Monday 22 December 2014

Sailboat/Yacht Marine Survey - To Survey Or Not To Survey?

Buying your dream sailboat can be a stressful business. There are so many factors that come into it so that finding the right boat for your particular requirements can take months, if not longer, of looking at many craft in all sorts of condition from excellent all the way down the scale to a recipe for disaster. 
The fit out and condition are paramount and what you initially view in a brokers image collection and the reality can be worlds apart.......all boats look good in the photos!
It is a very good idea to have a detailed list of what you want in your boat and work your way through it when going to inspect a boat you are interested in. 
Marine surveyor testing hull soundness
A second step that will help to take some stress out of the search is to call for a marine survey once you have had an initial look over the boat and you like it enough to call for an expert opinion. 
I was lucky when I purchased my yacht in that she had been used for day sailing for one summer only and then housed in a air conditioned shed for the following three years without going back into the water. So, by the time I got to see her for the first time, she was still in mint condition. My good friend Mark Clarke of Clarke Marine Surveyors had provided me a comprehensive list of things to look for, so I felt confident working my way through that.
Checking standing rigging
 I spent an hour or two going over her in the shed and and then made an offer on the spot which was accepted. She was then shipped to the UK where I spent the next six months fitting her out for cruising. My luck held and she performed wonderfully well over the next four years, sailing many thousands of sea miles and half way round the globe.
As mentioned, because of the special circumstances, I was extremely lucky, but would definitely not recommend anyone taking the same path. In 2013, over 955,000 boats changed hands on the pre-owned boat market. That meant for nearly a million boat buyers, hiring an accredited marine surveyor to inspect their potential dreamboat was often the first step after finding it. 
Boat Owners Association of The United States has seven tips on how to get the most from a marine survey: 

1. The only good survey is a current one: Relying on an old survey is a bad idea. The marine environment isn’t nice to boats and sometimes a 'little' maintenance issue can quickly turn into more serious problem. If you need to have the boat insured, you will usually need a survey less than six months old – after that, it begins to smell like dead fish. 

2. Don’t miss your own survey: Just like your wedding, you need to be there. Attending and asking questions will reap reams of information about the boat you’re buying, and most surveyors are happy to talk about what they are finding and what needs to be done to fix things. 
3. Experience trumps price: Don’t select a surveyor on price alone. It’s important to find one that has experience on your type of boat that can tell you what you need to know. Surveyors who are members of the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS) or the National Association of Marine Surveyors (NAMS) are wise choices as these professional organizations have certification processes and provide educational training. 
Checking propellor, cutlass bearing
4. It’s not pass or fail: A survey is only a guide to determine if the boat is acceptable to the buyer. An insurance company may also use it to provide a list of corrective actions needed to provide coverage. 

5. Surprise, surprise: Boats are a series of complex systems and even brand new boats sometimes have recommendations from a surveyor. The difference is that with new boats, corrective actions are often taken care of through the builder’s warranty. 

6. Use the survey to negotiate: Surveys include an approximate fair-market value for use by lenders and insurance companies. If the numbers warrant it, there is also nothing wrong with using this value in an attempt to negotiate a better deal with the seller. 

7. A survey gives you a great punch list: A survey can guide planning for upgrades, repairs and help you prioritize. 

At the outset the cost of having a survey may seem high, but when you consider that it is very small as a percentage of the cost of your dream boat, or possibly the much higher price you may pay for expensive repairs not highlighted prior to sale, then a survey by a registered marine surveyor is a very good investment.

Marine survey list courtesy BOA of the US 

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

Wishing all of our readers a Very Merry Christmas, the happiest of New Years and safe sailing with fair winds in calm seas. 

Saturday 29 November 2014

Mobilarm Latest Release of sMRT SOS Dan Buoy MOB Recovery Device

'Man Overboard!!' - we have yet to get to terms with POP, (hasn't quite got the same ring to it)  - roared at full volume from the deck is a yachting skipper's and crew's worst nightmare. No matter how well prepared we think we are and how many times we have practised the drills beforehand, we are never really prepared for the event when it does happen. 

Practice drills are vital, but are no substitute for the real thing, mainly because it always occurs most unexpectedly, in an instant, and when no one on board is in the least expecting it. It subsequently and consequently has such a sudden impact on our brain that we are momentarily stunned, then requiring cool heads and fast action to effect a successful rescue of the MOB.

The marine industry is constantly developing and improving equipment to facilitate better rescues and one such company has just launched its latest contribution.           

Mobilarm has integrated its latest emergency electronic MOB Beacon, the sMRT V100 Locator Beacon, with the inflatable SOS Dan Buoy marker. It was introduced recently at the Monaco Yacht Show, the world’s largest mega-‐yacht show.

Mobilarm sMRT MOB Dan Buoy
Once thrown into the water and inflated, the SOS Dan Buoy becomes a visual marker and at the same time the sMRT technology is activated which sends out an alert signal automatically transmitting GPS coordinates to your chart plotter via AIS and DSC. The SOS Dan Buoy can also provide flotation for the casualty. Its visual and electronic capabilities can reduce the Search in Search and Rescue.
The sMRT SOS Dan buoy is a major change in marine rescue devices and suitable for many marine applications for vessels and fixed marine installations. Portable and simple to use, the sMRT Dan Buoy can be thrown into the water providing a floating marker for a person to swim towards and await rescue. The integration of MRT’s sMRT beacon technology allows the tracking of the Dan Buoy and also provides an alarm mechanism to alert nearby vessels to assist with the rescue.
Mobilarm's sMRT Dan Buoy deployed
Additional features:
- Patented arm loops
- 2.5 mtre high visibility ribbon
- Flashing LED light and reflective strips
- Large drogue
- SOLAS approved whistle
- Re-usable Pro-sensor inflation technology
- External loop for attaching a lifebuoy
- Rating to ISO 12402 standard

MRT CEO Ken Gaunt commented: “We are continuously looking to provide our customers with all potential life saving solutions. The sMRT SOS Dan Buoy is another solution with which our customers can address their man overboard risks. This product is a clear alternative for those environments in which individual protection is not viable such as large passenger vessels and cruise ships, or those facilities such as oil rigs and wind farms in which additional standby measures address the additional safety requirements needed.”
SOS Marine’s, Ross Spencer added:”We are very excited for sMRT SOS Dan Buoy to become a global benchmark in response to a rescue situation. The sMRT SOS Dan buoy has lifesaving capabilities. It is easy to use; anyone can pick it up and throw it overboard and is specifically designed to make rescue and recovery of a Man over Board incident a simple and reliable operation. The sMRT SOS Dan Buoy is a very easy to use product that delivers improved safety to commercial and recreational seafarers.”

Another feature we like about this unit is that being a Dan Buoy, it can be fitted permanently within easy reach to your pushpit rails and immediately thrown to the MOB. At a little over $300.00 it has to be a vital addition to your boats safety equipment.

Images courtesy and

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


Monday 27 October 2014

Ocean Swell Forecast Upgrade from PredictWind for Sailors

Since our recent PredictWind blog (31 August 2014), PredictWind have updated their Swell forecast module on their site.

When you are on passage and in seas as shown in these images, you want to know all you can about wave size, direction, wind strength, location and how long these conditions are going to last in your area of the ocean that you are sailing.

Classic yacht Owl sailing in big swell
PredictWind have now combined their forecast data with ocean current data and by accounting for the effect of wind on swells, can give more accurate swell forecasts. 

Large swell sailing
Included is the effect islands and land masses can have on dampening down of the swells and directional changes. Also, more territories have been added.

This update from PredictWind gives the sailor more accurate data of the swell conditions over what area and with the comfort then, of how long he is going to be in them and/or sail out of them.

Images and video courtesy YouTube

You can read much more about sailing in heavy weather conditions in my book 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website

Thursday 9 October 2014

Sailboat Seacock Replacement Whilst Afloat, with Seabung

Did you know that half of boat sinkings at moorings or in marinas are a result of underwater through hull fitting failures? This comes about from neglect and the thought of the cost of having to haul the boat to replace these fittings. This is madness of course, but the statistics prove that it happens many more times than it should. On average, once a vessel has sunk or partially submerged, even for a short time, the cost of fixing the damage is around 40% of the value of the boat - considerably more than the haul out cost!

Along comes 'Seabung' with their flexible tool which enables you to remove your seacocks for checking and replacing if necessary, without having to get your boat out of the water and onto the hard.

This is how it works:

Here is the result from a test carried out by Sailing Today's Toby Heppell: 

'The product, which is designed in the UK and made in Rutland, is essentially a pair of flexible rubber pads on the end of bendy sticks, suited for plugging holes of 19mm to 63mm. The idea is that you can plunge it through almost any shaped hole, including through a seacock, where it will deploy under the hydrostatic pressure of the surrounding water.

I was wary of taking Seabung at its word by removing a hose from a seacock and testing it on my own boat. Instead, I plunged it through the through-hull fitting for the log, knowing I could easily remove it and plug the hole if necessary. The flexible dome passed easily through the hole, but on the moderately steep-V of the forefoot, it couldn’t easily form a seal, and water continued to enter, albeit at a reduced rate. So far, wooden bung 1, Seabung 0.

To give it a fairer workout, I cut a 2in (5cm) hole in the base of a plastic storage crate, which I then pressed into the water. Here, on a flat surface, the bung performed better, even when the crate was moved back and forth through the water.'

Whilst it looks fine for replacing the seacock itself, the replacement of a corroded or damaged stem would be an entirely different story and could only be achieved when the boat is in the yard. 

So don't be disposing of your wooden or rubber bungs yet, and as always, make sure you have the correct sized bung affixed with a durable cable tie to the through hull fitting.

Seabung pack with 60mm and 90mm tools
On balance therefore, for the modest cost of the Seabung, carrying a two pack set could be a worthwhile addition to your onboard maintenance inventory.  

Report courtesy and video courtesy YouTube  

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

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Sailboat Steering on Passage Without a Rudder

For a cruising sailor on passage somewhere mid ocean, one of the worst nightmares visited on is the horror of losing the ships rudder, thereby wallowing helplessly at the whim of the ocean until a jury rudder can be rigged and deployed. 

The majority of voyagers will have planned this out before leaving port and have a rudder blade pre cut from marine ply or similar material and various other boat bits nominated so that a jury can be assembled on board with the minimum of difficulty and stress.

Another option if a drogue is on board, is to use it to steer the boat. Here is a detailed explanation of extensive trials carried out by Michael Keyworth in his Swan 44 off Newport, Rhode Island:

'The purpose of the tests was to determine the best method and equipment to effectively steer the vessel to a safe port in the event of catastrophic rudder failure. The goal was to utilize the equipment normally taken on the vessel on offshore passages or races. The overriding premise was; utilization of an efficient and controllable object to create drag and transmit to directional stability which results in the desired directional stability. It was my view that a drogue might be used to exert the appropriate drag. I further felt that a small drogue might provide the needed drag but not significantly impede the speed of the vessel.

Chasseur steering with drogue
 Chasseur has been modified in the following relevant ways; the rudder skeg was removed and replaced with a modern spade rudder which is carbon fiber with a Carbon fiber shaft, the keel has been modified to a modern shape fin with a shoe, the mast is carbon fiber and six feet taller than original. For the purposes of the tests, the rudder was removed and the rudder port was blocked off. 

I was familiar with and had onboard Chasseur a 'Galerider' made by Hathaway, Reiser and Raymond of Stamford, Connecticut. I contacted Wes Oliver at Hathaway and he arranged to make several prototype drogues for the tests. We were equipped with: a 12inch diameter drogue with a three part bridle, a 12inch diameter drogue with a four part bridle, a 18 inch diameter drogue with a four part bridle, a 30 inch drogue with a four part bridle and a 36 inch drogue with a four part bridle. 

The purpose of the test was to establish whether direction could be controlled under the following 'underway' conditions using any of the drogues supplied: 

With sail trim alone 
Motoring using a drogue 
Sailing upwind using a drogue 
Sailing downwind using a drogue 
Motorsailing using a drogue 
Being towed using a drogue 

Size of drogue proved to be very important. The findings were definitive: 

- The two 12- inch drogues provided no directional stability. 

- The 18- inch drogue provided marginal control in winds under 10 knots 

- The 30- inch drogue was very effective in all conditions that were tested and resulted in approximately one knot reduction in boat speed. In wind conditions over 20 knots of windspeed a chain pennant needed to be added to reduce cavitation. 

- The 36- inch drogue worked similarly to the 30 inch drogue but affected boat speed by approximately1½ knots. 


Two spinnaker sheets were used. I believe that spinnaker sheets are appropriate as they are generally sized based on length of boat. The sheets were led as two sides of a bridle (port and starboard) from amidships snatch blocks, thru amidships chock or similar and clipped into the swivel at the lead for the drogue. The tails were lead aft to the primaries in the cockpit. It is important to rig this so as to provoke the least amount of chafe as these lines will become your steering cables. We found that the leads need to be led to the axis of the keel as the boat will rotate on the keel. This point is probably somewhere near amidships. 

Note: The afterguy block may be ideal for the bridle lead. 

Some prior guidance suggested that a lead to the quarters of the transom is the best. Our findings are that this restricts the transom from swinging, therefore preventing the desired change in course. 

During rough and/or windy conditions it may be necessary to add weight to the drogue to keep it from cavitating. Using the concept of being limited to equipment that is already on board, we were able to use various lengths of chain attached to the swivel at the lead for the drogue. At the other end we effectively used a spare swivel shackle and attached one end to the forward end of chain and the other to the bridle from the boat. It is important to have swivels at both ends as the drogue will tend to rotate as it is pulled along. The bridle may get twisted up but this does not seem to affect the control. During our tests the length of 'scope' of the bridle/drogue did not seem important. The nominal distance aft from the transom varied from 50 feet to 120 feet. It may be necessary to add scope in extreme conditions. I found that reference of the drogues position was valuable information. I whipped colored marks at 10 foot intervals on both spin sheet/bridle which gave a quick reference; this could be done with tape or magic marker. 


Controlling direction with sail trim alone: Not Possible!!! 

Control direction while motoring using a drogue- This is the easiest scenario. A wide range of control is available. This can be done with only one person, easily. While testing we were able to execute multiple 360 degree turns with full control. Doing 5.5 knots a full 360 can be executed in 4-4 ½ boat lengths. While motoring, adjustments of 2-3 inches results in 5-10 degree course change. 

Controlling direction while sailing upwind using a drogue- The same principals apply except that there needs to be cooperation between the sail trimmers and the 'helmsperson' (bridle trimmer). In this scenario the main must be up, even if reefed, the jib may be overlapping, but more control may be achieved with a non-overlapping jib. Tacking takes coordination but, once you get the hang of it, no problem-- traveler up, back the jib and come on to the new tack. We were able to achieve 30-35 degrees apparent sail angle. In large seas wider angles should be expected. 

Controlling direction while sailing downwind using a drogue: When the wind is aft of 90 degrees apparent it is necessary to take the mainsail down and sail under Jib alone. It will be necessary to have an attentive jib trimmer in addition to a helmsperson on the drogue controls. The size of the jib will have to be factored in based on wind and sea conditions. We also found that the deeper the angle the harder it was to have fine control of direction. Jibing is pretty straightforward by easing the jib and rotating the drogue. 

Controlling direction while motorsailing using a drogue- The same principals apply as in sections on upwind and downwind sailing. 

Controlling direction while being towed using a drogue- This test, I felt was important because most successful results of rudder loss has a component of a tow of great and small distances to a safe harbor. In this situation we were towed by a 27’ Protector with two 250 HP outboards. A towing bridle was made up on Chasseur and attached to the tow line from the Protector. At three Knots the bow was swinging from port to starboard to the end of the tether. At four knots it was very difficult to stand on the foredeck. We deployed the 30 inch drogue as rigged for sailing and motoring. The results were immediate. Towing at seven knots was comfortable and straight, requiring very little input from the helmsperson. 

This is an important finding as it suggests that a drogue should be carried at all times so that assistance can be rendered safely, even inshore. 

Additional Findings/ FAQs 

If you lose your rudder- first confirm that the rudder port is not leaking- if it is you must first deal with the flooding issue. Once the flooding issue is stabilized move on to the next step of getting home or assistance. 

Communicate with Race Officials if you are racing and/or with those onshore who will worry about your situation. 

Communicate with vessels nearby if in need of immediate help away from a lee shore or collision avoidance in shipping lanes. 

Choose your safe harbor destination based on wind direction predictions, ease of access, proximity, repair facilities, etc. Do not feel that you need to end at the original destination port. 

If you lose your rudder, it is likely that you either hit a submerged object or that the conditions were severe. Remember that you have time. Relax, storms don’t usually last more than a couple of days. Deploy your drogue or sea anchor and get some rest. 

Each time that we went testing we learned something new. Don’t be afraid to try something that you think might help, i.e. longer scope, move lead of bridle forward or aft, larger/smaller jib, reef/no reef, etc. 

An unanswered question is how a drogue will work with different types/styles and underbodies than Chasseur. My personal view is that a drogue will be an effective tool to have on any type of boat and its deployment can be adapted to the type of vessel that uses it. 

Offshore you will have room to maneuver. Take your time and don’t stress about steering an accurate course. 

The engine is your friend. You will find that using engine power will provide the greatest degree of control- speed and direction. Use the engine to deploy sails, to get rest, or to retrieve the drogue- retrieval is easiest when the boat is stopped. Be careful to not tangle the bridle in the prop. This was never a problem during our trials. This was probably because; towards the end of trials we used a five foot chain pennant to help the drogue from cavitating. The chain component is an important one. I chose the use of chain to weight the drogue because ISAF Offshore Prescriptions require that an anchor with appropriate ground tackle be carried, so it need not be carried as additional gear. Others venturing offshore tend to take ample ground tackle to accommodate the use for other purposes. On a practical matter, I think that it makes sense to have different lengths of chain for required circumstances. It also makes sense that a longer chain can be made shorter using the rig cut away tools as required by the rule. A shorter chain can be made longer using shackles to join shorter lengths. 

How heavy is the Galerider? A standard 30- inch drogue weighs in at nine pounds and is stored in a bag that is 15 inches in diameter and five inches thick. The standard 36- inch drogue weighs 13.2 pounds and stores in a bag that is 18 inches in diameter and four inches thick. 

One of the difficulties that you will face to determine where the helmsperson is stationed and has access to heading or a compass. Something that you may want to consider, as you equip for an offshore passage is the purchase of a backup compass which can be remotely mounted. Boats equipped with modern electronic packages may have the option of display of heading for both helmsperson and trimmer/s. 

It would be prudent for any offshore sailor to practice the deployment of a drogue for speed reduction sailing downwind in large seas and to rig and use as a means of steering. This would help to identify the gear necessary to deploy and provide a ready plan to implement if necessary. 

The transition from drogue to drogue steering or vise versa may be easier than you think. 

A trick that we learned is that you can cleat off one of the bridle lines and have control with the other. If you were to cleat off the port bridle line a turn to port would result from easing the starboard bridle and a subsequent change to starboard would result from trimming the starboard bridle. This lazy man’s approach gives the helmsperson more flexibility and physical relief. 

What I learned from the extensive testing is that you can achieve a great deal of control using a drogue. I would bet that if any boat is able to sail 100+ miles without a rudder to a safe port, the crew will want to take a victory lap around the harbor to 'show off' the newfound skill and seamanship ability. 

One last thought. Having sailed over 150,000 miles at sea I have seen many things and have been able to overcome all sorts of adverse conditions, I still have many concerns and reservations. One concern is that of rudder loss and how to deal with that possibility. This test should help all who go to sea with that possibility. The other concern that haunts me each time I go to sea is the amount of floating debris and other objects that may affect the ability of even the most seamanlike sailor to safely passage from place to place. The possibility of being holed or sunk from collisions with floating debris is real. Most of the stories I have heard about boats at sea that have become rudderless have resulted in the abandonment of those vessels. These abandoned vessels represent a threat to those fellow sailors who put to sea and put them unnecessarily at risk.'

Michael has to be congratulated on carrying out these tests and reproducing the in depth and detailed data for all cruising sailors.  

The first video has been created by Michael and shows the drogue deployed from his 44ft Swan. This is valuable as even today the majority of cruising boats are in 40 - 45ft/13 -15mtre range. The video goes on to show how to sail up wind and also how the drogue can be used for a yacht being towed without a rudder.

You will of course note that there will be no more sailing on auto pilot, the boat having to be 'helmed' manually 24/7 until arrival at the next port and hopefully a yard whereby repairs can be affected.

The second video also shows sailing with a drogue on smaller sailboat where the crew can use their weight to trim. It also shows a jury rudder using a spinnaker pole as a tiller - this would not be practical on a larger boat with much longer poles. 

This then raises the question of which method of the two, when steering over long periods, is the less stressful and tiring. A jury rudder can be lashed and the drogue can be cleated off, but which one would need more hands on attention is debatable. Both methods have points in favour and against. However, if either method is employed, and if it means getting boat and crew safely into port, then it would have to be deemed  as being successful. This is worth considering and discussing. 

Article, images and videos courtesy Michael Keyworth, and YouTube

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


Monday 15 September 2014

TSS Earnslaw Queenstown Engine Room Example for Cruising Sailors

Just returned from a few days in Queenstown, New Zealand, where they refer to themselves as 'The Adventure Capital of the World'. For a smallish tourist town with a population of only 25,000 approx. they certainly boast a myriad of, not only outdoor, but extreme outdoor activities so their claim is not without substance. 

In one of the most beautiful settings in the world, it is seething with folks young and old from all corners of the globe. they want to sample and experience their own personal adventures, be it the usual tourist sightseeing tours or the extreme adventure variety. These range from skiing, snowboarding, bungy jumping ( several variations), white water rafting, para jumping off the mountain, Jet boating in the famous Shotover River, rock climbing, abseiling, cable slip riding, tandem sky diving and others that will thrill the blood of folks of all ages.

You may be wondering what this has to do with sailboat cruising? Not a lot really except that there is one cruise that I took that illustrates most clearly the benefits of well maintained machinery and in particular, engines.

TSS Earnslaw docking at Walter Peak for return to Queenstown
The TSS Earnslaw cruise across the lake to Walter Peak farm station, on a fine sunny day is a delight. You are carried across on the steamship TSS Earnslaw, a one hundred and two year old steamer. She is immaculately maintained with all woodwork, bright work and brass fittings gleaming.
Approaching Walter Peak farmstead
She was built in Dunedin, one hundred and twenty kilometres eastward on the east coast of the South Island. She was constructed in parts, assembled in Dunedin, disassembled and trained in pieces to Kingston at the southern end of the lake and launched there in 1912. Quite some feat back then?
Here are her specifications:
Type:     Siemens Martin Steel hulled twin screw steamer with Kauri decking.
Naval Architect:     Hugh McRae of the New Zealand Government Railways Department, Dunedin.
Builders:     John McGregor and Company Ltd., Dunedin.
Displacement:     329.55 gross registered tons, 155.43 net.
Registered Length:     165 feet, 7 inches or 50.47 metres.
Length overall:     168 feet   51.2 metres.
Beam:     24 feet or 7.315 metres.
Depth:     9 feet, 6 inches.
Draught:     6.6 feet.
Propulsion:     Twin coal fired triple expansion, jet condensing vertical marine engines producing 500 horsepower at 145 r.p.m.; cylinder diameters, 13 inches (high pressure), 22 inches (intermediate), 34 inches (low pressure); cylinder stroke, 18 inches.
Boilers:     Two locomotive-type boilers with double safety valves; grate area, 48 sq. ft.; heating surfaces, l98 sq. ft. (firebox), 1,420 sq. ft. (tubes); working pressure, 180 lb. per sq. in. (reduced to 160 lb. in 1961); steam steering.
Engine room well
Speed (1912):     13 knots normal, 16 knots under forced draught 19 knots maximum.
Average cruising speed:     12 knots (120 rpm at 160 lb. psi).
Bunker capacity:     initially 12 tons, later expanded to 14 tons.
Coal consumption at cruising speed: one tonne per hour.
Passenger capacity:     maximum, 1,035; cargo capacity, 100 tons (or 1,500 sheep, or 200 bales of wool, or 70 head of cattle).
Ship's company     11.
Port of registry:     Dunedin.
Bunch of rope in foc'sle museum

Today she is licensed to carry only 389 passengers/tourists and no sheep or cattle!

From the height of one of the surrounding local peaks she appears to be crawling across the lake like a small black beetle, but in fact she is cruising along at a handsome 12 knots! 
Looking astern toward Queenstown with NZ ensign

Being coal fuelled she has two doors per engine through which the stoker manually shovels one ton of coal per hour ( you can see that in the video). Hot work down their where the temperature is forty degrees Celcius!

In these environmentally conscious times she even has a large vacuum device built in to suck up the coal dust and noxious fumes from combustion.

The engine room itself is a marvel of well oiled, meticulously maintained and highly polished, smoothly working and visible engines. Noisy, but not excessively so, and as you listen you can hear in the rumbling rhythm that everything is in concert with no strange interruptions to the flow of sound.

Here we come to the point of this post. All cruising sailboats have a motor, which most of us wish only to turn on for leaving and entering port, motoring in a prolonged calm or in an emergency. However, when we go to turn the key or press the button we want to know that she is going to leap into life and perform to our requirement at that time.......and every time!

Now, there's a windlass!
To achieve this end your engine has to be maintained regularly with plenty of TLC. Because most of us are not engineers, it is easy to overlook or put something off because we are perhaps not sure of the procedure.  This is a no no and as a responsible skipper it is our duty to make sure that we keep right on top of that part of our maintenance programme.

Foredeck winch
It is no good, following some kind of problem involving the motor, or even disaster say on a lee shore or port entry in a storm, saying.......'if only I had....'. In reality, over time, most of us become good engineers of certainly our own motors and motors in general. 

The TSS Earnslaw is a model to take example from. She still has her original engines and working today fourteen hours or so, they are running as smoothly as ever they were over one hundred years ago. 

Specifications courtesy NZ Maritime Museum and video courtesy youTube

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


Sunday 31 August 2014 Marine Wind Forecaster for Sailors

In these times when we often feel we are suffering from information overload, and it is no different for the sailing community, along comes a programme that is really useful. is one of these computer programmes which is extremely useful to all sailors including  cruising sailors. 

PredictWind, a New Zealand development, has been around for a few years now, but it has been continually updated, tweaked and improved with new features regularly added. This today makes it an extremely sophisticated and very accurate programme which whilst it has many many features, it is very user friendly and could become an essential part of a cruising sailors armoury in predicting winds and calculating departure dates, best routes to take etc.

Here are some videos giving you an overview of what the system is capable of:

You can go into their site at and explore. Check out the extensive 'Who's using PredictWind' and you will see many glowing and positive reviews from a large number of world class sailors of all nationalities.

It is available for downloading onto your computer, iPad, iPhone and Android devices.

There is a three tier price structure starting with Basic at $9 / 3months, Standard at $79 / 3 months and Professional at $199 / 3 months. You would need to go to the Standard option for 'Departure Planning' and 'Route Planning'.

There is also a Free option which includes a seven day forecast as part of the package.

PredictWind is included in the top ten most valuable computer programmes for sailors.

You can read more about wind and weather forecasting and conditions in my book 'Sailing adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website

Sunday 17 August 2014

Sailboat Cruisers s/v 'Bear' Family Update

Our good friends Mark and Yvette along with their daughters Jenefer and Maya are making good time along the English coast in 'Bear' on their voyage home to Florida. Here I reproduce the latest newsletter of their escapades this summer so far:

Hello again. It has been a time since I last posted so there is a lot of catching up to do. Cruising life is by no means just lying around in a hammock!

I left off leaving the storage yard of Weilandt in Fehrman, Germany. We were extremely relieved to be back in the water safely as the shear mass of Bear taxed both the trailer she sat on all winter and the crane that lifted her. She managed the quarter mile roll with one flat tire,
producing a rather precarious starboard lean. Backstay removed to make way for the lifting bridle, the massively overburdened crane lifted her over the seawall and into the water she went. It still boggles my mind to think that thirty tons of steel can float so nicely, even through the air on a twenty- seven and one half ton rated crane. All involved were, needless to say, greatly relieved!
Bear going splash 
Our first stop was the British Kiel Yacht Club, a send from a fellow cruiser from the Cruising Association and not on the general cruising book's radar. It was a well-appointed club with a mess hall, full bar, proper bathtub, as well as full of British soldiers transiting to and from Afghanistan. The club also had a fleet of Halberg Rassey sailing yachts that they used for "R and R". 

The place was a bustle with preparations for the upcoming Kiel Week, the largest sailing regatta, both classic and modern in the area. The club was not foreign to the hubbub of yacht regalia as evident on their walls. There were many photos of peaceful events and from the war, their most famous/infamous visitor, Hitler and his entourage, partaking in the fleet. 

One of the classic yachts remaining at the club was Flamingo, a beautiful 60-ish foot sloop that we were berthed next to. Her sister ship was scuttled at the end of WW II but she was spared and lay pristine next to us, awaiting the Kiel Week festivities.
Classic Yacht Flamingo
We stayed a full week to finish commissioning Bear for the season, putting sails on and delving into repair lists that are perpetual on any boat, let alone one built in 1981 and its third time around the world. Maya and Jenefer helped as well as occupying themselves.

Provisioning was done in our usual fashion; backpack and a dolly with loads of bags strapped on. Bus fare in hand, I performed my societal test on the local culture which consisted of laboriously negotiating my payload to the entrance of the bus. It never fails to bring out the best as I always receive a helping hand both on and off. Conclusion: Courtesy is trans-cultural. 
Jenefer guarding ships stores
Side trips included the City of Kiel to check out the locks that we were heading towards and to Laboe, at the mouth of the Kiel Firth. In Laboe, we toured the U boat 995 which served in WW II and featured in Wolfgang Petersen's seminal film, Das Boot. Mark was tickled because he is quite the WW II history buff. We parted ways and I enjoyed the beach with the girls plus ice cream as he ferreted about the Marine Ehrenmal, which is the War Memorial Museum. It was very worth the time, in his opinion. 
Mark between the torpedo tubes of U995

Maya and Jenefer on a "social" swing set on Laboe beach. The 
kids swing to the center so they can better socialize. 

Classics getting ready for Kiel Week
On July 20th, we motored into the Kiel Canal, our exit point from the Baltic. The Kiel Canal was open in 1895 and extends for 54 miles from Kiel, where the entrance lock is on the east end, to Brunsbuttel, where you exit into the North Sea to the west. Ships up to 235 meters long pass through this "Northsea Canal" regularly to avoid having to transit the hundreds of miles over the top of Denmark. Yachties like us, enjoy the shortcut as well, albeit it a bit intimidating being packed into the locks with these huge walls of metal! 

Maya scoping out the 'Big Boys'
The locks are so massive that there are tiny little floating pontoons that we have to tie up to instead of hooking to the walls themselves. The connection rings where so rusty, they camouflaged into the wet wood, making it challenging for us to locate them until directly underfoot. Ouch! Contrarily, it did make for an easier locking procedure as once attached, there were no lines to move or tend to as we locked through. 
Bear tied up to floating pontoon in Kiel Locks
It is impossible to complete the entire canal in one day so we stopped in the Obereidersee at a town call Budelsdorf. Instead of going to the suggested marina in the town center, we laid up on the long dock of the local yacht club, the BYC. It turned out to be a lovely, inexpensive three-day stopover. The club had loaner bikes so as to stretch our legs, always a plus, and a great BBQ set-up, which we enjoyed. The wind had kicked up and the Soccer World Cup was on in which Germany was performing quite well, two other contributing factors. 
High wind day....hazardous to small children
On the 23rd of June, we cast off and apart from encountering an unusual people mover; a carriage suspended under a bridge, we made our way uneventfully to Brunsbuttel where we locked out to meet the North Sea. 
Locking out at Brunsbuttal into the North Sea
Bear with her family of 'bears' has made it across the Channel and worked her way down the English coast to Dartmouth in Devon. They plan on making it to Falmouth late August for the Falmouth tall ships regatta.

Happy cruising Bears Yvette and Mark
We wish them all the best in their 'adventure of a lifetime' and look forward to the next instalment of their voyage.

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

Sunday 3 August 2014 Changing of the Guard

Sailing industry luminary and personality Nancy Knudson, editor of the online sailing news website these last eight years or so, is moving on to greener pastures. We here at Sailboat2adventure have had an amicable relationship with her from time to time and she has always been most helpful and friendly, and in my experience always over delivered. 

Nancy and I have a connection in that we have both published books about our cruising life exploits and I would have to recommend her book 'Shooting Stars and Flying  Fish' as an essential and thoroughly enjoyable read for all sailors. It is available as an ebook on Kindle or in paperback edition.
Nancy's book 'Shooting Stars and Flying Fish'
Whatever horizons Nancy is sailing toward and over, we wish her and husband Ted all the best for their future.

Life goes on of course and up steps Sail-World's new editor in the form of another very experienced sailor, David Schmidt, who is their current USA editor, hails from Connecticut and currently resides in Seattle. 

By way of introduction we reproduce here in his own words, of his early introduction to sailing and his first post about his new job with Sail-World:
Mike Schmidt
'The mind has a funny way of distorting time. Take, for example, my first big offshore cruise. It was the summer of 1987, I was 11 years old, and my Dad and his buddies had sailed our newly acquired C&C 37 from our home in Connecticut up to Maine's lovely Penobscot Bay, where my Mother, my younger brother and I joined my Dad for a few weeks of cruising. Since my Mom (wisely) doesn't sail offshore, the task of delivering 'Windancer' down south fell to my Dad, two of his buddies and myself.

The years may have slipped astern more rapidly than I'd like to admit, but I can still remember watching my Mom and brother walking up the dock, and the flash feeling of pure child-like excitement and wonder instantly stir-in the pit of my stomach-with pure terror. Sure, I'd sailed outside of the sight of land before, but never at night, with a boatload of relative strangers, or far from my Mother's always-understanding embrace.

In short, I was entering the world of adults, of sailing offshore and of the unknown. And I was least so I thought. 
I must have already settled into my bunk for the night when the winds picked up, progressing quickly from the mid-teens to the upper twenties. Soon, 'Windancer's' IOR-optimized hull shape was bashing and slamming through some nasty square waves and green water started occasionally running down the decks. But just as I got used to the motion, it was time to visit the leeward rail...quickly

Lightning flashed, thunder clapped, and a small, scared little boy dealt with his first real bout of seasickness. I can still remember my Dad's hand on the back of my harness, holding me safe, and the fact that Mike and Richard were both kind enough not to point out that accuracy was also not a strong suit in my first-time dance with seasickness (fortunately, I improved my aim over the years!). Once I had 'recovered' in the cockpit, my Dad handed me a plastic yellow boat mug that was stained with long-forgotten caffeine, piping hot with fresh-brewed coffee. I had my first sip of 'black magic', and the world of offshore cruising immediately seemed a bit less terrifying.

We made landfall the next day in Nantucket via the outside of Cape Cod (and a foggy passage through the Pollock Rip Channel), and I can still remember being plenty excited to find a stationary horizon and a pay phone (remember those?) to call my Mom. But when I got her on the line-oddly enough-I found myself reliving the glories of sailing offshore with the big boys and not the living-color terror of watching lightning illuminate the sail numbers in staccato bursts.

More importantly, Mike, Richard and my Dad chipped in and bought me my first watch cap and my first pair of sailing gloves-proof that I had joined a hard-won club of cruising sailors. [And yes, I still have the now-war-torn gloves and battered watch cap in my closet, proud souvenirs of an important coming-of-age.]

Flash forward several decades and many cruising miles, and I still love sailing at night, a hot drink in hand, watching the stars flicker in the heavens. Experience has taught me how to deal with wind, salt and waves, and I have fortunately learned how to quell my propensity towards mal de mer, but I still get a serious flash of excitement each time the dock lines are slipped and the sight of land fades astern.

These days, the waters of the Pacific Northwest are my home cruising grounds, but I'm careful to make it back to Connecticut a few times a year to go sailing/cruising with my parents. Some family traditions are simply too important to let slip!

As I step into my new role as Sail-World's Cruising editor, I look forward to creating many new great cruising memories, to meeting new friends and to hopefully sharing new adventures with old friends. Mostly, however, I'm acutely aware of the fantastic work that my predecessor (and Sail-World Cruising's founding editor), Nancy Knudsen, put into this position for many years, and of the massive seaboots she's leaving behind for me to fill.

The task is huge, and-much like my first offshore cruise-I'm excited about the experiences that lay over the next horizon.'

We also wish David all the best in his new position and look forward with relish to continue receiving the weekly stream of cruising news we have come to expect. 

Article and images courtesy 

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