John Martin of Island Cruising Association relates some experiences and pointers for those thinking of upgrading their boats, buying a new vessel, or just plain ‘Noodling’.
Not all boats are created equal but a good number of them with a little knowledge and some preparation can be “Upgraded” to take on a bigger role. There’s no question that we would set up our boat quite differently for extended coastal as opposed to harbour or indeed to go offshore. The possibilities are endless as to how you set your boat up and in many cases the best way is to take a look at how others have done it before you.
I had the pleasure of doing a short coastal passage on a new sailing cat recently, about 65 sea miles (130km). Now we’ve had our boat Windflower for going on 22 years and in that time she has evolved and changed constantly, mainly as the budget dictated but even today she is a work in progress so I love getting on other people’s boats, they’re a great source of ideas. Before the lines were slipped I had my trusty notebook out and the camera no longer had an empty data card. By the end of the trip I had filled several pages, taken lots of shots, opened and closed every door on the boat and tried out all the systems.
I was discussing this subject a few days later with an old salt who just happens to also be a New Zealand Yacht Safety Inspector. He was in the process of inspecting a boat for Cat 1 when I ran into him.
(There are various levels of preparedness in the international sailing rules, from Cat 1 for offshore down to Cat 5 for short races inside harbour limits. In order to clear customs in an offshore race, the skipper needs to have his boat inspected and certified as being to the Category 1 standard. The same applies to the other categories.)
What was concerning him at the time was how the owner had set up his anchor roller.
A quick walk down the dock to another boat and we were able to show the worried owner a simple fix to his problem.
“This happens all the time” says Bill “I call it Noodleing”.
It’s the one thing, it seems, that everyone who owns a boat has in common, whither it’s a 12 foot tinny for fishing or a yacht for ocean passage making, power or sail, doesn’t matter we all, to a greater or lesser degree,
Noodle. It may be as simple as picking up a boating mag from time to time to see what’s new. Actively walking the docks on a weekend pretending you’re getting some exercise or the full blown out with the note pad, stop and ask questions Noodler . It would seem I’m firmly in the “full blown” camp.
I’m by no means alone there. When I was doing some major reconstructive surgery to our boats cockpit surrounds and putting on a new hard dodger I did most of the work while sitting on the marina. We had come back from our first season offshore, the boat was quite new to us and I‘d noticed a little rot in the cockpit comings. Off my wife went for the day with the kids to give me some space for my “Little Project”. What started out as a little gentle prodding with a screw driver and a small chisel soon turned into a fully fledged assault with a chain saw borrowed from a friend up the road.
No matter how far I went the timber was still spongy, the rot had spread and there was no recourse but to remove it all.
My poor wife, she was accosted by two frantic boat neighbours who were sure I had gone completely mad. Her face said it all as I looked up from my task, “Don’t worry, it’ll be good as new in a month or two”, yeah right!
It took 18 months of hard work, I will never baulk at a boat builders bill again. It would have taken longer too if I hadn’t changed my work schedule. Fortunately I worked for myself. I got into the habit of going into work on the weekends and taking three days off during the week, I had no choice, the damn Noodler’s didn’t let me get any work done on the weekend. One would arrive and talk for ten minutes, leave, only to be replaced by the next one. After three weekend of little or no progress it was a given.
So where do we start? In this series we’re going to look at a number of boat systems, both power and sail and discuss the what, where, how and why as they relate to harbor, coastal and offshore use. Big ask? Maybe but each use has it’s requirements and safety plays a big role. For example I was amazed after a trip along the coast recently to be passed on our way back, must have been 15 miles offshore, by of all things a jet ski, next they’ll be asking for cat one to take them offshore!
Take for example any number of 10.5 – 12m production yachts, Dufour, Bavaria, Beneteau etc. The set up straight out the box is optimized for harbour and gulf cruising. They have their limitations, for example I wouldn’t take one to the southern ocean but we have had many do offshore passages and some have circumnavigated. The set up in sails, power generation, rig, anchor tackle, auto pilot, safety gear and electronics for that task is quite different to the base boat. The same applies for extended coastal. Outside the production box there is a great selection of locally built cruising yachts that are eminently suitable, with some tweaking, too.
Power boats are another matter. As far as planing launches go, jet ski’s aside, there are a few limitations here. Take any number of production launches from 10m up and they will cruise the coast most satisfactorily. In some cases safer than their yachting cousins. Getting past the difficult coastal passages can be a doddle at 20 knots if you pick the weather right, the whole thing is over in 7 or 8 hours.
Try taking these boats offshore though and it’s a whole different story.
Displacement Launches are another issue altogether, while many are, or can be made suitable for extended coastal work there are only a small percentage that can be made safe and seaworthy for offshore work. Part of this of course is the ability of the craft to carry enough fuel. A 10 to 12m launch simply can’t carry enough and remain seaworthy. Whereas a 15m vessel should have the carrying capacity to make the long haul. It’s an interesting calculation, not unlike a 747 doing the long haul, you have to factor in the added weight of the fuel you are carrying. In other words you have to put on extra fuel to carry the fuel, if that makes sense.
Just to give you an idea, a while back we had a Selene 53 trawler join us for a rally. At eight knots she burned about 35 litres of diesel per hour. The passage was 1100 sea miles and you would not want to arrive there running on fumes, plus if there are head winds your fuel burn will go up. With a 15% safety margin you would have to carry a minimum of 5500 litres and have shares in BP. Something like a Riviera 50 with twin engines? Anything from 10 to 12000lt.
There are some exceptions, a number of Light displacement cruising launches are starting to make their way onto the scene. Many of the so called Baby Boomers are starting to get to an age where sails are getting hard to handle and power is starting to look like a sensible option. These light displacement fuel efficient cruising power boats which are easily driven are coming online in greater numbers, one such manufacturer is Circa Marine in New Zealand who are producing the well known Dashew range of Offshore FPB cruisers. The goal is to produce a fast, safe passage maker; under power with an acceptable fuel burn, some offer as little as one litre per sea mile.
Whatever your passion for cruising is, we hope to answer some of the common questions we get asked. If you have a specific question you feel others could also benefit from us answering, submit it to us for consideration.
Contact John Martin at email@example.com
by John Martin, Island Cruising Association