Boat preparation guidelines for sailing around the world

This document has been created as an aid to participants to assist thought processes in boat preparation for the around the world Global Solo Challenge. It has been created by the GSC team and is based on their many years of preparing many boats for short-handed offshore races and challenges. These are suggestions only – boat preparation remains the sole responsibility of the person in charge.

Boat preparation guidelines

RUDDERS AND BEARINGS

Rudder failure or simply bearing failure for a participant in a round the world sailing event can cause big problems or even force retirement. Water ingress from rudder bearings is quite common and can range from being a nuisance to being a serious problem, especially when sailing single-handed. Bearing water tightness depends on their integrity as well as, typically, one or more rubber seals (o-rings). Replacing all seals and servicing the bearings is a crucial part of your boat preparation. In cold waters metal rudder stocks tend to shrink slightly in diameter and this can cause unexpected leaks, especially if the rubber seals are worn or have lost their elasticity.

Additionally, as part of the GSC Regulations we have introduced the requirement for a tube that reaches above the water line with a seal or gaiter attached to the rudder stock that can contain small water ingress from the rudder bearing. This should, on most boats, resolve the inconvenience of some small water ingress from a rudder bearing, but bear in mind that on planing hulls at high speed water can enter at great pressure and the gaiter/seal system may not prevent all water ingress. The first line of defence during boat preparation is therefore to ensure the bearings and seals are in prime condition.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • Remove rudder and inspect – an ultra sound survey of the rudder and surrounding zones of deck and hull bearings is preferable
  • Remove, service/replace and remount rudder bearings – returning to the bearing manufacturer for servicing is preferable

MAST/BOOM/RIGGING/VANGS/FURLERS

Dismasting or suffering some sort of mast/spars failure is probably one the most common reasons for withdrawing from a round the world event. Many have successfully brought their yachts home under jury rigs with incredible stories, for example Yves Parlier repairing a carbon mast whilst at anchor in the Southern Pacific in the lee of an island. Careful inspections can save many problems and are crucial during boat preparation.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • Dismantle mast and boom completely – have a good rigger inspect all elements
  • Die test all pins, rigging cold-heads and components
  • Consider installing mast steps for easier/safer mast ascents – folding ones limit sail and halyard damage and are light
  • Consider renewing mast wiring and ensure it is in a protective sleeve and/or conduit
  • Closely inspect all mast track fixations and ensure they cannot vibrate loose
  • Consider upgrading to a mast track with a captive ball car system for ease of reefing/hoisting, especially downwind
  • Closely inspect gooseneck assembly
  • Consider anti-sail-chafe solutions on the spreaders and terminals
  • Vangs can create boom breakage point during involuntary gybes, consider a system that has a “fuse” that will break/release before the boom breaks and consider a boom preventer system for downwind sailing
  • Have the manufacturer service your furling systems and consider using well-proven brands
  • If not already there, consider, with a rigger’s advice, adding a babystay for extra mast security (this could be detachable at deck level). Possibly this stay could also carry the storm jib and in that case may or may not require a set of check stays aft
  • Chafe is a big enemy – consider all mast and boom sheaves and how they function – upgrade where required
  • Have a good plan for a jury rig that can help you get somewhere in the case of a dismasting – using the boom vertically for instance

DECK FITTINGS/DECK GEAR/ PROTECTION

All deck hardware must be in perfect working order. Chafe and problems with blocks and sheaves can become more than a nuisance and we have to make sure all our equipment is ready for such a long passage under sail.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • Remove and re-bed all deck fittings to ensure watertight integrity, use new bolts and nylock nuts
  • Be sure that your deck non-skid is safe and not worn out – repaint if required
  • Remove and re-bed all windows and in some cases it may be preferable to blank them off – think walls of seawater hitting them for prolonged periods
  • High load deck areas – such as winches; sheet tracks/points; turning sheaves – consider increasing under deck support/strength
  • Consider winch sizes and number of gears suitable for ease of use solo
  • Consider upgrades to blocks, sheaves and cars to support round the world conditions and mileage
  • Cockpit protection is important – consider either fixed or frame/canvas protection so you have a protected place to be out in the cockpit – if canvas, take a spare one! This acts as protection from all elements, including the sun
  • Closely inspect stanchions, pulpit and pushpits – they could save your life. If replacing, ones with an inboard leg are the strongest and worth considering at least around the foredeck in particular

RUNNING RIGGING

Careful inspection of your running rigging prior to replacement can be a very valuable exercise. You can spot chafe points and compare wear between different lines over time. This can assist you in choosing the right cover for each rope, and chafe spots. You may discover worn pullies or lines not working properly.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • In essence it is best to start a round the world voyage with all new line everywhere
  • Choose proven suppliers
  • Choose line with appropriate covers for the use
  • Chafe is an enemy and much can be done to mitigate – extra covers in chafe areas; ensuring leads are correct (often not on many boats)

ENGINE/PROPELLORS

Although you won’t be using your engine for propulsion it is the most powerful means of charging your batteries. Given its weight, you should make the most of it. Make sure everything is in perfect working order and that you can fix the most common problems by having plenty of spares.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • A folding propeller (such as Gori) will add substantial speed to your sailing – a fixed blade propeller is a hand brake when sailing
  • Service and replace if required the shaft gland
  • Have your engine professionally inspected and serviced
  • Consider replacing the flexible engine mounts – they have a life span
  • Ventilation of the engine bay is very important – fresh air in and hot air evacuated by fan is by far the best solution
  • Know your engine well – it is the heart of the boat and you should know how to look after it and troubleshoot problems
  • Ensure as easy as possible access around your engine
  • Take plenty of engine spares including but not limited to fuel filters; water pump and impellors; starter motor; injectors; alternator; oil and antifreeze
  • Consider carrying a spare engine start battery

Boat preparation guidelines – energy and electrical systems

Energy and electrical systems have become an integral part of our boats. A black out or electrical systems failure is often enough to force a boat to pull into port.

BATTERIES/ CHARGING

Batteries decrease in efficiency over time and especially if abused with short bursts of charging rather than being deep cycled.In cold weather batteries efficiency can be reduced significantly.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • Start the event with batteries that are less than 6 months old
  • Ideally have two house battery banks
  • Expect your batteries to only be around 60% efficient in the cold of the South
  • Renew all battery/alternator wiring
  • If your engine can accept it, install a high-output alternator for fast charging
  • Install a smart regulator to externally regulate charging and carry a spare one of these
  • Renew all battery switches – a regular cause of issues
  • Install a field switch for switching in the charging
  • Manage your batteries – they are made for deep cycling not short bursts of charge as they can build up a bad memory
  • Install a good battery monitor with voltage alarms so you can easily see how the discharge/charging is progressing

ELECTRONICS/ELECTRICAL

Your boat’s electronics are extremely precious, both for navigation and for staying in touch with home. However, the marine environment is the worst enemy of electronics. Proper installation and protection from dampness is essential.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • Choose an electronics/electrical professional with good experience in long distance sailing projects to inspect and advise
  • Depending on the age of existing, partial or complete rewiring may be advisable
  • Switch panels and connections are areas for particular attention
  • Ensure ease of access to connections etc – you need to be able to check things offshore
  • Consider a second wind wand at the masthead as this will almost certainly prevent a trip aloft to change a failed wand
  • Have an up to date wiring schematic aboard
  • Understand your systems and how they integrate – your electronics are in a harsh environment!

COMPUTERS/SATCOMS/ NAV SYSTEMS/ ROUTING

Communicating with home can make a huge difference during such a long voyage. Setting up your satellite communications properly is essential. Weather routeing is not only a matter of performance, but will allow you to navigate away from the worst storms and areas of calm.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • In order to communicate from the boat and request/download weather files you will need a satcom attached to a computer
  • Dedicated marine CPU’s or laptops are usually used, carrying a preloaded spare is important
  • Solid state drives are essential for running in bouncy conditions
  • Safely secured laptops with remote keyboard/mouse/screen are the norm
  • Integrating the computer and satcom can be challenging, but once done it provides a reliable system
  • Connections cost money, so switching off the Windows and all other updating when you are at sea is highly advisable
  • Weather GRIB files – there are both free and paid for suppliers of these , depends on the level of detail you want or need
  • Once you have a GRIB file you need to load it into a charting system to view the weather, preferably one with routing software that is also loaded with your boat’s performance Polar
  • Maxsea; Adrena and Deckman are all good, proven nav/routing platforms, there are free open source solutions available today
  • Satcoms – if using a handheld Iridium as the only satcom it will have some limitations on download speed and therefore cost.
  • For faster comms and the ability to even use Whatsapp etc offshore to communicate back to shore, a higher level of system is required such Iridium Pilot or Inmsarsat F150/250 type units, although Iridium speeds are destined to be much faster by 2023

RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES

You engine may be your primary source of power, but you should have alternative means of charging your batteries. Hydro/wind/solar power can be harvested and converted into amps for your battteries. Modern solutions include the use of Fuel Cells, frequently used on racing boats such as Mini 6.50s and Class40s.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • Whilst the engine/alternator set up may be the primary source of charging batteries, having other system(s) that augment or replace the engine in case of failure is highly advisable
  • Wind Generators do work, but need decent apparent wind – in essence the slower your boat is the more efficient they tend to be – best ones are AirX and Rutland, but compare output data sheets for all
  • Mounting of wind generators should be well considered – they have weight and momentum and the blades can be dangerous
  • Solar Panels – modern marine ones are excellent and for at least one third of the race should work well.
  • Obviously panels only work in daytime and suffer from any shadows over them, but they remain a proven positive to have aboard
  • Panels that are flexible and can be bonded to the deck are a good option
  • Hydro-generators are very good and will provide good continuous output, but at slow boat speed (less than 6kts) output is not that great
  • Watt & Sea are the favoured hydro-generator manufacturer – see data sheets on their site
  • Fuel Cells – used by many mini-transat and Class40 boats. These units run on methanol and can provide a continuous 7 amps, which is likely around the average consumption, so batteries are kept topped up – EFOY are the preferred manufacturer
  • These Fuel Cell units are installed inside so can run in any weather – well proven and very weight efficient (unit and amount of fuel) so are  good choice

HEATING AND VENTILATION

Your comfort is crucial in all weather conditions. Extreme heat and cold can be debilitating and you must make sure you are well prepared to deal with any conditions.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • The GSC will see a complete range of weather conditions from the searing tropics to the freezing conditions of the Southern Ocean
  • In hot weather, consider safe cabin ventilation such as dorades that can be closed off in cold/bad weather
  • Installing a cabin heater that runs off the diesel fuel supply is well worth considering
  • Remember, you will be a more effective and efficient solo sailor if you are as comfortable as possible

SAILS

You sails must last for your entire round the world voyage. This is the equivalent mileage to that sailed by the occasional cruising sailor in 5-10 years. This will include exposure to extreme weather conditions and many sunlight hours. It takes experience to build durable sails.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • Most sailors have their preferred sailmakers, but be sure that they can build sails that will get around the world
  • Great consideration should be given to how you plan to sail your boat – asymmetric downwind sails can provide ease of use but demand sailing at higher angles; will you want a double headsail arrangement for goose-winging downwind…deciding how you want to sail will dictate your event sail choices
  • Each and every sail for a reliable RTW voyage requires a myriad of details – this knowledge is with certain experienced experts who could guide your sailmaker, or you can choose a sailmaker that already has this depth of knowledge
  • As is true with virtually everything aboard – you get what you pay for and if you pay cheap you generally pay twice. Sail management issues will occur and damage will occur, but starting with the most reliable sails is the best plan
  • A comprehensive sail repair kit and good knowledge of how to repair common damages are both essential

SELF-STEERING

Reliable self-steering is crucial in the success of your circumnavigation. Wind and electric each have benefits, make sure you have multiple redundant systems to steer your boat. This is probably one of the major subjects in your boat preparation list for a round the world voyage.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • You will hardly ever touch the helm, so a good self steering system and a back-up are essential and fundamental to you
  • Wind-vane self steering is an efficient solution that does not need electricity – suitable in particular for slower, displacement boats
  • They are at their best upwind, but knowing your system well and making at-sea adjustments make these acceptable on all points of sail for certain boats
  • Good installation is key as is carrying spare parts
  • Best suppliers are Monitor, Aries and Hydro-vane, but there are others suited especially for smaller boats
  • Electronic autopilots can steer to a heading or a wind angle and modern systems steer a boat extremely well
  • To achieve maximum reliability a good installation, commissioning and set-up processes are crucial – engage the right expert
  • A complete stand alone back up system is advisable
  • Knowing your system and trouble shooting knowledge is essential
  • Raymarine; B&G and NKE all produce good systems depending on your boat type; size; speed and what instrument package you already may have
  • In the event of complete electrical failure it is worth considering a wind vane self steering at least as a fail safe backup to your electronic autopilots

Boat preparation: Other Considerations

WATERMAKERS

The ability to make drinking water from seawater or collect rain water will greatly reduce the amount of fresh water you need to carry. This is especially important on smaller or lighter boats where the additional weight is a serious consideration. Have a plan b if your watermaker fails and never sail without an appropriate volume of drinking water on board.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • Having a watermaker aboard can lighten the load carried aboard (faster boat) and give peace of mind regarding an essential element – however, a good installation and knowledge of the system is highly important
  • The Katadyn Powersurvivor 40E is the usual choice for shorthanded boats
  • Good raw water supply is critical especially as the unit’s pump is not that powerful, so a dedicated raw water supply is well worth considering – one that is always in solid seawater – such as a centreline through hull
  • When the raw water feed is linked to the engine raw water supply it invariably causes problems
  • A watermaker should not be left unused for a week or more without being pickled or the membrane will clog with bacteria
  • Carrying a simple saline metre is good – test the salinity of the watermaker water regularly for health reasons

BELOW DECK ERGONOMICS

In order to remain efficient for such a prolonged period of time, you must have suitable arrangements below deck. This applies to your preferred seating position when using your computer, reading your emails or weather routeing as well as when sleeping or eating.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • At least one safe, secure sea berth with appropriate cushions and lee cloths is essential – even if removing your cabin table is required to do this
  • You will spend an inordinate amount of time at the chart table – consider the ergonomics here so that you can sit comfortably at all angles of heel
  • Plenty of handholds below are very important – you should be able to move around in rough conditions with at least one hand on a handhold at all times
  • Cooking – if you have a regular stove this may be difficult to use in tough conditions, so consider a gimbaled Jetboil mounted when required for safe, easy boiling of water for hot food and drinks
  • Non-skid tape or paint is advisable on companionway steps and flooring
  • Ensure that any stacking arrangement below holds stacked gear securely in place – gear flying across cabin is very dangerous
  • Your cabin will be your home for a lengthy period of time so considerations should be made to make it a safe, comfortable, effective environment

FOOD

Food that contains water weighs a lot more than dehydrated or dry food. Depending on the type of boat you are sailing the total weight of your food can be a serious consideration.

Suggested actions during boat preparation:

  • The weight of food supplies for an extended voyage is always a major consideration
  • Freeze dried food is very good these days with a wide variety of meal choices and only requiring hot water to reconstitute
  • Packages of wet-food are also available – a mix of wet and dehydrated food is advisable to give a mixed texture menu and keep spirits up
  • Normally when solo sailing we would say 3000 calories per day in warmer climes and around double that in the Southern Ocean – your body uses more calories simply staying warm there
  • Food is a very important part of morale as well as nutrition so be sure to take what you like and enjoy plus lots of treats!