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.
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 is really useful (I can up- and down-load waypoints from the computer, so avoiding the pain of its c1995 interface).
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.
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.
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…