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REFLECTIONS ON OUR 2002 CRUISE
AND SAILING SEASON

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This page was last updated on 29 January 2003.

2002 Downeast Cruise Statistics

Number of Harbors Visited:  33

Rhumb Line Distance Traveled:  441.8 nm  (Actual distance cruised is greater)

Total Days on Board:  51

Engine Hours Run:  To be determined

Gear Failures During the Cruise:  3  

(1)Gooseneck Track on Mast (First day, and only because of an unsuitable repair performed earlier in the season.  It was subsequently repaired permanently with materials on hand)
(2)LPG Vapor Alarm (Failed on Day 33; disconnected for remainder of season)
(3)Adjustable Halogen Lamp in Galley (Inconsistent operation until ultimate total failure; to be replaced during the winter)

Favorite Harbors (Not in Any Particular Order):  Buckle Island; Somesville; Winter Harbor (Vinalhaven east); Long Cove (Vinalhaven south); Hell's Half Acre; Sorrento; Burnt Coat, Pickering Island

Least Favorite Harbor:  Southwest Harbor/Manset, unquestionably  (Why?)

Longest Single Day's Run:  45.4 nm (Falmouth Foreside - Port Clyde, Day 1)

Shortest Single Day's Run:  1.89 nm (Merchant Harbor - Wreck Island, Day 27)

Number of Times the Anchor Dragged:  None!  (Not including during initial setting)

Most Expensive Ice:  North Haven ($3.50/block)

Most Expensive Mooring:  Hinckley Yard, Southwest Harbor ($30)

Comments On Sailing the Boat After Losing the Jumper Struts on Day 35 of the Cruise:

I was surprised at how much support was lost for the upper portion of the rig after the jumper struts were damaged and subsequently removed in Islesboro.  I always figured, since the mast was a generally large section for the size boat, and otherwise well-supported, that the jumper struts were mostly important for maintaining the ultimate stiffness while racing, but would not have a significant detrimental effect on the performance f the rug during normal sailing.  

Instead, I found that the mast would pump and shudder alarmingly in some sailing conditions (typically once the wind increased to 15 knots or higher), and that, without the support of the jumper stays, it was impossible to tension the backstay--and therefore the headstay--properly without severely bending the top of the mast above the hounds in the process.  This meant that the headstay would sag dramatically to leeward when beating in higher winds.  As a result, I babied the rig for the remainder of the cruise, and the season, so as not to overstress anything and possibly cause a substantial gear failure.  Sailing in winds of up to 12 knots or so was fine, and we kept our pleasure sailing to days of these conditions for the last month after we returned from the cruise.

Would the mast have possibly come down simply because of a little increased pumping and movement?  Probably not.  I admit to being overly concerned about this--but at the same time, with only a few weeks remaining in the sailing season at the time, I saw no reason to push it and find out.  Sailing with a reefed mainsail would have helped steady the mast, since the head would be lowered to the hounds or below, leaving the top portion unstressed.  Had we been required to sail with the rig in its condition at the time, I have little doubt that, with conservative judgment and prudent behavior, the rig would have held up fine under most any conditions.   Since we didn't have to sail the boat, I chose not to press my luck.

Comments on Our Dinghy, Rowing, and Motors:

I can count on one hand, just about, the number of boats cruising that still use rigid dinghies propelled by human (oar) power.  All the dinghy docks are crowded with huge inflatables and husky outboard motors, making rowing our fiberglass dinghy to the dock a challenge in some places--and overtly frustrating and irritating in a few harbors (Southwest, as a prime example--home of the ridiculous).  I found this trend a little sad, frankly.  

We proudly chose an 8' fiberglass Fatty Knees dinghy as a conscious choice over an inflatable.  Cost-wise, we came out about even when compared to some inflatables, depending on the size, features, and size of motor that would be required--we didn't save money by sticking with a rigid dinghy, since we chose a high-quality, well-engineered and -designed boat that we thought would do an excellent job as the workhorse that is a cruising boat's tender.  In addition, our dinghy features a sailing rig, which can be great fun.  It pays to have an excellent dinghy--particularly the more you cruise--because they are such critical helpers in the whole experience.

Modern inflatables make very good, stable tenders when equipped with outboard motors, and there are certain circumstances in which I would want one someday.  But sometimes it's nice to keep things basic and trustworthy.  I very much enjoyed rowing the dinghy for the sport of it, and missed my daily rowing sessions greatly upon our return from the cruise.  I would be loathe to give up the pleasure of rowing for fun while cruising, and, given the incapability of most inflatables to be rowed at all in even calm conditions (and thoroughly dangerous in wind or seas), we felt that, given the overall simple nature of our parent boat and methodology, a human-powered rigid dinghy would be more fun, more useful, and ultimately an excellent choice.  My ideal scenario would be to have one of each:  a beefy inflatable with fiberglass bottom and planing hull powered by a large outboard; and our Fatty Knees for rowing and sailing pleasure.  As always, everything requires compromise in one direction or another.

I was thrilled with our dinghy during the cruise--it was stable, carried huge loads, towed well, and was usually fun to row.  It rowed perhaps even better with two people aboard than it did with only one.  We only used the sailing rig on a few occasions--it's plenty of work to unlash the various parts (we don't have lockers big enough to store the two-piece mast, the boom, the daggerboard and rudder) and set things up, but once it's done, it is great fun indeed.  For the type of long-term cruising that we hope to do, in which we'll likely stay at many ports of call for fairly long durations, the sailing rig might be used more.  For overnight stops, rigging and unrigging the sailing rig can be just too much work sometimes, and we didn't bother.

There were a few times that I wished for an outboard, either for convenience or to open up greater areas for exploration.  IN particular, our errand days (that is, stops in port where we stocked up on groceries and supplies and took care of boat chores and laundry) cried out for an outboard, especially since these ports tend to be busier and larger.  

Southwest Harbor/Manset was a nightmare in this regard, as I made 7 round trips from the dock to our very distant mooring at Hinckley during a single afternoon, dodging thoughtless lobster boat wakes and zooming inflatables piloted by "professional" skippers and boat jockeys bedecked in white polo shirts and khaki shorts, all rushing to answer the beck and call of their wealthy employers.  (The days of the Preppie still live on in the yachting world.  Yuck.)  This was also the place with the most crowded, most inaccessible inflatable-packed dinghy dock.  Rowing in and out of this bumper boat-like arena became increasingly irritating as the day wore on.  (See why Southwest is our least-favorite harbor?  A place on the coast that is more at odds with our general mentality would be hard to imagine.)

The other time I most wished for an outboard on our dinghy was near the end of the trip, when we stopped in spectacular Winter Harbor on Vinalhaven.  This harbor was filled with nooks and crannies, estuaries, and numerous passages that would have been great fun to explore--and I did explore much of the area by rowing alone.  However, the distances were simply too great, particularly with a stiff wind that kicked up that day, to row everywhere I wanted, though it would have all been within reach of an outboard.

We expect to have a small outboard for next season, and there will be times when it's great to have.  Most times, though, I will still choose the silent, physically-stimulating experience of rowing by hand over the noise and pollution of an outboard.  But when we need it, it will be worth having hanging on the stern pulpit at the ready.

 

Comments on our Enthrallment with Glissando as a Cruising Machine:

She may be small, but what a fantastic boat!  Never once did we feel confined by the size of the boat.  It was amazing, even to me, that the boat felt as large as she did, and that living aboard was as comfortable as it was.  Oh, there are certainly a few things that would be easier or a little nicer if the boat was larger--a more roomy galley, for one, with better access--but generally there is little to fault.  It took me two months or more of trial and error shifting of stores, equipment, and so forth before we left on the trip to work out the best storage options for clothes, food, and gear--and we even made changes enroute in this quest for the perfect place for any single item--but we didn't lack for storage in any way, though if we'd had more room we might have been able to bring more, or have slightly easier access to certain things.

Heidi and I are extremely fortunate in that we don't get on each other's nerves.  As a result, the close quarters was never a problem.  The perceived distance between the forward cabin and the cockpit is large enough that there is opportunity for "alone" time if necessary, though this did not prove to be the case.  The salon was extremely comfortable at all times, though we spent most of our time in the cockpit.

Our modified galley worked extremely well, and it was great having the nice propane stove and oven.  The icebox held its ice extremely well, and had plenty of room for food after provisioning.  I tend to hoard ice--meaning I want to cram as much in as physically possible to avoid the need for replenishing the supply as long as possible--so on a few occasions, it took some substantial work to get all the food and ice in immediately after provisioning.  Within 12 hours, enough ice melted to make things a bit roomier.  We easily got 7 days out of 20-30 lb. of ice.  Access to the sink was a bit awkward, but worked well once we got used to it.  Because of our heavily-laden boat and the design of the galley, the sink was slow to drain whenever we were in the cockpit or salon, which was a minor annoyance.  The salt water foot pump in the galley was probably responsible for the most significant potable water savings of anything; we washed all dishes in salt water, conserving the fresh supply for cooking and cleaning alone.

Glissando was loaded to the gills with clothes, books, food, drinks, water, fuel, anchors, spare parts, and all the other necessities of onboard life, and floated about 3" below her 2001 waterline.  This translates to an additional 1500-2000 lb. of stores on board--or about 25% of the design displacement of the boat!.  Still, the performance of the boat seemed  hardly to suffer as a result, with only a slight sluggishness noted in some situations, but no real decrease in speed or seakindliness.  

We wanted for nothing during the trip--one of our favorite moments came during the week when we were cruising alongside our friends Heather and Nathan.  One evening, armed with fresh fish and steaks after provisioning ashore, we decided to join forces and cook together on Glissando.  Nathan was preparing fish and mentioned in an offhand way that he wished he had some capers to add to the dish.  With great smugness and pleasure, I was able to reach into a nearby locker and produce a small jar of capers to suit!

The fish was delicious, and so were the tenderloins that I cooked out on the grill that night.  I don't think a word was spoken between the four of us as we devoured the meal in record time!

Comments on Provisioning, Fueling, Icing, Watering and Trash:

Provisioning:  Provisioning is tough, or at least it was along the Maine coast.  In a way, I hope the provisioning wherever and whenever we go actually remains difficult, since its difficulty is in direct proportion to the unspoiled nature of the particular port.  The more remote a harbor, obviously, the more remote the surrounding shoreside community--and therefore, the less opportunity for convenient provisioning.  Choose your poison--overcrowded, populated ports, full of cruisers, commercial boats, and tourists; or more remote locations, but with fewer shoreside amenities.  Based on the relative difficulty we experienced in provisioning, you can probably guess which "poison" we chose!

Regardless of the ultimate provisioning location, it is always more difficult than it is at home.  This is, perhaps, one of the "charms" of cruising, and, for me--despite the irritation inherent thereunto--I would choose difficulty in provisioning over regular shoreside conveniences any day.  The beauty of the coast of Maine is that it is unspoiled, for the most part, and is therefore easy to lose yourself in a relaxing cruise.  Still, we had to eat, so we had to provision for fresh food more or less on a weekly basis.  Obviously, if we chose to eat dried and canned foods exclusively, the need for any provisioning stops would be eliminated.  But let's get real.

There are only a few true "harbor Meccas" on the Maine coast east of Portland.  These include such well-known, and therefore crowded, places like Boothbay Harbor, Camden, and Southwest Harbor.  With the exception of Southwest Harbor, we avoided these bustling places like the plague.  On Mt. Desert Island, we were able to ride the free propane-fueled tourist buses from Somesville to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park; we shopped at a larger supermarket in Bar Harbor and lugged the groceries back to the boat on the bus.  Not the most fun thing in the world, but for cruisers, this was undoubtedly pretty convenient.  We rode the same bus from Hinckley (Manset) to downtown Southwest Harbor later in the trip for more shopping--but this time, it was at a boutique-y summer-person kind of store, although they had everything we needed and an outstanding fish and meat market that made it well worth the high prices as a splurge.

Other provisioning stops featured smaller Mom-and-Pop general stores that had widely varied selection.  By far the worst was the ridiculous store on North Haven (we had been forewarned).  We were in desperate straits, and we bought a few basics that enabled us to avoid the need, so close to the end of our cruise, of going to a place like Camden or Rockland, which we really didn't care to do.  But it was all we could do to even find the most basic things.  We had to buy their sole package of "bread"--Thomas's Everything Bagels.  They had no fresh stuff except for some decent steaks and (our favorite) pencil-thin asparagus.  You just never know what you'll find, and there's simply no logic to it at all; this is sort of fun, in a sometimes-frustrating kind of way.  North Haven might have been even more disappointing since there used to be an outstanding general store there, years ago, that many cruisers remember fondly.  This place had everything, from good and plentiful food supplies and sundries to hardware and the like.  It was a unique and fun experience.  Sadly, that's now part of history.

There's a store in Benjamin River that you can access through a field in the back if you row your dinghy way up the tidal creek--it's much more direct than walking from either shore.  Other small towns that dot the coast have general stores that often cater to the summer crowd (though not quite as much as the one in Southwest), and feature pretty good selections, but at higher prices.  There's a good general store in Buck's Harbor that is a convenient walk from the yacht club docks, and that has a good selection.  However, some stuff there was so overpriced...we paid something line $7.00 for a package of 5 Boars Head hot dogs.  (This stands out in our mind as the most ridiculous provisioning story of the trip; in all fairness, other stuff at the store was not nearly so overpriced, and they had great fresh blueberries, too!)

Provisioning of course means that you move things several times--from the store back to the dock (often laboriously), in the dinghy from the dock to the boat, and then from the cockpit into eventual storage.  Of course, replenishing the fresh food always coincides with filling the icebox with fresh ice, so everything has to be removed, rearranged, and crammed in at the end (I always get too much ice, and we always get too much food, so making it all fit on the first day is tough to impossible).  All in all, a major fresh provisioning takes the substantial part of a day in most places.  But then you get to sit back and relax in the cockpit afterwards...and that is certainly worth the efforts of the day.  And when you're cruising for real (i.e. more than a week or two at a time), if the worst thing you have to deal with is lugging some food a long distance in a tote bag, then I think things are actually pretty rosy!

Some places (many), of course, actually have no provisioning facilities at all, and we often had to plan our destinations for several days hence by figuring out where we were going to buy food, and then heading in that direction along the way.  In different parts of the country, and under different cruising circumstances, there may be more of a "store in every port" kind of thing, but for us it certainly didn't work that way, since we enjoy the outlying islands and remote locations much more than mainland-based cruising "destinations" that so many people head for.

Fueling:  We ended up at a grand total of one dock where we actually inserted a fuel nozzle into the fill pipe and pumped fuel directly aboard.  At all other times (even when we're at home base), I always fill the fuel tank from a pair of yellow plastic diesel jugs that I keep on board.  I find this more convenient many times over; after all, our fuel tank is only 18 gallons, and if I add the contents of a single jug when the tank reaches somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 full on the electric gauge, it makes fueling a pretty minor issue (and also keeps the tank topped up, which is a good practice for any number of reasons).  Some minor fuel lugging to me is eminently easier to deal with than going to some crowded dock, dealing with idiotic dock hands that panic and snub your bow line, forcing the bow to hit the dock and the stern to swing wide, when the approach was perfect (yes, that happened at our single fuel dock stop--useless, aggravated, panicked, and over-stressed-in-life dock attendant woman...sheesh; we hated that stop).  And many of these fuel docks in crowded harbors are thrilled to waste dock space to provide your measly 10 gallons of diesel while 40-foot dual-engined powerboats ready to swallow 4-digit amounts of diesel fuel idle impatiently in the channel.

It was usually a simple matter, at some point after I had dumped in one of these jugs, to row ashore to a convenient fuel dock and buy 5 gallons of fuel.  I'm not sure I ever filled both jugs at the same time using this method.  To date, I have not had the need to add fuel underway, though this is the other positive factor involving using the jugs.  Doing this would be tricky, I'm sure, with the movement of the boat, and to avoid it I always made sure we had fuel in sufficient quantity in the tank.  

Ice:  Our icebox is efficient and works well, despite its inevitable location next to the engine room, and we can hold and carry more ice than most boats our size.  Still, dealing with ice is one of my least favorite things.  It's not hard to find ice--most convenience stores, gas stations, and nearly all fuel docks in harbors carry blocks, cubes, or both--but replenishing with ice is always a bit of a hassle.  We like our cold drinks and ice-filled cocktails in the evening--not to mention fresh food--so ice is a necessary evil.  Refrigeration--too complicated at this point.  The simplicity of ice is a beautiful think, and it works really well.  But it melts.  So you have to get more.  Always.

We were fortunate in that our well-insulated icebox would hold ice effectively for more than a week if need be, depending how much was in there to begin with.  I usually tried to cram in about 40 lb. of block ice and 10 lb. of cubes whenever we did a major provisioning.  Of course, this much ice takes up a lot of room, and getting the food to fit on top was often a challenge.  I was always loathe to throw out even a small remnant of some old ice block...the more ice the merrier, so I'd frustrate myself further by trying to keep every last bit of the cold stuff in there.  For every bit if ice I kept was the ticket to that much longer we'd be able to go before having to do it all again.

Ice melts.  Somehow, when building our icebox, I convinced myself that I could (and would) add a drain later--which of course I never did, and it would be about impossible anyway.  So I have to pump the meltwater out daily.  I keep a brass piston pump right in there in the deepest corner, and it's not too bad.  But it's a pain, and I wish we had a drain.   Live and learn.  "Next time".

Usually, dealing with the ice wasn't too bad, as I'd row ashore and pick up a block or two, and some cubes, in just about any place that had ice to offer.  We always needed it, so I tended to get it while I could.  But, as with the food provisioning, when we wanted to head off the beaten path for a while, we had to sort of plan around our next ice stop, or else be prepared to accept warm drinks and no fresh food.

Watering:  As with the fueling, I chose to fill our smallish water tank using plastic jugs ferried from shore.  With conservation, our water supply tended to last a pretty long time anyway, and I carried 15 gallons of water on deck in six plastic jugs scattered about.  When the tank ran dry, or when we were in a harbor with convenient water facilities, I'd top off the tank from the deck supply, then row ashore and refill the empty jugs.  In this way, we always had backup water and never had an issue.  I did fill the whole tank from empty using only jugs ferried from shore, as I'd filled our empty tank several days or a week earlier from the deck jugs, and we'd since used most of that up.  Of course the day I had to do this the wind was howling at about 30 knots, making rowing the fairly long distance to the dock a bit more challenging.  It took two trips to fill the boat tank, then a final trip to fill all six jugs again.  Still, it beats working!

We used about 10-12 gallons per week with pretty strict conservation.  We washed dishes in salt water almost exclusively, and found we needed much less water for cleaning than one might otherwise think.  more capacity would be nice from a convenience standpoint, but there are few places we would cruise where we would run into difficulty with a 23-gallon main tank and 15 gallons in deck jugs.

Trash:  Trash is a huge problem.  The disarming trend in many places, even in Maine, is to charge a fee for each trash bag dumped.  Of course, there are many places where you can throw your trash away for free, too.  If you go to the islands, you can't dump your trash (nor should you), since all the islands' own trash has to be "exported" to the mainland anyway.  So, sometimes this meant that we ended up with too many trash bags on the boat.  I stored them in the lazarette, but could only cram 3 or so in there.  After that, I'd find somewhere to put excess, if need be, or we'd desperately search for somewhere ashore to get rid of it.  Garbage built up amazingly fast, and reduction of this amount is high on our list of priorities for future cruises.

And of course, trekking your trash up to the town landing always makes you feel really cool, too.

Comments on Destination, or "Squatter", Moorings:

Here's the scenario.  Poring over the charts in the evening, you choose your next day's destination.  You find that perfect-looking cove, the one with 360-degree protection, good holding ground, and the likelihood of gorgeous scenery.  With the plan in mind, you head out the next day and enjoy a pleasant sail to the new cove.  Filled with anticipation, and thrilled that you arrived early enough that you get the pick of the best anchoring spots, you enter--only to find moorings scattered everywhere, particularly in the best parts of the cove where you had figured you'd anchor.  No one is using the moorings, and a quick scan of the shoreline reveals only a house or two, and you know that the moorings can't all be for those one or two houses.

Sound familiar?  It's an increasingly common problem.  With many unregulated harbors and coves in our area and others, it was inevitable that this sort of thing would happen.  Although the larger harbors tend to be monitored, with moorings there belonging to people who live in town and follow the  proper procedure for setting a mooring, the smaller, outlying harbors--the very attractive, protected places that cruisers tend to gather--are susceptible to less-regulated setting of moorings.

What are these moorings?  Well, they're owned and maintained by people who tend to go to one spot every weekend, mostly to party.  They aren't cruisers in the truest sense of the word; they're folks who use their boats as a weekend condo.  That's all well and good, for sure.  However, most of the time these people not only don't live anywhere near where these moorings are, they don't even live in the town in which the mooring is technically set.  So what gives them the right to drop a mooring in one of these places, effectively reserving that part of the bottom for them to use when they choose, but eliminating the use of that area for everyone else in the meantime.

Squatter moorings in Long Cove, VinalhavenIt's akin to leaving your coat in the best seat at the movies, for the  times when you feel like going.  Every movie showing you're not there, no one can sit in that prime seat, though, since you have "saved" it for yourself.  Or holding a certain parking space in the most convenient location at the supermarket, even though you only go once every two weeks.  Is it fair to lay claim to part of the bottom of a harbor in situations like this?

One could argue that these moorings are available to anyone in the meantime, on a first-come, first-served basis.   True enough, but I don't buy this as an excuse that should allow this sort of mooring placement to perpetuate.  I am continually amazed by people in all manner of cruising boats--from Twinkie 12s to the Luxobarge 50--who swing into one of these anchorages and, without seeming to hesitate to even think it over, make a beeline for the nearest mooring ball.  With rare exception, we never pick up these moorings (not that we don't discuss it each time, though).   Why?  A couple reasons.  First and foremost, who knows what is down on the bottom, and how well it is maintained?  Maybe the mooring was set by someone with a 22' express cruiser, knowing full well that they simply wouldn't ever be on the mooring if  it wasn't a calm, seasonal night.  So it might be a 50 lb. mushroom, or the guy's last engine block from his Mustang, or something else equally ridiculous.  Maybe they haven't inspected the chain in 10 years, and only the mussels clinging to the chain are actually holding it together.  And I'm supposed to have faith that these moorings are going to hold my boat?  I know that my own ground tackle is in good condition and will hold the boat, so why shouldn't I use that instead?

The other reason we don't pick the moorings up is, well, simply put--they don't belong to us, and we'd rather not be forced to move at 7PM on a Friday night when the owner of the mooring shows up for the weekend.  By then, what anchoring space there is is probably gone anyway, so where would we be then?  I always find it better to just anchor the boat, and then feel a weird combination of smugness and envy as we watch others traipse in after us.

There are certain harbors on the Maine coast where this is more of a problem than others.  The Goslings, in Freeport, is perhaps the worst--what used to be a pleasant, convenient place to go in Casco Bay has instead become a nightmare of bobbing floats and party animals who show up every weekend to park on their individual moorings, which moorings prevent anyone from truly using the cove at any other time anyway.   Perry Creek, on Vinalhaven Island, was a huge disappointment to us--what should be a beautiful, isolated estuary is now so overloaded with moorings that you cannot anchor, except for a few tight places.  (We anchored.)  Long Cove on Vinalhaven was another place with more moorings than it should have, although there was still plenty of decent anchoring room--just not quite where you might have chosen if there were no moorings blocking the way.

Moorings in organized harbors are different, though it's still amazing how some people just steam in and pick up the first one they see, without regard to who might own it or want it back later.  Trouble is, not once this past season did I have the pleasure of watching one of these bold, sense-of-entitlement people get booted off a mooring ,much to my dismay.

I find myself in a real quandary here on this issue.  On the one hand, I'm proud to say that we don't pick up random moorings, and that we always pay for rental moorings when pick one up (amazingly, many people pick up moorings that are obviously rentals, with clear instructions in the cruising guide or on the buoy, yet they don't pay.  People like this ruin things for the rest of us).  On the other hand, sometimes I'd just rather pick up a mooring and not have to deal with the anchor; there's no denying the convenience of it all.   In nearly all situations, my better judgment wins out, and we anchor.

I have nothing against legitimate moorings in any cove.  If you own a home on the cove, of course you're entitled to one or more moorings.  In no case, however, are these the moorings to which I'm referring in my diatribe.  No, the homeowners tend to place their moorings near the shore, and not in prime anchoring territory.  

Obviously, the municipality in question has a lot to do with how this is handles.  Oftentimes, there is simply a lack of mooring regulations and requirements.  Other times, it's a matter of a lack of enforcement.  All I can say is that I hope that the issue is addressed, municipality by municipality, as required to prevent the problem from getting worse (which it will), and to hopefully reverse the trend.

Comments on Radar, Electronic Charting, and Navigation:

We had an outstanding summer, weatherwise, and the incidence of fog was far lower than normal.  During our cruise of nearly two months, we only had two days of fog that prevented us from leaving when we had intended to.  That's nearly unheard of.  As a result, we really didn't use the radar this season.  No complaints from me--I hope I never ever use it in the future too.  

That said, I'm glad we have it.  If nothing else, it's nice to know you could go safely if you had to.  We used it on one day during the cruise when we tried to leave Winter Harbor late one afternoon after a long day of fog; we had never intended to stay more than one night there.  Since I knew that there might be some fog remaining, I had the radar going when we left.  By the time we reached the end of the harbor, the fog had become thick, and we said the heck with it and turned around.  But the radar gave us a wonderful, clear picture of our surroundings that, coupled with good paper charts, made it all seem pretty easy to get around.

I can't imagine having the radar display mounted anywhere but on a bracket where it can be seen by the helmsman.  I never understood why people stuck it away inside the boat in the "nav" station.  It seems cool and convenient to have a surrounding of electronics bristling from a flush bulkhead inside the boat, but for most of us shorthanded (couple) cruisers, it only makes sense to have the navigation equipment in the cockpit, where you actually have to spend you time while on passage.  Our radar is on a swing-out bracket so you can see it from the cockpit.  With the unit swung in, it's convenient to play with from the cabin as well.

I think people make too much of a fuss over the range of their radars, and where the antenna is mounted.  Remember:  we're on a sailboat that is traveling at 3-6 knots.  How important is it to know what's 16 miles ahead?  It'll take you at least three hours to get there anyway.   What is important is knowing what might be within a mile or two of you at any given time.  Navigational buoys, land masses, and other boats--on a small boat, these are the things you are concerned with, and only when they're close.

I think it's prudent to bump the range up from time to time to see what could be heading your way, but as a general rule it's the closer targets that matter.  When using the radar to help navigate into a harbor in reduced visibility, you might even have the scale at 1/4 or 1/8 mile to really pick up what's around you.  For these low ranges, I maintain that it's actually better to have the radar mounted lower, such as on a transom pole.  Remember, height = range.  The higher a radar antenna, the better and farther it can see ahead.  Radar is line of sight only, and as we all know, you can see farther the higher you get.  OK.  Conversely, however, this means that you miss out on closer targets the higher the dome is mounted.  The vertical beam width of a radar limits how close "beneath" the dome the radar can see as it scans.  The higher up the dome is, the farther out the angle of the beam width is projected before it hits targets close to the water (like buoys and small boats).  The lower the dome, the closer it can see.  So dome height  and location is as much a function of how you intend to use the radar as anything.  

Our dome is mounted on a pole at the transom.  I like it there--and it's out of the way of the genoa, yet easy to get to the dome if need be.  But enough about all that.

Our main navigational tools were the Garmin GPS (with G-chart) and NOAA paper charts.  However, what made navigation really simple and fun was the Cap'n software on the laptop.  I rarely (almost never) used this while actually underway, but I did use it for planning purposes in the evenings, and then downloaded the route info right into the GPS.  This way, I had thorough, well-planned routes for every passage that would show up on the GPS screen (the GPS had a plotter screen).  Coupled with the NOAA charts for true navigation, this was a simple, and effective, combination.  The planning function of the Cap'n software was the best.  We all know how tedious it can be to enter waypoint information into the GPS number by number...with the downloaded routes, it took only a couple seconds to download a 20-waypoint route.  I enjoy doing real chartwork on paper charts, but let's fact it folks--a 28' Triton simply doesn't provide adequate work room for this kind of thing.  I wouldn't dream of any passage without all the charts on hand, and always had the proper chart in the cockpit, or nearby at least and ready for reference to augment and confirm what the basic charts on the GPS were showing.

I found room for all the charts for the Maine Coast up in the vee berth.  I like to roll the charts, which avoids the inevitable situation where the buoy you want is right on the fold.  I have found that it works well to unroll the portion of the chart needed  and weigh it down with cushions or whatever in the cockpit, and that the charts hold up better than when folded.

Read all about our electronics and their installation here.

 


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