AIS = Automatic Identification System

Since last year we carry an AIS transceiver from Digital Yacht (AIT 2000) with us. It combines VHF and GPS information that tells us which ships are around us, at what speed, in which direction, what the closest point of approach will be, when that will be etc and also sends the same information about Tioga to our surrounding neighbors on the water.

Very useful information, especially in busy shipping lanes like the Channel. On sites like you can get an idea as to how busy some areas really are.

We connected that transceiver to our wireless router (so that our iPad can receive this AIS data) as well as to our DSC VHF radio (so that we can see AIS targets on the radio display in the nav station as well as on the remote mic in the cockpit). An additional benefits is the fact that the AIS signal includes the target’s MMSI number (similar to a person’s cell phone number) which allows us to call a freighter, for example, directly via that MMSI number – rather than hailing everybody via channel 16 hoping that the particular freighter we want to reach actually responds.

The nice thing of using an iPad for navigation is that it allows us to use the latest apps that were designed to combine AIS data with chart software etc. This is a very affordable way to get this done, compared to replacing our permanently installed navigation equipment on the boat. The screenshots below show iNavX (our navigation software) displaying AIS information around us in Nahant.

Another benefit is that these days a lot of “other” things are equipped with AIS transmitters, such as buoys, windfarms or oil platforms – all quite relevant for the upcoming trip through the North Sea. iNavX has the option to only show moving targets (first picture) or all targets (fourth picture).


Final Practice

This weekend the adult crew of leg 1 (Nahant to Azores) came together for their practice sail. We went through the same reviews as last weekend, fixed and re-arranged a couple of things and then put our life belts on to practice our maneuvers while being clipped in.

That way, we got used to the constraint way of working and confirmed that the set up made sense. We marked the clip in points for the snatch blocks with tape, when used with the new preventers, and went through all reefing configurations.
Contrary to last weekend, the wind died when we were just about to start man-over-board drills. Instead, we went through all the electronics to make sure that GPS, Radar, VHF, AIS etc still worked. They did! (although I have a feeling that the AIS system has a lose wire connection somewhere)

Main take-away (same as last weekend):
It helps a lot to talk through the maneuvers with all involved before getting started. It makes things go smoother, reduces risks and ensures that all – not just a few – understand why we are doing what.

Now all we have left are a couple of sea trials to get the Aries windvane going, confirm the hydro generator is charging (and learn how to get it out of the water again) and double-check the AIS wiring.

With two weeks to go, we should be able to get that done in time

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3rd reef

You know it’s a windy day when you are happy that you kept the 3rd reef in when leaving the mooring.

That’s what John, Peter D., Doug and I experienced today during our practice sail.
We had met at the wharf at 1pm and taken the inflatable out to the boat. After reviewing all parts of the boat, such as emergency gear, navigation equipment, spare parts, tools, through-hulls, we put our foul weather gear on, life vests and harness and clipped in. We had gotten to the boat in t-shirt and shorts and over 70F (20C); however, the wind had just now shifted North, increased to easily above 20kn and dropped to about 50F (10C). Rain was poring and the waves further out looked quite like on offshore experience… we were happy to wear all our gear to keep somewhat warm and dry.

While on the mooring, we installed the new preventers on the boom and went through three reefs to practice the maneuvers and make sure we had all the equipment needed on board. After that, we left the mooring, unfurled about half of the genoa, tested the new preventer in some serious waves and then tried a couple of man-over-board drills.
Given the rough state of the sea, we used lobster buoys as a reference and tried to find ways to turn and stop the boat close to them. Given the significant wear on the rig and sails and our by now pretty cold hands, we went back in after a couple of drills.

While we did not manage to practice as many man-over -board drills as we had hoped, we still had a very successful day:
– all are familiar with the boat again
– we installed and test the new preventer set-up
– we determined the best location for the snatch-blog for the preventer lines
– we confirmed the best attachment point and knots for the 3rd reef
– we found the carabiners needed for the 3rd reef

Most of our crew for leg 2 (Azores to France) is now ready for the journey. We will get Sean up to speed on the Azores and Nick will have had plenty of time to get ready during the trip from the US to the Azores.

Next weekend, the crew of leg 1 will go through the same exercise.

A couple of the pictures that Doug took:

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Why would you drill a hole in the hull?

It’s never much fun drilling holes into our boat (and we drilled a lot of them this winter), but after consulting with our surveyor, George, we decided it was important to get core sample of the hull.

During his survey of Tioga in the previous week, George’s moisture meter had signaled a relatively high moisture level in larger sections of the hull (mostly close to a through-hull). Given that we are planning a longer passage and also hoped for a decent survey outcome for our insurance, we decided to drill hole from the inside to get to the core between the two fiberglass layers to determine what shape it was in.

Peter carefully drilled the hole through the first fiberglass layer and then into the wood, making sure to not drill into the outer layer. To our surprise, the wood was in very good shape and had to be broken off the outer hull. We drilled a hole close the the through-hull and one further away, deeper in the hull.

So no water damage and a confirmation that we are ready for the trans-atlantic journey. We’ll fill the holes back up this week.

Quite a relief for all involved.

Core sample Core sample Core sample Core sample Core sample Doug at work

Liferaft installation

The liferaft is an important piece of our safety equipment and we just complete the final installation.

It all started with a fair bit a market research about a year ago. Ulf and I searched the web for options. There were different vendors, materials, design, prices, sizes etc.
At the end of the day, we decided to buy the RescYou model made by Viking (made in Denmark, good design, great material, global service network at an attractive price. They also sell the self righting RescYou Pro, but after some research, we determined that is was highly unlikely that a raft would inflate in a capsized position).
As we store it on deck it had to come in a container. The largest number of crew for our planned offshore trips we 7. We therefore needed an 8 person raft.
We waited for the boatshow in Newport, got a good deal and had the raft drop-shipped from Florida to Dan’s company address.

Peter and I went through numerous iterations of where and how to store the raft. The container is fairly large and pretty heavy and it needs to be relatively easy to get it over the rail. We finally agree to store it under the vang, forward of the cabintop hatch. We designed  tie down brackets (stainless steel) and were very lucky that Dan could get them manufactured for us. Ulf found some heavy duty straps with stainless steel buckles at and were almost ready to go.
The bolts we bought for the tie downs turned out to not be trustworthy. We had to buy larger ones, redrill all the holes in the tie-downs as well as the boat and try again. Now everything fit together, but due to the weight and tension of the tie downs, the hatch cover bend and blocked the hatch.

We took the entire cover apart, sanded some of the hatch, added foam pads on the side of the raft to lift it up and were finally ready to go.

What seemed like a relatively simple exercise, ended up taking us a fair bit of effort to put together.

Hopefully, we’ll never have to touch the raft again…

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Now that we are in the final stage of our preparation, most of the US-based crew met yesterday to review our medical equipment and procedures.


Ulf presented the lessons learned from the Safety at Sea seminar and John walked us through the various packages full of medical equipment. We finished the event with practical exercises, such as stitching an open wound together. While we normally used porkfeet for this (their skin is very similar to human skin) we practiced with a banana as we could not get any porkfeet.

In addition to getting familiar with our equipment, checking it for completeness and figuring out what to store where and how; this was a great team building exercise and also highlighted the fact that this was not a “Disney-Cruise”, but something to take serious.
The equipment is logically grouped into various categories, stored in numerous bags/boxes. Items for daily use will be stored more accessible than items we will hopefully never have to use. Those items we would take into the liferaft are stored in the waterproof ditch bags.
For each package we have a laminated inventory sheet.

We selected Corinna as medical officer for leg 1 and 3, and John for leg 2.
We collected all of our doctor friends’ phone numbers and will program them into our phones for emergencies.

Stitchfest StitchfestStitchfest  StitchfestStitchfest Stitchfest

The prior weekend, we got together and reviewed the following:

– share what was presented during safety at sea (SaS) seminar – Dan/Peter
– share what was presented during safety at sea (SaS) seminar in-water session – Philip
– review gear – foul weather gear, boots, knife, headlamp, in-water lamp, sailing gloves, harness, tether etc
– review ditch bag plan/content – Ulf

– food plan / pre-cook meals – Corinna
– loading boat – all
– flights – all
– share equipment – Candace
– plan for Azores – all
– Roles (watch captain, etc) – Philip
– laminate paper – all
– vacuum pack food/other – all
Check Lists
– passports – all
– check in/out of 2015 countries – Linda
– lists in xls / google sites
Next Steps
– remaining items on land
– pre-departure inspection
– shake downs trips
– learn equipment
– load in Lynn, Nahant wharf
– departure party
– departure day/time

Safety at sea seminar – day 2

Today our team split up.
Ulf went to attend the medical seminar, while Peter Davis, Dan and Philip went to the in-water life-raft session.
Both sessions were very well run and contained a lot of valuable information.

For example, did you know that if you jumped with your regular street into 50F / 10C water without a lifevest, you would make it for about 15min.
If you jumped in the same water with the same clothes but added a lifevest, you likely survive for about 4hrs…

In the first scenario you’d drown as the body struggles to stay afloat, while in the second hypothermia would result in cardiac arrest.

as the goal is to stay alive for as long as possible, trying to keep warm is the key.

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In addition to wearing a life-vest,

– closing sleeves and pants to avoid getting newer colder water into the foul-weather gear
– keeping boots on (they do not make your drown as they are filled with water already and are mostly positively buoyant)
– making sure to keep a warm hat in your pockets or wear it
– wearing the hood of your jacket over the life-vest (as you will not get it once the vest is inflated)
– staying calm (do not swim or exercise to generate blood flow etc) and keep knees and arms close to the body (use your tether to support your legs for longer periods of time)
– building floats with other crew members to reduce exposure to colder water (stay together with the group in general, use tethers and hold on to each other)

or good options to extend the time in the water alive.

Other lessons learned:
– stay on the boat for as long as possible
– prepare departure very well
– ensure raft is tied to something solid on the boat, such as the mast (not stanchions)
– take as much with you as possible
– bring as much water as physically possible (ensure water containers are always full and ready to go)
– assign tasks to all crew as to what to bring to the raft
– have a plan to get ditch bags etc safely to the raft
– take head count before departure and check crew’s condition (physical and mental)
– strongest person goes first and gets into the raft to help all others getting in
– administer seasickness medication as soon as all are on board
– tie all equipment to the raft to not lose anything in case of capsize etc
– be very careful with flares, use only downwind
– get the water out as fast as possible
– hygiene is very important
– keep wearing life-vests inside raft (relieve air-pressure to create space and make wearing them more comfortable)
– don’t forget your epirb on the boat (keep in ditch bag when sailing to not forget)

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Safety at sea seminar – day 1

We had a very informative day with the Safety at Sea Symposium at the University of Boston campus today (link).

Lots of experience in the room, good presenters, relevant topics and even some food. Nice to see some familiar faces after this looong winter.
While not many things were really new, it was valuable to refresh the memory, learn a few things here and there, complete our check lists etc; but mostly confirming that we are on the right track. We already carry most of what was recommended on board and showed the suggested behaviors during prior cruises.

Crew that went today:

Dan McMackin
Ulf Westhoven
Peter Davis
Nick Kersten
Philip Kersten

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Good to see that our rigger, Kevin, was the expert on all things rigging:

safety at sea

Kevin will survey our boat in April to make sure we are good to go.