Contessa 26 Tech Notes

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Refitting Birgitta - Part II

By Nigel Charlesworth
As one gets older so the letters on the dials have to get bigger.

Birgitta came with a small barometer, an even smaller clock, a compass that had a bubble in it … and so it went on. All were ditched in the nearest dumpster along with a whole shack of other things including a Lavac-vac-less-less-is-less and a very dead gimbled cooker that shed rust over Mallaig kippers (another story).

Big letters, consistancy and quality are what count when you are miles from anywhere – we’re talking both coastal and ocean sailing – If it’s there, it has to work and work and work. If it’s electronic then there has to be a backup.

Today is today so let’s chuck the plastic sextant overboard and replace it with a Russian WWII brass one c/w H/W box (It’s a reserve item) ... The chart table needs a fixed GPS so lets install what the UK RNLI use (Royal National Lifeboat Institution – a charity of volunteers who man the lifeboat around our coastal waters at all times and in all conditions) – Furuno GP30 – Easy to use and BIG letters. A 6” diameter mechanical Barometer, a quartz clock – Plastimo. Why a barometer and clock? Because time and hectopascal differences tell you what’s going to happen next.
For steering (and being an absolute nutter) I take great joy in single-handing … Plastimo Contest Compass because it has big numbers and is simply the best steering compass that I’ve come across for night helming (twin lights).

For coastal sailing I ditched the Navico depth sounder and replaced it with a Nasa Clipper. Changing the transducer was a pain and back filling the void with one-part polysulfide sealant was another pain. Both are done and both work. (Having now got an accurate depth sounder with an alarm, I’ve run aground more times than ever I did when I didn’t have an alarm!).

One of the problems we have in the UK is listening to the weather forecast. It is broadcast at 0535 and 0150 local time …. Alarm clocks always seem to fail for the first forecast because we are still supping ale at the 2nd forecast time – and we always miss it … so a Furuno Navtex (plus GPS repeater) was installed (Big letters too!) – Best Buy ***** (But see below).

The chart table is important too, but the halogen light at night upset the helmsman’s vision in the cockpit so a gimbaled oil lamp was installed. At night it’s normally set on low and can be adjusted to chart visible quality – Trouble with halogen lights is that as they are dimmed so chart colors change, and that’s not a good thing!

Alone is alone is alone. So we need something to help us steer both by the stars and the wind. A CO26 is one of a few boats that when the sails are balanced we can forget the tiller and steer by just adjusting the main sheet. So for motor sailing an Autohelm 800 was acquired and for proper sailing by the wind a Cap(e) Horn Windvane was installed. (The latter was after much research on other people’s boats … [Another story, because it was a toss up between Yves Gelenas’s Cap(e) Horn and Foerthmann’s ‘Pacific Lite’ – The final downwind tests put Pacific Lite into the trashcan ]) – The Cape Horn Windvane, which replaced my Bill Belcher wooden homemade wind vane is probably the best purchase that I have ever made for Birgitta apart from the above which are equally the best.

The last item on this list is the Waeco Fridge/Freezer. It’s socket doubles with a cell phone recharger. The fridge/freezer only works when the engine is on as Birgitta’s sole power is an 85A/H single battery. Next year this will be doubled to 2×85A/H batteries linked by a Maplin ‘project’ ‘home made’ 3 stage 1, 2 or both smart battery charger.

Last July in the middle of nowhere the switchboard caught fire when a wire fell out and shorted the battery across an unfused link. The switchboard was partially repaired in August and will be fully restored this coming winter. (A electrical circuit diagram in DXF format is available via email.)
One of my recurring problems is anodes. The Yanmar 1GM10 has its own internal anode. The engine is attached to the gearbox, is linked to the propshaft and is attached to the bronze 13×12 Euro-prop. The whole is attached to an external zinc anode 2’ away from the prop. The engine zinc lasts about nine months and the external zinc fails after about 4 months as it gets encrusted in a 1/4” white crust … (Any clues?)
Back to electrics, all joints which were previously twisted joints have been replaced with crimped joints within a heat shrink wrap – Sorry, forgot to say that all wires that were volt drop susceptible have been replaced with oversized tinned copper with just sufficient strands so that capillary action (and degradation) doesn’t occur.

There are still a few electrical problems left that need expert help: the main isolator switch has a current leak; there appears to be tracking over its plastic surface caused by salt water contamination – Boeshield might be an answer, but then surface contamination might affect it too – Perhaps weekly cleaning and re-Boeshielding might be better.

Yes, I’ve left out Radio. I’m still working out when is the best time to switch from VHF to DSC … Current thoughts are about purchasing an ICOM something because it has big numbers too.

Lastly, backups: The only backups that I have are an alarm clock, a hand bearing compass, a lead-line and a Garmin 12 with 20 zillion AA batteries.

Single handed sailing sorts you out. The above list of gadgetry is minimalistic. There’s no B&G wind whasits at the top of the mast, there is just an offset windex which is lit by night by either the tricolor or the all-round white. Tell tales are set on the capping shrouds as is a streamer set on the windvane.
That’s it for now, Part III follows next week and will tell the story of how the mast was re-set and pre-bend brought into play …