Archive for March, 2011

Passage Planning Preparation Prevents Problems – Tip of the Week #5

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Subscriber, Sean Hants emailed us recently about his first offshore voyage. His story contains some sound advice.

I contacted you some time ago regarding travel in Bass Strait. Well, we did our trip over finally even though we’ve been a couple of times with another yachtie.

Bass Strait, feast or famine it seems. It is a daunting prospect first time out on your own considering the fear mongers who say… don’t do it, your boat’s too small, the swells are too big, the storms etc., etc.

We had a great trip in our Swanson 28 and it did nothing but inspire us both to plan to do more and go further.

Preparation is the important part, we think, even though our boat is small and our electronics fairly basic, weather check/forecasts prior and a basic passage plan with a few contingencies helped make it relatively safe and a real adventure.

One gizmo I did get which was helpful was an AIS receiver which links to our little GME chartplotter and gives a heads up about approaching ships. I thought this was quite valuable during our night crossing over to Grassy as it removes some of the stress of watching out for those big buggers that always seem to pop up and be on you in no time.

Our unit gave a 10 nm range which allowed us about 30-45 minutes to plot their range and bearing accurately and avoid if necessary, or get in contact. Most ships seemed to be travelling in the 10-15 knot speed range.

As for the seas and the weather, we found the BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) predictions very accurate and that helped us plan our timing of departures and arrivals.

King Island lived up to its reputation, lots of tidal flow, particularly down near Bold Head just before Grassy, sea mists, lightning at night, beautiful sunrises, strong winds and rather largish swells.

We came back via Apollo Bay which was an interesting entry, with the swell running in past the small breakwater entrance. It’s a wonderful protected little harbour and we found a spot on the floating wharf with some friendly Cape Barron geese. I reckon it could be a risky entry there on a big south swell.

The run back down to Port Phillip was quite idyllic, a light south breeze, two metre swell and dolphins, dolphins and more dolphins and a beautiful coastal landscape. Couldn’t believe how many there were that came and ran with us for up to half an hour.

Got back down near Point Lonsdale and tanker, cargo ship central. We ran about three to four miles offshore (keep a lookout for cray pots) for much of our return leg and that seemed to keep us about one to two miles inside of the exiting and arriving freighters. The AIS unit gave us good forewarning well before we saw any of these ships.

Our next foray we think we might go left and down the Prom and over to Flinders. We’ve gone to Hastings before and Westernport is a lovely bay, moor off Cowes etc. The feeling of getting away from the land and out in the swell is a touch addictive but also makes me a bit apprehensive as well as excited.

Key points:

  1. He and his wife had gone as crew on another yacht before making the voyage. This gave him some local knowledge of the area and experience of the conditions to expect, before he had to face them on his own.
  2. He knew that his boat, a Swanson 28, was a good seaworthy boat.
  3. He did the pre-trip planning, including for contingencies. I like to think of it as being prepared for where you want to go and where you may end up.
  4. He installed an AIS receiver which gave him a 10 nm range, i.e. an alarm sounded when any vessel carrying an AIS came within 10 nm of his yacht.
  5. He was aware of and allowed for the big tidal range in the Bass Strait islands.
  6. Like a performer, he is excited but nervous about his next voyage. Complacency can lead to disaster.

We wish Sean and his wife Maggie many years of safe and happy voyaging.


1. Cruising doesn’t have to be slow

From time to time I’ve mentioned Mike Clements, with whom I sailed on Rager I. He used to own a timber business and over the years he set aside the best wood to build his dream boat that became Rager II.

Mike sold the boat to Gary Shanks in Adelaide. Some readers may remember that she sank on the return from the Port Lincoln race. Refloated a week later, she was rebuilt and continued as a racing yacht.

Subscriber, Mike O’Reilly of Adelaide, competed in the 2008 Sydney-Hobart aboard Rager II, and emailed us about her sale to a cruising couple and transformation “from a wave piercing surfboard to international cruiser”, with a new name, Courageous.

The new owners chose not to depower their yacht. As a result Courageous made the passage from Noumea to Southport (787 nm) in 3.5 days. And they were short-handed.

Note: We used Distance Calculator to work out the distance of the voyage.

2. Video corner – Chris Stanmore Major (CSM)

Ann remembers reading in Erroll Bruce’s Deep Sea Sailing that sometimes the most difficult thing you will have to do on your watch is get into your wet weather gear before going on deck.

CSM has put together a good video about the difficulties of life at sea or, as he puts it, Life at 45 degrees.

3. Earth Hour – Saturday 26 March 2011

At 8.30 pm this Saturday we will turn our lights out for Earth Hour. It will be our fifth year, i.e. since Earth Hour’s beginning here in Sydney in 2007.

When we sit down to our candlelight dinner and a bottle of good red wine we won’t miss the television at all. The evening will remind us of the years before electricity and all the labour-saving devices that clutter our lives.

It’s good to see interest growing – 131 countries and territories have signed up this year. That’s three more than 2010.

Will you join us? Sign up at Earth Hour.

In their own words:  ERIC HISCOCK & SUSAN HISCOCK

“I realise now that I have married the perfect crew.”
Eric Hiscock

“Crews fall out; we don’t.”
Susan Hiscock

Eric Hiscock (1908-1986) met his future wife Susan Sclater (1913-1995) while sailing on the Solent in the 1930s. They married in 1941 and became a sailing partnership that lasted until Eric’s death aboard Wanderer V in New Zealand waters.

Eric joined the Royal Navy in 1939 and served for two years before being invalided out due to being ‘half blind’. That did not stop him from sailing the world in a series of yachts named Wanderer.

In 1955 he was awarded the Cruising Yacht Club of America’s 1955 Blue Water Medal with the citation:

“Circumnavigation by Canal and Cape of Good Hope by owner and wife, July 24, 1952-July 13, 1955 in 30-foot Giles-designed cutter.”

Eric wrote a series of books about his and Susan’s cruising experiences, starting with Around the World in Wanderer III.

Both he and Susan were awarded the MBE for “services to yachting” in 1985.

A while after Eric’s death, Susan returned to the Isle of Wight and bought herself a West Wight scow, the same design as the first yacht she’d owned at 17. And at 79 she won her first race!

Susan’s obituary describes more of their lives.

© 2011 Bevanda Pty Ltd

First Aid Kit for Sailors – Tip of the Week #4

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

Having regulations is not always a bad thing. To gain a sailing qualification, you’re required to hold a current Senior First Aid certificate. If you’re racing skipper, you must equip your yacht with a first aid kit. Each racing category, 0-7, has its own detailed list of contents.

If you’re a weekend cruiser, you are not governed by these rules. But you should be aware that accidents are just as likely to happen on your boat as on a racing one.

We’ve always carried a ‘ready box’ of bandaids, sunscreen, etc. in addition to the official first aid kit. This means that we only have to access the ‘official kit’ occasionally. So keeping it fully stocked is less of a problem.

Keeping a first aid kit up to date, however, can be expensive. But it’s important to be able to administer the correct treatment when it’s required.

Keep safe!


1. Correction – Chris Lewin owns another Challenge

The yacht that Jessica Watson will skipper in this year’s Sydney-Hobart  Yacht Race is owned by Chris Lewin.

Chris has achieved good results with the boat in the Sydney 38 division,  coming third in 2004 and second in 2010. Let’s hope Jessica can go one better!

The crew have already started training together. You can read more about them.

Thanks to Mike O’Reilly for pointing out our error.

2. Beautiful yachts

It seems that J Class yachts are making a comeback! The J Class Association was formed in 2000 to modernise the design rules.

Sail magazine reports that there’s a J Class regatta planned for Cowes in the lead up to the Olympics next year. Won’t that be a great sight?

3. Respect for the sea

The devastation caused by the tsunami in Japan has shocked the world. Its effects will be felt for years to come. It serves as a reminder that we must all respect the sea.

National Geographic has before and after photos of tsunami-affected Japan. If you have a scroll-button on your mouse you can zoom in and out to see more detail.

And a BBC video link of when the tsunami hit, showing substantial fishing boats being pulled from their moorings and demolished under a bridge upstream.

In their own words: HAL ROTH

Long ocean passages usually don’t require engines;
it’s the ports and headlands at each end that may
demand some expert sailing.

And isn’t that the truth? How often do we hear of single-handers relaxing, catching up on sleep because they’re close to the end of the voyage and/or back in familiar surroundings? But it shouldn’t surprise us – research shows that most car accidents occur close to home.

In the early 1960s, Hal Roth (1927-2008) and his wife Margaret cruised the Pacific aboard their yacht, Whisper, a 35 ft sloop. Prior to setting sail, Hal had worked as a journalist, good training for authorship.

McGraw-Hill republished the story of that voyage, his first sailing book, Two on the Big Ocean in The Hal Roth Seafaring Trilogy. This compendium was released in 2005 and includes Two Against Cape Horn and The Longest Race. These books have inspired a generation of cruisers.

Not just a cruiser, Hal competed in Class 2 (40-50 ft) of the 1986 BOC Challenge (now the Velux 5 Oceans, i.e. single-handed) and finished fourth in a field of 14 in 171 days.

Hal’s final book, Handling Storms at Sea: The 5 Secrets of Heavy Weather Sailing was published just after his death.

Read more about Hal Roth, a remarkable man.

Anchoring in Strong Winds – Tip of the Week #3

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Sometimes our tips are about situations we hope you will be able to avoid. This week’s is one of them.

The very best anchorage, of course, is a swing mooring but it’s pretty difficult to take a swing mooring with you. So, it’s worth knowing how to set two anchors in case you are unlucky enough to be caught away from home, needing to anchor.
There are two options.

Firstly, if you know the prevailing wind in the area where you are going to anchor then you need to allow for what is the most usual change in that wind – in Bass Strait commonly a change from north (of some direction) to south (of some direction). This means that you would want to put out the port anchor first.

If the starboard anchor goes out first and the boat therefore swings to port on a wind change you might have got your first overlap.

If the tide then took you further in the same direction you would definitely have an overlap.

Of course, if the wind swung back to the north that overlap would unwrap but such a wind change would be unlikely. 

Generally speaking this will reverse if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere.

The second option is to have two anchors in line, but not on separate cables. In other words, attach a second anchor to the bower with a short length of chain between the two and then drop them in one line.

Remember that the whole purpose of an extra anchor is to prevent the main anchor from dragging. Either of these systems will achieve it.
When considering setting two anchors you must know what changes in weather and tidal conditions are predicted. If your greatest fear is the wind strength then you certainly want two anchors.
Have any further thoughts or questions on this? Please leave a comment, below.


 1. Jessica’s latest challenge

What a shame that Jessica Watson didn’t take advantage of International Women’s Day to announce her latest challenge.

At the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia this afternoon Jessica said that she will skipper a team of Australian and British sailors aged 18-21 in this year’s Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race. They will be sailing on Another Challenge, a highly competitive Sydney 38 owned by Chris Lewin.

2. Another warning to share

If you’re heading offshore, you’ll need to buy an EPIRB. And spend the extra to get one that’s GPS-enabled. But it’s not as simple as purchasing one and installing it.

First you need to register it and then you’ve got to know how to operate it.

Reading the instructions before you set out will ensure you know what to do should the need arise.

3. Video corner

While Brad Van Liew won stage 3 of the Velux 5 Oceans, the race for second place in the so-called sprint was decided by a mere 40 seconds after 6,000 miles.

There’s a video of that finish, including summings up by both Gutek and Chris Stanmore Major (CSM).

In it, CSM recognised that he should have spent moretime navigating and less on deck making the boat go fast. Makes sense, really. There’s no point going fast if you’re not going fast in the right direction!

Brad Van Liew’s video, courtesy of the American Sailing Association, of rounding Cape Horn is worth a look, too.

While on the subject of rounding the Horn, check out the excerpt from Robin Knox-Johnston’s BBC documentary, A Tour of Cape Horn. His crew were polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and BBC World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, who is currently reporting from Libya.


Waves are not measured in feet or inches,
they are measured in increments of fear.

Buzzy Trent (13 May 1929 – 26 September 2006) was a pioneer of big wave surfing. After body surfing as a child he climbed on a surfboard at 12. Moving from mainland USA to Hawaii in the 1950s, he enjoyed surfing all year round.

That’s all for now, but please feel free to leave a comment.

© 2011 Bevanda Pty Ltd

Surviving Falling Overboard – Tip of the Week #2

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Do you have a way of getting back onto your boat if you were to fall off it? If not, you may want to remedy this when you read what happened to a 57 year old man in Alaska.

The Petersburg Pilot described how a man got himself rescued recently. But he is very lucky to be alive.

The man had had three beers earlier in the day. This, he believed, slowed his reactions because he would otherwise have grabbed at the boat or its rigging as he fell.

He fell in head first, rather like diving. Needless to say, Alaskan waters in February are cold. The immersion would have taken his breath away.

[Ann once sat in a sauna and then dived into a lake in Finland in May and experienced this.]

The beers plus the depth and darkness of the water plus the effect of the cold made it difficult for him to know which way to swim to get to the surface. His brain kicked in and he blew out some air and watched the bubbles.

He would have been surprised and shocked to find that he was 30 ft from where he fell off his boat. His underwater panic and confusion after his fall sent him a long way.

His first attempt to pull himself out of the water failed. The hose he grabbed wasn’t attached to a tap. It was a good idea that didn’t work.

Recognising he was losing energy and body temperature he got himself back to his boat and tried to climb out with the help of the mooring lines. That pulled the boat to the dock and almost crushed him.

He had removed his boat’s swimming step and taken it home to refurbish it so his normal method of getting back onto his boat was not there.

He then hooked one arm around a cleat so that he wouldn’t fall back underwater and yelled for help. It took a while for people to find source of the voice because he was below the level of the jetty.

He was pulled from the water and attended by emergency workers who had been at a training session nearby. After a few hours in hospital, his body temperature was restored and was allowed to leave.

He then returned to the marina and climbed aboard his boat where he was staying overnight. On arrival, the first thing he did was rig a rope step.

Next day he recommended that everyone should have a method of getting out of the water. Swimming ashore is not always an option.

Be warned!


1. Ownership of error

“A navigational error caused them to run aground.”

How often have you read this statement, or variations on it? It’s as though the vessel has deliberately run itself aground.

Could it possibly be that human error is the real reason?

2. How loggerhead turtles navigate

Most of us have marvelled at the migration of birds, whales and other sea life.

Nature programs show us mother turtles coming ashore, laying eggs and then leaving. The hatchlings then emerge and scamper down to the water, only to return years later to lay their own eggs in the same spot.

Now researchers have worked out how loggerhead turtles navigate. As Science Daily put it:

The loggerheads’ secret is that they rely not on a single feature of the magnetic field, but on a combination of two: the angle at which the magnetic field lines intersect Earth (a parameter known as inclination) and the strength of the magnetic field.
Continue reading the loggerhead turtle story…

If mankind had this innate ability we wouldn’t have to rely on either traditional or GPS navigation!


A ship is always referred to as ‘she’ because
it costs so much to keep her in paint and powder.

Chester William Nimitz, (24 February 1885 – 20 February 1966) was a five-star admiral in the United States Navy.

He was appointed Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet in December 1941, just days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. 

Nimitz spent the rest of the war in the Pacific and signed for the United States when Japan formally surrendered on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

As well as numerous military US awards, Nimitz received the Légion d’honneur and recognition from 11 other countries.

Although he retired from the position of Chief of Naval Operations in 1947, his earlier appointment as Fleet Admiral meant that he remained on ‘active service’, with full pay and benefits for the rest of his life. His naval career, thus, lasted 65 years.

That’s all for now, but please feel free to leave a comment.

© 2011 Bevanda Pty Ltd

Dangerous diesel – Tip of the Week #1

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The UK has been confronted with an EU directive to lower the sulphur content of its diesel from 1,000 parts per million to only 10 parts per million. Additives are being mixed in to restore the lubricating effect of the sulphur.

So what is the UK Cruising Association concerned about? A bio-fuel called Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME), when added to diesel, can have a destructive effect on marine engines and dramatically shorten the storage life of the fuel.

Although the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (UK) says that FAME will not be added to diesel to be supplied to marinas, the Cruising Association recommends that everyone ask their diesel supplier:

  • What is the age of the fuel and its sulphur content?
  • Does the diesel contain FAME?

In the USA there’s been a long campaign against increasing the ethanol content of petrol from 10 to 15 per cent. So boat owners need to be careful where they source their fuel.

Here in Australia service station pumps clearly state that using petrol with 10 per cent ethanol is harmful to outboard motors. Its use can cause performance problems and permanent damage to the motor, fuel tank and fuel lines.

So, be warned!


1. Inspiration for Moby Dick

US marine archaeologists have discovered the wreck of the Two Brothers, a whaling ship captained by George Pollard. His previous ship, The Essex, had been the inspiration for Herman Melville’s novel – it was rammed by a sperm whale and sank.

The Two Brothers was found off Hawaii, where it had hit a coral reef in 1823.

“To find the physical remains of something that seems to have been lost to time is pretty amazing,” said Nathaniel Philbrick.

He has researched both ships and their captain, a native of his home, Nantucket, and written a book, In the Heart of the Sea: The tragedy of the whaling ship Essex. Nathaniel’s other books include Mayflower and Sea of Glory.

2. Pinchgut looked small

When the two queens – Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth – came into Sydney harbour the other day they made Pinchgut/Fort Denison look tiny.

QM2 was due to visit Lyttleton, NZ – at the epicentre of this week’s earthquakes – when she left Sydney. She has been re-routed to Wellington, due on Saturday.

3. Wooden boat heaven

In this month’s Afloat Bruce Stannard reports on Hobart’s Wooden Boat Festival. If you like wooden boats, it’s worth a read, Wooden Boat Heaven.

By the way, if you live outside Afloat’s circulation area, this ‘Priceless’ magazine is available by free subscription. Each month you’ll receive an email with links to the feature stories and all sections of the magazine.


I had to slow the boat down she was going so fast. It sounds funny that I would be trying to slow the boat down in a yacht race but it’s all about getting that balance between speed and safety.

Going too quickly can get very dangerous very quickly and we are not in a place where you can afford for anything to go wrong.

So said Canadian Velux 5 Oceans competitor, Derek Hatfield, after he had been woken by the humming of the keel of his yacht, Active House. Pulling on his wet weather gear and hurrying on deck, Derek found his yacht was screaming along at 21 knots in a 35 knot wind.

Derek was near Point Nemo in the Southern Ocean. It’s the place on Earth most remote from land.

The ‘we’ he was referring to is himself and his yacht – which is common among solo sailors.

That’s all for now, but please feel free to leave a comment.

© 2011 Bevanda Pty Ltd