Wednesday 26 December 2018

Pete Hogan.  Short piece written for the Irish Cruising Club about the fancy boats on which I sailed this Summer.
New equipment and customs in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Having walked away from ten years of Glen sailing on Dublin Bay I now found I had time to do some cruising with friends on their boats.  This tended to be in warm waters, that is to say the Tyrrhenian Sea and points further south.  I was struck by several new (to me) pieces of equipment which now seem to be commonplace on the well-appointed ocean cruising yacht.
Nespresso Machine
This handy little number was the star of the galley, relieving the cook from endless boiling of kettles and cleaning of coffee machines and cafeterias.  Everyone on board bemoans the terrible waste, indeed the trashing of the planet by the disposable little pods.  While happily sipping away on their double expresso or macchiato.  Apparently a Nespresso machine draws a huge electricity load.  But nowadays I never worry about that.

A TV set.
Or a really a big screen dominating the saloon.  I can remember when I saw the first TV’s on board yots anchored in the Panama Canal anchorage back in 1982.  The warm glow emanating from the cabin at night indicated their presence and large American yachts gave Super Bowl parties and film shows for the rest of the fleet.  Now they are more commonplace and combined with a DVD player or broadband must be a welcome addition to the cabin if wintering over in some out of the way Spanish marina.  Alas, we could not figure out how to get the World Cup on our TV on-board this summer so had to go ashore and find a suitable bar or restaurant to view the action.
Carbon fibre mast.
Why not?  I witnessed the transfer from Sitka spruce to aluminium.  Now it has to be carbon.  Weight aloft saved is very important when sailing, and if your propeller falls off, (as ours did this Summer) sailing became a necessity rather than an option.  Other carbon pieces of equipment which I noticed creeping in were steering wheels, passerelles, booms, battons, winches, rigging and sails.  Can foils be very far off in the future?
The mobile phone/tablet.
While one of the boats I sailed on this summer had a full complement of navigation equipment - plotters, AIS, VHF BnG etc. the professional skipper on board relied on his mobile phone for all navigation and communication.  In fact it had its Velcro attachment alongside the yachts plotter at the wheel.  He explained that it was more accurate and up to date than the on-board package and could cite instances where it had included hazards which were not included in the on-board software.  In addition he used Windy a lot to plan passages and that was available on his phone.  The VHF radio was rarely used and the old custom of keeping channel 16 on in the background was dispensed with.  On another boat much the same system applied except that a nice Samsung tablet was used to great effect.
Handy also for making Ryanair bookings while underway.
Google maps.
Essential for finding ones way from a dinghy landing point on a remote island like Stromboli to the best pizza joint in the village, in the dark.  First having read the various reviews on TripAdvisor.  Google is also useful and entertaining when checking the pedigree of the other yachts in the anchorage.  Usually superyachts, but not always, there is a surprising amount of information about your neighbours on line.
Ice maker.

We  were in the Tyrrhenian Sea in mid-Summer so this handy little number stole the show.  About the size of a stack of National Geographic magazines it toiled away in a corner turning water from the water maker into lovely ice tubes.  Bliss.
Inflatable fenders.
My first experience of these giant bumpers which stow so neatly away in some remote locker.  Of course one must carry a compressor for the purposes of inflating them, but said compressor can be used to inflate the dinghy/tender and any number of other inflatable toys carried on board.
Cat’s  ( Catamaran’s) 
These vast, tennis court, layer cake, half-mast mainsail, machines seem to be everywhere.  One we were parked next to in Malta had a grand piano in its saloon. The coming thing, they don’t seem to have caught on in Ireland, yet.
Exotic lights
It’s handy now to have a lot of lights, not unlike some sort of Christmas tree adorning your mast.  This makes your boat easy to find in a crowded anchorage at night.  In addition a line of azure lights along the waterline gives a wonderful, magical effect at night, not unlike a flying saucer making a landing. And if you have an airplane type escape chute leading from high up on your bridge down to the water for the amusement of the kids on board so much the better if it is lit up.
Garbage disposal n other matters.
It was difficult to dispose of garbage which we had conscientiously collected.    Apparently one can be fined for bringing it ashore and dumping it in the municipal skips on some of the islands.  In some of the anchorages a boat calls around and collects garbage.  This is not a problem if one uses marinas frequently.  In addition on some islands it was difficult to even land with the dinghy.  The Italian custom of roping off sections of beaches for swimmers seems reasonable enough given the prevalence of high speed boats and tenders.  So one was invariably forced to use the commercial area of harbours.  The American custom of a ‘dinghy dock’ was absent.  It was a good idea to utilise a small anchor as a backup when leaving a dinghy unattended.  Once, the painter from ours was cast adrift in our absence by unfriendly natives.
 The Tyrrhenian Sea with its bounty of islands, its history and culture was a wonderful cruising ground, despite some of the above disadvantages.  While the anchorages were full to crowded, the cruising fleet was invariably interesting if not downright overwhelming.  From Wally’s to classics, from Oligarchs playthings to the latest from Beneteau and Dufour, nautical chic was what it was about.  The Italians are a stylish bunch.  In thanking the owners, I am pleased to say, the boats I was invited to crew on were able to hold their own in this august company.

Pete Hogan 2018