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Ocean Gold

Season 2024 - to the Caribbean

Bluewater upgrades, a return through Orca Alley, the Canaries, and across to Grenada via the Cape Verdes.

Ocean upgrades - getting Atlantic ready

With the Atlantic beckoning in November, the pre-season has been one of extensive planning, budgeting, and equipment upgrades.  Arkyla has already proven her bluewater credentials crossing Biscay in 2022.  I had extensively refitted Arkyla pre-Biscay to what I thought was an ocean-ready status; this included safety systems big and small, a sail plan for a short-handed crew, electronic upgrades, and installation of solar and wind power renewables.  Many lessons were learned on Biscay however, and a more critical look at her systems for extended downwind passage-making has inevitably resulted in further significant dents to the wallet!  I have grouped the upgrades into key areas; sailing equipment, communications, power, and life support, security, and comfort:

Sailing & safety related equipment:

Sails.  When replacing Arkyla's sails in 2019, I discussed my need for an easily-handled downwind rig with the legendary Peter, namesake behind Sanders Sails of Lymington.  I was taken by the recent introduction of the Elvstrom 'Bluewater Runner', and Peter cut me a pair of lighter-weight genoas in highly durable Vectran cloth; this twin headsail combination is permanently set on the forestay and used with sails either atop each other when reaching, or poled out either side when running downwind.  This has proven an excellent rig... except in light airs.  With winds below 10 knots, there just isn't enough puff to keep the sails filled with resulting collapsing toward the head and consequent rolling if there is any level of sea state off the stern.  After much soul searching, I have dug deep and splashed out on a Parasailor!  An expensive sail, but significant savings by arranging delivery, through the most helpful UK dealer Stuart of, to the boat in VAT-free Gibraltar whilst Arkyla is 'Yacht in Transit'.  A significant investment, but one that I foresee will pay dividends well beyond the Atlantic crossing.  Cost:  £7,600 (exc VAT, but includes delivery and 4x sheets/guys).

Crew safety.  Moving between crew area and helm position within the cockpit requires stepping up and around the binnacle and wheel; this used to necessitate unclipping from the forward hard-points and being untethered until clipping back in once at the stern - clearly a significant and unacceptable risk at night and mid-ocean. To address this key safety concern, I have had a bespoke jackstay made up by Jimmy Green Marine; this attaches at the front of the cockpit, but provides a continuous line round and behind the binnacle so there is now no need to unclip to move anywhere within and between cockpit areas. Cost:  £50.

Boat safety.  World Cruising Club (WCC) conditions of entry to ARC/ARC+ rallies have been updated; boats must now be equipped with an additional high-volume electrical (or engine) driven water pump capable of expelling at least 200 litres/minute.  I have purchased a 3500 gallons per hour marine unit from AmazonCost:  £45.


Satellite communications.  Another WCC condition of entry is to have an approved long-range communication system onboard; this can be either SSB radio, satellite system, or both.  For many cruising boats, Starlink is the system of choice; I have chosen not to go this route, primarily on the basis of power draw required by the system and the fact that it doesn't offer an emergency solution if abandoning the boat was required. I have instead equi[[ed Arkyla with the Predictwind Iridium Go! Exec package.  Clearly this does not provide the high-speed access to the internet as per Starlink, but it does provide optimised mail, messaging and, most importantly, Predictwind weather and routing services. Cost:  £1640 (hardware).  Predictwind Professional subscription £400 (1 year - shorter terms available).  Predictmail subscription £100 (12 months - shorter terms available)

Power generation:

Hydrogeneration.  Arkyla already has 300 watts of solar and a potential 400+ watts of wind power.  The Atlantic east-to-west passage brings with it certain renewable limitations however.  In more southern latitudes, days are shorter than those experienced in more northern summers so available hours for solar charging are more limited; the potential of shielding by large downwind sails as the sun moves forward of the bow can also limit the potential for charging for typical installations of panels on a boat.  Whilst the tradewinds will hopefully blow consistently at 15-20 knots, the liklihood is that they will be blowing from the stern resulting in lower apparent wind speeds and charging potential. As part of a 'spread betting' approach, I am adding a hydrogeneration layer to Arkyla's renewable energy setup.  I have chosen a Remoran Wave 3GS package; it is good value for money and low impact in terms of weight and space to store when not fitted to the transom.  Potential energy generation is an expected 200 watts day, night, rain or shine. Cost:  £2500 (complete installation package).  

Life support, security & comfort:

Water supply.  For the 5-day Biscay crossing, I provisioned with bottled water to support drinking and cooking for crew; quite apart from taking up so much space, it was expensive and environmentally damaging given the amount of plastic.  A similar water strategy would not work for an Atlantic crossing.  Water-makers are expensive in terms of money, space, and electrical power.  Arkyla is blessed with large water tanks (800 litres spread between 2 tanks); as such I looked for a solution to ensure safe drinking water predominantly from the existing boat tankage.  I decided to install a Riva Explorer Overland twin filter system in the galley.  The recyclable filters are made from biodegradable materials; one filter eliminates legionella and bacteria, the other filters contaminants including heavy metals, microplastics, hormones, drug residues, pesticides, fungicides, carbon, asbestos, and chlorine.  I have designed the system so that it can be easily unplugged from the galley plumbing and used as a pre-filter for water topping up the tanks.  Cost:  £290 (initial installation), £80 (set of 2 filters for each season) .  

Security.  This section I have broken into two core risks; dangers from mother nature, and defence against raiders.  In terms of the natural environment, climate change and its impact on global weather systems has significantly impacted the marine insurance industry; there are few insurers even willing to underwrite boats heading to, and remaining in, the Caribbean.  The premium from my present insurers (Admiral Marine) will nearly double yet, even if the boat is located outside of the official hurricane zone, there is no cover against any named storms.  Topsail have indicated that they will cover the boat, including named storms outside the zone, but the premium does rise an extra 10%.  To sleep easy at night in the tropics with air flowing through the boat, but without the fear of marauders of the night sneaking aboard to relieve the boat of equipment and possessions, I am having bespoke companinway and forehatch security grills fabricated. Cost:  Comprehensive hull insurance £4,600 (cover against named storms), Security grills £300.  

Comfort.  Arkyla is a raised deck saloon; as such there is potential for the double-glazed windows to make the interior of the boat unbearably hot.  She is already equipped with low-power fans in each cabin and can, if desired, use the Eberspacher diesel heater to pump ambient air around the boat (not burning diesel, but needing a high current draw).  To keep the interior cool, I have therefore invested in covers for the deck saloon windows; these are made so that it is possible to see through them to observe the outside world, but they reflect much of the heat from the sun.  Once the sun dios, biting insects becomes an issue in the tropics; I have some great Waterline Design mosquito net products from the Swedish-based BoatSystem Group that includes forehatch windscoop, companionway net, and hatch covers.  Cost:  Window covers £230 , Windscoop £60, Companionway net £65.  

Total Atlantic refit cost:

The costs detailed above are the main items to bring the boat ocean and tropics ready.  I haven't of course included items such as marina fees, provisioning costs, engine spares, or other minor ancillaries that will inevitably occur on any type of long passage.  Not all of these costs are essential, indeed some could be considered an extravagance!  However, given Arkyla was already a well-equipped Swedish-built bluewater cruiser, they give an indication of what may be needed to take a 45' boat trans-Atlantic in both comfort and safety.  Whilst it is undeniably possible to sail oceans on a budget, and many cruisers do so, it is aswell to take the many social media claims out there that ocean sailing can be as cheap as you want to make it.    Total baseline ocean & tropics refit and security cost:  £17,780.  

Please check back throughout the season as I continue to update this page with stories on:

Exiting the Med
Transiting Orca Alley
Sailing the Canaries
The Cape Verde islands
Atlantic crossing to Grenada


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