RETREAT FROM BATTLE II
MODIFICATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS
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In the 15 years that we have owned Retreat from Battle II we have modified or replaced a high proportion of her furniture and fittings. To give a detailed account of all these changes would fill a book of this size on its own. The abbreviated list below therefore concentrates on those that have proved to be important to us during our extended cruising.
When we bought Retreat she had a huge internal volume, but very few places to stow anything safely whilst at sea and very few surfaces on which to place things whilst in harbour. We have radically improved both by rebuilding the chart-table and the galley and modifying other storage areas. We have made extensive use of plastic boxes, both large and small to effectively partition many lockers and the fridge. Book stowage needed particular attention as one requires a large number of books when living aboard and Retreat, in common with many boats, had no stowage at all for A4 sized books. We have added a hinged flap with fiddles to fill in the gap between the galley and the chart-table and a removable flap that extends the chart table and makes it more comfortable for prolonged use as a desk when in harbour. We have also added fold-away tables to both the saloon and the cockpit.
When living aboard a fridge is absolutely essential if one is to be able to enjoy fresh food and cold drinks. We have added an electrically driven compressor unit to our icebox and doubled up its insulation all round. At two cubic feet it is adequate, though a bit more space would help! The original unit was air-cooled but we later converted it to water-cooling by the addition of a ‘keel cooler’. This has improved its efficiency enormously as well as making it considerably quieter and avoiding the production of hot air in an already over-heated cabin.
The addition of the fridge made up-grading our electrical system essential. As it is never wise to put new wine into old casks, this has actually led us to replace the entire domestic system including batteries, charging systems, wiring and distribution panels. The essential parts of the new system are:
· Two 120 amp hour deep-cycle batteries for the domestic circuits and one 120 amp hour cranking battery for the engine.
· A 90 amp alternator on the engine in place of the original 30 amp one.
· A ‘smart’ regulator to make maximum use of the alternator when the engine is running.
· A 30 amp switch-mode mains battery charger.
· 4 x 30 watt solar panels with their own regulator.
· New distribution panels for both 12 volt and mains circuits.
· A 200 watt inverter to power such things as the computer or the electric mixer when away from mains electricity.
· A comprehensive battery monitor.
The new system allows us to remain at anchor with the fridge running for up to four days without running the engine. Two hours of motoring (we only ever run the engine under load) is sufficient to restore the batteries to maximum charge. In the spring and autumn, when variable weather makes putting into harbour more prudent than lying at anchor, our mains charger comes into its own. We have also added a fan heater, electric kettle and electric toaster to our inventory for use when on shore power. As electricity is usually included in harbour dues, but gas has to be paid for, these additions have already paid for themselves in cost as well as convenience.
We have added a calorifier that uses waste heat from the engine to heat up a cylinder of hot water when we are motoring. The cylinder also contains an 850 watt immersion heater that works off mains electricity when we are in harbour. (At only 850 watt we can run both the immersion heater and the battery charger off a 5 amp supply) The hot water produced is available both at the galley sink and in the heads where there is also a shower. Whilst we were happy to do without this luxury for a few weeks at a time on our summer cruises, we felt that it is essential when living aboard full time.
We have the following electronic instruments on board:
· Speed and distance log
· Electronic autopilot and a spare as back-up
· Echo sounder
· Mounted GPS and a hand-held as back-up
· Wind Instrument
· Mounted VHF radio and a hand-held as back-up
· Electronic steering compass
· SSB and broadcast band receiver
· Electronic hand bearing compass
· Navtex receiver with print-out
We do not have a radar and we have very rarely felt the need for one.
We have had all the bunk cushions re-covered and padded wrap-round backs made for the seats in the main saloon. We have also had a new mattress made for our double bunk in the forepeak. It is six inches thick and is made in one piece instead of the previous four. It has a one-inch layer of insulating matting placed beneath it. Our bed, which we leave made up at all times, has fitted sheets and a fitted duvet – far more comfortable than sleeping bags. Indeed, we have a summer duvet and a spring/autumn duvet which can be put together for cold winter nights. These improvements have made a huge difference to our quality of life. Making life onboard as comfortable as life ashore is an essential part of preparing for extended cruising.
We have doubled the capacity of our water and diesel tanks, in both cases from 150 litres to 300 litres. The water is divided into two lots of 150 litres; one in a flexible bow tank feeding the pressure system and the other in a stainless-steel tank feeding the galley pump via an activated charcoal filter. Whilst a greater capacity for water would be useful, we have run out of space to put any more tanks!
Having read all the horror stories of £1,000 fines in Turkey we have fitted Retreat with both grey and black water holding tanks. The grey water (from the sinks and shower) is used to flush the toilet, the contents of which then pass to the black water tank. So far we have not reached Turkey so this ‘improvement’ has not yet proved to be essential. However, we do feel more comfortable when anchored in crystal-clear water, being able to use the toilet without pumping the evidence overboard. We suspect that nearby swimmers appreciate it even more.
When we bought Retreat she had polycarbonate windows which had become almost opaque. During our second year of ownership we replaced them with double-glazed units with an outer pane of 8mm toughened tinted glass and an inner pane of 4mm toughened clear glass. These windows gave us excellent service for 12 years greatly reducing condensation inside and cutting down on unwanted noise. However, after that time we began to experience problems of condensation between the panes and, in 2003, we replaced them all once more with identical double-glazed units.
In addition to our main companionway we have two aft-opening hatches, a small hatch over the cooker and five mushroom vents, one of which (in the heads) is fan-assisted. A ‘windscoop’ that can be fitted to the forward hatch greatly increases the flow of air through the cabins. Two of the hatches have manufactured fly screens and we have made mosquito nets for the remaining hatch and the companionway. In certain places at certain times of the year the ability to be able to seal one’s self off from mosquitoes is absolutely essential.
We have fitted roller furling to both the genoa and mainsail. Whilst the latter has marginally reduced our light-airs ability this is far outweighed by the increase in safety and convenience. We also carry a 160% light-weather genoa and a spinnaker fitted with a ‘snuffer’. A telescopic pole stows on the forward edge of the mast. We only use the spinnaker if there are more than 5 miles to run down-wind as we need a mile to put it up and a mile to take it down! It is not used if there is any swell running as the foredeck work involved would be too dangerous. The light-weather genoa was bought for beating in light-airs, but in practice we have seldom used it.
We have constructed a permanent Bimini over the aft of the cockpit with an awning that can be rolled out almost as far forward as the mast. The awning rolls around a pole and remains attached to the Bimini at all times so that it can be deployed very quickly. We have four side panels that can be attached at any position around the Bimini and/or the awning. The whole system works well and, without question, comes into the category of ‘absolutely essential equipment.’ Life without it would be intolerable.
For anyone considering making a sun awning, or having one made, we would stress the need for it to be quickly and easily deployed. We have seen some very elaborate (and expensive) examples that are so much trouble to put up that they remain in the locker whilst their owners sit and suffer.
Our pushpit has been modified so that it has a walk-through section in the middle to ease the problems of stern-to mooring. As part of the design we have added a boarding ladder which hinges up to fill in the gap when not in use. It can be extended to produce a deep swimming ladder by the addition of a second section and to produce a full-length ladder for use on the hard by the addition of a third.
We have made ourselves a passarelle by mounting a 12mm marine plywood panel onto an old loft ladder. It pivots on a specially-made fitting that clamps to our bower anchor and can also be fixed to the stern by the use of ropes. We have not used it as much as we thought that we would, particularly when staying in a marina for only one night. This is partly because it takes quite a long time to set up and partly because we have found that we are able to step across a 75cm gap from quay to boat without too much difficulty. However, when staying in one place for a length of time and/or sitting out a gale it has proved invaluable as it enables us to moor at the much safer distance of 1.75 metres from the quay.
Our bower anchor is a 20kg Bruce. It is permanently stowed over the starboard bow-roller where its shape allows it to lock firmly in place around the stem-head. It is attached to 60 metres of 10mm chain. Both the size of the anchor and the size of the chain are ‘over specified’, but we have frequently been glad of that. An electric windlass enables us to handle the extra weight with ease.
We carry a 15kg Danforth in a locker together with 75 metres of 18mm plaited nylon rode to lay out as a second bower anchor in extreme conditions.
As a kedge anchor we carry a 7.5kg Bruce strapped to the pushpit along with a 56 metre ‘ankarolina’ as its rode. These were installed with the intention of using them when berthed bows-to the quay with an anchor astern but we soon discovered that they were hopelessly inadequate for the task. However, we do find the setup useful to lay down temporarily when mooring bows to our anchor and stern tied back to the shore. The kedge keeps the stern in place whilst we launch the dinghy and row ashore with the long line.
Since we discovered that we can ‘steer’ astern once we have deployed our bower anchor by some judicious checking and releasing of the chain we have always moored bows to our anchor and stern to the quay in harbours that do not have laid moorings. This has the advantage of lying to our over-sized ground tackle and having the use of our winch when we weigh anchor.
We carry a Tinker Tramp as our tender with which we are well pleased. It is kept permanently inflated and stowed upside down on the foredeck when not in use. If it were not so readily available we suspect we might use fewer anchorages and more harbours and marinas which would be a very great shame. We do not carry a liferaft.