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Venice and its sourounding islands


Port calls: Aprilia Maritiima- Venice - Aprilia Marittima

Days cruised: 3

Difficulty of sailing route: suitable for beginners

Timeplan: relaxed

Self-sufficiency needs: daysail



There are around 45 nautical miles to sail from Aprilia Marittima to Venice - an ideal daily route when the wind is good. The trip leads past Caorle, Bibione and several fish and mussel farms, which are characterized by numerous tons and buoys. Except for a few recreational athletes like us and maybe a few fishermen, there are few other ships at this time of year. Major shipping in particular has no destinations here and is therefore hard to find as close to the mainland. Everything is different right in front of Venice, apart from cruise ships, there are also tankers and freighters to be seen here.
For this year's Easter trip, we planned to test and calibrate the newly installed instruments including the autopilot together with a REBO technician. Only then did we set off in the sunshine, but unfortunately no wind to the south. So we motorized the entire route, which gave at least a constant speed of 6.5 knots. We used the time to test our new cockpit pillows, to cook, to take photos and I practiced using the radar.

Shortly before we arrived in Venice, I called Marina Sant'Elena to inquire about a berth. Fortunately there was a space available and we were asked to report via VHF channel 77 shortly before arrival. So it passed the mighty Moses Project and Forte Sant'Andrea, a 16th century fortress.

After it was quite late in the afternoon, we moved the route over the Canale Guidecca and past St. Mark's Square to the day of departure and moored in the marina. Here, as is customary in the Adriatic, Roman Catholic (with the stern to the jetty) is moored. The marina is equipped with floating docks and large dolphins. Nothing witchcraft. The actual shower cubicles and toilets are still not finished. There is a provisional in containers and that is bad rather than in good shape.

The next morning we took the vaporetto to the island of Burano, one of the neighboring islands of Venice. This place is known and famous for its colorful houses. We got off a station in front of the ferry terminal and discovered a small hotel restaurant with a wonderful garden, right next to the jetty. Herbs smell here and wine thrives in incredible silence and tranquility.

As soon as you pass the ferry terminal, you dive into a lively pedestrian zone. The splendor of colors is really indescribable and despite the fact that we strolled through the alleys and streets here alone, this was as varied as it was nice.

The next stop on our island hopping tour was Torcello. If you are looking for magnificent palazzi, villas or Burano's colors, you are completely at the wrong steamer. Historians assume that Venice began to settle here around 452, but today nothing is left of the glory of the old days. Probably, within the framework of the "move" to Venice, everything that was somehow possible was really recycled. After stones and even timber in the Laguno were rare and therefore precious, everything was taken away and used for the construction of Venice - so the historical theory. There is no evidence of this, however. Today there is still a tower and a cathedral to visit.

Two of the few remaining houses dominate excellent restaurants, and with another Heuriger-like eatery and evening bar, almost all of the island's buildings are listed. We enjoyed nature, tranquility and the excellent cuisine.

At the end of our day trip Murano was still on the program. If you want to watch the glassblowers at the large ovens, you are too late with the procedure described here. Then you should visit Murano in the morning. We, on the other hand, enjoyed an afternoon coffee in one of the numerous ice cream parlors and strolled through Murano's alleys and tasted in front of the glass artists' shop windows.

Back in the marina, a small kiosk had started operating. In addition to Aperol, there were the usual Italian drinks and warm snacks. Perfect to end the day!

We didn't want to leave without visiting the center of Venice. Despite the expected mass rush of visitors, we dared to walk towards St. Mark's Square. While there was actually a lot going on up to the Rialto Bridge and there was hardly any room to breathe, things got quieter after the train station. To relax, we booked a gondola ride through the artist district "Accademia" and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the long belt.


Since we only know a few good restaurants in Venice that also offer quality at reasonable prices, we have remained true to the "Osteria Al Ponte". There are local specialties with friendly and brisk service, and not cheap, but not outrageously expensive either.

Our tour of Venice then ended in the marina. At dusk was the best time to try the lensball and check the weather for the next day. We reached the entrance to the Laguna of Lignano at dusk and the children used the great play of colors to take pictures on deck.

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Decalcifying the water system with citric acid

Five Senses was built in 2004 and we sailed her since 2016. Since then, we uprgraded our water pump to a higher flow device, we installed an additional water outlet at the front of the deck, a land-water connection has been build at the stern and of course we try to keep the tanks and the entire water system clean through annual cleaning and ongoing maintainance.

Part of these efforts is regular descaling and desinfection. There are numerous industrial products available for such purposes. For 3 tanks of 240 litres, the cost for all of this can be considerable. And with some of the available products success has been modest and not worth the spend. So I thought I would share this year's experience of a new approach to decalcify our water system with lime acid.

I had read about the usage of lime acid for such a purpose, so I gave it a try this spring. Some words about price difference: Industrial descalist for tanks are about 15 euros per 100 litres of tank volume (0.5 kg of granules); Lemon citric comes at approx 6 Euros per 1 kg. Vinegar acid should not be used because it attacks too much the various rubber seals. That's why I got 2 kg of food quality citric acid per tank this year. Saving me about 50% of what I have spent so far for descaling.

Filling in is quite hassle-free. However, the crystallized acid must be flooded into the tanks under constant water flow, otherwise thick lumps can quickly build clots. After filling all the water containers, I let the "broth" act 24 hours before I started disposing of the tank contents again. I was pretty suprised about the result at the end:  Especially after a short cruise with some swell it seems not only the the lime had been solved, but also vigorously shaken so that a milky soup came from all the taps. Per tank I had to clean the filters at least 4-5 times and also the finer filter directly on the pump had to be flushed several times.

I ensured that all containers, screens and pipes were also thoroughly rinsed with clear water. I had never achieved such a result before. I had no idea how much lime we had carried around with our ship. Whether these deposits came mainly from the tanks, or whether the hot water boiler in particular has given up its contents, I cannot say, of course. But in the fall, I repeat the procedure for sure. Can you share your experiences here? I would be very interested in reactions and experiences. Thank you!

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The end of the PDLC project

This is how the PDLC film looks after a few winter months. I had installed it back in December. The film is totally stiff, it does not adhere to the plexi-glass bottom any more. Not sure if the extreme of temperatures destroyed is, or, if the UV-rays damaged the various layers of film. In any case, the PDLC film is in such a bad condition that there is no hope of refurbishing it in any way. Therefore, I consider this as a total loss. Let me know if anyone of you were more sucessful.

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Comparison of various energy sources

On Five Senses, the main source of energy so far has been the shore power connection. While cruising, I had relied on the alternator of the ship's diesel as an additioal source. What a mistake! Equipped with lead acid batteries (4 x 100 Ah), the alternator only fed in electricity for a few hours a day. However, lead acid batteries require long charging times to really reach their full capacity. Also, the manufacturer's specifications of older alternators are not really correct in terms of their output. Low RPM of the engine, unfavourable temperatures during summer time and contribut to a lot of power loss. Jason Wynn measured his charge current and posted a video. At idle he achieved 25A, at 2000 RPMs it was a maximum of 28A. I'm afraid our setup will hardly deliver better values. This means that neither the charging current nor the charging time on board the Five Senses have been sufficient to provide us with sustainable energy. Season 2019 will be different!

Alternator: New generations of alternators achieve higher charging currents even at lower speeds/RPMs. You can also mount a second device on the ship's diesel. If you have electricity storage that can be charged quickly, 1-2 engine hours a day are sometimes enough to replenish your energy reserves. I definitely don't want to install a generator with another fuel engine, because that would entail maintenance costs, etc. and also means weight and noise on board. The idea of ​​sustainability and environmental protection naturally also come into play. Even if an additional alternator costs a little engine power for me a clear go.

Hydrogenerator: This technology has developed rapidly in recent years. If cruising at sufficient speed, a propeller-driven generator rotates and thus supplies energy. The additional water resistance is negligible. For our main cruising area, the upper Adriatic, I don't think such a solution is ideal, since in summer we usually sail under light wind conditions. Together with the start-up costs, this is not a perfect solution for me, even if the technology overall makes a lot of sense to me. The crew of "Sailing 7 Seas" had a completely different idea. The ship's diesel was exchanged for an electric motor, which now also recuperates electricity while sailing. Cool idea!

Wind generator: Again, new developments have brought good improvements. Annoying wind noise and vibrations are becoming a matter of the past. The advantage of a wind generator is undoubtedly that it also works at night as long as there is enough wind. The charging currents at 3-5 beaufort are considerable and such a solution is certainly one of the choices for longer passages. The cost / income ratio for wind generators is cost! Maybe later for the Atlantic crossing 😉

Solar power: Solar cells have seen several steps-up in technology in recent years. In addition to fixed / rigid installations, there are now also flexible panels. Although they seem to have a shorter lifespan, there is progress here too. An Italian manufacturer produces their panels without the vulnerable soldering points and has redundant wiring, which means that the flexible solar panels remain functional for a much longer time. In addition, such a panel only has a maximum of 2.5 kg. A second problem was shadowing. If even small areas or single cells were covered, the charging performance dropped rapidly. A horror on a sailboat with large "shaded areas". New, intelligent charge controllers can now master this challenge much better. And we have enough space on deck, so again: "green light!"

Fuel cell: For some years now, fuel cells run with alcohol have been able to produce energy. The charging capacity can be almost completely automated via programmable relays. As long as you have enough alcohol (usable for this device!) on board, you won't run out of electricity. This still very young technology is relatively expensive compared to other energy sources on board and I don't imagine constantly lugging around the canisters. So I'm waiting here for a few more years for further developments.

In addition to new energy storage, I will plan for solar fields and an additional alternator this year. I discussed the connection diagram in a Facebook group (Solar on a boat!) And received a lot of interesting feedback. So now it's time for detailed planning!


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How to calculate power consumption on a sail-boat

Before deciding about your prefered way of storing electricity on board, a few things need to be considered: you have to estimate your power consumption and therefore know the necessary storage capacity. You have to know the specifications of your power sources such as how much power is provided, for how long they are available (wind vs solar vs alternator/generator) - how they charge and then of course such smaller things like how much space you have on your boat and of course cost.
As I want to renew the entire engery and storage system on our Five Senses, I did all these evaluations myself. Here I am sharing one of the steps taken: the calculation of power consumption.

All of this is clearly no rocket science: device list, power consumption (in watts or kilowatts), estimate how long the devices are operated in 24 hours (in hours) and then calculation of the consumption in ampere hours (Ah) taking into account your electrical system voltage. However, there are several different units used, so you might have to do some calculation. Here is an example table to show you how to do that:

LED lighting salon and cabins: 50 watts (rough estimate)
Operating time per 24 hours: 4 hours (estimated)
Daily consumption in kilowatt hours: (50/1000) * 4 = 0.2 kWh
We are using a 12 volts system
Conversion to Ah: 50 watts / 12 volts * 4 operating hours = 16.67 Ah

With the kWh and the Ah you are able to estimate your consumption per day. Usually, this includes on-board and navigation lights, electrical devices (hair dryer, laptop, coffee maker), navigation devices such as GPS and plotter including radar and autopilot, cooling boxes / fridge and freezer. This is the sum of your average, estimated consumption in 24 hours. It is obvious that an air conditioning system can hardly be powered by battery power. The navigation electronics created a bit of a surprise to me. Each device does not need a lot of electricity, but in total and over the sailing day and the many hours, there is a lot of overall consumption.

To estimate the battery storage capacity you need, you have to know the answers to these two questions:

How long has my stored electricity to last before I can recharge?
What kind of power storage = which type of battery do I want to use?

The first question is rather easy: This is heavily depending on your crusing plan and how long you are planning to stay off grid. Depending on where you sail, choices shoudl be made on energy sources. I collected some information and put this into another blog post to compare pro's and con's of the various alternatives.

For the second question again some background info is helpful: i.e. conventional lead acid batteries supply about 50% of their total capacity, lithium ion batteries can provide up to 80 or 90% of their storage capacity without being damaged. There are various other alternatives available and all come with their very individual specifications. Make sure you know what you need before buying any new batteries.

For our Five Senses (a 49 foot yacht in the Mediterranean and most frequently used during the day and somtimes during night), I calculated a daily consumption of around 330 Ah, or around 4 kWh. For LiIon batteries one can expect 80% of their capacity to become available, which translates into 412 Ah or almost 5 kWh of capacity per storage day. We currently have 400 Ah lead-acid batteries on board, so we are missing 130 Ah when 50% is removed, or in other words: after 14 hours without any charge, all power run devices are down.  330 Ah is a conservative calculation and an average, the power sometimes lasted longer, mainly because we also use the ship's diesel for docking and anchoring. But after a night at anchor, the batteries were mostly empty ...

Conclusion: new energy storage and energy sources are needed! Stay tuned ...

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