Every year, instead of insuring Brick House we put money into upgrades and maintenance to be sure she keeps floating and sailing – keeping us safe and comfortable as we go. This list is a running log of the many things we have installed on her over the years and why. I hope it can help anyone who may be outfitting or upgrading their own boat. Please feel free to contact us if you have any specific questions about any of these systems, including our installation…since anything we install on our boat, we usually install ourselves and have learned some lessons about that along the way.
LATEST ADDITIONS TO BRICK HOUSE
September 2017 – We are working with the “Solar Queen”, Amy, at The altE Store figuring out what has gone wrong with our
solar panels. Now to be fair, our solar charge controller is older than the oldest models out there, and our solar panels, although one of the best ever made by Kyocera, they ARE after all, more than 25 years old. We have noticed a marked decline in energy production in the last year or two. We have not worried about it because we have been in and out of marinas, and motoring in light winds. But as we start preparing to be more independent again, we need to get our KISS Wind Generator , as well as our solar panels producing energy in abundance again. We suspected the solar panels may be the culprit, but we decided to find the solution with a stepped approach since we had the time to do so. First we replaced our old solar charge controller with a Morningstar Prostar MPPT (PS-MPPT-25M) Charge controller so we could see exactly what was happening using the digital readout. We would need this anyways if we got new panels, and we would get better utilization of the panels no matter which ones we had…old or new. We followed the amperage throughout the day, as well as the total amperage for the day. We used blankets to cover all but one of the 4 panels, one by one, methodically determining that there wasn’t just one bad panel dragging the rest down…all were equally degraded. The charge controller did its best to improve the total energy by about 20-25% but considering that we were only getting 6 amps in from our 13 amp panels, and only for 1.5 hours a day; and considering we only were getting 25-30 amps in during the course of an entire fully sunny day, there was little to add. It is said that panels lose 10% of their abilities every 5 years or so. Considering there have been 5 cycles of 5 years, 50% loss was both expected and realized. Amy looked at my records over about a week, and concluded that the panels had reached the end of their good life. It would only get worse with time. We are replacing the old panels with a new, brand to be determined soon. We hope to produce at least twice the amperage if not considerably more. Thank you Amy, for your patience helping us figure this all out! The Morningstar controller was a great choice and base for expanding our energy production abilities!
August 2017- We have been having absolutely NO luck whatsoever recieving wifi signals, and have been buying SIM cards and loading dollar after dollar on to them to get wifi plans, losing money when plans would run out unexpectantly, and using data too fast for the wallet to keep up. We get “free” wifi at most of the marinas we have been to, but over the years, my old wifi antenna setup was apparently dying, and we had given up getting wifi, blaming the lack of maintenance on the marinas side for not being able to get their internet from their old outdated systems. Guess what…it’s not them! Wifi is still in style, and with our new Halo Long Range Wifi Extender, we can not just use the marina’s wifi signal, but all the surrounding businesses signals too! With our old system, the one signal we could see was the marina’s, and it would just fade in and out making it completely unusable. With this system, we have no less than 25 signals, many of which are 4 and 5 bars! Maybe I didn’t need that smart phone, and mobile 3G/4G hotspots after all! All the old antennas and tangles of wires, domes, cantennas, pyramids, and other devices that held so much hope are being tossed today. We have found a very elegant, permanent solution which will help us save a lot of money in the next few years. Global Marine Net offers a bunch of services that will help us utilize data more selectively in areas with expensive wifi, and even over 3G/4G connections too, combined with the firewall that is built in to this Wifi setup!
August 2017 – We love the Working jib and staysail that we had made by Mack Sails after our dismasting 6+ years ago. We will be departing next year across the Indian Ocean, and have some serious challenges for our sails coming up. The first half of the ocean could be a motor if we don’t have lots of sail to put up, and the second half will be windier than we have seen in a few years. We need a very versatile and strong sail for this part of our circumnavigation. After pondering some sails made here in SE Asia, and looking at some lofts, we are buying American. We have purchased from Mack Sails again, halfway around the world in Stuart Florida for another great sail, this time a 130% Genoa with foam luff, and their typical mitre cut, built like bullet, offshore sails. We received it today, and after some maintenance to the Profurl Extrusions, we will see how they fit! UPDATE: Sail fits perfect!! Beautiful workmanship! This sail just EXUDES quality from head to foot to tack!
July 2017 – Did you know that not every tablet or iPad has a reliable GPS…that some don’t have one at all that will work away from the internet and cell towers? Neither did I! We remedied this by getting a little device called the Bluetooth Bad Elf Pro+ GPS. It not only provides reliable GPS positions down to 2 meters, but a barometer too! See more about this here.
June 2017 – Today we received a paper chart of the entire Indian Ocean, as well as some cruising guides from Blue Water Books and Charts , the single best place for sailors to find the charts, cruising guides, marine publications, software, flags and instruments in the world. Its time to start planning next years routes and stopovers, and there is nothing like a good cruising guide to jumpstart it all, Bluewater Books and Charts has been in business for more than 30 years, and is now located in Ft Lauderdale FL
June 2017 – A 27 kilogram ( 60 pounds) Manson Supreme anchor has taken the place of the rusty, unreliable CQR that we retired within 6 months of heading out, almost 10 years ago. With so many anchors being sent off to China for manufacturing, we are happy to know that this is made in New Zealand where so many great products for boats come from! We have now spent many nights in many anchorages with it, one a very rocky spot, one a loose sand spot, and many muddy spots, on very windy nights, often with 40 knots of wind, along with tide/current changes. She has been challenged earlier than expected, and it is passing with flying colors! We have come to trust it so quickly over the last several months, that we are not only promoting it to our primary anchor, but we are selling both the CQR and the Bruce, and looking for a small lightweight but effective secondary anchor. We no longer need 2 huge anchors on our bow with the Manson Supreme on our bow!! It’s the most capable anchor we have had on our bow!
May 2017 – We WILL be making some improvements to our communications setup for weather and email before we cross the Indian Ocean next year. We currently have a Pactor III modem and an Icom M710 SSB radio to get our emails and weather from while away from cell range. This, with a lot of patience, has worked well enough for us for nearly 10 years now. With so many advancements in technology, it would have been a hard decision to continue with this finicky, but economical way of staying in touch, or crossing over to something satellite based, and more expensive. We have an old Isatphone Pro satellite phone but Inmarsat data is very expensive, and often we used our minutes before we’re even able to accomplish anything. The first definite decision was to use Predictwind. They seem to, by far, have weather forecasting in their Predictwind Offshore application down pat, for satellite or via SSB, on devices, or laptops. There are so many nice weather applications for when you have internet, and there are even some Offshore applications that have the free GFS forecast models, via email requests. But Predictwind has both GFS, ECMWF forecasts (my favorite because it’s the most pessimistic and I like to know the worst case scenario), as well as 2 proprietary models that go down to 1 mile in detail, and account nicely for land masses and currents. I haven’t experimented with the Weather Routing, but the Departure Planning saves hours of work with “What if we leave tonight, or we get a good nights sleep and leave tomorrow morning” scenarios. It’s amazing how far things have come in just 10 years! Now we just have to decide whether we fork up some money for satellite or stick with the tried and true with our SSB/Pactor. UPDATE. In the end, we went with THIS. We will update you more once we get to actually use it!
May 2016 – Raymarine eS Series MultiFunction Navigation. When we got our new radar, we needed a new screen to see it all on of course! Raymarine was generous with their discounts and we got the latest model of their Multifunction Display, the eS128 model. Our new screen is 12 inches – much better for our aging eyes than our old 8 inch C80! And wow- technology has come so far in 10 years!! The feature rich Lighthouse II software runs really fast on it, and the “Hybrid Touch” makes it possible to both touch the screen like you would a smartphone, and/OR use the old rotary knobs and push buttons to get around, whichever you prefer. With a choice of Navionics+ charts ( our first choice), C-Map, and Lighthouse charts, we aren’t limited to just one chart brand any more…Our old AIS is displayed, as well as data from our Raymarine wireless instruments. Installation was so simple – there are now separate plugs for everything – so no Multiplexors, or messing with NMEA 0183data communications. We even have the MFD talking to our smartphone and controlling our autopilot. There is an update coming out soon so that we can even see GRIB (weather) files on the screen too, whenever we may have a wifi connection! The built in wifi allows us to apply software updates right from the unit, as well as use the Voyage Planner software to upload our old routes and waypoints (tracks soon) from our old chartplotter and various applications/files on our PC, wirelessly. Life is just getting way too easy! In love with this new display!!!
May 2016 – Raymarine Digital and HD Colour Radome Radar. – Our almost 10 year old Raymarine analog radar has deteriorated. Although Raymarine was still willing to work with us to repair it ( their customer service remains soo good! ) …we decided instead to bite the bullet and update our radar with Raymarine’s latest and greatest…
Actually, there was ONE model newer than the one we got…the new NEW Raymarine QUANTUM by FLIR…a wireless model. But it was just too new for us (less than 2 months!)…we needed something absolutely tried and true…so we got the RD418HD. Besides that, it was the same mounting system as or old one, so it made for an easy installation. We will update you later on whether it works well or not…we haven’t even left the dock yet with it!
March 2016 – We just added a Mantus Anchor Swivel to Brick House. You WANT your anchor chain to hold and to not twist, when you have a current or clocking wind…
December 2015 – Sun Protection at Anchor We recently (February 2016) updated some bits and pieces on our Shadetree awning – a new pole and a new clip – but overall, after nearly 8 years of on and off use..its still holding up very well!
November 2015 – We added a Mantus Chain Hook to Brick House, and in the worst bouncy windy weather, our snubber and chain hook does not fall off now!!
November 2015 ( and previously in 2010) KIWI PROP When we broke our original one this past year, we put on our spare fixed blade prop and promptly ordered another KiwiProp. We love this prop…so fast under power, so fast under sail!
April 2015 ( and previously in 2009) VESPERMARINE AIS We previously had the WATCHMATE 650, but it broke irrepairably. We loved it, but we could not get the 650 any more. The 850 was overkill for us, since we had an external Transponder already. The 750 was our perfect compromise. It has a few more great features, like weather reports and an anchor alarm. And its a great backup as a receiver if we need it. And such low energy consumption!
INSTALLED PRIOR TO 2015
These are other things we have added to Brick House over the years that continue to function well, and make our boat a seaworthy, oceangoing home. The manufacturers of these products that have also provided excellent after sale support when we needed are noted.
2014 (and 2010 and 2007)- NAVIONICS –Charts for our Raymarine C80 chartplotter, and on my Samsung Smartphone as a backup
2013 ACR – GPIRB – Our last best chance! We have a small portable ACR Aqualink 406 GPS PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) for bringing to the liferaft, on hikes, dinghy excursions etc, as well as an outside mounted, auto deploying ACR Globalfix 406 Mhz EPIRB. See the Article Patrick wrote about our EPIRBS
2013 KANNAD MARINE – Man Overboard – An AIS transceiver worn on each person, so if someone falls overboard…our Vespermarine AIS will show us where they are!
2012 RELIABLE BARRACUDA SEWING MACHINE How we repair our sails and canvas. Reliable Corp continues to provide great customer service, technical support, supplies, repairs and spare parts to us as necessary, often still under warranty!
2012 SAILRITE For all our sewing accessories, fabrics, etc.
2012-ALLIED TITANIUM –Our chainplates, toggles and other bits like clevis pins, bolts and screws, will NOT rust or break again! If you are a subscriber to Practical Sailor , you can see an article
Patrick wrote about titanium here: Practical Sailor Article on Titanium
2012 After we were dismasted in the middle of nowhere, BALLENGER SPARS shipped us a new mast after many patient emails back and forth to get everything just right!
To see Part I of an article Patrick wrote about our new chainplates, and new mast when our mast came down in the Pacific, check this out: New Chainplates, and getting the new mast
2012- Our sailmaker of choice – MACKSAILS
2012 TIDES MARINE – Main Track System – Even Rebecca can pull up the mainsail now!
2012 PROFURL – When we were dismasted and destroyed the furlers, we wanted to have the same reliable furlers we had on the boat for the previous 20 years, so we chose ProFurl again. They continue to provide great customer service, technical support, supplies, repairs and spare parts to us as necessary, years later!
To see Part II of an article Patrick wrote about remasting/rerigging our boat in the Pacific, check this out: Profurl Roller Furling , Tides Marine Main Track, and Mack Sails..
2011 – SEALIFE CAMERAS For our underwater pictures…
2009 SEABREATHE – How we make our underwater repairs, clean the bottom and unfoul our fouled anchor.
2008 – MONITOR SELF STEERING WINDVANE – Our MVP- steers for days without eating, resting or breaking down. Scanmar continues to provide great technical support, supplies, repairs and spare parts to us as necessary..after all these years!
2007 – SEAFROST REFRIDGERATION – Always ready for a cold one! They continue to provide great technical support, supplies, repairs and spare parts to us as necessary, even after all this time!
2007 – EDSON – High capacity Manual Bilge Pump
2007 – RAYMARINE Wireless Instruments – 9 years and counting! Raymarine continues to provide great technical support, supplies, repairs and spare parts to us as necessary.
2007 FISHERIES SUPPLY Our favorite chandlery overseas…they can get anything anywhere!
2007 IMTRA Electric Windlass – TIGRESS Still as strong as a tiger!
2007 RAYMARINE C80 Chartplotter – So much more reliable than our laptop…and much less amperage draw!. Raymarine continues to provide great technical support after all this time…
2007 RAYMARINE AUTOPILOT – There is a time to use our windvane ( windy condition) and there is a time to use our autopilot ( windy near shorelines or no wind – ie motoring). We are glad to have a dependable autopilot! One part broke in 9 years and counting, and Raymarine provided great and fast technical support and shipped the spare part to us, after all this time!
You can also see our yearly article highlighting ‘What Worked, What Didn’t’ on Brick House. We no longer can find links to every year…but here are the ones that are still out there…
Year 2: What Worked What Didnt (A reader found this very rough draft of this article, so we posted it)
SEE OUR ARTICLES IN THESE MAGAZINES