Learning from anchor testing

When we chose our Spade anchor we read up on all the testing and advice we could find. Some of that was videos by Steve on his SV Panope YouTube channel. Since then he has continued to add many more tests. These are by far the most useful tests I’ve found.

He has tested many different anchors with underwater footage of them in different seabed as well as tests of 180degree resets and more recently a 180degree veering test. The Spade has come out really well in everything apart from rock cobbles and very soft/thin mud. An article on Attainable Adventure Cruising (see below) suggests that a slower setting process might improve the soft mud holding.

All this and a variety of articles on Attainable Adventure Cruising (who are great advocates for the Spade anchor) convince me that we made a good choice with our primary anchor (Spade 30kg).

It seems that there is widespread agreement that Fortress anchors are excellent kedge anchors (great holding, light and folding). So we will get the largest Fortress anchor that we feel we can easily lift into the dinghy as our kedge anchor. The weaknesses in resetting and coping with veering are less significant in the typical uses of a kedge where it is laid from a dinghy to provide a pull at a specific angle (eg to pull you off a beach or as part of a multi anchor hurricane setup).

While it is tempting to think you could/should always go bigger with anchors the costs of upsizing to the next size of Spade would have been significant (bigger windlass that would not have been 12volt, weight on the bow, difficulty in manually moving the anchor). These costs and the inconvenience in general use mean that, in a few years time when we have more experience, we would consider getting a 3rd “Storm” anchor that is a couple of sizes bigger. We are confident that our 30kg is sized so that we should be good in most “unexpected” squalls, gusts or weather changes. If we were to need a larger anchor it would be because we were expecting a hurricane. At that point we would expect some warning and would have moved to a “hurricane hole” and fully prepared the boat. That would include switching over to the “Storm” anchor. It would probably also be a Spade as being able to dismantle it for storage would be critical, Although it could also be a Mantus (potentially better in very soft mud).

Brexit implications

Amidst the dark days of the catastrophic response by the UK government to the Covid pandemic, the disaster that Brexit was always going to be, continues to unfold.

Unsurprisingly, given the dire impact on so many industries, communities and individuals, little attention is being given for the implications for what is a relatively small number live aboard cruisers.

The loss of freedom of movement was always going to be a huge price to pay. Sure enough, 90 days in the EU within each 180 day period will make cruising the Mediterranean very difficult. It will also make transiting to or from the Mediterranean via the French canals almost impossible. There are several British cruisers who have been spending the winter in places like the marina and boatyard at Almerimar in Spain

It seems that the UK government chose to not agree to the right to work in the EU. This is probably going to impact many cruisers who earn money while cruising. At the moment the impact on musicians touring is in the news but there are potentially huge implications for those earning money while cruising by picking up work, doing remote working, selling or from YouTube etc. Part of the problem is going to be the uncertainty, there will be differences between countries but also between different offices and officials. I suspect that this is going to take years to find clarity.

Another area where there is potential for significant disruption is about what is taken into Europe. In the last week Lorry drivers have had sandwiches confiscated (BBC News).

Under EU rules, travellers from outside the bloc are banned from bringing in meat and dairy products.

“Since Brexit, you are no longer allowed to bring certain foods to Europe, like meat, fruit, vegetables, fish, that kind of stuff,” a Dutch border official told the driver in footage broadcast by TV network NPO 1.

This has obvious implications for cruisers, if officials check yachts for fresh food every time they enter the EU.

Beyond these issues, in terms of Sustainable Sailing, Brexit has other impacts such as reduced value of pensions, reduced value of UK currency. There are also issues related to health cover, insurance, mobile phone charges and more.

With other impacts on sustainability such as UK allows emergency use of bee-harming pesticide already happening and more expected given the views of powerful Brexit figures on employment, pay and every other aspect of life.

Over the next decades Brexit is probably going to have the biggest impact on the Sustainability of Live Aboard Cruising for UK citizens, that impact is almost entirely negative. It may well also cause an increase in the number of seeking to leave for a live aboard cruising future. Increasing demand while also reducing possibility is a pretty fair summary.

More safety from moving to fossil fuel free Sailing

In my post Safe, Sustainable Coffee for sailing? I made the point that using an electric filter coffee machine is safer because you do not have to pour boiling water. Especially you do not have to pour boiling water onto a tower of things resting on each other (eg V60 filter holder balanced on a mug).

What I didn’t emphasise is that this safety aspect is only possible (or at least far easier) with a switch away from fossil fuels. Many yachts are now fitting small inverters to use small mains electric gadgets. However, unless you design a higher capacity system in terms of renewable generation, batteries, wiring, inverters etc and implement it with gimbled surfaces for extra devices you are not going to be able to make the switch to an electric filter coffee machine (unless you run your engine to recharge your batteries a lot).

Unfortunately, there are few good options for making coffee without mains electrical appliances. A moka pot is probably the only option, but you don’t see many people using them with pan clamps to hold them securely on a hob at sea (and very often see them perched quite precariously on pan supports that are designed for much larger pans. Anyway they are not preference for coffee when sailing, I want a longer drink to provide warmth and comfort rather than a quick shot.

The same comes to other cooking options. An electric multi-cooker (on a gimbled tray) seems a lot safer option for cooking a stew or soup at sea (well most one pot meals) than either a pan or a stovetop pressure cooker. The advantages include:

  • they cook at a lower pressure/temperature than a traditional stovetop pressure cooker.
  • there are fewer exposed hot things to touch and handle. An advantage when cooking is done but it also means that unlike a stovetop pressure cooker or pan it can be held down in place not just clamped to avoid sliding. So should be safer in more violent motions.
  • Unlike most pans they have a securely fitted lid and don’t need to be stirred while cooking. Reduces the chance of hot food going flying around the cabin (several examples from the Vendee Globe this year).

While we don’t plan to fill the boat with lots of electric devices for cooking, these two seem to us to have significant safety benefits that have not been widely recognised. The main safety concerns that have been addressed in past regulations mainly relate to gas explosions or burning fuel.

Safe, Sustainable Coffee for sailing?

Planning for live aboard cruising on a sailing boat presents particular challenges for one of the highlights of the day – especially if you are aiming for a sustainable life. Almost everything about the environment of sailing makes coffee a challenge, particularly: Availability, Space, Power, and Safety. Clearly we need to get this sorted because otherwise I’m not fit to be around anyone else 😉

As for our expectations. I love coffee and drink a lot, Jane much less. Although we have both worked in a Café which did include barista work we are by no means coffee snobs, so we don’t have the highest standards or expertise 🙂

At home we do have a big commercial grinder (thanks to some lovely friends). We buy our coffee in bulk from TankCoffee, so get away with keeping longer than ideal to benefit from bulk buying prices by starting with great quality beans. We mostly use a Melitta Look IV Therm Timer Filter Coffee Machine. I guess that illustrates what we look for, so no hotplate (spoils the coffee) but also no manual control of temperature and no sophisticated brew cycle that includes a bloom phase.

At the moment we use a very simple plastic holder for filter paper on the boat (we take coffee we have ground at home). When camping I’ve typically used an AeroPress with a cheap Porlex hand grinder (oh look there is now an improved version II and much higher prices).

If we were to want to make Espresso coffee we would really need to have rather fresher beans than we get away with at the moment.

This video from the amazing James Hoffmann: Coffee, Climate Change & Extinction: A conversation with Dr Aaron Davis at Kew was interesting and highlights some of the challenges to coffee for the long term, meanwhile all we do, so far, is try to buy the most ethical coffee with the least big corporations involved as we can.

Availability: Getting hold of coffee and keeping it presents challenges when you are crossing oceans or cruising in remote areas.

Space: A 38 foot boat, particularly an older design has very limited storage which of course challenges high coffee standards in two key ways:
a) shortage of dry places that keep a nice even temperature for storing the coffee
b) a very small galley without much counter or cupboard space.
So that rules out a lot of coffee appliances.

Power: By sailing yacht standards we do have lots of mains electric power but the capacity is limited. That again puts constraints on the number of electric appliances.

Safety: In this video from Ryan and Sophie the dangers of making coffee on a boat were dramatically illustrated.

Our Coffee Plan

Everyone needs a coffee plan! Running out of coffee would be a very serious situation, and I don’t think the RNLI are ready to help us in this kind of emergency. So this is where we are at.

Initially we plan to stick to buying roasted beans in bulk and grinding them as needed. We should be able to carry enough for 6 months at a time without too much difficulty (we currently use between 1 and 1.5kg a month). For us that is a reasonable sweet spot between long storage between shops, quality and price. Hopefully we can buy in beans in decent quantities in most cities – one city every 6 months sounds reasonable 😉 I admit I’m interested in exploring roasting our own beans in the future. Green Beans potentially last a lot longer (up to a year). Maybe we can fund our retirement by roasting coffee to order for the cruising community 😉

When sailing I’m concerned that we avoid any of the (many) ways of making coffee that involve pouring boiling water or unsealed containers with boiling water in them, or free standing stacks of items that hot liquids are moving though. So that rules out all manual forms of coffee filtering, the AeroPress, French Presses and lots of others.

So it looks like a simple filter coffee machine, like we already have, where you add cold water and it puts the hot coffee straight into a non spill, unbreakable thermos flask. Our plan is to have a gimbled tray which can be used for any appliance (induction hob, coffee machine, multi-cooker) so it should be safe to make coffee when heeled or in waves.

If we add one of the higher quality, higher capacity hand grinders (needs less space, less power), then we should be good to go. These can grind to suit Espresso as well as filter machines.

We already have a number of basic thermos style travel mugs which are definitely more suited to a moving boat and drinking outside.

When it comes to making fancier coffees for use at anchor we can look at one of the manual Espresso machines such as a Flair (no power needs and they fold away for storage). There are also an increasing number of ways to froth milk without the steam wand from an Espresso machine.

I’m sure we will also carry an AeroPress as a reliable backup if the filter machine breaks, just a lot of caveats about safety if using at sea.

I’m not interested in a any of the Pod machines (Nespresso etc), while re-usable pods are now available I’ve not heard good things about the drinks they make. Anyway as I prefer a longer drink (such as a long black) you would have to add hot water to the drink.

Using a dyneema pendant as a simple solution

I’m a great fan of simplifying things, even if I’m not always good at it 🙂

So I love this Dyneema Pendant, which you can buy from Mantus (they call it a Snubber Pendant).

Except, that it is so simple that we will make several of our own. We will probably use a home made soft shackle rather than a shackle to attach it to the snubber line (cheaper, tool free and not going to damage the boat).

Three main uses:

  • A tool and metal free attachment of a snubber line to the anchor chain (the snubber line provides some elasticity which stops the boat pulling the anchor out of the seabed when the bow rises on a wave). One that is easy to undo even after it has been used with heavy loads. Using this means that if you need to put out more chain (for example with a dragging anchor or higher than calculated tide) you don’t first have to pull in some chain (making the situation worse) to untie the snubber, just let the snubber drop in the water, use another pendant and snubber line and recover the original later.
  • As demonstrated in the Mantus video to help recover if a sheet gets angled on a sheet winch.
  • Using a similar technique, use it to recover your Jordan Series Drogue. Tie to a bridle line, connect snubber line and lead that to a winch. When you run out of snubber line at the winch then attach another pendant and snubber line to the bridle line as far out as you can reach, then pull that one in. Repeat until you can put the actual Jordan Series Drogue line on the winch.

There are multiple aspects to the simplicity that I love:

  • Untying it after a significant load is so easy. Essential when recovering a Jordan Series Drogue where the loads can be huge. A traditional rolling hitch will probably need to be doubled and even then very hard to untie.
  • Attaching it to the chain with a cow hitch is so easy, much easier than a rolling hitch and no metal chain hook damaging your deck. This is so important as the critical use with an anchor chain will be when it is rough and the bow is plunging up and down.
  • So easy to create and inspect for damage. So providing you have a stock of Dyneema line you can very easily make a replacement at anytime you need it.

As I say I’d probably attach it to the snubber with a soft shackle which avoids needing a tool to attach, and of course no issues with corrosion or electrolysis. My favourite soft shackle technique is this one (much easier to tie than many others and I think stronger than any which do not bury the ends from the knot):

Continuing Solar planning

Sadly, we can’t do much but plan at the moment. However, that does at least give us the opportunity to improve those plans.

In More on sustainability, I included a bit about Jimmy Cornell needing to abandon his attempt to sail around the world with zero carbon emissions. So another incentive to improve our plans.

This is what we have so far:

Wheelhouse roof

4 x 40 watt panels (total 160 watts) for the top of the wheelhouse roof. To be connected so that the two sides are in parallel reducing the impact of the considerable shading as the main boom is just above the wheelhouse.

Guardrail mounted

4 x 175 watt panels (total 700 watts) to be fitted alongside the guardrails. They will be moveable, tiltable and removable. So we can have up to 4 on either side of the boat (to catch the sun). While sailing we should be able to have 2 per side (positioned about 3/4 of the way aft), with the option to drop them to be vertical (like canvas side dodgers but with a gap for water drainage below them) for docking or if waves are a problem. But there are plenty of people sailing with these pretty permanently mounted (eg Rigging Doctor, Millennial Falcon, Sailing Project Atticus). We can also remove them and store them below in really bad weather (recognising that ours are larger and hence more windage).

We have been exploring lots of potential ways of fitting these. Quite a lot will end up depending on how our budget goes over the next few years, but we have a cheap getting us started option using lightish timber struts. Update see Simplifying guardrail solar panels.

Longer Term Plans:

By adding a solar “arch” (see below) we should have a grand total of 1460 watts. That is more than Jimmy Cornell, plus we will be able to rotate and tilt them to improve efficiency. Coupled with significantly reduced power consumption (only 2 people, wind vane steering, only one fridge, no electric winches etc) we think we are heading towards the right ballpark figure.

Solar Arch.

We have lost count of the number of design options we have been through. Here was one. It got pretty complicated as we work around all the constraints. Our fairly narrow stern, mizzen boom and need for Hydrovane self steering make the structure very challenging.

Our current thinking is to mount two 300 watt panels almost completely independent of each other (total 600 watts). Through a combination of rotating and tilting we will be able to position them for maximum efficiency while also being able to have them either clear of the mizzen sail (ie sticking out aft beyond the boat length) or safe for docking or storms (ie extending forward over the mizzen boom and aft cabin) at which point we would not be able to use the mizzen sail. They will also be removable, even at sea so that again we can stow them (probably on deck due to their size) if needed.

Our plan is to first shorten the mizzen boom as much as we can for the existing sails. Longer term we might get a new mizzen sail with a shorter foot but fully battened with a fathead sail (google images of Fathead mainsails), that would keep the boom further out of the way,

Then the implementation we hav agreed with Hydrovane puts the actual vane a little higher than normal so that it is clear of the mizzen boom and sail (thus allowing us to tack without having to touch the vane mechanism).

The solar support will start with an upright carbon fibre tube in each aft corner of the deck (or possibly just down the transom a little), these will be positioned so that they are just clear of the boom as it swings across. They will have a diagonal strut going forward and another diagonal going across the stern. There is a vast array of carbon fibre tubes available up to 54mm diameter so we have some calculations to do.

The top 500mm or so will be above the diagonal struts and will be filled with thickened epoxy. This is then a base onto which the pole for the solar panel drops. These Carbon Fibre Tubes are designed so that each size slides into the next size up. So the poles for the panels will be one size up from the fixed upright tubes. They too will have a thickened epoxy filling but leaving 500mm open to drop onto the upright tubes. Connecting the tubes this way allows the upper section to be rotated or removed. We will have a hole for a pin will allow the rotation to be locked in two places (and will also stop the top tube lifting off).

A smaller tube will be fitted horizontally to the top of the solar panel upright. Using a smaller diameter will allow us to attach it by through drilling the upright for the horizontal to fit though. The joint area will then be filled with thickened epoxy to lock everything in place. The horizontal tube will only project out on one side of the upright (like an inverted L). Using the rotation and locking pin this can be forwards or backwards from the upright. This horizontal will be approximately 3/4 of the length of one of the solar panels.

To attach the solar panel we have two slightly oversized square tubes. These are the long enough to be fitted to the solar panel (going across the width of it). They have holes drilled in the middle, with short lengths of tube (next size up from the horizontal) fixed into them so that they can slide onto the horizontal tube. This attached the solar panel and allows it to tilt.

To support this we add a smaller tube as a diagonal brace between the upright and the unsupported end of the horizontal tube. At which point it will look a like we have a pair of gallows on the boat with solar panels on top 🙂

All the fixed joints will be created by smaller diameter tubes going through the larger, the smaller tubes will have smaller holes inside the joint so that when the joint area is filled with slightly thickened epoxy they get locked into place. We will also use epoxy fillets on the outside of the joints.

We will use dyneema guys to control the tilt of the panels with the option to use them to lock the rotation in other places than the locking pin allows.

To remove the panels we will use a halyard. We will rig it so that the pull is up a topping lift, that means as the upright tube comes free the whole thing won’t swing wildly about into the mast.

This give us multiple positioning options:

  • Preferred sailing option. Turning the panels aft so clear of the mizzen, with the ability to tilt them either for maximum solar efficiency or for minimal windage (compensating for the boats heel) depending on the conditions.
  • Preferred docked option. Turning the panels forward, the mizzen can’t be used but they are fully within the deck outline so not going to snag on other boats or be a hazard to people on the dock.
  • Moderately bad conditions. Assuming that you have taken the mizzen sail down, turn the panels forward and take the tilting control lines forward for maximum stability (better angle and braced to the deck rather than the support post).
  • Storm conditions expected (whether sailing, at anchor or in a marina). Lift the panels up so the uprights come off the fixed supports. Lower to the deck and secure.
  • At anchor. Rotate and tilt so the panels are as close to right angles to the sun, adjust to compensate for both the boat and the sun moving.


There are obvious concerns about having large panels relatively high in the air. However, there have now been multiple Atlantic crossings by boats similar in size to Vida with panels this size on solar arches.

We do recognise that our design is a little different due to the complications (mizzen and hydrovane). We do not think this design is possible with the typical stainless steel tubing designs. However, carbon fibre tubes can be used for a wide variety of purposes including masts and wind turbines, that support significant loads on unstayed uprights.

Unlike other solutions we have a variety of options do deal with different conditions. We are not creating a fit and forget solution but one that fits with our expectation of Active Solar Generation which we believe is a critical factor in achieving zero fossil fuels. The real potential to increase solar generation isn’t clear but a 30% increase is possible when you can angle correctly and far more if panels can be moved to avoid shading.

Wind generators

We can potentially add a similar pole support base on each side of the boat by the mizzen mast. In suitable conditions a wind generator can then be deployed. Again using the active generation principle. Wind generators are only effective in certain conditions, so why would we want the noise and windage all the time? However, they are the best option for reducing the need for a generator when we need electric power for heating while anchored in winter when there isn’t much sun.

Worth Supporting @CleanSailors

So we have been found by Clean Sailors
“Sailors who love the sea, mobilising the global sailing community in conservation of our oceans.”

A not for profit organisation who are based in one of our favourite places: Falmouth (Cornwall). We look forward to being able to sail there and meet up.

Well worth reading their pages and supporting them. We think their aims are great.

For us the issues around plastic in our Oceans are a significant set of issues within the big picture of the Climate Emergency and acting for Climate Justice.

So many of our changes to Vida, in the name of Sustainability, work towards this:

  • Shampoo, soap, washing up liquid etc We have been using Soap bars, Shampoo bars, Toothpaste Tablets and Bamboo toothbrushes for over a year now. Also I’ve been using a “Crystal Deodorant Stick” for months, which has been great. I’m still using up old stocks of shaving stuff, but have a traditional safety razor, blades and a shaving foam bar ready to go. All plastic free (packaging as well as contents). Been shopping mostly from Anything But Plastic and Ecovibe
  • Removing waste water seacocks and grey water plans. We are now going to explore adding filters to catch any microplastics before they get into the tanks. So wherever our grey water gets pumped out (ideally into a shore based sewage system), or on ocean crossings into the ocean it should be free of harmful products.
  • Toilets: I’d like to see as bit more focus on toilets on the Clean Sailors agenda. We should never be putting raw sewage into the sea and composting toilets are, in our firm opinion, the very best option. They are just about the simplest, they don’t require any plumbing, they don’t use any chemicals, they don’t require you to work with sewage pipes or tanks etc etc. I have been thinking about how we might be able to empty our solids into reusable boxes rather than plastic bags. That would enable us to store aboard until fully composted for safe use on any ground.
  • Antifouling paint. So we think we have a good solution for removal and at least one option for what to put on that shouldn’t be toxic (effectiveness is unclear though).
  • Zero fossil fuels so no diesel or petrol pollution (from the dinghy outboard, main boat engine, boat heating, water heating, watermaker)

Clothing and Laundry

Reading the Clean Sailors got me thinking further about clothes and washing them. We have mentioned Laundry before and we have been careful to move to clothes with far fewer plastics. However, I think we need to do more. In hot climates Rash tops are clearly really practical for sun protection and are easy to wash/dry. However, they are essentially plastic (more and more of them are using recycled plastic, some are made from plastic recovered from the sea) and when washed they will shed microplastics. We haven’t seen any live-aboard cruisers with any form of filtration system and many people are (very understandably) doing their washing in buckets with rainwater and then tipping it into the sea.

We will be looking for a microplastic filter that can be used with a high capacity funnel. This can then be put into a cockpit drain and all water from washing clothes filtered on it’s way into the sea (recommendations for a suitable filter are needed please). Our preference is still to combine a “WonderWash” style hand powered washing machine with an electric spin dryer (needed to stand a chance of drying warm clothes in a British winter). The water from both these can go through the filter.

I was reading that most microplastics are shed in the first 8 washes. Would seem sensible not to wear a new garment for swimming until you have washed it a few times and caught those microplastics before they get into the sea.

Using a public laundry service isn’t going to help in places that do not have efficient microplastic filtration systems in their waste water processing (does anywhere?)


I’d like to see a bit more emphasis on improving the facilities and standards for boat users. A few examples:

  • Rather than just putting pressure on consumers to avoid single-use plastics we should be stopping suppliers and shops using them in the first place.
  • Instead of asking boat owners not to put waste water with microplastics into the sea we should be providing legislation on grey water tanks and filters, on more places to pump out, on restrictions on where we can empty tanks (as Turkey have)
  • We need more legislation on recycling at every level. On the materials used, on the places to put waste for recycling and on making sure it really does get recycled. It is pointless to put pressure on consumers if there are no plastic free items to buy, few places to put stuff for recycling and if at the end of the day it is shipped abroad into waste piles without being actually recycled.


Plus we still need to make the connections. Plastic waste is one aspect (that does need dealing with) of unsustainable living. There are many more, they all need to be tackled if there is to be any chance of a Sustainable future with Climate Justice for all people. The big picture is needed to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the need to work for Clean Oceans as well as Zero Fossil fuels as well as Healthy Soil as well as eliminating Poverty, stopping wars, protecting eco-systems etc etc. They are all important, most are highly interconnected (eg poverty, war, fossil fuels) and we do not have time to tackle them one at a time.

Supporting Sustainable Sailing

We have no plans to restrict our content or hide anything behind a paywall.

However, if you would like to support our journey towards Sustainable Sailing then there are two ways.

First, our awesome t-shirts, hoodies and bags from our shop at Teemill, great quality and as Sustainable products as you can find.

Second, we can now take donations by PayPal.


Donation to Sustainable Sailing

A donation to support Sustainable Sailing.


We do not want any to feel obliged and we value the readers who can’t afford to spend money the most. However, if you have too much money we would like to help you as well 😝🤪

Simplifying fitting a Jordan Series Drogue

One of the most significant advances in yacht safety in recent years has been the development of the Jordan Series Drogue. It was developed in response to the 1979 Fastnet Disaster and has been widely used by a wide variety of yachts in some terrible conditions. Attainable Cruising has many articles about it (and I think some are on their free pages).

So we definitely plan to carry a Jordan Series Drogue with us. Examples from Jordan Series Drogues by AceSails (lots of the history by the late Don Jodan himself), Ocean Brake and DIY instructions from SailRite.

Once you have a JSD (Jordan Series Drogue) one of the key concerns is how top attach it to your boat. The loads could be enormous and so typically the solution has been big stainless steel chainplates through bolted to big backing plates, one on each aft quarter so that they stick out beyond the stern.

That is heavy, and is going to require some substantial engineering (and to be fair John Harries, from Attainable Cruising, admits that he had misunderstood that bolts in a line with the load do not share the load well – something Jane keeps on at me about from her Civil Engineering days).

The chainplate solution would be possible, but expensive and hard work on our boat (the bulwark is the obvious place as it has both the hull and deck thicknesses together) but it isn’t very high so the gap between the cap and the deck is a bit tight for a good sized backing plate.

So I was pondering and I realised that there might be a good solution similar to the Dyneema chainplates we have come up with. After a couple of iterations this is what I have come up with for boats like ours that have a strong enough bulwark or toe rail (essentially the rule of thumb is these need to be strong enough to hang the weight of the boat from). For us the strength of the 12mm dyneema we are likely to use for our main mast shrouds is a lot more than double the design weight of the boat. The issue is much more about spreading that load rather than the strength of the line.

[Update] I have written a lot about Dyneema standing rigging so I now have a guide to it all in: Dyneema / Synthetic Rigging Summary[End Update]

So I’m thinking one 12 mm dyneema line for each side of the boat. Both ends to be fastened to the boat with the loop going through the eye on the end of the JSB bridle. So the load will come to 4 attachment points on the boat and will be pretty equally balanced (the elastic stretch and creep of the dyneema will work to equalise the loads between the two bridles and on each side the loop will move through the bridle loop to equalise the load.).

All 4 ends of dyneema will have an eye splice (carefully done should achieve 80% of the original strength) and the eye will have a chafe protection sleeve as will the loop where it goes through the bridle.

To attach these eye splices to the boat we cut supper drains holes through the bulwark. These are angled so that the outside is pointing aft. They will need to be very smooth and large enough for the dyneema eyesplice. It might be worth using HDPE tubing. Otherwise I’ll make them oversize, fill them with thickened epoxy and then drill and smooth that.

On the inside of the bulwark we will pass a stainless steel rod (probably similar to our propshaft) through the eye splice and lay it horizontally along the inside of the bulwark as the “backing plate”. To spread the load of the stainless steel rod we would build up thickened epoxy between in and the bulkhead. We will coat the rod in mould release first so that the rod can be removed once the epoxy has set and only placed there when needed.

The length of the stainless steel rods will depend on the curvature and strength of the bulwark or toe rail. If there are concerns then use more and connect the dyneema in a cascade to distribute the load to 4 or more points per side.

This way we get better draining side decks (more scupper holes). We get a JSD attachment system that

  • is stored away from UV and other damage except when on ocean passages.
  • is easy to fully inspect every part of before use
  • can have any part replaced at sea if it shows wear
  • doesn’t add permanent clutter or any potential leaks
  • is lighter and stronger than a stainless steel chainplate
  • is much cheaper than the parts for stainless steel chainplates

Of course there are disadvantages and key among these is the potential for chafe. However, this can be easily monitored and if required a temporary Dyneema line could be used while a replacement is fitted at sea. We are not kidding ourselves that it would be easy but won’t require hanging off the back of the boat and is possible. Whereas making and fitting a replacement stainless steel chainplate would not be.

If your boat doesn’t have a bulwark/toe rail that is suitable then a more permanent solution more like multiples of our various dyneema chainplates idea might be possible.

Almost certainly we will be trying something along these lines, but we do so at our own risk and you would have to do your own risk analysis and design.

[Update] Another “brilliant” sketch of this design.

More on sustainability

I get quite frustrated with a number of ways in which claims are made for sustainability. Too often they can be most charitably be described as greenwashing.

So I took the Footprint challenge (again) at https://www.footprintcalculator.org

This time we came out at 2.3 that means 2.3 worlds would be required to maintain our lifestyle. It can also be presented as 3.9gha (global hectares per person). The world can sustain about 1.63gha, the UK average is 7.93gha and the global average is 2.75gha.

So while we are currently living at about 50% of the UK average (2016 data) and just below the global average (again 2016) we still have a long way to drop before we could consider ourselves to be living sustainably.

This is a reduction from what we have achieved in the past. However, by far the largest single item within our footprint is our housing. As that comes with my job we have almost no control over it, at the moment. The second (although only about 1/3 of the first) is driving our van. This calculator doesn’t factor in the cycling I do for transport and of course we are working towards replacing the van with a small electric car ASAP (that reflects changes including Jane commuting for the first time).

Factors that have reduced our score include:

  • No flying (more than 15 years since our last flight)
  • All our Electricity and Gas is the greenest, most renewable available (Ecotricity)
  • We are now nearly completely vegetarian
  • Most of our veg comes through a weekly veg box from a farm only 15 miles away (and everything in the box is grown organically on that farm).

However, Sustainable Sailing is about our long term, our retirement. At the point of retirement we have to find our own home (and we can’t afford to buy a house) and we want to be contributing to life not tearing it down for future generations.

So our goals are a retirement we can afford (which is why the catamarans costing hundreds of thousands of pounds are irrelevant) and which has a really low footprint (which is again why the big catamarans are out as well as diesel engines, new boats etc).

But we also believe that there are mental and physical benefits to a simpler and more sustainable life. So the choices are also good for us personally. Less stress, more beauty, more experiences, active lifestyle away from air pollution.

So it isn’t surprising that the people we prefer to read or watch are typically not the lifestyle experts, they typically don’t have old boats and low budgets.

It isn’t surprising that we reject the experts saying that fossil fuel free sailing boats are not possible because we have not seen them consider the footprint of their choices. Our goal isn’t to achieve or maintain a lifestyle that the planet can’t sustain. Our goal is to to live at a sustainable level, and within that, to live well.

A good recent example was that Jimmy Cornell who has had to abandon his attempt to sail around the world with zero carbon emissions. Our approach is very different.

When they start with a brand new 45 foot catamaran the embedded carbon footprint is incredibly different to that of a 43 year old 38 foot monohull and this is almost always ignored.

The key advantages of a performance catamaran for cruising without using fossil fuels are the large area for solar panels and the higher sailing speed which means that regeneration from spinning the propellers which turn the motors into generators.

However, we plan about the same amount of solar panels, and we plan to boost their efficiency by tilting them and moving some so that are not shaded by the sails as much.

We too hope to get some regeneration from the propeller but haven’t really budgeted for it.

Where the biggest difference lies is in consumption. That is where the expectations of sustainability are so different. We plan to live within what we can generate not generate enough for a particular lifestyle.

Within the consumption side of the equation comes a really significant disadvantage of catamarans. They can’t be steered by wind vane steering systems that use no electricity. We have seen a number of people whose boats use electric autopilots have to run their engines every couple of days because of the power drain of the autopilot. While we are going to maintain the original electric autopilot (useful for sail changes or when motoring) we won’t be using it on passages.

When you add electric winches, multiple fridges etc it becomes obvious that it is the luxury lifestyle that can’t be achieved. Yet for hundreds of years sailing boats have crossed oceans without fridges, washing machines, water makers etc. Even on a catamaran with it’s autopilot Cornell managed on a “minimal” use of electrical equipment.

Yet the naysayers always home in on the induction cooking and the electric motor as the problems that make zero carbon footprint sailing impossible. Neither of these need to be used if you don’t have enough power in the battery bank. Especially when crossing oceans.

For us the two biggest concerns (and the reason why, in the end we may well carry a generator) are:

  • Fossil fuel free heating (because electric heating is always going to be needed most when solar generation is at it’s minimum).
  • Canals and rivers (eg to get between the English Channel and the Mediterranean) where hours of motoring can be needed against currents or where timetables need to be kept (eg Panama Canal).

To be honest it is amusing that those telling us that a sustainable life isn’t possible haven’t even thought about the most difficult challenges.

It is important to note that we don’t think we have everything sorted yet. We are building up gradually on storage, generation and consumption of electricity so that we can find a good equilibrium for us – and yes, that will include restricting where we go to those places and seasons where we can maintain the equilibrium because anything else isn’t sustainable.