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.

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.

Mainsail Upgrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new sail almost fully hoisted

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

Sailplan Project Feb 5th Update

We’re making good progress on the sailplan changes. All the winch and line handling changes are done now. Next steps are to install the stays and sails, and finish connecting the UpSide Up system.

The big news this month is that after 6 months of waiting, Incidences finally installed the broken batten fitting on the mainsail!

Here’s a video of the progress this month:

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.

Propeller Replacement Video

This is a video I took in May 2016 when we craned Wildling out of the water to remove the EWOL propellers that were the wrong size for our 5X and causing a huge vibration. We re-installed the original Volvo folding props, and fixed a rudder alignment problem during the liftout. We found the cause of the vibration is that the blade edges were too close to the hull surface, which creates a lot of turbulence and cavitation.  EWOL is working with Outremer to try and find the correct propeller match for the 5X. Until then, we will continue to use our Volvo propellers.