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Tips After Two Circumnavigations

June 28, 2004
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The rig: Inspect your rig for weak points. Rigging redundancy, such as an inner forestay and running backstays, may save you from a dismasting. External chainplates are strongest and easily inspected. Mast steps were a lifesaver on this passage.

Self-steering: A windvane is most dependable and powerful. Add a tillerpilot for light winds and motoring. Experiment with sheet-to-tiller self-steering for a backup.

Electrical: Fewer electronic gadgets mean more trouble-free passages. Only our GPS, VHF, and SSB receiver are mandatory. A 200- to 400-amp-hour battery bank with one or two 50-watt solar panels suits our needs.

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Fresh water: We don’t begin a long passage with less than 40 gallons per person in tanks and containers. To top off tanks on a small boat, catching rainwater on deck or in awnings and a large storage capacity works best.

Ground tackle: On a Triton-size cruiser, I like a heavy anchor, such as a 33-pound Bruce, on at least 100 feet of 5/16-inch chain with a nylon extension. We carry three secondary anchors (a 20-pound Danforth, a 15-pound Fortress, and a 21-pound storm Fortress), each with 25 feet of chain and 100 feet of nylon rode, ready to deploy. A manual windlass is useful.

Dinghy: Inflatables are unsuitable for my needs. Desirable rigid-dinghy characteristics include easy rowability (so you won’t need an outboard), a flat bottom aft for stability, built-in flotation (so it can serve as a life raft), chafe guard on the bow and transom (so you can deploy and retrieve a second anchor), and a length around 7 feet (so it will fit between the mast and the bow cleat).

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Galley: A gimballed one- or two-burner kerosene or propane stove with high railings for full-size pots is adequate. An oven can be fashioned from a heavy aluminum pot set on the stovetop and wrapped in aluminum foil. A foot pump at the sink is best. Don’t even think about refrigeration.

Comforts: I won’t sleep far from instant access to the cockpit; two full bunks with lee cloths in the saloon is ideal. We use a solar-shower bag hung over the cockpit, topped up with stove-heated water on cold days. A cockpit dodger, bimini, awning, and hook-and-loop mozzie screens over all hatches are required equipment aboard Atom.

Safety: Instead of relying on man-overboard systems and luck, we wear safety harnesses at all times offshore. Thorough boat preparation and route planning are more of a requirement than a rescue beacon. There is some risk in crossing oceans in a small boat that we accept in return for self-reliance.

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