The importance of alternative power

After reading about the Carnival cruise boat in the Gulf of Mexico CNN 2013 it has got me thinking about the heavy reliance on the engine power.  They have lost engine power.

Their power is out. The toilets don’t work, the air conditioning doesn’t work, lights don’t work. It’s too hot in the cabins so people are sleeping in the hallways on mattresses, they are urinating in showers and defecating into bags. Hardly the image a cruise line wishes us to imagine when embarking on a trip of a life time. There are many unhappy people. For some it will be their last trip. Enough is enough.

After buying my own boat and getting behind the wheel and having control, I don’t want to take a cruise on a cruise liner with hundreds of other people. It doesn’t appeal. This was my feeling before thinking about engine power loss.

I bring the cruise boat saga back to my own quest for a boat. Yachting magazines are full of gorgeous boats and the longer the length the more luxurious the interior and the more modern the conveniences. It becomes like a hotel on water. Everything is fine when the engine is working but if/when it stops what do you do?

The ability to have alternative power sources becomes necessary if planning to sail off shore. Can you fix an engine while off shore? I don’t know. I suppose it depends on the part that needs fixing and the ability of the skipper and/or crew. I know today that I would be of no help in this situation.

I don’t plan to go offshore just yet. Crawling then walking before running is the sensible approach. Coastal trips in the near foreseeable future. I have Coastguard membership and if I need rescuing I can radio for help. I have not needed their help as of yet. It’s more of an insurance. A friendly person only a radio call away. And of course you log your trip with the Coastguard whenever you leave port so someone knows where you are. And when you return. Planning and organisation.





What happens if the alternative power source also malfunctions? Worst case scenario one: the solar panel catches fire. What do you do? How do you put out a solar panel fire? Can it be put out? Fire extinguisher.

Wind generators. I love the idea of them. They need to be maintained too. How handy am I? Show me how to do it and I will learn. Why are there no wind generators on a trawler? Because they have gen-sets and solar instead.

Gen-set or Marine generator is an alternative source of power. The choices are endless.

I want to be hands on, on my boat. I want to be able to fix things. Not everything. Otherwise I would never leave shore. I know you can never be prepared for every worst case scenario but it helps to be a little handy.

Voyaging Under Power 4th Edition- Book



Title: Voyaging Under Power
Author: Robert P. Beebe & Denis Umstot
Publisher: International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press
Date Published: January 16, 2013
Pages: 448 pages (Hardcover)
Price: NZ$40.08 (Book Depository)

Guide to cross the oceans and see the world in comfort and safety.

Diesel Engine Handbook – Book

Title: Diesel Engine Handbook
Author: Andrew Simpson
Publisher: The Royal Yachting Association
Date Published: 2006
Pages: 94
Price: NZ$32.87 (Book Depository)
Extras: DVD included

The official course book for the RYA One-Day Diesel Engine Course.
A reference guide to understand and maintain your marine diesel engine.

How the Diesel Engine Works
Air System
Engine Cooling
Electrical System
Engine Controls
Starting and Stopping your engine
Diagnostics and Troubleshooting
How to do it
Emergency Procedures

Sea Fever

It’s first and foremost a love story and it just happens to be themed on and around a boat. It was one of those easy, chatty toned summer reads that you pick up and not put down until the last page. I like it when I find a book that I don’t want to finish. It however is also a book on the dangers of sailing and what can go wrong. A book of warnings.
I sit in front of the screen and dream of picking a boat up from the other side of the world and sailing it back home with an experienced skipper and all will be smooth sailing. Reality check. It might be like that but chances are there will be problems.

What did I learn about boats?
A modern 406 MHz EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons), or emergency distress beacon is an essential piece of equipment when considering blue water cruising, sailing between countries on an open sea. Some activate when hitting water but others engage with the press of a button. And with luck you will be rescued within 24 hours. You do not press this button when you cannot find the cork screw and are in need of kitchen aid, you press this when your engine dies in the middle of the sea  and/or your mast has broken or you have a medical emergency. It is a beacon of last resort.
EPRIBs must be registered to give the best information to the coastguard. Emergency contact information and the description of boat, number of people on board, whether there is a life raft on board. If registered the coastguard can contact the designated person and verify whether or not the distress is real or just a false alarm for starters.
A 406 MHz EPIRB is one of the requirements for Category 1 NZ registered boats wishing to leave NZ waters to other parts of the world.
The New Zealand Country Code is 512.

Buying a boat without a survey is a case of buyer beware. AIWI, as is where is means that there is going to be some work to do. Travelling far to buy a boat is fine but to buy a boat because it happens to be  the last boat of three that you have travelled far to view and it appears to be the best of the worst and you don’t want to go home disappointed. Well honey, sometimes it is better to go home empty handed than to buy a lemon. Learning to say NO is an important lesson in life. A word that is small yet significant that we sometimes just cannot say for pride gets in our way.

The Coastguard are knights and ladies in shining armour.
I witnessed the rescue of a boat only yesterday. The engine died on a powerboat. The coastguard towed them back to their marina pier. All safe and sound. One family with a happy ending.  It pays to be a member of the coastguard. You never know when you might need their help. It’s a bit like insurance, you buy the service but you hope you never have to use it.

iOS 6 update

Just a reminder to those who use their iPad or iPhone at sea that there is an update, a small one, that is worthwhile downloading.

Don’t forget the waterproof pouch. Where would I go without my iPad? I think I prefer it to my computer, yet I say this writing on my computer. So that makes me a hypocrite. Doesn’t it? So what.

Enjoy the weekend!

The marine throne room

I was one of those annoying kids who always asked, why, how, and what, all the time. I must have driven my parents nuts. My father always patiently answered my questions and he would even get a book from the bookcase to help explain when there was an example that suited the moment. He still has the patience of a saint.
So in that frame of mind I wanted to broach a delicate topic of marine portable toilets otherwise known as MSD (marine sanitation devices) or an installed head.

How do you use a toilet at sea?
Yes really.
In particular the marine electric portable toilet.

The world of marine toilets is an area that people don’t tend to talk about. Certainly used yet not mentioned. People are too polite. I decided to give instructions of how to use my version so that others would not be left confused or hopping from one foot to another or using the bucket alternative. That would be the alternative bucket list.

There appears to be different types of toilets.
Manual OR Electric
Direct Discharge OR Holding Tank

We have an Electric Direct Discharge MSD or toilet and that is what I want to talk about.

Our overnight double bed converts one section into a picnic table, and underneath at the back is the hidden loo or toilet. Very clever, very compact and very clean.

Before getting down to business you must open the valves of the toilet. There is one on each side of the bowl. Look around the sides of the toilet carefully. The BLUE valve switches are easy to see.
Turn both BLUE pipe valve switches 90 degrees to ON position.

Above is the OUTFLOW pipe in OFF position.

Above is the INFLOW pipe in OFF position.
The inflow pipe is thinner than the outflow pipe.
The electric switch is on the front LHS as you sit on the throne.

Flush the toilet by pressing the switch.
It is best to flush it BEFORE and AFTER you do your business.

1. Remove the cushions covering the toilet and lift the toilet cover.
2. Turn BOTH blue valves 90 degrees to ON position
3. Flush the toilet by pressing the switch,
4. Go to the toilet.
5. Flush the toilet by pressing the switch, FLUSHING AT SEA,  MORE IS BETTER
6. Turn the INFLOW valve to OFF position
7. Flush the toilet by pressing the switch until there is only a little water in the bottom of the toilet bowl
8. Return the toilet to bed position

8. Use a freshwater hose and rinse the toilet bowl while pressing the flush switch
(You are removing the salt water from the piping)
9. Remove the freshwater hose and press the flush switch again until there is only a little water in the bottom of the toilet bowl
10. Turn the OUTFLOW valve to OFF position
11. Close the lid and return the toilet to a bed again.

* A minimum of 1 gallon to rinse urine completely out of the machinery, a minimum of 3 gallons to clear solids and paper. Insufficient flushing shortens the life of the motor and macerator, and is the biggest single cause of burned out motors
*The cheapest “no-name” single-ply paper at the grocery store is the same thing as “marine” toilet paper, and it’s a whole lot cheaper!
*To clean the system place 250ml vinegar down the toilet and flush

BEFORE you go to the toilet (in a direct discharge type)make sure you are:

  • more than 500m from shore and in water more than 5m deep
  • more than 500m from a marine farm
  • more than 500m from a customary fishing reserve
  • more than 200m from a marine reserve

AND once you get back to shore you need to flush FRESH water through the bowl to remove the salt water.

More light reading:
Marine Heads
(PDF, 2 pages)
by Terry Johnson, University of Alaska Sea Grant, Marine Advisory Program 1999

Clean Boating Guide (PDF, 20 pages)
New Zealand Marina Operators Association with BioSecurity New Zealand

Less Toxic Cleaning (PDF, 3 pages)
California Integrated Waste Management Board

The Captain Rob Cozen, Master Marine Surveyor Newsletter, October 1999 Archive