Rewiring Agape

When Agape was being built the electrical requirements and amount of electronics was probably very minimal. My guess would be a couple of 12V pumps, VHF radio, lighting, maybe refrigeration, some outlets and a sparse AC system for charging and power at the dock.

Todays cruising boats carry more and more electronics, requiring larger and larger battery banks, different voltages, and more charging capabilities.

Agape is a power-hungry, Amp Hour eating monster!!!! Over the course of her 32 years on the water, and owner after owner, she’s been pieced together bit by bit, and sometimes it’s hard to do a proper installation on a cruising boat. You might be in the middle of no where without enough wire, terminals or tools to do a good job, but the job still needs to be done.

Behind the electrical panel there was a total rat’s nest!!!! voyager-diaries-5Burnt, cut, and cracked wires would overload a terminal, or go nowhere at all. The PVC and poor labeling made fault-finding near impossible. So….. We just ended up putting it off and just didn’t open the panel!!!! Everything worked, so we figured don’t fix it, if it ain’t broke!!!! 

That was until it didn’t all work…. then, it was time. Rachel had to leave town for work for three days and that was the perfect time for me to completely destroy the boat. I really thought that in three days I would be able to rewire the boat. How hard could it be? Not only did I have Nigel Calder’s book, Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual, but I also had YouTube, and Google!

I started with the 12V and 120V Panel, it was easier just to pull the panel and take the snake of wire into the garage where Bo (our cat), and I could strip it and rewire the whole thing.

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Once the Panel was rewired It was time to start pulling out the old wire and running new wire to all the electronics on the boat. Some of it was still good, in fact most of the wire that would be pulled would be reused. As long as it was cut back to expose new bare (tinned) wire I figured why not.

So, then we just had to figure out where to start……

First I disconnected all power at the batteries, disconnected shore power and solar panels before doing anything. Then I just started pulling, ripping it all out. I drew a little diagram and would label where each wire where each started and ended, it’s length, the color and it’s size. I had hoped that this would make it easier when it came to start pulling the new wire. This ending up taking all three days!!! Sometimes, until eleven o’clock at night when my brain would no longer function. I’m not sure if the wires being previously labeled helped or hurt in this endeavor because half the labels were wrong. When they were labeled I would end up second guessing myself and have to recheck where I pulled it from.

When Rachel came back to the boat she found it a complete disaster!!!!!

There was progress being made but it was slow, and since we were doing it on a budget, it was even slower. Whenever I needed a piece of wire I would search through the pile to see if I could find the right one. I think our boat would have won an award for most butt connectors found on one wire. It seemed to be a trend that every wire we pulled would have been split off to either power other electronics or just end and be wrapped up and taped behind lockers.

There were definitely times in this project that I doubted my capabilities and thought I was in over my head. Luckily I had my Dad to fall back on for technical support and to bounce ideas off of. I think that Nigel Calder said it best when he said, “Once you have finished rewiring your boat, and truly learned how to do it, you will want to do it again the right way.”

Essentially, you start the project knowing the basics and when your finished you have learned how it should be, and this was true for us. Everything works, everything is up to code and so forth but, if I could do it again I would run the wires to the breaker panel slightly different so that it would look more professional. But heck it’s much, much better than before and we have gained invaluable experience. Next time we have an electrical project we can do it with confidence. 

One more item checked off the list!!!!

Top 5 things learned during the Project:

  1. Buy full spools of wire!!! You always end up using more that you think and often you can find a 100’ spool online for near the same price as buying 20’ in store.
  2. Adhesive lined heat shrink, and drip loops. A lot of the ends of the wire were corroded, even the tinned wire would be discolored. We are hoping that by adding drip loops (especially in the bilge and where any wires come inside the boat), and sealing the ends that this will help fight corrosion and make for better, longer lasting connections
  3. Professional grade wire stripper and crimper. The little ones that come in basic wiring kits are fine for terminating a wire here and there, but when you are cutting, stripping and crimping hundreds of connections it pays to have good tools.
  4. Get familiar with soldering. Practice on the bigger wires as much as you can because when you get down to the 22AWG tiny little wires it will help. Oh and watch your coffee intake if you are soldering a bunch of stuff, I got a little shaky!!
  5. LABEL EVERYTHING!!!!! Label the beginnings and ends of the wire, and on longer runs label them multiple times along the wire. This will make following the wire so much easier in the future. The wire makes this easier as you can use an indelible marker to write on the outer sheth. 

Wire size calculator: make sure that you are not only safe but efficient. http://circuitwizard.bluesea.com/#

40 days and 40 nights.

After 40 days at the boat yard we are finally back in the water! Our long list of projects have all been checked off and we are READY, ready to finally go cruising!

It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in just a few months. Josh quit his job at the end of July to begin working on Agape full time and I can’t even begin to express how proud I am of this man. He has tackled every project with enthusiasm and dedication, spending almost 10 hours a day working aboard Agape. Reading, researching, studying and preparing for hours before tackling each new project. He has made our home safe, seaworthy and truly beautiful.

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Everyday as time ran down, the stressed increased, and we had to remind each other to slow down and enjoy the process. After all, this is why we’d worked so hard the last few years. Each project, each day, each moment of feeling overwhelmed and totally in over our heads put us one step closer to making our dream a reality.

We’ve learned that perspective is everything, and the key to abundant living is learning how to thrive in every situation. We are so incredibly blessed to have healthy bodies, the time and the support to dedicate ourselves to working on our boat. Together we have accomplished more in one month than most people do in a year.

Here is a list of projects we finished while on the hard:

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  • Pull the mast, measure and order new rigging.
  • Pop, sand and fill blisters on bottom and rudder.
  • Prep bottom and rudder for paint.
  • Pull the engine and send off for new seals and injectors.
  • Fiberglass sump of bilge.
  • Repaint bilge.
  • Re-fiberglass in base of compression post.
  • Strip, sand and re-caulk teak decks, replace missing bungs.
  • Strip, sand and cetol cockpit combing, hand rails, dorad boxes and hatches.
  • Remove liferaft
  • Grind out and fill holes and small cracks in topside.
  • Remove epoxy and reinstall all deck hardware.
  • Sew new curtains, winch covers, dive compressor cover and jerry can covers.
  • Redo galley headliner, (remove, cut new backing boards, glue new vinyl & reinstall).
  • Rewire electrical under headliner.
  • Rip out two starboard seats, build a bench.screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-3-44-29-pm
  • Varnish new bench and all windows.
  • Service all winches.
  • Get propeller serviced.
  • Replace cutless bearing and PSS shaft seal.
  • Paint new non-skid.
  • Rebed and fix small cracks in traveler.
  • Install mast steps.
  • Install new winches
  • Repaint the bottom.
  • Repaint dorads.
  • Reinstall the engine.
  • Buff the hull, polish stainless and lifelines.
  • Change oil in the windless and generator.
  • Install deck organizers and new blocks.
  • Install new rigging.
  • Install SSB antenna

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Josh removing the stern tube flange.
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Josh working on knocking out the two seats/table on the starboard side to build a bench that would also double as a spare berth.

After remodeling the bench area we ordered all new custom indoor and outdoor cushions. We had planned on keeping the old ones to save on expenses, but when Josh accidentally put his knee through one of the satie cushions, we decided it was time to replace the 30 year old cushions with new foam and heavy duty fabric. We are loving the new look! The lighter colored cushions really open up the space.

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The new bench, cushions and curtains!
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New outdoor cushions!

Once most of the projects were finished and Agape was show worthy, we threw a going away party to celebrate this new chapter of our lives with family and friends.

It was a nautical themed costume party and so many people we love came out, dressed up and danced the night away with us!

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My family as the crew from The Life Aquatic!

Every surface was cleaned and polished, inside and out. Every hatch, locker and drawer was re-organized and provisioned. Agape had never looked better! We were so proud to finally show off all our hard work and our boat that we love so much.

Josh and I were overwhelmed by how many people came out to show their encouragement and support.  We ate, drank and danced, celebrating long into the night with a small after party on Agape.

 

We are currently working on a new video sharing more from our time on the hard refitting the boat, and plan to post several more in-depth write ups on a few of the larger projects, as well as a break down on costs for those of you who are interested.

Thank you so much for following along on our journey and we can’t wait to share more!

Time for a refit!

Well, we know we’ve been pretty silent on the blog this last year and it is because we have been hard at work, saving for Agape’s big refit and trip around the world! Josh quit his job at the end of July and since then has been working on Agape full time, (project updates to come).

We’ve lived aboard full time for almost a year and a half now, and this month we checked out of our slip and have moved Agape over to the boat yard for a month long refit.

Step one: Unstep the mast!

Brightwork Yaaaa!!!

83 degrees, sunny, and beautiful….. Perfect for bright work!


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I have to admit, I thought that doing the rub rails was going to be a lot faster and easier than it turned out to be. Just like every other boat project…. But, it was a beautiful day with no wind and no surf, so why not?
We started by taking the three sections of bronze off the teak rail (even though Rachel said we shouldn’t). I definitely underestimated the weight of these caps, and how much work it would be to put them back on. We will definitely leave the rail on the starboard side when we get around to working on it.

Rub Rail after the cap had been removed.
Rub Rail after the cap was removed.

We used a heat gun and a scraper to break up the adhesion from the old varnish and strip the teak. Then we sanded, sanded, and sanded some more. I’m not quite sure why I prefer to sand everything by hand, probably partly my masochistic tendencies or the fear of taking off too much of the teak. Anyways, we started with 80 grit sandpaper and progressed to 220 grit for our final pass over the rail.

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The rub rail after removing the old varnish and taped for sanding.
Let the sanding begin!
Let the sanding begin!

Taping off the rail.

The rub rail ready to cetol.
The rub rail ready to cetol.

During the early stages of the project, I’d been having an internal battle between using “real varnish” or Cetol. We love the way varnish looks, but…. it’s a lot more work and lasts half as long as Cetol. We had heard great things about Cetol and looked at a couple of boats that have used it. It looked great and the product has come a long way from the milky orange Cetol that I remembered. So, I swallowed my “yachty pride” and decided to go with the Cetol. I’m hoping it will be a lower maintenance solution so Rachel and I can enjoy the warm beaches and waters of distant shores and not be chained to a dock dripping sweat into our varnish.

Recapping the rail.
Recapping the rail.
Applying the first coat of cetol.
Applying the first coat of cetol.
One of the many boat yoga poses.
One of the many boat yoga poses.

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After all the sanding and masking was finished, we wiped down the rail with Special thinner 216 and began celtoling. We decided to do four coats of Cetol Marine Natural Teak and two coats of clear sealant. The problem with using Cetol is that you need at least 24 hours of dry time between coats, so six days and six coats later, we were ready to peel back the tape and see the final product of all our hard work.

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Shiny and bright! The rub rail is finally finished!