Back in the water

All the work on the new skeg was completed, and the third coat of bottom paint applied, so we were scheduled to go back in the water early the next day.

At 7:30 am we moved out of the hotel and back onboard Wildling. She was filthy dirty after being in the yacht yard for 9 days, and to make matters worse, for a few days before we re-launched, the yard workers were angle grinding a steel hulled boat right alongside, and we got showered with tiny metal filings, which instantly turned to rust, leaving red spots all over the deck. Great!

The launch went reasonably well, except that there was a problem with the slipway brakes so there were a series of high speed slides and jolting stops on the way down the ramp. My stress level was through the roof when we finally got back in the water and were floating again. I really hate these haul outs, there are too many things that can go wrong. It’s definitely one of the negatives of having a boat as wide as Wildling’s 8.6m beam. There are very few marinas equipped with a travel lift wide enough to lift us out, so we have to find either a crane or a slipway, which are much more complicated.

The Volvo guy was onboard when we went back in the water to make sure the engines started properly, and everything was OK with the fuel and water supply after the service. We had to purge the fuel pump on the starboard engine when it stopped running after 5 minutes, but no big deal (the starboard engine usually takes a few goes to fully purge after replacing the secondary fuel filter). I found out later, after a day into our passage that he had forgotten to replace the engine oil evacuation cap on the side of the engine crankcase, and 2 liters of oil emptied into the bilge. Thanks Volvo guy! On the positive side, it was a good reminder to never skip the daily engine checks when at sea!

When we started the port engine, we found a small salt water leak coming from the exhaust muffler inside the engine room. I wish I had known about that so I could have fixed it before starting a 5 day passage! The muffler will have to be replaced, so I added it to the never-ending list of “things to fix when we get to the next port”.

We quickly checked everything then motored over to the fuel dock at Marina Di Valletta. Lindsay and I filled the diesel tanks while Robin did some last-minute provisioning for our passage. Our destination is La Grande Motte to visit the Outremer factory and get some rigging maintenance done. The attachment loops that connect the shrouds and forestay to the mast have to be replaced every 2 years, and ours are due. I would rather the factory does it as they are 3 of the most important rigging components on the boat and it needs to be done right. We’ll stop off at La Grande Motte on out way over to the Canary Islands. It’s about a 950 nautical mile voyage from Malta to La Grande Motte and based on the forecast we should have light winds a lot of the way, which means we will have to motor quite a bit, so we need full tanks to be sure to make it without having to find fuel on the way.

Malta thoughts

As we say goodbye to Malta, a few thoughts on our visit here, and our experience getting work done at the yacht yard. Overall, we really like Malta. It’s relaxed, the Maltese people are very friendly, there is good food and shopping, it’s a lot cheaper than central Europe, and there’s tons of great history.

On the downside, it was incredibly hot and humid, which made everything more difficult, especially because we had to stay on land while Wildling was out of the water.

Our experience with the Manoel Island Yacht Yard was very good. The team is friendly and helpful, they kept me informed of progress and were very easy to work with. They also did excellent work at an affordable price. I highly recommend them! We’ve been in and around marinas and boatyards in many countries and they are usually pretty inhospitable places. The folks that work there are often impatient, and unreliable, but that was not the case at all in Malta. My two complaints with the Yacht Yard are that they made our boat decks completely filthy (which unfortunately is a normal occurrence during a haul out) and the guy at their main security entrance is a total jerk! Seriously, it was like an inquisition each time we entered and left the yard. Pretty much every exchange went something like this:

Security guy: “What do you want?”

Me: “I have come to work on my boat”

Security guy: “What boat?”

Me: “It’s the catamaran, WILDLING, the same one as yesterday”

Security guy: “Do you have an appointment?”

Me: “No, I just need to get access to my boat. Same as yesterday.”

Security guy: Peers at me suspiciously for about 10 long seconds and then very reluctantly presses the button to let me into the yard.

Me: “Thank you sir, have a great day!”

This process was repeated, sometimes three times a day, for the entire 8 day stay, which was so ridiculous it became comical! Once given access to the promised land of the Manoel Island Yacht Yard, everyone inside couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful. I was very thankful to be judged worthy of entry each time I heard the security lock click open!

The scooter accident

We have an electric scooter, which is really handy when traveling back and forth between the boat and town when staying in marinas. We love our scooter, and it has worked perfectly the past three years. When I was leaving the marina about 5 days before we left Malta, I was going down a hill and when I hit the electric brake, nothing happened! A complete brake failure. I pumped it a few times, but nothing. I was about to hit a boat stand and didn’t have time to go for the (pretty much useless) backup foot brake, so I had to bail out. I cartwheeled over the concrete, landing fully on my left shoulder and heard a loud popping crunch sound. Not good!

After a couple of very painful days with no use of my left arm, Robin convinced me to go see an orthopedic doctor and have it checked out. X-Rays were clear, but ultrasound showed a partially torn rotator cuff tendon. The verdict from the doctor was this will require surgery. Since no MRI was called for and I felt like there could be other damage deeper in the joint, I decided to find a specialist to give me a second opinion. The doctors in France are excellent, but the waiting times to see one can be months long. I couldn’t find any doctor that could see me until late October. I called the specialists at the Shoulder Unit in London. They were able to book me in right away, and said I definitely need an MRI before any surgery diagnosis can be made, which is reassuring. We will be flying up to London for scans and consults after we get Wildling to La Grande Motte.

But there’s still the matter of a 5 day passage ahead of us. So now I get to find out if it’s possible to sail an Outremer 5X across the Mediterranean Sea with one arm tied behind my back! Should be fun! Seriously though, I have Robin and Lindsay to help, and the weather looks pretty calm, and in the famous words of renowned sailing philosopher, Captain Ron:The best way to find out, is get her out on the ocean!

We lost a keel!

We hauled out Wildling in Malta on Tuesday this week, and as soon as we were clear of the water we found that our port keel was missing! Outremer fits sacrificial keels on the hulls just forward of the sail drives. These are non structural, and serve to protect the sail drive legs in case of an impact with an underwater obstacle.

Starboard side keel or “skeg” is located forward of the saildrive leg to protect it from impact or grounding.

The starboard side keel was fine, but our port side keel is missing!

On the port hull, our keel is gone!

This actually should not have been a surprise, since normally I swim under the boat and check on everything every few days, but since we have been immobilized in the marina in Tunisia, where the water is pretty murky and nasty, I haven’t had a chance to look under the boat. Also, the last time we hauled out in La Grande Motte, I noticed the port keel was not attached too well. There was some flex in it when rocking from side to side and a small amount of water was seeping out from the joint between the keel and the hull.

Since we didn’t have time to replace it then, I decided to leave it and see how we go. Obviously we now know, it was not solid enough. We haven’t hit anything or grounded (that I know of) and there was a lot of marine growth on the attachment area, so the keel must have detached during the passage from Marseille to Tunisia last year.

Attachment pad for the lost keel after cleaning up with the pressure wash.

What to do?

On Tuesday afternoon, as soon as I realized we were missing a keel, I called Outremer. They had a replacement in stock and sent it out by DHL to Malta on Wednesday. Manoel Island Yacht Yard received the keel at noon on Thursday and prepared it for fitting. By Friday afternoon the new keel was epoxied in place, ready to be faired and painted on Monday. You can’t ask for better service than that!

Replacement keel epoxied in place and ready for fairing in.

The guys at the Yacht Yard had to make a new mounting flange to set the keel at the correct angle to the hull surface. The flange and keel were then bonded to the hull. The next step is to grind the flange edges smooth and add filler to keep the hull surface streamlined.

The epoxy needs to set up over the weekend, then on Monday they will fair and prime the keel. Then we will add three coats of anti-fouling paint over the next couple of days and Wildling will be ready to go back in the water.

The other projects we needed done are all pretty much finished. I replaced both of the through hull fittings and valves for the air conditioning sea water inlet filters. The original factory installed fittings were corroding badly and starting to leak. The new fittings are 100% bronze so there should be no more corrosion. This is a bit odd since we have not had any corrosion or leaks on any of the other factory through-hull fittings on the boat.

New bronze through hull fitting for air conditioning inlet water filters. I had to replace the factory fitting in both hulls due to major corrosion and leaks.

We also had the topsides polished and waxed, so Wildling looks shiny new again!

We had the engines and sail-drives serviced, and found a large amount of algae growing in the starboard side fuel filter. They cleaned it all out and we’re adding biocide to the fuel tanks, but I will need to keep changing fuel filters frequently to make sure any remaining gunk is removed.

If everything goes to plan we should be back in the water and on our way on Thursday next week!

Sailing to Malta

We left Tunisia last week after almost exactly 1 year in Port Yasmine, Hammamet. A big thanks to Duncan and Kais at Yacht Services, Tunisia for taking great care of Wildling for us while we were away during the winter. It took us a few days to get the headsails re-rigged and everything ready to leave, including two trips up the mast for me, which I really hate!

Our first port of call after Tunisia was Valetta, Malta. This is a 196 NM passage which the PredictWind weather routing software said would take us 26 hours with winds starting at 8 knots, building to 20 knots during the night, then dropping to 2 knots as we approached Malta.

We cleared out of Tunisia at 10am on Tuesday, after a somewhat confusing customs process which included a detailed discussion about the size of our diesel tanks (I have no idea why), then we raised the mainsail and genoa and set our course due east towards Malta. This is the first time I’ve used the PredictWind model since we loaded WILDLING’s polar data, and the software turned out to be pretty much spot on. We began the passage with light winds, but spent most of the first 12-15 hours with 18 to 22 knots (true wind speed) on the beam. This translated to 20 to 24 knots apparent at about 60 degrees. We put the first reef in the main as soon as we saw 20 knots apparent and switched down to the staysail from the genoa, and were doing a very comfortable 10-11 knots boat speed all night, and we didn’t need to touch the sails at all. The wind died early the next morning so we had to motor the last 8 hours of the trip (typical Med sailing).

Overall the passage took us 29 hours, but we had 1 knot of current against us the entire way which the weather model didn’t account for. It turns out the Professional weather package gives you current data, but I don’t think it’s really that important for non-race boats.

On our mooring in Malta

Our main objective in Malta is to haul out to get some maintenance done. New antifouling paint on the bottom, engine and saildrive service, two through-hull fittings replaced and some minor gelcoat repairs. We were booked in at Manoel Island Yacht Yard for the haul out, and because we are too wide for their travel-lift, we had to use the slipway, which consists of a huge sled on rails that the boat sits on and gets dragged up out of the water.

Waiting at the entrance of the yacht yard for our turn to haul out

Looking down the slipway rails. The sled is ready for us to dock.

The people at Manoel Island Yacht Yard are friendly, helpful and professional. We reviewed the locations for the lifting blocks and they configured the slipway sled to fit our hulls. The process of getting the boat onto the sled was pretty smooth. They had 4 line handlers on our boat while I positioned us over to the top of the submerged sled, then they tied the boat in place, and sent scuba divers down to line everything up underneath.

Divers adjusting the position of the support blocks so they are directly under the reinforced sections of the hull

On the sled, coming up the ramp

The scariest part was dragging the boat out of the water on the sled, but it was much easier than I expected, and the whole process took less than two hours. There were a couple of surprises when we got the boat out, but I’ll talk about that in the next post.

On “the hard” and ready to get started with maintenance

We rented an apartment not far from the boat yard, so we have a place to stay and escape the incredibly hot and humid Malta weather while the guys are working on the boat.

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.

bowline_on_a_bight

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.

IMG_5156

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.

%d bloggers like this: