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Passage Planning

We introduce you to a young farm family who share their plan for fun yet affordable family cruising. We take you and a crew of sailors who are planning their own escape for a week of sailing and cruise planning in the beautiful Exuma Islands of the Bahamas. We also show you our process for passage planning, techniques for shallow water piloting and snorkel on pristine reefs in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.


Sailing Across an Ocean on a Catamaran - Bluewater 50 by Discovery

In mid-November we set sail from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands to make our 8th transatlantic crossing but this time we did it on a catamaran - a brand new Bluewater 50 Story coming soon…
We had very light winds for this passage and ended up flying the spinnaker for many days. Winds were from astern as expected on this route but often under 10 knots true - which is lighter than the typical 15-18 we have experienced on this crossing before.
The first 2 days out from Las Palmas we had the more typical winds at 15-18 and she roared along at 10 knots showing how powerful and easy it could be. The winds were to be much lighter for the rest of the cruise!
I had planned that most of the passage would be done with our twin headsails. This is my favourite rig for our monohulls where we fly one jib on a pole and the other using a block on the end of the boom. On the wider catamaran we barber-hauled the jibs out to the beam and moved along well dead downwind. This rig was also perfect for night sailing as it doesn't need the management of a spinnaker, and can be easily reefed if a squall comes by. (Photo Courtesy of Craig from CruisingOffDuty who bravely flew his drone to get get the aerial shots)
This is actually an asymmetric spinnaker but we flew it two different ways.
1) as a symmetric spinnaker we ran both sheets to blocks on the two bows
2) as an asymmetric spinnaker we ran one sheet to the bowsprit, and the other sheet aft to a block by the stern

In this picture we're flying the spinnaker off the two bows.
From the masthead you can see how the spinnaker is running to both bows. This was our most common rig and worked well dead downwind.
Flying the spinnaker from the bowsprit here you can see the sheet running aft on the starboard side.
One day the wind dropped below 5 knots so we went for a swim. Sheryl stayed on board and I went down below to see how we looked from underwater. Its 3 miles deep right here and the visibility is about 200 feet!
We shot a TON of video on this crossing! I'm currently working on the footage and will get something up on YouTube shortly.


Planning a World Cruise

It's a very exciting time planning an upcoming cruise! Whether you are planning a summer cruise of a week or two, or planning something a little longer as we are… the planning stage should be a fun exercise as well as a chance to learn about your destinations and route.

In our case we're planning our first trip out into the Pacific Ocean to the Galapagos, Marquesas, French Polynesia and onwards. But first we will be back in the UK to collect our new Distant Shores III next spring, so our planning starts there.

The new boat will be ready in time to appear in the Dusseldorf Boat Show in January. Then she'll be back in the UK for final checks before splashing her in the Solent for our initial test-sailing in late March. Below is a section of the pilot chart for March in the North Atlantic. It shows winds around force 4-5 with a slight preponderance from the W-SW and only 2-3% of calms. The red "10" in the English channel indicates that 10% of the time the waves are greater than 12 feet high. The next red line indicates 20% so our sailing ground will be between 10-20 percent waves above 12 feet. The open channel is likely to be "perky" ;-)

You can follow the link for the US Government site to download the pilot charts yourself, which all include a handy section on how to read them.

Of course it's still cold in March so we won't be planning very long passages. The Solent is a protected body of water with many nice harbours and uncrowded anchorages (that time of year) so it should be fun cruising while we get to know Distant Shores III.

We will also plan some "open day" events then so if you'd like to come and see Distant Shores III there will be an opportunity as well.

Year 1

Looking forward to May with the weather becoming more pleasant we will be heading off on our first longer cruises. We'll cross the Channel to Guernsey in the Channel Islands and visit France as well. Then after one more trip back to the UK we'll set off on the big voyage.

The summer plan is to head south along France, then Spain and Portugal to Gibraltar. Way back in 2007 we sailed this coast in December (Yikes!) so are expecting a much warmer cruise with a chance to poke in some of the harbours we missed that time!

Next we'll sail across to the Caribbean in November - arriving in Antigua in December to complete 2018 with a Caribbean Christmas.

Here is our recent video Q&A on planning the world voyage.

Are you planning a cruise in the next 1-2 years?

Southbound Part 1 - Erie Canal

By Paul Shard, Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Do you dream of escaping the cold northern winter on your boat?

For sailors on the American East Coast the Intracoastal waterway is a great resource and fun trip south. For boaters on the Great Lakes, the first step is to get out to the coast. Our favourite route is to use the Erie Canal to get to the Hudson River and New York City.

What Time Should We Start

We have done this trip Southbound 3 times, leaving Canada from August 29 up to September 21. If you then take your time enjoying the trip south you will not arrive in the Hurricane Belt before the finish of the hurricane season in November. BTW you should check your insurance policy to see what their dates are for hurricane season (often finishing November 1). We recommend arriving at the Erie Canal early to mid-September. So if you come from further up the system you can work the dates back from there.

Waypoints - Where to be When

Leave before it gets too cold crossing New York via the Erie Canal. The Erie closes mid-November but that would mean a cold trip. Our late-September trips were very nice with frost a few mornings and fall colours on the trees.


Hurricanes - some insurance want you to stay north of 35 degrees until after Hurricane Season - That's around Oriental North Carolina - and partially explains the popularity of this destination :-) Of course other companies insure boaters south of this zone. Check your policy!

Annapolis Boat Show

Many sailors try to get to Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay in time for the US Sailboat show early October. Annapolis is about 250 nautical miles from New York City. We plan a week for this at least - more if you plan to explore along the way. Remember there could be weather delays on this route as you go out in the ocean to the Delaware Bay. If you get in a few days early you might snag a mooring in Spa Creek right by the show (or in Back Creek nearby). Then you can spend the time at the show buying those last minute must-have boat purchases.

Erie Canal Attraction

One thing we learned from our first trip South was to prepare a bit more time for the Erie Canal. This first leg is often done in a hurry, but we have spoken to many who rated it as a high point of the route South…

Ideal Itinerary

Planning this trip in the future this is what we would do…
  • Leave Toronto first week September
  • Mast down at Oswego Mid-September
  • Arrive Hudson River 3rd week September
  • Enjoy New York
  • 8 Days to Chesapeake Bay
  • Annapolis for US Sailboat Show October 8

Erie Height Restrictions

You need to take your mast down to allow for the clearance in the canal ( Basically 20 feet clearance for our Route from Oswego to the Hudson, or 15.5 feet if you come the Erie Canal all the way from Tonawanda (Buffalo).

Preparation for the Erie Canal

Sailboats have two options but must take down the mast to transit the Erie Canal…
  1. Carry the Mast on Deck
  2. Have your mast trucked overland to meet you
We have always carried the mast. Plan a sturdy system to support the mast. Waves on Lake Oneida will not look large compared to ocean conditions but even a small bounce can get a harmonic motion going if your mast isn't well braced and supported. Note above how I have made a tripod so the forward leg stops the mast moving for and aft.

Get Protection - Fenders and Boards

Transiting the locks means you'll come up against the rough lock walls, docking and moving up and down the side many times a day. Your regular fender strategy probably won't offer sufficient protection. We recommend a fender board to keep allow your fenders to slide easily up and down rough lock walls. This can be as simple as a couple of 2-by-4 boards 8-feet long. Drill a hole vertically so you can put a line down through the board and it won't chafe rubbing on the wall.

Prepare to Enjoy the Erie Canal

So you have designed a secure way to mount the mast, made a couple of fender boards, and designed a schedule to get you south. Now prepare to enjoy the canal journey!

Check out our How-To video below for more hints and a taste of the trip through the Erie Canal.

Paul & Sheryl

Weather4D Passage Routing Review - Updated

By Paul Shard, Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
Scroll Down to see update following the passage
GGT to SXM - 21
Do you wonder about the best way to plan a passage? Ask yourself questions such as “Can I make a passage before the next front comes in? How long will it take? When is the best time to tack, assuming the weather will be coming more from the east in the next few days?”

These are questions Sheryl and I have been asking ourselves since we are planning a big jump directly from the Exumas in the Bahamas down to Saint Martin in the Caribbean this week. It’s usually a tough upwind slog so planning the best day to leave might make all the difference between a tough bash to windward and an enjoyable passage. If we can catch a window where a front is approaching, we will grab the winds that go to the northwest and north which might allow us to make the necessary easting until we turn right and pick up the tradewinds from the east down to the Caribbean. This is the traditional strategy for this passage.

I have always done this planning using a manual method. I look at GRIB files and step through the passage – updating our course and guessing how many miles we will make in the next day. If the wind is on the beam we might make 7-8 knots – perhaps 175 miles in 24 hours. By then the forecast might predict winds a bit more on the nose so we will be slowing a bit.... hmmm. So perhaps if we leave a little earlier and motor a bit the first day we might pick up the winds so we get away from the weather...

Does this sound familiar? Or does the whole routing thing sound too complicated? What to do??

Weather4D Routing Software

How about an app that does the weather routing scenarios for you? Plus figures out alternative options for your course. Just plug in a start date, define the weather area you want to load for the GRIB file and Voila! (that’s French for “there you are!”)

I have been testing out an app called “Weather4D” and related app “iPolar” on my iPhone. A bit complicated at first but quite a revelation in route-planning. Let’s jump in!

Weather data can be displayed on many websites and using GRIB viewers so you can watch the weather animate through time over your upcoming route. But in these cases you still have to do the actual route planning. You will need to plot a proposed course and plot waypoints based on how far you think you might sail each day.

More Than just a Grib Viewer

Weather4D is not just a grib viewer – but so much more. It will do routing – advancing you along your planned course so you can visualize the weather as you will be making your passage. But how can it do that? How will the app know how fast we will be going?? For that you need the info on how fast you can sail on each heading relative to the wind. This is often represented by a “polar” predicted performance diagram.

Polar Performance Data

You can import Polar performance information for your own sailboat into the Weather4D app. I used the companion product called iPolar to generate a predicted polar sailing table by inputing LOA, LWL, beam, displacement and our Southerly 49 sail areas. Here is a capture screen of the diagram (showing the 14 knot performance set by the slider underneath). It appears to be fairly close to the polar diagram Southerly published for the 49. Good enough anyway to give a reasonable input for the program.

Before I get into much more complicated descriptions – here is a nice graphic to show why its all worth it. Weather4D has calculated how much we will be sailing along our planned route (red boat), and even generated a better suggest route (green boat).
This is a scenario of our upcoming trip from the Exumas (upper left) to Saint Martin (lower right). We have just started and you can see our boat in red following along the route I input. Using the polar performance data we put in, Weather4D is applying the GRIB file data and sailing us along my course.

Wind and wave data is displayed on the panel – and I have set the screen to display the waves as background shading. Winds are the small arrows, waves are the black arrows.
However, notice the second route, also in blue but below my planned course. The green boat is the routing simulated alternative. This route is the optimum course calculated by Weather4D. Note below how (if all goes according to forecast :-) we might arrive earlier by the route the Weather4D routing algorithm is suggesting. The green boat is coming in more than 6-8 hours earlier!

The two routes compared: If we follow my route we will have a slow section (in yellow on the right side of the screen) where the winds are too light to make a good speed. Note the suggested lower route has much less yellow section.

Weather routing is tough work and very “CPU-Intensive”. It takes a minute or so to calculate our best potential route. This is on an iPhone 4 so newer phones would be faster - I would recommend using this on a new iPad - Christmas is coming :-)

Here I snapped a screen-shot of the process... potential routes are being evaluated as time advances. You can see the far northern options aren't getting us so far as the southern options so it is concentrating more on them.

This will be an ongoing review and I will update it when we arrive in the Caribbean with our thoughts after the passage.

Weather Routing Software - Competition

Predictwind is $199/year and MaxSea has a weather routing module you can add in for $260. Although it might well not do all these packages can, Weather4D at $33 (plus 10.99 if you want iPolar) seems to be a useful package to run on your tablet or smartphone. We will report back on the passage experience when we arrive in Saint Martin in a week or so.

Has anyone got experience with Weather4D or the competing Predictwind Service or MaxSea? Please chime in with comments!

Update Dec 21/14 - Choosing the Route

Greetings from St. Martin! What an amazing passage we just had sailing from the Bahamas! Looking at the suggested route above I decided to modify our route a bit south and plan one that would take us more directly to St Martin... see below for the plotter track we did on our Raymarine chartplotter which uses Navionics charts. This is our actual track in black, with red dots for log points, noon fixes etc.
I know that winds in this area rarely come from the south so I wanted to stay further north in case our predicted N-NE winds didn’t last as long as the forecast said (which was that they were to swing more NE-ENE at the end of our passage). Here is a typical weather pattern for this time of year - lots of easterly winds - no chance of making the jump we just did.


Grab Your Weather Window

So how do you plan a successful passage? There are so many amazing tools we can use nowadays that it is much easier than it used to be to help plan a reasonable route for your boat and your crew. I will definitely be adding the regular use of the Weather4D tool to my passage planning routine from now on.

  1. Check general weather patterns if you aren’t familiar with the area... See Pilot Charts, cruising guides and general routing ideas such as Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes.
  2. Check the current situation with sites such as Passageweather
  3. Roughly evaluate your proposed route to see if you will have acceptable weather scenarios for your trip by drawing it out on a chart advancing your position by typical day’s run (judging from the forecast winds and seas)
  4. Simulate your route using Weather4D.
  5. Set Sail!

Thoughts on Weather Routing

Success of the weather routing will depend on 2 major factors...
The accuracy of weather forecasts - obviously less accurate the further out the forecast is. Your own boat and crew’s ability to meet your predicted performance.

Weather Forecast Accuracy

In our case the forecast we received turned out to be quite accurate right up to our arrival as the winds had shifted to NE-ENE by the 5th day. 12 hours into the passage we passed Rum Cay in the Bahamas and our Cellphone data link got a weather update but after that we had no more data connection. This meant we could not receive an updated grib file for Weather4D while we were underway but we did receive audio forecasts on our SSB radio.
GGT to SXM - 19

Polar Diagram and Predicted Performance

Did we meet our predicted speeds? Well, mostly :-)
We regularly make 7.5-8 knots sailing on a beam reach and with steady winds we made progress as predicted. But the perfect world of Polar predicted performance doesn’t take into account normal wind fluctuations and a short-handed crew. With just the two of us on board there were a few occasions where we wouldn’t sail at our peak. For example, we will not use our big genoa with winds over 20 knots, so if it's evening and there are occasional gusts over 20 we will furl our genoa and put out our smaller self-tacking jib. This is a tough little 100% jib and it is quite capable of handling winds well above 20 knots so we can have a more relaxed time on our night watches. But this means we are sailing at 6 knots or so as the wind might be just 13-14 kts. If we had a racing crew we would be changing sails and keeping much closer to our “predicted performance”. I think if we had done this we would have come closer to the predicted arrival time. In the end we arrived at 5 o’clock in the afternoon - about 8 hours after Weather4D suggested we would get in. Still in time to celebrate a sunset in the lagoon at Saint Martin and have a nice night’s sleep.
GGT to SXM - 23

Travel the world with us aboard Distant Shores
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“It’s because of your first season that we took off to go sailing and meet new people. 45k miles later, we're more indebted to you than ever. Thank you!”

J&K Via Facebook

5 Tips to Finding Your Own Sailor's Paradise

White Cay21
This past two weeks have been busy back in the Shard Multimedia studio as we are working full-time editing the next episode of Distant Shores - number 122. It's about the George Town area in the Exumas, Bahamas, and it covers some of the most beautiful waters we have cruised anywhere! It got me thinking about how we plan our cruises to find and enjoy amazing sailing paradises. Sheryl and I have cruised for nearly 25 years and in that time our cruising style has evolved and improved. Many people have asked us how we plan our cruises, so I took time out from editing today to put together my 5 top tips for finding your own sailor's paradise to help you design the perfect cruise.
  1. Plan time to explore - schedules and deadlines make it more difficult to find that perfect place - and when you do you might have no time left to enjoy it. We recommend leaving plenty of extra time in your cruising plan to allow you to take advantage of opportunities. We often make big jumps between destinations that we would like to spend more time at. This year we planned extra time in the British Virgin Islands, a favourite destination, then jumped directly to the Turks & Caicos and then the Bahamas where we planned a long cruise leaving time to explore more leisurely.
  2. Get off the main route - don't always just follow the purple line marked on the chart. Increasingly we see sailors running from waypoint to waypoint on a standard cruise agenda. This may work well for you if you don't have a plan ready yet. For instance, the traditional thorny path route to the Caribbean gets you through the standard Bahamian destinations pretty quickly, so you could plan more time on the return trip to poke into places you just got a taste of on the way down.
  3. Ask like-minded cruising sailors for recommendations. On the dock or in that characterful sailors' bar (eg. Peter's Cafe Sport in the Azores, Chat-n-Chill in the Bahamas, Yacht Marine in Marmaris Turkey) you can ask sailors coming the other way what their favourite stops were. But also check out how they cruise to see if what they like would appeal to you. Many of our best cruises started over a drink or dinner with fellow voyagers.
  4. Explore in the dinghy. Even inside an anchorage you can find that ideal spot. When you get to a new place you can see how things look from the other side of the bay. You might find that perfect hidey-hole for an extended stay. We have a number of this spots in various places where we wiggle in to a sweet anchorage and spend a few days just soaking in the ambience! We sometimes carry a portable "dinghy depth sounder" in the form of a leadline (see below) to check if there is enough depth to bring in the mothership.
  5. Check all resources - cruising guides, chart kits etc. In the Bahamas we see many people using just one chart kit. We spoke with more than few cruisers who complained the place was too crowded - but they were all on the same route! We have the Explorer Charts, plus 5 different cruising guides (Yachtsman's guide, Steve Pavlidis Guides, Abacos Guide) Navionics Platinum Charts (with satellite overlay) plus we use Google Earth to explore other potential options. In areas like the Bahamas many potential interesting anchorages are not shown just because there are too many options. Check out virtually the entire western side of the Exuma islands chain. There are many interesting spots to anchor.
Now… let’s go out and find that special paradise! Good luck! Perhaps we'll see you out there!

What’s your paradise look like? Please post your pix or comments below!

Additional Resources

Dinghy Depth Sounder - given to us as a gift by fellow cruisers years ago. We still use this and its easy to make. It's just 25 feet of light line with a fishing sinker on the end. Coloured ribbons mark the depths and there is a hand-loop in the end. Ours has ribbons every 2 feet - the first 3 are red, then 3 yellow then 3 blue. If you make a special one for your boat you can mark depth up to your draft in red then additional marks in another colour. Just knot the line around the ribbon and you are ready to explore! Other cruisers use a portable electronic sounder here.
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Getting Out There!

This week Sheryl and I had the privilege of participating in a "Google Hangout" cruising forum entitled "A Night with the Experts". Here is the link. It is currently being annotated with photos so may be offline from time to time.

Lin and Larry Pardy, John and Amanda Neal, Liza Copeland, Pamela Bendall and Tania Aebi all attended, giving an outline of their sailing history and advice for cruising sailors working towards their own adventures.

Way back in the 1980s when Sheryl and I were getting ready to set sail for our first long-term cruise, we attended a seminar with Lin and Larry Pardey (as well as read all their books) getting much valuable advice.

"Go Small, Go Simple, Go Now" has always been the Pardeys' advice, and although Sheryl & I didn't start off quite as simply as the Pardey's, we did the essential ingredient "GO"!

"GO" was also the most powerful message from this Google Hangout and was repeated by all the participants, "Go cruising!". Do not wait until everything is perfect, installing more and more equipment, getting a larger boat… Do not wait until it's too late!

This blog usually concentrates on the technical aspects of setting up your boat for cruising, and I hope will be able to help cruisers enjoy an improved and safer voyage. But do not let anything obscure the main goal "Go Cruising!

See you on the water!

warderick wells
Our first boat was a 37 footer. Small inside compared to modern boats she was simple and sailed us many miles to MANY adventures.
stern to fethiye
Two-Step didn’t have a lot of equipment when we started out. We added what we needed as we went along. The windvane and radar were only added after 2 transatlantic crossings.
Sailing Azores

August, look out we must!

The old Caribbean rhyme to predict the hurricane season goes like this

May no way
June too soon
July stand by
August look out we must
September remember
October all over

Well here comes August and we are still keeping a sharp eye out. Hurricanes can't just pop into existence out of nothing, generally ones that hit the Caribbean form from a depression that is coming across the Atlantic from Africa - a tropical wave. So you get a few days warning at least. Then the choice is to run away or choose the best place to batten down and somehow weather the storm.

Running away

Its generally acknowledged that hurricanes will not go much south of Grenada as the spinning effect of the earth's rotation - the Coriolis Effect - is reducing the closer we come to the equator. Here is an image showing the tracks of hurricanes over the last 150 years. Looks like we can run south to Grenada or Trinidad and be out of the path of all but the very occasional storm. If one did seem to be heading to the southern side of the range we are then ready to run even further south?
hurricane track

Where to Hide

Where would be a safe place to hide is a trickier question. Many cruisers we have met this summer have picked out a nice summer spot and are planning to hide nearby if a storm threatens. There are still many boats in Marin Martinique and are planning to stay if a hurricane comes. Our experience in the mangrove for a direct hit of Tropical Storm Chantal (in Marin) made it clear we could be safe there with winds up to 50-60 knots. But increasing to a proper hurricane at say 80 knots means forces are doubled. I am not at all confident we would have been safe where we were, and I think there would have been serious problems out in the main harbour. Nearby Rodney Bay St Lucia looks like a safer alternative, and Marigot St Lucia also looks safer. But when winds get higher and anchorages get crowded with last minute hastily-anchored charter boats, I think a truly safe hurricane hole will still be a very risky place to weather a storm.

Distant Shores II - Hurricane Plan

Perhaps my choice is reflected in our name... in the event a "proper" hurricane is coming our choice will be to head for "Distant Shores". We will run south. The destructive path of the hurricane isn’t very wide and if we can get out of the worst winds and south of the main-event, we will have a blustery day as it heads past to the north. That’s our plan anyway!

Each hurricane season and each tropical storm/ hurricane is very different and we will judge as they come, but a well-found cruising boat should be able to make the distance needed to get out of the path of the storm given the proper notice. This strategy is more difficult if you are further north, but from here in the Southern Grenadines the decision is simple. Go south. And nowadays we can have the proper notice with such good weather forecasts and internet access to the information from just about anywhere. Even at anchor in the lovely and remote Tobago Cays last week we had reasonable internet access for just $1//day and could start the day with a coffee and a look over the National Hurricane Center forecast.

Is there a storm over the horizon?? Look out we must!
PSBow Tobago
Have you been in a hurricane or tropical storm? What would you do if you were cruising and a storm was coming?

Hurricane Blog Entries
Part 1 Hurricanes - Watching the Weather
Part 2 Tropical Storm Likely
Part 3 Tropical Storm Chantal is Coming
Part 4 Securing in a Mangrove
Part 5 Tropical Storm Chantal Arrives
Part 6 Tropical Storm Moves Off

We filmed all this for an episode in Season 9 - Martinique Tropical Storm here on Vimeo

Check out the whole Tropical Storm Adventure plus lots more sailing on Season 9 Distant Shores on Vimeo in Hi-Def Download

Tropical Storm Chantal Arrives

By Paul Shard

Whoa... big winds from the NE-E this morning (July 9) with Tropical Storm Chantal approaching but we are snuggled behind our mangrove!
chantal storm5
First thing this morning we took down the big genoa and folded it up but then the wind got up and we didn’t have a chance to take down the smaller jib. Not a worry I think since the forecast is for 50 knots gusting 60 knots. Not full hurricane strength. But I have tied off the furling drum. Normally the furling system relies on the furling line to keep the sail furled but I think it's a good idea to tie the drum directly so it definitely can’t come undone. (We saw the danger of this when we went through Hurricane Bertha in New Bern, North Carolina, a few years back which we documented in the Cruising with the Shards DVD.)

Otherwise all is secured.

0930 - Wind starts gusting from the NE and that’s over the hill for us so we see almost no wind on deck. The small boat next to us is completely in the wind shadow. Our mangroves seem to be holding well.

chantal storm3
1000-1030 - Wind is from the ESE and the fortress FX37 is holding the stern up into the wind. These gusts are 50 knots. Some higher I think. In the strongest gusts our neighbours disappear in the driven spray.

chantal storm2
The wind seems stronger at the far end of the bay where the 5 sailboats are anchored.

chantal storm canon1
Here is a closeup view. In these gusts the catamaran here later drags anchor and hits the monohull to the right of the picture.

chantal storm canon3
1100 - The cat has hit the monohull and the closer cat has dragged into the mangroves.

chantal storm canon4
Another close-up shot through the driving rain. The far cat has dragged on top of the mono and after I took this shot they both drag on top of a larger catamaran...

chantal storm1
Finally the wind comes from the South and seems about as strong as before. Now almost all the strain is on our anchors, with the Fortress to the SE taking the brunt of it. As far as I can tell we do not drag at all. To set the Fortress before the storm we motored forward at 2000 RPM with the bow coming to a meter away from the mangrove. Now with the full wind blowing up over 50 knots we do not budge and the bow stays clear of the mangrove.

Around 1130 the winds suddenly drop to 10-12 kts and it is over. Then clean-up begins...

Hurricane Blog Entries
Part 1 Hurricanes - Watching the Weather
Part 2 Tropical Storm Likely
Part 3 Tropical Storm Chantal is Coming
Part 4 Securing in a Mangrove
Part 5 Tropical Storm Chantal Arrives
Part 6 Tropical Storm Moves Off

Check out the whole Tropical Storm Adventure plus lots more sailing on Season 9 Distant Shores on Vimeo in Hi-Def Download

Securing in a Mangrove

By Paul Shard

"Secure your boat in a mangrove!" Most Caribbean experts agree the mangrove is the safest place for a boat to be in a tropical storm. But actual details on the process are scarce. So, with Tropical Storm Chantal approaching, here is the first time we have tied up in a mangrove and how we did it.

Our goal was to have the boat bow-in to the mangrove so rudders and prop would be protected if anything slipped and we were pushed further in. Also it gets quite shallow close to the mangrove so most boats couldn’t get very close if they went stern-to.

We wanted to use our main 33KG Rocna anchor so we chose a spot where we could lay out 40-50 meters of chain. Then we dropped it and backed up toward the mangrove, setting the anchor with 2000RPM in reverse. Then we spun the boat around, dropping out enough chain so it would stay slack and hang under the boat as we turned. My plan was to pick up the chain later with our chain-hook snubber so we could secure the anchor to the stern, and leave a slack loop up to the bow. We have 80 meters of chain so this worked fine.
IMG_8706 bows-to
With the bow toward the mangrove we drove the bow right up to it to gently rest at the edge of the mangrove. I ran a line quickly ashore so we wouldn’t drift off again using a convenient root in the mangrove, but we would re-install these more carefully later.

Next I went up to the bow in the dinghy, lifted up a loop of the slack anchor chain, and handed along it until I was back at the stern. Then I connected our anchor snubber and a line to attach it to a stern cleat. The plan was to tighten this up later when everything else was installed.

Then off we went into the mangroves to attach lines to big secure mangrove growth...
chantal mangroves5
Note the small mangrove roots and the bigger central "trunks". I tied a dockline to a big strong mangrove using a couple of loops to spread the load along the trunk and reduce chafe.
chantal mangroves3
But I wanted to spread the load further. So I connected 2 additional lines from the first big one, on to other mangroves so the strain would be spread out to 3 different mangrove trunks. I tried to organize these so they would continue in more-or-less the same direction.
chantal mangroves6
We now have 8 lines attaching to the mangrove, coming back to three heavy docklines and back to the bow. These are planned to take into account the main winds being from the NE-E-SE-S and finally SSW as the storm passes away. Our bow is oriented to the NE so we will hang on the mangroves as the storm approaches, then have it side-on as the wind builds and the strongest winds from the SE-S as the storm passes. This would be from our stern quarter and we would be hanging mainly on our anchors. If we do drag we will go up into the mangrove with the bow.
chantal mangroves1
Next we set out the 2 additional stern anchors - both Fortress aluminum anchors.
IMG_8678 anchors
We carry a Fortress FX23 and a bigger FX37.
chantal mangroves7
chantal mangroves8
I wanted the FX37 to be the main one so we set that toward the SE and brought the line back to the stern cleat. (note the nice anchor line bag - always kept neatly stowed with the line flaked carefully. The line will always run out smoothly with no tangles so I can just back up letting it out as I back up to the boat.

To eliminate chafe I wanted to cleat it off. To get it tight I used a line with rolling hitch to winch it up tight, then take in the anchor line.

Next we set the 3rd anchor, our Fortress FX23, and finally, tightened and adjusted all the lines so we would be ready. All told this took more than 4 hours and it was getting on to dusk... storm Chantal due the next morning with winds building by 0900...

This is a Google Earth snapshot where I have put us in our position in the mangrove. You can see no swell should ever penetrate here.
Note we are not to scale - we are much smaller in reality - see below with the other boats here.

There are also boats all along the right side of the mangrove, one astern of us stern-to the mangrove and 5 have anchored in the lower channel and middle. No room for anyone to anchor where we are and it is all full of everyone’s anchors. Most people have put floats on their anchors. Here is a rough plan of the mangrove.

The wind forecast is to build from the NE then E and SE as it arrives. Forecast strength is 50 with gusts of 60 knots. The strongest winds are forecast to come from the SE-South which we will take on the beam-quarter.

Hurricane Blog Entries
Part 1 Hurricanes - Watching the Weather
Part 2 Tropical Storm Likely
Part 3 Tropical Storm Chantal is Coming
Part 4 Securing in a Mangrove
Part 5 Tropical Storm Chantal Arrives
Part 6 Tropical Storm Moves Off

We filmed all this for an episode in Season 9 - Martinique Tropical Storm here on Vimeo

Check out the whole Tropical Storm Adventure plus lots more sailing on Season 9 Distant Shores on Vimeo in Hi-Def Download

Tropical Storm Chantal is coming

Hurricane Blog Entries
Part 1 Hurricanes - Watching the Weather
Part 2 Tropical Storm Likely
Part 3 Tropical Storm Chantal is Coming
Part 4 Securing in a Mangrove
Part 5 Tropical Storm Chantal Arrives
Part 6 Tropical Storm Moves Off

This mornings advisory shows the newly named Tropical Storm Chantal heading directly toward us in Martinique. The storm is due to arrive tomorrow around midday. So this morning we will head in to Marin. This is one of Martinique’s best hurricane holes. Note the large protected harbour, many anchorages and mangroves to the lower right. I think this is one of the best protected harbours in the Eastern Caribbean. However it is a popular harbour and charter base so will have a number of boats in it already. We will see what it looks like as the day goes on. I hope to find a spot in a corner at the bottom of the photo. We looked at this a few days ago.
We also went in to explore Baie des Anglais on the south east. This also looked very good and has no local boat population. It could be a possibility.

Here is Baie des Anglais from our Navionics charts on the iPhone. No we don’t navigate with our phone, but I did happen to grab a screenshot with the excellent Navionics App as we were anchored in the bay (we are the red triangle).

We will report back when we get secured at anchor today.

Hurricane Blog Entries
Part 1 Hurricanes - Watching the Weather
Part 2 Tropical Storm Likely
Part 3 Tropical Storm Chantal is Coming
Part 4 Securing in a Mangrove
Part 5 Tropical Storm Chantal Arrives
Part 6 Tropical Storm Moves Off

We filmed all this for an episode in Season 9 - Martinique Tropical Storm here on Vimeo

Tropical Storm Likely

The latest weather reports show this tropical wave is likely to develop into a storm in the next 48 hours. And it is heading our direction. Here is the National Hurricane Center graphic from Sunday Evening.


We will move into the harbour of Marin tomorrow and see about securing in the mangroves. We have never actually secured in a mangrove before and are quite interested in how it is done. We are taking this very seriously. Even if it doesn’t develop into a tropical storm before passing Martinique it will undoubtedly be a stormy day. And of course it is much better to be prepared and not have a storm, than take a chance that it won’t develop.


Will report more tomorrow as we secure and see how things look in Marin.

Hurricane Blog Entries
Part 1 Hurricanes - Watching the Weather
Part 2 Tropical Storm Likely
Part 3 Tropical Storm Chantal is Coming
Part 4 Securing in a Mangrove
Part 5 Tropical Storm Chantal Arrives
Part 6 Tropical Storm Moves Off

We filmed all this for an episode in Season 9 - Martinique Tropical Storm here on Vimeo

Check out the whole Tropical Storm Adventure plus lots more sailing on Season 9 Distant Shores on Vimeo in Hi-Def Download

Hurricanes - Watching the Weather

Summer in the Caribbean - now that its July we must pay close attention to the weather forecasts. Tropical waves coming across from Africa sweep past every few days mostly bringing rain and some gusts. But so far nothing too exciting. Here is our first look at a forecast including gusts up over 40 knots, and the National Hurricane Center (USA) shows a chance of it becoming a tropical storm in a few days.

Here is their forecast from this morning at 0800 (Click here for their link)


We also check the online weather forecasts from Passageweather here which is showing a 30-35 knots as the wave passes on Tuesday evening. It is currently predicted to pass directly over Martinique where we are...

Here is my other favourite with the spot forecast for Martinique at Windguru

Hurricane Hole - We are on the south east corner of Martinique and will be using the excellent harbour of Marin as an anchorage for this wave/storm as it passes on Tuesday. We had been planning a trip to the east side to gunk-hole some of the amazing coastline of Martinique, and since the weather is predicted to be lovely today and tomorrow we will proceed with this plan, and come back tomorrow evening, then in to Marin in the morning on Monday after getting another storm update!

Hurricane Blog Entries
Part 1 Hurricanes - Watching the Weather
Part 2 Tropical Storm Likely
Part 3 Tropical Storm Chantal is Coming
Part 4 Securing in a Mangrove
Part 5 Tropical Storm Chantal Arrives
Part 6 Tropical Storm Moves Off

Cruising Guides - Still relevant?

We have recently had a few emails asking how we plan where we will sail to on our next voyage. Everyone is becoming so used to looking everything up on the web, is it possible to just get our cruising info there too? Do we still need Cruising Guides? It got me thinking about our method of voyage planning.

Background Information

For years we have followed roughly the same method. We initially read about interesting cruising destinations in sailing publications or websites as well as talking to other experienced cruising sailors about the places they love to explore. Boat show seminars are another great resource. Then if a cruising destination holds a serious appeal to us, we buy a cruising guide or two about the area. We flip through them trying to get the flavour and basic information about the places. What season to visit? What are the hotspots? What did the author find most worthwhile to include photos on? What are the anchorages or harbours like? In many cases the author’s introduction is valuable. You are learning from someone who often has many decades of experience in these waters. Compare that to reading a blog... the blogger is reporting back on his first and likely only visit, and how things went for him. He may have got lucky, or unlucky with weather, he may have had boat problems and report mainly on how easy it was to get things repaired? All potentially useful, but not the definitive account. Although we read and reference websites and blogs for insights into the experiences our fellow sailors have had cruising in a place, we would never depend on them entirely as the only reference in addition to good charts.
cruising-guides-europe-uk-imray - 1

Harbour Entry Advice

Here is another time when we really like to have a cruising guide on hand. Entering a new harbour, planning a safe anchorage, the cruising guide is your local expert at your side. Looking at a chart is going to be necessary at the next step as you plan the actual route and when you are there navigating, but the cruising guide contains very useful hints and warnings to help you interpret the chart and cross-reference any discrepancies.

For instance, here in the British Virgin Islands where we’re currently cruising there are MANY bareboats and people who do not have local knowledge, or even any experience on the boat they’re sailing. A cruising guide is a GREAT idea and fun way to get into the spirit of the trip weeks before you even arrive. And when cruising here the guide is a great resource as you come in to a port for the first time. The sections on "Approach & Entry" to the harbours warns of off-lying danger and offers a safe conservative route in.

For example coming around to Gorda Sound here in the BVI there are a couple of options to enter the harbour. But the first convenient option south of Mosquito Island is really too shallow for most boats. "Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands" (Nancy & Simon Scott) states...

"There are 3 entrances into the Sound but only one that is well marked. The western entrance via Anguilla Point is tricky and should only be used by those with local knowledge. Most bareboat companies place it off limits".

Sketch Charts

Cruising Guides also include sketch chart - simplified sketches showing the recommended routes, anchorages etc.. These are not at nearly the detail of the proper charts, but drawn with the author’s local knowledge. Here’s the entry to Gorda Sound from the "Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands" .
Gorda Sound Guide
We have gone through this entrance many times and know it quite well. There is less than 5 feet of water on the route so we swing up our keel. Last week we were heading in and a charter catamaran was following us toward it. They probably thought we were deeper than them so they could safely follow us. In fact we draw less than 3 feet and they (a Leopard 47) draws 1.5 feet more than us! Luckily they thought better of it and veered off. Perhaps they were reading through their cruising guide and changed their mind?

The moral of the story? Cruising guides are still a good idea! Up-to-date charts are important! And don’t follow other boats especially if they are lifting keel boats!

Here is the wide shot on the Navionics chart. Notice there is a "Note - See Lower Zoom" near our passage...
Gorda WS
When you Zoom in the note recommends against it... and accurately shows the depths. Too shallow for the deeper cats!
Gorda CU

Planning a Passage

Where to Go?
Sounds like a funny question... where will we go. But a lot of the success of your cruise will be a result of figuring out a reasonable plan in the first place. First timer’s often come up with a plan that involves too many miles, optimistically planning the route without taking into account the realities of small-boat voyaging. After all a whole year must be enough time to travel around the world? :-) And while it might be possible to make a string of long passages - for most of us this will be more of an endurance test.
DS sailing WS

How long will it take?
When Sheryl & I are getting ready to make a passage we plan a few extra days to prepare for the passage (provisioning, boat projects etc) and a number of days to rest and enjoy the destination as well (and do those bat jobs that crop up afterwards).

This cruise from France to the Caribbean will involve three main legs...
  • South France to Gibraltar - The Med - I am making a rough estimation of 1 month to involve a number of stops along the Spanish coast
  • Gib to the Canaries - African Coast - 6 weeks hopefully visiting Madeira and Morocco as well as the eastern Canaries we haven’t seen before
  • Canaries to Caribbean - Crossing the Atlantic - 4 weeks including prep and a few days rest at the end
Now, is this plan feasible?

Cruising Routes
Our next step in planning a passage is to look it over in Jimmy Cornell’s "World Cruising Routes". We have just bought Jimmy’s latest book on passage planning for the world called "World Voyage Planner". If you are planning long-term sailing I would highly recommend you look at these guides. For us we have done this passage before so already did the research. But I will look over passage planning for the Gibraltar - Madeira leg.

Internet Weather
Weather resources on the internet have come a long way. You probably are using some of these resources already, but I would recommend you start assembling a folder of weather internet sites that specialize in the weather of where you are going. I do this in advance so I am watching the weather to try to learn the patterns for the places we will visit. Here are a few links... Excellent all-round page for overview of offshore weather Detailed local site forecasts - this one for the BVI Nice local weather animations for anywhere - Here’s our Caribbean Landfall Another I have been using in Europe for local forecasts

Cruiser Blogs
Of course you will have already found cruiser blogs on the internet as well - you found this one?! I usually check out sailors blogs on destinations I am going to for the first time. For example, our cruise through the French Canals I found these two sites - one a cruisers blog giving the flavour of the cruise, and the other an amazing site organized like a cruising guide - excellent! - Very nice blog on the French Canals - Amazing detail - we bought the downloadable guide since we could use it when out of internet range.

Planning a passage should be a lot of fun! Here is where you turn your cruising dreams into reality! Enjoy!


Canals - Recommendations

Well we finished the French Canals after a very successful trip lasting almost 10 weeks. It was something we had dreamed of doing for years. It was a great voyage and we had a blast! Coming into Paris on our own boat, visiting small french villages and tasting wines at the “caves”... If you are thinking of seeing France by canal there are a number of options. Chartering a houseboat/peniche is one option. Going aboard a larger Peniche as a passenger or bicycle tour is another. But this blog is about taking your own boat. Can you do it and will it be any fun?

Suitable boats
Draft - We have seen a variety of craft in the canals but some were having less fun than others... If you have a boat that draws more than 1.8 meters than you should not even consider the trip. If your boat draws between 1.6 and 1.8 then you should be prepared to run a ground a fair bit. Boats drawing less than 1.6 will be safe. we draw less than 1 meter but swing the keel down to 1.6 for most of the trip as a safety valve. We very rarely touched bottom when staying in the proper channel, but when passing other craft we had to more to the side of the channel and were glad we drew less than 1.8.

Beam - Our beam is 4.2 meters and the limit is 5 meters. But lock chambers are just 5 meters wide so your beam must include the width of your fenders. For us that meant we had less than 20cm clearance on each side as we came in to the locks. Thats less than a foot. So for boats more than 4.5 meters wide you will need a good fender strategy that isn’t very wide to fit in the locks. Our fender system worked very will. I highly recommend you think carefully on the fender system. With a good strategy we never worried about the narrow locks and bridges. If we jostled the lock wall our boards just bounced us safely away. And once settled in the lock chamber our width meant we almost didn’t need to tie up in the chamber - we were a tight fit and just sat there (same as the big peniches)

Fender Board
I believe our large fender board was the secret to a stress free passage (nearly stress free:-) and here are few hints.
Keep it low for the many locks that raise the boat up to there is just a few inches of wall remaining. Our boats was 12 inches tall and could be hung right down so it nearly drags in the water. Bevel the edges and front so it doesn’t get caught on the walls. Make sure the lines attached do not go on the outside or they will wear through. Tie a line to the front of the board that runs forward so the board won’t be swung back when you rub along the walls. We bought 8 more fender before the trip and it was cheap insurance. No scratches after the trip!

Bow thruster
Having a bow thruster was a great advantage.
We used it quite a lot and it again reduced stress. We even used it in the locks sometimes to centre the boat when currents swung us around. Take a spare fuse for the thruster too.

The canals have different restrictions on height. For the Canal Briare/ Loire/ Centre that we took the restriction is 3.5 meters of “air Draft” If you don’t know your exact height you must figure it out precisely before starting. We measured our height with the mast on deck at 3.1 meters so had plenty of clearance. If you are 3.4 or greater you might need to take something down?

Carrying the Mast?
We carried our mast because it is too long to be transported by road in France. However if your mast is less than 18 meters long it can be trucked to meet you. Then the boat is easier to manage, shorter and tidier. Worth a thought!


Some people look at the route from the North Sea down to the Med as a shortcut. If you have a powerboat that might not be up to crossing the Bay of Biscay, then this is a reasonable idea. But for a well-found sailboat that could do the passage around then it is not really much of a shortcut since you have to deal with the mast and the locks take quite a while.
But , if like us, you are interested in seeing France from the deck of your own boat, the French Canals are an unforgettable adventure and wonderful way to see this romantic and beautiful nation.

Planning your trip

One of the best things about our “job” (sailing and telling about it on television) is that we get to hear from others who have been inspired to set off on journeys of their own!

Many of the notes we get are from people planning a 1-2 year (or more) trip down to warmer climes. We are happy to think we have helped a number of these people to start off on their big adventure! And often it is just a bit of extra confidence to know that regular people are making the trips on a regular basis. Often one partner has some doubts and a bit of reassurance is all that’s needed. Can we stay in touch with family and friends? Are there Pirates? How do you deal with storms?

Certainly it is easier than ever now to get information to plan your voyage. Weather info is getting better and better! Storms can be avoided in many instances thanks to vastly improved access to forecasts at sea. Although pirates seem to be getting more airtime than ever, the truth is they are mainly confined to specific areas which are mostly avoidable. As to being in touch with family and friends... cruising has never been better than right now. There are a bewildering array of options for being in touch that didn’t exist even 15 years ago. Wifi, email cell phone and video Skype, sat phone, blogging sms, you can Tweet your family with up to the minute news!! (ok maybe thats being TOO in touch)

One of the nicest comments we have heard about our television show “Distant Shores” is from other cruisers who have used it to reassure family and friends about the cruising lifestyle. It isn’t all storms, high seas adventure and pirates. There are great people in foreign ports, interesting cultures to be discovered and new friends waiting to be made!

We hope to see you out their!



Christmas Special

Buy the Special Super Pack including ALL DISTANT SHORES episodes - Season 1 though 6 for just US$120 / C$124 (PAL $135) - 14 DVDs in all


Sailing South for the Winter

We have just returned to Canada our UK-Baltic 8-month cruise. Distant Shores II is safely back in England where she will stay ashore until we return in April. We are back in the studio in Canada working on the new shows for our broadcasters (WealthTV in the USA and Travel Channel in Europe).

The past 2 weeks I have been working in the studio on our latest DVD series - Distant Shores Season Six - Chesapeake Bay, ICW and Leeward Islands. Re-watching the shows on going through the Erie Canal to New York, the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Caribbean... makes me want to go.

November weather always makes me think of heading south! I know that the years we did this trip south were busy with preparations and planning, and dreaming of the voyage ahead. Getting ready for the adventure is part of the journey itself!

We have done the complete trip south from Canada to Florida/Bahamas 3 times since 1989, most recently in 2008/9 filming for Distant Shores. For anyone living in the US NorthEast or Eastern Canada, this trip is a fun way to live the tropical dream - heading south for a warm winter!!

If you are planning to do this trip then this season of 13 half-hour shows will help you see what the trip is like, and whet your appetite for the adventure ahead. And if you are going to do the trip... drop us a note, we like to think our programs can help inform and/or inspire viewers to do the trip themselves!

Click here to order the new Season Six DVD set, or as part of the new Super Pack - Season 1-6

Holland Canals & Islands

Having just completed the Dutch “Standing-Mast Route” I thought I would give you an overview and some images from the trip. Much more fun and lovely than we had expected!!

Stand Mast Route as it is called in the Netherlands allows bigish boats to cross Holland from the German border to the North Sea coast with the mast up. This compares to most European canals that have lower clearances, the Stand Mast Route allows 30meter heights, so our 20.5m (67 feet) is fine.
See Wikipedia page or search “staande mastroute” or “standing mast route” for more info.

We started on the Ems river on the right but wanted to visit one last Frisian Island so hopped up north to do that first. Then we joined the Staande Mastroute at its most northerly where it is close to the Waddensee. This meant a tricky patch of navigating through the shallow tidal sands en route to Schiermonnikoog.

This channel only allows passage for shallow boats and we saw only the lovely Dutch sailing barges plus a few of the special shallow ferries that take people out to the islands. This chart is “not to be used for navigation” :-)

Here is the dock at Schiermonnikoog and the entry channel 2 hours after we came through it (on a falling tide!!) The sticks are the “official” channel marks, called withies.

From here we entered locked into the Dutch Canals didn’t have to worry about tides for a couple of weeks.

Here are a few pix from the gorgeous Dutch canals. We tied up each night in another VERY CUTE and tidy Dutch town.

If you choose to do this very nice route...
  • mast height must be less than 30 meters (a power wire crosses)
  • depths seem fine up to perhaps 6 feet
  • take your time and enjoy!

Here are some shots

Locks - Through the Gota Canal

Recommendations for transiting the Gota Canal in Sweden always state you need at least 3 people on a boat to lock through. One will stay at the helm, one will deal with lines and one will get off to thread lines through the rings used to secure the boat in this old system.

The Gota Canal was built in 1810-20 and most of the locks are original. Maximum dimensions of boats are... Width: 7 m; length: 30 m; depth 2.82 m; height: 22 m. I think if your boat really is 7 meters wide you wouldn’t have room for fenders - possibly not even a thick coat of paint!! Distant Shores II is 4.3 meters wide and we were fine (with our big fenders) but it sure feels snug especially going between the many bridges. I was prepared for the 58 locks to feel snug, but not thinking of bridges. Coming up to a 7 meter wide bridge in a crosswind needs careful lining-up.

On our first day in the locks there were a number of smaller boats, plus the lovely Deodar - 23 meters long and 6 meters beam. They definitely were more than snug edging through the bridges. Here they are maneuvering into a lock and trying to keep the fenders from rolling out. By the end of 3 days they had a few scratches on the hull.

We have 4 very large fenders plus 2 slightly smaller (but still large) fenders and hoped this would be fine. In reality I think we should have bought 2-3 more medium fenders. We also set up a nice long 2by4 board to protect the fenders as they slide up the rough lock walls. 8-10 feet long and drill a hole through the board so the supporting ropes won’t chafe. We find the board saves the fenders which can otherwise get quite torn up.

Note the rig we use to deal with the lines. The bow line is led from the forward cleat all the way aft to the cockpit and put on a winch. I have done the same with the stern line. This way I can control bow and stern tightening both lines as we go up.

Yesterday evening we finished the Gota Canal - 5 days and 58 locks. Lots of fun and lovely scenery! I would recommend a few more fenders - even just temporary ones if you can’t keep them after doing the locks. Good insurance!!

Here is a shot of sailing off across Lake Vattern. One of the big advantages of the Gota Canal is that it allows 22 meters of mast clearance. No low bridges like on the Trent Severn, Erie Canal and most other canal systems. So we don’t have to worry about taking the mast down - plus we can enjoy a nice sail on Sweden’s lakes!


Enthusiasm for Sailing

We have finished our TWO Boat shows! London & Toronto are on over the same two weekends so we went to London for the first weekend then flew back for the last weekend of the Toronto Boat Show. Whew!

One of my favourite things about the boat shows is meeting new sailors enthusiastic about taking off on a big cruise! Sheryl and I did seminars at the Toronto show for people planning to sail south to the Bahamas and had a full house every time. Its great to see the cruising community is healthy.

Many of these people are planning to leave this year and make their way south down the Intracoastal Waterway to the Bahamas. We showed clips from our TV series with the Erie canal, discussed the Waterway and looked at shallow water cruising in the Bahamas. Afterwards we fielded questions. Here are three of the questions we got after each seminar.

re there Pirates?

With the news today everyone is more concerned about piracy. But does it really affect us as sailors? Well, the answer is “it doesn’t have to”. There are certainly areas where there are pirates. But if you avoid these areas the risks are minimal. Modern pirates don’t roam the high seas like Johnny Depp. They are based from countries like Somalia where law has broken down, and restrict their operations to adjacent sea areas using small boats. So check out the cruising grapevine and find the hotspots to avoid. One excellent resource is the noonsite website piracy pages.

What does it cost?

Budgets certainly vary from under $1000 per month for a very basic cruising style right up to whatever you want to pay. Most people find $2,000-$3,000 per month works out comfortably. Of course major repairs, expensive marina stays, flights home and the like can throw any budget off course, but in general it does not have to be an expensive lifestyle. Google search on “sail cruising budget”.

Can I take my boat?

Many people in our recent seminars already have the boat they plan to take cruising. But some are still looking for their perfect cruising boat. For a trip like the intracoastal waterway there will be a bunch of motoring - so a reliable motor is important. A Bahamas winter means a fair amount of wind, but mainly short daysails, so merely renewing/upgrading/beefing up your existing rig will likely be fine. But for heading further afield, looking at ocean passages you need to ask if your boat can handle it. You will also need to be more self-sufficient and repair things along the way. This question really needs serious consideration and possibly an expert opinion or survey if you are not confident in your craft. One of the advantages of the Intracoastal Waterway Bahamas trip is that you have a few months of constant sailing and living aboard to shake out problems and find solutions when you aren’t far from help or the nearest chandlery.

It has been a GREAT 10 days of boat shows! Now we’re looking forward to seeing you out on the water!


Weight calculations

I am going through more calculations to see how the weight distribution is looking now that we have most of the equipment finalized for the new boat. I thought it might be useful for anyone planning a new boat or outfitting an existing boat for a cruise, to see how I have tried to predict the impact of all our stuff on the waterline. You can apply this method to your boat (or dreamboat) too!

In all the far off anchorages in the world we see cruising boats that have way too much stuff on, and waterlines painted higher to deal with the extra weight. But most designers would not be happy to see this - for reduced performance and possibly impaired safety. I want to minimize this so have been trying to get the best of both worlds - add the gear I want but trim the weight so she will still perform well.

I just love all this stuff!! But if the calculations and all are not your thing, you can skip to the punchline - or jump to the pictures of the hull with the keel being put on!

Calculating the effect of more weight
First step in this calculation is to find out how much the weight will effect the boat. Here is a very simplified method that can be applied to any boat. The first number we need is to find out the surface area of the boat in the water. By this I mean the area of the hull at the waterline. Assuming you can't just ask the designer - here is a simple method to calculate it yourself (also assuming you have a plan view drawing of the boat, Photoshop and a computer...)
  1. bring the plan drawing of your boat into photoshop
  2. you need the scale so you can measure things on the plan. My method is to resize the drawing so the "info" pallette shows the correct dimensions. Since the Southerly is 12.8 meters long I set the scale so the hull on the plan measures 12.8 cm by 4.03cm. Now anything I measure on the drawing will be at a scale of 1cm to 1 meter.
  3. for the weight calculation we need to determine the area at the waterline. If you have the waterline on the drawing this will be easy. If not (as I didn't) then you have to guess.
  4. use photoshop to draw a few rectangles on the drawing so that they approximate the area at the waterline. As you draw each rectangle, note the length and width on the "info" pallette in photoshop. My first rectangle is 3.4 by 5 meters - the main shape of the hull. 5 x 3.4=17 square meters. Now write this down.
  5. Continue making rectangles until you have a rough shape that approximates the waterline of the boat.
  6. Add together the rectangles. 17+1.6+2.8+3+2.2+1.75+1 = 29.35

So we have a rough idea of the waterline area of the boat. 29.35 square meters rounded out to 30.

Now for the fun bit. We know the surface area of the boat so we can easily calculate how much weight will push the boat down by 1 centimeter. Its just 1cm multiplied by 30 square meters = 0.3 cubic meter. A 1 cubic meter of water weighs 1000 kilos (saltwater is slightly more but we will ignore this for simplicity). So 300 kilos of extra load would lower the boat down in the water one centimeter. Obviously this calculation is very rough but it does give us what we need to approximate the effects of weight on the design. For every 300 kilos we add to the boat, we will push her 1 cm lower in the water. (For US measurements this means 1680 pounds will push her down by one inch).

300kg of additional weight will push her down by 1cm

Additional Equipment - What does it all weigh?
Here is my list of equipment with weights. These are in addition to the prototype of the Southerly 42 that I have photographed. If you are looking at your own boat to which you plan to add a bunch of equipment - you can use the existing waterline to start your calculations - then add the weights of the gear you plan to buy.

  • Additional batteries for main house bank - 84kg
  • Yamaha outboard 8hp - 27kg
  • Mastervolt 3kw genset - 100kg
  • Watermaker - 34kg
  • Scuba compressor - 56kg
  • 2 scuba tanks - 28kg
  • Avon dinghy - 43kg
  • Washing machine - 65kg
  • Additional Chain - 94kg
  • Radar Arch - 40kg

Total weight = 571kg / 300 = 1.9cm

So all this equipment will push the boat down by less than 2cm. Not so bad as I had thought really!

The next calculation is to see if the weight will be unbalancing the boat. This is much easier since the main problem normally comes if you add all the weight to the bow or stern. Then you can push the boat down in the stern or bow. You also will likely get worse motion if a lot of weight is added to the bow especially.

Here is a quick calculation where I have drawn blocks scaled to the weight of the various added equipment. I have added them on the side view showing where the equipment is. Note the heavy 100kg genset, plus the main battery bank are both right in the centre of the boat. This helps a lot. At the bow is the additional anchor chain, and the stern has much of the rest. Again a rough calculation but it shows that we might expect to be a bit more down in the stern, but not much.

I must point out that these are very rough calculations but its something anyone can do to at least approximate the effect of extra equipment on the waterline. And just doing the list of equipment weights can be quite informative.

Water Budget and Planning

What a wonderful 3 weeks we have had in the Virgin Islands!!! First 2 weeks cruising on our friends “Diesel Duck” - a 42 foot motor sailor immaculately fitted out in Cherry with all the best equipment. Benno and Marlene have been cruising before on a 37 foot steel sloop and decided for their next cruise they would like a power boat. So they built the Diesel Duck and have now sailed from Canada down to the Caribbean as far as Venezuela. We met them in St Thomas USVI and had a great 2 weeks cruising the USVI, over to Culebra and then back upwind to the BVI. It was especially nice to have a chance to try out and live with modern hi-tech equipment, some of which we are planning on installing on the new boat. With an 800amp-hour battery bank, and large inverter, watermaker, washer-dryer and a diesel generator, Diesel Duck gave us first hand experience of managing water and electricity on a modern well equipped cruiser. We were filming for “Distant Shores” of course, and the weather was great. Thanks guys!!

Water Budget

The first thing I learned was just how much water a modern cruising boat could use. On Two-Step we have only foot-pumps for the water – no pressurised system. And no real shower. So our four 80 litre water tanks will last us 2 weeks or more with the two of us on board. But a modern boat with pressure water tends to use more. It is just not possible to wash your hands of brush your teeth with as little water as we use with our foot pump. Similarly washing dishes tends to use more when you have a regular tap. One of the biggest factors is water supply. On Two-Step, we do not have a watermaker. So an ocean crossing passage of 21 days (our longest to date) means we have to make our 320 litres last that long. For anyone planning ocean passages, note that you must budget your water for as long as you might be out there. We usually add a 50 percent safety factor to our voyage planning when we are provisioning. So our Atlantic Crossing to Brazil of 2200 miles was planned to be at sea for an entire month. We had enough food for that, and planned the water for that as well. Since we have four tanks, we know we shouldn't finish more than one per week.

Anyway, the net result of this is that long ago we learnt we could make do with just 80 litres of water a week for the two of us. Sun shower and sponge baths, washing dishes in salt water, and using foot pumps to help conserve.

Enter the modern cruising boat!! I read in a cruising magazine not so long ago that you could budget 25 gallons per person per day!!!! Are they talking about life on a cruising boat of on the QE2 I thought? Well, it turns out that if you have all the gadgets you just might (although 25 gallons might still be too much even for those who leave the water running while they brush their teeth).

Water Budget Factors

* Toilets – some modern marine toilets hook up to the fresh water to flush. If you have these on your boat then factor in 3 litres per flush. Possibly 20 litres per person per day.
* Showers – a modern shower can use quite a lot of water. Its a great luxury to have a shower on board, and many cruisers have them. If used frugally they may use just 10 litres per shower or even less if you instruct crew to turn it off while soaping up. I haven't done clinical tests but I imagine a wasteful shower head just left on all the time would use more than 20 litres in a long shower.
* Pressure water syndrome – probably the most insidious – PWS (pressure water syndrome) affects people by encouraging them to just leave the water running. Where campers and old-time sailors know its easy to brush your teeth in just 1 cup of water, modern city dwellers afflicted with PWS can use 10-20 times as much. Choosing a faucet that is easy to turn on and off can help somewhat. And instructing the crew can help too.
* Watermakers – For the new boat I am looking at a watermaker that will produce 24 litres per hour. To supply our modest needs on Two-Step, this would only need to run one hour every two days. Even when we are more careless and use water more casually we would still only need to use it for 1 hour a day. The factor seems to be you will use more since you know you have it! Cruisers I have spoken with who have watermakers, all said they wanted one so they wouldn't have to worry about water use. So add a factor of 2-times if you are in this category. Just remember that nothing is free. Running a watermaker for twice as long as you need, will use twice the power. It also might be noisy. Check out the sound of a potential watermaker before you buy. Many people recommend you plan a watermaker to supply your water needs by running in the time you will be running your engine or generator to charge the batteries. The rational here is that watermakers use a fair bit of power, so you will want to run the generator or engine at the same time. So a watermaker that is too small will need to run for hours. The alternative is a smaller watermaker that you might be able to run during times your solar or wind generator is producing surplus power. But more on power generation later...

See you next time – in the Med when we are back aboard Two-Step in Malta for Easter.

Electrical Budget and the Virgin Islands

SNOW SNOW SNOW!! Its blowing horizontally outside the studio window as I write this and tonight its meant to drop to -24C. Tomorrow we are heading south for 3 weeks filming in the Virgin Islands and not a minute too soon. Although we did have fun out on the lake filming a few days ago with iceboats and Bombardiers – more on that later.

The past few days I have been working on the electrical system design for the new boat. Basically all the gadgets and how many batteries we will need to run them all. As any long-term cruising sailor knows, the pile of modern goodies we have all been adding to our boats can drain the batteries pretty quickly. The question is how quickly! What you need to do is calculate how much power each device will use, and how long you will use it each day. I actually do two calculations, one for when we are at anchor and one when we are at sea on passage (assuming sailing 24 hours).

In order to do this calculation you need to assemble all the information on what power is required for each gadget, and this can be the most demanding part. Traditionally we calculate this in “amp-hours” which is how many amps it draws over so many hours. For example, the Autopilot uses 1.5 amps and I plan to run it for 24 hours when we are on passage. So it uses 36 amp-hours in my table. Note you must stick with the same voltage when you do this – so I am using 12V – but the same calculation can be done at 24Volt as well.

If you only have a wattage rating on the device – such as a 60 watt bulb – divide by the voltage to find the amps uses – 60/12=5 amps.

To do my table I used the internet and was able to find specs on a number of the gadgets I intend to put on the new boat. For instance, the cappuccino maker (;-) uses 1400 watts so I calculated 1400/12 is 118 amps at 12 volts. Not really accurate since the inverter will use some as well but this is meant as a rough calculation – after all, the number of hours we will use is a bit of a guess anyway.

Calculating the number of hours a gadget will be used is a fun activity on a winter day! You can visualize the situation and put yourself on the boat. How long would you play (I mean work) on the computer every day? If you are doing this calculation for a boat you already own you can make notes from past excursions. And hopefully you have an ammeter so you know how much the gadgets use as well. (If not its definitely worth getting one! An ammeter is a great tool to help manage your electrical system).

So Here's the first pass through this calculation for sizing the ship's battery bank. And it hasn't even got the washer/dryer in ;-)

Assume windlass is used only when the engine is running so it is not included - budget is only for calculations of battery capacity.
- Radar is in transmit mode for 3 hours. This is a assuming a bad night because we normally leave it in standby mode. Of course in fog it would be on 24 hours.
- Refrigeration is always a big user. I hope this will be efficient but it may be on more than I budget, and may be on more when its really hot.
- Cabin lights don't use much. I am assuming a few reading lights and thats it. If you like it brighter be prepared to have lighting as one of the largest users of power.
- Autopilot use is for moderate sea conditions. In my experience they can use very little if the sea is light or the boat balances well. The Southerly has a very light helm so I predict it will be a low power user in "auto" mode.
- cabin lights are entered twice since we use them differently at sea and at anchor. At sea we just have 2 small lights on for watch the whole night. At anchor we have more but plan it for a typical sailors early night!

If you are planning a budget like this, you might want to splash out on lights, a big deep freeze and other things, but whatever you plan, your batteries should be able to supply the needs without needing a charge more than once a day. I am assuming I will want to recharge once a day, and that I shouldn't use more than 50% of the capacity of my batteries. So I am planning a bank somewhat larger than 400AH. Basically double the "Daily AH on Passage" total of 198 amp-hours).

That's it for now. Got to run and pack!!

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 :-)


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)