Tag Archives: sailboat

Bosun’s chair

Falling off my mast isn’t my preferred way to “go”. Having said that, enjoying my hobby probably isn’t the worst way to check out; I’m more concerned it might be a bit premature and somewhat unplanned.
I’ve been to the top of my mast many times, and a few other boats too. I currently need to replace my anchoring light and windex so I need a safe way to get up there in the spring.
My boat came with a MastMate loop-strap ladder and I’ve tried using, it was a most unsatisfying experience. There are two issues that make it a less than ideal solution on my boat. Firstly, my in-mast furler makes it impossible to use track slides. (The solution offered by MastMate necessitates taking down the main….) this leaves the ladder swaying loosely from the mast making it difficult and dangerous to climb.
Secondly, I didn’t have a spare main halyard so I couldn’t get to the very top of the mast as the jib/spinnaker halyards sheave box is about three feet from mast-top. (I have since run a spinnaker halyard as a spare/safety line.)
My main is an in-mast furler and I am aware of the possibility of the mainsail getting fouled in the mast. Going up to sort out issues would completely rule out dousing the mainsail to use the main halyard. This pretty much rules out the Mastmate for me.
This brings me back to the good old bosun’s chair. Always on the lookout for ways to leverage my investment in my walking-foot sewing machine, I came across an old chair that was moldy, stank of fuel with rotting stitching, but otherwise, not bad. I decided to knock-off the stinky old chair.
I’ve gone up masts on everything from a plank of wood to a super-fancy brand new padded chair and I can say I definitely prefer something with pockets, straps, and hooks. Preferably something that has a space for tools, ropes and of course a camera! (that’s my foot atop Esneca

I patterned the old chair, took notes on the stitching sequence and placed an order for straps and hardware from JT’s Outdoor Fabrics in Barrie. I already had the blue nylon from making a bag for my folding bicycle (the material for the bag and bosun’s chair was $15 from Fabricland!). It took a bit longer to stitch the chair together than I anticipated, making me appreciate the value of mass-produced goods.

I used this project as an excuse to make a leaf that fits into my dining table so that the sewing machine sits flush with the table. This will make larger projects, like the new bimini and dodger I plan on sewing this winter, easier. My sewing machine is a generic knock-off of the old walking-foot Singer/Brother. It is the same base machine that Sailrite uses, cheaper but doesn’t come with a case or telephone support.



Cabin Heater

After sleeping on Georgian Bay this weekend, it occurred to me that a cabin heater might be prudent, especially with small children that like to throw off their covers and then cry “I’m cold” at 4 am.

Dawn mist on Georgian Bay
small black heater
Cheapo 120v heater

Our Hunter 340 came with a heat exchanger and blower to make use of engine heat, but that’s only useful when the Yanmar is running (incidentally, it also heats the hot water too). I have a little car 120v forced air heater I picked up on clearance at Canadian Tire. Plugged in it provides fast heat and warms the cabin quickly. It’s rated at 900w and I suppose I could plug it into the inverter but that seems like an awfully destructive thing to do to a battery bank and inverter.

I did some research on cabin heaters and like all things boat, it seems you need to drop roughly $1000. Burning anything in your boat requires venting for exhaust and fresh air intake, so add money for flues, vents and extra time/money for installation.  A heater means cutting through your cabin top and headliner then sealing it. You now have another thing to get your rigging caught on and a new tripping hazard!

small stainless and brass bulkhead propane heater
Cozy Cabin heater

My first thought was a wall mounted propane/kerosene/diesel heater.  Seems the Force 10  Cozy Cabin (now a Dixon/Sig product out of Vancouver) runs $600 plus tax plus plus. Forum feed back is that this propane heater is not sealed and propane is a very moist fuel.  This means that after several hours you will see quite a bit of moisture buildup inside the cabin.

bulkhead mout heater
Dickson Newport

The Dixon Newport received very good reviews, but again, $800 plus plus…. and it requires 12v for the fan and needs 4′ of clearance from the ceiling…. There is the solid fuel version that might work for the occasional heating, but carrying sticks and charcoal seems redundant when I already have propane and diesel onboard. It’s also big and ugly.

Stainless Refleks bulkhead heater
Refleks 66MW Diesel Heater

More surfing led me to find the Danish Refleks diesel stoves. Apparently, they are the cat’s meow, the bee’s knees. Simple, efficient and well built.

Alas, they are over $1,000 for the baby wall mounted unit.  Most are stove topped and would be perfect in a larger boat with a bit of floor space to mount it.
There doesn’t appear to be a Canadian Distributor, but they are available in the EU.  Here’s a fun video about Refleks from an entertaining and industrious Dane.

Finally, I looked at used truck diesel heaters from Webasto and ESPAR.  These units are widly available and burn diesel and are fan driven with thermostats.  They cost over $1,000 new but can be had for three to five hundred off ebay in various states of neglect. I have read they need frequent cleaning (glow plugs) but are generally very reliable if taken care of. Of course, they need an appropriate space, to be wired, plumbed and upgraded to marine standards if you have a truck version. If you are brave enough to take on this on the upside is you can tee into your main diesel tank, so no axillary tank to locate and fill. Finally just set the thermostat and crawl up with book, all very civilized.



Solar power

Aquatic Park Sailing Club has a mooring field, not docks, and the Club House itself is solar powered so our situation necessitates some thought into electricity generation and conservation. This is fine, as I love being independent of the plug.

I opted to install two solar panels, big solar panels, on my Hunter 340. They fit perfectly on top of the bimini, and provide as much power as you can squeeze out of a solar panel. The panels are Kyrocera 270w each running at 24v with a MorningStar MMPT charger. I am pleased with the installation as they are pretty inconspicuous, hovering about an inch an a half above the bimini. I have since replaced the old 12v batteries with two sets of 6v batteries.


Yes, that is 30 amps of solar power!

In terms of performance, the panels are great. Even on overcast days I have more electricity than I can store. During the day the batteries don’t dip, so the only cycling that happens is from evening usage for the fridge/stereo and lights. I am adding some LED strip lighting from Ikea, which should help reduce the impact from the Halogen bulbs. With something like 14 lights I don’t think it makes financial sense to swap out the bulbs for LED, besides, we never turn them on all at once.

There is some boom shading on the forward panel. I have the panels on separate breakers so I should check to see the performance impact from the shade. Two panels of this wattage is overkill but the panels were not that expensive and I figured if one is good, two would be great!


The panels were installed for the 2014 season and I spent last year on the old batteries. Spring 2015 I upgraded the batteries to 4 x 6volt, paired in two, with a set in starboard and port lazarettes.

I did the installation myself, anchored one end of the panels to the arch and the other end to a rail that runs parallel to the bimini. This arrangement creates a bit of spring on the rail end but I’m not concerned. Ideally I could run a pole to the rear railing and perhaps tab the front one to the bimini railing. I cut small wedges out of starboard keep the mounting square.


Slight alteration to the wiring configuration, one battery switch vs three.

I’ll keep chipping away at this post, apologies if it is a bit brief.