Jan 29, 2012

Teak decks - pros and cons

Much of the things related to boating are not rational and teak deck is definitely among one of them. My attitude towards teak decks is contradictory. I must admit that an elegant silvery grey teak deck on a glass fiber boat looks beautiful and adds that extra feel. It is kind of reminiscent of the era when the boats were made of wood. However, practically speaking, teak deck is just that, a thing from the past, when there were few alternatives for wooden decks. Teak is superior of wood species for maritime use, but nowadays there are many more practical and ecological alternatives for providing non-skid deck surface.

Besides the aesthetics, teak has a few benefits as a deck material: it is non-skid even when wet, feels good under barefoot, is warm in colder climates and easy to keep clean (with some reservations).

However, there are many cons related to teak decks: first of all, they are very expensive, add weight, are hot in the sun and require potentially a lot of maintenance especially when aging. Furthermore, teak is vulnerable to some normal products like oil, diesel, red wine etc. The environmental concern is another serious issue with teak decks. However, due to the scarcity of natural teak, much of the teak comes from plantations nowadays. There is also development in the area of producing "sustainable" teak products.

Teak deck maintenance  
It is hard to think of a Hallberg-Rassy without a teak deck. Although, I like the concept of the HR-boats in many respects, I would prefer a boat without a teak deck. However, as Dolphin Dance has one, it is our responsibility to keep it in as good condition as possible.

There seems to be a controversy how the teak deck should be maintained. For example, Hallberg-Rassy suggests using Boracol, but there are also opinions against using any chemicals for cleaning. We have not tried Boracol or other chemicals, but have just been washing the deck regularly with water and a soft sponge or very soft brush. Sponge is particularly handy for cleaning some tight places which are subject to mildew growth.

Teak deck on Dolphin Dance was replaced about four years ago by her previous owner. The new deck is glued so there is no screws going through the deck anymore. Despite our deck is relatively new, some parts of the caulking needed to be re-done during the season. For the longevity of the teak deck, it is important to keep the deck watertight and fix the problems rather sooner than later. Leaky caulking can be detected by hosing the deck and observing for seams that stay wet longer than the surroundings. I have used the following method for quick-fixing the leaky caulking:

Tools for removing the old caulking

It is important to mask the teak well before applying the caulking

The seam is filled with Sikaflex after cleaning and applying the primer

New caulking after the masking has been removed. The "wet" caulking was flattened with the tip of finger (moisten with some washing-up liquid) so there is no need for sanding.  

Teak plank on the bow was split in two so it needed to be replaced with a new one. This job was done last spring by H&H Venepalvelu.

Jan 22, 2012

Our experiences on Windpilot Pacific

For shorthanded sailing a reliable selfsteering gear is a must. S/Y Dolphin Dance has been sailing with a Windpilot Pacific -windvane for two seasons now. I was very lucky to find a used one on sale just a few kilometres from the harbour where s/y Dolphin Dance is laid up for winter. The windvane is quite an expensive piece of equipment so looking for one on the second-hand markets is in general a good idea. The windvane was installed for the season 2010 and it was put on its first test during my summer cruise to Gotland, which was singlehanded sailing all the way. During the two and a half days beating towards Visby, it was steering most of the time.

I think that a windvane is particularly useful in a boat like HR 29, which has a deep hull, a long fin-keel and a large, unbalanced rudder. These kinds of boats have often good directional stability but they can be heavy on helm especially when running in following seas. Thus, using the autopilot in these conditions is inefficient and results in high power consumption. The electrical autopilot is responsible for a large portion of the energy usage during the offshore sailing. When the autopilot can be replaced by a totally electricity-free self-steering gear, it is good news for the boat's energy balance.

There are many good publications on the technical operation of the windvanes, so I do not try to go into the details in this matter. However, it is important to point out that the Windpilot Pacific uses a servo-pendulum system, which in other words means that the boat's main rudder is used for steering the boat. Thus the steering force is created by the flowing water and it is led from the pendulum rudder to the tiller via steering lines. This means that the load on transom is low compared to the models, which have an auxiliary rudder for steering. More info for example on Peter Förthmann's book available on windpilot.com.

Animated picture from windpilot.com

In general, I have been very pleased with the performance of the Windpilot Pacific. However, there are some limitations with this system. First of all, it is an equipment for offshore sailing; in Finland we are mostly sailing in the archipelago, where wind is always too gusty or shifty. Thus, there is not much to do with the windvane. On offshore, there are some points of sail which are more difficult for the windvane to handle. This depends very much on the sail balance, trim and the boat's overall characteristics. I have found with HR 29, that the beam reach and broad reach are the most difficult points of sail for the windvane. For example, when beam reaching, the windvane often tends to turn the boat too much into the wind. On the other hand, sailing close-hauled is the best angle for the windvane. Interestingly, windvane copes also well when running (i.e. sailing dead downwind) which is the most difficult direction to steer by hand in following seas due to the risk of gybe.

However, usually when the windvane has difficulties in keeping the course, the fault lies in the sail trim. For example, I have sometimes struggled adjusting the angle of the windvane, only to learn, that the mainsail was sheeted too tight. It is also important to reef early to reduce the weather helm.

I think that the Windpilot Pacific is definitely one of the most valuable pieces of equipment that we have on board. It does not replace the autopilot, but these two systems complement each other. Autopilot is at its best when motoring or sailing in light airs and shifty conditions, whereas windvane is mainly for offshore sailing. In general, the windvane performs the better, the stronger the wind is. The opposite is true for the autopilot.

Here you can see our Windpilot Pacific in action:

Jan 15, 2012

Some updates: Equipment list and Highlights site/tab added

We updated the Hallberg-Rassy 29 site with a listing of equipment on board s/y Dolphin Dance. For the coming season we do not have any major investments at sight. However, we are fixing items that stopped working during the previous season. Among these are our fridge and the television antenna.

We also decided to add a new site/tab Highlights on the navigation bar on top of the posts. There is a list of blog posts that in our opinion represent best our sailing season 2011. In general, older posts tend to get buried in the blogs by the new ones. For a new reader looking for sailing stories and experiences, highlights site helps to find the best ones!
/Antti & Minna

Jan 11, 2012

Plans for the season 2012: The High Coast

Now that we have passed the darkest weeks of the year and daylight is increasing slowly but firmly, it is good time to start planning the coming sailing season.

Last summer we spent totally eleven weeks on our journey to Norway and back. However, the whole process was a lot longer since there were a lot of preparations to be done. We had scheduled to start in the end of May, so we were in quite a hurry to get everything ready on time. However, in the coming season we are going to take a bit more relaxed schedule and stay at the Baltic Sea. We are planning to sail north from our homeport in Turku and head towards Höga Kusten (The High Coast) in Sweden. This area will be completely new for both of us, but we have heard and read a lot of positive experiences from other sailors.

Press photo from the High Coast World Heritage Site. Photo by Lars Guvå

The High Coast is an area located in the northeastern Sweden and on the west coast of the Sea of Bothnia. Together with the Kvarken Archipelago on the Finnish side of the gulf, it is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The unique nature in this area has been affected by the latest glacial period, when the land masses were depressed by the weight of a glacier. After the ice age, the land started rebounding and is now rising at rates that are among the highest in the world. Interestingly, these two areas have a very different kind of landscape: in the Kvarken Archipelago the islands are flat and waters shallow, whereas the High Coast has a hilly mainland, high islands and deep waters. The Kvarken Archipelago would be interesting to see as well, but it is probably not the perfect place to explore with a sailing boat.

The High Coast is located between Härnösand and Örnsköldsvik 

According to our current plan, we will celebrate the Midsummer day in Kustavi, Finland and after that continue with a long leg across the Gulf of Bothnia. During the summer seasons the prevailing winds at the Baltic Sea are from SW, so the passage from Finland to Sweden should be favourable. Furthermore, we do not have to have any fixed arrival port on the Swedish side, so this can vary depending on the weather conditions. We are planning to come back via Stockholm Archipelago and Åland. If we have enough time, we will make a detour to Stockholm as well.
/Antti & Minna

Jan 8, 2012

Skiing in Trysil, Norway

During our sailing journey to Norway last summer we fell in love with this amazing country. Therefore, we wanted to see how Norway looks during the wintertime as well. Thus, on New Years Day we travelled first to Oslo and then continued three hours by bus to Trysil, which is the largest skiing resort in Norway.
/Antti & Minna

Here are some photos from the winter wonderland: