You see this – what do you do? What should you have done?
Last week, Editor and Chief of Sail Magazine, Peter Nielsen, and I chartered a 38 foot catamaran from the local Moorings Base in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, on a bareboat yacht charter. Peter was writing a story about sailing in the south pacific which will come out later this year (keep and eye out for it). We snapped some great shots, did some great sailing, caught lots of snapper and ate like kings in some of the most beautiful bays. The Kiwi weather really turned it on for us and the New Zealand Tourism board will be happy as Peter had a great time and surely will be writing up the Bay of Islands as a must see sail area.
So we sailed up into the Kerikeri inlet to the north of Moturoa island and past the stunning Black Rocks – where in the old days whales were so abundant here that whalers used to harpoon the whales from these rocks. The wind was 20 knots out of the north so it made for a nice beam reach into the inlet. On the way back we decided to do a run through the Kent Passage. About 100 meters back I noticed power wires crossing from the mainland to Moturoa Island.
Kerikeri Inlet - Bay of Islands New Zealand
“Hmmmm”, I said to Peter “what do you think about those”.
“Hmmmm” replied Peter.
We both looked at the GPS which noted nothing on the electronic chart.
A quick consult of the paper chart showed the following image with a very hard to see thin line.
Not much information and no height datum.
“Hmmmm” we both said
We could now see a sign on the shore warning of the DANGER. But we could not read the specifics.
“Hmmmm” one more time. 30 meters to go!!!!!
With out any more hesitation and with prudence taking over, we brought the boat up into wind, turned on the engines and motored the boat away from the lines.
We got out the binoculars and were able to see the sign marking which indicated 23 above MHHW.
From the manual in the chart table, the mast height above the water line on a Leopard 38 is 19.1 m. That made it safe to proceed.
MHHW is the mean higher high water. This is the average height of the high tide during spring tides. Bridges and power wires are marked as such to indicate safe passage at these times. This is opposed to chart datum depths which are marked as MLLW.
So the lessons learned here:
If you’re unsure of situations like this bail out. We did the right thing. Not that we were under any time constraint, but there is no time constraint that is worth really messing up like what could have happened.
Know your mast height. When pilots get rated for an aircaft they spend hours and hours studying the characteristics of an aircraft. Yet when we go charter a boat – at best the Yacht Charter Base will spend maybe an hour with you.
Off the top of my head, here’s a list of boat characteristic specifications that you should know about when chartering a Sailboat on a Bareboat Yacht Charter sailing holiday.
Offset of the depth meter (some charter companies add in a 5 ft offset below the keel, some do it at the keel, some do it at the water line and some don’t even know)
Beam Width (for unfamiliar marinas)
Number of water tanks
Max cruising revs for engines
Boat speed at max cruising revs
Length of anchor rode
Reefing wind speeds
Typically, you’re not going to be too concerned about fuel capacity with a week to 10 day long yacht charter, but it’s prudent to watch fuel usage.
There is a lot of other things to learn about a charter boat like locations of safety gear etc. But this is more about the boat dimensional characteristics. Please feel free to add to this blog about any other dimensional specifics you believe are important.
Last weekend we met up with our friends Chris and Christine Ellsay in Nelson New Zealand. Chris and Chris, with their three kids aged 10, 8 and 6 are sailing around the world and it was refreshing to hear them say – “I don’t know how long we’ll take”. They’re 3 years into it and have made it from the great lakes in Eastern Canada to New Zealand so far. The route has been via the Caribbean, Venezuela, Columbia, Panama, Galapagos Islands, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia, Tonga and now Kiwiland. (We missed them by a week when we were in Tonga with the NauticEd Graduation Trip in September last year.)
Holding out in New Zealand for the summer while the tropical cyclones pass overhead in the pacific islands, they say they’re returning to the Pacific, starting with Fiji in Late April 2011. Then they’ll decide if to hang another year in the pacific or head off to the top of Ausy through the Indian ocean in 2011 or 2012.
I interviewed Chris and Chris (and the kids) on their experience with a catamaran rather than a monohull for sailing around the world. Their opinion after 10,000 miles is that they would not have done it any other way. The comfort and space was the resounding feedback.
Here’s a short video introducing Stray Kitty a World Cruising Life Style, and Abel Tasman National Park In New Zealand.
Here’s a few pics of Stray Kitty, their 42 foot PDQ Antares 2002 Catamaran.
Stray Kitty in the Nelson Marina
The foredeck at anchor is a great place for a few gins after a hard day sail.
Foredeck of Stray Kitty 42 ft Catamaran
The Kids are being home schooled by Christine and by the sounds of it – they were way ahead of where they should be – good job Christine!
Kids sailing around the world - pretty cool kids
These three kids (my one is the 2 1/2 year old 2nd to right ) are pretty amazing – they fear nothing, do their school work, do as they are told, release the lines on command, know which electrical switches to flick on at the right time – in fact I think they’d make it back to land if mum and dad fell overboard. They’re pretty cool kids and are a delight to spend time with.
Plenty of room inside the catamaran for school work
The Catamaran has heaps of room inside and it’s easy for the kids to do their school work underway because the boat stays flat when sailing.
Stray Kitty is sailing the traditional route around the world following the trade winds. Chris reported that much of their sailing has been downwind and so here he is showing me his much used bowsprit for flying their Gennaker. Oh and by the way – notice the incredible bay that we stayed overnight in – in the back ground in Abel Tasman National Park at the top of the South Island.
The Catamaran Bowsprit
There is plenty of safety gear on board and Chris and Chris are doing it right. Notice all the the MOB gear at the stern of the boat ready to be instantly deployed should anyone go overboard.
The boat has on-board a generator, two alternators and solar panels for powering all the electrical requirements of the boat. The total solar production capability is about 500 watts. Chris says for every thing to maintain with out the use of the generator or alternators – he’d like to have about 1000 watts of solar capacity so they do have to kick on the generator every now and then.
Solar Panels on the hardtop of Stray Kitty
Chris also discussed with me his Internet connections via SSB and his weather information gathering capability. Here he has downloaded a GRIB which is a map forecast of the sailing area we were in. The expected forecast was for 35 knots and they got it right. Out sailing we saw it peak to 36 knots on the wind meter. Made for some fun sailing.
Downloading the Weather GRIB
And the kids loved the bumpy ride that day as you can see here.
High waves making the trampoline a fun place to be
And here’s us busting through the 1-2 meter swell.
Crashing through the waves sailing the catamaran
Over the 4 days we spent with these true ocean sailors, we had a blast (beyond the 36 knotter). We scored some amazing shots of the Able Tasman National park in New Zealand which will be on the next blog. Stray Kitty will be making the passage up to Auckland via the east coast in a few days but first they’ll have to wait for right weather conditions to cross one of the world’s renown rough water ways, the Cook Straight which lies between the North and South Islands. High winds and current can make this one a bit tricky.
We’re pretty jealous of Stray Kitty. One of Chris’ sayings over the weekend was the “we regret in life more things that we don’t do than what we actually do” and this was one of the big reasons they sold their business and set out across the oceans and wow they had some good stories to match.
If you’re thinking about sailing around the world then we’d certainly recommend our more serious NauticEd sailing school sailing lessons associated with the Captain’s Rank, those are Safety at Sea, Storm Tactics, Weather, Sail Trim as well as – if you think a Catamaran might be the way to go – take the Catamaran Sailing Confidence Clinic.
It was great to see this family making fun light work of sailing around the world. It’s certainly got me thinking – any one else?
Torrent Bay - Abel Tasman National Park New Zealand