Saturday 29 December 2012

Magnificent Wild Oats X1 Speedboat Triple Crown Sydney Hobart 2012 Classic

Once again the Bob Oatley owned 'Wild Oats X1' super maxi ocean racer stamped her massive authority on this years Sydney Hobart ocean racing classic.

From the start gun at 1pm on Boxing Day, she literally leapt across the start line a fraction behind 'Ragamuffin Loyal' her main rival for this race, but shot past and raced away down Sydney Harbour and was first out of the Heads by quite a margin, thereby winning the first of the three trophies for this race. 

Wild Oats X1 2012 Sydney Hobart
There was quite a large SE swell running up the coast, but she just ploughed through it looking increasingly capable of breaking all kinds of records as she went. And that is just what she did. Her dominance only increased as the race progressed and with the rest of the fleet  of 76 battling it out behind her, it was difficult to take the focus away from Wild Oats X1 because she just kept on extending her lead.

Sometime during the night the wind shifted around to the North East and later NW, gusting at times to 25 - 30 knots plus so the big boat was often surfing along at 23-24 knots or more.

Downwind surfing in a big wind makes for some really exciting sailing and here is what Geoff Cropley, a crewmember on 'Lahana' has to say about their great day doing just that across Bass Strait and beyond:
'Certain days remind you why you love ocean racing so much. And Thursday, day two of the Sydney to Hobart, was right up there as one of them.

On Lahana, by midday, we were absolutely flying across Bass Strait behind Wild Oats XI and Ragamuffin Loyal as the north westerlies blew at up to 35 knots. It was unbelievable … there we were, about a quarter of the way across Bass Strait and on a hard downhill run with everyone on deck behind the helm trying to get the bow out of the water. At the time, this was the fastest that I had ever been in a yacht racing across Bass Strait.

The sense of speed, exhilaration and the cohesion of a crew working together for that common goal of maximising the boat speed was superb.

It's why you do ocean racing. It's for those moments - however brief they may be (and fortunately they were not on Thursday) - which also suddenly make distant the memory of all the misery you can otherwise feel in the sport when the wind, rain and high seas can be at their worst.

As an added bonus, we also spotted a big sunfish that passed us on our port side. That was then the only wildlife we had seen since the race started on Boxing Day, but it was enough on a day that saw us spend most of it sailing under blue skies and with a honking northerly wind.

Not that the day was trouble free. In the morning, we blew up a sail - an A4 spinnaker. Incredibly, the pressure from the wind blew it out. Then, just as we were putting up another sail, we snapped a halyard. It wasn't drastic, but it was disappointing to have two things go wrong, one after the other.

We were still left sailing into Thursday afternoon cruising at more than 20 knots - even as I wrote this column, we were clocking at 23 to 24 knots.

As for when we expect to arrive in Hobart? Like with the other race leaders, we knew that would depend on when the next changes would arrive.

But on board Lahana it was all smiles, even with Wild Oats XI and Ragamuffin Loyal ahead of us and out of sight by the time we had lunch.

Everyone was in good health and spirits. We had no injuries and had just had a hearty lunch. And the speciality of the day? Chicken kebabs!'

Click on this link for update video:

Wild Oats X1 led the 628 nautical mile race from start to finish and opened up a lead of fifty odd miles on the second boat 'Ragamuffin Loyal', with 'Lahana' a further thirty to forty miles.

It has been confirmed this morning that she has taken the triple by winning First out of the Harbour, Line Honours and on corrected time - quite a performance. 

With all the glamour and focus on the super maxis, the rest of the fleet tends to be overlooked - but with three quarters of the fleet still at sea, there is a lot more racing yet. Many more stories will emerge, with the boats at the end of the fleet still having 250nm yet to sail to the finish line.

With only four retirements for broken rudders, steering and mainsail problems, the damage this year is light - a nod to good preparation of their boats by the crews.

Our best wishes and good luck go to all the crews out there sailing toward the New Year and the Hobart finish line.

Extract article courtesy Geoff Cropley and SMH, video courtesy YouTube

You can read much more about sailing downwind and sailboat racing at a very casual cruising level in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website

Wednesday 12 December 2012

New Cruising Sailboat from Allures Yachting Arrives

The long awaited new 40ft cruising boat from the yard of Allures Yachting in Tourlaville,Cherbourg, France, is now under construction and due for launching shortly. It is called the 39.9 and not to be confused with their earlier Allures 40.

Allures 39.9 cruising sailboat
She is a brand new concept and built specifically with cruisers in mind and embodying many features that will make her attractive to potential buyers planning their 'adventure of a lifetime' at sea. If the decision is made to go for a yacht with a hull built from aluminium instead of grp or steel, then the new 39.9 from Allures will be well worth looking at.

The following press release gives more detail:

Compared to the Allures 40 which preceded it, this new model brings major advances. The Allures 39.9 is more powerful with a hull longer by two feet on the waterline and also wider at the beam.

About nine months of studies have been necessary for Racoupeau Yacht Design team and the Allures engineering department to develop the design of this new model. The boat is fully developed on a 3D model which enables the engineer to propose a very high standard of quality

The design, they say, has been built to strict specifications driven by many round-the-world sailors' feedback. She has all the characteristics of a true ocean-cruising sailing yacht, strong and resilient.

In line with the innovative design philosophy, she has a lifting-keel, an aluminum hull for safety and a composite deck for performance and comfort. This means in her normal configuration she has a very shallow draft, ideal for snugging into shore and away from the wind when at anchor.

This short video shows the Allures 45, bigger sister to the new 39.9: 
She also has twin helms, faired appendices, large lockers, technical room with light bunk, separate shower, dual chart table, swim platform lockers, saloon with outside view, she is really made for the high seas.

Twin wheels steering system offers outstanding comfort in navigation and optimizes the circulation to the swim platform. The large technical room in which a workbench or a sea bunk can be installed allows the owners to set numerous equipment for ocean sailing (generator, dessalinisateur, heating, machine washing, etc..). Finally the interiors offer a fresh and luminous style.

The Cherbourg based French shipyard is now building the first model, replacing the Allures 40. The hull has been built by the Garcia Yachting shipyard, well known for the excellent craftsmanship of their boilermakers.

The shipwrights are presently busy with the woodwork and you can see more of this new marque by visiting their website

The next delivery date available is in September 2013.

Specifications Allures 39.9:

Length: 12,65 m Gennaker : 72 m2

Maximum Beam: 4,15 m Spinnaker : 105 m2

Draft: 1,06 / 2,75 m Offshore category: 8 personnes

Displacement: 10,3 T Onshore category: 12 personnes

Air draft: 16,43 m Engine: 55 CV

Main sail: 42,6 m2 Architect: Berret-Racoupeau Yacht Design

Images and video courtesy Allures Yachting

You can read much more about the selection and purchase of your dream sailboat in my book 
'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website 


Friday 30 November 2012

Sexy New Sailboat/Yacht Deck Organiser from Spinlock

As always we are on the lookout for new and innovative products from marine equipment manufacturers. Spinlock, the globally renowned deck hardware manufacturers have just released a new deck organiser for smaller boats and won this years DAME award with it in the sails and rigging category.

The following is an article from 

Spinlock T25 Deck Organiser
The 22nd annual DAME awards for marine design have announced the company Spinlock as winners in the deck equipment, sails and rigging category. The winning design was for boats under 28 feet, and with superyachts getting so much design attention these days it's nice to see some attention paid to smaller boats.

Their T25 Organiser was designed for the smaller boat deck, a multiple-line organiser which is micro-sized for smallest weight, windage, and deck footprint.

The DAME jury were impressed with the smart design, as well as its space saving and cost reduction qualities.

Spinlock’s Design and Development Director, Chris Hill, commented: 'The new T25 Organiser is a perfect fit for the OEM boat builder and developing innovative deck layouts. The award is a fantastic achievement for the whole Spinlock team and for delivering another category winner.'

Their unique modular design uses a kit of fine-detail, composite mouldings - halving the number of different parts required to produce all multiples from 2 to 6 x 25mm sheaves. Subtle stainless steel details add local stiffness and prevents line abrasion.

Larger version

Like Spinlock’s larger T38 and T50 organisers (pictured above), the T25 is designed to cope where more lines are needed within the same footprint. Uniquely, the T25 integrates the new BE10/2 or BE10/3 multiple bullseye on top to guide the lighter loaded lines.

New low profile double and triple bullseyes leads (BE10/2 and BE10/3) either stack on top of the T25 to group extra lines within the same footprint or can be mounted directly on deck using M5 fasteners.

Technical details:

Sheave Diameter/Type: 25mm composite

SWL per sheave: 400kg

 Total SWL per unit: No. of sheaves x 200kg

Line Diameter: Up to 10mm

Fasteners: M5 CSK

For more information go to the Spinlock website at where you can discover more about this product plus view their complete range.

Article courtesy Sail-World, images courtesy Spinlock

You can read much more about working with and maintaining your deck hardware in good condition whilst cruising in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise', downloadable from my website

Thursday 22 November 2012

Sailboat/Yacht Docking Made Easy with New Boathook

The safest place for any 'offshore' cruising sailor to be is exactly that - offshore! and as far from land as possible - fifty nautical miles from land as a minimum.

From here, the closer he sails to land the rate of potential misfortunes rises exponentially for every nautical mile he closes the coast. Floating hazards, detritus, increased shipping, fishing vessels, steeper seaway, reefs, rocks, buoys, unpredictable winds and of course these days, one has to consider pirates.

Too much time pondering on these possibilities could influence the decision as to whether a sailor should put to sea at all! Of course, we know that with the right preparation and good seamanship practices, the majority of these hazards are well manageable and the cruiser can press on enjoying his voyage.

When he does make landfall he faces another raft of possible dangers to run aground on. I won't go into a whole list here, but one of the trickiest and possibly the most embarrassing maneouvres if not carried out with aplomb is mooring and docking.

How many times have we all chuckled at watching some other poor boat and crew make a hash of this exercise? accompanied with much arm waving and bellowing from the skipper on the helm, usually to no avail. Retrieving the situation, mooring or docking, as best they can, the crew finally straighten and glance around to see what audience they had. The onlookers generally applaud or turn away, getting on with what they were doing and with the thought running through their head, '........there but for the grace of God go I'

Watch the video for some humourous ( and painful) boarding and docking incidents:

Now, here is an extract from my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' of a docking incident I had in a marina in Papeete, Tahiti:

'Curving in nicely, her feathering propeller reversing thrust and way coming off, she nudges up to the rubber buffers and comes to halt precisely in position. Docking is a strange procedure in that as the vessel comes to rest and kisses the berth (both to be achieved at the same moment), there is a period of a second or two when everything is perfect to tie up and secure the ship. Crew are at the ready, usually standing on the toe rail outside of the guidelines, with line in one hand and forward enough to hold onto a shroud with the other, so that as that moment arrives they are able to skip lightly down onto the dock and slip their line seamanlike around the handily placed cleats, and or bollards.

Timed correctly and carried out with precision, this is an impressive manoeuvre, both for land based onlookers and other boat crews alike. Aspired to by all crews, much attention is paid to get it right, there being only the one short window. This is the captains’ job, and her captain, conveniently overlooking that she is tutoring him, thinks he is pretty smart putting her right there and feeling rather smug about his skills. As illustrated in an earlier episode, false pride always comes before a fall. A puff of wind pushes out her bow just as Anglo crew steps down. Instead of landing lightly on the dock, his left foot, followed by his leg, torso and right leg keep on going down, starfish like, into the ever widening gap created by our little ships’ side now being a metre off the dock. His entry into the water, large framed as he is, compares favourably to a whale broaching. Plunging in with all limbs ahoo, accompanied with the massive splash and curses, makes for quite a show. Brought up short by the line in his hand, Anglo crew pops up directly with a startled expression, only to see the rest of the crew, and onlookers, staring down at him, no less shocked than he. No time to dally watching however, as now our little ship is lying at a forty five degree angle the wrong way across the berth. Fortunately, there is no boat in the other half. Anglo crew splutters toward the dock ladder and like a great sea lion hauls himself out, muttering, water cascading from his body, glistening in the sunlight. She quickly backs out, realigns, and noses in again for Sibling crew to heave the line to the now wetly waiting Anglo crew.

‘Mon dieu! how they carry on when I look the other way for one moment!’. Our little ship resolves to watch them constantly in future to avoid these childlike hitches and embarrassing moments.

Rapidly repairing the situation as they have, is largely due to the feathering propeller. Yachts are notorious for poor manoeuvrability when going astern. Fitting a feathering propeller mostly overcomes this deficiency. The moment she is put into reverse the blades of the propeller instantly feather in the other direction and bite into the water, pulling her astern with eighty five percent of forward thrust. This is mightily ahead in pulling power of a normal fixed blade or folding propeller, which are largely ineffectual, and take a long time for the vessel to respond.

In our minor calamity, she is quickly put into reverse, straightening up as she goes out about one boat length only, into forward gear and entering again straightaway, straight as an arrow – situation normal and dignity preserved – nothing worse than having to make several attempts!'

Extract from my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise'.

The Swedish marine company Robship have launched a clever device they call 'Hook and Moor' which will make coming alongside and docking much easier. It comes in three lengths and ranges in price from €120 to €170.

Robship 'Hook and Moor' boathook 
 Watch this video to see how it can be used for hooking onto a mooring, dock rings and bollards:

Go to Robship's website for further details on this product and their full product range.

Image courtesy Robship and videos courtesy YouTube

You can read many further adventures whilst cruising in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website and all good ebook retailers, Amazon, Apple iBookstore, Barnes and Noble etc. 



Monday 29 October 2012

Cruising Sailors Dream Ten Years Sail

Here is the story of sailing couple Cedric and Janet Miller, to not only warm the heart of every aspiring cruiser, but to excite and ignite their own desire to push on with the planning of their own 'Adventure of a Lifetime'.

As Janet states herself you will 'never regret doing it!' which ties in with my own affirmation of getting on with your planning to head for the high seas.

This column comes from the Toronto Star:

 'At an age when many people their age were slowing down and dusting off an easy chair, Cedric and Janet Miller, recently married and just retired, spent $300,000 on a 42-ft. ocean-going yacht and set sail for their Sea of Dreams.

That was 10 years ago and, since then the Canadian couple from Oakville, Ontario have made their way from Sweden, where they picked up their custom-built sailboat, to the Caribbean island of Curacao, where Trillium Wind awaits them for another winter of adventure.

Trillium Wind on Passage, Norway to Shetland Islands

They’ve spent three-to-five months a year at sea, and Cedric, 74 and Janet, 66, believe they have another two or three years of cruising left. Then they plan to trade in their wandering life for winters in Myrtle Beach.

“We are very lucky to have been able to do this,” says Cedric. “The places we’ve seen and the people we’ve met have been amazing.”

If luxury living is a state of mind, the richness of their experience would put them in the top tier.

The two have feasted on the simple pleasures of life at sea, from the ancient and pleasingly elegant rituals that make boats move, to the joy of waking up in a deserted cove.

They have lived contentedly in a space the size of two big pickup trucks and endured the fear of violent storms and difficult ocean passages.

For an average cost of about $1,500 a month to live aboard and maintain their boat, they have seen and done things most people don’t experience.

They have travelled 10,000 seas miles at a leisurely pace, from the jagged fjords of Scandinavia to the secluded coves of the Greek islands. Following a trade wind crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, they have spent the past four years wandering through the Caribbean.

This year, they may visit Columbia and Panama.

The adventure began in 2000, when the two, each divorced with grown children, got married.

Janet had sold her share of a heavy equipment business and Cedric started easing into semi-retirement from his marine insurance brokerage.

Janet shelterting, rainy day in the Baltic 
Both had sailed on Lake Ontario for years. Cedric had been a member of several yacht clubs, including the Oakville Yacht Squadron, where he was Commodore in 2002. After exploring both sides of the lake, it was time to look further afield. “We both felt that we wanted more,” Cedric says.

They broadened their experience, helping friends move boats down the Intracoastal waterway to Florida and chartering boats in the Caribbean.

In 1997, Cedric joined the flotilla of boats that travelled to Newfoundland to celebrate the 500th anniversary of John Cabot’s landing.

They took an offshore sailing course to learn about tides, heavy weather sailing and ocean navigation.

Their adventures built up their confidence and were a test of whether they could live at close quarters for long periods.

In the end, they found the perfect boat while cruising in the Maritimes one summer with friends who had a 31-ft. boat built in Sweden by Comfort Yachts.

Negotiating a Scottish Lock
The Millers were impressed by the boat’s ability to handle rough weather and its comforts. They ordered a 42-ft. version in 2000, the year they married. They took delivery in July, 2002.

A 42-foot boat doesn’t offer the luxury of a super yacht — it’s more like camping at sea, Cedric says. But what you do get is luxurious in its simplicity and meticulous in craftsmanship. The interior is warmed by teak. There is heating, but no air-conditioning and three double berths. The master berth has an en suite toilet and walk-in shower. The couple spent $3,000 on a water-maker that makes eight gallons of fresh water an hour from seawater.

The galley has a gimballed stove and oven, so it swings and stays upright even when the boat is sailing on an angle. There is a fridge, hot and cold water and a double stainless steel sink all within easy reach of the folding teak dining table. This year, they added a TV, but not a microwave.

The navigation centre has a full size chart table and a complete complement of electronics, including a satellite phone, Global Positioning System (GPS) chart-plotter and radar. A powerful 55-horsepower engine drives the boat when there’s no wind, and, for ease of handling, the main sail rolls up inside the mast.

The plan was to bring Trillium Wind back to North America within two years, but after taking delivery of the boat and spending the first summer poking around the coasts of Sweden and Norway and some of the 500 islands in the Danish archipelago, the plan changed.

The Millers felt comfortable with their skill and quickly became members of the cruising fraternity, what Janet calls “a gypsy caravan afloat.” This network gave them access to the cruising community’s collective wisdom — the best anchorages, must-see sites, where to shop, and restaurants not to miss. Many doubts were laid to rest.

“We absolutely loved it,” Janet says. “It showed us, how much you really need to enjoy life, which is not that much. You realize that, at the end of the day, you don’t need millions.”

Cedric on long distance from Swedish phone booth
Friends joined them for parts of the journey, they tagged along with cruising groups for other parts, and, on others, went it alone. There have been bad times — a wretched 220-mile crossing of the North Sea from Norway to the Shetland Islands, when they almost turned around. Janet was knocked unconscious during a storm in the Bay of Biscay and probably needed stitches. But they couldn’t make port easily and so had to do with first aid. The cut healed on its own.

They visited The Shetland and Orkney islands, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Wales, the Channel Islands, Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, Majorca, Malta, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily, Greece, Turkey, Israel, The Canaries, and they joined a flotilla across the Atlantic to St. Lucia.

“We thought we’d buy a boat and do the Caribbean,” says Cedric. “The sailing is secondary. It’s really about who you are with, sharing the experience.”

Here's what Janet has to say about their 'adventure of a lifetime':
Luxury living is a state of mind. Janet Miller sums up the experience of 10 years of cruising in Europe and now the Caribbean aboard Trillium Wind:

We sailed in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, then crossed the North Sea. All those wonderful places from stories and nursery rhymes: John O’ Groats in Scotland. We kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland. We saw Penzance in Cornwall. The pier in Portsmouth where I’d danced the night away as a teenager. Rally Portugal with 24 boats racing from Plymouth across the Bay of Biscay . . . how nuts was that?

Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, North Africa. So many places to see. Some bizarre, lots beautiful, all wonderful and interesting. Malta where not one clock agrees with the other. Through the Corinth Canal in Greece — who would have thought we would ever do that — to the Greek Islands. Delos was one of the most amazing, enchanting places you could ever hope to be. Rhodes. The Marble Lions of Naxos. Magical!

Memories, not always that big: Cobble stone roads, flower baskets, narrow streets, street vendors. Hundreds of goats on a tiny island with a tiny bay. One family lives there; they had laid moorings for sailors to tie up.

In Turkey, a parsley salad made by a man with a knife in a shed. It can’t be duplicated, no matter how hard we try. Sarcophagi, castles, fortresses and battlements. Sunsets, sunrises. Memories for our old age.

If you can do it, do it, you won’t regret it!'

Article courtesy Adam Mayers, Toronto Star, images courtesy Janet and Cedric Miller 

You can read much more about the cruising lifestyle and sailing the 'Adventure of a Lifetime' in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website 

Monday 22 October 2012

Sailboat Steering by the Stars - Night Watch Hand Helming

Sailing between The Galapagos Islands and The Marquesas archipelago we had the wonderful experience of night sailing with no moon and viewing the incredible southern night sky. With absolutely no degradation from other light sources, the heavens were lit up by a myriad of stars and galaxies not normally seen anywhere near land and all its artificial light.

Visualise this over the complete canopy
The following extract is from my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' and my initial attempts at steering by the stars:  

'All this starlore stuff is running around her captains head and he reckons he might try steering our little ship by the stars on his watch. He selects a group of stars close to her masthead, and that he can recognise easily. Studying his star chart, it turns out to be the planet Jupiter, with some other stars in the background, forming a pattern that he can identify instantly. The warm night breeze is well round on her port quarter, and she is gambolling along at an easy eight plus knots.

All lights are doused, including the white masthead light, so there is just the soft red glow of the Autohelm station and the faint glimmer of the compass light. She is taken off autopilot and, after steering for a few minutes on her present heading to familiarise himself with her motion - the way she comes off the waves, her pitch and yaw, and how far the dim masthead is swaying through its arc – he covers the compass with its plastic hood and lifts his eyes to his chosen star pattern. She is holding exactly on the starmark and behaving exactly as before.

There is no moon and the canopy from horizon to horizon is a cornucopian mass of stars that he has never seen this way before. Gazing amazedly at this twinkling carpet, cascading 360 degrees, all the way down to where the seas' black knife slices, he passes up his thanks for being able to be part of this wondrous spectacle.     

Cockpit at Night
After a minute or two, the temptation to have a peek at the compass becomes overpowering. A slight prickling in his armpits and a light sheen on his forehead, drives his right hand forward toward the binnacle. He watches helplessly, unable to deny, as his fingers grope for the cover. A snap lift of the hood reveals she is exactly on course – amazing! Dropping the hood back on he manages to steer for five minutes this time before succumbing, and stealing a glance to reassure himself they are still on course. Ten minutes later, another peek reveals nothing has changed.

As the increments of time increase, her captain gains more confidence. Jupiter and companions remain utterly unmoved all this time and beam down their twinkling radiance benevolently on our little ship, and her now somewhat more comfortable captain. He is enjoying himself now and taking in more of his surroundings, as opposed to fixating his eye permanently on his sky guide. After an hour he is quite relaxed, hand lightly on the wheel, and glancing upward only occasionally, to check that Jupiter and company have not run away! Over a four hour watch, travelling at eight knots or so, she will have moved westward not more than half of one degree, i.e. thirty nautical miles, so any change of her position in relation to the stars would be so infinitesimally small, there would be no visible variance.

Sails taught, gently swaying as she creams through the dark and velvety water, our little ship is all quiet. Occasionally, a line slaps against metal, a block rattles against its line as the tension comes off momentarily, and somewhere below the light squeaking creak of wood on wood drifts up the companionway, along with a short snort from the depths of slumber. Billowing in over her port quarter rail, the soughing tropical wind streams into her sails, completing the symphony – utter peace.

Very small portion of night sky with Orion 
‘This is more like it’, she thinks, ‘this is how it must have been back then’. Carving through the night, her unseeing prow thrusting forever onward, Masefields’ famous lines emerge: ‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by’. What words, what evocation.

‘Wake up, you idealistic moron, you’ve got work to do!’

Her captain starts, glances at his watch and slips below to wake the next watch. ‘All’s well, nothing to report’ he relays to the new watch keeper. Exchanging a few pleasantries in the dark, he pads off to his bunk, preferring to keep his new found skill to himself for the moment, savouring it until tomorrow. En route to oblivion another line of Masefields floats before him:

‘To add more miles to the tally, of grey miles left behind, in quest of that one beauty, God put me here to find.’

Poetry lines courtesy John Masefield, images courtesy google 

You can read my whole book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' by downloading it from my website 

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Sailboat Diesel Fuel Cleaning/Debugging for Cruising Sailors

The adage "Give your diesel engine clean fuel and it will run forever" is very true.

The RNLI, Sea Tow, USCG and many organizations will tell you that the most calls they get for assistance start by being engine related. They will also tell you that 90% of engine failures are due to Fuel issues. Bad Fuel is not a inconvenience issue its a safety issue.

What causes diesel fuel problems on a sailboat? 

The two biggest ways to ruin a tank of fuel, either a diesel or gasoline powered yacht, are water contamination and long-term storage.

Water can get into Fuel in so many ways. Even if you get dry clean fuel, your tank system is vented (unlike a car) and the vent will let in humidity. Water also condenses on the tank walls due to temperature fluctuations, especially true in winter. The more air in the tank the more condensation. Its recommended that you keep your tanks up to 95% full to combat this.

Fuel sits on top of any water that will eventually settle to the bottom. Bugs can thrive in this water. You can kill these bugs with BIOCIDE? but you will still be left with their carcasses, which when disturbed in rough water can get to your filters. No water in the fuel no bugs or algae

Fuel clogging can be a problem. It always seems to happen at the worst time. You are in rough water and the motion stirs up the sediment in the tank and the filter gets clogged. You need to shut down the engine but you are in a nasty channel and need the engine.

Filling with the wrong Fuel. Gasoline in a Diesel Fuel system is disastrous and could involve the risk of explosion, so make sure the fillers say Diesel only.

What can you do to keep your Diesel clean

Clean Fuel tanks

Filter fuel as it comes aboard

Keep Water OUT

Stabilize Fuel that's stored or sits idle

Biocides kill bugs

Dispersants separate water from Fuel

Filter fuel before it gets to engine

Polishing Fuel systems onboard

My major hiccup with diesel was shortly after purchasing my boat and whilst fitting her out for cruising. I had not taken her to sea at that time and was still familiarising myself with her. 

One balmy evening on dusk I decided to top up the water tanks (you know already what is coming?). On the port side there were two filler caps, one marked for water and the other for diesel, the starboard filler for water only. The filler for water was covered by the spinnaker pole and in the gloaming I unscrewed the diesel cap in error and proceeded to fill that tank - with water!! Half way back down the companionway something triggered in my mind and I leaped back out to check, already with that terrible sinking feeling in my stomach convinced of my mistake - sure enough water was bubbling merrily into the port side diesel tank - too late, as several gallons had passed in already! 

Most of the next day was taken up by pumping out with a hand pump the total contents of that tank into 25ltr jugs - fortunately it was only around half full - but imagine the horror if I had left the water running and it had overflowed onto the deck and worse, into the marina? Doesn't bear thinking about!

As I was fitting out the boat over a period of months I wasn't in any hurry, so once the tank was drained and left to dry for a few weeks it was safe to refill with diesel fuel. I did however, have the local diesel mechanic inspect it before refilling. 

This is the kind of mistake you DO NOT wish to commit when you are in foreign parts/ports.

De-Bug L140
As my ultimate goal was to sail from the UK to New Zealand, I started to think about keeping the diesel clean because we would no doubt have to take on diesel in places where the fuel could be suspect, dirty or with contamination - we have all heard stories of this happening with potentially disastrous results.
I wanted something extra, over and above good filtration to keep the fuel in the tanks bug free. I came across the De-Bug product (Miami Boat Show) and whilst it seemed a little out from left field, it also appeared logical so I thought I would give it a try. For around $200 for the 48 horses of the Perkins 4108 the L140 seemed good value so long as it worked.

I fitted it into the fuel lines along with an additional Racor filter and replaced the floorboards. We sailed ten thousand nautical miles after that and never had any problems. The engine was only ever used to get into and out of port or in emergencies or to motor for a few hours in a calm, so there was plenty of time for bug type growths to occur if they were going to.

The peace of mind brought about from clean fuel and knowing your engine is always going to start when passagemaking in far seas, is priceless. 

The following is the technical data from the De-Bug company website :     

It takes more than a magnet to make a De-Bug. Only genuine De-Bug units have the exclusive TRI-MAG™ and MULTI-MAG™ Bug Killer Packs.

Technology using magnetic flux fields to combat microorganisms and their associated problems in aqueous fluids has been developed in New Zealand. The theory that magnetic flux fields inhibit microorganism growth and survival has long been noticed and has now been proven.

Over the years, many have tried to develop a device that was effective on all flow rates with limited success. Lindsay Forrest is hailed as being the inventor of DE-BUG Clean Fuel Units. While designing the DE-BUG™ unit Lindsay became aware that a single magnet device could not produce the desired efficiency, and that an oscillating field was the most effective because microorganism cells could not react quickly enough to a rapidly changing magnetic field.

An oscillating magnetic flux field effect could be simulated by carefully directing contaminated fuel flow through a stack of multiple permanent magnets. By directing microorganisms into and out of the flux field at a predetermined flow, a simulated oscillating field was achieved. Shortly after, the De-Bug™ Model L-1000 Fuel Decontamination Unit was launched which fully incorporated this concept. The success of this unit is based on a specific flow rate through a stack of three ferrite-metal ceramic-coated permanent magnets known as the “TRI-MAG Bug Killer Pak™”, which achieves a microorganism kill rate efficiency of nearly 100% (97.6%) in one pass. These permanent magnets have a service life of 20-50+ years.

Housed within the De-Bug Fuel Decontamination Unit, the “TRI-MAG™ Pack consists of three flat donut shaped permanent magnets, manufactured from ferrite-metal and ceramic-coated, stacked each above the other. The spacing between the magnets is scientifically determined in order to produce the optimum flux field density. The magnets are arranged and held in place with special spacers in such a way that a north pole always faces a south pole. These spacers are manufactured from Acetyl M90 plastic. As with all other special engineering materials used in the De-Bug, this material is used for its resistance to diesel fuel and similar hydrocarbon based products. In addition, Acetyl M90 plastic is used for its adaptability to cope with various applications such as the harsh marine environment, the mining industry, and agricultural equipment. Acetyl M90 Plastic is also particularly resistant to environmental stress cracking and numerous chemicals usually associated with diesel fuels. Further, it is capable of withstanding extreme temperatures.

Within the De-Bug unit, the spacers perform two functions. First, to create and maintain proper distance between the magnets. Second, to direct fuel flow through the magnetic flux field. As the fuel passes through the De-Bug, any microorganisms are subject to a rapid magnetic field change four separate times or four oscillations. This unique patented design (US patents 5,248,437 and 5,055,188, New Zealand patent 231876), exclusive to De-Bug products, is what enables De-Bug Products to achieve their unparalleled effectiveness and success. De-Bug holds exclusively, the patent for all multiple magnet device designs, which are incorporated in every De-Bug Product. If it does not have a TRI-MAG™ or MULTI-MAG™ Pack, then it is not a DE-BUG™.

Maximising Magnetic Flux Density to Effectively Kill Cells

Magnets are polarized charged particles that radiate magnetic flux. Flux lines always start at the North Pole and seek a South Pole that is normally at the other end of the magnet. The flux lines radiate out in an elliptical manner.

De-Bug Magnet Structure
The unique make-up of the magnetic field in the De-Bug fuel treatment unit is made possible by stacking three annular shaped permanent magnets on top of each other to form the patented “Tri-Mag” stack. A number of Tri-Mag stacks placed in line make up the patented “Multi-Mag” stack that is used to provide more powerful units.

The magnets are stacked to ensure that the North Pole of one magnet always faces the South Pole of the adjacent magnet. This results in the magnets attracting at all times and therefore maximises the flux density, and the resulting destructive effect on microbial cells, in the spaces through which the fuel and microbes flow.

When the fuel and microbes flow between the magnets and through the centre of the middle magnet in the Tri-Mag™ pack, the flow path causes the microbial cells to experience the maximum levels of magnetic flux density from several different angles, and 24 changes in polarity of the magnetic field.

This overwhelming attack from all directions, combined with the oscillating field strength can eliminate microbial contamination when used in a fuel system where fuel is re-circulated through the De-Bug unit either on a periodic or continuous basis.

De-Bug Units are static magnetic inline device that create an optimum magnetic flux field directly responsible for destruction of the cell membrane. Exposing the microbes to a strong, changing magnetic field will ensure maximum destruction of the cells. The debris stays randomly suspended in the fuel and due to their sub-micron size easily pass through engine components and burn up with the fuel.

What Makes Our Product Using a Three Magnet Stack Different?

De-Bug Units are One of a Kind. The inventors (in knowing how good this system is) patented the De-Bug system worldwide. Single magnet systems are sub-par to the De-Bug System.

In the development stage the inventors of De-Bug Units used single magnets Units and found them to be partially effective. That could be Ok, as there was nothing better on offer in the market, however after further testing using different combinations of magnets, gauss strengths and configurations they concluded the triple & multi magnet systems were substantially better for eliminating microbial contamination than a single magnet.

De-Bug Units have proven themselves tens of thousands of times and the proof being they are authentically endorsed by significant number of end users that have had a persistent bug problem, by fitting a De-Bug Unit; the bug problem has been solved permanently!

De-Bug Units are One of a Kind. The inventors (in knowing how good this system is) have patented the De-Bug system worldwide.

Images and article courtesy De Bug NZ, video courtesy YouTube

You can read much more about diesel fuel, filling techniques and other incidents whilst cruising, in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website