Copyright 2023 - Woods Designs, 16 King St, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL11 2AT UK
  • production Strider 24

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  • Strike 15 trimaran at speed

  • 28ft Skoota in British Columbia

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  • 24ft Strider sailing fast

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Blog and Facebook Posts

These pages are taken from my Facebook posts and are ones that should stand the test of time. Posts start at January 2023 with the latest at the top, so scroll down to get younger. Note that comments and replies to my original Facebook post can only be viewed on Facebook, sorry. So it's worth checking my Facebook pages for those, and also for other posts that I have not included here.

(This is still a work in progress as I copy pages from Facebook) 

A few weeks ago I wrote about a part finished Skoota 36 powercat (the owner extended it to 40ft). Recently I had a chance to visit the boat. It is in a boatyard in Lincolnshire, on the east coast of England.
As you can see from the photos, it will be a huge boat once finished - Jetti is standing in what will be the saloon area. But it also shows the amount of work still to do. Having said that, most of the structure in the hulls is complete. Fuel and water tanks are in, wiring and plumbing conduits installed - complete with pull throughs as required.
Metal framed windows are on the boat, but not installed. So it wouldn't take long to make the boat watertight. You'd also need at least a temporary aft bulkhead and door - I understand the builder was going to fit sliding glass patio doors.
The outside of the hulls and decks has been sanded and painted. Coppercoat below the WL, primer above but it's sanded and ready for topcoat.
There is some glass and epoxy and of course a whole stack of part sheets of plywood. Enough to at least finish the transom areas, so that engines and steering can be fitted.
It's all in a big watertight shed and there is room for a caravan if you need to live on site while finishing the work. A crane to launch the boat will be about GBP250 and then it's about 5 miles down the river to the sea.
Serious enquiries only and please contact me in the first instance. Price, as is, is around GBP20,000 and shed rent is GBP40 a week.
This is an update to a video I posted last year when sailing my Chat 18 catamaran in the Tamar river north of Devonport dockyard, see here:
The Tamar river is navigable for many more miles above Weir Quay. My sister came to stay last week and, as both wind and tide served, it seemed like a good opportunity to sail as far north as we sensibly could.
Diana and her family first sailed Sagitta shortly after launching. Now, 32 years later, Diana was alone, but still enjoyed the sail.
As we sailed/motored north the river shallowed and narrowed, while the countryside became ever more rural and inaccessible. So Weir Quay marks the end of the moorings. However a mile or so further on is a waterfront house that's very familiar to fans of the BBC TV series "Beyond Paradise".
Then, a couple of miles north is the dockyard, and workshop area for Cotehele House, not forgetting the Shamrock, a Victorian sailing barge built for trading on the Tamar river. Cotehele is a famous Tudor house, naturally steeped in history, see here
The first time I sailed to Cotehele was in 1983 on our 25ft Gwahir catamaran, and we did SAIL there - Gwahir had no engine. On a later visit on my 28ft Gypsy catamaran we spent the night tied to the quay wall. As we've found, the National Trust often welcomes visiting yachts as they add "atmosphere".
However Cotehele is not the "Furthest North". A couple of bends further on is the waterside town of Calstock with its imposing Victorian railway viaduct, built to connect north Cornwall to Plymouth. Although its possible to go on a few more miles to the weir at Morwellham we thought the viaduct would be a bit challenging for a 20ft wide boat, so we turned round and headed south again.
A great day out - it didn't even rain (much)! And a real contrast to the Round the Island race a few weeks earlier.
It's time for reports from other sailors!
A new homebuilt Tamar 31 was recently launched in Millbrook and after some delays the owner left to sail it singlehanded to Southampton. It is his first multihull. These are extracts from his report. You can see the whole log on my forum pages here
I have sailed from Plymouth to Torquay, and from Torquay to Portland. The boat is a Tamar 31, effectively a bare boat with no internal fitout, I was carrying two engines and a lot of tools etc, so she could be lighter - but I’m certain she is well below her designed weight. The rig is brand new, with brand new sails, and there has been no shakedown sail or testing of any kind, I’ve gone straight from the riggers for the big trip home.
Leaving Plymouth it was mostly downwind, and, with headsail only, I followed a monohull most of the way, speed about 7 knots, feeling a bit fed up that the boat wasn’t as fast as I hoped it might be, but grateful for something to help me hold a course since the autopilot wasn’t working and I had no compass or instruments. The speed steadily increased throughout the day until I was peaking at around 10-11 knots by the time I arrived at Torquay, which was a bit more like it. This is under full headsail only. I believe the wind was 20-25 knots on the forecast, which mirrored my experiences on the boat. 
The second day I sailed from Torquay, again aiming for as far as I could get, heading almost dead downwind in relatively light winds. Wind speed maybe 10 knots, 15 at a push. I was making 4-5 knots under full headsail only, so I decided to raise the main. Once I changed course about 10-15 degrees towards the wind, onto a broad reach, I was able to get both sails properly set and working, and speed improved to around 8 knots. Around this time some dolphins turned up whilst I was sitting on the foredeck.
I noticed on my GPS watch that the boat speed was increasing, 9 knots, 10knots… 11knots. Still climbing. Looking at the sea state I could see that wind was increasing, white horses everywhere, but not really bad. I guess a F5. Maybe gusting 6, but not sustained at F6. I am not familiar with the boat or catamarans in general, so I decided it was time to be sensible and put in a reef. 1 reef in, no reduction in speed. 2 reefs in, no reduction in speed. Drop the mainsail, minor reduction in speed. 10 knots.
Then the sea started to build. Not crazy big, just 1-2m, relatively close together, steep, and hitting us directly on the beam. The motion was quite abrupt, so I put a reef in the jib. No reduction in speed. We continued like this for a while, and then we started surfing. Then we were seeing 12 knots on a wave, decreasing to about 9 or 10, then back up to 12 on the next wave, etc.
As I arrived at Portland I was 10 miles offshore, the tide was turning against me, with various problems with the sails. So in anticipation of the much fabled tidal race I furled the jib fired up both engines and continued to surf at 10-12 knots past the Shambles and finally into Portland Harbour just as it was getting dark.
The bottom line is that, barring the normal teething problems in the boat setup, there were no disasters. I was really enjoying myself and had felt completely confident in the boat
Overall, the outlook is for a fun and fast boat to sail, only once did anything move (a loose item fell off a shelf when we were hit with a crash on the beam by a somewhat larger wave and took some water over the side) but otherwise the stability was remarkable. I just need to learn how she handles and improve some of the setup so things work better.
In reply another Tamar owner, who has been sailing his boat for a couple of years wrote:
"Once you get the hang of sailing her you will love it. We came in first in our class tonight against a 38 ft cat. Not sure what type but he always wins. And also ahead of the 33ft tri that beat me last week. And we were ahead of a F32 carbon fiber tri that weighs about 10 lbs and goes like stink. We were ahead of him the whole downwind leg with winds as high as 5 knots. Gusting to 6 knots."
And later "Our club races were in winds from 15 to over 30 knots this week. The boat handled the wind and waves quite well with one reef. Bows were completely submerged which creates quite a splash. I did not hear one wave hit the bridge deck. Sailed at 10.5 knots and could have gone faster if I wasn't such a chicken. Barely a creak in the boat. The PDQ 36 beside me was flying a hull. Fun night, great boat. I love it more every day."
See photo, note owner is 6ft4in tall - 1.95m - so he raised the cabin roof
May be an image of 2 people, people boat racing, sail and sailing boat
The Round the Island race is the UK's most prestigious and popular race, there were 1100 starters this year, making it the fourth largest sporting event in the UK. See more here
The race goes anticlockwise around the Isle of Wight, starting and finishing at Cowes. It's 50 miles measured round the shoreline, but most boats sail 60-70 miles, allowing for tacking and staying in deep water.
All boats over 18ft are allowed, around 45 multihulls entered, sadly no monster trimarans this year, the largest/fastest was a Gunboat 66, which unfortunately was to capsize after breaking a rudder somewhere south of the Island.
I played it safe on my 30ft Sagitta catamaran and entered the multihull cruiser class. Not only were we 20% slower than the next slowest racing boat but we were definitely lacking in experience. Although I had crewed on a trimaran in 2019 I hadn't raced my own boat in the RtheI for over 20 years. Joe had his first ever sail on a multihull just four days earlier. Shaun had never used a spinnaker and his catamaran experience was limited to our sail/motor up from Plymouth. Otherwise he's only sailed dinghies. Lawrie is only 14 and no relation, so we had an extra duty of care. Thus no spinnaker, instead we would use our masthead screecher - goosewinged if necessary.
The forecast was not promising - although maybe it was actually a "typical English summer day" - SW winds of 20-25 knots plus higher gusts. And so it proved to be. And that meant it was likely to be a big/fast boat race. Again, as it proved. In contrast, in 2019 winds were light and the overall winner was a 50 year old 18ft keelboat, and the first monohull to finish was 168th on corrected time. Multihulls and big boats always start first. Which, later in the race, makes it kind of fun to look back at 1000+ spinnakers.
The tides in the Solent and round the IOW can be strong, 3-4 knots in places. To help competitors the race starts just before HW so boats get "flushed" out of the Solent and past the Needles, even though this usually means smaller, slower boats are fighting the tide on the south side of the island. The tide races out at the Needles, as it's funnelled by the Shingle Bank, Hurst Castle on the mainland, and the Needles themselves. So, with a strong wind and against the tide, it's a tricky, uncomfortable few miles.
We did well beating down the Solent, initially staying close in to the mainland shore to keep out of the still flooding tide. Then, once the gps/log indicated the tide had turned, we kept in mid channel. Surprisingly not many used the same tactic, so with few other boats around we had clear air, and we were well up with much faster boats as we approached the Needles.
Far off in the distance to windward we could see Poole disappear in a storm cloud, one we knew was heading our way. So, unlike some of the less attentive, we were prepared for rain and a big squall just as we got to the roughest part of the Needles channel. This photo shows what happened first.
Had David Harding taken another photo a few seconds later he'd have caught us disappearing into the back of the next wave. Fortunately it was not my bunk that got wet. So a good thing we were playing safe and taking it easy!
Others were more unlucky, if not foolhardy. We saw a number of monohull keel bulbs, at least three broken masts and, most scary of all, there were apparently 16 MOBs during that same squall.
Once past Tennyson Down (named after the famous poet) the rule is to keep as close to the shore as you dare for the next 20 miles or so. So we tried to stay on the shore side of the innermost pot buoys along the south of the island, which meant running on the 5m depth mark. Even so a Swan 43 sailed inshore of us and overtook many who were playing it safe. It really does pay to stay as close to the shore as you can to keep out of the tide.
Ryde Sands are notorious for catching the unwary, as the shallow water extends much further than many expect. We had "cased the joint" a few days before and had a safe track on our chartplotter. Even so I asked one daggerboard to be partly raised when the depth dropped alarmingly to 1.6m - we draw 1.5m with boards down.
Despite the squall off the Needles and the near grounding the worst part of the race was at the finish. Some very rude monohull sailors who didn't know the rules. One large Dragonfly trimaran, sailing just behind us, must have been close to panicking when they called for water off Norris Castle and no one tacked away. It even looked like they may have been forced aground.
The finish line was a short one - even by dinghy standards. So when six of us crossed it in under a minute, to windward and against a very strong flooding tide there was, to say the least, a lot of shouting.
But we made it - 124th boat over line, and easily first in the multihull cruiser class. Boats were still finishing long after we had sailed back to our marina and we were having a celebratory meal.
Finally a special mention to one of my other designs, the 30 year old, home built 9m Skua "Mawhiti" which finished 39th over the line and 14th in the multihull racing class. It had crossed the Atlantic back in 2003 when I was sailing my Eclipse in the Caribbean - I sailed it in Bequia - although it has been much modified since then.

It's been an odd year here so far in Cornwall. After the wettest March on record the weather started to dry out and since launching Sagitta in mid April it has hardly rained. Just blue skies with never a cloud to be seen. Not only that, but, instead of the normal prevailing SW winds, we have been having either strong East winds or "light and variable". It's all the more obvious to me because not only do I try to sail three or four times a week, but we have a house that is totally exposed to the east.

All that is a preamble to the sailing we've done so far in Sagitta. We've had a couple of evening club races where we've retired due to lack of wind. The race to Fowey and back was a drift both ways - over 6 hours to do 20 miles! The following weekend we cruised there, again in little wind but, scarily, in thick fog on the way home, but at least we could motor.

And then, most recently, the Eddystone Pursuit charity challenge which I entered for my chosen charity Surfers Against Sewage. As it was a pursuit race the fast boats started last, our start was 2 hours after the first boats so, as we motored out towards Plymouth Hoe, we could see some old gaffers slowly sailing to windward but still in the Sound. It was definitely going to be a drift!

The forecast was for light winds, under 5 knots and, although the race officer had optimistically said a sea breeze would build, we didn't believe him, and indeed the wind slowly moderated to 2 knots or less, thus benefiting the early starters. Half my crew could be called "experts" as they had already sailed Sagitta for an hour, but for two of the others it was their first time ever on a sailing boat.


Harris, being the youngest, was chosen to be starting helmsman, and we made a good start, only a few seconds late and ahead of Trying, the trimaran that started with us. Easy Tiger the Dazcat started 15 minutes later as the last starter. So we drifted off to windward. Sagitta going out through the western entrance. ET and Trying going out the eastern, which meant that after an hour they were almost hull down.

ET tacked back towards Rame Head and were still behind. Again they were hull down before tacking back towards us. But amazingly when we met up all three of us were within yards of each other. Then once again we split tacks, disappeared, only to reappear next to each other once again (I think at one stage Trying called starboard on us). And so it went on, although I suspect that the other boats, like us, weren't taking things too seriously. Instead turning it into a fun day out rather than any attempt at a race.

Until at 15.50 when we decided to call it a day, we had sailed 10 miles, only 16 still to go and the time limit was 16.30. We could see some boats right by the lighthouse but no spinnakers, our gps put us 3 miles off, which was going to take us at least another hour. ET was just behind us and Trying slightly down to lee. Had we all carried on I have no idea who would have been first to round, I suspect it would have been very close.

Clearly given the conditions, finishing a 26 mile course with a 6 hour time limit was going to be a challenge and so it proved. Only two boats made it round the Eddystone lighthouse, but both almost immediately retired and motored home as it was far too light to carry spinnakers on a dead run. So the whole fleet retired, not one boat finished. But that didn't stop us from having our own celebratory "first boat round the Eddystone" cake as we motored home to Torpoint!!

So, in the end, a successful day out. Especially, as thanks to your generosity, we raised GBP490 for Surfers Against Sewage. In addition (although I'm not quite clear of the hows and whys) it seems we also benefited from a further GBP200 from the Prize money pot. Add in the Gift Aid tax relief and SAS should benefit by about GBP800!!!


News just in... I got this email this morning
"I thought you might like to know that over the weekend Yeta sailed from Portrush on the north coast of Ireland to Bangor on the east coast and on the way regularly hit speeds of over 10 knots - max recorded on a mainsail and spinnaker broad reach/run of 14.7 knots. The new owner is delighted and we had a fantastic two days of sailing"
Yeta is the Strider Club I sailed to the USSR back in 1989. See here
It's been a well travelled boat since then, so great to know that after 34 years it's still sailing and that owners are still having fun!
Our 30ft Sagitta catamaran has now been in the water for a month. I have reported elsewhere about our first races, alas no videos as racing is all a bit too stressful, especially with a largely inexperienced crew. So here is a video showing the first daysails of the year.
Fortunately the first day was a gentle sail, up the Tamar and then into the Lynher river. But at least we were able to check out the - not previously hoisted - masthead screecher. I was pleased to see the boat would still steer itself in light winds, just as it did 32 years ago.
Our next sail was out to sea, a bit more wind, but still too chilly for comfort. So we spent much of the time sitting below with the autopilot on. A great new genoa from Highwater Sails, complete with a fancy foot to match the cabin top, and leech battens, all to maximise area. Our new mainsail should be arriving in the next few weeks, again from Highwater Sails.
Photo shows the ex-monohull spinnaker, we will be trying a J80 asymmetric soon.
You can see many more Sagitta videos from 30+ years ago on my youtube channel.
Sagitta is now back in the water! This photo was taken by Darren Newton of Dazcat fame (who had built Sagitta's daggerboards back in 1990) during a Tuesday evening club race. We were the only boat to race with a dinghy in davits and a generator and dinghy outboard cluttering up the cockpit!
Racing is a great way to learn how to sail the boat efficiently, especially on very short courses - we were sailing round buoys we normally use when dinghy racing. But it's not for the faint hearted, as this photo shows - note the hand in the bottom right corner, this was not a telephoto shot. A J24 claimed they never saw us until it was almost too late but fortunately they tacked in time, the photo was taken after we had separated, apparently one J24 crew was ready to fend us off.
This was also the first time using our new racing headsail. Beautifully made by Highwater Sails. Cannot wait for the new mainsail! I'll be racing as much as I can, but I really need a good, multihull experienced, regular crew. Send me your CV if interested!
Thanks to the wettest March on record, and a few major gales, our sailing season was off to a slow start. But now it's in full swing. We relaunched our Sagitta catamaran last week after a 400+hour refit - more on that later. Sadly bad weather meant we missed the only possible launch date for our Chat 18 catamaran. So that will be staying ashore this year.
Of course it's not just catamarans that I sail! I am still racing my Kiwi 12 dinghy, and slowly learning how to sail it faster. And I am now helping teach adults to sail at my local club - that's me smiling at the camera on a very cold evening last week.
And then I recently raced on a Diam 24 trimaran (I'm in yellow). It's first sail for 6 months or so. Some years ago I sailed a Multi 23 trimaran, similar in concept but not a good design. Having said that the Diam really needs wind over 10 knots before it comes alive, and it bounces around in a sloppy sea. Great fun and very fast in the occasional 12-15 knot gusts that we had. Easy to sail with 3 crew and only a screecher offwind. But, as always, the self tacking jib meant it was easy to get in irons when tacking.
Roll on summer - I'll be dinghy racing Mondays and Thursdays, racing my Sagitta Tuesdays, teaching sailing Fridays - which leaves the weekends for some cruising!
Not surprisingly, my most popular design is my 8ft yacht tender Crayfish, designed over 40 years ago and built from 3 sheets 4mm (3/16in) plywood. A very easy build, indeed we once built one on the marina pontoon next to our boat.
I just received an email from a Crayfish enthusiast. I say that as he has built 9 of them! He is also a very experienced multihull sailor having sailed his trimaran over 50,000 miles round the Pacific over the last 35 years. In his email he wrote "....The reason I’m writing to you now is that I just posted a little video
of the construction of two sailing Crayfish, that I built for the Royal Belau Yacht Club in Koror, Palau. Knowing that they would be used to teach sailing to kids, I built them solid, all 1/4” ply, and with two water tight compartments. The video shows it all. Thank you Richard, such a practical dinghy design. Love all your multihull designs as well...."
The last video I uploaded showed the singlehanded cruise of a Eagle catamaran from Germany to Norway and back.
It was a home built plywood boat and this video
shows the build - as before I've shortened a longer video. It's mainly still photos, with some German subtitles but no audio as the photos are self explanatory.
After several posts featuring my own sailing here is a video of a customers boat.
It's of the famous black, lengthened and somewhat modified Eagle 24. Originally a long video with German commentary, I have shortened it and there is no audio, as I don't speak German so couldn't translate it. 
I report on the maiden journey of my Eagle catamaran "Über-Winden". It was my first trip at sea on a multihull.
In brief. I started in Bremerhaven, Germany and sailed non stop nearly 300 miles to Farsund, near Lista, the southwestern corner of Norway.
For the first 50 miles I sailed upwind in force 2-3. The next 250 miles was downwind in force 3-6. The Eagle sailed very comfortably. Easy on the helm under any conditions. No tendency to pitchpole when I sailed between 13,5 and 14,5 knots in a force 5-6 down steep waves. On a broad reach it would be faster of course. But I didn`t change direction, as the tillerpilot was not working well.
The last seven hours I reduced the sails, as I wished to reach the rocky coast in daylight. So I took 42 hours for the trip. All the way it sailed very easily and the structure seems to be very strong.
The potential top speed I'll try for, when I have more experience and when I have an autopilot that works reliably, rather than sometimes, as on this trip - I'm always sailing solo.
The potential of the Eagle shines, when I surfed downwind in gusts of more than 25 knots. The weather forecast predicted 2,5 to 3 m waves. I overtook waves in gusts for several hours. Under these conditions I heard the noise not only from waves, but sometimes vibrations from the hull and rudder dominated. But no spray on deck!
The speed? I don´t know. Far more than 15 knots. My instrument shows only windspeed and direction. Although the speed was probably more then 20 knots, that says nothing. More important is the control of the boat. I could steer it anytime with my fingers.
The way back was, as I expected, not a joy. The first 11 hours I hand steered and for 30 hours mostly in the direction of Great Britain rather than Bremen. The trip back lasted round about 55 hours. More than 50% at the helm. ( Late in autumn I got a new tillerpilot from Simrad. But I'll not take it in future. I decided to take a outsized system with extra computer, compass etc.)

In an earlier post I said I had sailed several widely different boats during my few weeks in Barbados. A 39ft cruising catamaran, a 26ft open deck racing catamaran, a 100ft schooner and finally a 46ft trimaran "Oceans Tribute".
I cannot really call it a "racing" trimaran, as it was sailed 16000 miles to Barbados singlehanded(!) from Australia, by Guy Chester. But it was easily the fastest boat in Barbados for the week it was here. Guy has now sailed on to other islands as he is competing in all the different Caribbean regattas.
There were 6 of us on board, from 5 different countries! No one had sailed with Guy before, and obviously only Guy had sailed the boat, so it was a big learning experience for everyone. And that meant it was too stressful and hectic to make any normal videos. Fortunately Bajan sailor Marianna was able to get some clips on her phone and then, amazingly, upload them before we were back on the mooring. See here:
We had four too-short practice races before the main event - the Round Barbados race. This is a similar length (roughly 60 miles) to the UK's Round the Island race but without the tidal considerations, although outlying reefs meant we kept further offshore than one would in the RtI, where keeping out of the tide by sailing along the 10ft contour is the norm.
Sailing clockwise round meant starting with a fast, flat water, close reach, then a short beat round the north end to what we hoped would be a fast broad reach down the east of island. But the wind had other ideas and it was another close reach until we got to East Point and could bear off and hoist the screecher. Swells and winds up to 24 knots true made it a bit marginal for an asymmetric spinnaker. Even so, top speed was 24 knots, and 16 knots to windward which made it a wet boat in the trade wind waves!
The heading photo shows us crossing the finish line, just over 5 hours from the start and about 65 nautical miles sailed.
Overall I was very impressed with the design and build, it's a great credit to Lock Crowther who designed it over 30 years ago.
When Guy left for Antigua he said "see you in 2024 for the Fastnet Race", so I hope he makes good on that promise, as it will be interesting to see how he matches up against European competition.
The biggest boat I sailed in Barbados was, in fact, the biggest boat I have ever sailed - the 100ft long engineless schooner "Ruth". I got a ride by sheer chance, being in the right place at the right time. It seemed some others in the crew were in the same boat(!), indeed some had never even sailed before. Video is here.
Ruth was designed by Thomas Colvin and is based on the Grand Banks fishing schooners of 100+ years ago. Surprisingly, it's actually less than 10 years old and was built in part for day charters/sailing instruction and in part for trade, as it also has a big hold for inter-island cargoes.
Obviously a 100ft long boat cannot have sail controls led aft, as is the norm on smaller boats these days. So, to avoid a lot of running around, the crew naturally divided into 3 groups. I was mainsheet trimmer, (with some helpers) so I never saw what was happening at the foremast and I still have no idea how they handled the foresails or moored the boat. It all gave a fresh insight as to how they sailed tea clippers and men of war in Napoleonic times.
The gaff mainsail is 145sqm, or around 1600sqft! with a 12m, 40ft long boom. Huge heavy wooden blocks did eventually lead to a winch but both hoisting the gaff and handling the main sheet was hard work for four of us.
I found climbing out to the end of the boom, which extended out behind the stern and was maybe 15ft above the sea, somewhat daunting. I had to do that after mooring up to fit one end of the sail cover which naturally was huge, bigger than many small boat mainsails.
Of course, as an engineless boat we had to pick up the mooring under sail. Somewhat challenging, especially as the freeboard was so high. But we made it, despite a riding turn on a cleat which required the whole crew - even the non sailors - to help untangle.
The reason for the sail was to "race" the "Tres Hombres", another engineless boat, this time a cargo running brigantine that was leaving for Holland a couple of days later with a full cargo of rum. More on that in a later video.
I took the heading photo from a bus a few days later, when it was stuck in traffic, again I was at exactly the right place and time!
We arrived in Barbados just after midnight on December 26th after 14 days at sea. Slightly sooner than I had expected, for it's actually quite hard/stressful/exhausting for any cruiser to average more than about 6 knots when on a long passage. Although motoring whenever the speed dropped below 4 knots certainly helped keep the average up.
It's now almost the end of the rainy season, even so everyday there are frequent heavy rain showers. Although that makes it a good time to catch up on design work and writing it's not the weather for a dream holiday in the Bajan sun - that won't be until mid January.
People used to say that an ocean crossing was 90% boredom and 10% terror.
That's not true any more!
Back in the "good old days" - say 45+ years ago, when I made my first transatlantic crossings - there were no good autopilots, so handsteering for the whole passage was the norm (I have made three transAtlantics when we hand steered all the way). Whereas this time we hand steered in and out of port and then for maybe only an hour in a total of 3000 miles.
There was no GPS, so we had to navigate with a sextant. These days there is no need to even write up the log, as a chart plotter tracks the course already sailed and gives the time to the destination waypoint. We had four phones on board as back-up chart plotters to our main BandG unit.
There was no weather routing, so we had to take whatever the weather threw at us, and had no idea in which direction to sail to avoid bad weather. On this crossing we used Predictwind via the Iridium Go satellite system. A great improvement on the weather faxes, and, later, grib files downloaded via SSB, that I have used in the past. (And as a bonus, people on shore could check our position daily, and we could make phone calls home)
Of course back in the 1970s we were much less reliant on electricity, in part because there was no free power from solar or wind. That implied very limited refrigeration, if any. So it was tinned food and no fresh fruit or veg after the first few days at sea. Whereas we still have steaks in the freezer that were bought in Lanzarote.
Sail handling was hard and frequent because there were no reliable headsail furling systems - indeed even self tailing winches, rope clutches and ball bearing blocks were still in the future. This time we had single line reefing on the mainsail, ball bearing luff cars and a (usually goosewinged) roller genoa - and no other sails.
So it was a case of "Shall we gybe today or wait until next week?" The answer of course is that we would choose the gybe that offered the least shadowing of our solar panels. I wished we had a spinnaker for we'd have hoisted it and then lowered the mainsail, because, on a catamaran, you can then sail 20deg each side of course without touching the sheets. Whereas goosewinging meant frequent gybes. Furthermore, "pulling" a boat along is more directionally stable than "pushing" it. I decided I would never again sail a boat without either downwind or light weather sails - not even for a day! never mind for 3000 miles.
Partly as a result of these sail handling improvements boats can now safely be bigger, so they can carry more food, water and fuel - allowing one to motor through calm areas. A slight aside - in my report on the first leg I said we arrived in Mindelo with maybe 10L of fuel left. We have two nominal 100L tanks. When we came to refuel we put 105L in one tank and 110L in the other - so we were certainly running on fumes when we entered the Cape Verdes! (Hoses add surprising extra capacity)
Ironically modern technology means there is no need to carry books, music cassettes/CDs/DVDs, cameras and rolls of film as we did in the past (the Hiscocks were not the only ones to have an onboard darkroom). Today it's all stored on one's phone. Along with all the charts, tide tables and pilots for the whole world. (Having said that, digital charts still go out date and - worse - some old ones do not show the correct Lat/Long even if the details of the coastline are perfect)
Our AIS receiver meant we "saw" ships coming long before they appeared on the horizon, so keeping a look out from the cockpit was less important than in the past. Of course it helped to have all round vision from the saloon, which meant that for most watches there was no real need to go on deck at all, which was great news, especially in the vicious rain squalls we met towards the end of the crossing (don't worry, we also had an AIS plotter in the saloon)
Although we had caught two fish on the first leg we didn't try fishing on the second. Pelagic fish tend to be large. It was hard enough to reel one in when motoring at 5 knots, it would be impossible when surfing at 7-10. And with only 3 on board we couldn't eat all of a 10kg fish before we got bored with fish for breakfasts, lunches and evening meals.
Yes, we had flying fish land on the forward net most nights, but they were never large enough for a sensible meal (why only small ones flew high enough to reach the net and not the bigger ones remains a mystery)
So the upshot of all that is that now you can say a tradewind Atlantic crossing is 99% boring and maybe 1% anxious moments. Particularly so this year, when La Nina had the effect of reducing the strength of the trade winds. Indeed most days I could have sailed my dinghy across the Atlantic (probably not at night though!)
So what about the 1% time spent on those "anxious moments"?
Probably the biggest concern was that the autopilot went "goofy" about once a week and would suddenly zoom off course and once even tried to make a complete circle. First we recalibrated and rebooted everything (tricky when at sea and not in a marina) and then in desperation threw away the instructions and set up everything manually. That seemed to stop the worst of the gyrations and Tom decided the off-course errors were due to missing NMEA signals (no, I don't know what that means either).
A few days out from the Cape Verdes we saw we had caught something green on a propeller. "Plastic bag" we thought. But when Erick grabbed it with the boat hook we realised it was part of a discarded fishing net and, despite his best efforts to free it, was totally jammed (The propellors on a Lagoon 380 are behind the rudders, not in front as is normal, and sail drive legs meant no on-shaft line cutters).
If it stayed stuck that would cause major problems when we arrived, as manouvering with one offset engine is near impossible, especially with no rudder behind the prop to deflect the thrust. But fortunately, during one of the autopilot gyrations a few nights later, the boat made a big sternboard and in the morning we saw the net had disappeared.
Erick flew his drone a couple of times on the first leg when we were motoring. Once he got too involved with filming a dying manta ray and he lost contact with the drone as we had motored too far away. So we had to go back for it, fortunately he landed it sucessfully but with only 30 seconds of battery power left.
Obviously it's hot when sailing in the tropics, so we tended to sleep with all hatches open. Erick had a forward cabin and one night a flying fish flew through the open hatch and hit him in the face! Scales and feathers went everywhere. Erick failed to see the funny side.
The first 2000 miles of our trip were in very light winds. But the trade winds slowly increased over the last 1000 miles and we had regular squalls. One was strong enough to make us drop the mainsail - even so, I saw over 15 knots boat speed under just the genoa. We all got very wet at times in torrential rain, but once again Erick got the worst of it, as he had to gybe the boat in a real cloud burst.
So as you can see - it was all pretty eventful!