Tech – Cruising Tips

Last Update 27/06/2017

This page will have information I wish someone had told me about, some of my lessons learnt, and some general tips. if you are already cruising and have been for some time then there is probably nothing here new to you, and you may well have different views.

I will try to keep the headings making some sense and in Alphabetical order. I will also highlight the  headings when they change or are new, so you don’t have to go through the lot again.

On 22/04/2017 a complete edit was undertaken based on new information

AIS: Automatic System Identification

Both send and receive has  been made compulsory in a number of countries such as Singapore and Thailand & Indonesia, mostly directed at foreign vessels. In most cases the sending side can be turned off if you are concerned about giving up your location. Class A which is typically not cruisers also has the equivalent to SMS in layman terms built into it, that most don’t know how to use. So if your system has class A or B is setup correctly you may receive these messages from time to time. Class A has at least three times  the range of Class B which is typically in the order of 10-15nm. So you may well see a ship (class A) but not your friend (class B) who is nearer.  There is an App for you phone that simulates AIS.  But this App uses the internet, so your location will only be updated if you have internet, and you may well not see the boat next door because he has a proper AIS transponder which transmits on VHF only.


I will preface this by saying many do not like my anchoring technique so I will keep that to myself rather than open up that debate.  That said in 8 years I have dragged twice, once when I dropped the anchor on a 10×10 tarpaulin and the other time was in a blow where another boat dragged and ran into me.

If you are not running a Rocna anchor then quite simply you should be. If there is anyone who has found a better one based on there own actual experience I’m keen to be told. Rocna is ( or was) the only Lloyds certified anchor for pleasure craft. More over if you are one of people putting out 60m of chain in 10m of water to do the job because your anchor wont then its way past time for a new anchor for you. The only other point I will add here, is know your anchor. I have tested mine at various depths and various ratios on different bottoms.

However the main point I want to pass on is when your anchoring in a confined space, or trying to get in close etc. I now do this as a matter of course even if I’m the only boat in bay. By now hopefully you are using Google Image over lays, but if not the concept still works. So long as your chart is accurate.

The example below is of the Hundred Islands in Philippines where many of the anchorages were tight. In this example I create the waypoint Lopez, and I am expecting to anchor in 9m of water. So I create and arrival circle, or range ring around the waypoint. I know in 10m of water I will put out 30m of chain. so I set the circle to 40m radius. I then drag the waypoint around on the chart plotter until the blue circle provides the required clearance which I can see on Google Earth. I know the prevailing wind is from the top (North) so I have placed my waypoint slightly further north.

RT Anchoring

I now know exactly where I want to drop the anchor, which can be difficult to get the prospective standing in the cockpit, and more importantly I know what clearance I have. The blobby red part at the bottom of the circle  is the track where Screensaver  was swinging, so I also no if Screensaver is in the blue circle she has not moved. Of course I set an anchor alarm as well for when this stuff is turned off and I go to bed.

The entry track coming in from the left by the way is me testing my depth assumptions based on visuals of Google earth., which after a while you get pretty good at by the way, as you can see.

I use this principle probably 80% of the time I anchor, and i have also used it a night trying to find an anchor spot in the dark among 20 odd yachts, and used Radar  overlay of the other boats to then place  my circle appropriately to ensure clearance. Again this is otherwise very difficult.

Cruising information;

Thankfully most cruisers are willing to share the information they have and as a result I have collected numerous pits of information over the years. This link Cruising Places and information provides a link to a number of folders by country. In each of these folders you may find Cruising guides written by others, Google chart images for Open CPN Raytech etc, Google JPG, notes from other sites, information on immigration, ports, weather etc. it all depends what I gathered or was given at the time.  Note: As always I take no responsibility for the accuracies of the information contained there or anywhere on this site.


Cyclone Typhoon Hurricane (CTH) Planning:

Firstly let me be clear I have no practical experience in this area, so if there is a reader that has had an actual experience, where my thoughts are flawed, then your thoughts would be of great value.

I was under the impression that big winds always fell into one of the above three, but you more experienced people would know that is not true. Basically 100 knt winds or bigger do not make a Cyclone Typhoon or Hurricane (CTH). Its categorization is, that it must be rotating ( among other things) to qualify for as a CTH.

Run or hide, is my first decision. So do I  have the time to run and to where. Of course this is all based on weather forecasting but it is all we have and I do not rely on one source.  For me I have made some basic assumptions. as to the latest time I could make a run for it. My assumptions are that the CTH will not travel faster than 13knts, I must be able to maintain a distance such that I am not expecting to be exposed to more than 40knts and preferably not closer than about 100nm which ever is the safer. In the  absence of some professional forecasting  that CTH will head generally away from  the ITCZ zone. I assume my  VMG ( Velocity made good) of 5knts, which effectively means if i am going to run I must do it before it gets within 200nm.

In the Southern hemisphere they all rotate clockwise, and in the northern hemisphere all anti clockwise. If you draw a line down its path ( assume north is where its going, and south where its been) In the Sothern Hemisphere the most dangerous quarter is NW quarter and in Northern Hemisphere the  NE quarter. So clearly if you have a choice you don’t want to be in either of those respective quarters ( Well so says Mr Jimmy Cornell) The relevance to its path of your proposed hide out could change the wind 180’ because if in the Northern hemisphere if it passes you, and you are on its Easter side  the winds will be from South to North, if you are on its western side, the winds will be from  North to South. Hence possibly deeming your hide away whole a lea shore. So its not good enough to just know its coming. You must make the best guess as to which side of its path you will be.

Personally as I have travelled through Philippines  for example I have kept in mind where I would run or what I would do in the event of a Typhoon. The first thing that became apparent  to me is many of these so called Typhoon wholes & places, such as Puerto Galleria are in fact funnels for wind, especially the eastern moorings end of Puerto Galleria for example.  So I have no doubt the wind there would in fact be higher and worse, secondly if  for any reason your vessel did get away, it is a yacht eating coral landing within  1 or 2 minutes.  So you are 100% reliant on the PGYC 3 x 2 ton mooring blocks, and the tackle. There are NO protected anchorages there in my view  so the only  place that might be ok is the western moorings. Of course if your happy to put your faith in the moorings, and that none of banka’s small ships and others will get away, then the eastern side could work for you. Also if the majority of these risks are down wind then that to is a plus.

Note Typhoon rated moorings do NOT mean there is any guarantee or acceptance of liability. Point in case where I made the above choices and did not go to Puerto Galleria to hide from a Typhoon in 2016. Two vessels broker away, one due to chaffing of his own lines to the mooring, the other due to the mooring breaking.

The ideal Typhoon whole in my view, would have protection from the swell and sea which is not hard to find in Philippines, but also some wind protection.  For example my recent Romblon example by moving less than 1nm I dropped the wind from 40-50knts down to 10-15.  Certainly I do not want to expose myself to increased bullets sizes from funnelling if I have a choice. I also want a soft landing should I get into trouble, so sand mangroves, or ideally nothing for an hour or so. Moreover, who or what else is going to run into me at this location, be they Banka’s ( local boats) through debris land sea or rivers.

As for the Marina’s here in Philippines, well this is Asia, so forget about Standards and maintenance, its possibly not up to any standard  even if it was originally. I would not rely on any sea walls if they are facing the brunt of it. All I have seen are low and there are many stories where the sea has gone over the top. If expected wind is off the land and sea wall is behind you, the chance are  the sea wall will be fine. Having seen a few  of the Marina’s in Philippines excluding Davao, for me right now given I’m in Subic if I was on the east of its expected path ( ie it cross below me) I would try to get into either Subic or Manila Marina and expect off shore winds mainly. if it was expect to land above me, resulting in on shore winds I would probably run or try for Subic, Manila is exposed to the SW and would be my last choice.

The other options some consider is to pull the boat out and dry dock it. I do not like this option unless as in some cases it is specifically designed for this purpose where your boat (keel) actually sits down in a whole, or is some how protected from the wind, or the concertina effect, if one green bottle should accidentally fall…..

Of course the how one anchors there boat  in these conditions is the next issue.

Hopefully I never have to test my theories or learn the hard way.

Electronic Charts and Plotters:

 Setting up your display: you may or may not know what happened recently with the Volvo race. An “experience navigator” ploughed a round the world  racing yacht at 18 knots into the centre of a 5nm reef. The key for anyone using electronic charting is ALWAYS zoom in. If you don’t reef’s and rocks are not displayed. if your not doing something like the example below your days are numbered. If your running on a PC or have a chart plotter screen of around 8 to 10” inches or bigger I highly recommend you set up two windows. One you run one at what ever zoom you like perhaps 20-700nm the other you always  run at less than 10-20nm. This way you will not run into the reef, well at least it will be displayed and you wont have that excuse. If you plot a course from Coffs to New Caledonia for example and have your chart showing you the 800nm in one window, you don’t have to go far off course to run into a reef that will not be shown, unless  you zoom in to around 20nm

Starboard Steering Auto Pilot Servo (7)

Electronic charts: You may or may not know that the typical electronic charts most of us are using, Navionics, CMAP, CM93 etc are not recognized  (by IMO) as having legal charts and do not fit the legal requirements that most of us should be complying with. The only recognized Electronic charts as far as I know are ENC and DNC.

Which charts: Moving back from there as to which charts are  better, there is no clear or definitive answer, but there are quite a few differences between them. On balance, with others sharing a beer or two it would seem Navionics have edge. To date I have found one glaring error where a whole island is missing, and no it wasn’t  just a rock that stuck up noted as an Island. This was a real island about 3 or 4 acres in size. I recently started for a short time running two charting systems side buy side. I started doing this with  Raytech (Navionics) and OpenCPN . There a number of others doing the same thing. However the results can be quite scary, and they certainly gave Dr Smith much concern. In the end I turned off OpenCPN. Below is a safe example I used.


The one on the left is Raytech ( you know as Navionic’s)  on the right is OPenCPN. So assume  for moment  I was using the one right OpenCPN and that shallow spot was in fact a rock. Of course I would not drive over the shallow spot/rock if OpenCPN is my navigation system. So assume I decided to take this rock on my port side, so both tracks would move to the right. In OpenCPN I would clear the rock, but In Raytech my path would be right into it.  In that event Screensaver would probably still be there, because this is where I was doing 9 & 10 knots. Oh and the OpenCPN lovers may of course suggest that its right and Raytech is wrong. That would be ok if my depth sounder agreed when I passed over it and dropped from some 30m to 5m which it didn’t. Of course Raytech/Navionics is not infallible either, as noted above. So I have made like and Osterage in regards to OpenCPN and stuck my head in the sand, what I cant see, hopefully wont hurt me.

Chart offset: Most cruisers I have spoken to do not know about or how to adjust chart offsets, and the ones that do, don’t seem to bother. Chart offset is  when they make the electronic chart  and it is not exactly in the right place Lon and Lat wise, so the whole chart can  and often is out by x , anything from a few meters to about 600meters in some cases around the Louisades. Personally I want every advantage especially if I have the option at my finger tips. By adjusting the chart offset you can effectively move the chart in respect of the Lon/Lat. If you have every been anchored on land according to your chart plotter this is an example of the offset  needing to be set, unless of course  your on the slip painting. It would also seem that not all plotters have the ability to change the offset. My Raymarine has this function. The image below is an example of the offset NOT being used.

Google Earth: Google earth is a tool which is extremely valuable and has a number of benefits not to be sneezed at. In the example below you can see Google Earth on the left and Navioincs chart on the right. Both show the actual course Screensaver took. Clearly the Google earth image is correct, and this is an example of the chart offset referred to above being wrong and not corrected. In this example without Google earth you would still be fine because clearly you can see the land.


Looking at the image on the right, in  this example the chart show sufficient water in this area all around the island. I came up from the bottom south. I was going to stop where I did the 360 turn you can see, but decided against it. On the chart one could expect I could have just carried on to the Northern Island , but on Google earth I could see this was not going to work and hence went around, and doubled back

You can use Google earth to set your chart offset. Simply find a common point that is on Google Earth and your chart, then move the offset in your chart plotter to align with Google earths Lon and Lat.

Google Earth Overlays: Many of you know it is possible to drop a Google earth image over your chart. For those that don’t and cruising in unknown places and waters, I highly recommend you start doing it. Until recently I have not been able to do this in my proffered navigation software and it was that reason I installed OpenCPN because this does it. After working with the developer of that component he modified GE2KAP and hay presto, thankyou very much Paul I now have the this same feature as in OpenCPN.

The example on the left you can see the overlay lines up and you can see the chart detail through the Google Earth Overlay. The one on the right is the same, but note how far out it is. You can see what the chart shows as the orange Island, which is clearly a good few hundred meters out.

Raytech GayaRaytech

Imagine you were passing a rock with what you thought  was good clearance

Below on the left is what Navionics shows for around the Kudat area. To the right of that is the same area and Navionics, but this time with a Raster chart overlay and not a Google Image. Note how much more detail is on the chart on the right.

Navionics ChartNavionincs Paper chart Blend overlay

So get your Google earth/Raster images now while you have internet access.

Google Earth is NOT as perfect as I thought it was. I have held the view that Google Earth is a picture and without intent, how can it be wrong. Well there is intent. The intent I assume is to reduce the storage size of Google earth over the world. In so doing  if you look at the below example you can see clearly the area with the yellow text is a picture, so what ever can be seen will be shown you can even see the waves, and note which way they are going at a particular time of the year. But now look at where the red text is. No waves can bee seen, and they have tended to substitute the ocean floor contours, ie its no longer a picture.

GE whole

I was recently looking for a reef within which to stop. The reef was on my chart, and dried out at low tide, therefore should have been visible to  GE. I went to set the offset of my chart, but I could not find the reef in Google Earth, it simply was not there, because it was hidden I believe in one of those red text sections.

Garbage – Rubbish:

This is not about stuff we know, plastic’s, fuel, diesel, ropes, rubber etc its about what still goes on.

The policy on Screensaver is anything that will still be around after I have gone must be kept !!! That  is not hard and leaves the door fairly open. I  will not leave my garbage as a legacy for my son. Oh and I am by no means a greeny either.

There are a surprising number of yachties who still toss there beer cans overside. Most do under the thinking that it would fall within my own policy ie it would be gone well before me. It would seem this is not true.  While we can all stack up statistics to suit our argument, and god knows I have done this a few times for fun or in jest with  Alcohol, women, and living life, but the real clincher is you can find the room to carry full ones on board, many of you are concerned about weight on your boat, well they take up less room and weight  when kept & empty. So what is the problem in keeping them and carrying them off. Oh  she says it smells like a pub, well if you drank it all, and dunked it in salt water before firing in a bag it would be ok

There is another school of people who say glass beer bottles are ok, its natural I think is there argument. I’m no chemist but it would seem to me there is a lot more crap (ink plastic labelling, led, colouring etc) in glass than some cans, and that beer bottle will definitely be around a lot longer than the beer can.

Sydney when I left banned food scraps going over the side. I have no idea what moronic greeny bought that up, and no doubt there will be some twisted reasons, perhaps to do with the insecticides, fertilizer, lead, mercury, genetic manipulation, or the fishes diet, but hey we can eat it, that’s ok. This should all go over the side unless your in some lock or lake system or have a service at the Marina.

Smokes are the other one I still see. I have been known to have a smoke from time to time, and yep the ash  hopefully goes over over the side and not on the deck….. but never the butt.

Shitty bilges… Yea well mine wasn’t so good but rather than just put water in and pump it out I mopped it up with one of her old towels. ( see I have no one to complain about that) Then disposed of the that in a jumbo bin. After that yep water went in, and what was then pumped out was pretty clean.


Immigration Visa:

Thailand:Unfortunately a recent first hand experience has bought the issue of immigration clearance to the forefront. You should check this information for yourself and Noonsite is not a bad place to start but is also not complete. My understanding and experience is as follows ( as at 26/02.2015) If you enter Thailand (via a yacht) without a Visa it is not quite the same as you might expect from entering via plane where you get VOA. If you do this by yacht you actually get a document (Immigration Official Order) stapled in your passport giving you effectively a permit for 30 days. But your passport itself will not have been stamped at all. If you get a Visa outside of Thailand say Penang then based on my past experience on entry you will get the normal stamp in your passport, the 60days + an optional 30 days, and you will not get this “Immigration Official Order” Currently the boat I believe will get 6 months, which makes little sense when the max we can get is 3 months. There is  delineation between rank or position i.e. Captain/crew may not leave the country without the boat by any means other than on the boat, or by putting up a bond currently 20,000thb or fee of 2000thb per person and arrangements must be in advance with additional paperwork or you will be detained at your departure. Peopled defined as Passengers and not Captain or crew are typically exempt and can do as they like, and no you yacht can not only have only 2 passengers, someone must be captain/crew. Bottom line here is if you plan anything with anyone yourself or visitors that involves any departure method which is different from the arrival method you would be well advised to check it with immigration and have a letter written by the captain,  As a side note I am also lead to believe that non Thailand people may purchase units/condo’s etc. on there own, i.e. without the need for Thailand partner, you just cant buy a house or own the land on your own. 

Andaman’s:The guys in Phuket (Emotion Travel) that were arranging Visa’s etc. are typically are  not worth while anymore, as they can no longer do it all for you. One way or another you will need to go to Bangkok for Bio Metrics if you intend to do it out of Phuket.  Having been to Andaman’s, my suggestion below that VOA is coming, while technically true, let me tell you they could not in there wildest dreams get that together. What we did is used CIBTVisas they do Visa’s on line effectively. Either way you are going to have to give up your passport to someone even if you go to Bangkok, but if you use the online method you do not need to go anyway other than your proffered international express courier and there are no bio-metrics involved. It takes about the same time, roughly 10-15 days  from receipt of all the bits. You will get a 6 month Visa for India, but irrespective of that you will only get a 30 day entry permit in Andaman’s when you arrive. You should probably also read my Andaman review which you will find on this blog site sometime after Feb 2015.

Philippines: You can get Visa on arrival (VOA) without any problems, and you can continue to extend that Visa beyond 12 months. Many other countries wont extend VOA’s or not more than once. Visa’s are typically only issued for 60 days Max, but I believe this has changed since I left. Visas here are more expensive running at about 3000-4000 ($80 aud) and then after a period of time they will force you to get an Alien Identification card which is valid for 12months. So in all expect to spend at least $1k AUD per person per year on Visa’s. They are trying to standardize fees which are generally posted on the wall, but variations still occur. All extension incur a priority fee that I could not seem to avoid. Dress standards (ie like Indo) do NOT apply in the majority of places I extended, but I did get caught in Subic, and had to buy a collared shirt socks, and yep I borrowed some shoes. Small offices are generally quicker, can be 10 min, while bigger ones Cebu can be 1 hour. There is a time limit where by you must leave and come back. I stayed over 12 months and did not run into this limit. There is also and addition securty clearance required on departure for those staying beyond 90 days.

Indonesia:These guys are by far the most difficult and hypocritical of the lot. Firstly if you come in via Visa on arrival (30 days)  you can not extend that visa. So you need to go to an Indonesian Consulate/Embassy and apply for a Visa. There is some discussion about what type of Visa you need essentially a tourist visa will do. You will need a sponsor who must be Indonesian another absurdity, and then you must turn up when you apply for you visa dressed in shoes socks, long pants, collared shirt….. or a long dress if so inclined. So presentation level is expected, but its ok to throw everything into the ocean, that doesn’t matter, but better turn up to immigration respectfully…. ah such bull shit. f you read my post in Davo it will tell you more about gaining a Visa


If you already have boat Insurance when it run out try Top Sails and no I do not get commission, although perhaps I should. But if there price and cover is not better than what you have already I will be extremely surprised and ask that you let me/us know. I know of at least 3 people who have claimed without issue. I have also recently taken out a Medivac Insurance I am typically not a believer in insurance especially medical insurance but this was passed onto me and it seem to good to pass up. I know one person who has used it, and again I do not receive any commissions.

Main Engine:

Cooling system: If your from old school  which of course I’m not, but if I was  back then Anti freeze as we called it then or coolant now days was basically an upmarket coolant for cold or for those that expected there engines to run hotter. Now days it has a an anticorrosive agent in it and it forms and important function in terms of assisting with the prevention of corrosion.  Like everything in this world there are coolants and there are COOLANTS. But now I will be changing mine on more regular bases.

Another trick I have yet to try but has good reports is to drop a chlorine tablet (like you use in the pool) into your salt water intake strainer. This will I’m told clear or help clear the growth in your salt water system.

Saltwater Leaks: In days gone by a small saltwater leak on your engine could wait to some extent. Today that salt water leak will be chewing through you Alloy castings and a very scary rate of knots. In less than a couple weeks it can do significant damage and chew the equivalent of a match head away from your Alloy. If that happens to be a seal surface which it usually will be, you are in trouble. My suggestion is attend to any leaks or drips as soon as possible. The image below is one that was attended to straightaway. it was on the intercooler and believe it or not the Yanmar authorised mechanic simply painted it with Yanmar paint. At the time I assumed I had just wasted my money and it would come back. Well it did not and that was some 2 years ago.

Yanmar Intercooler (1)Yanmar Intercooler (4)

This is one that was not attended to straight away

Heat Exchanger & Manifold (10)Heat Exchanger & Manifold (8)

The underlying cause in this case was in my view a manufacture fault. The end cap bolts were done up so tight they cracked and warped there housing. There are no natural forces at work that could cause the damage below

Heat Exchanger End Cap (10)Heat Exchanger End Cap (4)

This may seem obvious, but in my case a drip every now an again did not motivate me to attend to it then. The 2 or 3 weeks it later took to resolve it along with several hundred dollars changed this view. I was also lucky I was able to have the cast alloy heat exchanger built up and re machined, I cringed as I put the copper heat exchange element in the alloy head with bronze end plates…… Yanmar must have had way to many scotches that day.

Zinc Anodes in Engines. I have a Yanmar  4JH4-HTE engine and while I am thoroughly disgusted at what they have done mixing metals it would seem they are still the better of a bad choice. Some engines have Anodes as part of there heat exchanger and these should  obviously be changed, and some like mine say they have but in fact don’t.  I have every combination that any half sensible person would never put together in my engine, from Alloy through bronze copper stainless, and cast iron. Naturally the soft one is the one that gets chewed up and of course that is the more expensive and hard to fix. Check if you have anodes and replace them as you would any other.

In gear or out of gear when sailing (fixed Props): I had a sailing instructor come on board when I first got my new Hunter. Mainly so my family did not learn my bad habits, not that I have any of course. He taught his pupils to leave the engine in reverse when sailing. At some point later I had cause to contact the Yanmar agent and importer, and they were quick to point out it must be left in neutral or it will void your warranty. They took this one step further and wrote to Hunter in the US advising them that they had already received this instruction, and basically don’t say we didn’t tell you. I also have it on Official Yanmar tech Bulletin. I followed that advice, but I have serious doubts about it. I now have quite a wine, which I expect is as a result of the shaft continually turning for some 30,000nm. I have in the last week finally got and explanation from Yanmar as to why they say this. It would seem they believe there can be sufficient drive  back from the propeller to slip the clutch, and hence cause wear and heat back into the clutch plate. They also expressed concerns about some rubber dampers which take the initial impact when you engage  forward or reverse. Some of you will have a view as to which creates less drag, but even this is not clear. My initial view was allowing it to run free would be better for boat speed. Amelia will tell you that in a Helicopter, when the motor has failed and its falling like a stone they are taught not to lock the rotors as this creates less drag and falls faster, but let them spin naturally., this creates more drag. See the definitive answer  here on which creates less dag,  thanks to Bundi Shore Station

Man overboard, PLB’s, DSC.

I hear a few discussions about different solutions and there are many different idea’s. I don’t profess to have the answer but I welcome anyone who has a better suggestion or who can shoot wholes in the logic. First off my assumption is for cruisers, and typically where there are two or more.

I have pondered PLB’s but essentially have not gone down this road. Lets assume you are sailing anywhere off shore. Assume your wife is out of cockpit while your sleeping (whihc she shouldn’t be without you) and she slips over the side. Your vessel will carry on under auto pilot and she is left behind. Eventually hopefully if you have a good watch plan your alarm will go off and you will wake to find her missing. By time you actualy get from SAR the location, or by the time they actually get to her, unless she is some 25 year old swimming athlete she will likely be dead. You are her best chance of rescue and in all probability the nearest yet know nothing. Generally its suggest 2 hrs for most of us and we are dead.

Some are carrying a waterproof handheld, say the HX851 with DSC. I have one and its not a bad solution as long as it has battery power and it stays with you. If you have DSC and know how to use it will send your position probably only about 3-4nm at water level, but hopefully youre wife pushed the Red button as soon as she fell in the water. If your Chart plotter is setup properly it will put a waypoint there for you and raise an audio able alarm. If not your VHF if it has DSC will do the same and will store the long and lat, so you then can chose to go save your wife  or not. Any ship or other vessel in near by area will also get the details. My concern here is the radio and you could well get separated, or it could go flat. Mine for example now has battery issues, it does not last long.

Then there is my primary options is Raymarine life tag. This can be fitted to any system I expect that uses NEMA. In my case I have Raymarine so it integrates easily. The unit you strap to your wrist is a bit bigger than a wrist watch. It sends a signal back to a box on your vessel that says “Im still here”  If for any reason the base unit doesn’t get the message it will generate a MOB alarm, and place a waypoint on your plotter. Typically more than about 4m of my boat and the alarm is generated, also if the battery goes flat the result occurs. In my case because my son slept through the alarm after the battery went flat I have added a very loud piezo, so hopefully it will wake all.

There are other devices and solutions, some using AIS, some Bluetooth options. I think the key to remember is help will come quicker from the boat you fell off, or one near you rather than anywhere else. If your solo then yep PLB is the current solution.

Mobile Phones/Internet

The most common complaint I here is no internet, keeps dropping out, cant get email. If you using WEB based, browser based email forget it save yourself the agro and frustration and move to Outlook or the equivalent product of your choice. The two main reasons for this are a) Outlook will keep trying to get your email (send & Receive) while you are still enjoying your sun downers, it doesn’t need your interaction plus if it drops out it will pickup from where it left off. b) you wont get halfway through writing or sending an email that you carefully constructed with all the facts and then lose it.

Many years ago I did a White Paper on mobile phones after one of the carriers contacted me and asked me how I got two Mobile phones working on the same number !!. Today the processing of calls and connections is quite different, and i do not have all the technical answers.

However I have a theory, have you ever noticed that you may have 4 or 5 bars but still cant get Data to happen ?. 

Two of many possible solutions:

Firstly restart your phone…. yea I know everyone says it and makes bugger all difference… sometimes , but its quick, you can do it while getting your next beer.

Secondly, and i do this 90% of the time.  On Android ( as an example), you have an option  “preferred network mode” chances are this is set to Auto by default. Take it off auto and try each of the individual options you have, perhaps like WCDMA only, watch the signal strength and give it 30 seconds to change. This will force the phone to try and connect on a different frequency and you may well find that there is a 3G 4G cell a little further away (ie weaker) that very few are using because all the other yachties are trying to use the default, nearest one, and have saturated it.

Don’t forget to put it back to auto once you are done or move.

My theory for the technocrats:

Mobiles phones still work in some ways similar to our VHF,HF Sat phones. All mobiles call up on the equivalent of VHF 16, they exchange some data like on VHF 70 (like DSC) equivalent and then go to sleep, looking/checking it can still see VHF 16 & 70 Equivalents.

When a call is made, it starts on the equivalent to VHF 16, exchanges some data on VHF70, gets told to go to another channel  to chat all behind the scenes, and we chat. It keeps and eye on 16 for signal strength, and if so needed it will change channels mid way through a call.

The Mobile phone moves network modes, channels, & cells based on the voice call setup rules. Hence it will chose what it does not based on the best data connection or performance. The user data on a cell or service may be saturated, and a slightly weaker one (next door) may have far less users, because in principle the phone choses the strongest signal with an available channel. Each of these network modes is a unique piece of hardware, possibly a completely different cell, and perhaps a different set of servers providing the internet connection.  So my forcing this change for example WCDMA only, you may see no signal, because the services is not in your cell range. You may see a weaker signal meaning you weren’t using this cell/service before and possibly all the other boats aren’t using it either

If you go to buy another phone be aware a part from all the wizzy new features and having at 12mp camera which exceeds the lens quality, the main purpose is to communicate. Not all phones are equal in terms of RF ( power) For example Telstra has Blue tick series these phones inherently have a much better range. You probably have already noticed that some phones have better range than others, so seek out the ones with better range.

If possible get one that has an external antenna jack. My old ZTE T82 has this and nothing has come anywhere near its range.

If you are going to replace your phone be aware that not all countries (or service providers) use the same frequencies for the same service. 3G and 4G could be completely different, so at the very least you want quad band, and like said check the frequencies.


Over recent years there has been much discussion about piracy and our safety while cruising. I personally feel every bit as safe in my travels if not safer from those delinquents who may like to take advantage of others. My other personal view is using the word “Piracy” makes for better headlines, than home invasion, break and enter, trespassing, theft, assault and all the other identical activities that sadly occur on land.

Having now sailed around a good portion of Asia including the so called pirate hot spots, like Anambas, North East Malaysian Coast, Sulu Sea,Celebes Sea, Philippines ( Incl Davao), North West Papua my view all this has changed. There are risks and lives have been lost but I dont consider these risks any higher than on land. I lived in an average to above average area in Sydney Baulkham Hills in a cul-de-sac, where two people were shot dead in there homes. My yacht was berthed in a quality marina where the berth that was mine, was firebombed shortly after I left Sydney.

I have back in  2015  been forwarded (thanks to Andrew SV_ Settlement) the first lot of evidence I have seen supporting the general belief that the Red Sea and passage through there has and is improving. What’s also interesting and now being implied is that to go around the cape and the bottom of South Africa could be  more dangerous from a piracy prospective  than going via the Red sea. I know for many this suggestion will be a surprise, but make your own mind up from the links below. It is also becoming apparent that Asia is gaining more attention and arguably getting worse. Sadly there is very little segregation in the type of vessels involved, so its  hard to get and idea of just the cruising community which is by far the minority in the total piracy picture.

Links: Naval IntelligenceNoonsite PiracyICC Commercial Crime Services, NATO

Sola panels:

At the time of writing my four solar panels (BP 3125J 120W 12v) are approaching 8 years old. I have just finished checking there power production and as best I cant tell both comparatively and from notes initially they are still producing the same sort power between 6.8 and 7.5 amps per panel peak. This is not enough to sustain and American power hungry design sailing vessel with electric most things, 3 fridges, a skipper who likes ice and loud music. So as part of another project I began to relook at solar panels. The first thing that became apparent is most people are selling the new concept using high voltage panel arrays (30-50v each). So instead of putting your panels in parallel as you may have done back a bit, now the idea is put a higher voltage (similar current) panels in serial. Then they use a smart MPT controller to drop the voltage which results in the charge current coming back to that of a parallel configuration. There is some quite good technical stuff around for those that want more info. But given I could find any in depth detail on how MPT was producing benefits, I adopted a more simplistic view.  Everything you read will tell you an MPT controller is better than a PWM controller which is what I have. I am no expert at this level, but I’m pretty sceptical that these benefits  may not be worth it in my case. Firstly there is line loses and for MPT using a higher voltage, this will result in less line  loss to deliver the power, no argument there. Then there is the fact that the voltage is higher, so when my parallel panels drop to say 10 volts due to low sun, rain dusk etc, two in series would give you 20v and hence some charge… Yep I agree. But what you don’t find out till you dig around is that this (MPT)sophisticated plotting tracking solution  to get the ideal charge voltage is in fact using PWM charger at the end. So excluding line loses, and insufficient light to charge, now we are left with some software controlling the same charger as I already have and paying about 4 times as much for that MPT controller. So if I add 1 panel to my system, increasing its production by 25% or for the same price I can not add another panel but I  can convert my existing panels to MPT this will only give me at best a 16% increase, if you believe them. Now let say you get shade over the array perhaps from your boom, sail, aerial, wind generator etc. Given they are in series this has a substantial effect. In my case only that panel is effected.

If your starting off new, or as in my case adding panels but your existing controller is not big enough, the story is not a lot different. The older (ie 12v Panels) are a little harder to find, because of the new bigger ones. In my case I have just bought 5 x 150 12v at about $200 au each and the Xantrex controller will cost another $220. An MPT controller for this size on its own will cost you at least another $200 and for a good one another 400 roughly. Doesn’t seem all that great an idea to me.

So I believe my 1.2kw solar system will solve existing power constraints.


Solo Sailing a passage: 

When I first looked at single handed multiple days and nights I consulted a number of other sailors with much more experience than me. Two of these were well known and recognised sailors and to my surprise they both said, :”Actually Alan I have never done a solo passage” That said both had the same major theme, use every tool you have to its fullest, and sleep every chance you can day and night.

I was already using every tool on board to its fullest mainly because I often had crew with no experience.

If you can try to pick a window with a full moon, and without heavy rain so you get the best visibility.

Radar i setup with 2 zones, Zone one looking forward typically 12nm and covering an area approximately 90 degrees ahead, and zone 2 0.5nm –2nm 350 degrees, ie the red area’s in the picture. 


This gives you good warning (up to 12nm ( or 2hrs approx.) in advance for things ahead of you, It also gives the best chance of radar picking it up and not false triggering. Conversely a ship can pass as shown on the left hand side safely with no alarm.

Zone 2 is to cover something coming at high speed from 90 degrees, or behind or anywhere else that might be a threat. At 2nm this typically gives me about 10-20 min warning.

The safe zone can be extended. Anything in here is assumed not to be a danger to me and typical this might include other yachts in company on a passage assuming they have crew running watches, if they are also solo, then they are considered a risk.

Added to this is AIS and collision avoidance. If any target AIS, ship, or rain storm enters any of the red area’s an alarm will be generated in addition to how AIS is set. In my case anything that is predicted to collide or pass within 2nm within the next 2hrs will alarm.

The small gap at the bottom of Zone 2 can be changed but I typically I set this for other yachts that might be following and I don’t want alarms generated from them (assuming they have crew)

The risk is some very small wooden boat may not be picked up on any of this, and of course items in the water, be logs, fish traps, or nets,

If your doing this in a group or have someone you can have regular contact with (VHF,HF, SMS, Satphone) then set this up as well, probably at least 2 or preferably 3 times in every 24hrs. Most importantly agree a plan of what you (or they) will do if contact is lost and by when. Many sailors sail in a group on passages, or tell family, but do not in fact have any plan what they will do if contact is lost by when or how long they should wait. In my case I have a plan which is with my family and my position is automatically tracked on Google. Locally within the group I use a HF sched as help is liable to come quicker from local cruisers.

Its important to get as much sleep as you can any time you can. After turning on all navigation aids, alarms and warnings and start getting the sleep pattern going. My trusty egg timer has suffered from salt air so my  mobile phone alarm is used along with one other, in my case the chart plotter itself. If I should miss one, or set it wrong hopefully the other one is right. Depending on circumstances traffic these are set 5 min apart from each other and anywhere between 20min and 50min.

Last but not least is keeping some resemblance of meal times food and hydration. I try to have meals in the freezer, that are simple and quick.

Security Buddy sailing

Security inevitably comes up at some point in cruisers experience. I had thought that traveling in company  of others was also a security benefit, but in reality is it really, and how well have you planned what to do, should something happen.

If you are sailing from A to B and the other vessel your sailing with is out of sight  and subsequently doesn’t arrive or you agreed to meet  somewhere and they are not there. What will you do, and after how long, what do they expect you to do. You lose radio contact etc. Most of you I guess will say, “they will be fine” and your probably right. But if not, then without some thought what is the benefit of traveling in company if you do nothing.

You may both be anchored and the other boat might be being  boarded and in such an event they are unlikely to be able to call you (assuming you kept your VHF on even) and say hay we are being boarded, robbed, beaten etc. Lets say you know somehow this is going on what are you really going to do. Chance’s are the Police will either not exist, not come, come too late, your tender is probably up, and are you going to race over there putting your own life at risk and leaving your partner behind alone.  If there are enough of you then yep you can definitely help, but how many would.

So here are some ideas for you to consider when and where you think it necessary.

First and foremost you should consider your on your own in all cases and the only help will be what ever you can do.

Obviously the sooner you are alerted to a problem the better, so perhaps instead of leaving those empty bear cans on the bench till morning, you could stack a 2 or 3 on the companion way stairs or a strategic place. They typically make a fare noise at night when you stumble over them.  A fishing line tied to the life line and  a beer can on the end might also help.

Most unwanted guests seem to come when your asleep, so what ever is your proffered weapon should be located where you can reach it/them from your bed because chance are you wont have much time.

There are many potential weapons (other guns) such as Flares to toss in there boat, a machete, spear gun, Pepper spray, Taser, these wont get you into too much trouble going from country to country. If on the other hand you carry a gun, this will be a problem going from country to country.

A long nylon rope, say around 8-12mm, and 100 + meters that could be feed out the back if you are moving and another boat is approaching.  Cross their path so it gets around their prop. This will bring them to halt.

If traveling with another yacht agree on some basic warning signals. For example at anchor if you see my Tri-Light on, then I’m in trouble. Both agree to leave your VHF on over night, many of them draw very little power. Agree a phrase over the radio that tells your mate you are in trouble but does not alert anyone else standing next to you, or who may also be on the same VHF channel.

If sailing and you get separated from your buddy and say beyond VHF, agree a HF Sched, agree how many Sched can be missed, and what action is expected after how long if you don’t hear from them. Exchange emergency contact details.

Years ago I was doing a motor home trip around Ozy. I was stopped at a roadside park for a couple of days along with another couple of campervans. I went over to one of the campers and invited her and her partner to join us for drinks. She had her table set for two people, but it there was only her. This was her security creating the elusion someone else was there. If I am in doubt and we get visitors during the day I have asked them to be quiet as the two other guys on our crew are sleeping after a fairly long night.

A wallet full of money, preferably Indonesian money because its of little value even in a bulging wallet, with a bunch of expired creditcards in it, and perhaps your old out of date passport all stored in an apparent safe place, along with your partners priceless costume bling… I mean jewellery could also be helpful give away when being robbed.  I have also herd of others re shrink rapping and suitably weighting some boxes that expensive toys came in, and placing them in key place to be discovered and uplifted.

All that said and having been to a number of places of questionable safety, as of 2017 and after 9 years of cruising I have not had someone come to my home on the sea as they did in our home at  Baulkham hills Sydney and threaten to kill me and my family. I have been robbed once where kids stole my outboard which I got back and they only stole my outboard because they couldn’t get my speakers which is what they came for.

Vermin Pest Inspects:

Having a new yacht is a good staring point, but keeping these guys off can be a challenge.

  • Remove as much packaging as you can  before it goes inside your boat, especially cardboard. Roaches and ants love cardboard.
  • If you get a mouse or rat try to find or use Sticky Pads. Poisons drive them to water and they will chew through your hoses to get to the water.
  • Mossy coils do help but I don’t think to me many people can burn them inside. Limit the white lights, Try a fan in the bedroom blowing  on you at night if you have the power. Not  only do you not here them but the chance are you wont have any bites either.

    X- Factor

    Here you will find rumours of unknown or unconfirmed possibilities:

  • Burma or Myanmar as it is today is rumoured to be allowing three boats per cruising visa. No change to other costs or guide requirements
  • Singapore now requires a licenced  skipper on cruising vessels.
  • Thailand lanterns have sadly been made illegal. I guess someone visited Ozy and caught the Nanny state disease, or Land of cannot virus.
  • Andaman Visa’s from Phuket now require you to got to Bangkok for Biometrics, But CIBTVisas can do it on line for you. India  have passed the laws for VOA into Andaman’s for yachts but its not yet implemented. but having been to Andaman now I wouldn’t hold your breath, they are still in the 1940’s

    If you thought any of this was worth while please leave a comment good or bad for this page


  • 2 thoughts on “Tech – Cruising Tips”

    1. Ref Quote: [A wallet full of money, preferably Indonesian money because it’s of little value even in a bulging wallet, with a bunch of expired credit cards in it, and perhaps your old out of date passport all stored in an apparent safe place, along with your partners priceless costume bling… I mean jewellery could also be helpful give away when being robbed].

      I understand the Philosophy, but speaking as someone who has travelled at least as far as the end of his street many times in his life, I would not be including old Passports/Credit Cards in the above offerings. Those seemingly underprivileged indigenous locals who have been able to fix HF Radio’s and weld the seemingly impossible engine parts (all while sitting on a beer crate, surrounded by chickens in their backyard), are some of the very same who manage to steal one’s identity. A passport expired up to 2 years is still accepted as legal ID in many circles.

    2. In gear or out of gear when sailing (fixed Props) ?

      And the debate rages on 🙂
      All is not what it seems and Helicopters are not Boats sorry guys. Good read here –

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