They will have encountered most problems that are likely to occur in that time, but they will no doubt also be surprised at the different situations that can and do still pop up whilst at sea.
Therefore, the best counter to these often unforseen situations is to be as best prepared as you can possibly be. Read on:
"We've looked at so many boats," people frequently say to my husband Andy, who works as a yacht broker, "but how do we tell if a boat is fit to go offshore?" As we've recently crossed the Atlantic from the US to Spain in our Beneteau First 38, knowing what to look for, check over, and replace for an offshore passage is extremely fresh in our minds!
|'Bagheera' under sail|
Groundings and collisions with objects at sea can dole out tremendous strain on rudders. Rudder posts need to be robust enough to take the worst-case scenarios.
Skeg-hung rudders are a mixed bag. Many skegs are too weak to withstand a heavy collision or the load from a heavy grounding and can tear out of the hull. If well-built, however, a skeg does add some protection and directional stability.
Rudders mounted on the back of the keel are well protected from collisions, but just as vulnerable as any other to damage from dragging back into shallows. They are generally impossible to remove except when the boat is hauled. And, with any rudder design, it is important to prepare a strategy for steering the vessel to safety should the rudder be lost.
Bottom Paint: Modern, co-polymer bottom paints are ideal for the offshore voyager. These gradually erode away and perform best if the boat is moving rather than tied to a dock. Co-polymer paints can be applied in sufficient thickness to give prolonged protection (some freighters have obtained up to four years from a single application). Before leaving Australia, we applied four coats, alternating light and dark blue so wear could be monitored. Two extra coats were applied at the waterline, at the bow and leading edges of the keel and rudder. Three years later, only the waterline needed a touch-up.
Experienced cruisers know that a huge amount of cargo will be carried on a long trip. All this extra gear, such as the increased number of batteries, extra fuel, multiple anchors and chain, provisions, tools, spares, books, and more will make the boat float lower. Therefore, for offshore passagemaking, antifouling paint needs to be well above the waterline, so the bootstripe may have to be raised. We have redone ours twice! It was the souvenirs that did us in, such as the rocks and fossils collected by our son Colin and the 12-piece dinner set I purchased in Singapore!
Check All Fittings: All suspect fittings on the hull and deck should be resealed. All stanchions must be inspected carefully as a crewmember's life could depend on their integrity. Lifelines over 10 years old or visibly damaged should be replaced. Plastic coated wire needs special attention as corrosion may be hidden underneath the coating. If this is suspected, err on the conservative side and replace these before they break.
Cockpit lockers should have strong latches that will hold them closed in a knockdown, and should be sealed, if possible, to prevent the ingress of water in the event of being pooped. Anchors and anchor lockers merit special attention. Both must be securely fastened at sea, with the locker sealed to prevent water entering. Drainage may need to be improved. Arrangements for the mounting or stowage of such items as the liferaft, dinghy, outboard, solar panels, radar, or wind generator need to be made. It is not safe to have heavy items rigged to the lifelines. Strong points for attaching jack-lines along the deck and in the cockpit may have to be added.
All tangs, fittings, swages, and other rigging components need to be inspected closely before setting out for the wild blue.
Rigs: When we ordered Bagheera in 1985, we opted for a taller, keel-stepped mast instead of the standard deck-stepped spar, and opted to increase one size in rigging wire. The taller rig allowed us to fly more sail in light air. A keel-stepped mast is also preferable to deck-stepped ones because if the spar breaks, (normally at the spreaders), it's likely a useful stub will still stand, allowing you jury-rig some sail area.