Polycarbonate windows for Artemis

Warning: this is a long, slightly technical blog that is maybe only interesting if you are considering changing your boats windows.

Rustler 36 were built with glass windows in an aluminium frame. The aluminium frame was screwed in to the coach roof with steel screws which threaded in to steel cups on the inside. It appears that the holes for the windows in the coach roof were cut by hand and are a little too large in places and a little too small in others. The overlap of aluminium over roof was insufficient and made worse by holes being drilled right on the outside. The holes for the screws were drilled in the frame and roof by hand. The frames were sealed to the roof with a very thin layer of sealant allowing insufficient expansion. The system is less than perfect and on Artemis we had the following problems:

  • water leaked between the glass and the aluminium frame.
  • water leaked between the frame and the roof
  • water leaked through the screw holes
  • corrosion between the screws and the frame “ate” the frame so that water could leak round the holes. It also destroyed sections of frame.

Various people have removed the windows and frames and sent them to be refurbished and then reinstalled them but we felt that this would just get us back to a (temporarily) non-leaking but still fundamentally unsound system. We asked for and received lots of good advice from lots of people and decided to replace everything with a single piece of polycarbonate per window. We were lucky to have two shipwrights and an engineering plastics expert on hand when we started which was very comforting when you start to pull your boat apart.

We had been told that, after thirty years, the windows would just fall out. This was not true. We had to unscrew each screw and drive it out with a hammer. We then had to coax sealant out from between the roof and frame with a set of small picks until a part of the window would move very slightly. We then used metal and wood wedges to slowly force the windows out. It took ages.

With the windows out we then cleaned every piece of sealant, corrosion and dirt off the coach roof.

We had supplied the engineering plastics company with the original window drawings and asked them to make the polycarbonate larger than in the drawings so that we would have a 25 mm overlap. We also decided to go with tinted material. It keeps the boat a little cooler and provides more privacy.

We held the polycarbonate over the hole and drew around it inside and out. Next we masked up around the outside leaving about 5mm around the window. Next we lightly sanded the GRP and then cleaned it again with meths. On the inside of the window we cut the protective film following our line and pulled off the film around the edge. We then lightly sanded and meths cleaned the exposed polycarbonate.

We used double sided tape just outside our line to provide an instant bond. It is vital that this tape is approved for use with polycarbonate. The chemicals in some tapes will craze the polycarbonate and then there will be no bond. Next we applied Fix200 around the edge to provide the final adhesion and seal. We first “painted” a thin layer of Fix200 to the polycarbonate to ensure that no white hull would be seen and then filled the area with more than enough.

Finally we removed the protective tape from the double sided sticky tape and pressed the window to the roof in exactly the correct place. The tape held it immediately in place and we left it under a tarpaulin for three days to cure without direct sunlight.

Both shipwrights assured us that the Fix200 would hold under any conditions. The plastics engineer told us that, if we did everything properly, then it would definitely hold. The maths says that there is about six times more area of Fix200 bond trying to hold the window on than the area that a wave can push against to try and peel it off. The Internet is full of screws or no screws arguments but we decided to avoid screws as they are guaranteed to leak.

The edges need cleaning up but they are waterproof

With two windows done and cured, we set sail for Tasmania and thoroughly tested the system. Across the Bass Strait we were as much below as above water and the windows worked perfectly. Now we have all eight technically finished. “Technically” because they are sealed and waterproof but we still need a solution to make the inside look nice.

All the old windows

Parasailor Review

Questions from S/Y Aegle

Answers from SY Artemis of Lleyn

– Suitability for a couple (we are of reasonable fitness and experienced offshore cruisers and racers sailors (less so on the ocean / blue water side)

We also sail as a couple. Single handed sailors and couples need to have “standard operating procedures” and plan each set of actions before they start. You need to think every sequence through before you do it and ensure that you have all the required equipment available where it should be. This is as applicable for setting or striking the Parasailor as any other “process”. You will be in the middle of an ocean so clipped in at all times. This limits speed and moveability so be sure you only do everything once.

We are nearer 60 than 50 and not athletes. We learned most of sailing on the journey from Scotland. Despite this, we can comfortably manage the Parasailor in sensible winds.

– Suitability of trade winds sailing vs day / coastal sailing

We have never used the Parasailor in trade winds. They are at least 15 knots and regular as clockwork. At that wind speed we use the white sails.

For passage, the Parasailor is perfect. When you are moving downwind in light winds, it is the piece of equipment that keeps the miles ticking away. Without it we would have spent thousands of Euros on diesel or spent days becalmed.

Often on coastal sails, it is only two hours in one direction before you need to pass round something or change tack. The Parasailor would work but all cruisers get lazy. You have unlimited time so you think “why bother”. The genoa gets you there eventually so you set that and relax. We could use the Parasailor much more often.

– The true wind range and angles in which you use it

30° off true downwind to 90° (across the wind). 

At 30° we take the parasailor down at 7 knots. On our 36 foot Rustler, you can sail it in more but you need to be very concentrated to ensure you do not broach.

Obviously at 90° you need a maximum of a few knots before the sail pulls the boat over. We had no measurable wind and used the Parasailor all the way from Barbuda to Antigua (25 miles) across the wind. It kept us moving and changed what could have been a boring motor into a great sail.

– Ease of rigging (easy enough to not be a chore?!); 

As described above, we have the lines already rigged. We have combination sheets and guys that Stuart made up for us. They can be set to the correct length before being attached. (These can also be used when poling out.)

The Parasailor needs to be manhandled from the cabin to the foredeck which is team building. Once there, you clip it into the three lines (making sure nothing is twisted – the red and green colour coding of everything helps) and hoist the halyard before the second person returns to the cockpit. Then person one lifts the sock and person one tensions the sheet. Normally the person on the foredeck then shouts “we are Parasailors!”

Deciding to parasail, planning, getting set up, getting the white sails away and setting the parasailor takes us half an hour when we are clipped in on ocean swell. But we tend to be slow and methodical and we always prepare everything with the previous sails still working and only strike them when we are ready.

– ease of handling (will it create any undue stress?!) 

A Parasailor is easy to handle but you are more alert when “Parasailing”. You constantly scan the horizon and surrounding waters for the next squall or pocket of high wind. You are more a sailor and less a cruiser (repairing something below or enjoying a long card game in the saloon).

– and in particular getting down (how is that snuffer when bouncing around on the foredeck when stronger winders have surprised you?!)!

We can go from Parasailing to “gone”  in a few minutes. Been there. Done that! 
Person one: harness on, clip in, reach the foredeck,
Person two: release sheet,
Person one; pull snuffer down and stow sail. You can drop it straight through the front hatch if you don’t have a dinghy on the foredeck. Otherwise, we stow it quickly between dinghy and mast and get a line over it until the squall passes.

Stuart sold us a soft roller that clips around the snuffer line so that instead of pulling down you pull up. The harder you pull, the more you stick to the deck. We don’t use it. If person two lets the sheet fully go then the snuffer slides easily down 

– Thoughts on taking the standard recommended spec / size vs value in taking a 3/4 size (for example) to make more manageable / increase the wind range in which we use it?!

We never thought about that. We accepted Stuart’s recommendation. It would be easier with a ¾ but you would no longer have the full “Parasail effect” of cruising at four knots with “no” wind.

– how often you really use the sail – will it be a shiny toy that after preliminary usage does not really see the light of day?!

It took us eighteen days to cross the Atlantic (2162 miles) and we used the Parasailor for 16% of those miles. It has to be noted that we spent 54% of the journey with two foresails poled out as the trades were directly behind us.

It took fifty four days from Ecuador to the Marquesas and we used the Parasailor for 954 of 3909 miles (24%)

– ease of storage, sturdiness of the sail etc

Our Parasailor is stuffed in the quarter berth with two foldable mountain bikes. It has to be manhandled out and back in. It can be compressed nicely with the draw straps on the bag but Stuart recommended against storing it too tightly compressed. 

The sail has one tiny hole that we need to patch – probably from catching it while pushing it through into the forward cabin. The snuffer has suffered from rubbing on surrounding rigging but is still fine.

– any other thoughts that you as owners have that we are not thinking of!

In this screenshot, you can see the speed dropping over six hours. Then we deployed the Parasailor and doubled our speed while also stopping the horrible flogging of sails and rocking of the boat in the swell. Should have done it earlier.

Definitely take the training that Stuart offers. We learned so much. It was a very hard day but a fantastic day. In the Caribbean we met two sailors who had bought a Parasailor but were “much too experienced” to take the free training but admitted that they “never got the Parasail to work.” Of course, they blamed the sail.

Nowadays we don’t pull the halyard as high as we used to. This lets the Parasailor fly with more “belly”. It seems to fly better that way. We are sure that Stuart originally showed us this as can be seen in the following photo but maybe we forgot.

Two really good friends are on their way around the world with their Catamaran “Sybo” and they are also happy Parasailors. The larger boat makes the foredeck work much easier. But we wouldn’t buy a catamaran because of that.

We promised to NEVER use the Parasailor after dark because we could not see approaching squalls. In use we NEVER took it down just because it was dusk. It is too great for that. It just keeps you moving.

One year of water making. Katadyn PowerSurvivor.

A year ago today, our Katadyn PowerSurvivor 40E water maker was finally working. Since then it has produced almost all the water we use. I write “almost” as we are not averse to collecting rain water – mainly for washing and cleaning.

A year ago today, our Katadyn PowerSurvivor 40E water maker was finally working. Since then it has produced almost all the water we use. I write “almost” as we are not averse to collecting rain water – mainly for washing and cleaning.

We spent a week away from the boat when we cycled in the Andes but other than that we have been living on board all year. In those 358 days we have produced nearly 4000 liters of water and have given away about 350 liters, so on average we use about ten liters a day. By pre-washing ourselves, our clothes and our dishes in salt water, we manage to live comfortably with that.

The system uses about 60 watts of electrical power and we run it only from wind and solar power. Unlike many of our neighbours, we never have to run our diesel motor or a petrol generator to produce electricity. The water maker is a good “energy puffer”; on days with too much power we can produce more water and on overcast, windless days, less.

The water quality has been good all year. We have regularly given the Seenomaden water and, after over twenty years at sea, they still say it is the best water they have tasted. We have a measuring device which always claimed our water had less than 300 parts per million (ppm) of salt in it. SY Mikado’s meter measured far less so we are not sure of the real value but our guess is an average of about 180 ppm.

Until now (touch wood) the system has run with no problems. We wash out and dry the two pre-filters every few days and occasionally lubricate the piston shafts as per the manual. We have seen black oily leaks from the piston shaft but they are irregular. We asked technical support for suggestions what it could be but received a standard “take it to a dealer” answer. Katadyn still do not appreciate how big the oceans are and how limited their dealer network is in the middle of the Pacific.

We bought a water maker to increase our freedom and that is exactly what it has done. If we want to stay a month on a dry coral reef, that is what we do. If it takes 54 days to cross an ocean, we still arrive with a full water tank. When the neighbours need water, no problem! We always have pure clean water and therefore a meal and a cup of coffee.

Technical bit. The PowerSurvivor has produced an average of 5.40 liters per hour during the last year. The flow rate is dependent on the battery voltage varying between 5.2 (under 12.8V) and 5.7 (above 14V). We have a pre-pump installed below the water line which can pump about 170 liters an hour through the pre-filters.

Anchor watch?

Recently we mentioned that the first nicht anchored off Fatu Hiva we sat outside on anchor watch. Gertrud sent us a message saying “What is anchor watch? If the anchor is holding? And what do you do if it isn’t?”

Traditionally while at sea you have your “watch” when you are on duty. On land you would talk about your shift. While at anchor the watch system continued. The person on watch ensured that the anchor held on the seabed and the vessel stayed where it should be. He also ensured that neighbouring vessels kept their distance.

Safely at anchor

Normally when we anchor we check that the anchor is holding by pulling back on it with full motor revs. In these warm waters we also swim over and look at it. After that we let an app on our phone “keep watch”.

Sometimes the anchor doesn’t hold when we dig it in because of rock, coral or seaweed (but with our Rocna anchor, that doesn’t happen often.) Then we have to lift it and try again. Once, in the Caribbean the anchor lost its grip after a day. That was strange and not something we want to happen while off cycling. Normally we ask the neighbours to keep an eye on Artemis and ensure she stays put.

As I write this squalls are blowing the boat from side to side but with the Rocna anchor dug in to sand and thirty meters of chain out, we are going to sleep well.

Safety lines can kill you.

We are now over 3000 kilometers away from the nearest continent – North America – and over 2000 kilometers from the nearest habitation – Easter Island. When the International Space Station passes overhead, the astronauts on board are our closest neighbours. We are “somewhat remote” and really don’t want anything bad to happen.

If we were to fall overboard, the one person remaining on board would need to stow the sails, start the engine and come back to look for our tiny head in between the swell. And calling for help is not an option out here. That is why we only leave the cockpit clipped in to a safety line.

Our lifejackets are clipped to strops and they are attached to jackstays that run from the cockpit to the bow. You can reach everything while firmly attached to the boat. Of course the lines jam and of course they are in the way but that is better than a last swim.

Safety lines – a death sentence for flying fish

Each day we find dead flying fish on deck who have landed on the boat and got stuck. Yesterday we found a really unlucky example. It had got its wing jammed under the jackstay and was therefore “safely” attached to the boat. A great place for us; a bad place for “Biggles”.

Ein Handtuch – die Antwort auf alles

Hätte mir mal jemand erzählt, dass ein Handtuch sooo wichtig ist, ich hätte es nicht geglaubt, aber nach fast zwei Jahren auf See sieht es komplett anders aus😊. Also:

Wenn es nachts so warm ist, dass du selbst nackt ohne Decke schwitzt wie ein Dattelaffe,😓😓 leg ein Handtuch auf das Leintuch und der Schweiß wird aufgesaugt.😅

Wenn in den Fenstern bzw. In den Rinnen darunter dass Wasser steht, egal ob Schwitz- oder Salzwasser – stopf ein Handtuch in die Fuge.👍

Wenn es während der Nacht kühl wird und der Tau alles feucht macht, wickel dich in ein Handtuch und du bist trocken und warm.🤭🤭

Nicht zuletzt um dich nach dem Duschen oder nach dem Schwimmen abzutrocknen aber das ist ja allgemein bekannt 😀😀.

Du siehst also wie verschieden einsetzbar dieses “Wunder” ist😂😂.

Power generation upgrade

Warning! Technical article. Lots of data and numbers and not funny.

Last year we wrote about our regenerative electricity production and about our Aquair towed generator which we use as a second wind generator. As long as the wind blew everything was working perfectly but when it stopped (as in Columbia) then we realized that our batteries were no longer working properly and the solar was under-dimensioned especially with our water maker now running. There were even a few days that we had to run the engine and that is awful.

So, while in Panama, we rebuilt and rewired things again.

The HRDi controller from Marlec regulates the power from the wind generator and can optionally work as a controller for 160 Watts of solar panels. It works but lacks an absorption phase during the charging which is not good for the batteries. Additionally only 12V modules can be connected which is not enough to allow the MPPT (max. power point tracking) to function efficiently early and late in the day or when the sky is overcast. We bought a Victron Energy SmartSolar 30/100 which has a three phase charging algorithm and can deal with a higher voltage. Really nice is the Bluetooth connection which allows us to see the actual and historical data on the smartphone.

the blue line in this screenshot from our data logger on 5. Feb. shows the controller working perfectly. Bulk, absorption and float. (All times are UTC and we are UTC+5 so sunrise is about twelve.)

We doubled our solar power by buying two new 80 Watt panels from a Chinese electrical store. With four panels rated at a total of 320 Watts, we could connect two strings of two panels and thus double the voltage available to the controller.  All four panels are mounted and wired above the cockpit and nicely hidden from below by the bikini sun cover.

Our batteries were sourced by Ardfern Yacht Center two years ago and, according to the manufacturer, were unsuited for use in a regenerative energy system. They were not deep cycle batteries and were not helped by the few times we ran them nearly empty. The lack of an absorption charge phase in the controller also shortened their life. We bought three deep cycle marine batteries – two for the services and one just to start the engine – manufactured by East Penn. They have a great document that describes which charging voltages to use and a competent and quick customer support who actually answer emails and wrote that we should use a float voltage of 13.8V and absorption of 14.7V.

Information_SignThe batteries are Deka DC31DT Marine Master manufactured by East Penn. Their data sheet for regenerative systems is online here. Gabriel Schneck is their great customer support person who helped us.

In Panama the system worked well despite us being anchored facing north and thus with shadow on the panels. Sailing south to Ecuador we produced 1400Wh of solar power one day and the next day – with absolutely no sun – 360Wh but our average after 33 days is about 700Wh. Each wind generator produces an average per day of about 200Wh and when on passage the towed generator produces between 150 and 800Wh depending on our speed.

Screenshot from Android App. Per Bluetooth we can see what is happening in the system. In real time and as a daily summary.

The first month suggests that we are now self sufficient in electricity and therefore also water production. Another piece of freedom.


The perfect cruiser’s dinghy packs up really small and can be stowed away for passages. At the same time it should be stable in use and capable of carrying people and cargo safely and relatively dryly.

Our inflatable Avon fulfils the first specification perfectly. It takes a little time to install the wooden slat floor and rowing seat then blow it up and just as long to reverse the process but it stows in the aft locker. Unfortunately it fails on the safe and dry requirement. If we use it to go up wind against waves of any size, the only suitable apparel is bathing clothes and everything we take needs to be extremely well packed. More than once it turned over in the wind and once set the outboard under water. When we visit another boat, we need to remove the motor and hang it on their boat if we want to relax.

Our Avon dinghy fully stocked

In the Caribbean the Avon was ripped directly next to a seam. Four attempts by us to repair it all failed and when we found an expert in Panama, he could only solve the problem by lifting part of the seam and glueing under it. His repair worked but we needed a more reliable tender.

The selection of small dinghys in Panama is not huge but with the help of Sheila (an American lady rebuliding her boat at Port Linton) we bought an AB dinghy with a fiberglass bottom. This is safe and stable but impossible to stow any where but between the mast and inner forestay. Sailing is, of course, a series of compromises so we have now developed a way of doing that. Once we have the AB dinghy in the water she is great fun. We bought her just before Annalena and Daniel arrived and “test drove” extensively in the San Blas Islands. In the Las Perlas archipeligo we completely filled her with water when a breaker swamped us just off the beach but, even full of water and sand, she can be rowed home.

With the dinghy, we received a free dinghy chap (a material cover to protect the dinghy from sun and rubbing). It was for a different size and type of dinghy and had no holes for the carrying handles or anything but did come with a bag of “blue bits” to sew as protection around any holes. Luckily we have a Heidi on board and she and her sewing machine can do anything. After hours and days of hard work, perspiration and many many broken needles, we had a cover that fitted and a matching bag to stow items while in transit.

Another sailor told us he had been quoted one thousand US dollars for such a dinghy chap and Heidi now says she fully understands why they cost so much. She doesn’t plan a production series.

Water maker. Katadyn 40E

A boat is freedom. Freedom to go where you want, when you want. With Artemis full of food and a fair wind, we can travel far away from civilisation and visit otherwise unreachable places. But you need water. Until now we have filled our tank where ever we have found a supply and, in the worst case, bought bottles. But the logistics detract from the enjoyment and, as we head out in to the Pacific, good drinking water will become a scarce commodity.

So we have invested in a small Katadyn 40E water maker. This magic device takes fifty liters from the surrounding sea and five ampere hours of electricity with which, through the miracle of reverse osmosis, it produces five liters of drinkable fresh water. We use about ten liters a day so in two hours we can produce all we need for that day.

This is one of the smallest devices used on boats but it has the advantage that we can power it from wind and solar power. It also fits nicely in our “bathroom” which is now the “water works”. We bought this model as every one wrote that it “just works”. Andi Blenk installed one this year and his positive feedback convinced us to invest.

Unfortunately our system didn’t “just work” as it had been incorrectly assembled in the factory. We needed many emails, lots of tests, much frustration and hundreds of extra dollars before we tasted our first fresh water but now it works and it was worth it.

We use a pre-pump to take sea water from the ocean and pass it through a sieve and two pre-filters. The standard system uses one filter but this way we can run it in silty anchorages. The filtered water enters the Katadyn and is then compressed and forced through a membrane which removes most of the salt leaving less than 200 parts per million which is far less than we can taste.

Produced and cooled with solar and wind power.

Another piece of freedom!

In the bowels of the boat

Boats have marine toilets. They look a lot like the toilets you are used to on land but work a little differently. You don’t just press a button and empty a days drinking water down the drain. Instead you pump a lever which sucks sea water out of the ocean and uses that to wash everything clean. At the same time the pump empties the contents out of the bowl. There is a switch with which you decide if you would like to empty straight in to the ocean – the preferred solution out at sea – or in to a holding tank on-board – when in a harbour or a bay. The contents of the tank can later be pumped out once you are back out in the middle of nowhere.

Artemis plumbing – with blockages

A great system that is flexible and reliable – until it breaks. The first indication we had that something was amiss was when it became harder to work the pump to empty the bowl. Shortly thereafter the pump to empty the tank began to sound as if it was working harder and then stopped working.

I was pretty sure the problem was a blockage in the outlet pipes as this is a “standard” problem on most boats that occurs every couple of years. I disconnected the outlet from the tank pump and was rewarded with a spume of dirty looking slurry. After that is was “just” a case of bending myself in to the hot, tiny space in front of the toilet, dismantling all the other pipes, beating them on the dock to break the calcium build up, washing them through and re-assembling. Really important was to assure that absolutely everything was very tight as most of the piping is below sea level and a break could lead to a sunken boat. Four hours later, and with Heidi’s help to feed hoses through tight spaces, everything was working again.

Once I had showered off the sweat and the all pervading smell of slurry, I was happy that everything was working. I drew a plan of the system so I would know how everything works next time and searched the Internet for some way to avoid the problem. Unfortunately the expert opinion seems to be that it is just a part of boat ownership so learn to like it.