Valletta to La Grande Motte

Satellite tracking history of our passage from Malta to La Grande Motte via, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica.

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!

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.

Ascending the mast without risking your life

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.

The end of plastic water bottles on our boat!

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!!!

Sailplan update and the importance of rig checks

The team at Escale Rigging is making good progress with our sailplan modifications. Although the boat is a total construction zone right now, it’s great to see all the work getting done.

I’ve had some people ask why I have to make these changes on a brand new boat? The answer is, I don’t “have” to make any changes, but I did think it was likely that I would want to make some modifications to the headsails after I had sailed the boat for a year and that’s what this project is about. If you’ve read my earlier posts on the construction process you know that I was very happy with the advice I received from Outremer when we selected all the options we wanted to install, but there were some things that I just couldn’t decide on without spending time sailing the boat, so I asked Outremer to install the structural elements we would need for the different headsail options, and I deferred the final decisions on the sailplan until after our first year of sailing.

We had to pull the ceiling lining out to install the genoa sheet lead pad-eyes and to run power cables

The ceiling lining was removed to install the genoa sheet pad-eyes and to route power and control cables and the pneumatic lines for the UpsideUp system.



The cabinets were removed to install controls for the new headsail furler winch and to convert the genoa sheet winches to electric.



Stéphane from Outremer came over from La Grande Motte to show the guys how to disassemble the head lining, and to make sure we had sufficient reinforcement for the new genoa sheet padeyes. Everything is fine because Outremer added the reinforcing when they built the roof. Thanks Stéphane!

Almost all the equipment and materials have been ordered now, and everything should be delivered in the next few weeks.

The new 45 kg Ultra anchor and flip swivel are in place and fit onto the davits with no changes, which is great!

Outremer sent their electrical engineer over to replace the faulty level gauges on the water tanks. Outremer’s R&D team has done a lot of testing with different level sensors to find a model that is accurate and reliable. This was made more complicated because the sensors need to be quiet, as the water tanks are under the beds. The sensors that use a sliding magnet ring are very reliable, but are too noisy, so we needed to find a reliable capacitive sensor that has no moving parts. The new sensors and gauges are now installed and are working well.

The halyards and reefing lines have been replaced with higher performance Dyneema/Technora lines and Escale Rigging fitted extra dyneema sleeves over the friction areas of the new lines to make them even more resistant to chafing.

1st reef reefing line

The original 1st reef line uses a dyneema/polyester blend which shows significant chafe after 1 season of use where it runs through the low friction ring on the sail leech


New reefing lines are much higher load and have friction reducing sleeves

The new reefing lines are higher load dyneema/technora and have friction reducing dyneema sleeves


You can see the anti-friction sleeve on the gennaker halyard which we use to hold up the boarding bridge when we are at the dock. The sleeve protects from chafe where the halyard enters the mast.

You can see the anti-friction sleeve on the gennaker halyard (which we use to hold up the boarding bridge when we are at the dock). The sleeve protects from chafe where the halyard enters the mast.


New halyards

New halyards

We did have one surprise when the guys were up the mast to route the new halyards, they found the outer coating has come away from around the opening where the forestay attachment loops enter the mast,  exposing the carbon fiber edge, which could cause chafing of the dyneema loops.

img_0160 img_0158

Outremer has contacted Lorima, the mast manufacturer, and they are sending us instructions on how to fix it. It’s not a structural fault, but it is something that could chafe the forestay attachment loops over time, and it serves as a reminder of the importance of doing thorough rig checks every season, even on new boats!

Mainsail batten fitting still not fixed!

I’m still waiting for a replacement for the fitting that attaches the top batten of the mainsail to the mast. The fitting broke during the Outremer cup in May, and we have been waiting since August for Incidences (the sail manufacturer) to figure out why it broke and to send us a replacement.


Our broken fitting on the left vs the original fitting on the right. The 3 holes in a line create a weak zone which caused the fracture.

After Incidences sent me two replacements that were exactly the same as the one that broke, I pulled our broken one out of the sail and sent it to Outremer so they could work it out directly with Incidences. The response from Incidences is that the fitting broke because the attachment holes are all in a line, which creates a weak zone. They are manufacturing a replacement from a stronger material with the holes staggered. I can’t understand why this has taken 4 months to fix (so far) and we can’t use the boat without it, so I’m certainly not a fan of Incidences right now!

New headsails

Our new headsails (genoa, staysail and storm jib) are currently being manufactured by North Sails (I won’t buy sails from Incidences again after the batten fitting debacle) at the North USA factory, which is where all the new 3Di sails are made. I’m hearing really great reports from other owners about these sails having excellent durability on long distance cruising boats, so hopefully we will be happy with them also.

I’ll post an update as work progresses, and hopefully some video as well.

Ultralight fenders, watermaker problems and dinghy security

Next Generation Fenders

When we were at the multihull boatshow this April in La Grande Motte, we were introduced to a company called Fendertex that is making boat fenders using an entirely new material and process. The new fenders are very light, have a cover built-in and are much stronger and more abrasion resistant than standard fenders. I ordered 4 of them to try them out and they are fantastic!

Old generation Polyform fender on the left and the new superlight Fendertex fender on the right

Old generation Polyform fender on the left and the new superlight Fendertex fender on the right. It doesn’t look like it in the picture but they are almost the same size, the polyform fender was too heavy so I couldn’t get it to stay in place for the photo!

The big advantage of these new fenders is the weight. They weigh 1.5kg (about 3lbs) each. Compared to 5.1kg (11lbs) for the old fenders. On a boat our size this really adds up, so switching to Fendertex fenders provides a weight savings of almost 50kg! But even better is how easy they are to use. They are so light, it’s no trouble at all to pull them out of the lockers and put them out, a job that we all hated with the old fenders because of how big and heavy they are. Now that we’ve been using them for the past month, Robin has told me we have to replace all of our old fenders with Fendertex!

Spinnaker Fittings

Since we moved Wildling over to Marseille, we have been trying to get some projects done before our trip to Corsica, Sardinia and Tunisia in August. Our spinnaker isn’t ready yet, so we will be sailing with just our Code-D downwind gennaker this trip. We did get the padeyes installed on the bows, so now we can fly either a symmetric spinnaker or an asymmetric spinnaker tacked to the windward bow when we have one. It’s a bit disappointing because I really wanted to try the spinnaker on this trip.

Bow padeye installed so we can attach a spinnaker

Bow padeye installed so we can attach a spinnaker

Carbon Boarding Bridge

When we got to Marseille we had a fitting manufactured and installed on the forward crossbeam so we can attach our boarding gangway (called a passerelle in France which sounds much nicer). We need this because we have to dock bows first at our new marina. I also replaced the folding passerelle that came with the boat with a lighter, non-folding carbon passerelle, because the old one was heavy and difficult to use. A carbon fiber passerelle is ridiculously expensive (of course, because it’s carbon fiber!) but it’s half the weight of our old one and MUCH easier to rig and stow.

Our new carbon fiber pasaerelle and attachment point on the crossbeam. We use the spinnaker halyard to hold it up.

Our new carbon fiber pasaerelle and attachment fitting on the crossbeam. We use the spinnaker halyard to hold it up.

Fighting Rampant Dinghy Theft

I’ve been a bit concerned about the rise in reports of dinghy theft coming from the cruising community, particularly in the Caribbean. There’s a very useful reporting service for all areas of the Caribbean that keeps track of burglary, assault and theft incidents reported by cruisers. It seems there’s a dinghy or outboard stolen every few days, and most of these are chained and locked in some fashion.

I did some research into the security of different locking devices and it’s pretty scary to see how easily most of the common locks and chains in use can be cut or broken. And while it’s  impossible to stop a determined thief with the right equipment, you can make it damn hard for them to steal your dinghy. I went to a motorcycle store in Marseille and purchased a bolt cutter proof, boron steel chain, and a massive lock that fits around the base of the outboard motor.

ABUS outboard motor lock

ABUS outboard motor chain and lock. Should stop all but the most determined thief. The only problem is if I lose the key I don’t have any tools onboard that can cut off this chain or lock!

I still need to get the ABUS lock for securing the outboard to the dinghy, but most thieves are only interested in the outboard motor, so I decided to secure that first.

Sailing from Marseille to Bandol!

Last weekend, we had some friends visiting us from Austin, Texas. Kevin, Ruthie and their  children Bennett and Audrey who have been friends with our kids since they were babies. It was great to see them, and we spent the day on Sunday sailing Wildling from Marseille to Bandol. A very nice trip, and although Kevin had never sailed before he has a lot of powerboat experience, and most importantly, he knows how to tie a bowline knot! Bennett was really interested in helping us sail the boat as well, so they were both a big help and gave Robin a break to “socialize”, while we sailed the 35 nautical miles over to Bandol.


This is the look of satisfaction that comes from successfully gybing the gennaker. Thanks for the help Kev!


Keeping a lookout for traffic is a tough job. Luckily the crew has some seats to make it a bit easier!


At the anchorage in Bandol

Wildling in the anchorage in Bandol

I was a bit worried how much sailing we would be able to do in the light weather conditions, because we had less than 10 knots of wind most of the way coming from dead astern of our destination. We gybed back and forth with the Code-D to build some apparent wind and sailed between 7 and 8 knots the whole way. It wasn’t until the wind dropped below 7 knots that we had to drop the sails and motor, but by then we were only a mile from the anchorage, so no big deal.

What the heck is that strange critter?

It seems that each time we sail in the Mediterranean I see a Sunfish. They rest at the surface and then flap off slowly when we disturb them as we sail by. I’ve never been quick enough to photograph them, but they are really strange looking creatures! Bennett and I were lucky enough to spot one on our trip to Bandol.

An Ocean Sunfish or Mora Mora. Apparently they can weigh over 2000kg! The ones we see in the Med aren't this big though.

An Ocean Sunfish or Mora Mora. Apparently they can weigh over 2000kg! The ones we see in the Med aren’t this big though.

Watermaker Problems

Before we left Marseille, I removed the sterilizing cartridge from our watermaker and flushed it, then when I went to run it, nothing happened. I checked we had power everywhere, then opened the panel to see what was happening. The fuse on the circuit board was blown, and the spare fuse blew immediately when I inserted it. I called Stéphane at Outremer and within 15 minutes he had figured out the issue and ordered a new board to be sent to the Dessalator dealer in Bandol so it would be there when we arrived.

The control panel for our Dessalator Watermaker. The circuit board shorted out from moisture damage.

The control panel for our Dessalator Watermaker. The circuit board on the left of the picture was shorted out from moisture damage.

We took Wildling into the port of Bandol on Monday, and tied up at the welcome dock so the Quick Service folks (the Dessalator dealer in Bandol), could replace the circuit board, control switch and LED card. It took them less than 1 hour, then they tested everything was working just fine. Stéphane had also told them to install a rubber gasket around the access panel lid, which they did, so we would be sure to not let any moisture into the panel in the future.

A big thanks to Outremer and Dessalator for the super fast service on this!

Boat prep and propeller tests

The big project that we have been planning over the winter is replacing the Volvo folding propellers with EWOL feathering props. I’ve been anxious to see if we could get better motoring performance, not because I plan on doing a lot of motoring, but rather because the speed under engines seemed very slow to me, 5-6 knots at 2,000 rpm, and I was worried there might be something wrong.

The new propellers were fitted during the haul out at Canet, so Stéphane was able to try them during the run back to La Grande Motte on Monday. Unfortunately it didn’t go so well. The engine rpm was limited to 2,000 and there was a lot of vibration that increased with the rpm.

The limited engine speed could be corrected by reducing the pitch of the props, but the vibration was a bigger concern. We were fortunate that Sergio from EWOL is in La Grande Motte this week for the International Multihull Boatshow, so he joined us onboard Wildling to supervise the testing. Let me say how impressed we have been with EWOL, they truly stand behind their propellers, and have been very involved in helping us find the best propeller solution for the Outremer 5X.

We had a scuba diver go under the boat to change the propeller pitch, which is a very simple procedure on the EWOLs, and then we took the boat out for some test runs at different engine revs and wind directions. The reduced pitch allowed us get the revs up to the design max range, but the vibration was still present. The consensus of the team is that the diameter of the propellers is too large, which is leaving too little space between the blade edges and the hull surface. This causes cavitation and turbulence, and that causes the vibration. A smaller diameter prop with the correct pitch “should” eliminate the vibration while still keeping the performance.

That’s the bad news. The good news is the performance is much better with the EWOL props. Instead of 5-6 knots at 2000 rpm we were getting around 8 knots, and over 11 knots at full speed. EWOL is making us some smaller props now, and we will fit them and retest in a few weeks time.

Although it would be nice to have everything perfect the first try, it usually takes some trial and error to get the right propeller match for a new boat, so this is to be expected. One of the main reasons I selected EWOL for this project was because they were willing to work with Outremer to find the right solution, and they have certainly been true to their word on that count!

Other than the propellers, Wildling is pretty much all ready for the sailing season. After her delivery back from Canet-En-Roussillion, we went over everything with Stéphane. The wind angle sensor stopped working during the trip back from Canet so we replaced it. It was a bit intermittent last July during our first voyage, but then worked fine since, so the gremlins that caused the original problem must have returned.



Back to France

We’re on our way back to France! Our first stop is La Grande Motte, to get back to Wildling and catch the International Multihull Boat Show for a couple of days. I have a work assignment in Europe for a while, so we decided to enroll Gavin and Lindsay at the International School in Aix-En-Provence so they can continue their studies, and improve their French while we are staying in Europe.

April also marks the beginning of the sailing season in the Med, and we are very much looking forward to doing a lot of sailing this year. I’ll post more info on our travels as we go along. We will be starting things off with the Outremer Cup, which is being held in La Grande Motte on May 6-8. François Trégouet from Outremer has agreed to skipper Wildling for us, as I am no racing sailor, and he has a lot of ocean racing experience. We also have some room on Wildling if any of our blog readers will be in the area and would like to come along. Please contact me and I’ll see what I can arrange.

Stéphane from Outremer is currently bringing Wildling back from Canet-En-Rousillon where she was hauled out to have new bottom paint applied, and to have the annual saildrive service done. They also installed the new EWOL propellers that I wrote about in this post, and I am anxious to find out if the EWOL props will give us some improvement in motoring and sailing performance. Wildling should be back home again by the time we arrive on Tuesday morning.