Trans-Atlantic Single-Handed Sanity Check

QandA

Question [Edited for brevity]: I’d like to move my boat, a 50’ Hinckley Yawl, from Mt Desert, Maine to Mallorca, Spain and “do” the Med for 12-18 months. I’ve been thinking about single-handing her across; from Maine direct to Gibraltar.

The boat is in good condition but 33 years old, I am in good condition but more than twice the age of my boat.

I’ve never done a transatlantic but have passaged from Maine to Bermuda and St. Thomas as crew on other people’s boats a couple of times and I have single-handed my boat up and down the coast of Maine.

I’d appreciate your opinions regarding the above and would welcome any suggestions that you may have.

Answer: Well, I can’t tell you whether you and your boat are ready for this voyage, only you can know that. But what may help you decide is if I tell you what I would do in the same circumstances.

First off, two issues jump out at me:

  • You have never skippered a boat on a multi-day offshore passage, single handed or fully crewed.
  • You have never taken your boat that you plan to do this in offshore.

While plenty of people have successfully single-handed across the ocean in the same situation, I favour more of a stepping stones approach. (You can read more about my apprenticeship here.) So what I would do is start off by sailing the boat to Bermuda with at least two crew (total three). Then, if I was still feeling confident, I would carry on from there single-handed.

The bottom line is that no amount of coastal cruising will find the chinks in a boat’s armour like a crossing to Bermuda will, and the same goes for the skipper. With this plan, if those chinks appear, you will have help to deal with them and the trip itself won’t be that long. Also, in all likelihood, the leg to Bermuda will be the toughest so you will have help for that.

What do you, our readers, think? Am I being too timid here? Please leave a comment?

{ 55 comments… add one }

  • David Nutt November 14, 2011, 9:27 am

    You should be asking yourself if you and the boat are qualified. If you have to ask you probably are not qualified. It is incredibly hard to keep a constant and real watch, even with the aid of all the modern electronics, when single handing. Even the legality of single handing can be debated. It is all fun and games until something hits the fan. It is a free world after you cast off the dock lines and if you want you should go for it. If we cross paths Danza will see you as we will have at least one pair of human eyes on watch, watching for anything and everything that can be out there including those who can’t be on watch.

    Reply
    • Pat Kelly November 14, 2011, 2:31 pm

      Hi David.
      Thanks – I did ask myself and concluded that I was qualified (neurosurgeons do not lack self confidence; and we’re used to irregular sleep patterns). Actually my post to John related more to routing than qualifications. John, rightly, edited it to focus on the latter ( the issue that could get me killed) and made well considered recommendations. Yes, single handed watch-keeping (even with AIS -which I have) is an issue. Legal? With due respects to Slocum, Pidgeon, Roth, Gelinas, McArthur and hundreds of others – It isn’t! (See Coll Regs ’72; PartB; rule 5). But I’m grateful that a cybernetic collision with DANZA is one less thing to worry about. Cheers!

      Reply
  • Tom Hildebrandt November 14, 2011, 9:37 am

    If you are in good health, your age is not an issue, the same is true for your boat, if she is in good health, no problem.

    But I like the tiered approach suggested,however, I would not recommend a long single handed trnsit until you had several shorter solo trips under the keel. So I think I would prefer to see this first Atlantic crossing done with a crew member.

    Reply
    • Pat Kelly November 14, 2011, 3:17 pm

      Hi Tom
      Thanks for your comment. You (and John) are probably right. That’s the real value of this website: the less experienced can profit from the experience of those with much more experience. Beats the heck out of learning the “hard way”!

      Reply
    • Scott Kuhner January 23, 2013, 5:21 pm

      To qualify for the single-handed Newport to Bermuda Race you first have to do a single handed test and go at least 50 miles off shore, 100 miles in all.

      Reply
  • Myles Powers November 14, 2011, 10:34 am

    To which I would add, an innate ability and nature to solve the small problems before they become large.

    Reply
  • richard November 14, 2011, 12:44 pm

    if you feel comfortable with this passage knowing the potential for trouble and discomfort then i think you are ok doing it at the optimum time of the year (mid-spring i would think), otherwise the suggested tier approach seems more appropriate to me either in the spring or mid-to-late fall…would you consider making the run to bermuda on into next fall and completing the passage to malorca the following spring after you decide this is still what you want to do ? if you arrived bermuda say next thanksgiving then you could resume the passage perhaps as early as late march although late april sounds better (’13)…richard in tampa bay…m/v cavu’s skipper (formerly s/v sidra’s skipper)

    Reply
    • Pat Kelly November 14, 2011, 3:05 pm

      Thanks, Richard.
      This is a great suggestion. What you surmised (leave mid to late May) for a direct trip to Mallorca was what I’d considered. That way I’d avoid the “Hurricane season” and use the Gulf Stream, Canary Current and prevailing winds to advantage. I’m sure that you know what you’re talking about. But I recall a trip to Bermuda in late fall (leaving Dodson’s @ Stonington 1 November) and hitting a full gale on the nose with a 25′ head sea running the 180 HP Cummins at 1900RPM, making less that 3 knots and getting the c**p beaten out of us (though we made it in 5 days).

      Reply
  • Billy Higgins November 14, 2011, 2:26 pm

    I agree with the earlier statements on taking the tiered approach to evaluating this trp. But if you have the confidence to do this trip without an EPIRB, then I suggest you do it. I also suggest you leave the EPIRB at home in order to concentrate your mind from the beginning that you will be 100% responsible to yourself alone for the success of this voyage.
    Additionally, I would not plan on landfall in Gibraltar; instead find a Spanish port further west and rest up first. The traffic in the Straits is intense and you will really need to be fresh to make it through safely. This from personal experience.

    Reply
    • Pat Kelly November 14, 2011, 3:45 pm

      Hi Billy
      I guess that someone who would do such a trip in the first place, would leave the EPIRB at home (or not register it – remember Mike Plant?) I agree with you: it’s not right that people who do stupid things are entitled to put others at risk bailing them out when things don’t go well. Thanks for the excellent tip about making landfall (and clearing C&I) at a Spanish Port of entry before Gibraltar, say Cadiz (BTW, I am a dual citizen: US and EU – don’t know if that helps). But a good rest and being able to pick a good weather window before pressing on through the Straits would be a great idea.

      Reply
  • John November 14, 2011, 6:20 pm

    Wow, great comments and suggestions from everyone, thank you. Not a lot for me to add.

    Also, kudos to Pat for being so open to suggestions about his dream.

    The single-handed issue is a hard one. Having done a bit of it some years ago I don’t judge either way. Although I would say that the statistical chances of a single-hander hurting someone else in a collision are, once offshore, in my opinion, vanishingly small. So, I think it comes down to a personal risk management choice: Are you willing to take the risk of being run down by a ship while you sleep? And these days an AIS with a klaxon alarm below will reduce that chance a huge amount.

    Reply
  • Dick Stevenson November 14, 2011, 6:55 pm

    Dear Pat,
    I consider all elements of seamanship as being one of the areas remaining where man really benefits from paying his dues. We can all point to those who have survived being tossed in the pool as infants (Tania Abey being most prominent in my memory): for obvious reasons, we are much less clear how many have attempted to take big leaps and failed. I, for one, have taken the stepwise approach and have been amazed and humbled by how much I have learned at each of my small steps. Most comments above I fully agree with and they address well the very pragmatic elements of your challenge. In addition, (and maybe initially) I would want you to address (and not necessarily in the forum) your motivation to take such a dramatic leap. It is certainly much more than just wishing to get your vessel to the Med.
    With best wishes, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy, London
    Ps. As EU citizen you (wife or partner may) will not have Schengen Treaty worries (staying in Schengen Treaty countries greater than 3 months) but your US flagged boat will be subject to VAT fees after 18 months in the EU. I have just spent 4 years in the Med.

    Reply
    • Alan July 27, 2013, 11:20 am

      Hi Dick, Hi Ginger
      As usual you are a wealth of information!
      No prizes for guessing why I’m reading this?
      Alan
      s/y Ticketeeboo xxxxxxx

      Reply
  • Pat Kelly November 15, 2011, 6:53 am

    Hi Dick
    Thanks for your interest and concern. Understand that I’ve owned, sailed and maintained sailboats almost continuously for more than 40 years. Because of the needs of my patients, my cruises have always been no longer than 2 weeks (even during these I’d be getting phone calls). For the past 23 years I’ve had a boat on and sailed the foggy, navigational hazard-ridden coast of downeast Maine and Bay of Fundy. And I’ve crewed on delivery trips to Bermuda/ St Thomas and seen the Atlantic when she’s not in a good mood. It’s always been my dream to do a transatlantic but it’s never been possible time-wise until I retired. Now at age 70, I’m running out of time (and probably good health) and that raises the issue of soon or never. We’ve owned a home in Mallorca since 1987 and that seemed a good destination. I’m very aware of the 18 month VAT constraint (unless I felt like cruising to Turkey or Norway which would give me more time as regards the VAT clock) and would have to bring the boat back to CONUS. Both my wife and I hold EU passports. For years in my mind’s eye I could see my boat anchored in one of the calas of the Balearics. No doubt it would be safer, easier and probably less expensive to load the boat onto a transport and ship her to Palma. But at my age I will not have many more opportunities to do a trip like this. As a doctor (neurosurgeon) I know that the end of life is rarely pretty or pleasant and if you must check out it would be better to be doing something you enjoy doing and/or fulfilling a dream. Of course, I’m not planning on checking out anytime soon!
    PS: I’m now in Bath, UK where are you?

    Reply
  • Scott Kuhner November 15, 2011, 12:02 pm

    Pat, I would also suggest that you make the trip to Bermuda with crew at the end of May, then in Mid June, I would say go single-handed to the Azores and plan to spend at least four to five weeks there cruising the Various islands, making Flores (the western most island) your first stop.After two circumnavigations the Azores are one of our five most favorite places; but you must cruise through the islands. (don’t just go to Horta and think you have done the Azores because you will not have. From there continue on the Portugal, heading north of Lisboa and riding the south current down to Cascais as you near the coast. From there you can coast hop down to Gibraltar and the Med.
    As a veteran of 8 Newport to Bermuda single-handed races, I would encourage you to do it. But here are some pointers: 1) When in doubt, reduce sail. 2) Do not rely on an auto pilot alone. I would strongly advise using a wind vane self steering gear like a Monitor. 3) get a single-sideband radio, because you will undoubtedly meet other cruisers in Bermuda who will be making the same trip and a daily radio schedule with them helps against the monotony and provides entertainment. 4) install a compass next to your bunk so that you can wake up and look to see you are still on course. 5) Get an AIS both send and receive, and make sure it has a loud alarm. 6) bring a lot of easy to cook food like canned Dinty Mores Beef Stew. 7) and most important, lead all your halyards and reefing lines back to the cockpit so you don’t have to go on deck to reef when the wind comes up. 8) always wear a harness and connect it to a jack line BEFORE you go into the cockpit.

    Reply
  • Pat Kelly November 15, 2011, 1:07 pm

    Hi Scott.
    These are great suggestions. Thanks very much. Dinty Moore Beef Stew is my favorite cruising staple (don’t know if I’d dig 30 days worth of it-but beats starving!). Was also thinking of MRE’s. I had a Monitor self-steering system on my Bermuda 40 yawl – was not terribly impressed with it on that particular vessel. My present boat, a Sou’wester 50 yawl, is basically a B-40 on steroids. I was thinking about Yves Gelinas’ “Cape Horn” system. Do you or anyone else have any opinions/experience on/with this system?
    Pat

    Reply
  • Dick Stevenson November 15, 2011, 2:32 pm

    Pat, We are in St. Katharine Docks in London. We were also in the eastern Med for 3 years, often in Turkey, at first because of VAT, later as they were wonderful cruising grounds. Dick
    Ps. Echo all of Scott’s advice: a voice of experience.

    Reply
    • Pat Kelly November 15, 2011, 8:22 pm

      Dick, I assume that you are staying aboard at St Katherine’s. I have to go to Paris in 2 days but will be back next week. If you give me a contact number, I could stop by with a bottle of wine for a chat. My email is : kellyp08@aol.com

      Reply
  • Scott Kuhner November 15, 2011, 8:13 pm

    Pat, first of all I do not have personal experience with any wind vane steering except the Monitor and the Hassler ( which I bought 40 years ago and have used it on both my Seawind Ketch and now on y Valiant 40 for a total of 112,000 miles). Both work very well; but one thing I like about the Hassler is that if the wooden rudder blade breaks, you can pull it out of the water and fix it while still underway. (I always carry a spare blade) You cannot do that with the monitor.
    Speaking of food, go to the following website and get some can goods from Brinkmans Turkey Farm. Their canned meats are THE BEST. The meat is solid and not packed in gravy. We always have a case of assorted products they carry. All are the best canned meats you will ever eat!

    http://brinkmanfarms.com/

    Scott

    PS also do as I do; bring the latest copy of The National Enquirer. Obviously you must have an inquiring mind and it is easy to read for few minutes, put it down to do something on deck and get back to it without having to think about where you left off. This is always my “half way treat”

    Reply
    • Pat Kelly November 15, 2011, 8:38 pm

      Scott; thanks for the culinary info. I’ll try these. I’m sure that they’ll beat the hell out of MRE’s (with the Marines in ‘Nam ’68 – the only stuff that would make MRE’s/ C-Rats edible was loads of Tabasco sauce !). After a few weeks of these, I might find myself pouring Tabasco sauce on and eating my copy of the National Enquirer!
      I’ve already been in touch with Yves Gelinas re his “Cape Horn” system in which the controls go directly to a quadrant on the rudderpost without cluttering up the cockpit with lines to the wheel. And you don’t have an erector set hanging off the stern. I’ve put some posts out on some listservers to get some feedback on an important question: “does the Cape Horn system really work?”

      Reply
      • Colin November 16, 2011, 6:25 pm

        Hi Pat

        Just a thought re self-steering systems. Yours is quite a big boat, and there are those who suggest that a servo rudder system like the Windpilot Pacific Plus or the Sailomat are more suited to boats of your size.

        These are slightly more complex than standard servo pendulum types, but generally do away with lines to the cockpit.

        Might be worth a look. Otherwise I echo Nick’s sentiments below!

        Best wishes

        Colin

        Reply
        • John November 16, 2011, 6:36 pm

          Hi Colin and Pat,

          We have a Sailomat as a backup to our autopilot. It does work fairly well on our 56′ boat, but we had to completely rebuild it spending a fortune at the machine shop to make it work.

          Out of the box, it was pretty much useless. And now the main bearings are swollen get again (wrong material used) so it will be going back to our favorite machinist for yet more expensive TLC. In short, not recommended.

          Reply
          • Pat Kelly November 16, 2011, 8:58 pm

            Thanks, John – I also have heard war stories about this unit. I’d assumed that once it’s fitted and debugged, it works pretty well. I guess, from your comments, that’s not exactly true and I don’t have a favorite machinist (yet). I need a simple, trouble-free unit that works and does not look like a shark cage hanging off the stern or make my boat look like a Venetian gondola.

        • Pat Kelly November 16, 2011, 8:42 pm

          Hi Colin
          Thanks very much for your suggestions. I have looked at the Sailomat but I also have heard negative feedback. The Windpilot Pacific Plus (Germany); robust and well regarded, is expensive and I have concerns about aluminum + seawater (perhaps irrational). The Cape Horn system (Oka, Quebec) is about half the price and built of stainless steel. If there’s a problem with installation or operation, Quebec is within driving distance from Maine. But I’m trying to get more feedback concerning the Cape Horn system (aside from the horizontal tube going through the transom – which I’m not wild about). Nonetheless, the major issue is performance and the Windpilot is definitely to be considered. Have you heard any downsides to the Cape Horn system?

          Reply
      • Gary Schwarzman December 1, 2011, 12:04 pm

        Responding late (as usual) but, I hope, in time to be of use: We have had a Cap Horn steerer on ANASAZI (43-foot, 15-ton, full keel cutter) since 1995, and have used it, mostly successfully, on an Atlantic circuit, passages to Bermuda and the Caribbean, and crusing northern Europe. It’s difficult for any of us to compare the performance of different wind vane steerers, because it’s rare to use more than one type on the same boat. That said, I fully agree with Wilson Fitt’s comment that all of these systems probably require a tolerant attitude and, I would add, a learning curve.

        The short answer: Our Cap Horn works well, often after some fiddling. However, it’s too much trouble and too “independent-minded” to use for short legs or critical situations. I can’t conceive of achieving what is shown in Yves’ video, steering precisely, incuding ghosting dead downwind wing-on-wing. My feeling is that sometimes there is feedback from the pendulum to the vane, so that the vane is not able to generate enough power. We overcome that by adding a large ribbon to the vane. One attribute that is important to a single-hander: the system tolerates abrupt changes in sail balance, so I can let it to steer while I reef or change headsails.

        The device certainly is well made, and Yves is a pleasure to work with. He has provided great support over the years. The through-transom mount is quite an elegant solution for us, with below-deck lines leading directly to a 2:1 purchase on a tiller arm mounted on the rudder shaft.

        That’s enough for this post; if you’d like more details, email me. User 4anasazi. ISP is earthlink.net.

        Reply
        • Pat Kelly December 1, 2011, 1:43 pm

          Hi Gary
          Thanks very much for your helpful post. I have also heard some negative feedback on the CH unit. The key may simply be, as you said, that there is a learning curve. Nonetheless, I fear that it may not work as well on my boat (50′ LOA , 31GT, split rig with wheel steering, a heavy rudder and quadrant) as it does on Yves’ tiller-steered Alberg 30 sloop. At this point in time I’m reconsidering windvane self-steering in favor of installing a second electronic autopilot (Simrad AP 28) as a back-up to my trusty old Wood Freeman. I carry 220 gal diesel for the main engine (1.5 gal/hr) as well as a 15kw diesel generator for daily top-ups of whatever amp-hours the autopilots gobble up from the 1100 amp-hour house system. This worked for Dodge Morgan on American Promise (though, to paraphrase Lloyd Benson’s 1988 remarks to Dan Quayle: – I’m no Dodge Morgan.)
          Pat

          Reply
          • Gary Schwarzman December 1, 2011, 2:16 pm

            The Cap Horn comes in two sizes. Yves has the smaller size; I have the larger. Still, I suspect that even the larger size might not be up to the requirements of your 31GT boat.

  • Nick Kats November 16, 2011, 7:55 am

    Pat
    This is a fun post.
    My money says you’ll do great.
    Nick

    Reply
    • Pat Kelly November 16, 2011, 9:03 pm

      Thanks, Nick. Perhaps these posts may prove that I’m certifiable but I’m gad to hear that there’s an entertainment value.

      Reply
      • Nick Kats November 20, 2011, 11:06 am

        Pat
        A question to consider. Can your boat self steer just by setting the sheets? If you can do this, it makes the vane redundant, or could be considered as backup in case of vane breakage.
        My boat self steers easily. For going upwind & reaching I balance the sails, then I pull in the jib & let out the main a touch.
        For downwind, I back the genoa or
        jib to the windward side.
        Nick

        Reply
  • Scott Kuhner November 17, 2011, 12:38 am

    Pat, In my previous post, I said that only had experience with the Monitor and the Hassler; however, I now remember that in Sydney Australia, back in 1973, I built a wind vane for a friend and it worked perfectly. What I built was an outboard rudder that was driven by a trim tab that in turn was driven by a wind vane. It was very strong and just as accurate as our Hassler, as we sailed together across the Indian Ocean to South Africa. Once set my friend trimmed up his main rudder and locked it. It was rugged and very simple. If you are interested, I can send you some sketches. I could also send you some sketches of the Hassler and even though it is not made anymore, (I have totally rebuilt mine over the past 40 years of constant use) I am sure you could have one built for very little or build it yourself for that matter.

    Reply
  • Pat Kelly November 17, 2011, 8:51 am

    Scott
    What a generous offer! Thanks very much. I’d LOVE to have those drawings.

    Reply
  • Wilson Fitt November 17, 2011, 5:17 pm

    Hi:
    I have a Cape Horn system on my heavy displacement, long keel 38′ cutter. Very happy with it overall, a good quality piece of equipment that I depend on heavily for long passages. I did not go with the through the transom version of the Cape Horn as there is too much structure in the way (wooden boat). Everything is outside with control lines led to the tiller. Can send you pics if you want.

    I don’t have any experience with other brands so cannot provide a comparison based on experience The Monitor recieves consistently good reviews but it looks a bit like an oil rig bolted on the transom. From what I can gather they all require a tolerant attitude. An autopilot will maintain a specific heading but a windvane seeks a balance between a bunch of dynamic inputs that can result in a lot of wandering about under some conditions. Sometimes you just have to let the boat and gear go where they are willing to go, comforted by the knowledge that everything will average out over the course of a few hours or days. Lots of people that have windvanes and autopilots seem to abandon the fooling around that the vane requires and default to the autopilot early in the game . Perhaps this is because many boats have their sterns cluttered with all manner of dodgers, biminis, solar panels etc etc that prevent a clean flow of air. Or maybe it’s because the autopilots, when they work (which is most of the time), are so sweetly accurate and easy to use. But I am a bit of a luddite, do not have an autopilot, and even if I did would not go to sea without a reliable vane steerer that is independant of electrical power.

    On the broader question, I have done quite a bit of offshore single handed sailing and encourage you to give it a try if that’s what you want. I think John’s advice about an inital passage to test boat and gear is wise. Sounds like you have a new-to-you boat and, by yourself, your ability to fix the things that will certainly go wrong will be limited. And maybe you will find, like many have, that it’s just not your cup of tea after all. Better to shake everything down thoroughly, including yourself, during a shorter initial passage and have an opportunity to correct any issues that arise at an interim port of call.

    My only firm advice is DO NOT FALL IN THE WATER! That is the only place from which there is definately no direction home.

    Best wishes.

    Reply
  • Pat Kelly November 17, 2011, 6:07 pm

    Hi Wilson
    Thanks very much for your information on the Cape Horn. Your comments are very valuable to me. Actually, I’ve owned, maintained and cruised the coast of Maine and Bay of Fundy with my present boat for more than 6 years (usually single handed). But this is different than crossing an ocean, I realize. Before my Sou’wester 50, I owned Bermuda 40 yawl – a smaller version of my present boat for 14 years – also up in Maine. I had a monitor self-steerer on that boat. But it was not very relevant or accurate enough for the coastal cruising that I was doing at the time but the autopilot was. Finally, my 8 year old daughter said, “Daddy, why don’t you take that thing off the back of the boat. It looks stupid!” I repeated what my daughter said to Rusty Bradford, then the foreman at the Hinckley yard. He answered with his thick Downeast accent: “Way-al, When they’re right, they’re right.” So I told him to take the damn thing off. I had no trouble selling it for almost what I’d paid for it. And the service from Scanmar was outstanding. Your advise about not falling in the water (as a single hander) is apt – on self steering, that would almost certainly be a death sentence!

    Reply
  • Paul Taylor November 18, 2011, 8:48 am

    Interesting thread.

    I’ve been preparing myself and my 1973 26ft GRP sloop for a solo transat, West Coast of Scotland to Nova Scotia, round the Maritimes and back. (I hope)

    I have been taking a very gradual and tiered approach. Over the last few years I have been to Norway and the Shetlands with crew, circumnavigated Britain, mostly singlehanded and next year I plan to do a 500nms ocean passage tester, round Rockall and back.

    If I’m happy with the solo 500nms then I think I and the boat will be ready for the transat in the spring summer of 2013

    I had a Sea Feather vane fitted this year. It works well.

    Good luck and fairwinds with your passage.

    Reply
  • Pat Kelly November 18, 2011, 9:50 am

    Hi Paul
    Your expanding itinerary approach seems very sensible. The Sea Feather appears to be a very attractive and lightweight (I mean this in a good way) unit. I wish I could use one. But Paul Dolton recommends the unit for appropriate for vessels under 35 feet LOA and the website’s Gallery indeed shows relatively small vessels with tiller steering. The letters on http://www.sea-feather.co.uk/ are interesting and positive. Best of luck on your voyage. If you go all the way to the Maritimes, why not take in the coast of Downeast Maine while you’re in that neck of the woods? Best regards and thanks for your comments.
    Pat

    Reply
  • Paul Taylor November 18, 2011, 12:56 pm

    Hi Pat

    Yes, I think the Sea Feather is better on smaller boats. Paul Dolton fitted mine in Dartmouth this summer.

    I had originally planned to go to the US from Canada, indeed I have a sister who lives in Newport RI and I had thought that sailing to NYC would have been a wonderful achievement. The warmer weather is attractive too.

    Unfortunately the US visa requirements are now very onerous. I would have to travel 800miles for an “interview” which is now part of the application process. Once in the US I believe the reporting regulations for “alien” cruisers are now fairly demanding with draconian penalties should you make a mistake.

    I’m afraid that makes the US all seem a bit too unwelcoming. A shame really as I have always found the people there most hospitable.

    I think Canada sounds much more relaxed: just turn up and check in.

    Paul

    Reply
    • Pat Kelly November 18, 2011, 2:23 pm

      Paul
      I’m very sorry to hear this. The USA has gotten “crazy” since Sept 11th, 2001. God help us
      Pat

      Reply
  • Wilson Fitt November 18, 2011, 6:11 pm

    Hi Paul:

    I crossed singlehanded from St John’s Nfld to the Clyde River in 14 days a couple of years ago. One evening last winter, when I told our hosts John and Phyllis, wine glasses in hand, that I intended to return home by the same route they looked askance, not quite saying it was a silly idea but leaving that distinct impression.

    So I set out for home (Nova Scotia) around the first of May this spring and after a good start was caught in a persistent westerly wind from force 6ish up to occasional force 8 caused by the Azores high being unusually far north for the time of year and a series of lows passing up near Greenland and Iceland. A week at sea and I was only 400 miles west of Ireland, feeling pretty beat up and with a ripped staysail. So I turned around and hightailed it back downwind to Dingle where the boat stayed for the summer while I flew home and back to work to pay for my sins.

    My boat is stored in Crosshaven for this winter and I am considering another attempt next spring. John, when he reads this, will roll his eyes and be confirmed in his opinion that I am a slow learner. Vane gear worked great though…

    Reply
    • John November 19, 2011, 6:09 pm

      Hi Wilson,

      After six voyages to Greenland, I would not dream of calling anyone else a slow learner for doing something stupid just twice.

      Reply
  • Wilson Fitt November 18, 2011, 6:16 pm

    And, yes, when you arrive in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia I think you will recieve a warm welcome with relatively little hassle from customs and no restrictions on movement. Look me up when you are near Chester.

    Reply
  • Paul Taylor November 19, 2011, 6:10 am

    Hi Wilson

    St John’s to the Clyde in 14 days, impressive.

    I’m very interested to hear that you gave up on the westbound last year: there does not seem to be an “easy course” to Canada.

    My career break will start at the beginning of April and end in the middle of October. My point of departure will be Loch Sunart on the west coast of Scotland. (You’ll find it on GoogleEarth) and I want to cross the Atlantic, solo.

    I have been trying to shape a westbound route on what I have read in the RCC ” Atlantic Crossing Guide”, James Clarke’s “Atlantic Pilot Atlas”, a distillation of the pilot charts and other sources.

    Presently I think my route is going to be, from the Hebrides, southwest to a point about 300nms NW of the Azores, then WSW towards 40N 50W then more NWly up towards Halifax. Not the most direct route, about 2750nms. I’m hoping that the return leg is going to be much quicker and more direct.

    I would be very interested in hearing any thoughts that you, John or others may have on routing in early summer from Scotland toNova Scotia.

    Paul

    Reply
    • John November 19, 2011, 6:03 pm

      Hi Paul and Wilson,

      We advised a German single-hander on making a passage from Germany to Greenland a couple of years ago. See this post. Most of what we said to him would apply to the trips you guys are planning.

      Interestingly, we met Hans, the single hander, in Nuuk this summer at the conclusion of his voyage, and it turned out that the Azores route had worked well.

      Keep in mind though that whether or not this works will depend on the position of the strong wind belt. In fact the year before, for much of the summer the belt was a long way south, and consequently that year for much of the summer the northern route would have worked well.

      See this post for tips on how to keep track of the strong wind belt and how to understand what you see.

      Reply
      • Hans November 21, 2011, 7:18 am

        Hi John,
        yes, that was good advice and it encouraged me to take the Azores route, thanks again.
        and Hi Wilson, hi Paul,
        I could have taken the northern route also since the strong wind belt was rather south this year. But I started beginning of May – and you will start even earlier, I understand – and so I thought it wise to get into warmer weather first. And a strong, if not the main reason was, that the Azores are a wonderful place to visit in themselves. I can recommend to make a break on the Azores and then continue on to Canada. When I arrived in Newfoundland, coming from Greenland, I phoned the immigration, was asked a couple of the usual questions, after a short while they called me back, gave me a “Report-Nr.” and I was clear for Canada ! What a wonderful country to arrive at.

        Reply
  • Pat Kelly November 20, 2011, 11:43 am

    Hi Nick
    My boat will only self steer on a beat as long as I’m not using the mizzen. Get off the wind and she heads up. This was also the case with myB 40 which had an identical hull shape and sail configuration. I’ve owned two schooners (fore & aft gaff and Marconi main/gaff fore) and both of these would self steer for hours even with the wind on the quarter. But I’ve not been so lucky with the Hinckley’s.
    Pat

    Reply
  • Scott Kuhner November 22, 2011, 1:44 pm

    Dear Pat,
    I had said that I would send you drawings of my Hassler and the wind vane I made for a friend. Could you send me you email address to kuhner@mail.com. I had not responded yet because I have been on my boat and out of internet rage.
    Scott

    Reply
  • Pat Kelly November 22, 2011, 5:00 pm

    Hi Scott

    We’ve been in Paris and are now back in Bath, UK. If you can send the drawings by email that would be great. My email address is kellyp08@aol.com and

    Thanks very much
    Pat

    Reply
  • matt April 11, 2012, 11:04 pm

    HI

    I’m a novice when it comes to boating/sailing but very intrigued. What is the best way to get involved?

    I’d love to go to greenland (from st johns NL) for example, but I reckon I’d have to hitch a ride with someone as I have no clue how to operate a sail boat, etc..

    Are there sites or anything like that where sailers will announce they are travelling to see if anyone wants to join along for the ride?

    thanks in advance for your answers!

    Reply
  • Wilson Fitt July 12, 2012, 10:42 am

    Pat Kelly, Paul Taylor and the others who participated in this thread might be interested in my voyage home from Ireland to Nova Scotia this spring. April was the only time slot time that I could take away from work (the worst basis for passage planning, I know) so April it was. Weather is often quite nice in Ireland and the UK at that time although cold, grey, wet and generally appalling on our side of the Atlantic. Again, our generous hosts John and Phyllis thought I had rocks in my head but were too polite to say so out loud.

    This time my eldest son came along as crew. He is an experienced sailor and good companion, and I was forced to admit that double handed sailing is a lot easier than singlehanded particularly when doing sail changes on the foredeck (we have hanked on sails, ref a different thread on that subject).

    We left Kinsale Ireland on April 6th and pursued a more-or-less southwesterly course to about 45 degrees north, mostly hard on the wind or close reaching on stbd tack in moderate to strong west and north-west winds. After that we were able to average a westerly course in SW to NW winds that ultimately took us across the Grand Banks of Newfoundland about 60 miles south of the iceberg line and a similar distance north of Sable Island . Passage time Kinsale to Halifax was 21 days over a route of about 2,350 miles.

    As noted, wind was generally strong and contrary although we had longish periods of calm with very heavy fog on the Grand Banks. I would motor slowly in calm just to ease the frustration and crashing of gear. I expect that we had 5 or 10 miles a day of adverse current due to the North Atlantic Drift but had no way to measure it directly.

    Sea and air temperatures were quite mild until we entered the cold water of the Labrador current and even then it was not as perishing cold as I had feared. However, we had the heat on all the time and I wore wollen long johns except when bathing.

    A lot of traffic on this route. The AIS was invaluable and I re-confirmed that we are all but invisible on radar to largeships

    The Cap Horn vane gear worked flawlessly.

    So, all in all, a good although tough early season westbound passage. I had never heard of anyone else attempting this trip so early but am told that another boat arrived in Halifax from the UK a week or so before us, so we were not the only fools out there.

    I am not recommending this as a strategy, just reporting my experience.

    Reply
    • John July 12, 2012, 3:49 pm

      Hi All,

      There is two other really important things to learn from Wilson’s incredible voyage:

      They did not break anything, which is a real tribute to the boat Wilson built himself and a strong endorsement for keeping things simple.

      Wilson’s boat has a traditional sea kindly hull form. I very much doubt that even a crew as tough as Wilson and his son could have made this passage in any of the hull forms that are so prone to violent motion and pounding that we are seeing production boats saddled with in the name of large “camper van” interiors these days.

      My goal for the Adventure 40 will be a boat that can make the same passage that Wilson just did in the same no-fuss seamanlike way, albeit without me aboard!

      Reply
  • Scott Kuhner July 12, 2012, 11:57 am

    Wilson, First of all, I guess you are not a gentleman, because as we all know, gentlemen do not go to weather. Secondly, I was talking to a friend about your trip, he said he knows you and that you are so tough that you keep your socks up wit thumb tacks. I can believe him on that.
    Scott

    Reply
  • gerard deroy January 23, 2013, 1:21 pm

    Hi John and single handers ,
    All interesting comments here.
    I have only done 3 single handed
    trips 4-5 days long. I would add 2 suggestions that I respected on my trip alone.
    1- Have a way to neutralize your autopilot or windvane if you ever fall overboard. On my boat under autopilot I had a yellow floating line 200 ft long with loops along. The line was attached to the tiller autopilot and went vertically up to the bimini top so that a tension on the line would lift the autopilot and leave the tiller free with the line still attached to the boat of course.
    The boat will eventually stop. I was minded to just swim toward the sailboat track if i ever went overboard and grab that yellow line.
    Something may break under the tremendous forces that are applied sideway to a harness-lifeline arrangement.
    Plan a mean to get back on your boat if you are still attached to your boat.
    Try it when your boat is going at 5 knots.

    2- Sleeping schedule
    As much as possible sleep during day light and do not sleep at night. Probability that a commercial boat will spot you are much greater during daylight. Also human alertness is much greater in daylight than under darkness or artificial light.

    Motivation for single handed trip:
    A good way to reposition yourself with life.
    Do it along the coast and when you have enough go back to the rat race.

    A plus loin,
    Gérard

    Reply
  • John L. Cwierz June 23, 2013, 1:22 pm

    G entlemen,
    It would be a pleasure to encounter all the persons who some time of other crossed solo a big pond of water, say, the Atlantic of Pacific and their dates of crossing. I would be, very satisfied to be included in the same as I have recently crossed the Atlantic Ocean, leaving Boot Key HARBOR on the 14 of April, this year of 2013 and getting to Horta after 47 days of sailing on the 29 May 2013 and leaving Horta on the 5th day of June and getting to Chipiona, Spain just be the Entrance to the Guadalquivir River, on the 20th day of June 2013. I sailed a Morgan 37 Out Island.. Best regards, John L. Cwierz.

    Reply
  • John L. Cwierz June 23, 2013, 1:24 pm

    Just great. John Thank you.

    Reply
  • richard s. June 23, 2013, 3:20 pm

    john c, congratulations on your successful passage boot key hrbr to spain per your post above…do you have one or two especially memorable experiences from this that you can describe briefly for us please ? on my own couple of runs from stanford (ct) to virgin gorda and back by way of bermuda my many rich experiences included: a) working often to keep the oceanic monotony at bay, b) the unmatched beauty of the night skies, c) having the company of the occasional humpback whale beside us on the same course, d) the feeling of let down when the runs ended at their destinations

    richard s., tampa bay, s/v lakota

    Reply

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