Welcome to the next leg of our adventure and the one we feel is the most important so far. Our goal is to build out the systems onboard Cadoha to enable us to unplug from the water and power grids for a full year, 365 days, all whilst living aboard at these latitudes.
Let's talk about both what we're doing, and, more importantly, WHY we're doing it, and in order to do that we're going to have to travel back in time a couple of years, to the day the earth stood still, back (for most of us) in the year 2020.
2020 was the year that Covid-19 swept across the world and flipped society on its head. For the vast majority of us that would involve being locked down for an indefinite period of time, or as many of us were told 'two weeks to flatten the curve'. In most cases, 'two weeks' ended up being closer to two years and that's when many of the cracks in our levels of dependency, for us, started to appear.
Crack Number 1 - Food!
Very early on during the pandemic we were encouraged to venture out for food and supplies as infrequently as possible, and this made sense as you exposed yourself less often to potentially contracting the virus. However, it didn't take long before the country started to run low on certain items, namely toilet roll and flour, but as we started hearing terms like 'just in time supply chain issues' enter the public discourse, it became clear that there was a fragility to the food supply that we really took for granted.
Now we are NOT paranoid preppers, truth be told we're both optimistic types and not all that organised by nature but something was being triggered deep inside of us that spoke to a sense that maybe it would be a good idea to have many months worth of long life food stowed away, and so we stocked up on dry stores goods, whilst we still could.
As comforting as it felt to now have a safety net of food stores at our disposal, the sense of relaxation was short lived, as I, at the tender age of 41, asked myself bigger questions, such as, if the global macro picture worsened, if a stronger strain of Covid hit us, if the war breaking out in Ukraine worsened, if there was a huge financial collapse and a Great Recession, if interest rates rocketed up or if we had crazy high levels of inflation and food as we're used to it just became far too expensive, can I , as a man, provide for those I care about? Can I even feed myself, let alone others? When I searched my soul for the honest answers to those pressing questions, the only conclusion I came to was, no, I don't believe I can.
Nobody enjoys feeling vulnerable and for the first time in my life I started to see potential cracks in the system which we existed in, this left me feeling exactly that, vulnerable. 2022 was the year I decided to take being able to put food on the table very seriously. I stocked up on several years supply of fishing gear and invested in a very high quality speargun. I wanted either plenty of kit or something of such high quality that it would last a lifetime, but most importantly, I wanted options.
Crack Number 2 - Power (The Energy Crisis)
At the time of writing this there is a huge energy crisis unfolding in Europe. Inflation is running wild and people are genuinely worried about how they're going to be able to afford to power their homes. Europe has really pushed to move away from fossil fuels and nuclear power in order to embrace renewable energy, although this has left many dependant on fuel supplied by Russia and the Middle East as the renewables grid simply can't cope yet with the demand. One of the great ironies being that in the pursuit of going greener, europeans are now resorting to burning wood and coal to create power. In places like Ireland, people are once again burning peat to try and stay warm. The moves made to become cleaner have left many in fuel poverty, left with little choice but to burn considerably more dirty fuels than nuclear or natural gas.
We're all for embracing green energy production where we can but in the cold, winter months in Northern Europe, solar and wind will almost certainly not be sufficient to stay warm. However, the biggest takeaway from these unfolding events for us is that of 'energy sovereignty'.
Energy sovereignty for us means the ability to generate and store all of the power that we need so that we are immune from the whims of energy companies who may jack the princes up 100-300% (as has been the case in recent months). The amount of anxiety that this level of uncertainty causes can not be overstated enough. The reality of extreme price hikes is already upon us, who knows where they could go in the future? The potential for rolling blackouts is also there too, as power grids around the world are already being stressed to failure.
The summer systems on Cadoha are not too far off where we think we need to be. 600Ah of lithium batteries stores plenty of usable power in a relatively small amount of space on the boat. When fully deployed we have 1050w of solar power aboard the boat and we plan to double this capacity with a couple of DIY solar projects which we intended to build ourselves during the 2022/2023 winter season.
The main reason for the additional solar is the fact that we've also added a high capacity water maker to Cadoha's arsenal which is fairly power hungry, on top of that we cook in the summer on all electric appliances, we run a fridge/ freezer and a separate chest freezer (for long term food storage) and we like to take hot showers, which with an electric immersion heater set up, again, uses a lot of power. 1050w can just about cover this when you have a very long and perfect summers day, but the reality is that not every day is so perfect and we need to be able to cope with many cloudy days too and be able to take the batteries from a low state of charge to full again when we do get those all important breaks in the weather.
So our additional solar projects are going to be a cornerstone of our 'Project 365' preparations.
Crack Number 3 - The Long Cold Winter
The biggest challenge we face is the long, cold Northern European winters and being able to power everything ourselves. The reality is that we're going to need very different systems for the winter than we do for the summer on board Cadoha and so in order to achieve our goals, we're going to borrow some ideas from our ancestors. If our summer systems are cutting edge and high tech, our winter systems are going to be very much analog in their nature.
The three goals which we need to satisfy are, warmth, the ability to cook our food, and the holy grail, a hot shower. Now I know that last one is hardly a life or death necessity, but for harmony aboard Cadoha, it's pretty vital.
We aim to accomplish most of these goals with the help of a wood burning stove which is big enough to cook on top of as well as produce that beautiful hot water so that we can have a lovely hot shower at the end of the day.
I'm very intent on spearfishing throughout the winter months too, so a toasty hot boat to come home to will help take the edge off of this challenge.
Project 365 Timeline & Plan
The modifications and upgrades are being made now. We plan to battle test many of the systems in this coming sailing season and no doubt we will need to return to land one more winter in order to refine them further, as well as go back to work to save up enough money to head off on another adventure again.
After the final round of tweaking the systems we plan to set sail and remain unplugged for a full year, as a challenge to ourselves to see if we can do it. We intend to make a 12 part documentary video series covering one video for each and every month where together we can watch as the seasons change, along with the challenges which each of them bring.
The reality of the world right now is that Covid-19 hasn't gone away and a more problematic strain really could be just around the corner. There's a war waging in Ukraine right now which is set to disrupt grain and fertiliser production in a huge way which will have knock on consequences for many peoples food supplies around the world. On top of that there are threats of thermo nuclear war being made now too. We are in the middle of an energy and fuel crisis, right now. Much of the global stock markets are down by huge amounts in the last year, inflation has become a gigantic problem around the world, plus interest rates are shooting up as a result and hitting people on the ground, hard. The outlook looks challenging to say the least.
We are essentially building a bug out boat which we hope we will never have to call upon in anger. Hopefully the world will resolve these challenges without a Great War, Great Depression, financial collapse, or famine. Hopefully the Pandemic and some of the second and third order effects of it will be no more than a wake up call of a few warning shots fired over our bows and this 'Project 365' challenge will just be an intellectually interesting quest for us, as climbing a mountain, or rowing across an ocean is for others.
Hopefully, if nothing else, this will be a challenge which others out there can enjoy following along and we can all learn along the way, together.
If this challenge resonates with you and you haven't done so already then be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel here to keep up with developments.