Sunday, June 10, 2012

Recent Upgrades and Musings on Compromises

While by no means having an unlimited budget for cruising, we're fortunate to be able to afford to make small upgrades to the boat to make our life aboard more comfortable. Last year, in addition to replacing our primary jib halyard with new, we struggled over a decision between solar panels or an auxiliary generator. We opted for the generator. We purchased a Honda EU 2000i based on its compactness, efficiency and relatively quiet operation. The final rationale was that it could provide reliable portable power, on the boat or off. The two biggest downsides to this decision have to do with the dependence on gasoline to provide this power. In addition to not being a green source of renewable energy, the inherent dangers of gasoline on a vessel is always a safety concern. While not being able to rationalize the first issue, we already have gasoline on board for the outboard for the tender, having a bit more for the generator doesn't significantly increase the safety considerations.

The second upgrade made this year was to the depth sounder. We had an old Signet digital depth, temperature and speed module which was beginning to suffer from dark areas on the screen, making it difficult at times to read the depth soundings. The old unit is no longer supported by Signet, so we opted to upgrade to the new SL 250 SmartPak base model that serves at its replacement. It provides the same data as the original model but is capable of being expanded (at a cost) to provide more data using the same base unit. For now, the depth, boat speed, log and water temperature data will satisfy our needs at this point.

The main sheet assembly and line is scheduled for replacement this time around. The traveller, itself, really could be upgraded and replaced, but that will probably have to wait until the boat is back in San Diego in a year or two. The line on the boom vang is nearing its replacement cycle. We're considering going with a rigid vang to eliminate our topping lift. This improvement may be postponed another year.

The final upgrade that is scheduled for this year is replacement of the rudder. For those of you who have read about our rudder delamination and rebuilding issues (see previous posts), the prudent solution at this juncture is to replace the defective rudder with new. Fortunately, the Foss Company in Newport Beach, California still manufactures rudders for our Cal 39 and we plan on using them to provide us with our replacement. Originally we were considering removing the old rudder at the time of haul out this summer and install the replacement when we return in the Fall. However, having the rudder swapped in and out at the same time seems to make more sense.

As was overheard one morning on the dock, the Cal 39 was never designed to be an off-shore cruising boat. It was one of the many compromises between a better than average (for its vintage) sailing boat with a modicum of creature comforts to allow for extended sailing. It wasn't designed with the necessary tankage of the true cruising designs to allow for long range motoring and it doesn't have the interior volume that seems to be considered a "must-have" for many of the retired cruising couples of today. It also doesn't have all the systems that many modern cruising boats are fitted with. However, as with most basic designs, it doesn't require a crew, electronic or hydraulic aids to be able to manage it under virtually all sailing conditions we could expect to encounter.

All boats are a compromise. As pointed out by the foppish comments shared by the self-appointed cruising guru on the dock, there are aspects of Citla that sets it apart from true cruising designs. The fuel capacity for one, is on the low side for most modern cruising designs. The Cal 39 carries just shy of 45 gallons of diesel. For most destinations, that is more than adequate given the boats sailing characteristics. However, bashing back up the Pacific coast of Baja California, against wind, waves and prevailing currents, I felt it prudent to expand my capacity. The compromise I chose was to carry an extra 40 gallons on deck to provide a margin of safety. Not the most elegant nor seaman-like solution (wave wash can tear out both the full fuel cans and stanchions) when compared to designed for cruising boats, but an inexpensive, temporary alternative. Aesthetically, it's not a particularly handsome addition, but it is practical and doesn't require compromises to sailing characteristics that a few of the cruising designs seem to fall prey (of which, the worse offenders are better suited as motor-sailors rather than true sail boats).

Another difference, one that always elicits a great deal of discussion (especially in crowded cruising grounds), is the choice of ground tackle. Chain has its place and advantages. Having all anchor chain usually requires less scope and, therefore, less swinging radius than all nylon rode or chain and rode combinations. Chain is also a superior choice when anchoring in sea beds of rock or coral, for its resistance to chafe. The draw back to using chain is its inherent weight. It doesn't take a very heavy anchor with very much chain before even the fittest of us require mechanical assistance to retrieve our ground tackle. That means the use of either a manual, mechanical or a combination windless. Keeping it simple when it comes to windless choice has its advantages. A manual or combination mechanical-manual unit will always allow for retrieval of your anchor. This isn't always the case with a pure mechanical unit. There are instances where these have malfunctioned rendering the boat unable to anchor, either due to not allowing the chain to be let out, or knowing that once it is released it cannot be easily retrieved. With a chain claw, a length of line and one of the deck winches this, too, can be overcome, but that solution wouldn't be something to look forward to each time it was time to anchor. The other inherent disadvantage to all chain for many modest boat designs is the weight it adds to the chain locker. Larger cruising boats with broader bow entries or chain lockers situated further aft of the bow can get away with carrying all chain without its weight contributing to hobby-horsing when under sail in anything but the smoothest of conditions, which significantly impacts sailing efficiency and boat speed (even under power).

At the other end of this issue are dinghy davits. Boats lacking proper buoyancy in the stern sections can be affected by weight carried aft. Fortunately, with the shift towards designing boats that more nearly resemble sailing dinghies, with their broad flat aft sections, this isn't such an issue. Boats with pinched or narrow stern sections, will be affected when hanging the weight of davits and a dinghy off the stern, again contributing to hobby-horsing and poor sailing performance.

When it comes to these two issues, we choose to be very "un-cruiser" like. Our two bow anchor rodes consist of 30 feet of chain each and 300 feet each of either 5/8" 6-plait or 5/8" three strand nylon. Our stern lunch hook has 20' of chain and 250 feet of three strand nylon. When not inflated, our dinghy lives next to the mast in the cabin. When inflated it either rides on the cabin top, forward of the mast or is towed behind the boat, without motor and oars. For either of these choices, whether all chain or dinghy davits, it's a matter of choice, functionality, safety and comfort. There are no hard and fast rules governing what can or should be done, as long as one is aware of the compromises. Unless you're going cruising with an unlimited budget, there is no "right" answer to most design issues; there are always acceptable solutions, each with its own associated set of compromises.


Belinda Del Pesco said...

Enjoyed reading this today, and found it very timely, as we're new boat owners, making lists of additions in various categories: need to have, want to have, wish we could have, etc. Thanks for posting.

Neophyte Cruiser said...

I apologize, Belinda and Don, for the length of the entry, but am happy that you found it offered another opinion that you might have found useful. Your new boat looks like a winner and I'm sure you'll enjoy it following life's adventures. Good sailing to you!

Belinda Del Pesco said...

Oh, no apologies necessary... I love a good essay when it's written so well. :) Your points are excellent to ponder, especially with the links and specifics you've added. Keep writing, and we'll keep reading. And thanks for the good wishes on our boating adventures. We are *very* excited. said...

Good to have found your blog! I'm always amazed at how people have such firm opinions about things when there are obviously so many differing ideas about how to do things! It sounds to me as though your Cal 39 qualifies as a cruising boat, since you are down in Mexico with it. Have to love those old Cals. They are solid as a rock and they sail in winds that won't even get a 'true cruising boat' going. That's something we are looking at as we choose our next boat. We want to actually be able to sail it around here, not just sit at an anchorage. You have the layout we would want on your Cal 39. I look forward to catching up on your blog.

Sam said...

We bought Allegria, now Wind Song, in 2010, jull 154. What is hull number is Citla.

And I have some offshore experience and think our Cal 39 is a fine boat for the task.

Fair winds,