For Sale or should that read, “For Sail”?

With great reluctance I am sadly putting Jerrican on the market. After moving my own goalposts several times in the last few years, the unavoidable reality is that Jerrican is doing far more sitting tied up alongside in Simon’s Town than she is doing what she was designed and built to do, and that is to sail! If there is any stopping and being tied up, it should be in far off, interesting and challenging destinations, for that is her purpose!

This is not Jerrican’s natural environment!

This is her natural environment! Equally at home in the tropics or high latitudes, she’s been strongly built; a proper blue water cruiser.

Basic details:

Designed by Dudley Dix

43′ Pilothouse version

Steel construction

Launched December 2013.

Any interested buyers are welcome to drop me a line on syjerrican@gmail.com or stop in at my new business premises in Simon’s Town; Cape Point Rigging at 136 St George’s Street . http://www.capepointrigging.com .

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Déjà vu

Its funny how one gets that feeling called déjà vu sometimes? Literally meaning seen before, the psychological definition of the phrase is the illusion of having previously experienced something actually being encountered for the first time and the more colloquial definition is disagreeable familiarity or sameness.

In my recent case, it was more of the latter.

Thirty-three years ago I sailed my first transocean passage, the South Atlantic Race from Cape Town to Punta del Este in Uruguay. This was a successor to the original Cape to Rio Race after Brasil decided that it would discontinue to host the event for political reasons. Uruguay was more accommodating and several races finished in Punta del Este. In 1985 I raced as crew aboard the Lavranos designed Charger 33, a 3/4 ton IOR design from 1983/4. Owner and Skipper was the doyen of ocean racing at Algoa Bay Yacht Club, Rod Van Der Weele and the rest of the crew was made up of the late Arthur Clayton, then Port Elizabeths City Engineer and Frans Loots doing his second South Atlantic Race and third crossing of the South Atlantic after a single handed return on a Petersen 33 in 1982. I was by far the youngest, smallest and lightest of the crew so when our cap shroud connector broke near Isla Trinidade leaving the top half of our mast waving around unsupported, I was unanimously elected to spend the next two days performing aerial repairs sufficient to get us to the finish line!

Frans and I opted to sail Wings back to South Africa but had to wait for new rigging to be shipped in from the USA. The manufacturer executed the order promptly but the Uruguayan Customs officials had a different approach. They decided to play the waiting game and see who would fold first. We could see the roll of rod rigging in their office and pointed it out as ours but they steadfastly claimed that it had not yet arrived in the country. They did not count on the tenacity of two penniless mariners who were simply unable to sweeten the deal for them. Eventually they conceded and handed over the rigging. Then came the rush to fit it and leave the country as it was getting late in the season for crossing to South Africa.

Which brings me to the current scenario. I am helping a friend get his Dix 38 from Piriapolis in Uruguay to Puerto Williams in Chile. The season is marching on, winter approaches and with it the window for sensible passage making in this region of Patagonia. When performing a final rig inspection just before preparing to clear out with immigration and the multitude of officials, Barry discovered a few broken strands of wire at one of the terminals on an aft lower shroud. Sailing with the rig in this condition would be unthinkable as this piece of standing rigging is critical to the integrity of the rig. A solution had to be arrived at.

Our options appeared to be either that Barry would board a flight to Miami and persuade a rigger to make up a replacement shroud over Easter or that we would use the emergency kit kept on board for this type of scenario. We opted for the latter and hauled out the rigging kit put together by Colligo, one of the leading companies in synthetic rigging. It comprised of a length of Dux dyneema cord, a t-fitting for the mast end, a chainplate fitting for the deck end and a set of lashing blocks for tensioning the line. After measuring up the length required, splicing in the t-fitting and the lashing block, we were ready to fit the replacement shroud within an hour. Installing the shroud was a simple affair and the tensioning was time consuming but simple enough. We both sat back after re-rigging the shroud and concluded that the days of rigging sailboats with stainless steel wire must be nearing an end. The finished product was lighter, stronger and way easier to work with than wire. Lets hope I still feel the same in 1600 miles?

So once again, I depart from Uruguay on a beautiful autumn day, only this time, heading south for Tierra del Fuego and not east for home. Rigging issues overcome!

Some thoughts on “big weather”……

The South African Coast has experienced some pretty intense weather during the early days of October. Durban was hit by the exceptionally strong winds and torrential rain associated with a coastal “cut-off low”. Earlier in the same week, the Cape Peninsula was blasted by a North Westerly winter gale. 

A sailor who decided to put to sea from Durban, aware of the impending weather, has predictably been the topic of various opinions after his story was published by Richard Crockett’s online magazine  “Sailing” through the publication’s Facebook page Sailing Mag SA. 

I happened to be at sea during the gale that hit the Western Cape as I was delivering a Dix 38 from Port Elizabeth to Simon’s Town. I had had to be very patient leaving PE as there were only very short gaps between the SW gales blowing up the coast. Eventually there was a three day gap meaning we would probably be able to cover the 400 miles to Simon’s Town, but I also knew it would be a close call. As it turned out, we had a day of light Easterlies following the passing of the cold front in which we motor sailed to keep up the 6 knot average needed to make FBYC before the next forecast front, then a day and a half of glorious downwind sailing in 17-25 knots of ESE. We got 10 miles off Cape Hangklip before the wind died suddenly and just as quickly came through as a North Westerly gale with its frontal wind speeds in excess of 50 knots. It later died down to around 40, gusting 45. Even this was too much wind for us to make progress into and the sea that had built up rapidly compounded the situation. 


The forecast for weather we were trying to avoid being caught in!

The Dix designs are great seaworthy boats but the combination of high winds and short, steep seas caused by the relatively shallow waters of False Bay meant we realistically only had two options open:

1) we could turn and run back to Mossel Bay or 

2) we could “hove to” and sit out the worst of the weather and wait for the wind to back to the South West before sailing on home!

Both options had their pro’s and con’s. In favor of running for Mossel Bay was the fact that it was only 180 miles away or around 27 hours in those conditions. In Mossel Bay we could have refueled and rested before tackling the final stretch again. Counting against this strategy were several considerations. The first was that the passage east to Mossel Bay would see us going against the Agulhas Current from Cape Agulhas to Mossel Bay and with a wind against current scenario, the sea conditions were likely to be much worse than those we were encountering outside False Bay. Secondly, there was another front forecast for two days later, and although it was forecast to be nowhere near as strong as the current one, it would still make the homeward leg long and unpleasant or would have required a further wait of four days in Mossel Bay for the next gap.

The option of heaving to and waiting out the conditions at sea had a solitary con and that was that we would be drifting slowly towards a very busy shipping channel. The pro’s of the heave to option were that it would make the completion of the sail into our destination much quicker when the wind shifted and more importantly, that it would be much easier on the boat and the crew and, as long as we maintained a good lookout, much less risky. 

As it turned out, we spent Monday night slowly fore-reaching with a tiny section of headsail unfurled and backed. The rudder was set to counter the sail pushing the bow to leeward and a slow South Westerly course was made, away from land. The boat adopted an attitude of around 70° to the waves and thus resulted in a slightly rolly action but our progress was slowed to under one knot. By morning it appeared that the wind had dropped to around 30 knots and I decided to get underway again, on a North Easterly heading, back towards Cape Hangklip where I felt our best chance of entering False Bay was. Our progress was short lived! The wind soon increased to over 45 knots as we closed the coast and the only sensible plan of action was to heave to again. This time we adopted a different strategy and rolled away the headsail completely and hoisted the mainsail with three reefs. The boat sat far more comfortably with this configuration and adopted an attitude about 50° to the waves. The result was that the boat rose and fell with each swell but did not roll nearly as much as the previous night. Progress was also reduced to less than one knot in complete comfort, despite the anemometer registering gusts in excess of 65 knots.  

My concern about the shipping was unfounded as without fail, the Masters of ships were exceedingly courteous and accommodating. Only one ship’s offer to alter course for us was accepted because we both felt that one mile may be a little close to pass each other under the conditions. AIS is an amazing safety tool. With us transmitting our position, heading and speed, merchant ships were able to make course correction decisions from more than 30 miles away and we were able to call ships by name if we were concerned about their intentions. I don’t think any yacht seriously contemplating regular sailing in congested waters should do so without AIS, and the transponder type that gives a yacht of any size a digital presence on the bridge of every merchant ship within VHF range is preferable. 


Which brings me back to the question raised by the Durban sailor who chose to put to sea knowing that severe weather was forecast. Foolish and irresponsible? Or perhaps more responsible than it first appears?

I lean strongly towards the latter. Very few sailors will voluntarily put to sea in inclement conditions but there is no better way to learn how to deal with those conditions than by experiencing them! That’s the reality. You can only learn so much from books and the Internet. The designer can suggest a sailplan for dealing with storms and make a better than average guess as to his design’s handling characteristics but the only way to learn for certain is to go out and experience heavy weather for yourself, in your own vessel. The time to test your storm jib, trysail or streaming drogue/parachute anchor is when you are ready for it and have planned to do so, not when you are faced with an emergency situation. I am not for a minute suggesting that novices should head out to sea alone in storms. By all accounts, the Durban yachtsman is an experienced and capable sailor. Good seamanship entails many aspects and the competent crewing of a vessel is paramount. I am all for sailors with sufficient experience and well found yachts, getting together and putting to sea in lousy conditions and getting to know their own and their vessel’s ability. It may just save their lives one day. It’ll certainly expose any weaknesses in vessel or crew and those can be rectified for the future. 

‘Change is the only constant in life’…. Heraclitus (544 – 483 BC)

He was quite a perceptive man, Heraclitus, and he must have observed people like me when he came to the conclusion that change is the only constant in life. He also observed that “hide our ignorance as we will, an evening of wine soon reveals it”. He must have been thinking of someone else? Or maybe that was his re-incarnation sitting in the corner of the False Bay Yacht Club bar the other evening?

A reasonably well known Scot also said that “The best laid schemes of Mice an’ Men,/ Gang aft agley”! I think the modern day translation for this is ‘shit happens’? 

In my case, things are not nearly as dire as the Scot would have one believe. Unfortunately, due to the real world restrictions that the weather imposes on us and the rather longer time frames in disbursing of corporate filming budgets, we have had to put the 2017 French Sub-Antarctic Islands Expedition on hold until the following year. This is hugely disappointing for all involved as we had been looking forward to this adventure for over a year now and the planning was well advanced.

The most obvious issue to arise from this is; what are we going to do for the whole of 2017? Well, after careful consideration, some of which may have been in the same venue as the aforementioned philosopher’s re-incarnation, we have decided to go sailing! Firstly, a quick delivery dash across from Thailand to Mauritius in April just to whet the appetite, and then setting off in earnest (or rather in Jerrican) up the East Coast of Africa, taking in Madagascar, Tanzania, Zanzibar and the Seychelles etc. The single most important word in the previous sentence is “etc.”. It is the difference between a one year and a multiple year voyage and is the potential source of much fun, excitement, adventure and conflict! Who would have thought that such a small word could be so important?