Steering Clear of Trouble: Our Search for Cruising Perfection

We are standing at the forward end of the great room aboard FPB 78-1 Cochise. It is eerily quiet as we watch the steam gauge climb from 13 to 20 knots, linger for a moment, before peaking at 22. A fast-rising SE gale has kicked up a steep sea, now confused with a reflected crossing wave pattern as we rapidly close with the Southern entrance to New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. This 60 metric ton motor yacht is surfing under autopilot control. The seas are perfect for Cochise and she rides the better waves for several minutes at a time, at speed length ratios above 1.6. Cochise is the most recent iteration of the perfect yacht, at least for us. Aboard Cochise, and the rest of our yachts, the key design ingredient upon which all else rests is steering control. We are warm, dry, and very comfortable. 

It wasn’t always so. Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 10, 2019)    |    Comments (19)

Running Aground As Anchoring Technique

The FPBs are designed with drying out in mind, and like all aspects of seamanship, we think testing the process in controlled circumstances before we actually need to use it makes sense. The following comments are based on a lifetime of avoiding experience with the subject at hand. But the old saying – it is not if you will run aground but when – is as true today as it was a couple of generations ago when we made our way without long range nav aids and few, if any, charts. Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 3, 2018)    |    Comments (6)

FPB 78 The Dream Machine: Reality – Updated May 24, 2017

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The Next Generation of FPBs is here, cruising even farther, faster, more comfortably and efficiently than their predecessors. With the first two FPB 78s rapidly racking up sea miles, read on to find out how, in a world full of empty claims, FPBs do what they are supposed to do.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 24, 2017)    |    Comments (1)

FPB 78-1 Cochise: First Serious Air Conditioning Test And Record Solar Output

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We are “anchored” in Denarau, visiting friends on the leeward side off the big island in Fiji. The breeze is non-existent to light, and it is hot–very hot. Perfect conditions to test air conditioning and ventilation. Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 22, 2016)    |    Comments (9)

The Monsoons Are Here

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The summer monsoon has arrived in Arizona and we are being treated to some of Mother Nature’s finest work. Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 17, 2013)    |    Comments (1)

The Dinghy Conundrum – What Is The Correct Mix Of Factors?

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We have recently been asked our ideas for the ideal mix of design factors for a larger FPB dinghy. This got us to thinking about our own experiences, and what we would want in this category of gear, if we were starting from scratch. The comments that follow are based on the assumption that the dinghies will often be used in cruising areas off the beaten path. In this post we will share a few thoughts, and ask for yours.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (April 21, 2013)    |    Comments (33)

Anatomy of a Trawler Capsize – Lessons For Voyagers

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When we wrote our book on survival storm tactics, Surviving the Storm, in 1999, we had no practical experience with powerboats. As a result, we relied upon interviews with a variety of professional seamen. We now have a bit of real world experience, and lots more anecdotal information on heavy weather powerboat tactics. As the FPB 64 Owner’s Manual is about to have its storm tactic chapter written, we thought this a good time to update our general powerboat tactics information as well.

We would normally wait until both were complete before excerpting these on SetSail, however, the video below has some important lessons we want to make it available now. More will follow in the coming months.

Over the years, we have made a habit of studying all manner of heavy weather incidents. Situations like the 1979 Fastnet, the Queen’s Birthday Storm, and 1998 Sydney Hobart race are full of lessons for designers, builders, and sailors alike. But the material we have to use, interviews, synoptic data, photos of waves on occasion, are limited in what they can convey about the sea. Through the heroic artistic efforts of the late Steve Davis, we had a start at graphically describing survival storm tactics, but nothing we had before compares to the video that follows. The unique camera position is ideal for giving a sense of the sea state, and how the trawler being filmed is reacting to it. We have watched this four minutes of material dozens of times now, and still learn something new with each viewing.

We thought you might find it of interest as well. The video will initially run its full length, then you will find some slow motion clips of a few noteworthy situations. And finally freeze frames–stills–of certain areas of interest. We’ll make some additional comments with a couple of diagrams at the bottom of the post.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 4, 2012)    |    Comments (14)

FPB 97 – The Foundation Part ll

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Where you intend to cruise, and the ambient weather with which the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) have to deal, is the starting point for the systems analysis and their integration into the rest of the design. The space these take for installation has an impact on structure and interior design, and the power needed to operate them dictates the requirements of both AC and DC electrical systems. Sitting in a lovely anchorage in the Bahamas, or French Polynesia, has totally opposite requirements in this regard versus exploring Tierra del Fuego or visiting Antarctica.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 18, 2012)    |    Comments (5)

Evaluating Stability and Capsize Risks For Yachts

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Over the last couple of years we have had a number of discussions about the mechanics of stability and capsize risks. Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 8, 2012)    |    Comments (34)

Heavy Weather Issues

If you’re thinking about heading offshore at some point, the comments which follow may be of interest.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 5, 2012)    |    Comments (9)

35 Years Chasing the Dream

“Perhaps better known for his Deerfoot, Sundeer, and Beowulf offshore sailing vessels, which are known and respected for being capable of comfortable, long offshore passages with a crew of two, [the FPB] represents a somewhat completely different tack, so to speak.”
–Northwest Yachting Magazine

Following is a sampling of the boats that we’ve designed and built over the past 35+ years.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 20, 2011)    |    Comments (4)

Forepeak & Anchoring System

Years ago we learned that there had to be a place onboard for ground tackle, sails, fenders, dock lines, awnings, etc.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (October 16, 2011)    |    Comments (0)

After Hurricane Irene A Few Thoughts

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The air is cool and clear, Oyster Bay is once again filled with birds, and the roar of tropical storm Irene is quickly fading from memory. We have a busy couple of weeks ahead with Wind Horse, and then we return to Arizona for a month. Before the lessons learned fade we thought a few observations might be in order.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 30, 2011)    |    Comments (2)

Secured and Waiting For Irene

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1300 Saturday – Oyster Bay – we have completed hurricane preparations.

June Jones has reflaked the secondary anchor rode, so it is ready to deploy. Notice the figure eight lay to minimize the risk of fouling.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 27, 2011)    |    Comments (9)

Preparing For Hurricane Irene

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We are anchored in Oyster Bay’s West Harbor, on Long Island (west coast), getting ready for Irene’s arrival Sunday.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 26, 2011)    |    Comments (9)

FPB 64-4 Osprey – Dealing With Storm Force Winds (updated)

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Steve Suters, John Gowing’s FPB 64-4 captain, has been kind enough to fill us in on some of the details of their recent brush with storm force winds (55 to 65 knots), steep seas, and a breaking entrance bar crossing. We have included the photo above of FPB64-1, Avatar, as a reminder of boat scale versus the waves about which you will shortly read. A the end of the blog are two short videos.

As you go through the following keep in mind one key fact: this was taking place in an area of south flowing current, opposing the wind driven waves, steepening them and causing them to break.

 

Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (June 7, 2011)    |    Comments (8)

Using A Kedge Anchor – Again

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Thinking we were a little short on kedging details in our recent post we decided to give it another whirl. You see before you a plot of our course as we came south from our overnight anchorage in Lake Sylvia. The turn off for the New River, where a side tie awaited us, is a bit tricky and we were past it before we realized the error. In the process of turning around we drifted out of the channel, and hard aground, in a falling tide.

TowBoats US was quickly on the spot and generously offered a discounted tow for US$1000. We declined in favor of trying to kedge off, the engines being unable to do the job on their own.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 11, 2011)    |    Comments (4)

Trapped By A Wreck

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We’ll start this tale with an almost impossible photo of the moon from the deck of a yacht at anchor. There isn’t much light, given the small amount of moon illumination, which means a slow shutter speed necessitating a stable platform. Add in that this is a 500mm lens with a doubler, i.e. the equivalent of 1000mm, and it gets even trickier. The answer lies in an unmarked wreck in the southwest corner of Marathon harbor, where we arrived back at dead low tide. We shall spare you the details of finding the wreck as we scouted for our old anchoring position. The interesting part is what happened after we became ensnared.

Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 7, 2011)    |    Comments (2)

Weather, Sea States, and Cruising Plans

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We’ve been aground in the office in Arizona for six weeks, enough time to get caught up and start thinking about next year’s testing afloat. All options are on the table. Returning to the US East Coast via Iceland and Greenland sounds intriguing, as does the South Pacific via the Canary Islands, Panama and the Galapagos. There is also the Med. option.

Lots of factors play into the decision. We are used to this of course. But what is surprising in this decision making cycle is the part which comfort at sea seems to be playing.

It didn’t used to be this way.

Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 15, 2011)    |    Comments (1)

Life Goes On Even With The Wind

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It is that time of year, the Azores high is pumping out a lovely trade wind breeze, and at anchor eventually you make peace with the conditions and get on with enjoying the environment. Cruising yachts are arriving and departing, making new friends and renewing old acquaintances.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 3, 2010)    |    Comments (3)

River Navigation When There Are No Charts

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Our recent foray up the Guadiana River was done without benefit of charts. Depths varied from ten to fifty feet (three to fifteen meters) and there was substantial current during parts of the tidal cycle. The current and depth present both navigation and anchoring challenges.

Lets take the nav issues first.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 12, 2010)    |    Comments (0)

Mooring Pennant Chafe

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Have a close look at the interaction between the Bruce anchor and the mooring pennant in the bottom right corner of this photo. When thinking about anchor storage consideration must also be given to chafe from:

  • Mooring pennants such as this.
  • Anchor rodes from second anchors used to back up the primary anchor.
  • Chain snubber lines.
  • Use of a parachute anchor.
  • Towing.

All of these functions relate to the stowage system for the primary anchor.

Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 13, 2010)    |    Comments (0)

Rats!

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If you live in the Southwestern U.S. odds are you are going to have to deal with Pack Rats. These destructive critters love to chew on wiring, and when we returned this fall we found an electronic mess. No phones, computer cables chomped (a predilection for USB was noted), even lamp plugs were missing. There’s a maritime connection here.

Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (December 15, 2009)    |    Comments (0)

Weather, Sea States, and Cruising Plans

Sea-Trials-Storm-Force-FPB83-102

We’ve been aground in the office in Arizona for six weeks, enough time to get caught up and start thinking about next year’s testing afloat. All options are on the table. Returning to the US East Coast via Iceland and Greenland sounds intriguing, as does the South Pacific via the Canary Islands, Panama and the Galapagos. There is also the Med. option.

Lots of factors play into the decision. We are used to this of course. But what is surprising in this decision making cycle is the part which comfort at sea seems to be playing.

It didn’t used to be this way.

Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 2, 2009)    |    Comments (4)

Scotland Odds and Ends

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Sometimes things which make no sense become more clear with experience. Take the small diameter low output windmills so often fitted to British cruising yachts. The small diameter blades take a lot of breeze to get meaningful output. Cruising in the tropics there is rarely enough wind to make these useful. The same would apply to the East or West Coasts of the US. But in Scotland, these are perfect (in other words, this is a windy place!).

The same applies to the Nauticat in the background. We used to think these were really a silly idea.

Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 14, 2009)    |    Comments (0)

How Big Should Your Anchor Be?

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We submit the photo above as a baseline for thinking about anchor size. We are ensconced in Vikingevagen, Norway. A tight, protected anchorage. Water depth is 40 feet (12m) and the barometer is plunging. It is gusting 40 knots, and the granite shore is 150 feet (45m) off our stern. This is not a situation in which you want to worry about anchor size.

So, how big an anchor is right?

Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 8, 2009)    |    Comments (1)

Norwegian Yacht Details – Part I

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One of the things we love about cruising to new destinations is looking at the boats, commercial and pleasure. Since arriving in Norway we’ve snapped a few photos of things we like and others we don’t (the latter are sometimes more instructive than the former).

We’ll start with the stern anchoring set up here. The combination fairlead and chain/rope windlass is a simple way to deal with storage if you anchor a lot by the stern. The rode can easily stow in the lazarette or a seat locker.

Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 8, 2009)    |    Comments (0)

Falmouth, UK

Falmouth, UK: Great people watching and boat watching at the start of a tall ship race to Madeira.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 12, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

Bahamas to Nova Scotia: Ready to Roll

Steve and Linda have decided to move on to Nova Scotia. Here are some notes on the weather logic, as well as preparations they’re making for what could be a tough passage.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 25, 2008)    |    Comments (0)

Survival Training Part 3: Fire Fighting

Survival training, Part 3: Fighting fires.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 8, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

La Paz: Unfouling the Anchor

La Paz: Unfouling the anchor.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (February 4, 2007)    |    Comments (0)

Drogue Testing

For many years we’ve been students of the concept of using drogues in heavy weather, or for holding station when disabled. We did extensive research on this subject – interviewing dozens of users – when writing Surviving the Storm. But in our own cruising experience we never had conditions where we thought the use of such devices was a better option than keeping the boat up to speed.

With Wind Horse, the situation is potentially different. So, we’ve carried a Fiorentino parachute anchor, Galerider, and Jordan Series Drogue. We’ve looked at the rigging of these, discussed how to use them, but until recently have not found the time to actually get this gear into the water (our strong suggestion to you, if you carry any of this equipment, is to become familiar with it before heading offshore). Read the rest »


Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 28, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Blunden Harbor

Blunden Harbor on the British Columbia mainland.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 11, 2006)    |    Comments (0)

Pago Pago towards Fanning: Day 6

Day 6-Arrival

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 26, 2005)    |    Comments (0)

Ground Tackle

Ground tackle is probably the single most important system on the boat in terms of safety, comfort, and peace of mind. Our approach is based on a steep learning curve-which we survived-but which we would not want to repeat. The bottom line is this: we assume that we’re stuck in an anchorage where we cannot leave, the winds have put us on a lee shore, and bottom holding is poor. Our ground tackle systems are engineered to give us the best chances of a happy outcome in this type of scenario. The side benefit is that we are totally secure in anything less than awful conditions, and we can anchor on much shorter scope the 99% of the time conditions are favorable.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (March 10, 2005)    |    Comments (0)

Riding Out Category 4 Hurricane at Anchor

Here's an eyewitness report from Hurricane Ivan in Grenada. This email was recently forwarded to us by a SetSailor, and we thought it would be of interest to the community.

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Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (September 26, 2004)    |    Comments (1)

Interview with Hurricane Ivan Survivors

This is an interview with the owners of Jedi, one of the few boats to survive Hurricane Ivan in Grenada with minimal damage. We asked them what gear and tactics worked, and what didn’t.

During the recent collision of hurricane Ivan with Grenada, one of our Sundeer 64s, Jedi, was at anchor in Mount Hartman Bay. We were able to contact Jedi’s owners, Nick and Josie, through the help of another cruiser in Venezuela. While we’d not wish this experience on anyone, their comments serve to put the blow into perspective, and to analyze what could help if one was ever caught in such a situation.

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Jedi was originally called Polaris, and has a slightly shallower draft (by six inches/150mm) than the standard Sundeer 64s. She is ketch rigged. The photo above shows one of her sisterships. Following are our questions for Nick and Josie, and their answers.

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (September 26, 2004)    |    Comments (0)

Preparing for Hurricane Charley

This illustrated article from Tom and Jean Service details the steps they took to prepare their 1977 CSY 44 cutter for Hurricane Charley.

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Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (August 16, 2004)    |    Comments (0)

Watermakers

Anjo Sterringa recently approached SetSail about writing an article on watermakers. She wrote to us, “I am a cruiser fallen onto land, (Mallorca) where I now service and install watermakers. There is still a lot of mystery and different ideas about pre- and post-filtration of drinking water on board. I have seen a lot of different brands (Sea Recovery, Spectra, Aqua Base/Aquaset, HEM, Idromar, Aquafresh to name a few) in various conditions.” Having time on her hands while recovering from a broken leg, she proposed researching and writing an article for cruisers on watermaker filtration and maintenance. Read the rest »


Posted by Sarah.Dashew  (December 30, 2002)    |    Comments (0)

Remove Those Batteries!

Steve was so inspired by our "battery" topic that he has written a second article!

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (July 23, 2002)    |    Comments (0)

Rigging Drogues

Aloha Folks: I am, like too many new cruisers, spending money adding things I MIGHT need…I am thinking about prep for the day at sea when not smart enough to avoid heavy weather, and I need a drogue.

AVALON, TPI hull #5 has at the stern port and starb an open chalk on the rail thru which in a tie up to a dock leads fair to the cleat mounted thwartship on the stern.

I am wondering how to secure drogue lines considering their strain and the stern line cleat set at right angles to the pull of the drogue line.

What would you say to leading the drogue bridle thru the hole between the cleat “feet”, then a single turn around a heavy winch then secured to the midship cleat on the rail? The winch turn to facilitate retrieval, the stern cleat to provide a fairlead, and the midship cleat to provide a fair securing place.

Thanks, Scott

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Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)    |    Comments (2)