What type of small craft is the safest for ocean sailing? Sailors who ruminate on this subject might be grouped in one of three camps: the traditionalists the modernists or the moderates. Our thinking belongs with the latter school. We believe that a monohulled, ballasted keel sailing craft of moderate dimensions and proportions, having good performance, a high range of stability, watertight integrity strong but not necessarily heavy construction, and specifically designed by a reputable naval architect for cruising offshore, is the safest kind of boat for ocean passages.

It is often a mistake to judge a boat’s seaworthiness by its performance record only, especially for one particular passage.

The success of a passage may be due to good weather, good luck, or unusually good seamanship, rather than to the inherent seaworthiness of the vessel. The Atlantic has been crossed by rafts, a rubber kayaks, a canvas folding boats, an amphibious jeeps and rowing boats, but surely few experienced sailors would recommend such craft for crossing a bay much less an ocean.

Traditionalists generally prefer a rather heavy displacement hull with a long keel; deep forefoot generous beam and pointed stern (Type A in fig. 56-1). These vessels are sea kindly, very able, and have made many famous deep water passages but have poor to mediocre sailing performance and their deep forefoot and generous beam give them a tendency to pitch-pole or broach-to in heavy seas.

For many traditionalists, Captain Joshua Slocum’s Spray or a similar type represents the ultimate in small boat seaworthiness. The advantages of a Spray replica Type B were that her long keel and outboard rig (especially the long bowsprit) helped give her a remarkable balance which permitted self-steering – essential for single-handling, while her heavy displacement and great beam gave her high initial stability roominess, and the capacity to carry quantities of supplies without detracting a great deal from her performance.  Disadvantages of this type are that the rig is large, heavy and less safe to handle than an inboard rig, they are sluggish to windward compared with typical modern boats, and they have a less-than-desirable range of stability.

For those who want reasonable but not necessarily outstanding speed or performance to windward in conjunction with a sea kindly hull which can be balanced for self-steering on many points of sailing without dependence on a wind vane, then Type C (fig. 56-1) may well be the best choice. This type is similar to the Laurent Giles-designed Vertue class, which has probably made more extended ocean passages than any other small class boat. The well-known circumnavigator and author, Eric Hiscock, has written that he considers the Vertue as the finest of all small cruisers, and the Australian Bill Nance sailed his Cardinal Vertue around the world via Cape Horn.

Hull types F and G in fig. 56-1 represent ultra modern ocean racers of very light displacement and low wetted surface. Although they have the advantage of being very fast and perhaps close-winded, they are not the best type for extended ocean cruising, where the extremely short keel can lead to steering difficulties when reaching or running in strong winds and confused following seas, and they are not sea kindly or conducive to crew comfort even though they may be seaworthy from the standpoint of constructional safety.

The modern trend towards low wetted surface, short keels has produced some steering problems. For craft used solely for cruising, it is best to have a sufficient length of keel to allow the rudder to be attached to the keel’s trailing edge for maximum rudder strength and protection, as in Types C and D in fig. 56-1. Where the trailing edge of the keel is quite far forward of the after the end of the waterline, the rudder must be detached from the keel and moved aft (as in Types E, F and G) in order to obtain a sufficiently long lever arm between the rudder and the boat’s vertical turning axis for adequate steering control.

Whichever type of hull is finally chosen, an ocean monohulled craft should have abundant safety characteristics such as watertight integrity, self-bailing cockpit, proper ballast, suitable bilge pumps, adequate freeboard, proper piping and wiring, skid-proof decks and adequate handrails, toe rails, an alternative exit hatch, unbreakable and preferably small windows, moderate overhangs, a low and preferably rounded cabin trunk, large freeing ports if she has bulwarks, hatches and companionways located near the centreline, and preferably an inboard rig.


It must never be forgotten that the safety of a yacht and her crew is the sole and inescapable responsibility of the owner, who must do his best to ensure that the vessel is fully found, thoroughly seaworthy and manned by an experienced crew who are physically fit to face bad weather. He must be satisfied as to the soundness of hull, spars, rigging and all gear. He must ensure that all safety equipment is properly maintained and stowed and that the crew know where it is kept and how it is to be used.

Any boat which is to be used for extended offshore passages, whether new or not should be thoroughly tried and tested by taking short shake-down cruises and all bugs should be eliminated before she ventures into exposed waters or leaves the vicinity of readily available help or repair facilities. It is also a wise plan to have any boat, even a familiar one, inspected by a competent surveyor before she is taken offshore on an extended passage.

Perhaps the most important item of a yacht’s gear is her spars and rigging. Fittings are often the weak links in a rig rather than the wire rope.

Douglas Phillips-Birt has written the capital weakness (of modern Bermuda rig) is its ultimate dependence upon many small metal parts. Thus it is of the utmost importance that turnbuckles, toggles, tangs, terminal eyes or jaws, and other essential hardware be carefully selected with the weakest link principle in mind, and an ample safety factor allowed. They should be inspected frequently for any cracks or flaws.

Aluminium masts are often very light and thin-walled, and it is therefore of the greatest importance that they are properly rigged and tuned. They should be kept straight at sea, and the rigging should be positioned and set up sufficiently tight to prevent excessive mast movement. Compression bends from overly taut stays should not be allowed; at the same time, the rigging should be tight enough to hold the mast in column in a seaway, otherwise it can collapse without breaking a stay, shroud or fitting (we have seen this happen).

Of general equipment the minimum which should be carried on a long-distance cruising yacht would include: –


For long-distance cruising, the fresh water supply would be divided between at least two tanks, which should not communicate. The supply in one tank should be kept intact until the end or nearly the end, of the passage so that, in the event of the other tanks giving out unexpectedly, the vessel will be able to reach port though perhaps with a restricted water ration. On an ocean passage, fresh water should not be used for washing up except a little for glasses – hot sea water with a little washing soda in it does just as well. In these circumstances, an allowance of one gallon per head per day is a sufficient allowance and rationing below this quantity should be unnecessary except in emergencies. When the first tank runs dry, the prudent skipper will calculate what the actual consumption has been an act accordingly regarding the remaining supply.

During a long cruise, it may happen at some foreign port that one of the tanks has to be filled with water of doubtful purity, in which case it should be sterilised. Tablets can be bought containing a mixture of calcium hypochlorite and sodium hyposulphite in the correct proportion for sterilising fresh water and removing the taste of the sterilisation, and these should be in every foreign-going vessel’s medical supplies and used as directed in the Ship Captain’s Medical Guide, Failing this, all water of doubtful purity must be boiled before being used, even for washing crockery or glasses.

On an ocean cruiser when the principal articles of diet, although nourishing and wholesome, are deficient in vitamins, it is important to see that this deficiency is made up of other things. Vitamins are essential for health and are contained in sufficient quantities in an ordinary well-balanced diet ashore. Lack of certain vitamins can lead to serious deficiency diseases such as beriberi, pellagra, scurvy and xerophthalmia, and the skipper of an ocean cruising vessel must be aware of the vitamin requirements for himself and his crew and the foods which can meet these requirements. Fig. 56-3 shows the daily requirement of vitamins and the foods richest in supplying them,

The body requires small quantities of various vitamins to remain healthy. It cannot make enough of all of these for itself., and so they have to be provided in food. A well-balanced diet containing meat, fish, dairy products and fresh fruit and vegetables contains enough vitamins for the body’s needs. A poor diet can give rise to various deficiency diseases. These charts show foods rich in the common vitamins; vitamins A and C, and thiamine, nicotinic acid and riboflavin from the B-group vitamins.

Lack of Vitamin A can lead to eye disease (xerophthalmia). Vitamin A is found in all animal tissues, but an indirect source is a substance called carotene, which the body can convert into Vitamin A. Carrots, egg yolks, butter, and yellow or orange fruits and vegetables contain plenty of carotenes but note that if pure Vitamin A concentrate is taken daily in large amounts it can lead to severe disorders of the nervous system, bones and other tissues. Remember that vitamins in excess of the body’s needs do not increase health or well-being and may actually produce illness.

The Vitamin B complex includes thiamine (vitamin B1), deficiency in which leads to Beri-Beri, riboflavin (vitamin B2), lack of which can cause skin disorders, and nicotinic acid, deficiency in which leads to pellagra. Milk contains a large amount of a substance which is readily converted to nicotinic acid in the body.

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is abundant in many fresh fruits and vegetables, and deficiency leads to scurvy. It will be obvious from the above that the greatest dangers in vitamin deficiency on a long passage are likely to be Vitamin C (because fresh fruits and vegetables are not available) and Thiamine (unless adequate cereals are provided). The old provision to prevent Vitamin C deficiency at sea used to be lime-juice, but this was rarely of the necessary quality to prevent scurvy, and it will be seen from fig. 56-3 that blackcurrants are richest in Vitamin C. Blackcurrant juice, especially Ribena, which has additional vitamin C, is therefore recommended as the best source of vitamin C when fresh fruits and vegetables are no longer available: a daily drink of this per man should prevent all possibility of Vitamin C deficiency. On the provisioning of a vessel for an ocean voyage, only general indications of quantities required can be given, because as wide a variety of stores as possible should be carried, and many of these are interchangeable. The following is a list of stores calculated to suffice five people for fifty days. Although personal tastes and requirements differs the list may contain useful suggestions. Notes on some of the items are given below.

In the absence of the refrigerating capacity to carry sufficient quantities of meat for a voyage, the only alternative is to provide beef in brine. This is best done in very large glazed earthenware jars with a capacity each of about 25 kg. of beef besides the brine.

The brine is made by dissolving salt in fresh water until a peeled potato just floats in it, adding about 30 grams of saltpetre to 18 litres of brine. The best (fresh) silverside of beef should be used, in pieces weighing about 2 to 3 kg. Each, free from bone and with not much fat. A slab of heavy wood about 40mm. thick should float on top of the brine to prevent the possibility of any part of the beef rising above the surface, becoming tainted, and spoiling the whole. The jar or tub should be inspected daily, and if a fragment of fat should become detached from the beef and float to the surface, it should be removed. Fresh beef will remove some of the salt from the brine within the first fortnight, so at the end of this time the brine should again be tested with a peeled potato and a little more salt added if Necessary. Beef which has been in the pickle for about 10 days would be ready for boiling without soaking. It becomes more and more salt until at the end of about five weeks it is saturated. After this it will keep indefinitely without further change. Beef which has been in the brine for more than about 10 days should be soaked one hour for every day it has been in the brine beyond the 10 days, up to a maximum of 24 hours. Abundance of salt water will do for the earlier soakings, but the last two should be in fresh water. In light airs it is a good idea to tow the beef astern in a net. Fresh beef put into brine becomes slightly less in bulk (it loses water and absorbs salt) so that the weight remains approximately the same, but salted beef loses 25% of its weight in soaking and cooking. An average helping of cooked meat is about 85grams, equal to about 115 grams in the brine tub.

To boil salt beef after it has been soaked as long as required, it should be put into a cooking pot and covered with cold fresh water. When the water begins to boil, any scum on the surface should be removed. Carrots and. onions should be added and the whole simmered very slowly, allowing half an hour for each 1 kg. of beef and half an hour extra. Suet dumplings should be put in one hour before the end, and potatoes about three-quarters of an hour. The meat is improved in flavour by being boiled with the vegetables, but in hot weather, cold beef keeps better if it has been boiled alone.

Bacon for a long voyage is preserved in dry salt. Middle-cut bacon, not too thin, is best, packed either in jars or in a strong wooden chest. The slices should be rubbed thoroughly with dry salt and packed with salt between each slice and then covered with salt, and pressed well down to exclude air. Bacon requires no soaking but should be rinsed in sea water to remove the salt from the surface.

Butter should be kept in jars holding about 2 kg. each which have first been sterilised by boiling and allowing to cool just before being filled. The butter should be pressed well down, covered with a single layer of butter muslin which has just been dipped in boiling water, the jars topped up with a thick layer of dry salt and a cover tied over it. Butter thus prepared will keep certainly for many weeks. The day’s supply should be taken out with a knife just sterilised in boiling water. Tinned butter is an alternative, but tends to have an unpleasant oily flavour.

The round Dutch cheeses keep best at sea, provided that they are kept in a reasonably dry place with ventilation, rubbing them with boracic acid powder prevents mould, and the powder does not penetrate the rind. English Cheddar is the best for the first two weeks.

A tin of dried skimmed milk such as Cadbury’s Marvel makes about 3½ pints of milk when mixed with water and can be used for breakfast cereals and cooking purposes. The sweetened condensed milk keeps well after being opened and can be used for tea, coffee cocoa, etc.

In estimating the quantity of bread required loaves bought ashore will last perhaps a week. After this, if no bread is baked on board and farinaceous foods such as macaroni, spaghetti and rice are not much used, the consumption of biscuits will be about ½ kg. per head per day. Bread is very easily made and, baked perhaps two or three times a week at sea, is a pleasant change from biscuits on a long cruise. It is made by mixing 1½ kg. of wholemeal flour with five moderately heaped teaspoons full of baking powder and one heaped teaspoonful of salt in a large bowl, gradually adding about three cups full of water or milk and kneading it thoroughly into a stiff paste; this mixture is divided into four loaves and baked in a fairly hot oven for three quarters of an hour. If a lighter bread is preferred about one-third white flour and two-thirds wholemeal flour may be used instead. White flour is used mainly for cakes, duffs and dumplings. Flour, macaroni spaghetti, rice, baking powder, sugar and tea should all be kept in airtight tins.

Only thoroughly ripened potatoes will keep; new potatoes are no use for sea stores. An average consumption is about 2 kg. per week for each person on board.

Carrots keep best if packed in dry sand. Onions will keep for many months if they are thoroughly ripe and have been harvested in dry weather.

Shallots kept dry in a tin will keep for a year and are useful for flavouring stews when there are no onions.

Bovril is sometimes useful in cooking, but yacht cooks tend to make the mistake of using too much, which is apt to upset digestion.

Marmite is a commercial extract of yeast which can be used in cooking as. a substitute for meat extract, which its smell and flavour closely resemble.

It does not disturb digestion as meat extracts are apt to do, and has the added advantage of being rich in thiamine (Vitamin B).

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