30 tips for crossing the Atlantic: 21 – 30

This is the fifth part of a five part article. For Part 4…

Mon, 23 Nov 2009
Yachting World

Insider’s suggestions to make the big adventure go smoothly.
Collated by Elaine Bunting

21. Carry plenty of fuel

You can’t have too much on board for an ocean crossing, even if you are planning to sail all the way. If you do encounter light winds, a bit of strategic motoring can help you punch through and shave a lot of time of your passage.

Take a few jerrycans in addition – you’ll need them anyway if you’re planning on going further afield as fuel is sometimes a taxi ride away. Give some consideration to how you are going to transfer fuel from jerrycans at sea, advises Dan Bower. “That can be a skill. Forget funnels and pouring,” he says, “your best options are a portable transfer pump, or force a siphon with a dinghy pump and hose pipe.”

22. Sharpen up helming skills

“Make sure all your crew become experienced helmsmen; autopilots can and do fail,” advises James Anderson.

There are other benefits to crew spending at least some portion of their watch steering. They will keep a better lookout, will be in better touch with the boat and sea conditions and they’ll soon know if the boat isn’t properly trimmed.

23. Switch off the autopilot now and then

For the same reason, even if you run on autopilot, take the helm from time to time to ensure the boat is nicely balanced. It will save a lot of loads on the rudder bearings and autopilot ram, as well as electrical power, and be kinder on the boat.

If using the autopilot, keep it in windvane mode downwind. “This way when a squall comes through the boat will adjust the course and prevent an accidental gybe,” says Dan Bower.

24. Take back-up navigation

Do take paper charts, just in case you have power failure – one ARC boat lost almost everything electrical last year after she was struck by lightning. Carry a spare battery-powered GPS “and keep it in a tin to protect it against lightning-induced EMP,” says James Anderson, who adds: “A once-a-day fix from a handheld GPS that costs less than £100 is far more accurate than even a professional navigator can achieve with a sextant.”

25. Involve crew in preparing a grab bag

“It’s not something you pay much attention to most of the time, particularly if you’ve been coastal sailing, but the grab bag almost always needs some attention before a long trip,” says Mike Kopman.

“Empty it out, go over all the contents and repack it carefully. If you’ve got the time, doing this with all the crew will get everyone thinking about safety and maybe bring up some new ideas about what should go into the bag.”

26. Choose a compatible crew

If you sail with people you like, the crossing should be good fun. Some tips to help choose the right mix include:

– Find one person whose abilities you are confident in and who shares the same approach. Complementary skills, such as electrical or mechanical know-how, are also very useful.

– Agree terms and conditions in advance, particularly financial contributions.

– Make sure at least some, if not all, of your crew have a first aid and a sea survival qualification. Other qualifications are a bonus.

– It’s a long way to sail, so plan to have a halfway party or celebrate someone’s birthday – think of an excuse.

27. Take extra crew for the crossing

Don’t shy away from taking on extra crew if you’re short-handed and think you’ll need them. Places to look include the free ARC forum run by World Cruising Club. Give yourself an edge by starting to look early. There are also agencies such as Crewseekers.

If someone drops out at the last minute, there are usually plenty of young people to choose off the dock, and that can often work out very well in the mix as they will be eager to please. Look for well presented and organised people with refences, testimonials, copies of log books, telephone and e-mail numbers, and check out the references.

28. Fit a folding prop

“The drag from a standard three-bladed propeller is surprisingly large,” says James Anderson. “a folding propeller may be expensive, but a half-knot increase in speed is worth 12 miles a day or nearly a day per week on a long voyage in a small boat.”

29. Clean the bottom

A day or two before you leave, get everyone in the water to give the bottom a wipe down and make sure the prop is clean, advises Mike Kopman. When you’re doing thousands of miles you want to be doing it as efficiently as possible.

30. Get stuff secured

Don’t underestimate the effects of constant movement. Everything will roll, squeak and rattle if you don’t and the cumulative effect of days of small movement can be surprisingly damaging.

“Pay particular attention to heavy items like the anchors, liferaft, jerrycans, gas bottles and the tender. If the tender is stored on davits, sling some webbing under it for back-up. Don’t rely on the lifting rings inside. You don’t want to be recovering a tender at sea,” says Mike Kopman.

30 tips for crossing the Atlantic: 16 - 20
The Fastnet Yacht Race Tragedy of 1979

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