Mar 30, 2013

Weekly update: skiing in Lapland

The spring is late here. The cold weather continues and the ice situation in the end of the March is one of the most severe for years. This means delayed start for the sailing season. Our initial plan was to launch already in the April, but many of the maintenance tasks are still undone, so I would consider the mid-May more realistic. So in this respect, I do not mind the cold spring weather.

For the Easter week, we travelled to Ylläs, in northern Lapland. This is probably the best time for skiing as there is plenty of sunshine and it is not that cold anymore. Here are a few photos from the slopes and ski trails of Ylläs.


Mar 24, 2013

Renewing the mattresses

Last autumn, we started the refit/renovation project, which has kept us busy during the winter. The boat has been in a shed over the winter, and Antti has had nicely time to fix things related to the boat. At the same time, my role has been to figure out how we could improve the interiors. Last year, I sewed the new curtains and we bought storage boxes so we got the storage issues fixed quite well and we started upgrading the look of the interior space. This year, we shall keep on with this process. We have just decided that all the mattresses inside shall be renewed  especially because of my allergies and potential asthma, but also because we want to keep improving the atmosphere.

In the end of the season 2011, we spotted some small mold spots in the back fabric of the mattresses. The season 2011 was especially tough for the mattresses, since we started the season early, had some long periods of wet and rainy weather, and did not pay enough attention to lifting the mattresses up each day. The mattresses are probably over twenty years old and especially the ones in the saloon start to be also a bit worn out.

Our old light blue fabric is corduroy-type

For the new mattresses, we are planning to have a lighter colour for the fabric but we have not yet decided (at least not 100 % surely) which one we shall choose. Here are some samples of the fabrics we are trying to decide between. The first three samples from the right (on the first photo) are of alcantara-type fabric and the fourth is synthetic leather.

The lighter colour is close to the colour of the curtains, so maybe that one?

One thing we are wondering is how we can then protect the fabric from getting dirty with time. So we need to choose a fabric that is easy to clean, plus we got to buy some new blankets that can be used to protect the new mattresses when sailing. Do you, dear readers, have any comments or experiences when it comes to this kind of mattresses and the fabrics?

Here are some inspirational photos for us:

Saare 41 ac

Saare 41ac

Hallberg-Rassy 310 (press photo by HR)

Mar 17, 2013

Safety on board: MoB recovery gear

The man overboard (MoB) is one of the most serious emergency situations, that one can encounter on a boat. Earlier this year I blogged about safety issues and wrote how we are going to re-think our routines and go through every safety equipment that we have onboard, re-evaluate their placement, check their condition/expediency dates etc. The MoB recovery gear is a good place to start this process, as it clearly needs to be up to the task.

In addition to revising the condition and placement of the MoB equipment, the question is, what gear one should carry onboard. First of all, this depends on your sailing area. Especially in the Baltic Sea area, it is common that MoB equipment pretty much equals the traditional horseshoe buoy and a throw line. For example in Finland, this is the minimum requirement if you want your boat to be registered in a sailing club. Dolpin Dance had that kind of a setup when we picked her up from Denmark in 2010. On the other hand, when watching for example British or Dutch boats, which have crossed the North Sea on their way to the Baltics, one notices the heavier safety gear, that they often have onboard.

The Rescue Sling
Our old foam horseshoe lifebuoy, which came with the boat, was pretty crappy and worn out, so we decided to replace it with a rescue sling in the spring 2011. In general, falling overboard is probably most likely to happen in rough conditions where everybody on board should be wearing lifejackets. Therefore, in a MoB situation I would consider a lifting device more useful than just a buoyancy aid. Naturally, the optimal solution would be to have both ready to be deployed in the stern rail, but in a small boat with a rather narrow transom, the pushpit tends to be already full of various stuff.

As in 2011 we had to make the choice between the lifebuoy and the rescue sling, we decided to opt for the latter, because the sling  contrary to the traditional horseshoe buoy   can be used to lift a person overboard back to the boat. Basically, it's design and operation is pretty similar to the sling, which is used in helicopter rescues.

One good tip, that I came across when reading discussions on the subject, was to glue reflective tapes to the sling, which help in towing the sling to the person in the water at night. Unfortunately, few manufacturers have those since new.

The rescue sling works also as a floating device and our boat club's inspector did accept it as a replacement for the horseshoe lifebuoy. However, one problem with the rescue sling may be that it needs to be attached to the boat; for example our Besto sling has a 40 meters floating line (one has to just remember to tie the other end to the boat!). This might be a very useful feature, since the person overboard can be pulled aside the boat, when he/she has caught the sling. However, there may become a situation, where one would need a floating device, which can be thrown freely to the person in the water. Furthermore, when thrown immediately overboard, the lifebuoy marks the location of the MoB incident. This is vital especially at night (the lifebuoy should always have a light, which activates in the water).

Inflatable horseshoe

One smart solution especially for small boats is an inflatable lifebuoy. On the previous weekend, when we visited Meri Kutsuu -boat show, we came across this kind of equipment and decided to buy a Jon Buoy inflatable horseshoe. It's operation is similar to the inflatable lifejackets: upon contact with the water, the lifebuoy inflates automatically. When packed away, the lifebuoy is very compact and can be easily mounted in the stern rail.

Especially, if heading for the bigger waters, one should also consider having a danbuoy, which is basically a floating long signal pole with a flag and light. This improves the visibility especially in the bigger seas. There are inflatable or telescopic danbuoys on the market and also packages, which combine the lifebuoy and the danbuoy. We will consider adding a danbuoy in our MoB equipment in the future.

The rescue sling

 The inflatable lifebuoy is just pulled out of the package and thrown to the person in the water

Inflated lifebuoy with a sea-anchor

Mar 14, 2013

Visiting Meri Kutsuu -boat show

On Sunday, we visited Meri Kutsuu 2013 -boat show in the local fair and congress center. The fair was held at the same time than the larger Allt för Sjön -boat show in Stockholm, so some of the dealers had their demo boats in Stockholm instead of Turku. Therefore, only three yards, Dufour, Jeanneau and Saare had their sailboats in the show.

The only boat that we visited this time, was the beautiful Saare 41 AC, which we had already checked out in the Helsinki Boat Show a month ago. However, the first visit was rather quick, so this time it was good to spend some more time at the boat.

Saare 41 AC (photo from Helsinki Boat Show)
Saare Yachts is a relatively new brand in the sailboat scene. The yachts are designed by the Finnish designer Kamu Stråhlmann, but made in Estonia. The Saare yachts have many similarities with the boats built in Orust. These include for example the windscreen, rub rails, teak toerail, spygates on the deck and mahogany interior. Furthermore, the largest models are available with a center cockpit. So clearly they are targeting the same buyers that are interested in Orust boats. However, they are priced competitively compared to their Swedish's rivals. I like their design and the quality of workmanship seems to be excellent. It would be nice to see also some smaller boats from this yard.

We also made some purchases in the fair. First of all, we bought Imray's Norway Pilot by Judy Lomax. This is a book, which I have been looking for quite long.

Also, we decided to buy an inflatable horseshoe lifebuoy. When packed, it's size is very compact and it helps to keep the pushpit uncluttered.

From the boat fair, we hurried up to nearby Ruissalo island, where local SAR-association was arranging  we thought  distress flare and rocket education and shooting during Sunday afternoon. The event was supposed to take place on the sea ice. Unfortunately, when we arrived there, we found out that the event was cancelled due to the unstable ice conditions a week earlier (when the decision of arranging the event was made).

Thus, we just ended up enjoying the Sunday walk in the beautiful weather in Ruissalo. We also took some photographs from the Airisto fjard, which is still covered with ice.

We liked the light fabric on the saloon mattresses in Saare 41 AC

Easy access to bathing platform, when helmsman's seat is raised 

Inflatable horseshoe lifebuoy

Inflated lifebuoy with a sea-anchor 

View from Ruissalo towards Airisto  

Mar 9, 2013

Weekly update

We have been busy with work during the last few weeks, so not too much has happened with our maintenance project. However, I try to work at the boat at least once per week even if it is just for few hours at a time, since these small steps will build up and hopefully we will have a bit more relaxed maintenance schedule during the spring.

This winter has been a good opportunity to work with projects that I have been putting off in the previous years. One such project is varnishing the wooden parts round the companionway: the teak slats have previously been unvarnished and after twenty years of service, started to look a bit tired. At the same time, some wooden parts down below, which are prone to wear and tear, will get some new layers of varnish.

We have also decided to order a new sprayhood with (cockpit) extension. Our old sprayhood could work well still for few years, but we were recommended to order both the sprayhood and the extension at the same time to get the matching colour. We have been pondering fabric colour options and dark blue and natural white are the two finalists. I guess that we opt for blue, since the natural white could be challenging to keep it clean.

This weekend, Down By the Sea (Meri Kutsuu) boat show is held in our hometown. We will be of course visiting this event on today or tomorrow. I would be especially interested to check out electric outboard motors for our dinghy.

 Deciding the colour for the sprayhood and extension. I think that we go with the darker blue.

Mar 3, 2013

Thoughts on sailboat design

Some of you may have noticed that we like to visit various boat shows, and also frequently report about the ones that we have visited here in this blog. Some time ago we actually got a question, if we are looking for a new boat from the boat shows. The answer is no, we don't have any plans for a new boat at the moment. Despite some keel issues lately, we are happy to keep on sailing with our trusty old lady. She is, in my opinion, capable of taking us anywhere that we could imagine, but let's face it: a 29-footer is a rather small boat for longer cruises, so most probably she is not going to be our last boat either. However, the timing is not right for selling at the moment, because of the low market situation and the investments that we are making this year. Thus, visiting boat shows and reading various articles from boating magazines is merely a hobby, since I like to keep up with what's new in the boating world.

It is needless to say, that sailboat design has evolved a lot just during the last twenty or thirty years. However, not all of the development is positive, since in my opinion, the design philosophy has changed too much towards the living comfort in the harbour, which is often achieved at the cost of seaworthiness and kindliness. However, the idea of this blog post is not to argue whether a modern or traditional boat is better than the other. Both design philosophies clearly have their pros and cons, so the question depends on personal valuation and needs. What I would like to discuss, are some of the observations that I have made at the boat shows for example, and compare those to my own experiences of owning two, more or less traditional sailboats during the last six years.

Modern design features on the First 30 (edited from Beneteau press photo). Image: Beneteau
Modern cruising boats can roughly be divided into more performance oriented cruiser/racers and pure cruising boats. Pure racers are out of the scope of this blog post, since their design philosophy is often so different. One of the most interesting boats, that we checked out at Helsinki International Boat Show a couple of weeks ago, was the new Beneteau First 30, which is a good example of modern C/R-boat. She is designed by the famous Volvo Ocean Race designer Juan Kouyoumdjian, and there are some obvious similarities to modern VO70 boats. Perhaps the most visible examples of those are the hull chines, twin rudders and the T-keel.

Some time ago, the Finnish boating magazine Vene tested Elan 350 RP  also a twin-rudder boat  which scored high points on the control under sail. Indeed, one potential problem with beamy and flat bottomed boat with only one rudder, is the loss of control, when the rudder raises out of the water at higher heel angles. So the twin rudder construction is clearly a definite plus in this respect. Another great thing is having a spare rudder in the case one would fail. In my opinion, the second rudder is much more useful addition, than nowadays more popular twin wheels but only one rudder concept.

Large T-bulb in First 30
However, I am skeptical of having a T-keel in a cruising boat. In the Yacht Design Course, held in Turku last November, a study was presented, where the T-keel showed no significant improvement on the computer modelled performance of the boat compared to the normal fin keel with similar draft and center of gravity. However, this study had some limitations, so this is not probably the only truth out there, but at least, I am not convinced of the idea of having a fishnet or buoy chain catcher in the cruising boat for the sake of marginal benefit in the speed. Another important issue, that I would be looking into very carefully, if buying a boat with T-keel, is how the bottom and keel/hull attachment are reinforced. It is very important for a cruising boat to be able to withstand even a hard grounding without a serious structural damage. In general, a longer keel spreads the loads over a larger area, whereas short keel with a large bulb at tip of the keel puts enormous forces to the area where the keel meets the hull. However, for pure racing boats, where zero point one knots gain in the speed is a big thing, the T-keel is probably an optimal choice.

Easier and more comfortable sailing

The boat designers are constantly looking for ways to make sailing easier and more comfortable. As the size of the boats has been rising a lot during, say the last twenty years, this has often meant adding electrical winches and furling sails, which makes things easier but increases electricity consumption and/or complexity.

Rope/halyard bin in HR 412 (image by Hallberg-Rassy)
When looking some of the modern boats, one can see range of small improvements and innovations.  This is kind of a learning curve effect: one manufacturer comes up with a solution which is valued by the customers, and others will soon copy that or bring their own solution to the problem, and quickly the feature spreads throughout the industry. Let's take the example of a common problem: when sailing the cockpit easily turns into a messy snake's nest, if one is not pedant with the halyards and sheets. Furthermore, the mainsheet traveler in the cockpit is often in the way and can be a safety risk for the crew. In modern cruising boats, the trend in the recent years has been to make the cockpit (or a part of it) line-free, which is achieved by shifting the mainsheet traveler fore or aft of the cockpit and leading the halyard and reef lines to the aft part of the cockpit.

The cockpit of HR29 is far from 'line-free' due to the 
halyards and the mainsheet located in the front part. 
Note the small bridge deck in front of the companionway.
I think that many sailors know the difficulty of getting the cockpit table or the companionway hatch board out of the full cockpit locker. As this exercise needs to be repeated often many times during the day, many manufacturers have addressed this issue by adding fixed cockpit tables and foldable or drop-down companionway doors. Another thing that has changed is the design of the companionway (or the main entrance to the cabin). Previously, many offshore boats had bridge decks in front of cockpit to prevent water leaking into the living quarters, in case the cockpit is flooded. Also the cockpits were smaller, so when filled with water, it would not affect the boat's stability too much. For example, older Swans had often two small cockpits, and a bridge deck for safety reasons. Nowadays, the design philosophy has changed and the bridge decks are pretty much gone. On the other hand, many modern boats are equipped with open cockpits, which drain much quicker, so the cockpits can be larger, which is a nice thing in the harbour, but probably not as safe at sea though.

One more thing that I would like to talk about are the swimming or bathing platforms. Having sailed mostly with boats that do not have one, I can certainly appreciate the rationale behind the platform. For example, boarding or de-boarding the dinghy is inconvenient and even risky from the swimming ladders, especially if there is swell. Therefore, bathing platform will be included in the wish list, when looking for the next boat. However, nowadays, many of the cruising boats have a lower-able bathing platforms, which is again something, that is nice to have in harbours or anchorages, but perhaps not the most practical solution at the sea. At least it makes using the wind-vane steering impossible. Furthermore, some boats with this concept do not have any boarding ladders available, when the platform is raised. It is a potential safety hazard, if one cannot lower the ladders from the water!

There were some of my observations on the modern sail boat design. As I said in the beginning, the modern sailboat design has improved many things, but not all of this development is positive in my opinion. However, I understand that one should spend a lot of time on the water sailing different boats in order to get a picture on, how different design features work in the practice. In this sense traditional features are well tested, whereas some of the newest trends and innovations may suffer from childhood problems. How about you, are you a modernist or traditionalist when it comes to the sailboats?

Fixed companionway doors in Nauticat 37