What works, and how it has worked for us.
31 July 2008 | Brisbane
Thanks a lot for the blog posting. Here I have been writing for 2-weeks on a posting about what works and what doesn't. And then you beat me to it.
You leave me no other choice than to post what I have got so far.
So hold on folks, here it comes. It is a little rough on the edges.
What has worked and what has not worked (for us)
Well, where do I begin. How about here?
The Tayana 37 has worked great for us. I think she is probably about the largest boat an inexperienced short-handed crew like us should take on a passage.
If I was going down to a dock to pick a boat just for passage making, then I think I would pick a 32-34ft generously canvassed cutter. She would have a moderate displacement, maybe 10,000lbs and a long keel. Such a boat could give you a good passage time, 120nm a day, without being too uncomfortable in the sea.
However, we spend most of our time, not counting the 3-years we lived aboard, at anchor in protected waters. Then it is nice to have room aboard, both for humans, and for storage space. Heck, if I were to pick another boat at that same dock to at lay at anchor in, then I would pick something like CT54. It is about compromise.
We do not know of a boat that does everything perfectly, we have seen some that come pretty darn close, and being blatantly biased, the Tayana 37 is one of them.
Her hull is build like a tank, as most '70's Taiwanese boat are. Her construction is really simple, which is both good and bad.
Hi-tech materials and building methods generally makes better boats, no doubt about that. However, such boats tend to be designed and build closer to the limits for better performance and for better profit to the yard. They are often harder to maintain and repair yourself as well.
When Ta-Yang build the Tayana 37's they used 3 things. Polyester resin (lots), Fiberglass (even more) and teak (tons). The mixed the two first and made a hull and a deck. Then they cut up a great big heap of teak and put it inside the hull piece by piece to build one big piece of furniture. That is it.
You can get to all of the bulkhead to hull connections, you can pull the bilge tank out in 20 minutes, the engine lift straight up through the companionway. The bad part of the simple construction is that they did not make it simple because they believed it made a better boat. They made it simple because they did not know enough about boat building to make it complicated. This lack of knowledge lead to some issues here and there on the Tayana 37.
Let me stop this rambling along about something I really do not know much about.
A Tayana 37 is not a perfect boat, and I would not recommend it to anybody. I would not recommend any boat to anybody. Because finding the right boat that fits your needs is half the fun, and if you are looking for the perfect boat then you will never go anywhere, because I will bet you, you will never find it.
So when you have fallen in love, and bought that boat, that you will put all your eggs in, then in my opinion you must have 5 more things. You need a GPS, paper charts and some good sails, a strong vindvane and a shortwave radio.
So let's start with that.
We used our, it came with Radiance, old Magellan Nav 5000 GPS all the way from Tacoma to the Koro sea in Fiji. We had a bit of hard weather one night, and the Koro sea made it to the circuit boards in our beloved GPS. (we had a $20 ebay spare GPS) Yes, if you look up the Magellan 5000 online, or if you use to have one, then you will know that this is 15 years old. It is the size of a large brick and the term handheld is a bit of a stretch. We loved this thing because it was simple use. It had a big button for each of the 3 functions, and for each of the numbers 0-9. No multi-function buttons and requirements to hold in any combination of buttons at the same time to setup something.
And maybe the best thing about a handheld GPS- it is really easy to install on the boat. All you need is a bungy cord.
Now we have a Garmin EtreX handheld that we bought in Fiji. It is OK, but it is not a Megellan Nav 5000. And it is to small to install with a bungy cord.
I believe that paper charts are superior to electronic charts onboard, because paper charts increase safety. Here is why. With the above mentioned space age technology you can determine your position down to half a boat length, while the hazards on the chart were located using a sextant and a wind-up chronometer 200 years ago. And yes, to the best of my knowledge, and experience, the chart basis for all the electronic charting programs are these sometimes very old paper charts. So here you are, zoomed way in on your electronic chart to a scale that this chart was never even close to be used at, saying "don't worry, we are at least 100 yards of the rocky shoal. Just keep your course and speed". It frightening how we trust whatever comes up on our computer screen. (That is a whole other blog subject, and it is not about sailing)
I think the combination of the paper chart and the GPS is good. Because you know that you are always a little inaccurate when transferring those GPS co-ordinates to the paper. You keep a larger margin of error in your mind and your decision making.
Let me use an example that we have written about in our blog already. Suva harbour channel. We approached and passed through this channel in the dark because we had that little red boat shape blinking on our computer chart showing us that we were on the right heading. We would never have attempted to enter this channel with a paper chart. We would have stayed way off the reef until daybreak. Nothing happened. But we were lucky. You can read about a less lucky crew on our Suva blog posting.
There is one clear advantage to having a electronic chart program installed on your computer. Say you have something like MaxSea installed, then you have almost every chart for the entire globe. Just don't zoom in too much, and be very careful if you have to use them.
It is quite amazing what these pieces of woven plastic (called Dacron so they can charge more) can do. Day in and day out they propel you, your boat and all your belongings along across the ocean. It is quite remarkable, and I tell you, it is something to sit in the cockpit, lean your head back watching those taut white sail powering you along. In reality they produce about the same as a large riding mower (20hp). But they feel much more powerfull than a 300hp motor boat, I don't know why that it is.
So how did we go about picking our sails. We were lucky to live in the Pacific NW. Among the many very talented, and dedicated boat professional in that region is a sail maker by the name of Carol Hasse
Carol makes cruising sails the way they should be made. Strong and finished by hand. Only a few sail loft in the world can put out sails equal to Carol Hasse Sails. I never asked for a quote from Carol for a sail, because I know from other people that our main sail would be in excess of US$6,000. And we needed a whole new suit of sails, Main, Staysail and Yankee. We had to ask ourselves if we really needed to have the best sail in the world to go cruising. We did not think so. You can find many articles written by Carol Hasse online and in old sailing magazines. Two websites that I referenced quite a bit was of course Carol Hasse's webpage but also on Cruising World magazine's webiste.
Based on what we learned from Carol's material online, we put together a specification sheet for our mainsail. This included such old fashioned things as, 1-1/2" panel overlaps, hand-sewn rings, hand sewn bolt rope on all 3 sides of the sail, hand sewn hanks and hand sewn leather reinforcements at all wear points. I also specified that the length of all corner and reef patched should be about 15 percent of whatever part of the sail they were reinforcing. (Our main sail luff is 45ft and the foot is 13-1/2ft so the tack patch is 6-1/2ft by 2ft) I send these specifications to a dozen sailmakers in the US asking for quotes. Guess what, the sailmakers that didn't die laughing, wrote back and said, "if you want a sail finished like that, then you should contact Carol Hasse".
I could not afford a Hasse sail I knew that it would cost 4-month of the cruising kitty. Instead I choose to a local sail maker. This guy was also a Trans-Pac and Vic to Maui racer on this own boat, so I had confidence that he at least know how much one depend on the sail performing day after day. The affair of getting the mainsail that I wanted turned out not only to be very frustrating but also very long. I ordered the main sail in June and 3 sails later in February we had the main we have today. It turned out that the local sail maker actually did not make the sails. The sails were made somewhere else, and I think this somewhere else sail loft thought I was nuts in what I was asking for. I also think that the local 'sail maker' had a little trouble controlling what came out of this somewhere else sail loft. Bottom line is I finally got what I wanted. The sail is well build out of 9.5oz bulletproof sailcloth. The corner and reef patches are the size of a sheet of plywood and about as easy to bend. And I have never been afraid that it would not hold up to what we asked of it.
For the Staysail and the Yankee I was hesitant to continue with my previous sailmaker, but I was determined to get the hand finished work I wanted.
I had noticed something on our old, and original, Yankee on Radiance. It was beautifully hand finished and it was from the Fare East. So I contacted a few sail lofts in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan to see what they could offer. I know were little about the Fare East and how business is conducted. But one thing I do know now is that they will compete on price and are very good at it. I don't think any of the Fare East lofts even looked at my specification beyond the 3 measurements they needed to get me a quote. Lee sails had the standard run-of-the-mill sail that was the closest to the hand finished work I wanted. Well all they really had was leather behind all the bang-on sail hanks, but it was better than nothing. I put my faith in them and began an interesting string of emails with Helen at the loft in Hong Kong. She wanted to give me the most inexpensive sail as possible, I wanted her to give me the best quality possible for the money.
After 2-weeks or so we had come to a mutual understanding of what I wanted her to make me. And I had a long email string documenting the cloth I wanted all the hand-sewn details, and my absurdly large corner patches. She said you will have the sail in 3-week. And by gully, on the 21st day there it was. And it was perfect, just what I had asked for.
2 month later I asked her to begin my Staysail. I was erroneously assuming that she knew who I was and that I was a little nuts when it came to the details. 21 days later I got a run-of-the-mill sail. Oh what a different sail that is. I guess that the very low price quote should have been a indicator that I should have gotten a little involved in the design process again.
I am not sure where to fit this little piece of information in so I will just let sit here all be itself.
All sail lofts, all over the world uses that same cloth from one of these 3 mills, Bainbridge, contender or challenge. The difference is how they put it together. The sun could not care less who put it together of course, it will send it evil UV rays and eat your sail up.
When it come to choice of rig as in gutter, sloop, or ketch which is the three most common rig types. Then I would pick a cutter rig, which is what Radiance has got. For a Pacific passage, the only change I would make from the traditional gutter with her small foresails, would be to rig a (I know it is a bad word) roller furler with a 110% genoa that could be polled out. I would rig a heavy weather hank-on staysail on the inner forestay. 75% of the time you will be running almost dead downwind, and a poled out genoa would work well, maybe with a little bit of main and storm tri-sail up.
Any of the three common rigs will perform just about the same, and each has got its strong side and its weak sides. It is about compromise. I would not, based on my experience, try a more exotic rig such as a gaff or anything with topsails. It seems to me that these would be hard to handle in heavy weather.
One comments on roller furling and hank-on sails. We have hank one sails, and I have never used a roller furling. But I have heard many stories about roller furling fail under heavy load or unfurl in high winds. For a rig with large sails I think roller furling makes sense, but I would get the largest and beefiest furler available.
We have a traditional cutter rig with two small headsails, they are about 65% each. A sail that small you would probably never furl partially. So it will either be up or down, in that case the hank on sail is perfect. There are very few things that can go wrong with a piton hank, and if it breaks, you just sew on another one. The only thing that I have to be careful about when pulling a headsail down, especially in big seas, is to avoid the halyard getting entangled in something like dorade or a cleat on the mast. When that happens the sail will not come all the way down, and you have to let go of it and untangle the halyard. It is a real pain in the, when that happens.
One more thing, if you ever loose you mast overboard, and have to jury rig, a furling sail is no good, because it has no hanks.
A STRONG WINDVANE.
I do not have much to say about the choice of windvanes. I think they are more or less all equal. Some have been around for years. You see a lot of Monitor, Aries and Sailomat, so I guess they work or people would have thrown them overboard. We have a 30-year old Aries No 3. Her name is Wanda. And if it wasn't for the fact that Wanda is bolted to the stern of Radiance, and that it would awkward to get back there in the dark, I would kiss her good night too, when we are on a passage.
One thing I do know for certain about windvanes. You would have to be crazy to leave without one.
SHORT WAVE RADIO.
Onboard Radiance we have an Icom 802 with a Pactor IIIex modem. We bought the radio while in San Diego after realising that it is really nice to have weather info readily available while at sea, no matter when and how far from shore you are. Most of such weather info we receive via our email and not voice, with the exception of talking to Don Anderson down the coast of Mexico and across the South Pacific out to Palmerston. The email capability is what we use the most.
The equipment package is rather expensive, it will set you back with as much as $3,300 before it is all up and running. The up and running part in it self is a fairly straightforward. The running cables and mounting of the equipment is like any other electrical installation on a boat, you wish you had along thin arms with 3 elbow joints, sort of like those space creatures. The only really big decision that you will have to make is how to get a good counter poise. (I have been told that is what bounces the radio wave out into airways, and you need as much as you can get) How to get this is the question. But be careful, there is a fair amount of differences in opinion on how this counter poise is obtained. These discussions can get a little heated.
To get lots of this counter poise on Radiance I tapped a bolt into our encapsulated cast iron keel and it works great. Lots of radio waves bouncing out.
It is certainty possible to venture out to sea without a SSB radio. But it is a great help to us beginners and it is comforting to check into the daily radio net and hear all the other cruisers.
So that was the equipment that you in my opinion need.
The next piece of equipment almost made to the above list. Our Old-fashioned hand cranked Coffee grinder. You can get the grinds just perfect and uniformly grinned. Unlike the electrical grinder that leaves you with mix of powder and large chunks of beans cut in halves and everything in-between. And there is something therapeutic about hand grinding your coffee in the morning. No matter how bad the weather is.
This is a very close contender to the coffee grinder when it comes to making this list of the 5 must have items.
We have an Amp-Air tow generator. It is simple to install. It is build to outlast just about any boat or owner. It is quite. While under way we get between 75-100 amp-hours per day (24 hours). Which is more power than we need.
The 3 instruments in the cockpit.
Our old 3 Autohelm ST4000 has been all we needed, even though they never really worked. Our wind gauge did not work when we left Tacoma, and still doesn't. Our knot meter has always been way off, but we always go as fast as we comfortably can. Our depth sounder works great in 5-300ft of water. If the water is any less than 5ft then you can clearly see the bottom which keeps you alert. And when the water is deeper than 300ft then I would rather not know. I don't know what it is but there something creepy about floating on top of 1000's of feet of water.
So when it comes to the cockpit instruments, I would say that the 3 basic, wind, speed and depth, is all you need. And it is nice if they also work, at least the depth sounder.
The fishing rig that has work best for us is made with surgical tubing. We have 4ft of ½" rubber surgical tubing with a 60lbs fishing line coiled up inside. It is simple and cheap to make, and needs almost no maintenance.
You take the tubing and push the fishing line through the hollow center. Pull out about 3ft of line in the other end and tie a hitch around the tubing. Then stretch the tubing as far as it will go while feeding the line into the tubing. Now comes the slightly tricky part, you tie a hitch with the line around the tubing. Now the line will coil up inside the tubing.
Secure the three foot piece of line to the boat and your favourite lure to the other end. Allow maybe 150ft of line for the lure end. Fasten the tubing with a clothe pin to a lifeline.
Now when fish hit, the cloth pin goes flying and the tube stretch out and take the impact of the hit. Just pull the fish in hand over hand. I know what you are thinking- you can't pull in a open ocean game fish in with your bare hands you need a proper reel. Well chance are that you are not going to have a giant 200lbs tuna like fish hit your little lure, and most of the giant full grown fish has been taken by the tune fleet anyway, and you just ate it out of a small can. Secondly, if you are so 'lucky' to actually hook one of those giants, then you better hope your luck continues and the fish escapes. Because you do not want it on deck of your little boat or try to get the hook out while hanging over the railing.
We use Petite Trinidad, black. It has a bunch of cuprousoxide, which is the workhorse of bottom paint. It works great for us.
Get good brand name cordage. I bought some cheap online stuff and it kinks like crazy. Even after being used for almost 10,000 miles.
All chain anchor rode.
If you going to the South Pacific, then get as much chain as you can carry. You cannot anchor with rope in coral. We often anchor in 50ft of more. At a 5:1 scope you need at least 250ft of chain. You can cheat a bit by letting the last bit of anchor rode be rope. The rope should be no longer than the depth you are anchoring in. We have to cheat even more since we mistakenly only carry 100ft of chain and 300ft of 1-1/2" rope. What ever rope we have to let out to have sufficient scope we have to keep of the bottom by tying our fenders to the rope every as we let it out. It works but is not a good solution.
We have a 45lbs CQR for our main anchor. It has worked great so far. I wish we had a 100lbs fisherman's anchor like a 3-piece Luke. That would be a good anchor if the weather gets really bad and the bottom is questionable.
Don't get me started on 4-stroke outboards, or outboards in general. We have just bought a 2-stroke 2.3 horse outboard. So far it seems like the perfect outboard. You can lift it without mechanical assistants, and you can, or at least should be able to fix it yourself. We have never had a use for all the 8 horses that our `big' outboard has got.
Get a good dinghy. We didn't. Inflatables are great because they are stable and easy to swim from. A hard bottom dinghy is much easier to row though.
We have a Dickinson Newport. Very nice when just slightly out of the tropics in the winter half of the year.
What we call coastie suits are what the US Coast Guard wears when the go to sea. Big insulated orange cover-alls. They will actually float and are considered a life jacket Our coastie suits are made be Mustang and are like a little pilot house that you wear. It is always nice and toastie inside. If you were to ask Angela to choose between her coastie or me. Well, I will just leave it with that.
Plastic containers for food.
Get good quality. If you are lucky enough that you live near a speciality container store then arm yourself with measurements of all you lockers and go spend a fortune. It was worth it for us. Space is always in short supply on a cruising boat. The more efficiently you can pack a locker the better.
Honestly, a head never works as well as you want it to. If it plugs or breaks once a year, then that is once to often. The LaVac does not use a lot of water when flushing so it will not fill your holding tank as quickly. And if you ever need a spare bilge pump fast, then all your have to do is cut one hose and you are moving water out of the boat.
Submergible 12V bilge pumps.
We had our 12V bilge pump leak just a little bit of current into the bilge water. That ate the bottom of our full tank. We were loosing 5 Gallons an hour in the middle of the Pacific. I am now through with 12V submergible bilge pumps. In New Zealand I installed a vacuum switch in the bilge and a 12V heavy-duty diaphragm pump far away from the bilge water. So far it works great.
We used to have one. In average they do not give you many AH in the battery as one would think. Most need 20 knts to produce anything near 15 amps. Even if you get 20 knts every 5 days for 5 hours making 15 amps you still only made 75 amp-hours. That is an average of 15 amp-hours per day. You would much better of with a couple of 60W solar panels. You can make 15 amp-hours in 3 hours on a cloudy day with those. Maybe I am just mad because I lost our rotor blades in 200ft of water at Palmerston.
Real plates and silver ware.
It is enough like camping already, you got to have some standards.
Keel cooled refrigerator.
I guess they work as well as can be expected. If you install a refrigerator on board, don't think you will have fresh cold food forever. Because it will break. Most likely when you get to that remote tropical island. Then you will end up with a big black plastic bag on deck full of all the food you used to have in that nice cold icebox. We lived without an icebox between Bora Bora and Fiji. Really it is not such a huge deal not to have refrigeration. Most of the food you buy in the majority of the world is not refrigerated anyway. As for the bronze keel cooler on the bottom of Radiance. It seems to work great, and it certainly an advantage to dissipate the heat into the water instead of into the boat.
If you size it small enough, you can run it every day or every other day. No need to pickle between use. A small unit uses a small amount of watts. If you can run it in the middle of the day when voltage is high from the solar panel output, then it become fairly cheap amp-hour wise. We have a PUR-35 and it uses 3 amps at 12.8 volts to make 1-1/2 gallon per hour. (5.5 liters).
Cruiser or Cruising.
Something that never worked for us, and I have used several times in this posting, is the term "cruiser" or "cruising". It gives people an idea that we lay around in lounge chairs on deck with cocktails and land our dinghies on perfect white sand beaches to play our pre-arranged beach games. Which, at least for us, is not an accurate description. In Danish we are called "langturs sejlere" which translates to "long-trip sailors". I think that is a good description, though it sounds a little clumsy in English. We could call it "Trans-ocean sailors" or "small boat voyagers". I wonder what other languages call us. Any ideas?
That is all I can think of now.
All this 'stuff' may seem confusing and complex. It really isn't. It is just like being a one-man maintenance department in a small self-sufficient city. Except at much smaller scale.
Before we bought Radiance, a friend of mine, Joe, told me "everything I know, I have learned on my boat". It is very true.