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Round-the-world sailors race for landfall as South Pacific begins coronavirus lockdown (26 Mar 2020, 10:54 am)

Dan Bower reports from the South Pacific where the coronavirus outbreak has left World ARC sailors searching for a safe port while running out of food

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Dan Bower has sailed more than 300,000 miles

Pushing off from the Galapagos Islands 3 weeks ago, the coronavirus was only starting to affect Europe. The first villages were being quarantined in Italy, and a handful of cases were emerging in the UK. A blip on the news, this did nothing to rock our happy World ARC fleet.

We were busy frolicking with sea lions and preparing for the rally’s longest ocean passage, stocking up, refuelling and preparing to cut ourselves off from the world, in to the beautiful calm and all-consuming bubble that is a watch system at sea.

The trickles of news that came through at first were largely sanitised – many of our crew make it clear that they don’t want news from home, after all there is nothing we can do. As the situation deteriorated more rapidly, the view from home was: “The world has gone mad, enjoy your blissful ignorance while you can.”

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The World ARC 2020-2021 fleet leaving Galapagos for the Marquesas on March 4. Photo: facebook.com/worldarc

Our first 1,000 miles flew past and life was great, but then reality started to catch up. The first updates concerned small changes to entry protocol, non-EU crew requiring return air flights rather than the usual bond, signed declarations of health and copies of travel insurance, closely followed by a notification of quarantine – anyone by air required 14 days isolation, effectively cancelling our incoming crew change. Those at sea could count their passage time so it was ok for us.

The general expectation was still to be able to clear into French Polynesia, cruise around a bit and then deal with complications further down the line as we started to hear that Tonga and Niue, New Zealand and Australia were denying entry or requiring further quarantine.

The news from home got worse by the day, and the common thread was that we were in the best place – and being fairly self sufficient, competent fishermen and supplied with staples and emergency food for a couple of months, life could be worse – just find ourselves an atoll and live like Tom Neale as a hermit and beachcomber for a while – pleasant delusions on a late night watch.

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With 500 miles to go, the bombshell drops: World ARC has been ‘suspended’. Understandably it is not possible to continue, most of the Pacific is closed to us, there is the option of rejoining the 2021 rally, or continuing on if the situation reverses, but in any case we would be unlikely to make the weather window in the Indian Ocean, so a delay is inevitable.

World ARC worked tirelessly to keep us up to date, and lobby for our interests, being in a pack is reassuring. However when we received the message ‘We are working hard with the local authorities in French Polynesia to welcome you as planned, and not treat you as refugees and set you back off to sea’ it did incite a certain degree of panic.

From here on things changed quickly, our rendezvous switched from Hiva Oa to Nuku Hiva – a bigger bay with more facilities, and as it later turned out a police presence. There was an indication that the Marquesans were not very enthusiastic that we were arriving, the islands are small, with very limited supplies by freighter and the local ‘hospitals’ may have only a handful of beds. Feelings are particularly strong given the population was decimated by European disease in the 19th century – the tourist economy is negligible, the epidemic inevitable and the priority is clear.

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World ARC 2020/21 participants take part in the annual Galapagos beach clean. Photo: facebook.com/worldarc

After 12 hours of heading north west, the fleet has now been diverted again, Tahiti this time under the request of the French authorities and the Coastguard, adding an extra 700 miles on to the passage and skipping the best parts of French Polynesia. All pretence of a fun and relaxing cruise has now gone, and in a world of rapidly closing boarders we are pleased to be assured of being granted entry, to anywhere.

It is clear that neither the French authorities or World ARC would like yachts to stop in the Marquesas and have stated that any boat that arrives will not be able to leave to another anchorage in French Polynesia. Period.

The main consideration for many is the news of swift enforced repatriation of all non-residents, which could mean leaving the yachts at anchor in the bay. There are some yachts that genuinely need to stop here, with engine and rigging failures – but others who wish to stock up on fuel and food. After a fairly fast crossing it surprises me that boats didn’t include a 30% safety factor on the provisions.

The USA boats plan to pit stop and then push ‘home’ to Hawaii – 2,000nm on a fast reach. (Recent reports suggest around 60 cruising yachts are in the Marquesas, and that it is likely they will be authorised to move to Tahiti)

As most of the fleet now heads to Tahiti, separated by nearly 1,000 miles. We are one of the first arrivals due in shortly, but at the time of writing (March 23) we have been told that territorial waters are now closed to all vessels, except for the World ARC and Puddle jump rallies. I’m not sure what it would mean in practice, and I’ll be happy not to find out.

What awaits us in Tahiti is uncertain. A secure berth and repatriation seems the most desirable if the air space isn’t shut down by the time we arrive. The measures in France are echoed here, no one is allowed out without a written purpose, and then just one person per household or yacht. Fiji is still open to yachts, but is 2,000 miles away and when ports are seemingly refusing refuge, it’s not a risk worth taking.

The last option is the long way home through the Atlantic via Cape Horn. At 4,000nm, it’s almost as close as the Galapagos we just left.

The post Round-the-world sailors race for landfall as South Pacific begins coronavirus lockdown appeared first on Yachting World.


Mediterranean sailing: Lessons learned from 2 years exploring Europe’s great sea (26 Mar 2020, 9:03 am)

The Mediterranean has a lot to offer sailors all year round, writes Elena Manighetti. Among the highlights are fascinating cultural attractions, crystal clear water, and delicious food

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Sicily is popular among both liveaboard and visiting cruisers, with international flights via Palermo. Photo: Andrew Peacock / Getty

With plenty of airports located along the most common cruising routes and cheap flights within Europe, keeping a yacht in the Med is easy and convenient. But what do cruisers do once the typical sailing season comes to an end?

My husband, Ryan, and I have spent two years cruising the Med on our Tayana 37 and can share some of our advice on wintering options, shoulder season cruising tips, and more.

Wintering options

Mediterranean winters feature regular storms (one to three per month on average) and the weather varies a lot between countries. For example, mainland Spain is mild and sunny, while the Ionian Islands of Greece are wet and cold. The low season typically runs between October and April.

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Colin and Nichola Wright overwintered in Cartagena, Spain

There are three options for full-time liveaboards in the winter: secure a six-month deal in a marina; haul the boat out; or keep sailing. Most cruisers leave their yacht in a protected berth or on the hard and fly home for the winter. For this reason, winter berths need to be booked far in advance. Yard spaces are generally available until the end of September.

Some cruisers spend the low season aboard in marinas, occasionally flying home. This is a pleasant and inexpensive way to see the winter through. Water and electricity are usually included in a winter deal and car rentals are as cheap as €5 per day at major airports.

British couple Nichola and Colin Wright have been cruising the Mediterranean on their Kelly Peterson 44 Emerald for six years. They’ve spent each winter living aboard in marinas, staying in Marina di Ragusa (Sicily), Agios Nikolaos (Crete), Roccella Ionica (Italy), and Cartagena (Spain).

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“We’ve really enjoyed our winter marina stays,” explains Nichola, “as they’ve given us time for land travel while not having to worry about the boat and weather.” The couple have got involved in social activities organised by the liveaboard communities, including barbecues, yoga lessons, celestial navigation classes, and more.

There are pockets of overwintering liveaboards all around the Med. Some of the most popular Mediterranean wintering spots include Valencia and Barcelona in mainland Spain – both excellent options with major airports nearby. Cartagena is also a delightful town with an active winter community. From here, you can head to the Balearic Islands, France, and Corsica.

In Sicily, Licata and Marina di Ragusa are favourites with cruisers returning every winter. Catania airport is two hours away. Come spring you can sail towards Greece and Turkey, or Sardinia and the Balearic Islands. Some 50 miles south of Sicily lies Malta. Valletta hosts a small liveaboard community. Berth prices are high, but the historic city is gorgeous and the airport is just around the corner.

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Valletta in Malta. Photo: Kurt Paris / Getty

In Tunisia, Monastir and Hammamet get fantastic reviews from those who’ve visited and offer good value boat work. Transport to the airport is cheap, although flights are more costly than from Europe. In the spring, you can set sail for Sicily, Sardinia, or Greece.

In Greece, Lefkas, Preveza, and Crete are good choices, although flight options are limited in low season. Athens is well connected but more expensive and cold. In the spring you can explore the Greek Islands, head to Turkey, or sail to Croatia.

In Turkey, Finike, Marmaris, and Bodrum are popular with liveaboards. After winter you can continue cruising Turkey or head west. Airports are two hours from the marinas; Bodrum has its own.

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Ryan Osborne working on his Tayana 37 in Almerimar

Boat maintenance can be carried out in most of the marinas mentioned and their associated yards. As a rule of thumb, Italy and Malta are more expensive both in terms of yard fees and labour. Good value yard deals are available in Monastir, Almerimar, Crotone (Italy), Kilada (Peloponnese), and Preveza.

For cruisers with itchy feet who opt to sail year-round, trips need to be planned to allow shelter in marinas from the worst storms. This is affordable in the low season, but locals and those who have secured a winter deal usually snap up the most protected pontoons. Not all harbours are sheltered from every direction, so make sure to research a marina before you commit to it for a storm.

Seeking dry and mild weather, winter sailors often head east towards Crete, Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel. Alternatively, heading just out of the Med to southern Portugal offers good weather and well-protected anchorages. A careful eye on the forecast, confidence in your boat and ground tackle, and cold weather gear (including a heater) are essential.

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Cartagena in Spain’s Murcia region

Dutch couple Marjolein and Hermen Doornenbal have sailed their Trintella 3A ketch in the Mediterranean for two years. They spent their first winter sailing from the Balearics to Tunisia and their second cruising in Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel.

“We live on our boat, it’s our home, so we sail year-round,” says Marjolein. In winter they have to move anchorages often, due to changeable weather and frequent storms which, she admits, can be quite nerve wracking. Their advice? “Don’t do any passages longer than two days and keep a close eye on the forecast.”

Winter berths

Winter deals usually last six to eight months, so it’s important to pick the right marina if you’re planning to live aboard full-time. Key factors to consider when choosing include:

  • Location: What is the area surrounding the marina like? Is there a big town nearby? Do the restaurants and bars close down for the winter? Could you drive your car from your home country?
  • Proximity to an airport: If you need to fly home often, you’ll have to pick a marina close to a big airport and with good transport links. If you plan to travel only for Christmas, then access to the airport is less of an issue.
  • Immigration rules: Can you live aboard in the country for more than three months? Can you apply for a temporary residence? Do you need to pay tax on your boat if you stay longer than three months?
  • Boat repair facilities: Research each marina and their associated yard to find out what services are available.
  • Community: Would you like to spend a lot of time with other liveaboards, getting involved in social events? Or would you prefer having a quiet winter in a sleepy marina with a few friendly neighbours?
  • Weather and shelter: Check the historical weather records: what direction are the winter storms usually from? Does the harbour wall protect the marina from that direction? How wet and cold does it usually get?
  • Price range: Enquire for winter deal quotes well in advance and compare them. What’s included in the price? Some deals come with free water and electricity. Marinas with bad fouling often offer a free lift and pressure wash in the spring.
  • Car rental options: If you’d like to explore inland, the best deals on car hire are available at big airports via advanced online booking. You can usually rent the same vehicle for up to 29 consecutive days. Car rentals far from airports are typically more expensive.

Spring and autumn

The shoulder seasons tend to bring the fiercest winds across the Mediterranean. The weather is often unsettled, with strong winds followed by spells of light breezes and confused seas. Last spring we experienced multiple 40-60 knot storms in the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, and Sicily in April and May. Between August and November 2019, the Balearics were hit by several big storms that caused flooding and much damage.

That said, you can still sail safely in spring and autumn by staying within close range of marinas when the weather is unsettled. This option can take a lot of patience as you’ll spend time waiting out storms and weather windows to move are short. But if you persist you’re rewarded with empty anchorages, quiet towns, and cheap mooring fees.

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Three possible routes for a relaxed summer cruise

Peak season

As summer approaches, the Mediterranean starts to become crowded with local motorboats, charter fleets, and cruising yachts enjoying the hot, calm weather. Marina prices skyrocket and berths are hard to book, so it’s best to stick to the abundant free anchorages. The busiest months are July and August. Popular bays are so packed you’ll regularly hear skippers arguing with their neighbours about being too close.

Want to avoid the worst of the crowds? Head for less-travelled areas by the end of June. Avoid anchorages close to charter bases and famous hotspots like Shipwreck Beach on Zakynthos or Port de Soller on Mallorca.

Some quieter areas include mainland Spain and France, south Sardinia, Tunisia, the northern Aegean, the Peloponnese, and Turkey. Marina prices in these places tend to be cheaper, too.

If you don’t fancy paying exorbitant marina fees, stay clear of northern Sardinia, the Amalfi coast, Liguria, Malta, and Palma de Mallorca. For affordable berths in the Balearics, sign up to Ports IB – the local, state-run marina network. In Greece, while you need to pay a cruising tax (€33 per month up to 40ft), town quays are low-cost or free.

mediterranean-sailing-elena-manighetti-bw-headshot-squareAbout the author

Elena Manighetti and her husband, Ryan, cruise full-time on their Tayana 37, Skua, and document their adventures on the YouTube channel Sailing Kittiwake.

First published in the March 2020 edition of Yachting World.

The post Mediterranean sailing: Lessons learned from 2 years exploring Europe’s great sea appeared first on Yachting World.


Moody 41DS yacht tour: This comfortable cruiser is bigger on the inside (26 Mar 2020, 8:52 am)

As they have been doing since the 1980s, Moody and Bill Dixon once again redefine what's possible on a deck saloon cruising monohull. Wait till you see the stowage beneath the galley!

The 41DS is the smallest boat in Hanse Group’s Moody range, which also includes 45ft and 54ft deck saloon designs with living areas arranged around a single level ‘monomaran’ style concept.

The Moody 41DS also introduces fresh styling and engineering, with the all-round panoramic glazing of the deck saloon made of seamless laminated safety glass.

The combined deckhouse roof and cockpit hard top are supported by only four aluminium mullions, creating a genuine all-round vista from the shelter of the saloon.

In addition, an ultra-deep bulwark topped by solid stainless steel railings creates a safer and more secure experience when moving forward on deck to that of conventional sailing yachts.

The large sheltered cockpit is an almost integral part of the living space, while a double sunbed, plus two-seater settee ahead of the mast provide a separate socialising area when necessary.

A double owner’s cabin, plus convertible double/twin cabin and either one or two heads completes the accommodation on a lower level.

Specification

LOA 12.52m 41ft 1in
LWL: 11.42m 37ft 6in
Beam: 4.20m 13ft 9in
Draught: 1.85m 6ft 1in
Displacement: 15,700kg 34,612lb
Starting price: €399,000 (ex. VAT)

The post Moody 41DS yacht tour: This comfortable cruiser is bigger on the inside appeared first on Yachting World.


Southern Wind Shipyard embraces the rise of the super-cat *sponsored post* (25 Mar 2020, 11:36 am)

Southern Wind unveiled this arresting 27m/90ft performance catamaran in January, a project that hints at the strong future potential for superyacht-sized catamarans

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The naval architecture is by Berret Racoupeau, the La Rochelle firm behind Royal Huisman’s latest 35m/118ft sailing and power catamaran concepts.

The multihull market is the fastest growing marine sector, but only series production options or full custom boats have so far been available. The SWCAT90 targets the segment in between by offering a versatile platform whereby the design and engineering is in place, but a good degree of customisation is still offered to the customer.

The Cape Town shipyard is known for its go-anywhere 80-110ft semi-custom monohulls. The SWCAT90 concept, developed with Southern Wind’s long-term partner Nauta Yachts, has been designed to share these monohulls’ renowned qualities of performance, comfort and reliability.

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The space and speed potential of this carbon catamaran is particularly appealing. Olivier Racoupeau says it was a challenge to try to match the performance of a 100ft monohull, but in fact this cat should exceed it on all angles but at just 5º of heel.

The polars he showed us indicate it’s capable of 22-24 knots’ boat speed in 20 knots of wind (depending on mast type). Two sail plan options are available including a tall rotating mast, and the spec includes curved asymmetrical daggerboards and T-rudders.

Meanwhile, Nauta’s Massimo Gino compared the space and volume to a 39m/128ft monohull (Nauta was behind the 40m/130ft My Song project). Gino says the SWCAT90 presents 50% more interior space than an equivalent SW96 monohull (171m2 compared with 113m2).

In terms of accommodation, there are four guest cabins, including an owner’s cabin with opening platform to the sea. These double ensuite cabins are orientated around the centre of the boat where there is the least amount of pitching, and the two or three crew cabins are separated from the guest areas. The distribution of systems has also been carefully considered, to keep weight as central as possible.

Southern Wind thinks the SWCAT90 will also appeal to motoryacht owners seeking a greener alternative, thanks to its reduced dependence on fossil fuels. The yard’s chief naval architect Yann Dabbadie explains that the boat is offered with the choice of diesel propulsion or an electric hybrid system.

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“It also allows the two main engines to be independent from the shaft line, resulting in a greater efficiency as generators,” he adds. “This will bring savings of both weight and space and the centring of machinery will realise better seakeeping and reduce pitching motion.”

Although the cat(s) will initially be built in infused carbon, the yard is also conducting its own tests on sustainable materials and resins, with a particular focus on reliability. Southern Wind has capacity in its Cape Town facility to build the cat alongside its monohulls, but the SWCAT90 is a three-year project as the yard wants to design it with the client.

Dimensions

LOA: 88ft 10in (27.07m)
LWL: 88ft 5in (26.96m)
Beam: 36ft 8in (11.17m)
Displacement (light): 56.27 tonnes (124,050 lbs)

The post Southern Wind Shipyard embraces the rise of the super-cat *sponsored post* appeared first on Yachting World.


Flyer: The inside story of this Whitbread winner’s amazing restoration (24 Mar 2020, 8:02 am)

Flyer is the 68ft S&S-designed ketch that won the 1977/78 Whitbread, and last year returned to racing after four decades following restoration

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Flyer is one of those yachts that needs little introduction. Designed for the 1977 Whitbread Race by Sparkman & Stephens for Dutch skipper Conny Van Rietschoten, the 68ft aluminium ketch went on to win overall on corrected time.

Van Rietschoten famously went on to win the 1981/82 race with his larger Flyer II, becoming the only skipper ever to win two of the round the world races, and confirming the Flyer dynasty’s place in yachting history.

Flyer was designed as a one-off, but is an evolution of the successful Swan 65. She gained a couple of feet of waterline length, lost a tonne of displacement, carried more sail area (without any rating penalty), and was beamier aft than the popular Swans. She also sported a fin keel and a highly functional doghouse for ocean racing. She saw off her nearest rival in the 77/78 race, the Swan 65 Kings Legend, skippered by Skip Novak.

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Tough conditions in the 77/78 Whitbread

After her success in 1978, the original Flyer had a radical refit for the 1981/82 Whitbread, in which she was entered as Alaska Eagle. Her rig was changed from ketch to sloop and the doghouse removed, with the stern extended. The modifications did not improve the yacht’s performance and she finished well down the fleet.

After the race she was donated to an American sail training college and spent nearly three decades working hard on the American west coast, sailing as many as 10,000 miles per year.

In 2014 she was brought back to Holland by a charitable foundation, which began a major refit at the Royal Huisman yard where she was launched in 1976. The yacht was stripped back to the bare aluminium hull and shot blasted, while the design team retuned to the original S&S drawings in a bid to restore her to her Whitbread form, including remodelling the stern.

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Ketch comeback

The ketch rig was reinstated. Gerard Schoostra, who skippers the yacht, says that they found her original mizzenmast in a barn in Holland, but decided to replace it with a new one.

“In order to preserve the boat for the future you have to sail it, and so we decided to put on a new rig to guarantee her performance,” Schoostra explained. Flyer also gained an all-new custom-designed main mast, and other original design features such as the doghouse were remade.

The newly restored Flyer was relaunched in August 2014 and one of her first tasks was to carry Conny van Rietschoten’s ashes to be scattered over the North Sea waters, as he had requested before his death in December 2013. She went on to put in a guest appearance at the Volvo Ocean Race start, and was used for charitable and youth sailing.

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Flyer under full (original) sail. Photo: PPL

But Flyer was created to race. In 2018 she lined up against some other former Whitbread and Volvo Ocean Race designs in the fairly relaxed Legends Race from Gothenburg to The Hague.

However, last year the crew decided to put Flyer firmly back into the world of offshore racing by embarking on a RORC campaign, taking in the North Sea Race and 600-mile Rolex Fastnet Race, which she finished in just over three days, 43 years after her launch.

Flyer retains many of the trademarks of her era, including a double cockpit layout – the main working area being midships, with a separate helm station and secondary cockpit abaft.

By modern standards the cockpit area is surprisingly small, given that in her Whitbread days Flyer would have sailed with 12 aboard, and there are no fewer than 24 winches on deck. “And when we’re sailing downwind, we’re using 23 of them,” says Schoostra.

Her original coffee grinder pedestal winches were restored, while the primaries are now three-speed Lewmar 90s. Flyer still carries two enormous spinnaker poles, although these days she is rigged for dip-pole gybes, and still regularly flies a 160m2 blooper alongside her 260m2 spinnaker.

The headsails are currently set on furlers, although Schoostra had his eye on a new suit of racing genoas when we visited the boat in Plymouth after the 2019 Fastnet.

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Flyer has been restored to her 1977/78 Whitbread winning form. Photo: Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

One of the few deliberate deck modifications Schoostra specified was to replace the original sliding hatch “because they always leak” with a custom bow hatch. The new hatch keeps the water out, but after 600-odd miles of bashing across the English Channel and Celtic Sea, Flyer’s deck was dotted with duct tape to keep the water out of her 43-year-old structure.

Function and comfort

Van Rietschoten was a big believer that crews should be able rest properly to perform at their best, and down below Flyer is designed to be both functional and comfortable for ocean racing.

Aft of the main mast the interior is original, and includes two cabins for the off watch crew to sleep in. The bunks are quiet and cosy, screened off from the main saloon with doors for privacy, and still allow the crew to hot-bunk in relative comfort.

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Doors to the two off watch cabins – a sewing machine frame could be fitted between them for sail repairs. Photo: Jack Watson / Yachting World

Between the two a frame could be constructed to support a sewing machine, allowing the crew to pull Flyer’s vast sails along the companionway and make repairs.

Scratches and dents are still visible on the panelling from where the crew wrestled with repairs in the midst of the Southern Ocean some 40 years ago.

The enclosed galley allows for proper meals to be cooked and includes the original custom stove, while the dining area seats eight, allowing a whole watch to sit down and eat together.

Flyer carries special wedge-shaped mats that can be added to the table so crew can balance their plates on a relatively flat surface when heeled.

Flyer was originally built with a forward heads, but with 36 sails on board it was taken out before the Whitbread in order to make more sail locker room. Nowadays, with just 10 sails to carry, there is room for the heads to be reinstated.

There is a heated wet locker, an impossibility on any racing yacht these days, and every crew member also had a named personal locker.

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Van Rietschoten’s competitors’ plaque. Photo: Jack Watson / Yachting World

The skipper and watch leader have their own cabins with easy access to the wheelhouse – in 1977 Gerry Dykstra (now one of the world’s most celebrated yacht designers) was navigator and watch leader.

These days the navigation station has gained modern displays and laptops, but some of the original gauges are still in use, along with the wall-mounted pencil sharpener Dykstra and Van Rietschoten would have used before plotting thousands of miles on paper charts.

The navstation is also the home of the competitors’ plaque, which Van Rietschoten received at the end of the 77/78 Whitbread, “so Conny is always sailing with us,” adds Schoostra proudly.

Specification

LOA: 19.98m (65ft 6in)
Draught: 3.22m (10ft 6in)
Displacement: 34 tonnes
Beam: 4.97m (16ft 3in)
Built: 1976
Design: Sparkman & Stephens
Builder and refit: Royal Huisman Shipyard

First published in the March 2020 edition of Yachting World.

The post Flyer: The inside story of this Whitbread winner’s amazing restoration appeared first on Yachting World.


Sailing Fiji to New Zealand: The ultimate tradewinds test? (23 Mar 2020, 8:45 am)

A flying tradewinds passage from the South Pacific Islands of Fiji to New Zealand provides challenges for Rob and Barb White to overcome

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Zoonie flying under furled genoa and storm jib

We who write for the yachting press are deluged with tales of extraordinary achievement. Although I’ve done more than my own share of ocean walloping, I’m often humbled by the exploits of others, so it comes as a pleasant respite to discover a well-written blog from a regular human being who is on the way around the world with the man she loves.

Before Barb White set out on her trip in the 1989 Oyster 406, Zoonie, she spent 13 years as a driving instructor. Her shipmate and husband, Rob, ran a family business, which included directing funerals. Not the obvious stuff of the superhero, perhaps, but tough times bring out the best in people of all sorts, as you’ll see when you discover Barb’s account of a tradewinds passage that fell a long way short of the propaganda brochure.

I’ve suffered a similar hammering from a strong tradewind on the beam myself, and while it may not be Cape Horn, it’s certainly no joke. Barb, Rob and Zoonie hang on, ride the rough with the smooth and make it from Fiji to New Zealand more or less unscathed. If you are thinking of setting sail on a dream circumnavigation, read this as a reality check.

From Zoonies blog

Zoonie crisped along at 6.5 knots with the wind 60° off the port bow on a course just west of south. The wind was a generous 18-20 knots and the bow wave washed the anchor clean as fearless surfers rode the steep seas breaking on the reef at the entrance to Suva Harbour.

A few hours later we prepared for the night, reefing well down at no cost in speed for a wind that was showing all the signs of being on the make. By watery sunrise it was filling to 27 knots as Zoonie entered the uncluttered weather arena between the South Pacific Islands and mainland New Zealand.

The water beakers that stand in their wooden holder were rimmed with salt from the flying spray; drinking from them was like Margaritas without the bite. At night the stars gave way to dark scudding banks of cloud, mostly innocent of sudden strong winds. The steady trades were hogging the skies.

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The Oyster 406 Zoonie making good progress in the Pacific

Progress was good, but after a deluge of water into the cockpit soaked the cushions, we retreated into the peace of the saloon to watch from behind the windows.

By the 15th, the wind was a full 31 knots and Zoonie pounded the waves as they pounded her back, sometimes with alarming bangs you couldn’t think were made by water alone. I remember wondering how long that amazing foresail would last, constantly pulling 13 tons through the water and holding tight to the full Force 7.

Henry, the wind-vane self-steering, was doing a valiant job. Each time a gust knocked Zoonie off course, the genoa would collapse and the combined force of Henry’s rudder and Zoonie’s natural tendency to seek the wind would lure her back so the genoa could fill again. It was an act of inanimate teamwork that we truly appreciated.

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As I rested in the downhill berth I looked up at the tons of white water ploughing down the side-deck above my head. At times we were almost submarining. You can really feel her movements when relaxing horizontally and not having to hold on.

Zoonie would sometimes lift over a wave and be suspended for a fraction of a second, her forward half flying in the air and I’d think: “Uh-oh, there’s only one way from here,” and down she’d come sometimes to a soft landing, occasionally to a thump that shook her to the core.

Rob had been on deck a couple of times in the wild weather, once to unjam the Furlex reefing drum, another to tighten some rattling halyards. He’d go out just in his briefs because he knew he was in for a drenching. We’d venture into the cockpit together to reef or ease out more genoa and on one of these sorties we saw a six-inch tear near the luff. Zoonie’s surging progress was under threat. “We’ll roll it up completely and I’ll set the storm jib,” Rob said straightaway.

In the calm of Lami Bay he had already rigged the inner forestay. The jib was hanked on ready and the sheets taken down the side decks to the cockpit. All that remained was to hoist it, but with Zoonie bouncing around it wasn’t easy. When the halyard was taut, I winched in the sheet, but, oh dear, we were down to three knots.

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Time for a sundowner while on passage

I didn’t like our reduced speed and neither did Rob or Zoonie, so we unfurled a little genoa, keeping the split well inside the roll. Zoonie showed her appreciation by surging from three to nearly seven knots in the 30-knot wind, and that’s where she stayed for days to come. Effectively a cutter rig, all her sail area kept low – genoa the size of a single bed-sheet, triple-reefed mainsail and the smart, tough little storm jib enjoying the company.

Bouncing around

Down below life went on. The wooden washboards were in place and the hatch cover was fully closed, which was just as well. Waves were now breaking into the cockpit, gurgling away all too slowly down the drains. By now our bodies were aching from bracing ourselves, but Zoonie ploughed on with determination on her own route direct to Bream Head off the Whangarei River, despite our trying to keep her on course for a point in 30°S latitude due north of North Cape.

Checking two forecast sources before leaving we had seen a massive high sitting almost stationary over a vast area without a low in sight. The chances of a low passing across north New Zealand, while we hung about at Lat 30°, was decreasing as the days went on and the magnificent high persisted.

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Massive, uncluttered high pressure zone between the Pacific islands and New Zealand

With the forecast still showing more of the same bountiful wind supply, we were starting to cross the abyssal plain of the South Fiji Basin so I wondered if this might at least reduce the 5m swell with associated wind waves. It didn’t.

I was standing on the third step of the companionway keeping an eye on Rob as he adjusted Henry when Zoonie was suddenly yanked sideways by a marauding wave looking for mischief. I lost my grip and spun round off the steps, hitting the floor on my back and sliding head first down the 30cm step into the chart table footwell.

A loud crack and then, mercifully, it all stopped. I had something broken on my chest. My first thought was for my glasses, but the shattered pieces of plastic were white. My skull had smashed a double three-pin power socket.

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Rob on the foredeck during one of the calmer moments of the passage.

Fearing for an injury that would leave Rob single-handed, I slowly checked for snapped bones, but all seemed well as I dragged myself to a sitting position on the cabin sole. I was wearing a fuchsia-coloured tee-shirt which was handy because it masked the blood.

When Rob came down the ladder he parted my hair to inspect the cut. “I don’t think I’ll need to shave your hair for Steri Strips,” he remarked, sounding somewhat disappointed. Instead, he mopped up the mess with antiseptic wipes while I checked out a golf ball-sized bump on the other side of my head.

By the afternoon I was back in harness. No stuff and nonsense on this boat! Surprisingly the wind was easing down to the low 20s and the sea was showing signs of smoothing when the bilge pump alarm went off. There was a foot of water under the galley and a quick taste confirmed it was salt. It wasn’t rising.

When the waves were at their height and filling the cockpit Rob discovered that the rush of water was filling the two small open-sided lockers above the cockpit seats. These had vents; the high-pressure water was being forced through them, along the headlining underneath and onto the chart table. Rob stuck duct tape over the openings as Zoonie kept creaming along.

Disintegrating sail

Approaching 30°S it was becoming more obvious that Zoonie was right in trying to head direct for Bream Bay. There was no low to worry us so we let her have her way.

Five days out we noticed another split in the genoa, this time along the edge of the sunstrip. The sail was definitely disintegrating but we did have a spare, which we didn’t know much about. To make the change we both needed to be on the foredeck while Zoonie motored head to wind under the autopilot to minimise the motion.

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Duct tape stopped water finding its way into cockpit lockers

I unrolled the tired genoa so Rob could pull it down, then we dragged the foot along the side deck to flake and bag. This sackful replaced the one containing the spare, which we keep under the dining table along with the spinnaker to bring some weight back from the bow.

I fed the replacement sail up the roller-reefing groove as Rob hauled on the halyard by the mast. It was lovely out there; bright sunshine glistening on beautiful sparkly waves under a clear blue sky. Shearwaters swooping low, completely uninterested in us.

We were delighted at how white and perfect the spare genoa looked as it rose up the forestay. It was clearly a lightweight sail with single-stitched seams, so we wondered at what max wind speed it should be stowed. Later, UK Sails in Whangarei suggested 15 to 18 knots. Well, we flew it at up to 22 knots so that was a test for it. Our effort brought Zoonie back up to 6 knots and the wind was easing at last.

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Biscuits on passage will invariably put a smile on your face

The volume of spray in the air was replaced by a chill and we had to hunt for warmer clothes and slippers, but things were getting easier down below as Zoonie sped along on an almost even keel in a half-metre swell. We could walk around without looking like gorillas.

Porridge and coffee infused with a tot of rum was called for and my mind was turning to the big bake I planned to make sure New Zealand Customs would not confiscate any of our food.

We had 400 miles to go to the waypoint off Bream Head. Zoonie broke her speed record that day with a run of 152 miles. With no sea to impede her progress she sped along. The end was in sight and although we never take anything for granted and try not to tempt providence while on passage we really started looking forward to arriving after one of Zoonie’s finest sails.

On the same day that Zoonie achieved her record beam reach we were greeted into New Zealand waters by a single albatross gliding around us for several minutes, in which time it did not flap its wings once. I emailed Customs to give our position and ETA.

We both lost some weight – great exercise without even trying – in the constant motion and the need to brace ourselves where the only relief was to relax in the berth and let Zoonie rock us to sleep.

On the afternoon of what we knew would be our last day at sea, we sat on the foredeck looking back along the boat that is our lovely home to the way we had come.

We could easily have come in at night but as we felt a reluctance to end the trip we slowed Zoonie down a little and arrived in Marsden Cove Marina with 1,142 miles under our belts at 0812 on Monday 22 October. We had been 8 days, 23 hours and 18 minutes at sea.

First published in the November 2019 edition of Yachting World. Read the full blog at: mailasail.com

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iPad sailing: Pip Hare’s top tips on using your tablet to navigate (19 Mar 2020, 9:11 am)

From set-up tips to using GPS, NMEA and AIS, pro sailor Pip Hare explains why your iPad can be one of your most valuable bits of kit at sea

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Handheld tablets can provide a wealth of easily accessible navigation information – as long as you’re aware of their limitations. Photo: Tor Johnson

These days it’s rare for me not to use a tablet as part of my navigation equipment. The fact I can take my tablet with me anywhere in the world and have access to charts on an interface I am familiar with is a great bonus, as well as the ability to comprehensively plan passages from home.

There are, of course, limitations and pitfalls to the use of tablets but, so long as they are understood, these devices can be used to great effect. Here’s my quick list of tips and hints to make the most out of your tablet and stay safe:

Set up tips

  • Rotation lock: Turn this on to stop the screen from reorienting when you pick the tablet up or when the boat heels.
  • Privacy settings: Ensure location services are enabled for your chosen app. Select ‘allow only when app is in use’ to save battery time but be aware that if the app is closed then it may take a while to re-establish a position when it’s reopened.
  • Screen lock: Set your screen lock time to its maximum setting or never. This has implications on battery life but is particularly important if there is a code set to unlock the screen. If using a tablet for navigation regularly it’s better to remove security codes so any member of the crew can access it.
  • Battery life: One of the downsides of using a tablet for navigation is its relatively short battery life. Battery life can be prolonged by reducing display brightness, turning off WiFi/Bluetooth connections and only recording the vessel track if it’s essential to navigation. If you use it a lot on deck then invest in a waterproof USB charging point close to where the tablet is mounted so it can be plugged in for the majority of time. Make sure you take plenty of spare charging cables as the ends are susceptible to corrosion and regularly fail.
  • Screen brightness: Remember to dim the screen as the natural light fades, this will save battery life and night vision. To maximise night vision, turn the tablet face down or cover it when not needed.

GPS and NMEA

When choosing a tablet for navigation ensure it has an internal GPS – if working with an iPad you’ll need to select one with 3/4G capabilities for this. Some Android tablets have GPS with their WiFi-only tablets as well as cellular ones.

The GPS position provided by the tablet will not be as accurate as that of a plotter using an external antenna and should not be solely relied upon. Always back up your position using visual checks and never use the GPS in your tablet as your sole means of fixing a position – if the tablet is your primary plotter then use an external GPS feed to improve accuracy.

Most navigation apps are now capable of taking an NMEA data feed via WiFi. This is a great way of providing reliable position data, overlaying AIS information and enabling the tablet to be used as an extra instrument screen from anywhere on the boat. Not all apps can take multiple NMEA feeds so think about what it is you most want your tablet to do and then choose the right app for you.

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Using AIS

This is an excellent addition to most navigation apps and can provide a cost-effective solution to viewing AIS data on deck for anyone without a plotter. But do your research as every app offers different levels of AIS functionality and it’s vital you understand the limitations of each.

You need to know what data source the app uses for AIS: most will take this information from an NMEA data feed over WiFi (this will either need to be broadcast from a wifi-enabled device or via a standalone NMEA WiFi transmitter). AIS data in this form will be up to date and as current as AIS data can be.

Some apps use AIS information from the internet – this would be streamed over a cellular connection to your tablet using large shore stations as the source. This data can be detailed and accurate and if you have no AIS device on board it can provide an extra level of situational awareness. However, this data should never be considered as current and should never be relied on for collision avoidance. It will also only be available while your vessel is in GSM range.

Also check how the AIS information is displayed and what data is available for each app as there is no standard format – some don’t provide a CPA (closest point of approach), others don’t provide a vessel name. If using AIS MOB devices, test your device while the app is in use to ensure you know what symbol is displayed in the event of activation. The standard symbol is a red circle with a red X inside, but some apps may display the device as a boat.

Easy updates

One of the great things about navigation apps is the versatility of information that can be displayed and the ease with which charts can be updated. Most apps will notify when a new chart update is available so make a point of regularly going online to check each of the downloaded chart areas. These updates are included in yearly subscriptions, so after your initial download you’ll need to pay again annually for further updates.

Use the mapping layers to gain more information for planning or making landfall in new places. In particular the satellite layers are useful for identifying landmarks and visualising what the coast will actually look like. When researching new places, I’ll take screenshots of the satellite images at key positions then store them in the photos section of my tablet as my own bespoke pilot book.

First published in the March 2020 edition of Yachting World.

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Road to the America’s Cup podcast: Why analytics matter now more than ever (19 Mar 2020, 8:59 am)

INEOS Team UK skipper Ben Ainslie tells Mark Chisnell why analytics really count in the America’s Cup AC75 one-boat development phase

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Photo: Harry KH / Ineos Team UK

Ten years ago Brad Pitt’s movie Moneyball sparked an explosion of interest in sporting statistics, an interest that is now reflected everywhere from fantasy football leagues to the NFL. The concept was simple; data analytics can make a huge difference to outcomes on the field of play.

This was old news to America’s Cup teams, where data analysis has been part of the game since the early 1980s. In those days electronic sensors and computers had their limitations and the technology to measure performance to the required accuracy just didn’t exist.

The solution was to sail two boats close together, making it much easier to see even very small speed advantages. There were still problems: the boats were often in different winds, there were variations in wind shear and wind gradient that couldn’t be measured, and generally there was a lot of noise in the data.

But it was still the best process available, and for three decades it defined the MO of serious Cup teams, all running two boat programmes. The protocol for the 36th America’s Cup has banned it though, leaving teams to find other ways to improve performance with just a single boat out on the water.

Fortunately, data analysis now has advanced to the point that a single AC75 boat is all you need for a lot of the testing and experimentation.

“The job used to be about running straight line tests and getting good data results from that,” explained Ainslie. “Making sure the boat or the sails or the crew were changed at the right time, that we did enough tests on both tacks, that boats swapped sides to make sure the differences in the wind were ironed out – all so the tests were as accurate as possible.

“Now it’s much more about [running tests to] validate the VPP [Velocity Prediction Program] and simulation results out on the water. So for example, if the VPP says the boat will do 36 knots at a particular wind speed and wind angle, then we’re trying to confirm that as close as we possibly can.

“But it’s also about establishing things like the take-off speed of the boat – what our tools are predicting we should be able to do and what we can actually do in practice. And the more that we can confirm those predictions, then the more that we can feed that back into the models and the simulation, and the whole thing becomes more and more accurate.

“The speed of the development is astonishing. The designers and the engineers do an amazing job to be able to keep pace with those developments, and it’s very exciting to be a part of it,” said Ainslie.

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The other big change in the last decade is that access to the data has been broadened and deepened within the team; it’s been taken out of the silo and democratised. “We’ve built a tool we call ‘Replay’, and that effectively brings all of the data into one place, not just the numbers but also the video from the cameras on board the boat and off the boat, the drones and everything else.

And that’s really useful in the debrief scenario, but it also allows anyone that’s interested to go back and check things for themselves. “I think that’s the biggest difference to the days when we were two-boat testing, when it was mostly just about which boat or keel or sail won the tests and by how much.

“Now we have so much more information from the boat. With all the different sensors it’s given us access to so much more data – and for our engineers that’s absolutely critical in learning and understanding this new concept of boat and then designing a faster overall product,” concluded Ainslie.

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2019-20 Clipper Race postponed by 10 months due to Coronavirus outbreak (18 Mar 2020, 10:12 am)

The organising committee has moved to postpone the 2019-20 Clipper Race after crews were quarantined in the Philippines on Sunday (March 15)

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Photo: facebook.com/pg/clipperroundtheworld

The 2019-20 Clipper Race is the latest major sporting event to be postponed as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was announced on Monday (March 16) after crews were placed in quarantine in Subic Bay in the Philippines, which is currently under “enhanced community quarantine”.

The fleet was due to begin the next leg of the race on Saturday, across the North Pacific Ocean to Seattle, but with the US currently imposing widespread travel restrictions, this was deemed to be unviable.

In a statement, the organising committee added: “This, along with the growing global uncertainty on how the situation could develop in the coming months, meant postponing the race was the safest option for all involved.”

Once the Coronavirus quarantine is over, crews will be assisted in returning home as quickly as possible. The three remaining legs of the Clipper Race will be rescheduled for January 2021, and the next edition of the round-the-world race will be delayed to a summer 2022 start.

“We are extremely disappointed to postpone the remainder of the Clipper 2019-20 Race,” the statement concluded. “We are proud of all of our intrepid crew for having competed in this race edition since it departed London and look forward to welcoming all of our upcoming crew next year when the race continues. We are also grateful to all of our crew, supporters and race partners for their continued support.”

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Sailing Panama: Exploring idyllic islands just miles from the famous canal (18 Mar 2020, 9:19 am)

Sheridan Lathe shares her veterinary skills with the locals on a unique cruise of the Panama islands of Las Perlas

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Photo: Age Fotostock / Alamy

We looked out at the expectant faces before us: kids with footballs in hand, an elderly woman yelling at the teenage boys to turn down their reggaetón music, and two dozen dogs ready for their first ever trip to the vet. As the storm clouds began rolling in over our makeshift clinic on a local islander’s porch, with our yacht anchored in the bay in front of us in just 1m of water, we couldn’t help but wonder what exactly we had got ourselves into.

That feeling was typical of our new way of living. After buying our first boat in December 2016, only to poke a hole through the aluminium hull with a toothbrush (more on that later…), we were certainly learning that boat life is anything but boring.

Chuffed is a 37ft Gamelin Madera, built in France in 1990. And, despite a few challenges, her name reflects how we feel about living aboard: it is British/Aussie slang for feeling content and pretty pleased with life.

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Chuffed ran the gauntlet of squalls and encounters with whales in the Gulf of Panama – but there were also peaceful anchorages

After living the 9-5 routine in Australia I decided to take a chance on a unique job providing veterinary care to rescued bears in China. This in turn inspired my husband, Joel, to pursue his dream of working with boats and he managed to land himself a job as an assistant shipwright in Northern Queensland.

A year later we decided it was time for us to combine our passions for animals, the ocean and boats, and sold all our material possessions to purchase Chuffed. We’ve been living aboard ever since, sailing the Pacific Coast of Panama providing free veterinary care and education to local organisations and communities in need.

There was a lot of work ahead of us before we could reach the Islands of Las Perlas. As with many boats bought cheap, Chuffed needed some care and attention before we could cast off. While I was working in China I received an anxious voice message from Joel in Panama. “Hi Sheddy,” he said. “I’ve just got my toe over a hole in the hull, we’re taking on a bit of water… But it’s all good, my toe is doing the trick and my friends are coming over with some epoxy.”

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With a cork poking out of the toothbrush-sized hole we booked an emergency haul out with a full hull overhaul; this included scraping off the barnacle beard, welding some questionable areas and new antifouling. Once she was back in the water I arrived on board to find Chuffed in complete bedlam. Tools littered the cockpit and saloon, there was no running water and the heads consisted of a yellow five-gallon bucket. This was not the yachting life I’d dreamed of.

Soon enough we sorted out the major problems; a new water pump, a repaired toilet, and Chuffed’s hull had never looked better. However, there was still work to be done. I tackled Panama’s chaotic public transport systems to obtain much needed anaesthesia, pain relief, surgical equipment and other veterinary supplies we’d need for our trip.

Finally, it was time to raise the sails and make our way to the islands of Las Perlas, 40 miles south of Panama City. Humpback whales migrate through these waters from July to October, so we were constantly in the midst of these gentle giants. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to swim alongside with snorkels and waterproof camera. One whale nearly ran into our boat, but thankfully we avoided collision and made it safely to anchor.

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Islands on the horizon in the Gulf of Panama

Near whale collisions were not the only difficult part of sailing in the Gulf of Panama. Weather in this area is difficult to predict, with unexpected squalls, sudden changes in wind direction and large swells. The weather is heavily influenced by the Inter-Tropical Conversion Zone (ITCZ), where the southern and northern tradewinds meet, creating a band of confused weather.

From May to November the ITCZ moves to its northern-most position, which was of course the time we chose to visit Las Perlas. Not only that but weather from both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans can affect the Gulf, with only a narrow strip of land separating the oceans.

The journey began under motor, there was no wind in sight but thankfully we’d chosen to make the short journey to Isla Taboga first, only nine miles from our anchorage in Las Brisas, Panama City. After an hour of motoring the weather took a turn, and with the wind blowing directly on our nose we decided to tack our way to Isla Taboga.

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Once settled we took advantage of the calm waters in the anchorage to do a final hull clean; the Gulf of Panama is rich in nutrients – great for marine life but not so good for the lifespan of the antifouling and Chuffed had accumulated a beard of algae and barnacles.

We were then off to Las Perlas, once again with very little wind. We managed to raise the sails for a few hours but the majority of the trip was spent motoring the Doldrum-like conditions of the Gulf of Panama, with seas so flat you could see a perfect reflection of the boat gliding along.

As we neared the archipelago we had to pass the narrows between Isla Mogo Mogo and Isla Casayete; a difficult task with a whale and her calf blocking the way. Thankfully we’d already dropped the sails and were able to drift past them as they played.

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Chuffed is a 37ft Gamelin Madera, built in France in 1990

We finally ended up in the village of San Miguel, the largest in the Las Perlas archipelago towards the northern end of Isla Del Rey. San Miguel is home to 1,000 people and approximately 120 dogs. The villagers mostly work as fishermen, supplying their catch to resorts on surrounding islands. Tidal changes of over 5m makes anchoring in the shallow bay a bit of fun, though thankfully our swing keel means we can convert Chuffed to a flat-bottomed boat so she can float in just 1m of water.

As we made our way to shore aboard our dinghy a beautiful sight greeted us: brightly coloured fishing boats lined the beach, in front of a hill crowded with makeshift houses with dense jungle surroundings, while a pack of dogs played in the sand. We unpacked our plethora of veterinary supplies, jammed tight in suitcases, dry bags and toolboxes, and made our way through the vivid thoroughfare of the village to the small orange dwelling that was to be our veterinary clinic for the next five days.

As soon as we began setting up, we had people and their dogs already waiting to see us, with a long list of appointments our local contact had arranged – not that appointments have much meaning when everyone runs on ‘island time’. Our surgery suite was a small undercover porch, with just enough room for Joel, myself and our surgery table.

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Sheridan Lathe treated and operated on dozens of dogs in Las Perlas – more often than not under the curious eyes of the locals

It also provided the perfect viewing platform for locals, and we were to be the best entertainment in town. The combined kitchen, dining and lounge area, totalling around 10m2, was converted into a patient recovery, storage and cleaning space.

Working in a remote area with limited supplies turns you into a bit of a veterinary cowboy – rigging up contraptions to deliver intravenous fluids, stabilising our patients’ surgical position using towels and tying up patients wherever you could to prevent escape.

Many of these dogs had never been held, let alone restrained by a vet, so we administered a sedative half an hour before surgery to help them feel calm. This would often leave the dogs acting like a drunk and more than once we had to rescue a patient that was weaving their way down the hill after escaping their confines.

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Maintaining a healthy pet population improves health outcomes for people too

San Miguel does not get a lot of foreign visitors, let alone foreign visitors wielding scalpel blades. As soon as the school bell rang children would come running and screaming down the street to watch the surgeries take place.

These surgeries were not pretty, with blood and organs appearing regularly, much to the delight of the local kids. The only doctor on the island also turned up to watch: he does surgery so infrequently he had many questions and thought it was a great learning opportunity.

It was like no veterinary clinic I have ever worked in. With errant soccer balls flying at my head, patients trying to mate each other and music blasting from every house on the street it was hectic to say the least!

Joel and I averaged eight surgeries and 20 patients a day, while also cleaning and preparing all our own equipment. By the time evening rolled around it was all we could do to take the dinghy back to Chuffed, eat some instant noodles and fall asleep ready to start all over again the next day.

The language barrier also provided entertainment to the locals and added an extra challenge for us. We learned quickly, with broken Spanish and hand gestures proving sufficient to explain even the most bizarre of medical conditions, including one hermaphroditic dog. Explaining that their beloved pet had both female and male parts caused much hilarity, especially for the watching teenagers.

Living, sailing and working in San Miguel was one of the most amazing experiences we have ever had. The community invited us into their homes and lives. Locals would walk up with bottles of soda, handfuls of apples and fresh fish for us to enjoy. They would tell us about their lives, the economy and their struggles.

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They trusted us because we were providing a completely free service to their community. We learnt about the difficulties young people face finding work in the city, the constant problems with power and water supply and the lack of veterinary care for their animals. The closest vet for these islands is in Panama City, a 40-mile boat journey.

It was a rewarding experience providing veterinary care for the animals and their humans. The health of the environment, animals and people is intricately linked and if one suffers they all suffer. An overpopulation of dogs has increased risk of disease to the dogs, wildlife and humans, and puts a strain on the community trying to feed, shelter and care for a growing dog population.

As I placed the closing suture in our final patient, storm clouds rolled in. Gusts of wind were blowing the surgical equipment all over the porch, and we couldn’t help but feel the gods were telling us we had done enough. We’d spayed every female dog in the village, effectively stopping the growth of the dog population, at least for now. We’d provided treatment for more than 100 dogs, with a range of conditions from intestinal parasites to fleas and respiratory infections. We had truly made a difference.

sailing-panama-local-dog-credit-sheridan-latheHaving hosted veterinary clinics in three towns during our time in Las Perlas, it was time for us to take some rest, and we set off to explore the amazing uninhabited beaches of Isla Casaya, Espiritu and San José. These islands and the surrounding waters are home to an incredible variety of wildlife including bright blue macaws, gigantic whale sharks and multicoloured iguanas.

Las Perlas offers amazing cruising waters for short or long-term stays. With over 200 islands in the archipelago, many of which are completely uninhabited, there are endless opportunities to explore.

Anchoring in some areas can be difficult, especially for boats with deep draught because there are many rocks and shoals scattered between islands, and some passages that are only a few metres deep at high tide.

But this island playground is perfect for a modest boat like Chuffed, with her lifting keel we were able to anchor close to the beach, and sit on the sandy bottom. Our favourite spot to explore was Isla Espiritu Santos (Holy Spirit), a tiny uninhabited Island located on the eastern side of Isla Del Rey that is rich with wildlife, including iguanas, waterfowl and plenty of fish – not that we managed to catch any with Joel’s Hawaiian sling harpoon.

We explored miles of coastline, not all without incident. Entering the south-eastern anchorage of San José is tricky in the best conditions – a shoal in the middle of the bay creates a huge rolling break and massive pillars of rock form dangerous islands on both the northern and southern points.

Sailing Panama in the wet season guarantees regular squalls, and one such storm kicked up the waves before we entered this bay. It was at the exact moment we passed one of the rock pillars that our engine cut out. We quickly unfurled enough headsail to keep momentum, and fortunately managed to restart the engine within minutes to make it to anchor.

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The islands of Las Perlas are barely 40 miles south of Panama City, but are rarely visited. Photo: Hemis / Alamy

The Pacific coast of Panama offers much to the sailing community; with a cruising permit of nine months (and six months on your personal visa) it allows you plenty of time to explore. While anchored in the free anchorage of Las Brisas in Panama City we were able to take advantage of being close to civilisation and taking the opportunity to visit the Miraflores Museum, which documents the construction and history of the Panama Canal.

We had some amazing experiences: rescuing a critically endangered marine turtle, hiking the jungle in search of rare frogs and enjoying some spectacular sunsets, cocktail in hand. We’re privileged to be doing what we love, and even a bad day on board still beats the daily grind of our old lives.

sailing-panama-joel-sheridan-lathe-bw-headshot-600px-squareAbout the author

Sheridan and Joel Lathe are sailing around the world, offering free veterinary care to communities in need. They blog and vlog their adventures, you can follow and donate to support their work at: vettails.com and facebook.com/vet0tails

First published in the September 2018 edition of Yachting World.

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Hallberg-Rassy HR40C: See inside the Swedish yard’s “best ever” build” (17 Mar 2020, 8:58 am)

Hallberg-Rassy's CEO Magnus Rassy takes Toby through the new Frers-designed HR40C, a yacht that really exploits the benefits of modern hull shape

hallberg-rassy-40c-yacht-tour-video

The latest Hallberg-Rassys combine markedly more space with a newer-generation hull shape and twin rudders, yet still retain the brand’s hallmark style and attributes.

This centre-cockpit model has a genuine 40ft hull length and almost the same beam as the HR44 that launched three years ago. Impressively, the HR40C offers equal space in the saloon, galley and aft cabin areas as the larger yacht too.

The key differences are therefore in the forepeak, where there’s a smaller, though still respectable, guest double cabin, but no option for an additional twin berth Pullman-style cabin.

Specification

Hull length: 12.30m 40ft 4in
Beam: 4.18m 13ft 9in
Draught: 1.92m 6ft 4in
Displacement: 11,000kg 24,250lb
Price: SEK4,080,400 (approx £327,000) ex. VAT

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