Challenge to the North – Notes
Jure is a serious guy when it comes to challenges. This time as a preparation for his second Silverrudder (solo 147 NM) he sailed from Korčula, Croatia all the way north to Izola, Slovenia through the most of the Adriatic. He did more than 300 NM and learned at least 10 important things. He wrote them down so you can be more prepared if you decide to go on a similar adventure.
10 points to remember (in no particular order of importance).
1. Cold beer
It is difficult to keep beer cold in a summer months on a seascape18. I have seen some friends on a water and developed a simple strategy: drink a cold beer when it is offered to you, there is no point waiting until it gets warm… Thanks to all bringing a can or two of beer (or a bottle of wine) to the boat…
2. Boat handling in extreme wind conditions
Just a few hours after the departure from Korčula we faced a gradual shift from NW to Tramontana (N) with wind strength going from 18 knots up to 35 knots in gusts. Sea state was horrible despite relatively short fetch and we had to sail upwind. Luckily we were two on board at that time… We tested all kind of combinations: reef in main, no jib, reefed main + small jib and small jib alone. It turned out for us that the only sail plan working for us was small jib, all the rest was simply too much. Duško was trimming the sail constantly in order not to get overpowered. Later I was discussing sail optimal sail plan for emergency situation both with Tome and Dejan: they were both claiming that main is better than the jib. But the final hint was given by Vid: if you sail just with reefed main, you should not forget to lift a keel slightly and you get much more control.
Taking some good food with you is a must. I got a piece of pancetta (dried ham) and two onions from Mirjana and Nebojša a day before departure when they had learned about my crazy idea to sail north. Few hard boiled eggs, pancetta, onion and a bottle of Grk (local Lumbarda wine) did the magic, I ate the last piece of pancetta just before Izola!
After struggling for 50 hours on the helm on the last Silverrudder I decided to offer myself a way to soften the experience: autopilot. The whole journey was somehow intended to test some new or upgraded systems which can make single-handed sailing easier and safer. Autopilot (Raymarine ST1000) was definitely one of them. And it worked great! Of course, you have to know its limitations but I was positively surprised by its capabilities in a quite broad range of conditions. The whole electrical package for seascape18 was developed before departure to Korčula, with a Li-Ion battery, solar panel, 12V and 5V outputs and the power output for the autopilot. The system worked great and provided enough juice for 6 days of sailing.
5. Small sails
I realized, that SSC18 is easily getting overpowered when sailed single handed. I have a small jib and small gennaker and they proofed to extend the comfort zone in a region of stronger winds. The penalty paid in low winds area is minor compared to safety and easier boat handling once the wind gets closer to 20 knots. I am still convinced that there is no fun of sailing SSC18 single-handed over 20 knots where it can easily get dangerous. The jib clam cleats where changed from classical to SpinLock and I do not regret this investment: releasing the jib is now so much easier and faster.
If you offered a hand from a friend for a part of the trip, just take it. Duško was kind enough to sail with me the first part (Korčula – Split). Without his help, I would have serious problems in 35 knots tramontana which started (a bit unexpected) just a few hours after our departure.
On the next stage (Split – Murter) I was accompanied by Tome. It is always a big privilege to sail with guys like Tome, both a top sailor and a guy loaded with local knowledge. He has brought the art of SSC18 cruising to the next level.
7. Going “wrong” way
The normal circulation in the summer months along the Croatian coast is a land-breeze/see-breeze regime with dominating direction from NE during the night and NW during the day. Taking this into account the normal direction of sailing would be rather going from Izola to Korčula. Luckily enough I had just a few days of North-Westerlies and then wind changed to SE. The progress got much faster with one downside: there were quite a few thunderstorms in the N Adriatic: radar images and lightning maps were my best friends for the last two days. It took me 6 days to cover the distance of a bit more than 300nm. Going the other way would probably mean a day and a half less.
8. Don’t underestimate reaching conditions and lee shores
I have got the feeling that the most critical type of singlehanded sailing is close reaching on the lee side of the islands. The wind is gusty conditions and it is difficult to de-power the boat. Pinching doesn’t work, the only way to depower the sails is by releasing the sheets but you have to do it fast enough!
At one stage I realized that I have more than 20 items to be charged on board some of the necessary (battery for autopilot, phone for communication and navigation, …) and most of them unnecessary. If you already have them on board think twice how you are going to charge them, do you have the right charging cables with you, and finally, do you really need all this stuff.
10. There is no point of sailing single- handed without someone waiting for you at the destination point.
Sailing alone is a great experience. But if there is someone to greet you at the finish everything gets some meaning. Thanks to Marjan for giving me a hand Thanks to Alenka (my wife) and Karo (our Australian Shepard) for waiting for me in Izola.