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Archive for the ‘questions’ Category

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hqdefaultQuestion of the Week

Singapore-based Anarchist “Laurent” asks a question that’s on a lot of our minds at one time or another.  To find answers or give them, hit the thread.

Let’s say that you want to build a boat (or more accurately, get a boat built) to a design/concept that you cannot find in normal sailboat production.  What you want is off-the-charts enough that there’s nothing out there that’s even close to it.  At this stage, you already understand that resale value of what you want will be close to zero…and you don’t care. You have some engineering background but you are no yacht designer, so it’s time to get help from a pro. But how?

How do you select a yacht designer?

How do you approach him? Do you just email? “Hi, I want you to design a boat for me, can we talk?”

How do you frame a contract/deal so all parties are happy? How do you define the “deliverables” (some sets of drawings could be considered “enough” for the designer, where you are expecting fully detailed construction drawings, etc.)

Are there “predefined/preformated contractual agreements for yacht design?

How do you manage the timeline?  How do you know you are not getting ripped off?

If anyone could share their experience, it would be a big help.  Without naming names, if you do not want to…

This is about EXPERIENCE.  If you’ve never been through part or all of the process, go away.


August 5th, 2014 by admin

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Ask An Expert

A reader from Washington State asks “With Tesla Motors opening up its advanced battery patents to the world, will we see some major advancements in size/weight/capacity in the world of offshore power and storage?”  We turn to RTW racer and now energy guru Bruce Schwab from Bruce Schwab Energy Systems for an answer.

juicyThanks for the question, and I wish I had more exciting news, but the reality is that I don’t think Tesla’s move will have much effect on the marine market. Why? Because what makes Lithium (Li) battery systems expensive is not the “battery” cells themselves (usually four cells per 12V battery); rather, it is the application-specific “BMS” (Battery Management System) that makes the system useable and safe…and the lack of “scale” in the marine market to drive down costs. While the performance of lithium batteries is superior to Lead (Pb), if you run them flat or overcharge them that could cause them to fail prematurely. While it’s not good to over/undercharge Pb, they typically will just lose capacity from such abuse and not necessarily become “finished”.

The BMS in a car battery system has very different requirements than for a boat, first of all being much higher voltage. A boat typically has its own special issues, such as multiple charging sources (alternator, AC/DC charger from shore/genset, solar panels, hydrogenerator, wind generator, etc.) and multiple loads as well. So the system configurations are different, and even between top marine Li battery brands, the BMS philosophies differ.

For instance, Genasun marine battery system uses a dual positive bus, separating the charge sources from the loads. While this adds some work to an installation, in the long run it offers several advantages and protects both the battery investment and the boat. See attached pic of an very nice Genasun GLi installation in the IMOCA 60 Great American IV, by Steve Ecker of Maine Yachting Center here in Maine. Not the kind of thing a typical boat owner does on their own…;-) Of course, you can find and use an Li battery with a Pb-style physical format & terminals, and just plug it in. However the operation of such packs is far less graceful at the top and bottom ends of the charge/discharge cycles. Here is a diagram that partially explains a dual-bus configuration.

While Li battery performance is spectacular, they are not for everyone on the water. There are certainly many options and choices out there with Pb: AGM, gel, flooded, etc. each with their own attributes and disadvantages. and there are versions of AGM that the marine market has yet to discover. The primary weaknesses of Pb (aside from being so darn heavy) is the susceptibility to permanent internal sulfation (from undercharging) and corrosion (from overcharging), which usually spells the end of their useful life. Extended PSOC (Partial State Of Charge) operation…which is very common in marine use…leads to sulfation that is often impossible for the battery to recover from. However you will soon see Pb batts utilizing internal carbon grids/plates/etc. to help prevent this and/or allow complete recovery without high-voltage “Equalization” sessions. Equalization can help recover some capacity, however this must be carefully done or it can shorten cycle life as well.

Speaking of battery technology, and specifically Pb/AGM…the first to use a carbon foam grid internally (about seven years ago) in an AGM was Firefly batteries. These AGM’s seem to have great resistance to permanent sulfating, making them good for the marine use. However for some reason, they never got any exposure in the marine market, despite burning through a lot of VC capital and a even going through bankruptcy way back in 2007. We are looking into offering a new version of the Firefly they are developing with input from us here at OceanPlanet Energy. Knowing that Lithium is great, but for the foreseeable future not for everyone, we want to have the next best thing as an option, and we’ll be sure to share it with the Anarchists.

Ask a simple question….get a sales pitch in reply…sorry!

-Bruce Schwab
Ocean Planet Energy Systems


July 17th, 2014 by admin

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Question Of The Week

Longtime Anarchist, occasional Anarchy I.T. Department head, and now Caribbean cruiser BJ Porter asks “Did I do it right?” after receiving a Mayday in the southern Caribbean over the weekend.  Got an answer?  It goes here.  Note:  The photo is NOT of the fisherman in the story; just something random and descriptive that we liked.

Not just some clown in a Bayliner calling the USCG on Narragansett Bay with smoke coming out of his engines, we got a for real Mayday the other day.

Saturday afternoon we left Trinidad for Aruba.  About 11:18 p.m. on Monday night as we are sailing about 20 miles NE of Bonaire (12° 34.715N, 068° 13.732W), conditions were 22-28kts of wind from around 100°, seas 6-8 ft. and somewhat disturbed.  We were sailing along on a broad reach at 8-10 knots with reefed sails.  Then I get a Frantic “Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!” call over the radio.

After trying to get a response back from the guy, I finally got a burst of frantic Spanish.  I tried slow English…more Spanish.  OK…by now someone has dug up our copy of “Spanish for Cruisers” and I am able to get a few phrases like “We speak very little Spanish” on the air.  Slow pigeon English from the other boat…”No fuel!  No water!  No Food!”.

As I was responding and trying to raise a response we saw a boat…distance was tough to tell, but it was disappearing and reappearing.  Eventually when I asked for their position they said “You just passed us” and I knew that was the boat.  So we pulled off the preventer, turned the boat around and beat back to them.  When we arrived we lowered the sails and motored around him in the rolls and chop.  The boat was roughly 20′ long, center console…sort of, there were tarps on it, with three fisherman on board.  Given the location (NE of Bonaire, nearby some of the remote Venezuelan islands) we figured they were Venezuelan.

It did enter in our minds that this COULD be a problem, there have been some incidents off the Venezuelan coast.  But given the relatively rough conditions boarding would be something only someone pretty desperate would try.  We fetched the machete we bought for opening coconuts up and left it in the cockpit…

Conversation came to it that we couldn’t easily get him fuel, as we only had six gallons of gas on board in our dinghy and no good way to get any of it to him, if we could even pour or siphon some out without spilling it.  Given that they had what looked large twin outboards, the two gallons or so we might be able to get to them wouldn’t get them all that far even if we could figure a way to pour it, store it, and get it to them uncontaminated.  It was rough enough that there was no way the vessels were coming together intentionally, someone was going to get damaged if we got within six to eight feet of them.

So they asked us to “Give us food, give us water.”  Their vessel was sound and not sinking and clearly just out of fuel and they did not ask to abandon it or get rescued.

So we scrounged up some fresh water and what food we could find that was in cans with pull tabs (there was no way we were going to be able to have a coherent discussion about can openers!) or in packages that might survive a dunking and put it in a water proof container.  We tied this whole mess to an orange PFD and an inflated white trash bag (for visibility and more floatation).  When then dropped it in the water upwind of them, at which point we very quickly figured out that their boat was drifting a hell of a lot faster than a little package of food and water…oops.  So we circled around a few times and fished it out then tried again from down wind which worked much better since they drifted down on it quickly.  They recovered it on the first try and thanked us on the VHF.

At this point we felt there was little we could do beyond relay their position to someone else who might be able to get them.  They didn’t want off their boat, and no one else had heard their call in the area.  If we stayed all we could do was circle them and try to call someone with our higher VHF or SSB.  So we talked to them and they asked us to relay their position to someone, and we headed back to our regular course.

I wasn’t completely sure this was the right thing to do, but I couldn’t see what we would do hanging around them either, except stay on station in case their boat started to sink (unlikely) and they needed to be pulled off.  But we could do nothing more to affect their rescue, except try to get in touch with authorities on their behalf which wasn’t working too well with VHF from this area.  Wind and currents were both pushing them West, towards Curacao and Aruba.

I spent the next hour and a half trying to get in touch with ANYONE in authority.  At one point I hailed “Coast Guard” on 16 and received a scratchy, inaudible but lengthy reply which made it clear the recipient could hear and understand me even if I could not hear them.  So I relayed all the information I could; our boa name, last position of the other boat, name of the captain (we could not get him to understand that we wanted his BOAT name, or it didn’t have one), number of people, their problems, our actions, etc.  I was trying VHF 16, and all of the SSB Emergency Hailing frequencies.

Nothing.  Not a whisper of a response.  I even went so far as to send Winlink e-mail messages to a bunch of people I knew, on the off chance that they might be awake still and able to at least forward the info to the USCG who would know how to contact the proper authorities in Venezuela/Bonaire/Curacao.  Alternatively I was contemplating breaking into some yammering hams and asking them to do the same for me, but we got a hail back before I needed to try that.

Eventually I got a scratchy hail.  Turns it out was from a freighter named Malmo about eight miles away from us; he could hear me but I could barely make him out but he’d heard my boat name and that we’d helped a boat in distress.  He was able to relay to Curacao authorities the position and situation, and speak with me to clear up the details.  And his course was going to take him right back through where we left the boat, so I think Curacao asked him to check in on them.  I don’t know where it went from there, as we were passing out of VHF range and could not follow the conversations after that.  The last thing we hear was that Malmo had “Made contact with a boat with Spanish guys they could not understand” which sounded a lot like our fisherman.

I am still second guessing myself on my actions.  Questions and thoughts for discussion…

1) Should I have stayed on station?  There was no immediate or even short term risk of life or injury to the fisherman, they were out of fuel in an area with reasonable shipping traffic and not insanely far from shore and now had some food and water.  Could I have accomplished anything at all by continuing to circle or drifting with him all night?  Eventually we would have raised Malmo as she came through, but I couldn’t know that at the time.

2) SSB/VHF  – OK, I’m going to look into Sat Phones now.  This was a real eye opener for me that they really can be quite useless as no one seems to answer the damned things.  Or no one can hear my SSB, though I talked to a guy in Moscow with it a few months ago.  Two minutes on a Sat phone and I could have reached the USCG or local authorities if I had a number to call.

3) On board procedures.  We are still more reliant on me than we should be – while at the helm I can’t operate the SSB, but I’m the only one that knows the detailed operations of it.  No one was comfortable taking the helm in close quarters with another boat in 25+ knots of breeze in 6-8’+ seas.  My wife went to sleep reading “The Guide to SSB for Idi-yachts” tonight; we’ve decided that EVERYONE needs to know how to operate it and we will be doing some training and practice.

4) The other discussion this brought up with was quick accessibility to food and water if we had to ditch – based on my wife’s experience trying to gather food and water in a pitching seaway.  Yes, there is a ditch bag with a PLB, VHF, GPS, Flares, food rations, some water, hand pumped watermaker, etc. etc. ready to go.  But if we have to ditch we’d also want to grab as much as we can that time and conditions permit.  And if you open a cabinet to grab some canned goods and everything comes piling out on you, or you need to dig three layers deep under the floorboards…this could be problematic.  We realized that we had two types of emergency water – the stuff deep in the boat in case the water maker pukes, and the regular drinking bottles in the fridge; 10L or so of water we can grab quickly and toss in the life raft.  And some discussions about what to grab…bags of salted snack peanuts for example should never end up in the life raft!

So, that’s the story with my concerns and misgivings and thoughts.  I’d love to hear what others would have done.


November 14th, 2013 by admin

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Our resident NA. Doug Schickler, of Schickler Yacht Design and Engineering, takes on this week’s Ask the Designer questions:

Question 1: Which would win, a well sailed VO70 or a well sailed IACC boat in a windward/leeward around the buoys race?

SYDE: Depends on wind, length of beat/run, and number of sausages. Anything over 12 knots of wind, assuming 2 up and 2 down and my money would be on the VO70. The IACC would win the first beat but couldn’t stay in contact to defend it properly. In 4 to 10 knots TWS the IACC could lead at all marks, IMHO. Hey, ask Ken Read, a good segue to an update on Puma. Even better, maybe we can get them to do it: stage a race off against, say, Mean Machine vs. Shoshaloza in VLC. Great stunt!

Question 2: What would the margin be in a typical 60 minute race?

SYDE: Again depends on course and windspeed. Quick estimate says that the VO70 would win the above mentioned race by one or two minutes, just based on boatspeed.

Question 3: What conditions would favor each type of boat?

SYDE: Light wind would hurt the VO70 a lot, so this would favor the IACC. Strong wind, over 24 knots, would obviously favor the VO70.


April 30th, 2007 by admin

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We haven’t had many questions for our Ask Someone series of late, but here is a pretty good one. Should you have a question for the top people in the industry, designers, sailmakers, builders, etc., send them in and we’ll get them handled for ya. Today’s, about design cost is answered by Bob Perry. Enjoy.

Q: The Purple Haze project has been very insightful for the process of designing and building a custom boat, but it does ignore one key question (which the author has already pre-empted that he would not answer) – how much does it cost? Now, I know this varies greatly with the type of build, but I’m really trying to find out how much is the design process? If I take a design brief to say, Robert Perry what will I be looking to pay him for say a 38′ cruiser racer? cost for a concept design? Cost for actual construction documents? Does he get a cut of the total build cost? What if I want to build a couple of the same design? Maybe questions better posed on the forums, but I thought it might be interesting to put someone on the spot.

A:The answer is simple and I have no trouble explaining my own approach to the cost of design. Of course the cost of the design job will vary with the amount of detail required. I like to provide as much detail as possible down to electrical and plumbing schematics. The more detail we provide the more control we have over the project. But it does drive the cost of the design up.

Figure a well detailed set of plans will cost between 8.5% and 10% of the cost of the finished vessel.

We bill hourly at $100 an hour for most work. We start work with a retainer and we bill against the retainer. When the retainer is exhausted we commence monthly billings. We are happy to put a “cap” or a not to exceed figure on the design fees .

I will also design to a fixed fee based upon the cost of the finished boat. 9% would usually work and this would be broken down into progress payments. Although I have found over the years that most, not all, clients prefer the hourly rate. They feel more comfortable with it.

My philosophy towards design cost is that I want the design budget that allows me to do my very best work. Today this includes 3D modeling and a lot of the pattern making chores that in the past would have been left to loftsmen. But even this aspect of design is becoming obsolete as we work more and more with CNC machines.

Bob Perry

March 30th, 2007 by admin