With 5200 hours on the engines, more than 50,000 mile in six cruising seasons, Wind Horse has proven to be our ultimate cruising tool. Now closing in on her seventh year afloat we have the proverbial wish list, with items big and small about which we need to decide. Considering that Wind Horse is being used far more intensively than any of our previous designs, and in much more demanding environments, our wish list is quite short.
When we are aboard, we are always thinking about fine tuning details, the curse of perfectionism with which we have lived these many years. But we have learned to wait before going forward, spend time ashore to give ourselves perspective, and then decide if it is really worth the time, effort, and expense to act on those desires.
This blog is a form of internal discipline. We want to recap how Wind Horse has been used, what is likely in the future, as part of the decision making process. Let’s start with where she has taken us. The distances, comfort level, conditions, and what we have learned.
After a May 2005 launching we hung out in New Zealand getting to know Wind Horse, testing systems, checking design parameters, and putting hours on the machinery. Out of the box we sensed we had something special, but we did not yet know what she would allow us to accomplish. We looked at the upcoming 6000 miles back to the States as an elongated delivery rather than a cruise. Having done this trip numerous times before we understood the tradeoffs in weather, comfort, and time, or thought we did.
Fiji, Samoa, Fanning,
Hawaii, and the long hop – Honolulu to Southern California (2200 miles upwind) passed under the keel between July and October. In three months we put those miles easily behind us, enjoying the coastal cruising and the sea time with the exception of the first week between Hawaii and California.
We were very pleasantly surprised at the comfort underway, and the lack of stress associated with this new form of voyaging.
Key items for us were:
- Exceptional comfort in all angles of wind and wave, far better than we were used to under sail, even with the 78 foot ketch Beowulf.
- Surprising low sound levels, essentially silent forward (measured at 57 dB by Bill Parlatorre from PassageMaker magazine at eleven knots). Levels in the aft cabins, where we slept in heavy going were higher, but the steady throb of the engines was comforting and induced sleep.
- The flying bridge was a favorite place in pleasant conditions at sea from which to stand watch or just enjoy the scenery.
- We were not bored at sea, something about which we had been concerned. We found lots of other things besides sail trim and weather routing with which to occupy our time.
- The biggest surprise was the lack of stress. Watchstanding was so much easier, sight lines better, communications between the two of us improved, with no weather impact on sail plan to consider, that we were relaxed at sea in a manner without precedent.
The punch list upon arrival in California list was short: Mastervolt inverters were not working correctly and the propellers were not where they should be efficiency wise.
Summer of 2006 saw us traversing the Pacific Coast, with an easy passage north (which can be awful), through British Columbia and Southeast Alaska.
This is rain forest country (wet!) and we really began to appreciate both the ambiance and vistas provided by the great room layout.
Our original concept for the summer had us visiting a few lovely spots, sitting at anchor, drinking in the surroundings.
However, the long periods of summer daylight in the high latitudes coupled with eleven knots of boat speed, got us thinking more ambitiously and we ended up gunkholing several thousand additional miles, all made enjoyable by the fact that we paid no comfort penalty while under way.
The rugged and isolated West Coast of Baranof Island gave us a taste of adventure,
and the concept of cruising comfortably in adrenilin country began to take hold.
With previous yachts we tended to cruise for short periods, two or three months a year, and when we designed Wind Horse we thought the pattern would be more or less the same. But as you know, this clearly has not been the case. Those same ingredients about which we have been talking, comfort mixed with boat speed, were enough of an inducement to draw us offshore more than in the past. We realized more ambitious destinations than we previously considered were now within reach.
A new set of props had us very close on efficiency to original calcs. Other than the still semi-functional inverters, everything else was running smoothly.
During the winter 2007 we installed a Furuno searchlight sonar for navigation, the first real addition to the boat. We also created an entry vestibule to better protect the entry door and added a large floodlight to the forward mast.
The following spring, 2007, putting Wind Horse’s newly recognized capabilities to work, we made a quick yet very pleasant trip down the coast of Baja California (Mexico)
and into the Sea of Cortez. In the pre FPB days this would have been a four month (minimum) cruise and not practical given other demands on our time.
This was followed shortly by a second trip to the North, this time with Prince William Sound as the goal. Between boat speed and environmental control, we had another easy trip north, and were in Prince WIlliam Sound ahead of the crowds, by the first of June.
We found the late spring snow levels, ice in the streams, and low elevation wild life that comes with this especially alluring.
That fall the Mastervolt inverters were replaced with Victrons (which worked properly). With so little effort required on our part to execute this new form of cruising we set up one our two guest cabins as an office so we could continue our design work while cruising, with a dual monitor computer system (an IMac running both the Apple OS and Windows for our design software). All else remained as built.
Realizing how easy the FPB cruise routine had become, we started thinking about a significantly more ambitious plan, Europe. And then it occurred to us that the northern route took us by Greenland.
We assumed that the 6000+ miles from California to Greenland would be a bit of a slog, but could be put behind us in a little over three weeks of sea time. Twelve days underway to Panama were a delight, the four day trip to the Bahamas easy (it can really be awful),
And Greenland? The highlight of a lifetime of cruising.
Leaving in April we were in
Ireland by mid-August, 10,000 miles in four enjoyable, almost totally comfortable months of adventure.
Leaving the boat at Berthons in the UK they were surprised to find we had nothing for them to do, other than polish the topsides (cost: 1200 Pounds) to remove tire stains incurred while rafted to commercial vessels.
After Greenland what could compare? How about the ice pack, 80 degrees north, and Svalbard.
Another early in the year departure, this time mid-March, allowed us a month in London,
followed by Norway,
the Shetland Islands,
Scotland, and back around to the Solent and Berthons.
This time we had a list: a new heater exhaust system, modify the light mast forward, and a couple of stainless rails on deck. And a major systems change – switching to electric cooking using an induction cooktop and combination microwave/convection/broiler over, which has proven very good move.
Regulars to SetSail will be familiar with the activities in 2010.
and Balearic Islands,
and a long stay in the Canaries.
The passage across the Atlantic
to St. Lucia (10 days) and then Florida after a brief stay in Rodney Bay speaks volumes about what Wind Horse does for us. So, with such a wonderful track record, why would we make any Changes? There are a few things we think we can improve upon, and we enjoy working on the boat. But having looked back at what Wind Horse has accomplished, maybe we should just leave things as they are and spend our time cruising?
On the other hand:
- Our latest set of props would work more efficiently with a different injection pump rack setting. Since the fuel injectors should be tested anyway, we will probably send the pumps in to be reset from an M4 to and M3 rating. This reduces horsepower and max RPM, and pushes the sweet spot on the fuel curve down in terms of the RPM/HP to the point at which we are now running.
- Although our noise levels underway are as low or lower than sailing, now that we are used to this we want it to be better. As a result we have made a series of minor improvements to the exhaust sound level the last three years. Starting out with a straight exhaust (which is how we were fitted when Bill Parlatorre did his sound measurements), we have added an aqualift rather than true in-line muffler because of its compact size. The aqualift helped and now we are seriously considering a pair of Centek high efficiency mufflers as replacements which should attenuate the exhaust noise further.
- Our alarm system would benefit by an upgrade from LEDs to a computer display giving better situational awareness. We are using the Maretron system on the FPB 64s for this purpose and may retrofit it to Wind Horse, or test one of the other systems on the market.
- Flying bridge nav data would be a help (other than depth we have nothing now). We may end up with something as simple as an I pad running one of the Nav apps available, or as a repeater for the main computer system. We need to do further research on this rapidly evolving area. A radar repeater would be wonderful as well.
- A barBQ has been promised to the galley staff, and this long requested item will be installed this spring on the aft rails (position yet to be determined).
- An aft deck seating arrangement, as shown in the latest FPB 64 drawings, is high on the list. Since our rowing dinghy is used as often as the powered dink, we need to find a way to store this over the aft deck seating area and easily launch and retrieve it (we think we have the answer but it needs a bit of design work).
- If we have a good vendor for the previously mentioned pipework, we might change the forward closure system on the flying bridge to a similar design as the FPB 64, for easier access forward.
- The final item is re-plumbing the air conditioning condensers to use the aft fresh water tank for cooling, getting rid of the risk of a salt water flood from an undetected leak.
There are a few ambiance non-essential items which we might look at this spring like a memory foam mattress, a high def LCD TV, and an upgrade on speakers, possibly a new navigation computer. And of course with 5200 hours it is time to check the drive line components, stabilizer items, and replace a few hoses and heat exchangers.
We’ll let these ideas germinate for the next six weeks before making any decisions. By then the call of cruising will be strong, perhaps overpowering, tempering the urge to fiddle with a yacht so close to perfect for our needs.