Archives for 2006 | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Selling Two-Step and buying another boat!

Oh boy this is getting to the tough part! For months I have been dreaming of the new boat - what will she look like, feel like etc. But now we are getting around to actually selling Two-Step and its proving tougher than I had thought. Well we did build her ourselves, and for all the years we have sailed her we have always been making improvements to her and looking after her as she has looked after us on numerous ocean miles. She has been a good boat for us and now I have been making up a website to sell her!?!?

Anyway, for anyone interested, I am putting together a page with shots and equipment lists etc. She is a very full featured boat - certainly ready to cross oceans. She may be right for you!

What to buy next?
So now I am zeroing in on the next Two-Step and I keep coming back to wanting a shallow draft cruiser to explore further...

Shallow draft and the Cruising Sailor
Why am I so keen to get a boat that draws less than 4 feet?
Anchorages, canals, rivers, Bahamas!! A big part of the reason we cruise is to explore the places we sail to. And there are many waterways and whole cruising grounds we are excluded from with our 6-foot draft. Although we are almost average compared to sailboats, we are quite deep compared to boats in general. All small craft and almost all power boats less than 70 feet long draw less than 5 feet. Many only draw 3 or 4. So there are many waterways designed for these boats. In more than one occasion we have sat aground in the middle of the US intracoastal waterway. Silting up from the planned 8 or 9 foot depths is only a problem when it affects enough boats I guess. Once we sat directly between the red and green markers of the channel so everyone could see we were squarely in the right place. The Florida Marine Police even came up and complained that we were sitting in the middle of a navigable waterway (not SO navigable I would say). But my point is that as we sat there a large number of craft right up to a 60 foot motor yacht sailed happily around us. We were the deepest boat for those 2 hours. Having a shoal draft would also have let us sail on down through the Florida Keys. The Bahamas is another whole cruising area. Anyone who has visited this cruising paradise will not only tell you how lovely it is but also how it would help to have a shallow draft to see more of it. There are whole island groups out of bounds to our 6 feet. Here 3-feet would be perfect!! Then there are the European canals – much easier to handle with shallow draft. So many places we could visit. Even the canal running up to our home base in Canada just north of Toronto requires less than 5-foot draft.

Isn't it less seaworthy to have shoal draft?
Certainly there have been very seaworthy boats that managed to have a shallow draft by putting the weight of the keel all along the bottom instead of concentrating it in a big bulb. Joshua Slocum's Spray only drew roughly 4 feet. But these boats tend to be slower than modern sailors are willing to accept. They were made within the limits of the materials. Wood just didn't allow the more interesting shapes of modern boats to be made strongly. So if you accept our modern quicker hulls with lower wetted surface area and beamy hulls for more accommodation, you are going to need to put some ballast fairly low to keep them safe. But remember that modern boats are also much lighter than previous craft of the same length. So it is possible to get a good stable boat by concentrating a lot of weight deep in the hull. Obviously you could get away with less weight if you could hang it lower but it can be done.

How do you measure whether the stability is sufficient?
A stability curve can be generated for a particular model of boat. The line basically shows if the boat wants to stay upright (and we all like boats that like to stay upright!!).
The simplest way to look at the stability curve of a sailboat is to see the how much of the curve is above the line and how much is below. The point where the curve crosses the line is also important and is known as the angle of vanishing stability. At risk of oversimplifying, the higher this number, the safer the boat.

What are the main factors affecting stability?
Basically the stability as measured by the curve is determined by the distribution of weight in the boat and the form of the hull and deckhouse. So a boat with a mediocre stability such as a canoe, could be improved by adding some weight in a keel hung 1 meter down, and by building a lightweight deck to stop water coming in when heeled past 30 degrees. Any boat will be improved for (stability purposes) by removing unnecessary weight above the centre of gravity. In fact this is a good reason not to take your collected 30 years of National Geographic Magazines and store them up on the bulkhead. Similarly jugs of water and fuel lashed on deck and the outboard motor up on a bracket, all add to the top heaviness and reduce the stability of a boat.

What about a very deep keel?
The easiest way to improve a sailboats stability and also its sailing characteristics is to concentrate more of the boat's weight lower in the keel. The racing community have embraced this concept! Todays racers have bulbs suspended on a winglike blade and may draw 3 or 4 meters. The newest use hydraulics to swing the keel from side to side to improve the righting moment even more dramatically. For the rest of us cruising in the real world where there are shoals, lobster pots and slips with limited depth these keels are impractical but they are certainly a trend in the racing world and show some interesting potential for cruising boats if the ideas weren't quite so radical.

How about a keel that swings down for offshore work and lifts up for shallow draft?
This isn't a new idea but there have been difficulties in the past. A boat made of wood needs a large area to provide the strength to attach a keel and distribute the tremendous loads of a heavy keel where it would slide or swing into the hull. Similarly fiberglass would need great reinforcement but would be easier to accomplish. And steel or aluminum have easily got the strength to support a well designed movable keel. Now modern racing boats are making canting keels by taking advantage of modern hi strength materials. So although most cruisers will shake their heads at the radical canting bulb keels that swing many tons out to the side of the new crop of maxi-yachts, there is no denying that racers are paving the way for cruisers to follow by showing that keels don't just have to be fixed to the bottom of a sailboat.

What is out there for cruisers?
There are a few cruising boats right now that have shallow draft and have solved the keel problem in interesting ways.

Traditional boat with a centreboard – Classic yachts like the Bermuda 40 have reduced the keel depth somewhat, and added a centreboard to reduce leeway when beating. Simplest to build and proven over years they do reduce the draft but not by much. And since the centreboard usually doesn't contribute much to the ballast, these designs do not offer an increase in stability.

Centreboard in a modern hull shape. French builders Garcia and Alubat (builders of the Ovni series – which incidentally means U.F.O. in french since they do look a bit wild!) have built a number of models in aluminum that have a modern beam and waterline but no built in keel at all. The ballast is concentrated in the bottom of the hull itself, and the centreboard keel that swings down is almost neutral – designed to reduce leeway and allow the boats to go to windward but not add to the righting moment. These boats tend to be heavier than conventional designs since more ballast is required to make up for none of it being lower than their typically 1 meter draft. But these boats are popular with sailors interested in shallow water, and have also done many offshore passages. Jimmy Cornell sailed an Ovni 43 for years and now has another aluminum shallow draft sailboat custom made by Garcia.

Lifting keel daggerboard in a modern hull – European design firm Van De Stadt have done a number of models that have a bulb on a daggerboard where a substantial amount of ballast is hung down to a depth that makes their modern hull shape virtually equivalent to a modern deep keel boat. At sea the boat would perform like a modern racer/cruiser, but by hydraulically raising the keel the draft is reduced by up to 1 meter as you sail into your marina! Disadvantages include the possibility of jamming the daggerboard if you run aground when it is down, and the fact that stability is very affected by the keel. So if you have the keel up you would be careful not to overpower the boat with full sails. In practice you could just remember to reduce sail before raising the keel.

Modern hull with ballast in a centreboard – British-built Southerlies have an interesting system where a deep centreboard comprises 35 percent of the ballast package, and the remaining is in a large plate in the deepest part of the hull. The boats are fibreglass but instead of worrying about how to attach the centreboard securely to the glass hull, Southerlies use the massive ballast plate to fashion a sturdy attachment point in cast iron. That way the loads of the ballast attachment to the glass hull are distributed over the size of the ballast plate. With a heritage of the south of England, the design is meant to be able to dry out by resting on the ballast plate, and she can also deal with running aground since the centreboard is designed to kick up without causing harm. Since the heavy centreboard affects the stability quite a bit, the boat actually has two stability curves. Stability is good even with the board up, but there is greater righting moment with the board down, and of course she will make much less leeway. Southerly seems to me to have the most promising mix of shallow draft, seaworthiness and not too much technology to get in the way. But how do they deal with the rudder when they go aground and how do they lift that heavy centreboard. I am going to investigate further!


- Southerly have sadly gone out of business producing new sailboats. Luckily they built over 800 boats in all the decades they were in business so you can find one on Yachtworld :-)


Anchor Chain

Today I'm trying to figure out the perfect anchor chain/rode setup. This seems to be almost a cultural thing. Over here in the Med and Europe there is no question. You need an all chain rode. ALL cruisers have all chain, usually from 40 meters to 100 meters although an average seems to be 60 (200 feet). Even charter boats in the Mediterranean are likely to have all chain. And almost all boats have an electric windlass to manage it. This yields lots of advantages for cruising sailors. No more back strain hauling the anchor, no danger of catching fingers toes or other parts in the chain or rode as it goes out etc.

But back to the chain. By making the anchor rode all chain you have no fear of sharp coral or rocks cutting you adrift. Chain allows you to anchor with less rode so you can swing in a smaller radius and not worry about taking too much space in a crowded harbour. And in the Eastern Mediterranean where we often use an anchor to moor up stern to the key having an all chain rode means we will not risk having our rode cut by the propellor of another boat maneuvering near our bows. It is a common sight in a Greek harbour to see 20 yachts all stern to the key and their anchors set on 20-80 meters of chain and a newcomer caught broadside while trying to wiggle in to a space. Definitely a good time to have an all chain rode, a boathook at the ready and a friendly helpful attitude “there but for the grace of god go I”. Two-Step is quite agile in these conditions and we have only been caught once I can remember but still...

Where we have been caught is trying to gauge the distance off the key to set the hook. When we had just 40 meters there were a few occasions when we set the anchor, backed up to the key and found we had run out of rode still 7 meters off. We lengthened it with a warp but this still meant we had an exposed bit of cuttable rope off our bows until the chain began 5 meters on. Now with 60 meters this is not likely to be a problem again. And quite a few of our experienced Mediterranean cruising friends have 100 meters of chain!!

North American sailors often have gone for the performance theory that you only need a few meters of chain and can save the weight of an anchor windlass as well. Even to have 20 meters of chain would be overkill. And while you're at it why not make the chain lighter by using the hi-tensile variety. Schedule 40 or even Schedule 70 chains can allow you to cut the weight of your chain in half for the same strength.

I would like to take the best from both camps. 60 or 70 meters of chain allow us the peace of mind to and ease of use we have been used to with 17 years of anchoring on all chain, but the new boat will make use of a hi-tensile chain to save weight. Where we would have needed 10mm (approx 3/8 inch) chain before we can now use just 8mm and have a chain that is actually a fair bit stronger.

Weight of Chain

60 meters of 10mm chain weighs approximately 140 Kg or 300 pounds
60 meters of 8mm Schedule 70 chain weighs approx 90Kg or 200 pounds

The best part is that the lighter chain is almost 30% stronger!

So assuming the new boat is 40-45 feet long it will be well secured with 8mm schedule 70 chain (with a substantial safety margin). Ideally it will have 60-70 meters so it will need to have an anchor locker to hold roughly 100Kg of chain. More tomorrow! I'm off to measure the height of the chain in a big pile at the bows. Two-Step has 60 meters of 8mm chain so I'm going to dump it all on the bottom and then pull it in and see how high it piles up...

Starting with a Clean Slate

Getting a new boat means we have a chance to look at all the systems on the boat and try to get it all right - not realistic I suppose but we can try ;-) . So over the next few months I am going to blog the thought processes that go into designing systems for the perfect cruising boat – at least for us. Over the past 17 years of cruising I have seen a lot of clever ideas on other peoples boats, and have had the chance to improve Two-Step as we tried things, and cruised to different areas. Actually it is surprising how the perfect boat seems to vary as you cruise in different places. Motoring down the ICW we wanted a slightly larger fuel tank – and wouldn't want a mast too tall for the ICW bridges. Also we would have been happy to motor faster than our 5.5-6 knots. And with marina prices well over $1 per foot we would be happy to have a shorter boat! So the perfect boat expands to 50 feet for fast motoring and shrinks to 27 feet for frugal marina fees ;-) - oh well we can't have everything. Anyway, the next few months I am going to go over the various systems and design considerations as we design our new boat. I hope these ramblings might be of help to others of you who are considering a new boat – or just updating your old one – or dreaming of the future!!

Anchoring Systems
So today I have been trying to assemble all the info we have accumulated over the years to plan out the perfect anchoring system. There are only a few topics more likely to invite heated discussions from cruising sailors than what is the perfect anchor, but I am more concerned with how to set up the best overall system, not just the anchor itself.

For the past 17 years we have used a 45lb CQR as our main anchor. This anchor has held very well in a variety of conditions HOWEVER it has not ever set very well. By this I mean it works great to hold the boat after it has been set well in the bottom but it doesn't tend to set itself. Consequently I have taken to diving down and checking the anchor, and on many occasions helping it set, or even moving it to a better spot then setting it (see underwater footage of this in the Distant Shores Volume 3: South Italy & Adriatic Sea DVD in episode #21 Rogoznica Croatia).

Thanks in part to this questionable setting of my CQR I have now become somewhat of an expert on anchor setting performance since I regularly swim around to nearby boats and check on their anchors as well. Over the last few years I have swum down to inspect a variety of anchors in the Mediterranean, Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, Aegean and Red Seas. Many of the bottoms in these areas include a covering of grass and are therefore more challenging for anchors than the typical mud of the US east coast or the sand of the Bahamas or Caribbean.

The Bruce and CQR anchors do not tend to set well in these conditions and I often found them lying scarcely dug in, or with weeds balled up around them. Certainly our CQR sets poorly in grass, tending to lie on its side and slide along, not enough weight in the tip to get it to set. As it is sliding back I can just lift it up a bit and push the tip in. Then it suddenly sets and digs in well. Since I only sleep well knowing it is set, and I have lost faith in its ability to set itself, I have been looking around for the better solution!

One of the most popular anchors is the Delta. Although it was originally conceived as a budget version of the CQR it has proven to be a big improvement! Much more of the weight is in the tip of the anchor and because of this it sets far better than the CQR. I have watched the Delta slide along a grassy bottom for just a few feet before the weight in the tip pushes through the grass and the anchor starts to set itself. Very impressive.

Another anchor commonly seen in the Mediterranean these days is the Bugel and although I have seen it also setting quite well in the grasses and hard sands in anchorages here I have wondered if it has large enough flukes to match the overall performance of the Delta in softer mud and sands. As a general all around anchor we have now switched to a Delta for Two-step and the new boat will have the same.

2nd Anchor – My favourite second anchor is the light Danforth style (like the Fortress). They are fabulous in mud and sand and hold stronger than almost anything in those bottoms. They will not reset themselves if you start to pull from the opposite direction so I plan to set them for situations where they won't be asked to reset. Going stern to the shore or a key, setting as a second anchor in a Bahamian mooring or when bow and stern anchoring.

Windlass and Anchor Chain
Since we added an electric windlass to Two-Step there has been no looking back. And the Lewmar V3 we have now on Two-Step is surely the most beautiful piece of stainless steel engineering ever to pull an anchor! Although we never shirked our responsibility to re-anchor until we got it right, it sure is less daunting to consider pulling the anchor and chain up from 16 meters and resetting it 3 times just to get it correct. So the new boat must have a powerful electric windlass and 70 meters of chain. More info on this in the future!!

Stern Anchoring
Cruising in Croatia and Turkey the past few years we have many times had to anchor in a deep bay and back up to the shore or a jetty to take a line ashore. This is a common method of anchoring and allows 10-15 boats to be securely tied up in a small bay where only 1-2 could have swung freely on their anchors. To do this many cruising sailors have added a reel on the stern railing to allow 50 meters of line to be easily deployed. Just jump in the dinghy or swim ashore pulling the line and tie it on a tree or rock at the shoreline. The reel allows a swimmer to do the job almost single handedly and beats our method of having someone on deck manage our 50 meter bag of line – always in danger of tangling. A line on a reel also is available for emergencies such as offering a tow or whatever – ready to go!

Planning your cruise? Check out Distant Shores
Order the Super Pack on DVD and get Season 1-10 Downloadable.
Order the Super Pack on Vimeo and we will send you the code for Season 10 as a bonus. Email us for details.

Getting a New Boat?

After 17 years of cruising in our beloved Two-Step we are looking for a new improved go-anywhere cruiser! It seems like we have just got her in perfect condition as we have been tweaking her and looking for ways to improve her sailing and our space onboard. Especially over the past few years we have updated her equipment with a new electric windlass, new Icom Radio, and of course new Autopilot Radar, plotter etc from Raymarine. So now that she's in such good shape it seems unfair to be considering moving to a new boat, but there are some things she just can't do. Primarily shallower draft to allow us to explore the French Canals (and of course the Bahamas again!) were the driving forces but once we got thinking about a new boat we inevitably started to think about getting a larger boat so we could have guests visit – and anyway here we are – thinking about a new boat!!!

This weblog will follow our design process of finding and outfitting the ultimate cruising sailboat for crossing oceans, exploring coasts and living aboard.

Basic parameters

  1. LOA in range of 40-45 feet since we will need space for visitors and crew on occasion.
  2. LWL in range of 35-38 feet. For ocean passages this size means substantially more LWL than Two-Step, a Classic 37, which is just 27 feet on the waterline. Of course longer waterline length means higher speed potential and we would love to cut a few days off the typical 20 day ocean crossing. Modern designs usually have a fairly straight bow to help achieve this longer waterline than Two-Step with her long overhangs.
  3. Shallow draft. Ideally we would like to draw less than 4 feet to be able to visit those creeks in the Chesapeake Bay we missed last time and of course the back corners of our favourite destination – The Bahamas. Also canals often require shallower than 5 feet draft. This must not compromise safety and performance at sea. I know deep sea performance and shoal draft is going to be a tough one but exploring the coasts and countries when we arrive is the main reason Sheryl and I sail.
  4. Air draft of less than 62 feet to allow us to go under bridges through the Intra-Coastal Waterway in the US.
  5. Guest cabin as well as main owner's double cabin. Most people would like to be able to have guests visit and have the possibility of extra crew on passages. We have seen many cruising boats with a guest cabin but not sufficient storage so the guest cabin has become a junk room. Many charter boats are laid out like this – maximizing the crew accommodation but not leaving nearly enough storage for people who live aboard.
  6. Plenty of storage for cruising gear in the boat. We have more books, clothes, spare parts and general gear than many boats are made to handle and I am sure we are not unique amongst live-aboard cruisers. Some want to collect carpets in the east, shells down south and general souvenirs along the way. On Two-Step we carry tools to make ourselves self-sufficient, and have 3 lockers just devoted to camera gear and audio equipment to film our TV series.
  7. More storage accessible from on deck. Some boat designs haven't even got sufficient storage for the the number of fenders needed to protect your boat in some rougher docks or marinas.
  8. Facility to store a 10 foot RIB with 10-15 HP motor for planing. In the Bahamas and Caribbean this is a must. Ideally it would be kept on Davits for easy launching (and security) and only lashed on deck for passages.

One thing we are going to keep an eye on is just what we might be losing by giving up Two-Step. It is easy to see what you might like as a new feature, but harder sometimes to be aware of what you already have and might lose by moving to a new boat. Two-Step is a very tough boat with very high quality fittings, a cozy interior, easy-to-service engine, excellent storage space, she is easy to handle with just two people and we know her inside and out. She will not be easy to replace! But without getting all emotional here, we are looking to update and add features and open up new destinations after 17 years of cruising on her. (sniff)