Skipper’s Tips #9 – Passage Making

Plotter picture

As you might imagine, I have made a few passages in my time on the water and in some ways I’m ashamed to say that I put an increasing reliance on electronic navigation.  Conventional wisdom has always been to use tried and trusted, traditional methods of navigation, i.e. paper charts but things are changing. Over the last decade advances in technology have made navigating so much easier and after years of implementation and usage in all sorts of maritime arenas, we can be reasonably confident in the accuracy and reliability of these electronic navigational aids.  In fact, we should learn to embrace change, especially when it adds to our personal safety and well being. That said, if we are to get the best from our equipment, we must still be able to navigate ‘longhand’.  Planning your route on paper charts, showing the whole crew where we are going and keeping your position marked on the chart as the journey progresses, is still the safest approach.

Personally, I like to plan my passages one or two days before I set off.  This has two distinct advantages.  Firstly, of course, you will have the most up-to-date and accurate weather information.  Secondly, by planning your journey at home, in the comfort of your living room, you will be more relaxed and less likely to make silly errors. 

  • Plan your routes on paper charts before putting the waypoints into your electronic plotter
  • Check arrival time constraints and work backwards to establish departure time
  • Weather forecasts are most accurate within 24 hours of departure
  • You might consider the following internet sites, Windguru and National Data Buoy Center as possible sources of weather and wave height information
  • Allow for the fact that weather constraints may affect your speed and therefore your arrival time.
  • Make sure you have planned ‘bolt holes’ that are protected from the weather
  • Check your boat is fully operational and capable of making the journey
  • Think about your crew; your decision to ‘go for it’ should be based on whether the weakest member of your crew will cope with the journey
  • Check that, if possible, you run with wind and tide going the same way – remember that old adage, ‘Wind over Tide equals Lunch over the side!’
  • Use the tidal ‘chartlets’ in your Almanac to help with time, distance and tide direction planning

When planning a long distance cruise, you will get a better overall picture of your route by planning the passage on a paper chart; there is less likelihood that you will miss something this way.  Once you have your route planned you can transfer the waypoints to your chart plotter and check the resulting route once again for errors.  This system of double-checking will help prevent mishaps and silly errors. I know a few skippers who do the planning together with their partners – planning the route independently and then comparing notes is surely one of the best ways to find out if you’ve made an error.

If you don’t consider your crew and the prevailing weather, you could end up short-handed, slowing down because of worsening weather, with the prospect of arriving in the dark.  There is no good reason to set off into bad weather and put people’s lives at risk.  If you are nearing the end of your journey and you simply have to get home because you have a meeting to get to or it’s someone’s birthday or whatever, then it would be better to leave the boat in the marina and find a commercial means of transport to get you back – you can always complete your trip at a later stage when the weather has improved.

Some other things to consider before setting off on a voyage might be;

  • Is your boat fit to make the journey?
  • Have you checked all your safety equipment?
  • When was your life-raft last serviced?
  • Have you filled the boat with fuel and water?
  • Do you have enough food on board for at least two extra days?
  • Have you considered letting the Coastguard know of your intended departure and arrival times?

In the SOLAS (Safety of Lives at Sea) regulations, Regulation 34 states that it is mandatory for all ships to create a plan before going to see.  This is not something you can ignore.  How detailed your plan is, is up to you as the skipper and is often determined by the size of vessel, the number of passengers and the length of the intended trip.

I strongly advise that you read and inwardly digest this information (click on the link below) and also have a look at the accompanying links, so that you are fully conversant with your obligations as a skipper.

SOLAS Regulation 34

P.S. Your Almanac has a section devoted to safety and things like the Distress Signals are listed there…

 

Sheiken, not stirred…

© Richard Corbett 2014

 El Gouna

As we stepped off the plane at Hurghada airport in Egypt, a hot wind hit us full in the face.  Imagine the heat that comes from beneath your car when you step out of it on a boiling hot day and you will have some idea of what I’m talking about.  El Gouna, which is where the Predator 53 called Skyfall lived, was only a half hour drive away and it wasn’t long before we were ensconced in our rooms.

I had it in my mind that we would leave the next morning for Suez, make our way up the Canal the following day and whiz across to Limassol the day after; how wrong can a man be?  In Egypt, there is a very particular way of doing things and this mostly revolves around paperwork but also involves helping some of the aforementioned countrymen who seem to have very dry palms, which need constant lubrication – I guess it’s the sun, it was awfully hot! Oh well, when in Rome…

The weather played a huge part in our quest to get this boat to Cyprus too.  Our first attempt was thwarted by some huge waves, which bore no relation to the amount of wind.  Admittedly, it was gusting over 30 knots but these waves were massive.  After 30 miles of determined but very slow progress we had to accept the fact that returning to El Gouna was our only option.  There is definitely a lesson to be learned here.  Boating is not a good way to show off how ‘manly’ you are.  If the conditions are too bad then turn the boat around and go back, this is the most intelligent thing to do.

© Richard Corbett 2014

Skyfall being refuelled

Fortunately, our second attempt proved to be more successful but not without it’s own troubles, I would add.  Again, we had massive waves, which also were far bigger than the wind would normally cause.  Nevertheless, we plodded on, falling off wave after wave even at the very conservative speed of 6 knots that we were forced to run at.  This time, however, we had smartened up and managed to find a ship to hide behind.  Once we were in his wake the journey was much easier and we were now able to make 11 knots.

The trip from El Gouna to Port Suez is 160nm.  Yep, that’s 16 hours at the speed we were travelling at!  We desperately, needed a faster ship to follow if were to avoid spending a huge chunk of our lives looking at the stern of a not very pretty ship. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief when, in the distance, we spotted a tiny speck that gradually got bigger and bigger.  This was the answer to our prayers, a large ship catching us up meant that we could ‘jump ship’ and tuck in behind a faster vessel.  I took a picture and by zooming in could see the name of this ship, ‘Atlas Leader’. Then I was able to call them up on the VHF, requesting permission to sit on their tail.

© Richard Corbett 2014

 

At this point, I would like to say a huge thank you to the Captain of Atlas Leader out of Tokyo who, bless him, even offered to slow down and come across to us.  If it wasn’t for this man’s generosity, I reckon we would still be trying to get to Port Suez behind that other vessel (OK, slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean).

Finally, at around 8pm that evening, just as it had gone dark, we made our way up the channel that leads to the Canal and into the marina in which we were to stay overnight.  A very enthusiastic man came out to us and guided us in to our berth and then proceeded to fuel us up from his boat which was berthed on the opposite pontoon.  Not your average fuel barge this one – more of a cabin cruiser with the guts taken out and a huge fuel tank inserted in their place.  It wasn’t until the following morning that I noticed the two large, grey plastic pipes poking out of the cockpit sole at a jaunty angle – enterprising lot, these Egyptians.

© Richard Corbett 2014

Skyfall in Port Suez – can you see the grey tubes poking skywards on the ‘fuel barge’ behind us?

Another day’s worth of hanging around whilst the bureaucratic wheels turned and more dry palms were lubricated was our prize for pulling in here.  But Sunday morning soon came and the first of two Suez Canal pilots appeared.  After plenty of shaking hands and exchanging big smiles we were off on the next leg of our journey.  In order to make it through the Canal in one day, we had to meet up with the second pilot at the half way point before 13:00, so we took off like a ‘Bat out of Hell’.  I thought we would only be allowed to do 10 knots but then, what do I know?  What was really worrying me now, was the fact that I had only fuelled for 90 miles at 10 knots. No matter how much I tried to impress upon the pilot and our Egyptian captain that consuming fuel at 300 litres an hour might be good fun and it definitely wasn’t likely to last the whole 90 miles, they had an agenda and that was that…

© Richard Corbett 2014

Trying to get to the midpoint before 13:00 – yikes!

As it happened, the second pilot was much more sensible and the last leg of the Canal was made at a much more sensible 10 knots. There was even time to look at the scenery and snap some shots of other Canal users too.  For those of you who have not transited the Suez Canal, it is quite a broad stretch of water, with a couple of areas that open out, around the middle section, one of which appears to be like a rather large lake.  Lots of huge freighters and tankers loiter here whilst waiting to make the next leg.  It was quite something to see all these massive ships congregating like this.

There was a very noticeable military presence along the canal and a number of areas set up with what appeared to be floating bridges ready to launch at a moments notice.  I guess this is a hugely important conduit from the Med to the Red Sea and a massive asset to the Egyptian nation, hence the fact that it is so closely guarded.  My heart went out to the poor guys standing sentry duty in little concrete huts, spaced regularly along the length of the Canal – they must have been quite miserable standing with their weapons across their chests in this most mercilessly hot environment.  With the exception of guards and a few outposts along the route, there seemed to be nothing except mile after mile of desert, stretching away from both sides of the waterway – these must be very special people to live in an environment such as this.

© Richard Corbett 2014

© Richard Corbett 2014

 Finally, we made it to Port Said just as the sun was setting.

© Richard Corbett 2014

Our berth, euphemistically called ‘The Yacht Club’ was a ghastly place, in which we bounced up and down all night.  Huge rubber bumpers all along the dock walls were clearly designed for much larger and heavier built vessels than ourselves.  The fenders I placed to protect the boat from the bumpers, were black as soot in the morning!

© Richard Corbett 2014

The fuel barge arrived just after 8pm.  As a special treat for us, they had liberally painted the hose with old diesel – lovely!  Guess what?  Yes, these guys had dry palms too!!!

The next day, we were up early and after getting permission to depart, we were on our way by about 6am.  We bimbled out of the port at 6 knots and then once clear opened her up.  200 nm lay ahead of us and we had enough fuel to do 220 nm if we took it steady.  So, I set the throttles for 170 litres per hour, which gave us an average of 20 knots and at 4pm, almost to the minute, we arrived at Limassol.

I would caution against making a trip like that with so little reserve, unless you know precisely what weather conditions you are going to get and that these conditions are perfect and also that you are completely certain that the fuel consumption and available fuel is exactly as anticipated.

We were absolutely certain of our calculations and as it was proved, we were spot on.  Nevertheless, there was a noticeable levity in the air as we tied alongside in Cyprus – relief is probably what you’d call it…

© Richard Corbett 2014

The next day was consumed with more paperwork, Greek style, and preparations for getting to the dock and getting the boat onto a ship.

© Richard Corbett 2014

© Richard Corbett 2014

Once out of the water and tied to the trailer, my work was done.  All that was left for me to do now was fly home… oh, and put some more cream on the blasted mosquito bites!

I hope you all enjoyed my latest adventure.  Keep popping in to see where I’m off to next or to catch up on the latest skipper’s tip.

Happy sailing,

Capt. Corbett

Scilly Adventure

St Mary's harbour, IOS

St Mary’s harbour, IOS

Ever since I took the brand new Sealine F46 to the Isles of Scilly for a photo-shoot, I’ve had a hankering to go back.  These beautiful islands, just off the tip of Cornwall, are about 3 hours away from Falmouth if you get a favourable sea and you’re in a boat that can happily cruise at 20 knots.  Finally, a few years now since my first visit, the opportunity arose to go again.  So it was, that we set off from Guernsey, aboard a Sealine F42, on a fresh but not too lumpy Sunday morning, to make our initial passage to Falmouth.

Isn’t it disappointing when you look at a weather forecast and it says the wind is going to be light and the sun will shine all day but it doesn’t?  Well, that’s what we got.  By the time we arrived in Falmouth the wind had really freshened, the sun had been replaced by clouds and the rain was building up to lash down the moment we stepped ashore with the mooring lines.  Even worse, the near perfect conditions for the rest of the week had now become two days worth of lightish winds and F6 to F7 thereafter.  In fairness, the rain never arrived and the sun did come back out for a while but our plans to stay a couple of days in IOS (Isles of Scilly) had to be adapted.

The view across Falmouth harbour from Mylor

The view across Falmouth harbour from Mylor

The next morning, after a superb evening spent eating fine food and quaffing even finer ales in Castaways, we were up early, fuelled up and on our way.  As we nosed out of the harbour and moved up to speed, Falmouth coastguard gave a message out on the VHF, alerting everyone to the fact that there was some unexploded ordinance in an exclusion zone, which we had to keep away from and worse still, in my opinion, a large swathe of fishing net floating around, abandoned.  What joy!  Just what you don’t want to hear when your headed away from the Cornish coast in the general direction of America.  OK, so I’m exaggerating, the IOS were in between.

An hour from the Lizard and we swept past White Rock.  Actually, I’m exaggerating again.  It was a little lumpy, with a F3 to F4 on the nose and we were actually only making about 17 knots but it was comfortable at that speed and by the time we got to White Rock lighthouse we were over half way.

White Rock lighthouse, with Land's End in the background

White Rock lighthouse, with Land’s End in the background

There are absolutely loads of little bays and beaches amongst the IOS but other than picking up a mooring buoy in St Mary’s harbour, nowhere even comes close to being in a marina.  So, if it’s protection from the elements, somewhere to plug into, running water and the ability to walk ashore you are after, forget it.  This is a real adventure, for real adventurers and real adventures, so it turns out, involve getting a rib on and off a bathing platform that is going up and down like a whores drawers, spending the night rocking and rolling on a mooring buoy and waking up the next morning feeling like you’ve gone 3 rounds with Bruno!  Do you remember the comment about weather not turning out to be what was forecast?  Well, this, it seems, is what happened for the second time to us.  We were supposed to be protected from the wind, waves and swell by the harbour wall.  We’d laughed off the cautionary note about the harbour being awful in NW winds, on the basis that the forecast had it coming from the WSW.  How were we to know it was going to move around to the North during the night?  Do you know what was even more annoying? As we set off to return to Falmouth, the wind moved back around to the South!!

Calm before the storm - looking out from the mooring we took for our night in St Mary's

Calm before the storm – looking out from the mooring we took for our night in St Mary’s

In actual fact, when we first arrived it was quite calm, as you can see from the shot of the Lifeboat above.  We couldn’t wait to get ashore and as soon as the rib was off the back of the boat we wiggled our way through the moored boats and tied up in the dinghy park.  Walking around the streets of the ‘town’ felt like going back in time.  Everything was so ‘quaint’ and even ‘naive’.  I saw a sign attached to the harbour railings and simply had to take a picture of it.  Does anyone remember going around to friends for an exciting evening spent looking at holiday slides?

Slideshow!!!

Slideshow!!!

and this was a delightful moment captured, as someone walked up and leant their bike against the shop window…

Take no notice of the notice, it's only a notice!

Take no notice of the notice, it’s only a notice!

The following day we were up early again and soon on our way.  It wasn’t all that bad really and with the wind behind us we were whizzing along on our way back to Falmouth, the previous bumpy, sleepless night fast becoming a distant memory.  It seemed like no time at all before we were ‘tip-toeing’ our way through the minefield of fishing buoys which appear to have been purposely laid on the track of any vessel navigating from the Lizard to Falmouth.  Tied alongside in Mylor once again, we broke out the umbrellas and headed ashore for some lunch.

During the remainder of the day we relaxed and faffed about, as you do when you’ve got a little time to yourselves.  After all, this was supposed to be a holiday.  As most of you will have gathered by now, I’m a bit of a one for taking pictures, so I set to recording some shots of Mylor (one of my favourite stopping off spots) and the amazing calm we were experiencing.  Worryingly, this calm suggested that we were likely to be in for something quite different the next day and this was to be the day we were heading off on our next leg to Dartmouth…

Mylor

Mylor

Mylor

Mylor

Moored boats, outside Mylor

Moored boats, outside Mylor

Yes, I’ve got a bit of a Black & White thing going on at the moment.  I think it highlights the moody weather quite nicely, don’t you?

Wednesday morning turns up and the wind came with it.  Happily, the sun put in an appearance as well and this was our chance to prove the theory that lumpy, sunny days are easier to deal with than less lumpy miserable days.  One crew member disappeared off to catch a flight and Philip and I were left in charge of getting the boat to Dartmouth.  Having refuelled the boat and having had a hearty breakfast ourselves, we nosed out of Falmouth for a second time and headed East for Dartmouth.  It appeared that the abandoned fishing net was no longer a threat and the unexploded ordinance had been exploded, so our only concern was the frisky F6.  On the basis that it was going to be from the North and therefore coming off the land, we anticipated hugging the coast and ducking into Plymouth if we felt it was too bad.  However, once we got going, the ride was quite comfy and the biggest difficulty turned out to be climbing up the back of the larger rollers. You know, it did feel better with the sun out!

Eddystone Rocks lighthouse

Eddystone Rocks lighthouse

A bit bumpy around Start Point but then Dartmouth soon came into view and what a lovely sight it was.  I do like Dartmouth: so much history and so picturesque.  This really is a wonderful place to keep a boat.

Entering the Dart

Entering the Dart

We chose to go for Dart Marina, on the basis that the wind had some North in it and this would give us a flatter night on the berth but you know the way our luck has been running?  The wind howled down the river, funnelled by the high sides to the river valley and as we approached the mooring someone turned the ‘full blast’ switch on.  Good job we had IPS that’s all I can say at this point.  Scarcely believable but true nevertheless, the moment we tied the lines to the dock the sun came out and the wind turned into a whisper.  If I hadn’t been there myself I wouldn’t have believed it.

Kingswear

Kingswear

We had a lovely fish dinner that evening, in a place right on the front called Rockfish.  Give it a try, I can recommend it.  Strolling back I was moved to take this shot of a rather calm and serene River Dart – simply beautiful.

Calm evening on the Dart

Calm evening on the Dart

The next morning we left the boat, caught the ferry across the river and made for the train station – our Scilly Adventure complete, we now have to figure out where we’re going next.  Keep checking in for Skipper’s Tips and soon I’ll be telling you what happens on the next leg of our journey.

Our ferry awaits

Our ferry awaits

Keep your eye on those dodgy weather forecasts shipmates,

Captain Corbett

 

Skipper’s Tips #8 – Documentation

Plotter picture

I can’t stress enough, the importance of carrying the correct documentation on your boat and following the correct procedures for transiting from one country to the next.  For those who spend their time mooching around local waters this is not something that is ever consider at any great length and that is probably the reason some of us have come unstuck in the past – setting off on our first adventures to foreign climes, blissfully ignorant of just how zealous certain foreign officials can be when determining ownership and VAT status of your vessel.

During my early years as Principal of Sealine Sea School, I have to admit that I fell foul of this myself.  The school boat was on a ‘Cruise in Company’ to France and the Channel Islands. They turned up in Cherbourg, on the first leg of the trip, only to be met by a ‘Penalisation’ of French customs officials. The school boat carried a complete set of documentation but photocopies not originals, as there was always the possibility they could be damaged or lost.  Normally I would have put the originals on board for cross-Channel trips but on this occasion I had forgotten to do so. The customs officials swooped on the boat, almost as though they’d been tipped off and in short order handed out a 1500 fine for not having an original registration document on the boat.

So, my tip today is:

Carry all the relevant documentation (originals), both for the boat and for yourselves

If your boat is registered on either the small ships registry or the Lloyds part one registry; you will need to display the registration number in a prominent position on your vessel.

When leaving EU waters, you are required to post page 1 of the HM Customs form (C1331) in the HM Customs post-box at your marina and on your return post page 2.

When arriving back from a non EU country you must fly your yellow ‘Q’ flag and telephone HM Customs National Yachtline when you get back into UK waters to gain clearance (0845 723 1110). You must not leave your vessel (unless it is to telephone HM Customs) or take anything off your vessel until HM Customs has cleared you to do so.

Take the time to check the local regulations for the area you intend to cruise in, as they may have additional requirements, such as requiring you to have fitted and use a holding tank for black waste.

If you are intending to make or start making regular extended passages it is worth going online and filling in a CG66, registering your vessel with the coastguard. http://www.mcga.gov.uk

The documentation and procedures for going on longer cruises, especially when travelling outside EU waters may seem tiresome and bureaucratic, but if you ensure you have the correct paperwork with you at all times and comply with HM Customs regulations then this aspect of your cruising need not be too painful.

The sort of paperwork required is documentation showing ownership, VAT status, insurance and certificates of competence: these must all be originals.

If you are intending to use inland waterways such as the French or Dutch canals, then you will need to have a CEVNI endorsement on your ICC (International Certificate of Competence).

Manhattan in Turkey

 

© Richard Corbett 2014

I arrived in KaŞ, in the Antalya region of Turkey, just as the guys were finishing the technical handover on Wild Thyme Too.  My role was to get Stewart, the new owner, signed off for an ICC and to lend a helping hand as everyone got used to using their new luxury motor yacht.

Crystal clear water, clear blue skies, not a breath of wind and a brand new Sunseeker – now that’s a combination made in heaven.

With the technical handover complete, it was now up to me to add the finishing touches to the new boat experience.  Firstly, this meant an afternoon of drawing on charts and trying to remember the rules of the road.  Poor Stewart, after all the information he’d had to absorb during the handover, I really did wonder if it was all going to be too much but we were soon through the theoretical part of the test and looking forward to our trip the following day.

At 8am the next morning we’d all gathered as arranged and set-to with preparing to go to sea. This meant covers off, engine checks, safety brief and a plan for leaving the dock.  Unfortunately, my plans for testing Stewart on his departure from the dock were interrupted by the marina staff, who insisted on taking control of the lines on departure and as I found out later, on arrival too!  It seems that you just have to get the boat close to your berth and they do the rest.

Is this the height of laziness or a service that every marina should adopt – answers on a postcard please?

© Richard Corbett 2014

Captain Ergun and his first mate Merve (his wife), who run Boat Trip Turkey, are going to help Stewart and his family to make sure their times on Wild Thyme Too are always wonderful and hassle free.  It was Ergun’s idea for us to go around to Simena & Kekova for lunch and I have to concede that as we nipped around the coast, slipped between two islands into a protected lagoon and tied up at a jetty with a delightful restaurant attached to it, I realised that Stewart has found himself a very handy man to know.

© Richard Corbett 2014

There must be literally thousands of amazing bays and inlets and restaurants and beaches and all manner of places to explore on this coastline; this lovely family are going to have many years of incredible boating on their Manhattan 55…

By the time we’d returned to the marina the practical section of the test was complete and Stewart had passed with flying colours. Everyone was feeling really comfortable with the boat; my time here was done and it was time for me to leave.  I said my goodbyes and headed off for the airport but I just couldn’t resist one more look at this boating Utopia.

© Richard Corbett 2014

 

Skipper’s Tips #7 – Chart Plotter Rules, OK?

Hello all!

Please excuse my prolonged absence, I’ve been rather preoccupied with work lately and everything else has had to take a back seat.  However, I have finally managed to find the time to sit down and post a new Skipper’s Tip.

I do hope you enjoy this tip and also that you find it informative.  If you have any questions or are at all confused by what I write, then please contact me and I will try to explain.  

This tip is all about paper charts and the tool we use to extract navigational heading information from them. Electronic chart plotters are amazing pieces of technology these days and they hardly ever go wrong.  Nevertheless, we must not forget that as good as these pieces of equipment have become, they are still no substitute for knowing how to navigate ‘manually’.  You should always plan on a paper chart and always keep a paper chart with you when you are on your passage and you should make a regular note on the paper chart of your position.

The single best tip I can give you regarding navigation, is to know exactly where you are, at all times!

The Chart Plotter

When you first see a paper chart and start looking carefully at the detail, it can be a little awe-inspiring. Imagine all the work that went into collating that information.  Especially impressive, is the fact that charts have changed very little since the world was first mapped.  I have a mental image of a couple of men in naval uniform in a small boat with a long piece of string and a heavy weight, a big pad of paper and infinite patience.  Today, we take for granted the effort that must have gone into making the world’s seas and coastlines appear in 2D, so that we can safely navigate in our boats. However, if it weren’t for the efforts of these determined explorers we wouldn’t stray very far from home would we.

To use a chart effectively you need to understand a few basic rules.

  • Always measure distances from the side of the chart nearest to where you are planning to sail
  • Look at the compass rose shown on your chart to determine what the allowance for variation must be
  • All the numbers peppered across the chart are ‘charted depths’ or ‘drying heights’ and as such make no allowance for tidal height
  • These depths or drying heights could be in feet, fathoms or metres and you need to look at the key for the chart to know what you are dealing with
  • Make sure the chart is designed to be used with GPS, if that is how you intend to navigate
  • The squiggles, lights, lines, abbreviations, etc. are all explained in the Admiralty publication ’Chart 5011’
  • The tide stream data will be referred to one specific port and will be listed as ‘true’
  • In fact, everything shown on the chart is ‘true’ not ‘magnetic’
  • Pay particular attention to the scale of the chart

In order to work out which way to point the boat or indeed, to describe a line on the chart to show where we have been, we will need to employ an accurate process.

Enter the ‘chart plotter’.

There are many incarnations of the modern chart plotter, a great improvement I have to say on the ‘parallel rules’ of the past. Essentially, the one I am going to describe using in this example looks like a very large and wide rule with, in the centre, a dial that you can swivel.

There are two key things to remember with ’chart plotters’. Firstly that whenever you place the plotter on your chart, the centre dial, which spins, must always have ’N’ (North) pointing to and aligned accurately with, true North on your chart.  The second rule is that the big arrow at one end of the plotter will always indicate the direction or heading of the bearing.

If you are trying to draw a line in an easterly direction, i.e. 090 degrees and yet the arrow on the plotter is pointing west (270 degrees), then you have it upside down…  It will be really helpful if you try to think of these numbers as directions, rather than just random numbers.  000/360 is North, 090 is East, 180 is South and 270 is West.

So, the way it works, is that you lie the plotter on the chart, parallel to a line which you want to know the bearing of, spin the dial until the ‘N’ at the top aligns with North on your chart and then read the bearing figure from the dial, which lines up with the large arrow at the end of the plotter.  This will tell you the ‘true’ bearing of that line or indeed, the bearing between two points on your chart.  The next thing you will need to do, of course, is to convert this ‘true’ bearing to a ‘magnetic’ or even ‘compass’ bearing, so that you can use it with the ship’s fixed compass to navigate your course.

If you are using the chart plotter to show your course travelled on the chart, in the way you might if you were showing your passage as part of your log, then you will need to do all this is reverse. Firstly, assuming you know the direction you have been travelling in, convert that direction from compass or magnetic back to true. Then align this number with the chart plotter dial and the large direction arrow.  Lastly, place the chart plotter on the chart, being careful not to turn the dial and align the whole plotter with true North (use the N on the dial for alignment; DON’T TURN THE DIAL, TURN THE WHOLE PLOTTER) and then draw a line down the length of the plotter to show your track.

I have to say, trying to describe this process in words is not easy.  It is much easier to actual show someone this but if you sit down with my explanation, your chart plotter and a chart you will soon get the idea I’m sure.

I think my next Skipper’s Tip had better be about True, Magnetic and Compass bearings!

Until then,

Happy Boating!

What price a life?

My most recent adventure has been a bit of a long, drawn out affair, forcibly punctuated by high winds and many hours spent looking at weather forecasts.  This time, I’m going to break from my usual method of chronicling the trip on a daily basis and instead, I’m going to consider some of the more pertinent points.

The brief was to deliver a Beneteau Swift Trawler 50 from the factory where it was constructed, on the island of Noirmoutier in the Pays de la Loire region of western France to Southampton docks, where it was to be put on a ship bound for Turkey.  A simple three day trip, with the first leg planned to take us from Noirmoutier, up the Brittany coast to Brest.  Then from Brest, around the peninsular to Jersey and finally a quick hop across the Channel to the docks at Southampton. On the face of it nothing out of the ordinary, unless you consider that the Bay of Biscay is a notoriously hazardous stretch of water during the winter months.  As it happens, we encountered a period of continuously bad weather, the like of which I have never seen before.

Incidentally, it has been suggested to me that the long line of depressions, tracking across the Atlantic one after the other and totally disrupting our plans is due to the extraordinarily prolonged and fiercely cold spell of weather that is currently affecting North America.  It seems ‘Global Warming’ manifests itself as extremes of weather rather than the new found ability for those living in Newcastle upon Tyne, to start cultivating Olives and having terracotta tiled roofs on their white painted villas.

So, to the first point of interest on our adventure.  We arrived at the Beneteau factory on Noirmoutier just as it was getting dark.  To make life just a little more interesting, the heavens decided to open at the same time and we got thoroughly soaked as we made our way to where the boat was moored.  After going through the paperwork and getting used to the layout of the boat we made our way back to the hotel.  Then, naturally, we had to find somewhere to eat.  The port of Herbaudière is on the northern tip of Noirmoutier and at this time of year seemed totally uninhabited – hardly surprising as Christmas was only a few days away.  It soon became obvious that Herbaudière was shut!  In fact, the more I think about it, we were really lucky to find a hotel. Nevertheless, the pressing problem was where, in this one horse town, were we going to find food. 

Finally, we stumbled across a bar that was open.  I’m going to do something which I don’t normally do in my Blog and that is, make a recommendation – actually, two.  The bar we walked into is called ‘Le Mistral Gagnant’. It was quite busy and full of cheery banter, right up until we appeared and then a hush fell over the place.  We’ve all had this happen at some stage I’m certain but on this occasion a feeling of ‘Deliverance’ instantly came over both Lynn (Welsh name for a chatty bloke) and myself.  However, I quickly pulled out some of my school-boy French and as soon as the glasses of red wine turned up in front of us, the conversation started to come back to life.  In a mixture of French and English we started asking the lady behind the bar if she knew of anywhere we could get something to eat and were there any taxis available.  It soon became apparent that all the taxis on the island had chosen to take the weeks running up to Christmas off and the only restaurant still open was 5km away.  Lynn is not exactly what you’d call sprightly and a 5km walk was definitely out of the question…

I would like to take my hat off to the folk in that bar.  Within 10 minutes and after many calls to taxi answerphones, we had secured a lift from the restaurant owner to his restaurant, been given many words of advice about our impending trip from the fishermen at the bar and made a whole raft of new friends, who almost understood what I was saying in my best Franglais!  

Artur soon arrived to pick us up and after working out what we wanted from his menu whilst en route, we eventually found ourselves sat in his lovely restaurant, with a nice Bordeaux open in front of us.  If you are ever in Noirmoutier, make a point of going to visit Artur at ‘Le p’tit Noirmout’.  The steak was stunning, the wine exquisite, the dessert to die for and the lift back to the hotel a massive relief.  Best of all though, the gentleman that he was, he made us some food and gave us a bottle of wine to take on our trip the following day!!

Deliverance!  How utterly wrong can one be?

The only way I can properly describe the trip we made the next day is that it was rough!  So rough, that we gave up on any thoughts of getting to Brest and ducked into Concarneau instead.  The boat was too big to go into the marina, so we ended up on a pontoon in the fishing port and there the boat stayed all through Christmas as depression after depression tracked its way across the Atlantic and lashed Western Europe with an unprecedented series of storms.  At this juncture, I would like to say a few words about the assistance we received in Concarneau.  Sadly, for one reason or another, I never got the name of the man from the port office who bent over backwards to help us but I would like to say a big thank you to him.  Without his help we would have struggled to find a berth and we would have been fretting all the time we were back on Jersey, about the state of the boat during the storms that we had over Christmas. I would also like to extend my heart-felt thanks to Guirec Soudee, who was moored on the boat a few places down from us and thankfully spoke excellent English and without whom we would have struggled to get fuel and water for the next leg of our journey.  Guirec is intending to do a solo passage on his steel-hulled yacht. he starts of by going across the Atlantic and then heads up, as far north as he can go, into the regions where ice is a normal occurrence – brave man.  Apparently, you will be able to follow his exploits by searching on the internet for ‘Voyage d’Yvinec’.

Finally, a big enough gap in the weather appeared and we rushed back to Concarneau. Having brought the boat back to life, we set off for Jersey at 08:30 on the Wednesday morning. We had a bumpy ride going around the Brest peninsular and 100 nm later moored up in St. Helier harbour at around 20:30.  After a comfy night’s sleep in a real bed, we set off again the next afternoon at 15:00, getting into Southampton at 23:00 on Thursday night.  Then a short ride from Ocean Village marina to the docks the following morning meant that it wasn’t long before we walked away from the boat as it sat in its cradle waiting to be taken onto the ship for Turkey – three long, rough days at sea made this particular trip more of a trial than an adventure but we’d done it.

This brings me to the second point I’d like to consider.  What price a life?  We studied the weather long and hard before putting out to sea and we considered the risks to be acceptable.  Despite the fact that we were under some pressure to get the boat to the docks for a specific date, we had made the decision to leave the boat tied up over the Christmas period when the storms were at their worst.  Commercially, this was a hard decision to accept.  Booking a place on a ship and getting a boat to its destination on time are obviously important to shipping companies and their clients but there comes a point when you have to stand back and look at the bigger picture.  Losing the boat, not to mention possibly our lives, by putting out to sea in ‘stupid’ weather would not have been a sensible move.  If the boat had ended up arriving late, which incidentally now it won’t, it would still have been a far better result than the alternative.   During my time as Principal of Sealine Sea School, I told students time and time again, that this is a leisure pursuit and there is never a time when you can justify going out in rough conditions; if nothing else, it’s simply not much fun.  Now that I am working as a freelance skipper, I have to balance the risk of not putting out to sea because it’s a bit lumpy, against the need to get the boat somewhere at a specific time.  These days, the pressure of meeting a schedule means that I am more likely to go than not but nevertheless, there are times when just slowing down and taking twice as many hours to complete the journey isn’t going to prevent a catastrophe.

My advice to you, as a leisure boater, is still going to be: This is supposed to be fun, if it is forecast to be F4 or more and the wave heights are going to be more than a metre and building, go to the pub instead.  There is no room for machismo in boating – always think of the weakest member of your crew and base your decision to go on that person and not yourself.

The other thing worth remembering is, it is always going to be worse at sea than it is on your mooring.

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The weather was so bad and the sea so rough that I didn’t bother trying to take pictures this time.  I did snap a couple of shots of a pod of Dolphins that raced up to the boat at one point but they came out blurred so I deleted them.  I do have a couple of pictures I took as we motored round to the docks on the last morning of our trip, so I’ve posted them here.

10 01 14_0024 low res

10 01 14_0025 low res

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Keep checking in to see where I go next or learn a bit more about boating from my Skipper’s Tips.  Even easier, you can now tick a link that automatically sends you an e-mail when I post something new – it’s on the right-hand side, underneath the calendar.

Until next time… “Stay safe and enjoy your time afloat”

Seeking Sun in the Med

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Genoa, taken from Marina Molo Vecchio

It was a miserable winter’s day on Jersey when we set off for our Med delivery trip.  Nevertheless, we were all charged up and ready for an exciting few days delivering a Sunseeker 82 from Mallorca to Genoa.  The weather forecast for our trip was quite unbelievable;  all the weather sites I was watching indicated little or no wind and possible temperatures in the high teens.  Given that it was December and winter had arrived with a vengeance in the UK, this was going to be a very enjoyable few days.

After a short hop from Jersey to Gatwick we met up with Tony, our fourth crew member and stayed overnight at the airport hotel for a ‘crack of dawn’ flight to Mallorca.  When we arrived at Palma the sun was out and it was definitely milder than the UK – it seems weather forecasting is improving these days.  The taxi dropped us in Puerto Portals and it wasn’t long before we’d found our vessel and were crawling all over her.  We’d arrived early on the Sunday morning and were planning to depart at 8 o’clock the following morning, so we spent the time we had checking that everything was working, planning the route, fuelling the boat up and making sure the heating was working – as the sun went down it became a tad chilly!

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Puerto Portals, Mallorca

So, the next morning we set off.  Our route took us around the SW corner of Mallorca and up the channel between Mallorca itself and Sa Dragonera, a beautiful, uninhabited island, which is almost in the shape of a dragon, if you squint a little and have a good imagination for mythical creatures.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Sa Dragonera

As you can see, the water was like glass and coupled with the gorgeous hull on the Sunseeker 82, it was like gliding through butter – this was definitely going to be a glorious and most enjoyable trip.

It was approximately 170 NM to our first stop on the Spanish mainland, Palamos.  The crossing took us almost exactly 8 hours, running at around 20 knots.  You know, it’s surprising how quickly 8 hours passes by when you’re in good company. We all got along famously and everyone did their bit.  I especially like the fact that Davide is a dab hand at cooking – you all know my penchant for food!  That first day, Davide prepared us pasta and salad ‘on the hoof’.  Not only had he cooked lunch at 20 knots but we all took it it in turns to sit at the dining table to eat – this was pure cruising luxury.

© Richard Corbett 2013                                 Flat seas as we head away from Mallorca

By the time we’d arrived in Palamos, organised re-fuelling and berthing for the night, it was getting dark.  I have to apologise for the lack of pictures of Palamos but there’s not an awful lot to see in Palamos when it’s dark and besides that, we just wanted to get our heads down for an early start the next day.  Just before dawn, the local fishing fleet appeared from South of the marina and glided out to their fishing stations in the darkness.  I had every intention of beating them out and as such, had arranged to depart at 7 o’clock.  Incredibly though, the fleet still managed to beat us out.  At the precise moment we started the engines, I noticed the first fishing boat pass the harbour entrance.  Then one by one the others followed, until there was huge mass of red and white navigation lights passing the marina entrance and heading North.  It seems the next time I go into Palamos I’m going to have to get up even earlier.

We slipped the lines, left the dock and headed out into the mass of boats.  Our next stop was going to be Beaulieu sur Mer in the South of France but first we had to cross the Gulf de Lyon.  A word of advice for anyone attempting to cross this body of water; wait until it is calm.  Anything more than a F3 and it is like being in a washing machine.  The winds can be very confused and as such, the waves will be too.  I remember one trip on a Sealine T60, when we had to pass right around the inside of the bay, hugging the shore as we went.  However, this time, the wind was so light that we wafted along at 20 knots, with barely any indication that waves even existed.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Some down time

Normally, in the Med, there’s a good chance you’ll get to see Dolphins and I once saw a whale, which, as regular readers of my Blog you will undoubtedly know but this time we actually saw a shark!  I glimpsed it from the helm but soon lost sight of it as it passed down the side of the boat.  The others reckoned it was about 9 or 10 feet long and was simply snaking it’s way across the surface of the water at a leisurely pace.  I was really pleased to see a shark in the wild.  I know, simple things please simple minds and all that but I’m not a huge fan of zoos, despite what they do to preserve endangered species.  I prefer to see my wildlife in the wild and this was my first ‘real’ shark!

This leg of the journey was a long one.  Eventually, we got across the Gulf de Lyon and started to head up the French coast. As we approached the Pettite Passe we were interrogated by French border control but they seemed happy enough with who we were and where we were going.  I would like to say at this point, well over 300 NM into the journey, that the boat hadn’t missed a beat. The engines were purring along at 1900 rpm and by now, we were doing a steady 21.5 knots. The autopilot had us on the perfect course and it was simply a matter of keeping watch.  With a schedule in place, we all got an opportunity for some time at the helm.  The lower helm can be a little claustrophobic on some flybridge boats but on the Sunseeker 82 it was comfortable and roomy, the visibility was great and all the controls were within reach – well done Sunseeker.

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Lynn at the helm and Tony keeping watch

As the sun was dipping into the sea we made a sweeping turn to port around Cap Ferrat and slowed down to enter the harbour at Beaulieu sur Mer.  George was waiting for us on the fuel berth and we ‘quickly’ splashed 2000 litres in to get us to Genoa the next day.  I have to say, Beaulieu sur Mer is gorgeous.  The locals call it ‘Little Africa’ because of the fabulously mild micro-climate they have here.  Do yourselves a favour, if you are ever in the locality, whether on a boat or on the land, drop into the port and enjoy the surroundings.  It is so pretty and there are a host of wonderful restaurants to while away some hours in.  You might drop into Sunseeker Beaulieu and say hello to Mary too – tell her Richard sent you!

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Still waters in the marina

© Richard Corbett 2013                               Sunseeker 82, with Lynn doing some seamanship stuff!

© Richard Corbett 2013                              Wednesday morning, looking towards Italy

When we arose the next morning it was another stunning day in paradise.  After a quick tidy up, dealing with the berthing dues (France requires original paperwork remember, copies won’t do!) and sorting out the route planning for the passage to Italy, we were off on the last leg of our journey.  This was the shortest run of the trip, only 80 NM to Genoa from here.  Yet again the sea was super flat and it wasn’t long before we started to see some large commercial vessels heading in and out of Genoa.  The port is huge and there is a lot of commercial shipping moving between this part of the Med and the rest of the world.  Do make sure you know where you are going when you arrive in Genoa, as ‘Genoa Traffic’ and the port authorities take a dim view of leisure vessels passing through the commercial areas of the port.  We had arranged to stay in Marina Molo Vecchio and a quick call on VHF channel 71 caused a rush of helpers to see us safely onto our berth.

© Richard Corbett 2013                  As soon as the lines were on and we were plugged into the shore power, Davide set about cleaning the boat

If ever you are in Genoa on a boat, try and get a mooring at this marina. Fabrizia, the lady on the other end of the VHF was so helpful and she speaks excellent English too!  One tip though, make sure you give her all the crew details to pass on to Italian Immigration or you will be getting a visit from some very disgruntled officals, so I hear!

It was here that we encountered our only hiccup of the journey; a delay with the loading of the boat onto the cradle on which it was to sit during the voyage to her final destination.  So the decision was taken to send half the crew back, which left Davide and myself to complete the last job of getting her around to the docks and into the slings.  It was sad to see Tony and Lynn leave us, as they had been excellent members of the team but it didn’t really make sense for all four of us to hang around in Italy.  We dropped them at their hotel and joined them for a last crew meal before saying our goodbyes and waving them farewell.

The following day, Davide and I set about making the boat look gorgeous and I have to tell you, there is a lot of boat to work on.  It took us the best part of the day to get her spruced up and ready for shipping.  All the potentially ‘flappy’ things had to be removed and stowed as did all the fabric seating and chairs from the outside areas of the boat.  When we’d finished she did look a picture and in fact, here is one to show how magnificent she looked as we set off for dinner that night…

© Richard Corbett 2013

Friday morning, armed with a piece of paper authorising us to travel into parts of the docks that are normally forbidden to leisure craft and the VHF channel numbers for ‘Genoa Traffic’ and ‘Genoa Pilots’ (why we had to call both, heaven alone knows – you’d think they would talk to each other!) we headed for the dock.  A bitter wind was blowing from the North and despite the cloudless sky it was absolutely freezing on the flybridge as we arrived at Ponte Libia for the lift onto the cradle.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before we were tied alongside and then began the wait to be lifted.  I must say, they have a strange work ethic in Italy.  Clearly, it works for them but I fail to understand why less than half an hour after having a tea break, the port crew changed shift, ho-hum…

© Richard Corbett 2013                                The strops passing under the boat

Finally, things started to happen. Lifting strops, held by the truly giant crane, were passed under the hull, positioned and then checked by the diver.  Then all of a sudden she was airborne!

© Richard Corbett 2013

This was essentially our part done.  We had safely moved her from Mallorca to Italy and it was now, simply a matter of helping out with straps and making sure the boat was shut down for transport.  After a couple of hours of aligning, switching off, strapping and checking, the job was finished and she was ready for her next big adventure.

© Richard Corbett 2013                                 Big, isn’t she?

I am very impressed with this boat.  She is extremely comfortable and feels very strong and safe at sea.  Admittedly, the water was supremely flat but you can tell when a boat is going to perform well whatever the weather chucks at you.  This is a perfect cruising boat and will comfortably accommodate 8 people plus crew.  The cabins are spacious and well laid out. The socialising spaces are equally well thought out and one of my biggest gripes with modern motor cruisers, the number of spaces at the dining table compared to the number of berths is well attended to.  I believe the new owner of this magnificent vessel is going to have many, many happy hours cruising on her.

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Keep popping in to follow my adventures and stay up to date with the Skipper’s Tips.  Has anyone got any requests for the next Skipper’s Tip – leave a comment and I’ll arrange it for the next post?

Until next time, have a Happy Christmas and New Year!

Skipper’s Tips #6 – Anodes

As we head into Winter anyone with a boat should be thinking about servicing, anti-fouling and whether or not the sacrificial anodes need replacing?

“What on earth are sacrificial anodes?”

Let me explain in terms that even I can understand.  Different metals immersed in water will suffer corrosion as electrons erode.  The zinc sacrificial anode used in seawater, being less electro-negative than the metals used for props, shafts, rudders etc, will corrode and protect the running gear of your vessel. Vessels which are regularly taken from fresh water into salt water or even brackish water, will need to have a zinc/magnesium combination and those boats moored and used exclusively in fresh water will need to use magnesium sacrificial anodes alone.

If you were to let your anodes become completely eroded, the rest of the underwater metals on your boat would start to erode and as you might imagine this can get costly.  A few years back I bought a yacht which had not been properly protected and my first job looked like it was going to be replacing the prop. Fortunately, once I’d had it professionally checked and polished it turned out to still be usable but any more erosion and it would have been beyond repair and I would have had the additional expense of replacing it.

Therefore, my advice to you is for the first few months you own your new boat regularly check your anodes and indeed, the wiring on the inside of your boat that connects the anodes to the various bits of machinery which come into contact with the water.  Having regularly checked the erosion rate of your anodes you will start to understand how fast they are disappearing and be able to schedule less frequent checks going forward.

You may also find that there are plugs screwed into your engine block that will need replacing as they erode; check with whoever services your engine(s) that checking/replacing these particular anodes is part of the service and if it isn’t then you will either have to do this maintenance yourself or pay the extra to get it done on the engine service.

There is also likely to be an anode associated with your bow -thruster and if you have one, your stern-thruster too.  Clearly, you will need to check these anodes when the boat is out of the water.  If you decide to leave your boat in the water over Winter, then you will most likely be checking the underwater anodes twice a year – in November, as you prepare for Winter cruising and then again in April/May as you make your boat ready for the Summer; it is entirely your decision if you want to pull your boat out more frequently than this to check the anodes which are not visible from the pontoon.

Please bear in mind that, in some situations, anodes may degrade very rapidly. For instance, where you keep your boat can have a dramatic effect on the speed with which your anodes ‘disappear’. Anodes will often but not always, last for anything up to a year. However, in extreme cases I have heard of anodes having to be replaced every six weeks.  This can be due to electricity leaking into the water near your boat and speeding up the erosion process.  Most likely, this is from a pontoon power supply or other electrical source connected with the pontoon or mooring.  Equally, it could be due to the type of metals used on the underwater gear on your boat in conjunction with insufficient anodes to provide effective protection.  Either way, you must surely see why I suggest regularly checking your anodes when you first get your boat.

As a rule of thumb, if the anodes you can see by looking at your boat from the pontoon look as though they are 50% or more degraded then it is time to organise the replacement of the anodes – unless there is a localised electrical fault causing faster than normal erosion, all the anodes fixed to your boat will all degrade at approximately the same rate, so the visible ones are your benchmark.

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Thank you for following my Blog.  I do hope you find my adventures interesting to read about and I also hope you find the Skipper’s Tips instructive – if there is something specific you’d like me to explain, then please let me know and I’ll do my best.

Coming up soon will be some more Skipper’s Tips (#7 The Gas Man Cometh) and I’ll also be sharing my forthcoming adventure, taking a Sunseeker 82 from Mallorca to Genoa, definitely not one to miss!

Zeelander 68 – when a boat becomes a ship.

© Richard Corbett 2013

I recently had the opportunity to visit Holland as a favour for a friend of mine.   My friend is seriously considering buying this vessel and he asked me to check it out for him – so I did!

The weather on my arrival at Amsterdam airport was unseasonably sunny and warm – perhaps an omen.  Bob Fritsky from MarineMax, who are selling the Zeelander motor yachts, was waiting for me in an open top car would you believe, yes, it was that sunny!

On the drive down to where the Zeelander 68 was moored, Bob was telling me about her and the more I listened the more excited I became.  This is no ordinary 68 foot boat.  It seems the boat is actually owned by the man who founded Zeelander, to use as his own boat.  This man has a reputation for fastidious attention to detail, which apparently is reflected in the 68.  By now I was champing at the bit – Bob had done his job and I couldn’t wait to get on the boat.

Finally, after an hour, we arrived and there she sat, in all her splendour.  It’s funny, but from pictures taken of her, you don’t get the feel that she’s nearly 70 feet long but as I walked up to the dock I could see for myself how majestic this boat actually is.

Now, I’m a pretty cynical chap and I’ve been in the boat manufacturing industry long enough to know what to look for.  I immediately set about searching for flaws in this ‘amazing’ boat.  In the end I have to admit that I was disappointed and elated all at the same time. Disappointed, because I simply couldn’t find anything to speak of which was wrong with this boat.  Elated, because this boat was amazing after all. The attention to detail is on a different level to anything I’ve come across previously.  Simple stuff which you would take for granted, you can take for granted – unlike some boats I’ve been on before, when you come across things that stand out like a sore thumb and you wonder why somebody hasn’t picked up on it and fixed it; it’s not rocket science guys!

There were some lovely touches on this boat too.  The master’s cabin was truly excellent and the en-suite had a bath – a must in my opinion, although, not to everyone’s taste.  There was also a ‘walk-in’ wardrobe – nice touch and plenty of room in front of and around the bed for dressing and undressing.  The VIP cabin forward was well appointed, with plenty of space and a roomy heads area.  There were also two other double cabins, sharing a ‘day-heads’, which again, was nice and roomy.

Also on this deck was the entrance to the engine bay.  It was like walking into the engine room on a ship and this gave me my first clue as to what I was dealing with here.  The systems in the engine room were clearly designed with a professional and knowledgeable approach to long distance cruising.  I’m not going to go through everything in detail but suffice it to say that the equipment and layout in there was a level above your normal motor yacht and more in keeping with Atlantic crossing vessels that go to sea in extraordinary conditions without batting an eyelid.  Moreover, with the door shut, it was absolutely silent throughout the rest of the boat and with the measures taken to reduce vibration it was almost impossible to tell if the engines were running.

The next deck up has the saloon, galley and lower helm.  The lower helm position afforded a good view forward, all the equipment necessary to control the boat systems and a comfy seat for whiling away the hours when on passage.  For me though, the most impressive area on this deck was the saloon.  Immediately aft of the helm position is a table capable of accommodating all the passengers and more.  It is so nice to see that this has been thought through.  I dread to think how many times I’ve been on a vessel that sleeps 8 and has the space to feed 4.

By now you must be wondering if there was anything I didn’t like about this boat.  Well, in truth, there were a couple of issues.  For one, the boat seems to be missing a giant fridge.  There is a good size fridge in the galley, a large wine cooler and down on the lower deck, opposite the entrance to the engine room is a cavernous freezer.  Nevertheless, I think given that the whole point of this boat is it is designed to be self-sufficient and more than capable of making extended passages in huge comfort, the chilled storage space could be more extensive – 8 people consume a lot of food and drink in a day, especially when they are sat around relaxing.

The other issue I have with this boat is the lack of hand holds and the low height of the rail running around the deck.  This boat is designed to move comfortably through rough seas – stabilisers of course!  If you are out in rough weather, stabilisers or not, there is always the chance of being swept overboard and low rails and lack of hand holds shows up as an omission to me.

Also, and this is a personal preference of mine, the decks had fake teak on them – I am not a fan of this product and you will have to decide for yourself which is best for you.  I guess I’m a bit of a traditionalist but there is a lot to be said for having this finish instead of real teak.  Firstly, the finish will always look the same and simply doesn’t weather in the same way that real teak does. The other real benefit is therefore, that maintenance costs are minimal compared to the scrubbing and teak oil application required for real teak.  There is one down side;  the fake teak does get hotter than real teak and some will find this uncomfortable under bare feet.

Now the really interesting bit – how does she perform at sea.  Well actually, we didn’t go to sea but headed out into a small inland waterway instead.  This is when I discovered that this is not a boat but a ship.  The Royal Navy, apparently, define a ship on the basis that a ship leans out on a turn and a boat leans in – this is why submarines are referred to as boats; they lean in.  This ship, leant out!  That is not to say it was disconcerting.  In fact the lean was barely discernible and that was without the stabilisers.  No, far from it, this is probably one of the most comfortable vessels I have been out on the water on.  It was windy enough for the water to be choppy but with a little encouragement and some nifty work on the wheel I made some waves of our own and the Zeelander just cut straight through everything. There was a good view all around from the flybridge and plenty of space for socializing too but I did think the seat could have been more supporting for those longer passages!

In conclusion, I suggest that this is the perfect ship to make long, interesting, sociable, comfortable, safe and confident adventures on.  Do not expect to go whizzing along at break bank account speeds as this is not designed to be the craft for that type of cruising.  Instead, enjoy the peace and tranquillity, enjoy the scenery, enjoy the company of your friends and family and enjoy the economy as you waft along at a graceful 11 knots consuming minimal fuel.

Here are some links to check out if I’ve whetted your appetite for a Zeelander:

http://zeelander.com/

http://www.marinemax.com/

Bob.Fritsky@marinemax.com