Our new website that follows our experiences building, owning and sailing our new Outremer 4X is now online. You can find it at: http://sailpuffin.com
Our new website that follows our experiences building, owning and sailing our new Outremer 4X is now online. You can find it at: http://sailpuffin.com
WILDLING has been sold! The new owner lives in France, so WILDLING will be staying in the Med. We wish the new owner many safe and happy miles of sailing on this exceptional catamaran!
We would like to sincerely thank the team at Grand Large Services, led by Pierre Delhomeau for managing the sale of WILDLING. GLS is a sister company of Outremer Yachting and handles the post-warranty servicing and management of Outremer boats. Pierre managed the entire sales process for us and took excellent care of WILDLING throughout. I was in and out of hospital and physical therapy during most of this, and needed someone I could completely trust to handle the sale. I can’t speak highly enough of Pierre and the GLS team, they are super professional, kept me informed at every step, and went above and beyond to take care of the highly complex process of selling WILDLING. I never imagined selling a boat of this size could be a stress free process, thank you all!
On the personal front, my shoulder is coming along nicely. I’m now at the point where I am beginning to use it again, but I’m still 6 months away from full recovery. It’s a slow and painful process, and requires more patience than I was born with, but I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.
We are building a new sailboat to replace WILDLING. Robin and I decided to downsize our next boat, because most of our sailing will be just the two of us, with our kids away at university. We want a boat that is safe, comfortable, capable of crossing oceans, but still fast and able to be sailed single-handed by either of us. After much discussion and research of potential boats, we have chosen an Outremer 4X.
Our 4X is named PUFFIN, after the little sea birds that we love. She is currently under construction at the Outremer factory in La Grande Motte, and will be launched in August this year. We have booked passage on a yacht transport ship to bring PUFFIN from Palma to Brisbane.
We have been working closely with the Outremer team to customize PUFFIN to our needs. The basic 4X design is excellent, so we have focused on some additional weight saving options to make her faster, and a number of sail handling changes to make her easier to sail solo. We have also been able to incorporate some of the construction techniques from the Gunboat line into PUFFIN, which is a great benefit of the same company owning both Outremer and Gunboat and having both construction factories co-located in France.
I will detail all of this and more in our new website and blog. I’ll post a link to the new website as soon as it’s ready. In the meantime, here are some preview photos of PUFFIN under construction.
It’s taken me three weeks to get my head around what’s happened and to be able to write this post. We’re in London, I have had three surgeries on my shoulder and Wildling is for sale!
My appointment with the shoulder specialist started out OK, he was thinking it was most likely a partial tear that would heal on its own, but based on the nature of the injury and the fact that I had pain in multiple locations, an MRI was required. The MRI showed extensive damage to my shoulder joint and tears in two of the rotator cuff tendons. It would not heal without surgery, and full recovery after surgery would take 1 year! It took three surgical procedures during a 3 hour operation to repair all the damage.
All our plans for sailing Wildling in the ARC in November and then across the Pacific next year are completely shot. Even if we postponed the Atlantic crossing for 1 year, it doesn’t work because we have to be back in Australia at the end of 2019 so Lindsay can go back to finish her last two years of high school. So that pushes a voyage of this magnitude off until after Lindsay starts university, 3-1/2 years from now. We bought Wildling to explore the Med for a few years and then sail over to the Pacific, but since that isn’t possible, we have decided it’s best to sell her in France and buy another boat in Australia when I am able to sail again. Robin and I still plan on exploring the Pacific once both the kids are in university, but we will be doing that from our home base in Australia.
One thing for sure, whoever buys Wildling is going to get an amazing boat! With all the upgrades we have done and taking care of the post delivery “new boat” repairs and getting her totally dialed in for world cruising, she’s even better now than when we took delivery of her in 2015.
I’m going to focus on shoulder rehab and Robin and I have a lot of thinking and planning to do as we decide what’s next for us. This will not stop our sailing adventures, that’s for certain, we just have to adapt to the new situation and move forward!
We had an excellent passage from Malta to France. We left Valletta on Thursday morning at 10 am and arrived at La Grande Motte the following Tuesday at 10:30 am, so 5 days at sea without any stops on the way.
Since the forecast was showing a Mistral wind was going to arrive on Wed or Thu, we decided to go non-stop to avoid any chance of having to beat into it. After our previous experience sailing in France in 2016 where we had 55 knot winds from a Mistral, I’m pretty motivated to never do that again if I can avoid it!
The PredictWind weather models showed very light wind for most of the passage, mostly from the northeast, which would mean a lot of upwind sailing and motoring required. Definitely confirms the saying in this area that Med stands for Motoring Every Day! We did manage quite a bit of sailing without the engines though, which was really nice, and the light wind meant calm seas for the most part.
The first part of the passage was all sailing with wind 8-12 knots at 70-80 degrees true. This gave us 7 to 8 knots boat speed close hauled at 40 to 45 degrees apparent. In these conditions we had full main and staysail up and the boat tracks perfectly in this configuration. The helm is well balanced with the autopilot holding the rudder angle between 0 and 1 degrees the whole time.
Once we cleared the southwest corner of Sicily and headed for Sardinia, the wind increased to 15 to 18 knots, which pushed our apparent wind to 20 to 25 knots. There was also one of those awful Mediterranean steep wavy seas against us. These happen frequently in the Med, and when you’re headed upwind you just have to pound through it. I hate these conditions, they make you wish you were anywhere else but suffering the crashing and banging required to make headway. Not only is it uncomfortable as hell, it’s stressful to have the boat crashing down off the wave tops all night. We put in a 2nd reef to keep our speed under 8 knots so the motion was a little better, but it was still a long night.
By the morning of the third day we were closing in on the east coast of Sardinia, and the seas calmed down a lot. The rest of the passage was smooth sailing and really fun. We had light winds forward of the beam most of the way, so we had to motor pretty much all the last 2 days. Wildling is slow under engines, so I never like being forced to motor, but we had to beat the arrival of the Mistral so we couldn’t pull in somewhere and wait for better sailing conditions.
When motoring long distances I always run a single engine at a time at moderate RPM, which for us means one engine at 2,000 RPM. This gives us about 6 knots boat speed. If I run both engines at 2,000 RPM we add about 1 knot of speed, so it’s not worth the extra fuel and engine wear. What I find works best is to keep the sails up while motoring and sail an angle where we can use the apparent wind generated by the boat’s forward motion to get some drive out of the sails. In most cases we can get an extra 1 to 2 knots of speed when motoring by doing this.
About an hour out from La Grande Motte, I called the Outremer folks and Sylvain came and met us as we pulled up to the welcome dock. He then helped us maneuver into one of the catamaran berths in the marina.
My injured shoulder did OK on the passage. I was pretty worried about how we would go, particularly since we don’t have Gavin with us to help with the more physical maneuvers. My shoulder was definitely very painful and pretty much out of action, but a combination of mostly light winds, lots of help from Robin and Lindsay, and our electric winches, allowed the three of us to sail the boat with no problems. Robin and I traded watches during the night and Lindsay did a long watch each morning to give us a chance to catch up on sleep. It worked out really well!
We are in London this week so I can have my shoulder looked at. While we are away the Outremer team is doing some maintenance projects on Wildling, so we will be ready to continue on towards the Canary Islands when we get back. I’m really hoping I won’t need surgery on my shoulder, as that would put me out of action for quite a while. I’ll find out the verdict tomorrow!
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.
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!
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 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.
The starboard side keel was fine, but our port side keel is missing!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
[table id=1 /]
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:
In 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.
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.