice. $600
Interior Upholstery 

The Salon – with new upholstery






Who wants to sit on sticky blue vinyl? Had it replaced by some nice brown Sensa Suede. Looks lovely, though clearly not an essential. $2,700
Wind Generator 

Our D400 Windgenerator






The aim is to try to be self sufficient for electricity without having to run the motors. That works if the wind is above about 13kt with a nice sunny day. But usually the anchorages are too protected to be 100% sufficient. Still it does churn out some useful power even if the wind is lighter. Unfortunately mounting these things is as expensive as buying them, as they need a good sturdy pole. And makes sure you have it far enough away from the boom even when on a broad reach. We had to move our back one step as it was too close and we broke a blade. The picture here is before we moved it down to the step below.
HookahMax A low pressure Honda air compressor that pumps air down through two hoses to divers at recreational depths. Sits in a small dinghy and follows you around as you dive. This is almost pure toy, but it means you can go diving anywhere without having to get tanks refilled all the time. And it means you can clean the boat bottom or un-snag your anchor without having to hire scuba gear. Also cheaper than buying BCU, tanks, regulators etc for two people $2,000

Some of our spares and tools in a locker





You name it, we probably have it. Lots of spare parts for the engines, Autohelm, and various other bits that might go wrong. $6,000
Gale Sail storm jib – 80 sq ft
Bought this off a fellow yachter in Grenada at below half price. Actually, Ceu beat them down an additional $100 as otherwise she would have no cash left for my birthday the next day J Again, probably will never use it, but good to have it anyway. $450
LED Lamps 

Ceiling lights with new LED bulbs





I replaced all the halogen lamps with LED so as to use a fraction of the electricity. This includes the masthead anchor light but not yet the navigation lamps. Our salon has a lot of lights, so this was not a small change. BTW, there is a big difference in brightness and reliability between different lamps. Some are voltage regulated, which makes them more expensive but longer lasting, especially if your voltage fluctuates (eg upto 14.2 v when charging and down to under 12v in use). $300
‘Sofa’ at rear of cockpit 

Noel’s new ‘sofa’ complete with foot rest (aka cooler with cusions)






I saw this on one boat that we looked at when were still buying. It is positioned so as to provide a good all-round view, while at the same time providing an almost sofa level comfort. Especially if I put the cooler under my feet as a foot rest. Had it built for me out of anodized aluminium by Havin in Simpson Bay, St. Martin. He did a great job. Wiith the ‘footrest’ in place it is ultra comfortable.
Hooks and netting in the forward sail lockers 

Netting for spinnaker storage on left, brass hooks for lines on right





I put in some brass hooks to tidy up the spare lines we have, plus some netting to make a compartment for the spinnaker. Actually I used aluminum hooks first, from Home Depot, but they disintegrated within a month. So then I tracked down some proper solid brass ones and they are doing fine. As you can see, I had to glass in some wood in order to attach all these things. $50
Interior decorating 

Ceu’s redecorating of our bedroom






Ceu is a star at this, she now has coordinated curtains and bedding in both forward cabins, plus cushions to match the new upholstery, and endless cleaning. With the mildew in the tropics that never seems to stop! $100
Endless Tupperware and Rubbermaid 

Perfect storage behind our galley






Get as much Tupperware and Rubbermaid as you can lay your hands on – perfect for food storage and for storing all your tools, spares, socks and so on. All sizes from the smallest herb container to the big tubs. Fortunately Ceu bought most of this stuff years ago – it lasts forever. $1,000
Fishing gear Ha! That’s a joke! 2,000 miles and still haven’t caught anything (apart from some sargasum sea weed, that is). Mind you, we only got some basic lures and handlines that we then troll while sailing. Still, it is supposed to work 🙂 $100
Life jackets with harnesses 

Spinlock ‘Deckvest’ lifejacket with harness





The charter fleet lifejackets are usually pretty basic. So we bought some fancy Spinlock lifejacts with integral harness. You HAVE to wear a harness any time you go outside the cockpit either in the dark or in any kind of wind. One small trip, or a sudden movement that knocks you off your feet and you could find yourself in the water. And that is almost certainly the end of that story. $350 each.

Some of our tools





Once you are out of port, pretty much anything that breaks is down to you to fix. So bring an extensive toolkit – I don’t think there is a tool that I brought that I haven ‘t used yet – even the tap and die kit was used for installing the radar bracket onto the mast.
Rocna 33 Anchor
rocna 33 anchor on Leopard 42 catamaran
Life Part 2 came with three anchors – a 15kg bruce, 20kg CQR, and a Hydrobubble. Each of these was way too small. After we dragged anchor a number of times, and then breaking our chain, we finally decided it was time to get some real steel up there. So we bought two Rocna 33’s. As you can see, this fits nicely into the bow roller on the Leopard 42. And it is about 50% bigger and heavier than the Hydrobubble. Incidentally, Hydrobubble went broke in 2008. I guess they couldn’t compete with the setting and holding power of the new generation anchors such as Rocna, Manson Supreme, and Buegel, all of which are pretty similar in design and performance.
$1170 each.
NASA PC Navtex Pro
PC Navtex USB

This gadget passively receives Navtex messages, which include weather warnings, navigational warnings etc. They are transmitted by multiple stations in most countries, and are propogated farther than VHF. I installed this as a backup system for getting weather information if, for some reason, I cannot receive grib files and VHF reports – for example if I am out at sea without a Satelite phone.
It is easy to use – it just sits there receiving messages, and when I want to read them, I hook up the laptop through a serial cable and download them.As with many things on board it is a bit of a belt-and-braces approach, but seemed like it would be useful.
Ship Modul MiniPlex 2USB/BT – NMEA Multiplexer

All the boat’s navigational systems communicate with each other by means of the NMEA protocol. So the chartplotter interacts with the autohelm and the radar and the AIS and so on.
Normally each gadget will be able to transmit its own information (ie it is a talker), and also receive input from other talkers (ie it is a listener). The problem is, a talker can talk to up to 4 listeners, but a listener can list to only one at a time. In addition, many instruments don’t fully conform to the NMEA specs, which can cause problems when you try to connect them all together.Into this mix I wanted to be able to receive all the data (including wind speed and direction, and water depth) onto my laptop running the OpenCPN charting software. I also wanted better connections to my radar.The only way to achieve all this is by means of a multiplexer. This can listen to many talkers, and then it will combine all the data from these talkers into one single output stream. That output can then be sent to up to 4 listeners. Typically a multiplexer has several outputs, letting one send data to eight or more different listeners.

I also wanted to be able to receive all this data on my laptop without any cables or wires.

The solution, and it works well, is this little black box which receives all the inputs, blends them together, and then outputs them by normal NMEA connections AND by USB and Bluetooth connections.

Perfect. I now have all the helm instruments duplicated on my laptop AND since the AIS has its own GPS, separate from the chartplotter, I know have two GPS units providing input, one acting as a backup to the other. ShipModul Multiplexer

Remote Control Radio Switch
remote switch

To play music we have to turn on the radio in the salon. But if we want to play music while in bed, how do we then turn it off again without having to get out of bed, waking onself up again in the process?
Simple. Just install a remote control switch, bought off Ebay for about $12. We switch the radio on at the panel, and then we can switch it off again either at the panel, or by using the little remote control switch from the bed. 🙂
Window Sunscreens

Sometimes the some coming through the side windows is just too hot. So we bought some silver ‘bubblewrap’ insulation from a hardware store, and inserted some small plastic suction cups into it. Now we can stick the insulation up in the window and cut out the heat. Also works well to cut out the nosy passers-by when we are tied up at a busy dock!
Lightning Protection
lightning rod
The chances of being hit by lightning in a yacht are actually quite high, yet few boats seem to get around to putting up any kind of lightning protection. That is probably partly because the jury is still out on the best way to achieve such protection.Anyway, after much analysis and discussion, we have put up our solution. Hopefully we will never find out if it works. Click the link for full details on our lightning protection system. $50

2 Responses to “Home Improvements Made to Life Part 2”

  • Uncle John and aunt Lou:

    Hi Guys Nice to hear from you. Doesn’t all come with experience ? Have fun out there.Keep on Sailing We love you.

  • Heidi:

    Wwow is all I can say. Look forward to seeing it all. Had supper with Joshua at Mary’s last night. Off to france tomorrow.

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