Monocrystilline flexible solar panels

The Continuing Evolution of a Cruising Boat – by Randy

Those of you that have been following our blog from the beginning know that we spent a good deal of time and effort prior to our departure to equip the Pilots’ Discretion appropriately for an extended cruise through the Caribbean. You also know that most, but not all of what we have added has worked well for us. Like all cruising boats, our Sea Ray 480 Motor Yacht is a product of compromises and as opportunities to improve upon those compromises have presented themselves, we have made some changes to our boat’s original configuration. The past several weeks in St. Lucia we have made some additional evolutionary improvements to our floating home.

The boys taking the new 40 for a spin

The boys taking the new 40 for a spin

We will use this post to detail some of those improvements for our readers. Since it is more fun to talk about what is working than that which is not, we will start there. Our 11′ AB center console tender has been like the family pickup truck during our cruise and it has served us well. The only drawback we have noted with the dinghy itself is that it has been somewhat under powered when we travel in it with all hands aboard. That characteristic is only growing more pronounced as the boys are doing what young boys do and that is growing like weeds. We decided to splurge and trade in our trusty Yamaha 25hp outboard for a new 40hp model. In addition to the new motor we put on a new, larger set of smart tab trim tabs to better handle the increased power. The good folks at International Inflatables in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia did the work for us and we are happy to report that our trusty pickup truck dinghy now has more in common with a Mustang GT than it does with an F150 pickup. The new motor brings the dinghy out of the water and onto a plane instantly with a full load on board. That may seem like a small difference but when we have several miles to cover to get

The boys taking the new 40 for a spin

The boys taking the new 40 for a spin

to a town or shopping center for provisioning the difference between cruising at displacement speed (6-10 mph) and our new planing speed (25-30 mph) is huge! When we are in marinas that require us to Med moor (that is when we tie the Pilots’ Discretion with the stern to the dock) we have had to leave the dinghy in the water so that we have a clear path to shore from the big boat. As a result, while we were in Grenada this past summer, the dinghy had so much marine growth attached to its hull that we literally had to chisel it off. To combat this we elected to paint the dinghy hull with an anti-marine growth bottom paint. Hopefully we can now spend less time with a snorkel mask and chisel in hand.

One of the other issues we have been dealing with is limited battery capacity. The Pilots’ Discretion is a planing hull design, great for going fast, not so good for carrying lots of heavy batteries around to provide DC electrical current to power things like refrigeration or coffee pots while at anchor. As a result, we have been running our generator a lot when not in a marina (over 1500 hours since leaving the states). This week, we have added 4 monocrystilline solar panels to the roof of the Pilots’ Discretion. The panels are capable of generating just over 40 amps per hour of power in ideal conditions. Given that our cruising grounds is by definition in the tropics, we have lots of long and sunny days that will allow us to harvest enough free electricity via our solar panels to reduce our generator run time by a little more than 400 hours per year. In addition to being one of the few things that we could add to the boat that will actually pay for themselves, the solar panels will save us diesel fuel thereby giving us added range.

Crushed box corner was not looking good

Crushed box corner was not looking good

The final upgrade that we had planned for this week is an upgrade to our washer and dryer. The system that came with the boat was very small and really only sufficient to wash a few small items at a time. The result is that we have become quite familiar with the various laundromats throughout the Caribbean. As you can imagine, two growing boys, lots of salt water and sand,  equals constant laundry. The manufacturer of our original unit has come out with a new washer that is dimensionally identical on the outside to our original unit. That allows us to utilize it in the same locker space that we had been using but the new washer has 50% greater washing capacity. Boy, were we excited when we ordered our new unit. Images of lounging on the bow instead of the laundromat literally dancing in our heads as they unloaded the new washer onto the dock. Those images literally all came crashing down with a loud thud when we realized the new washer had been crushed during shipment.

imageNow, I admit I am not the Maytag repairman but I know enough about loud thuds to know the noise I heard could only mean bad things. The new washer and dryer are crushed beyond repair so our report on our new washing machine will have to wait for the replacement unit to catch up to us somewhere north of here in the next few months. For the time being, we will utilize the space in our utility room designated for a washer and dryer as additional storage space. As they say, when life presents you with lemons, make lemonade.

3 thoughts on “The Continuing Evolution of a Cruising Boat – by Randy

  1. Frank & Anette

    Great report, Randy! All of your upgrades are really impressive. The boys must really love their “wheels on water”, and we cannot wait to hear about the new washer.
    Our trusty Sea Rays have served all of us well, almost ten years for WINGS IV.

    Best wishes as you continue your joyful journeys with smooth seas ahead.

    Frank & Anette


  2. John Davis

    Randy & crew – enjoyed your characterization of the ruined washer/dryer, and I felt your disappointment as the bow lounging time suddenly evaporated. I also believe I heard a muted grrr..rrr…rrr as you wondered just how difficult it should be in 2016 to do it right in getting a package from A to B undamaged.

    I recall meeting a fine man long ago who felt the same about dogs.

    Your friend…

    On Sun, Feb 28, 2016 at 3:49 PM, pilotsdiscretiondotcom wrote:

    > Randy posted: “Those of you that have been following our blog from the > beginning know that we spent a good deal of time and effort prior to our > departure to equip the Pilots’ Discretion appropriately for an extended > cruise through the Caribbean. You also know that most,” >



    Hi how are you guys? Stories are great I am not the only one enjoying but I do forward on to family and friends who would enjoy! By the way a neighbor’s Christmas present was delivered to your home up here and we are trying to get it back. Any idea of where it might be? So far traced to somewhere in Florida Where you are having stuff forwarded I guess! Please help if you can! Thanks Nancy CAPLAN

    Sent from my iPhone




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