Ithaka

Cruising on Ice

Why build a custom refrigerator on an isolated beach from parts found in any Third World shop? Because we can BY DOUGLAS BERNON

When we first searched for a cruising boat and ranked our Gotta Have features, I regarded refrigeration as such a bourgeois extravagance that I didn't even bother to list it in my It'd Be Nice category, but Bernadette informed me, "We're cruising, not camping."

"Harrumph," I sniffed. "I'm not one of those people who needs refrigeration to be happy." My disingenuous blather was born of fear; I knew mechanical breakdowns would be inevitable, and on the long inventory of things I knew nothing about, refrigeration topped the list. Demonstrating the heft of my authority, we bought a boat with two re- t HH^BO Y.

frigeration systems.

Our big guy is an engine-driven assembly with monster cold plates that can chill a bison solid. The big fridge and I have evolved a grudging respect for each other ever since my friend Harold helped me rebuild him several years ago. But to run the beast, we have to crank up the diesel, and that's never fun at anchor. We also had a wussy little 12-volt system that never coughed up a single cube and obstructed rather than eased storage. When the 12-volt unit crashed in the San Blas islands, my friend Tom on Mesque Ukee—he's an engineer who actually repaired sewing machines before he began elementary school—declared it hopelessly dead and suggested we ought to see if the two of us could, for laughs, using only supplies available in any Third World country, construct at anchor a rugged, custom refrigeration system of interchangeable parts. I had the fridge books, most of the right tools, a thirst for ice, and nothing better to do. He had the confidence. Engineers with time on their hands—and, mercifully, there are a bunch of them floating around out here—can't contain themselves when there's a mechanical problem on somebody else's boat.

Bernadette was skeptical. "Why do we have to do this in the middle of nowhere?"

"I dunno," I countered lamely, "because we can?"

With cardboard, razor blade, duct tape—and doubts— Bernadette shaped a model evaporator box that perfectly fit the chine of the boat and tucked snugly into our fridge box. Mean

With copper sheeting for materials and a palm tree for a workbench, I exceeded even my own expectations.

while, Tom and I designed the new system, meaning he'd say, "Doug, I think we ought to do such-and-so," and I'd reply, "Just what I was thinking, Tom." We completed the list of parts he'd pick up when Mesque Ukee sailed to Colon, Panama, the next week, and I tore out the old system. We guys predicted a three-day project from beach to beer. Bernadette predicted eight days. She was low by two.

Mesque Ukee returned bearing Tom and Lyette; a compressor; a condenser; a fan; a sight glass; TX, isolation, check, expansion, and solenoid valves; bronze Ts and nuts; liquid receiver; a roll of copper sheeting for the evaporator box; a roll of half-inch copper tubing; assorted fittings; flux; silver solder; a timing relay; a 1,000-amp inverter—and high hopes. We chose the islet of Waisaladup for our workshop. The anchorage is calm, close to the beach, and there's a terrific reef for spearfishing. We figured we'd require that relief when only killing could quell our frustrations. I fashioned a workbench from driftwood laid atop coconuts embedded in the sand. To fabricate the evaporator box—the contraption that holds food and sucks out the heat—we traced the flattened cardboard model on copper, cut the pattern, curved it around a palm tree, tacked it together, wrapped it with 60 feet of tubing, painted on flux, and secured it inch-by-inch with silver solder. To avoid kinks, Tom carefully twisted the tubing around the evaporator while I straightened the coil by walking it in circles around a tree. La Comodora worried aloud that my task might be symbolically perfect.

Daily—sometimes hourly—our spirits rose and crashed with unforeseen obstacles, most of them a function of gusto overtaking experience. At various times I hooked up parts in the wrong sequence (a major case of duh), messed up one electrical run, didn't get a connection perfectly sealed—no wonder the high-pressure side gushed! But in the end, with several significant, midstream design changes, two friends cobbled together a robust system that operates on 110 volts through a dedicated inverter, uses fewer amps than its 12-volt predecessor, holds gobs more food, runs less often, and freezes stuff rock hard.

I know there are clever companies that make quieter, more elegant refrigeration systems. But their units, just like this one, will mess up eventually and need repair. When that happens, their parts, unlike Ithaka's, will be expensive, idiosyncratic, and unlikely to be found in the back of the beyond. All that's crucial to me, because, as usual, Bernadette was right. I'm one of those people who love refrigeration.

The Bernons write twice (www.IthakaSailing.com).

-monthly logs on their website

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How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

How To Have A Perfect Boating Experience

Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.

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