Monday 14 December 2009

Automatic Identification System (AIS) Update for Sailboats and Yachts

As more of these AIS products for sailboats and yachts come onto the market, I thought it was time again to run a brief review of what might be best to suit your requirements for you and your sailboat.

Like GPS, when that technology first hit the market, it was slow to be taken up by recreational yachties, and was several years before it was embraced fully by the sailing community. I believe that at the time, that was partially due to the general unreliability of its predecessor, Satnav, and folks took some time to understand that GPS was not of the same stable and was much more reliable and accurate. The other main advantage of GPS over Satnav was that a vessels' position was shown constantly as opposed to an update every six or twelve hours.

As an example of the growth of GPS, I can recall the first time I sailed in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), of the fleet of 130 yachts, only twenty or so vessels had GPS units installed, and of those, most were receivers only, just gave lat/long data and nothing else. Five years on in 1995, when I did the ARC in my own vessel, every yacht of the then 140 fleet had fully fledged GPS units installed. Since then, the proliferation of units, both hard wired and hand held has been astounding, along with the reduction of cost, which in turn has made them affordable for all boaties.

AIS systems for the sailing community are currently going through a similar acceptance period. Already, there are a greater variety of units coming onto the market and the price also is gradually decreasing, to the point where a basic AIS receiving only unit can be purchased for around $400.

You may have read about young Jessica Watson who is currently making the sailing trip of her life to be the youngest person to circumnavigate, single handed. Following her earlier contact with a merchant vessel on her shakedown cruise, she has since sailed north from Sydney, crossed the equator and now making good progress heading down to the Roaring Forties and Cape Horn. She is making excellent progress and in good shape to tackle the challenging sailing ahead.

I am sure that if she had had installed an AIS unit on her 'Ella's Pink Lady' in the beginning, it would have given her a warning of the approaching vessel in sufficient time to get up on deck and take avoiding action to miss the freighter. Suffice to say that whilst in Sydney making final preparations prior to leaving port, a AIS system was installed.

To many, it would seem to be just another electronic device to clutter up your nav area and something else to go wrong and cause you trouble. However, as this technology is available, easily installed and not costly in its basic form, why not use it - after all, if it saved you just one potential collision incident at sea during your voyage, it would have been worth it.

There are already a number of brands available, starting with a 'receive only' unit from Comar, their AIS-Multi for $400, moving up through the Simrad range, Yacht Digital, Icom (you can check them all out on the internet) etc., to the top of the range currently, from Furuno. This is the Navnet 3D which integrates AIS capabilities into a suite of chart plotting, GPS and 3D radar. This total package price is around $8500.

There is an excellent four minute video demonstrating the Furuno Navnet system you can see on , and click on 'Navnet 3D sea trial showing radar overlay and AIS'. Alternatively you can type in 'Furuno Navnet 3D Sea Trial' into Youtube and it will come up.

Images courtesy Comar, Icom and Furuno

You can read more about close shaves and similar incidents with merchant vessels in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Friday 13 November 2009

Learn Basic Sailing Knots for Sailboat Voyage Planning

Effective and rapid knot tying as part of your sailboat voyage planning is a very important skill set to learn and to practice continually until it becomes automatic - which knot to select for any given task and then be able to tie it quickly. It is a fascinating subject and you will find that you will become obsessed with being able to tie all kinds of nautical knots easily and fast.

As suggested in a previous blog I recommend that you purchase a suitable length (say 1.5metres) of soft braided rope, 6 to 8mm. diameter and set it up on the back rail of a chair, towel rail or bed end so it is in position permanently. Every time you go past, grab the rope and tie a knot or two. This way, you will soon find you can tie several basic knots very quickly.

The other day I came across this informative little kit on knot tying. it consists of a manual and a dvd showing how to tie a wide range of knots. The clarity is excellent and the step by step process on the dvd makes it very simple to follow.
You can see from my images that the book is illustrated with very clear and simple instructions on how to tie a knot.

The 180 minute dvd takes it all to a higher level again with visual step by step demonstrations in slow motion, so you can easily follow and have time to make adjustments as you go. A simple click on your mouse stops the frame whilst you check you are tying correctly before proceeding to the next step.

The bowline, which is the knot you are just about most likely to use more than any other knot is shown very simply. This knot you need to practice from all angles as you need to be able to tie it quickly, sometimes in pressure situations, for example throwing a line around a pile or cleat on a wharf/jetty/marina berth as you are approaching, especially in a breeze or wind. Your window of opportunity in these situations may be only a few seconds, particularly if there is no one on the dock to help you. So you need to be able to throw the line around smartly and secure your vessel immediately.

Once your yacht is secure fore and aft, then you can go about confidently and comfortably adjusting all of your lines to make your boat snug and secure.

With practice, from this manual, you will be able to carry out this procedure in ten seconds flat or even less! don't believe me? then set up your line on the back of a chair and practice till you can. You will find you can get to twenty seconds quite easily, then fifteen seconds. It will take a little longer to pare off that last five seconds to get down to ten, but with a little time and patience, you will.

The kit goes on showing you how to tie the Fishermans Bend, Clove Hitch, Rolling Hitch and Sheet Bend. Many other knots are included and then it moves onto lashings, whippings and splicing.

Once you have caught the bug, you will want to go on and learn all of these knots. The author, Egmont Friedl has been tying knots since he was lad and runs many seminars on this subject. You can visit him on his website and learn much more on this fascinating and essential subject for cruising sailboat sailors.

When you have really caught the bug you can scout around for the all time doyen book of knot tying 'Ashley's Book of Knots'. This is a six hundred page volume first published way back in 1944. I have a wonderful mint 1957 edition at home which sits in pride of place amongst my sailing books. A search over time in Old and Antique bookstores should eventually unearth one.

Images courtesy Egmont Friedl

You can read much more about tying up to strange jetties and poles whilst cruising in far away places in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Planning Your Sailboat 'Adventure of a Lifetime' Voyage

Setting sail in your own sailboat and voyaging across the many oceans of our planet and visiting the myriad fantastic destinations en route is the easy part of your adventure.

Planning ahead of time to get it right is the more difficult of the two, so you need to begin well in advance of your actual departure date. Depending on your own situations, that period could be months or even years. No matter what your time frame is, the more detailed your planning is, the better you will cope with all the situations that the sea, Mother Nature and human elements will throw at you (and they will) during your odyssey. In the event you will be amazed at the variety of events you will encounter along the way. They will range from the fantastic to the bizarre, monotonous to exhilerating, scary to exciting, and sometimes downright challenging. This is all part of the experience, but in the main these experiences will be wonderful and uplifting and once again you will surprise yourself at just how simply, many adversities you will overcome with your own gathered knowledge and ingenuity.

An 'Old Salt' once said to me when I was in the early stages of planning my odyssey: 'You may not be fully qualified/experienced when you set sail for the first time and leave port, but you sure as hell will be whenever it is that you return!'. Never truer words were spoken and I can assure you that the unbelievable storehouse of knowledge and experience that you will build during the time you are away will be a constant source of amazement to you and on which you will forever be able to draw upon.

So, now is the time to begin. It does not matter whether you actually own your own sailboat yet, that will happen as part of the process. This a good place to start - draw up a thoughtful and lengthy list of your criteria for the sailboat of your dreams.

A few headings could be:

Class - sloop, ketch, schooner etc.

Size - length, beam and draft.

Keel - long, deep, bulb, retracting etc

Deck layout - aft or centre cockpit, single forestay, cutter rig, running backstays etc.

Cabin layout - how many berths, master cabin fore or aft.

Electronics - radar, GPS, plotting, hf radio, computer with weather software, and now, AIS.

These will keep you busy for a time.

Depending on the level of your sailing skills, you can take any number of sailing courses, however, make sure they include more practical sessons than theory - you can read all the books on sailing technique etc. in the world, but nothing beats getting out on the water and putting sailing miles under your belt. Go down to the local sailing club and get yourself a regular crew position on a club racer.

If you live by the water you can buy a small and inexpensive sailing dinghy and get all the fun and experience you can poke a stick at.

Then you can go on and book yourself into a 'safety at sea' course.

Also, during this time, book yourself into a local 'First Aid' course. From my own experience of a crew member fracturing a couple of ribs mid Pacific, I can tell you it is invaluable knowledge to have. It will also assist in deciding the make up of your medical kit.

Next, study navigation. With all the electronics nowadays, this is an area that tends to be left aside more and more, leaving the electronics to take care of it. This fine as they do a wonderful job, but what if they all go down for some reason? lightning strikes, knockdown, flooding or other damage. You need to have navigational skills to be able to navigate if this adversity strikes. Also, include a course on astro navigation as this is a marvellous feeling, when mastered, being able to use a sextant and make a plot within a nautical mile or two of your GPS readings.

You will need to take a course and get your ticket for HF radio. Along with this you will get call signs etc. for your boat.

Get a two metre length of supple line from your local chandler and set it up on a convenient bar/rail at home somewhere - in your office, the bed end, back of a chair and constantly practice your knot tying until you can tie them automatically. The knots you will use the most will be bowline, clove hitch, fishermens bend, rolling hitch - become proficient at these and as many others as you can.

Study charts and all their markings, buoys, rules of the road and ships lights.

Flags of all nations is a fascinating subject, along with nautical flags and what they mean.

You are going to be busy fitting all this in and my suggestion is to start as soon as possible and get as much out of the way prior to actually purchasing your dream sailboat. As your 'set sail' date moves closer you will find a myriad other things need your attention and it is easy to put learning some of these other skills aside - so get as many under your belt as you can well ahead of time.

Finally, when you do have a few minutes to spare, read any sailing material you can get your hands on and especially don't miss 'Sailing Alone Around the World' by Capt. Joshua Slocum.

Good luck and exciting and safe sailing.

You can read much more about cruising and passagemaking in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Saturday 26 September 2009

Propspeed Antifouling for Sailboats

There has been much discussion of late about these revolutionary applications for better antifouling of props, shafts and any under water metal fittings of a sailboat or yacht. There are various products on the market, but one that appears to stand out is a New Zealand product called Propspeed which has been developed by Oceanmax International of Auckland, New Zealand.

Everyone is looking for improved product performance and also applications that are environmentally friendly and do not leach or allow toxic chemicals into our oceans.

Propspeed works on the principle of the silicone polymer finish being so slick that all those little guys that want to clamp themselves onto your running gear just cannot get a toehold, fall away again in frustration, leaving your prop, shaft and any other metal skin fittings underwater, clean. We all understand the benefits of clean running gear - no fouling, increased speed of your vessel and the corresponding saving of fuel. With Propspeed we can add the additional benefit of no detrimental effect on the environment.

Having looked at all these possibilities we decided it was time to do something about it and as the boat was going to be hauled anyway, get the Propspeed application to see how effective it will be between now (early spring) and when the boat will be hauled again in March 2010. That will be seven summer months (warm water temperatures, higher growth) from now and will certainly show a result in that time frame.

Propspeed can be purchased directly with the application carried out by yourself, but then you have no guarantee if things don't work out. By commissioning your local boatyard to do it, you know that with their experience of doing many already, they are going to apply the product professionally, and you can also discuss some kind of warranty situation with them to cover any future problems that may arise.

The other downside to doing it yourself is what to do with the materials that are left over? for an average sized sailboat (30 - 40ft) you would use approximately half of the pack. Once opened it would not keep for a year, so that means disposing of it or finding some other boat owner willing to do the job at the same time as you - and you know how tricky that can be!

Having Propspeed applied professionally is the manufacturers'recommendation. This was the route we chose and it proved to be a relatively painless operation. We sanded down the shaft and prop so it was clean and shiny when the man arrived from the yard. We were just a little taken aback when on setting to work he took a much coarser grade (80 grit) of emery paper and roughed up these parts again.

Two coats of etch were then applied with suitable drying time in between. It is the etch that is coloured (yellow, image above). The topcoats of Propspeed Clear were applied with a fine brush and left to dry for several hours before re-launching the boat. The whole job took one hour approximately (above) and when finished a modest bill of $150.00 was proffered - good value indeed if it works.

The two other images here show Propspeed applied to two different vessels showing very effective results. The multi blade prop is after thirteen months and several thousand sea miles. The other prop had Propspeed applied to the outer section of the blades and shows a marked difference between them and the inner areas where there was no application.

You can find out more about this product at the Oceanmax website and find a professonal applicator in your area.

Two lower images courtesy Oceanmax International Ltd.

You can read more about anti fouling of sailboats while cruising in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Monday 7 September 2009

Ultrasonic Anti Fouling for Sailboats

Our post back on 11 April 2009 featured a range of ultrasonic anti fouling systems that have come onto the market in recent years. Since posting, I have been contacted by a German company, Impact Tec, manufacturing a similar product, pointing out that I missed them off the list. So, under the heading of balance, the following is an extract from their website:

Your sailing yacht is your pride and joy! No matter how small or big your yacht is, algae, shells and other small animals do not stop from clinging to your favorite. The fouling of the hull is unfortunately not just a visual problem. Sustained algae on your hull can damage commonly used materials and finishes, in the worst case, making them brittle or cracked. In addition, the "beard algae" and mussel fouling deteriorates the lubrication of the hull through the water, resulting in loss of speed, and when motoring, reflecting a higher fuel consumption.

The variety of protective coatings are the traditional way to deal with this problem. Moreover, today there are still many antifouling paints containing toxic ingredients such as copper powder, herbicides and fungicides, which are extremely harmful to the environment.

Is there anyone who has not already had their eyes startled when the bill arrives for the anti-fouling of their sailoatboat? How much money or just work and sweat has already gone into your protective coating?

Fig.1 shows the "Why Knot '2006 with heavy algae growth on the hull.

Fig.2 taken in 2008 shows the significant difference with 2006.

The Transducer - Ultrasonic generator emitted a multi-layered ultrasonic pattern. In each of algae is a microscopic fluid bubbles called vacuoles. Our digital ultrasonic pattern brings this to vibrate, this leads to the collapse of the vacuole and eventually to the dying algae.

With our Tec Marine Product range, Marine Tec 60-AC, 40 - AC, 20 - AC and AC - 10 it is possible to permanently stop the growth of algae on the ship's hull. Already infested hulls can be treated with this technology. As the algae are killed off by the ultrasound, they are easily wiped off from the ship's hull.

You can save yourself costly Antifouling expense and the associated incoming order to stay in dry dock.

By stopping the algal fouling on the hull, your boat glides through the water better and it also saves more fuel. Even the cleaning of your rotating ships log is no longer so often necessary.
Do something for the longevity and value of your yacht.

Extract and images courtesy Impact Tec website

The four models listed above feature six, four, two and one transducers depending on the size of your vessel, and range in price from Euros 1195 to 4999. You can visit their website on to learn more about these products.

You can learn more about anti fouling your sailboat when cruising in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Saturday 22 August 2009

Buying a Sailboat on the Internet - Pitfalls and Dangers

The internet is a great and wonderful thing where you can find out just about anything you want to know and purchase anything you want.

However, when it comes to investing in your dream sailboat, it pays handsomely to be very cautious and thorough before going ahead with a purchase. And remember, that boats like cars, often look much better in a photographic image than in reality!!

The following is an extract from my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' and is very much a cautionary tale of a real life situation I came across in Papeete, French Polynesia.

........'It is at this point our crew are joined by an Australian yachtsman slowly working his wayback to New South Wales. They first met him at the Balboa Yacht Club in Panama. His is an excruciatingly painful account and worth repeating here as a cautionary tale.

Some eighteen months previously he had purchased a sloop, by private sale, on the internet. It was 'laying up' on Mystic River, Connecticut, in the USA. He arrived there to discover that the boat was in far worse condition than he had been led to believe. He spent the whole winter working and living on board in freezing conditions preparing it for the voyage.

Imagine waking every morning with ice hanging from your moustache and
having to crawl out of your bunk, climb down the ladder, trudge through a foot of snow to the ablution block, re-climb the ladder, and begin the days work with fingers that will hardly move, and brain numbed into lethargy from the cold. For an Australian raised in the warmth of NSW it must have been soul destroying.

During that period he spent more on the craft than what he had originally paid for it. This was not part of the plan!
Finally setting sail, his trip to date had been one disaster following another – too many to repeat here, and too depressing to contemplate. The last news our crew had of him was here in Papeete. He had arrived under sail as his engine had seized up completely several days out of Tahiti, and he had been told the required parts would be five weeks in coming. He was fast running out of funds and still three thousand nautical miles from home.

Visiting him aboard his boat the next day, our captain and sibling crew could not believe the appalling conditions in which he existed. The boat was dark, damp, and quite chilly, despite the warmth of the Tahiti sun. The smell of mould and dry rot was almost overpowering and after a short chat and looking around at his many problems, our crew manage to winkle him ashore to a warm and sunny café for an obligatory Hinano. Here, his glum outlook brightens somewhat as the amber liquid takes effect.

A respectable time later, they make their departures, waving cheerily as he disappears back down the dock toward his boat, no doubt to stare once again at the overwhelming number of things to be fixed before he sets sail again.

As at the time our little ship departed Tahiti, his parts had yet to arrive and he was never heard of again – he had a vhf radio on board but it was ineffectual at best.

From time to time his name came up in conversation as to his possible progress and whereabouts, but not having any means of contact, our crew could only suppose what and where.
There being no reports of vessels sinking or missing during the next six months or so,they could only assume that he finally did make it back to Australia – any prayers that went up to ‘the one who made us’, for the safety of sailors at sea, would hereafter have his name on the list.'

Extract from my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana'

Hybrid yacht image courtesy

The moral of this story is never part with any money on the internet for any vessel before an inspection by yourself and also preferably by an authorised marine surveyor. If you are going to go cruising offshore for extended periods you want to know that she meets your criteria and is going to be able to stand up to the sometimes tough conditions you are going to meet along the way.

Best practice would be to use the internet only as a search tool to locate the vessel which fits your needs and then put into motion a detailed and strict procedure which you follow rigidly.

This will ensure that when you are competely happy and arrive at a point to negotiate a price, you are comfortable with your position. Ideally, you will agree on a price with the seller, pay a deposit, with the balance payable on delivery.

By following this procedure stringently you will finish up with a well found vessel that will give you many happy years of sailing and that will take you to many of the wonderful cruising grounds of this earth of ours.

You can learn more about planning your offshore cruising adventure in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Saturday 15 August 2009

Sailboat 'Spirit of Mystery' Replicates Historic 1854 Voyage to Australia

Now, here's something to aspire to! Pete Goss the famous English round the world racing sailor who competed in several open ocean and 'Vendee Globe' races has just completed the voyage of his life.

Pete is well remembered in Australian waters for turning back in a massive southern ocean storm in the 1996 Vendee Globe race and rescuing fellow competitor, Frenchman Rapheal Dinelli off his sinking yacht. He was awarded the DSO in England and the Croix de Guerre from France for his rescue of Dinelli.

After racing around the globe at maximum speeds (averaging around 14 knots), along with all the benefits of modern technology on board, he was looking for something different.

Being a Cornishman himself he hit upon the idea of replicating the historic voyage that seven fellow Cornishmen made on a whim in 1854 to try their luck in the Australian goldfields.

The following is an extract from Sydney Boating website
'Spirit of Mystery, the 37ft replica wooden lugger that has voyaged 12,000 miles from Cornwall to Australia this year, sailed into Port Melbpourne on the 9th March 2009.

The historic craft has been built and skippered by British adventurer Pete Goss to follow in the wake of the original Mystery, which completed the journey in 1854 becoming the smallest migrant vessel to make it to Australia.

Spirit of Mystery will be one of the special marina exhibits at the Sydney International Boat Show at the end of July. The boat is open to the public during the whole show, and Pete Goss will give daily talks on his heroic voyage.

The original Mystery was an open Mounts Bay lugger built in Newlyn and sailed to Australia by seven Cornishmen wanting to try their luck in the Australian gold rush.

Pete Goss has built Spirit of Mystery 154 years later to celebrate their achievement, sailing to Australia with a crew including his brother Andy Goss, brother in law Mark Maidment and young son Eliot, 14.

The vessel is as true to the original Mystery as possible and, although there are concessions to safety, there are no modern electrical or navigational systems, with navigation being carried out by the traditional methods using the sun and stars.

Information on the craft, her crew and her voyage will be available at the Marine Precinct at the Sydney International Boat Show, where Pete Goss will be working with NSW Maritime to promote safe and responsible boating.

For more information about Pete Goss and Spirit of Mystery and the fantastic voyage visit his website

Extract courtesy Sydney Boating and images courtesy Pete Goss.

You can read more about cruising the oceans of our planet in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Sailboat Winter Haul Out, Clean, Anti Foul Touch Up, Buff and Polish

It is not often one chooses to haul out a sailboat in the dead of winter. However, in Sydneys' benign climate this is not as bad as you might imagine. A friend of mine discovered the growth on his hull was excessive by June, which is only half way through the annual haul out programme, the next one scheduled being the main annual spring haul out in October.

Whether it is the advance of climate change we don't know. What we do know is that the water temperature this winter stayed much warmer than normal and much longer than normal. It was still almost the summer temperature of 18+ degrees celcius in the middle of June. This appears to have kept the weed growing vigorously and there was quite substantial growth on the hull, particularly around the waterline.

With the winter racing series in mind it was decided drastic action was required. So, on a fine and sunny but cool morning in late June the 43 footer was slipped and work begun.

A semi enthusiastic team of four had been mustered with the object in mind of completeing the job as quickly as possible and getting her back into the water.

The tasks to hand were: Acid wash to clean off scuff marks etc. off the hull, water blast the hull, apply anti foul to the boot topping and as far down the hull as necessary, wet sand the propeller and shaft, apply polish to and buff the complete hull above the waterline. We expected we would use up most of the day to get them all completed, but as we shall see, our industry even surprised us and we were finished much sooner.

Tools and materials required were: Acid for the acid wash, water blaster (supplied by the yacht club), masking tape for the boot topping line, anti foul, electrical paddle for stirring, emery type paper/cloth, polish, polishing rags, electrical buffer, scaffold stands and planks.

Throw in a liberal dose of humour, a thermal bag containing hot coffee and sandwiches, and we had a possible recipe for completing the job in time for 'splashing' the boat and a quick sail before the winter sun disappeared below the western bulk of Scotland Island.

Under the winter sunshine and beady eye of the skipper we began. After thirty minutes sweaters were being discarded and everyone was working in shirtsleeves. The water blasting was quite simple in the end as the weed, whilst bad enough around the waterline, was much less than anticipated further down the hull, so she was cleaned off more quickly than anticipated.

The acid wash (50 - 50 water, acid) had been applied and allowing ten minutes or so for drying was water blasted off at the same time as the weed growth.

Next, the lid comes off the anti foul paint and is stirred with an electrical paddle. Tape is applied to the boot topping line in readiness for brushing on the anti foul and polish is being liberally slapped on the hull above the waterline, let dry and then buffed up with the electric buffer.

The propeller, whilst the smallest item being attacked, was in the worst shape and was badly encrusted with marine growth. The shaft, whilst not too bad, also needed attention. With all the activity going on around him, the crew member assigned this task, with water and wet sanding emery type paper/cloth, worked on methodically bringing the prop pretty much back to its original shiny and spotless finish - beautiful!

Before we knew it, everything was finished and we were standing back admiring our handiwork (above) - the sandwiches and coffee never tasted better!

She had been hauled early that morning. We were finished by 1:30pm and congratulating ourselves on our 'Teamwork' with still a good chunk of the day remaining to do other things.

You can read more about sailboat maintenance whilst cruising in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website for sailors

Monday 22 June 2009

Sir Peter Blake Museum Nears Completion in Auckland

To all sailors everywhere and especially in his home country of New Zealand Sir Peter Blake is fondly remembered with pride and affection. His life, exploits, successes and his huge popularity will always be commemorated. His later environmental works are still going on long after his untimely passing on that fateful day in 2001.

The construction of the new wing of The New Zealand National Maritime Museum which will be a wonderful tribute to Sir Peter and known as 'Blue Water Black Magic', is well under way and expected to be completed by the end of July this year.

It will be a fitting way to remember New Zealands most famous and one of the worlds most famous sailors, hero and general good guy.

Located in the heart of the New Zealand 'super yacht' finishing area at the Viaduct Harbour on the Auckland waterfront, it will be open to all. An inspiration to any visitor it will become a major tourist attraction for domestic and international travellers.

The following is an extract from the NZ National Maritime Museum website

'The New Zealand National Maritime Museum, with the support of the Blake family and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and with significant investment from the New Zealand Government and Auckland City Council, is creating an enduring tribute to a New Zealand hero.

Blue Water Black Magic - A Tribute to Sir Peter Blake will be an engaging, inspiring, educational, fun, family-targeted interactive exhibition in a redeveloped Maritime Museum wing designed by renowned New Zealand architect, Pete Bossley . The Maritime Museum’s Hall of Yachting is being completely redesigned and redeveloped to create an exhibition that will be rich in objects, stories, interactivity, audio visual content and colour.

Featuring the 1995 America’s Cup-winning boat NZL32 – Black Magic, the exhibition commemorates the life and work of Sir Peter, including the America’s Cup challenge and defences, the Jules Verne Trophy, the Whitbread Round-the-World races and other career highlights and personal stories, while also profiling many other key players, innovative designers and thinkers in New Zealand’s boating industry.

Central to the design of the experience is the commitment to engaging young people and families to try out and explore the elements of leadership and determination. To understand that even if “winning is everything”, failure is just as much a part of success - as Sir Peter himself said many times, “if it’s not hard it’s not worth doing”.

Extract courtesy New Zealand National Maritime Museum, images courtesy Pete Bossley Architects.

NZL32 'Black Magic' that won the Americas Cup will be suspended from the roof in August, the following three months will see the full fitout and a 'soft' opening in November with the Official opening taking place in January 2010, which will of course be attended by Sir Peters' wife Lady Pippa and family.

Monday 8 June 2009

Sailing Techniques for Improved Sailboat Performance

As Captain of your own sailboat you will need to be aware of changing conditions (weather, wind and sea) as they occur and take the necessary action so that your boat responds quickly to the new conditions. By anticipating ahead of time what the weather is going to throw at you next and adjusting your boats' attitude to suit, you will get maximum performance and a more comfortable ride for your crew.

The following is an extract from a 'Cruising World' article which lists a number of techniques you can use. They illustrate that by thinking ahead of the weather as best you can, you can keep your boat properly trimmed and sailing at her best.
'Keep an eye on the masthead fly. The wind changes aloft before it does on the water.

Anticipate wind changes by watching to windward. Try to guess in advance what the wind will do next. If you were correct, make a note, and remember what you saw for the next time.

A sudden gust, unless accompanied by a change in direction, will move the apparent wind forward. Your first reaction should be to ease sails, then turn the rudder to bear away.

Before manoeuvreing, always sail at full speed. Wait until the crew is organized, then make your manoeuvre in a puff of wind.

When tacking, start your turn slowly. Increase the rate of turn once the boat is head to wind. Don't allow your jib to back, as this will slow you down.

After tacking, sail a few degrees low to build up speed before sailing up to and trimming for your new course. When sailing downwind, reach up to gain speed after a jibe or any time you feel the boat has lost momentum.
During times of action, assign every member of your crew a specific job. On a well-sailed boat, everyone works in his or her assigned area and stays low.

Keep your crew off the foredeck - weight forward slows a boat.

When steering with the wheel, stand up so you have a greater height of eye. Angle of heel is your most important performance indicator. While helming in light air, never sit to leeward.

To reduce weather helm and keep rudder drag low, do one or a combination of the following: Move crew weight to windward, shorten sail, ease the traveller, ease the sheet, or flatten the mainsail. Your objective is a balanced helm. Too much heel also creates weather helm.

Are you sailing in clear air? Disturbed wind or water dramatically affects speed on boats of all sizes. If your wind is blanketed or you're sailing in choppy water, manoeuvre away.

In light wind, keep the crew still and quiet to allow the trimmers and helmsman to focus on performance without distractions.

Check to see that the telltales on your jib are breaking evenly when you luff. On the mainsail, the top telltale should be just on edge at all times.

When trimming sails, remember that shape is more important than the amount of projected sail area. A sail works at peak efficiency when its draft is 40- to 50-percent aft of the luff. To point higher, move the draft aft. To sail faster, move the draft forward.'

Extract courtesy 'Cruising World'

You can read more about sailing in all weathers' when cruising/passagemaking in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Rainbows, Moonbows and the Alexander Dark Band Effect

Driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a stormy afternoon recently, the sun broke through momentarily and a brilliant double rainbow formed, arcing east over the city toward the sea. The clouds behind were nigh on black so the twin bows stood out starkly against this background.

We are all familiar with this glorious phenomenon of nature and appreciate them from the time when we were kids and marvelled the first time we saw one. My mind turned to thinking about them when at sea when most times they are more spectacular than when on land.

The first thing to notice about twin bows is that the colour spectrum of the outer one is the reverse to the inner one - this is a result of the refraction process. The lesser known thing is that the band in between the two bows is slightly darker and appears to flatten out the colour of the background clouds. This is known as the 'Alexander Dark Band', the 'Alexander Band' or the 'Alexander Effect'. Alexander of Aphrodisius was the first to describe this effect way back in 200AD and today it carries his name.

Because the raindrops have already been refracted to form the reflected second rainbow, all the rain in between cannot reflect any light to the observer, so that band appears darker. Next time you see a double rainbow take a close look and you will see the 'Alexander Dark Band' effect which also tends to flatten out the colour in that banded area.

This brings us to the far more rare phenomenon of a Moonbow. They are observed far less frequently and to view a good one, very rare indeed. The cause and structure is identical to a rainbow except that they occur at night using the light from the moon. They look exactly the same as a rainbow except they are in black and white and grey, no colour. Having observed a near flawless exhibition (see extract below) in a South Seas squall, I can confirm this. The bands are quite sharply delineated in their various shades of grey, dark to light, but no colour. This is because night light does not have sufficient strength to activate the human eye colour cone receptors.

To find more technical data on these fascinating and spectacular natural manifestations you can go to

Meanwhile, the following is an extract from my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website for sailors

'...........It is on one such other similar moonlit night watch, the captain, glancing over his shoulder into a disappearing rain squall is transfixed by a rare sight. There, sitting dead centre of the fast retreating raindrops, and between them and the moon behind him, is a perfect Moonbow. This rare phenomenon is created exactly the same way as a daytime rainbow with this particular one forming a perfect hoop from sea surface to sea surface, absolute even brightness all the way round, with the bands quite distinctly separated.

They are not in colour, just various shades of grey matching the daytime rainbow band sequence. Night light has not sufficient strength to activate the colour cone receptors of the human eye so they don’t recognise colour. Staring with wonder, it goes through the captains’ mind to rouse the others, but rather selfishly decides to let them sleep on. If he woke them and they were anything less impressed than he, then it would diminish his own satisfaction and fulfilment of witnessing one of natures’ marvels – what a privilege to view this unique spectacle.'

Images reproduced courtesy atoptics and Wikipedia

You can read more about weather patterns, reading and interpreting the weather whilst cruising/passagemaking in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website - see you there.

Friday 1 May 2009

Sailboat Engine Gearbox Reconditioning - Final

Having admired the re-conditioned gearbox with its brand new coat of paint from all angles and following several false starts (colds, 'flu and strong winds, big chop in a dinghy) Patrick and I find ourselves back on board and fully prepared to re-install the gearbox.

Hunkering down into position in the cramped space we prepare for the long haul of heaving the box (heavy when you are kneeling in a cramped position and leaning forward) onto the engine bolts and then getting all the nuts and washers on and tightened correctly. My suggestion of going on through into the engine, removing the bearings and checking them was met with astonished incredulity! - they had been replaced previously and were fine, so my brand of humour was treated with the contempt it deserved!

One small problem we encountered was how to get the four coupling bolts back into their respective holes once in position. They had wriggled out after some difficulty when removing the gearbox and we worked on the premise that what came out must go back in. However, on re-assembly the angle was so acute, there was no way they would line up sufficiently to access the holes in the gearbox coupling flange from the forward engine side.

The only alternative (after much debate) was to bolt them up from the aft side with a spacer under the bolt head. This was tried on one but, as the lock nuts are half as thick again as the bolt head, we felt the clearance from the gearbox casing was insufficient - it was down to 1.5mm. In all probability this clearance was enough, but it looked way to fine for our liking and in its original position the clearance was around 3mm. What to do?

In the end it was quite simple - we obtained some shiny new locknuts which Patrick ground down on his workshop grinder, taking off 1.5mm from the underside.

Another dinghy trip out to the yacht saw us crunching down around the engine again and fitting the new nuts. Voila! they fitted perfectly, and with the additional spacer under the bolt head we now had 3mm. clearance between the nuts outer surface (the bolt end being flush with the lock nut) and the gearbox casing - looked much better, and along with peace of mind, it gave us confidence in a job well done.

All that remained now was to couple to the 'drive saver' and the shaft coupling and this was a breeze. The gear cable strut was then bolted back into position and the gear cable attached ensuring it was placed in its correct groove.

The moment of truth had arrived when it was time to start the engine and test that the gears would take up and operate correctly. With the engine on and running Patrick slipped it into the forward position - after a moments hesitation there was a satisfactory clunk and she was in gear - into neutral and into reverse - same clunk again and she was in reverse. Grins all round. Everything was working as it should so the kettle was put on and a sweeter cup of tea was never enjoyed more.

Patrick has just returned from a few days sail up the NSW coast and reports that when motoring the gears are working perfectly.

Lessons: With a little time and patience, no job cannot be tackled on your own boat.

Never be afraid to consult with the experts - in this case it was Barry of Marine Gearbox Services whose email is

When uncoupling the gearbox make sure you leave the four coupling flange bolts in position in the flange - this will overcome any problems when re-fitting.

You can read more about mechanical maintenance onboard whilst cruising in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downlaodable from my website

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Kannad 406 EPIRB Automatic in Real Lifesaving Situation

As with all technology, advances are continually made and it is no different with the 406MHz EPIRB technology. The latest generation come with automatic integration into your GPS system.

This gives much greater accuracy and pinpoints a vessel or MOB to 120 metres. The old 121.5(discontinued) was 12 miles approximately and the the earlier 406MHz units were 1.2 - 2 miles accuracy.

This Obviously gives the search and rescue teams a great advantage with much improved possibility of locating the target faster.

This is illustrated in the following transcript of the recent sinking of a French fishing vessel and subsequent speedy rescue of the crew:

The sinking of the 'Sandokan' - the fishing boat 'Sandokan' was wrecked on the 8th of April 2009 in Saint Quay Portrieux, North West France.

“While fishing operation, the boat scraped a rock with the keel, a leak appeared extremely rapidly and the trawler sank very quickly” declared William Abbestre, President of the SNSM from Saint Quay Portrieux.It is 2.15 PM when the two mariners of the 53 feet trawler see their boat sinking, from their life raft.

The distress beacon KANNAD 406 Auto, perfectly adapted to the fishing boats, activates itself automatically during the sinking. The Search and Rescue (SAR) chain starts and the SNSM(French Sea Rescue), alerted via the CROSS(French search rescue co-ordination centre) , goes to the sinking place.

Meanwhile, the two mariners are picked up by sailors who heard the alert given by the CROSS(having received the signal from SARSAT).The two mariners, safe and sound, will be brought back to the harbor by the SNSM".

The Kannad 406 auto was the unit used in this incident and is illustrated to the right. Of course, it is vital for the crew to take the beacon with them as they transfer from the sinking vessel to their liferaft!

The COSPAS-SARSAT system plays an invaluable part in these rescues so I have put together the following summary for you:

The basic Cospas-Sarsat concept is illustrated in the adjacent figure. The System comprises:

Distress radiobeacons (ELTs for aviation use, EPIRBs for maritime use, and PLBs for personal use) which transmit signals during distress situations;

Instruments on board satellites in geostationary and low-altitude Earth orbits which detect the signals transmitted by distress radiobeacons.

Ground receiving stations, referred to as Local Users Terminals (LUTs), which receive and process the satellite downlink signal to generate distress alerts.

Mission Control Centers (MCCs) which receive alerts produced by LUTs and forward them to Rescue Coordination Centers (RCCs), Search and Rescue Points Of Contacts (SPOCs) or other MCCs.

The Cospas-Sarsat System includes two types of satellites:
satellites in low-altitude Earth orbit (LEO) which form the LEOSAR System
satellites in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) which form the GEOSAR System
Cospas-Sarsat has demonstrated that the GEOSAR and LEOSAR system capabilities are complementary.

For example the GEOSAR system can provide almost immediate alerting in the footprint of the GEOSAR satellite, whereas the LEOSAR system
provides coverage of the polar regions (which are beyond the coverage of geostationary satellites).

They can calculate the location of distress events using Doppler processing techniques and are
less susceptible to obstructions which may block a beacon signal in a given direction because the satellite is continuously moving with respect to the beacon.

Go to the COSPAS-SARSAT website at for much more detail including a full list of approved 406MHz distress beacon manufacturers.

Extracts courtesy Kannad and Cospas-Sarsat and images courtesy Cospas-Sarsat.

You can read more about safety at sea and personal MOB rescue beacons in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Sunday 19 April 2009

Sailboat Engine Gearbox Reconditioning 3

Well, as predicted, the best laid plans very often get interrupted - and so it is with our schedule for having the gearbox back into Patricks' yacht by this Saturday. Our gearbox expert Barry has completed the reconditioning and we have it back with us now. However, due to unforseen circumstances we are unable to fit it this weekend and have put it back to Wednesday this coming week.

In the meantime here are a some images of the gearbox in pieces on Barry's workbench. Barry, of 'Marine Gearbox Services' is one of the very few and fast disappearing doyens of marine gear box maintenance, repair and reconditioning. With many years of experience under his belt there is no marine gearbox that he doesn't know inside out (excuse the pun) and never comes up short. His knowledge on all things gearbox is profound and being very particular in his approach you will always be assured of the best, and have complete confidence in his work.

He showed and explained to us exactly what was causing the problem of the boat slipping out of and back into gear from time to time and what parts were worn and needed replacing. It is not the purpose of this blog to supply a fully detailed manual of the work that needed to be done, suffice to say that friction clutch plates (cintered bronze) and steels were worn, the selector fork was too slack as was the selector ring. All these parts to be replaced along with the bearings and all seals and gaskets. Any other parts Barry considered needed to be replaced as he worked through the job would be.

Believe it or not, the exploded drawing of the Hurth gearbox does actually contain all those parts showing - difficult to believe that (a) that many bits are required for a simple forward and reverse gearbox and (b) they all fit into that limited space. It was a wise decision on our part to take it to the expert and not attempt to dismantle it ourselves!

We had a very informative time with Barry and on coming away we wondered what will happen when all the Barrys' of this world stop their work - a rare breed indeed.

In the meantime however, Barry is fully occupied with this work, not planning on giving it up any time soon, and you can contact him on for all marine gearbox repair and reconditioning.

My next blog will be posted on successful re-installation of the gearbox into the boat.

You can read more about regular on board gearbox and engine maintenance in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Monday 13 April 2009

Sailboat Engine Gearbox Reconditioning 2

Easter has arrived and true to form we are experiencing classic Easter weather - overcast, drizzling rain, but warmish - it never fails, no matter what time Easter falls! That being the case we brought forward by one day the task of stage two of our removing the gearbox project(challenge) - never a bad idea when you are dealing with mechanical people who, with the best will in the world, very often fall short on the promised deadline.

Fortified with a strong cup of tea Patrick (the owner) and I set to work having removed all the side panels from around the engine. There is a nice bright cabin type light installed in the engine room so at least light will not be problem.

First task is to drain the oil from the gearbox and this is done smoothly with the drain plug coming undone quite easily. Next, the gear cable is disconnected from the gear lever and strung up out of the way. We remove the cable bracket as well as it will also be in the way when we come to wrestle the gearbox off the bell housing of the engine. So far so good with all nuts undoing reasonably easily.

Now, we come to what is to prove to be the most heat generating part of the operation, and that is uncoupling the shaft from the coupling plates. The shaft needs to be slid back toward and through the stern gland about eight centimetres, to allow for the coupling plates to come off and the gearbox to be worked off its studs on the bell housing. It doesn't want to budge. Nothing generates heat more quickly than two amateur mechanics in a confined space heaving on an obstinate piece of machinery that doesn't want give up its purchase. The shaft has been quite happily rotating whilst driven by the engine, but once de-coupled does not wish to be turned by hand and definitely not wanting to be slid sternward into and through the stern gland.

The shaft has obviously bedded itself into the stern gland packing and lodged in a comfortable position from which it objects to being changed. The next step is to dig out the gland packing and this is labouriosly achieved with a sharp screwdriver and time. It has been awhile since the gland was packed so it was stiff, hard and dry. With the gland packing removed and using the largest lever available we attempt to separate it from the coupling plates. It moves about half a centimetre and stops once more. Several sweaty minutes later and a combination of levering between the plates and a large driver rotating the coupling plates from side to side the shaft head plate and shaft is worked back five to six centimetres.

This looks ok but we were to find out later it was not quite far enough. The next task is to unbolt the coupling plates. These are very cunningly bolted from both directions and neither set of bolts have enough room to fully exit their respective plate. This was where we discovered the shaft and its plate had to go a little further aft. By this time we knew what we were doing and a couple of good heaves and it was done. With much debate as to how to remove the bolts from the coupling plates, many minutes later and a lot of wriggling they came away. It was at this point we began speculating on how we were going to re-assemble them! cross that bridge when we get to it was the consensus.

With the coupling plates removed we were rapidly closing on our target. Six nuts are all that now stand between us and the completion of this part of the job. Surprisingly, they all come undone sweetly and with a gentle lift and tug off its studs, the gearbox comes away from the bell housing and is laying on the cabin floor.

Into a suitable sized bucket, lowering it carefully into the tender and rowing ashore is accomplished without mishap. We shall have it on Barry the gearbox engineers' workbench tomorrow morning sharpish, leaving him to do the reconditioning which is a specialists' job.

We have set ourselves the target (reminiscent of a 'Top Gear' project) of having the gearbox back in our hands and re-installed on the boat this coming Saturday - watch this space.

You can read more about mechanical adventures whilst at sea 'on passage' in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Saturday 11 April 2009

Revolutionary Paintless Anti-fouling Systems for Sailboats

With the arrival of Spring and thoughts of getting out on the water - can't wait! - the other ominous thought creeping up in the back of ones mind like a dark cloud is the prospect of anti-fouling your vessel before it goes 'splash'!

Memories of blasting, scraping, sanding, taping, and then the applying of that odourous gooey largely environmentally unfriendly grey/blue gunk onto your hull come flooding back. It invariably occurs on a early Spring day with watery sun struggling through and a thin wind knifing through your ancient woollen sweater. Paint spotted and weary at days end, everyone is measurably pleased when the last roll finishes and the gear cleaned up.

These days may be numbered with the arrival of two new systems for controlling the seasons' growth on your hull.

One is based on electrolysis and is called 2B Sure, is Dutch manufactured and they have had some sensational results with trials on Dutch navigation buoys. They claim reduced fuel usage, therefore less emissions and engine wear over time. Of course, no more annual anti-fouling costs and no mess - just a quick water blast to remove any slime at the annual haul-out.

Here is an extract from the Bright Spark website

Protect your ship from organic matter with the Anti-fouling system from Bright Spark!
Bright Spark has developed an innovative Anti-fouling system that keeps your ship free from organic matters by electrolysis.

The growth of shells, mussels or barnacles on ships is a well known problem that the owners of the ships have to pay for cleaning. This applies to recreational sailing as well as for professional seafaring, because the growth of shells does not only lead to a loss in speed and therefore to higher fuel costs, but can also damage the ship itself.
Cleaning and maintenance were up to now the only (expensive) solution against organic matters on boats.

No growth of shells and other marine growth
Saves on fuel costs
No loss of speed
Lower maintenance effort and therefore lower maintenance costs
Environmentally friendly

The Anti-fouling system consists of two special mobile electrodes and one control case. Due to the interaction of copper-ions and the electric field that consists between the two electrodes, a protection zone is created. The substances created are environmentally friendly. This is tested and proven by NIOZ (Nederlands Instituut voor Onderzoek der Zee / Dutch Institute for Sea Research). This protection zone prevent shells and algae from sticking to the ships hull.

The system is switched on every time the yacht is lying quietly in the water.
The Anti-fouling system is easy to maintain and it can be used with all hull materials (glass, wood, metals,). The electrodes need to be exchanged every few years (depending on how often the system is used).

The system runs on 12V DC but it can be provided with an adapter so that alternative current can be used. As soon as both electrodes are in the water and the system is activated, the system starts working. On the operation display the status of the system can be metered and settings can be changed.

The second new system is from Blue and Green Marine and works on ultrasound. The following extract from their website tells you more:

Ultrasound – the next generation of antifouling:
Blue & Green Marine’s Hull Protection System is a high-tech way to keep your hull as clean as the day it was launched. It’s a simple, effective, fit-and-forget antifouling solution. It’s environmentally sound and can pay for itself within two seasons.

This next generation antifouling system surrounds your hull with a shield of ultrasound-induced cavitation, creating an environment that algae and bacteria find totally uninhabitable.

The key to its efficiency lies in the destructive power that ultrasound can have at a microscopic level. The ultrasonic transducers create a finely-tuned pulse of ultra-high frequency sound waves in the water touching the hull. These waves cause cavitation within the cell walls of the single-celled organisms that form a layer or ‘bio-film’ around all objects immersed in water.
This fierce cavitation is harmless to your gel-coat but disrupts the cells’ structure, removing the first link in the food chain, preventing larger more complex organisms from colonising any part of your hull, keel, rudder, prop-shaft, propeller, thrusters, water intakes or through-hull transducers.

Blue & Green Marine’s Hull Protection System works on any kind of GRP, aluminium, steel or ferro-cement hull and is only available through the company’s network of authorised installers. The ultrasonic transducer, which is built to exceed MOD specifications, is bonded to the inside of your hull and connected to a bulkhead control panel.

The system switches automatically between battery and shore power and has a tiny current draw of 0.06 Amps (or 60 milliamps). The unit is silent and does not interfere with any onboard electronics. The ultrasonic pulses also have no affect on your boat’s anodes, are harmless to fish and inaudible to marine mammals.

Extract articles and images courtesy of Bright Spark and Blue and Green Marine.

Prices range from USD3000 - 8000, so you will need to start saving your pennies! However, with all the environmental issues we are facing and being as time poor as we all are these days, there is no doubt that this technology is the way forward in the future. The cost will also come down as it always does with new technology.

So, relish the traditional method of hauling and antifouling your boat on a cold and blustery day in early spring as it may not be around too much longer.

You can read more about anti-fouling (in French Polynesia) in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website