Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Way We Rolled

We sailed into our home port of Arzal last night after 3 action-packed months across the Biscay Bay in Spain.  I tried to stir up some positive emotions about being back home but couldn’t come up with anything more profound than pleasure over the prospects of a flush toilet and a private shower. 

Patrick missed his kitchen and blow torch.  Duck for lunch !
To combat the back-home blues (read: escape from the mountain of laundry, yard work, and house work), I worked up some statistics on how we did things (“the way we rolled”).  As I explained to Patrick to justify my down-time from yard work, this information helps us define our cruising style, which is important when considering the purchase of a new boat.

Number of days = 92

Number of at-sea days = 34

Average port stop, days = 2.7

Longest port stop, days = 12  (stuck by weather at our turn-around point, Camarinas)

Total Miles = 1518

Longest Distances = 216 Miles / 45 hours (4.8 M/hr)  Ile d’Yeu to Bilbao167 Miles / 34 hours (4.9 M/hr)  Bilbao – Medoc

Longest Motoring = 91 Miles in 17 hours (with ~ 1 hour pause to cut fishing net from propeller) from Santander to Gijon.

Average Distances = 45 Miles / sea day.  If I remove the two Biscay crossings, this becomes 37 Miles / sea day.

Speed at which we crack and launch the motor = 3.5 knots (unless we have a time-sensitive destination)
So what does this tell us?  

We spend more time visiting than sailing.  We knew this already, but it’s interesting to quantify it.  I actually thought the average port stop days would be higher, since it seemed like we spent a lot of time exploring, including two overnight excursions, one to Santiago de Compostella and one to the Picos de Europa.  It also seemed like we were pinned down by bad weather frequently, but sailing on average every 3rd or 4th day isn’t so bad for a couple of laid-back drifters such as ourselves. 

The Chateau of the Dukes of of our favorite local anchorages.

Ile d'Yeu by scooter.

South side of Ile d'Yeu

When we do sail, we make a full day of it.  Our average distance of 37 miles / sea day at our average cruising speed of 4.5 knots means we sail about 8 hours / day when we head out.  We actually quite liked the longer treks, mostly planned on days when the weather was favourable.  I had anticipated that we would take smaller hops and stay less time at each place, but the way we actually travelled was more relaxed.

A beautiful late-summer sail home.

A good motor is important.  I didn’t count up the number of hours spent motoring, but it more than we had anticipated.  Our Yanmar 18 HP was a trooper and never gave us problems.  (The decoupling of the propeller shaft coupler was not the motor’s fault).  The diesel consummation is very low - around 1 liter per hour at 2000 rpms and the oil level didn’t budge.  Unfortunately, there’s only so much oomph you can get out of 18HP and we can only get about 4.5 knots out of 2000 rpms on smooth seas.

We were in marinas more often than on moorings.  I didn’t work up the stats on this, either, but we weren’t at anchor very often.  The north coast of Spain doesn’t have very many good anchoring spots or harbours.  Once we got around the edge of Galicia into the rias, we had more mooring opportunities.  Four useful facts arose from mooring or not mooring: 

1) We hated having to inflate the dinghy, hoist it over the side, and attach the motor (if necessary) to go ashore, only to have to hoist it back on board, rinse it, dry it, deflate it, and restore it afterwards.  It’s so much work that we often just stayed on board rather than exploring, which is too bad. 

2) We don’t produce enough electricity with our wind generator alone for more than 2 days of autonomy, and the damn thing vibrates and resonates in the aft cabin, making it sound like you’re rounding Cape Horn anytime the wind exceeds 15 knots.

3)  Our water reserves (90 Litres / 24 gallons) are good for about 4-5 days for the two of us (about 3 gallons / day / person), and we don’t even drink the water from the reservoir. 

4)  We often wished we had a lifting or swing keel.  That would have allowed us to get into more harbours, some shallower areas and/or avoid a few more grey hairs from close encounters with the bottom during big tides.  It would also allow us to get closer to shore and maybe avoid having to use the motor on the dinghy.  We knew that a lifting keel would be useful in Brittany and the Channel Islands, but it’s also true around northern Spain and Galicia.  I’m beginning to think this is true just about anywhere there is a coast line.

The yard work beckons… sigh.

A little weeding, anyone ?


Unknown said...

I think I have answered my question re the lifting keel in reading this post! Seems like there are many advantages.
Interesting too re your wind generator. Will you get solar panels instead on your SO379 and where will you mount them?
We were thinking an arch of some kind with solar panels on the top and davits for a dinghy on the back - would want to get something that looked nice on the new boat though!

MH said...

We are having an arch made (max height 3.5 m above waterline for the canals !) on which we will have 2 solar panels and davits for the dinghy. We may eventually put a wind gen on, too, but most people tell us they aren't useful for the Med.

Unknown said...

Wonderful and good point re the height issue - that is something I hadn't even thought about. I look forward to seeing some pics. When do you get the new boat?

MH said...

Hi Astrolabe. The new boat arrives at the end of April / beginning of May !