A big thanks to Ksenia and Maurice for pointing out some errors in my recent Ground Tackle post. I had identified the anchor we were selecting on Wildling as a Delta, which is incorrect. It is in fact a Spade. I’ve corrected the post and added some anchor comparison test data at the end, to help explain the differences between the various anchor options.
Maurice explained some of their challenges with the Delta anchor they have on their Catana 472 catamaran in a recent email he sent me, an excerpt of which I am including below. (I hope you don’t mind Maurice!)
— We have a Delta 25kg on our 472. I’ve not been at all happy with the anchor. We’ve had too many instances where setting the anchor takes 2-3-4 attempts … sometimes more… to get a solid hook. We’ve also had the bad experience twice of breaking free after several hours’ worth of moderate wind/chop. It’s worth mentioning that our setup is nearly identical to what you’ve outlined in your post (50m of chain, plus another 90m of rode). —
Work is progressing on Wildling! The hull sides are now out of the molds and more of the bulkheads and floor structures have been fitted. Another big thanks to Matthieu at Outremer for sending me these photos!
[UPDATE Dec-7th, 2014 — I made a mistake in my original post about the 5X anchor options. Outremer does offer the Delta anchor as standard, but the anchor fitted on the 5X that I test sailed (Addiction) was a Spade anchor, not a Delta. When I talked with Outremer and the owner of Addiction, they were both very positive about the performance of Addiction’s anchor, particularly in the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to their recommendations, I did some research into the comparisons between Spade, Rocna and Delta anchors. The data is pretty consistent and clear. Delta anchors do not set easily in most conditions. Rocna and Spade anchors both set and hold very well, with a pretty even split between reviewers on which is better. I’ve updated the following post to correct my previous errors. I’ve also added some performance comparison charts at the end of the post, that show the differences between the 3 anchors that we considered.]
I’ve talked a lot about how we are designing Wildling to be fast and comfortable, but I haven’t yet discussed the equally important topic of keeping her stopped.
The equipment onboard a boat that keeps it attached to the bottom of the sea is called ground tackle, and deploying this ground tackle is a major source of stress! Not only do you have to find a good place to anchor, with the right amount of depth at high and low tide, and with good bottom conditions that allows the anchor to set and hold, but you also have to worry about swinging into other boats with changes in wind and current, or dragging out to sea, or dragging onto the shore.
For Robin and I, the process usually goes something like this:
- Approach the anchorage and figure out where we want to drop
- “Discuss” the pros and cons of different options
- Drop the anchor, let out the scope and then “discuss” whether we like where we ended up
- Attach the bridle, set the anchor and wait to make sure we aren’t dragging
- Repeat steps 2, 3 & 4 if we’re not happy
- Get in the dinghy to go ashore, then hope and pray that our most prized possession in the world is going to be safe dangling at the end of a piece of chain attached to a small steel hook
After a while, we got more confident in our anchoring ability, and were able to relax a bit when leaving the boat unattended, but the moral of the story is: Don’t skimp when it comes to ground tackle!
Here are a few things we have learned over the years about anchoring that we are applying to the ground tackle on Wildling:
- Install a high quality, modern anchor – We had a plough anchor on our last boat when we purchased it, and it dragged routinely. We replaced it with a Rocna anchor which made a huge difference. We only dragged a couple of times with the Rocna, once in poor holding, and the second in 50knot winds, where we had to let out more scope to stay put
- Use all chain rode of the correct size – For some reason our last boat had 5/16″ chain, which was too light for a boat that size, we should have been using 1/2″ chain. Heavier chain keeps the anchor at the correct angle to maintain the set
- Use a manual system for marking the amount of chain down – We use colored markers on the chain every 5 meters. I have tried an electronic chain counter and had two failures. When the counter failed, the controller would no longer raise or lower the anchor. This is not OK!
- Use a simple windlass control switch – The fancy electronic chain counter systems are fine in theory, but not in practice. The ability to raise and lower the anchor when required is critical to the safety of the vessel. Any controller that locks up when there is a sensor or communications fault is unacceptable
- Install an anchor watch system – Once the anchor is down, use a GPS based system to track the movement of the boat and alarm if it moves out of the swing radius. This is especially important at night so you can be woken up right away! We have found that unfortunately, anchors only drag when the boat is unattended or at night!
GPS ANCHOR WATCH OPTIONS
On our last boat, we used the Anchor Watch feature built into our Vesper Watchmate 850 AIS system. I had it rigged to sound a loud buzzer if the boat dragged, and it worked great. Because it was a stand alone system it used very little power, so we could leave it turned on without draining the batteries.
I liked the anchor watch feature of the Vesper Watchmate, but the AIS took way too long to lock onto the GPS satellites. We had to wait over 15 minutes from the time we turned it on, until it started reporting AIS data. Vesper Marine may have addressed this in the more recent models, but we are going to use the B&G AIS system on Wildling to get maximum integration with the rest of our B&G instrumentation. B&G doesn’t have an anchor watch feature, so we need to find an alternative solution.
There are a number of applications available for smart phones and tablets that take advantage of their internal GPS to provide anchor watch capabilities. I like this approach as it provides more functionality than the system we used in the past, and it can also be configured to send SMS messages to you if the boat moves when you are ashore.
GROUND TACKLE ON WILDLING
So with all the above in mind, here’s what we are installing aboard Wildling:
- 35 kg Spade anchor – The three anchors that I would consider are Spade, Rocna and Manson Supreme. I have heard that there were some failures of Rocna anchors in recent years after they moved manufacturing to China, but this seems to be sorted out now. Outremer offers the Delta anchor as standard, but based on my research this is a poor performer compared with the others – (see the test data below). Outremer owners have had a lot of success with the Spade, particularly in the Med.
- 50 meters of 12mm (1/2″) stainless steel chain – This is the correct gauge chain for our sized boat. 50 meters is the minimum length needed, and may even be a bit short for deep anchorages, but adding more chain that is seldom used adds more weight, so we will use nylon anchor braid to extend the rode if needed.
- 1,700 Watt windlass – For ground tackle of this size, 1,500 Watts is the minimum size windlass that I would install in order to have enough power to break out of thick mud bottoms and to be able to lift the weight of the chain and anchor in deep water. 1,700 Watt is even better, and that is what we are installing.
- No fancy electronic windlass controllers with chain counters!
- Simple up/down switches to control the windlass. Switches are located at the port helm (where we have a good view of the windlass) and next to the windlass on the foredeck. This allows either the helms person or the foredeck crew to operate the windlass, and gives a backup if one of the switches were to fail.
Here are some results from comparison tests between the Spade, Delta and Manson Supreme (same as Rocna) anchors:
From what I can determine from other sailors’ reports and the independent test results, the Rocna and Manson Supreme anchors are the best all around anchors. They perform better than the Spade in very hard and grassy conditions, but in any other conditions the Spade sets and holds the best.
I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the top three, but if you are mostly anchoring in hard seabeds and deep weed, then a Rocna or Manson is the better choice.
Since we are going to be cruising in the Mediterranean the next few years, I am going to install a Spade anchor as our primary and get a Rocna for our backup anchor.
The choice of engines was a bit confusing at first, as the 55hp standard engines offered by Outremer seemed a bit small. They also offer a 75hp engine as an option, so I had to do some research to determine which was best for us. We decided to go with Volvo D2-75hp engines for Wildling. Here’s why:
First of all, it’s great that Outremer is comfortable recommending 55hp engines for a 59 foot boat. This further confirms the performance of the 5X design, in that it can be effectively propelled by a 55hp power plant. Contrast this with our previous 47 foot Catana, which had 50hp Volvo engines, and that Catana is installing 110hp engines in their new 59 foot catamaran.
In order to make the decision, we had to determine the selection criteria that were important to us:
- Weight and hydrodynamic performance of the hulls – heavy and less efficient designs need larger engines
- Windage – larger hulls have more wind force against them and require more powerful engines
- Manufacturer and reliability of the engine model – For our purposes we considered Yanmar and Volvo and both normally aspirated and turbo-charged engine models
- Ease of maintenance
- Access to trained service technicians in our intended cruising grounds
- Weight of the engines
- Fuel efficiency
- Engine load / RPM at cruising speed
- Ability to handle extreme situations – overcoming high wind and current, handling difficult bar crossings, docking in windy conditions
VOLVO vs. YANMAR
There are many opinions on which of the two major marine engine manufacturers is best. Some folks hate Volvo and swear by Yanmar and vice versa. We had Volvos on our last boat, and they were fine for us. They were pretty easy to work on and very reliable, although the cost of parts was high. When I talked with Outremer about the reasons they had chosen Volvo, it had to do with the level of after sales service and warranty repairs in the Mediterranean cruising area. They had some bad experiences with Yanmar, and have had much better service from Volvo, so that drove their choice. Since I didn’t have too much of a bias either way, I decided to stick with Outremer’s recommendation of Volvo.
When I did the test sail on the 5X Addiction, I was able to experience the performance of the Volvo D2-55hp engines that Outremer provides as standard. They did a fine job, and pushed the boat along at 8-9 knots at around 2200 rpm, with hardly any vibration from the 3 blade folding propellers. I’m sure that the 55hp option would be good enough in most cases, but I was a bit worried about how well they would do in more extreme conditions.
The 5X is a big boat, and when pushing into large seas, against high winds and strong currents, it felt to me that the extra power of the 75hp option would be a better choice. We also have some difficult bar crossings on the east coast of Australia, so having some extra power to keep in front of the breaking waves, when coming across the bars could give some safety margin. That was my assumption, but I had to study the performance data for each engine to validate it.
WEIGHT AND COMPLEXITY
The big advantage of the 75hp Volvo engine is that it is actually the exact same engine as the 55hp, except it is fitted with a turbocharger, a more robust saildrive leg and a 4 blade (higher torque) propeller. This adds 20kg per engine, which isn’t much given the large increase in power and torque. From an operation and maintenance point of view there’s not really any difference between the two engines, so it comes down to the reliability of the turbocharger.
RELIABILITY OF TURBOCHARGED ENGINES
Based on the research I did, it seems that modern turbocharged diesel engines are very reliable. It’s also reassuring to know that each of the boats competing in the Volvo Ocean Race is equipped with a D2-75 Volvo engine as the sole source of power generation and emergency propulsion. Given the power benefits of the turbo it seems the extra complexity is worth the risk.
ENGINE PERFORMANCE COMPARISON
Because the D2-75 produces more power and torque at lower revs, it will be under a lot less stress than the D2-55, which will lead to less noise and vibration when running, and the ability to power larger alternators for rapidly recharging the lithium battery bank.
It’s a well known fact that running marine diesel engines at low load is not good for them, but in talking to the engine experts, I found that by keeping the engine high on the torque curve and at 1,800 rpm and above when running for extended periods, they will do fine.
Here are the performance curves for the two engines, which show a big difference in engine load under cruising conditions:
VOLVO D2-75 Performance curves
The D2-75 engine develops peak torque at 1,800 rpm. When fitted with a high torque, 4 blade folding propeller, this engine will provide the same level of performance as the D2-55 at much lower revs. This equates to less stress on the engine, less noise, less vibration, less heat and essentially the same fuel consumption as the D2-55. In addition to these benefits, the D2-75 has extra power available when needed in difficult conditions. All of these factors added up to the D2-75 being our preferred engine choice for the 5X.
A NOTE ON ENGINE DRIVES & LOCATION
The ideal location for engines on a catamaran from a performance and motion perspective is at the center of the vessel in each hull. This makes a big difference in the motion of the boat at sea. Less motion = higher efficiency = more speed (and comfort). The other great thing about placing the engines in the center, is that you can install a shaft drive instead of a saildrive.
Saildrives are complicated to maintain, as they require the boat to be pulled out of the water every one to two years to service the seals that prevent seawater entering the gear case. They will also corrode if careful attention isn’t paid to preventing electrolysis.
When going over the 5X design with Outremer, we had a good deal of discussion about the engine placement and drives. They were quite willing to move the engines forward and install shaft drives for us, but in the end it came down to Robin’s decision!
The big compromise with shaft drives in Catamarans is the engines have to be mounted further forward, which places them either under the aft bunks or under the companionway floor. Compare this to the saildrive option which places the engines in nice, big engine rooms at the aft ends of the boat, that are completely isolated from the living areas.
Pulling our beds apart every time I need to work on the engines is a pain for me, and a non-starter for Robin! We were also concerned about the extra heat and diesel smells that are hard to avoid when the engines are located inside the living areas of the boat.
Work is progressing on the construction of Wildling. With pretty much all the design decisions made, the Outremer team is now busy with construction, and things are progressing well.
Click on the photos to see full sized versions.
Notice how the two bulkheads at the bottom left of the photo span the full width of the hull. These form the supports for the aft cabin bunk. Some catamarans have what is known as an “island” bed, where you can walk on either side of the bed, which makes it easier to get in and out. Outremer does not do this, because it sacrifices strength and rigidity. Instead they use a full width section. This is one of a number of techniques Outremer uses to eliminate squeaks or creaks coming from the interior joints and furniture and it really works well. You notice it immediately when you sail on a 5X, everything is silent!
One of the important decisions we had to make for Wildling, was the design of our on-board power systems. The traditional way to power a cruising sailboat at sea is to install a large house battery bank, typically comprised of 500 – 1000 Amp hours of lead acid batteries that will power all the ship’s systems. Many systems such as refrigeration, radios, instruments, autopilot, lights, pumps and winches are powered directly from the batteries, usually at 12 volts DC. Other systems such as the battery charger, water heater, air conditioning, microwave, and miscellaneous appliances need AC power which can be provided by running a diesel generator or via an inverter which converts DC power from the batteries to AC power.
There are some really important choices here and making the wrong ones can lead to a lot of extra weight, cost and complexity. Before I go into the details, let me start by laying out the objectives for an ideal electrical system.
The power systems on a cruising catamaran need to be:
- Simple – we want to avoid complicated troubleshooting and repairs at sea if something goes wrong
- Flexible – we need to be able take advantage of shore power at the marina, yet be autonomous at sea and at anchor
- Reliable – the system needs to just work, and keep working for extend periods of cruising through many, many charge/discharge cycles
- Lightweight – batteries are very heavy, so are generators. The combined weight of the two systems on our last boat was over 600 kg 1,300 lbs! We want to keep this to a minimum
Thanks to the electric car industry, Lithium-Ion battery technology has now matured to a point where traditional lead acid batteries (including Gel and AGM type batteries) no longer have any place on-board a cruising catamaran.
LEAD ACID BATTERIES
Lead acid batteries are no longer a good solution for powering a catamaran. They are heavy, they take up a lot of space, they can’t be discharged below 50%, they have a limited lifespan of 4-6 years, and they are slow to recharge. The slow recharging time (10+hours) is one of the biggest problems, because you either need a lot of solar or wind generation to recharge them (not always available) or you have to run the engines for long periods of time (expensive). Many folks install diesel generators in order to keep their lead-acid battery banks topped up, which makes a bad situation worse.
The contrast with lithium is enormous. Lithium batteries weigh less than half of lead-acid and take up half the space. They can discharge down to 80%, last 10+ years, and here’s the best part, they can be recharged as quickly as you can throw current at them. So if you have 400 amps of alternators, you can recharge a 500 amp hour battery bank in 1 hour!
WILDLING IS GREEN!
Because of the rapid recharging ability of lithiums, we were able to design our power systems on Wildling to meet all of our needs without a generator. We will have 700 Watts of solar panels, a 600 Watt hydro-generator and 5,000 watts of alternators on the two engines. This gives us a lot of flexibility to run the systems we need and take full advantage of our green energy power systems to recharge the batteries, so no available sunlight or hydro-power is wasted. When needed we can run the engines for limited periods to top up the batteries. And by removing the need for a generator and using the lighter lithium batteries we save 480 kg (1,056 lbs)!!! And since less weight means we can sail more in lighter winds, we will run the engines less and save even more!
Over the past few years, many of the ocean racing sailboats have been testing out hydro-generators. They have been refined to a point now, where they are quite reliable.
A word of caution about these generators! There are two versions, a cruising version and a racing version. The cruising version operates in a speed range of 5 to 10 knots and the propeller will strip out if it’s driven at higher speeds. The racing version works at 8 knots to well over 15 knots. We are installing the racing version on Wildling.
There are very few technology choices on a boat that have as many positive benefits as lithium batteries. If you are buying a new boat or your house batteries need to be replaced, then go with lithium!
Before I start going over the options and design choices we have selected for Wildling, I thought I would explain the various parts of the boat and how it is laid out. Many of the terms used to describe the different parts of a cruising catamaran are used by pretty much everyone, but there are some things that are called different names by different people, which can get confusing. For example, the interior living area between the hulls is called the saloon or the salon. The lounge area around the table is sometimes called a dinette or a lounge. Robin and I call it a banquette because it’s built into the forward bulkhead like the banquette in a house, and the table in the salon we call the dining table vs the table in the cockpit, which we call the cockpit table, (even though we eat dinner at this table a lot), which may not be correct, but it works for us, so I will use our terminology on this blog. We also tend to use land based terms for the interior parts of the boat and nautical terms for the exterior parts.
Here are two drawings of the standard 5X layout with some labels to identify the different areas and features. If you click on the diagrams you will get a full sized version which is a bit easier to read.
So now that you are familiar with the different parts of a 5X, in the next series of posts I will explain how we are customizing Wildling during construction. This is one of the great benefits of purchasing a new boat, just like building a new house, you get to modify it to suit your needs.
In the meantime here’s a great video of a 5X during the construction process at the Outremer factory in France:
There have been some scheduling changes with other 5X customers, so the Outremer folks offered us an earlier build option (which we accepted) that will move our delivery date to June 20th, 6 months earlier than planned! This also means that most of the decisions regarding design options have to be made over the next two weeks rather than in January and March of next year.
The earlier delivery option will use a set of 5X hulls that have already been built and are currently in their molds ready to start the construction process. Wildling will be 5X hull number 11!
We have had a number of email exchanges and Skype calls this week to go over the details, and we’re pretty close to having everything finalized. There is also a final set of decisions that we need to make regarding sails, colors and fabrics, but those are not necessary right now, so Robin and I will take care of them when we visit the factory in January.
Outremer uses a precisely controlled process for building the hulls and bridgedeck sections called resin infusion. The way it works is the fiberglass fabric is laid into the mold, then a huge plastic membrane is fitted over the top of the fiberglass, then a network of hoses is installed that will deliver the resin. A vacuum pump extracts all the air while resin is pumped into the mold. The combination of the infusion process and the vacuum bagging means that the resin is evenly distributed to all parts of the fiberglass layup, in the precise quantity needed to ensure maximum strength without any excess resin. This keeps the finished structure light, with no reduction in strength.
Most series production catamarans now use this infusion process as it ensures that every molded section is made exactly the same, with no variation in quality, strength and weight, and with no wasted materials. It’s also much safer for the builders as the exposure to resin vapors is dramatically reduced. The equipment and techniques required to correctly perform infusion are complex, and one mistake means the entire section has to be thrown in the trash! Outremer contracts the infusion out to a company that specializes in this process and does nothing but resin infusion for production boat builders.
Most of the purchase contract details for Wildling are figured out now, but there are still a few decisions to make. I added some content and links to the Construction page, to make things a bit easier to follow as we go through the design and build process.
Robin, Lindsay, Gavin and I were recently in Sydney, and were lucky enough to participate in the first Australian version of the Outremer Cup (the annual Outremer owner’s meeting and race held in France). There are two Outremer 49s in Australia (at least for now) and the folks at Multihull Central in Sydney organized a great afternoon of sailing on Sydney Harbour followed by a sunset barbeque and drinks at their Annandale offices and marina.
A big thanks to Multihull Central and Outremer 49 owners Mark, Lilian and Phoebe for inviting us to join them on their beautiful boat. We had a great time! Winds were light, around 8-10 knots and both boats were match racing nicely between 6 and 8.5 knots, proving that the Outremers are as comfortable in regatta mode as they are crossing oceans!
Here are some pictures of our afternoon on Sydney Harbour