Long range comms

A much debated topic of conversation has been just what we were going to do about long range communication including emails for receiving weather updates and position reports whilst on long passages. I attended the WCC ocean cruising seminar at last years Southampton boat show and “obviously” the panel were split between SSB HF radio and Satphone. Both have the ability to send and receive email although satphone is really expensive when used. SSB is free to use but setup costs can be 3 times more. Satphones give global pole to pole voice communication providing the “view” to the satellite is good enough, whereas SSB can send a signal many hundreds/thousand miles regardless of cloud etc etc. You can only speak to one person/station at a time with a satphone whereas you can have a conversation with many simultaneously on SSB which is great on rallies. In an ideal world “buy both” they said at the seminar which means around £6000……. I don’t think so !
Much googling and emails to Steve on Allegrini (sorry Steve), we decided on a bit of a compromise whilst still buying both systems. Icom have just discontinued their IC-718 model which although strictly a shorebased ham radio, it easily opens up to the marine band. Sailcom marine sold it until recently which is a shame as they are the specialists in long range marine comms. New models are still available and we found Andy at Radioworld in Wigan to be both knowledgeable and very helpful. We picked up the Icom IC-718 transceiver opened up to include all marine frequencies, Icom AH-4 ATU (tuner), fittings and extra long cables for £950 including delivery. We will buy the pactor modem which is a standalone box to enable the send/receive of emails and data, from Sailcom marine which is about another £1000.00 leaving us with arguably one of the most important jobs left of aerial and earthing. Having taken advice from (yes Allegrini), we have bought some DX wire from Germany, this is a very thin wire coated in something similar to teflon which will go from the ATU which we’ve mounted on the rear arch to the top of the mast. The earth is taken from the ATU straight to the arch itself which is more than enough to provide a stable platform. This cost £50 delivered so the entire SSB system has been done for just under £2000.00
We will keep an eye out during the next few months and buy an Iridium 9555 ex rental which will be around £500 and buy airtime minutes when we need them, the least currently being about £200 for 200 minutes which is more than enough for emergency phone calls which we hope never to make.
This means we will have both systems onboard for £2500 which keeps us and the savings happier, so a result there 🙂
Charlotte received a 3rd offer of employment, this one from Nielsons which she quickly accepted, as a watersports instructor in Messini Greece. She leaves on the 22nd April for 7 months and there is an option to do an internal transfer to the winter ski season too so we are delighted for her.
Caroline has had another operation on her finger (see April 2016 entry) to remove scar tissue and give more flexibility, although only done a week ago it looks much better which is very promising. It’s better to get this done now as once we leave it’ll not be so easy.


As mentioned in the last post, we launched with charging issues. The engine start battery was dead so we replaced it on launch day when the engine didn’t start! The new Rutland 1200 hybrid controller was faulty and there had been no charging of the deep cycle batteries either in the 3 months out of the water. I decided last weekend to turn on the Dolphin marine charging system to slowly recharge the service batteries and leave them to trickle. The next day in the afternoon our daughter went to visit Silhouette to see the new sprayhood and phoned me to say there was a horrible rotten egg smell in the cockpit. She immediately pulled the shore power plug as it was pretty obvious a battery was “cooking”.

3 hours later I went on board to find one of the 180ah batteries still so hot I couldn’t touch it….. this was the closest we had come to a fire in all our years. It turns out the battery had a dead cell and wouldn’t show a voltage of above 12.1 so we’re guessing the charger just kept throwing full charge at it, but will now have to check that for a fault too.

We now have 3 new service batteries, 1 new engine battery and a repaired mppt controller, so hopefully the charging issues are sorted…. hmmm !

Big launch…ish

 You can’t knock the staff at Cobbs Quay, when they said lift at 9am they meant it! Hearing the lifting strops creak as they take the weight is a sound I don’t like. Cobbs have a new 40 ton travel hoist coming this year so it will open a lot wider too ……. phew.

Looking stunning as she took to the water, I boarded to check for water tightness and to start the engine. No  leaks AND no engine start, the engine start battery died so rather than motor out of the crane bay we had to be walked to the fuel berth. Not a great start but the staff had a jump pack available which saved any more embarrassment. So we motored off to our berth just as the wind started to build, and build and build, blowing 30 knots with one sustained gust of 43 knots which made backing in a bit lively in the cross wind, but done safely.

Our new Rutland 1200 doesn’t work as the mppt controller isn’t charging the batteries. Marlec want the unit back to test so hopefully it’ll be up and running next weekend and to make it worse i’ve noticed the smart charger connected to the main engine alternator isn’t charging the start battery but is the service batteries. So we’ve launched with a few charging issues to look at.

After nearly 4 months of trying to get hold of the specific petrol generator which has been out of stock everywhere, we finally managed to find it. We now have on board the Hyundai 3000sei 2.8Kw which punches a lot more power than any other same sized unit. It fits easily in the cockpit locker and we now have an excellent backup power supply.

Happy new year

The new year begins and for us only 15 months until the “off”. Silhouette is now ready for relaunch on 13th January and looks beautiful.

All the jobs we wanted to do have been done and in addition we’ve added a microwave oven in the galley. Daewoo make the smallest model which just fits inside the middle locker in the galley whilst still allowing the door to close hiding it away when not needed. Although it means losing a locker for storage, Caroline found a great space saving saucepan set by Tefal with removable handles so they stack inside each other.

The new sprayhood ordered with Kemp sails hopefully will be with us shortly and our mainsail has been checked over and stitched up anywhere that looked weak. At the same time Kemps have taken detailed measurements of the mainsail and are keeping it on file in case we need to order one in the future.

We are now at the stage of Silhouette being ready to take us away. We feel a boat is never 100% ready, if you waited until it was you’d never leave the mooring, what we do have is a great yacht well prepared ……. the rest is just maintenance as and when.

My “phase out” from work begins in April when I reduce down to a 3 day week to ensure a smooth transition for the business, but the biggest news is that our daughter Charlotte has received 2 job offers as a sailing instructor starting in April, one in Greece and the other in France …….. all she has to do is make a decision !!!

The arch is up!

A few weeks late but our arch has finally been fitted. Through discussion and some artistic licence given to the fabricator there are some nice additions, the davits are swing out and lock into place giving the strength as if it was one solid piece which easily will hold our dinghy and outboard. Small tubes have been added all around the rear sections to make cable runs easy and if the arch has to be removed for any work 8 bolts is all it takes without effecting the plates which are bonded onto the hull. The final part of fitting is to integrate the bimini hoop and pushpit to firm it all up.

Although we have a Rutland 913 wind generator we were aware it was getting old and not as efficient as newer models. Nick & Carol on “Annie” have just bought the new Rutland 1200 which boasts very impressive amps so we decided to buy one to run alongside the 75w solar panel. We will monitor everything next year and if necessary we’ll fit 250w solar panels on the arch as there’s space for them in the design.


Our liferaft has been serviced, repacked into a canister and the cradle mounted above the stupid locker. We’ve positioned it high enough that we can still open the locker as our outboard fuel tank just fits in it………. it’s useless for anything else!

One unexpected job was to take a look at the holding tank to see why it was draining slowly. Probably best not to go into too much detail save to say if your boat is 11 years old and it’s got the original pipes and hasn’t been cleaned “internally” do it now before it becomes a real problem.

The new pipes are Vetus sanitary which are non permeable meaning no smells can escape, what I should’ve realised was the pipe was not as flexible as the old one and “forcing” it onto the toilet was always going to lead to something going to crack. Well crack it did so there’s a nice new loo in the heads too now !!!

We’re now back on track with the hull to clean and polish along with replacing the gold stripe followed by antifouling between christmas and new year.


The lower rudder bearing needed replacing which was one job we weren’t looking forward to as we didn’t really know what we were letting ourselves into. First of all the steering cables, autopilot ram and quadrant had to be removed before pulling the retaining pin. As the rudder was lowered the bronze/copper sleeve came down with it, this was supposed to be glued into place which would explain why there was movement. I’d researched the best adhesive sealant to use and had also emailed Rob & Rhian on Beyzano. In the end we bought 3M 5200 which once set is like solid rubber and very supportive, “just make sure it goes in first time” as trying to get the sleeve out later would be a huge task. A new sleeve was ordered from Ancasta Parts in the Hamble and their service was 1st class, delivery within 48 hours door to door from France. We found a download from a forum which gave instructions & diagrams which we followed and was very helpful. We probably used too much glue on the sleeve but felt it would also fill any gaps created by the loose old sleeve in the housing which worked really well. If anyone with the same boat and issue reads this don’t worry, if I can do it anyone can!

The rubber cutless bearing came free quite easily which was a relief, luckily it slid straight off the shaft via the removed prop but putting the maxprop back on was quite the opposite. The 3 blades are numbered to make sure they go back in the right way to match the numbers on the hub….. so why did I struggle to put it back together, grease it then realise I’d put blades 1 & 3 in the wrong place DOH !!!

If you look at the picture, you will just make out the blade with a “1” not next to the “1” on the hub. I’m still trying to think of a believable explanation for not checking everything was correct, but nobody would believe me !