boats Videos

Messing about with boats and cameras


Here’s a five minute video taken with the waterproof HD hero camera of Doolittle a Pacific Seacraft Dana 24.  There are various views of the boat from above and below the water. Click here to watch the video. Filmed between Cannes and Porquerolles in the south of France.

Picture taken with a GoPro Hd Hero waterproof camera. Set on the widest (170 degree) setting.


Removing old paint with pasta


Digilux 2, 28mm 100 ISO f5.6 @250 sec Dried pasta for removing old paint.


One of the things I like best about the boating world are the interesting people that one meets, it seems to attract individual, confident and clever people. Enter Thierry Schrive a Frenchman who has spent the last three years developing a unique and highly effective way of stripping old paint from boat bottoms. In the past removing old antifouling has been fraught with difficulty, cost and mess. Thierry’s system solves all the age old paint stripping problems in one fell swoop.

His company is called BioBoat and his distinctive stripy van contains all that is needed for on site removal of old coatings using spaghetti! Well, it’s not exactly spaghetti but that’s not far from the truth. Instead of sand which can be very aggressive and damaging to gelcoat and other surfaces, his system uses baked wheat flour which is ground down into small crumbs of varying sizes. This makes his system very eco friendly but Thierry has taken it one step further. His system incorporates a vacuum hose that collects all of the used pasta and old paint. He even recycles the pasta and can use it up to eight times before it is too fine to remove paint.

Boat yards can only welcome this new technique since there is no mess at all, Thierry doesn’t need to wear goggles or a mask as he is working it’s so clean. The resultant stripped surface simply needs a light sanding to key up the surface for whatever treatment you have in mind. The system is so gentle that the substrake is not in any way damaged. So how much does this wonder treatment cost? A mere 50€ plus VAT per square metre. When one considers the alternatives it starts to look like very good value indeed.

I called BioBoat in to strip a Mini Transat yacht so it could have Coppercoat applied. Thierry’s van is very well equipped and can be plugged into a shore supply if there is one or if not, it can use it’s own diesel generator. Inside the van are steel hoppers and pipes and all sorts of valves. The pasta is put into the system by simply sucking it up from the containers. It is all very clever and logical. Thierry can strip pretty much the entire boat right up to the waterline with millimetre accuracy in just a few hours. As far as I can see, there are no down sides at all. At last here is a way of safely stripping off any number of layers of old antifouling from any kind of boat, cheaply, cleanly and effectively.

This system is so clever that Thierry can even strip old lacquer from carbon masts and spars without damaging the surface at all. As far as I know Thierry’s system is the only  one that can strip the finish from carbon without causing damage. Suffice to say, Thierry is constantly busy.


Digilux 2, 28mm 100 ISO f5.6 @250 sec No mess paint stripping!

Thierry is based in the south of France but has van, will travel. He told me that if he had a few boats to do in the UK he would be happy to make the trip in order to do the work but what he is really after are people who are interested in buying into a BioBoat Franchise, both in the UK and the rest of Europe. It has taken Thierry a few years to perfect the technique and to gain awareness but now he is busy constantly. It looks like BioBoat is likely to be a big success.


Delta anchor review


Leica Digilux 2, Doolittle in the ‘Blue Lagoon’ Croatia.

Like most things these days, anchors are being constantly developed and are now more effective and easier to use. There is a bewildering choice of anchors out there made in alloy, steel or stainless. No one to my knowledge has yet made a plastic anchor but that’s probably because a bit of weight doesn’t hurt. Maybe it’s a throwback from the old days when the weight of the anchor played a big part in mooring your boat to the sea bed. Today anchors are designed to be dug in so being heavy is no longer so important.

So why did I choose the Delta over all the others? Well mainly because I only ever heard good things said about it and because it is designed to work with a rope rode with just a short amount of chain. Since I believe in the KISS philosophy aboard my boat I like the idea of using rope and not chain. Chain is heavy, noisy and goes rusty. It’s not nice to haul up by hand either. Most people these days buy a windlass but if you only have a small anchor it’s hardly necessary. Rope is also stretchy and quiet.


One of the great things about sailing in the Med is that you can clearly see when your anchor is dug in just by looking over the side!

The instructions for the Delta call for a couple of metres of chain and the rest rope. It seems hardly creditable that so short a piece of chain would be enough to ensure the efficiency of the anchor but there you are. I chose a 22lb (10kilo) Delta which is for boats up to 40 feet long. I don’t understand why anchors are rated by boat length and not weight so just to be sure I went for the next size up as my boat might only be 24 feet long but it weighs 5 tons. Also we anchor a lot so an anchor that we can trust is essential for a good nights sleep.

I also used 10mm chain instead of the recommended 6mm and made it 5 metres long. Then I attached 20mm dia three strand nylon rope. It’s a good diameter to grip and very strong.

The first issue I had was that the anchor would not stow on the bow platform which was originally designed for a CQR with it’s articulated head. The Delta is more or less the same shape but is in one piece . The problem was that the flukes would touch the bottom of the bowsprit before it could be stowed correctly. On most boats with a simple bow, the Delta would fit beautifully. Making the Delta fit on a Pacific Seacraft Dana called for a bit of imagination and some creative metalwork.


Once that was solved we went out to anchor to try it. There was 20 knots of wind blowing when we dropped the hook and the wind caught the boat’s high bows and she swung off downwind before I could get the anchor away. I dropped the anchor and paid out a decent amount of scope then as soon as the anchor touched the bottom it dug in and the rope was almost wrenched out of my hands. I quickly put a turn on a cleat. The boat swung quickly into the wind and stopped with a force that nearly had me off my feet. I was impressed.

This was no fluke (no pun intended) as every time I anchored the anchor would bite straight away. It works best in sand and mud but doesn’t seem to mind weed either. Once it’s dug in, it’s possible to reduce the scope massively which is helpful in a crowded anchorage. Getting the Delta anchor out can sometimes be quite hard, so well does it dig in. After a few days at anchor you can longer see the anchor at all, only the chain is visible.

There have been times when I have struggled to get the anchor undug. I find that it pays to pull the rope as much as you can so that it is ‘up and down’ then put a turn around a cleat and wait for the buoyancy of the boat as it bobs to gradually pull it out inch by inch. It can take a few minutes. If this doesn’t work I could always tug it out by motoring over it but that might damage my gelcoat. If I am patient it always comes out in the end.

However it’s very reassuring to know that the anchor is hard to get out. The anchor has been severely tested a number of times but the most dramatic was in Sicily after we had sailed through the Messina Straits in a gale and decided to ride it out in the lee of the land. We remained at anchor for 24 hours while the hot wind blew at a steady 40 knots. It was like standing in front of a gigantic fan heater. The rope was stretched bar tight and the pull on it was incredible yet we were quite safe.

In my opinion, the Delta anchor is the best of the lot. It works in almost all seabeds, is solid and well made and not that expensive compared to some. I have done a lot of anchoring in 20 years in many different boats and on different bottoms and the Delta is the most consistent. It always works. I did not have much success with a CQR but I have heard this from others in the Med. They don’t like weed and there’s a lot of it in the Med.

Our kedge anchor is a Fortress. It’s extremely light (6kilos) but is very strong and works extremely well. It used to be our main anchor on the last boat and I might have used it on the Dana too but it doesn’t stow well. It’s light weight makes it easy to stow in a locker and retrieve it when needed and because it’s not made of steel it doesn’t leave rust stains all over the place. The Delta is heavily galvanised and even after 5 years of heavy use, only the tip is looking slightly worn.

So if you are looking for a great anchor that you can trust get a Delta.


Everything you wanted to know about Boating but were afraid to ask


Leica Digilux 2, 90mm. f10 @ 500 sec ISO 100. This kind of outrageous, thoughtless and dangerous behaviour is just too common these days.

During my travels around the UK and the Mediterranean many things occur to me but perhaps the saddest is that few people take going to sea seriously. We are cocooned in protection and with the knowledge that if we make a serious mistake we’ll be rescued. In any one year in Britain the RNLI rescues over 200 sailing yachts that had run out of fuel. In the first place, why did they run out of fuel? Secondly why did they not sail themselves to a marina and fill up? What else is quite clear is that very few people have any idea of what they are doing. I realise that we all start with no knowledge and there is a lot to learn but there are very few people setting a good example. So the mistakes and bad seamanship get passed down and the old skills are lost.

In this post it is my intention to explain some of the most common mistakes and misunderstandings. To discuss things that you won’t find in any book. There are plenty of them out there which will explain how to moor, how to trim your sails or bleed your engine but none of them discuss etiquette or manners and basic common sense, this post will show you how to appear competent and polite. It will enable you to set a good example to others and to feel proud that you at least know that you’re doing it right.

If you own a motorboat you should know how you are perceived by other sea users. As far as I can make out motorboats are only popular if you own a motorboat. To everyone else afloat motorboats are simply a nuisance. There are many reasons for this. It is not because other people are envious. In a politically aware world nothing seems more incongruous than a huge motorboat that gobbles up the worlds finite fuel supplies at an extraordinary rate. When the whole world is becoming aware of the effects of pollution and global warming and are making efforts to reduce emissions, it doesn’t sit well with many people. The idea of a 50 foot motorboat using 100 gallons an hour while just a handful of people are transported from one restaurant to another just doesn’t seem quite right these days.


Leica Digilux 2, 90mm. f7 @ 500 sec. ISO 100. It should not be possible to take a photo like this at sea. This motorboat is TOO CLOSE.

Another reason motorboats are so unpopular is because they make wash. Wash makes life miserable for everyone else. Wash from a big boat can and does travel miles before that energy is spent. Just because you are a fair distance from an anchorage doesn’t mean a thing. Every boat in the anchorage will be set rolling. This is upsetting and potentially dangerous. Motorboat drivers never look back and they are long gone by the time their wash hits the boats at anchor. I can tell you that I have had many holidays utterly spoilt by this wash. If it wasn’t for the wash these anchorages would be perfect. It’s not just yachts that get set rolling, even the motorboats at anchor get thrown about. It seems a shame to me that the comfort and pleasure of so many people are spoilt by just a few impatient people.


Digilux 2, 90mm. f9 @ 500 sec. ISO 100. Even with the flattening effect of the camera’s lens, the size of the wash is clear.

Motorboats are not popular at the fuel pontoon either. Most yachts and small boats just need a few gallons of fuel but if you’re waiting for a motorboat to fill up you might have to wait an hour or more.

Motorboats are also loud and disturb the peace. In a marina it is rarely a yacht that causes a wash or noise. The modern trend on motorboats is to use the bowthruster at every opportunity. There is nothing that demonstrates incompetence better than this. Bowthrusters are noisy and for the most part unnecessary.

Motorboats smell. How many times have you seen big motorboats literally pumping out huge clouds of stinky black smoke that everyone else has to breathe. At anchor motorboats run generators to power the fridges, ice makers and air conditioning systems. If you’re downwind from this it can make your life very unpleasant. If not from the fumes then the noise of the exhaust, often the only thing you can hear in a quiet anchorage.

Motorboats go too fast. In marinas and near anchored boats where people may be swimming, there is always a motorboat going too fast. At sea motorboats pass too close, too fast and always in front of another boat.

If you have a motorboat you will have to work much harder to set a good example. I want everyone to have fun on the water but for that to happen everyone must think of others.

The professionals often make moving boats look easy. They do it quietly, efficiently and politely. There is no need for shouting. Shouting is a sure sign that you don’t know what you are doing. You blame your novice crew but it’s not their fault. In every situation it is the skippers fault. If they don’t know how to do something it is because you have not explained it properly.

One of the best things you can do is say to yourself, “What if?” What if my engine stops in the harbour entrance? How will you sail out of trouble if your sail covers are on? Is your anchor ready to drop at a moments notice?

Learn to tie a bowline and a round turn and two half hitches

These two knots will cover you for any situation you might encounter. Both will come undone after a load has been put on them. A bowline has a thousand uses on a boat. If you’re not sure what knot to do, tie a bowline.

Be aware of Beare’s Law

Beare’s law is the law of accumulating catastrophe. It can apply to any situation but for some reason is particularly appropriate when applied to boats. Here’s an example: Sailing one day in a force three, beam reach, calm sea and the block on the bob stay decides to break, this in turn causes the top of the mast to snap off, bringing down the mainsail and the boom with a bang. The bang was the skylight closing shut breaking the glass which falls onto crews head. Crew is now unconscious and bleeding, on deck you are trying to clear the mess but there is a big ferry coming at you and even if he has seen you he’s going to pass very close and put up a huge wash which would be dangerous. You start the engine which starts then stops almost straight away. Your prop has picked up a dangling halyard and so on and so. Bad things can happen on a boat with an agonising certainty and a surprising swiftness.

General Advice regarding mooring

Before moving your boat or mooring it think about what the wind is doing. Is there a tide? You cannot fight these elements. You must let them help you. Much has been written about mooring but if you always look to the wind and tide and try to picture the manoeuvre you need to do and think about how the forces will act on your boat you probably won’t go far wrong.

Put fenders out, on both sides, you never know what may happen, you might suddenly be forced to change your mind. Have three ropes ready. One on the bows and one on each side at the stern. They should be fairly long so they can be thrown if necessary. One boat length should be enough. Coil them and lay them down on deck so they are ready to use. When you pick up the rope later to use it, re coil it. It shouldn’t take long but it guarantees a good throw.

Remove sail covers and bend sails on. Your engine might breakdown but you can keep control of the boat using your sails. Make sure the anchor is ready to drop for the same reason.

A Boat is not a car. If you are having difficulty getting in to a space and you can get a line ashore, then do it. It’s how they used to do it in the old days. Often a rope is better all round. It’s certainly quieter

Only start your engine a couple of minutes before you depart. The engine will warm up while you gently motor out of the marina. Remember the smell from your engine, even if it doesn’t smoke, will travel far on the wind and perhaps spoil someone else’s breakfast/lunch/snifter.

Yachts, Understand Prop walk and prop wash

Prop walk is the effect when you go backwards and the propeller causes the stern of the boat to go sideways. Most yachts will pull the stern towards port. This knowledge can be helpful when coming alongside for example. If your prop walks to port then mooring to port will always be easier than mooring to starboard. To ascertain your prop walk, go hard astern from forward and see which way the stern goes. Do this in a non wind, non tidal situation. Twin engined motorboats are a special case see later in this article.

Prop wash is the effect of the flow of water from the propeller over the rudder. This is helpful when trying to turn your yacht in a tight space. My friend Tom calls this manoeuvre the “Power Turn” and I can’t think of a better description. If your boat kicks to port the best way to turn it is to turn to Starboard and then just before you stop turning, go astern and leave the helm where it is. Before you gather any sternway gun it forwards. Repeat until you have turned. Twin engined motorboats are a special case again, see later.

Most Yachts will go backwards, even old ones. Chances are they will need a bit of space to do it but eventually once they have way on they can be steered quite well. She can be coaxed if you keep the revs down, this will reduce prop walk to a minimum allowing her to go backwards as straight as she is able.

A word on boat hooks. Handy to have around to pull a rope or a dog out of the water but do not use them on another boat they can easily damage the finish. Especially do not use one on a classic yacht, you will not be popular. In France it seems to be obligatory to come in holding the “Gaff” and to poke at anything given the opportunity.

If you have enough crew have one of them with a fender, a “roamer” which can be casually dropped between two boats when or if needed.

Do not use a human as a fender. This is OK on small boats but a big boat will maim. If you can’t get a fender in there get out of the way. Gel coat can be repaired.

Do not use other boats stanchions to fend off. Use a roaming fender, or use the hull.

Get fender socks. They smarten up the boat but more importantly they protect not only your topsides but the topsides of the boat you’re going alongside.

Before you have left the port ensure that all your mooring ropes are coiled and put away. Do the same with the fenders. NOTHING looks worse than a boat at sea with its fenders swinging about.

Coming home

Once inside the harbour put fenders on and set up mooring lines as discussed earlier. There are two ways to tie a fender, a clove hitch or a round turn and two half hitches. I recommend the round turn. It takes a few moments longer but it will not come undone by accident and is easy to undo. A clove hitch can slip depending on the rope. I have a great collection of fenders I’ve found over the years because they were poorly tied off.

Look to the wind and tide and decide how you will come in. Brief your crew. If you’re not sure if it’s possible to get the boat in one way consider another way and make sure your crew know about it. Do not be ashamed to ask the marina for help, you will pay enough to be there, get your moneys worth.

Always manoeuvre your boat at the slowest possible speed. There should be no need to use lots of revs on the engine. The only time it may be necessary to go quicker is when there’s a bit of wind.

Never leap from a boat. Always step ashore casually, it looks so much better and is considerably less dangerous. Wooden pontoons do wear out and rot. I have seen feet go through planks before.

If there is someone there to take your lines all well and good but personally I prefer to do this myself since you have no way of knowing the experience of the helper and often their good intent can cause you to make a mistake.

Learn to throw a rope. Nothing looks more impressive than being able to throw a rope a good distance. Not only that but it could be a life saver one day. Here’s how: (if you’re right handed) Take the rope end in your left hand and hold it with your thumb, then coil half the rope and place a finger over it to hold it, coil the second half of the rope. You will throw this second half. The weight of the coil will allow the rope to be thrown a good way. As you throw with your right hand release your finger and let the second coil fly. Make sure you keep hold of the end with you thumb. If you do it right you can throw a 50 foot rope 50 feet.

Tying off

There are various ways to tie up a boat but initially I would simply get a line ashore and tied off with any old knot. Once all the lines are ashore you can re-adjust them and tie them correctly. I like to lead the lines back to the boat so that they can be adjusted from the boat and when you leave you can simply slip the lines. If you have eyes at the end of your mooring lines you can slip the eye over a bollard or cleat but do not put your lines over someone else’s. If you can, slip your eye up from under their eye and then onto the bollard, this way you can both get your lines off easily.

When tying up ask yourself this: How will my neighbour get his line off without untying my line? You do not want people untying your lines because there is no guarantee at all that they will do it well and you may return to find your boat rubbing against the pontoon. If you can tie up so you can both get away without resorting to untying someone else’s lines all the better. If this is not possible you should ask your neighbour what their plans are and if your ropes will be a problem to him? Its just good manners to consider other people. Perhaps you’ll even make a new friend.

One thing often seen is someone on the end of a rope pulling like crazy. It is far safer to put a turn of rope over the cleat or bollard. This will take the strain in place of your back. The best way to pull in a heavy weight is to put a turn on the cleat and to lift the rope in front of the cleat. This is called sweating up. When you have pulled it as far as you can, quickly take up the slack. Repeat as often as necessary. With two people a great weight can be shifted.

Special note for the Med:

Generally a small rope or chain is led to a mooring on the sea bed. You use the small rope to get too the actual mooring. When lifting up the rope be very careful not to scratch your (or perhaps even more importantly your neighbours ) boat since the line is often covered in barnacles. I recommend giving some slack at the stern, pulling up the bow line as tight as possible (without straining yourself) then pulling tight on the stern ropes which are cleaner and easier to pull. If your boat is not tight it’s likely that at some point it will hit the quay. Do not follow the example of other boats which are all loosely tied up. Every time the wind blows I see damaged boats. The boats that are not damaged are the ones that are tied up snug. A fender hanging off the transom does nothing but wear away the gel coat. If you want to be sure, try and pull your boat in. If you can make it touch the quay, then so can the wind.

There are many ways to tie up a boat and much depends on the bollards ashore and the cleats and fairleads aboard your boat. One thing you don’t want is ropes chaffing on any part of the boat and do not put all the rope on the cleats so that you can’t see the cleat. What if you need to get it undone in a hurry? The way to make a line fast to a cleat is to put one full turn around the base, one figure of eight and then one twist to hold it. As with the one round turn and two half hitches, it is the turn that takes the strain, the knot just holds it in place.

Always manoeuvre as slowly as possible, if your engine was to fail or the cables break you might find yourself charging the quay at 5 knots. I have seen this many times and it has happened to me on a client’s newly painted boat. Thankfully I was going slowly and no damage was done.

Always turn off your engine as soon as you have a line ashore so that your neighbours don’t have to breathe your fumes.

One should always wash a boat down after it’s been covered in salt but if the salt has been allowed to dry it will not come off unless it is soaked and rubbed off with a sponge or brush. Just spraying water at it will not remove the salt. Salt is highly corrosive and can allow electrolysis so should be removed, especially at the end of the season. Salt attracts moisture and so compounds the problem.

Don’t waste water. Buy a hose with a tap on the end.

The way to fill up a bucket from the deck of a boat is to drop it onto the water’s surface upside down. The bucket then sinks and fills. Haul aboard. Do not do this when the boat is moving as the force could take you over the side!


This seems to be a real mystery to so many people. All anchors today are designed to be “Dug In”, An anchor not dug in is relying purely on the weight of the anchor and chain. This might work for calm weather but as soon as the wind picks up, you could be in trouble. In theory the anchor should set itself as it drags but if it picks up weed or a plastic bag it may not. The best way is to dig your anchor in once then you can relax.

You must know what the bottom is. This can be ascertained by either looking over the side in the Med or from the chart in murky waters. Make sure your anchor works in this bottom.

Decide on your spot. It is always worth anchoring in the proximity of other similar boats. Yachts move differently to motorboats. Do not go close to another boat unless the anchorage is crowded and there is no choice. Respect other peoples’ privacy.

Too many times I have seen this scenario: Bloke on helm, wife on anchor duty. Bloke shouting instructions from the cockpit to cover up for the fact that he had manoeuvred badly. Might I suggest the Woman goes on the helm and the bloke does the much harder, messier job of lowering the anchor.

Slowly bring the boat to a stop with the wind ahead of you. Try not to use the engine to stop or your prop walk may twist the bows away from the wind. Once the boat is stationary drop the hook and slowly motor backwards. (or simply let the wind do it if it’s strong enough). Do not drop the chain on the anchor. It should pay out as you go backwards. Let out 3 times chain for the depth of water. EG: in 10 feet of water let out 30 feet of chain. However, in really crowded but calm anchorages it is possible to reduce scope to half of this. If you are having trouble getting your anchor to dig in try letting out 5 or 6 times scope as you motor backwards. The longer the chain, the straighter the pull on the anchor. Once dug in bring the chain back in to reduce scope.

Whether or not you have a windless it is good practice to occasionally hold the chain as it pays out so that it allows the anchor to dig in gradually. Do not keep holding but rather let the chain go taught and then release it. Repeat a few times and this will help to dig in the anchor. When you are dug in well you should remain stationary even with plenty of revs in astern.

Take a look around and note the position of your boat to others and perhaps to a landmark or two. Then relax. Standing on the bows looking at the water will change nothing. If you wish to demonstrate how little you know do this. I see it when practically every new boat turns up. I do not understand what they hope to achieve. To me it demonstrates a lack of confidence in anchoring.

If a neighbour thinks you are too close, respect their opinion and re anchor. If you are not happy with your position then again the answer is simple. Re anchor until you are happy. What is too close? This is a very subjective subject but my reckoning is this, if you can toss a biscuit into someone’s cockpit from your boat then they are too close. When I say toss, I mean either an underhand throw or a throw as you might skim a stone. Keep a packet of digestives aboard for this purpose.

I recommend practising digging in your anchor under easy circumstances as a way of learning how a “dug in” anchor feels. Find an area with sand or mud -Weed and rocks are notoriously hard to anchor in- and practice. You may find you can use full revs in astern and still not dig out the anchor.

When you bring in the anchor motor forward gently so that you, or the windlass is not doing all the work. If you let the windlass do this work it won’t be long before it’s ruined. Once the chain is “up and down” you should be able to pull out the anchor. Sometimes this can be quite hard. The easiest way to pull out the anchor is to take up the slack on the chain as the bows dip with the swell and the yachts buoyancy will do the work. If there’s no swell just wait for the wash from a passing boat. Like this you should be able to gradually pull out the anchor.

When your anchor is back aboard and shipped check to see if there is weed stuck to it. if there is then remove it because it has been known to remain alive for a while so that when you anchor somewhere else you start a new colony of destructive weed where there was none before.


Leica Digilux 2, 90mm. f8 @ 500 sec. ISO 100. That’s quite a clump of weed on this boat’s anchor!

If you are using a boat with an engine go very slowly around anchored boats where there is a high chance that people will be swimming. Swimmers are very hard to see so keep the speed down. Every year I hear about another bather chopped to pieces by a careless motorboat owner.

If you must run your engine or generator to charge your batteries, do not do it early in the morning, during meal times or late at night. Wherever possible do this when there are no boats behind you. If someone complains then you must stop. If you cannot stop then you must up anchor and find a place where your fumes and noise will not offend others. Often the sound of generators is the only sound to be heard in an anchorage at night.

Some words on Strains and Forces

A boat is heavy. Even a 25 foot boat can weigh as much as 5 tons. 5 Tons moving at five knots has a lot of stored energy. This is easily enough force to kill or maim. I have seen many people with broken limbs because they tried to stop a boat. The answer here is to simply get out of the way. Gelcoat can be repaired.

There should be no need to pull like crazy on any rope on any boat. If the forces are large there will be winches. Use them. There is always an alternative way to do something. Use your brain, not your back. A boat is a natural crane. There is all you need. A mast with ropes and blocks and pullies. All it needs is a little imagination. The topping lift taken to a winch will lift the end of the boom, which can be swung outboard. Perhaps for bringing in an unconscious crew member who fell in. Or perhaps just an effortless way to bring aboard the ship’s beer and supplies.

When hoisting sails do not over tighten the halyards. You should not have vertical creases along the leading edge of the sails.

Some words on safety

When a rope or wire under tension breaks it can kill or maim. Just be aware of this fact and keep out of the line of fire. The same applies to bungie straps. When tensioning move your body so that is not directly behind the direction of pull

Gas hose needs replacing regularly. The date of replacement should be printed on the hose so that you know when it needs changing.

Some words on rubbish and waste

NEVER throw anything into the sea. If you have a holding tank then use it especially in harbours or marinas. Marinas should have pump out facilities you can use. If they don’t then complain.

The following is a table to show how long certain items take to biodegrade in the sea.

Cigarette butt 1-5 years

Plastic bag 10-20 years

Tins 50 years

Aluminium can 50-500 years

Glass bottle 1000 years

A word on VHF radio

In the Solent a common occurrence are boat users who call the Coast Guard for a radio check. This is admirable but channel 16 is for calling and emergencies only. There have been times when the demands for radio checks is almost constant. I cannot believe how patient and understanding the Coast Guard radio operators are. Please, please don’t do this. Instead ask a neighbour to check for you, pick an unused channel and see if it works. Chances are that if it works in the marina it will work at sea. Keep 16 free. Maybe one day you will need to contact someone in an emergency.

In the Marina

Rule one: No shouting. Your crew should be briefed before you come or go. If they make a mistake, chances are you didn’t explain what was required. Even if it is the crews’ fault, shouting will help no one. A bad experience aboard your boat could put your crew off ever going out again. Being skipper is a heavy responsibility.

Before leaving your berth double check the electric cable is unplugged. In the Med beware of the mooring rope that leads to the quay, it’s worth waiting a few moments after it’s been dropped so that you don’t pick it up as you motor out.

Drive slowly. Everyone uses a marina, there may be a kiddy in a tiny dinghy just around the corner. Can you stop? Keep to the starboard side of the channel. If some one is coming the other way and space is tight. Stop and wait. Be polite at all times. Try to be quiet. Not everyone goes out only for the day. It’s highly possible that the crew on some boats didn’t get in till 3 in the morning and would like to sleep a while longer. Do not assume that just because you are awake that everyone else is too.

Do not make wash. Never mind what the speed limit says, don’t make wash. Some motorboats still put up a hell of a wave even at 5 knots. Look behind you, don’t look at the wash itself, you will have a foreshortened view of it and it may not look too bad. Look instead at the action of your wash. Watch the moored boats. They should not move at all. If they are bobbing or pitching you may be making someone’s life uncomfortable.

If you’ve been to the pub and you’re drunk try to be quiet. There are many families with boats in a marina and kids are probably sleeping.

Some basic Etiquette

Do not climb on someone else’s boat without permission. Take off your shoes, or if you don’t want to, ask permission first. IF they don’t mind, fair enough but still check your soles for grit or doggo.

Yachts, don’t let your halyards bang against the mast. Not everyone likes to hear the sound of rope on aluminium. Not only is it annoying to many people but it is bad for the ropes and the protective coating on your mast. Further more modern ropes such as spectra dislike this treatment extremely and bearing in mind the cost of it, it seems the height of folly to treat it thus.

Keep noise down. This includes your children. Do you have to use the outboard on the dinghy? Could you not row? Rowing sets a good example to others. You will never offend anyone by rowing. Not only does rowing make little noise but it is also extremely good for you.

If you are going to use an outboard, bear the following in mind. 2 stroke outboards are smelly. If someone is having lunch it’s not very nice smelling exhaust gas. Do not fill the engine’s fuel tank while it is on the dinghy. Even with a funnel it’s practically impossible to do this without spilling fuel in the water. This spilt fuel will spread out and travel a long way and many people will be offended by the smell, not to mention the pointless pollution.

Before using a hose on the pontoon check to see who it belongs to. But whatever happens coil it down properly after you have done with it. Even if it was a mess before you started.

Do not untie other peoples lines or unplug their electric cable. If there is a problem get the marina to deal with it. If someone’s boat was damaged after you retied it you would then be responsible in law for any damage.

Do not run your engine in port. If it needs a run take the boat out to sea. The noise and smell of diesel engines is offensive to anyone down wind of you. Running a diesel engine at low revs and with a light load on it is about the worst thing you can do to it. The bores will become glazed and the only remedy is an expensive rebuild. Any engine needs to warm up fully. As the engine warms condensation is formed within. Just running an engine for a few minutes will produce plenty of condensation which will stay inside the engine and cause all sorts of problems. It may contaminate the oil which will reduce its efficiency and lead to premature engine wear.

In addition to the condensation problems running an engine for a few minutes will also cause your batteries to become discharged. A starter motor takes a lot of power, it could take as long as 20 minutes just to replace what was removed when you started the engines. If you think the engines need a run take the boat out to sea where you will not offend anyone with your noise or fumes. If you must run your engine try to do it during the morning or afternoon, not early or at meal times. If someone complains turn it off.

Do not play your music loud or late. Just because you like classical music doesn’t mean everyone does.

If you are going to fly an ensign then bring it down at sunset.


When climbing into a dinghy, always step into the centre of the dinghy. Many small dinghies are very unstable and will tip up if you stand on the sides.

Before untying the painter, start the engine first! If I had a pound for ever dinghy I have seen drifting away not under control while the person within is pulling and pulling on the starter cord trying to start a reluctant engine, I’d be a rich man!

When leaving the dinghy, turn off the fuel and close the vent on top of the fuel tank.

Always carry a pair of oars or at least a paddle for if you run out of fuel or the outboard breaks down.


Rafting calls for a very special tolerance from all parties. The basic rules here are when crossing someone else’s boat, Remove your shoes and pass infront of the mast. Do it quietly. Try not to come back too late from the pub and if you do keep the noise down. A friendly rapport with your neighbours is essential since knowledge of other rafters plans is very useful .

At Sea

LEARN THE RULES. The international rules for avoiding collision at sea. (COLREGS) This is a basic requirement. The rules are extremely clever and do work but only if everyone follows them. DO NOT go to sea until you know them.

Keep a constant look out, situations can arise with surprising suddenness if you are not paying attention. (see Beare’s law)

Remember that the overtaking vessel must keep clear. Give other sea users room. There is no need to pass close to anyone except in a narrow channel. Motorboats especially should gives yachts a very wide berth since their wash can still be considerable even when they passed 500 yards away. If there are many yachts and you can’t help but go close then SLOW DOWN.

Heaving to. This can be a very useful manoeuvre for a yacht. Basically it is a way of nearly stopping the boat under sail without dropping the sails. The yacht will turn with her bows about 45 degrees from the direction of the wind and sit quite happily even if conditions are quite rough. You might heave to if you are single handed and wish a cup of tea or you need to check your position on the chart. Heaving to is also an excellent way to reef. To heave to is easy, gradually bring the yacht into the wind so that when you tack you are virtually stationary. The yacht will tack, leave the jib backed and put the helm over away from the direction of the wind and lash it. That’s it. Experiment with the main sail to reduce the forward motion. Usually it needs to be let out so as not to fill. Older more traditional designs tend to hove to better than modern boats.

Motorboats Only

If you are passing an anchorage, even at a distance please be aware that your wash will certainly make all the boats at the anchorage roll uncomfortably. Remember these people are on holiday too and the anchorage would be flat calm if not for your passing.

Try not to pass in front of other boats. Again, your wash will be much worse and it’s simply rude to do so. Have respect for other sea users. For some reason, motorboats have to pass in front of other boats. This is the most commonly heard complaint levelled at motorboats. A motorboat can often be seen going out of its way just to go around the front of another boat.

Look behind you occasionally to see the poor yacht you just passed at over 20 knots. See him leap out of the water and smash down afterwards, sending a huge wave over their heads. Contrary to what you think, yachts do not enjoy doing this since if they are sailing they will lose all speed and will have to start again. Often, the roughest sea a yacht will encounter is caused by a passing motorboat.

Look behind you occasionally to see if your engines are smoking. Asides from the obvious pollution issues, did you know that that excess fuel not being burnt is washing the oil from the bores of the engine and destroying it? Did you know that it’s costing you money and giving motorboats a bad name? Get your engine serviced or clean the bottom of your boat. Black smoke is usually a sign of engine overload caused by growth on the hull or lack of maintenance of the engine. When accelerating a diesel engine do so gradually or the engines will temporarily overload causing black smoke.


Be warned, due the extreme accuracy of GPS today, it is unwise to use it with out keeping a good look out. There have been many reports of collisions with buoys by motorboats. The cause is because the waypoint of the buoy was taken directly from the almanac and the auto pilot was put on to steer the boat to this point. Which is exactly what it does. No surprise then if you actually hit it.

Listen to the weather forecast. If you are a novice and all your passengers are novices, what will happen if you fall over the side. You cannot rely on your mobile phone working more than a few miles offshore.

Remember that the sea is one of the most hostile environments on the planet. Without help you can only live for minutes in the sea. Respect the sea, do not throw anything into it. Take all your rubbish home, even organic waste. Be careful when refuelling not to spill. If you have a holding tank use it in areas where your excrement is likely to affect others, eg: swimmers.

Remember prevention is always better than cure.

Manoeuvring a twin engine boat

The steering wheel is only for turning the boat at speed. Rudders on a motorboat are tiny and hardly work at all at low speed. The way to steer a boat at low speed is by using the gear levers. If you wish to turn to port put the port engine in neutral. The starboard engine will push the boat to port. To turn to Starboard, put the stb engine in neutral.

Many motorboats go very swiftly when just in gear with no throttle. I see it all the time, the pilot swinging the wheel like mad and using the bowthruster to help him around corners, still going much to fast. What worries me most is that it’s not so much the speed but the obvious lack of understanding and control that these people have.

The way to go slowly in a motorboat is to take the engines out of gear as often as possible. To turn corners simply put one of the engines in gear.

To spin a two engined boat put one engine in fwd and the other in astern. If you move your boat slowly there will be no need for any throttle. Just slip the engines in and out of gear.

Bow thrusters are for holding your position once you are nearly moored. You have used the engines for getting into the space but now the wind is pushing your bows in so a little bow thruster is acceptable. If there is little wind there is absolutely no need to use the bow thrusters. Practice moving and mooring your boat at all speeds. Remember to think about where the wind is coming from it will affect a motorboat more than a yacht.

If you can moor your boat without using your bowthruster feel proud that you are setting a great example to others. Professional skippers that I know consider it a matter of pride to moor their boat under all conditions without using the bowthruster.

If you have enjoyed this post and have found it useful, please feel free to pass it on. Let’s all try and set a good example on the water so that we can enjoy the freedom of the seas for many years without the need for legislation. Thanks and fair winds.


Sail faster and more often

genoa poled out gobb

All photos: Leica Digilux 2. Using a pole to hold out the jib when sailing downwind.


Part one: Setting up a more efficient rig for windward and downwind work.

No one wants to motor when they could be sailing. The wind is free if only we can harness it’s power. Here are some suggestions, tricks and secrets I have learned over the years that have allowed me to sail my boat when most people have given up and started their engine.

Most yachts today are a huge compromise between ease of use and cost of manufacture. The two sails of a sloop work for some of the time and when they don’t serve, the sailor can use his reliable diesel engine to get where he wants to go. Boats are expensive and it’s a very competitive market so yachts are rarely sold with the extras that make them more efficient.

Many sailors hate running downwind but I don’t know why. When a yacht is properly set up, there is no more pleasant way to eat up the miles. The problem is that the basic sloop rig is not set up to run down wind. The modern solution is to fly a spinnaker but it’s hardly a simple solution. Why not use the sails that are already on the boat? Simply polling the Genoa out on one side and putting the main on the other is an excellent way to sail down wind yet I am constantly amazed how rarely I see this technique employed.

One of the great things about this set up is that it can work from a broad reach to a dead run. Here’s how it works. Lets say that the wind is coming from aft but slightly more on the port side. Let the main sail out to starboard. Take a line from the end of the boom and tie this ‘Preventer’ line to a cleat up forward. Now the boom cannot move or the sail chafe against the rigging as the boat rolls. Also, if you were to steer a bit wild, the preventer will stop the sail from gybing.

Then pole out the genoa on the opposite side to the mainsail. The lazy sheet is tied down to the foredeck as this stops the pole from lifting. In an ideal world, the genoa should be held out so that it is flat, this way it will not flap about and make noise. Now you have a fabulous set up for running downwind that only cost you the price of the pole and mast fitting. If your boat already has a spinnaker pole and track you may already have all you need. You don’t even need a topping lift for the pole as the sheets will hold it in place.

Since the area of your main and genoa approximate the area of a spinnaker you do not sacrifice as much sail area as you think and this works surprisingly well and once set up does not need much looking after. If your boat is cutter rig, you can even hoist the staysail and sheet it ‘fore and aft’ to help reduce rolling.

classic tell tales gobb

Note the tell tales on the genoa flying straight and true. This is the sign of a well trimmed sail.

Most modern boats sail well to windward but there are still ways to improve on the situation and efficiency of the existing rig. Perhaps the most important item you can add are tell tails on the sails. There have been many articles written about tell tales so I am only going to cover them briefly. On the Genoa, these are fitted a small distance behind the luff. Small windows in the sail allow you to see the tell tales on both sides. When all the tell tales are flying straight, the sail is properly trimmed and working at maximum efficiency.

tell tale windows gobb

Windows in the jib allow the tell tales to be seen on both sides of the sail.

The mainsail needs tell tales fitted to the leech. Start by trimming the genoa. The tell tales can even tell you if the sheet lead is correct. Once the genoa is properly trimmed, trim the mainsail until all the tell tales are flying. Don’t worry if the main is back winding a bit, the most important thing is to get all the tell tales flying. Tell tales cost next to nothing too and help you to learn the best positions for the sails, leads and angles so that you can get the most out of your boat by ‘seeing’ the wind.

tell tales mainsail gobb

All tell tales flying from the leech of the main sail.

In light airs and choppy seas, do not ‘pinch’ instead come off the wind a little for more speed. If the seas are choppy try introducing a little ‘twist’ in the sails as this helps the sails keep power in them as the boat pitches.


Sail Faster and more often Part 2: Parasitic Drag

One aspect that is often overlooked when trying to improve sailing efficiency upwind is Parasitic Drag. Additions such as dodgers may make sailing more pleasant but they cause drag and will slow the boat down. Dinghies, lifelines, outboards , mast steps or almost anything attached to the boat will cause drag. The effect of Parasitic drag can be quite drastic so anything you can do to reduce it will enable you to sail higher and faster to windward. Many dodgers (sprayhoods) are huge and run the full width of the boat, does it need to be that high? Perhaps the dodger could be made smaller and just cover the companionway hatch. Can the outboard go in a locker?

dodger gobb

Another way to increase speed and efficiency is to consider what is going on under the waterline. Even a slightly grubby bottom can cause a lot of drag so it’s worth considering the type of antifouling you are using. Every year the paint builds up until the surface is quite rough, and this will slow you down even if there is no growth. Consider using an antifouling like Coppercoat which is not only efficient but is also smoother than conventional paints as it is only applied once every ten years or so.

Anything under the waterline that is not smooth or hydrodynamic will cause drag. Anodes and sea cocks are an example. If the anodes are not being corroded much, consider fitting smaller ones to reduce drag. There is a reason why racing boats have no skin fittings and often no antifouling at all. Dennis Conner’s boat Cotton Blossom didn’t have antifouling. Instead she was sprayed with a red epoxy paint that looked like antifouling and it was sanded down with fine wet and dry sandpaper to get the surface as smooth as could be and scrubbed by a diver when it started to get slimy. Obviously few sailors are going to get as anal as this in the quest for speed but Mr Conner won every race he entered with her.

cotton blossom gobb

Perhaps the biggest cause of drag under the water is the boat’s propeller. Even a fixed 2 blade prop will cause a large amount of drag and cause turbulence over the rudder, especially if it is fouled. In moderate winds the loss is probably not particularly noticeable but in light airs and choppy seas it could make the difference between being able to sail or having to start the engine. Even though it seems odd, it is a scientific fact that a stopped prop will actually cause less drag than a rotating prop so locking the prop can help. If you have a two blade prop it might be possible to lock it in a vertical position behind the keel to reduce drag. If you have a fixed three blade prop then you are really sacrificing sailing performance.

The answer is to fit a feathering or folding prop. Folding props are very good for reducing drag but they do not work so well when motoring so a feathering prop is the best overall solution. There are many different brands on the market but they can be very expensive. One problem with most feathering props is that there is always at least one blade that cannot align with the flow and so there is always some drag remaining. A clever solution to this problem is made by Kiwiprop. Here is a three bladed feathering prop that has plastic blades and a stainless hub. There is no need to fit an anode and the pitch can be adjusted without having to take the prop apart. The blades are all independent so they each follow the flow with the minimum of drag. The Kiwiprop is suitable for engines up to 55hp and is also the cheapest feathering prop on the market.

With a feathering prop fitted sailing performance, especially in light airs will be greatly improved and with no loss in motoring performance, in fact you may well find that that also improved, especially if you are changing from a fixed two blade. If you want to improve sailing performance a feathering prop is one of the most cost effective ways to do this.

Sail faster and more often Part 3: Adding weight

Another way to spoil sailing performance is to add weight to a boat. Of course much depends on the type of yacht you have, a heavy displacement yacht will be able to soak up more weight without detriment than a light weight yacht will. The distribution of weight also has a crucial effect on sailing performance, if not safety.

If you must add weight, the best place to put it is as low and as near the centre of the boat as possible. Obviously this isn’t always possible and there isn’t much you can do to change the basic design of a boat to improve it but it’s worth bearing in mind nevertheless.

It is always wise to keep weight out of the ends of the boat as this will reduce pitching. Yet I often come across boats that have 100m or more of heavy anchor chain stowed right in the bows and this can have a tremendous effect on a yacht’s sailing performance. Do you really need all that chain? How often do you need to anchor in 30m of water? Many modern anchors are designed to work with a small piece of chain and the rest of rope which is much lighter and easier to handle. If you no longer use chain, you might find you no longer need that heavy windlass either.

The same applies to other items, such as outboards, dinghies, gas bottles and liferafts etc. The further you can stow them from the ends the better. Careful placement of stores down below can also make a difference. By putting heavier items such as tins and fluids as low as possible, and placing the lighter items elsewhere great savings can be made. I know all this seems excessive but if you consider this weight issue all the time, you will find yourself sailing more often and the boat will be stiffer and roll and pitch less which is more comfortable too. Like many things, it’s not just one thing that makes the difference but an accumulation of many small actions that add up.

The rig of a boat has a massive influence too. The more stuff you add to the mast, in the form of antennas, radomes etc the more tender and pitchy the boat will become but even here savings in weight can be made. Ropes are heavy, so you might be able to reduce the diameter of the halyards and save quite a bit of weight here. Consider using wireless instruments since you can lose entire cables this way. The use of LED lighting may allow you to use lighter electrical cables too. I know it doesn’t sound much but every little helps.

Sail faster and more often Part 4: Light weather sails

mps 1 gobb

One of the best sails you can buy for light air sailing is an MPS. There are a lot of different names for this sail but it’s basically an asymmetric spinnaker. The big difference between this and a normal spinnaker is that it is flown like a jib with only a pair of sheets and is therefore much easier to use. The MPS can really make the difference between sailing or motoring. As I type this we’re sailing at over 5 knots with a really light beam wind and have already passed any number of yachts motoring. The MPS is capable of using apparent winds from about 70 degrees to 140 degrees so is a useful sail to have.

At first the MPS can seem an intimidating sail to hoist and retrieve but as many things there are techniques that will help. The best to way to launch the MPS is to hoist it behind the set jib, this way it cannot fill. As soon as the MPS is up, drop or roll the jib and the sail will fill. An MPS is a very powerful sail and needs to be treated with respect but so long as you get it hoisted before it fills it is quite docile.

Normally the MPS has two sheets so that it can be gybed but I find this too complicated and the long lazy sheet has a habit of getting drawn under the boat. Instead I use only one sheet and hoist the sail on whichever side I need at the time. Normally the sheet will need to be led to the back of the boat to get a good lead. A block can be affixed in the appropriate place without much difficulty and then lead to a genoa winch. Often the MPS works best without the luff being tight, so experiment by either letting the halyard go a bit or easing off the tack. I use a 6-1 tackle on the tack of the sail which makes adjustment very easy. The MPS also works best by not being over sheeted and often the best trim is when the luff is gently flopping over from time to time.

Getting the MPS down is a bit harder than getting it up but again, there is a technique. Re-hoist the jib and sheet it in. Then sheet the MPS in hard so that you can reach the foot of the sail from the deck. This job is much easier with two people, one on the halyard and one gathering. Let the halyard go in stages and gather as you go. Because the MPS is blanketed by the jib it will not have any wind in it and will be easier to get on board. I find sitting on the sail I have gathered keeps it from getting out of hand.

mps 2 gobb


Sail faster and more often Part 5: The real secret of sailing more often

When we first came to the Mediterranean we were lucky if we sailed for 25% of the time, now our average is nearer 60%. This massive increase in days sailed is due in part to the improvements mentioned previously but I have saved the best until last. It’s simple, if you want to sail more often, you’ll need to wait for a good wind. It sounds so obvious doesn’t it? Yet this simple fact is at the heart of the matter.

Nowadays, weather forecasting is pretty good and the sailor is able to get great information, usually free from a number of sources. If you have time it is well worth watching the weather and planning your trip around it instead of trying to set an impossible itinerary based on what you would like. We can’t change the weather but we can use it. Rather than setting off with a poor wind why not wait a few days until it changes. In the meantime you could explore the area where you are. Every time we have followed this simple advice we have had good sailing.

We all rush around these days and pay the price. A bit of patience can reap dividends. If you genuinely want to go sailing rather than motoring, all these nuggets of hard learned information will help you. I know, it all seems so obvious and you knew all this anyway but like I said earlier it’s a bit of everything. It’s like varnishing. Many people often ask me what is the secret to beautiful varnish but there is not one secret but many small ones that club together to make for a good result. Even if you miss out one or two of the secrets along the way, you will probably still end up with a good result anyway, but ignore all the secrets and you won’t be happy with the result at all.

Sailing costs very little, it is satisfying, good for the soul and offends no one but motoring on the other hand is noisy, smelly and expensive. Maybe you only consider the cost of the fuel and lets face it, yachts are not economical when motoring. We are lucky if we manage 20 miles to the gallon, and that is with a small boat, but there are other costs to factor in. Every hour you motor wears out the engine, the seals, impellers and bearings. Engines need servicing and that can be expensive so obviously the less often you can service an engine, the more money you will save. Beyond even the cost is the moral issue. What could be better for the environment than a sailing boat, quietly moving from A to B. It’s as close to Perpetual Motion as we mere mortals are ever likely to get.

The satisfaction that comes from a trip made under sail cannot be ignored so it’s well worth making the small amount of effort required to set your boat up and understand the finer points. Happy sailing!


The French Canals

Here’s a special treat. A post about the French canals with mostly pictures and just a few descriptive words. Enjoy. We did! Unless stated, all pictures by the author using a Leica Digilux 2.


Picture above: Blown Away on the Saone taken by Fliss with an old Pentax K1000.


The might Bolene lock. Dropped us almost 100 feet in about ten minutes. Absolutely awesome engineering. Pic by Fliss again.


Typical canal scene. This is the Canal du Midi in early September.


Lovely bridge detail at Narbonne.


Plenty of water in the Midi in 2009.


One mad peniche.


Doolittle traverses the 150 year old Aqueduct over the river Orb at Bezier.


Perfect place to stop for the night. Navigation ceases at 19-00 so you can be assured of calm water.




Might has right! This peniche may be empty but it still commands respect from other canal users.


Some colourful Pointus at Frontignan


Dark clouds at Aigues Mortes a medieval walled town in the Camargue.


Designing the lightest nesting dinghy in the world


Panasonic Lumix. The Stasha, the world’s lightest nesting dinghy. Weighs as much as a baby bird (wandering albatross chick)

There’s a saying that I like. ‘If you get in a car and don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there’. Designing a boat is a bit like this as you need to know a few things before you can begin. Knowing where to start is easier said than done. So many things can influence the design. I have found that a good place to start is to first think about what you don’t want. For example, I didn’t want a heavy dinghy. Nothing spoils the dinghy experience more than a weighty tender that is hard to move about and stow. This was my starting point. No matter what shape or size of dinghy I came up with it wouldn’t be a heavy one!

For years, I’d been intrigued by boats I’d seen in America that were made using materials from light aircraft. Constructed from a framework of wood and covered in cloth, they looked fragile but were obviously quite tough and since I was determined to keep the weight down I would also have to employ a similar system. So deciding what I didn’t want from my dinghy led me to the construction technique I was going to use.

However, there’s no point having a light dinghy if you have no where to put it. My yacht is just 24 feet long and the only place I could think of to stow a dinghy where it wouldn’t be in the way, look ugly or be unseaworthy was on the tiny foredeck. I got my tape measure out and discovered that it was about 4 feet wide at the aft end where the cabin begins and was a bit more than 4 feet from there to the bows. So it would have to be a nesting dinghy. In theory it could be about 7 feet long when assembled and that was a good size for a small yacht. And so was born the idea of making a super lightweight nesting dinghy.


Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. Stasha dinghy, nested and stowed on the deck of a Pacific Seacraft Dana 24.

There’s not much point worrying about aesthetics when you are designing a dinghy, the most important thing in my opinion is stability. There is nothing worse than a tippy dinghy, except perhaps a heavy tippy dinghy. Light boats are less stable than heavy boats so I would be relying mainly on the shape of the boat to provide stability. This meant that it had to be as square as possible. I now had enough information to design the boat’s shape.

The rest of it would be guesswork based on experience. What would happen if I cut a boat in half to make it nest? Would it be strong enough? What kind of forces would the join be under? How would the stringers attach to the end panels? These and many more questions filled my brain. As far as I could tell, no one had ever built a dinghy like this and I wondered why. Have people tried it but drowned during testing or has no one ever tried? Maybe it was a stupid idea that would never work but one of the great beauties of a lightweight boat is that they are cheap to build. Less materials means less cost. I could afford to simply make a boat and see if it worked.

Normally nesting dinghies are made so that the front section comes off and fits inside the rear section but this does not seem logical to me for many reasons. The shape of the front section always needs to be quite pointed but this reduces stability too much. It also means that the interior volume of the dinghy is much reduced so you might have an eight foot nesting dinghy but it will feel much smaller. Then there’s the rowing position. It’s perfectly logical to put a thwart on or above the join but it leads to a bows down attitude when rowing which makes the dinghy hard to row and just looks wrong. Rowing is easier when the bows are slightly up.

The whole concept seemed flawed to me so I tried a bit of lateral thinking and did some sketches with the rear section fitting into the front section and suddenly everything started to make more sense. The most obvious problem with doing it this way around was that the rear section would be slightly narrower than the front which would mean a step where they join. In fact this is not a problem as the bottom of the dinghy remains flush, it’s just the sides that have a small step. I doubted if it would make an appreciable difference to the finished boat’s performance.


Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. Sunlight glows through the translucent skin of the Stasha. Note the small step at the join.

This one compromise seemed a small price to pay for the host of advantages that it brought the design. I could have a fairly fine bow, a good interior volume, great stability and a perfect rowing position. Another bonus with this set up is that the rowing position doesn’t have to change when you take a passenger. Not only this but if the passenger sits in the front section back to back with the rower, the combined weight is centred in the boat increasing stability still further and each occupant has a clear, unobstructed view of their surroundings. This is much more pleasant for everyone. Yet another advantage was the fact that the pintles for the rudder are stowed inside the nested boat so ropes can’t get caught on them.

To simplify the building process, I decided to do away with any hint of sheer and make the top of the boat completely straight. Simplifying the wood requirements would also make the boat easier and cheaper to build. Now I had all the information I needed to start to design the boat. I made a few sketches just to see how it would look. Although it was boxy it still had a nice boat like shape which was pleasing.

Next I made a 1 -10 scale cardboard model 220mm long. I wanted a near flat bottom for maximum stability and ease of build but I suspected that the fine framework allied with the pressure of the water on the hull would flex inwards so I incorporated a slight V into the bottom. This would also add more strength to the structure. The sides are almost upright, with only a slight angle outwards. Again, this increases interior volume and stability.

The simplest way to build a boat like this is to make a jig. Panels are cut out and screwed to the jig and then the stringers and ribs are attached to it to create the framework. Happy with my cardboard model I divided it up into 5 sections and used these measurements to make the stations that would dictate it’s shape. I scaled up the measurements by simply adding a zero. Then these measurements were converted into instructions using the simple ‘join the dots’ principal that all Woodenwidget dinghies are built with.


Leica M9, 21m f2.8 Asph. This photo shows the jig for the front section with all panels, stringers and ribs in place.

Deciding how many stringers and ribs to use was decided by guesswork based on experience and finally what ‘looks right’ while trying to minimise weight and keep the build simple. Obviously the more ribs you have the more work there is to make and fit them. Since lack of weight was everything I did err on the light side.

The end panels on the jig stay as part of the boat while the inner stations are only temporary. The end panels have slots cut in them to accommodate the stringers which are then glued in with epoxy resin. The stringers are held in place on the inner stations with cable ties. The following day the ribs are made and glued in place. The ribs are glued everywhere they touch a stringer. This gives over 60 glue joins which makes for a surprisingly strong structure.

The making of the ribs caused me some concern. On the one hand I wanted the dinghy to be easy to build but it had to be light too. I considered a system that had no bent ribs but it meant making nearly 40 mortices which would take a long time and require a certain skill. It would also add weight and complication. So I decided to take a fresh look at bending ribs with heat.

At some point most boat builders will have a go at steaming wood. It’s a lot of fun and it’s amazing what you can put a piece of wood through before it breaks. If you want to really understand wood this is a great way to do it. You will walk away with a new respect for it as a material.

Some woods bend easier than others so I chose ash because it is strong and light as well as easy to bend. The straightness and orientation of the grain plays a big part in how far you can bend wood as does the amount of moisture content. Thin wood bends easier than thick wood but in any case you’ll need heat. Most boat builders will construct a steam box to do this but since there are only 9 ribs to be bent in the Stasha I needed to find a simpler way.

Pre soaking the wood for a couple of days is essential. Once the wood is completely saturated, they are fitted to the jig. The centre is clamped to the keel and each side of the rib is pushed down while applying heat from a hot air gun. The ribs are pushed down in gradual stages until they touch at all the stringers. This is a little time consuming and it helps to have patience but still easier than any other system I could devise. It’s also the lightest way and gives the dinghy a nice rounded boat shape. This also makes it easier to fit the cloth later.


Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. This shot shows one of the ribs being gradually persuaded into place with heat from a hot air gun.

The ribs are then glued where they touch at all the stringers. A day later the structure can be removed from the jig. It’s still quite floppy but gets much stronger at every stage. (To save wood, the stations are cut down to make the jig for the rear section of the dinghy). Inner gunwales and reinforcing knees are added for strength and that’s basically all there is to the wooden structure. Not one screw in it. It’s thanks to the amazing bonding strength of epoxy that a construction so light is even possible.


Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. Here’s the framework for the front section complete, just awaiting the kevlar twine and the cloth.

Now all the hard and messy work is done. All that remains is to cover the framework with a special heat shrink Dacron cloth. It’s attached with a product called Heat’n’Bond which is glue on a roll. It is melted with a humble domestic iron. This is cheap, light and very easy to use. It also sticks very well to the cloth and has excellent sheer force qualities. This Heat’n’Bond tape is applied to the keel, gunwales and end panels.

Now Kevlar twine is laid diagonally across the boat and glued to the gunwales. This helps to reduce twist in the structure and also to give more for the cloth to lay against than just the stringers. The cloth is laid on the structure and glued to the gunwales and end panels, then the iron is run over the cloth and all the wrinkles and baggy bits simply disappear leaving a drum tight smooth finish. This is very satisfying to do. The edges of the cloth are protected by small battens of wood and finally coated with a water based varnish but this is just one way to waterproof the fabric.


Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. Here the Dacron cloth has been glued in place. The remaining creases magically disappear when the iron is run over it.

Having made the two halves it was time to work out a way to join them. There’s no point having a nesting dinghy if it can’t be easily assembled either on land or on the water. Initially I thought about a very minimal bulkhead for the join along with some kind of waterproofing but that hardly seemed easy. Far better to sacrifice a little weight and have fuller, higher bulkheads. This means that each section is a boat in it’s own right so there is no need to waterproof the join at all. Two simple keyhole slots are all that is needed at the bottom of the join and two bolts at the top. Assembly takes less than a minute.


Leica M9, 21mm f2.8 Asph. Here the keyhole slot for joining the two sections can be seen.

What we have here is a basic 7 foot nesting rowing boat which is probably fine for most people especially as it rows so well but I also wanted it to sail. Because the rear section nests in the front section, centreboards and the like are out of the question and in any case fitting something like that would add weight and the potential for leaks. It would also be demanding to do and this doesn’t fit in with the easy build ethos.


The keel is bolted to the side of the boat and can swing up if you run aground. Here the slab sides are a bonus as it gives somewhere to attach the keel lower down. The mast support is made from two thwarts, the upper one bolts to the top of the gunwales and the lower one rests between the ribs below it. Diagonals of string must be added to help spread the load from the mast. Simple, effective and light. The mast and rudder from an Optimist is used with a slightly cut down sail.

If you want an outboard then you’ll have to reinforce and thicken the transom. This adds about half a kilo to the weight of the boat. This option has also been designed to be retro fitted at any time.

I am delighted with how well the boat has turned out. It is pretty, very light, easy to assemble, stows beautifully and fairly unobtrusively on the foredeck. The rowing position is excellent and very comfy. It goes fine with up to a 3.3hp outboard and sails surprisingly well with it’s modified Optimist rig.


Panasonic Lumix. The Stasha under sail using it’s cut down Optimist rig.

To be honest, I have been surprised at how well this boat works. I had no idea if it could take the stresses from a mast and keel or an engine but it has passed all these tests with flying colours and I’m still here to talk about it. Someone said it seems to ‘Dance on the water’ and it really does. It also slips along and carries it’s way amazingly well for such a light dinghy. Any doubts I might have had about the step in the hull are long forgotten, it seems to make no difference whatsoever. This can be confirmed by watching the water through the translucent hull as it passes the step. The boat hardly leaves a mark of it’s passing as it cuts through the water.

So this proves that if you follow sound basic small boat principals and keep faith with your original wants and don’t wants, you end up with a splendid little boat that is easy and fun to build in the smallest of places. It’s cheap to make and surprisingly tough. It stows away in a minute almost anywhere, including the back of an estate car. It rows well, sails well, takes an engine, two people with shopping and it does all this while weighing the same as a Wandering Albatross chick! (about 10 kilos! Very heavy for a baby bird perhaps but extremely light for a 7 foot dinghy)


Panasonic Lumix. The Stasha nested. It can be stowed upright if needed. Note the kevlar twine reinforcements.

Visit to see more videos and to learn about their clever range of build yourself dinghies for the spatially challenged.

To learn more and see some videos of the Stasha in action, please visit


Instant Karma. Just add water!


Leica Digilux 2, The mighty Flicka ‘Caraway’ with a big fat bone in her teeth.


When my good mate Angus asked if I would help him deliver his boat to France, how could I refuse? After all, it was entirely my fault he bought his boat in the first place, so I was duty bound and in any case it would be a laugh and a damn sight better than working! The canals seem intimidating at first, well, most new adventures hold some trepidation, but like most things, once you’ve got over the initial fear you realise that there’s nothing to it. Anyone with even a small level of common sense and half a brain could cope with anything the canals could throw at you. It’s true that potentially there are plenty of dangers but most of them can be avoided with the aforementioned common sense.

Perhaps the most scary of all the hazards are the Peniches, these 100 feet long steel barges transport goods all over Europe. They may only move at a fast walking pace but they weigh tons and are hard to steer and stop. The best advice I could give to anyone contemplating the canals is to remember the adage, Might has Right. What this means in real terms is that no matter what the rules say, the barges are bigger than you, so just get out of their way. In the hundreds of miles of cruising that I did in the canals I only had a couple of close shaves with Peniches. There are some who resent the presence of cruising boats. They are doing a job and we are on holiday. However the majority of them are decent, hardworking people.

We had entered the canals at Calais and were making good steady progress southwards. We were approaching Reims (pronounced RAHNSE) in Champagne country, when we had our first pulse racing moment. We had just entered a big lock and tied up near the front. It is my experience that if possible, it pays to be stationed as far from the lock gates as possible because when the water comes in to fill the lock, there is a lot of turbulence and this makes it harder to hold the boat. Angus was down below making tea and I was on the cabin holding the ropes when a peniche entered the lock behind us. It was unladen and very high out of the water. He seemed to be coming in at quite a pace but I wasn’t worried as an empty peniche can stop very quickly. However, my inbuilt sense of self preservation meant that I kept my eye on him. It soon became apparent that he wasn’t slowing down. Angus appeared in the cockpit and gave me the ‘what the “$%^’ is happening look. It was still possible that the Peniche would stop but we were fast approaching the point of no return. A decision had to be made. Quick as a flash, I yelled ‘Start the engine! Move! NOW! Angus needed no further persuading as the bows of ‘Roger’ the peniche towered over us. I threw the lines off as Angus slammed the engine into gear at full speed. Caraway moved forwards just in time. We didn’t have far to go to the end of the lock but it was enough to avoid a nasty incident. Had we not moved we would have been run into. The Flicka is a tough little boat and I doubt we would have sunk but it would have been most unpleasant indeed.

The peniche driver, a balding, unshaven, sad looking man with his hairy gut hanging out of his stained string vest, walked forwards to see if he had scared us sufficiently. He obviously didn’t like cruising boats and took great pleasure in terrorising them. He stared down at us from his perch 15 feet above us and gave us a sneer. We ignored him. Gus was fuming, he couldn’t believe that someone could be such an arse. Having lived in France for a number of years, sadly I could.

Once the lock doors opened we wasted no time is getting out before ‘Roger’ ran us down. It was quite clear from his attitude that he would not wait for us to leave, and if we were still messing about with our ropes he would run us down, no doubt claiming that he didn’t see us.

As soon as we could, we pulled over to the side to let him past, no way we wanted him behind us. He roared past, never even glancing at us and we pulled back into the centre of the canal in his wake. He must have been doing almost 8 knots already. Good bye and good riddance we thought.

Cup of tea in hand we tried to get into the relaxed mood we had enjoyed ever since we first entered the canals, but ‘Roger’s’ attempt at killing us rankled. While I was studying the map to see where the next lock was, an idea began to take shape. The next lock was just 3 kms away, or about 20 minutes at full speed, if we ‘went for it’ there was just a chance that the lock keeper would wait for us. Every time a lock is operated, water is lost from the canal systems and because water is scarce, I knew that the ‘Eclusier’ would not operate the lock if there was another boat in sight. The French can be notoriously lazy and this also worked in our favour.

I explained my idea to Gus who thought it was worth a try and we opened up Caraway’s little engine until the valves were almost jumping out of the cylinder head. We kept our heads down to reduce drag and cut every corner in order to save a few feet. After 15 minutes of hard motoring we came around a bend and there less than one km away was the lock. We could see Roger inside and the lights that give permission to enter were still green. Would they see us in time? Unfortunately, there was a bridge spanning the canal before the lock and it blocked the lock keeper’s view of the canal where we were.

We kept going flat out anyway but felt deflated when the doors started to close and the lights went red. We slowed down, our efforts in vain. Oh well. Then as the doors had almost closed, they stopped and miraculously started to open again. Could it be that the lock keeper had seen us? Yes, the doors were definitely opening and the green light confirmed our deepest hopes. ‘You can slow right down now mate’, I said to Angus, who, with a cheeky grin backed off the revs until we were crawling along.

It took us a good ten minutes to get to the lock and the fat bloke on ‘Roger’ was red in the face and clearly upset. He was standing there by the wheel house on his barge, arms crossed and staring at us. As soon as we were close enough he started having a go. I didn’t catch all of it, his accent thick with argo, but I did understand that he was miffed with us, that he didn’t have all day to wait for an escargot! We tried to hold back our smiles and smugness. In response to his rantings, I merely suggested he talk to the eclusier about it, not us.

We felt very content. We had wound ‘fat bloke’ up badly and as soon as the lock had filled and the gates opened, he roared off and left us in cloud of black diesel smoke, no doubt his way of getting back at us. We couldn’t care less, we had ‘had’im’ and he knew it. As we chugged out in his wake, I wondered how far the next lock was. I couldn’t believe it, it was just 3 kms away. That meant we might be able to get him again. That would be too good to be true.

Laughing with mischief we opened up caraway’s willing engine again and followed the ever fading Roger. As the next lock approached you could almost sense ‘fat bloke’s’ urgency to get the lock gates closed before we arrived but it was to no avail. The lock keeper was not going to be hurried and once he saw another boat arriving, he simply waited for us. As soon as it was clear to us that we had been seen, we slowed right down again. This time when we entered the lock, ‘fat bloke’ didn’t even look at us. We had him beat and he knew it. Whether he knew how hard we had tried to wind him up is debatable. We didn’t care. It was perhaps the finest example of poetic justice ever seen. It was truly beautiful and a wonderful end to an unforgettable few days in the canals of France”.


Leica Digilux 2, Typical canal scene on the Canal Du Midi in France


Dolphins are awesome


All photos on this page: Leica Digilux 2 100 ISO

During the last 20 years of sailing I have been very fortunate to have seen a lot of dolphins, but no matter how often I see them it’s always a treat. I always go to the bows and say hello. I’ve often wondered what they make of us in our bright waterproof clothing. They are obviously intelligent, you only have to watch them for a while to see that. It reminds me of that fabulous Douglas Adams quote:

It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much — the wheel, New York, wars and so on — whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man — for precisely the same reasons.

The famous and revered French sailor Bernard Moitessier wrote about how some dolphins helped him one night when he was on course to run into an island. His book The Long Way is a fantastic read. He describes how a group of dolphins swam past and always to the right. The wind had shifted and he was off course. When he changed course one of the dolphins leapt high into the air almost as if he was saying, ‘look, we made that human understand, how cool is that?’ Even though Moitessier wrote in French the English translated version is still excellent. He was a true sailor and he not only understood but he could pass on his feelings in wonderfully descriptive stories. If you have never read Moitessier I cannot recommend him highly enough.

Dolphins have even been to my aid though sadly I cannot tell the tale as well as Bernard but I’ll do my best. We had left Sao Miguel in the Azores on route to Gibraltar on Doolittle our Dana 24. We’d spent a very happy 6 weeks in the Azores but we were both conscious of a feeling of harbour rot. Life was cheap and easy in the Azores and although we had sailed 2500 miles to get this far, we still had 1000 miles to go and were aware that we had become soft. We’d lost the rhythm of the sea.


To complicate matters, Hurricane Harvey was approaching the Azores so we wanted to get away before it arrived. There was a good chance it wouldn’t make it that far into the Atlantic but we figured putting as much distance as we could between us and it was a good idea. The window for leaving wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either. One has to cast off at some time. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you are being a wuss or whether it’s really not a good idea to go. The longer you spend in port, the harder the decision to leave becomes.

We decided to go anyway and had a cracking sail for a few hours under the lee of the land. As we approached the end of the island we could see white water ahead. I assumed it was the current, often strong around islands. As we sailed ever closer to the whiteness it became obvious that in fact it was the sea that was white. It was white because a gale was blowing.


As soon as we came out of the protection of the land we found ourselves in ten foot waves and 30 knots of wind. We reefed the sails and carried on but it seemed a bit much to be thrown into a gale so soon out of port. It’s much better to have a few days of gentle sailing before bad weather strikes. While I was dealing with the sails the clouds overhead were growing at a very fast rate. It was a cloudless day one moment, the next there was a wide cloud that went from one horizon to the other. It did not bode well.

When you spend a lot of time at sea, you begin to be able to read the clouds. If not consciously, then at least subconsciously and they can tell you a lot. What we were seeing was new to me. It was quite possible that it was just a local phenomena or it might just look bad and mean nothing. The question of whether to carry on was broached.


If we were going to turn around, now was the time to do it. Neither of us wanted to be spending our first night at sea in those conditions, not after 6 soft weeks ashore yet we knew what to expect. The boat could easily take the weather. So could we. It wouldn’t be the first time, but we still had ten days and nights ahead of us. As we were wondering what to do a small group of about five dolphins appeared.

Usually dolphins ride the bow wave when they come to visit, they drop away and you can see them dive deep only to come up behind the boat once more. They behave in many different ways but these dolphins were swimming across the bows, back and forth. Well, that decided it for us. It was a clear sign. If we had any doubt it was all gone now. We turned the boat around and pointed in the direction of the port.


The dolphins turned with us and swam with us a little way now acting normally. Then they disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. I’ve often thought about this. I am in no doubt that the dolphins were trying to tell us something. If crossing the bows was normal behaviour, why hadn’t I seen it before? Besides, why didn’t they do it after we had turned around? I wonder what would have happened if we had carried on. I guess that’s something that I will never know.

It’s entirely possible that they were winding us up however. ‘ Look Dave, a small yacht that’s been in port a long time, bet they’re shitting bricks, lets go and have a laugh. You swim from left to right and I’ll swim from right to left’. I wouldn’t put it past them. We met a guy in the Azores who had often swum with dolphins and he assured me it was quite safe to get in the water with them. He said that sometimes they come straight at you at 20 knots and then at the very last moment, deftly swerve around you making high pitched squeaks that can only be interpreted as laughter.

Dolphins are awesome.


Sailing ships are the future


Leica M9 Summarit f2.5 50mm f11 @ 250 160 ISO. Cambria and Lady Trix at Les Voiles des St Tropez classic yacht regatta, October 2009


The unbelievable and quite shocking pollution statistics associated with shipping and the need for a more environmentally sympathetic approach. And even a proposed solution.

I had a dream. I dreamed that we could live sustainably on this planet, I dreamed that our impact on it was so reduced that we no longer heard daily stories in the press about the loss of yet more habitat and another species gone forever. I even had part of the answer. However when I told people about this dream I was met with negativity and cynicism. I too could have been brought to this pitiful and rather sad level but I wanted to do something about some of the problems we as a race have created for ourselves. So I refused to listen to the doom mongers and instead have compiled this rather shocking list of facts in the hope that people will realise the full implications of taking no action. We know the problems, we have the solutions, all we need is the WILL. Or do you want to go down in history as the most vilified and stupid generation that ever lived?

I found the following in various places. This from Wikipedia:

Ship pollution is the pollution of air and water by shipping. It is a problem that has been accelerating as trade has become increasingly globalized, posing an increasing threat to the world’s oceans and waterways as globalization continues. It is expected that, …shipping traffic to and from the USA is projected to double by 2020. Because of increased traffic in ocean ports, pollution from ships also directly affects coastal areas. The pollution produced affects biodiversity, climate, food, and human health.

Exhaust emissions from ships are considered to be a significant source of air pollution. “Seagoing vessels are responsible for an estimated 14 percent of emissions of nitrogen from fossil fuels and 16 percent of the emissions of sulfur from petroleum uses into the atmosphere.”[27] In Europe ships make up a large percentage of the sulfur introduced to the air, “…as much sulfur as all the cars, lorries and factories in Europe put together.”[32] “By 2010, up to 40% of air pollution over land could come from ships.”[32] Sulfur in the air creates acid rain which damages crops and buildings. When inhaled sulfur is known to cause respiratory problems and increase the risk of a heart attack.[32]

The Kyoto Protocol, which does not require countries to measure or curb emissions from shipping. But that may change in 2009, giving a boost to the prospects of harnessing wind power beyond the value in saved fuel.

Everyone is talking about making engines more efficient or propellers or adding kites to reduce fuel consumption but what everyone fails to realise is that the wind is free and as recently as 100 years ago the sailing cargo ship had already evolved and was capable of making journeys of thousands of miles without producing so much as one gram of carbon. With the benefit of today’s technology, modern sailing ships could easily manage to deliver a huge proportion of the World’s goods with no pollution at all.

This is not new. Why not benefit from that hard earned experience? Isn’t about time we did something so obvious? What will future generations think of us, when we had the answers but failed to do anything about it? Why is it so hard to build and man a steel sailing ship? A well maintained sailing ship would far outlive any cargo ship with an engine. So in the long run any extra costs will be absorbed. A new cargo ship might cost $20 million, surely a sailing ship could be built for a similar sum, perhaps less as it needs no costly engine. Maintenance costs are massively reduced. Hello? This is a no brainer. Why am I the only person who sees an opportunity to do something so obvious and logical?

We put a man on the moon, are you telling me that building a sailing ship to deliver goods around the World is too hard? What bollocks. I can well understand why sailing ships died out because of engined ships but that was then, this is now. We NEED sailing ships now. There are winds out there in the oceans that blow steadily and with enough power to move ships at similar speeds to engined cargo ships, not with a 10 or 20 percent reduction but a 100 percent reduction. With the technology available today a sailing ship’s efficiency could be improved so much, modern weather forecasting would allow ships to keep in the best winds increasing efficiency still further.

A ship moves 3 metres on one litre of fuel. That’s ridiculous. A ship uses hundreds of tons of fuel daily. Yearly a ship will need to spend millions just to move. A sailing ship can girdle the globe with zero emissions. The fuel savings alone should be enough of a motivation to start using sailing ships again.

All around the planet there are good and predictable winds that blow all year round. There will still be a need for engined ships but for many routes a sailing ship is a very viable alternative. I’m not making this up. 100 years ago, ships could carry cargoes as big as 8000 tons and deliver them from one end of the globe to the other at average speeds not far from the engined ships. With a little help from technology, this efficiency can only increase. All this with ZERO pollution.

In 1968 Sir Robin Knox Johnston took 300 days to sail around the world non stop. These days the time is less than 60 days! So how much could a sailing cargo ship be improved?

From Lloyds List Nov 08

High fuel prices call for new ship designs

Janet Porter – Wednesday 19 November 2008

NAVAL architects need to return to the drawing board and produce fundamental ship design changes in keeping with far higher fuel costs. 
That is the recommendation of Germanischer Lloyd, which said much can be done to improve operating efficiency. Even those ships already on order, but not yet under construction, should be reconfigured if shipowners assume that oil prices will remain expensive in the foreseeable future.

Again, we are missing the point. We need a whole new look at the way we do things. Of course we should always strive to reduce consumption wherever possible but we must not ignore the obvious either. And the following is from the World Shipping Council:


May 2, 2008

Shipping lines worldwide are struggling as crude oil prices topped an unprecedented US$119 per barrel this week, in turn pushing marine bunker fuel prices up past $552 per ton – a $26 per ton increase since the end of March alone. Bunker prices have risen 87% since the beginning of 2007.

Fuel costs represent as much as 50-60% of total ship operating costs, depending on the type of ship and service.

Ocean carriers are required to recover these costs to maintain levels of service, meaning the price of shipping goods will continue to face upward pressures.

To illustrate the effect of the rising fuel costs, consider the following example of a large modern container vessel used in the Trans-Pacific trade with an actual, maximum container capacity of 7,750 TEUs (twenty foot equivalents) or 3,875 FEUs (forty foot equivalents). With the cost of bunker fuel at $552 per ton, with fuel consumption at 217 tons per day, a single 28-day round trip voyage for this one vessel would produce a fuel bill of $3,353,952. This number could be greater for a number of reasons, such as if the voyage were more than 14 days, or if the vessel were smaller and less fuel efficient per container, or if schedule delays required the vessel to speed up to stay on schedule.

Recovery of fuel cost from cargo customers is a challenge when one considers that vessel capacity utilization is not 100%, that trades are not evenly balanced (e.g., U.S. Trans-Pacific exports may utilize only half of a vessel’s capacity), that different trades and commodities can handle different levels of rates, and that fuel prices continue to rise. If a cargo shipper pays less than its share of the fuel cost, it can only mean that other shippers must pay more, and/or the carrier fails to recover its operating cost, which is not a sustainable business scenario.

Fuel cost recovery cannot be done on a per-vessel/per-sailing basis. A carrier has strings of vessels operating in scheduled service and must recover its total costs. Thus, the above example scenario, if extended to a single weekly Trans-Pacific service using five vessels, would create an annual fuel bill to the carrier of $220 million. Approximately 1,500 ocean-going liner vessels, mostly containerships, make more than 26,000 U.S. port calls each year, providing American importers and exporters with efficient transportation services to and from roughly 175 countries.

Today, U.S. commerce is served by more than 125 weekly container services. The annual fuel cost for the services is tens of billions of dollars and continues to rise substantially. How carriers seek to obtain recovery of these rapidly rising fuel costs in the current market is a matter for commercial negotiations, but the significance and the magnitude and the consequences of the challenge continue to grow.

Operational Changes

Carriers have been responding to the high cost of fuel by utilizing a range of operational adjustments. Beginning in early 2007, most container lines began restructuring their operations to address fuel price trends. They have:

• redeployed ships among global trade lanes to optimize utilization

• consolidated services through multi-carrier alliances

• consolidated routes to serve more locations with fewer ships

• slowed sailing speeds to conserve fuel where possible within schedule

• improved monitoring of hull and propeller conditions to reduce resistance and improve efficiency

• adopted container transloading, street turns and other strategies to cut inland fuel costs

Considering that these steps have generally already been taken by shipping lines, there are limited additional operational measures that vessels can take to further reduce fuel consumption.

YES THERE ARE!!!! BUILD SAILING CARGO SHIPS!!!!! Why is no one thinking along these lines? It’s almost unbelievable. Yet it was the sailing ships that started trading goods around the World in the first place. We have done it before, we can do it again. With modern technology we can really do something extraordinary. Read on, it seems that Environmental initiatives are adding further costs. Is now not the time to think again? It’s all been done before. There is no risk. This is a win win win situation.

Environmental Measures to Add to Cost Increases

Environmental initiatives to address vessel air emissions will add to these growing costs. The World Shipping Council has fully supported the efforts of the U.S. and other governments to establish new environmental standards for vessel air emissions, and supports the new standards that the International Maritime Organization has recently agreed to for new engine standards and new fuel standards. However, the cost of low sulfur fuels to be used in Emission Control Areas will be roughly double the cost of bunker fuel, thus creating even more upward operating cost pressures going forward.

While the liner shipping industry fully understand its responsibility to implement and adhere to these new environmental standards, it is essential that the environmental community and regulators also understand that fuel prices are already causing ships to minimize fuel consumption and minimize emissions. Ships cannot afford to waste fuel and do not emit more CO2 than is necessary for the conduct of commerce. Further taxes or charges on fuel consumption will not cause fewer green house gas emissions; it would only raise costs, and further add to inflation. And encourage the building of sailing ships instead

It is also important to recognize that ocean shipping is the most energy efficient form on freight transportation. For example, recent estimates show that moving goods by ocean container can be 17 times more fuel efficient than transporting the same goods by air and 10 times more efficient than transporting the goods by road. Environmentally, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by shipping goods by sea.


Every sector of the economy is being affected by rising fuel costs.

The transportation industry is being particularly hard hit.

While ocean carriers may provide the most fuel efficient form of transportation, they face an unavoidable imperative of recovering these rising costs if current service levels are to be maintained.

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So as you can see, no one has even thought to suggest going back to the old ways. Were they so bad? It was mainly economics that caused the demise of sailing ships of old, but now with environmental pressures ever increasing I feel there is a place for sailing ships to deliver cargo.

Yes, I know there will be objections and resistance, but do we want to do something about our chronic abuse of our home, or do we not give a shit? We as a race can do the most incredible things. Humans are amazing. Lets show just how great we can be. It just takes the will. Do we have the will? I sincerely hope so.

Humans changed their destiny when they began to adapt their environment to suit them. Ultimately it will be our downfall. All other species on this planet adapt to their environment and have survived for hundreds of millions of years like that. A sailing ship is perfectly adapted to the environment and in harmony with nature. It’s a no brainer.

The wind is FREE.