Introduction to Cruising


So you want to go cruising ? You want some help with selecting a yacht and what you'll need ?

Just about everyone has an opinion on the perfect cruising yacht. I'm no different from anyone else but I have studied everything to do with boats that I could lay my hands on for the last thirty years and sailed over ten thousand miles on a variety of boats off the coast and on the ocean. I am humbled by people who have sailed prodigious distances in yachts. I actually like sailing on the ocean. I don't yearn for the voyage to be over and I do get a great sense of personal achievement after a cruise where personal resources and skills have prevailed. A crowning moment of my life was the day (August 8th, 1986) I sailed into Port Maurelle, Vava'U, Tonga, with my wife and three small children, after twenty six days at sea non-stop from Sydney, Australia, aboard my 27 foot yacht which I had designed and built in the splendid isolation of country New South Wales. I felt I had done something as a designer, a boat builder, a navigator with sextant, almanac, tables and compass, and as a sailor. Everything self taught.

Home built 27ft sloop

Back to your future boat.

There are some basic questions which you have to ask yourself:

1. How long do you want to cruise for ?

2. Where do you want to cruise ?

3. How many people aboard ?

1. You can divide this up into very short term, viz. weekends and holidays up to a couple of weeks; short term, viz up to say six months; medium term, say six months to three years; and long term or indefinitely.

If we're talking very short term then I'd say buy whatever you like that you can afford. Remember that it is nice to be able to stand up in the cabin. But there is no size limit. Some people cruise in a sailing dinghy of around 16 feet, with a flat floor and a boom tent. How much sailing have you done ? It is nice to be able to have a boat that sails sweetly (I'll address this later when I discuss hull design). Most trailer sailers come into this category.

On the other hand, if we are talking short term, then you probably need a boat of around 25 feet or more. If you plan on being aboard for six months then it means you'll being doing some significant coastal hops. So it'll need to be strong. In Australia, boats like Top Hats and Compass 28/29s are a good choice of proven small designs which have sailed considerable distances. There are lesser known others like the Duncanson 29 and any of the 1970s IOR half tonners are also good and plentiful to choose from. (Endeavour 27/28/30, Pion, Adams 31, Viking, Spacesailer 27, Easterly 30, Nantucket 30, S&S 30, MW 32, Cole 31, Carter 30, Santana 28, Peterson 30, and lots of others.)

 Strip planked "Folkboat"

Putting a bottom limit on it, I wouldn't consider a boat of less than around 5000 to 6000 lbs displacement (two and half tons plus). It can be done in boats like the S80 or M27 but they are fairly lightly constructed. For short term cruising I would test a boat's hull strength like this: Find a large flattish part of the hull eg (sides near the bow) and see if you can get it to flex by pushing it in and out with your hand, pumping it. If it does flex, consider that if you take a piece of material and bend it back and forth it will eventually fracture. Some materials will withstand the flexing a lot more than others (eg, a timber outlasts aluminium in this type of contest), but it will break. Older glass boats often have hairline fractures along lines of flex. Look for them. Folkboats are possible (Ann Gash circumnavigated in a wooden one) but they are tight for space. In this category you can also go as big as you can afford. Similarly, interior layouts are not especially critical, as most nights are spent in anchorages, marinas and the like, and only the very occasional night is spent at sea.


GRP Carmen 30

In the area of medium term, we are starting to think about major voyages which may involve an ocean crossing. You will need a boat that is capable of withstanding whatever the weather is capable of throwing at you in the area you are intending sailing to. You can do a world circumnavigation in less than two years. The reality is that bigger boats do not get tossed around as much as little boats in the ocean by virtue of their size and greater weight. In general they are steadier and faster. So it really comes down to what you can afford.

Before proceeding I will set out some general parameters for your consideration.

a. I wouldn't set out across an ocean without at least 70 gallons of water in at least two or more separate tanks (no showers for the crew on this boat !). If for some reason one of your tanks fractures, then you can get by on 30 gallons but I wouldn't want to try it on 15 gallons (67 litres). You can survive for months without food but only for a few days without water. Yes, you can take a watermaker, but ask yourself what you would do if it breaks down.

b. You need proper seaberths. These will be as wide as the widest crew member plus a couple of inches, a couple of inches longer than the tallest crew member and parallel to the centreline of the boat. There should be some means of keeping the sleeper in the bunk (a leecloth) for which ever way the boat is heeling. Preferably the bunks should be located aft of the mast as bunks forward of the mast tend to experience too much up and down motion. Bunks nearest the centre of the waterline will experience least motion. It would be nice to have at least one seaberth for each crew member but you will need at least as many as there are crew less one for the person on watch (four crew need at least three seaberths).

If the boat you've been looking at doesn't have the above two minimum features, look elsewhere !

There are also some general rules of the sea which you should know and apply:

(i) Outside an acid bath, or the interior of a non-extinct volcano, the ocean is one of the most corrosive environments in nature.

(ii) The ocean is constantly in motion and thus everything is moving and subject to wear even if it is not being used. The ocean wears away rocks.

(iii) Because of the above two points everything mechanical which has moving parts and metal (eg. engines, self steering gear, rudders and steering, sheaves and blocks, wire rigging and rigging screws, sail furlers, sheet winches, hydraulics, manual anchor winches, stoves, galley pumps, eutectic refrigerators, bilge pumps, toilets, etc) wears out much quicker than they would on land.

(iv) Because of point (i) above, electrical things (eg. batteries, alternators, wind generators, solar panels, electric bilge pumps, electric anchor winches, water systems, electric toilets, electric refrigerators, etc) give out much faster than mechanical things.

(v) Electronic things (eg. instruments such as GPS, speed indicators, inverters, TVs, radios, autopilots, video players, microwave ovens, weatherfaxes, depth sounders, fancy regulators, voltage splitters, etc) give out faster and more frequently than either electrical or mechanical things because they have more delicate bits like circuit boards.

(vi) A simple application of logic will tell you that things which are a combination of mechanical, electrical and electronic will give out fastest of all (eg. autopilots, Lectrasans, watermakers, etc.)

(v) In the ocean, water gets in everywhere eventually. All boats leak, but I will qualify that statement lest some manufacturer thinks it is too sweeping. I accept that some new boats such as Swans and Etaps (and perhaps some others) don’t leak when they are new because they are tested in a factory water bath and are fixed before they leave the factory. For other boats it is a lottery. New boats are less likely to leak than old boats. But given time, sealants harden, rubber and neoprene gaskets harden, ‘O’ rings wear out, silicone lets go, and water gets in. If you think you’ll be able to prevent it, you’re living in “La La Land”. An addendum to this rule is: An ocean voyage is the best way to locate leaks. Some boats never leak until they make an ocean voyage. Most leaks are in the deck or cabin house.

(vi) What the corrosive environment of salt air doesn’t damage, the sun and wind will. Sunshine and salt crystals are more destructive together on synthetic sailcloth, and synthetic lines (ropes), than separately.

Remember that money can solve all of these problems

You might ask the question, that, starting out with a new boat and equipment, how much time will you have with things running reliably ? You can be lucky or unlucky (like cars there are lemons amongst boats), but I would guess that most things in my lists above last at least two or three years with electronics going first. Some of the mechanical things may go reliably for up to twenty years. A solid state regulator set in resin on your alternator could last indefinitely (unfortunately, everyone wants a smart regulator these days !).

The choice of boats in the medium category is vast. Trade-A-Boat is full of examples for sale. Try to think strength. Steel may be good. Ferro may be good but you can’t see what’s under the cement. Aluminium may also be good. Glass reinforced plastic may be good. The strength may come from the shell thickness but you should be able to look at the interior structure for appropriate reinforcing. You are looking for stringers, ribs, bracing, bulkheads, floors, beam shelves, etc. Virtually all types of construction will have these in them with the possible exception of cored GRP hulls. (The best construction in GRP boats has the bulkheads glassed to the hull and bolted as well or fixed in some way with glass lapping through the bulkhead. You’ll be hard put to find it on most boats.) American manufacturers of GRP boats used to favour thick hulls with less stiffening than British manufacturers who prefer more stiffening with thinner shells. The smallest size which is practical would be something like an Australian GRP H28 or the New Zealand made H28. Put another way, the smallest size would need to be around five tons.

I know that it is possible to do this in much smaller boats. One fellow circumnavigated in a thirteen foot steel boat. He was singlehanding, fortunately.

Designers refer to a thing called displacement length ratio.Once upon a time it was considered that a cruising boat should have a D/L ratio of at least 400. These days people cruise regularly in boats with a D/L ratio of less than 200. The D/L ratio doesn’t tell the whole story. Short fat heavy boats will have much higher ratios than long skinny light boats.

Let’s compare a 35 foot boat that weighs 4 tons with a 35 foot boat that weighs 7 tons. They are basically the same size. The mast and rigs will weigh a similar amount although the rig may have to be bigger on the heavier boat. But there won’t be that much difference in weight. Given 4 hp per ton the 7 tonner will need 28 hp and the 4 tonner 16 hp. The 16 hp engine will weigh considerably more than half the 28 hp engine. Not much saving there. The weight saving of the lighter boat would be less than the weight of a person for rig and engine. Let’s say both have a 50% ballast ratio. For the four tonner that leaves 2 tons for the hull, deck, interior, engine, rig and sails and whatever other weights the designer has factored in. For the 7 tonner we have three and a half tons (less a couple of hundred pounds for engine and rig) for all the same stuff . It doesn’t take much thinking to realise that the seven tonner can be stronger and carry more stuff especially in its tanks.

When you are looking at the specifications of a production boat, notice the weight or displacement of the boat and the tank capacity. It suits manufacturers to build light boats because they use less material and thus, cost less to build, so profit margins can be higher. “Y” factory building the 4 tonner will be able to undersell the 7 tonner built by “Z” factory. Both have three cabins, eight bunks, a shower, microwave oven and all the trimmings. And the cheaper 4 tonner sails like the clappers and always outsails the 7 tonner. Who is going to sell more boats and make the most money for shareholders ? The trend of manufacturers is to lighter and lighter boats because the profit margins are higher. With European builders using quite sophisticated production techniques, costs are reduced even further in the interests of competition.

World markets have been dominated by the French for some years as evidenced by the charter boat industry, once dominated by American companies such as Morgan and CSY. The style of boat developed for the charter industry has also come to dominate cruising boat design. There are similarities to cruising requirements but for charter boats think very short term. This means the accent is on comfort. Accommodation, hot water and bathrooms will have more importance than sailing performance which will be more a result of light displacement than hull design. Hull design will be about accommodation and not sailing. There are usually no sea berths on charter boats. If you ask about lee cloths (a panel of heavy material such as sail cover stuff, designed to prevent you from falling out of the bunk when the vessel rolls) the salespeople won’t know what you are talking about or they’ll tell you their boats have everything. But they won’t have lee cloths or appropriate berths to put them on. They will have two or more showers including one on the stern to wash the salt off after emerging from the ocean. The bunks will all be doubles so charterers can enjoy their ‘conjugals’. Some will have a large queen size double island berth in the spacious after cabin. They are designed to be safely at anchor at night. They are essentially unsuitable for medium and long term cruising unless significantly modified.

Unfortunately because charter boats have such wonderful accommodation, people have started to require the same level in all boats regardless of length. To meet this demand, yacht manufacturers produce wider and wider hulls. To maintain lightness the hulls have to be very shallow and are thus quite flat on the bottom (dinghy style). The problem with this is that if they are heeled beyond a certain point they go right over and are stable upside down like a catamaran. For many modern designs the angle at which the ability to right themselves vanishes is about 115 degrees (called the angle of vanishing stability). Twenty five degree past a flat knockdown, they flip upside down and from that point require heeling over 65 degrees before they self right and flip back upright. These boats are not really suitable for crossing oceans. Many of them do cross quite safely, but you wouldn’t catch me in one.

General Rule of the sea  (vii) Ocean sailing is all about probabilities. The more ocean miles you do the more likely it is you will meet an ultimate storm. (Some folk are unlucky enough to meet one the first time they go out sailing – but this rare.)

Boats designed in the 1960s tended to have angles of vanishing stability at 135 to 145 degrees. Wave action alone was easily enough to flip them upright quickly following inversion. The factors which help stability are narrow hulls, high freeboard, deep keels, high ballast ratios (usually thirty five percent or more), high bow and stern, and a large deckhouse or a raised deck.

There is also a ratio called the sail area/displacement ratio. This can vary from around 15 to over 20. A long skinny boat may go as high as 23. Joe Adams ‘metre’ designs are of this type. Short fat heavy boats would tend to have ratios in the order of 14 – 16. Commonly, ex-racing boats tend to have more sail area because they race in enclosed waters where the wind strengths are less. When ocean cruising, such boats are often most comfortable sailing with a reef in the mainsail and huge overlapping genoas are rarely used.  Be aware that there is a lot of variation in wind strengths throughout the world. High latitudes generally have greater wind strength than the tropics. Cold air is denser or heavier. Southern California, USA, generally has lighter winds than Sydney, NSW. Waters around Great Britain generally have stronger winds than either of the other two.  Boats designed with these areas in the mind of the designer will have sail areas appropriate to the perceived average windspeed. Windstrengths are also seasonal with stronger winds being felt in winter. I use the term “generally” because  I know tropical summers can produce tropical cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons with wind speeds of over 200 miles per hour. The sail area ratio is calculated on the area of the mainsail plus 100% of the area of the foretriangle. A boat with a sail area displacement ratio of less than 15 has too little sail area and will be too slow in light conditions although it may be fine if you are intending sailing in the Great Southern Ocean. Interestingly, most boats in the cruising yacht size range tend to average around 4 to 6 knots on their ocean passages. There’s not much in it.

Masts and Sails

To some people the words “ketch” and “schooner” are frightfully romantic. People think of Gardner McKay and his ‘Adventures in Paradise’ (if they’re old enough !). Here are some facts: One mast (sloop or cutter) costs less than two masts with all the rigging and sails and gear. There is a mathematical relationship between windward ability and luff length of sails. The sloop/cutter rig will outsail the ketch rig to windward on the same hull. Here are some opinions: There is a limit to how much sail area a person can manage and, age and fitness need to be taken into account. Consider the exercise of tying in an ordinary slab reef in a mainsail which has been left up too long in strengthening wind. In my opinion most folk can handle mainsails on boats to around 35 to 40 feet. Once the boats start to get over 40 feet the sails can become a bit of a handful and require some extra strength and fitness. I have found winching in a big genoa on a roller furler on a 45 footer in about Force 5/6, a gut buster. (I wasn’t coughing blood, but it was hard work.) Clearly the mainsail will be smaller on a ketch than a sloop/cutter of the same size. So it seems reasonable that a ketch can be larger than a sloop yet still have sails of a manageable size. The more assistance one has to manage the sails eg. large winches, large diameter furling drums, furling mainsails and furling headsails, then the larger those sails can be and still be manageable. But be aware that these things are not entirely foolproof and can break down especially if given enough time. For mainsails, in-mast furling is more difficult to maintain than in-boom furling. Also remember that the more turning blocks and the like that a line passes through, the greater will be the effort required to overcome all the friction. This will be so where ‘everything is led back to the cockpit’. Things with ball bearings and races will have less friction than things with plain bearings and bushes. However because of the marine environment the actual balls will be synthetic and subject to more wear (but not rust) than metal balls.

The schooner seems to be largely an American invention and was most likely designed for a particular set of conditions which suited that configuration. I would assume that those conditions involved a lot of off-the-wind or downwind sailing. ‘Individualism’ would be the only reason I could see for ever considering a schooner.

The yawl is a close relation of the ketch and was invented to give an advantage in some racing rule. It has nothing to recommend it. Adherents of this type of yacht will usually tell you how useful the mizzen mast is to hang stuff off like radomes and wind generators. The Concordia Yawl is a famous American type which can send Americans into states of hypnotic reverie. They’re okay if your taste runs to low freeboard, long counter sterns (somewhere to put the mizzen mast) and bow overhangs, narrow beam and relatively tight accommodation.

The Americans also like the cat rig which has one enormous mainsail set on a mast (sometimes unstayed) right up in the bow. This rig is called the ‘una’ rig in the UK. The Laser dinghy is a modern version. Catboats in the USA traditionally have a short, wide, shallow hull. They were designed for operating in very shallow water and are useless for ocean sailing. In a blow the rig will generate massive weather helm (the tendency of the boat to round up into the wind). The rig may have merit in ordinary hulls but I have never seen one. The Americans also produced the Cat Ketch (called a ‘Periauger’ by Howard Chappelle) which has two mainsails of equal size set on two masts. (The Freedom 40, and its derivatives, is of this type.)

In the general area of fore-and-aft rigged vessels which includes all of the above, a single sail on a mast which extends forward of the mast as well as behind the mast is called a lug sail. There are three types of lugsails. The ‘dipping lugsail’ is an old English type and has no place on a cruising boat. The other two types of lugsails are of the balanced type. The standing lugsail has a spar along the top edge of the sail and a boom along its bottom edge. Both spars extend either side of the mast with the smaller area of sail being ahead of the mast. When the wind is on one side of the boat the sail presses against the mast and when the wind is on the other side the sail pulls away from the mast. It is generally only found in smaller vessels, some dinghies and traditional boats, generally from the south west part of the UK. The other type of standing balanced lugsail is the traditional Chinese lugsail characterised by a number full length battens across the sail.. There are a lot of regional variations in this type. Western yachts with Chinese lugsails usually owe their development to Jock McLeod and Blondie Haslar if from the UK, and Tom Colvin if from the USA. There are many who swear by this type of rig.  It has the advantage of being extremely cheap. You don’t even need sailcloth as any material will do (except netting !). The masts are mostly unstayed so there is little rigging, and since the ropes are lightly loaded they can be cheap sisal or any natural fibre. You are in the realm of real shoestring cruising if you choose to go low-tech Chinese lugsail. They do not sail as close to the wind as bermudan types but they are often faster off the wind. They will not heave to but they are easier to reef than any other type. Chinese lugsails are more suited to vessels which are not too beamy. They also work well on shoal draft vessels. (Tom Colvin’s ‘Gazelle’ design is a good example of a boat designed for this type of rig.) The Folkboat “Jester” sailed in most of the singlehanded transatlantic races by Blondie Hasler and later by Mike Richey (Ritchie ?) was set up by with a single Chinese lugsail so you didn’t have to go on deck for anything (except anchoring or tying up !). Both Richey and Hasler boasted of making the Atlantic crossing in slippers !

At the other extreme are Carbospars Aerorig which is extremely high tech and most likely costs a king’s ransom compared with aluminium and stainless steel equivalents. I suspect you get your money’s worth but longevity has yet to be determined.

You may come across gaff and gunter rigs. Both of these have a spar attached to the top edge of the sail which is hoisted up the mast. With the gunter rig, when the sail is set, the spar is virtually an extension of the mast. An example of a boat which may have a gunter rig is the Eventide 24/26. A gaff rig has more ropes to pull and play with than Bermudan or Marconi rigs (which is what we call the set-up on most vessels these days). Advantages of gaff rigs are: faster off the wind than bermudan rigs, lower centre of effort of sails (therefore less heeling), shorter mast for under bridges etc, low tech, mainsail drops instantly because of the weight of the spar, greater sail area. The disadvantages are: not as good to windward as bermudan rigs, more subject to chafe and wear, more weather helm when reefed, more complicated especially if topsails used, lots of rope needed, low tech. Gaff rigs are a powerful rig and were used for fishing boats which towed trawls and the like. They are probably better suited for relatively shallow draft boats than tall bermudan rigs.

There are various other forms of rigs which come and go including ones with solid sails (wings on end), the Gallant rig and other inventions which enjoyed some passing interest briefly before entering history. Experimental rigs probably aren’t appropriate for your first cruising boat.

In modern terminology the sloop has one sail in front of the mast and the cutter has two sails in front of the mast. I will leave out spinnakers, bloopers, MPSs, drifters and other light wind sails. Headsails are attached to stays either by sail hanks or a luff groove in a roller furling tube. The outermost forestay is attached to the top of the mast (in a masthead rig) in both sloops and cutters. The cutter has an inner forestay attached somewhere down the mast. The disadvantage of a cutter is that to balance the pull of the inner forestay on the mast there must be stays aft of the mast. Because of the boom, the stays, called runners, must be able to be released and tensioned easily. A way to solve this is to have the inner forestay connected close to the spreaders where the load can be taken by aft lower shrouds (if fitted). The masthead cutter rig is the most versatile of single masted rigs. I regard it as the best for shorthanded ocean sailing for vessels under 40 feet. As the wind increases sail areas can be progressively reduced whilst still retaining sail balance with less sail changing than on a sloop.

Some yachts do not have the forestay going to the top of the mast. These boats are called fractional rigged. If the forestay is quite near the top it might be called seven eighths or fifteen sixteenths. If well down the mast it might be called three quarters. Fractional rigs are more complicated than masthead rigs and were developed for some racing advantage. By having a bit of free standing mast, the mainsail can be easily flattened for stronger winds by tightening the backstay which bends the top of the mast and so flattens the sail. The problem is that by working the mast in this way you are increasing the likelihood that it will fracture sooner than if it were stayed at the masthead. Older vessels often were fractionally rigged and have jumper struts and diamond stays sticking out where the forestay is attached to the mast. This eliminates the need for runners. An example of this type of rig can be found on the 22’ Bluebird.

Mainsails have a better shape and thus sail better if they have full length battens. They also don’t flog. But they are more prone to chafe. You can have a mainsail without any battens at all, but it needs to have a slight hollow cut in the leach (back edge of the sail) and will therefore be of less sail area than it would have been with battens. I have heard this called a Swedish Mainsail. The problem with battens is that they chafe on the stays and against the sail. (Sails chafe on stays but it is not as localised as when battens are fitted.) For long term cruising, being without battens altogether may be the best option. If you are long term cruising then you won’t be in a hurry so you won’t miss a bit of sail area. Full length battens work with either boom furling or slab reefing. If a sail has to have battens then I’d make them full length as the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

In summary, depending on your fitness, I’d reckon on one mast on boats up to around forty feet and two masts on boats over 45 feet. It will depend on whether you have roller reefing and boom furling and how easy it is to grind the sails in when the wind starts to blow. I am assuming it is a normal two person crew. In this arrangement one person keeps an eye on things while the other does the sail reduction. Once you have more than two crew circumstances may be different. The most common cruising crew comprises a man and his partner (who may or may not be his wife – but that is of no concern here, and in fact, once cruising you’ll find nobody gives a fig whether it’s a couple of girls, a couple of blokes, or a chap and his mother – acceptance reigns). The fact is that if you’re old enough to have retired from work and you’re not all that fit then a thirty five footer may be what you can manage best. And there’s another reason for that which I’ll mention later.

You are going to need a proper storm jib. If it can be set from an inner forestay then you’ll have snug rig under storm jib only for winds up to about force twelve. But remember that if your boat was used for racing at some stage then the chances are that the storm jib, if it has one, will be too large. (Those racing types just can’t help themselves !) If your boat is around thirty feet long then your storm jib should be about 50 square feet. Say around a maximum of 80 square feet for a forty footer. A trysail is nice but they are a bit of a pain to set. With a trysail the boom is not used and must be tied down out of the way. Some boats have a separate trysail track on the mast because otherwise you'd have to remove the main from the mast track. Time spent fiddling around on deck in a blow should be kept to a minimum.

The racing influence tends to have mainsails with two slab reefing points. They seem to have about three feet reduction in luff length with each reef. On a cruising boat, the first reef is a waste of time. It takes a fair amount of effort to put in a reef. I wouldn’t waste my time with a first reef (unless you’ve a full crew who love going on deck to reef sails). Go straight to the second reef if the wind starts to get up. You’ll be far more comfortable. Get your sailmaker to put in a third row of reefing eyes and cringles at least six or eight feet above the second reef. Then with the third reef in you’ll have a sail area comparable to a trysail and, if your sail is of fairly robust material, you won’t need a trysail. Another way of estimating the depth of the third reef is, if your boat has single spreaders, then with the third reef tied in the top of the sail should be a little above the spreaders. If your boat has two sets of spreaders then the with the third reef in, the top of the sail should be one third to half way between the two sets of spreaders. If the wind increases further then the next sail reduction will be to drop the mainsail altogether and sail on storm jib alone. A triple reefed mainsail and storm jib should probably handle around thirty five to forty knots. Boom furling allows infinite amounts of sail reduction. 

Rigging Wire is usually stainless steel of type 304. Some of it is 316 but it is rarer and more expensive. The two types have different corrosion properties. The construction is comprised of nineteen strands twisted together. This is called 1 by 19. There are types which are flattened on the outside to be smoother and more wind resistant (called Dyform).Racing boats use solid drawn stainless called rod rigging. It can be smaller in diameter than 1 by 19 for the same amount of stainless and is thus less wind resistant. (Racing sailors are fanatical about that. I suppose if you add up the length of all the wire in the rigging and take of a fraction of the diameter and multiply it by the length you might have a reduction of a square foot or two.) If you remember my point about things breaking, all rigging will eventually break because it works. The problem with rod rigging is that when one strand breaks, that’s it, because there is only one strand. You’ll lose your mast and the lot. Unless you can afford to replace all your rod rigging each year, leave it to the racers. Rod rigging has no place on a cruising yacht. There are two other types of stainless wire found on yachts. Wire which is of 7 by 19 construction is more flexible than 1 by 19 and is used for halliards and sometimes lifelines. Wire is used because it has less stretch than rope. This is no big deal on a cruising boat. I’d personally prefer all rope halliards and not part rope/part wire as some have. Invariably some strands of wire break and stick out causing “meat hooks” which’ll leave blood on your deck. Besides it’s easier to end for end rope halliards to even out the wear. Some boats have 7 by 7 construction wire. This is more flexible/more stretchy than 1 by 19, less flexible/less stretchy than 7 by 19. You can use 7 by 7 in place of 1 by 19 to hold your mast up. It is quite easy to work in sizes up to 6mm using Talurit swages.

Some people like to use galvanised wire as it is less subject to work hardening and subsequent fracture than stainless wire. It needs to be treated every year so it doesn’t rust away. I regard this as just extra work for something that is not all that much cheaper than stainless.

Sails used to be made out of cotton/canvas and being from a natural fibre were subject to rot or decomposition. Then along came the synthetic material Dacron (which is a trade name) or terylene. Sails made of this wonder material are subject to sun degradation and chafe but they can be repaired and restitched and last for years. A sail could last ten years easily on a full time cruising boat. Mylars, kevlars and laminated sails are a waste of money on a cruising yacht. If you like to do a bit of racing as well, I guess it’s a different story. I think it was AEsop who wrote that a fool and his money are soon parted. It’s still true and never more so than in boats. Coloured sails don’t make as much glare as white sails in bright sunlight but they are usually dearer. Dacron/terylene is the cheapest sail material and other exotic types such as Duradon are for specific purposes. General Rule for People: If you have a flashy personality then you’ll buy whatever it takes to be noticed.

Roller Furling Headsails really are a wonderful invention. They beat sitting up to your waist in water when the bow buries in a wave as you undo sail hanks and bundle up headsails. Some headsail furling systems are quite sophisticated and others are thoroughly agricultural. Generally, money = sophistication + brand name. But, as mentioned above, big headsails can require quite an effort to roll in even using a multi-speed winch. If you have decided on a roller furling headsail measure the diameter of your forestay and replace it with one which is one or two sizes bigger before you fit/buy your furler. Furlers put a lot of sideways strain on the ends of the forestay where the swages are. You will need a stronger stay. It will also be a good time to fit twin backstays. Just for the extra precaution and you can incorporate your HF radio aerial in one (ask the rigger to fit insulators).(Commercial ceramic electricity insulators used in the electricity industry are safer [the loops of wire intersect] and cheaper but they only seem to make them in large sizes in Australia.)

Major Robert Fiennes Wykeham-Martin invented sail furling (not reefing) equipment in the 1890s. It is permanently attached to a wire luff headsail and works. Top swivels and bottom drums are still made in bronze and come in three sizes. They can be obtained from Davies in the UK.

Long Keel or Fin Keel arguments have been around for about 100 years. There are pros and cons for both sides. A fin keeled yacht has less wetted surface area and therefore, less skin friction, meaning that it will be easier to push through the water at slow speeds than a boat of the same waterline length with more wetted surface area. Manufacturers prefer fin keels because they use less material and are cheaper to make (= more profit), the sailing is more responsive and they turn quickly and manoeuvre better under power. Those who prefer long keels claim they are steadier on the helm, easier to make self steering, give protection to the rudder and are stronger as they provide a backbone to the boat.

I would offer two pieces of advice: Firstly, many places in the world, because of their tidal range have grids for cleaning and antifouling your yacht. Your boat sits on the grid as the tide goes out and is tied fore and aft to posts. If the base of the keel is long enough for the boat to stand on unsupported without toppling forward or backwards then the fin keel is okay by me.  Secondly, if when the boat is sitting on its fin keel, you can induce movement (flexing) of the hull by pulling or pushing on bow or stern then I wouldn’t buy that boat for ocean cruising. Remember that a fin keel is a big lump of lead or cast iron and is attached to the hull over quite a small area. I would want to know that it was very well supported inside, both across the hull (by floors) and lengthways (by stringers). Imagine the hull on its side, say hanging from a crane, there’s a couple of tons of lead sticking out – think of the bending forces on those close-together keelbolts.

Rudders come in different forms. Originally rudders were attached to the back edge of the keel. To reduce wetted surface area designers moved the rudder further forward and raked it. The more this happened, the less responsive rudders became. Then the rudder was separated from the keel and placed further towards the stern so that it was more effective in turning the boat. In most GRP boats the rudder has a stainless steel shaft running through the hull (sometimes the shaft is hollow, sometimes it is made from exotics such as carbon fibre). It is supported in the hull by a top and bottom bearing (or bush – preferably not nylon as it expands in water). The top may emerge into the cockpit and have a tiller fitted or under the cockpit floor it may have a quadrant fitted so it can be steered by a steering wheel set on a pedestal in the cockpit. A large wheel is a nuisance as it is hard to get past. Racing yachts like to have large wheels (sometimes called a destroyer wheel). There are several possible reasons for this. (a) the steering is fairly direct and a large wheel is needed to supply the effort to turn the rudder or (b) the boat has lots of weather helm and needs a big wheel for the extra effort required to hold the yacht on course or (c) a large wheel allows the helmsman to sit well out to the side of the boat to see better or (d) simple ostentation. Some racing yachts are wide enough to have two wheels so the helmsman can steer from either side. Under the water the rudder shaft has flanges welded to it and it is covered in glass, foam, wood, whatever and glassed over and faired. The rudder pivots about the shaft to steer the boat. If there is some area of rudder in front of the shaft the rudder is said to be “balanced” in that the area in front of the rudder helps to turn the rudder. Some boats have a fixed part of the hull (a skeg) in front of the rudder which extends for all or part of the depth of the rudder. The skeg may have a lower bearing to support the rudder. Older boats and boats with full length keels had the rudder hanging off the stern supported by gudgeons and pintles. Some modern boats have this also (Northshore 33). Rudders tend not to give any trouble although the bearings may need replacing after ten or more years. If the boat suffers a grounding the rudder shaft may become bent and need straightening. A rudder hanging off the stern is much easier to work on than one through the hull which has to be dropped down (into a ditch ?) to be removed for working on. A rudder which is only supported by hull bearings and not a skeg should have a fairly hefty shaft. Lloyds Insurers in London produce Rules for Yacht Construction. Get yourself a copy and have a look at the rudder shaft diameter recommendations. For an unpleasant surprise, then go and measure the rudder shaft diameters on a few yachts.

I guess because everyone drives a car they want to steer with a wheel. Perhaps people just don’t have the physical ability and coordination to adapt to tillers. The tiller is a perfectly good way to steer a boat. You can sit sideways and brace yourself with your feet, you can apply great strength to the tiller with your torso, and a tiller is a much simpler device than wheels with their quadrants, wires, chains or hydraulics. It is far less likely to break down in some remote place.

Some vintage yachts were wheel steered and used a curved rack and pinion on the top of the rudder shaft (Edson Steering). If kept greased this type of steering seems to last forever.

Diesel or Petrol Engines. In the modern yacht the lightweight diesel engine rules. Diesel fumes do not ignite by spark or naked flame in the way that petrol does and so it is safer to have on board in enclosed spaces. Petrol fumes are heavier than air and will gather in the bilge waiting for the fool with the cigarette lighter or the candle. Diesel and petrol engines are heat engines of the internal combustion type. (A steam engine is an external combustion heat engine.) Diesel engines have higher compression ratios than petrol engines because they use the heat of compression to ignite the distillate/air mixture. (Petrol engines use a spark plug.) The greater stresses of a diesel engine require that it be stronger than other types of engines. Diesel engines develop their maximum turning power (torque) at lower revolutions than petrol engines. Being slower and stronger than petrol engines, diesels tend to last longer. They also use much less fuel as they extract more power from it. Other than a need for electric starting, diesels do not require electricity to run. If you can get air and fuel to them they will run underwater. (Some of you may have noticed diesel four wheel drive vehicles with snorkels running up beside the windscreen – this is for crossing moderately deep rivers. A snorkel on a petrol 4WD is idiotic when you realise what it’s for. Ostentation or fools and their money ?)

Because of the dominance of diesel engines there are now few petrol inboard motors available. There are a lot of old brands around like Albin, Stuart Turner, and in the USA just about every yacht before 1970 had an Atomic Four. You can import a VIRE (7 or12 hp) or an RCA Dolphin (12 or 16 hp), and Blaxland Chapman and Hardman and Hall Simplex engines are still made I believe. But these are engines for smallish boats (although the side valve Simplex is a pretty hefty object).

Internal combustion engines are two stroke or four stroke. Most diesels are four stroke although GM Detroit make a two stroke diesel but you won’t find these in the sort of yachts I’m talking about. The two stroke petrol engine was probably designed to use fuel faster than it can be pumped out of the ground. But they are the smallest, lightest and most powerful type of engine. Until recently most outboard engines were two strokes. Heavier (and more expensive) four stroke outboards have become more popular lately because they are less polluting. Two stroke engines tend not to run at idling speeds very well whereas four strokes can idle all day.

Some outboards are made with low geared propellers to push large boats – such as houseboats - at slowish speeds. Such motors are alternatives for yachts. The advantage of an outboard is that it can be taken off the boat to be worked on in comfort or sent away to be worked on. If it hangs over the stern or is in a well then the petrol can be kept clear of the accommodation. There is also the advantage that not much goes wrong with a petrol engine that the average yacht owner can’t fix himself. But servicing a diesel fuel pump and injectors at Suvarov Atoll may be beyond the ability of the average cruising man. Outboards cost less in initial purchase than inboards. Yamaha make a diesel outboard, I think, but these are real heavy. A company in Italy named Carniti also used to make diesel outboards.

The secret of trouble free two stroke engines is clean spark plugs. The secret of trouble free diesel engines is clean fuel. 

Engine Cooling can be of three types. Air cooling is less common but Yamaha make an industrial diesel which is air cooled and on older yachts you may find Ducati air-cooled diesels up to about 16 hp and some Lister Diesels were also air-cooled in 8,16 and 24 hp ratings. The problem with air-cooled engines is that they are hot and they need to have cool air drawn in from outside and hot air expelled outside. Ducting is needed. Air-cooled engines are also noisier than liquid cooled engines.

Generally, purpose built marine engines are raw water cooled – they use sea water drawn in from outside and expelled with the exhaust. There are not many brands of purpose built marine engines now available. Each of the Scandinavian countries have their own brand – Bukh from Denmark, Volvo from Sweden and Sabb from Norway. I have no experience of them but some people believe Sabb is the pick. Germany used to make Farymann but Perkins bought them out. These are a superior engine. Yanmar are from Japan and Lister are from the UK

Many makes of engines are converted industrial engines and may have dissimilar metals in their construction hence they do not use raw sea water for cooling. From Japan come Isuzu, Kubota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Daewoo are from Korea, Hatz are from Germany, and CMC are from China. There are lots of others. Most of these engines can be identified by having heat exchangers attached to them. The engines are cooled by fresh water in a closed system which is in turn cooled by raw sea water drawn in from outside the hull and expelled with the exhaust. Two pumps are required – one circulates the water in the engine and the other circulates the sea water through the heat exchanger. (Raw water cooled engines only use one water pump.)

The alternative to a heat exchanger is a keel cooler. Here the engine coolant is circulated through a pipe outside the hull and is cooled by the sea water flowing past the pipe. The water must flow from aft forwards through the pipe. The size and length of the pipe is critical but can be surprisingly small and create little drag. It is a simple foolproof system requiring only one pump and a pity that it is not more widely used. If the external pipe is fractured then salt water replaces the fresh water and the engine continues to run.

Anchors and Anchoring. If you are going cruising then you’ll need more than one anchor. Most cruising yachts use plow anchors (CQR is the brand name of Simpson Lawrence of Glasgow, Trevco and Higwood are Australian brand names, Manson is a New Zealand brand name), sand anchors (Danforth is a USA brand name as is Fortress), Bruce anchors (a type and a brand name) and, increasingly of late, Delta anchors (a brand name from Simpson Lawrence). There are other lesser known types. All these anchors are known as “lightweight” anchors to distinguish them from Dreadnought, fisherman, Admiralty pattern, Herreschoff pattern, and some other type anchors.

For lightweight anchors the standard was a minimum of one pound of anchor for each foot of length. So the main anchor (sometimes called the bower anchor) for a 45 footer should be at least 45 lbs weight or more. The thing that joins the anchor to the boat is called the anchor rode and it can be a mixture of chain and rope or all chain. If chain and rope then it is considered that there must be a minimum of ten metres of chain. For anchor chain a rough guide to sizes is, if over 40 feet then have half inch (12 mm) chain, 30 to 40 feet have three eighths (10 mm) chain, 20 to 30 feet have five sixteenths (8 mm) chain and under 20 feet quarter inch (6 mm) chain. The other end of the rope should be attached to a U-bolt or some other strong point inside the boat so you don’t lose the lot if it all runs out. If you have an all chain rode then there should be ten or more feet of heavy nylon on the end which attaches to the boat. This will absorb the shock if all your chain runs out. Two hundred feet of fast running half inch chain could rip a strong U-bolt out easily. The other reason for having nylon at the end is that if you have to get away in a hurry and don’t have time to retrieve your anchor you can cut the line easily to let the lot go. (It may be a better alternative than losing your boat.) The anchor rode breaking strain needs to be substantial, say a minimum ton plus for a 30 footer, up to maybe four tons or more for a forty footer. Nylon is stronger than silver rope but may be less abrasion resistant.

When anchoring the ratio of amount of rode out to depth of water should be in the order of seven to one for shallowish anchorages through to a minimum of three to one in very deep anchorages. But you will need to have some regard for the other boats already anchored because the convention is that if two boats start to bump the boat which anchored last is the one that has to up-anchor and leave.

You need a minimum of two anchors regardless of what sort of cruising you are doing. Three or four anchors is more sensible for medium to long term cruising. You should have at least one other anchor equivalent to your main anchor set up with a rope and chain or all chain rode. You should have the makings of at least three full sets of anchoring equipment. Your anchor may be the most important safety device on your boat. Some boats carry seven anchors or more.

Retrieving your anchor maybe the time when you regret having a 45 footer with a sixty pound plow and all chain rode, with your batteries flat. There you are on the foredeck coughing blood, eyes blinded with sweat and a juicy hernia growing in your trousers. It’s hardly the time to regret not buying that thirty two footer that seemed ideal but cost far less than the allocated budget. I reckon the size of boat should be governed by the weight of chain and anchor you can lift. If you must have a powered anchor winch, when the electric winch motor has burned out or the batteries are flat, you also need a length of line which can be attached to the anchor rode at deck level and taken back to a sheet winch. You re-attach the line to the rode at the bow each time the bight of rode reaches the sheet winch. Simple, but test out how it works before you have to use it in anger. A manual anchor winch will be more reliable but slower than an electric winch. Remember that electric anchor winches should only be used when the engine is running.

Stoves can run on gas (propane, butane or Compressed Natural Gas), alcohol (methylated spirits), kerosene (paraffin), diesel or anything combustible such as white spirit, driftwood or coal. Butane is a liquid at much lower pressures than propane and is commonly found in camping type stoves which use disposable gas canisters. Propane gas bottles are much stronger and are filled from service stations and the like. The gas bottles have a ten year life and need pressure retesting after that. Most gas bottles will rust in the marine environment but stainless steel ones are made. If they only have a ten year life then galvanised gas bottles may be the more economical proposition. Gas stoves are simple to use and operate but unless purpose built for the marine environment, can rust out quickly. Gas is heavier than air and the same precautions which apply to petrol apply to gas (except for CNG which is lighter than air and safest of all, but is expensive to install and not readily available throughout the world.) Kerosene has poor heating ability so kero stoves use vaporising burners which have to be pre-heated with another fuel such as alcohol. They can be quite troublesome with flare-ups, burners that need regular pricking and sooty flames but kerosene is a cheap, widely available fuel. Alcohol stoves are very safe because alcohol mixes with water and its fire is easily extinguished. Alcohol is many times more expensive in poorer countries (even though it has been poisoned with wood alcohol [methyl alcohol] people like to drink it) than kero. Alcohol stoves have a fairly high consumption of alcohol relative to kerosene in kero stoves so they are not that cheap to run. Diesel stoves are wonderful in colder climates and use the same cheap fuel as the boat’s engine making them the most economical of all. But they are not available in Australia, so you’d have to import one from Canada. There may be an importer in Tasmania.

Refrigeration on yachts is of two main types. One type uses the same principles as your refrigerator at home. It has a sealed unit compressor driven by a 12 volt electric motor. A cooling plate in the insulated box keeps the temperature at a set level by means of a thermostat. The other type of refrigeration uses a car air-conditioning compressor driven by belts off the main engine. Refrigerant is circulated through a plate (called a eutectic plate) in the insulated compartment. The plate freezes and keeps the contents cool as it slowly de-thaws. The engine is run as often as needed to keep the temperature low in the frig.

Some yachts have portable fridges which run off electricity or kerosene quite efficiently and there are small solid state fridges (heat or cool) which seem to use electricity very inefficiently.

You don’t actually need refrigeration. People existed for years without ice in their whisky. In this modern day we have UHT Long Life milk, tinned butter and cryovac meat. You probably shouldn’t eat too much meat anyway but there are salamis and other preserved forms of meat that don’t require refrigeration. Refrigeration is one of the most unreliable devices found on yachts. In any anchorage there are always lots of yachts with faulty refrigeration. My advice would be to have refrigeration by all means but don’t rely on it and be prepared to throw lots of rotting food over the side. I would suggest that there are very few really long-term cruising people who are bothered with refrigeration.

Self Steering. A person could just about write a book on each of the topics I’ve chosen and a number of books have been written on self steering. Everyone these days seems to want highly sophisticated computerised self steering with electric motors driving hydraulic pumps and rams attached to the rudder shaft. This stuff costs bulk money, it uses electricity and it breaks down. Other sailors can’t live without their Aries windvane and servo pendulum self steering, or perhaps it’s a Monitor, or Sailomat, or Haslar, or Gunning, or QME, or Fleming, or any one of a dozen or more different varieties that cost a small fortune to buy and have bearings that seize and wear, bits that break, and bits that corrode.

Buy if you wish – I’ve talked about money before, but you don’t actually need all that stuff. By trimming your sails and using a sheet-to-tiller system you can sail on course for thousands of miles without touching anything. Joshua Slocum did it. Sadly, people just don’t believe me. They think it’s some sort of magic which they are incapable of performing on their boat. People have allowed themselves into being brainwashed into thinking that they couldn’t possibly sail on the ocean without a bloody great collection of pipes and metal hanging off the stern of their yacht. I put it down to no confidence in themselves, no initiative, herd mentality and too much money. Besides how can anyone recognise a real cruising boat if it doesn’t have self steering ?

I believe that most of the mechanical windvane self steering gears available these days have most of the bugs worked out. A lot of long term cruising types report favourably on Aries. Windvane types aren’t much good for motoring (or steaming). Electronic self steering is best for this as your engine is generating enough power to drive the device. If you are really keen you can set a small low powered electronic tiller actuated unit (Autohelm or Navic) on the servo pendulum actuating arm of your mechanical self steering gear and steer the boat under sail or power.

Unfortunately electronic self steering pilots are probably the most unreliable widely available devices ever invented for yachts. Open one up and you’ll find tiny little plastic gearwheels and flimsy bits which certainly don’t engender confidence in the reliability of the gadget. I suppose they’re okay if used sparingly in calm water when motoring.

Dinghies and Outboards. In dinghies the choice is between inflatables and hard dinghies. One dark night I put my yacht on a lee shore sand bar on a falling tide. The plywood dinghy was thrown over the side and an anchor rowed quickly out into deep water. Time was of the essence. We managed to winch ourselves off in about fifteen minutes. In fifteen minutes I would have only just finished pumping up the inflatable and putting in the seats. And inflatables don’t row well and don’t row well to windward. That experience has convinced me that a hard dinghy is essential for serious cruising.

I also don’t think you should put too much effort into maintaining your dinghy. People pinch dinghies and they will nearly always pinch the spiffy dinghy in preference to the crappy one. For pinching, inflatables are favoured over hard dinghies except if the dinghy is aluminium and then it is favoured most of all.

A hard dinghy should be as large as the crew is able to manhandle on and off the deck. Too small and fitting all the crew in becomes a trial if you’re anchored a long way offshore. Finding the perfect dinghy is as hard as finding the perfect yacht. Some small catamaran or cathedral hulled dinghies are very stable and row and motor very well although tend to be a little heavy. Pram types are the best load carriers. Dinghies need to have metal strips on the bottom so they can be dragged over rocks, sand, etc.

Inflatable dinghies come in a variety of types. The donut has an air tube all around it. A special bracket is used for the outboard. Some have timber transom for mounting the outboard and some have a rigid fibreglass bottom. Inflatable dinghies are made out of nylon material which has a layer of water impervious substance calendared onto each side. The combinations are Hypalon/Hypalon, Hypalon/Neoprene, and modifiedPVC/PVC. Many of the more modern brands are of this latter construction. PVC, accelerated by the sun ultimately hardens and cracks away from the material. But modified PVC dinghies haven’t been around long enough to see what the expected age may be. Some of the Hypalon types have lasted thirty years so far. If you look at it from the manufacturers’ point of view, you’ll see that PVC is cheaper (with the possibility for greater profit margins) and if lasts ten years, nobody will mind paying for a replacement, hence they can sell more boats. So, if you were an inflatable manufacturer, wouldn’t you switch to PVC ?

It’s enormous fun to scream through the anchorage with a ten or fifteen horsepower outboard on your dinghy. Even more fun since it’s illegal in Australia without a licence and boat registration. But if you are cruising, what’s the need for the hurry. If you feel a need to rush everywhere I’d say you shouldn’t be cruising. The perfect outboard can be raised over your head with one arm. This limits you to around two horsepower (cheaper to buy, cheaper to run). If you can’t lift it with one arm then there’s a strong likelihood you’ll overbalance at some stage and give your motor a dunking, maybe even lose it if the anchorage is deep. If the yacht you choose has davits on the stern and you can leave the outboard on the dinghy then you could get by with a slightly larger outboard say up to 6 hp. If your crew has more than two people then the outboard size can go up accordingly with the size of the dinghy.

It all comes down to money. If you’ve got lots, buy whatever you like but you don’t need it.

Arthur Bieser, who wrote a book in the 60s or 70s called “The Proper Yacht” used a 5 hp British Seagull to power his dinghy and also to move his 45’ engineless yacht ‘Minots Light’ around anchorages.

Multihulls. I have little experience of multihulls. The last one I sailed on was a Hobie 16 in about 25 knots of wind. The experience was exhilarating. Multihull aficionados are different to monohull sailors perhaps as a result of long years defending their craft.  Advocates for multihulls will tell you that they sail faster and flatter. You can leave a glass of your favourite beverage on the cabin table and it won’t have tipped over hours later. Catamarans with bridgedeck accommodation are very big on space. A thirty five foot bridgedeck catamaran will have more accommodation than a 45 foot monohull. The great beam of catamarans makes them very hard to tip over. They don’t carry tons of lead or iron ballast so they are easy to make unsinkable. So, if you lost your mast and holed one of the hulls, the result would not necessitate abandonment. They have a great range of inverted stability and can float for years in this position (but so can some recently designed monohulls.) Catamarans do not like being too heavily loaded. Some cruising cats are not as close winded as monos. With their shallow draft they are well suited to shoal waters cruising. Also they can be easily beached for maintenance. The main problem with catamarans in Australia is that they are very expensive. I would guess the best way to get one would be to build it yourself. Choose a design and have a good look at others of the type before committing yourself.

Trimarans are the sportscars of yachting. Owning one shows a single minded devotion to the God SPEED. They are not particularly roomy and you can’t put too much stuff in them but they are quick. They can be unsinkable, they float comfortably inverted, they’re easily beached and they sail flatter than a monohull. Only a small outboard is needed. There are some old plywood types around from the days of Hedley Nichols and Arthur Piver and others. Ian Farrier seems to design the only production types around these days. If you like to travel light then a tri may suit you for long term cruising.

Safety There are two schools of thought on the subject of safety. The late Eric Hiscock (he died in bed) believed that it was your decision to go out on the big ocean and you shouldn’t expect anyone else to risk their lives rescuing you from the situation you got yourself into. Something about taking responsibility for your own actions. Now that’s really old-fashioned thinking. Who takes responsibility for their own actions these days ? Certainly the politicians don’t, bureaucrats don’t (although it is significant that both these groups talk a lot about accountability), people who run the big businesses don’t [limited liability, remember ?], so why should sailors. Get with the flow.

The cruising yacht may be the last refuge of the rugged individualist. There are still many people out there sailing who agree with Eric Hiscock.

The other school of thought on safety, the ‘authorities’, the bureaucrats, the safety organisations, the people who organise and administer yacht racing, believe in passive rescue. You power up your electrical devices and sit and wait for the cavalry to come to your aid.

The individualists believe in self-aid. You save yourself. The first line of defence is preventative. You develop skills and experience – you pay attention, study and learn. You use jackstays and harnesses. You set out in a boat that is suitable and properly prepared for every emergency contingency. The boat may be unsinkable even if half stowed in by a container or whale. You carry spares, you know how to repair everything. There isn’t any part of your boat you don’t know. Even if you end up abandoning your yacht, your dinghy/raft/carley float  will be able to be sailed to safety with you living from your grab bag and raw fish.

So, what do I reckon is the ideal cruising boat for a couple ?

It would be around 35 feet long and about seven or eight tons displacement. Masthead sloop rigged with an inner forestay to set a storm jib on. A simple boat without refrigeration. Manual anchor winch and mechanical self steering, or tiller steering. I’d carry a hard dinghy and a 2 hp outboard and possibly an inflatable as a spare.


Sparkman & Stephens 34

Lin and Larry Pardey in their first cruising book advised “Go small, go simple, go now.” That advice still holds true. Keep within what you can afford and don’t load yourself down with money wasting paraphernalia. Sterling Hayden, another great sailor, wrote that a person can become buried “beneath a pyramid of time payments and useless gadgetry. The years thunder by and the dreams of youth lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before you know it the tomb is sealed.” Life isn’t a trial run. If you want to go, just do it.

Bruce Walker

.2002 The Coastal Cruising Club of Australia Inc.