What Worked and What Didn’t

Pelerin more trhan proved her capability - checking the sail trim as night falls 145 IMG_5953

“Pèlerin” more than proved her capability—checking the sail trim as night falls.

There’s nothing like a good long voyage to sort out a boat, for better or for worse. That much I learned running a working charter boat for so many years. Every season we’d cover around 8000 hard miles between the English Channel and the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. On our return to Falmouth at the end of the season we’d present the list of destruction to our long-suffering support crew, only to watch them scratch their heads and ask, “How on earth did you break that?”

Just use, hard use, and this on a boat on which everything was beefed up, and at least one or two sizes bigger and stronger than standard. All of which learning was put into the building of Pèlerin in 2007. Since when we’ve had ample time to find any weak spots in her armour, and make good any deficiencies.

During last year’s enforced lay-off in the Canary Islands, one way we kept morale up was to go through everything so that we’d be 100% ready to take off in the autumn—it kept the dream alive, if you like.

Rig, hardware, mechanical systems, we went through it all with a fine tooth-comb whilst we were in a place where the skills and materials existed to put things right if necessary. And now, after 3700 ocean miles between the Canaries, Senegal, Cape Verde and Brazil, we feel we can fairly and objectively comment on what has worked and what hasn’t.

What Did Work


After five years and many ups and downs—mainly due to faults and deficiencies from when she was built—she’s now totally battle hardened. She behaved impeccably throughout the voyage, and proved beyond any doubt that she is a really capable passagemaker, eating the miles with ease whilst demanding very little from the crew. Upwind she thumps and bumps along in a disgruntled manner, but offwind she really flies, and with the board raised is fast, comfortable and stable.

Windpilot Pacific

The best piece of equipment on the boat.

The best piece of equipment on the boat.

At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, I’ll reiterate my belief that no small yacht should set off to cross an ocean without fitting a good wind-driven self-steering mechanism, at least as a back-up. Our Windpilot steered for over 95% of the time—faultlessly.

Before we left I installed new drive lines and serviced the gear thoroughly, and this certainly paid off, as we only had a couple of minor issues along the way: One of the new lines is now due for replacement, largely as a result of being on port tack for three thousand miles, which caused the turning block it passed through to deform and partially seize (which wasn’t immediately noticed).

Light Weather Sails

Our ace in the hole when threading our way through the doldrums was our light weather genoa, excellent upwind in the lightest of breezes, even better close reaching with two light weight sheets attached (one barberhauled to the rail, one a spinnaker sheet). Unless the wind has given up entirely, we can always keep her moving with this sail, and it’s a pleasure to look at, to boot!

Our asymmetric spinnaker, mounted on a Bartels furling gear proved ocean capable, too, whenever we had the chance to use it. Some people still prefer snuffers, and whilst I accept a well made one can do a good job, for ease of use and stowage, furlers have the edge for me.

Superwind Generator

Five years old and in perfect condition, this silent, powerful generator has proved to be worth every penny of its (relatively) steep price. Beautifully engineeered, utterly reliable. For me the Superwind is streets ahead of the competition.

All wind generators are weak downwind, but the moment the apparent wind comes ahead the ammeter starts to climb—a must have.

The Crew

The crew - we'd waited a long time for this.

The crew—we’d waited a long time for this.

After many years and a multitude of people aboard, I’ve learned the hard way that there are only three rules that matter to me:

  • The first is simple—can they put up with me?
  • The second is more fundamental—can I trust them to wake me up when something—anything in fact—concerns them?
  • The third is simple—can they be trusted not to do anything completely off the wall?

If they pass those three tests we’re going to get along fine, and all the other skills they bring are just a big plus.

Lou passed all these tests with flying colours years ago (despite much provocation!) and in any case she has now got many thousands of miles under her belt.

But this was the first really long distance passage for our old friend Ronnie, although he has sailed with us many times in the past. He rewarded our confidence in inviting him along by proving to be just about the perfect crew member—utterly reliable, infallibly goodnatured, and totally contributory at all times. It was a pleasure to have him aboard, and having a third person along was unquestionably a huge advantage in terms of spreading the load over such a long passage.

What Didn’t Work

Antifouled prop - before and forty-five minutes later.....

Antifouled prop – before and forty-five minutes later…

Hempel Prop Clear Antifouling

Having had problems with crustacean growth on our (excellent) Featherstream prop, we were persuaded to try this specially formulated propeller antifoulant. I followed the instructions to the letter, cleaning and degreasing with great care, before applying the primer and top coat as per the manufacturer’s specifications in optimal conditions.

The images above show the results before launching and after 45 minutes of use. I can’t see what we could have done wrong to cause the paint to peel off in this way, but we won’t be trying it again.

Kevlar Main Halyard

End of the line - the remains of our Kevlar main halyard.

End of the line – the remains of our Kevlar main halyard.

Pèlerin was delivered with a 12mm Dacron main halyard, but in use we found that it slipped in its clutch. Our rigger kindly swapped it for a 14mm Kevlar halyard (at a good price), which cured the slip problem, and it has performed excellently since then.

In the Canaries we removed it and gave it a thorough wash and checked it for chafe. As there was some chafe to the outer Dacron sheathing (at full hoist) we decided to serve it in way of the damage to stop further chafe and reduce any chance of UV penetration (which is death to Kevlar). It worked fine for the duration of the passage, although we dropped the main from time to time to check it.

On arrival in Brazil it was pretty ragged, but still looked serviceable, and we decided to end for end it. Sadly it parted without warning before we could get around to that. Examination of the core showed that the Kevlar fibres were now no more than fairy dust, probably through a combination of UV penetration, internal abrasion, and bending around the sheave, all of which can cause damage to Kevlar. The replacement will be Spectra—when we can source some…which ain’t easy here.

Ampair 100 Hydro Generator

A total conundrum, as we can’t seem to isolate an intermittent fault with this unit. Odd, too, as they are pretty simple and have an excellent track record for reliability as far as I’ve heard. But ours has never functioned as promised from new, and despite submitting it to every test we can manage and checking the wiring, we simply can’t work out what’s wrong with it.

And now that we’re in Brazil, sending it back isn’t an option, so we’re stuck with it. Not having it available for the passage was a major disadvantage as it meant that we had to run the engine far more than we had planned.

Despite this, I’d have to say that one of those Watt and Sea units looks awfully tempting—if the price comes down.

All in All?

It’s not a bad balance sheet. Attention to detail during the preparation period paid off, and we were fortunate that for the most part the weather conditions we faced weren’t too demanding, which certainly reduced the toll of breakages. We spent a considerable amount of time moving or diverting lazy lines and running backstays away from sails to minimize chafe, which definitely helped. As a result, our ‘to do’ list is gratifyingly short. Let’s hope it’s always like this…

Like what you just read? Get lots more:

Meet the Author

Colin Speedie

Colin, European Correspondent here at AAC, is a deeply experienced offshore sailor who holds a Yachtmaster licence, and a gifted photographer and talented writer who has added a whole new dimension to Attainable Adventure Cruising. In addition, since Colin and Louise are from England and had their OVNI 435, Pèlerin built in France, they bring a European perspective to our site. You can read more about Colin and Louise and their business at their website.

41 comments… add one
  • Paul Mills Feb 6, 2013, 5:17 am

    Hi Colin,

    I’m glad that you rate your wind generator – on Sakari our D400 is one of my fave bits of kit.

    The chafe thing is really interesting, especially in places where you cannot see it easily. Just before crossing Biscay last autumn, I did a check over, and noticed that the stopper knot where the kicker dead ends on the boom strut was wilting a bit. On closer inspection there was a sharpish lump half way through the hole in the strut casting, and over 3 years it had slowly bitten through the rope. Now, it only took a couple of minutes with a rat tail file and a new stopper not…. but it did make me think and look round a few more places…..

    Enjoy S. America 🙂

    Paul – now using Chrome

  • richard s. Feb 6, 2013, 9:04 am

    why have both the wind generator and the hydro please ? I presume the hydro is of the tow behind variety ? if so then how do you circumvent the vulnerability to collision with flotsam or attacking beasts ? seems like the wind generator would be sufficient with maybe a solar panel or two for backup ?

    • Colin Speedie Feb 6, 2013, 2:04 pm

      Hi Paul

      You’re right about checking everything over, especially after a passage. In fact, I do a twice daily round of the deck looking at everything, and use binoculars to do a quick peak at the masthead.

      But so ofetn there are things that go unnoticed – check, and check again.

      Best wishes


    • Colin Speedie Feb 6, 2013, 7:05 pm

      Hi Roland

      It is indeed a towed generator, and there’s no way you can stop such devices becoming entangled in debris, or, indeed, being devoured by big sea beasts – but as the latter are now becoming so rare due to overfishing, I wouldn’t worry too much about that…

      The fact is that even with a good slab of solar, an overcast day will put paid to that, while wind doesn’t work well downwind. Which is why hydro power is so attractive – 24 hour delivery, good amps per buck etc.

      And it’s always the case that you need a mix of alternative power sources – to avoid the above disappointments.

      Best wishes


  • Conny Harlin Feb 6, 2013, 9:18 am

    Hi Colin.

    Great report!
    I do appreciate this kind of reports of whats works /not works. It helps me (other fellow sailors) to pick the right “stuff” in the first place when I’m in process to upgrade my boat.


    • Colin Speedie Feb 6, 2013, 2:07 pm

      Hi Conny

      It’s always a learning process, and I’m glad if it helps.

      Kindest regards


  • David Nutt Feb 6, 2013, 10:26 am

    I think this great report says more about the fellow (that’s you, Colin) who envisioned and organized all of this equipment than the gear itself. Boats that are put together by the sailors who gets their hands dirty and intimately understand the gear stand a much better chance of recognizing emerging problems than those who simply pay someone else to get it all ready and untie the dock lines for them.

    • Colin Speedie Feb 6, 2013, 2:11 pm

      Hi David

      Thanks for that, and I can’t agree more with you about the benefits of (at least) being involved in fitting out. I’ll always do an installation personally if possible, but if I need help, I want to be there to see what’s going on.

      Not all technicians like it, but…..

      Best wishes


  • Kenneth Feb 6, 2013, 11:12 am

    Many, many thanks for sharing it.
    Have nice winds,

  • Alex Feb 6, 2013, 11:21 am

    I agree completly agree with Kenneth

    • Colin Speedie Feb 6, 2013, 2:13 pm

      Kenneth, Alex,

      thanks for saying thanks – it goes a long way at this end!

      Best wishes


  • Roland Feb 6, 2013, 5:29 pm

    Thanks for the report. Light wind sails is an area that can be improved on many cruising boats. Heavy sails offshore in light wind is a disaster.

    I have tested a antifouling system for the propeller that worked quite well. 150 hours and 95 % of the paint still there!

    I used 2 coats of Jotun Vinyl primer followed by two coats of Aqualine VK.

    • Colin Speedie Feb 6, 2013, 7:10 pm

      Hi Roland

      The tragedy is that if you only have heavy weather sails on a boat that could in fact make good progress with some well cut light weather sails, you’re doomed to motor everywhere when the wind drops.

      Interesting to hear your comments about satisfactory use of prop antifoulant. I went to a good deal of trouble to make sure that I applied the stuff we used as per their instructions, to the letter. Why it didn’t work as suggested I don’t know.

      I’ll check out the paint you recommend, and maybe, next time we haul out….

      Best wishes


      • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 8, 2013, 11:23 am

        Hi Colin,

        Welcome to the New World!

        I’ve used a clear epoxy based product called PropSpeed on a number of large motor yachts. They always went away and the skippers didn’t come back screaming after the next haulout. (LOL) Don’t think I ever had the opportunity to examine a prop after several years use though. At least it didn’t fall off instantly like the stuff you were saddled with!

  • Jacques Landry Feb 6, 2013, 11:17 pm


    Thanks for sharing with us your great experience. It is clear that you were well prepared and that the few “glitches” you encountered were not because you have cut corners in the preparation of the boat.

    I also find your selection criteria for crew very refreshing! No sermon about the need for advanced skills, years of experience, or super powers of any kind. I agree, if they can put up with you, and you can put up with them, that’s a pretty good start. Some knowledge of sailing and some predisposition for long voyage might be additional requirements, but being able to live with them for a few weeks is high up in the list!

    I wonder if a lot of solo circumnavigators don’t do it alone simply because of a lack of social skills 😉

    Great post. Keep them coming !


    • Colin Speedie Feb 7, 2013, 12:32 pm

      Hi Jacques

      Glad you’ve found the post useful, and thanks for the kind words.

      There’s no excuse for lack of preparation – it’s a big ocean, and crossing it needs commitment and humility. As the old Spanish proverb says, ‘the fisherman who doesn’t fear the sea will soon be drowned’ – ain’t it the truth.

      And I’m glad you agree on choosing crew – I’ve sailed with real hotshots who were utter nightmares to live with, and beginners who understood instinctively what was wanted and listened and learned – I’m sure you can guess which I’d prefer. And I’ve seen people do the daftest things – which I’ll share with you all one day – perhaps……

      But seriously, a yacht cabin is a small space to share for weeks on end, coupled with lack of sleep, heat, discomfort – so you’d better get on well, eh? I was supremely lucky with my little team – may you always be the same.

      Best wishes


  • Marc Dacey Feb 7, 2013, 6:51 am

    A very nice and cheerful report. Have you ever rigged twins poled out for DDW runs, or some kind of regular chute? I am mulling over my options as I have a steel motorsailer I would prefer as a sailer-motor, if that makes sense. I don’t mind changing down sail, and am debating a light-air strategy that will keep us at least at 4 knots, which I can do in 10-11 apparent with my Yankee jib and staysail out.

    • Colin Speedie Feb 7, 2013, 12:38 pm

      Hi Marc

      I’ve used both – but on other boats. We have neither on Pelerin, partly because Ovni’s have the mast set well forward, and we can sheet the staysail to the end of the boom when required, and partly because Lou doesn’t like symmetrical spinnakers.

      In your case I’d look at twin poles, with matching yankees, perhaps, or even look at the twistle rig (look it up on Google), which is supposed to drastically reduce rolling, important in a boat like your own.

      In many ways I dislike running dead downwind, and would prefer to broad reach at 150 degrees or so, and gybe downwind. But I accept that sometimes you just have to.

      We’re lucky that Pelerin, like all the French ‘deriveurs’ is stable and upright downwind – I don’t know how long I’d put with the rolling of some boats I’ve sailed.

      Best wishes


      • Marc Dacey Feb 7, 2013, 5:02 pm

        Colin, thanks for the reply. Yes, I know what a “twistle” is and approve of it. Hell, I even have rigged barber haulers for my hanked-on No. 1 in my 1973 IOR-styled racer with the ridiculous J measurement. Not many use those these days, either.

        I agree that broad reach is a nicer point of sail, but you have to roll with the punches, so to speak. Makes a case for sea berths, something modern designs tend to skip.

        I am relatively new to the site and didn’t realize you had an OVNI. Very nice boats indeed. You must be quite pleased with it.

      • Richard Hudson Feb 18, 2013, 11:00 am

        Great, factual post, thanks for writing it. I especially enjoyed your crew selection reasoning.

        Though I note the smiley in your comment about solo sailors, I have to say, as a sometimes-singlehander who has met many singlehanders, the social skills of singlehanders vary as widely as do the social skills of those who sail with crew. The defining characteristics of singlehanders that I have observed are a strong desire—verging on impatience—to sail somewhere, and an enjoyment of being busy.

        Best wishes,

  • Dick Stevenson Feb 8, 2013, 1:38 pm

    Dear Colin,
    A very nice report. Thanks.
    With respect to the chafed through main halyard: I would suggest you not spend real ££$$ on a new halyard (the spectra) until you locate the source of the chafe. Use the old one end for end if you got the length and just tie on the shackle. Use it (or a low tech throwaway) to figure out where the chafe occurs. To me, the halyard should not have the chafe you reported and pictured, so something is not right and needs fixing. You had a fairly benign crossing. Had you had a couple of more really boisterous days, it is likely you would have had the halyard give way mid-ocean making for a real mess. This might have been good for your journalistic endeavours, but not for the ease of the passage.
    From the picture, there is a hernia below where you served. To me this suggests some severe twisting. Could the halyard have some twisting induced in the hoisting which then resides in the last few feet of the halyard where it meets the relatively stationary sail? A frozen sheave might do this.
    Also the break that finally occurred in the line “should” have occurred on the top or backside of the masthead sheave assuming that the sail goes full hoist and the splice “just” kisses the sheave. If the break occurred outside the mast (just at the entrance to the sheave say) it could be that the sail board when moving back & forth pulled the halyard side to side enough to get the halyard out of the sheave fairlead area. A solution for this might be a short strop at the tack to raise the sail to full hoist position.
    The above are merely thoughts. It would be fun if they proved accurate, but my main message is that the suggestion to find the chafe and remedy it. It should not have happened in my opinion.
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

  • Colin Speedie Feb 20, 2013, 12:06 pm

    Hi Dick

    Much excellent logic here as always.

    The halyard in question has done many miles already, and the only time we’ve seen any chafe has been on the long downwind legs, and then only when at full hoist.

    There are (at least!) the following causes:
    1. The halyard is the maximum size for the sheave (14mm) so is chafing against the cheek plates.
    2. The splice is a little long – and so may foul the cheek plates
    3. Kevlar suffers from internal chafe due to twisting
    4. We didn’t notice the chafe as soon as we might have done. Once the sheathing was compromised, UV could do its dirty work.

    The sheave seems OK – we haven’t replaced the halyard yet, and will check everything over before we do – thanks for the timely reminder.

    Best wishes


  • Emmett Johnston Mar 7, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Great to see you guys enjoying Pélerin in her element.
    Enjoy, you deserve a good one.

    Go raibh an chóir ghaoithe i gcónaí libh


  • Colin Speedie Mar 7, 2013, 8:15 pm

    Hi Emmett

    Thanks for the kind message, and I hope you’re enjoying the posts on her travels – there’s more to come, especially as this is such a vast, great country.

    And not having the Gaelic, I had to resort to the wonders of Google translate to check your final remark – and it has been, and we hope it will continue to be.

    Kindest regards


  • Barry Apr 13, 2013, 8:36 pm

    Re your main halyard failure. Kevlar is not good for any application that involves any flexing of the fibers, as you discovered the core breaks without warning. Great stuff for bullet proof vests and the like but I wouldnt have it my boat

    • Colin Speedie Apr 15, 2013, 6:36 am

      Hi Barry

      The Kevlar halyard was a free replacement for a smaller diameter Spectra halyard that slipped in the clutch constantly. As such it wasn’t our first choice!

      But you’re right, it isn’t ideal for this sort of application, and we hope to go for a new Spectra halyard when we reach somewhere that (a) has it in stock, and (b) at an affordable price.

      Best wishes


  • Frank Jul 19, 2013, 9:36 pm


    There is a cheap and effective way to build a reliable water powered generator provided your gearbox can freewheel safely with the engine off or you have a separate clutch between shaft and gearbox…

    I owned a modified Banjer 37 named “Araok” for 7 years and used the large Dutch type flexible coupling (wide aluminium disk with rubber inserts on both sides) to belt on an automotive alternator with a flat belt. I used a rheostat to control the exciter circuit and thus the output. At 6 knots we’d get around 12 to 15 Amps at 12 Volts, the boat would sail marginally faster with the prop freewheeling and the prop flow over the rudder did help the autopilot steer a better course…

    I read about your Cummins engine problem: whatever you do, refrain from repowering with an electronic engine. On one of my commercial fishing vessels, I had a John Deere 6076 that still worked well at 22,500 hours. I made the mistake to replace it with a smaller electronically controlled 135 hp John Deere and have had no end of trouble with the electronics shutting down the engine a number of time. Even though it has less than 2000 hours, I plan to replace it with a non-electronic, non-turbo 133 hp engine of 6.7 liters, the N67 made by IVECO/FPT…

    We use the engine at the top of the torque curve, around 1600/1700 rpm below where the turbo kicks in, so there is no point having the additional complication of a turbo. In this power range, there is only the old Ford 6.2 liters – 135 hp available as a non-turbo alternative, as the Cummins 6B5.9-M115 has been discontinued…

    • John Jul 20, 2013, 9:38 am

      Hi Frank,

      All good points and a great tip on the water generator, thank you. We repowered with a very simple non electronic, naturally aspirated Perkins M92B, which has worked just great. You can read all about that here (membership required).

  • Paul Gilfedder Sep 14, 2013, 7:21 pm

    Hi Colin – As an Ovni owner for last 15 years, now on our second, I’m in agreement with most of what you say on your excellent site! What a wonderful change from the usual uninformed comments I get from 90% of Brits ref aluminium, chines, centreboarders, paint, righting moments and other guff! A bit of advice plse – you mention you’re happy with the Featherstream prop – so I’m talking to Darglow about re-propping our ‘new’385 (NB Maxprop is the only solution proposed here in France) and they have suggested I consider not only the 3-blade but maybe a 4-blade as a punchier, quieter alternative (I’ve never seen a 4-blade on a non-motor sailer..). I’m not after extra speed (current prop spins) but on this boat suffer massive propwalk and slippery handling astern. Don’t want to hear the prop in use through the hull – maybe the 4-blade gives more punch at less revs = quieter? Plus – does your anode disappear quickly? does the prop need a good pause between ahead & astern? Your thoughts/opinion much appreciated. Many thanks

    • Colin Speedie Sep 15, 2013, 9:27 am

      Hi Paul

      Glad you liked the report – it was nice to be able to be so positive about our boat, and I agree that far too many people dismiss these boats too easily.

      Re the Fetherstream prop, we’re very please with the three bladed prop. Having used ours quite considerably I can confirm that beyond annual cleaning and greasing it has needed no attention and has performed flawlessly. Anode use has been less than expected, but that may have as much to do with the fact that she has not been tied up in a marina much. Expect a year per anode in similar conditions, I’d guess.

      Re the four blade, I have no experience, but would expect it to be smoother and quieter, but at a substantial premium price wise. The three blade is smooth, and when you find a ‘sweet spot’ in the rev range quiet. All of these boats tend to suffer from some cavitation noise in my experience, due to the prop being close to the flat run under the stern, but I don’t think the Featherstream is any better or worse than any other, including the fixed three blade. Not knowing whether the 385 is better or worse than the 435 noise wise it may be that you’ll simply have to try it.

      The 435 doesn’t have a lot of prop walk, and the Featherstream has far more grip astern than the fixed three blade and stops better, too. All Ovni’s are slightly wilful astern, but I think that’s as much to do with the shallow underbody and lack of lateral area. Once you’ve got used to them and are confident to carry more speed than usual astern I think they’re OK. No lag or difficulties going ahead or astern, in my experience.

      I’ll bet you’ll notice a speed advantage under sail – we definitely do, and reckon that it’s really improved our daily average on passage. It might not be your primary reason for buying one (although it was in our case) but it’s well worth having.

      Kindest regards


  • Dick Stevenson Sep 16, 2013, 5:26 am

    Dear Paul, I found Chris at Darglow very knowledgable and helpful and great to deal with as was the company. Last winter we went from a 3 blade 17 inch Max prop to a 19 inch 4 blade. I wanted more performance for adverse conditions. Chris helped greatly in working out the details as I was pushing the limits (actually went well past) of the usual prop clearance advice. We went with Max props because we have had good experiences with them over the last 20+ years. The 4 blade is smoother and more powerful although we have been fortunate not to have the opportunity to test really adverse motoring conditions this season. We get better milage and more speed, but that result may be solely because we also chose to over-pitch some. My sense is that greater speed and fuel economy is a mix of the 2 changes. Good luck and let us know what you choose and how it turns out.
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • Colin Speedie Sep 16, 2013, 6:56 am

      Hi Dick

      Thanks for that excellent summing up – it’s good to hear from someone with real experience with the 4 blade. Sounds like a good deal.

      Best wishes


  • Paul Gilfedder Sep 16, 2013, 5:30 am

    thx for such a rapid and helpful response Colin – yes, it is of course the flattish underbody shape that contributes to the ‘savonette’ (bar of soap)reputation – and often we’re having to manoeuvre with blade only 1/3-1/2 down which plays havoc with the pivot point, especially in astern, leaving a lot of front end out there with little grip in the water. However, I find this boat (which I call a generation 2 model because the xxx, or 3-figure models, were Briand’s 2nd set of designs for Alubat (excepting the unfortunate 345 and contemporary 395)) worse than our generation 1 model from 1989, but since the hull shape is essentially the same I’m assuming it’s the heavily pitched 3 blade prop that is the culprit.
    So the Featherstream sounds to be right for us then (noise, and in fact everything except SA/D, will be the same as for the 435). The 4-blade is 25% more expensive but I’m going to try and go for it – we need manoeuvrability for the local work that forms most of our sailing. Here in southern Brittany and Vendee/Charente-Maritime, it’s getting so popular we’re having to get into tighter and tighter berths (this year several of us ‘larger’ boats (the 385 is 12.65 or 41’6″ in fact)) found ourselves in berths/trots designed for much smaller vessels at La Rochelle. Sadly, but not surprisingly, we were thrown out of our bunks at 6.30am when the Sun Odyssey 45 moored nearby tried to manoeuvre out and rammed us hard bending the stern roller cheek, scraping lots of paint and getting his shrouds caught on our gantry – insurance claim under way). thanks again – I envy you – best regards, Paul

    • Colin Speedie Sep 16, 2013, 7:04 am

      Hi Paul

      Sounds like the 4 blade is the way to go for you, especially given Dick’s positive comments above.

      And we know only too well the pitfalls of handling these boats in tight spaces. Anything that you can do to help is worth having. For what it’s worth, the Featherstream 3 blade has made a positive difference to handling our boat in such places, which has been a major plus not least in terms of generating greater confidence in getting into tight spots.

      But it is becoming a real problem, isn’t it – all these older marinas built for the days when the average LOA was far shorter than it is today. Best of luck with it.


  • Dick Stevenson Sep 16, 2013, 7:35 am

    Colin, My worry is that the new marina’s will be designed with the expectation that you will have a bow thruster. After a season in the Baltic, some marinas appear that they already have gone that route. Dick

    • Marc Dacey Sep 16, 2013, 9:45 am

      We went to a four-bladed feathering Variprop I expect to run for the first time in the next six weeks or so…I may report back here on how it compares in tight situations with the three-bladed “fixie” it has replaced.

      As for tight spaces and bowthrusters, that seems to be an issue everywhere, in part related, I believe, to increased taxation of marina “land”. There’s a point where the fees charged larger boats do not exceed what a marina could get with a larger number of boats, and so there is a temptation to squeeze a greater number of larger boats into smaller spaces. The excessive beam (at least in terms of existing dockage) of modern designs doesn’t help the situation.

      One can, in the absence of a thruster at the bow, warp out, but warping *in* is a little trickier. We’ve never needed a dock person’s aid to get in, but I can see days and docks ahead where that will become more necessary as 40-plus boats go into 30-something slips.

      It’s reinforcing an argument in favour of anchoring out, frankly…even with the bother of deploying a tender, it’s easier on the nerves!

      • Colin Speedie Sep 16, 2013, 10:32 am

        Hi Marc

        So many marinas in the ‘old’ world were built in the days when a big boat as 35ft long – look in Spain, France, for example. As you suggest, the marina operators have to look at this in a purely financial light, and try to eke out the maximum amount of revenue from the given acreage of water, but another factor in this is that they often have to re-jig the position of whole rows of pontoons to do so, which is highly expensive. Or, go down the poor mans route and simply condemn people to turn around in their own length and go alongside pontoons half the length of your boat.

        Along the coast of Spain and Portugal it’s not unusual for Marineiros to come down and help you into a berth, and where they know what they’re doing they can be a godsend. but as Dick and I know, quality can be hard to judge when you’re handing your bow line to a guy who doesn’t share your language.

        Re your final comment – ain’t that the truth!

        Best wishes


    • Colin Speedie Sep 16, 2013, 10:23 am

      Hi Dick

      I’m afraid that I think that you’re right – they already do.

      We always call up in advance, ask for an easy in/out berth and point out that we don’t have a bow thruster. As a result, we usually manage to get someone down to take a line (everywhere except the UK, that is…).

      But that in itself leads to some interesting exchanges, as some of the worthies
      who arrive to help have no idea, and will stick whatever warp you pass them on anything handy, purely for entertainments sake, of course. But then again, I’ll bet that’s never happened to you – right?

      Best wishes


  • Paul Gilfedder Sep 16, 2013, 12:33 pm

    Hi both Dick and Colin – Dick’s confirmed we should go for the 4-blade which is great, and you’ve confirmed it’ll improve my – sorry, the boat’s – handling. Yes, Chris and Darglow are very helpful – much better than trying to buy the prop through a blinkered, one-product shipyard.
    Dick – you’re more than right, it’s positively EXPECTED that we’ll have a thruster – if we don’t we must be mad, and if we complain we’re inept. My problem with this boat is that its once-it’s-gone-you’ve-had-it nature and innate solidity discourages me from keeping as much way on as usual in tight spaces, but pussyfooting around makes things worse. Of course the dealer and previous owner have never had any problem, so 8 boats and 25+ years later it must be my fault! My only defence is that the other 7 boats were completely manageable/chuckable when necessary, and astern was my favourite way of doing things.
    I’ll let you know how we get on although it probably won’t be before the spring lift-out. Thanks again to you both for the first-hand advice.
    best regards
    Paul G – Ovni 385 ‘Cybelle’, Bay of Quiberon area

  • Stephen Lewinton May 8, 2018, 1:44 pm

    Really enjoyed the book it was a fun read

    • John May 8, 2018, 2:45 pm

      Hi Stephen,

      Yes, Colin just does a great job of mixing the joy of cruising and the technical challenges—no one better.

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