Below decks. The first thing most people notice upon going aboard a small cruiser for the first time is how compact and organized the interior is. A bit like a touring caravan or motor home, the interior has been designed to make efficient use of the limited space available. A really good example of useful marine ideas coinciding with good VI practice is the cooker. To prevent kettle and frying pans flying about the boat while under way, the cooker is fitted with ‘pan holders’, these overpriced but useful wire holders keep everything on the cooker where they belong. They also prevent clumsy blind skippers from knocking things off. I could use these at home too!
Indeed, on smaller boats, like Alexandros, it is possible to use the cooker, sink and place objects on the table with out moving! Sailing boats have another great feature, that is they are generally well thought out to make moving about below safe in heavy weather, this is great for VIP’s too, because it means there is a place for everything, and as long as one is tidy and methodical (something most VIP’s have learned to be anyway) then finding stuff is straightforward.
This is great for the visually impaired. It takes no time at all to learn the layout of the cabins.
I laid out the Chart Plotter and VHF/DSC up high on the starboard rear bulkhead. My remaining vision works better at head height and within a few inches of my face so this seemed like a good idea. However, the Chart Plotter also has a mounting bracket in the cockpit which I fitted low down to avoid accidental damage. This was not one of my better ideas as I can not see the thing with out almost lying down and squinting at it! It will have to be moved when I get around it.
On the opposite bulkhead is the fire extinguisher and a useful shelf/storage rack for books, charts and other little odds and ends.
Bit of a grand name for a tiny sink, 2 burner cooker and minuscule work top. Alexandros came with an Origo 3000 spirit stove. My last boat, Sophie, had no cooker when we got her so I did a bit of research before fitting one. The big problem with gas aboard a boat is that propane and butane are both heavier than air, so any leaks and unburnt gas ends up in the bilge. Get a high enough concentration and the whole lot can go up in a very nasty way.
So I chose an Origo 1500 for Sophie and was pleased to see a larger version of the same cooker fitted to Alexandros. Origo cookers run on denatured alcohol (Meths to the English readers). If you have a spill and it catches light, you can put it out easily with water. No heavy vapour and no risk of leaks.
From a VI point of view the only really serious drawback is knowing when you have lit it. The stoves burn with hardly any visible flame and the only way I can tell if it is alight is to hold my hand over the burner. No injuries so far, one simply has to be quick!
I sometimes get struck by a ‘good idea’. Without any real thought about it, I upgraded all the cabin lights to LED bulbs. Warm white colour, low energy consumption and so on. Seemed like a good idea at the time but I suspect I have made a mistake. The bulbs used are simply not bright enough for me to see after dark, very restful, but otherwise not much use. Plan B is to install some 12v fluorescent tubes above the galley area and perhaps the table/nav station. Yet another ‘when I get round to it’.
Alex also has a ‘Gypsy Moth’ paraffin lamp. This was won on eBay and needed a bit of work before entering commission. The lamp gives of a fair amount of light and a surprising amount of heat too. Should be nice on those cold winter evenings!
With a flue fitted, passing through an adapted deck filler, there are no fumes in the cabin. I fitted a small CO meter/alarm and it never moves from zero with the heater on (it does show a surprising amount of CO from the cooker however).
I also invented a heated towel rail for that added touch of luxury. The idea was that some of the flue gasses would meander up the small piping and, via convection, would be drawn into the main flue, warming the towel rail. It works too! It has proven very useful for drying out tea towels, gloves and even wet socks. One of my better ideas.