Sunday, June 19, 2022

Four different Propulsion systems for our catamaran


We are building S/V Lynx from a Schionning Designs kit.  Now, having made the decision to build our catamaran vs. buying new or used, that means we have a whole lot of decisions to make on what goes into the shell of the boat.  Foremost in those decisions is which type of propulsion system.  We considered four different setups which I will now go over, briefly.

#1: The most obvious and common choice is a pair of 55hp diesel engines on shaft drives.  These have a lot of advantages, but the biggest one is price.  These will cost something like $30,000, or more, less than the other three choices.  That is a lot of money!  Diesels also have the advantage of using a very energy dense fuel, diesel.  This means, pound for pound, diesel has more potential energy than what you can put into a battery (which the other three systems all use).  Now for the downsides. 

They require a lot of maintenance since they have a complex system of moving parts.  They stink and make a racket while running.  They do not do well at an idle, so you either have to go somewhere to charge your batteries, or add a generator, which is a third diesel engine, requiring even more maintenance.  They also burn a lot of fuel, since any time you are motoring, you are burning diesel.  They also require warming up, so you cannot get instant power if they were not already running.  Finally, they require a certain amount of RPMs to function, so maneuvering in a marina or any small area is more difficult.

#2: A Hybrid Diesel / Electric system.  This consists of two electric motors (sail drives most likely) and two diesel generators.  Now, you could go with only one generator, but then you would be sorely underpowered for any lengthy motoring situation where you need all their thrust.  Let's start with the good stuff.  Anytime you are doing short passages, it is unlikely you will even need those generators, so you can make such a passage on zero diesel fuel.  The electric motors need no time to warm up, so they

are ready in an instant.  They will give you full torque at any RPM, so maneuvering in tight locations is easy.  While sailing, the props can be put into regeneration mode, which means the water moving past the props turn them backwards, which turns the electric motors backwards, which sends power to your batteries.  With solar on top of the boat, you have two ways of recharging your batteries without using those generators.  While running, they have no smell and are nearly noiseless.  Now, for the negatives.  There are two big ones, the high price to install the system (which includes Oceanvolt SD 15 servoprops) and the woefully reduced horsepower.  These are 15 kw electric motors, which equate to 20 hp.  That means, full out, they only give you 40 hp together... and electric motors should not run at full power for long periods, so for that, you may only have around 32 hp!  For a big cat, which normally requires about 100 hp, that is only 1/3 of the needed thrust!  Finally, the range is very limited on batteries, no more than about 3 hours at typical cruising speed.  That means, on a longer passage, you must turn on the generators.  These are less efficient than diesels due to the number of conversations of energy.  Each conversion takes energy away.  Therefore, while running on diesel fuel, you are burning more diesel per mile than a straight diesel boat.  This kills the efficiency on long passages and makes you carry a full load of diesel fuel.

#3: Parallel Diesel / Electric system.  Here, you have two 45 hp diesel engines with an electric motor attached between the diesel and the shaft drive that leads to the prop.  The system can run on just the diesel or switch to the electric motor.  Now you have the option to be a diesel boat, with all those advantages, or an electric boat, with all those advantages.  But there is more!  If you add a clutch to the

shaft, you may disconnect the diesel and electric motor from turning the prop and that lets the diesel engine turn the electric motor, becoming a generator.  Now you have two generators on board, without the added cost, weight, and maintenance of separate diesel generators.  Now let's talk about the negatives, price and weight.  This system is more expensive than the Diesel, though less than the Hybrid.  It weighs less than the Diesel boat simply because it does not need a separate generator, but weighs more than the Hybrid (because, at times, the Hybrid has to carry more fuel on board).  Still, all said and done, this was our top contender for the propulsion system for S/V Lynx... until we looked at the final option.

#4 Combo Parallel Engine and 20 kw Electric motor.  In this configuration, we have a parallel engine in one hull (see above) and an electric motor in the other hull.  Both use shaft drives. Because there is only one diesel, we increase the size of the engine to get 110 hp.  That makes it equal to the diesel boat and more than the parallel boat.  In the other hull, we put a single 20 kw electric motor that produces up to 28 hp, full out, or 22 hp for long periods.  if you add that to the diesel, your total horsepower is 138, more than any of the other options!  Better yet, you are getting rid of one diesel engine, meaning you

only have one diesel on the boat to service and maintain.  That also gets rid of a lot of weight!  This system is anywhere from  147 to 568 pounds less than the other three options!  Both electric motors can regenerator power.  The Parallel engine can act as a 10 kw generator.  Then there is the price, this Combo system is less expensive to add than either the Hybrid or Parallel.  As for the Diesel, over time on our double circumnavigation of planet Earth, the Combo system will save on fuel and maintenance to nearly match the Diesel boat price.  The Combo system also has greater range, weighs less, has more horsepower, has redundant propulsion systems (diesel or electric), requires less maintenance, and saves more fuel.  Sweet!

In the end, we will burn 2,600 gallons less fuel, smell and hear a diesel engine running 6,000 hours less, do shorter passages without burning a single gallon of fuel, have extended range on long passages, including endless electric power from solar and regeneration.  And all that, while shedding well over 500 pounds of weight compared to a Diesel boat!

That is why we are going with a Combo propulsion system on S/V Lynx.  Right now, we are considering which parallel engine and which electric motor to purchase, though we have some front runners.  We want both to have 20 kw electric motors that run at 48v.  That limits our choices as many  20 kw motors run at a higher voltages.  However, there are some choices available, we just have to decide on which one!

If you would like to see a more detailed comparison of these systems, including a bunch of example passages comparing fuel usage, follow this link to the pertinent page on the S/V Lynx website

Or, just go to later.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Perfect Catamaran for S/V Lynx

For years I have been looking for the perfect catamaran... she did not exist.  People will tell you that every boat is a compromise.  However, for years I dreamed of a catamaran with good performance, at a decent price, that was also a comfortable boat, something of a hybrid between a spartan fast performance boat with poor LCC and a fat slow condomaran with all the comforts and no performance.  As you can imagine, it was like looking for a unicorn.


The issue is simple, catamaran builders cater to two different groups.  The first is the charter industry, where comfort and a cheap entry price are all that matters since these boats are cruising around a limited location, like the BVIs or the Society Islands.  The second are boats for the performance blue water sailors.  These are for sailors who want speed at any price, so the boat companies build hulls out of carbon fiber and nix any un-needed comforts to keep the hulls thin and the boat light, and the price to buy them is very high.

Now, I could get both comfort and speed if I were willing to spend 2-6 million dollars to get a large
enough performance boat (see pic above).  The sheer length lets the thin hulls achieve enough LCC (Load Carrying Capacity) to allow for some comforts, but at the cost of too much money to afford for the average Joe.

Salina 48 from Fountaine Pajot

For what I have to spend, somewhere in the realm of a half-million dollars, the best compromise seemed to be a comfort oriented, production cat (see pic right).  I decided to sacrificed performance to gain comfort at an acceptable price.  

Yet, I dreamed of a few small things that I could not have.  For one, comfort deigned cats use mini keels, and though they have their advantages, the loss of pointing ability and shallower draft were things I knew I would sorely miss.  They also come with sail drives as these are easier for the builders to plunk into a hull for swift build schedules.  Now, both of these things do work, and even have some advantages, yet for a blue water circumnavigator, I would prefer the pointing ability of daggerboards and the shallow draft they give you when up, as well as shaft drives (for when I run over a log, container, or bommie so that I don't tear out a massive hole in my boat when that destructive object hits the sail drive.

Sports Top helm

On another note, there is the helm position.  This is a personal choice, as different locations offer different advantages.  It just so happens, I like a sports top helm position (higher than bulkhead, lower than flybridge).  Performance cats rarely offered this configuration, and when they do, they cost too much money for my wallet (like the HH55).

And there were other things on my wish list, like the performance to sail in light winds.

I kept asking, "Why doesn't some company make a comfortable cruising catamaran with daggerboards, a sports top helm, a large salon and cockpit, and shaft drives?"  But there just wasn't one available at a price point I could afford.

So, I gave up my dream and settled on buying a used, comfort oriented, production catamaran. I planned to do a major refit to put her in shape for a circumnavigation of the planet.  Basically, I compromised.  Next, I spent a decade saving up the money to make that half-million dollar purchase.  During that period I watched the used boat market and there was a consistent trend.  New boats dropped in price and then slowed their depreciation after about eight years.  I could predict what a boat would cost based on its original selling price and the number of years since it sold.

For unfathomable reasons, Covid changed all that.  In the last year or so, the prices of used boats have
skyrocketed.  Not only that, but even at these new exorbitant prices, boats sold like hotcakes.  For ten years, there were always boats I could have purchased, had I the money, but now, right when I have just about saved the amount I need, used boats that I was interested in buying have jumped in price by $100,000 or more over what they should cost for their age.  Even at those ridiculous prices, there are none available of the models I used to want, even if I could afford one.  Sadly, if I could find one, I have enough to buy the boat, but then I would not have the money I need to refit it for a circumnavigation.  I could keep working and save more money, but that would delay my trip for several more years and I am not getting any younger.

I went seeking a way to save my dream. I took a second look at an option that I had researched years ago,  building a kit boat myself.  I knew that it used to be less expensive than buying a new boat if you don't count all the labor you will spend building the kit.  However, I never found a design I liked.  They tended to be performance cats without much in the way of comfort.

Then, wonder of wonders, I found a fairly new catamaran kit boat from Schionning Designs.  The first one is nearing completion in Thailand.  This is a performance catamaran, yet she is built in the style of a comfort catamaran. 

Solitaire 1490 render

 This boat is 50' 4" long, 25' 10" wide, which means she is long enough to have some LCC.  She has daggerboards and shaft drives, and kick-up rudders, so she will point well and have a better chance of surviving a collision with a destructive object.  She has a shallow draft, with good bridge deck clearance.  She has a sports top style helm, a large cockpit, and salon.  She is built strong and light, and designed to be beached.  

(My customized layout of the helm, cockpit, and salon.)

This means this boat hits nearly every option I have been looking for in a boat all these years, a melding of performance and comfort in a catamaran.  Not only that, but since I will be building her myself, I can modify the layout and get almost exactly what I want!  Not only that, but in talking to the wonderful people at Schionning Designs, I have found that they are willing to modify the kit to fit my goals!  How great is that!  Even all my changes will be precut for me and arrive in the kit, ready to assemble! 

But what about the price?

We can build this Solitaire 1500, which means we get a new boat.  Even fully kitted out and ready to sail around the world she can be built for about half a million US dollars.  That is right in my budget!  Still, as everyone will tell you, every boat is a compromise.  However, in this case, it is not the boat or what she offers that is the compromise.  The compromise we have to make is doing all the labor it takes to build this catamaran.

'Escapade' currently under construction

It will take a minimum of 6,000 hours of labor to build this performance cat, so not everything is rosy.  Still, I will end up with a new boat that is everything I have been seeking rather than a 10 to 15-year-old boat that is smaller, without the features I want, and costs more.  I can speed up the build time by adding more people to help.  With three, full time workers, the construction of the shell can be done in one year.  Adding all the systems can be done in a another nine months. However, even though I plan to work with two other people on the construction, we are figuring two full years because we know there will be various delays along the way since we are amateur first time catamaran builders.

Solitaire 1490
The boat is from Schionning Designs and this hybrid performance/cruiser is called the Solitare 1490.  I was planning on starting my search for a used boat later this year and, after, finding, buying, and refitting, have her ready to sail in about a year after purchase.  At this point, I am looking into starting the build of our customized Solitaire 1500 at the end of 2022, so that may put me about one year longer than a used, refitted boat (it depends on how long it took me to find the used boat).  I hate the idea of all the construction work and, possibly, one additional year delay but love what I will achieve in the end, the boat I have always dreamed of owning at a price I can stomach.

'Escapade' nearing completion of the shell
So I have a possible plan, one that I will have to decide on soon.  If I go with the kit boat, S/V Lynx will be a Solitaire 1490, extended to just over 50', so now a Solitaire 1500.  She will have daggerboards, kick-up rudders, and a hybrid diesel/electric propulsion system.  She will have decent LCC yet sail close to wind speed.  

If I choose to build this catamaran, I will video document the entire construction process on Youtube, so you may follow along and see how we built her and all the cool systems we add.  And, you may see if this is something you might wish to do in the future!  I will be asking Schionning to make my design available to anyone as the Solitaire 1500.   I'll keep you informed if they agree.

Stay tuned and subscribe to my SVLynx channel on Youtube so that you do not miss the start of the weekly videos.  That way, you may follow along from the beginning of this adventure (See link below).

                                                               Youtube Saling S/V Lynx

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Mini Keels are not all the same!

There has been lots of debate about the choice of Mini-Keels or Daggerboards.  To boil it all down, Daggerboards allow you to point higher and can be raised to allow shallower draft.  On the negative side, the Daggerboard casings have to be cleaned and if you hit something, can hole your boat if they are broken.  Then there is the space taken up in the hulls for those casings.  Mini-Keels are simpler to use (there is nothing to do), simpler to clean (no casing), don't take up space in the hulls, and should allow you to beach your boat and have access to most of the hull for cleaning, etc.  They can also be sacrificial, so if you do hit something they just break away.

Generally, Daggerboards are associated with performance cats and Mini-Keels to comfort oriented production models.

However, this is not a discussion about the benefits of Daggerboards or Mini-Keels.  Let's assume you want a production catamaran (for whatever reason).  Therefore, it is extremely likely that you are going to have Mini-Keels.  The question is, are all Mini-Keels the same and the answer is, absolutely not.  You will notice that in the above list of features, I said, 'should allow you to beach' and 'can be sacrificial'.  That is because not all Mini-Keels feature these two advantages.

There are catamaran brands that make Mini-Keels part of the hull, like some Lagoons and others.  This means that they are not sacrificial.  If you hit something with your Mini-Keel on one of these boats and tear it off, that puts a hole in your boat and you will take on serious water!  (See Lagoon pic. right)

However, there are brands that make their keels sacrificial, like Leopard and Fontaine Pajot (as well as others).

In the case of current Leopard boats (see pic. left), they add stub keels, which project down from the hull a few inches.  Their Mini-Keels are hollowed at the top and the stub keel inserts into that Mini-Keel cavity.  They are glued in place with bolts put through the Mini-Keels and stub keels to hold them firmly in place.  This works well enough for the sacrificial element of these keels.  However, due to the hollow portion of the Mini-Keel design, there are thin walls on either side.  This means that the full weight of the boat cannot rest on these Mini-Keels, and Leopards manual states that the hulls must be supported at two bulkhead locations with some kind of jacks or other supports when one of their boats is out of the water for any reason.  What this means is that you cannot simply pull up to a shallow beach or boat ramp and let the tide go out so that you now rest on your Mini-Keels.  That is a real issue in some parts of the world.

For example, if you were to head up the Wadden Sea along the northern part of the Netherlands and

Germany, at each low tide the ocean retreats out past the Frisian Islands leaving you and your boat high and dry on the exposed bottom.  Each time that would happen, you would have to get out there before the water was completely gone and try to prop up your boat with some kind of supports.  As the sea begins to return a few hours later, you would again need to be in the water trying to remove those supports.  This would make the entire process nearly impossible and if you don't do it, or fail to get it right, you could seriously damage your hulls.

Fontaine Pajot makes their Mini-Keels a different way.  They have a socket in the hull that the solid Mini-Keel inserts into and this allows them to make the keels strong enough to support the weight of the boat.  Now, you can just let the tide go out and land on your keels.  If you are going to do this often, you might want to consider keel protectors (just to
avoid any small rock damage to the fiberglass).

Does this mean that Leopard or other brands that are not weight supporting are no good?  Of course, not.  However, it does limit you to certain choices and, sometimes, areas of sailing where this is not necessary.

For us, we have too many locations we are visiting where the tide changes are large and many of the ports we might stop in do not have enough depth, lock system or, other mechanism for keeping your boat afloat and we must land on our hulls.  Then there are places we plan to go, like the Wadden Sea, where we will land on the ocean bottom several times while crossing.  Finally, being a somewhat large catamaran, in parts of the world we are limited in where we can haul out.  If we can beach our boat we can do certain types of maintenance, like cleaning the bottom, etc. without the need of an expensive haul out which might not even be available.

So, in the end, we plan to find a boat that can be beached, if she has Mini-Keels, they must be both sacrificial and able to support the weight of our catamaran.

Addendum: We have settled on our catamaran and decided to go with a performance cat, with dagger boards and kick-up rudders.  The boat is the Solitaire 1490, extended to 50' 4".  She is designed to be beached from the get go, but we are adding some impact strength to the hull skin by changing from fiberglass to basalt fiber.  This will keep any small stones from 'denting' the surface skin while we are beached.  The kick-up rudders get them up and out of the way while beaching and we have shaft drive engines, so no sail drive poking down while we are on the hulls.  This will not be as convenient for cleaning the hulls while beached, but the boat will be 1 to 2 knots faster while sailing because of the dagger boards instead of mini-keels.  The boat also has a shallower draft of only 2' 2" with boards up, which is nice.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

How to keep Trash off your boat and out of the ocean!


Trash.  It is a big problem, for a sailboat… and the world.

Planet Earth is turning into a giant trash bin.  Everywhere you go, even the remotest island in the world, there is trash.  Even if people are not there tossing it on the ground, our trash washes up on shore.  It is a disgrace to the human race.  So, as sailors, how do we become part of the solution instead of adding to the problem?

On S/V Lynx, we plan to attack this from two directions.  First off, we will not become part of the problem and, secondly, we plan to work to reduce the amount of trash left by others.  Below you can read about how we plan to attach these two things, starting with picking up trash. 

Picking up Trash:

Every time we go to a new beach, or if we see trash floating, we plan to pick up trash and then dispose of it properly.  The sad fact is, doing so will not put a dent, not even a tiny scratch, in the epic mass of trash infesting our waters and shores.  If what we do will not make a difference, then why try to clean up trash at all?  The answer is simple.  If everyone picked up more trash than they put down, there would be no trash around the world.  Of course, we cannot make others pick up trash, but we can do our little part, and will.


How do we handle our own trash?

OK, now let’s talk about how we can help by not adding our own trash.  

The issue is non-degradable waste.  When you buy groceries, unless it is a fruit or vegetable, the purchase likely comes in a container.  Some stores even wrap fruits and vegetables in plastic or put them in a plastic box.  The same thing goes for buying meats.

Wrappings and boxes can be made of metal, glass, paper, cardboard, or plastic.  It is obvious, or should be, that any form of plastic is non-biodegradable and should never be tossed in the ocean.  Paper wrappings may have a plastic coating, also making them non-degradable. 

As for glass, it takes a long time to break down glass.  And even though it does not have the same issues as plastic, it can end up on a beach and become a health issue (broken glass).  Some say that it is all right to fill a glass bottle so that it sinks to the bottom of the ocean, yet we disagree.  Glass should be properly disposed of, hopefully, recycled. 


And what about aluminum or tin cans? 

Aluminum cans will take something like 200 years to break down, and they are most often coated on the inside in plastic.  Therefore, they should be recycled and never tossed in the ocean.

Tin cans also often have a plastic inner coating, so they should also be recycled.


So, what can you toss in the ocean without guilt or adding to pollution?

Fruit and vegetable parts, like rinds, and paper (without plastic linings).  Both of these break down in various ways.




What about cardboard?

Yes, this is paper and can be put in the ocean to break down... but, the truth is, you should not bring cardboard on board in the first place!  The issue here is cockroaches.  They lay eggs
on the sides of cardboard, so if you do not want your boat infested with cucaracha, then you should not bring cardboard on board, so to speak.

So how do you bring some foods if you cannot bring it in their original container?  The answer is simple, you need to remove all foods from their cardboard, plastic, or other container and move them into a new one.  Or just choose not to bring those types of food or drink at all.

An example of this would be canned or plastic bottle soft drinks or beer.  Instead of having to store empty cans and bottles, or toss them overboard (shame on you) choose to buy a soft drink machine that fills a reusable cup or glass when you want your fizzy, sweet, sugar drink.  As for beer, you're on your own, we don't plan to have any on S/V Lynx.  We plan to give up both soft drinks and beer and switch to another healthier beverage to drink.


Reusable Containers

Let’s get back to disposing of the original box or plastic bag and switching to your own storage device.  What you want to have are reusable containers.  These can be glass or plastic because you are not going to dispose of them when they are empty, you are going to clean them out and reuse them again the next time you are in port provisioning.

You can use zip lock bags, though we recommend getting a thicker and longer lasting variety if you go that route.  We prefer hard sided storage that lasts much longer.  These can be sealable soft plastic containers, or hard plastic models.  Find ones that fit together and stack on each other and are sized to fit in your storage areas.  Stay away from round models, if possible, they just create more gaps.  Use labels you can change on the tops or sides (depending on the storage compartment).  When you do change a label, make sure to dispose of the old one properly!

Instead of some kind of plastic wrap, you can get shower cap style plastic tops that snap over bowls and are completely reusable.  Or just move the food out of the bowl or plate into a sealable, reusable container.

Bringing provisions on board

To cut down on trash (and bugs) we suggest a routine where you arrive on the dock with your newly purchase provisions, but don't take them onto your boat yet.  Take a bucket of fresh water and add in a small cap-full of bleach.  Then wash your fruits and vegetables before bringing them (and any cockroach eggs) on board.  Put any foods previously contained in cardboard into a sealable reusable container.  Pile the discarded cardboard together for recycling on shore.  Remove any foods, like cereal, that are in a plastic bag and put them into another sealable reusable container. 

Now we come to a problem; we're talking about foods stored under pressure or sealed to make them last longer.  Some of these foods can be transferred into a food sealing container where you use a food sealer machine to suck the air back out.  However, there are just some things that have to stay in their container to keep them fresh for a long time. 

While still on the dock take each jar or can, one at a time, and remove any paper labels.  Set these aside for the moment to be disposed of properly, on shore, later.  This is to avoid cockroach eggs again.  Now wash that can or glass item in your bucket.  Once you dry it off, mark the item with a permanent ink pen, showing what it contains (if you forget, look at that label you just set aside).  Do this one can or jar at a time so you do not forget what is in each one!  Once used, these containers must be kept in a trash bag and disposed of or recycled at your next port of call.

Unless the container is a can or glass jar under pressure or sealed, no plastic, paper, glass, or cardboard should be brought on board.  For example, if bread comes in plastic bag, remove the bag and put the bread I a long reusable and sealable container (they make specific ones for loaves of bread). 

When you are far out to sea, meaning not in a marina, port, or near a beach.  In that case, it is OK to toss the rinds or other scraps of fruits or vegetables overboard.  The reason you do not want to do this near shore is that no one wants to see your stuff floating around or washed up on the beach before it degrades.

If you do not use all of something, reseal the container (food sealing what is appropriate, since that will make it will last longer without air inside).  If you need to temporarily store something on a plate or bowl, just put on the shower cap style reusable wrap.  As your containers empty, just put them back in the place you keep them and mark your list to refill them later at the next provisioning.

If you follow these practices, you will bring on a minimum of containers needing to be disposed of or recycled later, with most of your foods being kept in reusable containers.  You will also benefit from avoiding cockroaches on board, which is no small thing. This is not a cure all for cockroaches, but why give them any added chance to get on board?

While on the subject, what about things like shampoo, or other items that come in plastic?  Buy reusable dispensers and pour the products into those, then recycle the original plastic on shore before you set sail.  We suggest you try to buy the kind that have the flat lids that allow you to stand them upside down.  Then, you can pour out the contents, stand it upside down for a few hours, and pour the remaining product into your reusable container.

Other items, like spare parts, new gadgets, or any other purchases that come in any kind of container, should be handled the same way as your food items.  Simply put, do not bring any cardboard or plastic on board.  Take the items out of their containers or packaging, label them in the new reusable container and store them that way. 

When you look at any item you are bringing on your boat, just ask, yourself, when I go to use this item, will I have trash left over?  If so, get rid of that trash, properly, before bringing it on board.  If you try to cut down on things that become trash you will have far less bags of trash stored on board that you must. eventually, ferry to store in your dinghy.

Be proactive, do not drown your boat (or worse, the ocean) in trash.


Food Sealers

What about food sealer systems?  Well, we are a fan of these.  They help keep food fresh for
much longer.  However, you should avoid using the plastic food sealing bags that are not reusable.  When possible, go with hard containers that can be reused over and over again, without creating plastic waste.  Even if you must use the plastic sealing bags, plan to wash and reuse these items.  To make them somewhat more reusable, cut the original bag a little longer than you need.  When you go to use the item stored in the bag, cut off a thin strip of the plastic at the top, just below the melted seal. 

That way, you may wash and reseal the same plastic sealing bag with your food sealing device.  The small strip you cut off becomes trash that you must store until you reach shore for proper disposal, which is why we prefer the hard sided food sealing containers… where there is no waste.  However, there are items that work better in the bags.  Just be aware that these bags must be disposed of properly, later. 

Some things can be put into reusable zip lock bags instead of being food sealed.  Things like liquid items that you can remove the air without a food sealer.   Just reuse those zip lock bags as many times as possible and then properly dispose of them later.

The moral of the story?  

Do not bring trash on board in the first place, when possible.  Dispose of that trash on shore, properly.  Any small amounts of trash that is unavoidable, store and dispose of properly later.  This should be easy if you have cut down most of the other trash that does not need to be on board in the first place.

Yeah, some of these suggestions are a minor hassle, but if we all do not start going the extra mile, then our planet will continue to be buried in trash.  We think it is worth our time… and everyone’s.

Oh, and the next time you see someone else’s trash, pick it up and dispose of it properly.  We all have to start making a difference.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Our Circumnavigation Route & the Ring of Fire


S/V Lynx and our double circumnavigation

Circumnavigating the planet is not just about getting in a boat and going around the world!  There are many other things you have to consider when planning a voyage around planet Earth.  You must take into account the prevailing winds, political disturbances, piracy, bad weather, Visa limitations, and, most recently, a pandemic!  We also want to see a lot of places!  Circumnavigating is not the goal, that is actually just a byproduct of where we want to go and the way the winds circulate around the planet to get us there.

So, let’s start with that… the wind.


The Prevailing Winds:

These refer to a latitude on Earth’s surface where the winds predominantly blow from a particular direction.  Because they generally do so, when sailing, if we stick to a particular latitude, we can expect to find winds blowing in one direction, somewhat consistently.

For sailing, the two prevailing winds which are the most helpful in a circumnavigation are the trade winds (yellow and brown below) and the westerlies (blue).

Westerlies (see blue arrows, above):

These are winds that tend to blow from west to east (taking your boat east).  The westerlies are found between 35 and 65 degrees of latitude.  The problem with the westerlies is that they are pretty far up or down on the globe, and therefore, in the colder regions.  The second issue is that these winds often blow fairly strongly, creating some very rough conditions and large waves.  This happens even more in the southern latitudes where there is less land, and the winds can, therefore, pick up more speed and cause larger waves.  The westerlies are particularly powerful in an area called the roaring 40s, which typically blow between the 40 and 50 latitudes.  For the most part, we intend to stay out of the westerlies.  The exception is if we decide to do the Ring of Fire route, which will take us across the Aleutian Islands to Alaska, going east from Russia (more on that below). 


The Trade Winds (see yellow and brown arrows, above):

The trade winds blow from east to west.  These steady winds are found in the tropics, near the equator.  They typically blow from the northeast in the northern hemisphere and southeast when you are down in the southern hemisphere, both angling toward the equator.  The trade winds are predominantly gentle and therefore, cause less wave height.  Unfortunately, in the hot months of summer, water evaporates, and Earth’s spin starts the clouds turning.  They keep adding water and spinning faster, and that leads to cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes (which are all basically the same thing, just in different parts of the world).  So, for sailors, what this means is that in the winter months, you can sail west in gentle steady  breezes pushing you along from behind.  They take you west, around the world.  However, come summer, you need to get out of those latitudes to avoid the big spinning behemoth storms.

This is the reason why most cruisers sail west around the world.  Most of the time, we will do the same thing.  More on that in a bit.

OK, so now we know one thing, in most cases, we are sailing west and sticking to the trade winds.  Now, let us look at where we want to go and see things on planet Earth.


Where do we want go?

So, we are head west… but to where?  We plan to visit over 100 countries or provinces; however, for simplicity sake let’s break this down to just major regions.  The red pins mark regions we absolutely plan to visit while yellow ones are only possible destinations:

So, what will make us decide which of the yellow pin destinations are added to the route?  Well, that brings us to some other deciding factors.  Two of these are political unrest and piracy.  Either of these may exclude us from visiting an area.  This could mean just giving it a wide birth or, in some cases, it could change our entire route around the planet!  Let’s take a look at both situations.

 Politics and Piracy:

There are times when politics lead to civil unrest or wars and other times when poverty leads people to
piracy.   We do not want to run afoul of civil unrest or piracy, both are dangerous to our crew's health.  That means, we may need to avoid countries experiencing these political situations.  
The pins in the images (left and below) show where piracy was reported in 2020.  Orange are boardings, yellow are attempted attacks, purple are just suspicious vessel reports.
The places of most concern are the choke points on the route west like the Straits of Malacca.  When it comes to the Malacca Straits, we can just take another route, avoiding that area.  (see piracy map above, from lower Indonesia, we could just duck out at Jakarta and head west).

Another piracy hot spot is the central west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea.  Right now, as you may see from the image (right) there is a lot of piracy in the Gulf, so we cannot go up the west coast of Africa to the Med.  Instead, we would have to cross to South America from South Africa. 

I left the worst for last, the Red Sea (see image, right).  This is the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea, through the Suez Canal.  When there is civil unrest (like the current civil war in Yemen) or piracy (from Somalia, on the opposite coast on the Gulf of Aden, we cannot risk passing through there to get to the Red Sea.  That is a real shame, since the Red Sea is one of the most beautiful places to dive in the world, and it would take us right into the Mediterranean Sea, one of our ‘must see’ destinations.

If the Red Sea is a problem, we might have to sail across the Indian ocean to Africa, turn south, then go around South Africa and then cross the Atlantic to Brazil.  That adds more than 8,000 nautical miles of open ocean to the trip!  We hope that things calm down before we have to make that choice.

If we don't want to risk the Red Sea or the rough waters of the Cape of Good Hope, there is a third option.  We can avoid the Indian ocean altogether.  In that case, we would head north from the South Pacific and take the Ring of Fire.  That route would take us clockwise around the Pacific Ocean, going all the way up to the northern roaring 40s where we turn east.  We then use the westerlies to take us across the Aleutian Islands to Alaska, then turn south and head down the west coast of Canada and the USA.

These three possible routes are the main reason for those possible (yellow pin) destinations on our map.  However, since we are planning two circumnavigations of Earth, so have the option of choosing choose two of these three, depending on the circumnavigation year and what is happening in the world at that time.  Which two routes?  Only time will tell as political situations and piracy change over the years to come.

Now that we know the major possible routes, what else affects our voyage?  The answer is bad weather.


Bad Weather Avoidance

This has to do with two factors, safety of our crew and boat insurance restrictions.  Basically, it is a simple concept, we must stay out of the areas of the world during periods when hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones tend to form.  We want to do this for safety first and because our boat insurance will not cover us if we are there during those times.  That limits how long we can stay in certain places.  Below is a map of the world with the basic time periods where we must avoid major weather phenomenon.

So, what else affects our route?  Well, some places only let you stay for a limited time.  Let’s look at that next.


Visa Limitations

OK, so now that we know possible routes and weather limitations, what about Visa Limitations?  Some
countries only let foreign nationalities stay for specific amounts of time.  For example, French Polynesia only lets people stay for 3 months.  Australia limits you to six months and, worst of all, by far, is the Schengen grouping of countries.  This means mostly the European Union, but there are some add on countries (see list in image right).  

The Schengen rules are terrible for sailors.  They are not designed for people on boats, they were created for tourists mostly traveling by plane, train, car, or bus.  They do not consider that it can take a week or two to travel by water between two locations.  I have written to the European Union about this, and you can imagine how far I got.  About as far as I can throw the Eiffel Tower.

Basically, the Schengen rules are as follows, you cannot spend more that 90 days out of every 180 rolling days in all of the Schengen Countries (combined).  That means, whenever you leave one of them for a non-Schengen country, the border officials look back through your passport at the last 180 days and see if you have spent more than 90 days in the Schengen countries.  If you have, you are fined and you may even be barred from ever returning!  Yikes!

This makes sailing around Europe a royal pain in the arse and even dangerous, at times.  The danger comes from these bastards forcing you to leave at the wrong time.  For example, you might have to cross the Bay of Biscay at the wrong time of year, without time to wait out a storm, or you will be fined and possibly barred from Europe.  It is insane.

The only saving grace is the UK.  They are not part of the Schengen.  If they were, I’d despair at visiting Europe by yacht.  The UK allows you to stay up to six months and none of that time is counted against the Schengen 90 days.  So, what you must do to visit Northern or Central Europe by boat is spend a lot of time in the UK.  You might even need to wait out winter there, rather than cross the Bay of Biscay at the wrong time.

Now, down in the Med (Southern Europe), you have the same issue.  Fortunately, there are still a few (very few) countries where you can get out of the Schengen.  Right now, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Boznia, and Turkey are your only havens… and Croatia has recently asked to enter the Schengen, so that refuge will soon go away.

Turkey is the only large cruising area of these so, while in the med, expect to hang out in Turkey for at least three months out of every six.  These ridiculous Schengen shenanigans are the only way to sail in Europe due to the incredibly stupid European union Schengen country rules.  I fart in their general direction!

And now, the pandemic.


The Pandemic

Covid 19 has messed up travel, big time.  Everyone knows that.  What we do not know is how long it will continue to affect it, which countries will be stay closed, or have ridiculously long quarantine requirements (even if they let you come to their shores).  There is no real way to predict what will happen in the next few years.  Right now, I am glad it is still two years before we plan to start our circumnavigation.  Even when we do, we plan to spend the first year on the east coast of the USA.  That gives the world three years from now to get their borders open.  We can only hope.  Our entire route and timing may have to change it things don’t get back to some semblance of normal by that time.

The Route around the world:

So, with all of these factors forcing our route to certain directions of travel, routes, bad weather timing, and limits on how long we can stay, it is a minefield to plan a circumnavigation.  However, we have done just that, anyway.  Below is one of our projected routes (we have several).  It also takes into account all of the Visa limitations and the damned Schengen rules.

These images show our odd path to circumnavigate the planet.  Most of the time we are headed west, but near the beginning, we go east, to Europe, before heading out for our full trip around planet Earth.  We choose to do this for a few reasons, not the least of which we just wanted to see Europe early on.

The Route:

Year 1:

(Red route) We start in the Caribbean and sail up the east coast of the US to do a full refit of the boat.  Then we head north and take the Erie Canal into the Great Lakes.  Once we reach Chicago, we head down the Mississippi River to the Tennessee River, then back to the Mississippi River to the Tombigbee and out to New Orleans.  We cut across to Florida, then stop in Tampa before heading to the Florida Keys and back around to Fort Lauderdale for a minor second refit (now that we know what else we want).  With our shakedown cruise and refits now complete, we are ready for some major ocean crossings!

Year 2: 

(Navy Blue route) From Florida, we head out to the Bahamas waiting for the proper time to cross the
Atlantic.  When it is time, we head for Bermuda and then to the Azores.  We spend a month there, seeing the islands, before heading to the top of Spain.  We go around the Bay of Biscay, seeing the Brittney Coast of France, then cross over to England, then to Ireland and up the Irish Sea to N. Ireland, then Scotland, back to England, then Wales where we end the year in Cardiff.


Year 3: 

(Yellow route) After winter, we return to the boat and head out in Spring, this time going around the west shore of Ireland and up to N. Ireland, then we across and take the Caledonian canal right through the heart of Scotland, passing through the Angle Staircase and then through Lock Ness!  On the other side, we head north to the Shetland Islands and reach the northern most point of the UK.  From there, we cross to Norway and then head north for the Arctic Circle.  Once we reach the Troll Fjord, we will turn around and head south again, following all the way around to Oslo.  Then we head south to the west shore of Sweden and on down to Copenhagen, Denmark.  From there, we take the Kiel canal through Germany to the Wadden Sea and over to the Netherlands.  We cross the English channel to Ipswich and then head for London.  After that, we come back down the River Thames and store the boat for the winter.

Year 4: 

(Sandstone route) From the cliffs of Dover, we cross the English Channel to France and then head up to Brussels, then Amsterdam in the Netherlands. We start up the Rhine River (a slow slog up current) until we reach the Rhine Valley.  Then the going gets really tough as we go up the gorge against 8 to 9 knots of current.  One that is managed, we work out way through the rest of Germany and take the Rhine/Main canal to the Danube, now going with the current.  Then we head into Austria, followed by Hungary, Serbia, and Romania.  We end up in the Black Sea and go through the Bosphorus, in in Istanbul, Turkey and go down that west coast to Greece.  We go through some of the Greek Isles and then through the Corinth Canal.  From there, we head north to Albania and up to Venice, Italy. Then we head south and go to Croatia and Montenegro.  From there, we head west and sail around the boot of Italy, and then head up the Italian west coast to Rome.  We leave Italy from Pisa, and head for Monaco.  Then we go to the French Rivera, stopping at places like Nice, Cannes, and Marseille.  From there, we cross to Barcelona, Spain, then on to the Balearic Islands.  Finally, we leave the med and go to the Canary Islands, then cross around December to the southern Caribbean.

 Year 5: 

(Neon Green path) Once we left the Istanbul, we finally started out journey west around the entire planet.  We pick up that journey in the fifth year from St. Lucia and head north up the Caribbean Islands, stopping in Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis, Anguilla, the British, Spanish, and US Virgin Islands and then on to San Juan.  from there, we cut across the Caribbean Sea to the San Blas Islands.  Then, we go through the Panama Canal.  Now in the Pacific Ocean, we head down to Ecuador and launch our farthest voyage, to the Marquesas Islands.  From there, we continue on into the Tuamotus Atolls, then on to the Society Islands.

Year 6: 

(Cyan route) In Year 6, we leave the Society Islands and French Polynesia, heading for Samoa.  We stop in American Samoa first, to reprovision, then head on to Samoa.  From there, we sail south to Tonga.  After spending a fair amount of time in Tonga, we head west to Fiji and tour that nation.  Then we head west to Vanuatu and then on to New Caledonia.  After sailing around there, we turn west again and head for Brisbane, Australia.  Once there, we turn south and follow the coast down to Sidney, ending the year there, for the big harbor fireworks show.

Year 7: 

(Tan route) We sail over to Lord Howe Island and then back to the Australian mainland to head north toward the Great Barrier Reef  now that cyclone season is over.  After reaching the top of Australia, we head into Indonesia, going to the Raja Ampat area for some great scuba diving!  From there, we head north into the Philippines.



Year 8:

(Magenta route) Now we head back south again, and back down to Australia, where we want to explore the Kimberly Islands.  From there, we will head north back into Indonesia and then across to Jakarta, through the pass, where we will take the outside route on the west shore of Sumatra.  Then we do a short hop east to Thailand.

Year 9:

(Purple route) Continuing west, we stop at the British Indian Ocean Territories (some atolls).  From there, we sail further west to the Seychelles.  Once there we sail west to the shores of central eastern Africa.  Then we go southeast to Madagascar, then down to South Africa for the difficult weather region around the Cape of Good Hope.  From there, we head across the Atlantic, stopping at St. Helena and Ascension Island before heading further west to Brazil and then to French Guiana.

Year 10: 

(Amethyst route)  Continuing up the eastern South American coast, we enter Suriname.  From there, we head further north to Trinidad and Tobago.  Then, we sail on north to Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  When we cross our wake in St. Lucia we will have finished a full circumnavigation of Planet Earth!.  However, we are not done, we sail on to Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, and, finally, Saint Martin.  That also ends our Caribbean time since hurricane season is now coming.  So, we head northeast to Bermuda. From there, we sail east using the westerlies to get us to the Azores.  From there, we head northeast to England, sailing east up the English Channel until we cross at Dover.  Then we go through Brussels, the Netherlands, and back along the Wadden Sea to Germany.  We sail through the Kiel canal and then turn north, heading for Stockholm, Sweden.  Once there, we turn around and head back down the Baltic Sea to the West Oder River.  We enter the canals of Germany and go past Berlin, then turn west and follow canals through Germany, turning south and reaching the Rhine River.  We head down river (this time).  We take canals south through the Netherlands, then through Brussels, and finally, in to France where we end up in Paris.  From there, we take the Seine River west to the English Channel and cross from Cherbourg to Weymouth, England.

Year 11: 

(Jade route)  After waiting out the winter in Cardiff, we sail on back around Lizard Point and back up to Weymouth, so we can cross to the Channel Islands of the UK.  From there, we continue south to St-Malo, France and clear into the Schengen Countries again.  We sail west to Brest, and then go around the Brittney coast of France until we turn west and cross the top of Spain.  We turn south and head out of Spain into Portugal.  We continue around, turning east, and head for Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea.  We follow the southern coast of Spain up to the Beleric Islands and then over to Barcelona, Spain.

Year 12: 

(White route) Now back in the Med, we head east to the to of Corsica, then across to Rome, in Italy.  We turn south and sail to Messina, then cut across to the southern tip of Greece.  We turn north and head for Athens, then west toward the Greek Isles, seeing some we missed the last time we were in the Aegean Sea.  Once we reach Turkey, we head east along the bottom, all the way to Mersin.  From there, we sail south to Cyprus.  Now we reverse course and head west, sailing to the Isle of Crete.  From there, we sail further west to Malta.  Then we head north up to the east shore of Sicily, then turn west again at the top.  Once we heave Sicily, we sail to Morocco and then on to tour all of the Canary Islands before heading across the Atlantic.

Year 13: 

(Blue route) Now it looks like we are headed off to a second circumnavigation, but that's not the case!  We are going around the Ring of Fire instead.  In Year 13, we head out to the ABC's (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao).   After spending some time there, we sail on to the Panama Canal.  Once through the locks, we head for the Las Perlas Islands and then sail off to Ecuador.  We do a second major ocean crossing in the Pacific, but his time we are headed for the Pitcairn Islands.  Once there, we head west to the Gambier Islands, then on to the Austral Islands, and then north to the Society Islands for a brief stop before heading east to the Tuamotus Atolls.  After seeing more of these, we head back to the Society Islands.

Year 14: 

(Fuchsia route) This time, we head for the Cook Islands, then on to Niue, and up Tonga, headed bottom to top.  We then turn west and go to Wallis and Fortuna, before turning south and going back to Fiji, where we do a completely different route to all new locations.  Once we are ready to depart, we head north for the Tuvalu Atolls, then on to the Kiribati Atolls.  

Year 15: 

(Orange route) Now it is time for the true Ring of Fire route.  From the Kiribati Atolls, we head north to the Marshall Islands.  From there, we turn west again, toward Micronesia.  Once we pass through that nation, we reach Guam, then turn north again, following a string of volcanic islands (part of the (Ring of Fire).   We sail northwest, to Okinawa, then north to Japan.  When we leave that nation, we sail north to the edge of Russia, before turning, northeast toward the Aleutian Islands, another part of the Ring of Fire.  We follow these along the Bering Sea until we reach Alaska.  Then we follow the shore around until we head south into British Columbia.  Once we reach Seattle, we sail south on the west shore of the continental US to Los Angeles, and then down to Baja Mexico and on to Costa Rica.  Finally, we go through the Panama Canal (the opposite way this time) and head into the Caribbean Sea.  We sail northeast to Jamaica.

Year 16:

(Hazel route) From Jamaica, we sail past Haiti and on to the Turks and Caicos Islands before sailing on to the Bahamas.  We head up the west coast of the USA to New York, then continue north to Canada, first stopping in Nova Scotia and then Cape Breton.  We turn west at the Gulf of Lawrence, then head southwest toward Quebec City.  We pass by Montreal and end up Lake Ontario where we go counter clockwise around that Great Lake.  We exit into the Erie Canal and take the Hudson to New York City.  Our final sail is down the USA coast and end up in Florida to sell S/V Lynx, our circumnavigation and Ring of Fire voyage complete after sixteen years of adventure.