Upgrading Pearl for Extended Travel

So having hung around the marinas for a while, lived on the boat, and generally tried to adapt to cruising life, I’ve come up with a list of stuff with which to upgrade Pearl. There is a magic balance here. On the one hand I don’t want so much gear on board that I can’t swing a cat. On the other, there are things — like water — that can be a serious pain in the posterior to acquire when traveling abroad.

My design goal here is to be able to project Pearl an unspecified distance for an undetermined period — single handed. Note that short of building a “generation” spaceship replete with an farm on board, this is not very realistic. It does, however, pose interesting questions regarding energy consumption/production, water (!!!), and crew workload/rest.

It’s useful to note that people have traveled in sailboats for a long time without any of the stuff that I am considering adding, and that there are fail-safe behavioral rather than technological solutions to all of the problems I am trying to solve.

To this end, there are three projects upgrades to Pearl that I think would be useful, which I will discuss individually as they evolve.

Project #1: Power Generation
Pearl currently has only two energy sources on board — her sails which are used for propulsion, and the her diesel engine which is an auxiliary propulsion system as well as the source for generating electrical power that is stored in batteries. There isn’t an issue with the propulsion systems. The big question has to do with electrical power for all of the conveniences that are “must haves” on board.

There are three options for supplementary electrical power — a gas or diesel generator, a wind generator, and solar panels. There are two parts to this equation: demand and supply. The magic I am trying to figure out at the moment is how to increase the renewable power supply from solar and/or wind, cut demand, keep up with the power requirements for snazzy electronic gear while under sail, and find a place to park the batteries required for power storage.

Project #2: Water Maker
This is a really sore topic that I am in the process of researching. On the one hand, the dock-side scuttlebutt is that you can’t live without a water maker, particularly if you don’t have giant water tanks 200 – 400 gallons, and particularly in the Bahamas. Pearl carries “only” 100 gallons of water. While I figured I could use 3 – 5 gals of fresh water per person per day. This still makes for water stops every 10 days to 2 weeks. There is also the option of supplemental water (e.g. bottled) for drinking, jerry cans, and a rain catcher (?!?). Stay tuned on the story behind this one.

Project #3: Navionics
Pearl currently has a great chartplotter, autopilot, depth sounder/sonar, radar, and radios (VHF and HAM/SSB). The dodgy bit is that the chart plotter is old, the Jeppesen charts for it are egregiously expensive (more expensive than the cost of new gear for the east cost alone), and the radar is essentially dead. The current generation of that gear is pretty slick and offers a bunch of interesting safety enhancements like integrated AIS (think transponders for ships) and MARPA based radar guard zones that allow you of potential collisions and threats. Oh, and all of this can be displayed on an iPhone or iPad, as a bonus.

Stay tuned. More to come.

Leave a Reply