Under Pressure

March 12, 2016 at 9:25 am

After a bit of trial and error, and psyching myself up to be brave, I did finally get to grips with the pressure cooker last season.

I’d bought it for £8 at Beaulieu Boat Jumble the year before and been a bit scared of it.  It is quite like cooking a bomb, and the first few times I used it I went and sat outside in the cockpit while it cooked, rather than sit in the confines of the cabin with it’s 5 foot/sitting only headroom watching it hiss angrily like a thing possessed.

If you spend any time aboard I definitely recommend getting one as they just save on so much cooking fuel, and time. There is a great article here about how they work and it also has a handy reference table so you have a better chance of not turning your food to mush so I won’t go into that. But I would just add that if you’re making something with spices, use half as much as the recipe says as all the flavours stay in the pot rather than escape as steam as they do in normal cooking and they can be really strong tasting. The first thing I ever made was a lamb and apricot tagine from a Jamie Oliver recipe and it was lovely and tender, but very nearly disgusting.

I also upgraded to a properly gimballed Origo spirit stove last year so was actually able to cook at sea for the first time too.  Here’s the recipe for my favourite stew in the pressure cooker.  I make no excuses, it’s not a very sophisticated supper, but it is incredibly tasty. So tasty in fact I make this ashore too…

Pressure cooking at sea

Alot tastier than it looks here tbh…

Force 4 Mince 
(You can probably make this up to about Force 4 upwind on my boat, after which chopping the veg might become a bit of a risk …Unless you’re in the Solent when you could probably rustle this up in a storm.)

Serves 2 big hungry sailors (or dinner, breakfast and lunch for 1)

1 big or 2 medium onions cut into half inch squares
Half a cabbage finely shredded
Half a bag of washed new potatoes cut in half (optional)
1 pack of fresh beef mince. Go on, treat yourself to the nice steak mince.
1 Rich Beef Knorr Stock Pot stock cube.  Needs to be the Rich Beef one, it makes a massive difference. Haven’t tried Oxo.
1 cup/half a mug of water
Black Pepper to taste.
Oil of your choice

NB It’s quite important to cut the veg so they cook uniformly. I cut the onions quite big so they don’t dissolve.

Boil the kettle and make yourself a cup of tea to drink while you’re cooking. Keep back a cup of hot water though, for the stew.
While the kettle’s boiling chop the onion and cut the potatoes in half (if using).
Throw the onions in the pan with a drizzle of oil and put over a medium heat until it starts to sizzle.
Stab it a bit to start to break up the onions.
Throw in the mince, breaking into chunks as you add it to the pan.
Keep it all moving so it doesn’t stick to the pan and to continue to break up the onions some more. I don’t bother to brown the mince properly, you just want to get the pan warm and start the cooking…
Add the hot water, and the stock cube. Make sure the stock cube is submerged.
If you’re having potatoes, you need to cook them a bit before adding the cabbage so add them to the pan and stir so they get to say hello to the gravy. Put the lid on and tighten it up. Bring to temperature and cook for 4 minutes to parboil them before letting the steam out and opening the pan up again.
Then add the chopped cabbage, close the pan up again, bring to temperature and cook for 3 minutes.
Let the pan sit and cool down naturally for 10-15 minutes, if you can be that patient.
Open up the bomb and add the pepper, to taste, at the end.

Serve in dog bowls with crusty bread, or eat straight from the pan.
Braahn sauce optional.
Nom, nom.

99 Problems…

May 30, 2015 at 8:49 am

But a dragging anchor ain’t one…


This is an anchor ‘angel’ or ‘chum’. It’s a lump of lead weighing about 15 kilos. You tie a bowline through it and round your anchor line and lower it down the line til it touches the bottom. Then you tie it off tight. So theoretically under the water you have your anchor, set in well, then a line of chain (20m in my case) and the chum sits at the end of the chain before the rode  comes up to your boat.

The idea is that whatever forces are at play on your boat, the ‘angel’ has to be lifted before anything can start to move your chain, let alone get at your anchor.

Works a dream. I sat out a gusty, veering f7 yesterday swinging in a much reduced circle around the ‘angel’ whereas without it we’d have been all over the place and probably pulled the Danforth out.

Anchoring problems? What anchoring problems?

Back problems, maybe…

12v Power Calculations, Part 2

October 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Way back at the beginning of the year I calculated Duet’s power consumption requirements, and I figured that she needed 2 x 75Ah capacity (size) batteries and had a power consumption of a maximum of 50Ah per day.  I was looking at a wind generator and a 20w solar panel for charging. You can see my original blog post and calculations here.

Well, that was all quite pricey and I ended up just keeping my 1 year old 75Ah battery and adding a new 20w solar panel on the lazarette locker lid. In practice it worked better than I thought it would, and actually between leaving Portland and lifting her again in Plymouth 9 weeks later I only actually charged the battery from shore power once.  The solar panel seemed to keep it pretty well charged, topping the battery up surprisingly quickly even on overcast days. But, I was very frugal with the electronics on passage… I kept the VHF off most of the time, used a battery powered GPS and if there was shore power available I made sure that my iPad and cameras were fully charged before we left again.  And then I did a night passage from Helford to Plymouth. And the lights died before dawn as the battery was flat!

Clearly I do need to look at this again… So this first table shows what I think I need for an average coastal passage, or more precisely what I needed for the Helford-Plymouth passage.

It has the following assumptions:

1) Maximum time at sea is 18 hours as my longest passage so far is 15 hours so this is plus a bit for contingency.  On a coastal passage I probably wouldn’t want to do much more than that on my own too often.
2) I want to be using the Garmin 128 GPS, rather than the handheld one as it was very thirsty on batteries.
3) The radio used to transmit has a much higher power consumption than receive or standby.  I will be using the radio at a minimum and haven’t factored for any radio use.
4) In the daytime I am a lot more relaxed about not having the radio on, but at night I would probably want it on standby listening to traffic. I’ve calculated for it to be on for 15 hours. Standby for 13 and receiving for 2. This assumes there’s not that much traffic.  If there’s lots of chit chat or numnuts running out of petrol it annoys me and I turn it off (unless I’m bored ;o)
5) I have already replaced Duet’s old navigation lights with an LED masthead tricolour which tested working OK on the ground, and again when on deck ready to be stepped.  But by the time the mast was raised it didn’t work, and I couldn’t get it going all summer (Grrr!).  I am assuming the fault is with the connection at the top of the mast and I will get it going! It draws a fraction of the power of the old bulb lights.
6) I’ve searched on google for the power consumption of each piece.  This does assume that the wiring is in good condition, as if it’s not the resistance is higher and the unit draws more electric. I know Duet’s wiring isn’t great, but I will be replacing most of it this winter, and the mast was rewired earlier this year. So I’ve gone for best case, as per the manufacturers specifications.
7) There is no electric autohelm allowance on here. I’m still toying with this… and I don’t have any cabin lights, I just use a paraffin lamp.

12v Power Calculation Hurley 22

Coastal Passage Power Consumption

So this is showing a total maximum power consumption of 33Ah a day. As you should never draw more than a third of your battery then 33 x 3 = 99Ah – I need a 100Ah leisure battery.

I would also need to replenish up to the 33Ah.  My 20W panel should replenish 10Ah a day (see previous blog post for calculations), and I also have a 60W charging coil on the outboard which works out to replace 5Ah each hour it’s run. In practice, that night from Helford to Plymouth I actually ran the engine for 7 hours… so if I’d had the engine charging connected I might well have been OK with the lights.  If I add another 20W solar panel to the forecabin hatch, with 40W of solar I should get 20Ah and if I run the engine for just 2 hours on a passage you can see we’re up to a potential 30Ah and are nearly there…

Conclusion: 100Ah battery plus 40W solar plus engine charging needed

But, if you’ve seen my winter 2014/15 maintenance list you can see I want to do some more upgrades and make her a bit more ready for longer, more “offshore” passages. As a base line I’ve done this second table to work out what I would need to give me enough juice to do, say, a 3 day passage across the Celtic Sea… (perhaps, just maybe, leaving on 14th June?)   So this table shows what I would run over a full 24 hour period at sea, but tactics are a little different:

1) I would turn off the radio once clear of the coast, but have allowed 4 hours use per 24 hour period (3:1 Standby:Receive)
2) I would turn off the log/depth and GPS most of the time, only turning it on intermittently for recording in the log as out of sight of land/rocks there is more of a margin for error.
3) I would be using wind vane self-steering and probably turn off the wind instrument  most of the time.
4) I do intend to fit a NASA AIS and would have this on all the time (more on this in another post). It only draws 0.05Ah though.
5) This assumes 8 hours of darkness. In summer in the UK it is less than this.

12v Power Calculation Hurley 22

Offshore Passage Power Consumption

So as an exercise you can see the dramatic effect this has had: I’d need a maximum of 14.2Ah! Times this by 3 then I’d need 43.6Ah of battery, except they don’t come that small so I’d have a 75Ah leisure battery …but 20W of solar alone should replenish 20Ah and easily cover it.

Conclusion: Existing 75Ah battery plus 20W solar should be adequate.

Clearly this is very frugal, and not to everyone’s taste but it’s an interesting exercise. I am definitely cutting my coat according to my cloth, but on a small boat with no diesel inboard and alternator I think I pretty much have to. But I will upgrade to a 100Ah battery, add another 20W solar panel and wire the outboard in, which should just about cover me for the coastal sailing that I’ve done this summer.  I’m pretty sure this isn’t the end of this story though…

Adding another 20W panel should be fairly straightforward, as it just needs to be wired into the regulator. I’ve already decided to put it on the forehatch rather than have a flat one on the pushpit or something. Wiring the outboard is a bit more tricky, but luckily there is already a socket there as the previous engine was wired in for charging so I have a head start at least.

Oh and if you think you’d find my calculation spreadsheet useful, click here to download it and then you can amend it for your own setup.

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