General equipment


I need to be able to anchor, berth in a marina, take the ground, tie up alongside all sorts and navigate locks. So I've supplemented my meagre 4 small fenders with 3 additional larger ones. These will give me more protection given the more varied alongside situations that I will encounter. I will also need to get a board so that I can rest against piles. I have a decent collection of mooring ropes including a very long one which is sometimes needed if you are rafted up against several boats and still want a line ashore. My boat is pretty light so generally this is unnecessary but the boat to which you are attached may, and has every right to, request it.

I've also bought some additional rope for anchoring. I have a main Danforth type anchor with 15m of chain on it with only 3 or 4 meters of rope. For the type of anchoring I've been involved in up till now that's been fine especially as the anchor and chain are slightly oversized for my boat size and weight. But now I must be prepared to anchor in much more varied conditions and I'd like to have 7-8 times the potential depth in which I might anchor (considered a good conservative depth to rode ratio). I want to be able to anchor with complete confidence in anything up to 8 meters. So I've bought 100m of nylon 10mm rope half of which I will attach to the chain of my main anchor and the rest I will attach to my spare, or kedge, anchor.

I need to feel completely confident about anchoring. I often have disturbed nights dreaming that my boat is drifting wildly down rivers and along coast lines, skimming past rocks and sand banks. I've even dreamt my boat has slipped its anchor and careered up a mountain. If I know the boat is more than adequately attached to the ground I'll sleep better.

I don't have a windlass, manual or electric, so I'll always have to haul the anchor up with my bare hands. Good exercise!

Getting on & off the boat

I've a dingy. With oars if I'm feeling energetic or a yamaha 4HP outboard petrol engine if I'm not. It's an inflatable and it's kept in my starboard cockpit locker. Principia has capacious lockers port and starboard as there are no cabins under the cockpit. To deploy the dingy I have to drag it out of the locker, set it on the foredeck, pump it up and tip it overboard (remembering to have its line tied to the boat). It's all a bit of an effort but I can generally achieve this in 10 to 15 minutes on my own. Likewise for packing it away. I will not keep the dingy inflated when on passage as it will present significant windage if kept on deck and will look horribly ugly. I could tow it, but that slows the boat down and I don't like it. I keep the outboard in the same locker. Setting the outboard onto the dingy is also a fair effort. I have to set the dingy stern to stern with the boat then lift the outboard, lean over the back and slot it onto the back of the dingy. I've done this often enough on my own; if you're careful it's fine. The worst case scenario is that I drop the thing into the water, in which case bye-bye outboard.

I'm taking my bicycle as I enjoy biking and it's a perfect way to extend my range to get to places as well as to see the local countryside. It's a decent road bike and not a foldaway with tiny wheels. While convenient for stowage, I'd get instantly frustrated with a foldaway in terms of the speed and effort required to get to places. The road bike, however, is quite large. But as I'm on my own, I don't mind sharing the main cabin with it. In fact it's dead easy to lift the bike into the cockpit and down the hatch to the main cabin without having to fold away anything at all. I have not tried it yet, but I can't see a problem with loading it onto the dingy and taking it ashore either. Good times.

Sailing & boat handling

I don't have a vast sail locker. I've got a foresail and a mainsail. Simple. The foresail is roller reefing so I can set it to whatever size I please. The main sail has 3 reefs which are used regularly as the boat has a lot of sail for its size/weight meaning that as soon as there is any bit of a blow, I've got to power down. Unfortunately, Principia is the very opposite of a long keeler, and she rounds up when sailing to windward very easily when there are gusts. She has twin rudders and these are generally underpowered (not deep enough) which again is not ideal. I have learned to cope with these deficiencies. I have an asymmetric spinnaker. This is a large sail (fondly known as Purple Polly on account of its colour) and is quite a handful on my own. I will only deploy it in the most ideal conditions.

I have a Simrad TP10 tiller pilot. Totally and utterly essential. As alluded above, Principia is hopeless in keeping a steady course if you leave go of the tiller. Not for a moment. So I have the tiller pilot constantly at hand which I hook up every time I leave the cockpit for any reason or fiddle with the chart plotter. In normal conditions I have it hooked up anyway. I like to helm on and off, but not constantly!

Principia has a lift keel and it takes about 80 turns on the winch to move from fully up to fully down. It's down by default and only comes up when I'm encountering shallow waters that warrant it, or if I intend to take the ground as the tide goes out. Some purists would adjust it's position to suit sailing conditions as it has a weight trim effect as well as a wet surface effect. But I'm no purist and for me it's either up or down. Perhaps I might wind it up if I've got a long stretch of down wind sailing in pleasant conditions. If I could be bothered. She has a 1.8m draft with the keel down and a 0.8m draft with the keel up.

The boat is actually very good for single handed sailing. It's light and nothing requires a physique resembling King Kong to winch in or haul up. I only have to go to the mast in order to hook the sail onto a different reef, otherwise all business can be conducted from the safety of the cockpit. Strangely enough, I think the disadvantage of a light boat comes when trying to berth or come along side a jetty when the wind is blowing you off. By the time I've set the boat on the jetty, I can't leap out quick enough before the boat has been blown away. A heavier boat would wallow where it was for longer, giving me more time. In such situations I generally would call for help in berthing. Otherwise I'm fine doing all this on my own. People often ask if they can help when they see me on my own and I usually accept out of politeness rather than for any need. If I'm honest, help in situations that I know I handle well on my own sometimes end up badly. Still, I don't want to be a spoil sport and getting help is a nice icebreaker to getting to know your neighbours.

When approaching a marina on my own I prepare everything in advance and have a line fore and aft that I hang off the guard rail amidships near the mast stays. As soon as I've positioned the boat alongside, I use the engine to ensure all way has been taken off and then lunge up to the stays, grab the lines and hot foot it onto the pontoon in one effortless balletic movement. I then attach each rope to the pontoon. The only thing I have to be careful of is that, once on the pontoon, I have the line from the bow in one hand and a line from the stern in the other. So I then need to make up my mind which to tie up first. It's not as easy as it sounds and any hesitation can lead to difficulties especially if the boat is being blown away. So decisiveness is key!


For cooking, I have a single hob camping cooker that takes individual gas bottles. So no inbuilt fancy cooker with ovens and grills needing a gas supply from bottles held in a separate gas locker. I've considered fitting all this on Principia, but it's a lot of money for little benefit. I can boil the kettle, fry bacon and eggs and heat up food in a saucepan. What more could a man want?

I've got a 50L icebox that can keep food cool if I've put ice in it! There's no inbuilt refrigeration. I will not rely on food that needs to be kept cool for long periods and certainly will not have any frozen items!

Principia has a 40L water tank. Which is not much - enough for basic washing for a few days at most. So I have supplemented this with 2 further 20L water jerry cans. There's no shower on board, so I will make use of onshore facilities whenever I can. Otherwise I can, erm, wash down in the galley area. Continuing on the same theme, there is a wash basin amidships with a marine toilet. So all bodily functions are catered for.

For entertainment I have a radio so I can have Radio 1 blasting out if I must, or I can plug my phone in and listen to music from that.

Powered from the same gas canisters as I use for my cooker, I have a heater. Hopefully I won't need this much. I've also got a shore power line I can bring aboard if I need 240volts - perhaps to charge the laptop or my drill or something, but generally I won't bother taking electricity when in a marina. I've got an inverter to cope with most temporary 240V needs like firing up the soldering ion.

I have my MacBook on board so that I can support my work when necessary and use it for general internet access. To help me forecast weather I can download synoptic charts where a large screen is preferable. If I get really bored I could watch a movie on it, but I seriously doubt I'll want to do this. The MacBook requires a fair bit of juice to recharge and that is the principle reason that I have plumbed in an inverter on the boat so that I can plug it into a 240V AC source with ease.

Fuel management

I have a 30L fuel tank which, I would estimate, gives me a motoring range of about 75 miles with my 14HP, 2 cylinder Nanni inboard diesel engine. I will inevitably have to use the motor for around 30% of the time, and so I'll need more than that. However, I don't want to keep finding fuel sources - they can be few and far between or just awkward to get to. I already have a spare 20L fuel can on board and I've bought another, making a total of 70 litres. That'll probably give me 200 miles which is at least one quarter of my total engine miles I'll need to cover. I reckon I'll need to "refuel" 4 or 5 times for the whole trip. Since I'm breaking my trip up into 5 stages, I'll probably end up simply refuelling at the end of each stage. I've also bought a fuel transfer pump so that I can get fuel from a can to the inboard tank easily and safely while at sea.

All these extra cans of fuel and water are no problem to stow in my cathedral like aft lockers.