don’t rely on electronics

Next to the catamaran vs. monohull discussion, the debate about old school navigation skills vs. electronic chart plotters and digital weather prediction gadgets is probably next in line.

Here’s the debate.

One group (include me in this group) argues that you need to learn and know how to navigate your boat without any electronic instruments. You need to know how to use a sextant and have a rather good knowledge of weather systems including cloud formations and other interesting (potentially life-saving) stuff.

The other group argues that anyone with an iPad and a proper electronic chart plotter can set sail and offer a supporting argument that by having 2 of each gadgets on board and plenty of batteries or charging possibilities provides enough redundancy.

I think the latter group couldn’t be more wrong. Let me clarify that point, couldn’t be more wrong when you go bluewater, ocean crossing sailing. For your weekend and coastal sailing no knowledge of celestial navigation and full reliance on software weather updates “should be fine”

However, if you go long term blue water sailing my view is you better know what you are doing and are able to read and interpret paper charts, fix your position with a sextant, calculate speed without your onboard instruments.

Why? Because I think a lot of gadget supporters (don’t get me wrong I am a huge gadget fan) forget one major issue you can have with those gadget and the information on them: Operating System Failure.

True, most gadgets are pretty sturdy, you can waterproof them and might manage to have plenty of battery power on board. I won’t mention a lighting strike here which normally puts all your gadgets to sleep but operating system failure is something millions of Garmin users are experiencing around the world as I type this.

Garmin servers apparently have been hacked or subjected to ransomware. Either way, millions of users have not been able to update or synchronise their devices. This mostly affects users of Garmin wearables but Garmin also provides marine charts, electronic chart plotters and even aviation software.

Now, imagine PredictWind (weather routing and navigation software) or Navionics are one day exposed to a software malfunction? You can have as many redundant systems as you want it just won’t help you if you need to update your GRIB or chart plotter files in the middle of the ocean when you get this message

In Garmin’s case this has been going on for 5 days. Apparently individual systems are coming back online but the point I am trying to make is that you should not lose sight of the shore without knowing your basic navigation and have an idea of weather patterns etc.

Love to hear your view 😉👍🙏

sailing innovation anyone?

It’s about time I wrote about sailing again. There is too much going on in our world that could drive the best of us into depression. So back to the good stuff.

SAILING!

One tiny, wincy, incy bit I am missing in sailing is innovation. What I mean is that other than some different sail and hull materials not much has happened in sailing or boatbuilding over the last 20 years really. Yes, some foilers, a bit of carbon here and there but in principal …nope.

Well some. Here we go.

Electric engines
When Elon Musk came up with his Tesla Roadster the first thing that came to my mind was: hang on, this would be ideal for a sailing boat. I am talking about the electric engine. It has only taken 12 years (2008 was the year the electric roadster was introduced) to put some (working) electric engines into boats. Why?

I totally get it that people initially get a bit scared when they think of the water/electricity combination. However, an electric engine will even operate underwater if properly insulated. Not to mention the low weight, advantages of maintenance, ease of operation, longevity, power ratio and above all no fossil fuel. It can be charged via solar cells or, what some people do, via generator as a back up (which obviously still uses diesel). But that’s more relevant for long-distance and blue water cruising.

For any weekend sailing boat (which is about 85% of the global market) an electric engine charged via shore power and topped up via solar will do just fine. This is a long topic so I’ll write more about electric engines in a separate blog post but this is one development that falls under the category innovation. By the way, there is still not one sailing boat builder out there that offers an electric engine as an option!

Couple of links for you with regards to electric engines:

Oceanvolt: a Finnish electric boat motor manufacturer
Torqueedo: electric outboards
Belmarine: electric inboard motors
Electric Marine: e-motor boats

Winches
The flipper folding winch handle is a masterpiece of engineering. I have had the pleasure of using one these on a recent sailing trip and once we found our boat I will buy these for all winches.

These winch handles stay in the winch at all times and fold to the approximate dimension of a winches diameter – solving two problems at once. First of all, you can easily wrap a jib sheet around the winch without having to remove the handle first, and secondly, you greatly reduce injury from falls or sudden shifts that result in a handle to the rib cage. More importantly in a racing environment, you save heaps of time for not looking for the winch handle and sticking it into the winch.

On top of that, you can fold the whole winch handle flat which gives you greater leverage when trimming the sails.

Clutches and jammers
Spinlock’s XTX is a new rope clutch that uses pressure from a fibre sleeve to hold the rope, which is much less abrasive and reduces the damage to lines drastically when compared to metal or ceramic clutch cams. More pressure means more friction and the XTX actually grips better the higher the load.

The sleeve also distributes the load across a longer section of rope to reduce wear.

All clutch adjustment is handled with one pull toggle and a button, located at the back of the jammer. When the button is down, the rope will move freely in one direction, but lock if the direction changes. Pulling the toggle slightly allows for short, controlled bursts of rope to be released. The clutch is easy to maintain without removing it from the deck. Taking off the rear cover allows the whole braid mechanism to be removed in one piece. You can then inspect it, clean it and make sure everything is in order before re-assembling. The whole process takes less than 30 seconds.

Antifouling
Well, let’s agree any antifouling paint isn’t the most environmentally friendly paint you can put on a boat. Most antifouling bottom paints contain cupreous oxide which is a neurotoxin. It constantly leaches into the water around your boat, creating a plume. … Other neurotoxins used in the past have been banned worldwide because of their destructive effects on marine life. So not too good at all. On top of that, depending on where you keep your boat you’ll have to renew the paint once a year. Which in turn means hauling your boat ($) and the whole process of reapplication ($$$).

Rik Breur is the inventor of Micanti Antifoul film. The film has millions of tiny fibres or hairs on the foil and are resilient and vibrate constantly by the water movement. This combination of prickliness and swaying of the fibres makes the surface unattractive for organisms to settle. The nylon fibres are similar to the spiky hairs that organisms have to combat fouling. With Micanti Antifouling, it is possible to prevent all sorts of macro-growth (think of mussels, barnacles, algae) from settling. Apparently it lasts up to 10 (!!!) years and is 100% environmentally friendly. It doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients. the film is a nylon fibre, polyester film and two-component water-based adhesive.

Some user feedback (sold under finsulate brand which is the same)

As always would love to hear your views 🙂

wilfried erdmann

In 1987 I met Wilfried Erdmann. I was 15 at that time and he had come to my hometown to give a talk about his 1984 to 85 non-stop, solo circumnavigation from west to east with the prevailing winds with his boat Kathena Nui in 271 days. I don’t really remember why I went to this event I only remember that I went there by myself.

Winfried Erdmann is the first German sailor who sailed across the world alone. Because of the size of his boat, nobody in Germany believed him first. Erdmann was able to give proof of the visited ports of call, though.

Later he would go on to spend his honeymoon with his wife Astrid on a 1011-day long journey (69 to 72), which eventually became his second circumnavigation. Having sold Kathena, his first boat, they traveled with his second boat Kathena 2. From 1976 to 1979 another journey to the South Pacific with his wife and his 3-year-old son Kym. 1984 to 1985 the solo circumnavigation he presented in his talk and in 1989 he did two Atlantic crossings with winners of a contest of German magazine Stern.

In 2000 to 2001 another non-stop, solo circumnavigation from east to west (contrary to the prevailing winds) with Kathena Nui in 343 days. He was the fifth sailor worldwide doing such a journey.

Needless to say he is quite a hero in the sailing world and I have felt inspired by him and his journeys. Partly because of the event in my youth did I start sailing. Being the youngest at the event he asked me to come to join him on the stage. He asked me if I liked sailing and I said, sure but had never been on a real sailing boat.

Following that another sailor in the audience spoke up and offered to take me and a friend on his boat in the Med for a trip. A few months later I joined Willy (who had offered the trip) on his boat and we sailed the Med. Coincidentally we he had his boat in Alicante the exact same place where Wilfried Erdmann had started his first circumnavigation! Another coincidence I only found out today is that I share the birthday month with him. On the 15th of April Wilfried Erdmann turned 80. Happy Birthday – you are an inspiration!

Wilfried Erdmann books (in German)

Wilfried Erdmann Website (German)

back to finding a boat

It is about time to re-focus mind and soul and continue our search for our future home. Being confined to our land based place combined with plenty of time (ok, the kids have been given their Minecraft 60min) at hand I continue my search of the “perfect” vessel for a long term trip, if not circumnavigation.

Apart from being a very helful writiing and research excerise it is much more fun doing this than talking Covid.

I have a sailed a few boats but most of the sailing boats I am going to describe here have either been recommended to me or have a reputation for Bluewater sailing by there very nature – build for bluewater sailing.

Let’s get started with bluewater sailing and what it actually means.

Bluewater sailing is a type of ocean cruising: it refers to long term open sea cruising, for example, passages (ocean crossings). Bluewater sailing implies a lack of support and requires a certain amount of self-sufficiency since you’re away from land for long periods of time. An example is crossing the Atlantic. Bluewater in general means, you can only see blue water wherever you look. No land in sight. Not that is matters but I read somewhere that the difference between offshore and bluewater sailing lies in the fact that you can go offshore for 10-15 km (that’s when you lose sight of land based on the earth curvature) and if you return home at that point you have been offshore sailing, if you keep going you are to different shores you are bluewater sailing. It doesn’t really matter but I thought I’ll entertain you a bit.

So obviously the above needs a capable seaworthy bluewater sailing boat to deal with everything the oceans can and will throw at you.

There are two types of sailing boats (well three if you count trimarans) that work for bluewater sailing. Catamarans, or cats, and monohulls. Catamarans are part of the multihull group like trimarans so in the end we are down to two categories of boats – multihulls and monohulls. I am not going to bore you to death why we won’t be using a catamaran. I don’t like them, but they can be capable bluewater boats. Check Sailing Zatara and La Vagabonde crews they love their cats and there are plenty of blogs that explain the difference between a cat and a monohull. You will see that most times cats score higher on the “livability scale” because given the same length they have mich more space, little to no heel, fast and more. Still, I don’t like them. The landbased equivalent ould be a caravan or a heavy motor home. It’s just not me. Check out the O’Kelly’s video about Cats vs. Monohulls it is very entertaining.

Back to bluewater sailing boats. Bluewater boats are generally stronger, more stable, and the majority has centre cockpits (although that’s not a requirement but I prefer them). The main difference is usually the build quality and hull thickness or composition.

Another difference between a blue water and inland sailboat is the production method, hull type and shape, material, and general safety and quality of the boat. The most important aspect of ocean sailing really is a strong hull and strong rigging. Most production boats are made of thin layers of GFK are pretty light and flimsy. Don’t get me wrong people have been crossing oceans in nutshells from 10ft onwards – check out this article and The Sailing Frenchman’s Video channel (26ft boat)

So to close this blog entry I leave you with a list of requirements for our boat and will introduce our shortlist of boats that fit most of our requirements in the next blog post.

Our requirements:

  • Most likely used ($$)
  • Length minimum 45 ft to maximum 60ft
  • Displacement of 15 to 25 tons
  • Centre cockpit or safe aft cockpit
  • Hull – aluminium or GFK composite
  • Maybe centreboard keel
  • 6 or 8 berths (3 double cabins – 2 identical port / starboard)
  • min 2 heads
  • diesel capacity 1000l
  • water capacity 1000l
  • sloop rig
  • in-mast furling mainsail or lazy jacks
  • electric winches main
  • forestay, staysail, main
  • genset
  • watermaker
  • solar

Let me know in the comments what your think. I currently have 6 boats on my shortlist and will introduce them to you over the next few weeks.

tobi & mobi dee – the book

For the last two years I have been working on my next book. It looks like it will be ready to be published in April or May this year.

Sign up for my newsletter if you like to receive a notification once the book is about to be published.

Tobi & Mobi Dee – The Secret of the Arctic Ice – is a story about a young sailor Tobi and his best – whale – friend Mobi Dee. The two were born at the same time and have been traveling the Seven Seas ever since. While Tobi lives on his sailing boat SV Rainbowchaser, Mobi Dee swims along during their adventures.

Through a magic event in his childhood Tobi speaks “whalish” and is able to communicate with his best friend.

In this book Tobi and Mobi Dee get a request for help from their friend Franz, a one-tonne walrus, who lives in the Arctic Circle. Franz is worried about the amount of Ice that keeps on disappearing around his family home.

This is not just a story about two friends and their adventures but aims to educate young readers as they follow the story. Kids will learn about sailing, wind, weather and ocean related terms and are immersed in a story that uncovers climate change related issues and solutions.

The book is the result of bedtime stories I told my own kids that were deliberately spiked with some real life sailing and climate knowledge.

the big sail

Got up this morning at 3:45am. Shower and kiss the family (boys asleep – love you boys). Fastest Uber drive to Syndey domestic terminal 2. No traffic at 4:30am 👍

Was a bit anxious about my life vest which was in the check-in luggage. It has a CO2 cartridge and is considered as “dangerous goods” under aviation laws.

I had two options. Not to tell them and hope for the best or tell them and then go through all the nonsense procedures (call manager, get dangerous goods slip and so on)

Keep in mind these CO2 cartridges are the exact same cartridges all planes carry under the seats in the onboard life vests.

What can I say I am not good at lying so when lovely “Jenny” asked me “do you have any of these dangerous goods in your luggage (pointing at the poster) I gave in. Only 35min later I was able to go to the gate. First Jenny had trouble finding the right phone number, then I had to unpack the vest, show them, pack again, another call, manager arrives…anyway I spare you the rest. I made it. Next time I won’t say a word. Promise.

After touching down at Melbourne Avalon the airport presents itself with what must be the worlds smallest luggage claim. Very sweet.

Continued on the Skybus (24$ one way) to Melbourne CBD. Turns out the bloody bus takes longer from the airport to city center than the whole flight from Sydney to Melbourne 😳 Note to self. Fly to Tullamarine next time.

Arrived at Skipper’s house met everyone and then dropped off all our luggage at the boat. Fixed a few things and in general prepped the boat for our big sail to Sydney.

Evening passed quickly and we had an early night.

the big trip

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.

On Monday I’ll be flying to Melbourne and then sail from the Port of Melbourne back to Sydney.

Continue reading “the big trip”

endless happiness if you win the rat race

Illustrator Steve Cutts sets his animation, “Happiness,” in a teeming urban environment, with hundreds of near identical cartoon rats standing in for human drudges in an unfulfilling, and not unfamiliar race.

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sv rehua- the “dos angelos” cruising family

After a sailing holiday in 2013 Audrie and Seathan decided that quitting the rat race and going full time sailing with their kids made perfect sense. They have been sailing ever since.

The "SV Rehua" crew has been cruising since
2019

Wow, number 3! If you have been following my blog you know that I have started a series of short profiles about some of the most interesting and inspiring cruising families. People I have come across via social media or in person.

If you are not a follower of my blog, but reading this and think it sounds quite interesting…well, now is a good time to subscribe

SV Rehua is the third family that was so kind to answer my questions and provide some background information on their sailing life. You can find a full list of families and reasons why I am doing this here. Check last week’s post about “Sailing Alma” here and my first post in this series about the “Feel the Breeze” family here

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sv rainbow chaser

As you know we are currently searching for the right boat for us. Our favourite is a Beneteau 57. As with all bigger purchases in life this is about compromising and considering all sorts of options such as affordability, space, seaworthiness and so on.

Continue reading “sv rainbow chaser”

vlogs – individuals sailing the world

I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude – Henry David Thoreau

I just put together a collection of sailing-related vloggers and split these into 3 posts – families, couples and individuals. You can find the other vlog posts here.

Continue reading “vlogs – individuals sailing the world”

vlogs – couples sailing the world

Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand. – Emily Kimbrough

I just put together a collection of sailing-related vloggers and split these into 3 posts – families, couples and individuals. You can find the other vlog posts here.

Continue reading “vlogs – couples sailing the world”

sailing alma – the “challengers” cruising family

In 2015, Angela and Yulian followed their dream to become full-time cruisers and sail the world.

The "Sailing Alma" crew has been cruising since
2000

If you have been following my blog you know that I have started a series of short profiles about some of the most interesting and inspiring cruising families. People I have come across via social media or in person. 

Sailing Alma is the second family that was so kind to answer my questions and provide some background information on their sailing life. You can find a full list of families and reasons why I am doing this here. Check last week’s post about the “Feel the Breeze” family here.

Continue reading

vlogs – families sailing the world

The memories we make with our family is everything.” Candace Cameron Bure

I put together a collection of sailing-related vloggers and split these into 3 posts – families, couples and individuals.

You can find the other vlog posts here.

Continue reading “vlogs – families sailing the world”

sailing knowledge vlogs

“Learn as though you would never be able to master it; hold it as though you would be in fear of losing it.” – Confucius

As part of my blue ocean family cruising research, I come across some valuable resources in the form of YouTube vlogs.

Continue reading “sailing knowledge vlogs”

coconut bikini – the book

About 9 months ago I decided to write a book. Given that I will soon turn 50 that might very well be a “midlife crisis idea” except,  I actually started writing many many years ago. Some of the stuff I have written will make its way into the book.

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feel the breeze – the “young baby” cruising family

Rianne, Gerben and Jr. Captain Benjamin set sail to explore the world and feel the breeze on their Beneteau 57 “Perfect Sense”

The "Feel the Breeze" crew has been cruising since
2000

Over the next few weeks I will be posting a series of short profiles about some of the most interesting and inspiring cruising families. You can find the full list of families here and if you feel I missed someone, please shout. 

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families sailing around the world

Sailing around the world as a family might sound crazy but I am glad to let you know there are plenty of families doing exactly this. We have been following these families on social media and are in contact with some of them.

Continue reading “families sailing around the world”