Well maybe I am, too, because I have exactly the same philosophy.
- Removed the sink in heads. I can walk 3m to the galley to wash my hands. Removing it got rid of another through hull and its associated piping plus the fresh water piping. Tick
Sounds like Dougie’s (SV Seeker) brother
what he said....For those not in the know, after selling Iron Bark II back in 2020 Trevor Robertson acquired a rather tired old Alajuela 38 and took it down to the West Indies for refit. In the usual style, he then went radio silent for the next 1.5 years while doing the work.
He's popped up again recently and dropped this list into the Alajuela owners group - a fascinating look into the concept of reinforcing a vintage GRP cruising vessel for the kind of extreme, unsupported, middle-of-nowhere voyaging which he's made a lifestyle out of for decades. I've copied it over here as a reference given the general utility for many of the ideas (albeit, some are certainly opinion borne of strong personal preference), and because this list would be impressive to knock off for a man half his age in twice the time.
A short summary of the refit of Iron Bark III.
Here is a list of the main work I have done on Iron Bark III (hull 64, ex Diva, ex Blue etc). The list is not comprehensive.
Things removed and not replaced:
- Removed the hardtop over the cockpit. It was designed for harbour living but made sailing the boat difficult and also I thought it ugly so removed it. This is not a standard Alajuela item so not relevant for most vessels.
- Removed the entire 110v AC system – inverter/charger and the maze of wires that goes with it. I pulled it out because it is only useful when plugged into shore power, something I seldom do.
- Removed the air conditioner/reverse cycle heater, for the same reasons plus it allowed the removal of a through hull, electric water pump and a whole lot of hose all below the water line where any failure could sink the boat.
- Removed the deck wash – another below the waterline pump plus a lot of vulnerable pipes and wires whose function was easily and more safely replaced by a bucket.
- Removed the autopilot – using the autopilot means running the engine several hours per day to keep the batteries charged. I wanted a sailboat, not a motor-sailer.
- Removed the fridge – ditto.
- Removed the speed log – it tells me nothing that cannot be had by glancing at the wake and getting rid of it let me glass over another hole in the hull.
- Removed the hot water system – no use unless plugged into shore power or running the motor for several hours per day, neither of which I intend to do.
- Removed the sink in heads. I can walk 3m to the galley to wash my hands. Removing it got rid of another through hull and its associated piping plus the fresh water piping.
- Removed SSB radio. If one needs long distance comms, a satellite-based system is better. I do not want to talk with the rest of the world when at sea so have not replaced it with an Iridium or similar, but an updated weather forecast can be comforting at times.
Systems removed and replaced with a simpler option:
- Removed the teak butterfly hatch amidships – there is no way to make such a hatch watertight to a heavy, breaking sea. It is a decorative feature best left to marina-based boats that never intend to go to sea in more than 25 knots of wind. I filled in the hole and and fitted a conventional aluminium and perspex hatch in its place.
- Replaced the teak forward hatch as it was heavy, cumbersome and leaky. Removed it and replaced it with an aluminium framed acrylic hatch (Lewmar, from memory).
- Replaced the forward cabin headline as it was water damaged from the leaky fore hatch. While replacing the headliner, I also lowered it 20mm and put some insulation behind it.
- Removed the electric toilet, plus two associated electric pumps and a lot of hose. Replaced it with a manual toilet raised on a platform so the top of the bowl is above sea level. I attached the loops of the inlet and outlet hoses to the athwartships bulkhead so they are above sea level when the boat is heeled. The installation previously had the hoses looped up under the side deck, which allows back flooding when heeled.
- Got rid of the toilet holding tank system that could only be emptied at a pump-out station. I replaced it with a system that can be emptied overboard at sea or pumped out if that option is available. It is not hard to design and build a system that allows both pump out or self-discharge at sea so there is no reason not to have such a system. Pump-out stations are rare away from the established yacht centres and since leaving Tampa in 2019 I have not been in any harbour with this facility.
- Removed the shower. Without a hot water system, the shower makes little sense, so I replaced it with a portable garden spray which can be filled with warm water. I use this to shower in the galley with the water draining into the bilge and pumped out from there (and giving the galley floor a wash on the way), or in warm weather, in the cockpit. Getting rid of the shower meant I could dump yet another electric pump and through hull.
- Removed the pressurized water pump and accumulator and replaced with a foot pump in the galley. Once all the fresh water plumbing to and from the head is eliminated, there is no reason to clutter the boat with a pump, accumulator and so on.
- Installed a diesel fuel header tank that gravity feeds the engine. This let me bypass the complex fuel system between the keel tanks and engine. I left the main fuel tanks unchanged but plumbed them to feed a day tank instead of directly to the engine. The original fuel feed had a long, complex system between the keel tanks and the engine lift pump with change-over valves, filters, and over a dozen hose clamped connections. All were on the suction side of the pump so any leaks were of air into the fuel system. There were numerous places where this could and did happen. These leaks were very hard to find and stopped the engine at unpredictable intervals. With a header tank, minor air leaks between the keel tanks and day tank do not matter. The route from the header tank to engine is short and easily inspected and any leak is a fuel leak outwards, easily seen and dealt with. In the meanwhile it will not stop the engine.
- Fitted proper battery boxes, water and acid tight with batteries properly held down, electrically separated by a voltage sensitive relay and protected by appropriate fuses and circuit breakers and sited so they can be easily accessed for servicing. I reduced the size of the battery bank to half its former size (420ah, from 840ah previously, plus starter battery). When the time comes to replace this set of batteries, I will further reduce the size of the bank to 210ah.
- Replaced all incandescent lights with LED
- Fitted two 50 watt solar panels wired in series with a MPPT regulator. This set up is more efficient than one 100 watt panel when the panels are partially shaded.
- Did away with the wind generator. It is noisy, mechanically complex and unnecessary once I had reduced the boat's electricity usage to a more sustainable level.
- Built a new folding main hatch closure to replace the slide in-boards. When fitted, the new hatch closure raises the height of the entry by 20cm. This is high enough to keep any small seas from slopping in and low enough to step over easily. It is the equivalent of having the lowermost of the 3 hatch boards in place and can be quickly and easily removed. Attached to this board is a hinged section that folds up and is held closed by a pair of dogs and can be opened or closed in a second or so. More importantly, it is always in position ready for immediate use, unlike the old 3-board system. This hatch can be closed or opened instantly so is much more likely to be properly used in bad weather.
Alterations to make the boat capable of putting to sea for more than a short coastal passage in fine weather
- The Alajuela 38 has a very poorly designed bilge system. The bilge well under the forward bunk does not seem to have any way of draining aft, nor was it fitted with a pump. I glassed a water-tight false floor over this well that is high enough to let any water drain back into the midships well.
- I replaced the midship bilge well's electric submersible pump with a hand pump as I regard electric pumps to be at best an unreliable convenience for removing small amounts of water. A hand pump is more reliable and works when the electrics are out. Relying on electric pumps only is a potential disaster, but is far too common.
- Removed the Whale hand bilge pump fitted to the cockpit well bulkhead and replaced it with a better quality hand pump in the well under the companionway. The Whale pump was nearly impossible to service where it was originally fitted so of course was inoperative when I bought the boat. I left the electric submersible pump in the aft well but gave it and the new under-floor hand pump with a new, single outlet for both pumps sited well above water level. That of course required the pumps be separated by non-return valves.
- Raised the floor of the anchor locker and made it self draining directly overboard. Previously it drained into the bilge.
- Built new anchor rollers with a built-in chain pawl. The standard rollers are too flimsy to survive a bad storm with the boat plunging significantly at anchor (assuming the anchor is holding). Of course if using a CQR the odds are that the anchor will drag before the roller fails, but this is merely a condemnation of plough anchors.
- Replaced the 45lb CQR plough anchors with a 33kg/73lb Vulcan and added a Fortress aluminium anchor (FX-37) and a Manson Supreme (35 lb) as kedges.
- When it became necessary to install a new windlass, I took the opportunity to change to a 10mm DIN766 chain, which is available world-wide, unlike the various US chain types, where chain of the same nominal diameter varies in pitch when produced in different alloys, even by the same manufacturer. I also increased the length of the chain from 75m to 100m.
- Removed the platform on the bowsprit, or more accurately removed its remnants. A not very large wave destroyed it on the trip south from Florida.
- Made a much larger cranse iron. That little ring over a turned down end on the bowsprit is inadequate for anything other than coastal sailing. The new one encompasses about 40cm of the end of the bowsprit.
- Replace the aft feet of the pulpit which were screwed down to the toe rail with a bracket bolted through the bulwarks. Three screws into a bit of teak is not going to hold that sort of structure in place for long in a seaway.
- Ditto screwed down feet on pushpit.
- Shortened the pulpit to about half size. There is no reason for it to extend around the forestay. The shorter one is stronger, lighter and safer for working on the bowsprit and does not chafe the sail when running free.
- Added a servo-pendulum wind vane. IB3 is a sailing vessel, not a motor boat and does not need an electronic autopilot. I bought a Monitor because I was in the USA and needed a wind vane self steering system urgently. That was a mistake. I should have waited and got an Aries which is stronger, more sensitive, more reliable and cheaper.
- Got rid of the dorade vents. They really do very little good as ventilators and preclude carrying a hard dinghy amidships. Dorade vents let in less air and more water than anything else that I know of that purports to be a ventilation device and are best reserved for marina vessels. In fact both dorade vents on IB3 had previously been permanently blocked off (presumably because they leaked) which meant they were nothing but elegant snares for jib and staysail sheets.
- Removed the stainless steel cross bar in the forward strong post. It too was nothing but a tangle point for sheets and unnecessary for belaying rope or chain provided one knows how to make a tug hitch.
- Fitted a drip fed diesel heater, which provides heat without requiring electricity, unlike the electronically controlled Eberspacher type. Having no electronics, it can usually be repaired if it fails. However it is more prone to down drafting and less useful under way when compared to the Eberspacher type. Decide on your usage and pick accordingly. A drip fed heater needs a good drip catcher under it in case the float valve sticks. Make one.
- Replaced the wooden rudder cheeks with a 6mm stainless steel fabrication. The wooden cheeks are not strong enough for anything more stressful than temperate latitude sailing.
- Replaced the tiller with a composite wood/metal fabrication. The first 60cm or so of the new tiller is a fabricated ss square section into which slots a wooden T section. The standard tiller is too weak to stand up to a sea of any significance.
- Added a Jordan type series drogue and built a locker at the back of the cockpit to store it and allow it to be deployed easily. IB3 had chain plates for such a drogue already fitted when I bought her, which worked well until one of them failed in heavy weather due to crevasse corrosion of the mounting bolts. I replaced all the mounting bolts as soon as I could.
- Shifted the complex, high friction, low power mainsheet from the cabin top to the aft end of the cockpit and did away with the sheet traveller. This meant building a ss pipe structure on the aft deck to raise the sheets above the level of the lifelines. Attaching the mainsheet to the end of the boom is kinder to the boom and means there is no need for a winch to haul in the mainsheet. It also allows a decent-sized hard dinghy to be carried amidships.
- Having got rid of the autopilot and its hydraulic lines, I could seal the gas locker from the engine compartment. There were dozens of holes between the two, including one with a 20cm fan in it. I can see no reason to connect the engine space to the gas locker or to have a fan between the two.
- The gas locker originally drained via a non-return valve and skin fitting with no seacock that was on the waterline at anchor and submerged when sailing. It was ineffective as a gas drain and could easily sink the boat. I got rid of that drain, glassed the locker floor so it was water and gas tight and gave the locker a pair of drains that go directly overboard. One of these drain holes is always above sea level regardless of heel and boat speed.
- Raised the cockpit sole and reversed its slope so that it drains aft. This allowed me to fit new through hulls and seacocks in a position where they can be readily accessed and are unlikely to be leaned on when working on the engine. The previous installation was vulnerable to damage and it was hard to access the seacocks.
- Discarded the secret deck scuppers that drained the deck via a set of hoses led to a through hull just above the water line. I modified the deck scuppers to drain directly over the side and got rid of yet another set of deck fittings, hoses and through hulls, the failure of any of which can sink the boat or at least let in a lot of water.
- Got rid of the genoa track. There was no way of using it to control sail twist without shifting the sheets around the stanchions and lifelines every time the sheets were adjusted. This also got rid of another 40 bolts going through the deck, any/all of which can and will leak. A lizard/barber hauler works at least as well to adjust the twist of the jib.without chafing the sheet as the track and car system did.
- Shifted the engine start controls into the cabin from their previous very vulnerable position in the cockpit well. Did away with the key start and replaced it with a pair of normally-open push switches, one for glow plugs and one for starter solenoid. Protected their wiring with a suitable size of circuit breaker. Moved the stop control from the cockpit well to below decks.
- Fitted a clear roll-down screen in front of the switch panel to protect it from spray when the main hatch slide is open.
- New deck head and insulation in the forward cabin – see above.
- Converted the forward berth to something a bit more useful. A triangular berth 2.2m wide at the head is impossible to sleep in at sea and a waste of space in harbour. I boxed in the head of the berth with a pair of clothes lockers so the aft (wide) end of the bunk is parallel sided and the width of a standard double bed. I raised diagonal bulkheads (about 30cm high) along the tapered foot section of the bunk to keep the mattress away from the hull which gets wet from condensation and to provide open-topped stowage for blankets etc without making the bunk any smaller. I built a pair of fiddled lockers above this to use the space where the hull flares out.
- Raised most of the fiddles. As built they were mostly about 25mm high, which is high enough to make cleaning the surface behind them difficult without being high enough to hold anything in place in a seaway. A much more reasonable minimum in 60mm, and I made some a lot higher than that.
- Got rid of a singularly useless sink and replaced it with a much smaller one. This sink was not original so it is unlikely to be a problem on other Alajuela 38s. I can see no reason to have a sink with a volume of greater than 5 litres unless the water tank is far bigger than generally fitted or the vessel never leaves the marina for more than 2 days.
- Fitted turn button catches on all locker doors and hatches, including the ones under bunks and screwed down the floorboards. All locker doors must remain closed in a knock down and friction catches will not do that.
- Discarded a huge folding saloon table (not original equipment) that was too flimsy to take the weight of a person thrown against it. Replaced by a small, sturdy table with built-in hand holds and fiddles high enough to be useful in a seaway, similar in design to the original factory installation.
- Fitted numerous false floors and shelves in lockers to change them from dark, chaotic holes to something more useful. Enlarged/replaced most of the locker doors. Some lockers were so badly designed that I simply removed them and started again. The lockers in the toilet compartment were in this category.
- Stripped the varnish from the cabin sole and sealed it with teak sealer – much less slippery at sea.
- Rebuilt the galley giving the stove a crash bar, a lot more lockers, drawers and more counter space adjacent to the cooking area. The new counter space is divided up with fiddles to keep things in place when cooking at sea and is topped with ceramic tiles, which are heat proof and easy to clean. Added a proper garbage disposal, readily accessible, easily emptied and cleaned.
Major jobs that probably will not be required on most vessels
Major jobs left to do:
- Cut down genoa to a size that is useful for an ocean going vessel. As bought, the genoa on IB3 was too big and too low cut to be considered seaworthy or even useful in any sort of a breeze.
- Put a deep reef in the mainsail. As it was, the main could not be used in more than 25 kts of wind.
- Replace all running rigging.
- Replace all standing rigging, upgrading where required (increased the lower shrouds from 8mm to 10mm, did away with the insulators in the backstays etc). I used Sta-Lok fittings, which can be field replaced and the wires inside the fitting periodically inspected for fatigue. Vessels that have no ambition beyond (say) a Trade Wind circumnavigation could use swaged fittings and save the cost of wedge lock fittings.
- Replaced the roller furler for the jib. I will replace the one on the staysail at a later date, and beef up its attachment to the hull.
- Sanded off the hull and decks above the waterline to remove substandard automotive fairing compound that was causing the paint to blister. This fairing compound was approx 3mm thick and sanding it off was a big job. Repainted with 400microns DFT of epoxy and 50 microns of polyurethane on the hull and 400 microns epoxy and Kiwigrip on the deck. The fairing was not original.
- Get rid of the fully-battened mainsail. They are fine for daysailers who start the motor for most/all sail evolutions. I do not want a motor sailer so I do not want a rig that requires the motor to be started to bring the vessel head to wind in order to raise the sail.
- In the longer term, replace the bermudian rig entirely and re-rig as a gaff cutter. A gaff rig is stronger, simpler and more robust that any comparable bermudian rig as well as being easier to handle. It does not perform as well to windward as a bermudian rig but more than makes up for that when the wind frees. Of course not all hull designs are suitable for gaff rig, but the Alajuela 38 is; indeed Bill Atkins' design originally called for the Ingrid to be rigged as a gaff ketch. I know of an Atkins Ingrid that is rigged as a gaff cutter and another as a gaff ketch. Each works well, but the clutter of a mizzen mast seems unnecessary on a vessel of this size.
- Build a new rudder. IB3's rudder is rather flimsy and the pintle straps' design is poor, causing unnecessary turbulence. I can do better.
- For tropical and temperate use (not in ice), fit a feathering propeller.
- Finish the job of rebuilding the cockpit to convert it from an in-marina entertainment station to something more suited to a seagoing vessel. The cockpit well needs to be narrower (it is too wide to brace across when heeled), the seats need to be higher so they drain directly onto the deck instead of via internal drain lines. The coamings can then be brought inboard and raised.
Of course I have done a lot of other work on IB3, such as replacing the stove, giving her a new windlass, replacing the engine controls, reupholstering all cushions, repainting the entire interior and so on, but these are maintenance or replacement jobs, not changes to the vessel, so irrelevant to this discussion.
Of the 70 line items on Trevor's list, only 7 are violated on Panope. I could copy much of his list word for word and use it to describe my refit.
Sorta odd given that he specifically cites his not wanting a motor-sailer, yet I do.
A lot of the items on his list are just common sense. That boat had a lot of what seems like extraneous, non-functional or semi-functional crap that had been added without rhyme or reason over the years.Of the 70 line items on Trevor's list, only 7 are violated on Panope. I could copy much of his list word for word and use it to describe my refit.
Sorta odd given that he specifically cites his not wanting a motor-sailer, yet I do.
I can't be bothered going over the list again but probably about the same here WRT concurrence. I likes me electronical toys and I've fitted 600W of panels to support them. And fuck living with no refrigeration, I've a 22 litre Engel type unit.
How's your bowsprit addition coming along?
Bow sprit is working well. I have conducted 4 or 5 test sails using a variety headsails including a wornout Yankee (bought second hand for testing) and the "franken drifter" (blue tarp added to my nylon drifter).
I went all-out and bought blue duct tape for the Frankendrifter. Sadly, the blue tarp started to disintegrate when the wind hit 15. It did provide 2 hours of valuable tests beforehand.
View attachment 530225
View attachment 530226
View attachment 530227
View attachment 530228
I had a fully battened main and it was hardly any different than any other sail. Now I have 2 full and 2 partials and it works fine. Tides Marine Strong Track will fix up your issues too, it is very slippery.That list gave me a headache. It only made me wonder, ‘why not start with a better boat?’.
When I get the chance to look at a boat up close made by a good designer/builder combo, I’m proportionately amazed at how much they got right, not wrong.
The list also had me thinking how many youngsters, going from Tanya Abei to more recent ones, have beefed up stock mast head or fractional sloops (from coastal to ocean going) without trying to re invent the wheel, and just got out there.
Obsession with thru-hulls? Without back up stats, I’d hazard a guess that more boats sinking from failure at the dock than at sea. Without re reading the list, watertight bulkheads can at least help in a catastrophic crash(did he spec these and yes they are difficult to execute especially second hand).
And what’s this thing about having to turn back upwind to reef a fully battened mainsail?
Come on man...
Would you mind if I drop you a PM when I get to the point where I have time (and money) to do the same, I was looking at the trogears and also considering a design I saw which used the 2nd anchor roller and was pinned there, then pivoted around a large pin aft, I already have the eye down low I was thinking of using for the bobstay. Yours is much more elegant than most of what I came up with and less deck clutter too.Bow sprit is working well. I have conducted 4 or 5 test sails using a variety headsails including a wornout Yankee (bought second hand for testing) and the "franken drifter" (blue tarp added to my nylon drifter).
I went all-out and bought blue duct tape for the Frankendrifter. Sadly, the blue tarp started to disintegrate when the wind hit 15. It did provide 2 hours of valuable tests beforehand.
Oh that's a good idea, did it just have a small hose and a notch in the seat or? I think I might copy this, I have to redo just about everything in the head at the moment it seems, including the head itself. Was leaning towards a quietflush electric, or a Raritan with the electric over manual option, but that's pricey and not really all that reliable, the quiet flush is by far the most guest friendly.We had a head sink that was plumbed to drain to the lavic bowl, so no extra thru-hull was needed.
If I had a list THAT long of things done wrong, I would wonder about things that I couldn't see or get at.
If I remember a 1" drain hose from the sink with a ball valve (need to be able to close to use lavic vacuum pressure), I put a hose barb thru the bowl, just under the lip. There were several other places it could be connected (like to a connection on the output hose from the lavic) which would have worked. They had various pros and cons, but a connection to the bowl seemed the cleanest in my installation.Oh that's a good idea, did it just have a small hose and a notch in the seat or?
He had a lot of internal rust problems with IB2.I think 'done wrong' isn't the correct way to look at it, more 'I don't like it that way'....
Still, I have to wonder why he sold his WYLO design when he seems hell-bent on replicating how it was set up only using a more fragile plastic hull. Doesn't make sense to me.
He had a lot of internal rust problems with IB2.
Some of it might have been the result of all the condensation associated with spending 3 winters frozen in the ice, but mostly it appears to be because the guy he had build the hull for him "improved" the design by converting it from double chine to round bilge and added in a whole lot of water traps just for fun.......