Sailing to Tunisia video

Here’s some video I took during our trip along the coasts of Corsica and Sardinia on the way to Tunisia. The first part of the video is with winds behind around 20 knots, and in the 2nd part we are sailing at 45 degrees upwind in winds around 7-8 knots with the Code-0. You can see from the instruments how well we do upwind in light conditions on Wildling. We can usually manage to sail about 0.5 knots under the true wind speed.

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.

On this last trip, we crossed the Mediterranean sea from the south coast of France to the north coast of Africa and back again. We sailed for 30 days, and encountered a variety of conditions from dead calms to 35 knots of breeze and everything in between. We were at anchor for 29 nights and in a marina for 2 nights, and since it’s just over 1 year since we took delivery of Wildling, we are still learning how she behaves in different situations. Here are a few things we learned on this trip:

We need storm sails

The current sailplan is great up to about 30 knots, but over that things get out of balance. Since I posted about the sailplan balance, I have been in contact with the Outremer factory and with Philippe Escalle at North Sails in Marseille. I’m closer to a decision about changes to our sailplan, and I’ll cover that soon in another post.

Our anchor seems a bit undersized

We have a 35 kg Spade anchor, which if you follow the sizing guidelines published by Spade is the correct size for our boat. Our Spade set and held well in most conditions, but during this trip I had two issues with the Spade.

  1. In shallow water (5-8 meters) if the scope is less than 4:1 it will not set. This is part of the design of the Spade, and it makes it very easy to retrieve, but in crowded anchorages, 4:1 is sometimes a bit difficult to achieve as there’s not enough room to swing.
  2. We had an experience where at 5:1 scope in shallow water on a sand bottom the anchor would creep backwards in gusts over 25 knots.

There’s a lot of windage on the 5X, and it is lighter than most boats of the same size, so maybe sizing the anchor based on boat length and weight alone is not sufficient. If I go through the sizing process with a Rocna anchor it tells me I need a 55 kg anchor for our boat. The Rocna and the Spade are very similar designs, so I’m not sure why there is so much difference in their sizing recommendations. Rocna says their sizing is conservative and is based on 50 knot winds and moderate holding bottoms, so perhaps that’s the difference. In any case, I feel like we need to go up to at least a 45 kg Spade for our primary anchor and I’m inclined to go to 55 kg to be safe. I need to do more research on this and also see if I can fit a larger anchor on our bow roller.

One engine is usually enough

I experimented more with engine speeds and combinations during this trip, as we had a few days of dead calms and some days of very light headwinds where we had to motor. There is not much difference between running one and two engines. Here’s what I recorded in calm conditions:

  • single engine at 1,900 rpm = 5 knots
  • single engine at 2,500 rpm = 5.8 knots
  • both engines at 1,900 rpm = 6 knots
  • both engines at 2,500 rpm = 7 knots

If we add the sails and use the apparent wind created when motoring, we pick up an extra 0.5 to 1 knot, so even with one engine at 1,900 we were doing 6+ knots most of the time. I found 1,900 rpm to be the best setting for our engines as they are running smoothly with no vibrations and are quiet, and they use much less fuel. We used less than 1 tank of diesel per engine for our entire trip.

Don’t arrive in “unknown” destinations at night

We crossed into Tunisian waters late at night, and spent a lot of energy and stress avoiding fishing boats before reaching land at sunrise. It would have been better to time our arrival for the afternoon, when there are few other craft around, and visibility is much better. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but I could have planned better on this trip.

Furl the gennakers by hand

Our Code-0 and Code-D gennakers are removable sails that attach to a continuous line furler on the bowsprit. The furling line is run back to the cockpit and can be driven by a winch, but I have found using the winch to furl and unfurl is not a good system. It’s too easy to put too much stress on the furler, the sail and the halyard when furling, and its more difficult to unfurl at the correct speed when unfurling. When the join in our continuous furling line was damaged by too much winch force, I started doing it by hand, and found it was very easy to operate and worked much better than using the winch. The sails also furled much more cleanly and evenly when furling by hand.

I also rigged a pulley block in the cockpit to keep constant tension on the end of the continuous furling line. This made it much easier to operate the furler by a single person. I’ll post some photos of how this works soon.

Carry more spares

I’m still organizing my spare parts inventory, and didn’t have the things I needed to fix a few of the problems we had onboard. Both of our pump issues (seawater and shower drain) could have been easily fixed if I had some spare parts. There are very few places to buy parts once you leave the mainland, so we had to go the entire voyage without some of our systems working.

We love our boat

I know I write a lot about problems we have, but the fact is, we really love our boat and we trust her more and more as we get to know her better. A 59 foot catamaran is big, and it’s pretty cool that a regular family can sail her without the need of a large or professional crew. We got a lot more practice at sail-handling maneuvers of all types on this voyage: reefing, gybing, tacking, raising, lowering, furling, helming, etc. and it was great to see how well we were working together as a team by the end of the trip as we all learned our roles for each maneuver. This was also the first trip where both Lindsay and Gavin were doing night watches (2 hours for Lindsay and 3 hours for Gavin), which gave Robin and I a lot more sleep during passages.

Although Wildling is not a difficult boat to sail, it is really important to think through each maneuver, anticipate conditions and be conservative when cruising as a family. The forces onboard this boat are massive, and you can do a lot of damage very quickly if you’re not careful!

In a previous post I described what happened to us when we were sailing in northern Sardinia, and how the extreme helm pressure required to head up into the wind caused the rudder linkages to slip on the rudder shaft. The rudder slipping was a symptom of a sailplan balance issue. In this post I will explain what happened and what we can do to fix it.

Our current sailplan is unbalanced in strong conditions

A balanced sailplan is important. In basic terms, we need to have the force that’s trying to turn the boat into the wind, balanced by the force that’s trying to turn the boat away from the wind. The mainsail is behind the center of the boat, so when the wind blows from the side, it will push on the mainsail and rotate the bow upwind (this effect is called weather helm). The headsail (jib) is forward of the center, so the wind blowing on the headsail will push the bow downwind (lee helm). If these forces are not balanced, the rudder must be used to counter the unbalanced force and keep the boat moving in a straight line. Rudder pressure acts as a brake and slows the boat down, so unbalanced sailplans are not efficient, and create more work for the helm and autopilot.

A sailplan is balanced when the center of effort (CE) is in line with the center of lateral resistance (CLR)

A sailplan is balanced when the center of effort (CE) is in line with the center of lateral resistance (CLR). If the CE main is too great the boat rounds up to weather. If the CE jib is too great the boat bears off to leeward.

Here’s a good article that explains weather helm and lee helm and the importance of a balanced sailplan.

Most boats are well designed, and their sails are balanced in most conditions. Wildling is like this, she is a very balanced boat, requiring virtually no rudder pressure to keep her sailing straight. Our last boat was not well balanced and had too much pressure from the mainsail, so she kept trying to steer up into the wind.

The problem becomes how to keep these forces balanced as the sailplan changes. On Wildling this is a problem when we reef the mainsail without changing the headsail. As the mainsail is reefed, it gets smaller, so the force pushing the bow to the wind gets less. Since the headsail hasn’t changed, it’s force starts to overcome the mainsail and we have the bow constantly turning away from the wind. If the wind gets strong enough, the amount of rudder pressure required to point up into the wind becomes considerable. If we reef the jib, the problem gets even worse, because we move the force on the bow forward, so it has a greater lever effect. This is what happened to us in Sardinia.

The solution is simple, and is what Outremer recommends: When the mainsail is reefed, you switch to a smaller headsail positioned further back towards the mast. In this configuration it’s possible to keep a balanced sailplan upwind in winds up to 45 knots.

Double reefed main with staysail for conditions up to 35 knots

Double reefed mainsail with staysail for conditions up to 35 knots. Because we have the self tacking jib, which is a bit smaller than the genoa, we are very balanced with full main and with the first reef, so we don’t need to change to the staysail until we get to the 2nd reef on the main.

Tripple reefed mainsail with storm jib for conditions up to 45 knots

Triple reefed mainsail with storm jib for conditions up to 45 knots

Wildling was built to have the staysail and storm jib added, but I haven’t ordered them yet, because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to incorporate them into the sailplan along with our self tacking jib (which I LOVE by the way).

Attachment points on the longitudinal beam for the staysail and storm jib

Attachment points on the longitudinal beam for the staysail and storm jib

Attachment points for the extra headsails on the mast

Attachment points for the extra headsails on the mast

On the other 5X boats I have seen that have staysails, they have the inner sail setup on the auto-tacker, and a genoa that tacks manually around the staysail. Like this:

yssabeau staysails

But on Wildling, we don’t want the staysails to interfere with the self-tacking jib, so we need a way to rig them when necessary that isn’t too onerous in strong conditions, and I would really like to be able to disconnect the sheets from the jib and connect them to the staysails, so we can autotack on all of the headsails. I’m not exactly sure how we will do all of this, so I’m going to work with the Outremer factory to see if we can find a good solution.

So although the rudder slipping problem was a hassle at the time, it was very easy to fix, and it helped me see clearly how important it is that we add a staysail and storm jib to our sailplan!

Return to France

We had very light winds on our passage back to France, so we had to motor a fair bit. The sea was perfectly calm though, which made for a very relaxing passage. 

Arriving at La Ciotat earlier this morning.


We stopped in at Bandol this morning to get some diesel since we were getting pretty low, then we continued on to La Ciotat where we will stay the rest of the day today and will continue on to Marseille tomorrow. 

No wind forecast again tomorrow, so more motoring required, but we have to be back on Sunday before the Mistral arrives on Monday. We will try and stop for lunch at one of the calanques near Cassis on the way. 

Katy and Orlando missed out!

It’s our last night in Corsica. Tomorrow morning we begin the voyage back to Marseille and soon we will return to life on land, which makes me sad.

Robin tells me that Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom were on a super yacht in Sardinia this month, and judging by the huge number of super yachts we saw while in Sardenia, it is certainly the trendy thing to do, but let me tell you, Sardinia has nothing on Corsica. Sardenia is OK, don’t get me wrong, but Corsica is WAY better. 

Here are some of the things we found in Corsica that we thought were better than Sardinia:

The huge variety of beautiful countryside, the excellent wine, the friendly people, the beer, the olives!!! (Just kidding, Sardinia has great olives too 🙂 The beautiful beaches, no mooring police! No hooligan boat drivers trying to run us over! The great food (Corsica belongs to France after all!)

We loved Corsica and will be coming back for sure!

Our anchorage last night at Sagane beach


Tonight’s anchorage at the base of the cliffs near Porto

Perfect sailing in Corsica

We left Sardinia yesterday, and had two perfect days of sailing up the west coast of Corsica. Winds were 8-12 knots and we were close reaching a little under the true wind speed. 

Aside from the rolly sea between Sardinia and Corsica, the water was very calm. Ideal sailing conditions!

The southern coast of Corsica, the city of Bonifacio on the headland


Close reaching in 12 knots of breeze


We decided to spend our last few days in Corsica at Sargone beach, about halfway up the west coast of the island. The wind is forecast to start blowing 30+ knots in the northern part of the island this afternoon, so we will wait here until it calms down a bit before sailing back to the French mainland. 

Our anchorage in Sargone Corsica


As usual, while I was writing this post in our peaceful anchorage, some dude shows up and decides he has to anchor RIGHT NEXT to us, while there’s plenty of space all around.  This happens so often that Robin and have started placing bets on how close someone is going to get to us. 

The sand on the bottom must be much better right next to us!

Return from Tunisia

Sheltering from the westerlies in NE Sardenia. We have plenty of company!


This photo is looking to the south of us in the anchorage


We left Tunisia on Friday morning, after making a donation to the border police’s drinking fund! We had a nice sail back to Sardenia with fair winds and smooth seas. We decided to stop for the night on Saturday after making it to the NE coast of Sardinia. Strong westerly winds 25-30 knots were forecast to arrive by midnight, and we decided we didn’t want to deal with those until morning. 

This morning was dead calm so we motored for a while until we rounded the cape and hit the westerlies. By 2pm we had gusts up to 35 knots, and since they were forecast to drop early the next morning, we decided to find shelter for the night (again) before heading across the straight between Sardinia and Corsica. 

And then the fun began!!!

We had a double reefed main and single reefed jib and we were scooting along at 10+ knots, then when I went to turn to starboard to tack, the boat would not come up into the wind. Damn! 

I tried everything I could think of to turn us, but the helm would not respond. I turned on the port engine, furled the jib and tightened the mainsheet to create some weather helm, but nothing worked. The 30 knots of pressure against us was too much. We were fast running out of room and we had to either tack or bear off before we hit the coast. 

The last thing to try was to drop the mainsail and use the engines to turn us. Since we were at 45 degrees to the wind, I had Robin put the traveler down to leeward and I rotated the mast. We could then drop the main and I was finally able to get turn us to starboard using the engines, but the steering was all messed up! I could turn just to port but not at all to starboard. 

I aimed us at the right hand side of the anchorage, which was jam packed with boats, so I could turn up to port and try and find a place to anchor. We found a spot inside the mooring field between two super yachts. As we moved into position, the mooring field police came up in their Zodiac to tell us we were not allowed to anchor here. I told them I had no choice because we have lost our rudder. I would need to anchor long enough to fix it and the we would move. 

After illegally anchoring, I worked on the rudder problem and found the rudder linkage had slipped on the rudder shaft, so full starboard helm was giving us a centered rudder! No wonder we had problems. I thing the rudder linkage was not tight enough, so I realigned everything and tightened it up REALLY well. With our steering restored we could relocate out of the super yacht moorings, which made the mooring police dudes very happy!

The winds should calm down tonight so we will be able to continue on to Corsica tomorrow. 

Africa!

Approaching the North cost of Africa after what felt like a very long night


We arrived in Tunisia early this morning. It was a pretty uncomfortable sail across from Sardenia because we had wind at 15 knots off the port bow and we were close hauled the whole trip, punching into the now all too familiar short, steep waves of the Mediterranean Sea. I found that slowing us down to around 8.5 knots made the ride a bit more comfortable than bashing into the waves at high speed. This required a double reefed mainsail and single reefed jib. Wildling was perfect the whole trip!

There was a lot of boat traffic as we approached the African coast around midnight, and we had one scary incident where we were chased by a fishing boat during Gavin’s watch. I took the helm as the boat came alongside us and started shining his spotlight on us. I changed course multiple times and he kept turning with me. Then I jibed and bore off quickly in the opposite direction and he eventually broke off and went back to whatever he was doing. It was pretty scary and made us realize how vulnerable we are, just a family of four people on a sailboat!

Robin and I didn’t get any sleep after that, as we were dodging around fishing trawlers and tankers all night, but we had no other issues. It was a relief to see the sun rise as we entered the Gulf of Tunis with no other boats around and a short 15 mile sail over to the Gammarth Marina. 

At the dock, Port Marina Gammarth, Tunisia


The marina is essentially brand new and the people here are very friendly. It’s also a relief to be able to speak French again after all our language struggles in Italy! It’s hot and humid here, so everyone on board was happy to plug into the shore power and fire up the air conditioning. The first time we’ve needed to run it this year!

We cleared into the country of Tunisia with the help of the border police and customs officials who both have offices at the marina. The process was quick and easy, with just a small “tax” payment required to complete the affair. 

Tomorrow we have arranged for a guide and driver to take us into the capital city of Tunis.

Cala Caterina, SE Sardinia


We are at the south eastern tip of Sardinia tonight after a perfect 55nm day sail. We motored for about an hour this morning until the winds reached 6 knots, and then we sailed the rest of the day in SE winds at 6-7 knots and calm seas. We had the main and code-0 up and were doing about half a knot under true wind speed at 38-40 AWA. A very relaxing day!

We leave tomorrow morning for Gammarth Tunisia, which is just north of the city of Tunis. It’s about 150 nautical miles and winds will be light and coming from the direction we’re headed so it might be a slow journey. We’re a bit nervous about visiting Tunisia given the recent strife, but other folks we have talked with who have been there recently say it is really nice, and they had no problems. It will be amazing to sail to the north coast of the continent of Africa!

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