When we started filming our journey it wasn’t just to share our adventure but we also also hoped that we were adding some value to people watching, whether it be that we made them smile and brightened their day, or that we made a huge mistake then fixed it, and they could learn from that too.
We’ve made many mistakes since day 1 and are still making (and sharing) them to this day… possibly more so than any other sailing channel! So we’ve put together our top 6 lessons that we’ve learnt from new boat owners to three years down the track. Check out the video here:
- Everything that can happen on anchor, should happen on anchor
We’ve taken a while to learn this lesson and fell pray to it several times in the last few years while in a marina or a yard.
Being in a marina or yard can be a pretty grotty experience, especially in the Caribbean where there is no breeze, mosquitos, a 10 foot trek down a ladder to go to the toilet as well as feeling obliged to work EVERYDAY because you’re paying for the privilege of being there… At least, that’s how we feel.
Initially, we would try and do EVERYTHING on our seemingly endless to-do list because being in a marina or yard, we were closer to land and it seemed a lot more convenient.
Weeks later and feeling burnt out, we’d accept that we couldn’t do everything and then go out to anchor and FINALLY have a day off because we weren’t paying for it.
Not anymore. After a few too many exhausting stints in a yard, we now launch looking like a gypsy camp with clutter and tools everywhere, but knowing that everything we needed to do below the waterline, or being tied to a dock has been done. Everything else omg our list can then happen in our own timeframes and with the conveniences of being at anchor like a lunchtime swim!
- Get used to sailing at 80%
It took us a while to learn this one, but when we did we’ve lived by it every day since. We were hit with full canvas up by a 38 knot gust from an incoming squall while leaving the lee of Grenada. By sailing at 100% capacity (full sails up), we had no room to move when sh*t hit the fan. We scrambled to the sheet and managed to release some pressure from the sails and then quickly put 2 reefs in. But we gave ourselves a massive fright, lost a jerry can and put ourselves in a very precarious situation throughout the whole experience.
Nowadays, we sail a lot more conservatively and usually with a reef in (unless its very calm). We make sure that the boat always has room to take on more than what the weather might currently be.
- If you’re taking on water – tack
Our first night sail introduced us to this lesson. We had owned the boat for 2 months and were soon planning to make our first leap across the pond from America. As always, disasters seem to happen at night and this was no different. Our bilge alarm started going on and wouldn’t turn off… water was coming into the boat from SOMEWHERE.
Over the next few hours, we tore the boat apart trying to find the mysterious source of the leak, finally deciding to pull in closer to shore and anchor somewhere to try and solve the problem. To head towards land, we had to to tack. When we did so, the bilge alarm turned off and water was no longer coming into our boat. The next day we discovered that we had a tear in our scupper drain hose and sea water was pouring straight into the boat from one tack, but not on the other.
By tacking, you can raise the source of the leak higher in the water (and hopefully like us, fully out of the water), reducing the water pressure on the hole, thereby letting less water into the boat. This can give you time to either find the leak and make a repair or get to a safe place with some more time up your sleeve.
- Don’t accept imbalanced sails, learn to manage them
Ok, not everyone is going to lose a prop shaft several times but boat problems CAN rear their ugly heads when you least expect them. And to get to a safe harbour and fix the problem, a balanced canvas is essential to get you where you need to go. We see many people sailing with only a jib up, and most of the time this is ok… except when it’s not..! We did this very thing after leaving a marina in Puerto Rico and promptly go hit by 30 knot winds. We knew that we were very imbalanced and not wanting to sail further in such strong winds, we decided to pull into a bay to anchor. To get to the bay, we had to point directly into the wind, so we decided to turn the motor on… only to discover that our prop shaft had let go.
We were stuck with only a jib out and unable to tack upward to get to safe harbour.
After a few hours of sailing and jybing 270 degrees in order to change direction we finally go the anchor under sail and fixed the problem, but not before learning the lesson to never sail with imbalanced sails again!
- If you do an upgrade, test it immediately
This may sound pretty obvious but we’ve heard a few people doing this. In our circumstance, we were trying to fix our disappearing prop shaft issue and consequently made 3-4 upgrades to our engine and drive shaft all at once. We hoped that all of our fixed would sort out our issue out but it resulting in a new problem rearing its head. We heard a LOUD noise in cockpit that sounded similar to an airplane taking off… not quite the fix we were hoping for! But after upgrading SO many things all at once we had no idea where we should start looking to find a solution to the noise. If we had of tested each upgrade one by one after it was installed, we could have pinpointed exactly what the cause was and troubleshooted just that.
As it was, we spent the next week taking apart and reassembling our upgrades to find the solution.
We’ve met a few people who’ve done this while on the hard too, trying to get through their massive to-do list and making tons of changes to the boat before being able to test it… I get it, if you’re taking out your whole engine for example, why not change the 20 other things that are attached to it as well?! But in some situations, like ours. Waiting until after one thing has been tested until installing another is a smart solution and saves time in the long run if something doesn’t work quite as it should.
- Don’t be afraid to fix things yourself
I think the whole list above is a bit indicative that we do like to do our own work. In saying that, we know when to ask for help from the pro’s or when it’s just not worth the hours we’d spend trying to get it done ourselves. We’ve hired just 3 contractors over the last 3 years to help with stations such as these and while they’ve been working on the problem, we’ve tried to learn from them as best as we could.
Our resourcefulness saved us when we were bobbing around the Atlantic on returning to Bermuda in a patch of calm weather. When we trend our engine on to motor towards our destination, we started pouring 16-17 volts into our battery bank and our electronics promptly started to turn off or to cook themselves! Not desireable for either option.
After a few hours with every manual and mechanical book open in front of him, Adam traced the problem back to a dodgy wire on the alternator. He managed to bypass it which got us safely back to Bermuda and on anchor.
The lesson here is that a pro won’t always be available to help with the problem and it’s in your best interest to have a basic understanding of how the different things on your boat work.