Friday 26 June 2015

Nuts & Bolts

In the first article about life on board Sea Wolf I thought I’d give some details of the boat and plans for the voyage as some background information. Future articles will be less jargonistic and factual…

Sea Wolf is a 1997 Nautor Swan 57 RS (18m length, 4.9m beam, 2.3m draft and 25 tonne displacement), designed by German Frers and built in Finland. Powered by a 135 horse power diesel engine, she also has a generator (to provide more efficient power on long passages, particularly the navigation instruments, fridge/freezer etc) and water maker (turning sea water into drinking water). She has a compact centre cockpit offering good protection from the elements. Ultimately she was designed for long-distance blue water cruising.

Sea Wolf is now on her third owner, with Scott having had her for nearly 2 years, in which time she has benefitted from a new suit of sails (main, genoa, yankee, staysail, storm jib try sail and asymmetric spinnaker), new standing and running rigging (including conversion to cutter rig which gives us two furling headsail options at any one time) as well as updated electronics. In Scott’s wife’s words, he bought two boats.

The boat sails extremely well and is very seaworthy. We have experienced storm force winds off the coast of Columbia and Sea Wolf more than met the challenge, with some help from the crew, which gives me a lot of faith in her ability when we get to the really rough stuff in the Southern Ocean.

The one downside of having so many sophisticated systems on the boat is that there are a lot of things that can go wrong, and the marine environment is harsh on equipment. Added to that the boat is 18 years old so some components are coming to the end of their design life, as recently demonstrated by the anchor windlass when the base plate completely corroded. The dreaded ‘defect list’ seems to be persistently at around a dozen items, and usually in addressing one issue you find others.

I met Scott for the first time in London in June 2014, having applied to an advert for the job of First Mate. I immediately liked him and he invited me to join the boat in September to help take Sea Wolf from Gibraltar to Lanzarote, via Morocco. Scott then crossed the Atlantic towards the end of the year with friends and family. There are normally between 4 and 6 on board, quartered in 3 ensuite cabins.
I then rejoined the boat in St Lucia in April 2015 and we have been continuing westwards since, with the boat now at Shelter Bay Marina, just inside the breakwater leading to the entrance of the Panama Canal on the Caribbean side.

From here we will transit the Canal, spend some time in the Archipielago de las Perlas (Panamanian), before reaching the Galapagos. Then it is deeper into the Pacific to French Polynesia, notably the Marquesas, Tuamotus and Tahiti. From there we will start to head in a south-easterly direction, via Pitcairn Island (population largely descendants of the Bounty mutineers) and Easter Island (why the stern face?) to Puerto Montt in Chile for a distinct change in temperature, winds and scenery. We then hope to round Cape Horn, dropping by the Falklands to see if they’re worth keeping, before heading up to Buenos Aires to possibly give them back.

Timing and weather routing will then determine our return track across the Atlantic, probably either via the Cape Verde Islands or Azores, before ultimately cruising across the Med to Turkey – ETA September 2016.    

Sea Wolf (Canadian flag) docked in a tight spot in Tangiers

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