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Old 04-07-2011, 13:20   #1
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What Extras Should I Look For on a Used Boat ?

I am set on the boat I want but being fairly new to sailing I don't know what extras (there are many to choose from) I should look for if any on a used Gemini. If anybody has owned one of the 105Mc's and has advice that would be great! There are a lot out there and every new shiny thing looks useful to me but at what point do you use that fancy stuff and what maintenance does it require? Solar panels, wind generators, windlass, radar/plotter/gps, spinnaker, screecher, water maker, etc..

I know experienced guys will say it depends on what I want to use the boat for and at first I just want to learn as much as possible about sailing multi's and go from there. Crawl, walk, run...
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Old 04-07-2011, 19:08   #2
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Re: What extras should I look for on a used boat?

Its very difficult to say as we don't know what you are going to do with the boat.
Perhaps to compare the differnent boats of the class and see which one has most at the best price.

Also work out if the gear on the boat is new or near replacement age.

Sorry if it doesnt help much.
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Old 05-07-2011, 01:36   #3
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Re: What extras should I look for on a used boat?

Originally Posted by Wook View Post
I am set on the boat I want but being fairly new to sailing I don't know what extras (there are many to choose from) I should look for if any on a used Gemini. If anybody has owned one of the 105Mc's and has advice that would be great! There are a lot out there and every new shiny thing looks useful to me but at what point do you use that fancy stuff and what maintenance does it require? Solar panels, wind generators, windlass, radar/plotter/gps, spinnaker, screecher, water maker, etc..

I know experienced guys will say it depends on what I want to use the boat for and at first I just want to learn as much as possible about sailing multi's and go from there. Crawl, walk, run...
My feeling is that it is better to start with a simple boat and upgrade it to what you want. With a few exceptions.

Solar panels are generally agreed to be the best charging source for moderate loads. They generally take minimal maintenance: checking to see that they remain watertight and that the wiring remains chaffe free and the connections are watertight. If you have a tracking mount you will want to tend them thru the day at regular intervals and at course changes to maximize output. Setting them flat drops output 25-33% or so but if they can keep the batteries topped up that way it doesn't matter. One of the new charge controllers can increase the output significantly, but they can be added later.

Given the size and weight of you boat a windlass may or may not be desireable. If you are going to go cruising, you will be a lot happier with chain on you primary anchor and a windlass will be a big plus. If the windlass is electric, make sure there is a reasonable manual backup system, ie at least 12:1 mechanical advantage.

Extra anchors would be a plus to me. Personally I would want an oversized (1 or 2 sizes up) main anchor (CQR, Bruce, Supreme, Rocna) with 125-175' of chain plus 200-400' of line, chain and line both normally sized. Backup would be normal size of one of the above, but different than the main so if the main isn't biting the backup might. A Luke for rock and weeds, the biggest Fortress I could reasonably handle and a small Fortress as a stern/kedge anchor. All the other anchors would be on 1 boat length of chain plus 300-500' of line. All but the stern and main anchors should be stored low in the boat near the center fore and aft. If possible I would put the main chain locker and windlass right in front of the mast. Given that this is a multihull the chain should be G4 which should allow you to go a size smaller for the same strength, thus saving a lot of weight. If the boat comes with the correct size G3 and a windlass to match, you likely will be spending money to replace the gypsy on the windlass and the chain to save the weight, multi's are a lot touchier about overloading and weight distribution.

For coast sailing I personally would be OK skipping the windlass and some of the extra anchors.

The definition of a screecher that I am aware of is a drifter or similar sail designed to be set on a short pole or strut projecting straight forward from the bow of the boat or from the center of the forward crossbeam in the case of a catamaran. A CodeZero arguably qualifies, though my understanding is that it is more of a flat cut assymtrical spinnaker. The difference being the screecher can point a little better and the CodeZero can go deep downwind a little better. To me either one of these would be a big plus. Either would be very useful in light air, when you really want good sails to keep you going or you will be tempted to motor. Both are generally set on furlers so they should be relatively easy to set, tend and douse even short-handed.

The usual choice is an inflatable which suffers from a number of problems, namely poor abrasion resistance when beaching, mediocre life expectancy in the sun and heat, easier to flip when being towed, extra time required to inflate/deflate and the general need for a motor since they row very poorly with a few exceptions. The advantages are wonderful stability, more load carrying capacity for a given length and easily stowed below. The related RIB's solve the problem of abrasion resistance but at the cost of added weight and requireing deck stowage. Inflatables and RIB's can have their lives extended it the inflatable tubes have a canvass cover on all the time and the more expensive Hypalon is used for construction.
Rigid dinghies row well, are a lot more resistant to abuse and can even be sailed. At the shorter lengths weights are similar to inflatables. The costs are reduced load carrying capacity, stability for a given length and the requirement that they be stowed on deck. Use of floatation collars can improve capacity and stability. Nesting dinghies will decrease the footprint of the stored dinghy on deck though the weight is still carried high in the boat.
The last option is the Porta-bote, a folding hard dinghy. I don't believe it rows quite as well as a real rigid dinghy but certainly much better than an inflatable. If all corners can be negociated it could be stored in one of the hulls. Even on deck it is much less obtrusive than a regular rigid dinghy.
For a multi I would probably choose the Porta-bote with a very small PVC inflatable backup.
This is not the dinghy I would chose myself, I intend to build a nesting dinghy for my next monohull, but I have a different situation.

Given that you are on a Multi minimizing the amount of heavy batteries you have to hual around would be good. Minimizing demand is the best way to do this. An LED tricolor for sailing, LED anchor light, flourescent or LED cabin lights and LED reading lights would help a lot. Minimizing the number of extras you use underway would help too. If you are going to run a computer get one of the netbooks which are optimized for lower power usage. Don't get a complex instrument suite that energizes everything even if you just need the speedo/log. Don't put a lot of AC items on-board that require an inverter to run, inverters consume power just idling and many are fairly inefficient except near rated load. Don't put a complex entertainment system on board.

Items I would think long and hard about:

Symetrical spinnaker. I don't believe many cats have them, their big advantage is dead down wind or on a very broad reach. Usually cats make as good or better progress by reaching up some where a CodeZero or Screecher will be as effective or almost. A spinnaker requires a lot more tending than a screecher or CodeZero and generally needs more than one person on deck for setting or dousing which is not good when you are cruising and everyone else is asleep.

All of these consume significant power if run continuously and generally electronics are out of date within several years, not that they aren't functional but they have minimal resale value and vendors don't want to do much support and at 4 or 5 years they are starting to get to the point where corrosion issues are a lot more likely.
For a monohull the minimum electronics I would want would be speed/log, depth, VHF, shortwave receiver, mounted GPS (plus a couple-3 hand-helds for backup). The only 2 I would want connected would be the GPS and VHF so the DSC panic button works. By not having things connected I can shut things down that are not in use saving power, and if one item fails it doesn't drag the whole system down with it.
I am ambivilant about electronic charting. If I were setting up a system right now I would go with OpenCPN running on the netbook and linked to GPS. I would have paper chart backups or paper chart books for the places I intended to sail and the surrounding areas. I would not pay more of a premium for a chartplotter than I could get by immediately selling the unit and associated map cartridges, plotters strike me as making too many functions be interdependant, so loosing one loses all of them.
For a multi I would add a wind speed gauge, wind powered would be a big plus. It's utility would be helping you gauge when you need to reduce sail, which can be harder to tell on a multi than a mono. If it stops working because it is not generating enough power for the display in low winds that is not really such a big deal, there's no safety issues at low speeds. For wind direction mount a windex/windvane at the masthead and look up, eyeballing the windex will give you the apparent wind close enough to work with polar diagrams to pick the best point of sail.
Also for a multi I would add an autopilot, windvane selfsteering doesn't work so well on multis from what I hear.

Radar seems to me to be the exception to the out of date adage, the technology is very mature, the big advances these days seem to be adding bells and whistles of value to some folks and not others and getting the radar to talk with other electronics so outputs can be overlaid on one another. Radar is very useful in areas that experience a lot of fog such as the California coast, the northern east coast, England and various other places world wide. Elsewhere it can be of value navigating, especially where GPS and map coordinates don't jive well such as the south pacific. If the boat came with a very small radar (12-18"dome), 5-7yr old I would keep it but not want to pay much of a premium for it, $500 or so. Larger radar would ostensibly give you more range and resolution but at a significant cost in weight, size and power consumption. To get the range from the larger radar you would need to mount it higher which starts affecting stability and you would need a heavier supporting structure. The added power consumption has secondary effects of requiring a bit more battery capacity and more recharging capacity.

Wind generators: If you have a lot of demand you may have to have a wind generator to supplement the solar panels. The pluses are they work day or night, sunny or overcast and with a lot of wind they can really put out a lot of power. On the down side you have to be careful about mounting so it doesn't shade the solar panels, it can be windless for days on end, there are safety issues with having spinning blades where loose halyards or other lines can become tangled in the blades or worse break them off creating shrapnel and in really high winds the unit needs to be stopped and secured with even more safety issues. Given that there are a number of moving parts (blades that spin and a mounting hub with electrical contacts) I expect some maintenance is required on a regular basis (say every 3-6mo). Personally, I would spend money and work real hard to minimize demand and maximize solar output to avoid having a wind generator on board, but that might not be enough depending on your electrical demands.

On a monohull I doubt I would get a watermaker, the reliability, power draw and maintenance issues would trump the utility.
On a multi the math is a little different given that multi's are more weight sensitive generally.
The general rule of thumb is tankage for 1gal/person/day for the longest expected passage plus a 25-50% reserve. This assumes fresh water is available at the end of the passage (not so on some Pacific Islands).
With a watermaker onboard I might be comfortable cutting the tanked volume to 2qt/person/day with no reserves or even a bit less. 2qt/day is the bare minimum for drinking, no bathing, no dish washing, clothes washing. The watermaker would be used daily to keep the tanks full until you get to the point where there is 1.25-1.5gal/person/day remaining, then allow the tanked amount to decrease lightening the boat. My thinking is that for the first several days of the passage you are probably able to turn back if the watermaker packs it in. At the end of a week underway the same tanked volume should be equivalent to 3qt/person/day since there are fewer days remaining.
I would size the unit to produce 1-2gal/person in 2-4hr. This should provide the minimum comfort for bathing, dish and clothes washing. If you want to start luxuriating in the water there are going to be big penalties in unit weight and power demand that will require the batteries and charging system to get bigger too. If the system gets big enough there will be no weight advantage to the watermaker which was it's advantage in the first place, so you need to keep your expectations from running away from the reality of the situation.
Watermakers require a fair bit of pumping and preliminary filtering to keep microbes and algae from clogging the memebrane and reducing output. If the watermaker is idled for more than some moderate period (1wk-1mo), the membrane needs to be pickled to preserve it and then flushed when it goes back into service. Flushing has to be done with distilled water, city water has trace amounts of chlorine which will kill the membrane. Tanked water will have to be periodically treated with bleach to prevent algae growth so it too will be contaminated. In any port with any significant amount of water traffic the watermaker will have to be shut down and maybe pickled as the oils and petroleum exhaust products in the water will damage the membrane and can't be prefiltered.
Even if everything works right the membranes have an expected life span of 500-5000gal depending on make and model, then the membrane has to be replaced at significant cost. The prefilters will also require replacing and the prefilter pumps, watermaker pumps, and all associated plumbing will require monitoring and maintenance.
Before buying a watermaker I would double the advertised weight to account for the prefiltering and double the advertised power demand to account for prefilter pumps and the increased resistance of the membrane as it ages. Using these values I calculate the extra battery capacity and charging capacity needed and do a weight analysis accounting for the watermaker system and the extra weight of batteries needed.
All this is predicated on offshore cruising. For cruising US or European coasts, I wouldn't bother with a watermaker, fresh water is generally available and the watermaker would be shut down for significant amounts of time whenever close to towns, marinas or industrial areas.
Watermaker or no I would make arrangements for water catchment during raining periods, cheap backup.

Refridgeration: Big quality of life issue here. Cold beer can be life defining for some people. Personally I really like my Lemonaid to be really cold. The flip side is you have to maintain the system in remote and exotic locations (read extremely expensive to ship parts to with no trained personnel to do the work unless you pay them to fly out.). With an engine driven system you can't leave the boat unattended for any length of time if there is anything in the fridge or freezer.
If I were going to set up a system it would be an 12v electric freezer, top opening chest. I would use the system to keep a number of specific items that our family likes to eat or cook with: bacon, butter (unless I could source canned butter), cheddar and mozza, canned juice concentrates. A tray or 2 of ice cube would also be made for cold drinks. As items were used I would add water containers to make ice when power was plentiful so the freezer would maintain maximum thermal inertia and could coast a bit during low power periods.
I would keep the system small so that in the event of failure the amount of food lost would be minimized. A freezer unit would be a lot simpler than a fridge/freezer and the only big inconvenience I see is left-overs would have to be thawed
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