Sunday 25 March 2012

Voyage Preparation of Sailboats and Yachts for Cruising Sailors

Preparation of your sailboat as part of your planning for an ocean passage is a vital part of the planning  process and what we often discuss on this blog. So it was good to come across the following article in the Sailnet community blog. It has been contributed by Andy and Liza Copeland who have now logged up close to one hundred thousand sea miles since they began cruising.

They will have encountered most problems that are likely to occur in that time, but they will no doubt also be surprised at the different situations that can and do still pop up whilst at sea.

Therefore, the best counter to these often unforseen situations is to be as best prepared as you can possibly be. Read on:

"We've looked at so many boats," people frequently say to my husband Andy, who works as a yacht broker, "but how do we tell if a boat is fit to go offshore?" As we've recently crossed the Atlantic from the US to Spain in our Beneteau First 38, knowing what to look for, check over, and replace for an offshore passage is extremely fresh in our minds!

'Bagheera' under sail
Regardless of the distance from land, any voyage lasting several days at sea can be termed offshore. For example, a trip from the Pacific Northwest to San Francisco requires extremely careful preparation, even though the 700-mile passage may take you no further than 50 miles off the coast. The difference in a trip like this and a prolonged voyage, such as an Atlantic crossing, comes in the time spent away from supplies and professional help. Lengthy offshore voyages require self reliance, mechanical competence, and the use of quality equipment to ensure that breakdowns are minimal.

Preparing to go offshore includes both the inspection and upgrading of a vessel with the addition of any necessary equipment for the planned voyage. Comforts on board are very important, but consideration must also be given to survival in extreme conditions, even though getting caught in a hurricane at sea or being rolled is extremely unlikely.

Hull and Deck: Construction Quality from boat to boat varies greatly, meaning that careful inspection is necessary for those vessels purchased with offshore passagemaking in mind. Choose a boat whose sisterships have proven themselves offshore. Have the vessel surveyed by a competent surveyor who knows you plan to be crossing oceans. Don't fall for a huge boat just because it looks comfortable at the dock, as it maybe be unmanageable at sea. Anyone who has experienced 50 knots plus at sea will tell you the forces generated by the wind are tremendous, and handling or changing sails can be extremely difficult. Hence, the vessel's ability to cope in extreme conditions also has to be considered, especially when there are only two on board.

If you already own a boat, there are several areas to inspect before going over the horizon. The hull to deck joint should be permanently bonded, not just bolted. The bulkheads should likewise be properly attached all around their perimeter, not just to the hull. Rig loads need to be properly transferred to the hull, and all ports, hatches, deck lockers should be stout enough to take a knockdown.

A breakdown in this part of the boat has the potential to cause serious delays abroad. In distant locales, having the right spares onboard can be priceless.

Steering Gear: Whether the boat is brand new or well used, every piece of gear should be checked. The boat must be hauled so that thru-hulls, the propeller gear, rudder supports and all other metal can be inspected for integrity and electrolysis. Make a record of the prop size, the shaft length, diameter and taper. Also, carry spare zincs and cutlass bearings, and consider a spare propeller and key, particularly if your boat has a feathering prop. Inspect and repack the prop-shaft and rudder glands, and check the rudder bearings, cables, quadrant, and the attendant steering components.

Rudders: Because they're critical components for safety, rudders warrant special attention. Spade rudders require a massive rudder-post. One of the reasons we chose a Beneteau is that their rudders are engineered robustly. Our spade rudder has served us well and twice, when needed, we were easily able to drop it when afloat. The first time was in Madeira, after another boat had lifted our anchor and Bagheera drifted back on to the sea-wall smashing the rudder from the stern. The second time was in Thailand, when we had to get our prop-shaft straightened. Removing the rudder when anchored in 40 feet of water was quite exciting, particularly as it is quite buoyant from the foam filler!

Groundings and collisions with objects at sea can dole out tremendous strain on rudders. Rudder posts need to be robust enough to take the worst-case scenarios.

Skeg-hung rudders are a mixed bag. Many skegs are too weak to withstand a heavy collision or the load from a heavy grounding and can tear out of the hull. If well-built, however, a skeg does add some protection and directional stability.

Rudders mounted on the back of the keel are well protected from collisions, but just as vulnerable as any other to damage from dragging back into shallows. They are generally impossible to remove except when the boat is hauled. And, with any rudder design, it is important to prepare a strategy for steering the vessel to safety should the rudder be lost.

Bottom Paint: Modern, co-polymer bottom paints are ideal for the offshore voyager. These gradually erode away and perform best if the boat is moving rather than tied to a dock. Co-polymer paints can be applied in sufficient thickness to give prolonged protection (some freighters have obtained up to four years from a single application). Before leaving Australia, we applied four coats, alternating light and dark blue so wear could be monitored. Two extra coats were applied at the waterline, at the bow and leading edges of the keel and rudder. Three years later, only the waterline needed a touch-up.

Experienced cruisers know that a huge amount of cargo will be carried on a long trip. All this extra gear, such as the increased number of batteries, extra fuel, multiple anchors and chain, provisions, tools, spares, books, and more will make the boat float lower. Therefore, for offshore passagemaking, antifouling paint needs to be well above the waterline, so the bootstripe may have to be raised. We have redone ours twice! It was the souvenirs that did us in, such as the rocks and fossils collected by our son Colin and the 12-piece dinner set I purchased in Singapore!

Check All Fittings: All suspect fittings on the hull and deck should be resealed. All stanchions must be inspected carefully as a crewmember's life could depend on their integrity. Lifelines over 10 years old or visibly damaged should be replaced. Plastic coated wire needs special attention as corrosion may be hidden underneath the coating. If this is suspected, err on the conservative side and replace these before they break.

Cockpit lockers should have strong latches that will hold them closed in a knockdown, and should be sealed, if possible, to prevent the ingress of water in the event of being pooped. Anchors and anchor lockers merit special attention. Both must be securely fastened at sea, with the locker sealed to prevent water entering. Drainage may need to be improved. Arrangements for the mounting or stowage of such items as the liferaft, dinghy, outboard, solar panels, radar, or wind generator need to be made. It is not safe to have heavy items rigged to the lifelines. Strong points for attaching jack-lines along the deck and in the cockpit may have to be added.

All tangs, fittings, swages, and other rigging components need to be inspected closely before setting out for the wild blue.

Rigs: When we ordered Bagheera in 1985, we opted for a taller, keel-stepped mast instead of the standard deck-stepped spar, and opted to increase one size in rigging wire. The taller rig allowed us to fly more sail in light air. A keel-stepped mast is also preferable to deck-stepped ones because if the spar breaks, (normally at the spreaders), it's likely a useful stub will still stand, allowing you jury-rig some sail area.

Before every passage it's important to inspect the rig carefully, and at regular intervals all swages and fittings should be checked with a crack-detection dye kit. Every piece of standing rigging has been replaced since we purchased the boat 16 years ago, and we strongly recommend that before undertaking an ocean crossing any rigging older than 10 years be changed, even if it appears sound. Wire can harden with age and become less able to resist the constant changing loads of a storm at sea. Two grades of 1x19 stainless wire are commonly available: 316 grade rigging wire does not stain brown like 302/304, but is weaker and more expensive. Also, swageless terminals better resist cracking and are easy to replace.

Most sailors forget this vital part, but the gooseneck is a weak link in the rig and should be inspected to ensure that it is both robust and can rotate to align with the sheets. Clevis and cotter pins, tangs, turnbuckles, mast lights, and all other fittings must additionally be checked. Beware of large stainless fittings on aluminum spars as there may be weakening due to corrosion hidden under them. If you're planning on cruising in the tropics, consider fitting mast steps, at least to the lower set of spreaders, for increased visibility for sighting reefs as well as for facilitating maintenance aloft.

"Prior to any offshore passage, sail-handling systems and components should be thoroughly checked over. It's always easier to fix it at the dock than underway."

Sails: Roller-furling gear is now well proven offshore and has become a boon for shorthanded cruisers, making sailing much easier and safer than clambering on the foredeck. Units vary, however, so be sure to buy one that is up to the task of prolonged offshore passagemaking. Many boats also have mainsail furling systems, either in-mast or in-boom. We replaced our original genoa furler in 1998 with a Profurl unit and have also fitted their in-boom mainsail system to the boat. This combination has made sail handling in all conditions very easy, especially with the recent addition of an electric winch. Prior to any offshore passage, sail-handling systems and their components should be thoroughly checked over. It's always easier to fix it at the dock than underway.

You may also have to modify the rig to fly storm sails. On Bagheera we have fitted a movable inner forestay, supported when in use by running backstays. This is used for a hanked-on storm jib. It's critical that sheeting arrangements for these sails should be worked out before you encounter your first storm at sea!

Because they're often subjected to flogging, strong winds, and ultraviolet light, sails have a finite life. An overhaul by a sailmaker, with extra stitching at the seams, and adequate chafe patches may suffice. We recommend sails made from close weave, lightly resinated, supple Dacron with triple-stitching and double reinforced batten pockets and corners, as well as chafe patches. Before we moved to in-boom furling, we had a mainsail made for Bagheera that also had three deep reefs, each over six feet apart, and the clew was higher than the tack so that rain could be caught and funneled to the tanks from the forward end of the boom. This sail would have given racers a fit, but it moved the boat well (at least 150 miles a day) and it served us for 11 years and over 50,000 miles.

A regular cruising mainsail should have slides, not bolt ropes, so that the sail stays on the mast when dropped. Racing gadgets like cunninghams, flattening reefs, and deep shelf foots are not needed on cruising sails.

Boats without furling gear will need a range of headsails, but on Bagheera we now carry only a 150-percent genoa, a 110-percent genoa and a short-hoist 100-percent jib, all of which furl, besides the bullet-proof storm jib that hanks onto the inner stay. Our furling mainsail has full battens, and since it can be reefed down to any size, we do not carry a storm trysail. Light winds are far more common than storms and a cruising spinnaker rigged with a snuffer is easy to manage and can considerably shorten slow passages.

Winches: Routine maintenance on winches dockside helps prepare them for the incessant use they'll see on an ocean crossing. (see my post on this blog on stripping, cleaning and re-greasing winches 24 April 2008 - Vince).  

Watchkeeping: As most crews share the watch keeping it is important that the boat is set up for both parties to be able to manage the routines of sail management on deck, at least furling the genoa by themselves. Although this may mean larger winches, or lines led differently, it is a much safer way to sail. This is particularly significant for couples. Not having to disturb the other person while they sleep will, in the longterm, keep life much more pleasant—an important consideration on a small boat that is in the middle of the ocean!

Running Rigging: Chafe is a major concern on any blue-water passage. If a line is worn only at one end, for example from riding over a sheave, a few inches can be cut off and the snap-shackle can be reattached. The line can also be reversed, end-for-end to change the area being chaffed. As running rigging failures are most likely to occur in severe weather, any lines that are suspect should be replaced. Also, spread the loads where possible. For example, mainsheet blocks close together on the boom put heavy stresses on this point on the spar. If possible separate them widely to spread the load. In the first Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) in 1986, nearly 20 of the 209 boats that arrived in Barbados had broken booms. Besides excessive loads, these breakages were caused by inappropriate preventers. A preventer line is necessary to hold the boom forward when running downwind to prevent a jibe, but if it is stronger than the boom, when the boom drags in the water it will break before the preventer. This was particularly the case when a solid boom vang was rigged as a preventer.

A boom-brake to control the boom during a jibe is a good safety feature to add. A robust whisker/spinnaker pole is also essential for downwind work, particularly as modern cruising designs perform extremely well with the mainsail and genoa wing-and-wing. We have our spinnaker pole permanently mounted on the mast, finding it is far easier to maneuver from this position, than lifting it from chocks on the foredeck.

Canvas: "Cockpit canvas is essential whether cruising the tropics or the high latitudes; its comfort can extend well beyond its cost."

Cockpit canvas is essential whether cruising the tropics or the high latitudes, and contributes beyond to comfort and enjoyment beyond proportion to its cost. A dodger is first on the list when it comes to protecting the cockpit from wind and spray. It should be strongly built with an opening front panel to allow a breeze at anchor and also have handles on the outside to facilitate movement on deck. For the tropics, the see-through plastic should be PVC, as lexan quickly goes brittle in intense sunlight and is hard to replace in some locales.

A bimini with strong stainless supports will keep the tropical sun and rain out of the cockpit, and we also have lifeline curtains alongside the cockpit to further shield us from reflection off the water. An awning over the boom keeps the boat cooler at anchor and can be designed to catch rain. Also, wind-scoops are an inexpensive and effective way of funneling cooling breezes through the boat.

The color and material used can make a significant difference to the awning's effectiveness. The lighter the color, the cooler it will be; dark canvas absorbs the sun's heat and radiates it down into the cockpit. The white PVC coated fabric we have on Bagheera has lasted eight years and is easy to clean. It is important to check all stitching of canvas carefully before departing, particularly if you having been using cleaning products containing bleach to remove the inevitable mold.

One spends a considerable amount of time in the cockpit when on a passage, so check the cockpit for comfort when buying a boat. One of the bonuses of modern designs is the increased size of cockpits, but whatever the design, comfortable cockpit cushions are a must, with float cushions convenient as safety additions.

For most sailors, budget constraints play a significant part in offshore preparation. With Bagheera, we started out with a basic but well-built boat, and have added gear as the need and our budget allowed. (Like most cruisers, we always have a wish list!) After sixteen years and over 70,000 nautical miles, our boat is now well-equipped, but pre-passage preparations are still a high priority and we don't hesitate to replace gear that we consider has reached the end of its useful life span.

Article courtesy Andy and Liza Copeland, images courtesy Liza Copeland

You can read much more about planning and preparation for your 'adventure of a lifetime' in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website  

Friday 16 March 2012

Sailboat Cruising and Climate Change

The issue of climate change has received so much attention in recent years that it has become difficult for interested policymakers to separate facts from fiction, let alone the cruising sailor. But the natural world and its health is vital to the world of the cruising sailor, so I reprint this recent Ocean Watch Essay which is of interest to sailors everywhere. Hopefully it helps to clarify some of your thinking on this vital subject of which the effects will be felt and experienced by all sailors making extensive passages:   

'Climate change is one of the most cutting edge research fields in modern science, but the field has existed for more than a century and much knowledge has been established with high certainty and confidence. This page clears up three of the most common misconceptions about the science of climate change.

MISCONCEPTION: Climate has changed many times in the distant past, before humans began burning coal and oil, so the current warming cannot be caused by humans burning fossil fuels.

REALITY: There are several drivers that cause climate to change, and some of the key drivers have both natural and human sources. Recent increases in global temperatures result mostly from higher levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, which have been increasing because of human activities.

 This misconception leans on the false presumption that the existence of natural climate drivers precludes the existence of human drivers. In reality, there are some key climate drivers that have both natural sources and human sources, and scientists are able to distinguish between them. The changes that have occurred in natural climate drivers in recent decades would likely have caused a small amount of cooling, not warming. During the past century, human activities have been the only sustained source of the extra heat-trapping gases that have been added to the atmosphere. Scientists have demonstrated that the primary human source (80 percent) is the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas, and the secondary human source (20 percent) is deforestation and other land use changes.

Those who insist that climate change can be explained entirely by natural factors must address two issues. First, they must identify a natural climate driver that has changed in a way that is consistent with the observed temperature increase. The most common claim is that changes in the sun are responsible, but thirty years of satellite observations show no trend in solar output. Second, they must explain why the documented increase in atmospheric heat-trapping gas concentrations over the past 50 years would not be the main cause of global warming today, given that it is absolutely certain that these gases trap heat. In spite of tremendous effort both by the mainstream scientific community and by interests that oppose efforts to limit future emissions of heat-trapping gases, no one has been able to overcome these two issues in the search for an alternative primary cause of contemporary climate change. On the other hand, scientists have established an internally consistent body of evidence showing that heat-trapping gases produced by human activities have been increasing in the atmosphere and that no other climate driver is changing in a way that is consistent with recent warming.

MISCONCEPTION: The last few years have been cooler, so global warming can't be real; or, Global warming stopped in 1998; or, The world has been cooling for the past decade.

REALITY: The climate is defined by long-term averages in global temperatures and other climate metrics, and those are still increasing.

Ocean Watch - Land and Ocean Temperature Record - .. .

Some people claim that the planet has entered a cooling phase either since 1998 or since 2005, depending on the data set. However, just because 1998 and 2005 are the two warmest years on record does not mean that a long term warming trend is not continuing. The climate is defined by long-term averages, not the ups and downs that occur every few years. For example, the average temperature for the last five years is higher than for the previous five years, and so on (see figure).

Even with the variability in global average temperatures, a long-term warming trend remains. The ten warmest years in the 150-year thermometer record have all occurred in the twelve years between 1997 and 2008; thus, none of the previous 15 decades has been as warm on average as the last decade. Even with a short-term pause in warming, the past three years are among the ten hottest years of the past 150!

What if the temperature still does not rise for several more years? Even then, concluding that global warming had stopped would be premature. Scientists at the U.S. National Climatic Data Center found that over the past 34 years, three separate roughly ten-year periods had no warming, yet during the entire period the global average temperature rose by about 1°F (see figure).

Clearly, the global temperature fluctuates naturally on the decade time scale, with or without global warming. With global warming, these fluctuations simply 'ride' on top of a long-term upward trend.

MISCONCEPTION: There is no scientific consensus on the existence or causes of global climate change.

REALITY: A recent poll of earth scientists demonstrated that there is strong agreement that emissions of heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels make a significant contribution to global warming.

Many concepts in climate science are well established and are not being actively debated among mainstream climate researchers. Scientists have called the warming trend 'unequivocal' on the basis of multiple lines of physical evidence. Physical and statistical 'fingerprinting' studies have linked the warming of recent decades, as well as several other aspects of climate change, directly to increasing emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities. The U.S. Global Change Research Program, sponsored by 13 federal agencies, concluded in a 2009 report that 'global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.'

In fact, the evidence for human-induced climate change is so strong that scientists are in unusually strong agreement about it. A January 2009 poll of more than 3000 earth scientists found that 82 percent of them, regardless of their specialties, agree that human activity is a significant contributor to changing average global temperatures. The consensus is even stronger among active climatologists who publish the majority of their work on climate studies: 97.4 percent agree! This level of consensus is astonishing in a community where reputations are made by proving others wrong.

In contrast to the strong consensus among earth scientists, a 2007 Newsweek poll found that less than half of the American public believes most climate scientists agree that human activities cause global warming. This misconception may stem in part from the traditional practice of journalists of quoting a voice on each side of an opinion issue. In this case, however, one view represents the mainstream scientific opinion and the other represents the fringe.

It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes. The challenge, rather, appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists.'

This Ocean Watch Essay came in part from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Special thanks to the Pew Charitable Trust for the contribution to Sailors for the Sea's Ocean Watch Essays.

You can read more about the effects of 'Climate Change' and the realities of sailing with it in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website