Oct 30, 2012

Turku Boat Show 2012

Turku Boat Show, the only indoors boat show during autumn in the Nordic countries, was held last weekend. In general this time of the year is good for making bigger purchases for the next season, because the manufacturers have enough time for an early delivery in the spring. Furthermore, there might be more room for price negotiations, as the order books are probably not filled for winter.

Unfortunately, for a sailor, this year's Turku Boat Show was less interesting compared to the previous year's show, when there were a record number of sailboats. This year there were only few bigger sailboats - only Jeanneau and Delphia had brought 30+ feet boats in the show.

Here are some photos from the last weekend:

Haber 660 is a small motorsailer by a Polish yard. It is equipped with a traditional gaff rig. 

Double wheels and spacious cockpit on Jeanneau 379 

Lowerable bathing platform

 Plotter can be turned depending on the helmsman's position

  Wing keel on Jeanneau 379

Navigation table/station on Jeanneau 33i is small, but still better than on many modern boats in this size/category.

 A cockpit tent/sprayhood extension is perhaps the biggest purchace that we are planning for next year. In the boat show there was a good chance to talk about different options for a cockpit tent.

Oct 25, 2012

New GoPro -helmet camera

This week I finally got a new camera which I have been longing for quite long - a GoPro HERO2 -helmet camera. It was actually purchased for filming time-lapse video for one commercial project, but I cannot wait to get to test the camera on a boat. The camera can record full wide angle (170 degrees) 1080p HD-video as well as take 11 mpixels photographs. One very interesting feature is a time-lapse photography - in time-lapse -mode camera takes photos at a predetermined interval (i.e. photo every 1,2,5,10,30 or 60 seconds). When you play those photos in sequence and speed it up, you get a nice time-lapse video.

The camera itself is a sort of no-frills version of a digital camera. There is no large LCD-screen, no zooming or other functions and only two buttons. 

Helmet cameras are widely used in outdoor sports such as skiing. The camera is equipped with a waterproof case so it can be placed basically anywhere in the boat. Thus, I think that one can come up with quite interesting shooting angles. For example, this Volvo ocean race video is filmed with a GoPro helmet camera:


Oct 18, 2012

Right size for a sailboat?

"Too many of my friends follow the erroneous belief that a yacht should be as long in feet as the years of your age." -Bill Butler
I often feel that 'boat fever' is merely a permanent state of mind rather than some passing phase in the life! At the moment this 'fever' is fueled by current state on the european boat markets, which is mostly due to the never-ending euro crisis. Therefore prices of the used boats have come down quite significantly and there are some very interesting boats on sale at reasonable prices at the moment. The downside of course is, that selling one's own boat is likewise difficult and you are probably going to get less than what you paid for a few years ago. Well, for me checking boat markets is more like a hobby and we do not have any plans for a new boat worth mentioning at the moment.

However, I have spent some time thinking about the ideal size for the next boat. In general, boats have tendency to get larger and larger as people want their boats to have the living standard more similar to what they have at home. Also the advances in the field of push-button sailing (i.e. bow/stern thrusters, electric winches etc.) make it possible to handle even large boats with a small crew.

The idea for this blog post came initially when reading the book "Back at the Helm" by Arne and Heléne Mårtensson. They circumnavigated the world with a 62-foot sailing vessel "Yaghan". The couple had previously a 46-footer, but discovered that it was actually too small for a crew of two with high demands for comfort! So the right size of the boat clearly depends on who you ask the question.

Arne Mårtensson writes about the impossibility of combining cost-efficiency, speed and comfort:
"You can have speed and comfort if you give up on cost-efficiency. It is possible to achieve cost-efficiency and speed, but then you need to forget comfort."
In my opinion, comfort could be divided further into two sections: comfort at the sea and living comfort in anchorage/harbour. The living comfort is usually affiliated with a modern boat with roomy interior and cockpit. With Dolphin Dance I chose cost-efficiency and comfort at sea over speed and roomy interior. For sure, there would be some faster and roomier boats on the market, but I think that few other boats in the same price/size category can match the comfort at sea of the HR 29.

Pros and cons of the size
"Deciding the size of a boat is not only the most important but also the most difficult part of the entire decision making process and it is here that most serious mistakes are made."     -Jimmy Cornell
In general, the benefits from size can be divided into three S':  Speed, Space and Safety. First of all, bigger boats have longer waterline so they can sail and motor faster (when talking about normal cruising boats). Dolphin Dance has a short waterline and hull speed about 6,6 knots, which means that even in perfect wind conditions the average speed is maybe somewhere around 6 knots. However, usually during longer legs the wind tends to vary in direction and strength, and thus the average speed often fells to around 5 knots. Especially, in longer legs, it makes a difference whether your average speed is 5 kn or 6 kn. Our optimal motoring speed is 5-5,5 kn, while a 40-footer can efficiently motor at 6,5-7 kn. They can also carry more fuel and thus have a longer range.

It is pretty obvious that bigger boats have more space both for living and for storage. However, it is important to compare boats from the same era: a modern 32-footer might easily have more space down below than a traditional 37-footer. One important question is how the space is used: a wide open space in the center of the boat is not always a good thing at sea.

The third benefit from the size is related to safety. However, this is not that straightforward, because safety is the sum of multiple factors. Therefore it is again important to compare boats with similar design philosophies. For example, a 40-foot modern cruiser is not necessarily safer or more comfortable at sea than a 30-foot traditional boat. But the modern 40-footer is probably safer and more comfortable than a similar 30-footer. In general, longer and heavier boats are less likely to capsize in breaking wave encounter (read more about resistance to capsize). Also a faster boat can more efficiently seek shelter from bad weather and make progress to windward.

The cons from bigger yachts are often related to money. However, the purchase price is not the whole story as a 32-34-foot boat from some premium manufacturer may cost as much as as a 45-footer from a less expensive mass manufacturer. However, the operating costs of a bigger yacht are much greater. These include higher harbour fees and lay-up costs for example.

The bigger yachts have higher loads, which make the shorthanded handling more difficult. Furthermore, one drawback from a large size is the difficulty of finding a berth in a congested marina. A small and narrow boat can be squeezed-in basically anywhere.

A cruising boat for two - ideal size?

When I was a kid, we had a small 22-foot Nordship in the family. My first keel boat was a 24-foot Avance with an inboard engine, separate toilet and a small galley and all this felt like a luxurious improvement in the comfort compared to that small Nordship. So the size is relative. Our current 29-footer has basically the same layout than my previous 24-footer, but everything is on a larger scale. I would say, that the biggest improvement in terms of comfort down below is the standing height in the saloon.

With the next boat we would like to achieve the same level of comfort at sea and safety while getting more speed and interior space: navigation table with a bench and proper aft cabin are high on the wish list. Also the galley and toilet could be a bit larger.

The size of our next dream boat is about 31-35 ft. In the lower end of the range, 31 foot is in my opinion the smallest size that still can have all the desired qualities reasonably included. However, the adequacy of storage space and tankage for longer trips is a question. I think that this is a very important aspect. At the moment we can store a liferaft and three extra fuel canisters, among bunch of other things, in the cockpit lockers - a generous locker space is a benefit of not having an aft cabin!

Compact size and ease of handling also singlehandedly is an important factor so I would like to limit the  size to about 35 feet. As cost efficiency unfortunately continues to be an issue, we need to look for boats with relatively small loads. I mean boats, which can still be easily handled without the help of electrical winches and bow thrusters. Otherwise something like this could be quite handy in harbour maneuvers:

YouTube: Side-Power thrusters on HR 412

But it would be interesting to hear your opinion. What do you think is an ideal size for a sailing boat? Do you have a 'boat fever' or have you already found your dream boat? You can also vote your ideal size in Facebook-questionnaire.

Oct 12, 2012

Wintering indoors

This morning Dolphin Dance was moved from yard to a boat shed, where she will be spending the coming winter. So everything is now about ready for the winter refit/renovation. First on the to-do-list is polishing and waxing the topsides and coachroof, which I will probably start doing next week. The actual renovation plan is however still to be done, but I will keep you updated after we have had time to go through the boat and make the plan with Airisto Marine, that is the company doing the renovation.  

 The hull was washed thoroughly once again, before taking the boat indoors.

Backing the boat into a shed requires precision

 In Paraisten Venekeskus there are already more boats on the hard...

...than on the sea.

Oct 9, 2012

Autumn photos

Autumn is a great season for photographing, as the autumn leaf colors makes the scenery glow in the shades of red and yellow. This autumn has been quite rainy and grey so far, but fortunately there have been some sunny days in between. At some days the Sun has appeared from the clouds just before the sunset, painting the scenery with beautiful colours.

Here is a collection of photos from this autumn. Some of you may have already seen those in our Facebook-page. We will keep updating our Facebook-page with some older and newer sailing/nature photos throughout the winter, so if you are interested, please like us on Facebook.

Oct 3, 2012

Tablet as a substitute for a chart plotter?

When writing the previous blog post on waterproof case for iPad, I started wandering off from the topic and decided to make a separate blog post on the subject: "Could a tablet be a substitute for the chart plotter?"

We tested this during our summer cruise to Sweden this season. In order to save some money, we did not buy electronic nautical charts for our Garmin plotter for the High coast, since we had both paper and iPad Navionics charts for the area. Furthermore, I thought that it is also a good idea to rehearse visual navigation skills without checking the position from the chart plotter all the time - it is easy to become lazy and too dependent on the plotter. After all, for low visibility situations we would have that iPad as a backup.

iPad has some advantages compared to the chart plotter:
  • First of all, the nautical charts for iPad are very inexpensive compared to the charts for the plotter. For example Navionics Marine Europe HD application costs about 50 € for iPad and it covers basically the whole Europe excluding sea areas of Denmark and UK. Garmin's bluechart G2 vision chart covering only the Gulf of Bothnia would have cost us about 260 €. However, the G2 Vision charts contain for example more information on harbours and also 3D charts (I have not yet figured out, what to do with that feature?). All in all, that means, that the prices are not fully comparable.
  • Secondly, using the touchpad is particularly handy for route planning
  • Thirdly, the iPad is portable so it can be used anywhere on the boat (or at home for example). 

Naturally, the chart plotter is designed for maritime use so it has some strengths compared to iPad.
  • The plotter is waterproof and designed for harsh marine environment
  • The plotter is connected to the boat's main battery system so it keeps running as long as there is enough current in the batteries. Furthermore, charging iPad with a 12 V charger is very slow and inefficient
  • The plotter has usually fixed mounting and it can be switched on all the time when sailing

In general, during offshore/coastal sailing I tend to use the iPad perhaps more than the plotter, because moving through the chart and zooming are so handy with the touchpad. However, during longer legs traditional compass and GPS waypoints are the most important navigational aids, so usually the chart plotter is not needed that much.

Based on my experience, the value of the chart plotter increases when conditions worsen. On a couple of occasions during this season, when the visibility was low due to rain and it was windy, I learned that iPad cannot really replace our fixed chart plotter. Especially, in rough weather with a small crew, it is easy to run out of hands when steering and adjusting the sails, so it is important that one can just quickly check from the display that everything is ok with the course. With iPad you need at least one hand to switch the device on, and if the iPad does not have a fixed mount, you have to hold it in your hand. Furthermore, iPad easily turns into a flying object onboard, when the ride gets bumpy.

Therefore, iPad should have a fixed mount with a possibility to charge the battery while using so that display can be switched on all the time. There are various stands/mounts available for iPad, but I guess that charging the device is unfortunately not possible with any of the waterproof cases available.

Often things go wrong when something unexpected happens. The initial event may not be anything too serious - like gennaker getting tangled around the forestay, but it is easy to become too concentrated on fixing the problem, that the navigation is overlooked. In these kind of situations it really helps, that one can just in few seconds check from the chart plotter that the boat is on a safe course. I think that this implies even more to some emergency situations like man overboard.

Do not get me wrong, I think that iPad is a great tool for navigation, but it is at its best when used for route planning and as a secondary chart plotter. After this season's experiences, we will always have electronic charts downloaded for our primary chart plotter as well.

What about you, do you have experiences on using a tablet for navigation? Do you think that it can replace the chart plotter? Suggestions on how to improve the usability of the tablet on boat?