Improving passages by any means possible

Leah recently posted: The worst thing about cruising for us is passages.

In the last eight months we spent 15 days at sea, which is less than 10% of the time. Half of those days were flat and easy, 4 were rolly and annoying and 3 were very rough and hellish. The rolly annoying days were generally motoring days with no wind and the boat would roll back and forth about 10 to 15 degrees. The rough days were to all beating to windward either by motor or motor-sailing into 20 knots of wind, usually to escape bad weather.

Once we had made the decision to continue to cruise, we decided that we would try to switch boats to something that would make passages better and secondarily have a bit more space in the cockpit, salon and kitchen. Leah and I still are victims of Defever Fever so we started to look at trawlers because they are faster, have more space inside and out and come with built-in redundancy by having two engines.

I started to research what is out there for trawlers, which in our budget and size preference, all seem to have a combination of:

  • high hour engines or engines that way too big or burn to much fuel
  • old potentially rusted out diesel tanks
  • potentially blistery hull
  • old leaky teak decks
  • Leaky windows with rotting wood under them
  • usually only two staterooms.

Not the best combination of unknowns, tanks, hull and engines, plus a compromise on staterooms.

We also learned that trawlers can roll worse than monohull sailboats unless they have been fitted with a stabilizing system.

Reducing roll on trawlers is accomplished by use of paravanes (fishes, flopper stoppers), steadying sails and hydraulically actuated and computer controlled stabilizing fins. Of the three hydraulic stabilizers are the most effective at reducing roll but, they need expensive maintenance (~20k) every so often and cost a ton of money to install (~30k). Most boats with stabilizers installed cost more than 150k.

A typical hydraulic stabilizer fin

A typical hydraulic stabilizer fin

Paravanes are a low tech solution where wing shaped weights are towed through the water on both sides of the boat on long poles. The long poles need to be strong enough to support the large loads the paravanes place on the boat which usually means reinforcing attachment points significantly.

A paravane.

A paravane.

Setting up paravanes is simple right?

Setting up paravanes is simple right?

Steadying sails reduce roll the same way having the mainsail up on a sailboat providing air resistance to roll. We have found this isn’t incredibly effective on Viatori when there is low wind and our mainsail is significantly bigger than any trawler steadying sail. I think when the wind is up a steadying sail is much more viable as the wind pushes against the sail heeling the boat and holding her more steady but still less than a sailboat would have.

A Grand Banks 42 with a steadying sail... pretty small for a big boat.

A Grand Banks 42 with a steadying sail… pretty small for a big boat.

Armed with this information we still decided to look at a bunch of trawlers and our favourite was one with 3 staterooms, an awesome galley/salon area and a great back deck. It also had worn out decks, really high hours, was from a builder with a reputation for blistery hulls and the original steel fuel tanks that were showing some rust. Of all the trawlers this was our favourite, but we want a boat that will sell relatively quickly when we are done with it which this one probably won’t with the above issues.

Our favorite trawler an Island Gypsy 44 and the only one with 3 staterooms we saw.

Our favorite trawler an Island Gypsy 44 and the only one with 3 staterooms we saw.

Salon on the Island Gypsy 44.

Salon on the Island Gypsy 44.

The other trawlers we saw were all two stateroom boats which varied in condition from “is this a mushroom growing out of the wall” or “the pictures look great but the boat is a small and rolly piece of crap” to “mechanically awesome but dirty” or “looks really good but is too small for 5 people”.

The best looking Grand Banks 42 we found online.

The best looking Grand Banks 42 we found online.

The inside of the "best" Grand Banks 42.  The best part was the flexing of the floor to the point where I wasn't sure I wouldn't fall through.

The inside of the “best” Grand Banks 42. The best part was the flexing of the floor to the point where I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t fall through.

It seemed that trawlers in our price range were not going to be the slam dunk answer to our passage making woes.

Enter James Fachtmann from Florida Yacht Group our awesome broker; he had just listed a neglected catamaran that would sell for cheaper than market value now and would be more expensive than Viatori but within affordability limits. Also with some love and TLC while we are out, it should sell relatively quickly once we are done with it. This really got the wheels turning, the catamaran is slightly faster than Viatori, doesn’t heel, has four staterooms, tons of storage and has two engines which means triple redundancy for propulsion. It doesn’t have more galley space.

venezia42

The layout of the Fountaine Pajot Venezia 42 we like.

I had always wanted a catamaran, but in 2013 they were too expensive for our budget. This catamaran isn’t quite as expensive as they were then and now that we are planning a much longer cruise we have decided to bite the bullet and buy the cat. We put in an offer that was accepted and are now awaiting the sale of Viatori before we can do the switch. If someone else offers more than we have then they will get the boat and we will be back to the drawing board. Irregardless of which boat we take south again we need to be moved aboard by the beginning of November so we have time to get ready for our next trip south because we want to take off again at the end of December.

The small galley in the FP 42

The small galley in the FP 42

The cockpit of the FP42.

The cockpit of the FP42.

If Viatori doesn’t sell by November then we will take her off the market, do the upgrades we want and head south again in her with a bit more cash in the bank and little less space than would be perfect. We will mitigate some of our passage woes by buying a bunch of diesel jerry cans so we can run Oscar the engine at full rated speed without worrying about running out of fuel. In order to keep Oscar running we will also buy a ton of engine spares to make sure he keeps running when we are down island. Improving the cockpit enclosure and maybe making the wheel removable will also mitigate some of our space concerns too by making the cockpit an all weather space.

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