Dec 30, 2011

Remembering summer and past sailing adventures

During the darkest time of the year, one gets easily a bit depressed, since summer is so far away. However, during the Christmas holiday there is good time to go through old log books and photos and remember those past sailing adventures.

Many of the best pictures from last season have been presented already in this blog. Thus, I went through some old photos from 2007-2010 and decided to select the best ones to represent the things that we mostly miss in the short summer of the north.

We would like to thank our readers for the year 2011 and wish you all a happy New Year 2012!
/Antti & Minna

Perfect gennaker sailing at Northern Baltic Sea enroute from Finland to Sweden in summer 2009. The boat in the picture is Avance 245, my first keelboat which I had from 2007 to 2009. 

 Beautiful small islands of Signilskär and Enskär west from Eckerö, Åland. (July, 2009)

Stone beach on Jurmo (south), Archipelago of Turku (June, 2008) 

View from Gullkrona, Archipelago of Turku (June, 2008)

Sunset on Kökar, Åland archipelago (July, 2008) 

 Small red boathouses and dark sky on Jurmo (north), Åland archipelago (July, 2007)

Sunrise at Northern Baltic Sea. Singlehanded sailing towards Visby (June, 2010)

Late summer evening on Österskär, Archipelago of Turku (August 2007) 

Sunset in Katanpää, Kustavi. When the sky is clear, one can enjoy the amazing colour palette of the sunset. (July, 2008)

Dec 26, 2011

Stormy Christmas 2011

On Boxing Day, Finland was hit by the worst storm for a decade. It was the same Dagmar storm, that raged in western Norway and Sweden. In Norway the storm caused extensive damage and hurricane force winds. Fortunately, the storm had eased somewhat before arriving to Finland.  

During the night to Boxing Day, the wind started quickly picking up. I followed the wind observations for example from Utö, the southernmost inhabited island in Finland, and right after the midnight, the wind was already gusting 30 m/s. We were visiting Minna's parents at their summerhouse in Masku, in the inner Finnish Archipelago. Fortunately, this part of the coast is better protected from the strongest winds. However, there were some very strong gusts, which resulted in number of fallen trees. Furthermore, there is a long power outage which still continues when writing this post. 

In the morning, my father drove to the harbour to see that everything was ok with the boat. Half of the winter cover had been moved away, but it still remained attached to the cover frame, so it could be pulled back. Later in the afternoon, we drove to the harbour to check, that wind had not done any additional damage. Appart from some water on the deck, everything was pretty much ok with Dolphin Dance. However, there were a large number of boats which had torn winter covers or those were missing entirely. One motor boat had fallen and another one was leaning to a neighboring sail boat.
/Antti & Minna

The Boxing Day morning in Masku 

One tree had fallen over the power line. However, this was not the cause for the power outage.

A lot of boats had their winter covers torn or missing


Dec 19, 2011

Where does the name Dolphin Dance come from?

From time to time we get asked about the name of our boat. According to the old seaman tradition, the boat should have a feminine name of three syllables, ending in the letter "A". So in this respect our boat's name does not comply with this tradition. However, I think that the name of the boat should have some special meaning for the owners. Furthermore, boats are individuals so one does not want to select a name, which is shared by thousands of other boats. When sailing in international waters, it is good to have an English name that can be easily pronounced via VHF for example.

I had actually decided, that my next boat will be named Dolphin Dance a long before she was bought. The name combines two of my passions, sailing and music and therefore our boat is named after one of my favourite jazz tunes Dolphin Dance by Herbie Hancock. According to the composer, "the music attempts to capture the graceful beauty of the playful dolphins".

 The song appears on Hancock's classic album "Maiden Voyage" from 1965. Sailboat is pictured on the album cover and many of the song titles refer to sea and marine environment.

According to the well known old belief, changing the name of the boat causes bad luck. Well
our boat has changed name at least three times (and probably many more). Previously she has been sailing as Johanne under Danish flag, and before that as Milonga under Swiss flag.

Dec 14, 2011

Our cruising article from Southern Norway published in Vene-magazine

During the autumn I have been working on an article for the Finnish boating magazine Vene, and now finally, it has been published on the their December issue (pp. 64-70). The story is titled "The another face of the Land of the Fjords", and it is about our travels in Southern Norway. The article presents southern coast archipelago of Norway, which is not that well known in Finland. The article features our photos as well as harbour guide for Grimstad, Lillesand, Kristiansand, Mandal, Farsund, Rasvåg and Egersund. Especially if you know Finnish, check it out!

Dec 12, 2011

Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012

During the long winter season one good way of staying in touch with sailing is watching it from the television... or actually from the internet since Finnish television does not broadcast Volvo Ocean Race anymore. Fortunately, internet is the best way to follow the race since you can keep up with the race on real time compared to weekly programs on television. And all the in-port races can be watched on live HD broadcast via Livestream.  

The first leg from Alicante to Cape Town was very interesting in the beginning and I was following the position updates regularly. However, after half of the fleet retired from the leg due to the different breakdowns, the race become boring to follow. Two of the teams, Abu Dhabi and Puma, lost they mast and Team Sanya suffered a major hull damage in the first night of the leg 1. It is interesting, that despite all the money spent on designs of these ultra-modern racing machines, it seems to be difficult to get the boats to withstand the strains of the ocean. Furthermore, lessons from the two previous races with these VOR70 boats should be obvious: to increase the safety margins, since there has been quite a large number of breakdowns in the last two seasons. Despite at the cost of slightly slower boats, I believe it would be more interesting for the viewers. And in that sense, more profitable for the sponsors also. Well lets hope, that in the second leg all the competitors cross the finish line under sail.

Watching the start from Cape Town yesterday reminds me the previous  Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009. In June/July 2009 I happened to be in Sandhamn at the same time, when the fleet started for the final leg towards St. Petersburg. Here are some pictures from 2009:

 The start of the final leg from Stockholm to St. Petersburg was outside Sandhamn.  A lot of spectator boats were gathered around the race area.

Puma il mostro in Sandhamn. 

Ericsson 3 docking in Sandhamn

Dec 7, 2011

Perfect sailing boat? - part 2: Resistance to capsize

When sailing for the first time, one is usually reassured by someone more experienced that sailing boat cannot capsize. This is true with a keelboat when it comes to a pressure of wind. However, it is the heavy seas and breaking waves that pose the threat of capsize for bigger yachts as well. According to the model tests, breaking waves of just 30 per cent of the hull length can capsize some of the yachts. Breaking waves of over 60 per cent of the hull length will probably capsize most of the yachts. However, there are differences among boats on how they resist capsize. "The ability of a yacht to recover from a breaking wave encounter depends on the hull and coachroof shape" (Adlard Coles' Heavy Weather Sailing pp. 17).

If you like to quantize things, there are different numbers that help to compare different boat designs. For stability comparisons, the STIX (Stability Index) and AVS (Angle of Vanishing Stability) are widely used. AVS is the point of heel angle beyond which the boat looses its righting moment and capsizes. When the boat is upside down, it depends on its self-righting ability if it will come back up. Wider boats in general have a larger inverted stability, so they tend to resist self-righting. For a CE category A(unlimited ocean voyages), the minimum STIX value of the boat is 32. The minimum AVS depends on the weight of the boat. For example, the minimum AVS of a 5 tons boat is 120 degrees. That means, that heeled at an angle 120 degrees the boat should still right itself and come back up.

Example of a Stability Curve (HR 310).

One problem with AVS and STIX is, that those figures may be difficult or impossible to find for older boats. This is also the case with HR 29 and many other boats, which I considered during the selection process. There are, however, some less complicated estimators, that work as a rough guide for capsize resistance screening. AVS can be estimated if you know a boat's beam, displacement, ballast and hull draft (i.e. draft excluding keel). Other formula that I used to compare different boat models was Capsize Screening Formula (CSF). Offshore sailing yacht should have CSF value less than 2.0. The smaller the value the better the boat is suitable for ocean passages. In general, heavy boats with narrow hull are able to resist capsize better, so CSF reflects this.

Other ratios that I used as tools to compare the qualities of different boats were Motion Comfort Ratio (MC), Sa/Disp (sail area to displacement) and B/D (ballast to displacement). One good program for comparing different boat models is Sail Calculator v3.53. This website has a good database of key figures for a number of different boats. You can also make comparisons between boats, which is very handy.

Website sailboatdata has basic information that is needed to calculate these figures. Ratios such as Ted Brewer´s Motion Comfort Ratio have raised some criticism because a single figure is thought to be overly simplified to predict a boat's behavior at the sea. However, I feel that this kinds of ratios can be of some value, but they should not be given too much weight. A good rule of thumb is to check, that for example AVS, MC, CSF and Ballast/displacement ratio are not below (or above) the recommendations for an offshore cruising boat.

Dec 1, 2011

A Perfect sailing boat?

About two years ago I wrote an article "Perfect sailing boat?" for my previous blog. At that time I was in the process of selecting the ideal boat for my needs. I went through a lot of different boat designs from different eras and year models varied from 1974 to 2005. I wanted to find a seaworthy boat that could be easily sailed and maneuvered singlehandedly, but would still have enough size and displacement for offshore sailing and longer journeys. Space below the deck and number of cabins was less of a decisive factor. I read a lot of articles on ideal boat qualities for offshore and ocean sailing. This article is trying to reflect the complexity of choosing "the perfect boat". We decided to publish this article on this blog with some small updates.

A Perfect Sailing Boat?

Few things in the world, when it comes buying something material, compare with the complex task of choosing the right sailing boat – at least in the eyes of a sailor. There are many things to consider: for example your budget, typical and potential sailing area, the type of sailing you want to do and the number of people living on board. The criteria for choosing a boat for comfortable family cruising in the archipelago differs quite a lot from the criteria of someone mostly doing singlehanded offshore sailing or racing. Usually difficulties occur when the boat should be capable of different kinds of sailing: e.g. from family-cruising to racing or from coastal cruising to longer offshore passages.

Needless to say, there is no such thing as the perfect sailing yacht. Choosing a boat is an example of a multidimensional optimization problem, where different demanded qualities for a boat are contradictory. Increasing one parameter in the function starts eventually effect negatively in the outcome – there are no free lunches! The perfect boat would be safe and comfortable at heavy seas, fast in the light winds, but still carrying its sails well. It would have balanced sailing performance (fast both on headwind and downwind), spacious interior which would still be practical and safe at sea, spacious but well-protected cockpit, beautiful “sailboat-looking” design and all this at an affordable price!

Elegant wine glass shaped lines of the Sparkman & Stephens classic, S&S 34. 

Many modern production boats are designed for the needs of the Caribbean and Mediterranean charter companies in mind. Thus, these boat designs emphasize the comfort in the marina. One example of this is the nowadays popular lower-able bathing platform that is nice to have in the harbour, but makes the attachment of a windvane impossible.

In the category of 28-32ft's, manufacturer often tries to squeeze in the boat the same cabin lay-out that is found in larger yachts. Thus, the result is a beamy boat with high freeboard, which does not look nice and is often not very good in terms of seaworthiness. Furthermore, boats under 30ft are often sporty and lightweight and designed for coastal cruisers. There is just not enough demand for smaller offshore boats, so it is not profitable for volume manufacturers to make them anymore. Fortunately, there are still some few manufacturers, that keep producing decent smaller boats as well, but unfortunately these are usually priced quite high. Thus, when looking for one at a decent price, many are forced to look for older boats.

Bigger yachts are often less of a compromise as there is not as much need to increase the beam or freeboard for the sake of interior space and the number of berths. And due to the longer waterline, the bigger boats are also faster, thus reducing the need for over-canvasing. However, besides being more expensive they are also more difficult to handle when sailing single- or shorthanded – especially in the harbour maneuvers.

The characteristics of an ocean-going yacht

When following the discussion on both Finnish- and English-speaking internet forums, one notices the persistent debate on an ideal design of an offshore sailing yacht. There is no ultimate list of the qualities of a proper ocean sailing yacht, but merely different opinions. In the end, a boat is always a compromise, so it is about personal valuation and weights given to different qualities. Below a list of some qualities that I wanted to have on a boat:

- A medium-long fin keel (for strenght and directional stability)
- A ballast over 1/3 of the total displacement of the boat
- A rudder hung on skeg (for strenght and directional stability)
- A deep, solid laminate hull (with proper bilge) for comfortable ride at sea
- A tiller steering

Many of these characteristics are difficult to find on a modern 21st century sailing boat.

Naturally, choosing the right boat is also a matter of personal valuation, intuition, market supply and luck. I also feel that aesthetics is one of the pleasures of sailing, as few things made by man compare with the beauty of a sailing boat.

HR 36, designed by Germán Frers, is one of my dream boats. There is a proper bilge and the keel attachement looks very sturdy. Balanced rudder is strengthened by a partial skeg. 
Picture from Hallberg-Rassy.     

Plans of Swan 38 (S&S design) introduced in 1974. The genius of S&S designs is in combining performance and low wetted surface with a sturdy construction. Note the full-depth skeg for rudder.