Minimalism: what you do not have, cannot break

“Nice boat!” is a comment we often hear and it makes us smile.

“Of course!” we reply, because every boatowner thinks that his or her boat is the prettiest in the anchorage.

“Fibreglass?” “What design?” are usually the next questions. Another smile, “no steel, Bruce Roberts 44”. We love seeing the jaws drop after that reply.

Our Anna Caroline is a well-made boat, which we have given a thorough paintjob. She certainly does not look her age. In 1988 she was built in New Zealand by Dennis Field, an ex-boilermaker who turned to boatbuilding. He made five for clients and he always regretted not making a sixth one for himself.

After two owners, Larry Amos bought her and sailed her in ten years to Spain. There he was done cruising and sold her to us; we took her to the Netherlands and started a slow refit project, which took ten years. During those years, we kept sailing to test all the new ideas we had first before implementing them.

Keep it safe

With the dream of sailing around the world, all our decisions were centered around three important questions. The first one was: “how can we sail around the world in a boat that will keep us safe?” The choice for a steel hull was a no-brainer for us: our track would cross some icebergs, so impact resistance was paramount.

A skeghung rudder and a semi-long keel to protect us from getting tangled in rocks and nets was another consideration. Plus a hard dodger to keep us out of the cold and rain: it had to be big enough to act as a bimini also. When we bought her, she had all these features.

For us, safety lies also in being well-rested and well-fed: in high latitudes the circumstances can be rough and cold. With only two people on board, you have to be fit and able to handle everything the weather throws at you. So we made the mattress on the pilotberth in a nice hollow form which supports your body all around when the boat is pitching and rolling.

The galley is large, which is nice. But you fly around in heavy seas, so we have made wooden strips on the floor which act as extra footholds.

The big advantage of a centre cockpit is the lack of space. It is a comfortable ‘nest’ that gives a great sense of safety.

We made eyebolts to the floor so you can clip your harness on and off easy.

All the winches are around the cockpit, so we can sail the boat solo. The wheel is relatively small, which makes it easy to move around. Most of the steering is done by the windvane or the autopilot anyway.

Keep it simple

The second question was: “how can we make the boat and ourselves as independent as possible?”

On our first big sailing trip, one year around the North Atlantic in a 31 foot steel boat, we had seen many boats stuck in ports, waiting for spare parts to arrive. So we had a good look at all the onboard systems and decided if it was vital or not.

Wind meter set? Not vital! “We know when it blows, we don’t need to see the number,” Wietze said before cutting the wire. A lot of other things went the same way, like the freezer.

In fact, the list of things we do not have is longer than you would think on a bluewater yacht: no microwave, no watermaker, no electric winches apart from the anchor winch, no chartplotter, no generator, no folding prop, no hotwater system, no satellite communications and no shower.

“What you don’t have, can’t break” is our philosophy.

The things we do have were selected with the circumnavigation in mind. For instance the new engine. The old Dorman was too old and cumbersome, so we changed to a new Perkins M65. “Perkins is a worldwide brand and parts should be available,” Wietze reckons.

So far, all the spare parts that we carry on board have not been used yet; touch on wood.

When the old engine was out we changed the driveline. The whole new setup gives us a nice six knots speed on engine with a fuel consumption of less than two litres per hour.

Independence is also related to water, fuel and power. The tanks are enormous: 1000 litres of water and 900 litres of diesel. With a water consumption of only 12 litres per day, this lasts us almost three months. If need be, we have a motoring range of 2000 nautical miles.

We use about one amp hour when we are sailing, so the 190 watt output of our three solar panels is enough.

For communication we have an HF radio with a Pactor modem to get weather information and to send short e-mails. The usual safety gear like AIS transponder, VHF, EPIRB and PLB’s are all on board.

Keep it comfortable

The third question was: “how can we live and sail as comfortable as possible?”

Living on board a bluewater yacht should be very comfortable: good food, a good bed, livable temperatures and a sea-kindly boat is a necessity to have a happy voyage of a lifetime. But there was our dilemma: we were going to high latitudes, plus the tropics, with a lot of upwind sailing in between.

The hull is insulated above the waterline with five centimetre thick foam; we added a central heating system with radiators to keep us warm. In the tropics, the blue hull and the insulation make the boat a perfect oven, so we use 12 volt fans to keep airflow and temperatures down.

The upwind sailing can be tiresome but a big heavy boat like Anna Caroline actually handles those conditions well. We do not race her, but sail conservatively.

The hanked-on boom jib has a slab reef in it, so it can serve as a storm jib too. The yankee is slightly lower cut, so we can use it as a genoa. The mainsail is made of bulletproof Dacron with three deep reefs in it. If light winds are sending us nuts, a smallish gennaker gets to see the daylight.

Now what?

“Did you hear that bang?” I asked nervously when we were at anchor at a remote atoll in French Polynesia. Wietze nodded and opened the locker that seemed to be the source of the noise. The inverter/charger had a little puff of smoke hanging over it. Totally fried.

With a sour grin he commented: “well, we can’t plug into shorepower anymore and we can’t run the heater.” Both were not a problem in the short term. For all the other vital things that can break, we have a backup. For instance: a mini-inverter that can convert from 12V to 220V, or a portable generator to charge the batteries. We happily sailed another 5000 miles before we found a replacement inverter/charger in New Zealand.

It has become a sport for us to think in redundancy and simple solutions. In the tropics we use a showerbag to generate hot water for a shower after snorkelling. In the higher latitudes warm water is a byproduct of the central heating. Next to our GPS we have a sextant and paper charts on board. Plus our large stash of self-canned food keeps us going for months.

Pretty girl

The essence of bluewater cruising is visiting new ports, meeting new people and learning about new cultures. The first thing people see is your boat and we believe that appearance matters.

We make sure that she looks her best when we arrive. Everything needs to show respect to the new place we visit and the new people we are going to meet. From our courtesy flag to the fender covers: it has to look good.

After a three-week crossing the extra effort may sometimes be tiresome, but the reward is often quick: “nice boat!”

More thumbs up for our Anna Caroline.

Wietze van der Laan and Janneke Kuysters
Jeanneau JY55
Selden Asymetric Rib Technology
NAV at Home
JPK 11.80 July 2024
M.O.S.S Australia
Race Yachts
Cyclops Marine