AIS Revisited

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AIS ooutput on chart plotter
AIS ooutput on chart plotter
Sometimes you need all the help you can get!

I’ve written before on the potential benefits of AIS for small craft, and having used it far more since then, it’s time for an update. After being initially impressed with it, and the capabilities it offers beyond radar, has it lived up to that first impression? A good test was when we recently crossed to Morocco west of the Straits of Gibraltar, a remarkably busy stretch of water, which is where AIS should (and indeed, did) come into its own.

The Best Of The Old World

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It has been so good to be underway again, after a long, forced spell ashore. Not that it wasn’t without its positive side, but there are only so many weeks in a boatyard you can endure, even when it’s in a country as warm and friendly as Portugal. And it

We Need Our Sleep

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It’s a funny thing, sleep, isn’t it—too much of it can make us sluggish, not enough and we can come close to collapse. Preparing for a passage, it’s vital to get enough rest in advance, but we find that’s one of the most difficult things to achieve. Resting well in the days before departure should be the best approach, but there always seems to be a list of things that have to be done to keep us busy until the last moment. And on the night before, even early to bed after a light supper doesn’t guarantee a good night’s sleep. At 0100 you’re wide awake, with your mind going at ninety miles an hour.

Experts Worth Their Weight In Gold

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In the slings to antifoul the centreboard

Back afloat at last, and it’s so good to feel Pèlerin swing to the wind and tide at anchor once more, after what seemed an endless winter.

The last few weeks in the boatyard have been exhausting, as we’ve slogged through the work getting her ready for the long haul after a series of false starts. A patched up repair to our rudder coming down the Portuguese coast last year was obviously not going to be the long-term solution that was required.

It’s Painting Time Again

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As the old saying goes, you pay for your pleasures, and that’s certainly true when it comes round to the annual re-fit. The many little jobs that were just too awkward afloat, added to the big ones like antifouling, can all back up and lead to a formidable worklist.

Feathering Propeller Review

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Better light airs performance was our goal

When we took delivery of our new OVNI 435 in 2008, we decided to stick with the standard 3 bladed propeller, partly for reasons of cost (we were running out of cash!).

But on all of my previous boats I’d had either a folding or feathering prop, and fully intended to fit one to Pèlerin when money allowed – none of these units are cheap, but the fixed blade could then act as a spare. Fixed props are fine and have predictable characteristics, but as has been demonstrated in numerous prop tests, a fixed three bladed prop has about the same drag coefficient as a boat’s hull.

When under sail, if the gearbox manufacturer allows, the prop can freewheel, that’s about the equivalent of towing one bucket, but if the prop has to be locked in gear, then make that towing two buckets. That will make a major dent in any boat’s performance, especially in light airs. But the prop drag can be reduced entirely by fitting a folding prop, and by over 90% by fitting a feathering prop, so we knew we wanted to make the change as soon as we could.

Piracy—Trouble In Paradise

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A peaceful spot to watch the world go by

For most cruising yachtsmen there are few more beautiful, peaceful or congenial places to down a cold Tusker beer, than on the Kenyan shore of the Indian Ocean. Such places form the backbone of the dream for so many, and it’s not hard to see why.

But outside in open waters things are less idyllic, due to the presence of Somali pirates patrolling the sea, looking for vessels to hijack.

Sailing The West Coast Of Scotland, Part 2

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Sailing ‘off-grid’ is all about getting away from the crowds, and the west of Scotland can certainly offer that – during my first fortnight in charge of a charter boat in the Hebrides back in the spring of 1992 we saw one other yacht in two weeks. And in those

Sailing The West Coast Of Scotland, Part 1

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A hardy perennial in sailing magazines has always been some well-known individual describing their ‘favourite secret anchorage’. I’ve never fully understood the rationale for taking part in such an exercise.  After all, if it’s no longer a secret, won’t that make it as busy as any other place as a

New Versus Old

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It’s taken us a long time to get here – rounding Cape St Vincent in company

When we arrived in Lagos, Portugal, I recognised a very smart looking cutter berthed near us as belonging to people I knew, so when I could see there was someone aboard I wandered over to say hello. After a brief chat, I was told that this obviously ocean-ready yacht was now up for sale due to a change of plans. Somebody’s going to get a great boat here, I thought, and this got me thinking about our own experience.

Pèlerin, an Ovni 435 from the French builder Alubat, is our fourth yacht, and the first new build that we’ve ever owned. And that hadn’t been our intention at all, as we’d been dead set on finding a nearly new boat, fully kitted out if at all possible. It was only when that proved too difficult (we simply couldn’t find a boat close enough to our spec at a sensible price) that we decided to go for new. And that has had its good and bad sides, as may be expected.

Cruising With A Purpose

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Unfriendly dolphin – a common dolphin takes aim at another

The liveaboard life appeals on many levels, but in common with many cruising couples that we have encountered, we have found that it can feel a little purposeless at times. This is partly due to us still shaking off many years of frenetic career work, but we’ve found we’re far from alone in this regard.

So as a means of keeping us busy and engaged after too many years spent aboard research yachts, we have kept up the habit of constantly scanning the horizon for signs of wildlife, with the undoubted benefit that we see far more spectacular creatures as a result.