Andy and Meredyth Harris - SURWAYA

Before I launch in to our cruising experiences I had better outline where we are coming from in order that you can put some credence on what we say or, of course, disregard the lot.

We are both in our mid forties and are currently cruising in our self built Bruce Robert's 38' Spray.

SURWAYA in San Antonio Bay This picture of the boat was taken in San Antonio Bay, Ibiza this past summer. We started building in 1989 on a farmyard in South Yorkshire and launched at Hull Marina on April 9th 1996. Subsequently we set off for 'somewhere' on 14th July 1996.

Prior to building our boat 'SURWAYA' we had never built a boat before and, to be honest, we had never owned anything bigger than a small dinghy. Meredyth, my wife was never madly keen on sailing and my skills, such as they were, were of the self-taught variety. I had crewed for a fortnight on a Nicholson 55' in the Med. but that was it as far as big stuff was concerned. We departed Hull Marina and sailed direct to Ramsgate - our first real passage.

From Ramsgate we sailed to Gibraltar via Dartmouth, Falmouth, Finnesterre, and most of the ports and harbours down the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal. At the bottom we turned left for the Med. and ended up in Gib via Villamoura. We wintered 96/97 in Gib with occasional trips across to Morocco. In 96 we cruised the southern Spanish Coast as far as Denia and then jumped across to Ibiza and Formenterra for the summer before returning to Almerimar for the winter of 97/98.

Due to a domestic situation in the UK {ageing and sick parent} we elected to return to the Balearics for this past season because of the plentiful and cheap airfares available for ad-hoc returns to the UK. It proved to be a good decision. We are currently wintering back in Almerimar - reasons later. That's about it for history. Since we've been away we haven't had any major nightmares despite our lack of previous experience and I think this is largely due to preparation and common sense - conceited or what!

Which Boat? - Our boat is 38', 16 tonnes, long keel and made of steel. When we built her we had no idea of where we were going and, to be frank, that is still the case. The heavy, steel boat option has got much to recommend it and there have been a number of occasions when we have sworn never to sail in anything else, however, there are times when it is just too heavy. In the Med. We have often wished for a lighter boat for better light wind sailing performance although this option has the problem of being a bit too delicate in the short, square, Med. swell. Cats are very popular amongst cruising folk in the Med. because of their large living accommodation for length and their arguably faster average cruising speed. Perhaps the greatest thing going for most cats is their shallow draught which allows them to anchor closer to the shore than most mono's and hence they can usually pick an un-crowded spot.

Another topic of interest is length and beam. Most marinas we have visited since leaving the UK have charge bands. The normal bands of interest are 9-12 mtrs, 12-15mtrs and 15-20 mtrs. There is often a significant difference of cost between bands and I think our SSR certificate registered length of 11.87 mtrs must have saved us a fair packet. Usually the marinas will take the paperwork length as gospel although a number of marinas have started painting calibration marks on the reception pontoons - sneaky or what. Cats are nearly always charged 1.5 or 2.0 times their length band. On balance, perhaps slightly biased, we are more than happy with our boat and in an effort to overcome the light airs problem we have just ordered a large cruising chute.

Paperwork - The only documents we have ever been asked for are Passports, SSR and Insurance papers. Most of the time it is just the passport. All the nonsense about radio cert.'s, RYA cert.'s etc. etc. has never been required in our experience so far. Some marinas require proof of third party insurance but to be honest the arrival procedure is normally just a matter of patience whilst the staff, who often speak little or no English, slavishly tick boxes and copy numbers without any real knowledge of what it all means.

This year we were boarded for the first time by the Spanish ADONIS - customs whilst on passage between the Spanish Mainland and Ibiza - all they wanted was a quick look around the boat, passports and a chance to speak English. Before we left the UK we bought a book of multi-language arrival forms which were quite useful. I would recommend laying your hands on one, fill in the unchanging details {boat name etc.} and then cover it in plastic. All you have to do from then on is write a few boxes with erasable pen and it saves you both time and expense. So far Portugal has been by far the worst arrival experience with the same computerised procedure required at every port. The worst of all was Villamoura where you have to visit several desks as you arrive and before you can depart. It was even worse than Morocco.

Communications - Email is the way ahead! - our opinion. When we set off we communicated with home by public telephone which to be fair was OK. Along the way we discovered cyber-cafe culture which was good for both email and weather info. We now have a lap-top and Nokia GSM mobile which allows us to be our own post office. Some use a lap-top and acoustic coupler to send and receive via the public telephone system. Something else worth thinking about if your going to spend any time in Spanish waters {Spain, Balearics and Canaries} is a Spanish Pay as you Talk Mobile. The cost is around £70 and of course the Top-up cards. The great advantage of this option over and above a UK phone roaming is that the Spanish deal gives you free line rental and you don't pay a percentage of any incoming international calls. Moreover, you get up to 9 months free 'receive only' after the call credit runs out.

Another bonus has been the NASA SSB receiver {about £149.00} which we bought last year. There is a wonderful facility run by ex-cruising folk based in the UK called the UK Maritime Mobile Net.

They run two nets everyday at 0800 and 1800 GMT on 14303 kHz for radio hams. However, anybody can listen-in of course which they appreciate. Not only can you eavesdrop on how everybody is getting on{bit like maritime Archers} it is a good source of destination information and, more importantly, weather. To this end they broadcast daily and 5-day forecasts for all the sea areas from the western approaches to Cyprus and any other forecasts as requested by the Maritime Mobiles - an excellent and free service. There are a host of other stations available for weather Monaco etc. all easily obtained with this simple little receiver. It's also good for listening to the BBC World Service. In an emergency you can always find a ham with SSB to relay a message home via this system but, of course, it would have to be a real emergency.

The other NASA piece of equipment we have retro fitted was a NAVTEX receiver which has also been a real boon. The single most worrying thing when we left the UK was lack of weather information but the systems above have totally eliminated that worry for now at least.

Electronics - We are fairly simply equipped with the following: Autohelm 4000 wheel Pilot {Outstanding and never let us down in 5000 miles}, Autohelm instrument system Wind, Depth, Speed and Multi Repeater at the wheel {Also outstanding. The only failure so far was the speed transducer impeller which I mangled whilst cleaning off barnacles}, An ageing fixed Apelco GPS at the Chart Table {No problems}, Hand-held mounted Magellan GPS at the wheel {the screen is beginning to lose data lines and the green back-light is far to bright at night} , and VHF.

I thought hard about fitting RADAR before leaving but I'm glad I didn't bother - so far. In 5000miles we would only have switched it on once {fog around Finnesterre} which would have been quite an expensive return for return as it were. I reckon if you can afford the £690 for one of the new 'cheapies' it would be a reasonable insurance policy though. To be honest there really is nothing else we need.

We might consider replacing the first GPS to fail with a cheap GPS/Plotter although the lap-top has a much better screen if we wish to go the electronic chart route. By the way, the NASA SSB comes with a lead and software which allows you to receive weatherfax from a number of sources - it works really well most of the time - propagation willing.

Engine - When we building our boat a Kiwi couple over-wintering in Gibraltar said, "fit the biggest, slowest revving engine you can". We fitted a Perkins 3.152, 50 hp which has been superb and 100% reliable. I think we could easily have accommodated 70 hp. There is no doubt about it a good engine/propeller combination is not essential but a damn good insurance and peace of mind factor.

Other good features we have incorporated are the Halyard Marine flexible coupling which is a perfect noise reduction measure. It also saved a potentially nasty situation becoming expensive this year when one of our anti-vibration engine mounts decided to delaminate in rough seas but, of course, the slight engine movement was not transmitted to the shaft, bearings etc. WE have been running for the past three years with a deep sea seal {also Halyard} which has been no problem at all. We were going to replace it this winter on grounds of old age but have decided on, and bought, one of the new units which is lubricated by self cycling oil instead. It comes with a 10 year warranty which, hopefully, bodes well for serviceability.

We would like a feathering prop but at circa £1500 we frankly can't justify the expense. We carry 120 gallons of diesel tankage which I think gives us between 6-700 miles of range. This has proved a good amount and allows us to go all season without needing to fill up. In the Med. we have noticed that almost everybody seems to motor when the boat speed drops below 5 knots. We usually allow the speed to get down to about 2-3 knots under sail before we fire-up although if there is no nasty swell we are happy to plod on at any speed.

Our engine usage in the past three years has averaged at 85 hours per year. The main reason for starting the engine is to reduce wear and tear on the 'flogging' sails and because the auto-pilot starts to struggle when the boat speed gets down to less than a couple of knots. Hopefully our new cruising chute will allow us to keep going a bit longer before Mr. 'P' {Perkins} is called upon.

Money - Where to start? The easy bit is getting what you've got. We set off with a plethora of cash, cheques, cards etc. We now get all our money with plastic. Mostly we use the hole in the wall machines of which there are zillions in both Portugal and Spain. You can use both debit {Switch etc.} and credit cards but we mainly use the MasterCard and accept the small service charges we pay. We also use MasterCard for paying all marina bills etc. How much do we spend? As usual with this subject the easiest thing to say is, "how long is a.....................string".

Looking back it is best to split it into winter and summer. In the winter we spend more than in the summer mainly because we spend the time tied up. Almerimar Marina {Near Almeria} is charging us £420.00 for 6 months paid in advance for this winter plus 50p per day for water and electricity - about one day at anchor in Falmouth - only joking - I think! It is a superb marina with a 1000 boat hard standing and space for more than that in the water of its modern marina. It has a large international over-wintering cruising population {thanks to the charges} which leads to a superb social scene. There is another, smaller, marina 15 NM east called Aquadulce which provides much the same atmosphere at about the same cost.

We spend about £50-60 per week on food and entertainment throughout the year and don't think we skimp on much. In the summer we hardly spend anything on marinas {between April and September this year we spent 2 two days in Marinas} and, therefore, the overall costs come down markedly. On top of this there are diesel, water, gas/paraffin and boat maintenance costs to think about. And airfares if you need them of course. WE know people who spend half this amount and people who spend loads more but everybody seems to be enjoying doing there own thing on what they can afford. It almost becomes a bit of a game trying to see how little you can spend and still maintain the same standard of living.

Electricity - We have a 120amp engine cranking battery and 480 amps on the domestic side. The engine alternator is 50 amps and we have an Ampair 100 wind generator with optional water turbine. To date we have produced ample power with this set up and rarely need to run the engine purely for power generation. This year we are fitting 100 watts of solar panels and intend to fit a fridge. Solar panels are available in Ibiza at about 1/2 UK price and a friend of mine who fitted the same set-up last year has averaged 7 amps output for about 12 hours a day throughout the summer. I don't think we need a generator although a small petrol job would be nice for running power tools at anchor.

Water - We have four tanks with a total capacity of 250 gallons. It seems to me that the most labour intensive activity amongst live-aboards in the Med. is carrying Jerry cans of water to and from the boat. A water maker would be nice but frankly the cost is too large for our budget. Carry as much as you can is the best advice I can offer. The number of boats cruising with 50 gallons or less capacity astounds me - it's madness. Many of the marinas will allow you to tie-up for twenty minutes and charge you a nominal sum to fill up with water which is a worthwhile event if you have big tanks but a major chore if you have to do it every other day.

Guests - A quick word of advice based on our own bad experience.. Last year we had lots of friends and family out which was great. The bad news is that we found ourselves tied to a tedious time and place scenario. Don't allow yourself to get tied to declaring where and when you are going to be anywhere more than a few weeks in advance. We found ourselves dashing between airports to meet the holiday schedules of our guests. Frankly it was both tiring and potentially dangerous and ruined most of the summer. What a Bah Humbugger I am.

Navigation - We are not ashamed to say that we use GPS 100% of the time. We have a sextant which I used to use every week for practice. Now we don't bother with it. With two GPS systems both operating from the ships voltage and one with an internal battery option I feel totally happy with what we've got. Moreover, in the Med., although we use the GPS quite frankly most of the time we are using pilotage as the primary method. WE tend to use the M1, M2 type charts with Pilot Books for detail. In my opinion, the Pilot Books are invaluable for safe and simple cruising.

Well that's about it for now, my fingers are dropping off. Obviously there are oodles of things I could mention but it would go on and on. Perhaps the best thing is for me to post this and offer to answer any specific questions that you might want to throw this way. Obviously we haven't yet girdled the world but perhaps some of the above will be food for thought. The overriding thought that we have both had since setting off is that you could spend a life time cruising and still only see a fraction of the World - it's best not to set off with plans that are too frantic - you will miss too much.

Return to Home page button   Return to Home PageEnd of Section

© CRB Ltd. Updated - Monday, 17 Apr 2006