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Increasing light and ventilation

Apr 14, 2008
To the editor: In my case, looking for light and ventilation involved working with a 38-foot C&C sloop, one of the sleekest seagoing vessels built in the 1970s. Designed for speed, she is able to turn on a dime. Her hull is built like the proverbial outhouse, but her tall rigging and deep-fin keel make it very clear that while living aboard is fine with her, she means to get you to your destinations as fast as possible.

Alas, her cabin, like most of her vintage, was rather dark and dank. It was roomy enough, well laid-out and thoughtfully equipped. The cabin lacked good ventilation and was very stingy with light, however. And for us, light and ventilation are absolute essentials for a happy life aboard.

Trinka’s saloon originally sported four lateral ports — none of them operable. The only ports that opened were one at the head and the other by the quarter berth. Both of these were quite small. Her entry hatch cover was teak, lovely to behold, but hardly a material to let light through. Her forward hatch is nearly clear acrylic — as is a small one above the saloon table. These are great on a sunny day, but as for ventilation they are good only as long as the weather holds.

The first thing to go was the teak hatch cover. Its place was taken by a smoked, polycarbonate unit. With it we gained a fair measure of light, while still holding on to a bit of privacy when left in place. Next came gluing Velcro strips around all three hatches so easily removable mosquito netting could be quickly secured.

Then came the big change: replacing all the fixed saloon ports with fully operable ones. My first instinct was to go for bronze ports, but a quick look at the checkbook saw the wisdom of using Beckson rectangular units. As it happened, installing these units required only a slight enlargement of the old port openings. After doing so, we went on to enlarge and replace the one in the head with a new, matching one. We also added two new ones on the starboard side giving me a total of seven operable ports in the saloon, plus the new, larger port, in the head.

Thirsty for still more fore and aft ventilation and light, I installed a pair of 10-inch round ones (also Beckson) facing the cockpit. The latter also improved communication between the helm and galley or chart table by eliminating the craned necks demanded by having to shout through the hatchway while underway. We equipped most of the rectangular units with fixed screens and rain deflectors, except for those furthest aft, the ones over the galley and the chart table. Deflectors on these ports would have obstructed the view. So in rainy weather the latter pairs must remain closed.

There was nothing but air atop the two foredeck teak dorade boxes, the original ventilators having been liberated or blown away, so I enlarged their openings so I could fit a pair of 10-inch tall Nicro flexible ventilators for them. A pair of four-inch low-profile ones went aft for the ones venting the engine room, since those too, had shared the same AWOL fate.

While still in maximizing-use-of-natural-sources mode, we also installed two solar/battery operated 24/7 Nicro ventilators. These came with two blades: one for inlet, and the other for outlet use. The inlet one is now integrated into the forward hatch cover, while its exhaust counterpart is placed directly over the galley — there to remove cooking smoke, steam and smells, as well as stale air. Several seasons have passed since they first were brought aboard. Proof of their efficacy and durability is that to date, even at those times when Trinka must remain closed for weeks, no mildew or mold has ever made its appearance in her cabin. We have since added two more: one to actively exhaust the hot air produced by our Barbour-Adler refrigerator, the other to do the same in venting and cooling the engine room. These units, plus a V-berth wind scoop, was as far as our alliance with Mother Nature on vents and lights was going to take us. Or so it seemed then.

The next issue was 12-volt ventilation — a desperate need on still, hot and humid days. Five oscillating Guest fans take care of that for us, including two in the saloon and one in the head. I am thinking of adding one more exhaust solar vent in there too, but on my boat, it looks like it might interfere with sail handling. Still I’m tempted, for it would mean round the clock ventilation.

We both love to read, and the idea of limiting this activity to daylight hours has never been a welcome thought. So my first step to manage this was the addition of a pair of Aqua Signal port and starboard reading lights at the V-berth; two more at the forward section of the saloon (so that one can keep a weather eye on the cockpit even while reading); and one each at the galley, quarter berth, and chart table. All are now being equipped with Davis Instruments’ LED clusters instead of incandescent bulbs. These, unlike the incandescents I had been using, produce almost no heat. Another bonus is that they use a fraction of the power the earlier bulbs had been putting out as heat.

Another small but incredibly helpful modification was to put in a 12-volt waterproof Marinco outlet by the helm (Trinka came with only one by the chart table). The new outlet’s primary use has been for a hand-held spot to locate channel buoys; to identify and steer away from flotsam; to signal other boats; or to find our slot in a raft-up. It has also proven handy to plug in a chart light or as a quick boost for a dying battery in a hand-held radio. It has also come in handy for my mate to blow-dry her hair while on helm duty.

I thought of putting another power outlet up forward by the bow, but that area is so exposed and underfoot that unless I could place a really secure cover over the outlet, it would most likely be kicked out of commission or swamped. Either way it would probably too easily get shorted out.

— Alan Saunders is a freelance writer living in North Carolina.

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