So you want to sail around the world? Or sail to fabulous Tahiti? Or to the glamorous West Indies? Do you dream of following puffy cottonballs of tradewind clouds for day after day over seas of unbelievable colors witht he wind always astern and always just right for reeling off 100 or more miles a day? Would you like to pit your wit and stamina against the sea, and emaerge triumphant and yet strangely humble before the mighty forces previously raging? Do you dream of snug, palm-lined anchorages where you can fall of the boat, swim ashore and bask on white coral sands? All of this can be yours as seen by the long voyages taken bu people of all backgrounds and training in a surprising variety of small boats.
I, too, had these dreams and they burned with enough fire to enable me to realize them. Recently, I completed a circumnavigation of the world, largely singlehanded, in Apogee, a 30 foot SEAWIND ketch. An average sailor before starting, I had dreamed and saved enough to buy and outfit Apogee with a bit left over for the voyage. Apogee followed the usula tradewind route around the world, and the voyage was unusual in only two respects. Apogee is the first fiberglass boat to sail around the world, although I had no idea that this would be the case when I started. In addition, Apogee is one of the few yachts that has the very dubious distinction of being attacked by a school of whales.
In the middle of the Indian Ocean, 700 miles from the nearest land, Apogee was sailing herself comfortably under twin jibs. I was just finishing the dishes - doing them in the cockpit as usual. I had gone below to fetch a dishtowel when I heard a tremendous bang, and Apogee shuddered from keel to masthead. What, I wondered, could be out here so far from land? Looking in the wake after mounting the cockpit, I saw a dark shape in the water astern. My first though was that it was a massive tree trunk, but then the shape moved and I saw that it was a whale! Before this really had time to sink in, there was another shuddering bang - sounding drumlike with the reverberations in the fiberglass - and only then did it become frighteningly obvious that Apogee was being attacked by a school of whales.
What could I possibly do? Was there any way to drive them away? I had no gun and only one small fish spear that would only antagonize them, I suspected. Soapy dish water, oil, detergent - was there anything I could pur into the water to deter them? Should I prepare to abandon ship?
These thoughts ran through my mind as I stood in the cockpit too frightened to go below, watching three or four whales swimming abreast of Apogee. And as I watched, steaming through the seas came a dozen more bearing down on Apogee like torpedoes, until the water all around was filled with fins and blunt noses poking out to see what kind of creature Apogee was. I could have scratched the backs of the nearest ones.
Again a terific reverbarating bang, and I thought about the layers of fiberglass which were taking the beating -- perhaps it could stand several bashings, but what if 20 or so of the brutes decided to line up and bang away at the same spot on the hull like machine gun bullets -- what then?
I retained sufficient presence of mind to estimate their length as slightly more than one-half of Apogee's, small perhaps as whales go, but sufficiently massive to prevent me from going below to rummage my camera out of its locker. After looking around at the whales (would they be kind to a defenseless life raft and dinghy?) and they looking at me with their pigs' eyes for perhaps 20 minutes or so, they gave up to my utmost relief and gratitude. When finally certain that the school was no longer following, I went below to see if there was any damage. Everything seemed OK. Apogee brought me safely through another crisis!
After thinking it over, I suspect that the first encounter happened when Apogee hit a sleeping whale, because it seemed to be stunned and rolling with a motion unusual in whales, when I first sighted it a boat length behind. There is no doubt that the other two were deliberate rammings. The limited reference material aboard suggested that the whales were either False Killer Whales or Pilot Whales.
This is the type of ocurrence that I hope all yachts can avoid, but it made a vivid impression on me which will always be filed along with the other pleasant memories of the trip. To help others so that they may share in these more pleasant experiences, I offer some notes and comments on my voyage, some observations and preferences born of that voyage, and most of all, encouragement to try it yourself!
What kinds of people make long-distance voyagers? Uniting them all is love of the sea, sailing and adventure. Herculean strength is not necessary as shown by the singlehanded voyages undertaken and completed by women. A certain determination and stamina count for more than strength alone. Handiness with tools is a help since much of the maintenance of the boat must be done by the crew. But most important is the will to do it. With this, you can learn the techniques of boat handling, upkeep, navigation, and the myriad other areas where nobody;s expertise is complete.
My own prior experience was not unusual among the members of the cruising community. Never having set foot on a sailboat until ten years before starting out, I gained cruising experience on other people's boats as well as on two of my own before Apogee. When I left Virginia in June 1963 bound for the Virgin Islands, I had never been offshore overnight, or even offshore by myself, or even taken a sight in "earnest." Now 5 years, 40,000 miles and nearly 400 anchorages later, I feel that this was sufficient experience but on the meager side. The more coastline cruising experience you can get, the better.
What else does it tkae? A suitable boat, good sails, engine and gear, good planning, and the inevitable factors of time and money. These are but hurdles to be overcome if you have the will and determination to voyage. Perhaps you will find this booklet helpful in getting started.
What boat is suitable for long distance cruising? A glance around the cruising ports of Papeete, Panama, Fiji, Durban and the West Indies will offer a tremendous variety of sizes, types, constructions, and designs, most of which have crossed an ocean.
Having owned and lived aboard Apogee, a stock fiberglass ketch for 6 years, I can unhesitantingly recommend fiberglass construction for any long distance cruiser. Steel boats may be stronger and perhaps less expensive, wooden boats more pleasing esthetically, but reduced maintenance and the freedom from worry more than outweigh the advantages of other types of construction. Rust or teredos are no problem if the bottom paint is scratched, and when the nearby slipway is weeks or months away, such a problem can be a nagging irritation.
Boat size and crew size are closely related. the more crew you have, the larger the boat to carry them comfortably, and the more work the boat demands in handling and maintenance. Attempts to reduce the proportionate share in money and effort by having a large crew aboard have rarely been permanent. Different objectives, different personal tastes, and the daily friction of living together in a confined space have led to frequent and upsetting crew changes at major ports. Experience shows that the most harmonious crews are a family, two people (perhaps man and wife) or the ultimate escape from crew problems - the singlehander. A good assumption for planning is that at one time or another, you will have to sail and maintain the boat singlehanded.
Basically, the larger the boat, the more comfortable you will be, both at sea and at port. In port, there is more living space and stowage space for items that contibute to comfort, and at sea, the motion will tend to be easier, very important in voyages of two or three weeks. On the other hand, initial investment, the work involved in boat handling and maintenance, and the running costs will increase with the larger boat.
Initial investment and maintenance aside, the recent singlehanded Transatlantic race has shown that boats of close to 60 feet can be raced by one man under far more severe conditions than the cruising yacht will normally encounter. However, all of the largest entries were light displacement racing machines, hardly designed for comfort as a floating home, and the skippers were mostly active young men who were keyed up to month of maximum effort.
Although Apogee is 30 feet and about 6.5 tons, I feel that one person (a singlehander or a husband of a husband-and-wife team) can sail and maintain about 40 to 45 feet if the displacement does not rise above 9 tons or so, and if the hull is fiberglass.
An engine on a short handed boat is like an extra crew member. More islands are available to the boat which can power through tricky passes. Electric lighting, a boon in the tropics, is convenient with an engine. With sufficient fuel, an engine will make a more pleasant time of the deadly monotonous calm periods encountered on nearly every long trip. Entering harbors at night becomes easy with an engine, saving an annoying night jilling back and forth at the harbor entrance. It may even avoid a possible catastrophe, With all these advantages, nearly all the world cruisers have engines.
On the other hand, an engine can be smelly, a nuisance, and may require what seems like excessive time spent in maintenance. If the intended cruise lies away from good repair facilities and easy parts availability, annoying time delays may ensue. I have known boats to be practically immobilized with the loss of an engine - no running water, food spoiling in the refrigerator, no lights, and no cooking facilities. Complete reliance on the engine for necessities and comforts is myopic on long distance cruises.
There is a choice between gasoline and diesel engines. By all means try to have a reliable diesel engine in preference to gasoline. The only disadvantages of the diesel that I can think of are increased initial investment, and larger size and weight, but the latter problem can usually be overcome with modern diesels. Apogee was equipped with a Graymarine gasoline engine, and the basic engine has given no problems - in fact the head has never been taken off in the 6y2 years since installation. Nonetheless, I have spent many hours in the hot engine compartment doing maintenance and repair on all the external equipment - electrical system, fuel system and water system. For extended cruising take spares for as many parts as possible: fuel pump, carburetor, coil, plugs, generator, starter, water pump or their diesel equivalents.
A hand-start capability is a distinct advantage. Sooner or later, the batteries may fail, and there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to start the engine when it is needed.
Finally, I do not think it wise to put ultimate dependence in the engine. With confidence under sail, tricky conditions of maneuvering, like short tacking through a narrow channel, or sailing to a dock, will not cause confusion and panic if the engine stops or refuses to start.
Dacron sails are wonderful for cruising as well as racing. Apogee has sailed around the world with the original suit of Ratsey and Lapthorn sails supplied with the boat. There are, to be sure, many repairs dotting their once pristine surfaces, and their set is perhaps not good enough for serious racing. Chafing of the seams has resulted in nearly completely restitching, by machine when a sailmaker was available, and very tediously by hand when not. Many boats carry a hand sewing machine for sail work as well as the many sewing jobs that occur above and below decks. Chafe and sunlight are the chief enemies of Dacron. Careful attention to chafe comes naturally. Sunlight, however, is the more insidious enemy because it is progressive and because large areas of the sail may be affected. Apogee has three new panels in the mainsail primarily because the sail cover was left off on the long voyages under twins when the main was not in use. Apogee started the voyage with 8 sails: main, mizzen, two identical working jibs (which also served as the twins), a #2 genoa, storm jib, mizzen staysail and spinnaker. All of them are currently in use. I would now substitute a drifter for a spinnaker as being a more useful sail under light cruising conditions. In New Zealand, I added a spare mizzen without battens and with provisions for reefing. Less than a month old, that mizzen rendered excellent service in a four day storm just after leaving, which Apogee rode out hove-to under jib and mizzen, then storm jib and reefed mizzen, and finally mizzen, then storm jib and reefed mizzen, and finally under bare poles for one of these days.
In fitting out a yacht for long distance voyaging, safety should be the first consideration. Like the cautious man who wears a belt and suspenders, it is worthwhile considering two ways of doing the important things, such as carrying sail, starting the engine, navigating and emergency procedures. If not belt and suspenders, at least make sure that the belt is heavy duty. Items for convenience and comfort should take second place in the case of conflict. For example, Apogee carried heavier tackle than normal for a boat of her size - 50 fathoms of 5/16?p chain, 50 fathoms of 3/4" nylon rope, a 75 lb. fisherman anchor, and 40 lb. and 22 lb. Danforth anchors. Normal anchoring called for the use of the chain and the larger Danforth. Without a winch, getting all that weight back aboard was sometimes a real chore, especially if anchored .n 10 fathoms or more. I felt much safer going ashore or in sleeping at night knowing that Apogee had a firm grip on the bottom. Only when I was careless about anchoring did Apogee break free, and then only 3 times in nearly 400 anchorages, each time with no serious consequences. Two short wave receivers and a chronometer-watch formed my belt-and-suspenders for accurate time. Two sextants, one being plastic, provided the same safety for taking sights. I debated a long time whether to carry a marine radiotelephone, and indeed I haven't missed one, except for those few occasions when it could have been useful socially. It is very annoying to arrive back where you have tied the dinghy, only to find the damed thing floating deflated on the surface like a huge skin. Rubber dinghies are fine for relatively protected anchorages where facilities exist for handling them. Although more difficult to sweat aboard and stow, a wood or fiberglass dinghy will prove much more reliable over the years. An outboard motor may make pleasant shopping or sightseeing if you are willing to stow and service it. Kerosene, although not as convenient to use as bottled gas or electric- ity, has served for all cooking and some lighting throughout the entire voyage. It is cheap, available in the most primitive places, and Primus parts for the stove are easy to find. Bottled gas has several advantages: better control of the flame, possibility of having a refrigerator, very little mess, and infrequent refilling. However, fittings for the gas bottles are not the same all over the world, I understand, and the safety factor is reduced. It is surprising and perhaps inconceivable to those who have never been on a long cruise, the amount of time and effort and dreaming that is spent on things to eat and drink. In warm weather, far from the nearest refrigerator, one can get the most compelling thirst for an icy cold beer with the drops of water streaming down the sides of the glass. In cold weather, the same yearning may be for a sizzling steak with all the trimmings. The fullfilment of dreams like this were, alas, never carried aboard Apogee. Much has been written about provisioning small yachts for long passages and so much depends on whether the boat has reliable refrigeration or a well insulated and capacious ice box. Perhaps the only thing I can add is a simple recipe for fresh bread, not requiring an oven- This recipe has been passed from boat to boat and has been in constant use aboard Apogee ever since I learned of it. The bread is made in a pressure cooker and the recipe calls for a cup and a half of sea water. A tablespoon of sugar, and a like amount of dried yeast are melted in the water, then four cups of plain flour are added and stirred well. No kneading is necessary. The pressure cooker is well greased and floured, though a heavy saucepan would do as well since the pressure valve is left open. The dough is put into the pressure cooker and with the lid left on, is left in a warm place for two hours to rise, then cooked on a low flame on top of the stove for half an hour. The half-cooked loaf is re- moved from the cooker, replaced top-side down and cooked for a further half hour. Fresh bread is delicious, and has never lasted more than two days be- cause the temptation is to eat it all at one sitting. Much has been written about adequate water supplies. For long voyages, an adequate minimum is 1/2 gallon per man per day. In fact, with very little care, two of us existed on 5 gallons a week. Thus, the tank capac- ity of the normal cruising boat will prove adequate for most voyages. Keep a spare jerrycan or two full of water for emergencies and if the boat has a pressure water system, turn it off, and use hand pumps. A salt water pump in the galley will make it easy to supplement the fresh water supply and is easy to install.
Ocean voyaging depends on celestial navigation, but its difficulty has been overrated. The most important thing is to learn one method of sight reduction and learn it well! Errors in arithmetic are easy to make on a rolling boat if one is tired, but with a standard and well practiced system, these errors are more easily traced. Most small boat navigators, including myself, use the Air Navigation Tables (H.O. 249) and the Nautical Almanac. General accuracy with sun sights is normally within five miles, although if sea conditions are rough and the sun is playing hide-and-seek, I triple this amount for safety, providing there is no other way of error estimation. On long voyages, I took a daily round of three sun sights (weather permitting) and plotted her position at local noon. I have used star sights only near landfalls and on difficult passages among low islands or reefs, as in the Tuamotus.
It is in the coastwise passages and short hops between islands that the greatest navigational dangers occur. Having crossed an ocean or two, one tends to get overconfident when faced with an overnight sail. This overconfidence led to a near disaster for Apogee in Fiji. Because I was unaware of currents, and because I thought that breakers would be easy to spot in the moonlight, Apogee ran onto a weather reef and pounded for an hour and a half before I was lucky enough to get her off unaided. The moderate damage sustained, and the relatively easy repairs were a good demonstration of the strength of fiberglass, and of Apogee's sturdy construction. No doubt steel would have survived, but a wooden boat would have suffered far more damage, I feel.
In the hundreds of thousands of miles sailed each year by small boats, there will naturally be some freak occurances. Waterspouts have been sighted and even sailed through. Swordfish have attacked yachts as opposed to game fishermen. Whales although normally pacific, can cause damage accidentally or intentionally. However, few well-found yachts have perished without good possible causes: hurricane force winds, heavy steamer traffic, or owner's health in the case of singlehanders.
It is difficult for me to write about heavy weather, because I have been fortunate enough to avoid any of the itultimate storms". Except fo squalls, Apogee has encountered sustained gale force winds or higher only four times while at sea. In each of these cases, life aboard was extremely unpleasant, and spirits were low, perhaps, but there was never any.fear for boat or life. On another occasion, Apogee was bodily tossed so that her mast was nearly horizontal by a hurricane swell reaching shelving waters in the Coral Sea. There was a stupendous mess below, but the wind was not excessively strong, and the experience was never -repeated on that voyage or any other.
Squalls also present a danger, particularly if one arrives unseen at night. Wind velocities in some of the squalls I have seen have been well above Force 8 for short periods of time. Even a short period of time is sufficient for a shroud to part or for the sails to blow out. Neither of these things has happened to Apogee, thank goodness, but one squall did manage to flog a batten and its pocket clean out of the mainsail before I was able to muzzle the sail.
With all these comments on safety and the dangers of voyaging, I would hate to give the impression that sailing the oceans is unpleasant. just the opposite, perhaps 50% of the trip has been superb sailing, 40% reasonably good, and only 10% or less poor sailing. During the supurb sailing, small boats can reel off some fantastic voyages. During the Galapagos to Marquesas passage, which a good friend of mine characterizes as "flying-fish weather", Apogee sailed 1285 miles in 8 days for slightly better than 160 miles per day. At that time, it was probably some sort of record for singlehanders, surpassed more recently by Sir Francis Chichester, for one, I am certain. Apo,6ee's design waterline length is 24 feet, and there was an unknown following current, but it gives some indications of the amazing speeds for small boats under optimum conditions.
Tradewind passages are the superb sailing, and outstanding among these is the 3000 mile stretch of that Galapagos to Marquesas passage. The Indian Ocean crossing tends to be slightly rougher, but still very enjoyable. Also superb sailing are short passages in inside protecting reefs, the most memorable being the wonderful lagoon between Raiatea and Tahaa, close to Tahiti.
In Apogee's trip, the poor sailing would be characterized by the stormy periods and those passages which took place in heavy steamer traffic. Around the coast of South Africa, the steamer traffic is intense at the present time due to the Suez closure, fogs and dead calms are frequent, and storms can be violent. It is not at all unusual to sight 30 to 40 steamers in one day, even when the coast is not visible. The passage from Durban to Cape Town was the only time when Apogee had a man on the helm 24 hours a day. Still, only selected parts of that 800 mile coastline passage can be termed "poor". At other times, it was quite enjoyable.
Apogee's route around the world was selected to utilize the tradewinds to best advantage. Different routes are quite possible, but less enjoyable. The poorest choice is also the fastest - the old wool-and-grain route in the Roaring Forties. Any small boat which attempts the three capes, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin, and Cape Horn, has my admiration.
For short handed cruising, some form of self-steering is almost a requirement. Even if the usual watches are kept, it relieves the helmsman from the tyranny of the tiller. It is most disconcerting to have the boat luff up with sails flapping, simply because the helmsman wants to brew a cup of coffee. Of course, with larger crews of three, four, or more, it may be desirable to require manual steering simply to keep the helmsman awake.
Since Apogee left the States, quite remarkable improvements have been made in self-steering vanes, and they have been fitted to large as well as small boats. Apogee has retained the earlier methods of self-steering primarily because of the major structural alterations necessary to fit the best of the vanes, but I would not leave again without vane steering.
Even with vane steering, I think that twin running sails would be useful for any long downwind passages in the tradewinds. There is less chafe, no fear of a jibe, and the boat tends to yaw less with the sail area well forward. For those who may be contemplating such a rig, the details are given in Figure 1. Some method of adjusting the total sail area such as twin rollerfurling genoas, would be more flexible. Several times the tradewinds have been too strong for the 330 square feet of Apogee's twins, and many times it has been too light. With light winds, the mizzen staysail helped considerably, but I found no really successful method for coping with winds too strong.
On beam or broad reaches, I used a modification of the jibsheet selfsteering. It is extremely simple, requiring an extra snatch block or two, some different sizes of shock cord, and a little experimentation. For those who might like to try this on their own boats, a glance at Figure 2 will help.
Naturally, any well-balanced boat will self-steer on a close reach or beat. With a ketch rig, adjustment of the mizzen enable Apogee to cope with changes of wind strength for long periods of time without adjustments.
Apogee's twin running rig is the product of considerable experimentation to achieve maximum control and stability under a variety of weather conditions. The twins are two working jibs with interleaved hanks on the forestay, both jibs being raised or lowered by one halyard. Normal spinnaker poles are set on a normal spinnaker track, each to its own car, so that the height of the inboard ends can be adjusted individually. A short strop leads to two-part sheets. One end of the sheet is led to the winch for easy adjustment. The other end is fastened to a point well aft. A bight is taken in the fixed end of the sheet with a snatch block and led to the tiller. Not shown in the figure are the pole lifts. No foreguys are needed.
Adjustment of the tiller lines, the sheets, the pole lifts, and the inboard ends of the poles may be needed to produce the desired course with minimum hunting. In strong winds, the poles are let forward so that there is more belly in the sails. In light winds not too far astern, Apogee has carried the mizzen, mizzen staysail and -main as well as the twins and still self-steered.