Solar Panels and Roof Extension
This is my favourite upgrade to the boat. When we first got on board the problem with sitting out side was when it was hot, the sun beat down on you pretty soon after midday and in the rain, you couldn’t sit out there at all. The existing roof doesn’t go out far enough and as a result it’s like sitting under an umbrella all day and expecting the same protection from the weather all day.
The solution was to design an extension to the existing roof and make it look like it was always supposed to be there as well. We contacted Five Star Marine Trim in Cairns and worked with them to fabricate a stainless steel frame with a Sunbrella cover to match the Sunbrella already used on the boat. They also added black shade cloth panels that tie down to the davits and swim platform allowing us to gain privacy as well, but most importantly, protect the tender. Now I know that most owners use the davits to house their solar panels but this never made any sense to us it makes them harder to charge if the rooftop causes shade over them. Ours sit proudly up on top of the reinforced structure and are rarely blocked.
As a result we feel like we have gained an extra space. We can sit out there in light to medium rain or full sunlight. Lagoon of course will provide for an extra fee, clears that will enclose the outside area but they made it look too much like a fish bowl for us, we like the feeling of space when we’re out there, and protection from the rain when using the BBQ! Oh, I also hang my laundry under there and I can dry in almost any weather.
Oh, and for the techies out there, we installed four 190w solar panels which means we are self sufficient on anchor and very rarely have to run the engines to power up unless there’s been no sun of course. To give you an idea of the improvement, we used to run the engines for an hour each night and morning to keep up with the power. We can now leave the laptop on all night if we wish and it’s no problem.
The skipper begged for this for a good year or two so I made him do his ‘due diligence’ and proper research before I relinquished the funds for him to buy his beloved screecher. My main reasons for holding back were that at over a couple of k’s it’s a big expense and the best argument I got from him was that we would be able to go faster in lighter winds. I’m all for saving on fuel but at the end of the day this boat costs nothing to run and I was saving up for a water maker at the time, something we definitely would need. However, when the girls were writing their letters to Santa one year, he wrote his too so I thought it was only fair. It’s a beautiful big sail and as an ode to me, he had it made in red, much better than the white he originally was looking at, and it compliments the red in our boat’s name. It definitely will pay for itself and it really pulls us along so I’m glad we got one in the end. Plus it looks so pretty 😉
We liked the idea early on of having the Baby Weber Q handy to the saloon area as opposed to hanging off the stainless steel like some owner’s have. I didn’t fancy cooking the bacon whilst trying not to fall off the back (yes, we do cook underway.) We had an aluminium trestle leftover from the renovations on the house we sold to pay for the boat and it came on board first as equipment for yard periods and we had no where else to store it. We quickly found out it made a great table for the Weber and fit perfectly in between the two aft handrails. The only problem with this brilliant idea was that it did stick out a bit and I had to walk around it. We had some old teak we managed to get a hold of and The Skipper fashioned it into an extension off the back allowing us to push the trestle back making it flush with the walkway. It’s securely fastened of course and we keep an eye on the hinges in case they rust. Brilliant.
On a side note, we bought the Baby Weber Q and an 80L WAECO camper freezer from an old couple selling their camper gear at the local caravan park for an absolute steal. Obviously Grandpa had looked after them both and they were happy to get rid of these big items in one go. They have been two of the best things we’ve bought for the boat. The Weber cooks up a treat and the WAECO is 12v, works as a fridge/freezer and stores heaps. Couldn’t ask for more.
Initially you had a choice for this space of a fridge or an icemaker. Baring in mind that inside there was a larger than normal but not huge bar fridge anyway, we were reluctant to put in an icemaker where we could have more refrigeration instead. I can make ice cubes, I don’t need a contraption taking up valuable space. We ordered a fridge instead.
Tent out the front
Five Star Marine Trim came to the rescue again to provide us with badly needed shade on the bow section when we are at anchor. The biggest area to lay down outside and it was always in full sun! Now we can hang out there during the day, there is still space for those that want to sunbathe but at the moment no one like that lives on board. It gives us a great sun protection and even keeps us dry in light rain. The only bummer is we also like hanging out there at night time and star gazing. We particularly love that app ‘Star Walk,’ the girls have learnt loads about stars, planets and passing satellites just from hanging out on the bow with the iphone. I wish I had a better pic to show you, but this will have to do…
Shade cloth around the saloon windows and helm
The same shade cloth we used for the tent out the front was also used to make a shade slide into a premade track added to the windows around the saloon. This provides shade, privacy at night and visibility does not suffer. It also makes the windows look hell cool. 🙂
See this post: Owner’s Luxury
We installed (when I say ‘we’ I mean my talented, he’s a skipper but he’s also a qualified engineer-husband) a Marine Air 16000BTU air conditioner that we found (again, royal ‘we’) in the local paper for sale. It was brand new and an ex-demo model. Major savings made on this item. Of course we also saved heaps on the installation as well. Since installing it ‘we’ have also put in extra venting into the master cabin. While you don’t get the same pressure of the air coming through, it definitely makes a difference on hot summer nights. For those non yachties out there, it doesn’t work away from the dock, we need to be plugged into 240v for it to work on anchor or underway. However we did buy a generator that will run it if we really need it but so far we’ve only done that once, in the tropical monsoon season that is Far North QLD this time of year. The overhead hatches when open provide plenty of breeze otherwise and you can lay in bed and watch the stars at the same time. Winner!
Interior fans, TV’s, 12v sockets, speakers, shower drain weights
Some smaller improvements that I wouldn’t really class as upgrades buy have definitely made a difference to our comfort level! The fans are the best quality you can buy, hence they cost about $99+ a piece so we shopped around and got them when they were on sale. You can move them around to point in different directions and they are pretty silent as well as having a timer for night time. Love.
The telly’s (one in the saloon, one in our cabin) again were installed by the Skipper. They have DVD players in their side and are both wall mounted. We’ve also more recently added some hooks so we can secure them at sea otherwise they swing around. Unfortunately we didn’t find them loud enough, not sure why, so we bought some Bose speakers to make the sound more cinematic for the saloon Telly, big improvement!
Regarding the shower drains, they look nice but really are a silly design. We found an easy solution though. Unfortunately when you showered they would float and you had to try to not fall over with the hole they exposed. The Skipper came up with an idea to sikaflex some lead weights to the underside and they stopped doing it. Annoying, but fixed.
Another amazing company I’d love to promote is Rocket Products Int’l in Thailand. We sent them the spec to make us some sail bags which they do amongst many other things (like sail bags and film equipment) and they made these great bags we hung in the cockpit and also just outside the cockpit to house the ropes. Simple!
On the bow are two little seats over each bow which had teak platforms to sit on. However they weren’t finished off very well and the edges were chipping making them look shabby quickly. Cameron from Milton Shipwrights in Cairns made these fantastic little seats to replace them. They look amazing and are a serious upgrade to what was there before.
Desalination: Water maker
Still shopping around for one as it isn’t needed yet. It’s a big ticket item (over $7k for a decent one) and at the moment it wouldn’t be getting used at all. Once we know we are going cruising it will be one of the first things we get. In the meantime we’d love to hear if you have any recommendations. We had a good one on our last boat so we have an idea of what we like already.
The nav station
At the moment we have plenty of upright seating but not much reclining room in the saloon. We also have a navigation station in the saloon and I have to say, I’ve never understood why they are considered a necessity, especially in a catamaran. I can’t see myself sitting there with charts, I’d rather use the large saloon table for that. We’ve decided to look into modifying this area a bit by removing the desk and extending the saloon couch which will not only provide more corner seating but also more storage. Win Win!