Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The "Land Yacht"

On the Chesapeake
She is a 1996 Rialta, a hybrid VW engine & chassis with a Winnebago body.  She’s been in my family since new but hadn’t been used much in recent years.  We’ve just broken 70,000 miles on her engine, there is still lots of life in her.

I mentioned in a previous post that we have about 160 sq.ft. of living space:  22’ L.O.A. (length overall), minus about 2’ for the engine compartment, so about 20’ of living space by 8’ of width.  Of course there are a couple of feet chewed up by the cockpit as well, but I’m counting that as living space.  I’m guessing we have the interior volume of a 27 or 28 foot sailboat, pretty spartan, but we have everything we need within reach…literally.

There is a two burner propane stove, small refrigerator, sink, and even a microwave though we have not had the occasion to use it, right now it’s another storage cabinet.  The head has a unique design with “pull out” walls and a pull up floor so that it can expand to take up most of the middle of the living space and become a useable shower room.
Sunset Reflection
There is a convertible dinette at the rear which we have been using in the bed configuration.  We have a futon mattress on there for added support.  One of the great features of the Rialta is the large rear window which offers great visibility while driving, but also good views from our bed of some of the beautiful scenery and sunsets we have found so far.
Panoramic Views
She is very comfortable underway and purrs along at cruising speeds of 65-70 mph.  The Rialta has a small five cylinder engine, so she won’t win any races but we get gas mileage unheard of on most RVs.  On the run from Trenton, NJ to Annapolis, MD we averaged over 13 mpg, and then more recently as we drove around the DelMarVa peninsula we’ve been averaging 18 mpg!
Boondocking at Sam's Club (see the full moon?)
Of course the systems on an RV are similar to what we will someday find on a boat.  We have a propane tank in an outside locker, an electric water pump, and 12v power system with deep cycle marine batteries for our house system (about 200 amp hours for those who might be interested).  We also have limited holding for both fresh and not-so-fresh (grey & black) water, so we have to find someplace to dump every few days.
She’s not without some quirks.  Unless we are plugged in (on shore power), we can’t really use the fridge, so we have been using it primarily like an ice box with a 10lb. bag of ice in a container on the bottom and anything that needs refrigeration packed around it.  So far this has worked pretty good.  And just yesterday morning we couldn’t get her to start for about an hour and a half.  Just as I was about to start pulling what I suspected was the fuel filter off (after further review it turns out it was not), Trisha worked some engine voodoo ritual (found on the web) which involved turning the key a few times, flooring the accelerator and then cranking her over, and sure enough it worked!  Since that mishap the engine has been fine, actually running a bit smoother.  I (and my dad) suspect that there might have been some gunk in the fuel filter from sitting that finally got worked out.  Suffice to say some fuel system cleaner has been added and the situation will be monitored.

So, that is our “land yacht” in a nutshell.  She is nothing too glamorous, pretty small, and looks a little bit like a space shuttle, but it is what is getting us out here sooner than later.  After reading many books on sailboat cruising, one of my favorite pieces of advice comes from Lin & Larry Pardey:  Go simple, go small, but go now.
By the waterfront in Cambridge, MD

Comparison shot to a 30ish foot sailboat


  1. Really nice! I can imagine us living in one of those after we do the sailboat thing! Looking forward to hearing more.

  2. Sounds like a great plan! Too bad we aren't yet in Deltaville, VA as you may have passed by there. You guys are right to go now!

  3. Looks like a whole lot of fun. Enjoy the cruising!

  4. Sounds great! I can live the dream through your posts! Keep'em coming


  5. This is very close to life on a boat; you're just on land, that's all, and I often refer to our boat as a camper on the water.
    Keep having fun!