In most refits of a boat, the existing systems aboard (water, electrical, etc) are generally inspected, repaired, upgraded etc., but usually there is a basic structure of systems that you work within.
Not so in this case. Renaissance is a 52 year old boat which has received no significant care for 8 years, and was, I suspect, the victim of a deferred maintenance “plan” for several years before that.
She also suffered at the hands of who- knows-how-many well- intentioned do- it-yourself owners, individuals who’s intentions were good, but who’s skills were, sadly, not always up to the task at hand.
Too, the industry standard for safety and security in boat building have changed over the last half-century, and practices that were considered “best” in 1962 are now looked at with considerable suspicion.
And so we are starting over. Last Fall I spent several days removing everything from the boat that related to her systems. Engine, fuel, water, electrical, bilge pumps – anything that could come out without cutting open the hull (Fuel and one water tank stayed for that reason) was removed and – basically – scraped. Some of what I found that had passed for an electrical system was, frankly, frightening. Certain tasks should be done by someone with the appropriate skill-set!
What you see in the image above, therefore, are my design drawings of the new systems that I’ll be installing in the boat once the basic hull repairs (re-coring decks and relocating the chainplates, sealing and painting, installing thru-hulls) have been accomplished. You’ll go blind trying to read those images here, but they include a 12 volt DC electrical system, including solar panels and a 430 amp hour battery bank; gray and black-water holding and handling; fresh-water collection, storage and distribution (including limited engine-heated hot water and a hand-held shower at the stern); and a salt-water manifold system to provide seawater for the galley, engine, and flushing the head.
What you won’t see is a standby generator, an AC electrical system, and pressure water throughout the boat. (having hot-water does require a small pressure water system, but it will be very limited in capacity to conserve both fresh water and power.)
Nor will there be a microwave, TV, DVD player, washer/dryer… Forget all that crap – if we wanted that level of toys, we’d stay ashore.
On the safety side, this refit will be a quantum leap forward. For instance, the entire electrical system will be protected by fuses, circuit breakers, or both. 200 amp fuses will be installed right at the battery posts to protect the entire boat from that hazard, while each individual circuit (internal and external lighting, refrigeration, navionics, bilge pump, engine starting, etc) will have it’s own breaker or fuse for protection of the wiring in that particular system.
Plumbing will also be upgraded. As it left the factory, the Alberg 35 had 11 holes through the hull below the waterline, and only 3 of these holes had a method of closing the opening (ie: a valve) in the event of a malfunction or damage. Again, that was industry practice in 1962, but it’s very foolish. Stuff happens in a boat, and keeping the sea on the outside of the hull has to be taken seriously.
This refit will reduce the number of openings from eleven to 6, and of those 6 openings, ALL will be rebuilt with bronze thru-hulls and ball valves so that they can be secured closed if necessary. Now, if a hose is damaged or accidentally pulled off the fitting in rough weather, all that is required is to close the valve. Failure of a valve, while rare, is also possible, so each valve installation will also include a soft wooden plug, taped to the valve, which can be driven into the failed valve to seal it off.
And what of water in the boat? How do you remove it?
Renaissance was built with a single hand bilge pump, located in the cockpit (but out of reach of the helmsman), which had the capacity to pump about 15 gallons a minute out of the bilge. When she relaunches in 2017 or so, she’ll have an automatic electric pump that can remove 36 gallons a minute, a manual pump that can do an additional 20 gallons a minute, and the ability to use the engine’s seawater pump to move another 10-12 gallons a minute – all independently. The manual pump will also be located in the cabin, where an off-duty crewmember can pump while sheltered from the weather.
Overkill? Possibly. But I really hate water inside a boat, unless it’s frozen and floating in rum.
And finally, a word about boat parts.
Boat parts, like car parts (only worse) are expensive. Yet there are ways to reduce the impact. One of them is taking your time, and another is looking for used. We’re fortunate here in Maine to have a marine consignment store in town, with the result that my budgeting spreadsheet is thus far showing that I’m spending about 25% of retail on perfectly functional parts – many times as good as new – every single time I go looking. That, and Craigslist, local cruisers and word-of-mouth (“Hey, I hear you’re rebuilding a boat – do you need a new anchor? You can have it if you can lift it!”)
This is fun!