12 December, 2016

Outboard bracket modification

We have ordered our boat with an outboard motor bracket capable of holding 10HP four-cycle motor. One of its design specialty is that instead of pulling spring, there is a pushing gas spring/struts. It's made by Topiko.

Outboard bracket with gas springs

However the shipyard installed the default version for 15HP outboard motor which weights 52kg dry thus with 4 gas springs with 600N of lifting force each. We have Mercury 8HP long with electric start which weights "only" 42kg dry. It's not that big issue, you just have to push a little more to lower it down to a running position.

The main problem is that these ordinary automotive gas springs cannot withstand the saltwater, even we are on the sea for only a few weeks. After two seasons or 6 weeks at sea, the terminal eye pads were severely corroded and it started to move a little harder.
The other issue was that the springs were mounted upside down with the gas cylinder heading downward.

Gas springs mounted upside down!

Inside the gas cylinder there is an oil for the rod seal lubrication. If mounted wrong, it can result in a shorter life!

That was a time to buy a new stainless steel gas springs. The Topiko suggests 400N of the lifting force for a 8-10HP motor. There is however a problem that stainless steel gas springs are very expensive, because they are usually custom made. After searching in the European market I had to switch back to China again and bought it there. They are made from A2 stainless (AISI 304), but still better than plain steel.
They made it for me with the 450N of the lifting force.

When I was changing the gas springs on the bracket I also took an opportunity to grease all joints with marine grease.

Finished gas spring replacement

Some technical information:
  • original springs: Krosno FA 21490, length 405mm, stroke 160mm, force 600N, galvanized/painted steel
  • replacement springs: SmartSolu, length 380mm, stroke 150mm, force 450N, stainless steel A2

10 November, 2016

Cabin heating alternative

Heat or not to heat, that is the question. Not literally the question of life and death, but having a cozy cabin during a colder days is a question of sail or not to sail.

We have the Origo alcohol stove so I've asked myself, is it possible to use it for heating?
The Origo company sells this stove under the name HeatPal 5100, which is based on the same principle. But why to buy another gizmo when we can use the existing stove?

The first problem is an open flame. You can simply light it without the pot, but you will not get much of the heat in the space. It's better to put on some radiator.

Then I found there is a nice add-on for the portable camping gas stoves like this one.

portable camping gas stove heater

I've modified the slightly the base flange to fit our alcohol stove and gave it a try.

radiator starts heating up

You can also notice the aluminum sheets that act as heat shielding. It's just a bent sheet which you can simply put on without any screws. We use it also as an oil shielding when cooking.

heating at full power

There is a lot of heat coming from the radiator and you can also observe a nice warm color, however there is a big problem which is the moisture from the burning alcohol, but also mainly deadly carbon monoxide !!!
We have a carbon monoxide tester on board and it started beeping loudly just after a few minutes of burning.

danger level of carbon monoxide just after a few minutes

I've tried to open the cabin hatch slightly, but when there is like 10 °C or lower outside, all the heat escapes very quickly.

Conclusion is: project failed !

20 October, 2016

Teaser - Croatia 2016

This year we went again to the Croatia and the Adriatic sea.
It was again a great adventure with a lot of pictures, but I had not time to pick the best ones, so I would like to tease you a little with this short sailing movie :-)

Enjoy and stay tuned for more.

14 October, 2016

Biminy Top

It has been a long time, since I've tried to prototype the bimini top back in 2014. The problem is, however, that building a custom bimini top that covers the most of the cockpit and having the ability to sail is almost impossible.
That would require moving the boom a bit higher, moving the mainsheet forward and building the stern arch to relocate the back stay.That's a lot of work and investment.

One intermediate step was then to build a boom tent for the 2015 season, but is has shown to be difficult to deploy and provided a big shade for the solar panel we have under the boom.

So I've decided I will order some cheap bimini and test it how it work without the ability to sail with the main sail, but still have the fast deployment especially when it's gonna rain.

I wasn't able to find some in the gray color locally so went to the internet and found this chinese 3 bow bimini top.
Its dimensions are 6' long (183cm) x 46" high (117 cm) x 79-84" wide (200 - 214 cm), made from 25mm aluminum tubings, nylon fittings and 8.1oz polyester (600D) canvas with PU coating and UV protection.
The UV resistance is quite debatable, because after one summer season, the bimini top cover/boot has changed a bit. But hey, it's cheap and easily replaceable.
One big advantage is that the tubing is foldable and assembly takes only a minute.

photo from the seller before shipment

Installation was pretty easy, but required to raise the mast to check all the clearances between the boom and folded bimini frame and so on. To ease the further bimini deployment, I've used the stainless fittings with the quick-pins for the main frame and the support struts.

dry test

finding fitting location

deck hinge

The deck hinge is the 80 degrees fork fitting, but due to the slope of the coaming I had to fabricate the additional 10 degree pad from HDPE plastic. If I were doing it again, I would use the pivoting fork.

installed but folded bimini

As you can see above, the boom clearance is just ok.

aft support strut

fully retracted

Forward support straps are attached to the stanchion base, so there is no need for any additional boat drilling.

fully deployed (sorry for the towel :-)

sailing under shade

still able to sail with the Genoa...

...or Gennaker

Verka can stand under it, but not me with my 187cm

This is a very great upgrade and proved to be very effective and very simple to deploy.

12 October, 2016


I've always wanted a "light wind" device like Gennaker, Spinnaker or Code-0. However the more you will think about these sails, the more you will be confused what is the best option for you. I'm not any kind of a racer so I wanted just one and the most usable sail for a light wind conditions.
After a few months of discussion with different sail makers I had decided for the most general purpose sail Gennaker G1 on the roller furler from the polish sail maker SailService.

The rig dimension of the Phobos 21 with a standard bowsprit is:

I = 7800mm
J = 2720mm
LP = 8200mm (If I will subtract the height of the roller furler Ronstan 60 series, the sail luff can be 7900mm maximum)
B = 6000mm (Horizontal dimension between the bowsprit and sheet's block)
Sail foot ~5100mm

rig dimensions

Gennaker G1 with straight luff from SailService

As you can see, the shape of this sail is slightly different than regular Gennaker. That's because with the regular shape, you need a "top-down" roller furler which is a bit expensive. For our size of the boat, the Ronstan 60 series with 8mm anti-torsion rope is just enough, but the sail needs to have a straight luff! This sail shape is also called as Code-D. See the theoretical wind angles bellow.

Code-D wind angles (trade mark of  Delta Voiles)

Ronstan 60 series and 8mm anti-twist/anti-torsion rope.

The sail cloth for the winds up to ~15 knots has been chosen the Contender nylon Superkote 75 - orange color.

Finally arrived at the beginning of the year

Pretty long luff in comparison with 4 year daughter :-) 

SailService sail bag

The hard work had to wait till the warmer months so I could prepare the mast and boat with the necessary hardware.

At first I had to drill a hole for the halyard - Holt-Allen HA28 40mm sheave box.

mask the mast with the tape to prevent scratches
Cutting the hole for the sheave box was pretty easy. Drill the holes at the ends of the groove and then use the jigsaw to cut through the remaining material. Then finish the groove with the file.

finished groove
Then insert the sheave box and drill the holes for the stainless rivets.

finished halyard block
Fortunately, the mast is already equipped with the line exit at the mast step, so I just had to use the mainsail halyard to pull the new line through the mast.

Harken furler with the snap-shackle attached to the bowsprit eye

The continuous furler line is led aft on the port side and ended with a small block that is attached to the pushpit with a bungee cord. This bungee cord will hold the line in the jaws of the furler and helps a little from free wheeling. When you need to unfurl the Gennaker, just push the bungee cord a bit forward and pull the sheet.

continous furler line and Gennaker sheets with cam cleats

The sheets from Gennaker lead to the 40mm blocks attached to the pushpit and then to the Ronstan RF5010 cam cleats. The cleats are fastened through the deck inside the cockpit lockers.
I can use the main winches instead of the cam cleats, but this is more convenient to keep all the sheets from the Genoa and Gennaker cleated and in the stronger winds, I can still handle the sheets by hands without any trouble.

first test

first test

During the summer season we have used it plenty of times, even single handed, and I must say, it's worth the money. It's a great upgrade to every boat!

running with mainsail - Orlik dam

close reach on Adriatic sea

Adriatic sea
As you may notice, there are white velcro tapes near the clew. This is a clever idea of the sail maker that keeps the Gennaker from unfurling.

One hint on the Gennaker sheets - the rope should be as light as possible so they will not pull the clew down in light wind. I was lucky enough that I was able to get 8mm dyneema core sheets from Lanex during a boat show for a very low price.

great time sailing

07 September, 2016

Building custom instruments pod

A friend of mine Jirka, with his own Phobos 21 called "Lente" build this custom instrument pod on the top of the companionway hatch.

So with his kind permission I'm sharing his building process.

He used the 3mm ABS board laminated with an acrylic film. These boards are often used as an advertising sign.
Then he formed the curves using the hot air gun (around 200°C). Side walls are glued and then polished. Finally, it has been straightened inside the pod using the fiberglass and epoxy.

paper template

gluing the side walls

template for the instruments holes

finished pod with fiberglass reinforcement

installed instruments

finished pod (depth, compass, wind)

If you have any enhancements, please don't hesitate and send it to me. I would be more than happy to share it. Phobos 21 is a wonderful class.

23 May, 2016

Centerboard noise reduction

I call this post a noise reduction, but it's more like a hummer banging reduction that centerboard produce when you are cutting through the waves.
That's because the centerboard iron plate has too much play in the trunk, almost 10 mm on each side and when the boat heels to the opposite side, that small gap can make noticeable banging sound.

Searching through the internet, I've found several solutions like a piece of rubber or stainless steel spacers with HDPE sliding pads as on Avar Yacht A25 of a friend of mine:

Avar Yacht A25 centerboard spacers -
two pairs in front and back of the steel plate

This is the stainless steel centerboard used on TES 678, but same design is used on Phobos yachts:

TES 678 staineless steel centerboard

However, last year we met a sailor with his older Phobos 24 and he fixed it with just an ordinary carpet. It did not sound very marine solution, but he told me he has it for more than 6 years without any problems.

Luckily we have a trailer with two support bunks so I can reach the centerboard trunk easily.
Using the hot-knife a.k.a. modified soldering iron, I cut two 2cm wide and 1m long stripes of the ordinary fully synthetic carpet and glued it with Sikaflex 291i covering the area starting just behind the centerboard pin to the end of the centerboard.

centerboard with carpet on the walls

detail of the carpet
The banging sound disappeared completely so we can now enjoy the silent nights with a dropped centerboard.

20 May, 2016

Solar power extention

During our trip in the hot Adriatic seas, we have found out, that our actual 50W solar panel is not sufficient to be ultimately shore power independent. During that hot summer days we were able to keep the fridge running only for like 12 days before I had to recharge the battery from the shore.

One of the issue that was that our boom tent partially covered the panel during the day, so it has prevented the proper function.

So I've decided we need more solar panels. The question is the where to place it?
At first I was thinking putting them to the mast support or on the backstay.

solar panel on the aft mast support

solar panel on the backstay

However all these positions needs some maintenance and I think it's not really handy for a trailer-sailor when you need to simplify all the mast raising/lowering tasks.

A final decision was to get the semi-flexible panels and put them on the top of the cabin. The only possible free area for them is besides the mast base. Due to area limitation I was able to find these two suitable 20W ETFE semi-flexible panels from China with dimmensions of 600x300x2.5mm. You can also walk on these!

20W EFTE semi-flexible panel - model LS-20FX1

The installation is again drill-less using the 19mm 3M VHB acrylic double sided tape 49xx series, which has already proved to be working very well even on our hollow non-skid surface. It's just needed to degrease the surface with the isopropyl alcohol.

3M VHB double sided tape on the back of the panels

final placement

final placement
The next task was to create a junction box. I've created a simple circuit board inside a plastic junction box and glued it carefully under the existing 50W solar panel using Sikaflex 291i. It's important that this junction box is completely watertight to prevent any corrosion.

With parallel connected panels, each string to be connected in parallel should have its own blocking diode. This prevents current flowing from one parallel panel into a lower-current panel (shaded) and therefore helps to minimize mismatch losses arising in parallel connected arrays.

The best blocking diodes are Schottky's rectifying diodes like SB540 or similar. They have lower forward voltage drop around 0.3V instead of regular rectifying diodes which has around 0.7V.

junction box scheme with blocking diodes 

The new 20W panels are equipped with cables including the MC4 connectors already, so I've just bought two 1m long extension cables with MC4 connectors, cut them in half and used them as an input connectors.

inside the junction box

One hint here: to protect the circuit board from corrosion, it's necessary to coat the copper and the components with soldering rosin (flux) soluted in alcohol.

junction box glued with Sikaflex

The last step was to replace the old deck socket I've installed before. I bought some cheap China copy and the contacts corroded very badly just after a first season.

So I've decided to use some better connector with gold plated contacts and decided to use these type from Philippi Marine. You can also buy just the angular housing from Philippi and cheaper Weipu WA22 type connectors, which are not labeled "marine" as a primary use, but I believe it's the same quality - gold plated 16 Amps! That's what I did.

Weipu WA22 IP67 16Amp connector

The first test looks very promising and I hope that with a total of 90W, we will be shore power independent, at last.