Building a custom fridge box inside a sailboat: Step 1 – Preparations

This past week preparations were made for building a new fridge box inside the boat. There has always been a big empty space beneath the kitchen counter that has been hard to reach ever since the stairs were moved there. The fridge box will be placed in that empty space and will be accessible from the top. Although in this case there really was no other option, it actually always a good idea to have the fridge opening at the top. This way the cool air inside the box will not fall out when you open the door. The plan is to insulate the fridge with a minimum of 10 cm insulation to further increase the efficiency of the fridge box. In some places even more insulation will be used, especially in the small space where the freezing section will be.

To compensate for the immense thickness of insulation there will need to be a lot of empty space available underneath the kitchen counter. Therefor all unneeded planks and beams were removed and some much-needed cleaning and painting was done to prepare this space for the placement of the new fridge box.
The holes that were made to access some of the bolts that go through the hull of the boat were also closed off again. Plus some of the 230 volt wiring was redone now that those parts were easy to access.

The cooling unit used to cool the fridge box will be the Isotherm 3251 ASU Self-Pumping Water-Cooled Component System which is one of the most efficient systems out there, while also being near silent (no spinning fan). With this system the sea water-cooled skin fitting/heat exchanger replaces the air-cooled condenser and cooling fan that normal systems use. The through-hull fitting of the kitchen sink was replaced with this special fitting last month when the boat was on the hard (out of the water).

Isotherm 3251 ASU Self-Pumping Water-Cooled Component System

The building of the actual fridge box will follow in an upcoming post. Till then, fair winds and following seas…

Installing solar panels

The first two solar panels have now been installed and are performing tremendously well.
I first hooked them up in series and later in parallel for testing purposes and it seems the best option (for how the panels are placed at this time) is connecting them up in parallel.
My record to date (on a particular sunny day) was a little more than 60 Ah from one panel alone.
Of course this was in perfect conditions and the average Ah a day will be far lower, but this already exited my expectations about how much energy one panel would be able to produce in one day.
See the pictures below for more details about the panels I used. On a later date I will be writing up a more detailed blog post about how I tested my setup and why I choose parallel hookup instead of in series.

Also created a new battery enclosure for the starter battery to make more room for the two 200 aH batteries that will go alongside the starter battery.
Plus redid all the wiring to and from the batteries to make the setup more compact and less messy (which can, and will still be approved upon)

Hoisting the mast onto the boat and the first real sailing trip

Although I kept and stored all the old rigging to reuse with the new mast, I still decided that in the end it was a better to just buy completely new rigging.
Sure, it costs a lot of euro’s to do so, but this way I can be sure that when the winds are blowing strong the mast will stay on the boat and nothing will break (which would have dire consequences when under sail).
I hired a company to do all of the rigging onside (at the marina), which meant that within 3-4 hours the mast was standing on the boat and all the rigging was done.
On the same day we took the Seadog out to the lake and hoisted up the jib (front sail). And even with wind speed’s of only 2 Beaufort Seadog was going quite fast.
We couldn’t yet take up the main sail because not everything was ready for that yet. But a few days later we also took up the main. That day there was even less wind, but Seadog still kept on moving. And at the end of the day wind speed’s went up to 3 Beaufort and we were speeding through the water!

The mast hight for the Seadog now is 12.65 meters, and the bridges at the Gooiermeer have a hight of 12.80-13 meters.
Which means it’s going to be quite intensive every time we go under the bridges. Especially if there are big waves, but the first test runs went good, so I guess there’s nothing to worry about….

As always there’s still a lot to do, but from now on it’s also time to go sailing now and again 🙂 (finally)!

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Painting the mast and building a custom mast foot

It’s taken more than a few weeks (more like a few months), but the Seadog can Sail!
We had to build a custom mast foot and I decided to paint the new mast white.
It’s not really necessary to paint an aluminium mast, and it’s also not easy because paint does not want to stick to aluminium. But I’m very happy with the result and this means I can also paint the second mast with the same color white to make it look identical to the main mast.

See some pictures below of the process. The next post will show when the mast was hoisted onto the boat and the first time we took here for a sail.

Building custom mast foot

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Painting the mast and mast foot

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Getting a main mast (and the first real voyage)

A few weeks ago my father found a secondhand aluminium mast that would be perfect as the main mast aboard the Seadog.
It has been laying around besides a warehouse at a shipyard for more than 15 years. But it actually has never been used before, so structurally it should be as good as new.
Also, this mast is build extra sturdy when compared to most other masts of this size.
The downside is that there came no rigging and very little fittings with this mast. Plus it’s still about 1.5 meters to long and looks a little dirty (see photo’s below).
But we decided this was the way to go.

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The mast besides the warehouse

We first went to Medemblik (where the shipyard was located) to inspect the mast in person and make a few photo’s and decided if it was doable to use this particular mast aboard the Seadog. Conclusion: it could be done.

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Getting the mast down, cleaning and inspection

Because the warehouse was located at a shipyard, we could go and fetch the mast easily by water with the Seadog. Or so we thought….
The weather forecast for the weekend we planned to go and fetch the mast was all but mild weather, but we decided to go anyway.
Turned out to be a pretty nice (be it a little bumpy) journey and also a good test to see how Seadog does in hard winds (on only the engine).

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Getting to Medemblik

There where a few engine troubles along the way, but this turned out to be because of an empty diesel tank (and a malfunctioning tank gage / vlotter).

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Cutting the mast in half for transport and getting it aboard

The journey back (with the mast tied securely to the boat) turned out to be with the wind at our backs and luckily not as bumpy as the first two days.

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Journey back from Medemblik to Huizen

After three days we where back in the home harbour and work could begin to prepare the mast for use aboard Seadog.

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Back in Huizen and putting the mast back together

Reinstallation of the 12V DC and 230V AC electrical systems aboard the Seadog

It turns out that buying new solar panels and a big battery bank, plus all the other electronic equipment that is needed aboard a boat (like battery charger/inverter, multiplexer, GPS, plotter, log depth sounder, etc.) costs a lot of money. Especially if you’re talking about marine grade products.
Just kidding, of course I knew the amount of money all that stuff was going to cost me, but I always try to spend as little money as possible (while still trying get the best possible quality). Luckily my parents recently got a boat that had a pretty good DC/AC inverter that they didn’t use. Which also came with a big battery which was still in perfect condition. Although the inverter was rather old (and not a pure sinus inverter) I will be able to use my induction cooktop with this installation, so for now it suits me just fine. So after some measurements and planning of where all the future electronic equipment needed to be, I grabbed a piece of plywood, made a little shelf to support the inverter and screw the inverter into place.

After hoisting in the battery and connecting it up to the charger/inverter and the switch panel, I finally had a working 12V service battery that could be used to power all the electronics aboard.
Now it was time to test out the depth sounder and log that came with the boat. Turns out they both still work!
Sadly the two repeater displays (one for inside the cabin and one for outside in the cockpit) where not functioning anymore, but I did find an article online that describes how to fix that problem. I did try to repair them right away, but that did not work out. For now, I won’t be needing those repeaters anyway. Because I bought a multiplexer with wi-fi, which enables me to send all the navigational data to my iPad (or any other laptop, tabled or smart phone device). The old GPS unit that came with the boat does work though. Which means I can use that GPS unit with its own antenna, to get a good GPS reading into the navigation software on the iPad. I quickly made a simple navigation station from another piece of plywood, so I could hang all the navigation equipment in one place.

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So I did have to buy some new equipment like the multiplexer, a DC to DC converter (to convert 12V to 20V for powering my monitor and laptop with DC), and an automatic switching relay (which enables the service battery to be charged when the motor is running). Also I bought a rotary switch to manually switch between shore power and inverter power (for the 230V AC system) and installed a marine grade RCD (residual current device) safety switch.
It’s a good thing I went and installed that new rotary switch, because the old setup where I had a normal AC switch installed to turn off all my AC power almost set the boat on fire!
Apparently that switch could only handle up to 10 amps, and aboard the Seadog that appears not to be enough, which caused that switch to cook itself!
That only goes to show that if you do everything yourself you better be knowing what you’re doing (especially with electrical systems). Luckily for me this didn’t end with my boat in flames. But I did learn my lesson and started to read up some more about electronic systems and safety aboard sailing vessels.

This new switch can handle up to 30 amps, which is more than enough, so that will not be happening again. I would really recommend everyone who is doing their own 12V DC or 230V AC installations aboard to buy and read up about electronics aboard boats. It really helped me understand the inner workings and gave me the confidence that I knew what I was doing. There are some pretty strict rules to follow especially with electrical system aboard a boat, which might not always be what you would expect. Please note that in some of the pictures the cables are still looking very messy, but believe me when I say that when all work was done everything was properly connected and fixed tightly and properly together.

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I also bought and installed a waterproof USB socket that converts 12V to 5V to up to 2+ amps, so it can be used to power the iPad from the cockpit. The iPad also has a waterproof casing now, so navigation can be done from the cockpit on the iPad even in the pouring rain (let’s hope that does not happen to often). And if the iPad ever fails, it’s not to big a problem, because the beautiful Sestrel Moore compass is now also installed back into place.

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For my dutch readers, the book I used to learn more about electronic system aboard boats is a very good dutch translation of a German book on the subject (click the title or image for a link to the book).


Elektriciteit aan boord

The original German book is the one below.


Elektrik auf Yachten

Bed, fridge and live aboard

Somehow rainwater is still leaking from somewhere above deck along the hull next to the bed inside the cabin (and onto the mattress). So back in March some minor tasks were done along the inside of the hull to prevent any leaking water from touching the mattress.

When that was sorted out, work was started on the next project; A build-in fridge. The plan is to build this fridge inside the kitchen counter. On purpose I already had saved up some space underneath the kitchen counter, next tot the stairs. This cabinet couldn’t be used anymore because the stairs now block the door, so it’s perfect to create a top opening hatch to access a build-in fridge. The cabinet perviously had the old paraffine tank (that was used for cooking on the paraffin stove) in there, and also had some leaking problems. So that’s way it so tremendously filthy in there. But after the new fridge box is created, insulated and installed I plan to clean everything down there and give it a nice new coat of white paint.

Some other minor updates about the life aboard the Seadog are a few new additions to the equipment aboard. Mainly some new handy dandy hanging fruit baskets, and two beautiful nautical folding chairs.
Also a lot of work has been done with the 12 volt DC, 230v AC electric systems and navigation equipment, plus the solar panels are ordered and will arrive in a few weeks, but more on that in upcoming posts.