Saturday 28 December 2013

Brand New Affordable Ocean Going Sailboat Concept Launched

The folks over at Attainable Adventure Cruising, John and Phyllis, have excited us all with the announcement right at the close of 2013, of the launch of their 'Adventure 40' ocean sailboat cruiser concept. This project has been in the pipeline now over a two year period with John having penned fourteen posts related to his vision during that time. You can view them all on their website Attainable Adventure Cruising at

Adventure 40 lines in preliminary drawing
Following many suggestions from a host of cruisers (all with their own opinions and ideas!) who collectively have sailed millions of sea miles to most parts of the globe including huge experience in the harshest of environments of the high latitudes, a projected design has come off the board of Erik de Jong.

Erik de Jong on board Bagheera self designed and built
 With the increase of vessel size in recent years and cost of fitting out, it has pushed the 'all up' price way out of reach of a lot of otherwise passionate cruising sailors who would love to put to sea on their 'adventure of a lifetime' voyage. 

The whole thrust of the Adventure 40 concept was to mass produce a brilliant, rugged, sea kindly, tough, go anywhere sweet looking craft at an affordable price. That cut off point is USD200,000, completed, fully fitted out and ready to go. Following much research and enthusiastic follow up by Erik, he has come back with confidence that that target can be met. With his experience in the commercial design sector of the marine industry, you can be pretty sure that this target can be achieved. 

The key of course is going be able to have the ability to build this boat in large numbers and to date 97 people have signed up to the project. This an exciting number and I would expect that many more will sign on in the near future now that this announcement has been made.

Like all projects of this nature, they are quite some time in incubation, when suddenly critical mass is reached and they take off. The Adventure 40 project in one such of these and 2014 will be an exciting year for her.

Here is the link to John's latest blog post where you can read all the finer details of progress and comments

We all wish the very best of luck for much progress in 2014.

Images courtesy Attainable Adventure Cruising

You can read much more about the cruising lifestyle in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website     


Saturday 30 November 2013

America's Cup Oracle Team USA Secret to Winning

For those of you that followed the 34th America's Cup and watched the final excruciating (for a New Zealander) races, you would have been aware of the huge turnaround that the Oracle team achieved. To come from an 8 - 1 deficit to win the next nine races was massive and will go down in the annals not only of America's Cup history, but sporting history in general.

Many questions have been asked as to how this was achieved when Emirates Team New Zealand appeared to have the series and the Cup all tied up after twelve starts, only needing one more win to claim the 'Auld Mug' for the third time.

Technology won the day

That's when it all went pear shaped for Emirates Team New Zealand and their pride of New Zealand AC72 boat 'Aotearoa'. Team Oracle, or OTUSA somehow gained the edge and got on top of their foiling racing techniques. It all came down to technology in the end, as it so often does nowadays and the following article gives us some clues as to how OTUSA's 'daggerboard foil control system' worked:

Foil control system on Oracle's AC72

November 25, 2013 Jack Griffin
AC72 foil control secrets

Some people have questioned whether Oracle Team USA had a secret (and illegal) foil control system in their AC72 that helped them defend the America's Cup.

OTUSA has released drawings and photos of their system, which used a simple "mechanical feedback" loop to allow precise control of the daggerboard rake. Helmsman Jimmy Spithill had buttons on the wheel to rake the daggerboard fore and aft in precise increments of 0.5° giving him better control over lift for hydrofoiling.

OTUSA designers Dimitri Despierres (mechanical systems) and Eduardo Aldaz Carroll (electronic systems) began work in late June 2013 to help the team gybe better. The goal was to reduce distance lost in a gybe from 150 meters to 30 meters. To do this the engineers needed to deal with the problem that board movement varied depending on hydraulic pressure, making it impossible to control lift. What they needed was a way to move the board a fixed amount independent of the pressure and drag load on the board. Within a month, mechanical engineer Alex Davis developed a test bench with a servo control, hydraulic valve and hydraulic ram to simulate movement of the daggerboard box (see photo below).
Foil control test bench
Once the test bed system worked, the system was tested on board. Accuracy was fine, but it reacted too slowly. Mechanical engineer Neil Wilkinson and hydraulics specialist Rolf Engelberts improved the system to improve response speed and make everything more reliable and robust.
Buttons to adjust rake on wheel operated by skipper
The hydraulic ram for rake is not visible in the photo below, but you can see the rams for board cant, as well as the daggerboard cage and daggerboard box:

The box moves within the cage which is fixed to the hull
Rendering of AC72 daggerboard cage below. The cage is fixed in the hull. The daggerboard box moves fore / aft (rake) and side-to-side (cant) within the cage.
Daggerboard cage and daggerboard box
Controversy and protest by Team New Zealand

OTUSA wanted to make sure their system complied with the AC72 Class Rule. They filed a "Public Inquiry" to the Measurement Committee and got approval on 8 August 2013 - only a month before the America's Cup Match was to begin. Team New Zealand then tried to have OTUSA's system ruled illegal but the Measurement Committee stood by their initial decision and the International Jury ruled that New Zealand's protest was made too late, but would not have succeeded even if it had been filed on time. The marked up schematic below was part of Team New Zealand's submission. OTUSA eliminated the spring labeled "Component X" making the TNZ protest moot.

Article and images courtesy and Don Griffin

For all that, the question remains unanswered how it was that OTUSA mastered this system in just the one 24 hr period 'Lay Day' they had before going into race 13? Maybe there is more yet to come?

You can read much more about sailing and the cruising lifestyle in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Sailboat Cruise Yacht Refit/Preparation for Voyage Planning

Many times I have reminisced over the six month period I spent preparing/refitting my boat for my voyage from the UK to New Zealand. Many long hours of decision making, purchasing (including driving to many far off places to pick up urgently needed bits/parts to complete a job), installation and plain hard slog went into achieving the final result - a well found and equipped 43ft fast cruising yacht, a great sailer and robust enough to handle anything Mother nature could throw at us.
Almost there
As I was living aboard during that time with Dale, who was a meticulous installer and fitter of just about any piece of equipment that came into his hands, it was a joy to rise most mornings and attack that days task. From time to time, things as always don't go to plan, and that is when a halt was called for and a retreat beaten to the nearest pub for a couple of quiet ales to discuss the problem. In Shoreham, neighbour to Brighton, this was not a problem as the 'Local' was positioned beside the marina office just a short stroll from our berth! Suffice to say a plan would be hatched over a drink or two, solution/compromise generally found and back to work to complete that particular task. 
 'Tere Moana', fully equipped cruiser
Every voyage planner has different requirements for his vessel and that's as it should be. So you can easily see the vast range of gear that these requirements can encompass. The following is a refit list from ocean voyager owners Mike and Cate and their Morgan 41ft Out Island ketch 'Horizon':   

'........We have certainly been busy on Horizon the past couple years! While we have hired some of the work done, much more than I ever would have in the past, a lot of this was our own handiwork. I am lucky to have prior cruising experience so a lot of the decisions in picking gear was based on that, but then my career as a computer engineer makes me add other, more complex stuff that some see as superfluous which means Cate and our neighbours look askance at some of the things on this list. Sailors tend to have strong opinions and brand loyalty - I just hope all this stuff works together :) Yes I know that little of the expense of all the gear we are adding in this refit will be recovered when/if we have to sell her but we need a little higher level of comfort and safety that we did before.Below are most all of our projects to date for Horizon loosely grouped into categories. As we write more about items they will turn into links that will click through to the description.
s/v Horizon
  • Propulsion and steering
    • Replaced prop shaft - old one was scored and pitted
    • Replaced cutlass bearing
    • Replaced stuffing box hose
    • Replaced intermediate prop shaft bearing
    • Replaced engine exhaust hose
    • Replaced engine exhaust riser
    • Replaced raw water strainer
    • R&R heat exchanger
    • R&R raw water pump
    • Added Perkins M60 engine spares (list)
    • R&R hydraulic steering pump at helm - old one was leaking at shaft
    • Replaced hydraulic steering lines, replaced old copper with 1000 psi tubing
    • Removed EnTech diesel genset, Farymann engine was rusted solid
    • Added Torqeedo 1003 3 HP electric outboard with built-in battery
    • 15 HP Mercury - haven't touched the outboard but replaced tank and fittings
  • Anchoring
    • Added Lighthouse 1501 electric windlass
    • Added 210' 3/8" HT Acco G4 chain
    • Added 60# CQR, primary anchor - got this one used from Sailorman
    • Added 45# CQR, stern hook also well used
  • Safety
    • Added Mustang Survival Offshore life vests - auto-inflating w/built-in harness D-ring (2x)
    • Added Forespar MOB pole
    • Added Forespar horseshoe buoy
    • Added Tri-lens radar reflector
    • Added Fireboy automatic fire extinguisher for engine room
    • Added smoke alarm
    • Added CO monitor
    • Added Aqualarm bilge pump switch/alarm to aft bilge pump
    • Added Aqua Signal LED masthead light
    • Replaced 3 above water thru-hulls that were iffy
  • Communications
    • Added Sea Tech Communicator w/ICOM 802 ham/ssb radio, ICOM AT-140 tuner, and Pactor III modem
    • Added GAM split lead SSB antenna
    • Added KISS SSB ground system
    • Added GlobalStar GSP-1700 satellite phone w/Evolution II unlimited plan
    • Added Standard Horizon GX-2150 VHF radio w/AIS, DSC, and distress
    • Added Bullet M2HP WiFi radio w/SS marine antenna
    • Added Shakespeare 2030-G TV antenna
    • Added VHF antenna on mizzen dedicated to cockpit GX-2150 VHF
    • Added GSM Galaxy Nexus w/Straight talk plan - Okay not a cruising item but I sure love it!
  • Instrumentation
    • Added Lowrance HDS-8 Gen 2 chart plotter/sounder w/Caribbean & US charts
    • Added Lowrance/Navico 4G Radar
    • Added Raymarine ST-60+ wind vane
  • Power Generation
    • Added HiS-S240MG solar panels (2x) - 240 watt each
    • Added Rutlan 913 wind generator
    • Added KISS wind generator mount with rubber vibration isolator
    • Added Xantrex C-60 charge controller
    • Added Blue Sky SB3024DiL MPPT solar panel controller
    • Added Trojan T-125 6V 240AH lead acid batteries (4x)
    • Added Link battery monitor
    • Added Prosine 1800 Watt inverter
  • Plumbing
    • Added Raritan PH-II manual heads (2x)
    • Added Raritan Lectro-scan MSD
    • Added Shurflo 4 GPM fresh water pump (2x)
    • Added Shurflo Extreme Problaster 5 GPM washdown pump
    • Added Village Marine (Racor) NF-200 12V modular watermaker
  • Galley and Interior
    • Added Force 10 3-burner propane stove w/oven
    • Added Isotherm DR-55 drawer freezer frost-free
    • Added Adler Barbour CR-1065 upright refrigerator
    • Added Dickinson propane Sea-B-Que
    • Added Trident 17# fiberglass propane tanks (2x)
    • Added soda-making system with 5# CO2 tank using flavor concentrates
    • Added main salon cabinet sliding doors w/woven teak strips - replaced glass mirror slides
    • Added teak and holly cabin sole with laminate from Teak Decking Systems - replaced all interior carpeted areas
    • Added Hella Turbo fans (5x)
    • Added LED lighting - still adding strip lights inside bins
    • Added Dometic EnviroComfort 16,000 BTU A/C unit forward
    • Added Jensen AM/FM/CD w/RF wireless remote
    • Added main salon HDTV - still need a fish tank screen saver tho
    • Added Acer Revo HTPC
    • Added JSI aft cabin mattress - 3" firm foam, 2" medium, 2" memory foam
    • Enlarged access to bins under settee
  • Other
    • New hull AwlGrip and Petite Trinidad bottom paint - Maximo did a fantastic paintwork job
    • New SS portholes New Found Metals 4x14 (16x) - replaced plastic originals
    • Added deck propane tank enclosure, nicely made to our specifications by B&R Sales
    • Added aft mounted deck box and seat contoured to the cabin top and deck
    • Replaced the too-heavy-for-us AB 12' RBI with the Avon 3.1 Rollaway from my old Horizon
    • Replaced all running rigging
    • Replaced all lifelines with new by SECO South
    • Replaced navigation lights with LED
    • Replaced Bomar main salon hatch
    • Added used Dahon SS folding bikes (2x)
    • Added burgee halyard pulleys on main spreaders
    • Added Hookamax 12v w/2 50' hose dive systems
    • Yet to do: move water heater from under galley sink to engine room
    • Wish list: Simrad hydraulic autopilot
    • Wish list: spreader lights, LED?

Engine spares list

I learned from cruising the last time that the part you do not have is the one that is going to break. I worked with a local shop to find and get the parts for our 1995 era Perkins Prima M60 diesel engine.
  • 1 Fresh water pump
  • 1 Raw water pump
  • 3 Raw water impellers
  • 1 Raw pump rebuild kit
  • 1 Fuel pump
  • 2 Fuel filters
  • 1 Starter
  • 1 Alternator
  • 1 Serpentine (timing) belt
  • 1 Thermostat
  • 1 Radiator cap
  • 1 Seal/gasket kit - probably will need this
  • 1 Injector - got only one of these just in case
  • 1 Glow plug - not needed in warn climates but got one just in case
  • 1 Temperature sender
  • 1 Oil pressure switch
  • 3 Racor fuel filters
  • 5 Oil filters

This looks a very daunting list and indeed it is. These folks obviously had substantially different requirements than what I had several years previously, largely due to the advances in computer technology, electronics, phone/entertainment systems etc. Mike being a computer engineer obviously had a head start in that department. 

These tasks are approached one by one and ticked off the list as you go. Personally, I used a thick black marker pen drawn through the middle as each task was completed. For many weeks, not much progress appears to have been made. But one day you notice that a line is drawn through half or more of the items and suddenly it seems that the end is in sight and this is rather satisfying. From then on, the tempo and enthusiasm rises quite sharply until one day you have arrived at the finish and there are just a few odds and ends to be finalised.

Then you have to seriously start thinking about when you are going to leave port and set sail?!

List courtesy s/v Horizon, images courtesy Mike and self

You can follow Mike and Cate's adventures on their blog 

You can read much more about offshore cruising in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' by downloading it from my website      

Monday 28 October 2013

Automatic Identification System (AIS) Hacking and Ramifications for Cruising Sailors

It has been known for sometime now that AIS can be hacked into and 'ghost ships' be added or removed from a known quadrant of ocean. This would be most disconcerting to any cruising sailors not knowing that they could rely on the data showing up on their on board AIS screen.

Here is a summary of how the 'attackers' could operate and broadcast misleading information:
Never say never to hackers as they have proven that pretty much anything can be hacked, especially when protocols are designed without any thought to security. This time, security researchers placed Automated Identification System (AIS) in the crosshairs and showed that this mandatory tracking system for about 400,000 ships is “comprehensively vulnerable to a wide range of attacks that could be easily carried out by pirates, terrorists or other attackers.”

At the Hack in the Box conference in Malaysia, Trend Micro’s Marco Balduzzi, Kyle Wilhoit and independent researcher Alessandro Pasta presented “Hey Captain! Where’s your Ship? Attacking Vessel Tracking Systems for Fun and Profit” [pdf]. They explained “how we have been able to hijack and perform man-in-the-middle attacks on existing vessels, take over AIS communications, tamper with the major online tracking providers and eventually fake our own yacht.” In fact, Balduzzi believes the attacks on shipping vessels are “much more feasible” than remotely attacking and hijacking an aircraft. He said, “The difference between the aircraft attacks and these is that the former are more difficult to perform, and therefore less likely to be performed by attackers in the wild.”
AIS attacker sequence image
AIS protocol “was designed with seemingly zero security considerations,” but is a mandatory tracking system “for all passenger ships and commercial (non-fishing) ships over 300 metric tons.”  By 2014, it is estimated that AIS will be on one million ships.

The team of security researchers divided attacks into two categories; the first exploits vulnerabilities in AIS Internet provider systems and the other exploits flaws in the AIS protocol itself.

Attacking online AIS services. Although AIS Internet providers collect AIS information and distribute it publicly, the Trend Micro blog explained, that attackers can modify “all ship details, such as position, course, cargo, flagged country, speed, name, MMSI (Mobile Maritime Service Identity) status etc.”

Attackers can “create and modify search and rescue marine aircraft such as helicopters, and light aircraft e.g. having a stationary search and rescue coast guard helicopter ‘take off’ and travel on a set course.” Additionally, attackers can create or modify “Aid to Navigations (AToN) entries, such as buoys and lighthouses. This leads to scenarios such as blocking the entrance to a harbor, causing a ship to wreck, etc.”

They also created a ghost ship, not the kind with ghouls intent on killing passengers, but a fake kind of shipping vessel in an attack that is similar to injecting ghost airplanes into radar. A pirate or terrorist attacker could tamper with data from an AIS service provider’s system to change the type of ship or the cargo it is carrying. Balduzzi and Wilhoit chose a real ship, the 60 meter-long Eleanor Gordon, that was physically located in the Mississippi River in southern Missouri, but made it appear as if the ship was on a lake in Dallas. For a scarier example, an attacker could create a fake ship that had all the same details of a real vessel and make it appear like an Iranian ship full of nuclear cargo was sitting off the coast of the US.

The second type of attack targets “flaws in the actual specification of the AIS protocol used by hardware transceivers in all mandatory vessels” and ranged from spoofing to denial of service attacks.

You know about man-in-the-middle attacks, hopefully, but they developed an attack called man-in-the-water spoofing. If a person falls overboard, there are safety beacon devices that send AIS packets, distress signals, to all ships nearby for rescue purposes; but the researchers were able to send a fake a ‘man-in-the-water’ distress beacon to any location that would “trigger alarms on all vessels within approximately 50 km.”

Other fake alerts an attacker could pull off include sending false weather warnings so ships would route around the supposed approaching storm. They also sent a fake a CPA (Closest Point of Approach) alert and triggered a collision warning alert. “In some cases this can even cause software on the vessel to recalculate a course to avoid collision, allowing an attacker to physically nudge a boat in a certain direction.”Hack in the Box presentations Attacking Vessel Tracking Systems for Fun and Profit"

In a denial of service-flavored attack, the researchers impersonated marine authorities “to permanently disable the AIS system on a vessel, both forcing the ship to stop communicating its position, and stop getting AIS notifications from all nearby vessels. This can also be tagged to a geographical area e.g. as soon as ship enters Somalia sea space it vanishes of AIS, but the pirates who carried out the attack can still see it.”

The AIS protocol lacks a geographical validity check, meaning the location message is “accepted without question.” The lack of timestamps on valid and existing AIS information opens the way to replay attacks. There is no authentication built into the AIS protocol, so an attacker “can craft AIS packets that impersonate any other vessel on the planet, and all receiving vessels will treat the message as fact.” Lastly, the researchers said an attacker can easily intercept and modify all AIS messages, since they sent in an unencrypted and unsigned form.

Okay, but could these attacks really happen in the real world? You betcha, since the researchers said that after attackers conquer the “learning curve with the protocols, uses and implementations of AIS,” the “necessary equipment can be purchased for between $100 and $300, depending on the attack.”

However, on the other side of the argument Lloyds List Intelligence team have this to say:

Lloyd's List Intelligence's Ian Trowbridge said that in addition to the vulnerable technology - known as the Automatic Identification System (AIS) - other measures could be used to identify marine activity.
"The spoofing would immediately be identified by [Lloyd's List Intelligence] as a warp vessel," he said, "providing unexplained position reports outside of the vessel's speed/distance capability and thus subject to further investigation and validation."

The AIS system is used to track the whereabouts of ships travelling across the world's oceans.
or ships over a certain size, having AIS fitted is mandatory under international maritime law.
It is designed to transmit data about a ship's position, as well as other relevant information, so that movements can be seen by other boats as well as relevant authorities on shore.

One other use is to alert nearby ships when a man or woman is overboard - an alert that can easily be spoofed, says Trend Micro's Rik Ferguson.
"It boils down to the fact that the protocol was never designed with security in mind," he told the BBC.

"There's no validity checking of what's being put up there."
Using equipment bought for 700 euros (£600), the researchers were able to intercept signals and make vessels appear on the tracking system, even though they did not exist.
In one example, the team was able to make it look as if a ship's route had spelled out the word "pwned" - hacker slang for "owned".
AIS screen showing pwned attack data
The information broadcast by AIS is public - but when the system was first put in use, in the early 1990s, the technology required to receive the information was prohibitively expensive for those not directly involved in the industry. But now, a typical internet connection can be used to see the locations of boats, as well as an indicator of what type of cargo they may be carrying.

There has been speculation that Somali pirates have been making use of the system.
"It has long been thought that the pirates are basically using AIS as a shopping list," Mr Ferguson said, "seeing what's coming into local waters, and what cargo it may have."

However, Lloyd's List Intelligence noted that captains are permitted to disable AIS if they feel their crew could be endangered by it.

Whilst the cruising sailor probably has not too much need for concern, we are all aware that a number of smaller vessels including yachts have been taken by the pirates, so it is vital that the data supplied is accurate if and when recreational vessels venture into these areas.

You can read much more about the cruising sailors lifestyle in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website

Friday 18 October 2013

Automatic Identification System (AIS) Update for Cruising Sailors and Yachtsmen

To all our readers my apologies for the layout and quality problems of this post. There is currently a glitz in the Blogger software which affects some blogs and not others. Google are working on the problem so hopefully they will have a fix shortly. Meanwhile, here goes for this issue of sailboat2adventure blog.  

AIS (Automatic Identification System) is raising its head again. We have discussed previously in several posts the benefits of this system and the value of it for recreational sailors to have it installed in their vessels. Technology moves ahead at such a rapid rate nowadays that you only have to turn around and Boom! the up to the minute equipment you bought yesterday has already been superseded by a not only more advanced or integrated model, but also possibly somewhat cheaper!
Vesper Marine XB AIS transponder
We have conjectured in the past that AIS would be integrated into chart plotters and it already has. Then we had the arrival of AIS apps for smartphones and we have looked at those also. Now, we have a New Zealand company, Vesper, manufacturing and marketing very user friendly AIS transponders which appear to be sweeping the market for installations in recreational craft, especially sailing vessels. You can take a look at their range on their website

Vesper Marine Watch Mate AIS transponder
The current debate raging is whether or not to have the AIS integrated into the chart plotter or have a dedicated stand alone installation. As in all things everyone has differing opinions and here are a few postings you can view on Cruisers Forum:

Read with interest and make your decisions based on your requirements for your vessel.

As a refresher have a look at this extract from Wikipedia showing the wealth of data that AIS can deliver to the cruising sailor:

Broadcast information 
An AIS transceiver sends the following data every 2 to 10 seconds depending on a vessel's speed while underway, and every 3 minutes while a vessel is at anchor:
  • The vessel's Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) – a unique nine digit identification number.
  • Navigation status – "at anchor", "under way using engine(s)", "not under command", etc.
  • Rate of turn – right or left, from 0 to 720 degrees per minute
  • Speed over ground – 0.1-knot (0.19 km/h) resolution from 0 to 102 knots (189 km/h)
  • Positional accuracy:
    • Longitude – to 0.0001 minutes
    • Latitude – to 0.0001 minutes
  • Course over ground – relative to true north to 0.1°
  • True heading – 0 to 359 degrees (for example from a gyro compass)
  • True bearing at own position. 0 to 359 degrees
  • UTC Seconds – The seconds field of the UTC time when these data were generated. A complete timestamp is not present.
In addition, the following data are broadcast every 6 minutes:
  • IMO ship identification number – a seven digit number that remains unchanged upon transfer of the ship's registration to another country
  • Radio call sign – international radio call sign, up to seven characters, assigned to the vessel by its country of registry
  • Name – 20 characters to represent the name of the vessel
  • Type of ship/cargo
  • Dimensions of ship – to nearest meter
  • Location of positioning system's (e.g., GPS) antenna on board the vessel - in meters aft of bow and meters port of starboard
  • Type of positioning system – such as GPSDGPS or LORAN-C.
  • Draught of ship – 0.1 meter to 25.5 meters
  • Destination – max. 20 characters
  • ETA (estimated time of arrival) at destination – UTC month/date hour:minute
  • optional : high precision time request, a vessel can request other vessels provide a high precision UTC time and datestamp
 In light of all this valuable information delivered to you on your screen, it is difficult to mount an argument against installing AIS in your boat.

AIS data extract courtesy Wikipedia, images courtesy Vesper Marine 

You can read much more about the cruising lifestyle in my book ‘Sailing Adventures in Paradise’ downloadable from my website

Sunday 29 September 2013

Costa Concordia Tragedy Massive Salvage Operation

Once the pride of Cardinal Cruise Lines, the elegant Costa Concordia cruise vessel sailed the seven seas bringing pleasure to countless thousands of happy passengers intent on enjoying the leisurely paced, if often over indulgent, cruising lifestyle.

Costa Concordia cruising the Mediteranean
Tragedy overtook her on the fateful night in January 2012. Due to a navigation error, at approximately 2145hrs. on the 13th. she struck a rock, ripping a 50 metre gash in her port side. The crew managed to steer her toward land where she came to rest just off the island of Giglio on her starboard side.

The following extract of the incident is from Wikipedia:

'On 13 January 2012 at about 9:45 p.m., in calm seas and overcast weather, under command of Captain Francesco Schettino, Costa Concordia struck a rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea just off the eastern shore of Isola del Giglio, on the western coast of Italy about 100 km (62 mi) northwest of Rome. This tore a 50 m (160 ft) gash on the port (left) side of her hull, which almost immediately flooded parts of the engine room and caused loss of power to her propulsion and electrical systems. With water flooding in and listing, the ship drifted back to Giglio Island, where she grounded just 500 m (550 yd) north of the village of Giglio Porto, resting on her starboard (right) side in shallow waters with most of her starboard side under water. 

Despite the gradual sinking of the ship, its complete loss of power, and its proximity to shore in calm seas, an order to abandon ship was not issued until over an hour after the initial impact. Although international maritime law requires all passengers to be evacuated within 30 minutes of an order to abandon ship, the evacuation of Costa Concordia took over six hours and not all passengers were evacuated. Of the 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crew known to have been aboard, 30 people died, and two more passengers are missing and presumed dead. 

On September 26, 2013, human remains were found on deck 4, which could be the last two missing passengers not accounted for. Divers will try to recover the remains. The following day the remains were found not to be from the passengers that were missing.

On 17 September 2013, Costa Concordia was winched upright. The next stage is to assess and repair damage to the vessel before it will be floated away to an Italian dock to be scrapped although the tow is unlikely until Spring 2014.'

You can tell from this that Wikipedia is right up to date reporting on the current status of the salvage and re-floating operation.

For a more detailed look at the salvage operation and surrounding data you can go to this link from the UK Telegraph newspaper which gives a great in depth view of the salvage.

This video shows what a massive salvage operation it is which will cost a similar amount to the original cost of construction of the vessel: 

Image and video courtesy of Google and YouTube.

For lots of other sailing stuff you can go to my website where you can also download my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' 

Thursday 29 August 2013

Sailboat 'At Sea' Problem Events and Solutions

Reflecting on my last post 'Sailboat Cruising in High Latitudes in the Baltic, and Russian Coast' and the timely discovery of the loose nuts on the transmission coupler saver of s/v Bear, reminded me of a couple of similar incidents that occurred and could prove disastrous at sea. Because Mark Clarke is meticulous in what he does and carries out regular engine checks he discovered the problem and was able to fix it before it uncoupled and became a REAL problem.
Coupler saver on s/v Bear
Here is another case, this time involving a stripped gearbox nut whilst on passage from Panama to The Galapagos. Alan and Patricia Lucas had recently transited the Panama Canal in their 47ft cutter 'Tientos' and were anchoring off a small island not far from Balboa in Panama Bay. Here is their story:

Clearing the final lock, Panama City was bypassed in favour of Taboga Island, a two-hour sail away to anchor for the night and tidy the ship ready for the Galapagos leg of the Pacific Ocean crossing.

On going astern to dig the anchor in there was a heart rending CLUNK! after which the engine revved mercilessly with no semblance of sternway as the prop shaft flew back and jammed the rudder. Obviously, the gearbox-coupling nut had sheared, payback, no doubt, for its abuse in the lock. It was an unhappy situation with Australia 8,000 miles away.

After checking for external damage, my most urgent task was to pull the shaft back to the gearbox to free the rudder then prevent it from running back again under sail.With no semblance of thread left on the nut, this involved wrapping fencing wire around the back of the shaft coupling from where numerous strands were secured to the engine block and twisted up tight Spanish Windlass-style.

Gearbox coupler nut and shaft - a nylon coupler saver would normally be inserted between the two 
The spline being intact, rotational integrity between gearbox and shaft remained useful for forward gear, but only if the fencing wire could be released at the precise moment of engagement. One slip and the shaft would run back and jam the rudder again, denying both forward power and steerageway again. Under the circumstances we chose to remain engineless until reaching Australia.I confess to unkind thoughts about our Panamanian Pilot, but at least the engine was available for battery charging and, despite our sails feeling their age, they were more than adequate for the job. However, manoeuvring in various congested ports along the way had lost its appeal deciding us to stop only at Galapagos, Marquesas and Western Samoa, a regrettable but entirely acceptable compensatory package.

With months at sea to reflect on how tiny and inexpensive is the Achilles Heel of motor-sailing, I cursed myself for not having a spare nut aboard despite swearing blind that I bought one a few years back in Darwin. And knowing from years of experience that the best way to find a missing object is to buy or make a new one, I wasted a lot of time raking through my bulging bits-box seeking creative alternatives, the results being outstandingly negative.

Immediately after clearing into Maryborough, Queensland, I bought a new nut for around two dollars from a local engineering shop and reconnected the shaft to the engine in a mater of minutes.I also bought a spare nut that I wired to the engine block, a departure from my normal parts stowage procedure that ran the risk of ‘the bleeding obvious syndrome’ where you tear your boat apart before remembering where you put it!

Article reproduced courtesy Alan Lucas and Afloat magazine
Another situation during my own voyage was on passage between the Galapagos islands and the Marquesas when we were sailing in loose company with a well known brand production sailboat. One day around half way through the twenty day passage, their skipper discovered that his helm was a little sloppy. On inspection he discovered that the rudder stock that passes through a fibreglass cone that was affixed (glassed) to the inner side of the hull was gradually working its way loose. 

With all the downwind sailing, the pressures on the rudder being enormous, the glass cone had begun to delaminate itself at the base from the inside of the hull. If this was left unchecked the cone could eventually totally detach itself from the glass of the hull! This could mean that the rudder stock could possibly drop out of the bottom of the boat, but furthermore and much worse, leave a gaping hole in the hull into which the Pacific Ocean would gaily ingress itself with catastrophic results.
Fibreglass fabric construction

A temporary fix of many layers of glass fibre fabric and resin were slapped on all around the base of the cone. With a day hove to to have it cure, they were then able to carry on sailing, albeit under reduced sail and speed so as to reduce the pressures on the rudder. This fix lasted all the way to Raiatea Island in French Polynesia where a permanent fix with instructions from the European boat builder was effected.

These events ram home the fact that no matter how well you think you are prepared at sea, you may be sure there will always be something crop up that will need your ingenuity to solve, so you can continue sailing and make your next land fall. This is part of the challenge of cruising.

Gearbox Nut article courtesy Alan Lucas and Afloat Magazine

You can read much more about events on passage in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website 


Friday 23 August 2013

Sailboat Cruising in High Latitudes in the Baltic, and Russian Coast

One of our members, the Wirta-Clarke family made up of Mark and Yvette and their two girls Maya and Jenefer are sailing their steel ketch s/v Bear in stages around the world. This summer they have been sailing and exploring ports in the Baltic sea from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia - throw in Estonia as well.
s/v Bear at anchor, Scotland 
What an adventure they are having and what an education for children (adults as well)! You can imagine how well rounded the two girls are going to be when they are older and venture out into the world on their own account.

You can catch up with their sailing adventures on their website:
Yvette, Mark, Jenefer and Maya

and blog:

They have said their goodbyes to Russia and currently back in Sweden and enjoying the latter part of summer before heading back for winter storage.

On extended cruising such as this many problems arise in the maintenance of the boat and even though 'Bear' is a very strongly constructed and well found vessel, a lot of time is spent on keeping on top of the maintenance to ensure all parts are in 'best practice' condition for safe, happy and care free sailing.

Here is an extract from one of Mark's emails concerning the engine drive shaft coupler 'saver' he discovered about to blow:

'We have arrived at the Krestovski Yacht Club 59°57'59"N 30°14'48"E on Krestovski Island, St. Petersburg after the 200 mile from Tallinn, Estonia. We really did like Tallinn, it's a mix of the old Town from the new. We docked in the busy port 1000 yards from the cruise ships. The ships look so big from the water, we could not find the marina located just inland and behind the ships. There is good reasonable provisioning within a short walk of the Old Town marina. We had an excellent walking tour the day after we arrived. These poor  people only gained there country from Russia between World War One and Two, then the Russians took them over again after the The Germans occupied during the war.  We saw the old KGB headquarters, maritime museum. We found the Estonians to have a lot of resolve. 

I started  doing my engine room check before leaving and found a large 5/8" bolt in the bilge - not good! The engine coupler to the transmission was missing the bolt. The other three were very loose. What a lucky find! I think after all the lock dockings in the Gota Canal in Sweden they became loose. We pulled the transmission in Florida before leaving and I did not re torque them. Luckily, they were  able to be tightened.

Transmission coupler saver re-bolted. Note the LED strip lighting fitted
We left Estonia around 10 a.m. it was flat calm as the forecast predicted. We found a rocky shallow area to anchor around 11 p.m., off the coast of Finland but as the anchor went down, the wind came up to 18 knots, and got really rough, we pulled anchor at 1am and travelled the last 40 miles slowly as to arrive up the narrow channel in daylight to the border control of Russia on Haapasari Island Finland and arrived at about 0800. it is a small island off the Finnish coast about 6 miles total land. We were Able to check in at Russian Passport  Control outpost and then stay at the dock until 4 p.m. for some  sleep, but we paid the price with big black tire marks on the hull left from the black tire fenders of the dock.  We left for the last 100 miles to St. Petersburg.'

Now Mark, apart from being a great family man, is also a first class sailor, marine surveyor by profession and with a big heart from which he willingly passes on any information, technical or otherwise that can be of assistance to the recipient sailor. He is also pretty creative when it comes to solving problems around the boat and here are a couple more things Mark has found work well on his ship, Bear:

He has installed  raw water alarm to monitor raw water flow in the heat exchanger of his motor. This is a good peace of mind kit, especially if you are motoring over longer periods, say in a calm or you need some extra power to punch into rough weather. 

Raw water alarm by Borel

These alarms will monitor your raw water flow and let you know if the flow is less than sufficient at which point your engine can begin overheating very rapidly. You can check out the Borel site for further information and prices of these units.

Here's what Mark has to say and how he has it installed on his boat: 'The Borel engine exhaust temperature sensor. This inexpensive (under $100.00) US sensors strap onto the exhaust hose with simple plastic hose ties. You power with 12VDC and set the alarm in the cockpit or in our case next to the companionway. When the exhaust reaches 220 Degree, the alarm sounds. This is how the larger yacht engines are monitored. The exhaust gets hot when cooling water flow is not sufficient.  The sensor picks this up and sounds the alarm. The engine water temperature gauges only alerts you once the engine is entirely hot, by which time internal damage could have already been done, or the cooling hoses have been overheated and become soft'.

No electric winches on your boat? Here is another very simple but huge labour saving device if you don't. The mast on Bear is sixty feet plus and that is a lot of winching past the point where the mainsail can be be lifted manually! Mark's solution is to use a Milwaukee vertical 1/2 battery power drill with winch bit to assist in raising the mainsail. As he points out it won’t lift the sail all the way, but does a pretty good job on the first 7/8ths of the raise. So winching the final 1/8th with fresh muscles is not so hard!
Milwaukee drill set with winch bit
Mark has a few more innovations, problem solvers and fixes up his sleeve and these will appear in our subsequent posts.

We salute their ingenuity and wish the whole family to continue their happy and successful sailing adventure.

You can read much more about cruising the globe in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' by downloading it from my website