The boat

The yacht

"You will need a bigger boat."

Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), "Yaws", 1975

 
 

The size
What is the ideal size of the yacht to meet all requirements. What are the actual requirements?
The material
Alloy? Steel? GFK? Wood? Ferrocement? Plenty of options all have pros and cons.
Pre-owned or new?
That is actually not the question. The budged does not allow a new one. So a used yacht will make it. But can it be also an ex-chater yacht?
The equipment
Do I need a dishwasher? Muhaha! What about radar? Hmmm, maybe! And an ice maker? YES that for sure!
The age
Easy answer: The younger the better - meh! Not really. Think about the cost of a young one! And the lack of experience. - We are speaking about a yacht, remember?!
The manufacturer
Almost as complicated as selecting the right car.

The material

Finally something easy!
Crossing the oceans, you for sure want to have something robust and reliable, which will give you a good feeling even if you collide with a 40 foot container dropped from a cargo carrier. But you do not want to deal with the issues like corrosion or galvanic separation, so Steel or Aluminum won't make it:

The material to be is for sure: Titanium!

Lightweight and robust, no corrosion no nothing! Thanks’ Barba K for this excellent idea! ^^
Well, maybe Abramovich might afford such a vessel, but I guess there must be a reason why no one ever has built such a yacht before.
So, Titanium is, despite its advantages, unfortunately not really an option.

Well, there is no easy way out: This also requires a deeper look at the requirements, the pros and cons to find the solution most suitable for the actual needs.

What are the key criteria? In my case:

  • cost - for purchase and maintenance
  • maintainability
  • robustness/ stability
  • cost - hm, did I mention that already before?
  • Spending more money on the yacht means having less for the trip. Easy as that.
    I rather prefer to spend less on the yacht and afford a few more month on sea.
    This is definitely the killing criteria for Titanium and a clear plus for GFK yachts.

    Maintainability

    Welding steel is a task that probably nearly every shipyard around the world will be capable to do. Hopefully this will not be necessary during the trip, but might become necessary.
    But is this really true? With today’s high grade Alloys special knowledge and electrodes are required. So I am not sure whether this is a plus for Steel yachts. In the end fixing GFK seems to be something that does not require too much specialization.
    More than 50% of the circumnavigators nowadays use GFK yachts, so I think both: knowledge and necessary repair material should be widely available.
    No other material is so prone to electrolysis, which might result in a very complex and costly remedial work or even end in the total loss of the vessel. Although this is probably an issue which can be controlled very well (keywords are: regular maintenance of the sacrificial anode, careful insulation whenever different materials are used and regular inspection of the electric installation.

    Robustness

    This is a clear plus for a metal yacht over GFK - being Steel or Aluminum. Period.

    Of course, there are many, many aspects that could be considered like speed, handling, behavior in heavy waters, and so on where metal yachts, especially Aluminum have advantages which I have not mentioned. Following the advice in various forums an Aluminum yacht like an Ovni is something most experienced sailors would prefer and recommend. in an ideal world with unlimited budget I would follow the recommendation.

    Following the advice from Barba K, who is a friend of statistics, told me to have a look what other circumnavigators do: On Heinz Schenks homepage there is a comprehensive statistic about the yachts and cruises of more than 50 voyagers.
    And the numbers speak their own language: steel, wood and ferro cement make just little less than 47%, while more than 53% have had a GFK yacht and were happy with their choice.
    Probably this statistic is not fully representative, but a sample of 50 is a good start.
    [medical]

    The equipment

    Dinghy, out boarder, spare sails, EPIRB, AIS, radar, sat phone, VHF, water maker, wind generator, compressor, autopilot, solar panel, life vests and buoy - the list of (supplementary) technical instruments and equipment available to buy truly is endless. To write and think also about the standard equipment (a well-equipped cruising yacht will already come with an engine, an autopilot, a log, a windmeter, an anchor, rig and sails etc. So, let's concentrate on the additional equipment available on the market that makes life on board easier.

    Not only the list of additional equipment is endless. Same is true for the discussions which are held in the sailor boards regarding the usability, the necessity and the pros- and cons of each of these elements, as well as motivated controversy for the one or the other manufacturer: Ask one question and you get hundred answers - all valuable and mostly valid, but not truly answering the actual question, as they just start an endless discussion on a level which is just beyond expectation - to say it politely.

    Informing oneself about the pros- and cons to make an own decision based on fact and experiences from others, instead of relying on the expert advice of someone else is extremely strenuous.

    For me it does not make sense to write about all considerations for the each of the systems and components their variations and the corresponding benefits and disadvantages. There are other, more experienced sailors and people with more technical knowledge on expert level for each of these systems. I leave this explanation to them.

    In my mind, I have set-up a list with equipment I would like to have on board, which just meets my requirements for safety, comfort and usability. So basically a must have list and a wish list.

    Further I decided not to buy and install everything upfront, but to start small and see how things evolve during the first few months which will be spent in the Med anyways. If necessary I still have the time to extend and add everything that is needed.

    Safety and security

    This list is not negotiable. Having in mind that it is the goal to cross the oceans and to be on your own, whatever happens, you want to be prepared - for the good, but especially for the bad. For me personally the following list is part of my must haves:

    Automatic life raft

    This should have the capacity along to the maximum number of people, for which the vessel is actually registered.

    EPIRB

    The Emergency position-indicating radio beacon station is used for the identification and localization of aircrafts and vessels in an emergency situation, respectively distress. After activation, it sends its (GPS based) position via satellite for a period of 24 - 48 hours to a SAR ground control station who will then hopefully initiate the chain of survival. Sure, you want that when you have thousands of miles of water around you in any direction.

    AIS SART

    The AIS SART being also used for the localization of a life raft or person in distress. But in comparison to the EPIRB does the AIS SART not use global satellite communication but sends its position via VHF signals and therefore has only a limited radius of operation. After its activation, any ship with an AIS receiver in range would see the beacon and its position on the plotter with a corresponding distress information.
    Why do I want this on board when crossing the oceans if it has only such a limited range? Well considering the situation that a crew member goes overboard it helps to find him or her again. Especially if this would happen during night time it would be a tremendous benefit and accelerate the rescue operation for the own (remaining) crew. I don't even want to think about the possibility that someone goes over board during night time...

    Redundant navigation system

    The yachts in GPS and card plotter being the primary system are part of the standard equipment. But in case of a power failure on board I prefer to have at least one redundant system for positioning at sea.

    For this reason, a tablet PC with a card plotter like BOATING Navionics will be on board. The internal battery of the tabled usually is good for at least 4-10 hours (depending on the model and the art of usage) and is a good spare system.
    With usually at least one or two smartphones on board, which all nowadays are equipped with GPS, too, the electronic positioning systems should be sufficiently redundant.

    But what I would like to have as well is a sextant, which would allow the manual positioning even in that case that the electrical power supply fails for a longer period.
    Wish list
    Energetic independence

    The goal is to run the engine only when absolutely necessary. This makes it also necessary to think about the power supply as no shore power will be available for days and no generators will run constantly to satisfy the thirst for electricity.
    To achieve this a combination of wind and solar energy shall be utilized.
    Which panels, how shall these be dimensioned, what kind of wind generator, which charge controller, required number and capacity of the batteries, battery type and what is the actual power consumption during a typical long term cruise?
    Will these questions never stop?
    -solar panels
    -wind generator

    Comfort and pleasure equipment
    - water maker
    - sat phone
    - remote control for anchor chain from stern
    - diving compressor
    - small washing machine
    - icemaker
    - water filter (mechanical and chemical)

    Backup and redundancy

    As mentioned some system are essential and a backup system is inevitable. Whilst others are nice to have and you are happy and luck in case you need them and have them at hands. The subsequent list contains those parts which might be useful, are inexpensive and most likely will be on board just for backup.
    - generator
    - spare (bilge) water pump
    - hand GPS
    The list is to be continued...