A final reckoning
01 August 2013
Sorry to keep you waiting for this, but here are a few final thoughts on my voyage:
Ocean sailing is much easier than you think.
You spend too much time in advance worrying about bad weather when your time would be better spent considering light airs.
My round trip was 18,000 miles from Falmouth to 56S and back again.
The total time spent at sea in winds of F7 or greater was less than 60 hours.
I went from Lisbon to Uruguay without ever once coming on the wind in average wind speeds of force 3 - you could have done it in a Mirror dinghy.
By contrast, on the return trip I was on the wind roughly 70% of the time, and certainly hard on the wind (mostly around F6 and rough seas) all the way from 150 miles north of the equator to home.
Light airs do more damage to boats than heavy weather. Sheets fray and chafe, shackles work lose, knots come undone.
The Lopolight failed 100 miles out and never worked again (My second such failure) I used an anchor light as an all-round white light at night but this failed after water ingress.
One halyard holding a light airs genoa chafed through at the masthead.
Several sets of steering lines from the Monitor wind vane to the wheel were replaced -chafe
The Monitor wind vane safety tube fractured 1,200 miles from home.
The spool valve on the Katadyn watermaker failed, but easily fixed with good support from Mactra.
A Lewmar sheet car became detached from its track during a hiatus in the Beagle Channel, and lost all its ball bearings.
Compass light failed
Deck level nav lights corroded to a green pulp
Anchor windlass foot switch fell apart through corrosion
Corrosion is a big enemy: you get rust streaks in places you didn't think possible.
The spray hood was seriously ripped on a couple of occasions; once by weight of falling water, and the second time due to a flogging sheet.
The rig gave no problems but the cap shrouds were noticeably slack by the end.
No engine, starting, or battery problems. However, I did spend 24 hours chasing a leak in the diesel feed pipe which eventually proved to be a pinprick hole in the copper pipe tucked away in a conduit beneath the galley -that was fun.
I had 150 watts of solar power and in the tropics this was more than enough to run everything including the fridge. In cloudier parts we needed a few hours of engine every third day.
The instruments repeatedly fused going southward. Instruments don't tell you much at sea so I was happy enough without them (see my column in the current 'Sailing Today') This was traced to a short where the cable passed through the throttle housing and had become crushed (another of those one in a million chances).
On return, there was much about the boat that was weary, if not broken. Sheets, traveller sheet, some halyards and all the sails needed replacing but none failed underway. Most of the sail wear and tear was in tropical light airs.
I bought a v expensive Parasailor but had little use from it;but on the basis of a little experience I would say it was a good bit of kit.
I reckon that 18000 miles represents 20 seasons of average sailing (does the average boat do more than a 1000 miles a year??) If so, I consider th level of gear failure I suffered to be minimal.
I HAVE LEARNED THAT......
....IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT BOAT YOU HAVE
I saw all kinds of boats in the Beagle and around the Horn. Some of the charter boats plying the Antarctic trade are built like battleships; but I saw a couple of yachts from Europe, neither of them much bigger or stronger than a Centaur and they'd been round the Horn and looked very relaxed about it.
In the Azores I met a Belgian chap, just in from the Caribbean in an 18 footer built out of plywood sheets. He said “it went best in a gale”.
WHATEVER BOAT YOU HAVE YOU MUST KNOW IT INSIDE OUT
This boat was pretty new to me and I spent the first 5000 miles working stuff out. You have to know every nut and bolt of every bit of kit, every rattle in the boat, every sound she makes, and then you instantly know when something is not quite right. It takes time- there's no other way. But once you have that knowledge you can relax.
You must also know where to draw the line. Know what you don't know. I draw the line at taking heads off engine blocks and going up masts. I'll have a go at anything else.
I never reckoned on how much time would be spent doing nothing. Plan for boredom. If you're taking books, movies, Kindle, make sure you have sufficient variety. I read far too many murder books for my own good.
By all means have some ready meals, but have some labour intensive ones too. Peeling potatoes passes time. Bake bread from scratch, and your own cakes. Buy ingredients, not meals.
Controversial, I know, but I went to bed about midnight and got up for breakfast with just a couple of quick lookouts in the night. In the 4000 miles Uruguay to Azores I saw only three distant ships (Although I don't know how many passed in the night but the AIS never went off.) The idea that a good night’s sleep actually added to safety (when away from shipping lanes) was taken up by Chichester, Rose and Robin KJ
It is interesting how quickly you respond to any change in the motion of the boat and wake instantly.
I think the AIS receiver is possibly the greatest safety device of modern times. I also carry an EchoMax transponder.
I had a 25kg Manson supreme. The Antarctic fleet had all sorts of anchors - Rocna,Manson, Bugel and several heavy CQR. The Manson always bit deep and hard and was severely tested on a couple of occasions.
I tested it in widely varying conditions and was well pleased. I did have a diver give her a scrub in Salvador but she had been standing for three months in, effectively, hot soup. I had her hauled in the Azores on the way back and there was not a trace of weed after two months in the tropics, but there was a good covering of low profile barnacles the size of a 5p coin. They took some shifting.
Computers. I used Apple computers for downloading gribs through an Iridium phone. The Mailasail email service was good, but both computers failed. I was able to get messages home via an InReach made by Delorme , which I highly recommend. This also acted as a tracker.
A deck leak trashed the cabin stereo.
If sailing with crew, don't allow them to book return flights. Sailing to a timetable can be dangerous.
Do astro navigation. It's rewarding to learn you way round the sky, and it takes up an enormous amount of time.