modifications

The First Thousand Miles

Aurora is at her home port of Stourbridge at the moment (I love writing that down when checking in to marinas!), receiving a little TLC (i.e. varnish) before our next trip later this month. In our recent trip to the Essex coast, we passed the milestone of a thousand nautical miles of travelling in Aurora! This has been achieved in the slightly less than three years that we have owned her and I think an average of over 300nm miles per year is pretty respectable for a trailer sailer.

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I am really happy with how our little ship has performed. I put a lot of work into Aurora in the first two seasons we owned her, mostly in internal modifications. So how useful have these changes been?

The most useful mods:

I added an internal instrument panel to hold the electrical wiring. I’m really glad I spent some time on this and, in fact I made a prototype panel before the current version, which is a bit neater and nicer looking. I find the battery monitor really useful, the handheld GPS mounted on its cradle, linked to a repeater in the cockpit ┬áis really useful (I can up- and down-load waypoints from the computer, so avoiding the pain of its c1995 interface).

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The brass hooks are really useful for storing keys, penknife, etc and are easily reached from the cockpit.

The LED interior light have been well-used, as have all three 12V sockets for charging up gizmos.

The fixed VHF DSC radio (linked to the GPS) does not get used all the time, but is a big improvement on the disappointingly short range hand-held radio, and its reassuring to know that I can use it in case of need.

The two 30W solar panels (with charge controller) have been a great addition, and mean that we are self-sufficient for power. Not fixing them to the deck means that I can move them around to get the best charging and stow them below when I need to (most of the time when we’re underway).

The galley was pretty fiddly to fit (I got lots of help!), but has been a massive asset. I did not want gas on the boat because I think the worktop is too close to the roof and because I find that space a bit too cramped. The meths stove we use is a little slower to heat than gas, but safer and convenient. Having a proper gimballed stove means we can make hot drinks (or even cook) when underway, and the galley has convenient for tea and coffee making materials, as well as cutlery and crockery.

To cope with wet weather, I had a simple boom cover made which attaches to hooks on the bottom of the strakes. This has (fortunately) not needed extensive use, but has been appreciated when needed. It means that we can get in and out of the boat in rain without getting the cabin wet, it gives us some more outside storage overnight and allows us to cook and sleep with the washboards out when its raining.

The mods which didn’t work out as well as I had hoped:

The depth sounder is a pretty basic unit from Nasa marine, which combines a log. The depth transducer is mounted as far forward as I could manage (in the bow locker) and works well most of the time. It has its limitations, especially in shallow muddy water, where it has trouble telling mud from water (I have touched the bottom when it was telling me I had plenty of water on at least one occasion). Its better over a hard sea bed (rock or sand) and I think I have got better at interpreting what it is telling me. When I am creek crawling, I use my trusty bean pole instead, more often than not.

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The through hull log which I fitted has been a great disappointment. It has rarely delivered a reliable reading and seems to need the paddle wheel changing very frequently. I’d like to have a measure of speed and distance independent of the GPS, not least so I can judge the strength of tidal flow, and I don’t think I would buy this same unit again. I chose it primarily on cost (very much the least expensive I found) and would probably go for one of the new systems which has a single, multi-use display which can be hooked up to a variety of sensors.

I spent a lot of time fitting nav lights to the mast head, and have rarely used them. I like the idea of occasional night passages, but somehow it just never happens. When I am anchored, I tend to use my dawn-sensor anchor light, which turns off when it gets light and saves the battery.

The least used piece of equipment is the Yeoman plotter. This is a nifty device, but its quite big, so its a pain to store at night. Its great for longer passages, but most of the sailing we do is inshore, so it is less useful for the kind of sailing we do and thus tends not to get used.

Here is a schematic for the wiring aboard Aurora. I’m no expert and I’ve worked this out for myself, but it might be of some interest.

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Future mods?

I would like to fit a tiller pilot at some stage, though this is not an urgent need, as I do not sail single handed very often.

Drying out: I would like to make some kind of device so that Aurora can dry out on the level. I have some ideas, but don’t tend to dry that often, so that too does not seem very urgent.

I suppose that says I am pretty happy with the boat as she is and should just get on with sailing her…

modifications

Wooden washboards

Circumstances have conspired to prevent me from getting Aurora on the water yet the season. However, I have been busy preparing her and making a few improvements for the new season. Our experience last season was that early sun tended to make the cabin too bright and wake us up early. To help with this, I had two-part hard wood washboards made. I have applied seemingly endless coats of varnish (free, thanks to the OGA Holyhead festival last year) and now they are fitted. There are a few other mods afoot; more details to follow….

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modifications

Twiddling with the trailer board

Trailing a substantial trailer like Aurora’s is more challenging at night. Not being able to see the boat clearly doesn’t help and I’m concerned that other drivers don’t see the trailer or misjudge its size.

To this end, a quick trip to eBay turned up some LED lights (red facing backward and white facing forward) which I fixed to the ends of the trailer board. This shows drivers the width of the trailer and should mean that I can see the back of the trailer in the rear view mirror. It should also mean that oncoming drivers should be able to see the trailer.

I also took the opportunity to mount the board with quick release clips, so I don’t have to mess with bungee cords any more…

modifications

Aurora is now a galley-on

Sorry for the awful pun, but a very significant upgrade for Aurora is almost complete. Having admired the galley which Russell designed and had made by a local joiner for Zephyr, his Cape Cutter 19, I wanted one for Aurora. It turned out that getting the joiner to make another galley unit was just the first step.

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So why does the Cape Cutter need a galley? This small boat is perfect for family trips, but without the means to prepare hot meals, its use is limited to being a day boat or hopping between marinas and eating out (which is mostly how we have used it so far). However we lack the ability to make a hot drink underway or easily cook a proper meal. We have used our much loved Trangia meths stove, but this cannot easily be used inside the boat and cooking in the cockpit is hard, especially when it’s windy. Others use a portable gas stove on the counter top; I don’t like this option, as the heat source seems uncomfortably close to the cabin ceiling and wall.

Russell’s design provides not just cooking facility (gimballed stove), but puts all the bits and pieces (chopping board, knife, condiments, etc) to hand. The cost is to sacrifice part of the starboard wing berth and I definitely don’t want to lose the ability to sleep 2 adults and 2 kids aboard, but having seen Russell’s completed project was convinced that neither seat not the ability to sleep in this berth is lost (the sleeper has to wriggle a little further under the cockpit). It was also important to me that I could remove the galley easily if I wanted to.

The galley unit, as provided by the joiner provides a space for a single ring burner (I chose an alcohol burner as I did not fancy gas on our small boat), as well as storage for cutlery and crockery, as well as a drawer for condiments.

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As my carpentry skills are rather limited, Russell kindly agreed to help me fit the galley and I am very grateful, as it took several hours of careful work to scribe it out until it was a good fit into the cabin (I stopped counting after the galley had been in and out of the cabin a dozen times). The side of the counter top to which the galley is attached is not flat, so a panel with a large hole in the middle to accommodate the bow is glued to the grp and then the galley is fixed to that. A further bolt will be added to secure the base of the galley to the base of the seat.

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Now the galley is fixed in position, I am waiting for the sikaflex to cure before unscrewing the galley and removing it for varnishing and fitting of the origo 1500 cooker. All got to be done in the next 5 days…..

Update:

After three coats of varnish and fitting the cooker, the galley looks great in position. The hardwood trim on the counter top needed a small amount a planing and the joiner made a shorter hardwood strip to replace the standard one that retains the seat cushion. All in all a really useful upgrade.

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modifications

Aurora gains her identity

I have been waiting until we had “grown into” Aurora to get her name on her. Don’t get me wrong, she was Aurora on the ship’s radio license last year. The Cape Cutter 19 is a pretty boat and gets a lot of attention and I wanted something individual for her. You can get some pretty funky vinyl lettering these days, but for me it had to be a paint job by hand. Living in the midlands, this is not a problem given he number of canal boats. Following a recommendation from a colleague at work with a canal boat, some serious and much discussion, Aurora now sports her name on both bows and transom. We’re very pleased. Sounds like an excuse for the bubbly stuff…

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modifications

Night rating

Well, it seems to have taken far longer than I hoped, but another set of mods are (more or less) complete on Aurora. I have modified the mast head and fitted an antenna for the fixed VHF as well as a combination white/tricolour mast head light. These are wired back to the new fascia panel and I have wired a two way switch to some coloured LEDs to show which light is being displayed.

The fitting took a long time because I modified the wooden past head with a chisel so that the light fitted into it, rather than ext to it, so it looks neat and tidy. I also took the opportunity to paint the white mast top.

At the other end of the mast, after a great deal of umming and erring, I decided to chop about 10mm off the bottom of the mast to ensure that the wires did not pinch. I tried making a groove first, but was not convinced that he wires would stay in the groove (and besides, my carpentry is not a pretty sight!), so ended up amputating the very bottom of the mast. I left the tails of the cables quite long so that if I forget to unplug, it won’t break the cables or sockets. I reluctantly took the cables through the coach roof on the starboard side and “hid” them with trunking on the cabin roof, before routing them through the cupboards. This was so that the cables were up high and I did not have to make holes in the locker in front of the mast because I have had water on the cabin floor and I did not want it being able to escape.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased by how it all looks. The compass lights up when the mast head light is turned on. The VHF seems to work (I was worried my connections would not be up to snuff). The fascia covers better wiring and now provides some storage.

The mast head with light attached with Sikaflex, awaiting varnish. Note the dowels to locate the wooden head onto the mast. Originally screwed on through the top, now sikaflexed into position.

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The new fascia panel with battery monitor, GPS bracket (coiled cable is for Yeoman plotter), hinged fuse panel, 12v socket, mast head light switch and storage cubby hole. To be added: storage hooks. Panel from 12mm outdoor ply (too thick- should have used 8mm) and varnished with Ronseal.
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the instruments lit up. Compass, GPS repeater, depth/log display and VHF.
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modifications

A busy weekend

Work is progressing nicely on the upgrades to Aurora. I have now finished the joinery for a storage unit and new control panel on the port bulkhead. Once they’re varnished, I’ll wire everything in.

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Meanwhile, to make rigging up quicker, I have altered the forestay to add a snap shackle and the bowsprit stays now use pelican clips.

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Meanwhile, I’m wondering how to route the cables from the VHF antenna and mast head light through the coach roof. My current thinking is to fit the plugs to the port side of the tabernacle. However, it might be neater if the sockets were aft of the tabernacle. Sadly the fittings are too large to fit in front of the mast.

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