I’m going to depart from the usual Show & Tell weekly update posting here today and do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time and continue to get requests for. It will be less Show/photo based and more Tell/text based than usual so it may not be your cup of tea and please feel free to skim and speed read accordingly.
Over the 5+ years of designing and building what is now XPM78-01 Möbius, I have very gratefully received a lot of recommendations for our followers and others we meet, for equipment and bits of kit they think we should install.
This always leads Christine and I to researching and learning as much about each item as we can and that in itself has been eXtremely valuable and helpful. Many people have been surprised at our decisions as to what bits of kit we do decide to use and those that we don’t and have been curious as to our reasons and our process for making these decisions which by now, likely run into the thousands.
I have done my best to answer these questions when they appear here as comments on the blog or ones I receive via Email or text messages and these have often led to valuable exchanges in the discussion section. However, I’ve been meaning to write a better response that outlines our decision making process for a long time and that is what I’m going to do my best at today.
For more details than you probably want with the background and context of our thinking around these topics you can refer to THIS blog post from back in April 2018. In that post you will find two summative points I made that will provide some context to this article;
- the byline of our purpose to be “Wandering, Wondering and Pondering the world one nautical smile at a time”
- and that we were setting out to; “ design and build an exceptional long range Passage Maker that is strong, safe, fast, fun and efficient, serving as our full time home along with the infrequent guests who join us on expeditions exploring the most remote locations of the world in exceptional safety and comfort.”
Lastly, let me be sure to be clear that ALL of what you will read below is framed within the context of two primary points:
1. Our only application here is for an XPM type of boat that is going to be used as intended to live up to that moniker of eXtreme eXploration Passage Maker.
2. This is all about our pursuit of what we called “Project Goldilocks”, wherein we set out to design and build the just right boat, just for us to live and learn on for the indefinite future.
All our decisions are made within this Goldilocks concept of just right, just for us and while we hope and hear that the sharing our our thinking and our experiences is of some use and value to other cruisers, please don’t misconstrue any of this to be what is “best” for any other boat or sailors.
Decision Making Process:
As with most decision making I think, ours is not a linear step by step process and is more of an ongoing series of discussion, mostly between Christine and myself, which cycle and loop through many different categories but for the sake of this explanation, let me outline the basic categories that we cycle through.
Over the combined years and nautical smiles that we’ve both logged while sailing the world, a set of “first principles” emerged and during the very early days of designing Möbius, after a LOT of discussions between us, we synthesized these down to four: Safety Comfort Efficiency Maintenance or SCEM for short.
Oxford defines First Principles as;
“the fundamental concepts or assumptions on which a theory, system, or method is based”
It was a long and winding but very fun and rewarding effort to boil the results of our discussions down to a “reduction sauce” of SCEM and then articulate what each of these meant to us, but these first principles proved to be invaluable throughout the entire design and build of Möbius and has been generating growing dividends ever since as we continue to use them almost every day.
I don’t think it makes sense to try to put SCEM in any order as they are all important but it would also be true to say that Safety ranks up at the top of our decision making. Safety is also somewhat synonymous with confidence which is a value that we MUST have before we will ever head out to sea or even “just” be on anchor in our floating home.
Safety in this context is primarily the safety of ourselves and our passengers as well as those around us. Whenever we find ourselves in some kind of severe unexpected situation at sea one of us literally asks the other “Is anyone going to die?” and that bifurcates the discussion and our decision making from there. Given our use case of having Möbius take us to some of the most remote locations in the world where we often find ourselves quite totally alone and in some very eXtreme environments, it is not any exaggeration to say that our lives do quite literally depend upon our boat and our ability to use her and it is within this context that safety factors into every decision we make and every bit of kit we install.
It isn’t a “bit of kit” but this first principle of Safety also influenced our very purposeful design of Möbius to be easily mistaken for a military, coast guard, police type boat with a “don’t mess with me” vibe. This all relates back to our use case of being in eXtremely remote locations and locations where conditions ashore are unknown and possibly have people who might be motivated to approach us with mal intent if they see a bright and shiny “superyacht” off their shore.
Two other very quick and different examples, out of hundreds at least, to illustrate our safety based decisions;
1. Anchoring and ground tackle.
We prefer to anchor rather than use mooring fields or marinas and SWAN or Sleep Well At Night becomes of paramount concern every night, and day we stay anchored. Our basic tenants for choosing anchor and ground tackle might be summed up as “go big or go home” in that we go with the largest and most bulletproof anchor, chain, windlass, etc. that we can carry.
We only want one main anchor on the boat such that EVERY time we put the anchor down we know our best bit of kit is holding us in place be that for an hour’s lunch stop or for weeks or more through storms and all that Mother Nature can test us with.
In keeping with another theme in our decision making of only going with “Tried & True”, for our anchor we went with a Rocna, the same brand of anchor that had served us flawlessly through over 12 years of sailing our 52’ steel cutter “Learnativity” and just upsized it to about the largest one they make at 110kg/242lbs. This is attached to 120m/400’ of 13mm / 1/2” G4 galvanized chain and a Maxwell VWC 4000 windlass.
2. FLIR One thermal camera.
In last week’s post, you saw a vivid example of the value of this small bit of kit that I used to identify the faulty wiring that had severely overheated and could have easily resulted in a fire and further damage. An odd item that you won’t find included on too many other boat’s list of Safety Equipment but I think last week’s use alone will explain why this is on our list of Safety Equipment.
Comfort in this context is somewhat synonymous with Safety because if we don’t have a boat that allows us to do what we do without being beat up when conditions get rough, or there is equipment that is not comfortable and convenient to use, then we won’t be as likely to use it.
Comfort takes on an eXtremely important role as it encompasses what keeps us wanting to sail further, go to more places, stay longer in those we enjoy and so on. You will often hear those of us who are full time live aboards or spend most of the year living on our boats say that “we are not camping”! For us, this is our home and our life and most of our days so designing and building a boat that will “… take us on expeditions exploring the most remote locations of the world in exceptional safety and comfort.” as I noted in the old April 2018 post I linked to above.
Examples here would include some of the obvious such as eXtremely comfortable Helm Chairs as one of us usually needs to spend most of our waking time on passages sitting in them and when conditions get rough these seats need to keep us comfortably in place and able to fully control the boat while seated.
Less obvious Comfort related items would include things like our paravane stabilisers which dramatically reduce roll both while at sea and on anchor and make life aboard both much more comfortable and safer.
Lack of comfort on an global passage maker such as Möbius would also result in fatigue, aches and pains which would lead to poor and possibly dangerous decisions at sea.
We use Efficiency in an all encompassing way here as it applies to everything from fuel efficiency to cost efficiency to time efficiency. These are often very interrelated to themselves as well as to the other three First Principles of SCEM. Fuel efficiency is obviously related to cost efficiency but less obvious perhaps is the efficiency of things like insulation of the hull and all our bulkheads. This high degree of insulation adds to our overall efficiency in multiple ways such as reducing the energy requirements of our HVAC systems (Heating Ventilation And Cooling) to keep the interior of the boat as cool or warm as we wish. Better insulation also makes the whole boat much quieter, keeping each cabin sonically isolated from both the sounds of others in or on the boat as well as some of the sounds of the sea in big storms which can add to the stress of the situation and which in turn can compromise safety.
Less obvious perhaps are things such as electrical efficiency with sizing everything from wires and cables to batteries, inverters, chargers, refrigeration, HVAC and indeed almost all of our electrical equipment. We have to produce all our own electricity and therefore efficiency in producing every watt and then using every watt most efficiently allows us such “luxuries” as being able to be at anchor indefinitely.
We must also produce all our own Potable water for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc. as this is critical to our self sufficiency and health. Therefore being able to produce all our own fresh water most efficiently in terms of the energy our watermaker requires and the time it takes to do so, factors into our decision making and thus another example of the key role efficiency plays in our decision making and equipment selections.
Actually this should probably be LM as it is all about LACK of Maintenance, but this First Principle also drives a lot of our decisions in the design and building of Möbius. Pretty much everything on a boat, no different than a house or a car, requires maintenance to keep all their bits and pieces working properly, looking good and lasting as long as possible. On a boat, and especially on an XPM boat, the conditions we operate in are much more severe and harsh. Imagine if your home was constantly being shaken, sometimes quite gently as in a swaying tree house, but sometimes shaken quite violently as if it were perched atop the Disneyland Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Add to this being immersed within salt water and humid salty air and you can begin to appreciate why cruisers often joke that their life is spent moving from one exotic repair destination to the next!
What raises Lack of Maintenance to being a First Principle for us though is what we call the “two hand rule” which we illustrate by holding up our two hands and saying “See these? If something breaks or stops working, these are the only two things that can fix it”. For most of us, doing our own maintenance is the only way we can afford to life this life and for the less sane of us, we actually enjoy working on our boats. Up to a point at least. On a more serious note, in our use case we NEED to be able to fix our boats ourselves by having the neccessary tools, materials, parts and skills because we are often in places or out at sea where we are the ONLY people present. There is no one else to call for parts, tools or expertise and even if there was they couldn’t get to you. In this context then, being able to do your own maintenance and fixing can become something your life depends upon.
In our case examples of decisions we have made that are highly influenced by the Maintenance or lack thereof principle, are things such as deciding to build an aluminium boat and to leave it all raw and unpainted. Aluminium naturally forms a thin almost invisible layer of Aluminium Oxide on the surfaces exposed to air which therefore creates an eXtremely hard inert protective coating that requires zero maintenance on our part.
Lack of Maintenance also drove other exterior decisions such as having no paint, no stainless, and no wood. In addition to the significant reduction in Maintenance, these decisions also go towards cost efficiency as repainting a boat, keeping it all clean and shiny and varnished, is also eXtremely eXpen$ive so the benefits start to multiply.
Another good example of this decision making process and how our first principles often multiply each other is our choosing to go with Carbon Foam FireFly batteries. We literally live off our batteries as we have no generator (also less maintenance and more comfort) and these Carbon Foam batteries are about as bullet proof as batteries get, require almost no maintenance, have extremely long cycle life and are eXtremely cost effective.
Whew! As usual, your brevity challenged author has yet again applied his mastery of neverasentencewhenaparagraphwilldo to make this go much longer than originally intended and so I’m going to stop here and follow the lead of the truly talented author onboard, Captain Christine Kling, and turn this book aka article, into a multi part series.
Here are some examples of topics I will cover in the next parts of this series about how and why we make the decisions and chose the equipment that we install on Möbius:
- What problem is this item attempting to solve?
- Is the problem/item a want or a need?
- Consequences of adding this item? Domino effect?
- Does it pass the Goldilocks test?
- New Tech or Tried & True?
- Valuation? Is it the best value?
Perhaps the most important reason for stopping here and turning this into a series of articles is to pause to ask YOU if this is the kind of content you want and find useful???
I’m not suggesting that this will become the new form for all my future articles as I think it only fits a few topics and I will continue to produce the Show & Tell articles as the work on finishing and then cruising on Möbius continues. However I would be eXtremely appreciative if you would add a short comment in the “Join the Discussion” box below to let me know your thoughts on this type of content, and the Show & Tell ones as well so I can get a better feel for what’s working best for you and what’s not? What would you like more of/less of? What topics would you like me to address that I have not so far?
I can’t promise that I can or will do all that you ask but I do promise to take your suggestions into account as I continue to write and post here on the Mobius.World blog. My thanks in advance to all your feedback and assistance in improving my writing. As you’ve clearly seen I can use ALL the help I can get!!
Hope to have you back again to join me next week.