Spade Rudders—Ready for Sea?

Reading Time: 8 minutes
Fabricating a spade rudder to ocean standards isn’t cheap or easy.
Fabricating a spade rudder to ocean standards isn’t cheap or easy.

Some time ago I posted here with my views on the suitability of spade rudders for offshore cruising. Having lost a spade rudder that looked to be in A1 condition, naturally my thoughts at the time were coloured by that disaster. Despite the fact that I had up until that time owned three yachts that had spade rudders, had covered tens of thousands of miles aboard them, and but for a bad case of metal fatigue might never have had a concern about their use, my immediate reaction was to rule out having one on our next boat.

Trade Offs in Yacht Design

Reading Time: 9 minutes

This chapter is a slightly humorous but oh so important demonstration, in the form of a mock pub (bar) argument, as two experienced cruisers argue and compromise about what to fit into a 40-foot offshore sailboat and what to leave out. As you search for a boat you will be having the same arguments with yourself and your spouse. This chapter will give you a good framework to settle on what really matters in the boat you buy.

We Live in Rapidly Changing Times

Reading Time: 4 minutes

composite rudder

There was an age, not all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, when technological progress was a slow, measured affair. Revolutionary new developments in materials science, in hull design, in manufacturing processes and in many other engineering fields were few and far between. The “state of the art” progressed at a pace that allowed everyone to catch up before the next new development hit.

Long Thin Boats Are Cool

Reading Time: 3 minutes


A fundamental fact of yacht design is that if you want to move a given displacement—which is the only sensible way to compare boat sizes—through the water without planing, the most efficient hull form is long and thin, as demonstrated by Steve and Linda Dashew’s 83-foot motorboat, Wind Horse. A boat that can move her nearly 50 US tons (45 metric tons) at 13 knots using less than 200 hp. Drop the speed to 11 knots and she uses around 120 hp.

I got to take a ride on Wind Horse today and was very impressed. And if you think she is extreme, read on.

Q&A: What About Ferro-Cement Boats?

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Question [edited for brevity]: I was perusing the boats for sale on the web and came across a number of ferro-cement hulled boats and I was wondering what you thought of that material in general for use in a cruising boat. Is it ever a good idea or is it a matter of manufacturer and current condition? Since I haven’t heard of any companies using it these days I thought it might be an indication that it was an experiment that didn’t show a lot of promise.

Thinking About a Steel Boat?

Reading Time: 15 minutes

Considering buying a steel boat? If so, you owe it to yourself to read Colin’s chapters that examines a beautifully built steel boat and shares what it really takes to do steel right.

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Your Boat Should Forgive You

Reading Time: 2 minutes
It was incorrectly charted…really!

Many of you will be aware of the sinking of the sail training vessel Concordia off the Brazilian Coast last year. The Canadian Transportation Safety Board (TSB) have now completed their report. I see lessons in it for all of us that go to sea, albeit rather different ones than those trumpeted in the media.

New Versus Old

Reading Time: 4 minutes
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.

Rudder Options, Staying In Control

Reading Time: 5 minutes
OVNIs always attract attention

Whenever we lift our OVNI out at a boatyard, she soon attracts a lot of attention. Partly that’s due to the sight of a sizeable boat (seemingly) without a keel, sitting on her bottom, but especially the rudder in its kicked up position, pointing out behind her.

“Vagabond”—An Extraordinary Polar Yacht

Reading Time: 4 minutes
French Arctic expedition yacht "Vagabond"
Vagabond is no ordinary yacht

There’s no mistaking the profile of certain boats, so it was easy for us to recognise the red yacht transiting the Caledonian Canal one day in early April, despite the near blizzard conditions at the time. Vagabond is a well-known yacht in polar circles, and there is really nothing quite like her visually.

Learning The Hard Way

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Rainy Night In Spain

After nearly 20 years of going North, our decision for 2010 was to head South in search of new horizons and the sun. Last year in the Hebrides was wonderful, but when the weather broke in August we were glad to move on, and we know we’ll be back one day.

The Real Story On The MacGregor 65

Reading Time: 3 minutes

[We just got a great comment by Lawrence Trimingham from Bermuda, on our post on a late season crossing in a MacGregor 65, that we thought was so interesting that we are putting it up as a post. Lawrence has literally lived with the boat “man and boy” since his father bought Bermudian Escape 20 plus (?) years ago. He not only addresses the boat’s suitability for the crossing planned by the original questioner, he has also provided a really good overview of this very interesting cruising boat.]

An Engineless Junk Rigged Dory—Another Way To Get Out There

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In the last couple of weeks we have written about some ways to get out voyaging without spending a huge amount of money, at least relatively speaking, and in turn got several great comments from our readers.

In the same vein, last week we had dinner with an interesting couple who built their own boat in eleven months out of a couple of truck loads of exterior grade fur plywood liberally soaked in epoxy. And then sailed a complete Atlantic circle; without an engine, no less!

S/V “Polaris”, Built For The Arctic

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Those of you who have read some accounts of boats wintering over in the polar regions may have visions of dented hull plates, narrow escapes and three inches of frost on the INSIDE of the boat. That is not the Polaris way.