New On Escapades


There have been several changes/improvements on Escapades since our 1st voyage.

The major ones:

(because of the change to our cruising lifestyle) are :


The Minor ones:  

bulletVHF Radio 
bulletDigital Thermostats
bullet Inverters
bulletElectric Heads

Little Things That Mean A Lot:

bulletOutboard Fins
bullet12 Volt Fan

Chartplotter/Radar/Fish Finder

Raymarine C120

What a great investment this has been. I LOVE it, LOVE it, LOVE it. This one was my idea and Bob really didn't agree because he's a stickler for the reliability of paper charts. We had a RC72 radar that was new in the fall of 2000 and an ancient GPS (Garmin 75) that took up all the space on the binnacle. Bob's argument was that there was no space for a chartplotter. The solution was obvious - a single unit that housed them all. 

I think Garmin came out with a complete display this year, but last summer, Raymarine was the only company that made an "all in one" display. So, the choice was made for us. The super large (12") screen was a little extravagant but it is soooo very nice. We both (yes, both) love having a chartplotter  and wonder how we ever cruised before without it. We still use the paper charts too but it makes it so much easier to view the chart on screen.

Of course, the display was just part of the cost. We had to buy a new radar antenna, a new GPS receiver, and if we ever decide to activate the fishfinder, that will require purchasing a module and a new transducer. If I ever catch a fish that might be a consideration.

Back to top

Autopilot (replacement for Alpha Spectra)

Raymarine Smartpilot (S3)

While our Alpha Spectra autopilot served us well on our first cruise, it has several drawbacks which caused us to replace it:

1. It only does course following, it does not know about waypoints. But in this instance, course following really means that the autopilot will maintain a constant boat heading. With any kind of wind or current the boat heading -the direction the boat is pointed- is not the same as the direction the boat is actually traveling. So if the wind and/or current changes direction or strengths, the actual course followed, or direction of travel, will change. This means that to travel in a constant direction - to the next waypoint for example - requires periodic changes to the boat’s heading as wind and/or current changes strength or direction. It can be done but is a minor nuisance. 2. The motor in the drive unit has been out of production for a number of years and there are no spares available. I was concerned mainly with the condition of the brushes. I (Bob) disassembled the motor and everything looked good but not knowing how much use the autopilot has had under previous owners, it is almost impossible to tell how much life the brushes have left in them. With only two people aboard, not having an autopilot is serious.


3. The drive arm attached to the rudder stock was installed, by a previous owner, slightly off center so that the autopilot can apply more rudder travel in one direction than the other. In addition, the drive unit really doesn’t have enough travel to utilize full rudder movement. Again, minor problems except under extreme conditions.

Item 1 could be corrected with an optional plug in board from Alpha except it only accepts a NMEA sentence which is now obsolete. That would have required a black box which would build the required sentence from the ones being output by current GPSs. (NMEA defines a protocol, standard messages called sentences, through which the different electronic devices communicate).

Item 3) we could live with but Item 2) was the deciding factor in the decision to buy a new autopilot.

Since we had already decided on the Raymarine C-Series chartplotter we decided to keep it in the family and bought the Raymarine S3 autopilot with the linear electric drive. We chose to go with the hand held control unit meaning no fixed control head. With the hand held control you can sit anywhere in the cockpit and still monitor and control the autopilot.

Since the Alpha still works and there was room to install another drive arm on the rudder stock, we left the Alpha drive in place and it is available if, or when, the Raymarine unit fails.

The decision to buy the new autopilot and the actual purchase were by far the easy parts. In addition to the parts that came with the new unit it required the purchase of drive arm. Fortunately I had access to the machine shop at work because the arm required some modifications. In addition to the drive arm and the linear actuator, I also had to mount a rudder position transmitter which required the manufacturing of some special brackets. All of this had to mount under the bed in the aft cabin. Of course all of these components had to mounted in proper alignment with each other both vertically and horizontally.

After much head scratching, cussing, skinned knuckles and cutting out cardboard templates it did finally come together. The hardest part was mounting the drive unit since the access to that corner under the bed allowed only one arm to be inserted at a time. So with one hand I held up the mounting and attached the lock washer and nut to the bolt sticking through from the top.

So far, a successful installation. After some initial tuning the unit seems to work pretty well. It still seems to wander some, especially under sail, but there may be some way to fine tune it’s performance further. The main advantage over the Alpha is its ability to follow waypoints and that it can be activated and deactivated by pushing a button. The Alpha uses a mechanical device to lock the drive to the drive arm and this requires lining everything up before being able to engage the autopilot and not grabbing the wheel in an emergency without first unlocking the drive. There have been occasions when some wayward buoy comes out of nowhere to attack the boat and you just grab the wheel in a panic. With the Alpha that is the wrong thing to do because if you put any pressure on the wheel you can’t unlock the drive unit. With the Raymarine you eventually realize that you can’t seem to turn the wheel but just pushing that button gives you control. Of course this is all a hypothetical situation, it's never actually happened to us.


Back to top


Bob Horn design, assembly and installation.
220VAC, 20 gal/hr

Water, water everywhere………etc., etc.

One of the things that was always at the back of my (Bob's) mind during our last cruising adventure was how much potable water we had and where to get more. These were the choices:

  1. You could go into a fuel dock and pick up 10-20 gallons of diesel and 150 gallons of free water. They really loved that, especially in Key West.
  2. You could spend a night or two in a marina and fill up before leaving. Kind of expensive.
  3. You could dinghy your jerry cans to a well used by 400 other cruisers and pick up 10 gallons of brackish water at a time .
  4. You could dinghy your jerry cans to the beach, haul the dinghy up on the beach, pay a cab driver $5 to take you into town to fill your cans and then pay him another $5 to take you back to the beach. Haul the dinghy off the beach and dinghy back to the boat, empty the jerry cans and repeat. Sometimes you could catch some rain water but that is obviously not predictable.

And of course between these fill ups you worried about every drop used. So we decided to get a watermaker. There are several options:

  1. Hand pumped watermakers for use in a life raft, obviously not a consideration.
  2. 12Vdc powered units are available in ratings from 2 – 8 gallons an hour (gph) or
  3. AC powered units starting at 20gph and going up from there for use on yachts and super yachts. Since we have to run the genset every day anyway to charge batteries we decided to go with an AC powered unit.

I ran across an article in Good Old Boat magazine about building your own watermaker using readily available off the shelf parts. So the choice came down to buying a unit or building one. The advantage of buying one is that if it doesn’t work you have someone to contact, although that doesn’t always work either. The disadvantage is that you are tied in to one supply for spares and replacement parts. The advantage of building one is that all the parts are off the shelf and should be readily available if something breaks or wears out. The disadvantage is, of course, that if it doesn’t work, who do you talk to and who can you blame?

For Technical Information click here.

Back to top


Household (Danby brand) from Home Depot

This was not an item I (Fran) was thrilled about; especially since it required removing a portion of the wall between the v-berth and forward head to fit the washer through the door. After only a few months of cruising, I am thrilled that Bob went ahead with the installation. What freedom it gives us not having to search for a Laundromat as soon as we hit port.  Yes, I know it's a little backward but there is something so nice about the clothes blowing in the breeze. I was so concerned they would be stiff; much to my surprise I was wrong. By using liquid fabric softener (as I would in a home machine) and hanging clothes in a nice sunny breeze (even towels) they are as soft or maybe softer than in a dryer. I hate to admit it but I love the whole process.

Back to top

Portable freezer

Waeco Coolmatic CF-50

110vac/12vdc, 50 qt. capacity
Although we had a small freezer already, this gives us much more capacity and does a better job freezing. The Coolmatic is available in three sizes, ours being the middle size - 50 quart.  The major freezer section is divided into two compartments by a removable wire basket. This makes it nice for organization.  There is a small fixed cooling section that we use for spices and chocolates. It wouldn't be big enough for much else - maybe six or so sodas. The internal light is also a nice feature.

This particular unit can be plugged into 110vac, which makes it nice when we do have shore power. There are seven power settings and we mostly keep it set on five. The only time we've cranked it up to the highest setting is the few times we've had ice cream.  It does a pretty good job with ice cream but we don't get the rock-hard that you can get with home freezers. All-in-all, we are very pleased with the Coolmatic and are glad we have it.

Back to top

Internet PC Card

One of the things I missed most (next to a automobile) on our first cruising experience was internet access. Cingular has provided somewhat of an answer to that. After talking to a minimum of 6 sales reps in 4 different locations we got enough information to purchase a PC Internet Card ($300.00). This card and a $79.99/mo. ( plus taxes, etc. - about $96.00/mo) service plan gives you full internet access - provided you can get a signal. It seemed like a perfect solution as long as we are in US waters. The connection is slow and disconnects quite often. We can usually get connected to do email and financial management but most of the time it takes more patience than I have. Trying to upload the web page can be difficult. We've had a web page on AT&T for years but after working with us for over a week, the AT&T folks threw up their hands and suggested we call Cingular. "NOW WAIT A MINUTE! You are Cingular."

A word about that. All the "big family" ads - just ain't so.  We have been with AT&T forever and honestly have never had but one problem. We expected the same or better with Cingular. Even though our bills are from Cingular, we have to talk to AT&T, who also answer the phones, "Cingular" and ends the call with "Thank you for using Cingular". Now if that's not confusing, the Internet is Cingular, my cell phone is AT&T and Bob's is AT&T - upgraded to Cingular. I've had to talk to AT&T or Cingular more in the last three months than I talked to AT&T in the 20+ years we used them. I'm told that if I REALLY want to be a Cingular customer and enjoy all their benefits, then I must purchase a Cingular phone and sign a Cingular contract. No, thank you. We will live with just one (Cingular? I think) cell phone.

Back to top


Standard Horizon Intrepid+

Frankly, Standard is not one of our favorite companies and I think any major brand DSC-VHF would be as good or better than the one we bought.  The price was just too good to pass up. We are very pleased with it, so far. We love the feature of being able to "call" other boats (DSC capable) direct without having to use public channels. We've also relocated it to the binnacle to make it more convenient. The previous VHF was in cockpit combing, making the display very hard to read.

We've known people that mounted the VHF down below (Noname was one of them) and I don't understand that. We do have one down below at the Nav station but, that would never do as the only VHF. Part of Noname's problem with the tows was that he couldn't reach the mike while still holding onto the wheel. There are times, especially on the GIWW, that you simply have to keep hold of the wheel. On one such occasion, a tow captain hailed Escapades on the VHF when he couldn't get a response from Noname. These were his instructions: "If you know that guy, you'd better get him on the cell phone, because if he keeps coming,  he's gonna' die."  At the next anchorage, we loaned him our handheld.

Back to top

Inverters (necessary)

Prosine 2.0 & Xantrex XS400

Our Freedom 25 (barely 3 years old) went out with sparks and sizzles. Not only did it go down but it took the VCR, DVD player, and Direct TV Receiver with it. It seems that all the FETs blew on the Freedom 25. When describing the problem to SeaTec in Kemah they knew right away what had happened. Seems they had seen it many times. We talked to the manager at West Marine and he encouraged us to contact Xantrex direct. Xantrex's response was "Oh, yeah, that happens".

Bob, with his engineering background, was able to replace the FETs on the VCR, DVD and TV Receiver; but the challenge was too much on the inverter. We replaced the defective inverter with a Prosine 2.0 (200W) which only powers starboard outlets. We thought that would be acceptable but it's not. So we also purchased a Xantrex (not enough competition out there) XS400 for the port outlets. It's too soon to tell if these are going to be worth the investment.

Back to top

Digital Thermostats

Marine Air Systems Elite Control

This has little to no value to our cruising life but sure makes it nice when plugged in to shore power. Before, we had the three knob controls that were quite touchy and you turned them just to the point of turning the ac/heat on and off with no idea what the temperature was. They had gotten to the point that sometimes they wouldn't turn off or on and definitely needed to be replaced. Looking at all the none too cheap options, we decided the digital control would be nice.

We tried purchasing these through West Marine but the Taylor reps said that West Marine was not an authorized dealer because "the installation is too complicated for the average person". Blue Water Ships Store was an authorized dealer but, it had to be installed by one of their technicians- for the same reason. We finally purchased the controls from Lakewood Yacht Service. The installation was extremely simple - just  pull out the old and plug in the new. Bob  installed both of them in a matter of minutes. I know that Bob is not "the average person" but even I, who am, could have done it. Bob went back later and relocated one of the two controls to a more accessible location. After much coaxing he even went back and made teak panels to cover the holes left by the larger old units.

Because of the digital display, these thermostats work better than the ones we had at home. You simply push the up/down button to the desired temperature and it's set. Another advantage of the new versus the old is that the new ones don't run the water pump continuously as the old ones did. We are very happy with our choice and feel it was worth the extra hassle and the money spent.

Back to top

Electric Heads

Jabsco Quiet Flush Electric Toilet Conversion

Ok, so maybe this is T.M.I. but anyway, it's new and we love it.  Before, one of the heads still had one of those long handle manual things. The other head was already a 12v control that Bob had installed a few years ago. Unfortunately it was so loud that the neighbors some distance away knew when you used it. That particular control is known as a "dial-a-dump". We learned too late that it was only half a step above the manual one.

The new control is advertised as being "quite as a home toilet". We wouldn't agree with that but it is so much better than what we had before and it is the quietest we found. This turned out to be a pretty serious installation for both of them but we love the "push the red button" feature. Although the chances of loosing 12volt power is slim, we saved the long handled jobbie-thing as a spare.

Back to top

Little Things That Mean A Lot

I mention these only because they have been great enough to recommend to others.

Outboard Fins

I'm no longer sure but I believe the brand of the ones we have is Dol-fins. There are at least two brands and they are available at several different marine stores. Their purpose is to help get the dinghy up on a plane. The main advantage to me is that they help keep you from getting soaked. Before we had them, it was a chore to stay dry on most dinghy outing. Since we've had them, we've taken only light spray a few time. The installation is easy - drill some holes in the cavitations plates on the outboard and bolt the fins to them. I think the cost is between $30.00 - 50.00.

Back to top   

Fan-Tastic Vent - Endless Breeze

This fan puts out tons more air (3-speed) than the Hella or Guest fans and it is so much quieter. It is not one we have room to permanently mount because it's almost 15" high. I don't think I would anyway because it's such a great portable fan. It has self-supporting legs that fold away for storage and it is completely enclosed in its own cage. Bob replaced the cord with a really long one so that it will reach almost anywhere on the boat. There have been days that are so still on the water that it has been a lifesaver to have this fan in the cockpit. Also, there have been nights when the 2 Hellas were just not enough in the cabin and we've moved it in there. This 12Volt Box Fan lists in the West Marine catalog for $89.99 and so far, it has been worth it. The real test though will be to see how long it holds up. Forever, I hope because I would definitely have to buy another one if it fails.

Back to top   

Home Technical Information