During the next 10 months, I singlehanded Simba across the Med to Turkey and spent several aimless months sailing the Aegean and the Adriatic. Along the way, I like to think I learned a few valuable lessons.
1. DO IT IN A DAY
Crossing the Med can be mostly done in long day sails. After Gibraltar, I only sailed overnight on a few occasions: from Mahon in the Balearic Islands to Carloforte, a small Island and protected harbor off the Southern cost of Sardinia (196 nautical miles); from Cagliari in Sardinia to Marsala in Sicily (180 nautical miles); from Syracuse in Sicily to La Castella, halfway along the boot of Italy (140 nautical miles), then 148 nautical miles to Kassopei, a small town on the north coast of the Greek Island of Corfu. Once in Greece, the islands spread from the Ionian to Turkey. That was it for me to cross the Med. Sure, the day sails on occasion meant leaving at first light and arriving at dusk, but I never arrived at night and had no desire to. It was surprising for me that so many destinations were within a day’s journey.
2. PICK UP THE PHONE No one answers the VHF radio. I understand this is an overstatement, but entering harbors and contacting marinas was usually a one-way conversation, whether it was with the bridge operator in Levkas, the marina at Rota or the marina north of Dubrovnik. It seems most of the locals use cell phone when getting in touch with marinas. I was doing donuts at Zea marina in Athens for 20 minutes, calling on the recommended VHF channels—no answer. I had reserved a slip for a week using the Internet. Finally, a couple of staff showed up in a skiff and led me to my assigned berth. At the registration office I asked why there was no response on the VHF and was informed that I should have just called. I thought I did? Nice marina, by the way.
3. REMEMBER: BEGGARS CAN BE CHOOSERS For shorter stays, I found it was better to arrive at the marina of choice late in the day, tie up at the reception or gas dock, buy something (if possible), then walk into the reception area and beg for a space for the night. It is much harder to refuse a desperate man in person. In Spain, where there are few natural harbors, I was about three miles out and began to radio (yes, via VHF). This time I got a response, but not the one I wanted. There were no berths for catamarans. I pleaded and told her I could stay at the fuel dock and would be gone by first light—still negative.
It was late fall, a season not of high demand, and this was my first experience of “cataphobia”—a revulsion of wide boats. Somehow marinas believe that a cat is actually two boats and should be charged accordingly. My head was racing; I had at most two hours of light and no place to put the boat. I searched my charts and saw that there was another marina about 14 miles away. I would not repeat my mistake. I arrived, tied up, begged for a space and was never refused again. This was true only for overnighters; when staying longer in Gibraltar, Palma and Athens, I would e-mail my requests or try the phone.
4. BECOME A MASTER OF COMMUNICATION Communications was a dilemma. Cell phone rates from Europe to the States are outrageous, and reliable Internet access could only be attained through local networks using USB air cards. This being said, everywhere is different—Vodafone Greece will work in Croatia, but the roaming charges are extortionary. Getting reliable weather information is easy if you can go online, which required—in many cases—taking my laptop to an Internet café.
There are many great free and pay weather sites. www.passageweather.com, www.meteo.gr and www.predictwind.com were all helpful and mostly accurate. I used an Internet antenna to extend the range of my laptop. If I could get a hot spot and log in, it was magical, but that did not happen as often as I would have liked. Mostly, you need to go to a café with Wi-Fi and buy a coffee, get the password and log on. Skyping worked well with decent bandwidth and is cheap, cheap, cheap. Most countries have pay as you go plans, where you buy so many gigs of data. Technology is relentless, the world is shrinking and these problems are sorting themselves out.
Today, smartphones have global data plans that allow you to collect e-mails and surf. It is a labyrinth that needs research and patience. Laptops are essential for communications and as a backup source for navigation. I loaded up my computer with Offshore Navigator Lite—a basic map program by Maptech—then married it to a USB GPS, and presto! I had a chartplotter. Google Earth is a fantastic way to preplan your next destination by getting accurate information through satellite photography. You can lower the horizon and virtually enter your next destination, viewing the harbor and surrounding landmasses as if you were in a helicopter. Laptops can also become entertainment centers, playing DVDs or downloaded movies. I personally got through two seasons of 24.
5. TRAVEL LIGHT “Lighten the load” is my motto. People try to fit their house into their boat—just look at the water lines. You don’t need all that stuff. The deck doesn’t have to be cluttered with jerry cans filled with fuel and water. Most people have too many tools, too many canned goods. Keep it light and simple. Keep in mind that there are some things everyone should have.
At the top of the list, without any reservations, is an autopilot—the best one you can afford, installed by a factory rep and calibrated on the water. I rarely steered my boat—the autopilot is that good. Beware of surfing conditions, which is the only time mine lost its marbles. I would rather spend my time tweaking sails and navigating than sitting at the helm. Second, I suggest an AIS radar detection system. I was blown away with all the target information such as name of vessel, speed course, etc.
I found it especially helpful on one occasion to contact a cargo ship in order to identify myself while crossing south of the Straits of Messina. In traffic at night I got on the VHF radio (yes, the VHF) and called out the ship’s name that was given to me by the AIS; if I had hailed “cargo ship,” no one would have answered. But shout out the name of the vessel and they will respond. The ship turned on her deck lights and slightly altered course.
Not all ships have AIS transponders, so a mast-mounted radar dome and display are wise investments, especially if you plan to sail at night. Most fishing boats go where they want regardless of where you are; this is universally true throughout the globe, so stay alert.
Next, get a solar panel. Bigger is better, mounted somewhere out of the way to catch as much sunlight as possible. They are maintenance free and will help your electrical needs, though in truth conservation is also necessary. No blenders, blow dryers or microwaves unless you are at a dock plugged into shore power.
Finally, get some type of light wind headsail. Why motor going downwind? I see it all the time. Choose a small, asymmetrical spinnaker on a collared sock—the sock is the deal, so find the best. It makes deployment and retrieval so much easier.
6. BACK IT UP! It’s time to talk about Med mooring, that bass ackwards way they have of docking in the Med. At first it can be daunting. There are a few things you need: lots of fenders, patience, the ability to forgive yourself and the courage to do it again. I have personally provided comic entertainment on multiple occasions.
First, practice going backwards as often as possible. Have fenders deployed on both sides of your boat and rig a fender aft on your transom. Look for the small opening—yep, the small one. Your neighbors will provide a runway and will be happy to help fend you off as you begin to back down towards them. Drop anchor perpendicular to your chosen spot; if not, you may cross anchors with your neighbor, which is very impolite, especially if he leaves before you. Tie off the windward stern line first, snug up your anchor and secure your second aft line. You are home as long as the anchor holds.
7. SELL HER, SAIL HER OR SEND HER Now the big question: If you get the boat there, how do you get it back home? One option growing in popularity is transportation via cargo vessel. At first, it sounded crazy and expensive, but the more I looked into it, the more I liked it; no wear and tear on your boat! I used Dockwise—they delivered the boat to Newport, RI and don’t use cranes. You only have three options—sell the boat in Europe, sail the boat across the Atlantic or put her on a cargo ship. It’s your choice, but you should explore all of the possibilities.
Bill keeps Simba in Newport, RI after cruising the Med for more than a year. Bill’s last boat was an F-27 trimaran, which he used to cruise the Bahamas, Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Bill has written articles for several magazines and is a media producer concentrating on streaming video clips of sailing events and travel destinations. Visit vimeo.com/album/246410]]>
The new 66-footer from Gunboat is a flat-out performance cruiser that has the capability of sailing at speeds usually reserved for the high end of the racing scene. Twenty knots is not out of the question in the right conditions.
The first 66 was designed for a triple circumnavigator who was tired of making 150-mile days and looking for more. The new 66 delivers 280 to 350 miles a day in trade wind conditions, which will enable the owner to cross oceans twice as fast as before and will allow him to visit more great destinations on his fourth circumnavigation.
Built in South Africa, the 66 has hulls designed by Morrelli & Melvin with lots of input from Gunboat’s founder Peter Johnstone. In the last 10 years, Gunboats have sailed nearly two million sea miles, so Johnstone and his crew have a lot of experience to draw upon. The rig is cutting edge modern and the sail plan is designed to give the boat the horsepower to really fly. With deep daggerboards, the 66 will behave very nicely upwind, too. The 66 has ample bridgedeck clearance, so wave slapping is reduced to the absolute minimum.
The all carbon and epoxy construction, built to round-the-world-racing standards, has proven to be exceptionally durable, quiet and safe. The ride of a Gunboat can be described as “on the water” rather than through it. Many are surprised by how smooth, responsive and comfortable these light cats are in the roughest of seas. The 66’s interior has a huge saloon with a raised galley, dinette and inside nav station. The boat is built on a semi-custom basis, so you can configure sleeping cabins to suit your needs, but the standard plan shows two large double cabins forward and two smaller guest or kids’ cabins aft. Check the 66 and its sister ships out at www.gunboat.com.
MORRELLI & MELVIN 65
Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin are on a roll. Their designs—from little A Cats to the giant BMW Oracle trimaran that won the America’s Cup last winter—have been setting the standard. And now they have contributed significantly to the new America’s Cup 72 cat rule that will prevail through Cup 34 in 2013.
On the cruising side, the new M&M 65 is an attractive world cruiser with reverse angle wave piercing bows and teardrop-shaped hulls that make the boat very stable in a seaway and fast. From the sensible but powerful cruising rig that can be handled by a solo watchkeeper to the advanced energy system built around solar energy and the new Mastervolt Lithium Ion batteries, the boat is set up for long distance cruising and living aboard. M&M have partnered with West Coast builders Westerly Marine to offer the M&M 65 on a semi-custom basis. Check out the 65 and their other boats at www.morrellimelvin.com.
The new 61-foot cruising cat from Moxie Yachts in South Africa is a distinct design that will stand out in any anchorage. Most noticeable is the aft-stepped mast and huge fore triangle. The relatively small mainsail flies from a tall, all-carbon fiber wing mast. The headsails are all on roller furling units, so you can sail with a small jib, the 100 percent Solent, the reacher or a free-flying asymmetrical spinnaker. All of these, except the spinnaker, can be controlled from the cockpit. The hulls have narrow entries and daggerboards for enhanced upwind performance.
The second innovation you will notice is the full beam coach roof. The designers—VPLP from France—have done away with side decks, so you climb to the coach roof to go forward. This opens a huge amount of interior volume so the galley can be a real kitchen that is separate from the living and eating areas. The living spaces flow through two round doorways to the cockpit or patio aft. With the saloon spanning the full beam, the sleeping cabins are below decks. The standard layout has three double cabins with en suite heads and crew quarters. The Moxie 61 is new and completely unique. Learn more about it at www.moxieyachts.com.
Holding nothing back, the designers at SMG Multihull South Africa, a company that is managed by its Austrian owners, offer the unique and innovative SMG 50plus as a fast, comfortable performance cruising catamaran. The cat sports an A-mast instead of the standard single spar. The A-mast is mounted atop the outboard hulls; all sails are on roller furling systems, including the mainsail, which has no boom and is trimmed like a genoa. The deck layout is somewhat unique, with the open cockpit forward of the cabin house.
You will see this on Gunboats and Atlantic cats. All lines and sheets run to the cockpit so the helmsman can operate the boat singlehanded. The interior has the dinette and nav station in the raised cabin and the galley and sleeping cabins in the two hulls. There is no aft cockpit, so all outdoor living will be forward. SMG offers the 50plus with a diesel-electric power package, an advanced hybrid system that will reduce the boat’s energy footprint. For more information on the unique SMG 50plus, visit www.smg-multihull.com.
The new Knysna 480, also built in South Africa, follows in the wake of the successful K 440. Designed by Angelo Lavranos, the new 480-foot catamaran has quite a different look than many of the cats out there today.
The bow and stern are sharply angled forward, visible chines run the length of the hull above the waterline, and the cabintop extends aft to become the hard bimini top over the open cockpit. Because of the way the bimini was designed, the steering station is basically a man hold.
From the helmsman’s seat, you can look out over the cabintop for a full 360-degree view. The steering position has a little hardtop of its own so you can sit at the helm somewhat out of the sun. The aft cockpit is huge. The boat can be set up for chartering, so storage space has been allocated for diving gear, iceboxes and fishing gear.
The rig itself is simplicity, with a high roach, full-battened mainsail and fractional jib. You can add a roller furling reacher and a spinnaker if you are looking for downwind performance. The interior can be configured for the “owner’s” version or the “charter” version. And you can have the boat with the galley in the saloon or positioned down in one hull. For more on the new Knysna 480, visit www.knysnayachtco.com.
RADICAL BAY 8000
As the name indicates, this is not a plain vanilla cruising cat. The Radical Bay 8000 is a radical take on how to rig a cruising catamaran.
The “biplane” rig has been experimented with for years and has worked well on boats designed to break speed records. That’s not exactly the brief for a home-built 26-foot family cat, but the rig does simplify the sail plan by eliminating stays and flying the sails on freestanding carbon tubes with fixed booms.
On deck, the boat has a cockpit in each hull and either a rigid bridgedeck between them or just simple netting. The boat is steered with tillers that are linked. Daggerboards in both hulls will enhance windward performance. The port hull has the head aft, the below decks seating and table amidships, and a single berth forward. The starboard hull has the galley amidships with a double berth aft and a single berth forward.
The Radical 8000 was designed to be home built, either from the raw plans or kit supplied by the designers. For less than $30,000 (not counting the 1500 hours it takes to build it), the boat is a very affordable and fun little cruising cat, with an unusual but useful rig. For more information on the design, visit www.schionningdesigns.com.au (do not omit the .au…trust us).
The boat is now being built commercially by Radical Catamarans in Virginia. For more information on how to buy a finished Radical Bay 8000, go to www.sailradical.com.]]>
Why race in a horse and carriage when you could be driving a sports car? For more on racing in cats with wing spars, see our report on the C-Class World Championships on page 12. Plus, creating the America’s Cup World Series to start next year in identical 45-foot cats is a marketing stroke of genius that will help popularize the actual America’s Cup while helping the teams come to grips with cat racing tactics.
Among those who were disappointed by the decision, the most common regret was the likelihood that close tacking duels will become a thing of the past. And there are concerns about crews finding passing lanes along a windward-leeward style racecourse. We all await more detail about the venue for the 34th Cup and the course designs.
In a real sense, the adoption of fixed wing, lightweight cats as America’s Cup boats underscores just how far the multihull world has come in the last couple of decades. Despite the popularity of beach cats and the IOC’s choice of Tornados for the Olympics, for years multihulls were generally relegated to the fringe of sailing and yachting. That’s all changing now. The charter fleets around the world are filling up with cats. A-Cats have taken off as the coolest new small boats to race. The round the world and most transoceanic records are all held by multihulls. And year-by-year, the world’s cruising grounds see ever more cruising multihulls out roaming the seas.
Oddly enough in this expanding environment, the IOC chose to drop multihulls from the Olympics. Perhaps the choice of cats for the America’s Cup will help us win the campaign to get multihulls back in. It’s a brave new world and it seems that the era of multihull sailing is truly upon us. Luckily, MQ is the only magazine in America purely devoted to the multihull scene.]]>
Needless to say, Jeffrey Siegel, ActiveCaptains’ creator is thrilled with the new partnership.
“It puts the entire ActiveCaptain database of marinas, anchorages, bridges, boat ramps, hazards, etc., plus all the reviews and comments in your pocket. No Internet connection required once the data has been downloaded. Having hazard markers instantly available is enough to make this an important companion at your helm. You’ll see.”
We did see just how amazing this new Marine Chart Plotter app is and how useful now that you can access all the data that users have added to ActiveCaptain. Do you wish you could get the low-down on anchorages?
Using Charts&Tides with ActiveCaptain loaded, you can get ratings on Current, Holding, Scenery, Shopping, Wind and Waves including reviews by real cruisers and boaters just like you. You can set waypoints and track your route.]]>