Our PDQ 34 Enhancements

Watch out! Russ is working on another boat project!


Projects, projects & more projects. Unfortunately, this is what it often looks like!  In the end, it’s always worth it, as making our PDQ “home” is very important to us.  Being a little small for full-time living aboard, every improvement helps us greatly. 

Our PDQ is a 2006 hull #100, so your boat might be different.



Our Mighty Ultra Anchor!

Anchor discussions can get very opinionated.  Our last boat had the popular Rocna anchor, however we were never very happy with it.  In firm sand, it would often just lay at a 20 degree angle, drag gently along & refuse to dig in.  In desperation (at least in the Bahamas) I would dive in to “help it” – kinda crazy for a high-end anchor. 

While finishing our day at the Annapolis Boat Show, we came across the Ultra anchor booth.  We had actually stopped for their Australian grill the US distributor also sold.  Between the fact that the show was ending in 20 minutes & perhaps due to the Pusser Painkillers we had consumed, the negotiations began! 

20 minutes later, we were packing into the boot of our MINI Cooper a “free” $800 grill, “free” $400 of grill accessories, oh – and a very expensive 21 kg. stainless steel anchor (although at a huge discount)!  Not only is this baby beautiful, it really, really works!  The secret isn’t the stainless steel, but the fact that the shank is partially hollow (light) & the working blade is internally weighted with lead (heavy) so it sets perfectly with help from the angled, pointed tip.  When diving to look for it, it is it always fully buried.  We love it!!


Solar Panels

We anchor out almost exclusively in the Bahamas, so one of our first upgrades was solar panels.  These 2 Kyocera 260 watt solar panels, each with their own Blue Sky controllers work great & usually provide all the power needed, including running our watermaker (at least in mid-day full sun).  Mounting it all & running the wiring was a bit tricky, but came out well.  We have seen as much as 37 amps of power.



Spectra Watermaker

Along with a great anchor & solar panels, we love the freedom of a watermaker for cruising the Bahamas.  Just like our sailing cat, we installed a Spectra Ventura 200T model.  While it has low output (only 7 GPH), it’s 12 volts, so will run off the solar panels or the engine alternators.  It is also modular, so the mounting is split between the cabinet under the refrigerator (pictured left), forward locker over the water tank with controls/gauges in the head.  It’s a little noisy,  but it’s a compromise between cost, space, power & all.


Water Tank Gauge & Alarm

While other PDQ’s may already have one, ours didn’t have a water tank level gauge – you had to go out to the bow, open the locker, move stuff, unscrew an access cover & stick a dowel into the tank to see how much you had left!  This WEMA gauge & sender fit the bill.  The installation was fairly easy, as I found marked wiring PDQ had installed for such a future gauge (beginning in 2006, PDQ began running full wiring harnesses for all factory options).

The gauge worked well, but we still worried about overfilling the water tank will a hose or with our watermaker – you can’t always be down below watching the gauge.  So I also installed a water level switch into the top of the tank which triggers a little buzzer when 1″ from full.


Noise Reduction

Squeaks & rattles!  Especially on windy days & bumpy anchorages, everything seemed to be noisy!  Here are some of things we’ve done to quiet down:

All of the stainless fittings on the mast & bimini top loved to rattle with the standard “pull pins”.  It was very easy to replace them all with 1/4-20 machine screws & locking nuts.  We also bought an assortment of white plastic washers of various thicknesses & used them where needed to prevent bimini fittings from rattling. 

The interior door frames are a  common “squeaker”, due to the aluminum frame rubbing against the flexing fiberglass.  During our first Rhumbline Owners Rendezvous we learned of this trick:  Remove the hinges of each door, remove all of the screws holding the frame & remove the frame.  I used 4″ wide white shrink-wrap tape – apply the tape to middle gap between the fiberglass “skins”, then out evenly around each side – don’t worry about the excess.  Reattach the aluminum frames – this is a little tricky as they have to be tight & exactly in place, or the screws won’t go back in properly.  Take your time – I used an awl to make sure each hole was lined up first – do not use a power driver.  When done, take a razor blade & carefully cut off the excess tape.  Re-install the door.

Other interior squeaks may require an assortment of methods, rubber washers, strips, loosening screws, tightening mounting screws, etc.  For floorboard squeaks, we used strips of the loop half of Velcro as it’s durable & inexpensive.


Raising the Helm Seat

Most owners have done this, as even tall people have trouble seeing out thru the windshield.  Remove the seat & brackets.  Using wood blocks several inches high, remount the brackets & seat.  Be very accurate remounting the brackets, otherwise you’ll have trouble using the same screw holes to reattach the seat. 

A side benefit is that charts & other flat items can now be stored underneath.



Eyebrows over the Stern Hatches

We have seen others install canvas flaps to prevent water from dripping thru the top edge during light rain or when you first open the hatch after rain.  I think these are slick.  They are Seaworthy Goods #26-R Port Visors.  Constructed of Lexan & easily installed with included 3M VHB tape (no screws).  Before mounting, carefully move around to get the placement right.  Too far up & they won’t work as well – too far down & you’ll only be able to open the hatch a couple of inches.  Keep in mind that even perfectly placed you will still only be able to open the hatch partially!

Our hatches are almost always open a few inches & rain doesn’t get in unless a strong wind from the side.  After 7 years, they still look like new!



Rear Seating with Grill

We agonized where to install our “free” grill.  Most PDQ’s have one installed on the rear rail of the flybridge.  I felt that often there would be too much wind up there & clumsy me would have to climb up & down the steps with food.  Giving up 1/3 of our rear seat wasn’t ideal, but well worth it considering the convenience of having the grill handy, under cover &

I even made the storage slide out a few inches

partially wind protected.  A side benefit is the room to install a covered, plastic bin under it with all of my grill stuff. 

Someday, a marine surveyor may think it’s a danger having a canvas cover 4′ over a grill, but if on the flybridge rear rail, it would have been 6 INCHES above it.  Also, our Australian Sovereign grill has an unique design whereas grease can not get down near the burner, so it never flares up.

Once decided, I cut-up my “free” $200 grill stand & mounted what remained onto the seat & seat back.  We then went ahead & replaced the cushions, which needed to be done anyway.  By the way, I would recommend a partial height back cushion, as that gap is exactly where you need to look thru while sitting on the lower helm looking aft.


Cleats on Inside Stern Corners

This is another idea I stole from other PDQ owners.  Having cleats on the insides of the sterns was a simple, truly 1/2 hour project, especially since this area is solid fiberglass, so no back cutting & epoxying of the coring was needed.  In addition to using these cleats for the dinghy, we use them at docks to cross over the stern line.

You can see I’ve been working on boats a long time, evidenced by having a safety line to keep the cleat from falling into the water while installing!


Our Choice of Dinghy

Our dinghy – our SUV – was an important choice.  Highly recommended was the AB 9 1/2′ aluminum RIB.  The most important feature was it’s weight – the lightest for it’s size.  We then learned that the optional bow locker (16 extra pounds) was now standard equipment and they had given up painting the aluminum white – paint issues had them leaving the aluminum bare – not pretty after a few years in/around salt water.  Lots of on-line research kept bringing up a brand called HIGHFIELD – I had never heard of it, but all rave reviews.  The next day we were the proud owners of a Highfield #CL290 CSM.  It was even less weight, with a bow locker, less expensive than the AB, painted white aluminum, a free seat bag & free dry bag.  An additional nice feature is the double floor – your feet will stay dry even with a gallon or two in the “bilge”.

We now see Highfields everywhere – it’s “the” popular, new brand.  The white paint still looks brand new – no peeling or flaking – hardly a scratch.  The painted floor isn’t just cosmetic – the white paint with light grey treads stays cool in the sun, unlike AB’s dark aluminum with black strips.  Unfortunately the 9 1/2′ length (same as the AB) is a tight fit hauling up between the hulls, but you need to deal with that with either brand. 

To strap it tightly while underway, we found Custom Tie Downs who make custom length/color straps with stainless steel buckles very economically.  It is very important to prevent any movement while underway, especially in rough seas.  We also use foam pads where our straps hold the dinghy against the davits.



High Bilge Water & High Engine Temp Alarms

I originally installed my own simple high bilge water alarm system using Aqualarm Bilge Water Switches hooked up to a loud truck back-up alarm installed between the upper & lower helms so it could be heard from both.  More recently, I wanted to include high engine temp alarms.

Hard to see – this is the Aqualarm high water switch

The most popular & easiest to add high engine temp systems appears to be made by Borel Manufacturing.  Their temp sensor itself simply is a band which goes around the exhaust hose.  They also make reasonably priced control panels & for just a few dollars more, with custom lettering.  So I used their custom control panel (for the lower helm), their temp sensors, my existing high water switches & my existing back-up alarm (or tried to – in order to hear at the upper helm).  While I could have used a 2nd control panel at the upper helm, that would have required running even more wiring, more holes in the upper helm & possible failure from salt spray/rain.  Unfortunately, there was a failure to communicate between myself & Borel, as using my existing back-up alarm for all of the 4 alarm conditions could not work. 

I came up with a work-around which required some additional wiring, but no holes in the helm.  I purchased 4 very loud alarm buzzers (from Amazon) which I installed inside the helm right-hand locker.  In an alarm condition, one of the buzzers will sound & we can run down to look at the control panel to see which condition is causing the alarm (I could have added 4 indicator lights as well).  An added benefit of my method is that an alarm sound is completely redundant of the Borel control panel (the control panel has a tiny circuit board which could fail).

All of this for something which will never happen, but certainly gives peace of mind.  Of the 2 times I needed a bilge pump to work, one time it went up in white smoke & the other time it sat there churning – air-locked.  I guess there are disadvantages of having such a dry bilge that the bilge pumps hardly get to operate!  As far as the engine temp alarms, I don’t completely trust the built-in alarms/buzzers on the Yanmar panels, plus the Borel sensors claim to activate before the engine block temp rises that far.


Dyneema Lifelines

The white vinyl covering on our original vinyl lifelines was cracking apart with rust running out.  I first tried stripping off the vinyl, soaking the wire in a mild acid to remove rust & re-installed as plain wire.  This worked for a few months, but rust began to reappear & I noticed (painfully!) that the wire had an occasional broken strand sticking out.

Rather than ordering replacement white vinyl covered lifelines, I read that sailboats are switching over to Dyneema life lines.  Since I wasn’t that crazy about the white vinyl look anyway … 

Dyneema is extremely strong while fairly inexpensive, although the cost of all of the new end fittings add up.  I came up with an idea – I spliced the Dyneema directly to the rails & to modified turnbuckles.  This reduced the number of new fittings needed by half with a simpler, cleaner look.  Dyneema is very easy to splice & I was even able to make a splicing tool out of a piece of coathanger, rather than buying a fancy splicing kit.


Stove-Top Hinged Cover

Various modifications have been made over the years by PDQ owners for increased galley storage.  One popular one is to install a little cabinet door behind the stove-top as storage for glassware.  We decided not to, as that space behind the stove-top we use as bulk pantry storage space, accessed under a cushion in the salon – the glassware storage would encroach into that space.  Most RVs have a folding or hinged covering over their stove-top, so we stole that idea.  I figured a cutting board material might make the most sense, providing another usable surface.  Searching on-line for cutting boards, I couldn’t find one the needed size, but wait … perhaps someone makes custom ones?  Of course, hundreds of people & companies do!

I didn’t need or want a heavy, thick board, so I found Custom Cutting Board Company who made me a 15″ x 19″ x 1/2″ bamboo for a reasonable $60.00.  That, along with a leftover piece of piano hinge & an “interesting” method to hold it up completed a simple, inexpensive way to score a little extra counter space.



Stopping Little Critters

We’re not sure how they got aboard, but we once saw evidence of mice or such which chewed up some foam pieces I had stored in a locker.  One possible entry point was an engine cowling on the stern steps.  Once in the engine compartment, a crafty mouse could travel anywhere. 

So simple – I thought I would just buy some stainless steel coarse screening (you don’t want it fine, as it would block too much air flow).  Not so easy, but Amazon to the rescue!  I ordered 2 $5.00 brass wok ladles the correct diameter.  I simply removed the handle portion, inserted into the opening & used a sealant to keep in place.  The openings are large, but not too large.

The other possible spot I’ve located are the 1/2″ high water drainage slots on the deck of the flybridge which lead thru the lockers.  In the lockers are the wiring “gutter” conduits in which the wiring travels to down below.  Into those, I simply jammed some stainless steel scouring pads around the wires to cut off access.


Salon Shelf

After seeing one on another PDQ, Lori has been “suggesting” I add one as well.  With 2 months recently in Fort Pierce near our storage unit (our extra tools), I finally ran out of excuses.  The front edge of scalloped trim (Home Depot) added a nice touch. 

The trick is to make a cardboard template first to make a good fit. 



Generator Raw Water Strainer

There have been discussions on the PDQ Powercat on-line forum regarding the genset raw water strainer back-siphoning, causing it & the hoses to empty out after turning the genset off.  This could damage the water pump impeller upon start-up next time, as the pump now has to draw water up many feet, running dry in the meantime.  We were having that problem – if you watched & listened in the genset compartment, you could see & hear the water glug, glugging – emptying out the strainer & then continuing to empty out the hose.  I tried the usual remedies of tightening the hose clamps, checking the o-ring on the raw water strainer, etc., with no change.

I next tried installing a Jabsco “non-return” valve which between the strainer & the water pump.  This only delayed the back-siphoning.  Looking at the strainer I noticed that both the intake & outgo were at the bottom.  Mmmm…if I could extend the intake higher to cause a “water break”, the water couldn’t back-siphon completely out the strainer & the hose…

I found that the Vetus #FTR140 has this different design – the intake comes right up near the top of the strainer, causing a “water break” which helps prevents back-siphoning.  Now, even if some back-siphoning does occurs down to the hose to the thru-hull, the strainer, hose & water pump will always be full of water upon start-up.  This is proven by looking into the strainer at start-up:  The strainer begins nearly full, goes down over half-way, just as the water begins to gush up from the intake, filling it up again.  The water pump never runs dry & the impeller now lasts twice as long.


Nova Kool Fridge/Freezer

We spent our first 2 years battling with our Nova Kool Fridge/Freezer.  Some mornings we would wake up with the fridge completely defrosted, 48 degrees & a depleted battery, as the compressor had been running continuously all night with no effect.

Other mornings, after a cool night, the fridge temp would be 32 degrees with veggies beginning to freeze.

Click here for some of the changes we’ve made:

Nova Kool Upgrades




Miscellaneous Other Mods

Boat Hooks

Rather than having our boathooks rattling around, we  installed some clips up under the edge of the flybridge cowling.  They are hidden out of sight, but we can easily reach under & snap them out one-handed. 

Since we reach in without needing to look, I cut off the nearby grabrail too-long mounting stud to protect our hands.



Throwable Life Cushion

As I’m not sure all authorities will consider my Life Sling or self-inflating Rescue Stick a legal throwable device, I found a place to store one of my spare life cushions.  It so happens that up underneath the rear port flybridge cowling is just the right size for a life cushion to slide up into.  To keep it snug I just slid up a scrap piece of foam to keep it from sliding down.  Just grap the strap & it pulls right down.



Extra Towel Hangers

Can’t get any simpler than this … To supplement the PDQ towel bars, we purchased these little self-adhesive towel holders (from Amazon).  We added some in both the galley & the head. 

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