Sonrisa Equipment

Decisions about what equipment to install on a new yacht for extended cruising is a book in itself. The choice of a catamaran was pretty straightforward, having cruised in a monohull  for a few years and endured the associated rolling near surf breaks and open anchorages.  Easy access for two young children, space for a large dinghy, solar panels, wind generators , numerous self draining lockers, twin engines, 4 cabins and heads (?) plus numerous other benefits really make the modern catamaran a good choice.
Our intention was to be basically self sufficient for 3 months.  This meant no large generator for air con etc – an important decision to make at the start, as if one ‘turns the key’ then really solar and wind generators are surplus.
With a decent water maker, 720 amps of solar (2011) and 2 x 300 watt wind generators we are finally fully based on renewable energy (OK so the rainy season in Costa Rica is calm and not very sunny, but at least we never had to run the water maker!)  
The SS davit / solar panel support was installed in La Rochelle to my design – making dinghy launching easy was of prime importance.  The 10 foot Caribe RIB and 15 HP Yamaha 4 stroke o’board are always together – there are additional solid supports for the dinghy to sit on during long passages. The solar panels provided additional shading for the aft cockpit area – always appreciated in the tropics.
Custom Wind generator and aerial supports were also fabricated in La Rochelle.
The standard rig was modified to take a working jib which is permanently mounted on it’s own forestay and furler – the foredeck clew attachment point made for some interesting engineering.
Coppercoat, a water based copper epoxy antifouling was applied by Nick in la Rochelle, while the literature states 10 years of use we have found that in warm tropical waters the bottom required regular monthly scrubs to keep it clean.  After 4 years there were areas that had been completely worn away.  While about double the cost of normal high quality antifouling, it is being renewed in 2011.
After a year I made a shade awning for the forward cockpit, which greatly reduces glare inside the cabin, it also doubles up to catch rain, during a good downpour the runoff from the mast and coachouse is considerable.
Sonrisa has Twin Yanmar 4 cylinder 50 HP normally aspirated diesels coupled to Yanmar sail drives and 3 bladed folding propellors.  The starboard sail drive has been a bit of a pain with the salt water seals failing twice.  If the saildrive is not used then there is not a problem! However for each use the gear oil has to be replaced. Being rather lazy and waiting for an appropriate haul out facility (still to find a good  spot to beach Sonrisa).  Hopefully our haul out in November 2011 and a new seals will solve the problem.
We have found a lack of wind, particularly on the Pacific coasts has meant many hours of motoring, invariably using  one engine.  At around 1600 RPM (in relatively calm conditions) we manage 4.5 to 5 knots using around 2 litres per hour.  With some 600 litres of fuel in two tanks this gives us a useful amount of motoring.
In La Rochelle I installed two additional Balmar 150 amp alternators with smart regulators – these feed the 6 x 120 AH gel service batteries while the existing  Yanmar regulators simply charge the engine start batteries.  Both of the smart regulators have failed and been replaced with newer models – the Balmar service was terrible to say the least.
The modular method of construction of Sonrisa meant that much the wiring and plumbing runs were located to suit the construction process rather than ideally placed for service and usage.  Slowly I have rerouted these to tidy up the engine rooms of unnecessary clutter. I recently replaced the original primary fuel filters (Volvo Penta type) with Racor Filters that have a clear bowl and quick drain mechanism – should be a standard installation.
  • ·         720 AH Solar panels; 5 x 120 Watt solid panels + 2 x 60 Watt flexible panels.
  • ·         2 x 300 Watt ‘Ampair’ wind generators with variable pitch propellors with external regulators / rectifiers.  In 2011 Ampair supplied, free of charge, their new regulators which give charge indication along with possible solar panel inputs.These wind generators initially produce AC output so can be shut down by simply throwing a switch.
  • ·         6 x 120 Amp 12 Volt gel service batteries & 2 x 100 amp start batteries
  • ·         Mastervolt Battery monitoring / inverter / charger control panel for service batteries.  A special feature of this unit is the ability to ‘dial in’ the charge rate for the battery charger – this means that under normal conditions the 1 KW Honda generator would not be able to supply the max charge, but by making the charger work at around 70% the Honda is running at max output and not overloaded.
  • ·         Individual Mastervolt  battery monitors for each start battery
  • ·         2 x Honda 1 KW Inverter petrol generators
  • ·         4 x Engine driven alternators
  • ·         1 x towed Ampair water generator
  • ·         Mastervolt 2 KW 220 V inverter
  • ·         Mastervolt Battery Charger
  • ·         Recently we converted all the Halogen lights to LED with an impressive reduction in amps.
  • ·         Using large diameter cabling from the batteries to under the chart table I installed a 12 switch / circuit breaker junction box for all of our electronics – initially just a small radio feed.
  • ·         In the bilges I installed independent non mercury float switches that activate automotive horns if water is present – the installed alarms could not be heard.
  • ·         Substantial DC / AC wiring run to Port fwd watertight compartment
  • ·         As mentioned both Balmar smart regulators failed – service by Balmar pathetic
  • ·         Ampair wind generators – problems with regulator/ rectifiers – excellent service and warranty also new feathering hubs and blades provided at no charge
  • ·         Mastervolt MICC monitor failed after 3 years – probably due to nearby lightning strike – easy repair
  • ·         2 x Rule submersible bilge pumps failed after a few years – seized shafts
  • ·         Lopolight LED masthead navigation light failed after 3 years – excellent service and free replacement.
One of the reasons Sonrisa is so over weight is her ground tackle, which consists of 100 m 12 mm short link proof chain (bought in France this had pathetic galvanizing which only lasted 18 months before starting to rust – completely regalvanised in Columbia) attached to a 65 LB original CQR anchor.  The Quick anchor windlass has basically worked OK apart from the main solenoid switch failing after 2 years.  Annoyingly it came without a rope gypsy, due to the folding cover.  This was rectified by buying the rope gypsy and cutting a hole in the cover. Interestingly when removing the gypsy I found that only 4 of the 6 bolt holes were used the other two just being filled with filler! The chain is not completely self flaking due to size and length, though as the anchor locker is raised it is easy to tidy up even by oneself with the remote in one hand. Aft we have a 45 LB CQR and 20 m o 12 mm Chain plus 100 m of 18mm nylon rode.  Recently I have also made available aft a 20 LB Danforth and 9mm chain / 12 mm rode for a day stern anchor.
  • ·         Main solenoid switch – contacts corroded, it was possible to repair.
All of the electronic equipment including SSB radio, Autopilot etc was installed by me – nice to know how it all works.
  • ·         Raymarine E120 Chart plotter in the Salon & E80 on the flybridge
  • ·         Raymarine Multi Function display in Salon
  • ·         Raymarine ST 60 Wind, Speed, Depth on Flybridge
  • ·         Raymarine Smart Pilot 8002 with Gyro, wireless remote with fixed control units in Salon and on the flybridge coupled to an electro / hydraulic rudder unit
  • ·         Raymarine DSM 300 sounder module
  • ·         Raymarine 24 inch Radar Scanner
  • ·         AIS receive only
  • ·         Thrane & Thrane Satcom Mini C
  • ·         Icom IC M802 SSB radio with Pactor Sailmail modem
  • ·         Icom VHF in Salon and separate one on Flybridge
  • ·         Various Laptops installed with World C map charts and USB GPS receivers.
  • ·         Litton stand alone GPS display.
  • ·         Bad Boy wifi aerial and router
The Icom SSB radio, pactor modem and sailmail software works like a treat.  At one stage we had an Iridium satellite phone, but with the high monthly charges, without even making a call we eventually packed it away.  An interesting featue of sailmail that does not appear to be commonly used is the ‘Shadow mail’ feature whereby ones normal email address can be ‘pinged’ and all headers returned, mail can then be either deleted or retrieved, this means that one does not have to use several email addresses.
  • ·         The Raymarine system has allways had niggles, with what Raymarine calls ‘ stray electromagnetic intereference’.  Occasionally there would be ‘stray’ signals which would indicate false wind readings, cause alarms to go off, instrument lighting to go off, and of a more serious nature the autopilot would switch to ‘standby mode’ They suggest re routing the cables so as not to be in proximity to other cables – OK in principal but virtually impossible with our layout and cable runs. General service rather poor.
  • ·         Raymarine E120 Display after two years would flicker on & off, eventually there was a complete blank screen – unit had to be returned to factory for $400 repair.  Unfortunately flybridge E80 display also showing same problem.
  • ·         Raymarine ST 60 WIND Backlighting failure after 2 years – needs new expensive board.
  • ·         Thrane & Thrane Satcom mini C – After 2 years the external antenna unit leaked and was eventually full of water – poor service provided and requirement to buy complete new unit – decided not worth the price.  Considering this is a full commercial unit designed for extreme conditions an unsatisfactory result.
  • ·         Icom SSB – all works well apart from microphone cable perishing after 3 years – even though out of the sun.
Dinghy etc
We have been extremely pleased with our 11 foot Caribe semi ridged dinghy and 15 HP 4 stroke Yamaha outboard. Apart from oil changes and yearly spark plug check the Yamaha has been faultless.  In 2009 I made a full cover for the dinghy, while not particularly professional looking it does keep the sun off.
We also have two ridged kayaks which have been very useful around the surf beaches, also great for just having some exercise. Finally to add a bit of extra weight we bought in 2011 a Walker 10 foot sailing dinghy.  For young boys we expect that this will well used over the coming years and add’s another degree of freedom to the crew, apart from the ability to row ashore and not use the outboard.
Apart from functioning engines and a ready supply of electricity this is probably the most important piece of equipment onboard and the most appreciated!  With young boys constantly in the sea we are able to have a fresh water rinse off at every occasion.  Keeping Sonrisa and crew salt free helps maintain the deck equipment and inside, over the past 4 years, I have found a surprisingly small amount of rust and corrosion.
We have a Schenker Smart 60 12 volt watermaker.  The design is as simple as possible with only an over pressure safety switch, electrical along with pumps can be separated from the membrane unit, connected only by plastic hosing.  The main pumps (no primer pumps required) are standard Surflo 8 bar type, easily and cheaply replaceable along with separate pump heads which are also easily changed. The membrane unit is of the ‘energy recovery type’ – usual power consumption is around 20 amps with both pumps running. As is customary it has never produced the quoted 60 litres per hour, normally 45 – 50 litres per hour.  By running one pump production is simply halved.
Overall there have been several problems with our unit, nearly all to do with the membrane unit and ‘energy recovery’ system of pistons and seals.  Thankfully our unit is easily accessible in the forward compartment and not under some furniture, as I have now become quite proficient at dismantling it.  While the problems have been annoying the service and help from Schenker has been outstanding so I am still positive about this manufacturer.
Most of the supplied water pumps, toilets (4) etc have survived well. We originally had 2 x 12 volt fridges and a large 12 volt freezer (all side opening).  The freezer, we quickly found out, was far to amp hungry, so for a few years it was used as storage and recently we removed it completely and put in shelves for a sizeable locker.  The outside fridge compressor recently stopped, which we replaced with the freezer compressor.  We have also just bought a small portable 12 volt Engel freezer – useful at the start of trips when we have a surplus of frozen food, once consumed it is easy to switch the freezer off / on depending on the amount of fish we catch.
After a few tries with our new solar oven we are really looking forward to using it extensively – it really does get bloody hot quickly! A roast chicken and vegetables takes around 2 hours in good sunshine, nothing gets burnt and it saves on propane apart from not heating up the already hot salon.
 Also on board we have;
  • ·         2 x complete scuba sets and a Bauer petrol driven dive compressor.
  • ·         Sailrite 220 V sewing machine and plenty of spare material
  • ·         Capacity to carry 160 litres of gasoline in separate containers in a self draining locker
  • ·         5 x 10lb propane cylinders
  • ·         900 litres of water in 3 tanks – one always kept full when cruising.
  • ·         Sufficient dry stores (and yes a few cans of food) for several months.

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