Boat and Equipment
30 January 2006
BS is a Whitby 42 ketch built in Fort Myers, Florida in 1983. (http://www.bcpl.net/~bcboykin/whitby_home2.htm) Whitbys are a production cruising boat designed by Ted Brewer in 1971. They were initially built in Canada, then there was a run in Florida, including ours. The design evolved at Fort Myers Shipyard into the similar, but fancier, Brewer 12.8 and Brewer 44. The Whitby was designed for blue water family cruising with an emphasis on comfort and sea-keeping abilities. The Whitby is a 3-cabin, center-cockpit design with 2 enclosed heads. Blue Stocking has 3 water tanks for a total of nearly 300 gallons and 2 fuel tanks for a total of about 140 gallons. She displaces about 30,000 pounds and draws about 5 feet 6 inches fully loaded. The Whitby has a roomy walk-in engine room with good access to most of the engine (with the notable exception of the transmission, which is painfully difficult to get at.) In the walk-thru between the main and aft cabins there is a tool-bench with a good-sized vice.
Blue Stocking is obviously not a brand-new boat, but we believe that with the upgrades and maintenance we have performed over the last 2 years she is strong and seaworthy. Whitbys were never designed for "Cape Horn" conditions and like all cruisers we will be picking our seasons and watching closely for appropriate weather windows. But in general the Whitby is a strong boat and many Whitbys have accomplished safe and successful circumnavigations and other major voyages.
In terms of passenger miles, prudent cruising in tropical and temperate latitudes is not really a very risky activity--much safer than normal highway driving or touring bicycling, for example, but there are some identified risks and prudent cruisers take fairly elaborate precautions. A discussion of these precautions may make it seem that the risks are greater than they really are. Almost all cruising safety equipment ends up dying of old age and disuse! And almost all blue water cruises and circumnavigations end successfully and safely. Here is a summary of our safety equipment and procedures.
We are great believers in lifeboats as opposed to inflatable life rafts. We are aware of only one non-inflatable lifeboat on the market right now (http://www.portlandpudgy.com/)(and even this one is not really in full production yet) and we plan to have one on board. We like the idea of being able to sail to safety rather than merely waiting hopefully for rescue. We also think the Portland Pudgy will make a good everyday dinghy. We hope we will be able to get our hands on a P-P this summer. The P-P has good waterproof storage capacity, so it will be possible to keep most of the "ditch bag" equipment on board the lifeboat whenever we are at sea. The lifeboat's equipment will include emergency GPS, EPIRB, handheld VHF, solar battery charger, sextant, charts, food, fishing gear, watermaker, water, survival manual, first aid gear and manual, sun awning and the kitchen sink. The main item we will have to remember in the case of a ditch will be the Satphone, which we will ordinarily have with us in the cabin for routine use. We believe the P-P will make a great everyday dinghy as well. It rows nicely, which is important for exercise and for its own sake as a backup to outboard motor use. It does not plane, which is good (it only needs a small motor) and bad (relatively low top end speed, which is admittedly important in some large anchorages and for exploration.) It is about the same weight as the RIB we've been using the last several years. We will generally stow it on the foredeck, with a long light tether in case it gets "swept." We removed BS's dinghy davits because it seemed that in situations where it doesn't seem necessary to bring it on board (daysails, basically) it is just as easy to tow. Dinghies in davits are pretty vulnerable in a seaway, to my mind, although I know plenty of people use them successfully.
We will also carry an inflatable kayak (one double, or maybe 2 singles) for backup, for fun and for quick launch.
Because we will have only a two-person crew on most passages we've had to give some extra thought to operational procedures. We recognize that finding and recovering a "person overboard" is difficult in the best of cases, but can be nearly impossible if there is just one person remaining on board. We will have and use center-line jacklines and we will wear harness/lifejackets whenever we are on deck. At the same time we have a Lifesling recovery system and dedicated hauling equipment for getting a POB back on board.
Statistically, the biggest threat to blue water cruisers is collision at sea so it is important to keep a good lookout. To help us with this we have or will have the following equipment on board and, when appropriate, in use: radar, CARD radar detector, cockpit "watch-timer". Radar will help us "see" other vessels and determine their speeds and courses in crowded waters and in poor visibility. The CARD system (which draws little current and can be on all the time) will let us know when other vessels' radar signals are nearby so we will be aware of other big vessels whether or not anyone is looking at those vessels' radar displays! The watch-timer will remind the person in the cockpit to have a good look at the horizon and/or radar at about 12 minute intervals. Another system we may consider is AIS. Ships are now required to transmit signals which state their location, identity, course, speed and more. There are now reasonably priced AIS receivers which interface with your PC charting program and put all this information on your screen in graphic format. This system would be helpful in crowded waters, but does require having the PC on, constituting a big battery drain, so not practical for use at all times. We don't count on other vessels' seeing us, but we do have a good-sized radar reflector on the main-mast and have heard we have a good radar "signature." Collisions with whales, submarines, and semi-submerged objects like jettisoned freighter containers cannot be completely protected against. We will always keep the depth-sounder running, so at least the whales and the submarines will be able to hear us!
Navigation and Communications
Blue Stocking has most of the basic electronic gear cruisers are carrying nowadays: VHF radio, wind speed and direction display, depth sounder, speedometer, and GPS. Most of this gear can be operated and or at least displayed both in the cockpit and in the cabin. In addition we have a Raytheon radar, also usable in both locations and a Kenwood TS-50 ham radio (which can be operated in an emergency on the marine SSB frequencies). The ham radio is used for long-range communications on the HF frequency bands, especially for ham email using a system called Winlink which connects mobile ham operators (cruisers and RVers) to the internet email system through volunteer automatic ham radio systems on land throughout the world. The same equipment can be used with a commercial system called Sailmail. The antenna for the ham/SSB system is one of the mizzen intermediate shrouds tuned through a SSC auto-tuner. In addition to the HF system we expect to have the IRIDIUM satphone system on board. While we have no experience with satphone, we know the HF system works reliably. Other cruisers speak very highly of the satphone. The HF system is generally free to operate, so it may end up getting a lot of use, especially for weather information downloads (GRIB files) and routine emails. The satphone will be great (if expensive to operate--about a dollar a minute) for keeping in touch with family by voice. The satphone may also turn out to be a literal lifesaver in the unlikely event we end up in the lifeboat.
We will have paper charts on board for the planned route through New Zealand. We are going to use the reduced-sized black and white charts produced by Bluewater charts. In addition we have the download-for-free NOAA raster charts and the widely-available CM-93 electronic charts which are apparently based on Russian charts. These cover the entire world. We're not that crazy about electronic charts as a primary system, but they have their uses, especially where there are "holes" in the paper chart coverage. We will not have a dedicated chartplotter, but will use the onboard PC in the cabin (OK, maybe once in a while in the cockpit in really settled weather!)
The PC is a three year old Toshiba Satellite laptop. We know PCs are fragile and vulnerable and we have considered bringing a backup, but so far this doesn't seem to fit in the budget. We recently acquired and set up a ABS Plus backup harddrive. With this we will be able to revive the existing laptop in the event of its harddrive death and to get up and running on a replacement laptop with all files preserved. I am not about to try this unless it is absolutely the only option, but the ABS can be removed from its case and swapped with the laptop's internal harddrive. Not quite as hairy as doing your own appendectomy, but right up there, to my mind.
Probably the most important electronic gadget we will have on board is the Autohelm 7000 autopilot. In my previous operation of Blue Stocking this robust machine has done almost all the steering and has been reliable in every kind of condition I have encountered so far. The actuator and course computer (brains) are safely mounted below decks. The actuator itself is a "linear motor" which pushes or pulls a small tiller separately mounted on the rudder shaft. There is a control box in the cockpit. I have also built a override system that allows the helmsman to operate the actuator directly, bypassing the electronic part completely. This establishes an immediately available backup to the mechanical (wheel) steering. There is also an emergency tiller which can be operated manually from the afterdeck. The electronic portion of the system is new as of the current refit, due to the lightning strike. We can certainly operate the boat without the autopilot, but things are a lot more enjoyable for a small crew with automatic steering available. The autopilot works by keeping the boat on a fixed compass course, by the way, but it can also respond to significant wind direction changes with a course change to suit and an alarm to let the helmsperson know the wind has shifted.
We enjoy all our electronics, like most cruisers, but we understand that they are vulnerable and inherently unreliable. (We have already experienced one lightning strike with the usual loss of most electronics). We have, and know how to use, the more basic nav technologies, based on compass, sextant, observation and paper and pencil. We will maintain a paper record of plotted positions with intervals based on distance from land from once or twice a day to every ten minutes.
The electronics, refrigeration, lights, anchor windlass and many galley conveniences all require electricity. Most of this comes directly from a battery system (the equivalent of about 10 car batteries in parallel) which runs at the familiar 12 volts. The so-called house battery bank is made up of 4 Trojan T-106 batteries, which I just installed. (These will provide a total of about 400 "amp-hours", which is the rough equivalent of 5 kilowatt-hours in a "on the grid" system, like in people's homes. We expect to use about 150 amp hours a day which must be made up by one or another form of recharging. These batteries cost a fair amount, but if they are kept reasonably fully charged (rarely discharged below 50% and occasionally re-charged to near 100%) they are supposed to last a really long time. It will be interesting to see if they make it around the world. Most of the recharging will be by the main engine, which we will run about an hour a day, we hope. By the way, I think this recharging will cost about $2 a day in fuel, which, unfortunately, is about 10 times the price for domestic electricity in New England for the same energy (100 amp-hours equals about one kilowatt hour.) We may also have a towable electrical generator for use under way (by Hamilton Ferris) which can also be used as a wind-powered generator while we are at anchor. The towable "water generator" claims to have the capacity to meet our entire needs given adequate wind and boatspeed (which can happen often in tradewind areas, where we will mostly be) but we'll be quite happy if this system meets half our needs. We may also get a decent sized single solar panel to maintain communications and other essential electrical needs, in case of failure of both other systems (e.g., engine won't run and becalmed). The biggest single user of energy is the autopilot which draws an average of 3 or 4 amps and will often be on 24 hours a day. Janet's brother Tom gave us an old but never-used wind-vane self-steerer (RVG). I will try this out this summer. If it seems to work it will reduce the electrical load and make us less dependent on keeping the autopilot working at all times. The refrigeration unit is another major user, but it will only have to be on when we have fresh food.
There are a few 120 volt a.c. devices on board (small battery chargers, a microwave, toaster oven, hairdryer(?!)) which can be run through a 2000 watt inverter which converts 12 volts to house current. There is also a small backup inverter for essential electronics and their battery chargers. (Laptop, for a major example).
The engine charging system consists of a 160 amp rated alternator with an electronic external regulator. I will also be including a simple manual regulator for backup and for special situations. There may be a few legs of the trip where a fair amount of engine time is needed due to headwinds and calms (limited of course by fuel capacity). But in general we hope the engine will be quiet, minimizing maintenance costs and effort, fuel costs and hassles, and down-time. This leads me to ...
Engine and fuel system
Our main engine is the original 80 hp Ford Lehman engine. This is an English tractor diesel which was marinized by an American company and sold to many production boats in the seventies and eighties. It has a reputation for reliability and simplicity. We removed it from the boat, disassembled it completely, had appropriate systems reconditioned by professionals, reassembled and reinstalled it during the major rehab from in 2003/2004. It seems to work fine, and we will have at least a few hundred hours on the new rebuild before we leave US coastal waters in Fall 2006. The transmission was rebuilt in 2000, but I corrected a few problems the rebuilder missed (especially a stripped thread that was causing a leak) during this period.
The source of nearly all diesel breakdowns (they are really very simple machines in one sense) is dirty fuel and dirty fuel is an endemic issue in boats in general and especially with third-world fuel suppliers. I have installed a fairly elaborate fuel filtering and pumping system (based on the already elaborate system the previous owner installed). This includes a pre-filter with a washable, reusable stainless steel element. This prevents visible grit and particulate matter in the fuel from ever reaching the conventional Racor filter. The Racor filter stops finer dirt and separates out water in the fuel (which never seems entirely to disappear). The filter has an alarm, so we know when there is a significant amount of water in the filter bowl.) The Racor, of course, has removable, replaceable filter cartridges. The prefilter makes these filters last a really long time. I actually only replace them on general principles every year or so, not because they are dirty. A pressure gauge in the system indicates how clogged the filters are. Finally there are 2 automotive type screw on filters on the engine in series. While these would stop dirt, I doubt they would have much effect on water, which can have a catastrophic effect on the diesel injectors if present in significant amounts. Valves allow either of the off-engine filters to be isolated for cleaning/water removal which can be done (probably safer not to) with the engine running. There are also 2 electric fuel pumps. The system can be set to run even with the engine stopped to move fuel through the filters and back into one of the tanks: called fuel polishing. I like to do this after the boat has be pounding and rolling in a good sea and the gunge at the bottom of the tanks is lifted up into the main body of the fuel. It really is gratifying to see how much junk ends up in the prefilter (and not in the Racor, or, God Forbid, the engine. The pumps can also be used for fuel transfer in a number of configurations.
Another engine-related system will be the watermaker, which I plan to install this spring. We want to have plenty of fresh water and we do not want to depend on rainwater or local supplies. It turns out that watermakers are made up of a limited number of easily obtainable parts (a high pressure pump and a filter housing and membrane filter) with some specialized but straightforward plumbing (hoses, valves, connectors). Following an excellent article in Good Old Boat I will be putting an engine driven system together that will provide about 20 gallons an hour of fresh water. This is a good deal more than our daily needs, so an engine running time of an hour a day or less should not be a problem. The engine had a belt-driven compressor mounted on it for the previous refrigeration system, so there is already a free main shaft pulley and a foundation for the high pressure pump. It appears we will have this high-capacity system for less than half of the commercial price. Watch posts to see how this project progresses and pans out. The boat already has a smaller (1.5 gallon per hour) electrical watermaker. I'm going to get this up and running for use as a backup and as an emergency watermaker (it has a manual mode). It will live on the lifeboat if this works out.
Update, May 2, '06. I have acquired and bench-tested the major parts of the watermaker. I'm using a 1 HP dc motor, a pressure washer pump, and standard 2.5 by 40 inch pressure vessel and membrane (Dow). I considered an engine driven pump, but it seemed to present too large a mounting challenge and to take up too much critical space in the engine room. The unit appears to put out over 20 gallons per hour of fresh water. The smaller watermaker cleaned up nicely and will live on the lifeboat.
In my first years of operation of Blue Stocking refrigeration was a big issue. The Whitby comes with a large freezer box and a very large refrigeration box, the lids of which form a counter opposite the sink counter. When we got her, Blue Stocking had a very elaborate and effective refrigeration system. As a result, we carried a lot of frozen food and a lot of fresh food which needed to be refrigerated. The system was effective and it was nice to have these provisions, but it introduced an element of anxiety. The system seemed to require an inordinate amount of tinkering to keep it working (the engine mount of the compressor was kind of jerry-built and it kept vibrating itself to pieces) along with a fair amount of ordinary periodic maintenance. It also required about 2 hours of engine time every day. In addition to the engine-driven system there was an entirely separate system for use when in the marina hooked to shorepower. This didn't get much use, but was essential if we wanted to leave the boat for more than a day. Because of the frozen food I felt under a lot of pressure to keep the system cold limiting our cruising/exploring flexibility to quite a degree. During the rehab (after a good deal of thought about options) I pulled out all the old refrigeration gear and installed a very simple, reliable Adler-Barbour Cold Machine in the smaller box. So we forget about frozen food, and have refrigerated milk, drinks, leftovers, etc. When we catch a fish we will be able to keep it viable for a few days. We think it is a good trade-off, but time will tell. We have also pressure-canned 50 pounds or so of meat and hope to do 50 more. Again, time will tell how well this works out for us.
There is a 2 hole sink with pressure hot and cold fresh water and pressure salt water. There is a three-burner propane stove with oven. We carry two 10 pound gas bottles of the type used for home gas grills. We have a toaster oven and a microwave as well, which seem to work best (through the inverter) when the engine is actually running.
We are going to be talking about menus and provisioning in the next few months and probably do much of our actual food buying when we and the boat are in North Carolina. The boat has a lot of storage capacity and we will probably provision for most of the trip to New Zealand in the US, planning on picking up fresh food, eggs, milk, fish and meat where it is available and doing without where it isn't. I think this will be a real area of learning for us, but Janet in particular is creative and practical in the galley and I think we will live pretty well. We can both "take it or leave it" when it comes to alcohol, so I doubt we will bring very much with us, but we will probably buy it along the way when social situations dictate. Like all cruisers we hope to catch some fish along the way, or at least buy it from the locals right out of the water, but we'll see how that goes. More on this topic to be added.
We will be doing a lot of our watch time alone, since most of the time there will be only two of us. We both enjoy books on tape and expect to make good use of them on night watches. We're now in the process of building a good collection in MP3 format, which means about 6 books per CD as opposed to an average of 10 CDs per book. I want to have about 100 books, so this translates to 15 or 20 CDs instead of nearly 1000! Paul in particular likes to watch TV, so we're hoping to find a friend with a TiVo: we understand that it's a straightforward matter to transfer from TiVo to DVD, so we can keep in touch with Kiefer, John Daley, Tony and Carmella, and our other favorite fantasy people. We might also buy some used movie DVDs. Naturally we will also be haunting the used book stores and finding lots of "analog" books. Sometimes Paul thinks cruising, travelling in general, is just an excuse for excessive amounts of reading. We will have some language CDs too, and hope to have at least an advanced tourist's ability to get along in French in the first half of the cruise, and Portuguese, for Brazil, toward the end. Naturally we'll bring lots of music CDs too and hope friends will put MP3 "playlists" together for us on CDs to introduce us to some new stuff, maybe (we had a great experience with that at our recent wedding.)
Blue Stocking is a ketch, meaning she has 2 masts with a mainsail and a mizzen, as well as the usual jib. She also has a less-often-seen sail called a mule, mounted on roller furling between the top of the mainmast and about a third of the way up the mizzen (see photo). In addition to that, she has a staysail on a removeable "baby stay". The main now has full-length battens, for minimal flogging and holding a good shape, with a low-friction lufftrack system by Dutchman, which is the cheapest system on the market and seems to work very well. The main and mizzen use Dutchman sail flaking systems which minimizes the effor of furling and simplifies reefing. The general progression of reefing (for offshore runs) is as follows: set out with all working sails flying: main, mizzen, RF jib, staysail, maybe RF mule. As the wind builds, shorten sail as follows: roll up the mule, deep reef in main, deep reef in jib, furl main, furl jib, deep reef in mizzen, furl mizzen. I guess the last step is, wait for the staysail to blow out, but it will also be on a roller furler and it might be possible to get it rolled up and proceed on bare poles! The theory of the pattern described is that it ought almost always be possible to at least beam reach and always possible to heave to. It is unlikely that we would encounter sustained conditions requiring us to shorten all the way, but in that case, we also have a drogue on board which will allow us to sail down wind in extreme conditions without getting going too fast down the faces of wave. All the working sails (except the mule, which is a light weather sail and in pretty good shape) are brand new. There is also a storm trysail, which we might play around with on a breezy, but not scary, day sometime soon.
With a lot of downwind sailing expected (hoped for) on this voyage, boom preventers are an issue. The goal is to keep the booms extended without a lot of unnecessary motion (minimizing chafe) and minimizing the risk of accidental jibes. On the mizzen, the solution is simple: it can't really be let out very far (limited by standing rigging) so there are two mainsheets, one lead to each rail. The mizzen is jibed (last) by releasing the now weather sheet and hauling in the now leeward one. The leeward sheet is far enough forward to act as vang and preventer.
The main boom is a bigger problem. We installed a Dutchman BoomBrake, which is very effective in slowing the boom during jibes. It does not hold the boom out to leeward effectively, however, and in some conditions, the boom basically ratchets inward. For long downwind legs, we will rig a preventer to the leeward rails (possibly releaseable from the cockpit--details to be determined next season) with a "fuse" consisting of a breakable attachment point (fairly light line). This will hold the boom out in usual conditions but will release in case of an accidental or emergency jibe or "God Forbid" in case of a knockdown. The force of such a jibe, and of intentional jibes for that matter, will be moderated by the BoomBrake.
We have a large (135 or so) light weather genoa and a cruising spinnaker, with a snuffer. We'll probably bring them along, but it seems unlikely they'll get much use except when we have additional crew on board.
Paul has spent a good deal of time (with one instructive near-death experience) on the issues and technology of mast climbing, since occasionally going up the mast is necessary for maintenance and, rarely, necessary for dealing with breakdowns in the running rigging, even sometimes at sea. If Janet is going up the mast (which often makes sense, because she is lighter and Paul is stronger) we will use a full-length four-part block and tackle with a rock-climbing harness, plus a backup system called a rope grab. If Paul goes up, he will use a system of ascenders, one for the climbing harness and one for a pair of foot straps. We've been practicing both methods, and recommend it for fun, excercise, and self-sufficiency.
This topic covers anchors, anchor lines, windlass, etc.: all the issues related to getting anchored, staying anchored, and getting the anchor(s) back on board.
The primary anchor is a 30# Spade anchor, which is carried on a roller on the bowsprit. the primary anchor rode is 275 feet of 5/16" high tensile chain. Both of these items are new. The Spade is a fairly newly introduced anchor of French origin. It is similar to the familiar CQR plow anchor, but with a number of improvements and refinements. Anchor testing and evaluation is a pretty subjective matter in some ways, but most people who have them seem to like them (We've liked it so far). The Spade seems to set easily and hold well in most conditions. We also have 2 Fortress anchors on board, one of which is big and the other of which is way big. These are Danforth style anchors and they are great in situations where you expect a big blow from a known direction, especially where you can get in the water and dig them in by hand. We have lots of nylon anchor rode for these anchors and general purposes, probably three or four hundred feet in several lengths. We've also got a large Herreshoff style anchor (like the one in tattoos!) which also breaks down at least to be flat. Maybe we'll bring this, maybe not. It is rarely the best anchor, but on a really hard bottom, this style can be the only one that works at all.
Up until last season the anchor windlass on BS was hand-operated. It worked pretty well, but there were times (especially when we have had to make several efforts to get anchored, with several retrievals) where it put us (me) up against my physical limits. Pacific anchorages are also typically WAY deeper than East Coast or Caribbean ones. So, we got an electric windlass, from Ideal in Rhode Island, which seems to really do the job. If it should let us down (the Ideal has a very good reputation for reliability, but you never know) the two of us can easily pull the 30# anchor and, say, 50 feet of chain up to the roller from the bottom. You use the boat and engine to break the anchor free, not the windlass, and not human strength. The windlass can be controlled by hand or foot switches at the foredeck, or from switches at the steering station.