More reasons for our new sail plan

So I wrote about our new sail plan, one of the key features is that we will not have any “traditional” roller reefing headsails. That decision has been mostly driven by wanting Dyneema rigging which can be inspected and changed by us and which reduces weight so we will heel less. Also it is going to save us a lot of money and should be more reliable.

There are more benefits though. Although it is perfectly possible to leave our furled sails (yankee jib and code zero or asymmetric spinnaker) hoisted ready for use, it is also easy to lower them and take them down below while still furled. There are 3 key benefits to doing this:

  • Longer sail life (less exposure to UV and wind)
  • Better anchoring. Something I’ve learnt from Attainable Adventure Sailing is that reducing windage forward means that you lie more consistently at anchor rather than sheering from side to side. Not only is this more comfortable but you are also putting less angled strain on the anchor which is therefore much less likely to get pulled out of the the seabed.
  • This great video from Ran Sailing Tie everything down🌪 Winds of 60 knots are coming! – Ep. 248 shows another. When you see them safe, but a bit uncomfortable, in a marina side on to very high winds you that they are heeling more due to the windage on their two rolled heasdsails. They can’t do anything about this as the sails would have to be unfurled in order to lower them (impossible, dangerous and probably destructive of the sails in those winds).

At almost the same time Delos had strong winds while alongside, this time being blown onto the dock. Again reducing the windage would have made things less uncomfortable (but is not possible with roller reefing).

Of course we recognise the disadvantages. We will have more foredeck work. We think it is worth it (at least if you can have a cutter rig which reduces the individual sail sizes). We don’t have to swap between different headsails (except in light winds) which makes it a lot easier.

Our desired long-term sail plan

I’ve made some progress on where we want to end up in terms of a sail-plan that is efficient in a wide range of wind strengths and angles. I’ve also, hopefully, got to the point where we will be able to get sailing without having to buy any new sails to start with. After all we are starting with 12 sails!

Here is the original sail plan.

Sadly, our current mainsail is much smaller (it was made for the roller furling that had been added to the back of the mast), it also does not currently have slides for the mast track and it has no reefing points.

Our genoa uses an old Furlex roller reefing and the sail shape, especially when reefed is terrible as this picture shows (it should not be all baggy in the middle of the forestay).

Traditionally Rivals have a fairly poor reputation for speed in light winds (and a fantastic reputation for ability to keep going in very strong winds). When you look at the sail plan it isn’t surprising (very little in the way of light wind sails, all sails set within the forestay apart from the small symmetrical spinnaker). In the last 50 years there have been huge improvements in what is possible (such as Code Zero “genoas” and Asymmetrical Spinnakers) compared to carrying 5 hank on jibs of different sizes as shown in the drawing. The switch to a roller furling main and genoa will have increased easy of changing sail sizes but at great cost in efficiency.

We believe we can now do better, especially in front of the main mast.

So this is where we want to get to in the long term.

Mizzen: shorter boom to keep it out of the way of the wind vane self steering and also the solar panels. Fully battened (so that you can use it as a steadying sail without it getting damaged by flapping) and a fat head for more area. Two slab reefs – again useful for a steadying sail and as more options for small sails for storm conditions.

Main: Our new boom is a bit longer. So we will get a little more sail area without needing much roach. Will be taking advice (and be affected by price) as to whether to go fully battened for longer life but more expensive sail and potential need for much upgraded slides for the track in the main mast. 3 reefing points so we won’t have a trisail (with choice of either reefed mizzen or 3rd reef in the main we think we can go small enough and have a backup option). Will be loose footed. We will probably make a stack pack for it (although will keep it as small as possible as the boom is already quite high due to the wheelhouse so we want to minimise extra windage).

Staysail: Using a removable inner forestay (supported by new runners) we will have a hank on staysail makde of pretty heavy Dacron so that it can be reefed to be a storm jib.

Yankee Jib: Designed to work well as a typical cutter rig with the staysail. This will be around 100% with a relatively high clew (works well with the staysail and keeps it well clear of waves). This will be set using a continuous line furler. That means it can’t be reefed (partially unrolled). It is either all set or all rolled away. The continuous line furler has an anti- torsion stay in a pocket on the leading edge of the sail. This supports the front of the sail and passes the twist of the furling up the sail. Critically it will be set just behind the forestay (like a Solent ring). However, as it is not the forestay and does not have a structural anti-torsion stay, it can be lowered to the deck while rolled up when not needed. When at anchor in storm conditions it massively reduces windage and also surging from side to side if you have no rolled headsails up. With a normal roller furling genoa you have to unroll it in order to lower it (impossible and dangerous at anchor in strong winds). Plus sails that are not left up last much much longer. We might be able to save money initially by using a dyneema line instead of an anti-torsion stay and not having a furler.

Forestay: we need to have some work done on our bow roller to fit our anchor. As part of this we will move the attachment point forward a little so that the furler for the yankee jib will be clear of it. As the forestay will not be used for any roller reefing or roller furling sails it can be dyneema, the same as the rest of the rigging. I have designed a way to neatly connect a Dyneema forestay (and tension it/remove the gains in length from creep). The changes to the bow roller will include a guard to make sure that neither the anchor not the anchor chain can ever chafe against the dyneema.

Bowsprit for Code Zero or Asymmetric Spinnaker: we will fit a removable bowsprit such as this one from Selden. This is the key to significantly improving light wind performance. Using a second continuous line furler we will be able to fly either a huge Code Zero (flat sail for going upwind in light conditions where we would be very under powered at the moment) or an Asymmetric spinnaker (much easier to use than a traditional spinnaker although not quite as good for going directly downwind). We could save quite a bit of money initially by using “socks” rather than a furler for these sails.

Downwind extras: We have two more options for downwind sailing. One is a Mizzen Staysail (like an Asymmetric Spinnaker flying from the mizzen mast). The second should be good for sailing directly downwind in the fairly strong trade winds. That is to add a hank on jib (of appropriate size) to the forestay. The yankee jib can then be poled out on one side and the hanked on jib/genoa poled out on the other side. This is the classic downwind setup for ocean cruisers.

Getting there

So if that is where we want to be. Now we just need to get from A to B.

First task is all the chainplates and the bow roller so we can get the rigging sorted and the masts up.

Second task is to fit some form of hank to all our jibs/genoas (that won’t damage a dyneema stay) then we can use any of them on either our forestay or inner forestay (until they self destruct as some of them are original and so over 40 years old).

Third task is to fit slides to our existing mainsail (and possibly some reefing points).

This will allow us to get out and start sailing. Then we can prioritise new sails (although I’m sadly confident that the Bowsprit, Code Zero and Asymmetric spinnaker are a long way off at the moment).

The goal

This setup means we have enough choice of sail area through easy switches between sails that we don’t need any roller reefing (expensive, heavy, poor sail shape, high maintenance). All with 8 sails. So for example to go upwind

In light air: Mizzen, Main, Staysail, Code zero

First reduction: raise furled yankee and unfurl, furl code zero and lower. Left with: Mizzen, Main, Staysail, Yankee

Second reduction: lower staysail. Left with: Mizzen, Main, Yankee

Third reduction: swap from yankee to staysail. Left with: Mizzen, Main, Staysail

Storm: Get everything small: Mainsail with 3rd reef and reefed staysail (optionally swap main for reefed mizzen if it gives better balance)

Quick response to a squall: Lower the main and furl the yankee for a “Jigger” rig of Mizzen and Staysail (with reefing options for both).

Throughout the sail reductions we can reef the main and/or the mizzen to maintain balance. Very often to be very close hauled the mizzen will be lowered as it stops the main being sheeted in so hard.

Whilst it looks at first glance that there will be a lot of wet, dangerous foredeck work it is much easier to manage than the original sailplan where switching down a jib size would mean lowering a sail and going right to the forestay to unhank it (during which time it will trying to throw you overboard), then hanking on a smaller jib, swapping the sheets and hoisting it. In normal sailing there will be no need to go right forward (the yankee and code zero can be left up while furled until it is safe to bring them down). The staysail can have a downhaul so can be just pulled down to the deck and held there while you lash it to the rail – anyway it is much further aft. All the mainsail reefing will be done from the mast with the dinghy on deck providing a place to sit with a short lifeline so you can’t go overboard.

There are plenty of examples of Rivals being able to sail to windward in a Force 9. This sail plan should allow us to do that (with no illusions that it will be pleasant or comfortable) as well as go much faster in light winds.

Downwind: Again we have plenty of choices with easy twin headsails or the Asymmetric spinnaker plus the mizzen staysail for fun. Also the potential to use either the staysail or the mizzen sheeted in hard to reduce rolling.

Conclusion

We think we have a route forward that is reasonably affordable and ends up with a fantastic rig that will significantly improve both light wind speed and be far better in storm conditions compared to where we started and also compared to what was available in the 1970’s.

Next generation Dyneema Chainplates

This is a rewrite/reorganisation of this post (no diagrams yet) to, hopefully, make it clearer.

I think this is our 3rd generation of Dyneema Chainplate design. We think it is a significant improvement on our previous plans, yet realistically it might demonstrate some “Lockdown overthinking” so we are not ruling out variations on our original Synthetic chainplate idea in: Chainplates. We are going for a radical dyneema option.

All these designs and the process is for us to work out what we are going to do on our boat. We are happy to share to give you ideas for your own boat, but you need to check your plans with appropriate professionals as we can take no responsibility for whether they will work for you.

Although our previous design was significantly stronger than what our Rival 38 has had for the last 43 years, we have come up with big improvements (with a lot of conversations, especially with Simon T who has a Rival 32). Specifically these are:

  • More flexibility in deck position so they can be closer to the original chainplate position
  • More flexibility in the positioning on the outside of the hull to avoid rubbing strakes, coving strips etc
  • Simpler to build
  • Ability to have tie connections down into the hull (as Rivals should really have had)
  • Reduced possibility of chainplate lashing line chafe.
  • Reduced friction when tensioning the rig, making it simpler to tune

The previous design already met these requirements, but they are worth repeating:

  • A chainplate design ideally suited to synthetic shrouds, that eliminates the need for deadeyes and toggles to reduce the number of potential points of failure.
  • A chainplate that is much stronger than the original Rival implementation. See Deck repair question and note that Cherry Ripe had one chainplate fail on a recent transatlantic trip (their YouTube videos haven’t caught up with that point yet).
  • A chainplate that cannot leak, fully sealed with epoxy from the inside of the boat
  • A chainplate that could be fully repaired with parts that can be carried on board
  • A chainplate with minimal chance of hidden problems causing a sudden failure

We really need to define our own terminology so

  • Chainplate structure: the permanently bonded structure between the hull and deck that the Chainplate Lashing will thread
  • Chainplate Low Friction Ring: A standard Low Friction Ring that is the point to which the shroud is attached by a tensioning system.
  • Chainplate lashing: a light (we are going to use 4mm) dyneema line used to hold the Chainplate Low Friction Ring by being routed through the Chainplate structure. At a minimum the strength of the total lashing needs to exceed the strength of the original stainless steel shroud.
  • Tensioning system: we will be using a simple, thin dyneema line to lash the bottom of the shroud to the Chainplate Low Friction Ring. It will loop around multiple times to give a mechanical advantage and the end will be attached to more mechanical advantage (can be done with a winch or other means) to get enough tension into the shroud.
  • Knee: a shaped piece of material (we are going to use 10mm G10 or FR4) that ties the underside of the deck down the side of the hull. It helps stop the tension of the shroud on the chainplate structure breaking or distorting the boat shape.

Inspiration

The greatest inspiration for me was this video from Free Range Sailing “Our sailboat REBUILD begins ⛵💪 – Episode 157

They have an unusual situation for their backstays, when drilling the holes for the lashing they don’t go into the interior of the boat. A key design goal was to find a way to have a similar lashing for the low friction ring in places where it isn’t possible for a hole to go from the desk to the outside of the hull without going into interior. Also I didn’t want to have to add GRP matting to the outside of the hull. Finally, I was unhappy with the lashing as it relied on knots which is a problem with slippery dyneema.

Key Design elements

First we have a permanent structure to be built

For each shroud two plastic pipes will go through the deck (approx 40mm gap between them – scale as appropriate). On a Rival they can be in approximately the same place as the existing chainplate. They should line up with the shroud (following both the fore/aft and athwartships angles). Below decks they will curve to exit through holes in the side of the hull (still the same distance apart and level with each other). The pipes end approx 50mm above the deck.

A “backing” plate on top of the deck will provide reinforcement. It will make it easier to keep water out of the holes in the deck.

A “backing” plate on the outside of the hull will spread the loads and can be shaped to allow a very smooth curve for the chainplate lashing between the two pipes.

Inside the boat a knee will be fitted between the pipes. It will tie the deck to the hull and will extend down far enough to spread the loads over a large area of the hull.

Inside the boat the pipes will be encased in thickened epoxy. The will prevent any water intrusion. It will also create a single solid structure of deck, hull, pipes and knee to ensure loads are widely and evenly spread.

Second we have the connection for the shroud tensioning system

The permanent structure allows a lashing to attach a low friction ring above the deck. The shroud can be directly tensioned to the low friction ring using a lashing. As the low friction ring is lashed directly to the chainplate structure we eliminate a deadeye (with two thimbles) and a toggle – so removing several of single points of failure.

The chainplate lashing line starts at the low friction ring. Then it loops several times going through one pipe, across the outside of the hull, back through the other pipe and around the low friction ring. When there are enough turns for the maximum load the lashing terminates at the low friction ring.

Rather than use knots to tie the lashing at each end (which lose a lot of strength), terminate each end with an eye splice. These both loop over the low friction ring. Eye splices retain approximately 80% of the line strength. As all the loops of the lashing go over the “rim” of the low fiction ring the shroud tensioning lashing is held captive by the chainplate lashing. Therefore if the low friction ring breaks the shroud is still held captive. We can use eye splices rather than lashing knots as there is considerable flexibility as to how high the low friction ring ends up above the deck.

Third we have chafe and UV protection

The pipes extend approx 50 above the deck, their ends should be slightly flared. As they are slightly flexible they will automatically align (in a gentle curve) with the tensioned lashing so that chafe is minimised. The lashing can be easily inspected for chafe as it enters the pipes.

Extending the pipes above the deck also prevents dirt, particularly gravel, being washed into the pipe as this could quickly cut through the lashing.

The up-stand of the pipes allows a fabric sleeve to be secured at the deck so that everything from the shroud to the deck can be protected from dirt, chafe and UV. If the sleeve is a basic rectangle, with Velcro along it’s length, it can be easily removed to inspect both lashings and the low friction rings.

On the outside of the hull the backing plate can be filed and sanded to provide a smooth rounded route for the lashing to go between the two pipes.

Potential Upgrades

Rather than rounding/smoothing the backing plate on the outside of the hull a plastic pad could be added to provide a lower friction, smoother route for the lashing.

A pop-on plastic cover for the hull backing plate would protect the lashing as it goes between the holes. This would protect it from being damaged by docks, dinghies and the sun. It could be removed to inspect the lashing.

Instead of a single low friction ring for the chainplate lashing it would be possible to use 2. One for each pipe. The two rings would not be directly connected together above the deck but only by the lashing going down through the pipes. The advantages are a) alignment with pipes would be slightly improved as the lines from the pipes only come together at the bottom of the shroud rather than at the chainplate low friction ring. b) two rings so each has half the load c) each ring will only have half the number of turns of the shroud tensioning lashing, so a little less binding and friction.

Rather than a single chainplate lashing line, for each shroud, it would be possible to use several, each would act in parallel. The first eye splice on the low friction ring, through one pipe and back through the other before the other eye splice goes onto the low friction ring. Each “turn” of the lashing would be a separate line. If one line chafes through, it will be very visible but the shroud won’t suddenly become slack. This method would require very consistent splicing so that the lines are very equal in length (although even the small amount of elasticity and creep in dyneema will tend to equalise small differences over time).

Maintenance

All the key potential chafe points for the lashing are easy to inspect as it is highly unlikely that the lashing will chafe first in the hidden but smooth run inside the plastic pipe. Instead chafe will come first a) where it exits the hull, b) where it exits the pipes at the deck, c) where it loops round the low friction ring, or d) where something rubs against it.

Replacing either the chainplate lashing or the shroud tensioning lashing should be straightforward, even potentially possible at sea on the appropriate tack.

The most difficult task will be replacing a pipe when it wears through (although plastics such as hdpe should be very wear resistant). There are a few options

  • start with an oversized pipe so that a smaller pipe could be inserted through it later as a replacement (or have an fixed outer pipe and a floating inner pipe from the beginning)
  • coat the pipes in a mould release agent during construction so that they can be removed (some ingenuity may be required to ensure that they don’t move during use)
  • if the pipe fails then use a dremel with a flexible attachment to sand the route through the thickened epoxy so a pipe isn’t needed (a short length of pipe could be inserted at the top to provide the gravel protection).

Our construction details

We are hoping to use HDPE pipes, they should be low friction and hard wearing. However, the smallest I have found them is a 20mm external diameter. Maybe inserting a smaller sacrificial tube inside them would be a good solution or a different type of plastic?

I’ll use a heat gun to flare the top of the pipe to make sure the lashing doesn’t get damaged by the edge.

We will use the same dyneema line for both the shroud tensioning and the chainplate lashing to reduce the number of items we need to buy and carry.

Our main mast cap shrouds are the only ones with a chainplate that has a connection to a bulkhead. So some detailed thought will be needed (one pipe each side of the bulkhead?)

Our chainplates are in the deck and are close to the bulwark so the internal intrusion will be small. This solution may not be the right one if you have very inboard chainplates. In that case look at my original “padeye” design.

I’m going to use 10mm G10 for external chainplates and 10mm FR4 for the knees (I want first resistance inside the boat).

All holes in the deck and hull should be sealed with thickened epoxy (drill oversize hole, fill with thickened epoxy, when cured drill correct hole through the epoxy).

When drilling the final holes angle the drill to reduce the curvature of the pipes.

Our holes and backing plate in the hull will be a bit lower so that they are below the rubbing strake. You might want to miss things like cove lines.

Our cap shrouds have a piece of stainless steel bolted to the bulkhead that has a bent over top that sits under the backing plate. It has a hole fitted over the chainplate bolt and so when the nut is on the chainplate bolt is connected to the bulkhead. This will be replaced (on all our chainplates) by the FR4 knee. The top edge of this shaped piece of sheet material will be fitted to the underside of the deck and the long edge will fit vertically down the inside of the hull. In our case it will go down far enough to “hook” over the first horizontal stringer. The inner edge of the knee doesn’t have to be a straight line but can be cut away as a nice organic curve. The best place for the knee is between the two pipes. It should be glued in with thickened epoxy with good fillets along all the edges that touch the boat.

It is going to be tricky to fill around the pipes and knee with thickened epoxy so that there are no air pockets. My current plan is to create an enclosed space that I can fill (using thin plywood held in place and “sealed” with epoxy fillets). So the plywood is creating a kind of mould covering the pipes and part of the knee. Before I fit the deck backing plate, I will drill some extra holes in the deck and inject into them slightly runny thickened epoxy, until it is full to deck level. Once they are filled these holes will be covered by the backing plate. I can remove the plywood to confirm that the space has been properly filled.

The strands of the chainplate lashing are going to be under a lot of tension between the two holes on the outside of the hull. So it is vital that the route out of one hole and into the other is very rounded and very smooth. That transition from pipe to backing plate is going to be the key load point of the lashing, so it is vital that it does not chafe through here. We are going to carve a solid plate of hdpe (we will make ours as part of our plastic recycling work) that will sit on the G10 plate and be a very low friction, smooth, curved surface for the line. We will also fit a removable hdpe cover plate to protect the chainplate lashing from being damaged by docks or anything else.

Fitting the lashing

When you are ready to lash the Chainplate Low Friction Ring into place you have a choice. You can use a single ring per chainplate structure. Or for slightly higher cost you can use two. Having two improves the alignment of the chainplate lashing slightly and makes tensioning a little easier. If you use one then you need to size it so that the outer sheave can fit 3 turns of the lashing line rather than 2 (the number of turns depends on your calculation of loads and the line you are using – I’m planning to have 6 of 4mm, 3 per pipe, which is quite a lot stronger than my shroud).

Whether you use one ring or two your chainplate lashing needs a eye splice at each end designed to loop over the exterior of the low friction ring.

If you are using One Low Friction Ring then:

With the low friction ring above the pipes fit the eye splice from one end of the lashing. The other end goes down one pipe to outside the hull. Then in the other hull hole and back to the deck. Now loop it over the low friction ring and go down the first pipe again. From the hull outside return as before. Repeat for another loop through the chainplate structure. At this point the low friction ring should have one eye splice and two loops. Each pipe will have 3 lines through it. The outside of the hull will have 3 lines between the holes. Now slip the eye splice from the loose end onto the low friction ring (4 lines in total on the top of the low friction ring). While holding up the low friction ring up, tidy all the lines so that they don’t cross over outside the hull and as little as possible in the pipes. You can now use the tensioning system to connect the chainplate low friction ring to the shroud.

If you are using Two Low Friction Rings then:

With the first low friction ring above the pipes fit the eye splice from one end of the lashing. The other end goes down one pipe to outside the hull. Then in the other hull hole and back to the deck. Now loop it over the second low friction ring and return down the same pipe again. From the hull outside return up the first pipe and over the first low friction ring. Back down the first pipe, outside the hull and up the second pipe. Now slip the eye splice from the loose end onto the second low friction ring. While holding up the low friction rings up, tidy all the lines so that they don’t cross over outside the hull and as little as possible in the pipes. Each low friction ring should have 1 eye splice and one loop of lashing line. Each pipe should have 3 lines. Each low friction ring should have 3 lines all going into the same pipe. The outside of the hull should have 3 lines. To tension the shroud the tensioning lashing should start from one of the chainplate low friction rings, go up to the shroud and down to the other chainplate low friction ring. Continue to add more turns, alternating between the two chainplate low friction rings.

Tensioning the Shroud.

There are videos from Rigging Doctor, Tula’s Endless Summer and Sailing Zingaro showing how to tension using a lashing. Although, of course, we have our own ideas which we hope to test before too long.

Conclusion

We believe this design will create

  • a chainplate structure that you can easily build yourself.
  • something that you can visually inspect for wear and damage.
  • something with no metal parts that need to be fabricated, that can corrode or fail due to fatigue.
  • where you can carry all the parts to replace everything that works with the chainplate structure (lashing line and low friction rings, shroud tensioning line, shroud) even at sea.
  • a significant weight saving
  • a significant increase in strength on boats like Rivals where the chainplates are not very well connected to the hull
  • huge cost savings if your chainplates or turnbuckles need replacing
  • a very simple, strong, neat, light way of connecting dyneema shrouds to an older boat

An Amel, very similar to our Rival 38

We haven’t seen one of these before. An Amel Sharki 39. Closest boat we have ever seen to our Rival 38.

Here is a couple giving a boat tour of their Amel Sharki 39 called Panda.

The size, rig and layout is by far the closest we have seen to our Vida although the Rival is 3 years older.

They are a little longer, wider and deeper. Their cockpit looks a bit larger and their wheelhouse/fixed dodger is prettier. But our aft cabin has a standing area and an ensuite heads.

Their galley is a bit larger than ours was but lacks a bulkhead to lean against. When we have finished we will have larger worktops.

Our remodeling of the forward heads is going to give us a much better space and a good shower.

Their mizzen mast is easier to access in the cockpit but we don’t have a Triatic stay connecting the two masts at the top (big plus for us, if one mast falls it shouldn’t bring the other down with it).

Really nice to see, very encouraging to see how comfortable it will be.

Chainplate cost update

One of the arguments for switching to Dyneema chainplates has been cost. Today we got a more concrete idea of the costs of replacing roughly like for like. So Cherry Ripe a Rival 38 (but aft cockpit cutter) (see Sailing Beyond Borders) has had to have custom replacement chainplates made in Antigua after one failed while crossing the Atlantic.

So now we know. $1600 USD for their chainplates (made from Stainless Steel rather than the original Superstron).

We have twice as many chainplates (ketch so two masts instead of one). So to replace our existing chainplates would probably cost over $3000 USD, they would be a bit better as we could have them longer to allow better backing plates. But we would probably need to replace some turnbuckles as the mizzen mast ones are original bronze and the main mast ones are crimped onto the existing shrouds so at least part of them will need replacing.

By comparison we should be able to buy everything we need to re-rig both masts with synthetic rigging and synthetic chainplates for the cost of just replacement chainplates. That is going to be a really significant saving for us.

Plus we still get rigging that we can carry spares for and that we can replace every part ourselves anywhere in the world.

Plus it saves a huge amount of weight up high which will improve sailing performance.

With downsides of slower tuning and needing to watch for chafe and UV damage.

See Dyneema / Synthetic Rigging Summary for the whole picture of our rigging plans/journey.

Making Cruising plans

Last night we decided to make some plans for where we want to cruise when we start living aboard after retirement in a few years time, after all that was the goal right from the beginning of this journey with Vida and Sustainable Sailing.

I will be writing those dreams up, but we realised that they will need a bit of an introduction. Otherwise they will look like a whole lot of crazy non-stop random passages.

Our situation and our plans are very different from pretty much all the YouTube channels we watch, which is ironic given how much we enjoy watching them 🙂

The move to living aboard

One of the key differences for us, is that it will be a very abrupt change from preparation to off we go. Unlike most jobs, I will know, at least a year in advance, almost to the day when I will retire. I already know that it will be in a July and that after I finish work and have the farewell we will need to moved out of the house within a month and onto the boat. This will be in an absolute minimum of 2 1/2 years from now but could be quite a years longer than that

So it will be a dramatic and rapid change, we and the boat need to be ready for it. If we are not ready it will immediately start costing us retirement money, eg if we have to pay for removal fees or storage if we haven’t already downsized to what we will have on the boat.

Once, we have launched Vida her normal home, until we retire, will be a swinging mooring in the Menai Strait. Mostly convenient (and cheap) for the next few years. But not so good for living aboard as it leaves you very car dependant (the road between Beaumaris and Menai Bridge is busy narrow and not very cycle friendly) and we will be getting rid of the car ASAP. Whilst the mooring is convenient when we are going for odd nights or to start holidays from it isn’t somewhere we will want to be based at when living aboard.

Also the mooring is not somewhere we would want to spend our first winter living on the boat. It isn’t just the lack of convenience for shore (and shipping) access, it is also too exposed and the wind/waves really funnel through the Menai Straits. We could easily end up spending days at a time when it will be too rough to or from the shore in the dinghy.

The intention behind all the preparations, getting the refit finished and Vida properly ready is that we also don’t want to move aboard for retirement and then soon after bring her out of the water for the winter. So after a settling in period we will be sailing off to somewhere more suitable for the winter.

So, let’s imagine that by the September we are settled aboard and ready to sell the mooring and head off.

Cruising Speed

As we started making our plans, building on what we started thinking about cruising in Scandinavia, it was very obvious that we are looking at very different pace to cruising life to most YouTube Channels. So the plans will seem crazy if you are used to watching them. But then there are a whole bunch of things we won’t be doing:

  • We won’t need to spend 30 hours a week editing videos
  • We don’t want to go skiing each day
  • We don’t want to climb every mountain on every Caribbean island
  • We don’t want to fill everyone’s freezer by spear fishing everyday
  • We won’t have a baby to care for
  • No pets that will need frequent access to land (well none that don’t need frequent access either)
  • While we will be doing repairs and maintenance (after a refit designed to minimise both) but we won’t be trying to refit the boat as we sail
  • We won’t be spending much time in marinas to go exploring the land (in part to keep our costs down, but also because we want to see more places by boat)

Plus, of course, we will be at a different stage in our lives with different goals. Two critical impacts from that are a sense of urgency. We will be starting at around 60 years old and we want to see lots of the world while we can. So we don’t want to “Sail around the world as slowly as possible” (Sailing Magic carpet) but we want to begin by rapidly ramping up our experience on this boat, longer passage making and so on. Sitting in a marina or doing day sails with lots of time at anchor isn’t what we want to be focused on. Nor does sitting in a marina fit with our budget.

So we know we will be looking at our first winter being one where we can get lots of sailing practice in, to build our skills, gain confidence in poor conditions and check that we are comfortable with passage sailing for multiple days. AFter that, our plans might change a lot and we are quite ok with that. So when we start sharing plans remember that they are more dreams than anything else and we would be shocked and stunned if we kept to them 🙂

Route dreams or where might we cruise to

So this follows on from our thoughts about Scandinavia since we have been inspired by the YouTube channels who have been there, including the need to burn diesel to stay warm, despite our aims or being at or close to Zero Carbon footprint sailing. It takes into account the restrictions and desires that influence our plans.

The resources that we have drawn on are mostly two key books from Jimmy Cornell: World Cruising Routes and World Voyage Planner. We will need to get Cornells’ Ocean Atlas as well. Plus of course charts, pilot books, almanacs etc closer to the time.

Note that there is no way we will actually follow this “plan” accurately, there are so many variables in our health, boat repairs, weather, changing preferences, changes in visa rules etc that will happen before we even start.

So take this with a huge pinch of salt. Do not book your train tickets or places on cargo ships to come out and join us assuming that we will be where this plan says we will be.

Also note that we have tried to build in some flexibility. For example we might have allocated a month to get from Beaumaris, North Wales to South Cornwall. The reality is that it doesn’t take that long to sail direct but it could take longer if you stop in harbours each night or if you have to wait a week for a storm to come past.

We are generally assuming that we will choose longer passages rather than day sails. There are several reasons for this:

  • Initially, we need the practice and we need to make sure that we are going to be happy doing it before setting off across oceans.
  • When it comes to the UK coast we have visited huge swathes of it over the years. So we don’t need to explore it in detail.
  • When it comes to other countries then longer passages direct to cruising grounds will allow us to spend more time in specific areas we want to visit given the constraints of Schengen visas (see this post)
  • Making passages can reduce stress of timing into harbours (daylight, tides, finding a spot to anchor) as you don’t do it so often
  • Making passages is hugely faster. You are sailing 24 hours a day (even if slowly when the tide is against you). The distances are much reduced (diverting into a harbour will add lots of miles and time to the route).
  • Making passages is cheaper, you can spend more time in places that are free to anchor and less time paying (because you need a shore-power connection to charge your batteries that you depleted motoring into the harbour).

We have not fully/properly taken into account the best timings for some of these longer passages to fit with prevailing winds (strength and direction) and currents. Also until we get going we are not sure what actual daily average speeds we will achieve.

We’ve organised this into fairly arbitrary sections and put them into rough calendar years.

Year 1

The last winter of maintenance/refit should be completed by April, after that she will be on our mooring in the Menai Strait for us to visit, a gradually move stuff to her as our new home to be.

Moving time

July – August: move to one of the marinas at Conway to shorten the journey and make it easier to move everythign on board. Leave house, everything needs to be given away, sold or moved on board. Sell the car. Go for plenty of test sails and make sure all is ready and working.

Preparing for first winter

September: Sail to South Cornwall. If the weather is great then include visiting the Scilly Isles. Include some multi-day passages to start building skills before the weather gets too bad.

First Winter

From October until about March along the South coast of Cornwall and Devon. Lots of rivers that we already know. Places like Falmouth that are safe to enter in any weather and any state of the tide. So we have (West to East) the Helford, loads of places around Falmouth/Carrick Roads (but potentially quite expensive), Penryn, Fowey, Plymouth (possibly the best option for free anchorages), the Yealm, Salcombe and the Dart. This will be a learning and testing time to checkout heating, how long our battery bank can last between needing shore-power top-ups and to get as much sailing practice as we can. We will be looking to build our experience in stronger winds so definitely won’t be staying hidden away far up a river all winter. In the past we have had great sails on our Sprint 15 catamaran on New Years Eve and New Years day so will be looking for more of that. Hopefully also a fair bit of catching up with family too.

Year 2

Solent

Move to the Solent/Chichester for April. Good for visiting family and friends. Gives us a nice length of passage from our winter haunts and by making it a single passage allows us to stay well clear of the dangers/discomfort of Portland Bill and St Albans Head.

English South Coast to Aberdeenshire

In preparation for our first Baltic cruise and because we haven’t sailed so much of the East coast make our way to Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire during May. We won’t be visiting London (adds so much distance, lots of motoring and we know it well), but will probably visit some of places such as Ramsgate, Harwich, the Humber, Whitby, Berwick-upon-Tweed, and Edinburgh on the way. Stonehaven is a good stepping off point for crossing the North Sea to the Baltic.

First Baltic Cruise

So as out first “foreign” trip we think the Baltic will be a good choice for gentle learning. Some timings are critical. We want to end by crossing Sweden back to the North Sea using the Göta Canal from Mem to Göteborg during the cheaper end of season period (mid August to end September). As we will need sometime left on our Schengen 90 day limit for later in the year, we need to arrive at our first port (Copenhagen) about 75 days before we plan to exit from Göteborg.

Travelling the Göta Canal in the end of the season means a fixed 5 itinerary with a group of boats and a dedicated lock keeper to get to Sjötorp, on Lake Vänern. From there 118km across the lake!!! and 80km of canal to Göteborg, so maybe 5 days.

So we would be aiming to arrive at Copenhagen no earlier than about 10th June. We want to spend some time there to catch up with friends and enjoy one of my favourite cities in the world. Then we get about 1.5 months to cruise up the Swedish Coast and some of their fantastic archipelagoes.

[Update] Jane pointed out that if we reverse the route around the Baltic we can get the same discounted tickets for the Göta Canal while starting a bit earlier. If we then reduce the number of days slightly we are able to stay in the Canaries a bit longer and therefore get there a bit sooner, closer to the preferred time of year for that passage.

Baltic to preparing for an Atlantic crossing

We started with a dream of getting to the Arctic Circle and the Lofoten Islands and area for the next summer. However, spending another winter in the UK wasn’t that exciting. So we came up with a rather more interesting option.

Can we get from Göteborg at the end of August to the Canaries in time to use them as a launch platform for crossing the Atlantic? Can we fit this in within the remaining days left on the Schengen Visa? The timing is challenging.

The very strong recommendation is not to arrive in the Caribbean before end of November or early December in order to miss hurricane season. So working backwards we would leave the Canaries around mid November. With 15 days of Schengen left we can’t arrive in the Canaries before the beginning of November.

That means we have September and October to get from Göteborg to the Canaries which should be plenty of time, although later in the season than ideal which means we will have to accept the chance of stronger winds and gales on passage (which is why we will make sure we practice during our first winter).

From We would like to get to the Canaries from Göteborg by crossing to Inverness and then using the Caledonian Canal. On the way south from there we would love to pick up some of the wonderful cruising area of the West coast of Scotland before heading to Northern Ireland, the Isle of Mann, saying hi to Beaumaris, then back to Falmouth as a departure for the Canaries. Then about 1,400 Nautical Miles to the Canaries which will be our longest passage to date.

First Atlantic Crossing

So mid November would be the time to set off from the Canaries to Antigua, again that would step up the passage distance to nearly 2,700 Nautical Miles but it would mostly be trade wind sailing downwind.

Ending Year 2

So December will be a first month to enjoy the Caribbean.

Year 3

By this point obviously things are incredibly vague 🙂 We might have decided we hate passages and stay around the Bahamas and Caribbean for the next 10 years, that won’t be a disaster!!! 🙂

However, the possibility we thought of for this year, starting in the Caribbean is to complete a clockwise Atlantic circuit so that we end up in the Shetlands ready to get to Lofoten (Norway, Arctic Circle) for the summer.

That means a route heading north through the Caribbean and Bahamas for a few months before going up the North America coast so that we can leave Newfoundland in June for a, yes another, longest passage of over 3,000 Nautical Miles to the Shetlands (possibly with a stop off in Iceland).

That allows us a couple of months (July and August) around Lofoten and the Arctic Circle 🙂

Then it will be time for another “sprint” south to avoid a cold winter. We would live to visit the Faroe Islands on the way. We would hope to have some Schengen time left to call in at Madeira, this time on the way to the Cape Verde Islands to prepare for a 3rd Atlantic crossing but this time intending to continue onwards to the Pacific.

So year 3 might end in Brazil or Suriname after crossing the Atlantic (and the Equator) in November/December.

Year 4

This would begin with the big decision. To get to the Pacific by going North and through the Panama Canal (the easier route but getting very expensive now). Or take a roundabout route that ends up getting to the Falklands in their summer and then crossing to Patagonia and the Pacific by the Magellan Strait, the Beagle Passage or going south round Cape Horn. If we have gone south then there is beautiful cruising in the archipelago along the Chilean coast.

Onwards

So maybe a year crossing the South Pacific with all the amazing island groups to visit?

Then a year in New Zealand and Australia?

From there probably heading home via Cape Town (and bizarrely essentially crossing the Atlantic nearly twice more as the best route from Cape Town might take us close to Brazil before calling in at the Azores and then heading back towards Europe

That might be about 5 elapsed years which is what we have initially wanted to achieve. I will still be short of the official retirement age, so we could come back to the UK for a part-time appointment. Everything depends on health, family and finances.

However, after all that there will still be plenty of places to go. Maybe about time we visited the Mediterranean? If longer access to Schengen is possible then the French Canals would be wonderful, maybe on the way back north to cruise the Finnish archipelago in the Baltic which is supposed to be amazing.

Maybe we want more cold so we could go to Svalbard. By then due to climate change the North West Passage across the top of Canada and Alaska will probably be clear enough for us at a reasonably low risk. Plus of course we will have missed all of Asia.

Jigsaw

Putting together a route for long term cruising is like a jigsaw without fixed pieces or a picture. Except that you can “cheat” so for example Jimmy Cornell has quick summaries eg for a 2 year circumnavigation from Europe you can do:

Northern Europe – Canaries – Caribbean – Panama – Galapagos – Marquesas – Tahiti – Tonga – Fiji – Vanuatu – Torres Strait – Darwin – Mauritius – South Africa – Brazil – Eastern Caribbean – Azores – Northern Europe

Or you can be a bit more flexible while recognising that there are constraints based on seasons, prevailing winds, hurricane/cyclone seasons, ice etc.

The beauty is that there is an infinite number of ways to put the jig saw together. If almost nothing of this happens and we spend 5 years cruising around the UK with occasional cruises to other nearby countries that is fine.

So where have we missed 🙂 Should we go faster and do an 11 month non-stop zoom around the world. Should we slow down and take twice as long? What do you think?

Our Scandinavian challenges part 1

For a while now we have been watching YouTube Videos that have made us want to sail the Norwegian Atlantic coast and visit some of the thousands of islands and Fjords, we have also long fancied visiting the Baltic. Particularly:

  • Juho with Alluring Arctic has spent two years spent entirely above the Arctic Circle, his experience and videos are amazing. We are not tempted to believe that we can become expert with skis (or even want to) or that we would want to spend a winter so far North. But there are so many places he has shown that would be wonderful to visit, even without going as far as Svalbard
  • Erik Aanderaa with his No Bullshit Just Sailing slogan. His video Sailing Haugesund to Lofoten- Around the Norwegian Sea pt.1 is a particular favourite.
  • MJ Sailing spent last summer sailing up to Lofoton (see their Northern Europe playlist)
  • Sailing Uma are wintering in Norway at the moment (I don’t know how they have managed the 90 days in 180 Schengen rule). Their videos are exceptional quality.
  • Ran Sailing have spent the year a little further south around Sweden and it too looks beautiful (both the Baltic and Atlantic coasts).

The challenges for us

In many ways we would love to plan for a couple of years of our eventual retirement cruising the Baltic and Atlantic Coast. There is so much beauty to see, so many places to explore. We could imagine needing a couple of summers to explore both coasts, while retreating some considerable distance South for the winters.

However, this is going to be a huge challenge for us. In this first post I’ll tackle one of those:

First, Schengen

We are living through the nightmare that is the tragic national self harm that is Brexit, and especially the appalling choices made by our government to go for such a hard Brexit. It is obvious that they never thought through (or maybe are capable of understanding or only care about their own pockets) the implications for Northern Ireland, for the Fishing Industry, for UK citizens who have retired to the EU, for musicians touring etc etc. If we were 5 years older and had been retired a few years we could have spent unlimited time exploring Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the rest of the Baltic.

Now, we will need to tightly plan 3 month summer cruises. Options to cope with bad weather are going to be a lot more difficult, at the end of your 90 days we have to be somewhere where we can leave direct to somewhere outside Schengen. That needs to be somewhere we can stay for another 90 days without going back into Schengen (or it needs to allow us get to other places outside Schengen until the 90 days are up). While attractive to visit, 90 days in either the Faroes or St Petersburg doesn’t really appeal (safe wintering also being a factor).

90 day cruises means more summers will be needed if we are to get to the countries and beautiful cruising grounds that we have seen are there without rushing.

MJ Sailing got as far as Lofoten from the UK in one summer, mostly using coastal hops. However, they didn’t get to spend much time there or have time for the amazing cruising grounds to the north. What is more to stay within the 90 days they spent hours and hours motoring to make fast enough progress.

Our situation is different. We have a more powerful electric motor than most electric boats, and a large battery bank, however, we need that battery bank for everything, not just for the electric motor. Coastal hopping with lots of motoring is possible for us, but only if we moor-up with mains power to charge the batteries for more than 12 hours between trips (realistically probably safer to assume 2 nights if we have pretty fully drained the battery bank). Anyway, we don’t want to spend our time motoring, we want to sail. We also want to anchor rather than always need to get a shore-power hookup. It isn’t just about a preference for remoteness, we can’t afford to pay harbour fees every night.

This probably means that if we want long enough to explore a Schengen cruising ground in some detail we will need to make long direct passages. Then we only check-in to a country as we arrive at the area we want to cruise in, then our 90 days are all spent where we want to cruise rather than getting there. That has significant implications for the boat, our skills and passage making. The difference between getting to somewhere like Lofoton using coastal hops (much of it protected by islands) or a direct passage from the Faroes is huge.

So for that beautiful area of Norway north of the Arctic Circle we could, perhaps, sail from the UK to the Faroes (not part of Schengen) and then onward towards the Lofoten Islands. We then would have to depart Norway within 3 months, again potentially doing this as a long passage rather than coastal hop south. Part of the significance of this option and what increases the challenge, the difficulty is that is just not what cruising yachts have been doing. Everything works on the assumption of getting somewhere like Lofoten by coastal cruising with occasional overnight passages.

We are very attracted to longer passages and to spending a larger proportion of our time actually sailing than seems the norm. We have a boat that is well suited to it but are very short of experience. An estimate of 90% of time anchored rather than sailing is often quoted by live aboard cruisers (not sure if they all count hours or if they mean nights). So this is a big deal which will require a lot of preparation and be a significant challenge.

Generally, if cruisers are forced to switch from coastal hops to direct passages to cruising grounds then this is going to change things for many people – but maybe few want to visit these places. Or maybe they are happy to spend a lot of time and money motoring to meet the schedule. Or perhaps they will pay others to deliver their boat for them. That is not an option for us a) financially b) where would we live while someone is delivering our home and c) we don’t want to fly due to trying to be Sustainable.

When it comes to the Baltic I’m not sure. A first summer route via Copenhagen (one of my favourite cities in the world), up to the Stockholm archipelago, through the Göta Canal and back to the UK would make a great 3 months summer cruise. But what about if we want to spend the summer in the Eastern Baltic? Could we get as far as Finland before starting to count our 90 days? Is it possible to sail into the Baltic without checking in at either Denmark or Sweden? Still Denmark, Finland, the Baltic States, even Russia and then back to Denmark in 3 months is possible, even if tight.

So we could be looking at needing 4 summers to explore a significant amount of Scandinavia. Something like:

  • Denmark, Stockholm archipelago, Göta Canal: winter in the UK, maybe based near Falmouth
  • Norwegian Coast and Fjords towards Lofoten and back: winter in the UK, maybe based around the Solent for a change
  • Eastern Baltic: winter West Coast of Scotland/Northern Ireland
  • Faroes, Lofoten, Northern Norway: winter head south and onwards to the Caribbean

But there are other options. You could include an Atlantic circuit. So instead of a UK winter head down to the Canaries, then the Caribbean for December, then the East Coast of the US before crossing back but keeping North of the UK to get to Norway but it would be a rush to arrive for any summer in Norway.

Obviously, these Schengen rules are not new for people from countries outside Europe. However, I suspect these cruising grounds have not been so frequently visited by non-Europeans. I’m very interested in different experiences and views as well as ideas for reading and research

In part 2 I’ll look at the other key challenges these cruising grounds have for us (particularly heating and renewable energy).

Wheelhouse plans

I said I was going to write this in my post “In the works“, just taken a bit longer than I thought.

This is what our wheelhouse looks like at the moment. The blue cover is really designed for use when Vida is ashore, or left on a mooring. It doesn’t have any windows and is almost impossible to do up fully from the inside. It is also all one piece which means you have no way of accessing the mainsheet or jib sheets when sailing.

Yes, we know that it definitely cannot be described as pretty!! The slab sections rising up from the cabin clash with every other line on the boat and it is too angular and too high.

However, we have a few more urgent concerns (although if we can make it look better while working on these then all to the good).

Ventilation: Even with the boat ashore in North Wales it got very warm under the wheelhouse on a warm summer day. It would quickly get unbearable to be at the steering wheel in the tropics.

Structure: the windscreen windows have vertical aluminium tubes between them. The stainless steel window frames are screwed to these on their sides and to the GRP at the top and bottom. This has caused corrosion between the different metals. Plus so far as we can tell the aluminium poles are not fixed in place by anything other than the window frames. That seems inadequate if a person gets thrown against it by a wave or a big wave hits it. Fortunately the poles at the aft end are very securely fitted.

Visibility: from our reading we are concerned that there are times when it is important to be able to look out directly rather than through glass (we have never sailed with a windscreen before so haven’t yet experienced the problems of rain and fogging).

Steering wheel: this has been repaired/strengthened before, it still doesn’t feel very strong. We are looking at replacing it with a slightly larger one (we can fit a 600mm wheel without hitting the side or blocking the hatch) should be nicer to use.

Seat: The original plans show a removable seat for the person helming with a backrest. Fitting one s1hould make it much more comfortable to be on watch for several hours.

Our plans.

We are still developing these, so still subject to a lot of change.

First, remove the existing glass a bit at a time and fit new supports that take the weight of the roof on their own. Probably use square section tubes of either stainless steel or carbon fibre. Possibly take them to the coachroof rather than to the existing windscreen base (to provide a bit more slope for better looks). That might allow us to change those big grey slabs at the the front of the wheelhouse so that they are slightly curved to blend in better (attach shaped rigid foam and cover with a fibreglass, then layers of epoxy fairing before paint).

Second, refit the glass (or switch to acrylic to match the rest of the windows and hatches except not tinted) but only go high enough to see through it when seated. So it would look much more like the fixed windscreens of a a Najad (see below). The effect would be a but like a windscreen with solid bimini above it. The key advantage is that when you stand to steer, you look out above the windscreen with your 360 degree view unimpeded by anything. This is a bit like what the Amel’s have (see Delos videos) but the dimensions are more horizontally squashed as Vida is 38 feet and the Amels 50 feet long. One other difference is that we would like to fit the glass/acrylic so that it can be hinged open or easily removed for maximum ventilation (this is one reason for switching to Acrylic rather than cutting toughened glass and sourcing new frames).

The next job will be to create a connection between the windscreen and the “bimini” (existing wheelhouse roof) that can removed/opened for ventilation and closed in cold/wet weather. One option is to simply continue with the lines of the windscreen to the roof, attaching to the support struts. Another option is to cap the windscreen with a shelf that extends into the wheelhouse (we need to do careful measurements to see if this is possible without always banging your head on it when coming in or out of the cabin). We could then have small, nearly vertical opening windows to fill the gap to the wheelhouse roof. The front of the wheelhouse roof would then be an eyebrow giving rain protection to the upper windscreen making it easier to see out in the rain. We have seen a number of boats with a soft fabric “window” in this position (although generally the bimini is further back and these removable sections are quite gently sloping (we just don’t have the cockpit length to do that).

Then we will create “curtains” or side walls for the back and sides (we have toyed with the idea of some of the sides being rigid acrylic). Unlike the existing blue cover we will have multiple sections that can be zipped in and out independently. They will also be mostly transparent (with protective drop down covers on the outside). We will be able to remove them and have mosquito mesh when appropriate. When not tacking much we should be able to sail with the windward side and 1/3 of the back in place if needed for warmth or sun protection. This will allow us to easily zip open (or closed) “door” shapes from both inside and outside making access easier whether at sea, at anchor or ashore.

At the moment we don’t think there is any point in replacing the wheelhouse roof for something a little shorter that might look better with some of the windscreen options. We certainly don’t want to “downgrade” from a solid roof to a fabric bimini that won’t last very long by comparison. If you want to sit fully exposed to the elements then by all means use the aft seat of the cockpit or sit on the cabin roof.

While this is quite a bit of work, the costs should be relatively low. Certainly it is far more sustainable to work with a 44 year old boat rather than buy something new. Improving the looks is the hardest challenge due to the space constraints (and the need for standing headroom). However, if we can improve strength, ventilation, visibility and access with much the same look then that will be a significant improvement for us.

Dyneema / Synthetic Rigging Summary

I have written a lot on rigging your boat with Dyneema and thought it was about time I provided a overall guide to what I’ve written. So I’m going to try to give a coherent guide to what we have explored so far.

First, the obvious question: Why Dyneema standing rigging?, that is more thought through in relation to specific challenges on our boat, than our first mention back in October 2019 was. That was less than 2 months after buying Vida and I mentioned Dyneema standing rigging as a longer term possibility in Starting to sort out sailing. Of course Covid has changed our perceptions of time in a far too many ways. We also explored the progress on sustainable dyneema.

Latest Situation:

Chainplates: Final Dyneema Chainplate design
Attaching Dyneema Shrouds to mast: Currently planning diy tangs made from FR4 board which is an update to dyneema termination and chainplate update the shroud will have an eye splice which will loop over the tang.
Tensioning Shrouds: We are now planning to use a 6mm dyneema lashing between a Low Friction Ring at the bottom the shroud and the low friction ring at the top of the chainstay. We can use the same line for our guardrails.
Dyneema Rigging size: We have just ordered a 100 Metre Reel of 9mm DynIce Dux to replace the 6mm stainless (sizing up for caution)
Sail Plan: We have decided what we are aiming for and how to get there, see long-term desired sail plan

Our Chainplate journey

[Update] after visiting Vida for the first time in 6 months we have a Final Dyneema Chainplate design [end update]

The main learning since those early days been about the problems we face with our chainplates. That continues to evolve (so in my posts be aware that when I write “we plan” those plans may have changed more than once since. Even in the last few days we have learnt of a Rival 38 who had a chainplate (similar to ours except in stainless steel so presumably a replacement set from the original bronze we have) fail during a recent Atlantic crossing. So as we explored these issues I’ve written:

My thinking on chainplates was also affected by thinking about attaching a Jordan Series Drogue in a new simpler way. That reflects my dislike of custom stainless steel solutions. There are the corrosion issues (stainless steel corrodes in the absence of Oxygen – such as where a bolt is sealed as it goes through a deck or hull, and potential electrolytic pitfalls with dissimilar metals). They require someone to build them for you (not always possible in remote places and never free [or even cheap] or immediate). They can have problems that do not show up even with a careful visual inspection.

[Update we have a better idea of like for like replacement see Chainplate cost update.]

An updated design now completed see Next generation Dyneema Chainplates.

That has brought me to a new idea for Simpler Dyneema Chainplates. I have even produced a sketch (you can see why my Dad realised when I was very young that I would not follow him into architecture):

As I think about this solution, I realise that it can probably be adapted for most situations with chainplates that are close to the outside edge of the deck. Our bulwark should allow the holes to be drilled between the two sheets of G10, without coming through to the inside of the boat. However, if there is no bulwark the holes could be drilled and then the inside corner of the hull/deck joint could have a large fillet of thickened epoxy and the hole re-drilled through that.

My previous idea should still work where the holes can’t go external as it allows you to waterproof the dyneema loop below the deck.

Using G10 (above decks) or FR4 (below decks as fire resistant) that is bonded to the hull/deck should distribute loads much more effectively than a typical stainless steel chainplate without any corrosion/electrolytic risks.

Updated design now completed see Next generation Dyneema Chainplates.

[Update] after visiting Vida for the first time in 6 months we have a Final Dyneema Chainplate design [end update]

Attaching Dyneema

Another big issue is what ends you fit on a dyneema shroud. I first wrote about that in Termination of Dyneema Shrouds. The most contentious issue? I stand by my conclusion, that if you can afford it then Colligo Marine have the widest range.

For us, I realised that our masts make it relatively simple for us to make and fit our own DIY/budget version of a Colligo Cheeky Tang for a fraction of the cost see Dyneema Termination and Chainplate update. Also our latest chainplate idea and conversations with Rigging Doctor mean that we will at least start with Low Friction Rings (sized generously) for both the chainplates and the low ends of the shrouds.

Using HDPE: learning from Free Range Sailing again we are looking at using HDPE to create our tangs for connecting the shrouds to the mast and for reducing friction/chafe on the chainplate connections. We are now looking at recycling and creating these components ourselves: see Transforming waste with DIY Plastic recycling.

I’ve added a post “Chainplate and Mast Tang feedback” to answer some really helpful comments from Jacob.

Sizing Dyneema

This is another area that has taken a lot of research and thinking. So I wrote a long post in The mysteries of sizing Dyneema standing rigging.

Sail plan and stays

In Dyneema forestays and backstays I sorted out Dyneema for all the mizzen shrouds and stays. Also for the main mast backstays and inner forestay.

The forestay for the main mast will need to remain stainless steel due to our use of a roller reefing genoa. Possibly in the very long term a roller reefing system might be developed that works with a dyneema forestay.

Another option (which is what I understand the Vendee Globe yachts do) is to move from a single genoa that is roller reefed to having multiple genoas/jibs that can be furled. So when the wind speed increases you furl (roll up) your current genoa, lower it to the deck and hoist another smaller job in a furled state.

With enough halyards you can hoist the new sail (and potentially even unfurl it) before furling and lowering your original sail. The headstay that the sail furls around can be dyneema and it can be structural (ie it holds the mast up and you leave the sail up while it is furled). Or you could have a forestay in front of the sail that is used to hold the mast up. I’m not sure how tensioning these works. Presumably you don’t have the forestay so tight and you put a lot of tension in the sails headstay.

It would also be lovely to fit a small, retracting bowsprit to be able to hoist larger sails such as a code zero (for going upwind in light breezes) or an asymmetric spinnaker (for downwind sailing) out in front of the forestay.

However, all these are expensive options. So we will hope to maintain the existing roller reefing setup for a long time with the inner forestay mainly use for the storm jib if needed. These options also require a lot more working on the foredeck which definitely has it’s disadvantages to offset against better performance and reducing the number of single points of failure.

[Update] See our new post on our long-term desired sail plan and how we intend to get there.[End Update]

Where to start?

We don’t think it is a good idea for your first dyneema splices to be for the shrouds that hold your mast up. Instead both dyneema lifelines and soft shackles seem like much more sensible places to learn to splice dyneema. Billy and Sierra did a good video on this.

We have some ideas about our lifelines to solve potential leaks, some problems with bent stanchions and even to make mounting our tiltable, removable, side solar panels easier. More on that in the future.