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Gear on the Voyage
Previously printed in the Blue Water Cruising Association Newsletter
Renewal Time at the "Church" in Papetee
-Collision Avoidance Radar Detector--as a single hander wanting to sleep I relied on this to at least help avoid a collision with a freighter at sea. It worked very well. One night there was a ship which definitely did not have its radar on and it also did not answer any VHF calls but for all others I received a loud alarm when ships were within about 5 miles on average. Plenty of time to take action. It gives quite a few false alarms but after a lot of thinking I boiled this down to two reasons. Airplanes first. It just made sense that aircraft using radar would be picked up since they certainly are in range albeit vertical instead of horizontal. Secondly, I think there is some sort of freak emission at sunset since the
CARD gave a beep each day as the sun sunk low. Of course, once one was any where near a populated centre the CARD beeped all the time from all the radar emissions of airports, aircraft, ships, pleasure boats or you name it. Offshore it was great and I highly recommend it.
-Fully Battened Main Sail--It seemed the right decision before I left. With a Dutchman flaking system it should make single handed sail handling a breeze. It worked beautifully and the ability to reef (three
levels) without leaving the cockpit at all was a Godsend BUT oh those battens coming out the leach. Every leach pocket failed at least once and some several times after en route repairs. The battens just work in the pocket and wear themselves out the back. In Honolulu I had North go over the entire main with special attention to the pockets yet within 300 miles the first of the battens came creeping out. One came right out in the night and went through the wind generator blades shortening them all considerably so the whole boat shook from the off balance vibration if the wind piped up over 15 knots. A wonderful sail maker in Papeete had the solution but why no one else before him I have no idea. He sewed plastic pocket ends into the leach - the same kind as are usually used only at the luff on fully battened sails. Sure there is a little windage and probably some disturbance of the flow at the leach but who cares on an offshore cruiser. I never had any problems or even signs of them to come after the fix in the roughly 400 miles I sailed around French Polynesia.
Simpson Lawrence Anchor Windless--they work but be sure and have a note of the actual model you have (or at least, the serial number)-all the numbers and letters that make it up. A bolt in the hub of mine sheared (fortunately in Hawaii). I did not have the detailed model number. It is not shown on the unit; for some unfathomable reason the serial number is apparently engraved on the bottom where you have secured it to the boat. The chap who responded to the SL 800 number when I tried to get a replacement bolt was as helpful as he could be and after over 10 phone calls he took an educated guess at the model. Then they had no bolts in stock but after pleading he opened a new windless and sent me the bolt from it. Oh yes, the warranty. You have to return the windless for it to apply. What a choice! Not under warranty the bolt cost about US$60 including UPS charges from Florida.
-Para-Tech Sea Anchors--I used this once when the barometer indicated a major front moving in (the wind did gust to fifty-two knots) but notwithstanding the warnings in the booklet that came with it, I had not practiced the deployment maneuver. I did get it out but nearly broke my arm, had it through the wrong chock, nearly let out all the rode and thought I would freeze in the process. Practice, practice before you need to really use the anchor. It does work well and the Cal 29 did not ride roughly or back and forth too much. Chaffing was a real concern and kept me up all night although no noticeable chaffing appeared at any time. Do use a retrieval line as the instructions advise. Without one it took me nearly three hours to get the thing back on board the next morning with constant fears of fouling the prop.      Go to Top
-PUR Water Maker (12 Volt PowerSurvivor)--It works as advertised and I was very happy to have it. It does not make a lot of water (1.4 gallons per hour) but it was great to top up the tank some every time I felt nervous about the supply or felt a shower was in order. Definitely the pump to bring in sea water is not very effective as the unit could not function when the boat was heavily heeled way from the intake. I just got used to only using it when the boat was on the other tact or relatively flat in the water.
-Radar (any kind)--a must in my view. I only turned it on when I had a compelling reason but then I was sure happy to have it. Ship collision avoidance at night after the CARD had awakened me was the most common use. With no easily adjustable self steering gear in the latter part of the trip it helped me navigate around Flint Island in the dark and pick out the right part of Tahiti in the early morning.
-Air Marine Wind Turbine Generator--I chose this unit for its light weight primarily plus the claims in the West Marine catalogue. It really puts out the amps when the wind pipes up and I had no problems with it but for the batten going through the blades which hardly is covered by any warranty. It is very noisy when the wind gets over 15 knots. The sound reminded me of being at an airshow with one of those Pitts special stunt aircraft putting on an exhibition in your head. At less than 15 knots wind the unit is quiet and unobtrusive. Ironically, the noise problem was a benefit to me as a single hander. After a short time I could tell the wind speed by the sound of the generator. Lying in my bunk I had a constant handle on the wind state without opening an eye or crawling out on deck. Be sure and install the "off/on" switch as described in the manual so you can get some peace on windy days. As I say I never did have any problems but I did run into two boats who had experienced failures of the unit and claimed it would go on the fritz in 6 months. One boat sent a unit in twice to the manufacturer and had it fail again. He did confirm good service from the maker though.
-Cape Horn Self Steering Vane--I chose this unit for its light weight and small profile for my Cal 29. Once set up it worked very well in all but the lightest of winds where the breeze from the swell would guide the steering vane instead of the real breeze. In high winds it responded very well at all points of sail. On the negative side: it seemed to take three hands to set it up each time. I resorted to using an old electric tiller unit to get the vane going and then put the electric away for days or weeks. It broke! I am told all vanes can break but why mine? The break was serious and could not be repaired at sea. When I tried to contact the maker in Quebec from Papeete I got an answering machine with a wrong referral number. It turned out later that some telephone company in Quebec had fouled things up but that was no joy to me 7000 miles away. In the end I was able to get the unit welded back together (stronger than ever I think) in Papeete. That experience may show an advantage to the unit rather than a problem. It can be fixed by any good welder since it is just shaped stainless steel and not made with fancy molds or whatever. I think if I had it to do again I would not hesitate to choose this wind vane over others, at least for a small boat like mine.
Jacklines--Indispensable to keep you harnessed to the boat BUT do not set them up iron tight like I did at first. You cannot move along the boat then and your harness line catches on things so hard something has to give (a nav light torn off in my case).  Go to Top
-Windex Wind Indicator--everyone has one I think but how many were really careful filling the little retainer screw hole with silicon when they installed it in BC's benign waters? Mine loosened off and blew away in 40 knots of wind.

-Radar Reflector--We know they work best if up high so like many I mounted mine high on the backstay. Use some sort of wire clamp under it as otherwise, like me, you wake up one day with the reflector having slid down the stay to the bottom. Another trip up the mast you do not need.
Prop Shaft Line Cutters--I had one of the new cheaper ones sold out of England. I highly recommend having some sort. I know you are sailing but you do use your engine sometimes and most often when in tight quarters or some such in a harbour. If you have just arrived that is when you are not thinking too straight and oops, a line is accidentally left trailing. It happened to me with a spinnaker sheet and I was eternally grateful for the line cutter. It did strip the zinc's off the shaft in the process though so check after an incident.           Go to Top
-Spinnaker, Drifters And The Like--take one if you can. In light airs it is a joy to sail along with and a magic change of motion and feel. Such changes are just as important to the psyche as the boat moving.
-Solar Panels--they certainly work BUT unless you can set them up to be properly directed and entirely shade free they do not produce what you hoped for. I had a 55 watt unit but its best output was three amps and usually it was down in the 1.5 range. Just the shade from a line affected it greatly. The wind generator was much more productive even at anchor in most places.
-Ample Power System--The monitor system and generally the charging control system worked flawlessly and gave one a great sense of comfort and security. Its a very expensive installation but if you can fit it in the budget I recommend it. On the other hand the fancy regulator that came with it failed leaving the boat with no way to get a charge from the engine (still got charge from the wind and solar). Coincidentally I ran into two other boats with exactly the same experience. One had a professional electrician on board and he gleefully showed me his identically unit ripped out in a temper tantrum somewhere between South Africa and the Caribbean. We do not know what went wrong and I regret not bringing the failed unit back to Canada so my electrician and installer could do an analysis. By the way, the cure was to install a simple automobile regulator (keep it simple S__) which worked fine and all the Ample Power monitor features worked with it just fine too.
-Rubber Rub Rails--on many older boats (and maybe some new ones) the rub rail is a large rubber piece affixed to the boat by part of it fitting in a groove maybe with some glue to help. This was never a problem in all of RENEWAL TIME's 21 years until offshore. The waves constantly coming up on the lee side would worry the rail until it came out of the groove at the bow and then work back until you had this great "sausage" hanging overboard. After pounding it back in place about a dozen times at sea I finally just had to lash it to the stanchions for the rest of the voyage. I "severely" epoxied it in place in Papeete. It is well that I kept it lashed since replacement with like kind would be nigh on to impossible--they were made custom for each boat and they don't make them for replacement.
-Blocks In General--carry lots of spares. No matter what price I had paid I had failure of blocks. Cheeks broke or wheels stuck.
   Cal 29's--Properly fitted out (costs more than the boat) I still think they are an excellent choice for an offshore boat for one or two persons. I don't think there are stronger hulls made and they handle all levels of wind very well. Waves play badly with them but then so do they with many boats. RENEWAL TIME was loaded well below the line but that did not seem to bother her at all. She has more interior room then many 32 or 34 footers and the quarter berths are super sea berths. There were lots of modifications done and these are detailed on other pages on this site.

   Single Handing In General--This really up to the individual. For me being alone during the passages was not a problem. In fact I think I would have been very unhappy concerned about a crew member's safety, sleeping and eating conflicts and such. It seemed I was so busy that the days went by and I can't think of any thing that occurred where another hand would have helped a great deal. Might have been nice at times but not critical. On the other hand once the passage was done the lack of a companion was telling. I met many other cruisers in harbour and enjoyed all the social contact. As a rule they were all very friendly, hospitable and helpful to a fault but you cannot live on their boat. You go for a meal with them or an exploration trip or shopping or whatever but in the end they go back to their boat and you to yours. After days in a port getting up alone, eating most meals alone and scrounging the shore alone you do yearn for someone with you. For all of that, if you want to do it I recommend you go ahead and get offshore. It is a wonderful experience you will cherish all your life and I am sure never forget. If it gets too bad you can always stop some place without any regrets or shame.

Retired and moving into a new house in Sechelt Inlet I settled into the Nonsuch cat boat fraternity. Sounds good but I still have real heartaches when I think of RENEWAL TIME and my short offshore life. I will always look at a sailboat with a wind vane with a touch of longing.                       Go to Top