My Disclosure: Edi and I plan to sail off over the horizon in mid-August. This will be the culmination of an idea that first entered my mind in the mid 60s while messing about in my first sailboat. I was in the Royal Canadian Air Force then, serving with Search and Rescue in Comox, on Vancouver Island. But the spectacular mountains on both sides of the Strait of Georgia soon distracted me from sailing, and my spirit of adventure was instead quenched by exploratory and expeditionary mountaineering. Over the next twenty years my hunger for adventure took me to hundreds of summits, including over six dozen first-ascents on four continents.
But my thoughts of sailing around the world never left. I transferred to the Navy in 1969, where I was eventually granted my Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate and was later granted a Certificate of Service as Master, Foreign-Going. During my many voyages, I crossed the Pacific and the equator six times each. My last few years in the Navy were spent in the training system, including designing and implementing leadership programs for junior officers using mountaineering and ocean canoeing as vehicles.
But my thoughts of sailing around the world would not be stilled. In 1981, at the age of 36, I resigned my naval officer's commission, bought a boat, moved aboard and began making plans to sail off. However, during my fit-out, I met a woman...
Fast-forward through a number of boats to the spring of 2006, that woman and I were still together, a quarter century had passed since I had retired and I had not yet sailed off. I told my wife I wanted to sell the canal boat in France, buy another sailboat, fit it out and sail off before I was too old to do it. She had never been comfortable with the idea of sailing too far away from land, and she still didn't want to go. We talked seriously, then we searched for a house for her to buy and I ordered a new boat.
So, the following are my thoughts on selecting and preparing a sailboat for open-ended voyaging. While I fully support the idea to "go early and forget about all the frills", my life charged right on past that timing, so I am left with going while I am still able. Fortunately, I have the means to make that going much more easy and comfortable, so be forewarned that the following thoughts are not without the frills.
Crew: Without doubt, the most important criterion in offshore voyaging is a competent, cooperative and compatible crew. Without this, the best equipped and most seaworthy vessel is likely to have difficulty as conditions change, and one of the constants of life at sea is change. Competent crew can take a minimally equipped and barely capable vessel to the ends of the earth.
A year-and-a-half after my ex and I had decided to separate, I began seriously searching for a companion who shared my dream of sailing off. I posted on a couple of internet sites that focus on crew looking for boats / boats looking for crew. After six months of communicating with the many respondents and flying, driving and sailing to meet over a dozen of them, I finally met Edi. We've been together now for just short of a year, and we have yet to have had a disagreement, let alone a spat.
Boat Selection: When I first started researching the purchase of another sailboat, I was following the traditional mindset of buying and refitting a used boat that was on the traditionalists' list of "suitable offshore boats". The more I looked, the more I realized the folly of accepting decades-old concepts of what worked and of resigning myself to cramped quarters and poor sailing performance. I had also grown tired of replacing or rebuilding someone else's collection of jury-rigged simulations of their ideas of appropriate. The idea of buying a new boat began to take shape.
Hull: After months of analysis, I finally settled on a boat with a hollow-cheeked, rather plumb bow, a broad, squat stern, a fin keel and a detached spade rudder. This new boat with its combination of fine entry and very long relative waterline length seems to be the antithesis of the old idea of an offshore boat with its long overhangs, weak stern, short relative waterline length and a full keel with an attached rudder. But to my thinking, this new design made much more sense than did the "old shoe" concept.
The new boat has broad, deep bilges with ample room to keep the machinery, the tanks and the batteries below waterline, while still providing a few cubic metres of stowage space for such heavy items as tools and spares beneath the cabin soles. With a 1225 Ah house bank, 840 litres of fuel and 486 litres of water, this low weight contributes significantly to the stability provided by the 5,087 kilogram external lead keel and the 2.13 metre draft.
Construction is solid fibreglass below the waterline, with balsa cored topsides and a cored deck. From the keel root forward, there are layers of Kevlar in the lay-up to add to the hull's strength. An interior fibreglass grid bonded to the hull provides further strength.
Deck: The twin anchor rollers and twin chain lockers make it easy to stow and set a choice of anchors. The windlass is controlled both at the bow and in the cockpit and it can also be operated manually. Aft of the chain locker is a large sail locker, with ample room for the spinnaker, spare anchors, a sea anchor and a drogue, plus a large assortment of reels of spare line. Aft of the sail locker is a watertight collision bulkhead.
Our primary anchor is a 40 kilogram Rocna on 100 metres of 9.5mm hi-test chain. The secondary is a 20 kilogram Delta with 15 metres of 9.5mm hi-test chain and 80 metres of 19mm nylon. In reserve, we have two Fortress anchors, an FX-55 and an FX-37 and two 150-metre reels of 19mm laid nylon. On the stern rail I have mounted an Ankarolina reel with 70 metres of 3000 kilogram nylon flat rope.
I have mounted a six-man offshore liferaft aft of the mast and have installed a set of Ocean Marine davits to hang our Walker Bay FTD 310 rigid inflatable dinghy off the stern. I installed jacklines on top of each side the coach roof from the cockpit to alongside the mast and a single centreline one from the mast to the bow.
Cockpit: This has a large T-shaped layout with twin wheels, a walk-through transom and dedicated tether points. There are six locking cockpit lockers, two locking transom lockers and comfortable cushioned seating for up to twelve. The seats are long enough to lay down on and the drop-leaf Corian table can easily dine six. For protection from the elements, I have installed a dodger and a bimini with roll-up or removable side curtains.
Rig: I like the stability and the solidity of the Selden B&R rig. Granted, I cannot play with mast bend, and if I don't have the spinnaker up, I may lose half-a-knot dead down wind because of the swept-back spreaders, but I don't intend racing. I chose the tall rig option with a 21 meter mast height, a self-tacking 21 square metre furling staysail, a 110% furling jib of 48.5 square metres, an in-mast furling main of 62 square metres and a 150 square metre asymmetrical spinnaker. With everything led aft, normally the only need to go to the foredeck while sailing will be to launch and recover the spinnaker or to set the whisker pole on the jib.
Steering Arrangements: The twin wheels are connected to the rudder post through a Lewmar Mamba direct drive, and the Raymarine 7002 autopilot, mounted in the transom locker connects to a lever on the rudder post. There is an easily mounted emergency tiller, and I also have an emergency rudder assembly, which mounts to three eyes on the transom. This is stowed in the transom locker.
To reduce power consumption, I have installed a Hydrovane wind steering unit. Among my reasons for choosing this make are its reputation for robustness, its tolerance for off-centre mounting and the fact that it can serve as an additional emergency rudder if needed.
Energy: To run the onboard systems, I have a 1225 Ah house bank of flooded golf cart batteries fitted with Water Miser caps. Replenishment comes from the 120 Amp Balmar alternator on the main engine, from the 4 kW Fischer-Panda DC diesel generator, from the 510 W Kyocera solar array above the bimini, from the DuoGen D400 wind generator or if alongside, from the 50 Amp 240 volt, the 50 Amp 120 volt or the 30 Amp 120 volt shore power connection. Similarly, both the generator and main engine batteries can be recharged using any of these.
Machinery: I upgraded to the main engine to a Yanmar 4JH4 HTE with 81 kW at 3200 rpm, and changed the propeller to a four-bladed VariProp, relegating the fixed three-blade to the spares locker. To the existing Racor primary fuel filter, I added a pair of Racor filters with isolation switching, so that I can change filters with the engine running. The standard equipment X-Change-R Oil Change System makes routine oil changes a breeze.
The 840 litres of fuel is carried in two separate tanks, each with its own fill, and there is an electric transfer pump between tanks if needed.
The bilge is fitted with a 5,700 LPH automatic pump and a 15,000 LPH high-water pump with an alarm. All of the thru-hulls are easily accessed through two hatches in the cabin sole.
Electronics: I installed a Raymarine E-Series chart plotter with a 120 in the cockpit and an 80 in the nav station. Among the Raymarine inputs feeding these are a 1 kW digital depth sounder, a 7002 autopilot with an additional wireless control head, and a 2kW radar in a Waltz swivel mount 10 metres up the mast. I also have an EchoPilot Platinum forward-looking sonar and a SeaCas AIS receiver feeding data to the chart plotter, and I am waiting for the arrival of a new Raymarine AIS class B transceiver.
Communications: I upgraded the boats Icom 422 VHF to an Icom 604 class D unit and put a remote access mike in the cockpit. I have kept the 422 as a spare, and have two Icom portable VHFs as back-ups. For long-range communications I installed an Icom 802 SSB with an AT400 tuning the dummy backstay antenna and for email a Pactor II/III usb.
Workshop: To save the usual marring and soiling of the galley counter or the dining table, I opted for the workshop/office layout for the starboard aft cabin. It has a 5cm thick slab workbench, which nicely takes my shop vise and the swivel seat certainly makes work more comfortable. The workshop has lots of drawers and cupboards, and there is over a cubic metre of available storage beneath the cabin sole for heavier items. We have removed the mattress from the double berth in the cabin, and we still need to organize how to best utilize all of the storage space there. Being adjacent to the galley, some of it will surely become an extension to our pantry and wine cellar.
Galley: I pride myself as a gourmet cook. Among my many lives, I was a wine and food writer and did some instructing in a culinary school, so the galley is very important to me. Sequitur's galley is a joy to work in with its large L-shaped layout and an island across from the stove, providing ample work space and excellent bracing while underway. The strong fiddles around the Corian countertops not only keep things in place, but also provide excellent handholds. There is a deep, double sink, two fridges and two top-loading freezers. The extractor hood, the small hatch and the two opening ports above the stove provide excellent ventilation when the adjacent companionway hatch is closed. The four cupboards, the seven drawers and the full length eye-level shelf provide more storage than we can currently find use for.
Creature Comforts: I installed an Espar hydronic diesel furnace, which provides heat and hot water, or in warm weather, hot water only. The hot water tank can also be heated by the main engine, by the generator or by shore power, and it acts as the extra power dump for the wind generator. To replenish the water I have installed a Spectra Newport II watermaker, which can be led to each of the two 243 litre water tanks separately, and the tanks can be isolated or interlinked. The separate shower stall, across the master cabin from the head does wonders to keep the toilet paper dry. The ensuite head with its separate shower stall in the starboard aft cabin will ensure the comfort of our occasional guests, and it provides a quick access for use as a sea head. To add to our comfort, I have installed a Splendide washer/dryer, and have set it up so it can also run off the inverter.
The interior is very spacious, but throughout there is nowhere without a choice of handholds to make safe movement through the boat safe and easy, even in heavy weather. With all of the machinery, tankage, battery banks, tools and spares located beneath the cabin soles, all of the above-sole spaces, including the drawers and cabinets in the salon, the spaces beneath the settees and the berths, are available for easily organized, quick access storage.
Back Home: There will always be ties to home and to family, and there will be a desire to occasionally return. Also, at some point, we will all become incapable of safely cruising, so particularly at our age we should have an exit plan. We have easy access to flights with my nearly one million Air Canada points and with Edi's staff pass from her days with the airlines, so family and home visits will be easy.
We both now have our houses on the market and we have bought a loft in an historic building in Vancouver within a short walk of everything we need, including moorage in False Creek and the new rapid transit line to the airport. The loft is great holding property and will be a wonderful home when we eventually decide to slow down.
I've probably missed a few things, but I must get back to getting Sequitur ready.