|Northstar AGM battery usually used for telecom backups, but a nice form factor for me.|
Below is an edit of an e-mail I sent to Phil Friedman, the designer (some 25 years ago!) of Alchemy and exactly one sister boat, which P.F. kept for himself. It gives a sense of what we've been up to in the planning and gear departments, and some queries that I am making regarding some physical changes I wish to make.
I thought by way of piquing your interest in your now 19-year-old "baby" that I would give you periodic updates as to our modifications and our observations. We are enjoying the boat and are in the process of making many changes in preparation for distance cruising, among which are the cutting of a hatch in the forward collision bulkhead at the foot of the starboard sea berth in order to pass into the "workshop" without going on deck. This hatch will be as high as is practical, and will be fully gasketed and dogged, so as to preserve the watertightness of the bulkhead once plugged at the limber holes, which would be standard practice on passage.
A box aluminum engine room hatch with a gas pivot, multiple SS and brass grab bars, mounting chocks for a nesting dinghy, a "Dutch door" companionway hatch upgrade, a set of dorades, a Charley Noble for a diesel heater, gasketed hatches for the saloon and aft cabin, a head sump, a helmsman's seat and the replacement of most of the carpet in favour of teak and holly flooring is also going to happen.
Perhaps the most radical idea I've had, although I have since learned that it is not a new idea, is the construction of a pair of vent manifolds, one for the diesel tanks, one for the water tanks/anti-siphon loop break, tapping into vertical brass poles terminating at pilothouse roof goosenecks. Both manifolds would have stopcocks and drain plugs for maintenance and isolation. The logic of this is not just because we need handhold in the pilothouse, but because so many ofthe problems I note with engines and water supplies on long-distance cruisers are traceable to downflooding of the tank vents when heeling. This makes me question the wisdom of having vents anywhere near the rail as is customary. I noted in Ian Nicholson's book, Small Steel Craft, that running the vents "high and centered" was at one point quite common, as was the practice of shutting off the exhaust outlet to the sea when not under power.
I am also running 120 VAC/12 VDC forward and will be installing a Xantrex RS2000 inverter this winter just below the saloon stairs. In the electric systems line, I am upgrading to a 130 amp alternator to replace the stock 55 amp Motorola, which I will keep as a spare. I am also having a bimini/arch constructed over the sailing helm in order to mount three 130 W Kyocera or BP solar panels, and to provide much needed shade. Also much needed here is a second throttle/shifter, as pilothouse-run dockings are a tad tentative.
To this end, and because the aft cabin design you specified was not followed closely, we will be rebuilding the aft cabin this winter to put the double bed athwartships, rather than fore and aft on the port side. This will free up space for communications equipment, a small library and some built in cabinetry, and will obviously allow use of the bed on either tack. Taking down the "ceiling" will allow access for autopilot installation, throttle cable installation, SSB antenna tuner installation, 12 VDC and power conduit to and from the sailing helm, and finally, the installation a six-foot Garhauer triple-block traveller to replace the inadequate Harken version with "car stops" instead of blocks and line. I will have to have the Garhauer "I-beam" carefully bent to match the camber of the deck, and will have to through bolt the existing holes carefully to maintain the current water-tightness of the deck. I will be purchasing three or four 8D "slimline" AGM batteries
(provisionally these puppies: http://www.northstarbattery.com/data_sheets/HD_Marine/NSB%20M12-210.pdf)
and will be putting them under the saloon floor very close to the CG point of the hull (more or less just below the mast). These batteries have a form factor akin to that of a "tower" PC, but narrower, and will give about 630-840 AH of capacity. I feel getting all but the start battery out of the engine room will keep them nice and cool, and I don't think the weight down there will hurt at all, a point I will return to shortly. We will haul the engine this winter for an evaluation for a top-end rebuild. Too little use, rather than too much, over the last 19 years is the issue, as some of the rocker and valve components show signs of corrosion. This engine has a mere 1300 hours on it, 250 put on my us in the last year as we have used the boat a great deal more than the previous owners, who seemed a tad "dock-bound".
I am installing soft mounts and a universal coupler and am having a thrust bearing welded in to reduce vibration and to lessen the shock of shifting with our new 19 x 15 four-bladed VariProp, which I hope will lessen prop walk, gain us some speed under sail, and will exploit the diesel's power band more efficiently. The VariProp can be pitched differently for both forward and reverse operation, which I hope will be of use in tight docking situations.
We have also ordered a Voyageur Wind Vane, giving us both a "motor autopilot" with a ComNav head and hydraulic ram, and a "sailing autopilot" that is purely mechanical and uses the tiller head. We are doubling the plumbing system in the same spirit, with Whale footpumps to supplement the Flojet pressure water system. We feel this will save amps and wastage offshore.
Regarding the water tanks, I have a question: They are (reportedly) 100 U.S. gallons each and are currently mounted beneath the pilothouse deck on either side, with approximately 20 or so inches of space to the turn of the hull beneath them and perhaps one foot of space either side of the engine compartment hatch.
I have noticed a couple of issues and I would like to solicit your feedback, if I may: 1) Alchemy seems "tender" at dock and heels perceptibly when boarded amidships. I have found that this is directly related to the fullness of these tanks. 2). The tanks flex audibly in a seaway. I filled them prior to leaving Port Credit Yacht Club on Thursday, and on starboard tack in six-seven foot waves, they "rumbled" when motorsailing with staysail only off waves and pitching some 20 degrees with 15 degrees of heel. While I don't think this is dangerous (the tanks are steel), I think it may indicate they are not internally baffled. Another piece of information: There is a SS 40 gallon "holding tank" keel mounted directly beneath the engine that is not currently in use (a 40 gallon HDPE tank is under the nav station cabinetry just forward of the head instead), nor is it currently filled.
While I intend to install a purchased Filter Boss dual Racor system in the compartment in order to convert this otherwise superfluous tank to a 40 gallon "polished" diesel day tank (and thus to increase my total fuel capacity to 140 gallons), could it be that part of the perceived tenderness of Alchemy is due to the missing 40 gallons of ballast at this point? As I am removing the engine this winter anyway in order to change the fittings and access at this tank (and to make it pristine, frankly), I have no problems filling it with water ballast in the meantime. My question regarding the water tanks is this: Given that there is a lot of "dead space" beneath these tanks, is there any designer's objection to having them dropped to the frames directly beneath them? The tanks would have to be remade to conform to the curve and chine at this spot, but I would both feel more comfortable with the tanks fully supported on the frames, accessible from the top for inspection, and to remedy any missing baffle issue. Also, I suspect lowering them would increase initial stability and stiffness. The freeing up of usable space for spare chain and gear ABOVE the tanks would be icing on the cake, as it is diffficult to access the space below them now. Sorry for the length of this, but frankly you are the best person with whom I can discuss this. and I would appreciate your thoughts on this if you care to share them.
I think I'll follow up with a phone call. These decisions require some professional insight: I'll pay him or another designer to get it right if I have to.