01 April 2020 | Tahiti
Russ Whitford | perfect
In this age of global warming/climate change, Lisa and I thought we would do our small part. We were forced to buy a new outboard motor in Panama when our venerable Mercury 15 hp 4 stroke died. The only suitable motor available was a Suzuki 15hp 2 stroke. Last week we replaced it with the new Mercury 20hp, 4 stroke EFI (electronic fuel injected). The new Mercury (and our old one) has the “Ultra-low Emissions” sticker.
The Suzuki has been a faithful motor for these two years. It starts easily, every time and I have not had the cover off the engine in the entire two years. We use this motor almost every day, it has a lot of miles on it. There was absolutely no reason for us to buy a new motor, Suzuki was serving our needs well.
But! The Suzuki used a lot of gas. We had to mix oil in the gas too. Our old Merc had a 3 gallon tank, the Suzuki came with a 6.3 gallon tank. Good thing! I bet the Suzuki and old Merc emptied their tanks after the same miles of use. Could it be that the Suzuki used double the gas of the Merc? I do not have scientific measurements but I believe it to be true.
The Suzuki (and all two strokes) send about 25% of the raw gas out the exhaust without burning it. There are ways to reduce this but power is reduced as well. Two strokes are also “peaky” on power. They produce their power at higher RPM. We always ran the Suzuki at about 75% power to stay on a nice plane. It just sounded like it was grinding itself up all the time. The Mercs (old and new) maintain a nice plane at less than 1/3 power! Being peaky, the Suzuki required three different propellers. We had a two person, three person and four person prop. I believe the new Merc will plane just fine with the stock prop and four people. But we are under Covid19 quarantine here and can't take extra passengers to test.
Are we really doing our part for the environment? Not really, we will sell the Suzuki to a local fisherman and it will continue to smoke and suck gas. The energy needed to manufacture the Mercury may not be offset by the fuel we save with it. I'll be honest, we bought it 'cause we wanted it. It is convenient to have fuel savings, we don't have to store as much gas onboard in remote areas or fill the tank as often. After talks with Mercury engineers and Pro Boats in California, I was convinced the EFI would be trouble free as well. Of course, the Suzuki trouble free as well.
The design of the Merc we believe is a breakthrough. Outboard motors have the tiller offset to the port side. The idea is that sitting on the back seat of a boat, the skipper can sit in the middle and the tiller falls easily in the left hand. RIB (rigid bottom inflatables) require sitting on the side tube. That puts the tiller quiet far from the driver. The driver has to lean over to reach the tiller. This isn't a big problem for me but Lisa and other women, often sit on the port side where the tiller is close at hand. The new Merc has a tiller that is adjustable from side to side, and up and down! With tiller centered, it is easily within reach when I sit up comfortably. We may even swing it more to the right for Lisa.
I will say that starting the EFI motor is a little harder. One must pull the starter rope all the way to give enough revolutions for the EFI to fire. It usually takes two, long pulls. It is not hard to pull but requires more total effort. The old Suzuki, and other carburetor engines, just need one compression stroke to fire, a short pull. But the power at low rpm, quiet and comfortable ergonomics make the Mercury a real winner. Plus, we can hold our heads up high appearing to be “green.”
Blue Water Cruising Boats
16 March 2020
This subject comes up often on FB and other sailing and cruising forums. If you want a passionate (perhaps heated) discussion among sailors, just ask what they recommend for a blue water boat. The term is used to categorize a boat capable of sailing across oceans.
Lisa and I went to a seminar at Chicago's Strictly Sail show (now Strictly Sail and powerboats and RV) about choosing a blue water boat. The speaker was sponsored by Blue Water Sailing Magazine too. The short version is that he recommended full keel, skeg hung rudder boats that were all manufactured before 1980. Not one current production boat or even one after 1990 made the list.
The speaker painted romantic images of a salty, heavy boat plowing through seas with a variety of sails to suit the conditions. The speaker proclaimed with misty eyes, “This boat will look after you.” Strangely enough, he owned a Jenneau and it was not on the list.
We were even warned by a broker that Uproar was “not a blue water boat.” Thank God we did not buy an approved blue water boat! Uproar is a bit of a hermaphrodite. Beneteau First series are their racing or performance boats. In the 90's the First series boats had full interiors and came with standard rigs or tall rigs. Uproar is a standard rig but with a deep, lead keel. She is neither pure racer nor pure cruiser. She sails beautifully and fast. We so enjoy sailing Uproar even in light winds.
Back to the approved, blue water boats. They are heavy, they are old and the lore of the blue water boat has kept prices up relative to their age. But if someone buys one of these 40+ year old boats, they may be buying just a well built shell and need to replace everything else. We have heard the horror stories of cruisers who are constantly fixing their old boats. Newer boats are not immune from this but chances are that newer boats have guts that still work.
Did I mention slow? We met a couple in Marquesas who took 54 days to complete the passage we completed in 23 days, in a boat of similar size. Who was safer? They were out there twice as long as we were and exposed to whatever dangers exist on the ocean during that time. Uproar carries only 40 gallons of diesel. We were told that wasn't nearly enough. Most boats our size carry well over 100 gallons. But we can sail in much lighter winds so seldom need to use our engine. We do carry 20 extra gallons of diesel on long passages just in case.
We do see blue water boats out here cruising but they are far in the minority. Beneteau is the world's largest manufacturer of cruising boats and there are plenty of them out here. The real deviation from the “approved” list are catamarans. None of the old salts recommend a catamaran but about 1/3 of the boats out here are cats. Their owners have crossed the same oceans we have, quite safely and in comfort. They also can't be beat for living space, area for solar panels and convenient dinghy storage.
If you are wanting to go cruising, don't fall victim to the conventional wisdom that you need a blue water boat. Sail on as many boats as you can and buy a boat you love. It will not take care of you, that is your job! But it will take you across oceans to places of your dreams.
Uncle Bob was here
28 February 2020
Lisa and I are blessed to have friends and family visit us in the remote and beautiful places we sail. My brother, Bob, visited Uproar for the first time in Fakarava. Bob is my only sibling, 1 ½ years older. We shared a lot of experiences growing up.
Bob and I sailed together as kids but it didn't become the passion for him that it is for me. Bob would visit in Milwaukee and race with us on Veloce and Uproar. He also crewed on some fine boats on Lake St. Claire near his home in Michigan. The year before we sailed away from Milwaukee, Bob crewed on Uproar for the Queen's Cup race, a night race across Lake Michigan. The first place trophy is displayed in Bob's home.
Work and family took precedence and Bob didn't manage to get away and join us in the Bahamas or Caribbean. I invited Bob to sail with me while Lisa was away in Thailand and he made the long journey to the beautiful atoll of Fakarava, French Polynesia. When I introduced “mon friere, Robert” to Liza in Hirifa, she said, “Wow, is he white!”
We went to all the great spots in Fakarava and journeyed to Toau for a visit to Gaston and Valentine. Fakarava South Pass, Tetamanu, is my favorite place in all of our travels to go snorkeling. Bob loved it too. Like us, he marveled at the welcoming and friendliness of the Polynesians.
I could continue about all we saw and did but it was the long evenings where we just sat and talked that I cherish from his visit. Bob announced he would like to write a book about his experiences at Baskin Robbins ice cream store, his first job. Bob worked at Mr. Whipp's store, Town and Country, and I worked at Mrs. Whipp's store, Dorthy Lane. Bob's store was much busier and sometimes I worked there too. Mrs. Whipp allowed us to eat all we wanted, not so at Mr. Whipp's store.
Bob started recording the incidents we remembered in a composition book I gave him. We laughed hysterically about some of the antics we and our co-workers performed. One guy was bragging about the hot date he had that night. We soaked his jeans, tied them in knots and threw them in the deep freezer. He had to go on his date wearing ice cream stained white pants! Lots more to come when the book is finished.
We talked about our kids, grandchildren and reminisced about growing up. There is something about the softness of being at sea, under a star-filled sky that lets one open up. Thanks for sharing with me, Bob.
27 February 2020
Uproar sipped diesel like a virgin sips beer on a first date!
My passage from Fakarava to Tahiti turned out to be just a motorboat ride. Still, it was 250 miles of open ocean and my first solo passage of this length. Wind was very light or non-existent as forecast. That also meant the seas were pretty flat. There was a swell from the south that was impressively large to view, about 2 meters. But it had such a long period between swells, I could not even feel Uproar undulating with the passage of the crests. There was a little roll from leftover wind chop but not bad!
That left the passage up to Dr Diesel's fantastic Yanmar 4JH2E, 50 hp. And it ran perfectly for the 50 hours at 5 knots. This engine is 25 years old and never misses a beat. Knock on wood, I have not had to replace or repair any part of this engine in the 10 years we have owned Uproar.
Back to fuel economy, Uproar got 10 nautical miles/gallon on the passage. That's about 11 MPG on land. Not great for a car or truck but Uproar weighs 22,000 pounds! We used to own a 1973 Cadillac Fleetwood stretch limo that got 11 MPG, city or highway. And it did need some tlc to keep it running.
Thanks to technology, I got plenty of sleep too. Radar and AIS (radio ship collision avoidance system) gave me a clear view of who was out there. I encountered only one boat. AIS accurately told me the closest point of approach was 2 miles, no worry. Our Raymarine chart plotter transmitted the screen via wifi to my Samsung tablet. I could lie in bed and watch the instruments for traffic. I slept an hour or two at a time, would wake up and take a look and go back to sleep.
But remind me not to buy a powerboat for cruising! With wind in the sails, Uproar is held steady in the wind chop. With no sails up she rolls a bit. Again this was not bad but I'm used to a different ride. Plus, the drone of the diesel drowns out the delightful hiss and gurgle of wind and waves.
10 February 2020
Living aboard a sailboat does involve sailing. This is somewhat overlooked as many cruisers live on a sailboat to get to where they want to visit. But we love sailing! Sailing up and down the east side of Fakarava is perhaps my favorite sailboat ride in the world.
Imagine a sailboat ride in 8 to 15 knots of wind, mostly reaching but sometimes a tight fetch or spinnaker, broad reach. The water is that mythical blue, temperature low-80s, the shoreline is filled with palm trees and white sand beaches. Waves are only about 3 inches high as we are sailing in the lee of land. The ride goes for 30 miles from Rotoava to Hirifa. We can stop anywhere and anchor near shore where no one lives for many miles. Uproar just glides along, at times we can't even feel that we are moving except for the quiet, hiss of our wake. Sailing just doesn't get any better.
Rotoava is the main town with several hundred people and three grocery stores. Hirifa is a motu with extensive, white sand spits where only 4 people and a lot of pigs live. There are a few pearl farms closer to Rotoava and some nice vacation compounds in the area. But a few miles south of Rotoava there isn't much in the way of civilization.
Fakarava is about 35 miles long and 14 miles wide, almost exactly the size and shape of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin. Lake Winnebago is quite shallow, averaging under 15 feet. The lagoon surrounding Fakarava probably averages 80 feet deep BUT, there are coral reefs inside the lagoon, everywhere. Any one of them is capable of ripping the bottom out of Uproar! There are some marked channels but “bombies” are perilously close to the channel. The rest of the lagoon is not surveyed for depth. We have to be watching whenever we sail outside the channel.
The extensive coral formations are teaming with fish. Jacques Cousteau said the highest concentration of fish he has ever seen is in the Tuamotus. Snorkeling the reefs and the south pass through the reef rank as our favorite snorkeling sites of any place we have visited.
Don from Huakai, took a Google Earth shot of Fakarava and marked the bombies with waypoints. We loaded these hazards into our chart plotter. Our chart plotter also shows all of our previous tracks. We know if we just follow the previous track, we will be safe. We no longer have to keep watch when we make this passage. It is a relaxing, beautiful and refreshing ride.
Uproar is a performance oriented boat. She was designed by Bruce Farr as a race boat but with comfortable living quarters. We have high tech, composite sails and just love the performance feel when Uproar is sailing in the groove or sweet spot. Sailing this passage, in flat water, best shows Uproar sailing at her finest.
Perfect conditions, beautiful scenery and the boat we love to sail. Sailing the east shore of Fakarava combines the best of sailing and fills our hearts on every passage.
Geology lesson on atolls:
Fakarava is an atoll in the Tuamotus, the Dangerous Archipelago. This area was avoided by mariners until GPS made navigating much safer. These atolls are ancient volcanic islands without the island. The islands slowly sunk over millions of years due to tectonic plates moving around under them. Coral reefs grew continually while the island sunk. Now all that is left is the coral ring surrounding the lagoon. Some of the coral reefs have built up enough to be land and some are submerged. The land is called motu. The east motus of Fakarava are extensive and have about 10 miles of road. At most the motu is ¼ mile wide and only about 20 feet above sea level. But the motu has a barrier reef on the ocean side. This shallow, barrier reef protects the motus from storm damage.
French Polynesia's newest island group is Marquesas. These islands, like Hawaii, are not old enough to have extensive coral reefs surrounding them. Next oldest are the Society Islands (Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, etc) These islands have coral reefs surrounding most of the island. There is navigable water inside these coral reefs, space the island has left as it began to sink. These islands still have the mountainous beauty, safe anchorages and great snorkeling reefs. We love this group, especially Huahine. But the Tuamotus have a stark, wild beauty and amazing waters, perhaps our favorite group in French Polynesia.
25 January 2020
One major difference between the life aboard a sailboat vs. the life of a dirt dweller is plumbing. And most of you will skip the rest.....TMI!
Let's start with the fact that fresh water is a precious commodity aboard a boat. Especially for a boat in salt water. When we cruised in the Great Lakes, we used lake water for all of our washing; dishes, clothes and showering. Uproar has a kick-ass watermaker. We make 30 gallons/hour of pure, drinkable fresh water from sea water. With modest conservation, that lasts 3 to 5 days. Those without watermakers must carry water from a source on shore (if available) or collect rain water. That could take care of drinking water but little else.
We didn't get our watermaker running until we spent three months in the Bahamas. I can tell you carrying water is a pain! Lisa threatened to cut her hair off unless I got the watermaker fired up. I did! Watermakers are rather troublesome devices with high pressure pumps, filters, etc. During the four years ours has been working, we have spent nearly $1/day on maintenance parts (no charge for the captain's labor)!
But back to our use of water. We tell our guests they are limited to three showers/day. Really, we can make a lot of water. Lisa and I shower at least once/day and often twice. If we are clean before bed, the sheets don't get, well sweaty. I mostly shower off the back of the boat. It is a lot like going for a swim. In fact it is going for a swim. I jump in and soak for a bit. Then, I climb out and rinse my hair with a squirt of fresh water. I shampoo with "man wash" (diluted shampoo) which I work down the rest of my body to get clean. A jump back in the water washes off the soap. Back on the swim platform, I spray down to thoroughly rinse off the salt water. I often just air dry in the cockpit. This whole procedure requires about ½ gallon of water. And I can do it without getting a swimming suit wet!
Lisa normally uses the forward shower. I call it a hollywood shower (Hunt For Red October reference). The heads both have a shower. It is just a spray nozzle on a hose from the sink. A home shower has a nice drain in the bottom. If a boat shower had a drain out to the ocean, the boat would sink. Water would flow back in the drain, fast! Instead, there is a pump to pump water out of the shower basin overboard. Just push a button.
The real fun of a boat shower is getting to see what you have just washed off your body. It is right there in the white, bottom of the head. Now we believe we are clean people and we don't use brown shampoo. One look at the shower drain says otherwise. Even days at sea when we aren't near any land, the shower water is disgusting. No wonder we shower before bed! Dirt dwellers never get to look at the results of their ablutions. Good thing.
There is another kind of waste that needs mentioning. We have two toilets or heads. Just where does it go? You have two choices, you can save it or dump it. Uproar does have a holding tank for each head. But there are no facilities outside the US where you can have the tanks pumped out. Every marina and fuel dock in the US has a pump-out but there are none in the Bahamas, Caribbean or South Pacific. It all goes into the ocean!
Do we feel bad about this? Well, just a little. We look at the density of cruisers in most places we anchor and the impact is less than can be measured. Especially with Remoras under the boat. Yes, we have a school of 12 poop-eating fish right under the boat in Fakarava. Just how do I know they eat what we pump overboard? We used to have our dog, Sophie, on board (and we miss her). Clean up would be to fling her poop overboard. The Remoras would fight over it. They also eat any food scraps we throw over.
I was snorkeling with Jim in Huahine while Lisa was back in the US. We were in a beautiful spot full of reefs and fish. Let's just say breakfast wasn't agreeing with me. Things became urgent. I swam away from Jim and ....solved the problem. The fish went nuts! We sometimes feed fish Ramen noodles or bread. I discovered something they like better! Speaking of TMI, I never told Jim.
When we get to New Zealand, they have a regulation that a yacht have a sewage disposal system. We have heard it is not enforced. But if it is, I hope those Remoras can swim fast enough to stay with Uproar on our passage there.
There is a lot more to say about boat plumbing. Stand by for TMI part 2.