Update on ARC prep

Following my post last week on our less than stellar compliance with the ARC 2018 entry requirements, I sent a message to the ARC organizers with some questions, but still have received no response. I also posted on the Outremer owners group and within 4 hours I had detailed answers to all my questions about the ARC from both owners that have made the voyage already, and also from people at the Outremer factory.

Here are a few of the items I sorted out this week:

Independent navigation lights: battery powered lights are not accepted by the ARC. A tricolor on a rotating mast is indeed not an option, but a set of portable lights that can be deployed in an emergency and connected to the main battery bank is OK. The solution we are going with, and also adopted by other Outremer owners, is a set of portable rail mounted lights and cables with a 12V lighter plug that can be connected in the cockpit and deployed if needed.

Portable rail mount bracket

LED stern light

The challenge I ran into is finding a strong enough bracket system that can be attached and removed easily. These lights from Signal Mate meet all the Colregs requirements for boats up to 50m and have a good strong bracket for mounting.

Radar Reflector: It turns out that a radar reflector that meets the 10m2 RCS requirement is very large, and mounting the thing on the mast is a complicated affair. ARC will accept the inflatable reflector model from Echomax that easily meets their RCS requirement and can be hoisted on the flag halyard below the spreaders. Although these are not permanently installed units, there are plenty of reports of people leaving them in place for 5+ years without any damage.

Echomax passive reflector

Lifejackets: All the other items on the list were pretty straightforward and I was able to order them all from Force 4 in the UK. For the liejackets, we are going with a Spinlock Deckvest 5D, 170N for each member of our crew. Each vest is fitted with an AIS PLB. Here’s a video demo of the Spinlock Deckvest

Spinlock Deckvest 5D combination lifejacket and harness meets all ARC 2018 requirements

The value of online owners groups

The rapid assistance I received from our owners group this week made me realize yet again just how valuable it is to have this resource. When we owned our Catana 471, I really appreciated the active Catana owners group. There is a wealth of knowledge shared in this group, and as a first time multihull owner I had lots to learn and needed to ask a ton of questions. Although I still made many mistakes, I could always ask the group for help on how to avoid repeating whatever stupid thing I had done. Their assistance definitely improved my experience owning a Catana.

The only negative with the group was that the Catana factory NEVER posted or replied to a single question in the 4 years we were active in the group! My biggest criticism of Catana is that they don’t support their owners online, and it’s the reason I looked elsewhere when buying our next boat.

Outremer takes the opposite approach. They maintain their owners forum and they are very active along with the owners in responding to any questions or problems. It’s very reassuring to have their constant input and feedback on any issues raised, and there’s not a week goes by that I don’t learn something valuable from the Outremer group.

Outremer Owners Group. An active, valuable resource!

Nest video update

It’s been about 9 months now since I installed the Nest cameras on Wildling so we can keep an eye on things when we are away from the boat. I have to say, I’m really impressed. The cameras have been running non-stop the entire time, with zero issues. I just need to top up the Orange 4G modem SIM card once a month, which costs about 10 Euros for all the data I need, and I can check in any time and see what’s happening in Tunisia on the boat.

Here are screen shots from the two cameras that I took this week:

Nest IP camera mounted inside the salon looking forward

Nest IP camera mounted in the salon looking aft into the cockpit


Preparing for the ARC

We haven’t been able to do much sailing during the winter, but we have been enjoying our time in Tunisia, and getting some projects done. I really like Tunisia, it’s a slower pace of life, and the people are friendly and helpful.

Things are starting to get exciting now as we begin our preparations for the 2018 ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) which we will be joining this year for our Atlantic Ocean crossing. A rally is a group of boats traveling together and following an organized route and itinerary. We were part of the Sail Indonesia rally a few years ago when we sailed from Darwin, Australia to Singapore, and it was a fantastic experience for us. We learned a lot, made lifelong friends, and had a great time sharing the experience with other sailors. So, given the choice of crossing the Atlantic on our own or with a rally, it was an easy decision to join the ARC.

The ARC leaves Las Palmas, Canary Islands on November 25th, and the crossing typically takes 15 – 20 days (depending on the weather) to travel the 2,680 nautical miles to Saint Lucia. Not only are we really looking forward to the passage, but we are also very happy that some friends and family will be joining us to help out. Robin’s brother Kirk is coming with us, and so are our long time friends Misti and Clive who are living in Australia. Gavin will be in University, so having some extra hands on board will be a nice help, and will give us a 6 person watch rotation!

Last week we received the ARC 2018 handbook, which is a lengthy read, and full of detailed information, instructions and tips on how to participate in, and get the most out of the ARC. The good news is that it takes a lot of the guess work out of the passage planning and safety preparations. The bad news is that although I tried to configure Wildling pretty comprehensively for ocean voyaging, we are not in compliance with many of the ARC requirements, and we would fail the inspections that are done prior to departure, so I have some work to do to get us ready!

None of the ARC requirements seem unreasonable, and some of them I knew we had to meet anyway, but still I was a bit surprised to see how many of the checks that we currently FAIL. The biggest issue is their requirement for two independent systems of navigation lights, which will require us to install a tri-color light at the top of the mast. I wish I had known that when we were building the boat!

WILDLING fails the ARC checklist 🙁

Here’s the list of checks that each boat must pass before being allowed to take part in the ARC.

ItemARC requirementWildling statusScore
LiferaftISO 9650 Liferaft - Type 1, Group A, with emergency provisions for >24 Hours for each personI decided to delay buying a raft, because I didn't want it to be out of service at the time of the rally, so this is a known item that we needed to buy anyway.FAIL
LiferaftMust be in a dedicated locker or mounted externally and must be ready to deploy within 15 secondsThe Outremer 5X has a dedicated liferaft locker in the cockpit, and it also has a removable hatch to give access to the raft if the boat is upside downPASS
LiferaftLiferaft painter must be secured to a strong point on the boatOur raft is in a dedicated locker and has to be removable, so there is no permanent point to attach the painter. I'll need to get instructions from the ARC officials on how to comply with this requirementFAIL
VHF radioFixed, 25 Watt VHF radio with a masthead antenna Installed in the factoryPASS
VHF radioAn emergency antenna for the 25 Watt VHF radio that can be fitted in case of demastingWe have two 5 Watt handheld VHF radios on board, but ARC requires an antenna that can be connected to the boat's main 25 Watt VHF radioFAIL
Handheld VHFA handheld VHF radio must be carried. The radio must be waterproof with DSC and GPS and minimum 5 Wattswe have two 5 Watt radios but they don't have DSC or GPSFAIL
EmailA communications system capable of sending and receiving email offshore- either via SSB HF radio with Pactor modem or via SatelliteWe have an ICOM SSB Radio, but it does not have a Pactor modem so can not handle email. We do have an Iridium 9555 Satphone that does.PASS
EPIRBMust carry an EPIRB capable of 406 MHz AND 121.5 MHz with integrated GPSOur EPIRB has all of these featuresPASS
Radar reflectorPassive radar reflector is required. Can be either 300 mm diameter octahedral plates or a cylinder reflector with a minimum 10 m2 RCS (radar cross section)We have a small cylinder reflector fitted above the upper spreaders, but these are specifically NOT approved by ARCFAIL
AISMust have a receiver as a minimum, transmitter is recommendedOur B&G AIS has both receive and transmitPASS
FlaresSOLAS compliant, less than 4 years old. 4 red hand held flares (2 of which may be eVDS) 2 orange smoke flaresWe have all of these, just have to make sure they will still be current when we reach St. LuciaPASS
LifebuouyOne permanently buoyant lifebuoy with a drogue, light, and whistlePASS
MOB moduleDanbuoy or pole type. Signal pole must be automatically deployedWe have a Danbuoy canister that self deploys on contact with the waterPASS
LifebuoysBoat name must be printed on all lifebuoysThis is easy on the throwable ring, but I don't know how to put the boat name on the packaged Danbuoy moduleFAIL
Throwing line15 to 25 m floating line stored within reach in the cockpitWe have the line, but it is not stored correctly or ready to throwFAIL
Bilge pumpsOne automatic and one manual that can be operated in the cockpit with hatches shutWe have 6 automatic pumps (3 per hull) and two manual pumps in the cockpitPASS
Navigation lightsTwo independent sets of lights required. Primary set is bow and stern, and secondary is mast tri-colorWe have the bow and stern, but we do not have a mast tri-color. This will require installing a new light at the top of the mast, and running wiring inside the mast. Not a small job!FAIL
SearchlightHandheld, watertight, high intensity light, powered by the boat's batteries and available in the cockpit, with spare bulbs for the light.Our searchlight is LED so there are no spare bulbs available. We will have to get a spare light insteadFAIL
Lifejackets1 combined lifejacket and safety harness is required for each crew member with whistle, light, marked with boat name, reflective tape, crotch strap and sprayhood / face shieldWe do not have sprayhoods for our lifejackets and we don't have the boat name marked on themFAIL
Safety tetherEach lifejacket must have a safety line not more than 2m (6’6”) long with a snap hook at each end and an additional snap hook, secured at a point of the line to provide one short and one longer tether.Our double tethers are the same lengthFAIL
Rearming kitsSpare rearming kits and gas bottles for each make of lifejacket onboardWe carry two of thesePASS
JacklinesThrough bolted jacklines on port and starboard decks and elsewhere as necessary These are installed standard by OutremerPASS
Heavy equipmentAll heavy equipment (anchors, batteries, gas bottles, etc. must be firmly secured)Fitted in the factoryPASS
Grab bagGrab bag must float, be marked with the boat's name and include: second liferaft sea anchor and line, two safety can openers (if food/water rations carried are in cans), waterproof hand-held VHF transceiver, watertight flashlight with spare batteries and bulb, EPIRB, first aid kit, including sunscreen and medical supplies for pre-existing medical conditions, graduated plastic drinking vessel for rationing water, two Cyalume-type sticks or two watertight floating lamps, one daylight signalling mirror and one signalling whistle, additional high energy food, additional drinking water in a dedicated and sealed container, or a hand operated desalinator, plus containers for water, string, polythene bags, seasickness tablets.Our grab bag is missing some of these items. I'll also be adding a hand operated watermaker and fishing tackle.FAIL
ChartsPaper charts and pilot guides for the routeYesPASS
NavigationA recognised secondary or alternative method of navigationI'm assuming this is a handheld battery operated GPS and paper charts.PASS
LifelinesSecurely fitted taut double lifelines/guardrails around the entire deckFactory fitted by OutremerPASS
AnchorSuitable weight with chain and ropeYesPASS
Fire extinguishersFire extinguishers (at least two), suitable for size of boat and within service dateYes, just need to check the service datesPASS
Fire blanketSecured near the galleyWe have a galley extinguisher, but not a blanketFAIL
WashboardsCompanionway washboards to be capable of being secured shut and with lanyards (to prevent accidental loss when removed for access or with the main hatch open).I'm assuming this is a monohull requirement. There are no washboards on a catamaranPASS
Through hull plugsBungs or softwood plugs – securely attached/stowed adjacent to each fitting to enable any through hull fitting (below and above waterline) to be closed offWe have a bag of softwood bungs, but they are not attached to each fittingFAIL
FlashlightA watertight high powered flashlight with spare batteries and bulbsWe have 3 of these on boardPASS
Emergency steeringEmergency tiller or steering deviceWe have the optional tillers on our 5X, which are directly connected to the rudder shaftsPASS
Rigging cuttersHacksaw and spare blades, bolt croppers or a suitable method for cutting-away riggingWe have a hacksaw and blades, but no bolt croppersFAIL
Medical kitMedical kit and manualWe have a medical kit, but no manual.FAIL
BucketsAt least two, of stout construction and fitted with lanyards; capacity to be at least 2 gallons (9 litres)We use collapsible rubber buckets, so they are probably not "stout" enough for the ARC requirementFAIL
InstrumentsEcho sounder and boat speed/distance logYesPASS

Our plans are to try and haul out in Malta in August so we can get the bottom repainted and service the saildrive legs. I should be able to get most of our failures addressed by then. We also need to get some rigging checks done, and fix an issue with our instruments before leaving for the Canary Islands.

I’ll post a lot more info about our experience with the ARC as we go along.

Recently I went up the mast to check the rig after we found an unidentified nut and washer on the deck, and Robin posted a photo on the Outremer owner’s forum. In the photo, I had attached my climbing harness to the 2:1 halyard block that is normally connected to the head of the mainsail. Outremer saw the photo and posted back saying – Never use the main halyard to ascend the mast!

At first I was a bit surprised, but after a conversation with them, I realized that not only were they correct, I was damned lucky that nothing happened, as I was unknowingly attaching to the most dangerous line on the boat for mast ascending! Here’s why…

On a boat that has a 2:1 mainsail halyard, there is a fixed point where the halyard attaches to the top of the mast. This point can not be inspected from the deck. If it lets go, you will fall. Take a look at the drawing below:

2-1 halyard ascendingIn the past few weeks, two boats that we know have broken their mainsail halyards while under sail, and they both broke at the fixed halyard attachment point at the mast head.

The safe way to go up the mast, is to tie in to any 1:1 running line. The only fixed point should be the end that attaches to your harness. The other end will be on the winch. On our boat, this could be the topping lift or the running line on the mainsail halyard.

To tie into the running leg of the main halyard, use a Bowline on a bight knot.


Before tying in, you should pull the entire line through and inspect it completely, to make sure there is no wear, damage or chafe. It’s also a good idea to tie onto a second line as a backup. I usually use the spinnaker halyard as my backup safety line.


Topping lift snapshackle

I fitted a snapshackle to the end of the topping lift so we can disconnect when needed to go up the mast. In the case when the mainsail is raised and I need to go up, the only line that will get me to the very top of the mast is the topping lift.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been looking for a good system for purifying the fresh water in our tanks to make it safe to drink. Not only is it a huge waste to use plastic water bottles, it’s also a major inconvenience to constantly carry them from shore to the boat. Not to mention they take up a lot of space, and then have to be disposed of properly when they are empty.

90% of the water that goes into our tanks is from our watermaker, so it’s pure and safe to drink. The problem is that after it has been sitting in the tanks for a while, bacteria will grow, and it starts to taste like plastic. There are also times when we can’t or don’t want to run the watermaker, for example when we are in a marina, so we have to use dock supplied water, which can never be guaranteed to be safe to drink.

There are three main options for purifying drinking water that I am aware of:

Charcoal filters and sterilization tablets: This would be the entry level solution. It involves running the water from the tank through a fine charcoal filter which will get rid of odors, bad tastes and chemicals, but it won’t kill bacteria. The bacteria has to be treated by putting sterilizing tablets in the tanks. The problem with this option, is your are adding chemicals (iodine and chlorine) to your drinking water, and it’s hard to keep track of how many tablets are needed and how often they should be used.

RO and UV systems: The next option is to use a powered reverse osmosis system or a UV sterilizing light that the water passes through before it is dispensed at the tap. These are active systems and they work well, but they are more expensive to install and maintain, and they use power and add complexity to the boat.

Water purifying filters: These systems use passive filtration cartridges to remove harmful contaminants from the water. In order to be classified as a purifier, products sold in the USA have to meet EPA standards for removal of bacteria, viruses and cysts. This is of course required to be an alternative to bottled water, but we also need to remove chemicals, pesticides, bad tastes and odors, and there are very few affordable products on the market that are cable of removing all harmful contaminants from drinking water.

This system will remove all contaminants from drinking water. It is simple to install and easy to service the filter cartridge

Based on my research, and testimonials from other sailors, it seems the Seagull IV purifying filter from General Ecology in the USA is one of the best purifying filters available, although it is quite expensive at $640 for a complete system. When we were at the Paris Boat show, I stopped by the AquaPure booth. AquaPure is a European distributor for General Ecology products, and they had a very knowledgeable team at the show.

They are now selling a new system from General Ecology called Nature Pure QC2. This system uses the same microbiological filter technology as the Seagull IV, but it’s half the price, and has a more compact and easier to service filter canister.

I purchased a system from AquaPure and did the installation on the boat last week. The kit provided by AquaPure includes the faucet, hoses and fittings needed to install the system on the boat. The only problem I had was the size of the connecting hoses that run from the main water line to our faucet were bigger than the T fitting provided, so I have to purchase some adapters before I can make the final connections to the water supply line.

The complete installation kit provided by AquaPure

The installation was very easy. I decided to install the new faucet to the left of the salt water supply tap.

Galley sink on Wildling before adding the new faucet

I had to drill a hole in the sink to mount the faucet (which is always fun). I didn’t have a hole saw for the 3/4″ hole required, so I drilled a 3/8″ hole and used a round file to make it the correct size.

I used the rubber gasket that mounts under the faucet to trace the size of the final hole and then a round file to make it the correct size. I put drop sheets underneath before drilling and filing to catch all the debris, which makes clean up after the project much easier.

The new faucet installed

Installing the filter unit under the sink was also really easy. The mounting bracket for the filter has three holes that get screwed to the bulkhead. Just be sure to mount it close enough to the pipes that it is going to tap into, because the connecting hoses provided with the kit are pretty short.

The filter housing installed on the bulkhead under the sink. There is a panel that is mounted in front of this on our boat so it completely hidden when opening the sink cupboard. I attached the connecting hoses to the filter housing as soon as I fitted it in place to prevent any debris from falling into the connector openings on the top of the filter.


The T fitting supplied with the kit

The T fitting provided in the kit for connecting into the water line was the wrong size for the lines on our boat. It is the same size as the small diameter lines used on high pressure residential sinks. Outremer installs larger diameter water lines on their boats to increase flow and reduce pump energy. It’s just a simple matter of fitting adapters, but I will need to purchase some before I can complete the installation and test the filter. No big deal, but impossible to find in Hammamet Tunisia!

As soon as I get the connector fitted I will test the system, and that should be the end of plastic water bottles on Wildling!!!

What we learned in 2017

Since arriving in Tunisia, we have been busy with work and travel, but now that winter has come I am getting some boat projects done (and enjoying the Volvo Ocean Race on YouTube!).

2017 was a good sailing season for us, and Wildling is much improved this year following the sailplan changes we made. I’m becoming more in tune with her, and am starting to feel more worthy to be her skipper, as I learn how to make her go, while keeping us all safe and comfortable aboard. I’m also pleased to report that I am abusing her less with my stupid mistakes!

On this blog I try and balance the good stuff with what went wrong and what I learned from it, as it’s the unpredictable and challenging aspects of sailing that I find most interesting, and hopefully I can help other sailors avoid some of my mistakes.

Since our sailplan refit this year, we have traveled more miles and learned something about high performance sails. We cruised a lot with family and friends on board. We crossed the Med from North to South and back again. We visited mainland Italy for the first time. We returned to the island of Corsica, and we finished up by making our second trip to North Africa. In this post, I will go over what I learned along the way and some of the projects I am working on this winter.

Our new sails are great, but we have to be careful of chafe!

Our North 3Di sails are incredible! I have gone on and on about how much difference it has made to have these sails on our boat, and I really mean it. If I had known this when I purchased Wildling, I would have never wasted my money on the Incidences Hydranet sails that we ordered from the factory. BUT! Although Hydranet is heavy and inefficient, it is virtually indestructible, and since moving to 3Di I have had to learn to pay way more attention to chafe. While North 3Di fabric is a tough material, it is not as abrasion resistant as conventional fabrics, so it has to be handled properly to avoid damage. I have experienced  three situations that required me to change how I handle our 3Di sails.

  1. Topping lift contact – The high roach mainsail shape means the topping lift (TL) has a lot of contact with the top section of the sail. It’s fine when the TL is on the leeward side, but after a tack or jibe the TL is pushed against the windward surface of the sail. It’s not possible to loosen it enough to flip it around the sail leech to the leeward side. Our topping lift has not caused any damage at all to the sail, but I’m concerned that over long distances it might. I was interested to see that the Volvo Ocean Race boats* solve this problem by disconnecting their topping lift after they hoist (see below) which I will start doing also. This will need a slight modification to how the topping lift is attached to the boom, which is on my project list.
  2. Lazyjacks tension – I made a mistake of having the lazy jack lines too tight once when I jibed the mainsail, and the sail was pressed hard against the leeward jacklines for a few minutes until I released the tension on them. The result was some damage to the outer cover of the sail about 1cm in diameter at one of the points of contact with the lazy jacks.  Nothing serious, and easily repaired with the kit that North gave me, but evidence that my bad Hydranet habits had to change. After this, I started running the lazyjacks forward to the mast when I’m not using them to support the sail bunt, and making sure they are quite loose before a jibe when they are in place .
  3. Keeping headsail sheets off the staysail – When the staysail is unfurled, there is the possibility of the furled genoa or gennaker sheets rubbing against the back surface of the staysail. Philippe at North sails was very clear about the need to constantly check for this when he was teaching me how to use our new sails before we left France. The solution is to keep the non working forward headsail sheets tied down at deck level or pulled far to the side to make sure they can’t touch  the back surface of the staysail. I’ve done this consistently and there is no damage at all on our headsails.

*All of the Volvo Ocean 65 boats have North 3Di sails, and they only get one set to last the entire 39,000 mile round the world race, so they have to treat them well. I’ve been watching the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) video coverage, and paying attention to how the crews manage chafe on their sails. (BTW, I’m really happy that Volvo has hired Conrad Colman to provide commentary this year. Conrad is an excellent sailor and a hugely inspirational guy!)

There is no boom vang on a Volvo Ocean 65, so they use a topping lift, (same as on (most) catamarans). You can see in the photo below, the MAPFRE crew has disconnected the topping lift and pulled it forward to the mast base. Without the topping lift, more attention has to be paid when reefing, since the boom will drop as the halyard is eased, but they deal with this by winching in the clew reef lines as the sail is lowered to keep the boom supported. The downside for a cruising boat, is that an emergency mainsail drop will put the boom on the bimini roof, so the topping lift would need to be reconnected first!

MAPFRE under single reefed mainsail. No topping lift or lazy jacks touching the sails = No chafe!

Replacing the zippered mainsail bag with a removable cover was a good move – I wasn’t sure I would like the changes to our sail cover, but it’s worked out really well. I now remove the cover completely and stow it before I raise the mainsail. Once the sail is raised, I tie the lazyjacks out of the way so there is no flapping sailbag or lines to chafe when underway. BTW, It’s not necessary to have a removable cover like mine to do this, you just need to be able to roll the cover and tie it against the boom. Most of the new Outremers have this ability now, but my sailbag did not. I went with removable because I like that under passage there is no wear or damage to the cover.

More reefing plan changes – With more miles under the boat, and more experience with Wildling in different wind strengths and sea states (and also since we changed the sailplan), I have revised our reefing plan a bit this season. There are so many tradeoffs involved in reefing decisions (wind speed, sea state, boat comfort, risk of damage, stress, fatigue, time of day, safety…) that it really comes down to each skipper’s personal philosophy on how they like to sail their boat and take care of their crew.

I would summarize my reefing approach in the different types of sailing conditions we encounter during a passage, as follows:

  1. Light winds, flat sea: In winds from 4 to 8 knots, we’re trying to keep moving as fast as possible. All sails are up and we’re trimmed for max power.
  2. Moderate winds, fair sea: From 8 to about 13 or 14 knots, the waves are usually pretty small, so we can fully power up and sail fast. This is like driving a Ferrari on a smooth, open road. Plenty of room for speed, so we can push the gas peddle down, and there are no bumps or sharp turns to slow us down. Sailing in these conditions is pure pleasure!
  3. Strong winds, developed sea – Once the true wind builds to over 15 knots, the waves get bigger and going fast  becomes uncomfortable and tiring. This is when we reef not only to de-power the rig, but just as importantly, to keep boat speed under control. This is like driving a Ferrari on a winding, dirt road. We could definitely go faster, but it’s no fun! In these conditions I like to stay under 9 knots boat speed when close hauled and under 13 knots on a reach. Downwind is usually OK to surf faster without too much stress, unless the sea state is really developed.

Here are the numbers for the latest version of my reefing plan. The inshore numbers allow us to carry more sail and go faster when the seas are flat.

Upwind Reefing Plan

Mainsail Headsail Inshore AWS (knots) Offshore AWS (knots)(1)
Full main Genoa(2) <18 <15
Full main Staysail 18-20
1 reef Staysail 20-25 15-20
2 reefs Staysail 25-30 20-25
2 reefs ORC 30-35 25-30
3 reefs ORC 35-45 30-40
Downwind 0 >45 >40

Downwind Reefing Plan

Mainsail(3) Headsail True Wind Speed
Full Main Gennaker or Spi <15
1 reef Genoa 15-20
2 reef Staysail 20-30
3 reef ORC 30-50
  1. When upwind offshore, if AWS is >20 knots, reef the mainsail according to this table and use the traveler to keep boat speed under 9 knots.
  2. Genoa is setup for best performance when reaching. Use the staysail when close hauled for better upwind performance
  3. Reef Mainsail based on TWS to no more than can be safely rounded up if required

Volvo is having engine electrical problems and many of us are suffering – While I am loving the Volvo Ocean Race, I’m pretty annoyed with Volvo right now, due to the unresolved electrical fault on their D2 series engines. There is an electronic interface module called an MDI. This module is failing repeatedly with a variety of symptoms, the worst of which is the inability to start the engine. Do a Google search on “volvo mdi problems” and you will see what I mean. I know owners that have replaced their MDI 3 times last season (at $800 a pop). Volvo are supposedly working on a fix for this, but so far no word as to when it will be ready. It’s a good thing the Volvo Ocean Race boats don’t need to use their engines I guess!

Turning the tide on plastic and stopping the water lugging madness!

All of us sailors are painfully aware of how much plastic junk is floating in our seas and oceans, and I hate to be contributing to the problem when we are out cruising. The fact is, every time we reach a port we have a bunch of plastic water bottles to recycle, and we spend a a lot of time and energy lugging full bottles back to the boat. I decided that enough is enough, there has to be a better way!

We have a watermaker, that produces plenty of pure drinkable water, but the problem is that once it has been sitting in the tanks for a while, bacteria starts to grow, and it might no longer be safe; also, there are times when we have had to top up our tanks at a marina, so we can’t guarantee the safety of the water that goes into the tanks; and water that’s been sitting in plastic tanks doesn’t taste too good.

The solution is to purify the water coming out of the tanks before drinking it, and I have been searching for the best way to do this for a while. After a bunch of research into various filtering and UV light sterilization systems, I purchased a filtration system that I am going to install this winter. I’ll post more on this soon.

We’re not safe when working at the boom in rough conditions

At times, we need to go up on the roof to work on the mainsail or reefing lines, which is unsafe in large seas, as there is a lot of motion and not much to hold onto. I am installing jacklines along each side of the boom frame so we can clip in while we are on the roof.

I’ll post again soon with photos and details of the projects I am working on this winter.

Riding the Mistral to Tunisia

With our sails all finished and adjusted we were ready to leave France and head south for the winter. We visited Tunisia last year and really liked it, so we thought it would be a good place to make our home base this winter. It’s too hot in Tunisia to do a lot in the summer time, but winter there is very nice, and gives us a base to do some overland trips into the Sahara desert!

We left Marseille at 2pm during the tail end of a north west Mistral wind blowing a steady 25-28 knots with a double reefed main and staysail. The winds continued to build during the afternoon to 38 knots with brief periods of up to 43 knots. When we started seeing 40 knots we went to the third reef in the mainsail and switched down to the storm jib. Wildling was flying along at 13 to 15 knots with a max speed during the night of 23 knots. The waves were around 5 meters and very close together and steep, which produced a lot of motion and some impressive surfing! Here’s some video that gives a bit of an idea of what it was like.

Fortunately, I have not done too much sailing in winds over 40 knots, but it’s quite an impressive situation. There was whitewater everywhere and waves breaking all around us. At times we were tipped sideways at such an angle that everything on our galley counter was thrown into the air and onto the floor. We had waves breaking over the transom steps, turning the cockpit into a swimming pool. When standing in the cockpit some of the waves bearing down on us were higher than the level of the boom, which puts them over 5 meters. It felt like we were sailing inside a surf break. Having a balanced sailplan that gaves us penty of drive and speed made this all feel very stable and easy. The boat just tracked really well and even when we got hit by some really big waves, Wildling just shook them off and kept charging ahead without a problem. This is a boat that continues to give us more and more confidence in what she (and we) can handle!

We kept the wind angle at 150-155 degrees true, which also gave us a direct course to our first waypoint at the south west tip of Sardinia. 155 is about as deep as we can sail while keeping good speed and also preventing the mainsail from blocking the headsail. Although we had strong wind and big seas, we felt very steady, and the autopilot had no problem steering us the entire night. By morning, the wind had calmed down to 30 knots (it’s amazing how calm 30 knots feels after a night of sailing in 40 knot winds) but we kept our triple reef + storm jib sail configuration until we were sure the wind was not going to increase again. We traveled 235 nautical miles in the first 24 hours!

By mid morning of day 2 the wind was holding steady at 25-30 knots, still from the NW, so we switched back to double reefed mainsail and staysail. Once we had rounded the bottom of Sardinia, the winds dropped to 15 knots and we furled the staysail and switched over to the Genoa. We kept our two reefs in the main, because there were still a lot of waves, and the reefs helped to keep the boom and mainsail from flogging back and forth as we rolled sideways.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been experimenting with a boom preventer arrangement that reduces the slamming and shock loads on the preventer line and the boom in conditions where the winds are light but there is a lot of wave action. Here’s a video of the shock absorber setup that I have been using, which works really well!

By the afternoon of the 2nd day the wind died off completely so we had to turn on the engines, and we ended up motoring the rest of the way to Port Yasmine in Hammamet. All up we covered the 550 nm distance in just less than 3 days, which wasn’t too bad given that we had to motor for 26 hours.

Enjoying the calm, final leg to Port Yasmine

Two dolphins came to escort us the final 2 miles into the marina

Organizing the mooring lines and enjoying solid ground again after some sporty days at sea!

Happy to be in Tunisia!

The North sails team finished off the final adjustments to the new mainsail on Friday, in the middle of the 40 degree heatwave in Marseille, thanks guys!  We took Wildling out today to try everything. The mainsail is perfect!

Main and genoa downwind in light conditions

We did the weight comparison. The 3Di mainsail (with no battens) weighs 80 kg (175 lbs) and the old sail with no battens weighed in at 117 kg (257 lbs). I’m guessing the difference in weight of the battens is around 15 kg (35 lbs) which means we reduced the weight of the mainsail by 40% and removed 52 kg (115 lbs) from the boat, and most of it up high.

Here are a few more photos…

Fully raised mainsail. We checked the battens in 6 knots of wind, and they tacked over no problem.

We were very fortunate to be able to take our dear friends from Austin Texas – Scott and Deanna and their two boys – out on the boat with us today. They are visiting Marseille on their vacation, and stopped off to say hi.

Another hot day in the Med, but perfect for sailing and swimming at Iles du Frioul.

Mainsail Upgrade

We have crossed back to the mainland after our trip to Corsica, and everything went really well with our new headsails. We had ordered a new mainsail before we left, but it got held up in customs so it didn’t arrive in time to fit before we had to leave, so we have returned to Marseille to get the new sail installed and setup on the boat.

Replacing the mainsail was the last item on our project list, and it’s also made it really clear just how much difference there is between standard cruising sails and the new high performance molded sails. Any sailboat racer will tell you that your sails are the primary engine on the boat, and if you want to win races, you need a great engine. I really respect and admire the racing folks, but it’s just not my thing. I like being out at sea, with long distances between course changes, and feeling the freedom and peace that comes from a well trimmed boat sliding through the water, so I didn’t really consider buying high performance sails when we purchased Wildling.

But as with many other activities, advances in technology used on the racecourse lead to new possibilities for regular folks, and what North Sails is doing with their new 3Di molding process is truly revolutionary. These next generation sails are almost half the weight, deliver more drive and speed, are easier to raise, trim and reef, and are as durable as traditional cruising sails. They really do provide the best of all worlds! Just like it no longer makes sense to install anything other than lithium batteries in a cruising boat, I think we’re approaching the time when the same can be said for installing anything other than molded sails.

The mainsail we ordered from the factory when we purchased the boat was just the base option (Incidences hydranet fabric with an area of 124 sq. meters). I’ve talked in previous posts about how we had problems with the top batten attachment fitting breaking on the sail, but we also had trouble with the sail holding it’s shape in light winds. The top battens would fold backwards when the sail is tacked and the upper roach section of the sail would flop over to leeward, which essentially eliminates the power from the top section of the sail. It’s not until apparent wind speeds increase to 10-12 knots that the sail will tack the top battens properly and take the correct shape. I’m not sure what’s causing this, but my guess is that a sail this size in hydranet fabric is too heavy to work properly in light air, and the weight also requires a lot more effort to hoist, reef, and stow. The video below shows what I mean about the hydranet sail deforming.

I was so impressed with the North 3Di headsails that we purchased, that I took Philippe from North Sails, Marseille out on Wildling in light winds to show him the problem we were having with our mainsail. Philippe promised me that North could build us a 3Di mainsail of the same size, that would hold shape when tacking in light winds, would generate more power and would be significantly lighter than our hydranet sail, while still being a very durable world cruising sail.

North offers a range of options in their 3Di sail line, and we ordered the North 3Di Endurance 760 sail which is high performance but optimized for durability for cruising. They have other sails that are more racing oriented for the folks that want to go in that direction.

The new sail was delivered to the boat and fitted, and we went out for a test. I’m happy to report that Philippe and North definitely delivered on their promise! No problem with sail shape, noticeably more power and drive, and the sail is MUCH lighter and easier to handle. We haven’t weighed the old sail yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the 3Di sail is half the weight of the hydranet sail. (I’ll report back with comparison numbers when I have them.)

We still have some adjustments to make to the batten tension and we have to re-position the reefing line attachment points, which the North guys will take care of, and then Wildling will be ready to cross the Atlantic ocean on the first leg of our voyage back to Australia!

I was a bit too busy sailing the boat and checking all the details of the new sail to take many photos, so I will just post a few previews for now. What I can say for sure is we are definitely faster with the new mainsail. Although it has the same area as the old one, there’s a lot more drive in the 3Di sail, and you can feel the acceleration due to slight changes in the wind speed much more than the old sail!

The first thing you notice about the sail (aside from the stealth-fighter gray color) is how thin the material is!

The battens are rectangular section carbon fiber with a Dyneema sleeve. Very light and strong.

The new sail stacked on the boom, it looks about half the size of the old one.

Reinstalling the track gate on the mast after all the luff cars have been fitted

The leech reefing lines run through titanium rings, with additional guide rings to prevent them from chafing the sail edge

The new sail almost fully hoisted

One thing I was quite surprised with regarding the 3Di sail is how sensitive it is to traveler position compared to the old sail. We put the boat on a close reach and as soon as we eased the traveler down, the boat just took off. On the old sail, the traveler position has much less effect. Because of the rigid airfoil of the 3Di, it’s very obvious when the sail is trimmed correctly, which makes traveler and twist adjustments much more precise. It makes the boat feel quite a bit different, and I’m really looking forward to spending time on the water with the new sail to get to know it!

Sunset in Corsica

One of our winter projects was to upgrade our 35kg Spade anchor to a 45kg Ultra. After 3 weeks of cruising and anchoring with the Ultra, I feel like I can give some feedback on how it’s going. Although we haven’t had any really strong winds at anchor so far this trip (the top was around 20-25 knots) we have had no trouble setting and holding in many different bottom types, including weed, rock and sand. The Ultra has worked perfectly for us in all the conditions we have encountered. It definitely sets better on a short scope than the Spade. We can reliably set on 3:1 scope on the Ultra, where we needed 4:1 scope or more on the Spade. This may be due to the extra weight, but in any case, the Ultra is definitely better.

I nearly always dive on the anchor after we drop to check we are set well, and I really like the shiny stainless steel finish of the Ultra, which makes it easier to spot when we are setting in weed bottoms.

Here’s a video of our Ultra in a sand bottom in Sargone Bay, Corsica. The anchor reset overnight after a 90 degree wind shift. You can also see our anchor roll in the video, which is a really handy little buoy that makes it easier to drive towards the anchor when raising it.

Our new sails are rigged and final projects finished so we were finally able to leave port and do some sailing! I have been really looking forward to trying out all the new gear and modifications on a voyage with a variety of different conditions, but before I talk about sailing, I need to let you know that Robin has created a @sailwildling Instagram account where she is posting photos each day. You can see her latest photos in the sidebar of our website or subscribe to the @sailwildling feed to get her latest posts.

Robin’s brother, Kirk, and his wife Shelly and their daughter Saylor joined us for the first part of the trip, sailing with us as far as Cannes. We left Marseille and stopped off in Bandol, Porquerolles and St Tropez before arriving in Cannes. We had mostly light winds so we were using the Genoa upwind and the Code-D downwind with full mainsail. The North 3Di Genoa has become my favorite sail! It’s very easy to deploy and trim, and generates a lot of power.

It was great sailing with Kirk, as he is good sailor and loves it as much as I do, and I was really sad that they had to leave us in Cannes. We continued on, just the 4 of us, past Nice and Monaco and over to Imperia Italy. We had a lot of wind for this part of the trip, 25-28  knots on the nose, so we were close hauled and tacking back and forth the entire way with the staysail and two reefs in the mainsail. These were similar to the conditions that I had all the helm balance and steering issues with last year in Sardinia. The new staysail setup is MUCH better. No balance issues at all and the autopilot had no trouble steering us the whole way. I kept us as hard on the wind as possible but not so close that we lost too much speed. In these conditions at around 40 degrees apparent wind angle, we can keep our speed at 8 or 9 knots  and with the daggerboards down, we make very little leeway. Easy, fun sailing!

We stopped for the night in the port of Imperia Italy to get out of the still building easterly winds, and the next morning we decided that rather than trying to beat further east, we would turn south and head for Corsica a bit sooner than planned. This leg started out with wind at 25 knots and close hauled, but after a few hours the wind eased to 10-12 knots and shifted around to our port aft quarter. These are Wildling’s favorite conditions, and with full main and Genoa she pulls the apparent wind up to around 60 degrees and we skimmed along at 9-10 knots on smooth seas all the way over to the north west coast of Corsica. We covered the 100 nautical miles between Italy and Corsica in an easy day-sail, arriving just before sunset.

The weather forecast the next day was for SW winds at 25-30 knots and continuing the same for the next 5 days, so we decided to sail down the coast about 25 NM to the port of Calvi and wait there for the weather to settle down. Calvi has a mooring field which gets a bit crazy in strong winds, with many yachts having problems trying to pick up mooring buoys. There were a few near collisions as boats were blown off the mooring buoys before they could hook on. We had our fenders out more than once to try and protect ourselves from boats coming at us out of control! Pretty stressful! There are two guys in Zodiacs zooming around non-stop helping people get hooked up, and they also act as motorized fenders to keep boats from colliding.

Catamarans have a huge advantage when mooring in windy conditions like this, because you can pick up the mooring from the transom, and since the Zodiac boys were busy when we arrived, this is what we did. The way it works is to position the boat downwind of the mooring buoy with the back of the boat pointing at the buoy, next you reverse into the wind towards the buoy until it is at the transom. It’s really easy to do this and you can take your time and do it slowly. Have a crew member get a really long line ready, and as soon as the buoy is within reach thread the line through the mooring loop and pull the line until the mooring loop is in the center of the line. Now you can reverse back beside the buoy while your crew member walks the line up to the bow mooring cleat and ties both ends onto the cleat. Now you’re on the mooring, and you can take your time to thread the second mooring line through the buoy and over to the mooring cleat on the opposite bow. Use your engines to position the boat as your crew adjusts the length of the mooring lines to position the mooring buoy in the center of the bows.

After the wind died down we left Calvi and we’re now working our way south. We’ll do a series of day sails as we follow the coast down before sailing back over to Marseille.

Here’s the satellite tracker map of our trip so far


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