Tech Update: from Col

After receiving a number of complimentary comments on our blog, several questions of a technical nature keep arising but have remained unanswered, so time to fill in some gaps.

Firstly, and reinforcing an early blog comment made by Brooke that “boats are just a hole in the ocean to throw your money into”; I note there had indeed been significant start-up expenditure, but for the most part it was anticipated and budgeted given our plans to carry an aircraft on the stern and to add solar power. Also to make changes to the boat that better suited an almost permanent live aboard home. As opposed to her previous, original owners who left her at a permanent berth in Croatia, driving back and forth from their home in Germany to enjoy their Lagoon 440 just as we are doing now, but for significantly shorter periods.

I had plans to run an excel spreadsheet recording expenditure but soon had to ask “why?” The monies had to be spent, the workmanship here was excellent and at costs about half of what we would’ve paid at home for – dare I say – possibly inferior work. Every penny of expenditure should be an asset to your boat and unless it is mindless bling (which we’ve seen a lot of here on European-owned boats), it’s a long-term investment in comfort, safety and re-sale attractiveness.

So, the trike first. Our Australian designed and factory built Airborne XT-582 Outback trike, complete with its twin floats required a new, specialised lifting arrangement and the dinghy had to find a new home on one of the two bow trampolines. Combined with the pivoting frame for the 3 X 250W solar panels designed by fellow Australian Lagoon 440 owner Frank Maunders, the trike-lifting bar was fabricated in Zagreb by our new mate Vlad. My original lifting bar design didn’t have a sufficient margin of strength so drawings were made for Revision A to the design and the second version was a significant improvement. It also had the bonus that if and when we sell our boat and the trike very likely goes, it became a great dinghy-lifting rig. The original after-market cover for the trike did a great job, but was never designed to cop salt spray, so both the trike and the wing have new, fully waterproof covers. Getting insurance for the trike is virtually impossible but letting it deteriorate due to lack of protection and maintenance could have catastrophic results, apart from being just dumb. We use a home designed spinnaker-pole type arrangement to lift the dinghy onto the bow and into the water; and although a two-person job, it is a safe, swift and physically effortless exercise.

Machinery. Our two Volvo Penta D-55 diesel engines are great units and have proven to be ever reliable, but we can’t say as much for Croatian supplied diesel! Despite having primary and secondary filters, we have experienced intermittent rev fluctuation issues on both engines, strongly suggesting a fuel cleanliness issue. We carry adequate spares and apart from treating the tanks with bug killer, not much we can do. During the wintering period in Turkey, we’ll remove and clean both main tanks and start afresh. The 11kVa Onan/ Perkins generator has also been extremely reliable and more than adequate for our needs. With the recent addition of solar panels and an Outback Flexmax 80A solar regulator, the generator was only needed to run the Bauer dive compressor and the 140lph water maker. Our house batteries and Victron 12V/220V inverter handles all other 220V needs.

Boat modifications and improvements.  As mentioned earlier, finally my darling should, for at least the next three to four years, be our floating home for majority of the year. To that end, some mods have been made to better utilise the adequate but not necessarily well-utilised space on almost every Lagoon. Some of our modifications have included:

  • Double floor storage space added in the generator compartment. Most used tools on top, important but less frequently used tools and spares below. Removable 10mm marine ply panels wood stained and of course – varnished.
  • Total removal of the dishwasher under the sink. It had hardly been used in the six-year life of the boat and took up valuable space. One tall and two medium shelves installed in its place, so plenty of space made for pots, pans, pressure cooker and vegetable/fruit juicer.
  • A shelf in the owner’s suite area above the existing desk for a printer/copier/scanner.
  • Removal of a number of shelves in one tall cupboard to provide additional hanging space. So where does all the beautifully polished Lagoon shelving go you may ask? It becomes those other shelves like where the dishwasher once lived!
  • Conversion of the starboard forward crew cabin into a combined sail, fender and rope locker. Again borrowing from Frank Maunders’ earlier designs, we had Vlad in Zagreb fabricate rope hanging rails that are reachable simply by lifting the large access hatch to the locker, leaving lots of room for our large gennaker sail and about 12 fenders.
  • Improvements to layout in the area forward of the mast that normally houses the water maker and pair of 300L water tanks. Along with replacement of the water distribution manifold system, both the fresh water and deck wash pumps have been relocated and floor panels added sitting on powder coated aluminium bearers. Not only has greater use of the space been created, the poorly designed Lagoon system that had the potential for both water tanks to empty if a line between them or elsewhere in the system failed. Each tank can now be individually isolated.
  • Installation of a magnificent stainless steel marine BBQ, and covers made for both the BBQ and our new rescue life buoy.

General repairs and Maintenance.

  • The Lagoon bimini above the helm was prone to damage on the upper central cross support, where the boom could rub the bimini sun-brella covering. While this area was being repaired, two clear viewing windows with rollover covers, were added in the bimini roof. This allowed us to monitor the main sail when the bimini was up. In case you’re wondering, the main sail works well with the boom slightly raised, but the bimini should be lowered to get best sail performance, particularly on a reach.
  • Repairs were made to the sail bag that was starting to show its age. Several straps and clips were replaced, and the original full-length zipper was replaced with a new, sturdier zip.
  • Replacement of the heater element in our stainless steel 60L water heater, inconveniently located under the master bedroom. The water heater works fine from the starboard engine heat exchanger and while on shore power, but it would trip the main circuit breaker when on the generator. A sure sign the element had gone down to earth and we probably got one extra year out of the element than was normally expected of them.
  • General plumbing repairs and maintenance, particularly in the area of black water holding, pumping and associated pipelines that, if left unattended, can slowly block, non-return valves sticking and other unmentionable occurrences arise that simply cannot be put on the proverbial back-burner.
  • Not to forget replacing the lacing on both of our large trampolines after Mike had a scary experience which might have seen him disappear into the drink through the starboard trampoline, when the lacing lines snapped as he jumped across from one net to the other. Hidden from view under the small posts that the edge of the net is fixed to, the lacing cord had rotted over time and decided Mike’s weight was enough to make them fail. While only one snapped, investigations showed the lacing on both nets were overdue for replacement.

Some Blood. Very recently, I was preparing to install a modified control panel for the water maker. To complete the installation, I needed to drill 2 X 5mm holes through an existing 4mm stainless steel angle iron frame, to tap 6mm holes for the securing bolts. I was using a brand new drill bit and my Ryobi battery drill and was exerting significant pressure when the drill bit snapped and the full weight of my body propelled the broken drill bit about 12mm into the fleshy part of my left hand (the part you’d strike if doing a karate chop). My forehead also struck the dive compressor above the water maker leaving a nice egg-like bump.

Blood flowed profusely from the ragged, circular puncture wound, so with my other hand stemming the flow, I extracted myself from the small compartment and headed aft for some first aid. Not having had an experience like it before, Brooke and Mike both grabbed the first aid kit but in the meantime, dear old dad did a neat fainting trick and folded, almost head first to the teak deck. When I recovered, I gave instructions regarding elevating my feet and with the claret now contained, we continued towards our next stopover at beautiful Korcula Town. The puncture wound has healed nicely with what was only a light bruise across the palm of my hand and a bit of steadily decreasing swelling and mild discomfort to show for what turned out to be a great training exercise.

The incident, albeit fairly mild, highlighted some gaps in our on-board training and we sat after dinner that night to discuss the incident and develop a plan to fill the gaps. Our plan includes:

  • Going back to my work environment basics and doing at least a mini “SLAM” Stop, Look, Assess and Manage before starting a job.
  • Modifying our first aid kit into three separate kits: Kit No.1 Major Trauma. Kit No.2 Skin off, scuffs and/or abrasions. Kit No.3 Headache, minor splinters, etc.
  • We’ll also move to expand the crew’s vessel handling abilities, as the incident highlighted the issue of one person having most of the seamanship and vessel handling abilities, and the weakness created should that person be the one to get injured or accidentally fall overboard.
  • Remembering how vulnerable and exposed we are in the event an accident occurs on board. To overcome this, we’ll ensure we continue to be current in First Aid and resuscitation skills. That will mean attending refresher courses while back at home before rejoining the boat next year.

For those who might be thinking there’s been a lot of work in three months, I agree. My great relaxation is often found tinkering at a workbench and I still find it difficult to be idle for too long. Mike and Brooke are becoming great navigators, passage/trip planners and weather forecasters. So days motoring or motor sailing will often find them running the ship, with my head occasionally bobbing up from one or another hidey hole or work space like some alerted meer cat to say “where the F… are we guys?” I’m finding cruising is a total lifestyle change, as the pressures associated with suburban living seem to be distant memories. We hope you continue to enjoy our blog as much as we are enjoying sharing our experiences with you.

NB: we’d love to share the content that interests you most – so should there be more specific technical boat questions or perhaps the logistics and ins-and-outs of life afloat, please send us your questions. Otherwise if it’s scenic travel photos you prefer – rest assured there will be plenty more of that to come!




  1. says

    You’re living the dream I’m working towards. Would be good to know some of the logistical issues faced in getting you to this stage. I’m planning to take a gap year Dec 14 and do the same as you. Buy in the med and sail for a year… so my questions are around.and the issues and nice to have known stuff….PS…for intro, I’m a work mate of D. Bron…. cheers. Scott.

  2. says

    Hi gang.

    What a wonderful job you are doing with your web site in general. Being the web master of my club, the BMW Owners Club of South Australia, I take my hat off to you all. What a wonderful adventure for you all, but how is Pam coping, we don’t hear much of her!.
    Cheers for now, Norm Watson.

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