Friday, February 16, 2007


It's getting easier and easier - and cheaper too - to get Internet service on board. In this section I plan to look at different systems that would allow us to watch TV or check e-mail regardless of where we are.

There are some very affordable systems out there but since we're too far south, we are outside the footprint of the satellites that cover the US (and where the existence of demand and competition has driven prices down).

We are currently investigating products by SeaTel that are sold by Network Innovations. Interesting new developments are the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN).

BGAN delivers broadband mobile office connectivity wherever and whenever it is needed. It supports innovative IP services, as well as traditional circuit-switched voice and ISDN data. BGAN offers two types of IP service:
  • Standard IP - Typically used for accessing corporate networks via a secure VPN connection at speeds up to 492kbps. Use e-mail and other desktop applications, browse the Internet and send large file attachments as easily as in the office. You can even make a phone call at the same time.
  • Streaming IP
    BGAN is the world's first mobile communications service to offer guaranteed data rates on demand. This is ideal for applications where quality of service is paramount, such as live video in the media industry or videoconferencing. You can select Streaming IP on a case-by-case basis, with the flexibility to choose the data rate (32kbps to 256kpbs) appropriate to your application requirements.
  • Phone
    BGAN provides high quality voice services, including calls to and from mobile phones. It supports all the usual enhanced features offered by terrestrial fixed-line and mobile networks, such as voice mail, call forwarding, call hold, call barring and call waiting. Calls can be made using a standard desktop phone, peripheral headset or via a Bluetooth earpiece, depending on your choice of BGAN terminal.

  • Text Messaging
    BGAN enables you to send and receive SMS text messages via your laptop- up to the standard 160 characters- to or from any mobile phone.
Read more about it here.

Which system is best? Depends the usage. BGAN's entry cost are a fraction of a SeaTel system but with each extra MB of traffic costing around USD 6, longterm, and again, depending on who pays the bills, it may be cheaper to have a SeaTel or similar system.

Vacuum toilets

We already have a section on vacuum toilet systems from a manufacturer called There's another big player out there called EVAC, member of the Zodiac group of companies. You've mostly used their product because they are on every plane!

Evac also makes systems for use on board (mainly cruise ships). My only concern at this point is the treatment plant. Their product seem to target much bigger ships but I'm sure the dealer will follow up on this issue soon.

One of the advantages of the EVAC toilets is they offer a special adapter to fit a bidet seat. More on bidet seat for existing toilets soon in another post. You won't believe the stuff they make these days to clean your rearend and particularly how they manage to make a very fine animimated movie about , well, taking a shit !
Vacuum systems allow you to save a lot of water, allow smaller piping and unlike traditional system, more installation flexibility like piping going upwards.

Fuel cleaning system

Since 80% or more of all engine problems are fuel related, spending some time on investigating how to avoid these problems is certainly worth the time. Our ship has a lot of fuel storing capacity (over a 100 tons) so if we decide to bunker up cheap in Venezuela, given our fuel consumption, we'll likely have some of this fuel on board for months.

Fuel is naturally unstable. Its quality and chemistry are continuously degraded by transportation & storage from refinery to user, oxidation, heat & pressure of engines, pumps & injectors, and by water & microbial contamination. Even when fuel is still clear and bright, microscopic fuel components agglomerate forming larger clusters and organic compounds. Eventually, filters clog and sludge (algae, gum, tar, varnish, wax, etc.) accumulates in storage tanks. A product from ALGAE-X reverses the agglomeration process.

But, while this product is certainly a must-have add on to any fuel system, a more comprehensive and equally maintainance free solution is offered by a Danish company called CJC Filters.

Their website is particularly informative and offers a lot of great information on fuel conditioning, fuel sampling, know-how about oil, taking samples, including some downloadable guides, like the clean oil guide and their paper on oil degradation. Very eductional and highly recommended! (PDF requiered).

First of all, they use so-called off-line filtration. Instead of relying on in-line filters mounted on the engine, fuel is circulated between the bunker tanks and a daily service tank.

Why off-line filtration?
As the CJC site says: the short term benefits of off-line filtration:

  • Reduced overall filtration costs (50-80%)
  • Reduced equipment maintenance
  • Minimal installation costs
  • Minimal training required for operation
  • No shutdown required for component changes
Long term benefits of off-line filtration:
  • Extended component life
  • Extended oil life
  • Extended in-line filter life
  • Reduced downtime due to equipment failure
  • Reduced environmental impact
Next, instead CJF does not use a purifier system with rotating discs like those made by Alfa Laval or Westfalia. The difference between the CJC filter andt he the centrifuge is the efficiency and the methode of working. The CJC filters works with a coalesing principle where the water is taken out by gravity.
The oil and water is pushed through the element where the waterdroplets merge, and when they reach the center of the element it will drop down into the secondary coalesher where it will form larger droplets and the watercan be drain off in the bottom of the unit either manually or automatically.
Features of CJC™ oil maintenance system:
  • Compact, self contained, and totally separate from the main system, with its own pump and motor
  • Can operate 24 hrs/day, even when the main system is shut down.
  • The filter insert utilizes deep media and consistent density to provide fine filtration, with a normal lifetime of 12-18 months.
  • The filter insert has 36 square metres of exposed surface area to allow for the slow, steady flow rate necessary for very fine filtration.
  • The filter insert has a high dirt-holding capacity, on average between 5 and 7 kg (12 and 15 lbs), resulting in cost-effective operation.
  • The main system does not need to be shut down in order to change filter insert.
Using CJC systems and the Algae-X device, I don't think we every have to worry about the quality of our fuel!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fire fighting systems

Today I came accross a great new way to fight fires: aerosols. They are an ozone friendly, cost effective, halon alternative. Firepro extinguishing aerosol generators use the latest generation of the stable SBK aerosol forming solid compound (containing no pyrotechnic substances).

Upon activation the solid compound is transformed into a rapidly expanding, highly efficient and highly effective fire extinguishing aerosol, based on Potassium salts. It's friendly to humans, equipment and furniture, easy to install and has nearly no maintainance.

How it works
Conventional fire extinguishing agents use the following methods to extinguish fire:
  • Suffocation method (depletion of oxygen levels in air below 15% at normal pressures extinguishes fire)

  • Cooling method (heat absorption)

  • Removal of fuel

FirePro aerosol on the other hand, extinguishes fire by inhibiting the chain chemical reactions present in combustion on a molecular level.It removes the flame free radicals and extinguishes fire without depleting oxygen.

In a typical fire, atoms and fragments of unstable free radicals react between them in the presence of oxygen. This continues until the burning fuel is depleted or the fire is extinguished by other means.

On activation of the FireProAerosol Generator its solid compound is transformed into an aerosol consisting mainly of Potassium salts (e.g. K2CO3) H2O, N2 and CO2.

The gas type 3D properties of the aerosol particles facilitate their even and fast distribution as well as their flow into the natural convection currents of combustion.The solid particles of Potassium salts a few microns in size, suspended in an inert gas, display an extremely high surface to reaction mass ratio - increasing efficiency and reducing the quantity of material required.

When the aerosol reaches and reacts with the flame, Potassium radicals (K*) are formed mainly from the disassociation of Potassium salts e.g. K2CO3.The K* bind to other flame free radicals (hydroxyls) forming stable products such as KOH. This action extinguishes fire without having to deplete oxygen.

Check the website of FirePro for more info or even better the multilingual website of their Dutch distributor for some videos showing this product in action. Pretty cool.

Unfortunately, we can only use this technology in our engine room. It's currently protected by a Halon system but when it requires replacement, FirePro is the way to go. At any case, we plan to use it inside generator sound casings. Should we ever have a fire starting there, it can be killed before we have a real fire.

New drawings

main deckWe're slowly but surely turning our ideas into drawings.

Here the latest drawings (Feb. 20). We still need to work on the bridge, upper deck and galley but we're top dekmaking progress. Regarding the galley, we need to figure out how much cold space we need; should we create smaller cold storage chambers at the galley level or bigger ones below?

The idea is that each stateroom can has queen, convertable in 2 twins. Moreover, the 4 staterooms in the center will have a provision to put in a pullman berth, allowing a queen + twin or 3 twins. The forward 2 staterooms already have a queen berth above with twin below.
Finally, the starboard stateroom forward of the engineroom can have its 3-seater be replaced by a one twin or two twins (bunkbed configuration). Ideal for a family with 2 kids.

The crew cabins in the back on starbord now have private heads, the guest cabins are basically in there final version.

We're also planning 2 berths in the most forward section, in front of the crew cabins. This is actully the anchor winch area but it has space for 2 berths on the starboard side. It won't be big bug but it's going to be bigger than many yachts crew cabins. Also an exceptable place for kids we want to have their 'own' little space.

guest stateroomsAs to the Seamagine sub you may have seen on other drawings, it fits nicely on the main deck but for the time being, we won't carry it. This area will be the dive deck. The 'roof' of it, the section that would connect the top deck in front of the bridge and the forward deck would be removable. For the time being, it will be part of a great , huge sun deck that streches all the way from the bridge forward. A nice place to party under the bright stars and still have space for tables and a live band and what else.

For a bigger PDF version the plans, select here: side view - top view