ARC, owners groups and Nest video

Update on ARC prep

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

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

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

Portable rail mount bracket

LED stern light

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

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

Echomax passive reflector

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

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

The value of online owners groups

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

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

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

Outremer Owners Group. An active, valuable resource!

Nest video update

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

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

Nest IP camera mounted inside the salon looking forward

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


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!!!

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 all finished and friends

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

Main and genoa downwind in light conditions

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

Here are a few more photos…

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

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

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

Mainsail Upgrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new sail almost fully hoisted

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

Field testing the Ultra anchor

Sunset in Corsica

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

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

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


Our new North 3Di staysail arrived on Monday and the guys installed it on Tuesday. Another beautifully made sail from North, these guys really do produce a high quality product, not a single blemish, mark or defect, and it fits exactly on the boat.


New staysail hoisted, tying off the halyard at the mast


Tensioning the luff



Staysail clewboard


We installed a guide on the crossbeam to lead the gennaker furling line back to the winch


The aft end of the gennaker furling line leader (left of the clutches) that positions the line correctly on the winch. The larger clutch is for the gennaker tack line and the two small ones are for the staysail furling line. The gennaker tack line is long enough to allow us to pull the tack over to either of the bows. This lets us run deeper downwind angles using the Code-D or an asymmetric spinnaker.

The only thing left to do now is to rig a tensioner for the slack section of the furling lines to keep them running smoothly when furling and unfurling the sails. We will do that next week, then go for a test sail to make sure everything is working correctly!

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: