I thought I would write a little gear talk while Shannon sleeps in today. Currently we are decommissioning Pirsm. We have decided to summer in california where Shannon and I both have work opportunities for the summer. We are currently in Guaymas and will be hauling out on friday. So far we have put over 3000NM under Prism’s keel and have been cruising full time for seven months. In that time we have been able to really test our gear and boat to see what works and what needs to be changed. I am not going to have any photos for this post due to cruddy Internet connection. If you have a question on what I am talking about or what it looks like, google it. Some of this gear is not new, its old but still works. Most of this gear is common sense, read any “how to outfit your boat” and you will find these items, I’m diving into more specifics. This doesn’t include every piece of gear, these are the items that have stood out among the rest.
Tablets: I am going to start off with a completely non marine piece of gear. Tablets make cruising better for us. They are a source of entertainment while on watch. You can play simple brain games, watch movies or write blog all without using much energy at all. Our Ipad pulls about and amp when charging and in use. The Ipad has a waterproof housing on it so it also doubles as a chartplotter. We use it on every passage for this purpose and it works well. We use the motionX app, in the states it worked great but down here the maps from noaa do not load. There is a feature in the app I have yet to explore is importing our own maps. Ill report back on how that works. I would like to lump the amazon kindle in this category as well. If you are a reader these are great. They are small, battery lasts forever and you can read in the sun with ease. Plus they are cheap. Ask other cruisers if they have any kindle books, many times they do. We have collected over a thousand so far. Paper books are bulky, kindle is the way to go. You can download the kindle app on your normal tablet, but personally I dont like reading from normal tablets due to the glare and battery consumption.
Autopilot: A good, strong ELECTRIC autopilot is a great tool to have aboard. We also have a windvane that works great but is more of a ordeal to use. Our Alpha 3000 is 30 years old and sill works like new. The ability to tack with an electric autopilot is powerful in my opinion when sailing solo when your partner is off watch, turn that dial 90 degrees and then you have time to adjust sheets. We have met a few cruisers with only windvanes but most agree they would like a sturdy electric pilot. We use our electric autopilot on virtually every outing.
Raritan PHII Compact: For a manual head it works great. About every 6 months I have to remove the pump and chip out the calcium buildup that occurs when you combine sea water and urine. Takes about 30 minutes and I grease the pump and seals with vasoline. Invest in a good head that doesn’t break. I hear constantly people looking for jebesco head parts.
Solar: If your boat can safely mount solar, mount as much as you can. Panels are insanely cheap now. Our $220 amazon RENERGY simi flexible 100watt panel has been great and is our main workhorse. We will be swapping out our old 80 watt panels with 100watt mono crystalline panels that are dimensionally the same this summer. Outfit your boat in the states with panels, because they are expensive and hard to come by here in Mexico. We have currently 260watts with an mppt controller, the most I have seen being outputted is 14 amps, this is mostly due to the older panels I believe.
Refrigeration: One of the last things we installed before leaving was a new refrigeration unit. We previously had a Cold Machine air cooled unit that seemed to run a lot and was located in the lazzerette. Even in the bay area on a mildly warm day you could open the locker and it was like a sauna. We decided to replace it with an Isotherm ASU SP system. We opted for the bigger version because of our fridge be pretty large on Prism. The System uses your galley sink thru-hull or any 1 1/2” hole under the water line. It then has a normal ball valve sea cock on top of that. It uses that thruhull as a heat sink to cool the refrigeration in the water rather than air. This means you can have your compressor located inside your boat and it radiates practically no heat. The ASU part is the component that senses when the battery bank it is feeding off from has more that 13.2volts. Once it senses that it turns the compressor into overdrive to freeze the cold plate. This means when your running your engine of your solar is pumping your refrigerator is working then so it works less later when there is no excess energy. What this means our fridge so far uses around 12-16 amps at night. Now once we get to warmer water and hotter environments I’m sure that will go up but according to isotherm it will not go up by much. Theses systems are pricey but if you want refrigeration on your boat and dont plan of running a genset or engine to make energy, this is the way to go.
Watermaker: This in short is pretty simple, if you have room and the money get one. We have an old PUR Power-survivor 35 that I just replaced all the seals of and it works great. Simple and effective. For us we use about 3 gallons a day and our watermaker makes 1.5gal/hr and pulls 4 amps. We always have full tanks and never have to worry if the water we are getting from land is potable or not. They are very low maintenance as long as you use them. A common complaint from cruisers that have higher output engine driven units is they have too much water. In the tropics we run our water maker at least every two days to keep growth in the system down. Other cruisers hate being forced to run their engine every two-three days to keep the membrane happy. I know a couple of boats are downscaling to a smaller 12v water maker.
Ground Tackle: This subject is always a hot topic but its for a good reason. If you plan on anchoring at all make sure you trust everything in your ground tackle. Not just the Anchor it self but the Shackle, chain and windlass you have backing it up. We did use a swivel shackle made by suncor for a while when we where in PNW but since then have removed it because I didnt trust it. Remove anything you dont 100% trust while still at the dock because once in use you will not until its too late. The wind will kick up, the boat will start bucking and you will be lying awake not because of the motion down below but because you are stressing because your have a shackle with the stamp CHINA on it. Not to say you should be stressing out if your shackle says CHINA. I know from experience that if you go to any of the main chandleries and ask for a shackle you will most likely get one from China. I had to special order my Crosby alloy shackle online. Enough of that, Anchor wise we have a 55lb Spade that has been awesome. It is worth every penny. We went double over sized because A: our windlass could handle it and B: I wanted an anchor I felt that we could ride out high to extreme high winds on. Your anchor is in all respects the most important piece of gear, more than and auto pilot, more then a water maker more than even a toilet. It keeps you, your boat and all your belongings off the beach/rocks/reef every night while you are dreaming. If you have trust in your anchor you will do the following things better: Sleep better, not having to worry about dragging. Leaving the boat will be way less stressful. We have been hiking with other cruisers when the wind changes direction and they want to run back to the anchorage to make sure the boat reset right. Not that I dont have that same worry but we have had a 100% reset success rate with a 100% hold rate. So long story short I have no reason to think it will fail. I would recommend any of the new generation anchors on the market like Manson, Mantus, Roncna and spade. They all work by the same principles. We went with spade because having our rollers on our sprit we cant have an anchor with a roll bar. At the time the Roncna Vulcan had not been released, but I have talked to a fellow HC33 owner that has one and it stores well on the sprit and he has experienced good performance from it. When we got our boat it came with 5/16” BBB chain, I thought it was a bit undersized and upon further inspection it had a connecting shackle half way. I replaced it with 300′ of 5/16” HT chain. I ended up going with CMT chain which is a Canadian company but I believe it is made in China and then imported. I did a fair amount of research before reaching my decision to go with CMT vs ACCO. From what I could find in third party tests is that the CMT was just as strong and in many cases the galvanizing was better. I can confirm that the galvanizing on the CMT is great. We have had the chain for about 2 years now and still no rust. CMT was roughly half the price as the ACCO and once your out of the states CMT is pretty much all you will find. We have a Muir Windlass, this thing is great but after looking at the prices of them I don’t know if I could justify the price of them. We have had zero issues with ours though.
These are all I can think of right now. Back to decommissioning the boat!