This is the 30th Anniversary of Raven, a ketch built in the Cheoy Lee Hong Kong shipyards in 1978. Being 30 years old, we decided to bring Raven into the 21st century by installing an autopilot, solar panels, davits, additional ground tackle and new energy efficient lighting.When we got back to the boat sitting on the hard in Titusville, we found that the batteries could not hold a charge. So we replaced them with new Trojan 105s (trojan-battery.com ), launched and sailed to Vero Beach. It was there that we discussed the refit in detail. We had long wanted to become energy independent. The wind charger provides significant energy, but solar panels could complete the energy suite. However, since Raven is a ketch, there is no place to put the panels that was not shaded by some mast, boom or other rigging. Therefore, we decided to install davits.
We have found that while cruising, we tended to leave the dingy in the water too often. It was simply too much of a hassle to hoist the dingy on deck every night. The davits would allow us to lift the dingy every night for security and to keep the bottom clean. And it would provide a platform for the installation of two huge solar panels unobstructed by shade.
We had been sailing without a working autopilot since we got the boat and felt that a new one would substantially reduce crew fatigue - we considered it a matter of safety. We called a number of marine outfitting companies to to obtain estimates. Most of them dealt with mega-yachts and were not interested in working in the confining areas of a small sailboat and within a limited budget. We found Trans-Marine (www.transmarinepro.com) on the Seven Seas Bulletin Board. The company is operated by Cameron Murray out of his steel ketch Serenity in West Palm Beach. Cameron came to Vero to analyze the situation and determine whether Raven's old autopilot could be resuscitated. However, parts were unavailable and the system was irreparable. We grew to trust Cameron's expertise and honesty in that visit and decided to move Raven to West Palm for the refit. We never regretted that decision and strongly recommend his work to anyone looking for conversion to alternative energy.
The davits were custom designed and fabricated to withstand extreme loads so that we could undertake passages with the dingy and motor in place. They also had to be large enough to hold two 130 watt Kyocera solar panels. For the panels, we installed a Blue Sky Solar Boost 3024i charge controller. We had the electrical system rewired and installed a Link 2000 system monitor. This would allow us to closely monitor energy consumption and production from wind, solar, generator and engine. To reduce energy consumption, we replaced all of our light bulbs with LED bulbs from Sensibulb (www.scadtech.com). With various inexpensive adapters, the LED's fit all of our incandescent, fluorescent and halogen fixtures. The new bulbs were in the form of a circuit board with two light emitting diodes. They are of a new design that produce a warm, bright light with 72% to 88% less energy consumption and no heat. We also converted the stern light to LED and replaced the mast top navigation light with an LED tricolor/anchor light which has a photocell that turns the anchor light on at dusk.
With the dingy and motor in the davits, the trim of the boat was substantially shifted aft. We took this as an opportunity to install a second bow anchor and additional chain - this corrected the trim. While replacing the anchor roller, we found severe stress fractures in the forward chainplate. This was a very serious matter which threatened a dismasting in the next storm. The replacement of the entire platform and chainplate with a massive new stainless steel fitting was one of the biggest parts of the refit and probably the most important to the life of the boat and its crew. The bow platform now holds a 66# Spade with 275 feet of chain and the new 44# Bruce with 175 feet of chain and an additional thru-deck fitting to a divided chainlocker.
While undergoing the refit, we stayed at Palm Harbor Marina. On Saturdays, a fine farmers market was held next to the marina. A great library with WiFi is just down the block and a free trolley runs to City Place with movies, Publix market and a book store. We watched Indiana Basketball games with fellow Hooiser cruisers Phil and Margaret McGovern. A walk across the bridge to Palm Beach provided access the Four Arts Society Museum and beautiful gardens. West Palm hosted two festivals while we were there - the Children's World Festival and India Fest. We celebrated Rana's birthday at the Flagler Museum where we saw the British quartet Red Priest, (RedPriest.com) who performed "Pirates of the Baroque", in a most entertaining and swashbuckling style. We joined our friends Cameron and Leighia for delightful dinner at the Palm Beach Sailing Club which is located off the Peanut Island anchorage.
The new autopilot is a Raymarine S3/G and it worked flawlessly in the first outing - the crossing of the Gulf Stream.