Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Intermezzo’s Top 20 Gear List - Part 2

This is Part 2 of Intermezzo’s Top 20 Gear List, covering the top 10 of the Top 20 items in countdown order. Part 1 covered items 20 through 11 in likewise fashion.

10. Iridium Go! and PredictWind Offshore

Our Iridium Go! satellite communication device keeps us connected while at sea and we use it with the PredictWind Offshore app for weather forecasts and routing. The Go! turns our smartphones into satellite phones for voice calling, texting and email. There’s an SOS button to press that alerts a global search and rescue service if we get into big trouble. Reception is pretty good, voice call quality okay, text messaging excellent, and email basic, but reliable. PredictWind weather and wind forecasts have been reasonably accurate and the weather routing good for big picture purposes. PredictWind now offers Iridium voice and data packages with inexpensive SIM cards that let us reduce costs by activating and deactivating service to based on Intermezzo’s sailing schedule. The Go! is easy to install, set up and use and has been a reliable means of communication while offshore. Customer support at PredictWind has been outstanding.

9. Lifeline Batteries

I'm somewhat surprised that a gear as mundane as batteries made it this high on the list. But, then again, I'm not. This is my third boat with Lifeline Batteries and I can't overstate how good they are. They are well made, charge faster than most other lead-acid batteries, spill-proof, can take a beating, are maintenance free and last a long time.  The batteries in Intermezzo's house bank are over six years old and are just now showing signs of not recharging to 100% of capacity. Fortunately, Lifeline batteries are hand built and can be equalized (conditioned) to regain lost capacity. I'm going to do that soon and I'll report on the results.  I'm hoping I can squeeze a couple more years out of my beloved Lifelines before I make the big switch to lithium batteries, which are far better suited for sailboats, but quite expensive.

8. Victron Multiplus Compact Inverter/Charger

Another piece of boring electrical gear makes the Top 10 list. Intermezzo's Victron Multiplus Compact Inverter/Charger is truly multipurpose for us. It converts DC power to AC to power computers, tools, the NutriBullet (#17 on the list) and my espresso machine (another luxury item of self-indulgence). It allows our Yamaha portable generator (#14) to top off the batteries on cloudy days. And it lets us keep the batteries charged when we're plugged into shore power at a marina. It is indeed compact, fitting neatly in the cabinet below the galley sink (not where I would choose to locate electrical equipment, but Intermezzo's builders thought otherwise). One key feature of the Victron is that you can limit how much current it draws from an AC power source. This is how we can use such a small, lightweight portable generator without overloading it. Many more advanced features can be configured by software to get the most out of the boat's batteries and electrical system. Intermezzo's Multiplus was easy to install and set up and has performed flawlessly in the background.

7. Spectra Cape Horn Extreme Watermaker

A watermaker salesman once told me, "You don't buy a watermaker for drinking water. You buy it for your love life." I get it. A watermaker lets you and the crew take regular showers. Everybody is happier, refreshed and smells better.  I installed Intermezzo's Spectra Cape Horn Extreme watermaker in the starboard bow compartment, forward of the master shower. It fit perfectly and is in an easy to access place where I don't have to worry about water leaks. Our watermaker puts out about 18 gph with both pumps running and about 10 gph on only one pump. Running with a single pump on sunny afternoons works great with our solar panels and we run two pumps when we are motoring or using the portable generator to top up the batteries. The Spectra has worked great and has required no repairs or maintenance, other than normal flushing, filter changes and "pickling" during storage. The watermaker not only makes fresh water when there is none, it also provides a safe source of drinking water when the quality of water at the dock is questionable, as is the case where we've cruised in Mexico and Central America.

6. Dual Raymarine e7 Multi-Function Displays

When I installed radar on Intermezzo, I decided to install a second multi-function display (MFD).  What a great decision! The 7-inch screen on the Raymarine e7 MFD is pretty small, but I'm confident that having two smaller displays is better than having a single larger one. Not only does having a second MFD provide a ready spare for redundancy, it also provides very helpful ways for viewing navigational information. During daytime sailing, we typically have the upper MFD display the chart set to relatively short range (2.5 to 10 nm) to know what's immediately around us, and the lower MFD display the chart set at long range (10 to 50 nm) to see the big picture for our passage. At night, we switch the upper MFD to display radar and the lower MFD to show the chart. The top position for the radar not only makes it prominent for the helmsperson, the darker radar screen also helps preserve night vision. These MFDs, used in conjunction with our iPad with Navionic and Raymarine apps (#12 on the list), really makes safe piloting and navigation a breeze.

5. Achilles Dinghy/Yamaha Outboard

Intermezzo's dinghy and outboard serve as main means of transportation between shore and the boat when anchored out. It's our dive boat and our fast water excursion vehicle, too. The Achilles HB-315 rigid hull inflatable boat (RIB) is well-made, stable, gets up on a plane easily and can carry four adults with gear. Its hypalon tubes still look great (it helps that it is shaded by the solar panels when raised on its davits) and the fiberglass hull is in pretty good shape after being hauled up many sandy beaches (less wear now with dingy wheels, #19 on list). Our Yamaha 15 hp four-stroke outboard is a big, heavy beast compared to a two-stroke motor, but performs well and has never let us down. Amazingly, it has started on the first pull 90% of the time, even after long periods of storage, despite me not having done any maintenance whatsoever in over three years since it was purchased. I'm not proud of my neglect, but I am impressed with the engine! The Yamaha gets the dinghy up on a plane with four adults on board and makes the boat fly at nearly 20 knots with only two aboard. The dinghy rows decently, too.

4. Code 0 Gennaker by Calvert Sails

When we began our most recent passage from La Paz, my crew, Pete and Roy, had never sailed under a Code 0 gennaker sail before. I told them that I loved Intermezzo's Code 0 and bet they would, too. Sure enough, as we ended our journey in Ixtapa, Pete told me that one of the best aspects of sailing on Intermezzo was the Code 0 sail. "I love that sail", he said, and Roy shook his head in agreement. Intermezzo's Code 0 was designed by Dave Calvert (Calvert Sails), a specialist in sails for multihulls. It is an amazing sail. Dave was great to work with and produced a great sail at a great price. Intermezzo's Code 0 works a apparent wind angles ranging from 65 degrees to dead downwind and apparent wind speeds of 5 to 20 knots. It trims nicely with the main at wind angles less than 125 degrees, but really likes to fly on its own at deeper angles, especially in light airs. I can't tell you enough how peaceful and easy it is sailing downwind on just the Code 0, especially at night (I write repeatedly about it in this blog!). The sail is easy to deploy and douse singlehanded with its continuous line furler by Colligo Marine, another great vendor of innovative rigging products. I love this sail!

3. Solar Panels and Charge Controllers

I figure that the sun provides about 80 percent of the electricity needed to live comfortably on board Intermezzo. When it's really sunny and we aren't sailing at night, we can live on 100% solar. We never have to run the diesel engines just to charge batteries and only have to use the portable gas generator if it's cloudy for a few days.  It's great not to burn smelly and polluting fossil fuel and not have to listen to a running engine. Intermezzo's main solar panels are two Kyocera 270 watt fixed panels mounted on stainless steel supports cantilevered off the hardtop. Each panel is connected to it's own MidNite Kid Solar MPPT charge controller. A separate charger allows charging for each panel to be optimized, especially important if one panel is partially shaded. A single charger can handle both panels if needed,  providing a ready spare if one charger fails. Other than needing to reset a controller every once in a while, this system provides clean, quiet, reliable power without having to lift a finger.

2. Raymarine Autopilot

Intermezzo's autopilot is amazing. It steers the boat better than I can. In heavy seas, I'll steer by hand for a while to get a feel for the boat, which takes a fair amount of concentration and effort. After 30 minutes, I've had enough and engage the autopilot. It's humbling to watch a fairly simple device steer a smoother course than me, it's sensors and computer algorithms quickly learning the motion of the sea and the boat's response. The autopilot also allows me to easily sail Intermezzo singlehanded, steering while I raise and lower the mainsail, furl and unfurl the headsails, tuck in or let out a reef, plot a position, watch a radar target, make lunch, open a beer...I can't imagine sailing Intermezzo long distances without it. It is both a vital piece of safety equipment and an appreciated luxury item. Wait a second...I can steer better than the autopilot...when sailing close-hauled upwind. Whew...glad to remember I'm not totally replaceable by a machine.

1. Rocna Anchor

And the No. 1 piece of gear on Intermezzo?

(Drum roll....)

Our Rocna anchor!

It sets easily. It holds in storm conditions. It's never dragged. It lets me get a good night's sleep. It lets us leave Intermezzo "on the hook" for extended periods. I love this anchor, even more than the Code 0 sail.  I selected the Rocna 33 (33kg/73lb) for Intermezzo, a size larger than indicated on Rocna's sizing chart (two sizes larger than for an equivalent length/weight monohull). I upgraded the anchor chain to 3/8" (10mm) G40 chain to match the anchor's strength. Yes, this all added quite a bit of weight, but it's offset by Intermezzo not having a generator or air conditioning and only having to keep the water tanks half full by having a watermaker. The anchor fits like a glove on the Intermezzo's anchor roller. After many a night anchored in high winds, bouncy seas, Intermezzo swinging around in big arcs, I never worry about the Rocna holding. I do keep a careful eye on the bridle and attachment points...I figure something on the boat will break before the anchor or chain lets go.  This is the single best investment in gear for Intermezzo that I've made, without question.