Preparing for Ocean Voyage James & Jennifer Hamilton
WWe purchased Dirona, a Nordhavn 52, with a plan for world cruising and rigged the boat with that in mind. In the years before placing the order, we built a long list of desired equipment and functionality garnered through reading, attending boat shows, experience on our previous boat, and discussions with other cruisers. We equipped the boat with most of the gear on our list prior to leaving Seattle in 2012, have used almost everything since, and have made relatively few upgrades along the way. Of the few items on our list that we didn’t install, we later learned that some of these choices probably would have been a bad call.
This is the third article in a three-part series describing our trip around the world on Dirona. The first article (“56,000 Miles and Counting,” PassageMaker, April, 2017) covered trip planning and various aspects of being underway; the second (“Ducks in a Row,” PassageMaker, May/ June, 2017) describes how we made the logistic complexities fade into the background so we could enjoy the trip; and this final installment covers how we rigged Dirona for the journey, with special emphasis on gear needed outside our home cruising territory of the Pacific Northwest.
Dirona is a 60Hz boat. This utility power frequency is common in North America and some parts of Asia, but most other parts of the world use 50Hz. Operating equipment outside of its frequency range may damage it, so we designed the power system to be able to isolate the house electrical loads from shore. The boat has highcapacity, frequency-invariant chargers and sufficient inverter capacity to run all the appliances. In 60-cycle countries, the shore power supplies the boat as usual. In 50-cycle countries, the shore power feeds the chargers and the house runs off the inverters. A detailed description of our power system is in the April 2016 issue of PassageMaker.
Beyond frequency, shore-power connections vary greatly among countries. To avoid replacing our main power cord plug as we traveled, we brought several pigtails to build adapters as needed. Our main power cord plugs into one end of the pigtail and we wire a country-specific connector to the other end. Sourcing the connectors locally was easy, much more so than trying to determine and obtain the part in advance. For example, we ended up building three differing adapters for the same marina in Papeete, Tahiti, which surprisingly had 60Hz power. The marina lent us one adapter, and we bought the other two at a local marine chandlery. These latter two adapters ended up being compatible with most the other places we took shore power in the southern hemisphere: Fiji, New Zealand, Reunion, and South Africa. Australia was the only stop in the region needing a different connector.
Something we hadn’t considered prior to leaving is that water-faucet threads are metric in most countries. Our U.S. hoses didn’t attach properly and leaked water at the connection. Gardena quick connectors are common in New Zealand and Australia, and are compatible with U.S. parts. So we added U.S.-sourced connectors to all our hoses and purchased metric connectors in New Zealand to screw onto local faucets.
ON THE DOCK
Many docks we tied to around the world were exposed to surge, and sometimes we were up against a rough concrete wall. These conditions require large fenders and strong lines to protect the boat, and lots of anti-chafing gear to protect the lines where they rub against the wall. Large
fenders are a pain to stow, however, so we went with inflatables. The first brand we bought developed seam leaks after a short period of use. We eventually switched to ProStock Marine, with welded rather than glued seams, and they’ve performed flawlessly in extreme conditions. We carry six of the 18×24s and two of the 24×42 sizes, and included them in the pallet we shipped to Australia in 2015 (see “Ducks in a Row,” PassageMaker, May/ June, 2017). We can quickly inflate and deflate them with a portable vacuum cleaner, and they take up relatively little space in the flybridge brow. After years of use and abuse, we have never had a single leak with these fenders, whereas every fender from the previous supplier leaked.
To secure the boat, we ordered 25- and 30-foot, one-inch dock lines with anti-chafing gear around the eyes and partway down the line. We’d been warned to also carry additional anti-chafing gear to protect the lines. We did, and went through it so quickly we ended up buying more partway through the trip. We initially purchased sleeves in one-foot lengths, but switched to four-foot sleeves as these provided superior coverage. Another way to protect the lines is to run short lengths of chain from the dock across any points where the line might rub, and attach the dock lines to the chain away from the dock. We do carry these chains, along with shackles to connect them to the eyes of our dock lines, but find anti-chafe more convenient and simpler to use.
We also carry two 75-foot, one-inch dock lines that have been useful on a number of occasions, such as Med-mooring off an open-roadstead in heavy swell to take on fuel in Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia. The second use was to stabilize the boat in a superyacht berth in Barbados. We have these lines somewhat by accident. Our main ground tackle is a 154-pound Rocna with 500 feet of 7/16-inch chain, and we carry a 42-pound Guardian anchor as backup. For a backup rode, the best price we could find for 450 feet of three-strand nylon rope was a spool of 600 feet. This left us with 150 feet to spare, so we had a rigger cut it in half and install eyes and anti-chafing gear. We also have four lighter-weight, 150-foot lines that we expected to use for large canals like Panama, but so far haven’t needed.
On occasion, the only docking option is against several widely spaced vertical pilings. We built fender boards for this purpose, using schedule 80 PVC. Fender boards hang horizontally between two or more pilings and the fenders on the boat, allowing the boat to shift position fore-and-aft with the fenders falling between the pilings. Fender boards also can protect the fenders when moored against an abrasive cement wall. Most people build fender boards from wood, but we went with PVC, as it’s lighter and doesn’t rot or splinter. Our fenders are large and can be hung sideways so we’ve only used the fender boards once, in Dunedin, New Zealand, but we really needed them there. We stow our four fivefoot boards under the tender on the boat deck.
In many countries, particularly in Europe, space is at a premium and boats are moored stern-to the dock with a bow anchor down, a practice known as Med-mooring. This mooring method stands the boat off from the dock, so we specified a Besenzoni aluminum passerelle (gangway) with a socket in the swim step and in the gunwale. One end fits in the socket and the other rests ashore on wheels. The gunwale socket is used for high docks and the swim step socket for lower docks.
In 2009, when we first moved aboard our previous boat in Bell Harbor Marina in downtown Seattle, we bought Giant FCR-2
bicycles. We purchased them mainly for exploring farther from the boat, and they’ve been great for that, but the bikes also ended up being invaluable for living without a car in downtown Seattle and while traveling the world. With rear cargo racks installed, the bikes can carry a huge amount. Some of the crazier things we’ve transported include a full-size dehumidifier, a propane tank, and two 600-foot spools of line. Each of us has a pair of Ortlieb rearrack waterproof panniers whose large carrying capacity is ideal for grocery shopping. The bikes have performed wonderfully and needed surprisingly little maintenance, given they’ve traveled around the world on our flybridge. We store them in a custom canvas cover and the only regular maintenance they’ve gotten is heavy chain lube every few months.
A last-minute purchase before we left San Francisco for Hawaii was a Tipke 2100 folding cart that turned out to be much more useful than we expected. Many of the marinas we’ve visited don’t have dock carts, so having our own is handy. In Brisbane, for example, the marina had no carts and was at least a five-minute walk from any road access. We used the dock cart to transport four, five-gallon pails of delivered oil. Jennifer has taken the cart on countless grocery trips, and, if we’re at anchor, sometimes also a dinghy ride away. Like the bikes, we keep the cart stowed on the flybridge in a custom canvas case, which looks better, makes it safer to move the cart around without damaging the boat, and keeps all the loose parts secure. The cart is also a great conversation starter— we always get questions about it wherever we go.
We also have a dozen or so EarthTote Reusable Bags. They can handle heavy loads, so we can pack them to the top. When transferring groceries to the boat (and sometimes to the dinghy first), it’s much more convenient to have a few large, sturdy bags than many smaller ones that might rip. The bags also are great for loading the folding cart to maximum capacity.
TENDERS GREAT AND SMALL
We bought a 12-foot AB tender for Dirona before even taking delivery. It was excellent for high-speed, rough-water winter runs between our home port and Elliott Bay Marina where Dirona was commissioned. The deep-V hull handles heavy seas well, and it’s a sturdy platform for diving and generally touring around. A 30knot tender that can handle heavy seas and cover long distances is a great partner for a slow, oceangoing boat. We frequently explore as far as 30 or 40 miles away from Dirona in the tender. It’s also big enough to carry our bicycles. We’d likely buy a similar model if this one needed replacing, but would consider the lighter aluminum hulls instead of our fiberglass model.
Another AB feature we like is the thick rub rail all the way around which protects the tubes when we’re tied off against a rough wall or dock. We often use a Tuggy Products’ Anchor Buddy (a bungee cord that attaches to an anchor) to keep the dinghy in deep water in tidal areas or to pull it away from a busy or dangerous dock. We installed a depth sounder that is useful, for example, in locating wall dive sites and keeping a close eye on depth as we work through shallow water.
The AB’s size and weight provide many of the features we like, but they also are a disadvantage. Other cruisers had told us the big tenders common in the Pacific Northwest just aren’t suitable for beach landings in the South Pacific, but we figured we would simply make do. After nearly capsizing the 850-pound beast in the surf off Maui, we realized they had a point. In Honolulu we bought what we call the “micro-tender,” a Mercury 6-foot, 7-inch inflatable with a 2.3-horsepower Honda motor. We can deploy and stow it quickly, and the whole package weighs just under 70 pounds. We can carry it between us, over reefs, or up a beach through surf to tie it on shore out of the tide’s reach. We’ve even drift-dived with it in French Polynesia, towing it 100 feet above us on a long line.
As an experiment, we’d gone with as small as possible, but the Mercury was a little tight for space, a bit of a wet ride, and wasn’t very stable, both initially and directionally. When we saw the next larger size on sale, we couldn’t say no. The new microtender is 7’ 10”, weighs only eight pounds more, and stows in the same place in our lazarette. It has much more interior space, is a dryer ride, and is more stable. We love it.
Below: Our Giant FCR-2 bicycles, with rear cargo racks installed, can carry a huge amount. Some of the crazier things we’ve transported include a full-size dehumidifier, a propane tank, and two 600-foot spools of line. Bottom: ProStock Marine inflatable fenders are big enough to protect the boat on docks exposed to surge and strong enough to handle rough concrete walls for years.