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The School Bus

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-WorldCruising.com 18 May 00:00 PDT
The ubiquitous School Bus... © Supplied

You've probably all heard the urban myth about the school bus that gets wedged in a tunnel? The driver, representatives of the bus line, roads board, police, and fire brigade are all hanging around discussing and pontificating as to the best way to resolve the dilemma.

It was one of the children on board that offers the logical and easy solution of simply letting down the tyres and then driving her out. At any rate, I recently had the fortune to be with an utterly delightful empty-nester couple, who are very keen to begin their long awaited cruising odyssey, after more than a couple of decades of putting in.

Now he was very specific about requiring an aluminium vessel because when you rub into something it usually goes a lot better for you than with GRP. Then she quickly turned around and said, "Well don't bump into anything!" (...and that certainly gelled with me, but then I later remembered just how often and swiftly things can go South when around boats...)

Our discussion continued, and it became evident that as he, especially, knew the pointy end from the blunt, that pace was going to be a key determinant. A cat was also top of mind, and whilst he liked the idea of an Outremer, what he had settled on was an alloy (5803) Mumby.

All of that lead me into reviewing exactly what makes a particular boat the right boat? Over time, the boats have certainly got larger and faster. The requirement to manhandle stuff has been drastically reduced with things like furlers and powered winches, auto-pilots have improved and link in marvellously with the one facet that has probably put more people on the water than anything else. Electronics.

Yes. Without the changes there to understanding weather and navigation, along with added pace in many conditions, the game would still very much be the same. Previously, and no doubt on many an occasion, we have also looked at how the whole design ethos has changed, with more seating outside, and vast prairies down below taking over from multitudinous bulkheads and stuffy cabins.

So if you no longer have to have salt in your veins, then what are the best ways to address safety, performance, comfort, functionality, and for that matter a certain feng shui, with regard to your personal space and zen.

Now obviously the primary questions have to be where are you going, and what are you going to do? Multiple long-haul passages is way different to lolling around from cove to cove, and both offer many and completely different paths to enjoyment and relaxation.

Some former racing boats get converted over to be performance cruisers, but racers are harsh, and unforgiving. So displacement is crucial to you, as is rocker and wetted surface area versus sail area, and no matter whether you want a house sized fridge on board, or wish to get on towards fifteen knots, and even more when you can, this will be your next port of call. In conjunction of course with whether you are going to have one, two or even three hulls.

Catamarans certainly are the big category of the moment, and for good reason, but earlier ones were so heavy as to sail like the fridges we just mentioned in virtually all weather, thus effectively making them full time motor-sailers. It is also fair to say that whilst they can clip along well when the weather suits, when it deteriorates, so too does their ability to cope, so passage planning becomes even more critical.

In terms of monohulls, a shoal draft keel is ideal for getting in close, and that eliminates a lot of rowing, but they are not ideal in terms of vessel control and you will find yourself helming a lot, and reducing sail early. Centreboarders and lifting keels are very popular for this reason, and many of the giant cruisers now deploy the latter, rather than having five or six metres downstairs to consider at anchorages. Done well, the keelbox is also less intrusive into the open plan than it might once have been.

Equally, cats could do just over a metre of draft easily, and keelsons were good for that, but daggerboards always win, specifically when done in conjunction with slippery hull forms and low mass.

No matter whether one lump or two, a deep rudder is best, for it is the tip that does the work, but alas you're back at draft before you know it. Equally, they place a significantly higher load on their bearings, necessitating more frequent servicing and replacement. This, along with being awfully exposed to hitting stuff needs to be considered and appreciated as you make your choice.

Many still prefer a full keel, or at least a partial skeg to help in this regard, but you are paying a price with performance, just as you do with a shaft over a sail drive, with the latter also having exposure issues. Some portion of a deep ruder being sacrificial is often preferred, and an inspection port is also a good idea. Alas, no matter what choice you make, you will need to heed the cruisers' mantra. You will need to become proficient in the use, maintenance and understanding of all of the systems and equipment on board your craft!

We'll come back and address rigging, construction, layout and other things next time, but in the meantime you will find that we have information for you about Garmin's ActiveCaptain, gear from Musto, the Swan 98, Sanctuary Cove Boat Show, Going to Japan, Going to Cuba, the World ARC hit the South Pacific, the Whitsundays, Bermuda, Fountaine Pajot's Astrea 42, Whales near Antartica, Fremantle to Bali, Poppy Moore returns after he voyage for Parkinson's, Raymarine Magnum radar, cruising Alaska, the Beneteau Pittwater Cup, NEBO App, The Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii and sunscreens, whales, as well as much more.

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please do savour... We're really enjoying bringing you the best stories from all over the globe. If you want to add to that, then please make contact with us via email.

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In the meantime, do you love being on the ocean? Well remember to love them back too. They need our help. Now more than ever! Until next time...

John Curnow, Editor, Sail-WorldCruising.com

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