Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Systems on our Boat

While this is a very simple set-up, you wouldn't want to live aboard!
We love our boat.  LOVE her.  There are a million reasons why she is perfect for us and we feel so lucky to have found her.  We've met so many people who's boats are no where near as reliable as our Rasmus and I honestly believe that if you can't trust your boat 100%, you will be missing out significantly on the enjoyment of the cruising lifestyle.  Whether it be a leaky deck, lack of storage, dysfunctional instruments or poor sails - "small" problems like these on a boat can be detrimental to your happiness.  Unless you are a sado-masochist, if you are not comfortable on your boat you will not like cruising.  That said, there are a few systems that make ours extra special and extra user-friendly.  While they are by no means "essential" to the function of a boat, they make life a lot easier.  Here they are, in no particular order:

Top 10 Systems on Rasmus

1)  Chartplotter.  We love our Simrad chartplotter with AIS (we both receive and transmit).  Three words: peace. of. mind.  Scott and I ALWAYS have paper charts on deck with us, and we have several back-up GPS units (and a sextant, though - truth be told - we have no clue how to use it yet) in the event of failure.    But our chartplotter is incredibly accurate (down to coral heads!) and having AIS is something that I am 100% sure will be mandatory on all boats in the near future.  The fact that ours is on deck is a major bonus.  No having to run up and down to check our position.

2) Doyle Stackpack.  We got new sails when we left and our sailmaker suggested a "stackpack" - having come from a racing background where all things cruiser meant slow, we weren't familiar with this great system for storing a mainsail - but boy are we glad we have it.  Not having to wrestle a sail down, deal with a sail cover and always having our main fall down right into a nice pocket on the boom makes life...easier.  Having new sails is also a major bonus - old sails are not only slow, but they are often times very difficult (if not impossible) to trim properly.  Good sails + good trim = good sailing.

3) Autopilot.  I cannot imagine having to hand steer for 24 hours a day on a long passage.  Being able to be on a three hour watch and never touch the wheel is a huge perk.  You are free to make a sandwich, read a book, listen to music, write...etc.  While an autopilot is obviously not essential, it gets major points for the comfort factor and makes life a lot nicer.

4)  Watermaker.  First of all, making drinking water from salt water is nothing short of a miracle in my opinion.  It is so....cool.  If I had a dime for every time we said, "installing this thing was one of our BEST decisions...".  Never having to go ashore to fill jerry jugs is a big perk.  Not having to be a slave to our water usage is a bigger perk.  We can shower liberally, wash our deck, do our dishes and not have to worry that we're going to run out.  Ours is a very simple, energy efficient unit that runs off our batteries and by running it for an hour every other day we top off our tanks to full.  Reverse osmosis is your friend.

5)  Spot Tracker.  We use this little guy every time we move.  It's a great (relatively cheap) way to keep loved ones, friends and followers up to date on where we are despite whether or not we have internet or phone service.  In addition, it has a built in safety feature in the form of an S.O.S button in case of emergency.  While I would never use this in place of an EPRIB, it is an added safety precaution and you can never have too many backups in the event of an emergency.  I will note that the downside is that this little guys eats up (very expensive) lithium batteries and you should be mindful to have extras on board.

6)  Roller furling jib.  One of the things we do not miss from our days as racing sailors are the incalculable headsail changes that occur during a race.  Referred to as "peels" (because, when racing, you want to actually raise the new sail before taking down the old, essentially 'peeling' it away from the new) they can be exhausting.  Wind goes light?  Throw up the genoa.  Changing course to a reach?  Get out the code zero.  Wind picks up big time?  Put up the storm jib.  Sail changes are a thing of our past.  Now, we just roll out the jib when we're ready to sail and roll it back up when we are finished.  Easy peasy.  Also - because we have a reefing roller furling, we can shorten sail as necessary without having to hank on another sail.

7)  Dinghy davits and radar arch.  Our custom built, stainless steel radar arch and davit system (arms off the back of our boat from which to hang our dinghy) make life so much easier.  First of all, towing a dinghy for anything longer than a day sail is not advisable and storing it on deck is a pain in the butt (though for long passages we always stow on deck).  The davits make day to day life much easier - we simply have to clip on and hoist up.  In addition, it provides  a lot of great real estate to lash deck items to and it houses a whole slew of antennas so, in the event that we ever lost our mast (wince), we would not lose all our systems.

8)  Single Side Band Radio.  I said before that none of these items on this list are "essential" but I make an exception for this one.  A single side band (SSB) radio is a long-range radio that is, in my opinion, must-have gear on a cruising sailboat.  We have met very few people without at least a receiver and people who cruise extensively without one are putting themselves at risk.  The regular VHF radio has no where near the range of the SSB and the weather information gathered through SSB is far superior to that of VHF.  Getting weather reports (from our sponsor, Chris Parker) is the primary reason for our SSB but we can also send and receive emails with it from pretty much anywhere on the water.  When there is no VHF signal, no WiFi or cell reception - there is SSB.

9) Windlass.  We LOVE our electric windlass.  It makes anchoring a piece of cake and has probably added a lot of life to our lower backs.  We have 275 feet of all chain rode. That is about 800 pounds of chain.  While we never have quite that much chain out, it is heavy.  There are times we have had to re-set our anchor three or four times and having the windlass means we can re-set our anchor with ease if we are unsure of our holding or position.  We have seen other boats stay in a spot they shouldn't because they don't want to deal with hauling the anchor back up.  Not good.

10)  Solar Panel.  Being energy efficient is key on a sailboat living 'off the grid'.  Though we are looking to increase wattage and add a wind generator, our 65 watt solar panel does a pretty good job at keeping our batteries topped off at anchor.  Not having to run the engine or deal with a noisy generator not only makes our life more comfortable, but the life of our neighbors as well!

So there you have it.  The top ten systems that make life aboard a boat that much nicer!


Okeebc said...

Very nice write up! I am wondering if you could outline your watermaker/battery setup. How many Amp Hours is the battery bank, how long do you run the WM for X gallons and does this require you to start the engine to recharge the batteries or leave your bank low?

The reason I ask is I am currently deciding between the Little Wonder and the RO system. The RO is designed around using a Honda 2000EU generator. I think my decision might be influenced by your experiences with the LW.

Thanks in advance.

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Another great post! We plan on getting all of these items if our budget allows it. If not, I guess we'll scratch the watermaker till we can afford it. The Stack Pack was something we never knew about until learning of it on your site a while back. Since then it's one of the items we plan on getting sooner than later, behind the chartplotter and davits. The Stack Pack truly looks worth every cent! Thanks again guys for sharing your experience with beginners like us!

Robert Salnick said...

Nice post! And good advice to those who are fitting out.

Like Okeebe above, I am interested in your electrical budget...

s/v Eolian

Paula said...

That's great info. I was wondering if you could possibly give a rough estimate of the costs involved in getting these things. I am especially interested in the watermaker (also, how much regular maintenance is invloved in having it), SSB and windlass.
Thanks! Paula

Martin, SY Snowbird said...

Nice post! I really understand that you like your water maker! But you don´t get the nice exercise that we do caring those damn jars ;)
/Martin (Snowbird)

Crew / Besättning said...

Nice post! I really understand that you like your water maker! But you don´t get the nice exercise that we do caring those damn jars ;)
/Martin (Snowbird)

athena said...

nice! We need a windlass anchor for our boat!

TT said...

Great list, although a SSB radio aren't much needed when there is a satellite broadband system and/or a satellite phone onboard!

Windtraveler said...

Thanks for the comments all...

For those of you interested in our energy situation - look for tomorrow's post.

Paulina - the costs of these things vary greatly. We have a gear list on our blog which outlines all our systems and you can google those items to see what they cost. As for maintenance - the watermaker needs to be flushed regularly and we've changed the filters once in 6 months, but our unit is very low maintenance...the SSB requires no maintenance but it is difficult to install. Good luck.

Taru - good point - we also have a sat phone but don't use it for weather. Didn't think of satellite broadband because it's so rare on most cruising boats...but you are right! As long as a boat has SOME way to get weather, that is the most important.

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