Now that the design details are sorted out and construction is progressing, we have to work out the details needed to launch Wildling and take her out on the water. It turns out you can’t just buy a boat in a foreign country and go sailing, that would be way too easy. There are a bunch of international and local rules and regulations that have to be satisfied:
1. A vessel that is sailed internationally has to have a nationality. It’s like a person traveling outside their home country. Without a passport, you won’t get very far. Boats are the same, but unlike people, boats don’t have to take the nationality of their country of birth, so we get to choose a nationality for Wildling. The process of assigning a nationality is called registration or flagging, and Wildling will be an Australian flagged vessel.
2. All vessels should carry an EPIRB distress beacon that will send a distress signal to search and rescue services in case of an emergency. EPIRBs need to be registered with the rescue authorities so they know which boat is sending the message. This is pretty simple, we just have to fill out some forms.
3. An ocean going vessel should carry a DSC equipped radio transceiver capable of broadcasting a digitally encoded distress message, and an AIS transceiver capable of broadcasting and receiving GPS coordinates and information about the vessel. These systems are used to locate and alert nearby ships in the case of an emergency and to avoid collisions. They need to have what’s known as an MSSI number, which is a unique code that identifies the vessel. The boat has to be registered before an MSSI can be issued.
4. When traveling offshore it’s recommended to carry two types of radio communications equipment. A VHF radio, which is standard for all ships, and provides line of sight communications up to about 50 miles, and an HF radio, which is not required, but highly recommended as it allows for long distance radio communication from 50 to several thousand miles. In most countries an operators license is required for both of these radios. In addition, if you carry an HF radio, you need a special ships station license and call sign for the radio. In Australia, you need a radio operators license, and a registered vessel, before you can apply for a ship station license.
5. Most countries require some kind of driver’s license for the person in command of the boat. The USA does not require this for pleasure craft, but Australia does, and so do most of the European countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea.
THE RED-TAPE TODO LIST
The most complicated item on the list is to register Wildling so she can travel internationally. Our last boat was flagged as an American vessel, which worked real well for us. We never had any trouble with customs or immigrations in any of the foreign ports we visited, and it helped us meet a lot of great people when we were cruising. Since we now live in Australia, and we plan on bringing Wildling home to Brisbane at some point, we will be registering her as an Australian flagged vessel. Traveling under Australian nationality is about the same as American, in that it’s pretty well accepted everywhere.
The only downside to Australian registration is that the process is much more complicated and expensive than when we did it in America. We can’t complete the application until the boat is finished and ownership is transferred to us, so we will be getting everything ready to go in the meantime.
Next on the list is to get an Australian marine radio operators license. Getting a license requires passing a theory exam and demonstrating the correct use of marine radio equipment and emergency procedures. You don’t need one of these in the USA, but you do in Australia (are you seeing a pattern here?) Once I have a license, and a registered boat, I can apply for an MMSI and a ship station license. Even though we won’t be operating a radio in Australia for a while, because we have Australian registration we have to get an Australian radio license and MMSI number.
Lastly, I need to get a boat driver’s license (or whatever it’s called). Once again, this isn’t needed for an American pleasure boat, but when sailing in Europe, many ports need to see your license when you arrive, so having an Australian one will give me something to show them, and I will need it when we return to Australia. This requires a training course, followed by a practical and theory exam.
At least all of these study courses, forms and exams will keep me occupied while we’re waiting to go sailing!
Things are moving along nicely. The construction schedule has Wildling going into the water at the end of April, and then another 7 weeks of finish work before delivery.
A HUGE thank you to Matthieu at Outremer for keeping us updated via these photos. I’m going to find out what his favorite wine is so I can bring him a case on my next visit!
As I mentioned in the last construction update, we finalized the design details and option choices for Wildling when were at the factory in January.
Here are links to the detailed information:
Last week we finalized the sail handling configuration for Wildling! The main reason for the delay in getting this done was that there were a lot of other details and decisions that had to be made before the end of November, so we worked on those first. The sail handling options were fairly straight forward, but as usual there were some tradeoffs to work through.
So what’s involved in sail handling? Basically, each sail on the boat has to be hoisted, lowered, trimmed and reefed (reduced in size to decrease power). The equipment used to accomplish these tasks are the sail handling systems. They comprise of lines, blocks, pulleys, winches and furlers that work together to allow the crew to manage the sailplan.
I had two main goals for sail handling systems on Wildling:
- It has to be possible for either Robin or I to sail the boat for extended periods single-handed, even in difficult conditions
- The systems need to be simple and efficient. We want to be able to achieve optimum sail trim for performance, and we don’t want to have complicated and inefficient line routing
I’ll separate sail handling into mainsail and headsail systems, starting with the headsails.
A different approach to headsails
The 5X will introduce Robin and I to some differences in how we handle our headsails. In addition to the self tacking jib, which we don’t have much experience with, the gennakers will need to be hoisted and lowered manually as conditions dictate. This is a change from our Catana 471, where we had a roller furling genoa, and a roller furling gennaker on the bowsprit. Both these sails were permanently hoisted and remained furled when not in use, regardless of the conditions. We also had a spinnaker that we would hoist and douse manually as needed.
On Wildling, we have the Code-0 and Code-D gennakers that have to be manually hoisted and unfurled depending on conditions. These are lightweight sails that can’t remain hoisted in their furled configuration in high winds, so we will have to lower them once the wind builds to 20-25 knots. This is more work for the crew than on our last boat and will require a bit more planning.
White sails at night
After a few spinnaker mishaps in the middle of the night, Robin and I now follow a more conservative sailplan setup during the night, and this will be the case on Wildling as well. When sailing shorthanded at night, things can get unmanageable quickly if the weather changes, so we like to power down at night so the person on watch has less to deal with, and the person off-watch can relax a bit more and sleep better. During the daytime when we are better able to keep an eye on things, we power back up. This means we limit the nighttime sails to the mainsail and jib (white sails) and often put a reef or two in the main if conditions are likely to change.
The headsail halyards are led to the mast base, where a winch is used to raise and lower them. This winch is manual, so it provides a good opportunity for a workout when changing the gennaker sails 🙂
I described our self-tacking jib and gennaker headsail selections in a previous post. We still have to confirm with Outremer that the jib traveler car will run freely on the self tacking track and not jam under load, and this is on my list of topics to discuss when we visit the Outremer factory in January.
On Wildling, the jib sheets are led to the cockpit winches next to each wheel helm position.
The working jib sheet (line that controls the jib trim) is controlled by one of the wheel helm winches. These winches are electric, which makes it easy for even our smallest crew member (Lindsay) to trim the sails.
The gennaker sheets and furling lines and the jib furling line are led back to the cockpit winches. These winches are also electric, and the winch used to drive the gennaker furling lines is 3 speed, to make the operation of furling and unfurling the big gennakers a bit quicker.
The mainsail is the most complex sail on the boat and requires a large number of handling systems. The mainsail halyard is led back to a 2 speed electric winch at the starboard wheel helm position. This allows the helms person to steer the boat into the wind and raise and lower the mainsail without assistance. It requires a single 90 degree turning block at the mast base, which adds load on the halyard, but because the mast is stepped so high, there’s no practical way to put winches on the side of the mast, so halyards and reefing lines all need a 90 degree turn. It’s a tradeoff, but in this case, a necessary one.
A word on leading reefing lines back to the cockpit
There has been a trend in catamaran design over the years where all reefing lines are led back to the cockpit. Supposedly this makes it easier and safer to reef the mainsail, but I disagree. Because lines have to be led aft via various turning blocks and pulleys, the amount of force on the winches and lines is doubled or tripled over what it would be if the lines were handled at the mast base. Add to this, that in many cases you can’t really see what’s going on, and have to go to the mast base anyway to attach reef points, or verify the halyard position and tension.
Leading the reefing lines back also creates a huge spaghetti mess of lines in the cockpit that have to be constantly unraveled when underway. The argument that going forward in heavy weather is not safe, doesn’t make sense to me either. The mast base is a safe and stable location on a catamaran, even in heavy weather, and since in many cases you have to go to the mast anyway, there isn’t any real benefit.
For the reasons above, we are not leading the mainsail reefing lines back to the cockpit.
Here’s the procedure we will follow to reef the mainsail on Wildling:
- Rotate the mast into the wind and head upwind far enough to remove pressure on the mainsail
- Take up tension on the topping lift to keep the boom from dropping when we ease the main halyard
- Ease the main halyard and lower the mainsail to the reef point
- At the mast base, attach the luff reef hook and re-tension the halyard
- Tension the leech reef line using the winch at the mast base
- Steer the boat back on course
This operation can be performed single handed because all the controls needed to position the boat into the wind and deal with the halyards can be done at the starboard helm station. It’s then a simple matter of putting the boat on auto-pilot and going to the mast to finish the reefing procedure.
The mainsheet runs from the traveler track at the aft end of the cockpit, along the boom to the helm station winches. These winches are electric, so trimming the mainsail is easy. The mainsail traveler position is adjusted using the transom winch, which also doubles as the winch used to raise and lower the dinghy on the davits.
The 5X is definitely a bit more of an ocean racing style boat than our previous Catana, so it has some added complexity in the way the sails and mast angles are controlled. We tried to keep things as simple as possible on Wildling, and elected to go with all electric winches, which does add some weight, but makes it much easier to handle the big sails and high loads of the 5X sailplan with a crew of 2 people.
[Update August 2017] After sailing the boat we found that the sailplan originally described below did not work well at sea in strong winds. Read this post to find out what happened. We have since replaced the self tacking jib with a genoa and added a self tacking staysail and a storm jib.[/update]
This was probably the most difficult of our design decisions. There are numerous ways to configure the sailplan and sail handling systems on the 5X, so we had to carefully think through all the pros and cons of the various options and how they would work for our needs. Outremer offers a lot of flexibility, which allows different owners to set up their boats for their specific objectives. I’ll separate the sailplan design into two blog posts. This post will deal with the sail selections we made, and I will go over sail handling details in another post.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the basic sailplan options that VPLP designed for the 5X:
This is a good basic sailplan, but VPLP also designed some additional sail options for higher performance and offshore sailing conditions.
Jib vs Genoa vs Staysail – Definitions
A jib is a headsail (a sail forward of the mast) whose clew (attachment point at the back of the sail) does not come further aft than the front of the mast. A genoa looks like a jib, but is bigger, so that it’s clew extends aft of the mast. Genoa sails are designated by how much of their area overlaps the mast. A 110% genoa has 10% of it’s sail area aft of the mast. A staysail is a smaller sail that is positioned closer to the mast and is used in strong winds.
WHY SO MANY OPTIONS?
When sailing, the wind speed and direction is constantly changing, so what we want to do is carry as much sail as possible at all times without overpowering the boat. In light winds we need bigger sails and in strong winds we need smaller sails. The trick is to have just the right sized sail to provide the maximum amount of power in every wind speed. Obviously this isn’t possible, so we have to choose sails that will handle most of the conditions we will experience. The problem is at the boundaries, where the wind is too light to get the most out of one sail, but too strong to change up to the next. And because we’re only two people on a cruising boat, we don’t want to have to be constantly changing sails, so having some overlap of performance is important.
Let’s take the example of sailing upwind at 60 degrees apparent with a sailplan that consists of a Code-0 and a jib. The Code-0 is a massive sail, and from very light wind up to about 15 knots we can use it to get maximum power. Once the wind goes above 15 knots the Code-0 is too powerful, so we have to change down to the jib. This will slow us down a lot because the jib is much smaller, so it would be better to switch to a genoa, which is somewhere in size between the Code-0 and the jib. But when the speed gets up to say 20-25 knots we would have to furl the genoa a bit, which makes the sail inefficient, and at that point, we would be better off with the jib. So in this example, there’s a bit of a gap in our sailplan between 16 and 20 knots, where we would go faster if we had a genoa.
With all of these details in mind, we had to answer some questions in order to decide on our sailplan:
- How much do we care about the performance “hole” between the genoa and jib? and does the ease of handling of the self tacking jib outweigh the performance penalty?
- What do we do when the wind gets too strong for the jib? Are we satisfied with just furling the jib a bit, or should we fit a smaller staysail on a separate stay closer to the mast?
- Should we use a gennaker for downwind sailing or a spinnaker (or both)?
Here’s what we decided:
Self tacking jib in Hydranet fabric – We chose the self tacking jib instead of the genoa because it allows either Robin or I to tack and gybe the boat single-handed when on watch alone, or if one of us is sick, injured, or unable to help. While we were both able to tack the genoa on our last boat single-handed in light to moderate conditions, it was a struggle in strong winds and large waves. Wildling is bigger, and I don’t want to put the added stress of dealing with a genoa on us when short handed sailing.
Code-0 on bowsprit furler – Pronounced code zero, this is a type of gennaker that is cut quite flat so it can be used upwind. It is an excellent sail to increase performance when sailing in light winds, typically under 15 knots.
Staysail on Inner Forestay – We are going to rig for a staysail, but I haven’t ordered the sail yet. I want to sail Wildling in some strong conditions first to determine the best size for our needs. It may be that a smaller staysail than in the sailplan, maybe closer to a storm jib in size would work best. The benefit of a staysail over a partially furled jib, is that because it’s center of effort is further aft, it can provide a better balance to a deeply reefed mainsail (whose center of effort is further forward), which makes the boat more controllable in heavy weather.
Code-D gennaker on bowsprit furler – We are fitting a Code-D instead of a spinnaker (but of course we could always add a spinnaker later). A Code-D is a new type of gennaker that is closer in size and shape to an asymmetric spinnaker, but can be furled like a gennaker, so it will be easier for Robin and I to handle on our own. Developed by Delta Voiles in France, Code-D sails are becoming popular on ocean cruising sailboats. There have been some good comparison tests done comparing the Code-D with symmetric and asymmetric spinnakers, as well as traditional downwind gennakers. The code D was found to perform as well or better than an asymmetric spi, with the benefit of being able to handle a larger range of wind angles.
Mainsail in Hydanet fabric – There is only one mainsail design for the 5X, and although it’s possible to customize it, there’s no need. We chose the optional Hydranet fabric for the mainsail and the jib. Hydranet is more expensive than the standard dacron fabric, but is lighter, stronger and holds its shape better, so provides better performance.
A NOTE ON SELF TACKING JIB PROBLEMS
When we went sailing on an Outremer 49 in Sydney recently, the owner explained to me the problems he has been having with the self tacking jib. Apparently the geometry of the traveller track does not allow the clew of the jib to slide across smoothly when tacking if there is a load on the sail. He has to go forward and pull it across manually.
When I discussed this with Outremer, they were aware of the issue and are working on a solution that will address this on their existing boats. They have also taken this into account when designing the track on the 5X and are testing to ensure it will not bind or jam under load. I will confirm this with them in January when I visit the factory to review construction progress.