Once in Papeete, we met an Argentinian boy who was sailing on an absolutely incredible half-decked pirogue. The total length is four and a half meters, the width is slightly more than a meter, hollowed out from a single tree trunk. On this boat, armed with a small rake sail and two large oars, Alberto sailed half the Pacific Ocean, from Panama to the Galapagos and from the Galapagos to Polynesia. When our paths crossed he was about to set off towards Tonga and the Solomon Islands.
On Chagos, a group of uninhabited atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean, after four weeks of loneliness, a green sailboat with a French family on board entered the bay. The boat was of normal size, about fifteen meters, but that was where its normality ended. The self-constructed armo-cement building on the front lawn where they lived in Tahiti was equipped exclusively with used equipment. Michelle and Dominique bought the remains of three wrecked boats for cheap and removed everything they needed from them. So they had masts, one treeanother aluminum one., winches are all different sizes, a huge anchor winch taken from a lighter used to unload ships, a table in the cabin is made of two halves taken from different sailboats and so on.
When Michel decided to anchor, he always threw two anchors on two chains.
- It's all old. - he said with a happy smile - if one chain breaks, there will always be another.
The atoll where we were standing was just a fabulous place, but he and Dominic, instead of wandering the beaches, spent whole days fixing the sails. The fabric was so old that it was torn from one look at it, and all the sails were torn on the passage from Australia to Chagos. However, with all this junk, on this boat with an incredible name - "Quand on a que l'amor" with an ancient Polynesian tiki fixed on the bow, Michel and Dominic traveled across the entire Pacific Ocean with two children. On the lands of the natives of the Torres Strait, a third was born and already five of them passed the sexesInu of the Indian Ocean, and all this at almost zero cost. At the time of our meeting, they were going to immediately, as soon as they finished repairing the sails, go towards the Red Sea in order to return to the Mediterranean, to visit a family that they had not seen for many years.
The list of boats made from almost nothing is endless. In the Red Sea, we met a Frenchman who was sailing on a six-meter boat with an armed junk. In Kenya, there was a New Zealander on a strange aluminum boat fifteen meters long and only two wide. An absurd shiny rocket that pretended to be a sailing sailboat, but the owner who built it himself claimed that it was an excellent sailing ship and really hoped to sell it in the Mediterranean. We dared not destroy his hopes.
In the port of Galle, in Sri Lanka, we saw a sailboat enter the harbor, something like a galleon. Black, huge, wooden, with three masts and a huge number of sails. On board a group of American teenagers. They bought a sailboat for a penny from a rich man who built it for some reason, but he quickly got bored with the toy. The guys put it in order and were going to conduct oceanographic research in the Indian Ocean. Looking at the absurd ship and the somehow selected crew, one would think that the adventure would not end well, however, a few years later we met the galleon again in the Maldives. The crew changed, but the sailboat was still sailing.
All these examples show that you can quite happily go to sea on completely different boats. And I'm not talking about a weekend cruise, but about real ocean voyages in places where it is impossible to count on someone's help.
The sea is huge and there is enough room in the ocean for everyone, both normal and eccentric, rich and poor. But for those who, like us, only want to go around the world calmly, in a few years, the choice of a boat is the first problem they have to face.
Which boat will be the most suitable is hard to say. There are a lot of boats on the market and you need to choose the material, dimensions, type of weapons, project philosophy and fit all this into the available budget, usually small for those who have been saving money for years to make their dreams come true and it is very difficult and inappropriate to give advice here. The choice of boat can determine the safety, comfort and outcome of a trip and if something doesn't work out, everyone has only themselves to blame.
But since many people continue to ask us about this, let's try to answer, recalling that all subsequent arguments are very subjective, based on our personal experience and are only arguments for discussion. All considerations are subject to criticism and should not be followed literally. Without any responsibility to those who take them too seriously.
You can write a book about what a long-distance boat should be, in which everything would be tied to three main problems: safety, simplicity, reliability. For starters, the hull must be very strong, capable of withstanding, without a doubt, millions of waves, hundreds of storms and, if possible, the occasional gentle blow to the bottom. Thus, racing boats immediately disappear. I know some will start shaking their heads and disagree with many of the following statements, but I'll continue anyway. By racing I mean post boatsmilitary for regattas. They are easy to recognize from afar by thin shrouds, high and thin masts with two or three pairs of spreaders, and back stays. They have a long and thin keel with a torpedo-shaped bulb, a balancing rudder, and a streamlined narrow hull. No matter how well they are made, no matter how the person who sells them convinces you that they are strong and reliable, these boats are built to achieve maximum speed, with maximum weight savings. On a typical weekend cruise, they are very difficult to steer, do not handle heavy seas well, and over the years and milesbecome fragile and dangerous. Remember that you will put your lives and the lives of your companions on the boat you have purchased and think about the consequences.
For ocean voyages, wider and calmer boats are more suitable, designed not for speed but for long-distance safe voyages. There are at least a dozen well-known shipyards in the world producing boats of this type. To avoid surprises, it is better to turn to these models, known for their durability. Look at the keel of the boat you are about to buy and ask yourself the question: are you sure it can't come off for any reason? If the answer is yes, go to the steering wheel and ask yourself the same question. Bolted keels, lengthThin fins with a bulb at the bottom, incomprehensibly holding, balancing rudders, perhaps give an advantage in tacking, but in my opinion they are too delicate to trust them with your life during a journey lasting several years. It is better to prefer models with a keel that is integral with the hull and with a rudder suspended on a powerful skeg.
Similar criteria should be applied to masts, rigging, railings, helms, etc. Make two simple trials. Stand at the helm of the boat you are inspecting and look around: somewhere, usually immediately ahead of the helm, there should be a handrail that the helmsman can hold on to when rough. Grab it and pull with all your might. If it holds up, good. Move to the bow, grab the railing and repeat the test. Be careful not to actually tear it off! If it holds up, it is possible that the entire boat was designed according to high hundredstrength standards and you can continue to inspect it, if not, leave it.
Deck equipment should be simple. The simpler, the better - it is easier to understand, easier to control and repair. If possible, it is best to avoid backstay screw turnbuckles, hydraulic boom guys, mainsail furling, multiple running rigging in the cockpit, electric winches and the like.
In the end, when you no longer have doubts about the strength of the boat, move on to habitability. For those who decide to raise sails to go beyond the horizon, the boat is also a home. You will have to live in it for a long time and preferably with comfort. First of all, there must be good ventilation, especially in hot climates. In the Caribbean, we met a couple of Swedes. They had a magnificent boat built in the fjords of Norway. The one who designed it, perhaps because of the cold climate, did not even provide for a hatch on the deck, and the air could only get into the cabin throughfrom side windows. Two went crazy from the heat, inside the boat looked like a red-hot oven. A few months later, they loaded it onto a cargo ship and returned home to cool.
Make sure that there are at least two hatches on the deck and that there are no rooms in the boat without ventilation. There should be a lot of portholes, the main thing is that they be higher than the gunwale! When the boat lists, if you forget to close them, you can go to the bottom, and no one can be sure that they will ever forget to close them.
Pay attention to the size and location of the galley, sink, chart table, berths. Many boats have a lot of berths and few lockers, many cabins and little space for sails and equipment, two or three latrines and a tiny chart table. They are made this way because they are designed for summer use, that is, for a large group of friends who charter the boat for a holiday of fifteen days. For long-distance sailing, just the opposite would be ideal: few berths and large spaces for the galley and everyday life on board, one latrine and wide sofas and lockers everywhere.
Another element to avoid whenever possible is the teak deck. I see heads shaking disapprovingly again. A teak deck looks good, but is uncomfortable, moody and useless. Care and maintenance on a long voyage will become much more difficult and, in addition, under the tropical sun at its zenith, due to the dark color, it becomes so hot that it becomes impossible to walk on it. I know people who ended up painting it white.
When we sold our old steel schooner Mastropietro in Australia and bought a fiberglass ketch with a teak deck, the first thing we did was to replace the teak, which was already old and in poor condition, with plywood, which was covered with fiberglass on top. On the one hand, we did not want in any way to be accomplices in the destruction of forests, which is being carried out throughout Asia, on the other hand, we planned sailing only in the tropics and the choice fell on the boat as cool as possible.
The lifting daggerboard is another device of dubious utility. Not that it is completely useless, but the cases in which it may be needed are much less than it might seem. On the other hand, this is another extra mechanism that weakens the design of the case. A light hit on the bottom will not damage the traditional keel but can bend the daggerboard, especially in a side impact. And a bent daggerboard thousands of miles from home, what kind of daggerboard is that?
So far, we have talked about the main general characteristics of the boat, but there are others, such as the dimensions and material of the hull, which depend on personal preferences, on the facilities available and on the characteristics of the intended voyage.
Singles can feel quite comfortable on a boat from 8 to 11 meters. We have met travelers in smaller boats, six or seven meters, but the venture becomes really risky.
For two, you will need from 9 to 13 meters already, because it is better to have a separate cabin, especially if you are going to take friends or sometimes organize a charter. For a family, a boat of 12 meters will be needed so that there are separate cabins for parents and children, in order to avoid damage to relations in critical situations.
All this does not mean that a single person cannot walk on a fifteen-meter boat or a family of five cannot crowd into a nine-meter one, I have seen both options, and everyone seemed satisfied and happy. But what you need to remember all the time is that the internal volumes, weight, loads and prices are directly proportional not to the length of the boat, but to the length in the cube. That is, if you have a boat ten meters long and you want to change it to a twelve-meter one, then you will have a little more free space, but at the same time the boat will be twice as heavy,Rusa will be more expensive in the same proportion, and so on.
In the seas around the world you can find boats built from steel, wood, reinforced cement, aluminum and plastic. They all happily walk the seas and cross the oceans. This suggests that all of these materials are more or less good. But looking at the boats found in ports, seas, on raids around the world, talking with skippers and owners, we have developed our purely subjective classification.
Armored boats are the least common, least loved and least valued.
"But how the hell can they float if they're made of cement?" I thought when I heard about them for the first time. Stupid question. Of course, cement is heavy and sinks, but so is metal, but steel ships have been sailing the seas for centuries. In the case of reinforced cement, the body consists of a frame welded from steel wire onto which a layer of cement is sprayed. The steel gives the hull its shape and structural strength, while the cement acts as a water barrier and provides water tightness. The advantages of the reinforced cement hull are its low cost and the fact that theotheoretically, anyone can build it themselves. Disadvantages - aesthetics, but not only that. Armored cement boats are ugly, clumsy and heavy. Upon impact, the body cracks, microcracks form in the cement, which cannot be repaired, and over time they spread over an ever larger surface.
Many years ago, in Tanzania, we swam for several days with an Austrian. He had a large ferro-cement boat twenty years old. The skipper was in despair: the hull was so saturated with water that the paint no longer lay on the bottom.
Summing up, I want to say that armocement is a material that does not have much success. In sailing around the world we met
The next place in the classification of materials least used by circumnavigators belongs to wood. What a pity! And again I see how experts shake their heads and say that we don’t understand anything, that wood is a noble material, it is alive and breathes ...
It is true that wood is a living material, pleasant and traditional. Once upon a time, everything that floated was made of wood, from Charon's raft to Columbus' caravels, from square-sailed Viking ships to woolen clippers. But it was rather a necessity and not a choice, in those days, apart from wood, there was no other material. And today, even in third world countries, many ships are built from wood. It is always an attractive sight when a group of people on the seashore under a sprawling tree patiently hew the bars, give them a shape, plan the bend, tighten it intoboat hull. In Indonesia, magnificent sailing ships are being built. However, wooden hulls are prone to one problem: there are many types of pest worms that feed on wood and, once penetrated into the skin, gnaw through long passages and galleries inside your boat structures.
We had direct experience with the wooden blade of the wind rudder on the Vecchieto. Usually, when we stopped at a place for a while, we would take it off and store it inside. Once I noticed that the blade became light-light. Having examined it better, I found small holes on its surface. These were inlets of long strokes, which expanded inside the blade and the whole tree was literally eaten away. We filled the holes with epoxy, and when we got to Bali, we made a new blade out of hard wood callediron wood - iron wood and since then no more traces of woodworms have been noticed. It's good that it was a wind rudder blade and not a boat rudder!
In Third World countries, wooden boats are hauled ashore to be repaired and painted every few months, either by the tides or by the hand-pull of an entire village. But these are boats with a long keel, heavy and strong, they can be pulled straight to the shore. Our boats are more fragile. They need a crane and a well-equipped shipyard to get to land. Repairs require specialists, unless you yourself are one and do not need advice. Otherwise, you will have to turn to local specialists, who are not always available and not always specialists, and brtake on all the problems and risks that a poorly done job can cause. Moral - a wooden boat is good if you are rich or not going to be very far from civilized countries, but not good for those who are going to go far. In fairness, it must be said that sometimes there are wooden boats that circumnavigate the world, and the owners, as a rule, are pleased with them and even proud.
Metal is a good material for a boat, strong, durable, easy to repair and maintain. In Australia, half of all boats are steel. Our second boat was also metal and we loved it very much, because it was strong, because it was our home and carried us across the seas for eight years. However, steel has one terrible drawback: it rusts! And rust is a serious problem that inevitably increases with age. It does not matter how well the metal was processed and how many layers of paint it was covered with. One day the boat starts to problunt reddish spots that grow over time and spread like a malignant tumor.
“It’s okay,” said Muatissier, “to get rid of the rust of a sufficiently trained monkey with a scraper and a brush. Paint, rust are scraped off, cleaned to bare metal, covered with an anti-corrosion primer and painted.
It's easy to say, much harder to do. When it comes to flat, open surfaces like the deck or sides, it's hard work, dusty and unpleasant, but quite commonplace. When it comes to the inner secret corners of the boat, in lockers, behind furniture, under the engine, then everything becomes very difficult, and if you don’t have a trained monkey, then you yourself will have to sit in the hold for weeks, chipping off incredible pieces of rust the size of slices of cheese, sanding inaccessible corners and painting invisible cavities. The further you go, the more it growsThere is no dissatisfaction because repairs are never final. After a year, if the work was done well, or after a few months, if so-so, the spots return again, even larger and deeper. And again you need to start scraping, scraping and sanding, and this is not only an aesthetic problem, because each time the sheet of metal becomes thinner and the corrosion surface increases. While the boat is new, the problem is small or non-existent, at ten years old it becomes serious and at fifteen it is huge.
Our schooner was twenty years old when we sold it, and we couldn't spend weeks sanding, feroxing, painting and inspecting everything, only to see those terrible stains again in three months and start all over again. Lately, with the help of a damp, hot and salty, typically tropical atmosphere, corrosion has become especially aggressive and has climbed into the most inaccessible places. Twice we had to hurriedly look for a port and a shipyard with our soul in our heels in order to replace pieces of plating so corroded that the proprocks streams of water.
Metal cases, they say, are stronger and more reliable, but when they start to make holes on their own, we are no longer talking about reliability. Therefore, steel boats older than ten years are cheap. Be careful, don't be tempted!
Polyester resin and fiberglass, materials from which fiberglass boats are made. Fiberglass is strong, elastic, does not rust and is durable. What a miracle! But how durable? Until recently, there was no answer to this question, since it was about new material. Today there are boats thirty and forty years old, which are still sailing safely and now there are no doubts about fiberglass. Together with aluminium, fiberglass is the only maintenance-free material. And if necessary, the fiberglass body canbe easily repaired.
During a storm on the Chagos, one of the six sailboats standing in the lagoon of Salomon Atoll anchored. The crew requested VHF assistance from other boats, but the conditions were such that they were only going to strengthen their anchors and no one could help. The boat was washed up on the reef, it received a hole and the crew spent the whole night pumping out water so as not to sink. The next morning, two unfortunates, with the help of other crews, brought the boat to the beach, above the low tide and left it on land.
What to do. The hole wasn't very big, but the Chagos were uninhabited and the nearest land was thousands of miles away. News of the incident spread from radio to radio all the way to Australia, Africa, and all over the Indian Ocean. A few days later, from a sailboat leaving Thailand just for Chagos, they offered to buy resin, fiberglass and everything else needed for repairs and deliver it to the islands. The castaways, waiting for help, set up camp on the beach. When the materials arrived, they set to work and managed to apply a patch to the hull thatIt survived the next two thousand miles to Africa.
Of course, a fiberglass boat is not as strong as a metal one, and when it hits the bottom, it has less chance of remaining unscathed. But plastic, with the same length, allows you to build lighter boats, with less sail, shorter masts and, in the end, with less loads and cheaper. And if a grounding can only happen sometime, it is lightness and maneuverability, qualities that bring satisfaction every day.
The Achilles' heel of fiberglass is osmosis. This is the phenomenon of water penetration into the thickness of the plastic through defects in the protective layer of the gelcoat. Its signs are swellings and blisters on the bottom, from which, if they are pierced, a yellowish liquid with an acid smell flows out. Osmosis, if present, becomes more extensive over time and can become so severe that it can destroy a structure.
Experts have been writing and interpreting the causes of osmosis for a long time, but this phenomenon is so complex that it still remains unpredictable. There are very old boats that do not have it, while others show it already a few years after launching. From our point of view of ordinary consumers who just want to have a reliable boat for long distances, I would say. What is best to avoid buying boats with signs of osmosis. If you buy a new boat, the problem does not exist, if the choice falls on the old one, you need to examine it well before buying.pkoy. If osmosis manifests itself in the future, there is nothing left but to treat it. The procedure consists in removing the gelcoat and bubbles, drying the fiberglass and restoring the outer insulating layer. This is a very big job and can be too expensive if done in Italy, but becomes more accessible as you get further away from civilization.
When we were preparing the Vecchietto for our first circumnavigation, after two weeks spent peeling off countless layers of antifouling, looking at the hull up close, we noticed signs of illness: blisters!
They were small and still not visible under the paint, but now on the bare body, there was no doubt.
- Horror, our boat has osmosis ...
The world has collapsed for us. We were going to leave in a month, and there was still a lot of work to be done, hundreds of things to do, and a lot of people to calm down. We couldn't wait for the moment of departure, but now, if we carried out anti-osmosis treatment, it meant delaying the exit for who knows how long. We felt completely fooled, because at the time of purchase, seven months ago, we did not notice anything.
We started asking everyone for advice and everyone expressed their opinions, of course everyone is different. While the owner of the shipyard, out of compassion or just to get rid of us, said: - Yes, these are trifles, you can safely go, it's okay.
This single positive opinion in the chorus of negativity was music to our ears, and we decided to follow it.
Three years later, they did the final processing. Turkey's climate, hot and dry, perfect for drying a cleaned hull, but a hell of a job. During the day it was more than forty degrees, epoxy resins cannot be used at temperatures above thirty. We worked from 4 to 7 in the morning, it was impossible further. We kept all the materials in the refrigerator at night and the jars that we used were immersed in a bucket of water and ice. It was very difficult and everyone laughed at us because of these precautions, which seemed excessive, but it worked. In 1991all this cost us two million lira in labor, plus materials. In Italy it would cost five times more. Fortunately, materials for anti-osmosis treatment can be found in almost every country in the world.
Of all boat building materials, aluminum is the most innovative. Lightweight, does not rust, does not osmosis, has good mechanical characteristics and an exceptional ability to deform without breaking when hitting rocks or floating objects. It does not require maintenance and even you can not paint the body, because the metal itself is protected by an oxide film. The only thing you need to protect the boat from galvanic corrosion, which occurs when aluminum comes into contact with other metals or when parasites pass through the hullcurrents. Therefore, electrical equipment must be designed and installed very competently and direct contact of aluminum with other metals: steel, bronze, copper should not be allowed. On the first aluminum boats, about twenty years ago, the problem of galvanic currents seemed very serious.
I remember one Frenchman who, before letting a guest on board, made him take everything out of his pockets, fearing that some trifle might fall into the hold.
Today, when noble alloys of aluminum with magnesium and additives of other metals are used, the problem is not so urgent, warships, ferries, container ships and dinghys are built from the same alloys. Their use is becoming more and more widespread. Dozens of aluminum boat owners we've personally spoken to seem quite happy with them.
The reverse side of the coin is that aluminum is very expensive and difficult to weld, and therefore repair. Welding is carried out using a special welding machine in an inert gas environment and is not available everywhere. However, it is still more accessible than you might think. Once on the Vecchietto, the mainsail winch was torn out of the mast, to which it was bolted. In addition to fear, as it happened during the maneuver, we also found ourselves with a leaky, weakened mast. It happened in Papua New Guinea, on the shore there were only villages and huts. We have reached the capitals, Port Moresby, a very strange place where it is dangerous to walk the streets and where it is difficult to buy even basic necessities. To our surprise, the city's only marine yard had the ability to weld an aluminum plate onto our damaged mast. There were ten of them on board. The welder at the mast worked with the torch, two assistants adjusted the welding machine, the rest held stretched old blankets around, creating a curtain from the wind so that it would not disturb the inert atmosphere of welding. The work lasted half a day and cost us a littleover seventy dollars, probably a third of what we would have to pay in Italy.
Conclusion: If we had to buy a new boat, with enough money, we would go for an aluminum one. If we had to take an old boat, we would choose (and we did so by buying a new Barca Pulit) fiberglass, it is less likely to have hidden defects. But this, I repeat once again, is just personal considerations.