Cruising information for sailors around the world
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CLEANING - Do not use chlorine
bleach on sails, it seriously weakens Nylon® and Dacron®. Use
non-chlorine bleach, or baking soda and hydrogen peroxide solution (the
original Oxygen bleach).
SAIL THREAD - See "Dental Floss"
SALMONELLA - is the most common type of food poisoning - poorly refrigerated or stored cooked foods the most common culprit. Chicken and fish the most common meats that cause a problem. Headache, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and sometimes vomiting. Fever almost always present. If food poisoning is suspected, take two charcoal tablets (available in health food stores), then a broad-spectrum antibiotic, such as ampicillin or amoxycillin (though WHO recommends antibiotic only for infants, the elderly, and those weakened by other diseases, the head of the U.S. Army Medical Corps. for the Pacific basin told us he recommended it any time there was food poisoning). Take charcoal tablets first - they cannot hurt, so even if ineffective for your particular problem, they cannot make it worse. (See "Charcoal Tablets")
SALT WATER - In the tropics even the air is corrosive. The problem is that salt is everywhere, particularly on one's hands - pick something up and transfer salt to it - it then rusts, corrodes, mildews. Stainless steel fittings that never showed a spot of rust in temperate zones will quickly show rust spots in the tropics because of salt spray that dries before it has a chance to run off - even a two-day smooth and dry passage will result in salt crystals everywhere on topsides, and spots of corrosion leave pits in the stainless steel where more rust will form. What we do: before a passage, clean all deck fittings, then apply a thin film of Metal Wax. In harbor after passage, wash everything one can with fresh water.
POISONING (Tuna and
mackerel-like fishes) - (NOTE: This
is from information provided to us by a doctor, so terminology is a bit
esoteric in places - sorry. I include this because a friend of ours
suffered from this on a five-day passage in the Pacific, and it was
diagnosed and prescribed for over the SSB radio, while she had a few
very frightening hours.) Scombroid poisoning is an allergy-like
intoxication caused by the bacterial action of improperly stored tuna,
skipjack, bonito, and other mackerel-like fishes which are highly
esteemed as food fishes throughout the Pacific as well as in other
areas. These fishes become dangerous to eat when certain strains of the
bacterium, Proteus morganii act on a naturally-occurring substance in
scombroid fish flesh called histidine. This action causes the production
of histamine and a histamine-like substance called saurine without
producing the usual signs of putrefaction. This bacterial action may be
extremely rapid in warm climates if the fish is not properly
SELF AMALGAMATING TAPE - Useful for: taping rigging, electrical connections, anywhere that moisture or abrasion will loosen conventional adhesive tapes.
SEWING AWL - a wooden handle, heavy duty sewing needle (with thread hole in tip). For sail repair the awl is better than regular sail needle and sail palm because one can sew a lock stitch, and more accurately sew in the holes made by past machine zig-zag stitching, thus weakening the fabric less. One can substitute a smaller sewing machine needle, doing less damage to the sail. Also, with regular heavy-duty sewing machine needle it can be used to restitch awnings or other fabric articles while in-situ.
MACHINE - I heartily recommend
carrying one if you have the space. A zig-zag machine is most useful,
and no matter how confident you are in your generator, you should
consider having a manual crank - there will probably be times when you
need it (particularly if you have to make an emergency sail repair - the
motor on the machine may not be powerful enough to drive the needle, and
might drive it too fast.
SHORE POWER: Except in the US, some places in the Caribbean, and some parts of S. America, most places will provide shore power in the 220-240V range, and you should have a competent marine electrician wire your boat so that you can conveniently convert to this range and properly instruct you in how it can be converted when necessary. (NOTE: Since wiring for 110V needs to be more robust than wiring for 220-240V, it is easier and less expensive to go from an already-wired-for 110V boat to 220-240V than the other way around - really only requires changing circuit breakers, wiring new outlets). Write it down, be sure you have understandable instructions and diagrams, and properly-labelled parts. The code for grounding varies from one country to another; therefore, an AC polarity indicator is an absolute necessity (most marinas will supply adapters to hook up your boat, and you need to have a polarity indicator to be sure that yours and theirs are compatibly wired). We also have a marine battery charger that, with the flick of a switch, accepts either 110-120V or 220-240V. (see “Polarity”)
SHORTWAVE RADIO - For voice transmission; computer-generated Faxes; weatherfax when linked with computer. Giant worldwide party line for keeping in touch with friends, emergency calls, passage making. Options are a Ham Radio or a Single Sideband Radio (SSB). There are many Ham nets for reporting progress while passage-making. (see marine radio net details http://www.cruiser.co.za/radionet.asp )
SILICONE GREASE - Excellent for treating metal tools, sewing needles, etc. for rust prevention (see also "Dinghies", "Armor-All", "Metal Wax")
Peter and I haven't done any single-handed passages, and we don't care to. However, we know quite a few experienced single-handed sailors, and I've tried to condense some of the information they have given us.
One single-hander is a German friend, another Peter, who has made five single-handed Atlantic crossings. In my opinion, his most significant comment was "it was very irresponsible of me to do that." Thinking about two other former single-handers we know, who try to sleep for no longer than 20 or 30 minutes at a time before getting up to look around, I asked Peter how he handled watches. He said he got up with the sun and went to sleep with the sun. I expressed something between amazement and horror when I said, "you mean you slept the night through?!" "Yes," he said. (So did Joshua Slocum)
He then told me that one night during an Atlantic passage, "something" woke him in the middle of the night, and when he went up on deck to look around he saw the most incredible phosphorescent "highway" running alongside his boat. When he got over his grogginess, he realized that what he was looking at was the disturbed phosphorescent stream of a big ship that had come much too close to him as he slept. That got his attention.
With the increased automation of ships, and the relaxation of rules governing the number of crew on watch, you cannot count on a ship seeing you. The fellow (and it might be only one fellow) on watch is doing more than watching the radar, and it is very easy to be distracted for more than the 20 minutes or so that it takes a modern freighter to overtake a small sailboat from first sighting.
When we were in Western Samoa we met a fellow in his 70s who was on his third solo circumnavigation. He didn't make it, running his boat up on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, but although the boat was a total loss, he managed to escape with his life. He was headed for Papua New Guinea from New Caledonia.
He had checked his position, set his wind vane steering, and gone to sleep. He awoke to the sound of surf. While he was asleep the wind had changed, and the wind vane steered him right onto a reef. In his letter he commented that he had become too complacent. We understand complacency; it has caused us to get into a few pretty scary situations although luckily we have avoided the ultimate disastrous result this fellow had.
The second or third day out on our passage from Ecuador to Easter Island, I was on my favorite watch, 4 am to 7 am, when I saw a fishing boat on a collision course with us. We were sailing incredibly well, doing a comfortable 6.5 knots, just humming along, and so was the fishing boat, though probably at more like 10 to 12 knots. Nobody answered or acknowledged my radio hail in either English or Spanish. Finally I had to accept that the boat was not going to change course, and so I tacked out of his way, just in the nick of time. I can only assume that everybody aboard was asleep and the boat was on autopilot. We had taken on a young fellow as crew just for the Ecuador to Tahiti passage (he wanted to surf his way around the world, and we welcomed an extra pair of young hands), He had grown up on fishing boats, crewing on them from his early teens, and for at least one year skippering one. In discussing this fishing boat's behavior, he told us that we should never, ever trust a a fishing boat to know or heed the Rules of the Road. It was he who first suggested that everybody on the boat was asleep. Okay, you get my drift: I don't think much of singlehanding on long passages.
Some suggestions, though. We have a C.A.R.D. system (Collision Avoidance Radar Detector). We're on our third since we first installed one in 1993. The first one was upgraded, the second one was fried in a lightning strike, the third is working wonderfully, and the service we have received from the people at the company has always been quick, cordial, and exceedingly helpful (though granted very little has been requested). It must be emphasized, however, that big ships don't always have their radar on, so this is no guarantee of adequate warning of an approaching ship.
One of the most serious problems with singlehanding is sleep deprivation. We've been told of many instances where a singlehander has made elementary errors in judgment because of sleep deprivation, even experiencing hallucinations. Joshua Slocum reported hallucinations in his book, "Sailing Alone Around the World", so did Dodge Morgan.
You're going to need self-steering, and I would suggest that you have both a wind vane and an autopilot. We use our wind vane a lot, but in light winds or when we're motoring, the autopilot is necessary. As most of our single-handed friends say, you spend most of your time on passages lying in your bunk reading.
Not everyone can take short naps, and when things are going well it's difficult to discipline yourself to taking naps to conserve energy just in case conditions deteriorate and full energy and alertness might be needed. But that's what you should do. I would suggest you find a timer that you can set to go off after 15 or 20 minutes and then reset to the same time - then you can go up, look around, then reset the timer to go off again in another 15/20 minutes. This is especially useful at night, when it's more difficult to maintain vigilance. The only problem with the kitchen timers that I use is that their alarm isn't very loud. It's not a real problem for me, because any sound gets my attention, but for Peter, and many others, nothing short of a cannon going off will wake them.
Some more suggestions, and expansion on my comments from John, a delivery captain who has done many single-handed ocean crossings.
He acknowledges that each person has his own physical sleep pattern, and watches need to be adjusted to a person's unique physical needs. John says that he has a timer set for 20 minutes, and he stays awake through the night, partially dozing for the 20 minutes until the time goes off. He then checks the compass, takes a good look around, shines his small torch on the sails and wind vane to be sure they're doing okay, then settles down for his next 20-minute nap. He says that the trick is to never come completely awake. When the sun comes up in the morning he'll go below for an hour's sleep, to be repeated once or twice more during the day. He agrees that sleep deprivation, and physical exhaustion, are the two greatest enemies of any sailor, particularly so if he's single-handing.
He likes what he calls a "dog house" - i.e., a pilot house or, at the least, a hard dodger similar to what we've got on the WATERMELON, where you can be well-protected from the weather. Nothing will exhaust a sailor more than being cold and wet and stressed. He says he'll sit in the protection of the dodger, where he can see all around him, and nap lightly, conserving his strength. From our own experience, I can agree that having the hard dodger has increased our cruising comfort immeasurably.
German Peter said that he would lose as much as 20 pounds on an Atlantic crossing. I firmly believe that the demands of passage-making require good nutrition. You should carry quick easy foods for when the weather gets rough. I personally find that instant noodles, which can be rehydrated with just immersion in boiling water for a few minutes, supplemented with canned meat and vegetables, makes a quick, easy, hearty meal. Couscous, another carbohydrate that is simply "cooked" by just pouring on boiling water to rehydrate it in a few minutes, can also be improved with various additions. There are lots of these types of foods that are easy to prepare that should be part of your provisioning and trip planning. Carbohydrates are the source of metabolic energy, both for quick bursts and for endurance. Fats are how your body stores calories it doesn't use, and it's also what your body burns for heat - so you will need more fat in the colder weather and waters of the North Atlantic than you will need in the warmer climate of the tropics. Metabolizing protein takes the greatest toll on your system, requiring large amounts of water to metabolize. That's why survival rations consist almost exclusively of carbohydrates and fat - unsalted hard tack biscuits and chocolate being the most common. I would say in these modern times that breakfast bars would be a good substitute for the old hard tack and chocolate.
In my opinion, the hardest part of a passage is landfall. Lots of hard things to run up onto, lots of boat traffic, and sometimes many hours before you are safely in port. Making landfall when you are exhausted, and then spending several hours negotiating passages and strange navigation marks, if there are any, is loaded with opportunities to make mistakes. Offshore you have lots of opportunities to let your eyes and mind wander, and to take short naps, but coastal cruising and making it into port requires pretty much full attention. If you are tired from not enough sleep, you are at risk, and there's nobody with you to offer a second pair of eyes and a second opinion on what you are seeing.
Another one of our friends was a career navy officer who spent most of his almost 30 years in the navy at sea, and then moved off the ship onto his own boat. He had no permanent partner, but he had no trouble finding people who would crew for him and pay their share of the expenses. He made 1-1/2 circumnavigations that way, and had no regrets, and claimed to have had only one unfortunate experience with crew in the five or six years he was passage-making. I think that finding crew might be a bit difficult at times, but it has its advantages, and you have somebody to share the work and the joy of cruising. And as we "older" cruisers will tell you, there's a pleasure and comfort to be sitting in the cockpit of your boat, talking with your partner/crew, and saying "remember that sunset in Mangareva?" Or the volcano in Tanna, or whatever.
SOAP - Joy Liquid, of course, is the most common dishwashing liquid for all-purpose use in salt water. Dawn Liquid is the same. NOTE: Joy Liquid + chlorine bleach yields a strong acid that will burn holes in your clothes, not to mention what the fumes will do to your lungs. An Australian dishwashing liquid that is as good in salt water - "DOWN TO EARTH". Read labels. I discovered “Down to Earth” by noticing on the label that it used salt as a thickener. Thus it would work in salt water. Dawn and Joy contain ethyl alcohol, which I think is the reason they work in salt water.
SOCKS - See "Preserving Food - Fresh Vegetables"
SODIUM METABISULPHIDE.A biocide, used to sterilize home-brewing equipment. It is also used to “pickle” the water desalinator membrane on a boat when the unit will not be used for a week or more. We discovered it also as the “power wash” additive to some mail-order stuff we got as a gift. It smells terrible, but is an excellent biocide to keep bacteria and algae from growing. You need to filter the taste out, which can be done using a charcoal filter. Friends of ours used it exclusively for their water treatment. They once had their water tanks go foul, even using this, when they filled up their tanks in Phuket Thailand for their passage across the Indian Ocean. The water they received was heavily fouled and they did not pre-filter it. It is also possible they did not use a strong enough solution for this passage. See “Water”.
SOLDERING IRON(S) - Peter is adamant that all electrical connections in a boat must be soldered. Thus we carry a 12-Volt, Butane (available at most hobby shops, electronics shops), and a 240- Volt soldering iron. The 12-volt is the least efficient, the 240-volt gets the hottest, the butane is in between the two with regard to temperature, and its other benefit is that it is infinitely portable and convenient. Peter would not give up any of them.
SPACE AND WEIGHT-SAVING SUBSTITUTES - Kool-Aid unsweetened Lemonade mix for lemon juice; freeze-dried fruits and vegetables (Australia and New Zealand); water purification tablets for liquid laundry bleach, acetic acid for vinegar (See “Water purification”; “Acetic Acid”).
PARTS - Every cruiser could
sink his boat with spare parts. Ingenuity saves space - multiple uses
for any part saves space. There are no hard and fast rules - carry what
you feel you need. We suggest that you give thought to those items
necessary to complete a passage (such as fuel filters or alternator) or
necessary in an emergency while at sea (such as heavy-duty wire cutters
to cut away rigging in the event of a dismasting), and give them highest
priority. While in port you can borrow or in some way obtain things you
SPROUTING - For fresh vegetables easily carried, bean sprouts are handy and safe when you are in areas where sanitation is doubtful. Mung beans, lentils, wheat berries are tasty and easy to sprout, good in soups and stir-fry dishes as well as salads; alfalfa sprouts for salads. Basic technique: wash beans (eating grade) and let soak for a half hour or so in fresh water, then rinse and put in a largish jar or plastic container covered with mesh or cheesecloth and place in a dark cupboard. Twice daily rinse the bean and drain thoroughly (they will develop fungus, or rot if left to sit in water). After about three days you will have sprouts - six or more times the original volume of the seeds, so be sure the container is roomy enough. Many health food stores sell sprouting jars. The sprouts will keep for several days to a week in the refrigerator, two or three days without refrigeration (but they'll keep growing) if they are rinsed twice daily. Alfalfa sprouts work the same way, but it's suggested that after sprouting they be put in the sun for a few hours to green them. Since they are so easy to sprout, it's not worth sprouting more than a tablespoonful or so at a time.
SSCA - SEVEN
SEAS CRUISING ASSOCIATION -
with over 4,000 members, one of the largest cruising associations
around. Publishes a monthly Commodore's Bulletin with cruising
information worldwide. We belong, find it invaluable. Periodically
publish an Equipment Survey that is most helpful. Many Additional
Publications include various cruising guides. Mail inquiries to: SEVEN
SEAS CRUISING ASSOCIATION, INC., 1525 S. Andrews Avenue, Suite 217, Fort
Lauderdale, FL 33316 USA. Web site: http://www.ssca.org
STAIN REMOVER - Homemade fiberglass stain remover can be made as follows: combine in a stainless steel or enameled saucepan 2 Tablespoons Oxalic Acid crystals, 2 Tablespoons Corn Starch (Corn Flour), and approximately 1 cup (250 ml) water. Heat while stirring until it thickens, just before it comes to a boil. If solution boils it will thin. If too thick, add a bit of water. Good for removing rust stains, food stains on fiberglass - the corn starch is to make it sticky and hold against the stain - easily rinses off with fresh water, but don't let it sit so long that it dries and cakes. (See also, "Oxalic Acid").
STAPH INFECTIONS - Some popular and heavily-populated harbors are staph reservoirs - Charlotte Amalie in USVI; Blue Lagoon in St. Vincent; Gulf of Paria, Trinidad; Porlamar, Margarita Isl., VZ; Pago Pago, American Samoa are some examples from our experience. If small nicks and cuts redden and fester even with good hygiene, chances are you have a staph infection. Prevention is important, because once it establishes itself, antibiotics must be used to cure it. Staph infection in the tropics can make you very sick. Best prevention is to clean all cuts with antibiotic (or vinegar) immediately, then paint them with Gentian Violet (Note: Gentian Violet is difficult to obtain in the US, not available anymore in Australia. If you can obtain Gentian Violet Crystals, they are excellent because they are rehydrated with water, not alcohol). Once an infection has taken hold, WATERMELON has been very successful treating staph infections with "co-trimoxazole (sulfamethoxazole with trimethoprim)" - familiar brand names Bactrim, Septra. Usually recommended to be taken for 10 to 14 days, but our doctor suggests, for staph and urinary infections taking for no more than 7 days to avoid common side effects - usually fungal infections, Thrush. (see also "Fungus Infections"; "Ringworm"; refer to "Where There Is No Doctor"; "Antibacterial Soap")
STEEL WOOL - (or Brillo) Don’t ever use it on your boat. The tiny iron filings will break off, remain almost invisible until you start noticing tiny rust spots. If you must use a heavy-duty abrasive, use Brass Wool. (See “Rust”)
STRING BAG - Useful for shopping for fruits and vegetables in island markets, where one should bring own bag. String bag can be carried in pocket, expands as it is filled. Shoulder strap leaves hands free to carry other things (like a watermelon). If string bag is made of plastic, fruits & veggies can be immersed in salt water before bringing on boat, getting rid of bugs hidden in them. (see also "Backpack")
SUBSTITUTES - See: “Acetic Acid”; "Eggs"; "Lemon Juice"; “Moscarpone Cheese”; "Vegetables";
SUN CANOPY - In the tropics a sun canopy can make a 10-20° F difference in the interior temperature of the boat, not to mention the protection it affords by shading varnished or painted topside brightwork. The best canopies we have had were made with a silvered surface (one was bought through a catalog, was lightweight silvered nylon. Another was made up of ironing board cover material - it stood up longer because it was more strongly reinforced, but weighed more because it was heavier weight cloth). The next best is white. Keep in mind that the lighter the color the more of the sun’s rays that are reflected off the canopy and the cooler it will be; the darker, the more that are absorbed. We may not have been as color-coordinated as some other yachts in the anchorage, but we were much cooler. The higher the canopy off the deck the easier it will be to get around on deck, and the more air circulation. We have yet to have the perfect canopy built, but believe that they need to have to be high for ease of getting around on deck, but with side panels that hang down to shade more of the boat when the sun is not directly overhead.
- We leave approximately $20 in local currency, plus a container with
coins, on our chart table in full view when we leave. Assume that if a
thief comes on board he will take that and run. So far we have not had a
problem (nor thieves). Another technique we use, apparently instinctive
because we have always done it, and recently read it in a travel
magazine: when both of us are shopping together, each keep about $25 in
local currency in a pocket (rest in money belt). The person with the
least amount of money offers to pay the shopkeeper in a busy store,
doesn't have enough, has the partner come up with the balance after
scrounging a bit. The implication is that we are not worth the trouble
because we don't carry enough money. Don't flash large wads of currency
around. Don’t carry money, or wallets, or passports, in backpack, it
is too easy to pick while on your back. I had plane tickets stolen from
backpack (and city dweller that I was, I should have known better).
Purses can be snatched, or strap cut and grabbed. Money belts and fanny
packs seem to be the most burglarproof. Cruisers have reported instances
where locals on busses helpfully placed their backpacks, containing
cameras and/or other valuables, onto the overhead rack, and at the end
of the journey found it had been looted of its valuables. (see
THREAD - See "Dental Floss"
TIDE TABLES - Valuable everywhere. In the Caribbean are most useful for Trinidad, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico (rest of Caribbean, tide is 6 inches or so with little current to speak of). A program that will calculate tide tables anywhere in the world for the foreseeable future can be installed on your computer and eliminate the need for buying local tide tables. Can be obtained from Seven Seas Cruising Association as an additional publication. We have it, it's excellent - if you see us, ask for it (bring us your own 3-1/2" floppy disk, though). A newer tide table for Windows is now available for free on the Internet.
TROPICAL SAILING - See ”Acetominophen”; “Bimini”; “Dengue Fever”;“Fungus Infections”; “Intestinal infections/parasites”; “Mildew”; “Sun Canopy”
TROPICAL STORMS - See “Misinformation”
(UNIVERSAL COORDINATED TIME) - Formerly referred to as Greenwich Mean
Time and still referred to as such by BBC Radio. (also referred to as
'Zulu') Weatherfax, BBC Radio, various other shortwave radio services,
give schedules strictly in UCT. (See “Clock”)
VACUUM SEALER - We love it. Never again will we have to discard our fuel or oil filters because the locker filled up with salt water due to a freak wave over the bow with the hatch open! (you'd think that five or more years experience would have taught us more - but no, **** happens). I use paper coffee filters. Vacuum sealed, they take up 1/4 the space (a real boon on the 'melon), and stay clean and fresh. And on, and on. The only problem we've had has been power supply because our inverter is so small that it's not powerful enough, but we manage by hooking up to shore power and doing all those chores then, or finding somebody with a generator and trading their juice for a little vacuum sealing services.
VEGETABLES - Ripe Papayas can be cooked and eaten like pumpkin or squash (but if using to make a cake or coffee bread, be sure to cook and drain the fruit in a strainer, both to neutralize the papain and to drain the excess liquid - papaya has much more water than pumpkin and squash). Green Mangoes or green papaya make a good curried vegetable. Sprouting beans and alfalfa seeds is both easy and convenient. (See also, "Preserving Food", "Sprouting", "Angiostrongyliasis", "Cholera")
- One of the most useful provisions on the boat. A regular squirt in the
head slows down calcium buildup in the waste hoses; it is an excellent
antiseptic, particularly for coral cuts; is recommended as an effective
treatment for jellyfish stings, and works dramatically for sea anemone
stings. It dissolves uncured epoxy very well. A small amount used to
dampen a paper towel and then wrapped around your cheese will help keep
cheese mold-free. Also, if you can't shower after a swim, wipe down with
vinegar. You might smell like a salad, but it breaks salt into smaller
crystals so you itch less. (thanks, Mike)
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