AVOIDING THAT SINKING FEELING
I am not a brave person, and if you knew me well, you would discover that I am risk averse.
I don’t particularly like to take risks, but there is no other way to have memorable adventures.
The bigger the risk, the greater the adventure. That’s just the way it works.
I like bullet proof yachts. Steel yachts appeal to my conservative nature, and were it not for the fact that steel is a maintenance nightmare, and that steel yachts rot out from the inside when improperly maintained, I might have sailed around the world on a steel yacht.
Since steel does not work for me, my personal bias is in favor of heavy displacement monohulls that are nearly bullet proof. Their thick fiberglass hull forgives many a mistake made by novice yachtsmen, and takes care of you should you wander into the high northern or high southern latitudes. Heavy displacement monohulls can take a licking, and if you know what you are doing they will keep you safe in extreme conditions.
My favorite heavy displacement vessels are a Norsea 27, the Westail 32, and the Westsail 42. A Bristol Channel Cutter also works for me. It comes down to how many people are on board and the amount of provisions the yacht can carry for extended voyages at sea.
I had a Westsail 32 when I lived in Puerto Rico. I loved that boat, and I knew it could take me anywhere I wanted to sail in the world. It was an affordable heavy displacement world cruiser designed to sail downwind around the world. What it lacked in performance to windward was more than made up for by the confidence it inspired in me making me believe I could sail the seven seas - maybe even sail around the world. It was a sad day when I sold my Westsail 32.
My dream boat was a Westsail 42. It had plenty of room for a family of four, it had a sea kindly motion, and it was designed to sail from pole to pole. In was an unstoppable heavy displacement ocean cruiser, and I came close to buying one in Florida. It served my purposes well because it stoked my sailing dreams while I was working in Saudi Arabia, and made me believe there was a circumnavigation in my future when I left Riyadh.
Then the First Gulf War happened. We were getting bombed with scud missiles each night in Riyadh, and we eventually took an evacuation flight out of Riyadh back to the USA. When the wheels of our plane touched down in the USA, we realized that the Miami Boat Show was happening in a few days, and having nothing better to do, we went to the boat show. Little did I know that the boat show would put an end to my Westsail 42 dreams.
When we arrived at the show and trooped the docks, my wife spotted a Privilege 39 catamaran, and from that moment my fate was sealed. She got on the catamaran, and she instantly knew that this was the boat on which we would sail around the world.
Back then, catamarans were an aberration, an oddity, and people were sure that if you sailed a catamaran offshore, it would turn over and everyone would be lost at sea. People did not hesitate to tell you that you were committing suicide taking a small 39 foot catamaran on a voyage around the world. I had monohull sailors tell me I was going to die, and I had multihull designers tell me that catamarans under 40 feet were unseaworthy.
I ignored the opinions and advice of the self-proclaimed experts who had never sailed a 39 foot heavy displacement catamaran offshore. I charted a Privilege 39 for a week to confirm the seaworthy character of the vessel, and I put in an order for a new Privilege 39 from the factory in France.
I call the Privilege 39 a heavy displacement catamaran because it is robust, and the construction is heavy. The catamaran is only 39 feet long, but it weighed 13,000 pounds when it left the factory - and that is heavy for a cat of this size.
I didn’t get my heavy displacement Westsail 42; instead I got a heavy displacement catamaran that I trusted and that I knew could transport my family safely around the world.
I didn’t want a light go fast catamaran.
I wanted a heavy displacement go anywhere catamaran.
I also wanted a catamaran that was safe - safe enough to take my family around the world, and that meant it was unsinkable unless you blew it up in an explosion or burned it down in a fire.
I also wanted to avoid that sinking feeling.
Exit Only has two forward water tight compartments that act as collision bulkheads. For water to enter the accommodations of the catamaran, you have to violate a collision bulkhead one foot back from the bow, and then violate a second collision bulkhead eight feet back from the bow. The keel has a separate water tight compartment, and you could put a gaping hole in the leading edge of the keel without water entering the boat. Finally, the engine room is also a separate watertight compartment.
All of these compartments make it possible to avoid the sinking feeling when sailing offshore. There are lots of containers that fall off ships and logs floating offshore, and the watertight compartments on board Exit Only make it possible for me to sleep at night when I am sailing hundreds of miles from land.
The pictures at the top of this page show catamarans with extensive hull damage that survived the initial impact, and the inherent design and structure of the cat prevented them from sinking. The larger catamaran collided with a container at sea. Neither catamaran got that sinking feeling.
That being said, I have seen pictures of plenty of catamarans that have sunk on the reefs of the world. If you run a catamaran up on a reef and there is a significant swell running, the catamaran will not survive. Grinding the hull on a reef and sinking in shallow water is not about watertight compartments. It’s about how long the hull structure can stand up to pounding on a reef.
Not all catamarans are created equal, and some of them have such light (flimsy) construction that they might not survive collision with a container at sea. That’s why I sail in a heavy displacement catamaran.
I realize that there is no such thing as an unsinkable catamaran. If you get rundown by a ship and your cat gets broken up in small pieces, those pieces will sink.
On the other hand, a well constructed cat can sustain considerable hull damage and still survive.
I have a lot of confidence in Exit Only. She was constructed strong to last long. We have been sailing Exit Only offshore for more than 25 years, and she is still taking us around the world and making it possible to live our cruising dreams.
You can’t ask much more than that from your boat.
Avoiding that sinking feeling has worked for us for more than twenty-five years, and I hope our good fortune continues.
Awesome music video that captures the essence of what it's like to sail offshore in a catamaran around the world when conditions are less than perfect. David Abbott from Too Many Drummers sings the vocals, and he also edited the footage from our Red Sea adventures. This is the theme song from the Red Sea Chronicles.
Sailing up the Red Sea is not for the faint of heart. From the Bab al Mandeb to the Suez Canal, adventures and adversity are in abundance. If you take things too seriously, you just might get the Red Sea Blues.
If you like drum beats, and you like adventure, then have a listen to the Red Sea Chronicles Trailer.
Flying fish assault Exit Only in the middle of the night as we sail through the Arabian Gulf from the Maldives to Oman. And so begins our Red Sea adventures.
Sailing through Pirate Alley between Yemen and Somalia involves calculated risk. It may not be Russian Roulette, but it is a bit of a worry. Follow Team Maxing Out as they navigate through Pirate Alley.
Stopping in Yemen was just what the doctor ordered. We refueled, repaired our alternator, and we made friends with our gracious Yemeni hosts. We also went to Baskins Robbins as a reward for surviving Pirate Alley.
After you survive Pirate Alley, you must sail through the Gate of Sorrows (Bab Al Mandab) at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The Gate of Sorrows lived up to its name with fifty knots of wind and a sandstorm that pummeled Exit Only for two days. Life is good.
Although I like the feel of a paper book in my hand, I love trees even more. When people purchase an eBook, they actually save trees and save money as well. Ebooks are less expensive and have no negative impact on the environment. All of Dr. Dave's books are available at Save A Tree Bookstore. Visit the bookstore today and start putting good things into your mind. It's easy to fill your mind with positive things using eBooks. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can pull out your smart phone or tablet and start reading. You can even use electronic highlighters and make annotations in your eBooks just like paper books.