Simplified liveaboard systems

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by cluttonfred, Jan 17, 2021.

  1. cluttonfred
    Joined: Mar 2014
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    cluttonfred Junior Member

    I worked on some little inland cruise ships (and a lot of day boats) when I was young but have never lived aboard a pleasure boat. That said, I have been daydreaming and reading about that sort of life in retirement, at least as a getaway, for decades now. I am more of a pup tent kind of guy than a Winnebago kind of guy, so I would want to keep systems aboard a liveaboard as simple as possible.

    I have some ideas of my own but I would love to hear from those with experience. What would you do differently, how would you keep your boat as simple as possible? Just as an example, the kind of thing I have in mind would be, say, eliminating the black tank and related systems by going with a composting toilet or limiting electrical needs to the level that solar panels could replace the generator.

    Cheers,

    Matthew
     
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  2. bajansailor
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Hi Matthew - are you planning on a sailing yacht, or a motor yacht, or maybe a motor sailer in between somewhere?
    Or maybe even a catamaran?

    Re composting loos, Richard Woods who posts on here has had them on his boats, and swears by them - other appear to passionately hate them.

    I would agree re keeping everything as simple as possible - have good natural ventilation with opening hatches, windows and awnings overhead, rather than air conditioning. Have enough solar panel capacity so that you do not need to run any engines to charge batteries.
    Everybody has different comfort levels - I am sure that even a pup tent guy would like to have cold beers available from the onboard refrigeration system - which with good insulation around the icebox should be easily powered by the solar panels. Other folk are happy to drink hot tea and warm beer instead, and live on dried / canned food.
     
  3. cluttonfred
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    cluttonfred Junior Member

    This is in the context of a daydream slowly becoming a plan for a project to a have an empty steel hull built and painted that I would then fit out myself in terms of interior and systems. Tom MacNaughton's Hero 33 -- Freighter Houseboat http://www.macnaughtongroup.com/freighterhb.htm -- is the jumping off point for the idea. So it would be a minimalist motor cruiser with a four-stroke outboard and possibly an auxiliary sail, say a dipping lug for emergency power and occasional recreation.
     
  4. cluttonfred
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    cluttonfred Junior Member

    And yes, as this would be for living aboard I would expect to have access to shore power even if just a modest extension cord not a high-amperage connection. I was thinking a solar panel connected to a Goal Zero (or cheaper generic) battery/inverter/charger unit for the basics (cabin lights, charging electronics, possibly a 12v fridge etc.) and a separate battery and solar trickle charger for the four-stroke outboard (engine start, 12v instruments, GPS chart plotter). If I did ever want a freezer, portable AC unit, etc. that would be on a separate 110v circuit only from shore power. For hot water I was thinking a propane on-demand heater on deck and for cooking a propane stove with remote cut-off.
     
  5. Will Gilmore
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    Will Gilmore Senior Member

    Hi Cluttonfred,
    I lived aboard a 56' sailboat back in the 70s from the age of 10 to 14. This was very basic living and in Florida. There were not that many times I missed the AC from our old house, and shore power was always availible when in port. At sea, we had electric only when the engine was running with the batteries powering nav lights and not much more.

    We stocked an ice box with dry ice that kept milk cold for much longer than it took us to drink the milk. My two brothers and I shared an aft cabin that consisted of three bunks on top of the fuel tanks and six chubby holes each. We peed in a milk jug kept behind the ladder. The main cabin was an open salon dominated by a gimballed table. The head was behind the galley on the port side of the companionway, the nav station on the starboard side. There was a curtain for privacy in the head. No separate cabins or state rooms. My parents slept on the bench seats. The storage lined the hull behind the seats with simple shelving, latched doors that opened by putting your finger through the finger holes and catching the spring latches. Simple and effective. The only other compartments were the engine room that separated the aft and main cabins, and the forepeak for ground tackle and sails.

    I loved it. I would add solar and wind, today. I would also add a reverse osmosis watermaker, but really, I wouldn't change much.

    -Will (Dragonfly)
     
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  6. Rumars
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    Rumars Senior Member

    From your list I can't see what can be simplified, you either have it or not, it's standard stuff. Want on demand heater, must install pressure water system. Shower pan outlet at or under the waterline, must install electric evacuation pump. Want refrigeration you need generation capacity, so how much solar you can install and where you normally cruise decide the size of your fridge.
    Need heat? From solid fuel stove to full hydronic system, everything is possible, but not always sensible.
     
  7. Squidly-Diddly
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    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    I'm planning on getting one of these for my minimalist cargo-van RV's water system. I figure the backpack straps will be nice if I have to carry four gallons any distance and also good for hanging it up out of the way or off the side of the van from roof racks for outside showers with the van providing some privacy. I'll paint it black for solar water heating, maybe even hi-temp paint and I'll risk exposing it to moderate heat sources. I used similar at a jobsite to wet down concrete dust when cutting and it soon became very handy to dispense water for minor cleaning tasks.
    https://www.grainger.com/product/5P...ucid=N:N:PS:Paid:GGL:CSM-2295:4P7A1P:20501231

    I've got a couple of these lying around and they seem pretty powerful and could be used to heat water either in or out of the sprayer from 12v, given some time and good connections.
    Car Drink Heater Auto Electric Immersion Liquid Tea Coffee Water Heater 12V New | eBay https://www.ebay.com/itm/Car-Drink-Heater-Auto-Electric-Immersion-Liquid-Tea-Coffee-Water-Heater-12V-New/383894466235?hash=item5961e4aebb:g:kfgAAOSwgQNf-IWM

    "We stocked an ice box with dry ice that kept milk cold for much longer than it took us to drink the milk." Plastic milk gallons freeze up nice and solid and as they thaw you pour off what has thawed. The start of the thaw will be somewhat richer and the end of the thaw will be a bit thinner but all is good. The big slowly thawing milk jug is your "ice" and lasts for days in a cooler. Ditto with gallons of OJ. Biggest issue tends to be not thawing fast enough and need to set out to thaw faster.

    One item I'd pay good money for is a 12v portable freezer, since they don't sell milk jugs in frozen condition in the store. Yeah, I guess there is always the Inverter and small household freezer.
     
  8. cluttonfred
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    cluttonfred Junior Member

  9. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    I've got a little time this afternoon so I'll chime in as a part-time live aboard, in the summer anyway.

    First I'm not a solar guy. Maybe if I was in Arizona I would be. When I think of solar I think of the sun and aside from air conditioning I find that the times that I want electricity the most are the times that the sun is shining the least. Maybe that's not popular these days but that's how I feel.

    First regarding your hot water. If you're just looking for a hot shower or maybe a little for shaving consider this: Extreme Self-Contained Portable Hot Shower | A complete System with convenient Stove | Zodi.com http://zodi.com/hot-showers/extreme-sc
    I've been using this for showering on the back deck for years and absolutely love it. You can also use the base as a 9" skillet holder.

    I've a small boat by cruising standards, only 25' but it has a decent beam at 10.5'. I'll post a couple of photos below, the evolution of the electrical system in particular might interest you.

    Pearl Aft.jpg Pearl Profile Photos 2014 002.JPG 123.jpg
    When I designed this system I wanted some comforts but I had to become a minimalist as space was always a challenge. I also wanted a very economical boat, something that had decent range. Going fast wasn't necessary.

    First take a look at the electrical panel. At the top of the photo is a Xantrex True Charge 40 smart battery charger. The black device to the right with the battery switch next to it is a Xantrex XM 1800 inverter. This inverter is rated at 3.6 Kilowatts of surge capacity. What you can't see are a couple of Group 31 AGM house batteries (105 AH 20 hour rate) and an AGM start battery for the main engine. There are switches and the DC main panel and an ACR but they're not material to this discussion.

    Look at the transom. That 's a Yamaha t9.9 High Thrust outboard. Look closely and you'll see a bracket on the leg. That little outboard will push "Pearl" along at a leisurely 5 MPH. The bracket is for an autopilot but that's a story for another day. What's important is that at 5 MPH I'm getting 8 miles per gallon and staying in control thanks to the autopilot. No need to steer with Pearls rudder.

    Look to the right of the outboard and you'll see a little red box. That's a Honda EU1000 inverter generator. Weighs less than 30 pounds. Burns 8 ounces of fuel per hour. A half gallon lasts 8 hours. Very quiet. Make up a shore power cord and when you're away from the dock the generator will feed your Battery charger. The little Yamaha only puts out 6 Amps of charge current so it needs a little help.

    The photo of the port side reveals Pearls "Red Neck" air conditioning system. This is where the inverter comes in. The 5000 BTU unit only draws about 200 watts once the compressor is running. But the surge power needed to power up the compressor is beyond the little generators 1Kw capacity. The inverter easily starts the AC unit with it's 3.6Kw surge ability.

    Firing up the main engine, shutting down the inverter and outboard will allow me to go faster and charge the batteries off of the main engine alternator. But that's not the point.

    With a system like this you could live aboard and realistically use maybe a gallon of gasoline per day (probably less) at anchor and cover 30+ miles (or more depending on the boat) while powering all of your electrical needs on 5 gallons or less. You really don't even need a larger main engine. I've gone a couple of days moving slowly and not even firing it up.

    The generator working in concert with the inverter and a modest battery bank can keep you powered all day. Build an AC system into your boat and you really can have all the comforts of home! OK, OK, you won't be taking 1/2 hour showers but aside from that you can run.....

    1. Air conditioning. https://www.amazon.com/Frigidaire-FFRE0533S1-Window-Mounted-Mini-Compact-Full-Function/dp/B01B4XUUDI

    2. Refrigerator Freezer: Whynter 2 cu. ft. 62 Qt. Dual Zone Portable Freezer in Gray-FM-62DZ - The Home Depot https://www.homedepot.com/p/Whynter-2-cu-ft-62-Qt-Dual-Zone-Portable-Freezer-in-Gray-FM-62DZ/203569129?source=shoppingads&locale=en-US&mtc=Shopping-VF-F_D29A-G-D29A-29_13_REFRIGERATION-Multi-NA-Feed-PLA-NA-NA-MinorAppl&cm_mmc=Shopping-VF-F_D29A-G-D29A-29_13_REFRIGERATION-Multi-NA-Feed-PLA-NA-NA-MinorAppl-71700000032403376-58700003840533693-92700030729182021&gclid=CjwKCAiAgJWABhArEiwAmNVTB7ty0SqZQnlzQsFWlTZm-hvSDg_gvkyN2h4bFlkh90YwiUSgHeqWfRoCqvIQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

    3. Small Microwave. Use any brand you want, they're all power hogs but don't run for long.

    4. LED lighting
    5. Radios
    6. Chartplotters
    7. Autopilots
    8. Household appliances like a small vacuum cleaner. I use this one! Oreck BB880 Super-Deluxe Compact Canister Vacuum CleanerDefault Title https://vacsure.com/products/oreck-bb880-super-deluxe-compact-canister-vacuum-cleaner?variant=36141557940380&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=Google%20Shopping&gclid=CjwKCAiAgJWABhArEiwAmNVTB0fnGAMInDuUc5cx_mHeVpvcUNcfvMMzjY5NSrLtk5F1T7XO7L-8cBoCoIIQAvD_BwE

    9: Nice laptop or Surface and charge any devices you have

    Maybe not everyone would want a vacuum but I like to clean up the joint sometimes.

    Just some food for thought. BTW, I do keep a couple of CO detectors in the boat just in case. I've never had a problem with the little Honda.

    Good luck with your project and welcome to the forums,

    MIA
     
  10. Squidly-Diddly
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    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

  11. missinginaction
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    missinginaction Senior Member

    Probably set the shroud on fire Squid. I just light the burner and in 15 minutes or so, plenty of nice hot water. I can get a nice shower on quite a bit less than 3 gallons. Then I run into the cabin and get dressed.

    This raises another issue. What do you all do for heat? I've been using a Mr. Heater "Buddy" but maybe somone has a better idea?

    MIA
     
  12. Squidly-Diddly
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    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    I was think of sheet metal from HVAC duct and some "VVVVVVV" bent metal spacers top and bottom to hold it about 1" off the water tank, extending a couple inches below bottom of tank and fitting over any stove arms. You'd slip it on once the fire was going and tank inplace.
    But I guess it would then be a big item in the way on a small boat. Maybe for base camp use.
     
  13. goodwilltoall
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    goodwilltoall Senior Member

    Great thread and especially like your post MIA.
    Re:MacNaughton Freighter,
    Went to Tom's site and he explains if desiring more room you can simply add length which had me thinking that its pretty much based off of Bolgers (square boats) "Illiinois" except its shortened and in steel.

    As mentioned in other posts going with unpainted aluminum would be about same costs and less hassle long term.
     
  14. goodwilltoall
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    goodwilltoall Senior Member

    Composting toilets r simple n effective, along the same lines and even simpler n less costly is the sawdust toilet. There was an article at duckworks.com explaining how it works
     

  15. cluttonfred
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    cluttonfred Junior Member

    Thanks, but I trust steel more in terms of letting you know when there is corrosion. I think Illinois was developed from Bolger’s earlier power sharpies (I have plans for Tennessee) and I am sure Bolger’s approach had some influence on MacNaughton. The neat thing about Hero is the central hull: once you install a floor you are left with a simple box shape with all flat sides at right angles from the engine room bulkhead to the forward scuttle.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021
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